Research Roundup: Which High-Speed Rail Corridors Are Poised For Success? How Does Smart Growth Promote Wealth? Why Is Intercity Bus Travel The Fastest Growing Transportation Mode?

The United States has embarked on a program of building high-speed rail corridors in the nation’s most urbanized corridors and regions.

This is a bold step toward meeting the infrastructure needs of the coming century, including providing capacity for economic growth in regions where air and road congestion threaten economic competitiveness and quality of life.

However, given the newness of the program, there is a steep learning curve for states and regions in developing high-speed and even “classic” intercity passenger corridors.

America 2050’s new High Speed Rail In America report (56p. PDF) aims to educate the public and decision makers about the elements of success for high-speed rail as measured by factors that contribute to ridership demand for these services, particularly as they apply to the unique spatial attributes and travel patterns of America.

Several key research findings are identified and discussed.

  • High-speed rail works in versy specific conditions, primarily in corridors of approximately 100-600 miles in length where it can connect major employment centers and population hubs iwth other large and moderate-sized employment centers and population hubs
  • Some of the most promising rail corridors for attracting ridership in the United States are in corridors of less than 150 miles, such as New York-Philadelphia, Los Angeles-San Diego and Chicago-Milwaukee
  • Very large cities are potentially powerful generators of rail ridership
  • Composition of the workforce within a metro region may have significant implications on regional intercity travel

What we build — where and how — has a tremendous impact on how we sustain our communities, protect the environment and bolster prosperity.

Growing Wealthier: Smart Growth, Climate Change And Prosperity (98p. PDF) explains how building our neighborhoods, towns and cities in ways that require less driving can reduced greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions while making us less dependent on finite sources of energy.

This report opens with a review of why slowing Vehicle Miles Traveled growth is important for climate protection.

It considers the historical trend of urban development in the United States and the rising popularity of smart-growth planning and design as a compelling alternative model.

It also highlights the critical concept of accessibility — bringing origins and destinations closer together.

However, even under optimistic assumptions about the progress of motor vehicle technology and smart planning, we cannot meet targets for mitigating global climate disruption — nor achieve energy security — without also finding a way to accomplish more while driving less.

While we may find ourselves eventually subjected to stratospheric fuel prices, making smart choices now could lead to new jobs, consumer savings and an overall improved quality of life.

Image by Surrealize via Flickr

Intercity bus service in the United States expanded by 6% in 2010, making it the nation’s fastest growing form of transportation for the third year in a row.

DePaul University’s new study titled The Intercity Bus: America’s Fastest Growing Transportation Mode (12p. PDF) highights several key findings.

“Curbside operators” such as Boltbus and Megabus expanded the number of departures by 23,9% during the study period, accounting for more than 400 daily bus operations.

Megabus has reported ridership growth of 48% in cities served in both 2009 and 2010.  Although data on other operators is not available, the curbside sector’s overall rate of growth appears to be at least 33%.

Passenger loads handled by curbside bus services are reducing fuel consumption by about 11 million gallons annually.  This is equivalent benefit of removing 23,818 vehicles from the road, or having 68,053 vehicle owners permanently convert from conventional hybrid cars usage.