Drawing lessons from other countries, a new study from U.S. PIRG contends that high-speed rail can boost the U.S. economy, save energy, curb pollution and provide a popular alternative to congested roads and airports.

The report, "A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America,” details a number of examples from around the world that make a variety of cases for high-speed rail.

Benefits listed

Some of the benefits, according to the study, include:

  • Jobs: About 8,000 people were involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between the tunnel and London.
  • Development opportunities near stations: The amount of office space in the area around the rail station in city of Lyon, France has increased by 43 percent.
  • Economic growth: In Germany, the counties surrounding the towns of Limburg and Montabauer experienced a 2.7 percent increase in their gross domestic product as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line.
  • Reduced road congestion: High-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60 percent to 34 percent.
  • Reduced oil dependence: A typical Monday morning business trip between London and Paris via high-speed rail uses approximately a third less energy as a car or plane trip.

Growing demand

Over the last two years, the federal government has distributed $10.4 billion in grants to construct or plan high-speed rail, including incremental measures that increase the speed and reliability of existing passenger rail.

In these two rounds, 37 states and the District of Columbia have applied to the Federal Railroad Administration to support 341 project applications. Those requests totaled over $65 billion - about six times the amount made available by Congress.

"Now that the elections are behind us, it's time to get serious about high-speed rail. There is no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic rail track," said U.S. PIRG transportation associate Dan Smith, "Leaders from both parties should support long-term investment in high-speed rail for the economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits."

In a statement about U.S. PIRG's report, Glen Bottoms of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation agrees: "This report reinforces our view that building a high-speed rail network is a prudent and cost effective use of America's resources over the long-term."