California’s plans for high-speed rail is one important aspect of passenger rail revitalization in the United States. Here’s architect and planner Peter Calthorpe on why “High-Speed Rail Is a Catalyst for Better Development.” 

“Just as the ’56 highway bill helped spawn the modern suburb, high-speed rail would energize a new generation of community building — one that fits our current environmental and economic needs. This is an investment we cannot afford not to make.”

Calthorpe also points out that “when compared to expanding highways and airports at a cost of $171 billion, high-speed rail at $98 billion is clearly more cost effective.”

But high-speed rail is only one piece of the transport transformation that is underway. We need more bikes, more encouragement to walk, better cars, improved bus service, and local and regional passenger rail service. The Berkshire Line project, where we’ve been focusing at the Train Campaign, has unique potential as a model for investment in US rail infrastructure and operations. It will connect New York City, which has by far the largest percentage of public transport users in the United States, with one of the many rural regions where there is new demand for rail service.

Similar initiatives have sprung up in Michigan, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, and elsewhere. Interest in small-scale passenger rail projects is evolving in Europe, too, where small rail lines closed in the 1960s are being revived. Our project, which spans New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, is far more advanced, only in need of additional investment to become a reality within a couple of years.

There is  a train line already in place, currently running a freight service on 100-year-old tracks, and Massachusetts has committed more than half the funds required to restore the passenger service. The region it will reach, the Berkshires, is an iconic vacation area known for summer culture, winter sports, and also as home to some of the leading private schools in the United States. The project will promote sustainable, appropriate economic development and job creation. Join the Train Campaign – let’s Bring Back the Trains!