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What America can learn from Europe's high-speed trains

Adler, Ben

Publisher:  Grist
Date Written:  04/09/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article

Adler examines the lagging state of high-speed rail technology in America while analyzing Germany's approach to transit and urban planning as a model for improvement.



The German Marshall Fund put out a report in June on the lessons California could draw from the well-developed HSR systems in Germany and France. Most of the different points it lays out boil down to one essential, overarching approach: Make HSR central to a larger transportation system that includes other alternatives to driving and is focused around smart growth. Successful high-speed rail requires more than just laying tracks between cities and buying fancy new rail cars.

Specifically, the report warns against putting stops in sparsely populated areas because that slows trains down. Put them only in the center of major cities, recommends report author Eric Eidlin, as Germany has done. The ICE train, for example, makes no stops during the two-hour journey between Berlin and Hamburg. France, on the other hand, has dispersed train stations around the urban periphery and the result, Eidlin notes, has been less efficient connections to other modes of transport. "California should carefully consider the economic development and access challenges that French cities such as Aix-en-Provence and Avignon have experienced with exurban and peripheral stations," Eidlin writes. "Thankfully, California has made the wise decision of siting most HSR stations in central cities. However, one notable exception to this is the proposed Kings/Tulare station east of Hanford, which would be located in an exurban location" Also, the Milbrae and Burbank station locations will be in less accessible areas.


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