US High Speed Rail: The Empire Corridor — Uplift For NYC Mass Transit

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US-high-speed-rail-empire-corridor-nyc-metro.jpgThis is the 12th of a 13-part series on high speed rail in the USA. For previous articles, see below.

City or upstate? That is the usual question that follows any New Yorker after they tell people where they are from. The proposed Empire Corridor would link these two entities that make up New York and bind them together with a transportation link would end in Buffalo nearly at the Canadian border.

Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo are the major cities that would be linked to NYC on this line that would also be connected to the nationwide HSR network via the Keystone Corridor and the already in service Northeast Corridor. New York City as the vital intersect point for rail plans for this part of the country, and needs a complete makeover in both regional and interstate passenger travel.

New York City has a legitimate claim to call itself the world’s greatest city, but one thing about the city is that the transportation network is not the best. Calm down New Yorkers that love their mass transit and ride it every day. No disrespect to NYC metro is intended. It is a good network (the best in the nation) and getting around the city is no great chore. Nevertheless the flaws are obvious. The trains system founded in the 19th century is showing its age. High speed rail in the form of the Empire Corridor could be used as a stimulus for upgrading the local mass transit which carries 5.2 million passengers daily.

Economist/New York Times reporter/Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman recently blogged the case for high speed rail in terms of the potential ridership market. Those against high speed rail decry the cost of building the network, but Mr. Krugman did a little research to prove the potential of NYC as the heart of the national HSR network and the money it could make.

Population density is the key factor in determining how many passengers will ride the train and thus how profitable the network would be. Looking at the census data, Mr. Krugman found that one quarter of the counties in the US are equally or more densely populated than his county of residence, Mercer county New Jersey. This area around Princeton is car-dependent, but in a potential portent of things to come, trains dominate at mid-range distances (e.g. trips to Washington D.C.). Slow trains with few amenities are the transportation mode of choice now. Imagine slicing the travel time in half with HSR and adding the amenities currently available on European trains, such as full meal service and high speed internet connectivity.

The Empire Corridor is vitally important to the viability of the entire national HSR network as it stands to be the nerve center of the system. The economics and environmental benefits make sense. Politicians on the federal level are the blocking point to bringing New York’s 19th century trains into the 21st century. The local politicians from NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Paterson are on board, now the pressure is on the Capital to provide funding for rail service.

This is the 12th of a 13-part series on high speed rail in the USA. Read previous articles:

[photo credit: Flickr]

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