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Benefits of the High-Speed Rail to the United States

In the $1 trillion infrastructure measure voted by the US Senate, only $66 billion over eight years was allocated to rail infrastructure and $39 billion to public transportation. Despite its importance for maintaining and upgrading existing train infrastructure, this public investment is insufficient to develop a competitive high-speed rail network. Despite the abundance of net-zero corporate promises and climate funding, it appears that investing in electric rail is receiving little attention. Compared to driving, high-speed train lines provide convenience, safety, lesser environmental impact, and greater community benefits. Over 20 countries have high-speed rail services. All states should invest more in high-speed trains since they are more economically beneficial. This paper has focused on the main benefits that HSR would bring to the US, including creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, reducing congestion, increasing quality and productive time, and providing additional benefits for worker flexibility.

Firstly, thousands of jobs will be created once the high-speed rail is built. Twenty-four thousand jobs are created for every $1 billion invested. Congressman Seth Moulton’s plan put forth in 2020 calls for building a high-speed rail network and strengthening several industries to revive the American economy (American Public Transportation Association, 2021). As part of Moulton’s proposal, Congress would authorize investing $205 billion in high-speed rail over five years, a “modest number” compared to the amount spent on other modes of transportation. A total investment of more than $240 billion would be made by the network, including nonmatching federal funding. Investing in high-speed rail, according to the proposal, would “dramatically accelerate the creation of jobs across several industries (e.g. construction, engineering, manufacturing), as well as permanent jobs for operations and maintenance.” It is estimated that up to 1.16 million new jobs could be created every year. A permanent crew for high-tech support is necessary for long-term maintenance and optimization of the system. For one direct job in rail, there are around 4 jobs in other industries(American Public Transportation Association, 2021). Siemens, for example, is a locomotive manufacturer. Siemens’ Sacramento plant is already North America’s leading light rail supplier (Sindel, 2017). HSR projects will not only generate jobs in California, but Siemens’ manufacturing stations and subcontractors in Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania will also be able to expand.

Secondly, carbon emissions will be greatly reduced by high-speed rail. The transportation sector is one of the most significant sources of climate-harming greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and high-speed rail has a demonstrable impact on climate. Compared to driving, flying, or taking a conventional train, high-speed rail can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90% (Waite, 2021). Rail has to be given more attention because of its critical position as an integral element of the solution and not being a big contributor to the transportation sector’s pollution problems. In particular, efficient, all-electric HSR can help reduce transportation-related pollutants and safeguard the environment. In terms of energy consumption and material usage, HSR is the most efficient option (Brief, 2019). Short-haul flights would be replaced by HSR, which would relieve airport capacity limitations, minimize the need for more growth, and help to address climate change challenges. HSR has been identified as the most energy-efficient method of transportation with the smallest carbon footprint (Lu et al., 2021). The new rail lines are unclear as to how much traffic congestion they will reduce. Using the difference-in-differences approach, a study found new highways in China reduce passenger traffic by 20.5 log-points and improve freight traffic by 15.7 log-points (Wang, Zhou and Hua, 2020). By reducing transportation-related GHG emissions by 11.183 million tons per year, or 1.33 per cent, China’s transportation sector declines its GHG emissions (Li et al., 2020). These results show that high-speed rail could reduce carbon emissions in the US.

Furthermore, high-speed rails will minimize congestion. HSR offers an appealing alternative to crowded highways in long-distance corridors with significant demand. Passenger HSR networks will relieve traffic congestion on a national and worldwide scale. Congestion isn’t just a problem in cities, it’s a crisis. The average delay per highway rush-hour traveller has increased from 16 to 47 hours per year in the United States since 1982. In 1955, the number of automobiles on US highways was 65 million; today, the number is 246 million(American Public Transportation Association, 2021). By 2055, the number of automobiles on the road will reach 400 million. Following the deregulation of air transportation, airlines have attempted to provide lower-cost connections. As a result, they established hub and spoke operations. The concentration of hubs in a few large airports has contributed to increasing air traffic congestion. The rise in flight delays is one of the most noticeable side effects. In 2004, for example, approximately 21% of flights in the United States were delayed. Regional air services are one of the fastest-growing categories of air travel in the United States. However, 300-800 km corridors offer distances where HSR might be especially competitive. By bringing distant populated regions closer together, high-speed rail can develop a sense of social cohesion among citizens (Pagliara, 2021). Sprawl is a fact of modern-day urban life in the United States. Cities like Chicago have metropolitan areas that extend far beyond the city’s borders. A huge country like the United States, in addition to sprawl, frequently features considerable gaps between populous places. HSR can reduce the travel distance between far-flung suburbs and central cities. High-speed rail will help to relieve traffic congestion in megacities.

In addition, HSR increases productive and quality time. Time for oneself and the chance to unwind are valuable commodities in today’s fast-paced society. Travelling by rail gives passengers more time to do things they couldn’t do if travelling by vehicle or airline. HSR offers a substantial advantage over air and vehicle travel in terms of quality time, defined as when not designated for transfers, security inspections, and waiting times. Although the total travel time for air and train is comparable, HSR has a time allocation advantage since consumers benefit from a less fragmented experience. Train travel offers more productivity due to fewer interruptions. The HSR does not waste travel time (Tang et al., 2018). The activities you can do while travelling include reading, playing, watching videos, sleeping, and taking in the scenery. Comparatively to other modes of transportation, business rail travellers spend about half of their time working or studying. Journeys on the High-Speed Rail (HSR) system can be extremely productive (Yang, 2019). The activities that can be carried out in a car are more limited, both for passengers and the driver, for two reasons: space and safety. Check-in and check-out procedures on aeroplanes take up a lot of time. The amount of time available for productive purposes has shrunk. HSR can be much faster than other means of transportation depending on the station’s location, needing less access time, fewer security checks, and more usable time than fragmented routes like flying. This shows how HSR increases productive and quality time.

Finally, HSR will provide flexibility to workers, especially during COVID-19 and the subsequent restructuring of many workplaces(Waite, 2021). Many companies are finding that remote working or twice-weekly in-office policies are viable and beneficial for well-being and productivity. High-speed rail may provide workers with more options and employers with easier access to their employees. For example, imagine a case where employers located in California can access employees across Oakland and Los Angeles; similarly, companies in Chicago-Detroit, Atlanta-Nashville-Birmingham, and Dallas-Austin-Houston.

High-speed rail installation faces several obstacles in the United States. One of these hindrances includes construction cost overruns from earlier rail projects. Most politicians have ceased supporting the building of HSR. The “cost per rider” metric is frequently used to explain this drop-in support. However, particularly high-speed rail, has numerous and cumulative economic benefits. This paper has focused on the main benefits that HSR would bring to the US, including creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, reducing congestion, increasing quality and productive time, and providing additional benefits for worker flexibility


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Li, F., Yang, S., Xie, J., Zhu, W., & Wang, Y. (2020). The Impact of High-Speed Rail Opening on City Economics along the Silk Road Economic Belt. Sustainability, 12(8), 3176.

Lu,X.;Tang,Y.;Ke,S.(2021, March 16). Does the Construction and Operation of High-Speed Rail Improve Urban Land Use Efficiency? Evidence from China. Land 2021, 10, 303. https://

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Sindel, D. A. (2017). Strategies for meeting future capacity needs on the light rail MBTA Green Line (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

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Wang, S., Zhou, H., & Hua, G. (2020). Is the High-Speed Rail Opening Environmentally Friendly? Taking the Difference-in-Differences Test in Jiangsu, China. Complexity, 2020

Yang, X., Lin, S., Zhang, J., & He, M. (2019). Does High-Speed Rail Promote Enterprises Productivity? Evidence from China. Journal of Advanced Transportation, 2019, 19.


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