Voice of the People
Nov. 26, 2011

Transportation's future
In an editorial on Nov. 18, the Chicago Tribune argued that Illinois should not be looking at installing any high-speed-rail passenger lines, and that Gov. Pat Quinn should not cling "to the notion that high-speed rail . . . will prove economical."  If one looks at the position of Illinois, however, as the crossroad of the U.S. railroad network, this would be the one state in the U.S. where you would expect to find high-speed lines, and find them to be operated economically.  And with 20,000 people employed in railroading, more than any other state, Illinois should be the showcase, and Chicago the center of technical expertise in this emerging industry.

The Chicago Tribune, however, doesn't think so, stating that "high-speed rail is a chancy experiment that diverts funds from more mundane but proven modes of transportation."

In other countries, high-speed rail is no longer an experiment and is a proven mode.  China presently has 7,531 km of high-speed rail lines in operation.  Beginning in 1964, Japan now operates 2,388 miles of bullet trains.  High-speed rail lines are either already in place, or are being built, in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.  Are these experiments as well?

Recently an advocacy group was established to promote high-speed-rail service between New York and Chicago, in a route that would connect the cities of the Great Lakes to the Northeast Corridor.  According to the Tribune, this would result in the bankruptcy of not only Illinois, but Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and possibly New York.  This is not what our research indicates.  It would connect two regions for the economical stimulus of both.  (New York and Chicago Railroad)

With 7,200 route miles of track across the state, clearly Illinois already has an existing infrastructure that is well-suited to high-speed rail, and a workforce in place ready to run it.  And the jobs to do so are needed now.

As for projected ridership, there remains one incontrovertible fact, and that is ridership is on the increase on passenger trains in other countries, across this country and particularly within Illinois.  Per the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, 44 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states are planning high-speed rail projects.  Perhaps it's time that we got Illinois, and the Chicago Tribune, on board, and headed in the right direction with regard to transportation.

— Charles Paidock, secretary, Citizens Taking Action for transit and trains, Chicago

New York & Chicago Railroad