Beijing to Shanghai vs. Chicago to New York - 4 Hours, 48 Minutes​
similar population densities along the similar length routes 
30 Jun 2011, Midwest High Speed Rail Association

At 3:00 PM on Thursday, the first revenue train departed Shanghai on the much anticipated high-speed rail line to Beijing, connecting the political and business centers of the country. The line is expected to have a transformative impact on China's economy, population mobility, and over-crowded transportation system.  Shanghai - Beijing is comparable to Chicago - New York. 

The new Beijing to Shanghai route will offer a mix of express and local trains totaling an expected 90 trains a day in each direction. The fastest trains make the trip in 4 hours 48 minutes. Imagine traveling from Chicago to New York City in that time! (It currently takes 5 hours to get from Chicago's Loop to Manhattan by air today, IF everything goes right at two delay-prone airports and on two very congested highsways.)

Below is an interesting comparison of the Beijing - Shanghai route and a hypothetical Chicago - New York high-speed route. 

(Please Note: We used the existing railroad mileage between Chicago and New York; a high-speed line would likely be much shorter.)  

Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway stations serviced and their county-level city or district populations.  Then, consider a midwest-northeast (Chicago to New York + branches) high-speed railway potential stations and their consolidated metropolitan area populations:

Beijing  13.3 million
Langfang  0.7 million 
Tianjin  3.8 million 
Cangzhou  0.5 million 
Dezhou  0.4 million 
Jinan  2 million 
Taishan  0.6 million 
Qufu  0.1 million 
Zaozhuang  0.5 million 
Xuzhou  1.8 million 
Suzhou  0.2 million 
Bengbu  1.1 million 
Chuzhou  0.1 million 
Nanjing  3 million 
Zhenjiang  0.6 million 
Changzhou  1 million 
Wuxi  1.1 million 
Suzhou  1 million 
Kunshan  0.7 million 
Shanghai  19 million 

TOTAL= 51.5 million people 

  =  along 818 miles
(62,958 people per route-mile) 

Chicago  9.7 million 
Fort Wayne  0.6 million 
Toledo  0.7 million 
Detroit  5.7 million 
Cleveland  2.3 million 
Akron-Canton  1.1 million 
Youngstown-Warren  0.7 million 
Pittsburgh  2.9 million 
Altoona  0.1 million 
Harrisburg  0.5 million 
Baltimore  2.7 million 
Washington DC  5.4 million 
Philadelphia  5.8 million 
New York  22.2 million 
TOTAL = 60.4 million people 

  = along 1,075 miles
(56,186 people per route-mile)