Yesterday, we covered the first part of the Cascadia Rail Summit. The next sessions were more technical and covered lessons learned from high speed rail systems around the world and also an overview of rail equipment. Below are only the highlights.
Andy Kunz, President & CEO, USHSR
Andy Kunz spoke about what circumstances make high speed rail a viable transportation choice.
The Cascadia Rail Summit was held from Nov 6-8. Hosted at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond and organized by the US High Speed Rail Association, the conference brought together some key decision makers from government, consulting, and rail operators and train manufacturers from around the world. Even for a rail skeptic, it is hard to dismiss the momentum that high speed rail is gaining in the Pacific Northwest.
Opening remarks by Gov. Jay Inslee
While it wasn’t in person, but a recording made specifically for the conference, the first speaker was none other than Gov. Jay Inslee, vouching his support for the initiative and kicking off the discussion.
To put this into perspective, ST3 did not enjoy such high-caliber early support. Years before it was up for vote, Sound Transit did not consider a ballot measure in 2016, or of that size. Its passage is a testament to the power of advocacy. Consider then, how much can be achieved with this initiative given that the highest ranks of politics in the state are already on board.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the Green New Deal, critics jumped on it immediately – it can’t be done, it’s too expensive, etc. I want to debunk one of these critiques, and that is that carbon-intensive air travel cannot be replaced with (eventually green) electricity-powered rail travel.
People often cite
the size of the country and large distances between cities as the number one
reason. The story goes, we used to have regional and cross-country rail, but
now we have cars and planes and the former were rendered obsolete. A lot of
people have covered why regional transport (think up to 200 miles), now covered
by car as flying is not economical, can be effectively replaced by high-speed
rail. The definition of high-speed rail requires a speed of at least 125 mph
and if sustained, this provides much faster travel than by car (not to mention
that it is congestion-free) and a comparable total travel time to air.
But, what about cross-country? Surely this is the domain of air travel given the vastness of the country? Let’s calculate some travel times from our corner here in Seattle (good for accounting for the longest flights possible).