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June 3, 2020  

Can a High-Speed Rail Network Electrify the U.S. Economy?

June 3, 2020

We’ve seen a number of proposals coming out of Washington over the last couple months, all aimed at giving the sputtering economy a jumpstart. One of the most recent is a plan that may excite some transportation advocates: a high-speed rail network. As outlined in a white paper by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), the high-speed rail network would connect Chicago to Atlanta, and Portland to Vancouver. It’s projected to cost the federal government $205 billion, with another $243 billion coming from state, local, and private investments.

Rep. Moulton’s plan—and this article about it in Wired—is the subject of this week’s episode of Upzoned. Each week, host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, and regular co-host Chuck Marohn, the founder and president of Strong Towns, take one story from the news and they “upzone” it—examining it in light of the Strong Towns approach to building stronger and more financially resilient cities.

In this episode, Abby and Chuck discuss the appeal of the high-speed rail network, as well as their concerns. They talk about why equating high-speed rail to the creation of major transportation systems in the past (including other rail networks) just doesn’t work. And they compare the economic impact of Moulton’s plan to the benefits of maintaining the infrastructure we already have.

In the Downzone, Chuck talks about his experience reading (for the second time this year) The Great Influenza, by John Barry. And Abby recommends an inherited book about woodworking.

Additional Show Notes