HSR, You Are My Density
Quick, what’s this?
I was going to be an ass and make you wait until tomorrow, but I’m in a good mood. If you guessed the relative lengths of high speed rail lines, you’d be correct. As for which is which, behold population density maps, to scale, of four parts of the world:
(Population density maps via the very nice Gridded Population of the World browser by SEDAC/Columbia University.)
I rotated them to align the routes, so you’re may to have to think about it a bit, but
Top left = France Sud-Est (Paris-Lyon-Marseille) / Top right = CAHSR (SF-LA-SD)
Bottom left = Tōkaidō Shinkansen (Tokyo-Osaka) / Bottom right = Ave (Madrid-Barcelona)
I decided to make this map after the rather ridiculous article in The Economist suggesting that only Japan has the population density to do HSR. My favorite part is where they laud California’s road network — they clearly haven’t driven on I-5 on a Sunday. And despite car ownership, I don’t know anyone who WANTS to drive to LA. (But let’s just say this isn’t the first stupid thing they’ve said — let’s remember that The Economist supported the invasion of Iraq.)
Anyway, Japan is so densely populated that it was obviously the best place to start with high speed rail. But it’s foolish to say it’s the only place that makes sense to keep doing it.
I also saw an interesting discussion in the comments a Washington DC blog that linked to me — one commenter claimed that since Paris has seven times the population density of LA, it can’t support HSR. But the French TGV is really a hub and spoke model. That being said, Lyon-Paris used to be one of the busiest flight corridors in Europe, but TGV pretty much took all that traffic. In fact, you can actually buy tickets on Orbitz that combine trains to Paris and flights out of Paris!
Once again, the best analogy to California is AVE in Spain between Madrid and Barcelona — two nodes of relatively the same size, with a few cities in between. Once again, it was one of the busiest flight corridors, but rail has picked up the majority of passengers. Not only to the Bay and LA have higher population bases than Madrid and Barcelona, but guess what’s another of the busiest flight corridors in the world? SF-LA.
While I’m at it, a few additions to California HSR are obviously necessary:
- Good food, both wine & cheese, along with the taco & beer. I’m thinking also a Fort Mason style Off The Grid car, no?
- No TSA bullshit. Despite legitimate terrorist threats, France and Spain have no security theater on trains. (I’m talking to you, Charles Schumer.)
- Why not have a couple of train cars that could carry electric cars? Roll your authorized Nissan Leaf / Chevy Volt style vehicle onto the train in SF and roll off in LA. And charge your car on the drive, no less.
I will meet you in the taco car, Big Daddy in hand.