What’s wrong with this picture?

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Obama high-speed rail map

Obama high-speed rail map

Not to be a homer or anything, but this map is screwed up.  Memphis is the 2nd largest city in the Southeast.  Nashville is rather a large (and wealthy) place, too.  Yet the entire state of Tennessee has no — zero, zilch, nada — high-speed rail service under Obama’s proposal.

Who does have high-speed rail service?  Such megalopolises as Texarkana, Biloxi, and Gulf Shores;  smaller and frankly less important cities like Little Rock, Louisville, and Birmingham.  Two cities(?) in Oklahoma get high-speed rail access, but none in Tennessee.

Not only that, just look at the map for a sec with your eyes slightly crossed.  What you’ll see is a mass of red throughout the country from Portland, Maine, to San Antonio, and from Minneapolis to Miami, except for a big ol’ hole right smack in the middle.  In that hole sit Memphis and Nashville.  Not only are they completely inaccessible by high-speed rail, you can’t even get there from here.  Nashville is completely isolated, while Memphis is part of a normal rail line extending from Chicago to New Orleans — either one hundreds of miles farther away than the nearest proposed hsr-accessible cities, Little Rock and Birmingham.

I’m 100% in favor of building a high-speed rail network in the U.S.  It’s long, long overdue.  But this one is difficult to make sense of.

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6 Responses to “What’s wrong with this picture?”

  1. alsturgeon Says:

    L.A.’s covered, so I’m good. 🙂

    Hey, Pepperdine law prof, Doug Kmiec, is on The Colbert Report tonight. Doubt he’ll be talking ’bout high-speed rail service, but I want to watch anyway!

  2. urbino Says:

    Yeah, that should be interesting.

    Some further problems with this map:

    You can get to Montreal from Gulf Shores by high-speed rail, but you can’t get from Memphis to Atlanta. You can get from Tulsa to Texarkana on high-speed rail, but not from Nashville to Charlotte. Heck, you can’t even get from Memphis to Nashville or Little Rock.

    This network has zero economic impact on the poorest regions of the country: Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. It studiously avoids both. Hey, I’ve got an idea: let’s stop providing telephone and electric service to those folks. If we’re going to leave them behind for the umpteenth time, let’s just cut them loose entirely. No sense wasting good wire on them.

  3. michaellasley Says:

    Since Texas apparently wants out of the Union, I’m not sure they should be included.

    How was this decided? Just curious about their method….was it based on population? Or is it just random? Surely there’s some logic behind this, no?

    • urbino Says:

      I’ve long favored letting some states secede — say, South Carolina to Texas, along the Gulf Coast (Florida would be an American exclave, I guess, since I’m pretty sure they don’t want to secede).

      The devil is in the details. For example, I’m quite sure we wouldn’t want to let them keep the nukes currently stationed in those states, and I’m just as sure they wouldn’t want to give up them up. And we’d have to work out some kind of access to ports like New Orleans and Galveston. That probably wouldn’t be a big problem, though, since the new confederacy would desperately need the money we’d pay for access.

  4. Whitney Says:

    Is this based on current rail systems? Just wondering b/c the route from Tulsa to OKC to Dallas is a current passenger rail route (that goes all the way to Chicago…so hmmm.)

    You’re right, though, why are the poorer areas not covered? The jobs, the cheaper transportation.

    Seems kind of half-baked in an attempt to just put a product, any product, out the door. As Joe says, you can have it quick or you can have it good, but ya can’t have both.

    I have no idea why I find this so interesting. I’d be frequent patron of high-speed rail in this country, but am not holding my breath. I’ll be 90 before it’s finished.

  5. urbino Says:

    I haven’t really seen anything on what’s behind this proposal. I do know it’s been in the works for a long time — before the election, even. I think it’s largely the product of some transit think-tank or the like.

    I’m sure there are good reasons for what’s there. Probably some combination of population density, economic activity, and likely ridership, but that’s a complete guess. (Would explain why poor areas are left out.) I hadn’t thought about existing rail lines, but yeah, that would make sense. OTOH, there are passenger rail lines in TN. In fact, the one running from Chicago to New Orleans on the map is an existing line.

    Whatever the method, its results sure seem to contain some anomalies.

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