One day, in the not-so-distant imaginary future, the United States will be linked by a network of high-speed rail. We’ll zip from L.A. to Denver in five hours, from D.C. to New York in two, and we’ll relieve debilitating traffic congestion, road wear, and greenhouse gas emission output in the process.
What a world it shall be when we gaze out our coach window as Appalachia blurs by in earthen green streaks at 200 mph as we soar over ground to Chicago. What a world of convenience and comfort and nope, not gonna happen. But that is the world represented in Alfred Twu’s map of the high speed rail system of the United States in some parallel, transit-friendly universe.
Alfred Twu, bless his heart, is a dreamer. The graphic designer put together the above cartographical representation of all of the outlying high speed rail plans that have been put forward across the nation over the last few years. Most were minted in 2008, when Obama announced he’d be devoting billions in stimulus funds towards establishing the nation’s first high speed rail network.
Alas, most of the schemes were thwarted when Republican governors, riding the anti-spending Tea Party zeitgeist, turned the projects into symbolic straw men and rejected them.
Now, we’re left with a single high speed rail line in progress—the California line that will eventually and ostensibly connect L.A. and San Francisco—and it is being constructed at a pace that can generously be described as glacial. No, given our current political priorities—our totally dysfunctional Congress can barely manage to secure funding for highway road repair, much less major new transit projects—there won’t be anything resembling the above in the U.S. Perhaps when rising oil prices finally cause airfares to rise beyond the reach of the middle class and the clog of highways grinds to enough of a halt, public leaders will someday begin an earnest push to build a sustainable long-distance mass transit infrastructure. Till then, the high speed trains will never run on time.