Khalilzad, fellow at RAND, 95—fellow at the RAND corporation, fmr US ambassador to the United Nations (Zalmay, “Losing the moment? The United States and the World after the Cold War?” Washington Quarterly Vol 18 no 2 Spring)
The United States is unlikely to preserve its military and technological dominance if the U.S. economy declines seriously. In such an environment, the domestic economic and political base for global leadership would diminish and the United States would probably incrementally withdraw from the world, become inward-looking, and abandon more and more of its external interests. As the United States weakened, others would try to fill the Vacuum.To sustain and improve its economic strength, the United States must maintain its technological lead in the economic realm. Its success will depend on the choices it makes. In the past, developments such as the agricultural and industrial revolutions produced fundamental changes positively affecting the relative position of those who were able to take advantage of them and negatively affecting those who did not. Some argue that the world may be at the beginning of another such transformation, which will shift the sources of wealth and the relative position of classes and nations. If the United States fails to recognize the change and adapt its institutions, its relative position will necessarily worsen.
HSR is critical to supply the expanding economic geography—drives global economic growth
Tierney, prof geography, 12—professor of geography at U of North Texas, PhD in geography from U of Denver, MA in geography from Arizona State University (Sean, 2/28/2012, “High-speed rail, the knowledge economy and the next growth wave”, Journal of Transport Geography 22, p. 285-287, p. science direct, AL)
More than simply links and nodes, transportation is deeply embedded in the texture of the American experience, and HSR is the next logical iteration in the nexus between infrastructure and an expanding economic geography. History has shown that new transportation technologies improve exchange while accommodating growing urban populations. Street and trolley cars enabled the first bedroom communities along rail lines after which the early automobile expanded the perimeter a bit further. The Eisenhower highway system created the suburbs, while beltways brought us edge cities and exurbs. Urban boundaries have now pushed out so far that they often overlap with neighboring cities. People living in the boomburb of Castle Rock, CO are within an hour of both Denver and Colorado Springs, while Princeton, NJ splits the difference between New York and Philadelphia. It is axiomatic that agglomerations spur innovation and growth (Audretsch, 1998), but creativity has been pushing outward for decades as evidenced by Redmond, WA (Microsoft), Stamford, CT (UBS Bank) or Round Rock, TX (Dell). The landscape is extending yet again and where we used to associate economic vibrancy with cities, and then metropolitan areas, we now think of mega-regions. Charlotte is not part of the research triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) but is home to the country’s largest bank (Bank of America) and is only 250 miles from Atlanta. Los Angeles and San Diego are part of a web extending across southern California. Southwest Airlines got its start serving traveler demand in the triangle between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; with triple digit oil prices, rail could serve these three fast-growing cities (a triangle that also contains Austin and Ft. Worth), none of which are more than 275 miles apart. Florida (2009) identifies 40 global mega-regions, of which nine are located in the US (seven are purely US and two included parts of Canada). These places are not just driving global economic growth, they are doing it with a fraction of the people; home to less than 20% of the world’s population, these mega-regions produce 2/3 of the economic output. It is naïve to believe the populations of these regions will remain static, which is why it would be irresponsiblenot to start constructing HSR. Intelligent transportation systems or alternate fuel vehicles may obviate an oil crisis, but we would still have a highway and congestion crisis. There is a reason that highway construction has its own ‘black hole theory’ (Plane, 1995). And it is not just congestion that is costing us money, but also lost economic output. By equipping trains with Wi-Fi, as competitor countries have already done, HSR enhances productivity.
Demand for rail services exists; doesn’t have to be HSR
Other countries and areas of US prove success of rail system; HSR would be unnecessary
Longman Jul/Aug2011 (Phillip, Senior fellow at the Washington Monthly and the New America Foundation, The Case for Not-Quite-So-High-Speed Rail.,
Washington Monthly; Vol. 43 Issue 7/8, p13- 16, 4p) So how about we all calm down, chuck the theology, and look practically at what should be the future of passenger trains in the U.S.? To do that, we need to start by defining what we mean by high-speed rail.An extreme example is the French National Railways' train a grande vitesse ("high-speed train"), or TGV, which in 2007 set a world record of 357.2 mph. In regular service, its average start-to-stop speed is typically a bit north of 170 mph, with top speeds of around 200 mph. I once had the opportunity to ride in the cab of a TGV between Paris and Lille, and even to hold the throttle. It was an unexpectedly harrowing experience, as the windshield repeatedly filled with the remains of unfortunate birds who failed to get out of the way in time. But back in the revenue seats, the experience is sublime. Even as the French countryside shoots by in a blur, you won't see so much as a ripple in your wine glass, and even the coach seats are bigger than what you would find in first class on an airplane. The service has proven to be a great commercial success. As with other high-speed rail lines in Europe, it generates an operating profit. The capital cost of constructing the first TGV line between Paris and Lyon was recovered within twelve years, and newer lines are well on their way to paying for themselves as well. The social returns, in the form of reduced airport and road congestion, pollution, and energy use, have also been high, as have been the returns in the form of economic development. Lille was once one of the most economically depressed cities in France. Now served by high-speed trains that put Paris and Brussels just an hour away and London an hour and a half, as well as by other high-speed lines providing easy connectivity to other major Continental cities, Lille is no longer a dying "flyover city" but a quickly expanding commercial hub. But as great as it would be to have passenger service as fast and elegant as the TGV in the United States, there are many reasons not to put our first dollars into such an ambitious project. First off, building a truly high-speed rail system in today's America would be so expensive, disruptive, contentious, and politically risky that it just might not be possible. It would require, for example, securing brand-new rights-of-way, because trains traveling at more than around 125 mph can't share tracks with slower freight or passenger trains. This in turn would require using eminent domain to secure millions of acres of real estate, and these days, in the U.S., that would ￼involve endless litigation, environmental review, and the innumerable other processes that always stand to derail any large-scale infrastructure project. Plans to build a high-speed rail in California between San Diego and the Bay Area are now foundering for precisely this reason. Big showcase high-speed projects in Texas and Florida flopped in the 1990s for the same reason, plus another: the shifting currents of polarized American politics. Under the governorship of the late Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles, Florida committed to building a true high-speed line connecting Tampa, Orlando, and Miami. Both the government and private companies s pent millions to conduct feasibility and environmental studies, survey the route, secure financing, and develop elaborate project management and business plans. But then, just as the project became "shovel ready," Florida elected Republican Jeb Bush governor, and he promptly pulled the plug despite widespread public support for the project. Last February the same thing happened again, when newly elected Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott decided to reject $2 billion in federal funds that the Obama administration wanted to use to revive the project that Chiles had set in motion more than seventeen years ago. Quite apart from these bureaucratic and political barriers to an American TGV, there's also an economic question that needs to be asked for any given rail corridor: just how fast does high- speed rail need to go in order to gain a meaningful market share? The typical answer is "fast enough to beat air and auto travel times," but achieving that optimum speed is rarely just a matter of buying suped-up trains. Often boosting top speeds up to 180 mph or more, while requiring enormous increases in capital spending and geometric increases in energy use, does little to increase average speed, which is what really counts. Total trip times, especially on runs of less than 200 hundred miles or so, are typically far more affected by a train's slowest moments than its fastest. On Amtrak's forty-mile run between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, for example, trains run as fast as 125 mph on some segments. But because all trains on the line must spend a long time creeping through the yard at Washington's Union Station and through antiquated tunnels under Baltimore Harbor, the average speed of even the fastest scheduled train, the vaunted Acela, is only 83.4 mph. Increasing speeds on the slowest segments of the line would do as much or more to shorten travel times as making the fastest speeds faster, and wouldn't require an expensive new right-of-way or new equipment. As it is, Amtrak's service between Washington and Boston is already highly successful, even if it does not qualify as high-speed rail by world standards. The top speed obtained by any train is 150 mph, and that happens only in a brief segment of Rhode Island. The average speed is much lower, even to the point that the schedule today between New York and Boston is only nineteen minutes faster than that achieved by the New Haven Railroad's "Merchants Limited" in 1954. But today's service is fast enough for Amtrak to dominate the travel market among the intermediate points along the corridor. Tellingly, almost no one rides all the way from Boston to Washington, which takes seven hours on the Acela and costs more than flying. But the trains are nonetheless full despite steep fares, and ridership continues to mount. ￼That's because most passengers are traveling between intermediate points where existing train service is more than competitive with alternative modes, such as battling the traffic on I-95 or catching a flight. Compared to airlines, for example, Amtrak has virtually a 100 percent market share of passenger trips between Philadelphia and New York, a 60 percent share between Washington and New York, and a 50 percent share between New York and Boston. On each trip between Washington and Boston, more than half the passengers will get off at either Philadelphia or New York and are replaced by other passengers. From the travelers' point of view, it doesn't matter much whether the train goes 150 mph or even 300 mph, since they will only be on it for a short time anyway. What matters to them far more is that the trains are frequent, pleasant, reasonably priced, and reliable. Recently, after Florida rejected federal money for its high-speed project, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood redirected $795 million to upgrade some of the most heavily used sections of the Northeast Corridor. This money will increase speeds from 135 to 160 miles per hour on critical segments, but much more importantly it will improve on-time performance and add more seats to accommodate the continuing surge in ridership. This principle is also illustrated by Amtrak's highly successful "Cascades" service on the 187- mile line between Portland and Seattle. The Spanish-designed Talgo "tilt" train sets look futuristic, and with their on-board bistros and comfy chairs they are a joy to ride. But because they run on conventional track through mountainous country shared by freight trains, their current top speed is only 79 mph, and their average speed is just 53. Still, that's enough to make taking the train faster than driving, and ridership has swelled to more than 700,000 passengers a year. Using federal stimulus dollars plus state spending, work is currently under way to boost top train speeds to 110-125 mph, simply by adding better signaling and more sidings to let freight trains get out of the way. This incremental investment will also boost reliability and allow for increased frequency, which will further bump up ridership. But numerous studies show there is no point in making trains go faster than 125 mph on a segment this short because of the great cost involved and the limited gains to total trip times. Moreover, if a new bullet train line were built between Portland and Seattle, the tremendous cost of its construction would require fares too high for all but well-heeled business travelers to afford. The same considerations apply even on much longer segments. In many instances conventional train service is, or could be, competitive with flying or driving, if only it were more frequent and reliable. For example, when I need to travel from my home in Washington, D.C., to Chicago, I am always tempted to take a sleeper car on Amtrak's "Capitol Limited," and frequently do. Though it never goes faster than 79 mph, the train is scheduled to leave Washington at 4:00 p.m. and to arrive in Chicago at 8:45 a.m. To make a morning meeting in Chicago by plane, I would either have to fly out the night before and rent a hotel room, or get up at some ungodly hour on the same day and arrive frazzled. Either way, taking the plane requires schlepping my way to and from airports on both ends, while also enduring the hassle and uncertain duration of airport security. In the wintertime, I'm also far more likely to be stranded by snowstorms if I take the plane, and, of course, dinner in the diner sure beats airplane food. ￼But while the Capitol Limited is fast enough to be more convenient than flying when it's on time, it frequently runs hours late, even in fair weather, due to competition with freight trains. So I can't count on it for business travel to Chicago unless my meeting is in the afternoon. Even with that poor track record, sleeper cars on the Capitol Limited are often sold out weeks in advance, such is the surging popularity of this way of travel among professionals who have had it with air travel. All Amtrak needs to build a much larger market share would be better on-time performance, and this, in turn, would require only incremental investment in new sidings and track capacity to make sure freight trains don't get in the way. Frequency of service is also often more important than top speed. Only two passenger trains serve Cleveland, for example, and both come through, in both directions, between 12:59 and 5:35 a.m. It's surprising how many people use these trains nonetheless. Recently, after business in Cleveland that kept me there late, I decided to take a sleeper car home rather than spending an extra night in a hotel room and flying out in the morning. I counted some seventy-five people in the waiting room even at two a.m. Many more would be taking the train in and out of Cleveland if only there were reliable daytime service to nearby points such as Pittsburgh, Toledo, South Bend, Akron, Indianapolis, or Chicago, all of which could be reached by conventional trains in far less time, and at far less cost, than flying. (Sadly, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich has rejected $400 million in federal stimulus funds that would have had such service up and running in short order. Republican Governor Scott Walker has waved away more than $800 million in federal money that would have brought similarly practical and thrifty passenger rail service to the Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and St. Paul corridor.) Providing connectivity to small towns and midsize cities that currently lack affordable air service, or any air service at all, is one of the most important potential benefits of passenger rail, and you don't need 300-mph bullet trains to pull it off. Conventional trains running between Washington and such nearby cities to the south as Richmond, Charlottesville, Durham, and Charlotte already attract a growing ridership, and would attract a larger one if they were more frequent and reliable, as well as better integrated with trains running north of D.C. along the Northeast Corridor. The minimal investment needed in new track capacity would also improve freight service, thereby getting more trucks off the road and improving the driving experience for those who don't want to take the train. It also would likely spur a good amount of economic development.Midsize cities such as Lynchburg or Petersburg, Virginia, which once thrived because of their strategic position on the nation's rail map, might experience a real estate boom if it were possible to live there and still have easy access to the business opportunities and cultural amenities of Washington, Philadelphia, or New York. Projects currently under way will do the same for cities like Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Springfield, Illinois, by providing improved connections with Chicago. Making such incremental improvements might not stir the hearts of Americans the way eclipsing the French or the Chinese in high-speed rail might, but it's still a sensible course that will gradually start rebuilding a rail culture in the U.S. As more and more Americans outside the Northeast Corridor experience practical, reliable, conventional train service that beats flying or driving, the constituency for super-expensive, super-fast trains will build as it has abroad. Until then "fast enough" high-speed rail is good