The economic impact of high-speed passenger rail in the U.S. is positive, according to a new report (.pdf) by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, improving job creation, market access, connectivity, travel time savings and business sales.
According to the rather rosy study, high-speed rail “could significantly increase jobs and business sales” if fully implemented as planned by 2035.
The key? Drop travel times between cities to under three hours.
The report, which was prepared by the Economic Development Research Group, used four cities — Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando and Albany – to analyze the potential economic impact of high-speed rail.
1.) HSR service can help drive higher-density, mixed-use development at train stations. In Chicago and Los Angeles, that means new construction near each city’s Union Station. In Orlando, that means a new “Medical City” technology park near the airport. “The local development stakes are high in each city,” the authors write.
2.) HSR service can increase business productivity. Cuts in travel time, reduced road and air congestion and greater access help business get better.
3.) HSR service can boost tourism spending. Ridership increases are predicted from new tourism, conference and business trips, as well as local riders traveling further from home. By 2035, the authors estimate an additional $255 million for Orlando, $360 million for Los Angeles, $50 million for Chicago and $100 for greater Albany.
4.) HSR service can broaden regional labor markets. With a greater area that can be reached within a two- to three-hour trip, skilled workers have greater mobility. That means Los Angeles can exchange more workers with Palmdale and San Diego, Chicago can exchange more workers with Milwaukee and Madison, Albany can exchange more workers with New York City and Orlando can exchange more with Lakeland and Tampa.
5.) HSR service can support the growth of technology clusters. With greater regional access, there can be more exchange and collaboration among research universities. Albany can export its nanotechnology expertise; Orlando can export its aerospace, security, national defense, pharmaceutical and healthcare expertise; Chicago can export its clean energy and biotechnology expertise; and Los Angeles can do the same with its national defense technology firms.
Ultimately, high-speed rail can benefit cities of all sizes, according to the study — and despite its ability to make long-haul trips more palatable, actually does better to reinforce regional and local exchange of people and ideas.
The authors write:
While telecommuting and Internet conferencing are growing, long-term trends also show growth of long-distance tourism, professional convention business in major cities, as well as exponential growth in airplanes and urban delivery vehicles servicing overnight parcels.
Changes in trade regulation are also resulting in new domestic and global markets and supply chains. The development of high-tech clusters and the need for professional interaction is also creating new travel demand patterns. These and other trends will place additional burdens on the nation’s transportation infrastructure. High-speed rail can help cities and metropolitan areas meet these challenges while also being a significant catalyst for economic growth and job creation.
Ultimately, the most congested, car-dependent cities stand to benefit the most. Will yours?