We addressed the need for mass transit to help us with the issues created by population growth (density). Make no mistake, NWA population is growing fast. We talked about how to create density by concentrating people into a walkable neighborhood. Now let’s look at a way to create density through a unique economic opportunity brought to light by the pandemic. The airlines have been hit hard by Covid-19. Long haul flights are very profitable but short haul flights have a razor thin profit margin in the best of times. You don’t need to be told that the profit margin disappeared as of March 2020. Airlines are bleeding money and manufacturers are shuttering plants. The solution, and the one we here at ORBT like very much, is to integrate transcontinental or international air travel with High Speed Rail.
We aren’t the only ones talking about this kind of multimodal integration. For our purposes let’s define High Speed Rail as passenger trains capable of 185 MPH. Very HSR trains are capable of over 250 MPH. In President Elect Joe Biden’s 5 Point Plan to accelerate HSR we come to point 5 “Work with the airlines and airports to replace short-haul flights with high-speed rail and extend high-speed lines to major airports. Encourage partnerships with airlines on combined tickets for trips with part of the journey on a train and part on an aeroplane. USHSR* says this would begin to reshape the US domestic travel market, making travel easier, faster, and greener while also benefiting the airlines and airports who could better utilize their facilities for longer-distance flights.”
This is another aspect of multimodal transportation we haven’t examined yet. An aspect that makes travel easier for people like you and me. A few years ago, when any of us could travel at all I booked a flight to Las Vegas. I tried to get the cheapest flight I could. One airline offered me 3 transfers with hours long wait at each airport. Jet Blue offered me the chance to fly from Austin Texas to Dallas Texas, then fly to La Guardia Airport NYC and sit on the plane on the tarmac for EIGHT HOURS then fly to Las Vegas. Time is money so I wouldn’t save anything by booking those flights. I hear many consumers voice the same experience with cheap flights.
Why not do something different? What if, with one ticket, you got a transcontinental/international flight and a connecting trip on a HSR Train? With Biden’s plan in the near future a number of HSR and VHSR projects will be completed. Like the Cascadia Very High Speed Railroad that links Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington to Vancouver BC. So let’s use travel from Springdale to Seattle as an example. You are spending your own dime so you want the cheapest flight possible. It turns out that you can fly from XNA (Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport) to Eugene Oregon, which has a HSR spur to Portland. From Eugene, right at the airport, you board the Cascadia HSR to finish your journey to Seattle. And you are delivered to downtown Seattle near your hotel. Which saves you the expense of taking a taxi from the airport. Then on the way back, you fly from Seattle to Little Rock where you pick up the Arkansas HSR to the NWA Station. Save money? Save Time? Done and done.
Looking at the expense of travel we often focus on the price of the airline ticket. But the cost of travel is a lot more. Both the time and the cost of getting to and from the airport is part of the expense. Time off is part of the expense. That’s why is it not a good idea to spend your vacation time, or if a business trip, time away from the office, on wandering around the country chasing a lower cost fare.
Mass transit in NWA fits into the new age of travel in America like a piece in a puzzle. As of right now if you live in West Fork or Conway you must drive sometimes hours to the airport. If we plan HSR in Arkansas well, we can create coverage that reduces travel time. Say one branch of the HSR starts in Little Rock then goes through Conway, Russellville, then the NWA Station. Combined with a very good mass transit system in NWA, you can board a bus and ride to the Station to catch the HSR. You save money on driving your car, money on parking, as well as the established time saved going to the airport. HSR Train travel is cheaper in time and money than driving. For example HSR will get you to Little Rock, or Tulsa OK faster than driving.
Think this scenario through and you can understand how much this will cut carbon emissions. One HSR train can carry as many people as 9 short haul airline flights. That might come in handy during Razorback football games, or Wal-Mart stockholders meetings. Or anytime really. With local mass transit systems integrated into the nation wide network, we reduce the emissions from car travel too. We are going clean and green.
Some other things to consider about HSR in America and here in Arkansas. We can connect with other HSR lines or Amtrak. If we have a line from Little Rock Arkansas to Dallas Texas we can catch the Texas Central Corridor HSR train and carry on to Houston. Not only that, but HSR can carry light freight. You know like packages you order online from WalMart.com. Or that other company, you know the one I’m talking about, yeah that one too. Instead of a couple of days of mostly flights, a package can make it to your door in hours utilizing HSR.
HSR can help us have a green transportation infrastructure. It makes the travel industry profitable again. It is fun according to the people who ride HSR in Europe, Japan, and China. One of my friends and a ORBT member said riding VHSR in China was like riding in a bubble. HSR us saves time and money. It creates jobs. Come on, baby, do the loco-motion.
Here is the link to the Cascadia HSR website since we shilled for it here.
- United States High Speed Rail Association. The website is found here: http://www.ushsr.com/