Coast-to-coast high speed rail map: fantasy to reality?

Feb 26, 2013

The “road trip” has forever been romanticized as the epitome of carefree, coming-of-age adventures. But what if instead of hopping into your car, you could jump on a train and arrive at the other side of the country in the same day?

Berkeley graphic artist Alfred Twu created a map of a potential high speed rail system for the United States.

Twu's rail system would consist of 20,000 miles of track and connect Los Angeles to New York with major hubs in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, according to the project's website

A new vision for a United States high speed rail system would connect the country with different regional expresses.
Credit Alfred Twu

Recently, Twu's vision has turned into a petition on the White House website.

The petition urges the Obama administration to create a funding source and a multi-decade plan for the non-stop expresses. The project site estimates that the rail will cost $40 billion a year and take 30 years to complete.

Twu discussed his artistic vision for rail transportation in his editorial in The Guardian earlier this month:

This latest map comes more from the heart. It speaks more to bridging regional and urban-rural divides than about reducing airport congestion or even creating jobs, although it would likely do that as well.

Petition organizers are hoping for 100,00 signatures by March 7, 2013. They currently have just over 42,000.

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, White House staff and policy experts will review the proposal and issue an official response. Official responses are issued on the same site, We the People, as the petitions.

High speed rail has been moving people across Europe and Asia for years, but it has always been a fantasy in the United States.

Hurdles abound - costs are high, the topic is highly politicized across party lines, and implementation and development decisions of rail lines are decentralized by state. (Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin turned down federal money in 2010 to build new rail routes.)

You can view the maps and plans and consider - would you ride a train across the country? What would need to happen for high speed rail to gain momentum in the future?

-Rebecca Guerriero, Michigan Radio Newsroom