China is lapping the U.S. when it comes to high-speed, inter-city rail, and while the costs are significant (both financial and otherwise), the payoffs are huge–not just jobs for people constructing the lines but for the stimulation of greater tourism. I like this metaphor the reporter used to explain what the breadth and speed of China’s system would mean in the U.S.:
For Americans, a comparable trip would involve a Boston resident who catches a train to Philadelphia, has lunch near the Liberty Bell, goes to dinner in colonial Williamsburg, Va., and returns home by bedtime.
Think of the opportunities communities would have if they were easier to reach via train. It’s unrealistic to expect airports and air travel will ever have the reach and price point to allow most Americans to see most of America; it will, for the near future, be a privileged form of travel for the affluent. I use bus travel, but it obviously won’t be able to reach the speed rail could on a dedicated track. And single-occupancy vehicles are in the same boat.
So, if high speed rail connected communities big and small, more people could and would visit those communities, stimulating their economies and the overall national economy by allowing people to become more productive, covering more ground more quickly.