Long-Term User and Community Impacts of High-Speed Rail in the Midwest Corridor

This study intends to contribute new insights in the debate over the viability of high-speed rail (HSR) in the United States and the value proposition for government investment. The modeling focus of this study is two-fold, and the modeling approach makes a case for a fundamental shift from the current perspective of HSR viability. First, the user and community impact assessment of HSR is conducted in the same manner as traditional transportation system evaluation to provide comparative conclusions regarding intercity transportation alternatives. Emissions and energy consumption impacts are also considered due to the increasing national relevance of environmental sustainability and energy security. Second, the model presented in this study analyzes both ridership and impacts within the same systematic framework to assess the long-term impacts on the individual transportation modes, total system metrics, and efficacy of alternate policies. Based on previously published system-wide ridership estimates from this model, this study evaluates user and community impacts (i.e., vehicle operating costs (VOC), travel time, safety,emissions, and energy consumption) over the long-term and determines the potential aggregate impacts over time. Experiments are conducted to compare no-build and HSR scenarios in the Midwest corridor. Results show that while travel time, safety, and VOC savings are significant and warrant further investigation, fuel consumption and emissions reductions are less significant. Using this model, decision-makers have a tool which introduces various externalities to determine both the ideal and problematic conditions for the viability of HSR in the United States from a holistic perspective.

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