Interesting interview in Wired with Michael Dukakis, rail advocate:
Dukakis:...It's absurd to say we don't have money to expand rail. For what we spend in Iraq in a week or maybe 10 days, we could fund Amtrak's ongoing operations as well as make major investments. We spend about $30 billion a year on highways and about $15-to-$16 billion on airports and airline subsidies. We're talking about 6 percent or 7 percent of that for a national rail-passenger system. ...
...If you want to build a European-style 200-mph high-speed system — the kind that California is now committed to — that requires exclusive rights of way. And it probably argues for electrification. That's an expensive proposition.
... We can use our existing rights of way to reach speeds of between 110 and 125mph...
...There's a 10-state plan to connect downtown Chicago to every other major Midwest city within 400 miles using trains that travel between 110 and 115 mph. The whole thing would cost around $7 billion, and the basic proposal calls for using existing right of way.
That $7 billion is half of what it will cost to move forward with the planned expansion of O'Hare airport. Every third flight out of that airport is less than 350 miles. So if you build a regional rail system in the Midwest, you're also helping with congestion at O'Hare and opening slots for longer flights.
... from the Mississippi River east, we actually look a lot like Europe. There's similar population density and distance between cities. That's why the Southeastern states want high-speed service extended from Washington, D.C., down to Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta. They know it can work...
Wired.com: The cool thing about traveling by train in Europe is when you get off the train, you can cross the platform and hop on a subway. What do you do in a city like Charlotte or Houston, where those local connections just don't exist?
Dukakis: With the exception of a handful of U.S. cities, we are not where we should be in this regard. But if more investment is made in intercity rail, you'll see local and regional transit systems reconfiguring themselves to improve the connections.
...If we commit to a first-class passenger-rail system, you'll see local and regional transit organizations start talking about finding ways to connect to it...using airplanes to fly 300 miles makes absolutely no sense at all.
...The cities in this country that are planning light-rail–type systems will need to purchase every stick of rolling stock from a foreign manufacturer. There's no reason our car companies can't make them instead.
Image from here.