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2022 - High Speed Rail became the Little Engine That Could


Due to Finals, this will be the last Faster Badger of the Year


Meeting Details: Monday Dec 12th, 6:30pm, E-Hall 2309

Movie Night: The Polar Express

  • For our end of the semester send of, the WiHST group will be hosting anyone who wants to join with free sandwiches and hot chocolate (soda as well...but hot chocolate goes better with The Polar Express)


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Wheels on Steel:

Wisconsin Examiner
Triad City Beat
BNN Bloomberg
Mass Transit
Federal Register

In the Tube:



2022 - The little engine that could...Why high-speed rail keeps chugging when other future transport projects failed

It is the year 2015:

The world is in the middle of the Hyperloop craze. Venture Capital money is flowing into Hyperloop One, HTT, and Arrivo. Meanwhile, university students are starting up new organizations to build the first hyperloop pods for the SpaceX competition. Then don’t forget about the Boring Company, which started with funding from flame throwers. After all the Boring Company was going to build all of those tunnels for the futuristic hyperloop.

Where were they going to start the first Boring Company Hyperloop? Remember the tunnel between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport. Then it was Washington DC to Baltimore for the next project.

The same year, the world was all abuzz about autonomous vehicles. After all Tesla’s autopilot had just come to market and autonomous cars and trucks were seen as the future. Heck, No longer would you need to fly, instead, you could just fall asleep in your car which drives you across the US.

Then there was Space Tourism. Blue Origin was in full development, Virgin Galactic was in the middle of testing (and recovering from a fatal crash), and SpaceX was in full gear with its Starship development (and its concept of rocketing passengers between New York and Shanghai in 39 min).

In 2015, everyone was so geeked out on future forms of transportation... that they forgot the High-Speed Rail engine that could

Where this 2015 hype started was with Tesla's success, which then resulted in Elon Musk writing his Hyperloop white paper in 2013. Why did Musk write the white paper...well the California High-Speed Rail Project was in really bad shape back then.

Meanwhile in 2015 residents from Miami to Palm Beach were complaining about the new train that was going to stop traffic and that no one was going to ride. Meanwhile in Texas, upset landowners hired a coalition of lawyers to sue a startup called Texas Central Railways. Even the futuristic NorthEast Super Conducting Maglev hit roadblocks.

2015 was a very bad year for high-speed rail...but it kept chugging along!

Where we are today:

Well, the Hyperloop is essentially dead. Arrivo folded, HTT and Hyperloop One are on funding fumes….and except for a short test run in 2021 the Hyperloop never carried any passengers.

The Boring Company did build a tunnel, but never in Chicago or Washington DC. It only built a 1.7-mile tunnel under the Las Vegas strip with manually driven Teslas (that occasionally find themselves in a traffic jam).

Autonomous cars are still coming, but there is an acceptance that autonomous drives across the country are still decades away.

But high-speed rail kept chugging along.

The California High-Speed Rail project has much of its infrastructure up in the central valley. Meanwhile, plans have been cleared for San Francisco into the central valley. Operations here are expected to begin in 2030.

Then Brightline’s Los Angeles to Las Vegas high-speed train cleared all environmental reviews, and groundbreaking is likely to happen in 2023. Operations are also expected to begin in 2030.

In Florida, Brightline trains started operating in 2019. The trains never did create the congestion (except when a stupid driver tries to beat the train across an intersection). Instead, Floridians are falling in love with the train and real estate is booming around the stations.

Finally in Texas, those landowners did bring Texas Central to the Texas Supreme Court…and those landowners lost. This gives Texas Central the green light to start building its Dallas to Houston Shinkansen with operations estimated to begin in 2030 as well.

Meanwhile, the federal government started to get in gear and made federal funds available to both upgrade Amtrak’s service and to fund building new passenger services across the United States. Life is good.

The point of all of this….High-Speed Rail is the little engine that could. 2022 was a tough climb, but we made it over the hill.

Which leads us to 2023:

  • Brightline will be starting service between Miami and Orlando

  • Brightline West will break ground between Los Angeles and Las Vegas

  • Texas Central will break ground between Dallas and Houston

  • Amtrak will get their brand-new Acela trains in operation

  • Cities & States will now have access to the $2.3 billion in passenger rail funding

  • California will finalize approval into the LA, creating plans for a true San Francisco to Los Angeles High-Speed Rail line

So, hold on to your hat's folks, cause high-speed rail made it! Now we just need to see what happens in 2030 when HSR finally arrives in the US.


Madison Amtrak Station - Letters to the editor

On December 7th, the city of Madison and HNTB held kick off meetings for the proposed Amtrak station. With over 100+ attending the in-person meeting, and 300+ attending the virtual meeting the interest was overwhelming.

The meeting itself was very basic. It was just a kickoff meeting, so Madison's mayor and the consultants just explained what they are going to do over the next few months. Then they also explained how they are going to look at and consider each of the Amtrak stations.

But what was most interesting is the Capitol Times had several letters to the editors published on the subject. Here are the most recent:


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wiscosin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high speed rail and high speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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