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What if the US Cancelled Short Flights (Like France)?


Meeting Details:

Next meeting: Oct 19th: 8pm Central


Question of the Week:

Should High Speed Rail Stations be built on the outskirts of the city, or in the city center?



  • Faster Headlines

  • Podcast Plan

  • Infrastructure Package Update

  • Station Location


Faster Headlines


Wheels on Steel:

CNN Travel


Global Railway Review

Railway Age


The Fresno Bee


Up in the Air:

USA Today

Next City

The Hill

Simple Flying


In the Tube:




Midwest Regional Rail Initiative:

The High Speed Rail Alliance has done a great job summarizing this new document. So please click here to read more...


Infrastructure Update:

For the latest on the infrastructure, check out a dedicated webpage:


From the Captain:

High Speed Rail Stations On the Outskirts:

In most master plans, the thought is to put the high speed rail station in the center of the city. After all, that is where the current rail stations are located today so it makes sense to use Chicago Union Station or Penn Station in New York...right?

Wrong! Let me explain why:

  1. Don’t look at where the stations are today, but what the city looked like when the station was built. For example, back in the late 1880s, the Milwaukee Road and Northwestern railway stations in Madison were built on the fringes of the downtown, only later did the downtown extend out towards the stations. Even Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago had Union Station located on the fringes of what was 1880s Chicago. Even in Japan we see this with the Shin-Yokohama, Shin-Osaka, and Shinagawa Station or Beijing South Station Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. Its a successful pattern!

  2. Need to get people who don't use trains, to use them. People in the city already use rail, and their lives are likely already built around rail stations. It's the suburbanites that don't have access today, but need access tomorrow.

  3. While a downtown might be have the highest population density, the center of metro areas population may be out in the suburbs. After all, metropolitan areas may extend 25-50 miles from the city center. For example, Chicagoland extends out towards Gurnee in the north (37 miles from Union Station), Elgin in the west (35 miles), and Joliet in the south (35 miles). So where is the center between those three suburbs...that would be near O'Hare Airport...not downtown.

  4. It’s cheaper. Land is cheaper, less risk of dealing with historic artifacts, and less people will need to have their homes eminent domained. This means less legal and planning costs.

  5. More socially equitable. When the expressways were built into the city centers in the 1950s, it was poorer neighborhoods that were razed. If built on the fringes, it is only corn that would be "raised".

  6. Finally, connectivity to other modes of transportation. After all airports are on the outskirts of the cities. That's where the “belt line” expressways exists that circle the city and tend to have higher capacity and better connectivity to the region; such as with the Katy Freeway in Houston, I470 in Denver, or I294 in Chicago.

So while the prevailing thought is that a high speed rail station should be in a downtown location, there is a significant amount of evidence the high speed rail station should be treated like an airport and located on the peripheral of a city. After all, this is the thought when they built those stations we have today.


What if the US cancelled short flights?

What if the US adopted France's policy of making short flights illegal?

Yes, it is absolutely impossible to do since we have yet to build a high speed rail system in the US. However, let’s say there was a 200 mph high speed rail network between Chicago and Minneapolis, with stops in Milwaukee, Madison, and Eau Claire. How many flights would be taken out? What would be the reduction in CO2 emissions? More importantly, would I still need to have to check my "carry-on" bag?

Using on Sunday, October 17th, 2021 as test date, over 139 flights would not have operated!

This includes flights from every major airline, with Delta (41 flights) and United (42 flights) being the most affected. But also19 private flights that occurred that day.

The flights include Chicago to Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, and of course Chicago to Minneapolis. This also includes flights from Minneapolis to Milwaukee and Madison. Of course, what this number doesn’t include are flights from Rochester, MN; Wassau, Appleton, or Oshkosh where people would just travel to the nearest high speed rail train rather than fly; or flights like Milwaukee to Denver which could be cancelled because passengers could be rerouted to the Chicago and onto Denver. In which case, it might be well of 150+ flights that would not longer exist.

However, even scarier is the amount of CO2 that could have been prevented. While there is no true calculation for CO2 emissions, using data from the International Council of Clean Transportation of 90 grams of CO2 emitted per passenger carried 1 kilometer (or 145 grams per passenger, per mile) we were able to do a rough calculation. Assuming an 80% load factor on these flights, about 294 metric tons of CO2 were emitted by the flights this day along this proposed Chicago to Minneapolis high speed rail route.

Sadly it would take 13,489 trees over a year to remove those CO2 emissions (again using data from the International Council of Clean Transportation) from just this one day of flights along this route. Of course, regional jet aircraft flying short routes burn a tremendous amount more fuel since most of the flight is spent at lower altitudes where jet engines aren't as efficient. So it is likely that a lot more trees are gonna be needed to offset the CO2 emissions.

As for the need to check your "carry-on" bag. Nope. No small overhead bins here on the high speed trains. Heck you could even choose to store that bag on the floor as there is no takeoff or landing in a high speed train; meanwhile you can then watch all of those trees speed by.

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