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Where should future high speed rail stations be located?


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Should old train stations be used for new high speed transportation networks?

Nearly every city built before the 1950's had a train station as its core. Today, however, these cities are struggling with what to do with the old stations. Some cities like New York completely demolished stations (like Penn Station), while others like Denver reinvented their stations, and some just gave Amtrak the station to fix and maintain such as the Chicago Union Station. Finally there are cities like Milwaukee that built a completely new inter modal station. What should a city do?

Advantages of a new stations:

  • Potential Economic Development in new location

  • Cheaper to build and maintain

  • Newest technology

Advantages to utilizing old stations:

  • Existing infrastructure

  • Already located in downtown areas

  • Part of American History

  • Protected by Historical Preservation

There is no easy answer. So as the US moves toward building high speed transportation, the question remains: should the old stations be used?


Do City Planners Have it Wrong?:

Should high speed rail stations be built in the city center, or on the outskirts? It is an interesting question. On one hand, serving downtowns would solve congestion problems. However, it is very expensive to acquire the land and would be fraught with legal battles over eminent domain. Further, when the interstates were built they demolished whole low income neighborhoods, which led to social injustice. Building on the outskirts of downtown areas would be cheaper, faster, and more equitable (since low income neighborhoods would not be razed). Further, real estate value capture could be utilized to pay for the construction (since price appreciation would be greater). In fact, this is one of the reasons China has been able to build High Speed Rail so cheaply, while California’s costs and time delays continue to spiral. However, maybe a station on the outskirts could also solve congestion. After all, a high speed rail station in the center would just increase car trips into the city, which increases congestion. While a station on the outskirts would be fed from all directions and serve cities outside the main city, like an airport does today. Hmm, its an interesting thought.


We asked ChatGPT:

“Tell us more about the kind gentleman who saved Marco the maglev” (part 3 of Marco the Maglev's journey to the island of Sodor)

Once upon a time, on the Island of Sodor, there was a young maglev train named Marco. After his unexpected adventure on the open sea, he had found himself on this magical island where he had made many new friends, including a friendly old train captain named Captain Cole.

Captain Cole was a bit of a mystery to Marco, with his fancy hat, white beard, and weathered exterior. He reminded Marco of his grandfather, who had always regaled him with stories of adventure and excitement.

One day, Marco decided to ask Captain Cole about his adventures and was surprised to learn that Captain Cole was first a boat captain before becoming a train captain. Eagerly, Marco asked, “Captain Cole, what's the most exciting thing you've ever seen on the water?".

Captain Cole smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Well, young Marco, I've seen a lot of things on the water in my time," he said. "But I'll never forget the time I saw a giant whale breach the surface. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen."

Marco's eyes widened. "Wow, that must have been amazing!" he exclaimed.

"It was, indeed," said Captain Cole. "But it wasn't just the whale that was incredible. It was the whole experience of being out there on the open sea, with nothing but the sound of the waves and the wind in your ears. There's nothing quite like it."

Marco nodded, taking in the captain's words. While floating out on the ocean, he had not thought to take in the magnificence of the sea. He had been so caught up with worrying that he had missed the beautiful ocean around him.

As the days went by, Marco and Captain Cole spent more and more time together. They talked about everything from the history of the island to the different kinds of boats and trains that had come through over the years. Captain Cole seemed to know about everything happening on the Island of Sodor, and Marco loved listening to his stories.

Eventually, Marco realized that Captain Cole wasn't just a captain. He was a wise friend who had taught him so much about life and the world around him.

And so, as Marco settled down to sleep that night, he felt grateful for the new friends he had made on the Island of Sodor, especially his new friend Captain Cole. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of the exciting adventures that lay ahead.

(story to be continued next week)


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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