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spring 2014

s c i e n c e b u s i n e s s n a t u r e t e c h n o l o g y c u l t u r e p o l i t i c s

The texas bullet: Y’all aboard!


illustration by eva Vázquez; statistics: rand mcnally (1,2), bloomberg (3)

by jeff turrentine

As high-speed rail stalls in California, could the Lone Star State be poised to put the country’s first bullet train on track?

n Asia and Europe, tens of millions of people

have been happily riding high-speed bullet trains for decades. On our own shores, however, the implementation of intercity high-speed rail has suffered from a host of delays. The one system that has managed to get moving, somewhat—California’s—has lately found itself beset by legal problems and public cynicism over rising costs and the use of eminent domain to obtain private land for the rail line’s right-of-way. The situation has fans of high-speed rail worried. If America’s first bullet-train system can’t get built in high-tech, environmentally progressive California, they wonder, where can it possibly get built? Hold on to your ten-gallon hats. Texas, of all places, has emerged


miles separating cities of nashville, TN, and columbus, oh


as the state that may stand the best chance of winning the U.S. race for high-speed rail. That California might lose bullet-train bragging rights to a state governed by a pro-fracking climate-change skeptic may come as a surprise. But a Texas triumph could also provide us with a teachable moment about how to tailor bullet-train projects to the different cultures and demographics of all 50 states. Right now, the group pushing hardest to bring the bullet train to the Lone Star State is Texas Central Railway, a collection of movers and shakers within Texas’s tight-knit business and public policy communities. Lately, TCR’s vision of whisking passengers across the 240 miles that separate Dallas and Houston in under 90 minutes has picked up considerable speed. With business partner JR Central, Japan’s busiest high-speed rail provider, the company

miles separating cities of chicago, IL, and oxford, MS


top miles--per-hour speed reached by japan’s L-zero bullet train

spring 2014

onearth 1 7

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways