Achieving environmental sustainability beyond technological improvements: Potential role of high-speed rail in the United States of America

In order to reduce energy use and cut emissions that contribute to climate change, countries need to radically reinvent their fossil-fuel intensive transportation systems. As a major consumer of energy and contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the U.S. transportation sector faces extraordinary challenges in the twenty-first century. Transportation in the U.S. depends heavily on fossil-fuel dependent cars and planes to the near exclusion of more energy-efficient electric trains. In order to address this concern, some policy makers refer to “technological optimism” which seeks no systemic change but instead focuses on employing technology to reduce the energy demand and environmental impact of the status quo. On the other hand, some researchers suggest a systematic paradigm shift away from cars and planes to intermodal systems that improve the sustainability of the system as a whole. High-speed rail (HSR) is arguably such an investment that can further this shift and help to achieve a more diversified and balanced transportation system. In this respect, by largely examining the role of the U.S. cars and planes “culture” in the economy, this paper elaborates on how building a HSR system may help U.S. advance towards environmental sustainability in transportation, make a break from the status quo, and create a more balanced, multimodal transportation system that will improve the quality and efficiency of travel.


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  • Accession Number: 01538814
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 2 2014 10:58AM