Will Texas' High Speed Rail Stations Be Any Good?

Will Texas' High Speed Rail Stations Be Any Good?

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this video is sponsored by curiositystream if you want to ride a fast train in the united states right now your best option is the acela corridor in the northeast that runs between washington dc and boston with stops in philadelphia and new york it's a route that makes absolute sense several massive cities all within close proximity making train travel competitive with cars and planes but there's another region in the country with very similar advantages it's the texas triangle made up of the 4th 5th 24th and 28th largest metro
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areas in the u.s dallas fort worth houston san antonio and austin they all exist in one of the flattest parts of the u.s if the texas triangle were in china or japan you would be able to get between these cities and a web of high-speed rail right now but we're in texas there is some rail service between the cities of the texas triangle the texas eagle connects dallas and fort worth to austin and san antonio with once daily service and you can catch an amtrak sunset limited train from san antonio to houston but it only operates three days
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per week at a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour it truly is limited this is disappointing when compared to rail service in places like california let alone places like japan and europe i'm not the only one to notice that texas seems ready made for high-speed rail there has long been a proposal for a texas t-bone network that connects cities via two major routes that intersect in the city of temple other proposals literally draw a triangle and one high-speed rail proposal is rapidly approaching the construction phase texas central is a private rail company that plans to connect dallas and houston
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the two largest cities in the triangle with a train that could connect the two plus one additional stop in 90 minutes they're planning on using the same train technology that runs the japanese shinkansen texas central will be the second privately built rail service in the united states after the bright line in florida that service connects miami to west palm beach with an extension to orlando under construction but laying the rails and running the trains is really only half of a successful high-speed rail line we need to talk about stations how will people get here what are around the stations and what people need a car when they arrive
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the answer to these questions comes from station area planning will texas's station plans make for a successful high-speed rail network let's talk about that after the bike belt in many cities outside the united states there's no real concern about what's around a train station they're already located in central cities with hotels restaurants businesses and other attractions within walking distance there are also major transportation hubs making it easy for travelers to hop off their high speed rail and get on a bus tram or commuter rail to destinations outside of walking distance
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this is one of the primary advantages of traveling by rail no long drive out to the airport security lines and extensive boarding processes you just hop on a tram to the station board your train and off you go that said you can probably see the problem with where i am now this is austin's passenger rail station there's a ymca in a park over here a busy road over there and we're pretty close to downtown austin it's not in the middle of nowhere by any means but a texas eagle passenger train arriving here will not be emerging from a grand station in the center of a bustling city like in europe so let's take a look at the four
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major metro areas of the texas triangle and see what it would take to get these station areas to a point where people could have a more seamless car free experience and let's start here in austin here's a look at the map it's not dead central in austin like a grand central station but it is downtown or downtown adjacent in an area that seems to be growing quickly location is critical to any successful rail station and downtown rail stations have the benefit of being centrally located and surrounded by pedestrian-friendly land-use patterns and transportation networks there are likely many hotels
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and restaurants nearby perfect for travelers and districts with bars restaurants and hotels tend to be 24-hour neighborhoods ones that are lively all the time this is useful for when trains arrive late travelers can still get a meal and check into a hotel safely if a rail station isn't smack dab in the middle of downtown having some nearby areas for new development can help and austin station has this those areas can be redeveloped into a future 24 hour neighborhood here in austin there may be a better place for that adjacent ymca and that could free
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up some land for hotel or other transportation supportive uses and some of the parkland nearby can be converted as well though i'm not advocating for buildings up against the river that trail and park system is a gem and should not be touched the final thing a successful station area needs is connections to other transit not everyone will be staying at the hotel next to the station none of this new transit will be located anywhere near this station the closest stop will be about 15 minutes walk that way now part of this is because austin's high-speed rail plans are well into the
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future but this doesn't bode well for making this station a hub for local transportation so the final verdict for austin is mixed the location has some promise but long-term transportation plans ignored entirely if high-speed rail to austin became a reality these plans could change but it doesn't bode well but what about the two cities that are getting high-speed rail houston and dallas surely their stations will hit the mark well maybe let's take a look at the description of houston station on the texas central's website near the interchange of u.s 290 and
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interstate 610 in northwest houston okay citing proximity to highway interchanges isn't promising but they are aiming to connect the station to the region's growing bus rapid transit network so that's something and it's possible that the high-speed rail station will stimulate new dense development in a suburban location the site is an abandoned shopping mall so this rail station is a definite upgrade let's head north to the dallas metroplex the new station will be constructed in the cedars neighborhood south of downtown dallas this is a neighborhood already served by light rail that connects to downtown
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in fact it connects the neighborhood to dallas union station a beautiful building that already hosts amtrak light rail streetcar and bus texas central says the station isn't big enough to accommodate high-speed rail and existing freight uses make it impossible to use the station it's a shame that high-speed rail couldn't use that historic downtown station but if the connections between these two stations are good enough maybe it won't make a difference both the houston and dallas stations are pragmatic if the goal is to get these lines built they don't require extending high-speed rail tracks into the heart of
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either city which can be costly it remains to be seen how passengers will get to and from these stations and if lively 24 7 districts will spring up around them there's one last city and station to explore san antonio the city has an existing amtrak station nestled right on the edge of downtown it's a rather uninspired building that handles the city's very limited passenger rail traffic it's located right next to their beautiful historic train station worthy of something like high-speed rail it's currently used as an event space but it's not impossible to see it return to passenger service if texas central or a
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government agency were to purchase it though not located in the heart of downtown it is an historic district with room for future growth and development it's also neighbors with the alamodome sports arena the convention center and the tower of the americas the alamo historic site and san antonio riverwalk are within walking distance there's just one problem interstate 37 cuts the station off from everything but the alamo dome and even the alamo dome is separated by a concrete car canyon a walk along commerce street isn't too bad and i've definitely crossed under worse highways but there would need to
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be some connectivity or improvements to make this station area work a riverwalk expansion new light rail service or some sort of shuttle could help connect the station to nearby destinations all of those destinations would be hugely popular with travelers san antonio station is probably the best located to allow people to take a train hop off and reach some great attractions without needing a car if we can agree that a successful train station is centrally located within a 24-hour district and has great transit access then we can also agree that the stations in texas's major cities are missing some key pieces
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if i had to choose i'd say san antonio station has the most possibility but if dallas's new station can be well connected to the convention center in downtown generally it could be a contender a good high-speed rail system needs two things a good rail network and great stations texas central hopes to do both and they're not alone long-time rival california has plans for its own high-speed rail system and unlike texas central they've already begun construction on segments of the track but the plan has been mired in controversy and caused overruns what's the latest on california's
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high-speed rail plans i posted a quick synopsis of the successes and failures of that project over on nebula that content actually replaces this ad because there aren't any ads on nebula we're calling this bonus content nebula plus and you'll see a lot of it over there and not just for me lots of other creators are doing the same thing it's proving quite popular and i'll know you'll enjoy all of the nebula plus offerings on the platform nebula is great and is made even better thanks to our partnership with curiositystream curiositystream is the source for high quality engaging
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