Texans may soon enjoy the benefits of a privately-funded, high-speed railway from Dallas to Houston. But do Texans want it? And, could this train give the airlines some serious competition?
Nestled at the bottom of the continental United States, Texas is a state that is expansive, beautiful, and if you listen to those born and bred under the Lone Star, objectively better than any other place in the world. Don’t take it personally, folks, we really love our state here, is all.
But despite living in self-prescribed paradise, life isn’t perfect down in the Republic.
You see, the place is big. Really big. It’s a single state that amounts geographically to the size of the entire country of France, actually.
And, while that does put legroom at a premium, it means that everything is spread out to the point that going from major city to major city can require a road trip that lasts anywhere from three hours to a two-day trip.
Take the almost 240-mile (about 360 kilometers) drive from Dallas to Houston for example, which is going to take at least three to four hours.
Or you could fly. What might take about three hours to drive from Houston to Dallas takes about 30-40 minutes if you sign up for a trip on airlines like Southwest, United and American Airlines.
And yeah, it might be cheaper (and shorter) than a road trip, but it’s cramped, and generally no fun.
But remember folks: Here at Edgy Labs, we don’t like to voice a problem unless we’re ready to tell you about the solution. And, this is one that I as a native Texan am pretty darn excited about: we might be getting a Texas bullet train soon.A high-speed rail from Houston to Dallas? Count me in! #texasbullettrainClick To Tweet
The High-Speed Rail System That Could
The high-speed railway system is an elegant solution to transportation over long distances, and as you might imagine, the idea of such a thing connecting major Texan cities is nothing new. For example, the video below is from a 2014 report:
The idea of a Texas bullet train from Dallas to Houston gets floated around every few years, but the plans for it get mired in politics because they require public spending.
Of all the things that are bigger in Texas, Government with a capital “G” is not one of them.
This means that some are ideologically opposed to any sort of publically-funded, massive infrastructural project and are willing to fight against it simply on principle. For this reason, these types of projects usually get shot down before anything can actually be built.
Aside from the public spending question, there is also the way that Texas governance is set up to be inherently ineffective. This is done on purpose to limit the expansion of” Big Government’.
Case in point: we do have a Railroad Commission of Texas, but in an ironic twist of fate, it has nothing to do with railroads anymore because their meeting time is so limited that changing their name gets put on the permanent back-burner.
Incidentally, the state has virtually no focus on railroads anymore.
But where Big Government cannot go, the private sector can.
Enter Texas Central, a company who seems to have bypassed the hurdle that is the Texas Legislature by offering to build a high-speed rail from Dallas to Houston with up to $16 billion from private funds.
Oh, and they also got the green light from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in Washington, D.C. and even support from President Trump, which seriously makes it look like this project is on track for development.
But do Texans really want this?
Beyond opposing Big Government on principle, there are plenty of other Texans who enjoy traveling on their own terms.
As excited as I am about a high-speed train from Dallas to Houson, there are some Texans who would prefer their cars over commuting with a bunch of strangers.
Examining the Opposition
While the project may look like it’s on track, there are still plenty of opponents to the very idea of a bullet train from Houston to Dallas.
In fact, they have a group. The Texans Against High-Speed Rail is a well-funded political group aimed at putting a stop to Texas Central’s aspirations.
Their main objection? Texas Central needs to have eminent domain rights to get the land they need to make their railway on.
That means that some Texans are going to be forced to sell their land, and it’s hard-to-impossible to make that sound good to anyone, much less someone from Texas.
And don’t forget about the airlines.
American, Southwest, and United have anywhere from nine to twenty round trips between the two cities, and that could mean a big hit to their bottom line if a high-speed railway is built.
Especially considering that Texas Central is promising comparative ticket pricing, no delays due to weather, and Wi-Fi to boot.
I suppose that if you are on the side of the airlines on this one, the whole ordeal may look like the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy, with the government giving a green-light to a company that seeks to monopolize interstate travel.
But I don’t put much stock into conspiracies.
At the end of the day, those who like to fly will still fly, and those who like the drive will still drive. The train will just give the rest of us another option, and options are always good.
Looking for the Best Solution
The population in the Texaplex area is increasing, and with that increase comes the need for next-gen living solutions like we see in the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).
And hey, if we can improve the quality of life between large metropolitan areas in Texas and shorten travel from Dallas to Houston, then it gives the rest of the country proof that they can do the same.
In classic Industry 4.0 style, private investment of an idea is helping develop our future, but just because we have an inter-city transportation solution on the way doesn’t mean that Texas’ transportation woes are over.
They aren’t, and they won’t be until we can come up with a scaled-down transportation solution within our cities; they’re pretty big as well.
Personally, I think the whole Texaplex area needs to look into comprehensive public transit systems, for both inter- and inner-city travel.
For example, if you want to go from one end of Houston to the other, the trip could take an hour or more, depending on the traffic.
But throw an autonomous driving force into the mix and that traffic may become a thing of the past.
Admittedly, that may be little more than a pipe dream considering that such a thing would cost a ton of money, a problem which we’ve already established as hated in the Texan political landscape.
Perhaps the private industry will step in, however, and put up most of the funds. It’s apparently working for Texas Central, and it stands to make that company a lot of money if the project is actually implemented.
For now, though, we here at Edgy Labs are keeping our eye out for the future of transportation, so when that autonomous vehicle finally hits the market and my inner-city transportation dream becomes possible, we’ll be here to tell you all about it.