While reading through a thesis on transit investment in the Puget Sound Region, this graph caught my eye. It shows the stark neglect transit investments received over the last 50 years.


It’s really no wonder that so few people have access to high quality transit. Keeping this chart in mind, imagine what could’ve been done with just a fraction of the money that was spent on highways. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • The most recent estimates of cost to complete California’s High Speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles is $67.6 billion or less than 2% of the total we’ve spent on highways in this country.
  • If we use the same cost per mile as California’s high speed rail ($54 million), building high speed rail from Portland to Vancouver, BC would only cost about $25.2 billion (467 miles) or less than 1% of the money we’ve put into highways. This is likely a high estimate and it would actually cost much less than this. This estimate puts the cost of rail from Chicago to Columbus at $1.5 billion which is about 300 miles or $5 million per mile.
  • Getting trains in the northeast corridor up to 220 mph would cost about $150 billion or just over 4% of what we’ve spent on highways. This would serve about 10% of the US population (New York, Philadelphia and Washington metro areas).
Article Author
Owen Pickford holding a beer, wearing a Sounders shirt in front of a bridge, river and large towers in Tokyo.
Owen Pickford

Owen is a solutions engineer for a software company. He has an amateur interest in urban policy, focusing on housing. His primary mode is a bicycle but isn't ashamed of riding down the hill and taking the bus back up. Feel free to tweet at him: @pickovven.