Introduction of high speed-rail service to travelers, commuters, cities, and the railroad industry in general, will open new and modern opportunities to overcome the long standing limitations of rail travel, as well as, the inefficiencies of auto, and bus transportation. High-speed trains have already set new standards of efficiency and elegance in Europe and Asia, and should have similar impact on travel experience in the United States. New, state of the art high-speed trains will surely raise satisfaction with, and quality of traveling experience to all users of high-speed rail services.
High-speed train services clearly demonstrate the potential and state of engineering, as well as, superlative rail services in every venue of operation. Passenger comfort and riding experience have been enhanced to levels that have removed most of the noise, smells, and lurching motions that have characterized passenger train travel over the past century. Indeed, it is not difficult for the average high-speed train passenger to forget that he or she is traveling at 200 or more miles per hour. While Asian and some European high-speed rail services tout their 200+ mile per hour operating speeds, the first high-speed train connecting Europe and Russia appears to be well-received in transporting passengers between Helsinki and St. Petersburg at a top speed of 135 miles per hour.
To the extent that high speed rail services and technology raise expectations and demands of riders, as well as, urban and transportation planners, this new generation of mass transportation systems may begin to change the environments of cities and urban settings, as well as, the role of transportation planning in the development of all urban infrastructure. The highly successful inter-city and cross-country routes of high-speed train services may not be adaptable or compatible with urban or environmentally sensitive settings, however. While riders are treated to a positive and pleasant travel experience on virtually all high speed routes and services, the impacts of high speed train travel on the settings and environments through which they pass are dramatically different, requiring significant mitigating construction and separation from the aerodynamic and sound impacts, as well as, the massive movement of entire trains through settings in a matter of seconds. One need only stand on the platform of a station through which a train passes at 200 miles per hour to appreciate the impact of high-speed trains on every setting and environment they pass through. Such impacts are not likely to be adequately or acceptably mitigated in most urbanized settings or environments, and will likely prove to be incompatible with most developed environments.