Benefits of high speed rail

Because high speed rail promises environmental, economic, and transportation benefits, it has garnered broad support from throughout the Midwest. Click here to view a map of the Midwest High Speed Rail Network.

Cleaner Air and Less Sprawl

High speed trains in the Midwest would be three times as energy efficient as cars and six times as energy efficient as planes. Choosing rail travel over driving or flying will decrease our dependence on foreign oil and reduce air pollution that causes global warming and harms public health.

Currently, major portions of the Midwest suffer from “severe” smog problems, according to federal regulators. The construction of high-speed rail will decrease the region’s reliance on automotive transportation and therefore help reduce ozone emissions.

Downtown train stations will pull jobs, people and business back into the country’s central cities thus reversing sprawl. High speed rail reduces the need for new outlying highways and airports which exacerbate sprawl.

Convenience and mobility

At distances of less than 400 miles, high-speed trains can deliver you downtown-to-downtown almost as fast as airplanes at a fraction of the cost, and can do so in virtually all weather.

With wide seats, fax machines, places to plug in your laptop computer, and food service, high-speed trains provide a convenient, productive alternative to cars and airplanes.

The economic value of the improved mobility has been valued at $13.2 billion through 2030.

High speed rail offers convenient service to most of the region’s major airports, allowing residents of smaller communities the benefits of affordable long-distance travel.

Constructing a Midwest high speed rail network supports commuter and light rail. In Chicago, for example, high speed trains will share Union Station with METRA commuter trains, increasing ridership on both.

High speed rail will provide $1.3 billion in highway congestion relief and $700 million in airport congestion relief.

A single railroad track can carry as many people as a ten-lane highway at a fraction of the cost.

New jobs and economic growth

For the City of Chicago, a high speed rail hub will have the equivalent economic impact of a medium-sized airport located in the heart of the central business district – without having to displace a single office.

The Midwest’s railcar manufacturing industry will prosper as a result of the addition of high-speed rail to the region.

As the redevelopment of train stations in Washington D.C. and Kalamazoo have demonstrated, train terminals can become the focal points for commercial redevelopment and promote substantial new development in surrounding areas. A study for the City of Chicago estimated that high speed rail would bring $8-10 billion dollars of new economic activity to Chicago.

A high speed rail network pulls together the regional economy and promotes intra-regional business growth. The economic impact of Midwestern intra-regional trade greatly exceeds the potential benefits of increased trade with Canada and Mexico spurred by NAFTA.

The development of improved rail service can provide a significant boost to travel and tourism by facilitating weekend leisure trips by families from smaller towns to the major cities and vice versa.


  • Once built, high-speed rail in the Midwest will pay for itself.
  • Every dollar of cost yields between $1.70 and $2.50 of benefits