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Weekly Newsletter: What Japan Started

October 27, 2014

Last week Executive Director Rick Harnish and Board Member Maurice Ball traveled to Japan for the official celebration of the 50th Anniversary of high-speed rail. They were able to ride the Shinkansen, participate in a test run of the 311 mph Maglev train and hold meetings with high-speed rail dignitaries from across the world.

Looking back at 50 years of transportation history, Japan offers some lessons – and inspiration – for Americans like us who want a better way to travel.

Today the first high-speed train is considered a great human achievement and is a major source of national pride in Japan. Surprisingly, at the time high-speed trains were introduced, people thought rail was dead.

At a time of auto-centric planning, the Shinkansen high-speed train showed the world that train travel was not a relic of the past. As country after country followed Japan's lead and introduced high-speed trains, the rail industry was reborn.

High-speed trains now cruise at 205 mph – 75 mph faster than the first Shinkansen. High-speed trains have been fitted to change gauges, decorated with modern amenities and adapted to the world's most extreme climates. They boast an incredible safety record that has saved thousand of lives. Planners have found ways to integrate high-speed trains with local commuter systems, airports and international rail networks.

A lot of these benefits haven't made it to America yet. But, despite Congressional intransience, not all Americans are ignoring the power of high-speed trains. California is beginning construction. There is serious talk about a new line in Texas. Minnesota introduced planning work for true high-speed rail.

We've missed out on high-speed rail for 50 years, but there is reason to be optimistic.

Once America joins the party, we'll have some of the finest technology ever seen waiting for us. We'll also be able to join an industry that creates the highly-skilled manufacturing, design and engineering jobs our workforce demands.

A lot is happening with rail across the world. I can't wait to see it here firsthand.

Let's make it happen,

Julius Parod

Last Week at MHSRA:

Over 70 passenger rail supporters gathered in Milwaukee on Saturday for the joint MHSRA and Wisarp meeting. Speakers included Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb, MHSRA President Joe Schwieterman and MHSRA's Shira Orlowek. Read more at

So far, over 200 MHSRA supporters have weighed in on the Chicago-Detroit corridor project. If you haven't had a chance to speak up, take one minute or less to share your vision for the corridor here.

On the Blog:

Check out Maurice's description of the Japan trip here.

Articles We Enjoyed:

Grand Rapids' new Amtrak station grand opening date set, retiring Sen. Carl Levin to attend: Today (10/27), Grand Rapids debuts a brand new train station! It's one of many recent rail improvements in Michigan.

Viewpoints: An environmentalist's case for high-speed rail: "By 2040, high-speed rail could reduce vehicle miles traveled in [California] by nearly 10 million every single day – nearly 3.6 billion miles every year."

7 Ways in Which High-Speed Rail Would Help California, According to Its Chairman: Part 4 in "The Atlantic"'s 10-part series on the California high-speed rail project. A great in-depth look at America's first high-speed train line.

Plans unveiled for new £144bn high-speed rail link from Moscow to Beijing that could cut Trans-Siberian journey time by 4 DAYS: The proposed route will be 4,350 miles long.

Caltrain and High-Speed Rail Pursue Level Boarding, Compatible Platforms: Using common infrastructure is a great way to get the most out of transportation assets. California sets a good example for what Chicago and the Midwest need to be doing.

Upcoming Events

Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Corridor Public Hearings:

October 28th - Dearborn, MI Intermodal Passenger Rail Station (4-7 PM ET)

October 29th - Chicago Union Station (4-7 PM CT)

October 30th - Genesis Convention Center - Gary, IN  (4-7 PM CT)

November 4th – Join us at Maggiano's for lunch in downtown Chicago! A great chance to network and hear from Phil Washington, the newly appointed APTA chair.

Postponed: The Young Professionals Happy Hour at Matilda (10/29) has been postponed to avoid a conflict with the public meeting at Union Station. The new date for the happy hour will be announced soon.

Every dollar you give brings us closer to high-speed rail in America. Help us get there faster with a donation of $15 or more today.