In their latest poorly-researched attack piece, the anti-rail group COAST claims that high speed rail will destroy our residential property values and that transit-oriented development is a myth. However, the article is based purely on anecdotes and hearsay, and lacks any factual evidence.
According to a Sky News article and video referenced by COAST, homeowners near the future location of a high speed rail line in England are having difficulty selling their homes. One woman claims the value of her home has been “completely wiped out.” Yet Sky News did not attempt to find any data to back this up.
The Guardian provides some additional coverage regarding this particular issue. Residents’ concerns about the proposed HS2 route may be valid and deserve further consideration, but this particular controversy is specific to the British proposal and doesn’t negate the need for high-speed rail in the United States. There are bound to be aggrieved parties in any major infrastructure project, but our future cannot be held hostage by a handful of NIMBY activists.
COAST also repeats their talking point that transit-oriented development (TOD) isn’t real. They previously made this claim in April 2009, saying that TOD has been slow to materialize near the Washington Metro system in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I responded to their claim with specific examples of TOD where they claimed none existed.
Conveniently, COAST skims over a few big facts in the Sky News article. For example, a conventional-speed train line already connects the cities of London and Birmingham. It has been so successful that the UK’s Department for Transport is now ready to build the high-speed system currently in question — a new 250 MPH line along the same route, cutting the travel time approximately in half. This sounds very similar to Ohio’s plan for the 3C Corridor: get conventional rail up and running, and convert the route to high speed over time.
All three major political parties in the UK support high-speed rail. Even the opponents of this particular line support “upgrading the existing track, upgrading the existing trains” and increasing the investment in rail, according to the Sky News video. Perhaps COAST should embrace the reality that even a conventional-speed train would achieve significant ridership and that rail must play a part of our multi-modal transportation network.
COAST can repeat their stale catchphrases like “snail rail”, “trolley”, and “boondoggle” all they want. It doesn’t change the fact that rail transportation is a proven tool for creating new development and improving our mobility.
Travis Estell is the host and producer of the Explore Cincinnati podcast and a writer for UrbanCincy. He is an advocate for improved mass transit, increased walkability and redevelopment in Cincinnati’s urban core. Travis is a lifelong Cincinnatian, currently living in Over-the-Rhine, and a graduate of the Electronic Media program at the University of Cincinnati.