1. Pouring more money into the part of the country that is already getting the most money for rail projects would be regarded as a misapplication of funds throughout most of the rest of the country. If there is more money to be poured into the northeast it would seem a better use of the money to improve connectivity and extend service to medium population locales not currently served. Reading PA into Philly and toward New York comes to mind for one.1. If many people are already taking the Acela now then the current plan to add more carriages to each consist seems to make good economic sense. It also makes sense to improve curves and track spacing as budgets and maintenance schedules allow. To the best of my understanding that's exactly what Amtrak is trying to do at this point.
Many people are already taking Acela now, The logic says if you cut down the time between DC and Boston by 1/3, which is possible with a true HSR, the ridership would increase and profit will soar. And I suspect it will by A LOT. Give HSR to region where passenger train is important to maximize the dollars being poured in.
2. Logic says that if you start out several billion in the red then you won't be seeing any profits at all unless and until you pay off your massive debt burden, thus turning the closest thing Amtrak has to a self-reliant corridor into yet another funding controversy.
3. Ideally the NEC would be included in planning for a future ROW that can operate at much faster speeds and be funded primarily by private lending. This too is already in progress, although the timing and method of funding is still up in the air.
4. Florida and the Midwest have strong potential for true HSR, but they also have elected anti-rail politicians that are openly hostile to funding passenger rail projects. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
5. Texas also has potential but our history on passenger rail projects is not very encouraging. We're also an oil-centric state that promotes using as much oil as possible, and HSR really doesn't fit into that goal at all. And we're about to lose the one dependably pro-Amtrak politician we had.
6. All things considered I think it makes the most sense to continue to fund California's HSR project, assuming they don't suffer a Proposition Eight style ideological reversal. California has a better track record on actually completing passenger rail projects than many other locations. They also have one of the largest passenger rail customer bases and several pro-rail cities. Their Achilles heel is their state budget, but with enough Federal funding that might not be an insurmountable obstruction. Ideally over time the first few legs would build upon each other and eventually connect the whole state through other funding sources, possibly even reaching into Oregon and Washington.
2. The northeast population density is such that constructing line changes to permit increased speeds will be exorbitantly expensive for minimal improvements in run time. Building a straight west to east shot across Baltimore although very expensive as it would need to be mostly underground would likely provide more time savings per dollar that something would permit an already fairly high speed segment to be straightened to permit a higher speed.
3. Due to the already high ridership in the northeast it is doubtful that even significant improvements in run time would result in anything beyond miniscule increases in ridership. Therefore to pour money into the NEC on the basis that it would be returned by improved ridership is probably a fallacy in logic.
4. The Midwest (how can you call anything east of the Miss. River as being part of the west?) has a number of cities ideally spaced to develop a network of rail services that would target drives, but an apparent lack of public pressure and political will to do anything meaningful. Enticing the driving population to travel by rail by providing usable services for short to medium distance trips provides the most meaningful way to reduce fuel consumption other than the apparent current concept of causing fuel prices to rise to the point that people are impoverished to the point they can no longer afford to drive anywhere.
5. California HSR is truly worth building, and should pull a lot of people and planes out of the air between end points and a lot of cars off the road to from and between intermediate points. A logical extension beyond the initial system would be to Phoenix and Tucson, not Las Vegas, and certainly not Oregon.
6. A major cause of the Florida failure was the perception that it was being hijacked to provide access to a couple of favored developments to become a tourist and amusement park ride. A direct shot between West Palm Beach and Tampa, then turning toward Jacksonville and Atlanta would have made a lot more sense than a West Palm Beach to Disney line.
7. The "Texas Triangle" would probably result in significant ridership. Dallas to Houston in particular would be extraordinarily cheap to build. The ridership on and push for further extensions of rail transit in the Dallas area has firmly put the lie to the concept that "Texans will not ride trains" in a way that it can be seen by anybody that is paying attention.