What if Salt Lake had a bullet train?

The train journey in the United States is famous nightmarishbut it’s even worse when you look at what other countries have.

  • Not only is train travel faster in Europe and Asia, it’s often incredibly cheap compared to travel in the United States.
  • The train from Paris to Barcelona costs less than $40 — “like NYC to Columbus for the price of a meal,” as one writer recently wrote. Noted.

State of play: Gas is extremely expensive in Utah, with the average price still close to $5 a gallon. Having the option to travel by bullet train might be easier on Utahns’ wallets.

  • Public transit also has great environmental benefits.

Our thought bubble: What if we had a bullet train here in Salt Lake? Where could we go, how long would it take and how much would it cost compared to driving?

Details: For a fair comparison, we looked at cities that have roughly the same population as the Salt Lake metro area and found destinations that are within a similar driving distance to cities in the western United States.

  • The cost of a one-way trip is calculated using a car that consumes 25 miles per gallon (in the United States medium) and the average gas price for Utah and the states en route to the destination.

By the numbers: The cost and travel time are much lower in many cities.

Even where the cost was higher (see: Japan), the travel time was much less and vice versa.

  • What’s an extra hour in Portland when you don’t have to drive and it costs half the price?
A list comparing driving routes in the western United States to train routes in other countries.

And after: Probably nothing. There’s a lot reasons high-speed rail hasn’t taken off in the United States: low population density, respectful automobile culture, and a relatively thin history of railroading in general.

Yes, but: That didn’t stop us from dream.

Jose P. Rogers