More Megas and High-Speed Rail

Seeking Alpha comments on why railroads will make us richer:

"Along the northeastern corridor, there are cities that made the jump from industrial to post-industrial economy fairly successfully, namely, those that had developed knowledge-intensive industries like finance or technology even as industry was beginning to leave center cities. In between these successful cities are interspersed others that were heavily reliant on industry, and which didn't fare nearly as well over the past half century (Baltimore is the best example).

"But where the industrial core in the Midwest has seemingly entered an irreversible decline, rotting industrial hubs along the northeast corridor hit a bottom and began to recover over the past decade. Baltimore continues to lose people, but its economy is fairly stable, and much of the city has seen significant redevelopment.

"The reason for the turnaround is proximity to thriving markets. The ability to take advantage of certain aspects of the Washington metropolitan market has strengthened Baltimore. Similarly, New York has generated economic opportunity for much of the northeastern corridor, touching off redevelopment in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. One of the chief lessons of economic geography is that a good way to get rich is to be near other rich places; remoteness is costly. If we could shift all the cities in the Midwest closer to each other, and then pick them up and move then nearer to the northeastern corridor, we would go a long way toward restoring the economic viability of many Midwestern cities.

"We can't literally do that, but we can effectively accomplish something similar by improving physical links within the Midwest and between it and other regions. We could decongest highways and airports with congestion charges, for instance, and plow the proceeds into high-speed passenger and freight rail connections among Midwestern cities and between the Midwest and the northeastern corridor (as well as healthy Canadian metropoles. Richard Florida makes the case here).

Absolutely. Amtrak and its Acela have played important roles in the economic transformation not just of Baltimore but of Philadelphia and, I would argue, Washington, D.C. Not to be overly controversial to my Beltway-area friends and colleagues, but there's no getting around the fact that better rail connections have (at least in part) enabled the region's resurgence as in effect a "suburb" of NYC. A whole raft of companies that might have located in the NYC region have been able to locate in greater Washington, D.C. instead, taking advantage of its talent pool, relative lower housing costs, and quality of life. There has been a veritable mass migration of journalistic talent to the region. And my own figures on industry and occupational location show a surge not just in media jobs generally but in broadcasting - specifically, the kinds of jobs which were once more highly clustered in and around NYC. And, of course, the effect of the Metro system on redevelopment in the city and in Arlington is well understood.


So, transportation infrastructure plays a big role in economic development by opening up new spaces and by allowing for the redevelopment of old spaces in more intensive ways. There's not many transport technologies that promise to do that today for mega-regions straddling major cities except high-speed rail. High-speed rail is a technology that "fits" the geographic scale of mega-regions and can help spur more intensive development of them.

Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here

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