WHAT LED US TO THE PROPOSAL for a high-speed rail network was not just the common progressive sentiment, “This is such a great thing for the environment, we'd love to see it happen”. We're trying to get away from that wish-list mentality. We're more concerned with the seemingly intractable problem of air-traffic congestion and the buckets of red ink being spilled by the airline industry. If high-speed rail can provide solutions to these problems, it will be built.

We haven't gotten politicians and business leaders on board with our plan by arguing that high-speed rail is a good idea in and of itself, but by rather by convincing them that it's the best thing we can do to protect the investments they've made in the existing airline infrastructure and the positive trade balance that it has engendered. Furthermore, we've presented high-speed rail as an opportunity for American companies to innovate and create new technologies that could be used across the nation and even exported to other countries, as Japan has done with the Shinkansen.

In looking at the potential arrangement of rail routes in the desert Southwest, we wanted to ensure that travel times were no more than two and a half times greater than the comparable plane ride, as is the case with the Tokyo-Osaka route. This meant that any leg of our system could be up to 280 miles.

We started mapping potential routes between Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles that fell within this 280-mile limit. As it turns out, there is a point in the middle of the Mojave Desert through which we could connect all three cities. By running all of the trains through a hub in the middle of the Mojave, we were able to reduce the amount of track laid by 42 percent, while adding only fifteen minutes to each trip.