I should probably create a template for posts that begin “Streetsblog linked today to something amazing or fascinating…”
Today it is a report by America 2050 (apparently a planning research non-profit linked to Transportation for America) called High Speed Rail in America, which was written to evaluate the viability of corridors for HSR. What it also does is provide a useful compendium and comparison of city statistics in America.
Two criteria for evaluating the viability of corridors is population and employment within a 2-mile, 10-mile, and 25-mile radius of a CBD. Minneapolis ranks pretty well here – 13th in the nation for population within a 2-mile radius, and 11th for employment in the same radius (at 110,000 people and 190,000 jobs). Interestingly, Milwaukee beats Minneapolis for jobs in the core with 240,000, though the jobs within 25 miles of downtown Milwaukee is 400,000 less. Anyone looking at the skylines of the two cities would be surprised to hear that, since Minneapolis has at least twice as many skyscrapers. Either the mid-rises of Kilbourntown hold more jobs than at first glance, or the factories of the river bottoms pad Milwaukee’s total.
The report ignores bus transit as a factor for determining HSR viability, so Minneapolis ranks poorly for transit use. Interestingly, America 2050 calculated a population of 110,000 living within a half-mile of the Hiawatha train. While the report generally considered commuter rail, they did not count the Northstar line, probably because its new and not because it runs too infrequently to be considered transit.
Ultimately the report ranks a Chicago to Minneapolis line as fourth-most viable in the Midwest region, although after Chicago-Milwaukee and Chicago-Indianapolis, four other routes are ranked within a few percentage points of one another (Chicago to Detroit, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and St Louis, in order of rank). If the report had included the St Paul CBD in addition to Minneapolis (it is hard to imagine a rail line stopping only in Minneapolis and not in St Paul, due to the layout of existing rail in the region), the Twin Cities would likely have rated better.
Although the report omits a listing of all corridors in the nation and their scores, glancing at the regional listings suggests that most of the Midwest routes rate behind most of the Northeastern routes and most of the California routes. It’s not exactly a jaw-dropper that California and the Northeast are the most viable regions for high speed rail, but it always helps to back up your assertion and this report will still be a useful resource for US city stats.