André Navarri, president and COO of Bombardier Transportation, speaks about high-speed rail to MPC's Leadership Circle
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Oct 1, 2010
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
On Tuesday, MPC’s Leadership Circle welcomed André Navarri, president and chief operating officer of Bombardier Transportation, in Berlin, Germany, to speak about high speed rail (HSR) in the Chicago region. Bombardier is the world’s largest train manufacturer, building local, regional and high speed trains. It first partnered with Chicago in 1976, and continues to manufacture trains for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), including the recently rolled out center facing trains. Bombardier also supplies Amtrak trains, and could manufacture trains for a new HSR line from Chicago to St. Louis.
Navarri talked about moving HSR forward in the U.S. He stressed three keys to its success: consistency, compatibility, and competitiveness. Consistency meaning reliable long-term funding so that HSR is planned and built right from the beginning. Compatibility means streamlined connections to other forms of transit to allow riders to transfer easily from an HSR line to an airplane, train, or bus. Competitiveness means the importance of communicating that HSR creates jobs and improves the local economy. MPC research documented that Illinois’ $1.2 billion in funding to upgrade service from Chicago to St. Louis will entice about 800,000 new tourists to Chicago over the next 10 years, bringing with them $510 million in direct and indirect spending, $120 million in new state and local tax revenue, 5,300 jobs (as a result of tourist spending and building the Englewood flyover bridge near 63rd street), and $2.6 billion of additional income from job creation.
When asked for best practices from around the world, Navarri pointed to China as a good example. Chinese leaders view HSR as the key to their economic growth, linking large cities throughout the country. By 2020, China will have more HSR lines than all other countries in the world combined. Unlike here, the Chinese government does not have to worry about public opinion for spending tax payer money. However, Navarri stressed that good examples will overcome that issue, meaning if we get high speed rail right the first time, there will be an appetite for more.
Navarri thinks more than ever before the climate is right for trains and ripe for Chicago, as the center of the U.S., and a potential hub for HSR across the country. Yet, he stressed that investing in upgrading track is vital so the trains can travel as fast as they’re built to do.
Bombardier designs and builds some of the coolest trains in the world, including the REGINA train that set a 2008 Swedish speed record of 295 km/h (183 mph). The rail we’ll ride to St. Louis and back will hum along at an average speed of 88 mph and a top speed of 110 mph, a little slower, but a first step in building a true HSR network in America.
MPC is partnering with the City of Chicago to assist with planning around the future HSR rail station in downtown Chicago. MPC will conduct outreach, determine how the station can advance the goals of the Central Area Plan, promote Placemaking around the station’s perimeter, and analyze potential economic gains such as new hotels built to serve new tourists, or downtown investments sparked by the development of an HSR station.