Interurban Passenger Rail in California: A Laboratory of Rail Renewal in the United States?

By Matthieu Schorung

Although its modal share remains very limited, intercity passenger rail transport in the United States has become steadily more popular since the end of the 1990s. This rediscovery of the train has been encouraged by a favourable context including US government promotion (“Obamarail”), increasing highway and airport congestion, and awareness of issues of ecomobility. Some regions like the Northeast States and California are particularly positive towards a rail revival. The State of California is politically and financially committed to passenger rail transportation currently through Amtrak state-supported lines, the building of a high-speed rail system, the planning of numerous projects, and the objective of a state-wide integrated network. All these elements suggest considering California as a showcase of railroad revival which could inspire other States. Despite a complex railroad sector in the United States and an entanglement of actors, California has succeeded in building a new strategy to make trains a credible alternative to cars and planes. It is implementing a diversified and global strategy, suited to various territorial and institutional contexts, which is leading to innovative forms of governance.


  • United States
  • California
  • Amtrak
  • high speed rail
  • interurban rail
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