Traveling the 500 miles from Los Angeles to Sacramento by rail—actually a matter of train + bus + train again, since there’s no direct line—takes 12 hours and 25 minutes, according to the recent “Infrastructure!” issue of The New York Times Magazine. You can see why Californians want to build a high-speed system!
If the project happens, travel time on that same itinerary will plummet by about 80 percent, to under 2 ½ hours. And if the experience of Europe and Asia is any indication, the high-speed rail system will bring a cascade of other benefits as well, in categories as disparate as safety, sustainability, social cohesion, and economic revitalization.
Obviously, however, it will take a lot to get there. As one of the country’s most ambitious infrastructure projects ever, it will require vast investment, skull-cracking amounts of planning, and solutions not just to the complexities of the system itself but to everything—crossroads, passenger stations, etc.—it will affect along the way.
As you’ve probably guessed, I mention all this because our own infrastructure project, Epic, presents us with a nearly identical scenario of grueling upfront effort…and extraordinary—almost unimaginable—long-term benefit.
Epic is the hardest thing we’ve ever done as an organization. Because we have to keep the trains running as we lay the new track, completing a fully integrated information network will challenge our patience, our creativity, and our resolve.
So it might be useful for each of us to keep handy a picture of a gleaming high-speed train, as a reminder that when we “get there,” we will be the kind of institution we truly want to be. And we’ll be showing the rest of the world how it’s done.