Proactive Vs. Reactive Transportation Planning

Alex Marshall takes a look at Spain's recent record of proactive transportation planning, connecting cities to direct development rather than to connect already successful areas.

June 3, 2009, 5:00 AM PDT

By Tim Halbur


"Spain, eyeing the fast trains in France in the early 1990s, opted to build its first high-speed rail line from Madrid to Seville, a beautiful city of Moorish architecture and Flamenco dancers, but not an economic dynamo.

Many thought a better choice would have been to build it between Madrid and the thriving city of Barcelona. Many businessmen already made that journey, and many wanted to do so more quickly and easily.

I rode the new Seville line in 1994, shortly after it opened. I made the 300-mile trip from Madrid to Seville in less than two hours, visiting the Seville World's Fair and returning to Madrid in time for dinner. Even so, I wondered at the wisdom of making Madrid-Seville the first line in the system.

But over the past 17 years, the line to Seville has jump-started the economy not only of that city but of an entire region of the country, beautiful but struggling Andalucia. And once the rest of Spain saw how well high-speed train travel worked, the network was expanded, to Barcelona and other major cities, as well. There are predictions that by 2020, nine-tenths of the country's population will be living within about 30 miles of a high-speed train connection."

Monday, June 1, 2009 in Governing Magazine

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