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Meet The Man Who Aims For A 90-Minute Bullet Train Ride From Dallas To Houston

Krystina Martinez
Robert Eckels is the president of Texas Central Railway, the private company behind the bullet train project. Eckels was a county judge for years in Harris County.

Bullet trains fire up regularly between cities in Europe. In Japan, the state-of-the-art Shinkansen trains can reach 200 miles per hour. Robert Eckels, president of Texas Central Railway, is determined to bring that same bullet train to Texas. His goal: a 90-minute commute from Dallas to Houston. 

Interview Highlights: Robert Eckels…

…On why bullet trains are feasible in Texas now:

“It’s really been about money. [Bullet trains] around the world are traditionally a state-sponsored program. The state comes in and builds to serve the communities and political constituencies.

We’re a little different. No place in America has really put together a political to really build out a high speed rail system, but [Texas Central Railway] is a private company. We’re not looking for grants or operating subsidies. It also lets us do it in a way that makes financial sense and doesn’t put a burden on the taxpayers and the state.” 

…On the demand for a bullet train to Houston:

"We know that we’re competing with cars. TxDOT’s estimates are 50,000 people that make this commute [from Dallas to Houston] at least three days a week. The market has changed for airlines. They’re a hassle – you have to go through the security systems, you have to get in there way in advance. In the mornings, when I’m coming out of Houston and flying to Dallas is fine, but often in the afternoons, you’re delayed – maybe not for weather in Dallas, but weather for St. Louis. I can’t speak for the airlines, but they’re not really fighting us on this project."

…On his experience riding a Shinkansen bullet train:

"It’s an incredible machine. It’s fast, it’s smooth, and it is the safest ride in the world. In Japan, they have less than a minute delays on these trains running out of the stations over the full year and they run a train every four minutes – 400,000 people a day.

You can sit on the train and work on the computer with Wi-Fi connected. You can get up and wander around, talk on the phone. You don’t get the sense of the speed unless you look right outside or another train passes you going in the opposite direction."

The Proposed Timeline For The Dallas-to-Houston Train:

2016 – Finish the environmental studies and permitting processes

2017 – Begin construction

2021 – Begin operations 

The first public hearing on the Dallas-to-Houston bullet train will be Tuesday at the Dallas Infomart. An open house begins at 4:30 p.m., the presentation starts at 6:30 p.m.

Learn more: Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes

KERA's Shelley Kofler reported last year on the bullet train effort. Read her story here.