|Japanese bullet train. / Photo via Texas Tribune|
That said, I'm not totally enamored of any of the nine proposed route options linked above.
I could see one or two straight runs, but I'd also like to see some "non-express" runs. And, to do that, we have to have a different route.
By car, if you take I-35 and Texas 6 rather than I-45, there's two small metropolitan areas between Dallas and Houston — Waco and Bryan/College Station. One or two non-express runs are still feasible, IMO.
Right now, part of Amtrak's problem (other than having no direct service between Dallas and Houston at all) is that it's trying to be an alternative to Greyhound as much as to airlines.
Check out all the places the Texas Eagle stops between Dallas and Austin, for example:
Fort Worth (perfectly fine)
McGregor (greater Waco, but why not in Waco?)
Temple (why, if you're stopping at McGregor)
Taylor (OK I guess)
If Amtrak did have a Dallas-Houston line, it would probably have eight or nine stops.
The point is to find a niche between the bus and air, in my opinion.
And, you can still do that with HSR in the way I outlined.
Of course, having just one run a day each between Dallas and Austin, in addition to none between Dallas and Houston, shows another problem. Even on regular trains, you mix an additional run or two a day with fewer cars on each one, which means quicker service.
Or, run an extra non-express route or two on weekends. Wacoans go to DFW, and College Station folks to Houston, for culture, special shopping, events, etc., on the weekends, via train.
That's how it's done in Europe. Here's the route of the French LGV Nord that goes from Paris to Calais (to hit the Channel Tunnel)
Distances? 264 km on the first leg, 98 on the second, then local "milk run" distance on the last two.