Could These College Students Spark A High Speed Rail Revolution?

By Natalie Alatriste

High-speed rail is not exactly an issue that is at the top of many millennial minds these days. But a few local college students are working to change that reality.

Two brothers—Darius and Demetrius Villa—and their friend, Aleksandr Khalfin, founded the High Speed Rail America Club (HSRAC) at Florida International University.

The club researches and promotes high-speed rail trains, also known as bullet trains, in America. Bullet trains, which average more than 150 mph, don’t exist in our country, and it’s a fuel efficient and quicker way to travel, according to Demetrius.

“Half of my family lives in New York City, so about every year, we would take the Amtrak from Miami [to visit]. The train ride, however, takes an embarrassing 32 hours; it used to take 25 hours back in the 1930s,” Demetrius said. “During a visit in December 2012…as soon as I got to NYC, I started searching up other countries’ rail travel in the hotel.”

And this is where it all began.

Demetrius said he started doing his own research and became passionate about the issue—so much so, he applied for TEDxFIU in 2013 to present his idea of revolutionizing American rail.

TED is a “nonprofit organization that is devoted to ideas worth spreading,” according to its website, which will partner with independent organizations, like FIU, to “spark deep discussion.”


Because he wasn’t an experienced speaker, he wasn’t able to present in 2013. However, that didn’t discourage him from informing others on high-speed rail.

People started hearing about it, and now High Speed Rail America Club has 676 members on Facebook. The club is also opening two new chapters at other local universities—the University of Miami and Miami-Dade College.

HSRAC doesn’t solely focus on bullet trains; it also focuses on inner-city transit. The club wants to solve common transit issues, especially in Miami, where public transportation is not as strong as other metropolitan areas.

The group says that they are determined to bring Miami a Maglev train-rail system, which is a transportation system that uses powerful electromagnets to create the high speed, according to

HSRAC is working with three private companies—Texas Central Railway, American Maglev Technology and All Aboard Florida—with hopes of creating a national vision.

The club works closely with All Aboard Florida, though, which is a passenger rail project connecting Miami to Orlando. All Aboard Florida’s website says the project is scheduled to begin this service in 2017.

The HSRAC introduced the Miami Maglev idea to All Aboard Florida, and hope to continue working closely with this already-established organization for the initiative.

The Miami Maglev system would supposedly connect FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus with Miami’s South Beach. The students in the club have been hosting events at FIU, such as the Future of Transportation Day, where members raised awareness for high-speed railways and unveiled the idea of the Miami Maglev to students.

And the members say that they are not stopping until their visions become reality.

One member, Tolga Erbora, the director of railroading and public relations for HSRAC, said he’s confident his position will be taken to a professional level once he graduates.

“The High Speed Rail America Club is an opportunity to take action and fix the issues that come in the way of travelers today,” Tolga said. “It is also a great way to network with politicians and related businesses.”

The club is in the process of making a documentary called “The American Train.” Its release date is scheduled for sometime in October.

“With this documentary, we want to spark the conversation throughout FIU and nationwide. It will include interviews from FIU deans, local historians and executives from All Aboard Florida,” Demetrius Villa said. “With this, we’ll continue to make it a reality and get everyone on board.”

To show support or for more information on the High Speed Rail America Club, visit

This story was originally published on

Cover Photo Credit: Thomas Lok/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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