Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Lance Winslow

What About High-Speed Trains for the US?

30 posts in this topic

High Speed Trains VS Planes for Transportation

One of the problems with our Mass Transit System in the United States is its inability to interconnect with other regional and metro systems. A more cohesive plan is needed and Amtrak isn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


One of the first things that needs to be done is a two fold approach in order to set the right climate for any form of mass transit including high speed trains. 1.Educate the masses about the advantages of mass transit and get them into a more European mindset when it comes to getting from point A to point B and 2. to pressure local, state, and federal governments to shift from a car dominated mindset to one that is welcoming of mass transit and willing to divert highway construction dollars to funding the construction of mass transit like a network of high speed trains and subsidize mass transit oriented city planning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh yes, I totally agree with you. In fact our Think Tank was discussing the issues in Florida where the high-speed train was not put in for other reasons. One was it would be a Terrorist Target? And another was the eminent domain issues. Too bad really, because a long flat state is perfect for high-speed rail and Florida is a progressive state too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

High speed train travel is becoming a reality in many places. Granted it's not 200mph ICE trains like Germany, but it's 110mph and it's a definite improvement over the 79mph max we have on most tracks outside of the Northeast Corridor.

The Midwest Highspeed rail initiative was created to upgrade tracks in the midwest, centered on Chicago, for high speed rail to increase service to these areas. The trip from Minneapolis to Chicago would be cut from 8 hrs. 10 min. to 5.5 hours. This would definitely make it competitive with flying. (It'd be a bit longer, but not much).

The tracks between Minneapolis and Chicago, for example, are not far from being ready for true-high speed rail. Also, a feasibility study has been completed and found high speed (200mph max) steel-wheel electrified rail to be the best option for a new corridor between Minneapolis and Rochester (about 120 miles apart). If they were smart, they'd extend that corridor up to Duluth, linking Minnesota's three most important economic centers in one go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I have two thoughts - one practical, and one unrealistically idealistic (for now).

First - I think if something like this were to eventually exist, assuming the requisite shifts in public, private and political thinking occurred over time, it would have to exist at a regional level first: split the country into regional compacts or groupings and let it operate at that level. It could not be set up as an Amtrack-style system at the inception - with underutilized transcontinental routes and undue attention to sparsely populated areas. If the thinking shifted from "national" to "regional" it could stand a fighting chance, given the kinds of localized successes seen (or envisioned) in NC and the NE corridor (or the very feasible MN to IL corridor discussed above), and a few other places.

Second - assuming the above could be made to work, I do (I've posted this elsewhere) dream that we'll see a shinkansen-style bullet train net in this country - with SE, Mid-Atlantic, NE, Great Lakes, Mississippi Valley, Texas, SW, West Coast, Intermountain and Midwestern "cores" or "networks" that would interlock, but would perhaps maintain a greater level of governance at the regional level (perhaps even with regionally elected board members, to increase accountability).

Standards would still be federal, in the fashion of the interstates, but local control would offer greater responsiveness and attentiveness to planning and general needs, and the regional systems would of course link to offer services like E Coast length, W Coast length, Mississippi Valley length, etc...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its certainly a real opportunity in the North Eastern Seaboard cities, and maybe some of the other northern ones. The problem may lie in the inherent different development models in the US. Travel is less a to b than m to y of f to w. Cities in most of the US are much less compact, especially out of the city centres aren't they?

I mean taking a 130 mph train between London and Edinburgh city centres in 4 hours makes so much more sense than travelling to the airport, going through security, taking a half hour flight, getting your baggage and then travelling to the city centre, but chance are your origin and destination are much nearer to the railway node than they would be in a US city.

So with dispersed development patterns, even high speed rail woudl struggle below distances of 50 miles (where car or bus makes more sense) or over 500 (when air becomes the best option).

So north east - richmond - washington - ny - boston and northern ny - philadelphia - detriot - chicago? I mean that could work couln't it?

But theres the cost to consider. Distances in the US are huge compared to Europe, when you consider the population densities around the route and the value for money per/mile you get from them

Hmm :S

But would be cool eh?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As was mentioned above about the MN to IL line, the issue in the USA centers around shared track and track that cannot support trains- current trains- goign at their full speed. If more tracking, even regular tracking or at least upgraded track were installed AND passenger trains were given priority we could get somewhere with this. The real issue in most of the country is shared track that AMTAK must lease from the commercial RR lines. Of course the companies are going to put their trains first, that is their business; as long as that scenario is the way it is done we will have problems.

So, to first start fixing things we could prioritize passenger trains, then as state get on board we could install seperate tracks that the states would own and could lease to freight or if there is enough passenger traffic they could keep it designated for the passenger trains.

Will all of that ever happen? I hope so, but I am not too optomistic. I think that the prospect of most of the country getting true high speed trains is better than tracking for conventional trains.

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


The only place in the USA that I am aware of where they are actually moving into a construction phase is the Southeast High Speed Rail Project which is working on a high speed rail line from Charlotte to Washington, DC. Most of the work right now is being funded by the NCDOT and VDOT given that federal funding is fairly sparce right now.

The map below shows the route. Only colored portions have active development. They have already acquired the ROW in the red portion and the engineering and environment studies are complete. They are currently working on the EIS II studies between Raleigh and Richmond. (yellow portion)

sehsrmap.gif

This system will work in conjunction with the NC Railroad which is a state sponsored (only 3 states do this) passenger rail system that connects Charlotte to Raleigh. This map shows that system as well as the route of the HSR line through the state. This system operates in the black and it's success is one of the reasons they are proceeding with high speed rail plans along this route.

futureservmap.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ultimately, High Speed Rail is a step. Right now we need a decent low speed network. Thankfully in a few places that is developing. I think that is a crucial part, as high-speed lines are really best used to connect more local-based networks.

Right now there is not a lot of interest in High Speed rail, becasue people's percepptions of rail travel in this country are so tied in with old fashiopned Amtrak long didstance slow trains. The first step is to introduce more modern trains in a few key places. And I am talking perhaps one step beyond the Cascades - something like the Talgo XXI, which is supposedly capable of running on traditional american lines. This is not super high speed, but it is capable of doing 125. If you could get an efficient network of a few of those running you would be able to show that high speed rail would work.

But to accomplish that, you have to get control over the tracks. Right now the freight railroads own the tracks, and they aren't interested in making them any better. Passenger trains interupt their traffic, they have to spend more on the tracks, and they would rather run heavy large freight trains.

While I certainly think the local establishment of state-owned railways is a step forward, I am worried that this is going to result in a very complex, messy network. I think it would be far better to do this on a planned, national scale and make sure it all works together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ultimately, High Speed Rail is a step. Right now we need a decent low speed network. Thankfully in a few places that is developing. I think that is a crucial part, as high-speed lines are really best used to connect more local-based networks.

Right now there is not a lot of interest in High Speed rail, becasue people's percepptions of rail travel in this country are so tied in with old fashiopned Amtrak long didstance slow trains. The first step is to introduce more modern trains in a few key places. And I am talking perhaps one step beyond the Cascades - something like the Talgo XXI, which is supposedly capable of running on traditional american lines. This is not super high speed, but it is capable of doing 125. If you could get an efficient network of a few of those running you would be able to show that high speed rail would work.

But to accomplish that, you have to get control over the tracks. Right now the freight railroads own the tracks, and they aren't interested in making them any better. Passenger trains interupt their traffic, they have to spend more on the tracks, and they would rather run heavy large freight trains.

While I certainly think the local establishment of state-owned railways is a step forward, I am worried that this is going to result in a very complex, messy network. I think it would be far better to do this on a planned, national scale and make sure it all works together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is assuming that freight is time dependent. Which is usually not the case when rail is involved. Every efficiency is actually a compromise (and this goes for anything, not just rail or even transportation): in this case rail gets it's efficiency by consolidating shipments into one route at one time, and by being able to move slowly but surely. This is fine for stuff that really does not depend alot upon timely delivery, such as bulk goods. But when it comes to faster products, then trucks usually come into play. By improving our track infrastructure so that we can move freight faster (by better tracks and smaller, lighter trains) , then we will have improved that side of the equation. Only the Frieght railroads are more interested in larger quantity with slower speed.

The real matter though has little to do with logic. Making rail work in the US requires changing entreched business and personal interest practices. It means putting focus on something and draweing away from things people are profiting from now. And it requires an major attitude change from the big brawny plow-your-way-through mindset to one of flexibility and economy. And that is a huge, perhaps insurmountable problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For high speed rail to be at its best, they need to just buy their own right of way, and build new tracks on it, IMO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that a high-speed network is not going to work with the freight railroads involved in any way. Real thought and planning must go into this- not merely lip service. We must go forward with some kind of high-speed system. Planning is essential, as I agree that it could become a quagmire if each individual state is expected to promote its own plan. We built the interstate highway system without too many problems- and without murmur from anyone about the tremendous costs involved. Let's do the same thing with rail transit. It's time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Considering how cheap it is to fly from point A to B, not to mention faster, I don't see high speed rail as ever becoming successful in the USA for longer distances. Hey, I'd ride it from S.F. to San Diego as there has been talk of this down I5, but I think economics will win out ultimately, and any truly high speed systems will be over relatively short distances.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Of course it won't work for long distances. The key is to develop a series of regional high-speed rail systems which may or may not link with one another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Of course it won't work for long distances. The key is to develop a series of regional high-speed rail systems which may or may not link with one another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Houston-Dallas-San Antonio-Austin might be one. Washington-Richmond-Norfolk-Charlotte might be another. Minneapolis-Chicago-Milwaukee might be still another. Miami-South Florida-Orlando might have strong possibilities as well. The possibilities are as flexible as they are endless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While the cost of flying is going down, and it does play a role in Rail transit, it clearly is not a killer to HSR in other areas of the world. In Europe air travel between cities is extremely cheap, one can find flights between the major cities of Briton for as little as $20; however, people still take the train. Actually, train travel is extremely common in Europe. Many people will take the train (HS) from Paris to Lyons just to have dinner (about 2 hr ride). I could see that happening in Florida. Many people would be interested in taking the train from Tampa to Orlando for dinner, or even to Miami for a quick weekend.

A MAJOR advantage of trains (be they HS or not) is that they generally stop in the city center, not outside (and in many big cities very far outside) the center. HSR is fast enough that often the stop in the city can negate the speed of air travel, not to mention the hassel of air travel due to security concerns. Another advantage is weather, that was recently shown in Denver where air traffic was not moving, but Amtrak still made it into the city (albeit as slow as ever).

So, rail can work in the US, but it must be implemented correctly. We shall see.

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love to fly, and it's getting to the point where flying simply isn't fun anymore. It has become a major chore. The service on most American carriers, not terribly great to begin with, has dwindled to the point of nothingness. Not that Amtrak's service has much to say for itself either, but the service angle is one area where trains could shine- if the right effort were put into the venture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since they are only carrying people for cargo, I think that maybe we ought to look at a lightweight version of Disney's monorail. I think dedicated tracks are the way to go, so the freights won't get disrupted and elevated tracks would minimize the footprint of the system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the idea, but elevated tracks might be a hard sell in many suburban areas. I can just hear the screams of NIMBYs now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Monorail can be great in the correct application, but I am not sure if this is it. Monorail is meant to really carry a smaller amount of people at a time than a train can. However, in a commuter role a monorail could work out great. I do not think that it would be a great way to go when it comes to high speed inter-city transit though.

As a side fact, monorail can be at grade and not elevated which could lower the cost in certain scenarios. It rarely (if ever) is done, but it can be.

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I like the idea, but elevated tracks might be a hard sell in many suburban areas. I can just hear the screams of NIMBYs now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I love to fly, and it's getting to the point where flying simply isn't fun anymore. It has become a major chore. The service on most American carriers, not terribly great to begin with, has dwindled to the point of nothingness. Not that Amtrak's service has much to say for itself either, but the service angle is one area where trains could shine- if the right effort were put into the venture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.