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lotuspuppy
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01 Jul 2010, 8:01 pm

I stumbled upon an op-ed the other day that gave me hope: high speed rail in the U.S. may yet become reality. The columnist, Don Young, is a Republican congressman from Alaska, the least-dense state in the union. None of those factors suggest support for rail, yet he does because he sees the economic necessity of a cross-country rail system.

I hope they do it one day. I've taken the train from DC to New York a few times, but it's top speed is only around 100mph. Elsewhere, trains are not only slower, but completely impractical.Web Page Name



Jacoby
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02 Jul 2010, 12:01 am

A lot of the stuff they're talking about isn't really high speed rail. The supposed "high speed" rail they want to build here in Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Madison's top speed would only be like 78-100 mph. God knows why they want to build a train between Milwaukee and Madison, not like it's that hard of a drive, taking a train would certainly take long, and you'd probably spend less on gas than you would on a ONE ticket. Students at UW-Madison already have a bus line between Madison and Milwaukee. It would just be a giant unwarranted money pit that would have to be subsidized by the tax payer.



Wombat
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02 Jul 2010, 12:46 am

China is building thousands of miles of high speed rail to cris-cross the country.

America can't even keep the existing roads and bridges in good repair.

A generation ago America was the most advanced country in the world and Chinese were seen as ignorant peasants in pointy straw hats.

Who is laughing now?



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02 Jul 2010, 1:35 pm

There are a huge number of impediments:

1) High speed rail is primarily a passenger requirement. But passengers make up a tiny fraction of the use of railbed. Freight operaters will have little use for high-speed rail.

2) High speed rail requires dedicated tracks. High speed rolling stock can't use conventional track, and you can't run at high speed if your track is occupied by conventional rail traffic ahead of you.

3) New infrastructure for high speed rail is spectacularly expensive, given the size of the US. It is precisely the places where high speed would make most sense, areas of dense population (the North East, the Pacific Coast) that the land acquisition costs are the most expensive.

Highspeed rail is competitive with air travel and road only in the "sweetspot" of journeys of about 2 - 5 hours. Less than two, and road can demonstrate itself significantly more efficient. Over 5, and the speed of air travel takes over. Given this limited scope, high speed rail is only practical in a handful of regions in North America.


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skafather84
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02 Jul 2010, 2:07 pm

High speed railways would help alleviate oil dependency and introduce a more effective, affordable means of interstate transit.


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ruveyn
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02 Jul 2010, 2:22 pm

skafather84 wrote:
High speed railways would help alleviate oil dependency and introduce a more effective, affordable means of interstate transit.


We will still need trucks to do the finals stages of delivery and the first stages of pickup.

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Jkid
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02 Jul 2010, 3:05 pm

I doubt that high speed rail will happen in our lifetimes. Passenger rail in the US is already pathetic as it is because of the lack of maintenance. They need to improve regular passenger rail first and get it up to speed before even thinking about high speed rail.

But with America constant worship of the car, it will never happen or they will drag their feet.



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02 Jul 2010, 3:28 pm

Ha! That'll be the day.

It's hard enough just trying to get a dependable bus around here. America is car guggling country and you're either damned if you do or damned if you don't in our transportation system.


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Last edited by MissConstrue on 02 Jul 2010, 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lotuspuppy
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02 Jul 2010, 3:41 pm

visagrunt wrote:
There are a huge number of impediments:

1) High speed rail is primarily a passenger requirement. But passengers make up a tiny fraction of the use of railbed. Freight operaters will have little use for high-speed rail.

2) High speed rail requires dedicated tracks. High speed rolling stock can't use conventional track, and you can't run at high speed if your track is occupied by conventional rail traffic ahead of you.

3) New infrastructure for high speed rail is spectacularly expensive, given the size of the US. It is precisely the places where high speed would make most sense, areas of dense population (the North East, the Pacific Coast) that the land acquisition costs are the most expensive.

Highspeed rail is competitive with air travel and road only in the "sweetspot" of journeys of about 2 - 5 hours. Less than two, and road can demonstrate itself significantly more efficient. Over 5, and the speed of air travel takes over. Given this limited scope, high speed rail is only practical in a handful of regions in North America.


All transportation is expensive, especially in the US. The federal government subsidizes all forms of transportation in one way or another. The US Interstate Highway system is probably the most expensive (certainly the largest) transportation system in the world, and the government pays for it all. Gasoline taxes act as an indirect toll, but for the most part, most people on the system are free riders. High speed rail cannot survive without government subsidies, but if the Interstate Highway system were privatized tomorrow, we'd have only a handful of highways built.

As a side note, California is already building high speed rail. I'm not sure how they will finance it, but the political will is certainly there. I certainly think it'll cut into airplane travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco.



lotuspuppy
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02 Jul 2010, 3:48 pm

ruveyn wrote:
skafather84 wrote:
High speed railways would help alleviate oil dependency and introduce a more effective, affordable means of interstate transit.


We will still need trucks to do the finals stages of delivery and the first stages of pickup.

ruveyn


Yes, although containerization makes intermodal freight delivery very easy. In any event, high speed rail will make freight shipping easier because freight trains will no longer share their rights of way with passenger train. Most of Amtrak's trackage today is actually leased from other railroads, and not owned outright.

Closer to home (for me), most commuter rails use other railroads' tracks. Here in DC, MARC leases from CSX, which reserves the right to stop MARC trains for CSX's own transit. That's CSX's right, but it doesn't make me happy.



John_Browning
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02 Jul 2010, 7:18 pm

There really isn't a market for a nationwide high speed rail system. It would only be feasible between a limited number of cities, like a line between San Diego and San Francisco, or a line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for example.


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skafather84
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02 Jul 2010, 9:58 pm

ruveyn wrote:
skafather84 wrote:
High speed railways would help alleviate oil dependency and introduce a more effective, affordable means of interstate transit.


We will still need trucks to do the finals stages of delivery and the first stages of pickup.

ruveyn


Of course. Like I said: alleviate. It'd help eliminate the current necessity for transit by air (which also run off oil-based fuels) and long-distance driving. It's not the absolute solution but there is no real absolute solution yet.


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CockneyRebel
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03 Jul 2010, 2:25 pm

They've had it in England for years, so why not have it in Canada and America?


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Jacoby
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03 Jul 2010, 2:57 pm

Well, England is about the size of the state of Louisiana and a lot more densely populated. Like John_Browning said, it's only feasible between a limited amount of cities. (Madison to Milwaukee would be a place it would not work.) Nationwide is simply not going to happen, the costs would be astronomical and it wouldn't be able to support itself.



Quartz11
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03 Jul 2010, 4:25 pm

It could really only travel between major cities. Boston to Washington, San Diego to Sacramento through LA and SF, LA to Vegas, maybe New York to Chicago through Philly, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Indy.

Going across the country, we need a collapse of a oil based society.