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In America, high-speed train travel is off track

20 Comments
By Delphine Touitou

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Who wants to sit in a crowded train full of weirdos, thieves and perverts when you can go door to door in a comfortable SUV with the climate controls set to your personal liking and the your favorite tunes bopping through your 10 speaker sound system.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

High speed rail doesn't make much sense in the US. The US rail network is dedicated to freight, and it's the best such rail network in the world, and a profitable one too. Strategically it makes more sense to use the network's capacity for freight and not bother with passenger HSR.

The Interstate system is free and the costs of owning a car are relatively low. Japan's Shinkansen, by contrast, works financially only because all Japan's highways are steeply tolled and motorists are financially punished in other ways as well. That policy would never, ever fly in the US. Stick with freight, give HSR a miss.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The US rail network is dedicated to freight

No, it's not. Here's Amtrak's national map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Amtrak_routes

If you think there's no appetite for better public transportation in large US cities or better and faster rail transport between large US cities, at least regionally, then I suspect that you don't spend much time in the country. Amtrak between Boston and DC, my hometown, is hugely popular. Air travel, despite this superficial article, is quite the opposite. Most of us fly simply b/c there aren't other options.

Would LA to NYC be feasible, of course not. But for a nation that spends trillions on its military and a relative pittance on its citizens' health care, to take but one example, what is financially possible is always subjective. Entrenched, powerful industries obviously don't want any reforms. If China or Europe can make it happen, so can the US. As with all things, if politicians weren't bought and paid for...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Rail in the US makes sense not as a national network, but as regional networks connecting densely populated areas. If Trump spent the money on actual rail infrastructure improvement instead of billions wasted on a fake emergency, he'd probably be a little popular.

Amtrak between Washington and Boston is really popular with the standards they have (that could be 10x better if they actually invested more to improve the infrastructure).

Florida's republican governor CXed their high speed rail plan, so private companies including those backed by Disney are moving forward with a private high speed rail system for Florida.

If the US government spent a fraction on rail projects like they do for Airline subsidies the US would have a pretty decent network, and the fact is the airlines would be bankrupt if it wasn't for all the subsidies they receive from the government.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I always find these discussions about mass transit and rail very interesting.

There is no single right answer on a universal scale. There just isn't.

Mass transit can and does work in the U.S. Where it makes sense. NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Chicago.

And intercity rail makes sense as well, in very specific areas. Such as the Northeast Corridor. Where the point-to-point line delivers into stations at each end and along the way that are serviced by other public transit options.

But, the U.S. is not Japan. And it is not Europe. The size of the country and the distances involved dwarf Japan and Europe. Population density, distances between population centers, etc. are just night and day.

Japan has an amazing mass transit system. But there is a reason why so many rail lines have gone out of business over the last 40 years. The moment you introduce cars into the equation, the moment you introduce planes into the equation, trains become inordinately expensive.

Which is why high volume Shinkansen lines are profitable, but so many other rail lines are not. And that does not even factor in the infrastructure costs associated with building the lines.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE hi speed train travel! But, as a rule, it is not suited for the U.S. And, in many cases attempts at promoting high speed train travel or even mass transit train travel is nothing more than a boondoggle. Ask the citizens of Hawaii what they think about the billions that have been wasted on the travesty that is the Oahu HART light rail project!! What a white elephant!!!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Would be good to see Elon Musks Hyperloop high speed train get built there and possibly here :

https://youtu.be/lWo6LscqSGg

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Newsom screwed up. High-speed rail between Sacramento and San Diego would be a game-changer for the state. The problems are land scarcity and NIMBYism: no one wants an elevated track in their neighborhood. (When the Kyushu Shinkansen was built in Kyushu, it used a track elevated over existing JR lines.)

California can do this - it does do amazing things. The problem is it hasn't yet made up its mind. Newsom needs to articulate this.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Newsom screwed up. High-speed rail between Sacramento and San Diego would be a game-changer for the state.

He's stuck between a rock and a hard place though. The idea is great, but the money isn't there.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In so called "Ageing Japan", the maglev train between Toyko and Nagoya is on time and on budget, the Hokkaido Shinkansen line is near completion and the new N700S which can run on its own using a lithium-ion battery system will start service next year and Tokyo plans a new line to Haneda Airport. Makes you wonder.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Who wants to sit in a crowded train full of weirdos, thieves and perverts when you can go door to door in a comfortable SUV with the climate controls set to your personal liking and the your favorite tunes bopping through your 10 speaker sound system.

I guess you are not familiar with Japan's excellent shinkansen - if you ever travel to Japan, do try it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The Interstate system is free and the costs of owning a car are relatively low

That's wonderful, if you can drive. Those who can't are turned into second-class citizens who can't get around easily. And they have to subsidize the massive "free" car infrastructure with their taxes -- salt in the wounds!

Give me Japan and Europe's egalitarian rail systems any time.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Burning Bush, nothing like being surrounded by a group of weird people in your SUV. Add traffic jams and road rage to the mixture. I would rather be on a high speed training either taking a nap or reading a book.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Who wants to sit in a crowded train full of weirdos, thieves and perverts when you can go door to door in a comfortable SUV with the climate controls set to your personal liking and the your favorite tunes bopping through your 10 speaker sound system.

Not everyone has that kind of money, comrade.

Besides, rail travel is less stressful. And less emissions.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Besides, rail travel is less stressful. And less emissions.

And a drive from Tokyo to Osaka would take a full day, as compared to a couple of hours by shinkansen.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Amtrak has been in the red for a long time and relies on government subsidies to stay afloat. Because the airline idustry has become so cheap and with so many small cities having airports, its difficult to justify the cost of paying for a train ticket for long distance travels. Amtrak is expensive. The cost to and time to get from New York to Virginia was ridiculous. While an airplane ticket cost my $100 for a round trip and an hour each way.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

JJ Jetplane, add in at least an hour or perhaps 2 for airport security and the trip to the airport.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Speak for yourself. When I fly domestically, I check in online and I only bring carry on luggage. I get through LGA in New York in under 20 minutes. I’ve never arrived more than an hour before any domestic flight and I still haven’t missed a flight yet.

For internaitonal, I add an extra 30 minutes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

California's suspension last week of a high-speed rail project underscores the up-hill battle the modern mode of transport faces in the United States -- including myriad cultural, political and economic obstacles.

No. It underscores problems that CALIFORNIA faces. Take a look at the number of cities of significant size between SF and LA then the number between Boston and DC. The eastern seaboard needs one.

If something is a “great idea” but lacking money, then it’s not a great idea.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We're supposed to build a nationwide high speed rail system in 10 years and one state can't even do 500 miles of it in decades... Come on.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sitting in a California car jam for hours is not very productive is it?

If California’s inhabitants want freedom then personal aero transport is not far off.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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