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Americans: High-Speed Rail, Anyone? (Foreign perspectives welcome!)


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Americans: High-Speed Rail, Anyone? (Foreign perspectives welcome!)
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2009-04-16, 23:36

The last "political" thread didn't last long, but I'm hoping this one is on a less polarizing topic.

So as some of you may know, as part of ARRA (February's stimulus act), Congress allocated $8 billion to states for inter-city rail projects. This is in addition to the $10 billion in bonds that California is issuing to start off their multi-city rail network. So clearly, high-speed rail is "gathering steam" in the US (forgive the awful, awful pun).

Today Obama announced a "strategic plan" on how ARRA's $8 billion would be budgeted; it comes to about $1b a year. All of the deets can be had here.

My question to my fellow Americans is this: What do you think? I like trains, mainly because I hate flying, and because I think trains will make living without a car more feasible in the US (as it is in Europe). And building a rail network will obviously create a lot of jobs (possibly analogous to the first highways, back in the day?) but it will also cost a lot of money (of course! of course!).

My question to international readers is this: What do you think of your country's high-speed rail system, if you have one? Is it useful? Well-managed? Too expensive? I'm interested to know what you think.

My town (Salem, OR) is on the proposed Pacific Northwest corridor, which would (if built) be able to take me up to Portland, Seattle, and even Vancouver (my three favorite NA cities!). I can get there now, using Amtrak Cascades, but it is much slower. (Amtrak Cascades increases in popularity each year, by the way.) Things would get really interesting if they extended the PNW corridor and/or the California corridor so that they met at a station in Oregon or NoCal...

I have a hunch high-speed rail would make even more sense on the other side of the country (where the US's only existing high-speed rail line, Amtrak's Acela Express, lies). But this is obviously a geographically sensitive issue so I want lots of opinions so feel free to share

and i guess i've known it all along / the truth is, you have to be soft to be strong
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Maciej
M AH - ch ain saw
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-04-17, 00:05

Personally I'm more interested in having better county-wide rail access. Stuff around town, being able to go downtown without having to worry about my car after a couple drinks. I don't know the details of Obama's plan regarding this. When I think about it most of the vehicular traffic is probably restricted to 20-30 miles outside the city, seems to me that having better integration of rail on that scale would reduce greenhouse gas emissions more significantly than the longer distances.

On long distance trips I think I'm still more comfortable in my own car. Both in regards to costs and tourism (not really knowing each city's public transportation).

Just my $0.02.

User formally known as Sh0eWax
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Bryson
Rocket Surgeon
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Whitby
 
2009-04-17, 00:14

I'm not an American, but I do live in Vancouver, so...

Bring it on! Regular high speed rail to Seattle? Sold. Cascades runs once a day to Vancouver, at deeply inconvenient times.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2009-04-17, 00:22

I just realized something. If we started building, like, right now, we could have at least part of the "Chicago Hub Network" corridor completed in time for Chicago's potential hosting of the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. That's got to help our chances, right?

(Yes, I'm a total fan of the US Olympic bid. But that's for another thread.)

I do like the proposed "Chicago Hub Network." (Minneapolis to Chicago, huzzah!) I just wish it was a little faster - what we call "high-speed rail" is slower than what Europeans call the same, and even the most primary routes of the CHN would use the slowest of the US FRA's three "levels" ("Emerging High-Speed Rail"). I'd like to think we're more than "just" an emerging nation by now, but whatevs.

and i guess i've known it all along / the truth is, you have to be soft to be strong
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Maciej
M AH - ch ain saw
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-04-17, 00:35

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roboman View Post
I just realized something. If we started building, like, right now, we could have at least part of the "Chicago Hub Network" corridor completed in time for Chicago's potential hosting of the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. That's got to help our chances, right?

(Yes, I'm a total fan of the US Olympic bid. But that's for another thread.)
This might be one of the reasons why it's being proposed. I know the IOC wanted to see the transportation into, out, and in Chicago improved. Plus, if Chicago gets the Olympics some of the cycling courses would be held outside of Madison, WI from what I understand.

User formally known as Sh0eWax
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joveblue
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Melbourne
 
2009-04-17, 00:36

Hurrah for rail!

Yeah, that's all I've got.
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chinesebear
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Harbin, China
 
2009-04-17, 00:41

I just rode the high-speed maglev train in Shanghai a few months ago - dang, skippy, that was fast. Internal speedometer said 412 km/hr. Too bad the whole trip was only 7 minutes. I'm all for it though. Trains are something that China seems to excel at. Cheap tickets, plenty of times, and plenty of grades of service. I wish the US had something even remotely close.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2009-04-17, 00:49

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maciej View Post
This might be one of the reasons why it's being proposed. I know the IOC wanted to see the transportation into, out, and in Chicago improved. Plus, if Chicago gets the Olympics some of the cycling courses would be held outside of Madison, WI from what I understand.
Off-topic (click to toggle):
While the score of Chicago's technical bid was behind Tokyo's and Madrid's, USOC head Peter Ueberroth seems to think that Chicago needs to focus more on international relations, rather than just a technically strong bid. It seems the last eight years have sort of damaged our international image (who'da thunk?). But from what I understand, the Games are still considered by some to be "Chicago's to lose," with Chicago being a favorite, and Rio de Janeiro being the "dark horse" candidate.

If Obama is reelected, that means any 2016 Olympics would take place during the last year of his presidency. Bringing the games to your old hometown - that would be a nice way to finish off your Presidency, don'cha think? Public support is still high, and let's not forget the Oprah factor - I think chances are reasonably good that we could walk away with the games. I'm so tired of being jealous of all you Canadian and English folk, with your 2010 and 2012 Games...

and i guess i've known it all along / the truth is, you have to be soft to be strong
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2009-04-17, 00:57

Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesebear View Post
I just rode the high-speed maglev train in Shanghai a few months ago - dang, skippy, that was fast. Internal speedometer said 412 km/hr. Too bad the whole trip was only 7 minutes. I'm all for it though. Trains are something that China seems to excel at. Cheap tickets, plenty of times, and plenty of grades of service. I wish the US had something even remotely close.
ZOMG, that is fast! Thanks for sharing! I wish we had something even remotely close too.
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Maciej
M AH - ch ain saw
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-04-17, 01:00

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roboman View Post
ZOMG, that is fast! Thanks for sharing! I wish we had something even remotely close too.
Haha, could you imagine crashing at that kind of speed. Yikes, I don't even wanna think about it. And I'm sure they've got some tech to reduce the likelihood.

Didn't know that about the international relations playing into the bid so much, makes sense tho.

User formally known as Sh0eWax
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2009-04-17, 01:07

I'd still feel safer than flying.

That's something high-speed rail is intended to accomplish - relieving the highly congested air space around major towns. It's weird to think of the air as having traffic jams, but apparently it's an increasingly serious issue.

and i guess i've known it all along / the truth is, you have to be soft to be strong
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NosferaDrew
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2009-04-17, 01:07

True high speed trains won't happen here in the U.S. with the possible exception of some stretches of California and the Mid-West.

We'll only see about 150mph tops. Nothing like the 350mph TVG from France.

Our high speed trains will help, but we should have been on this long ago.
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Wyatt
On twitter: @bwyatt
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Near Indianapolis
 
2009-04-17, 05:28

I would love to see a 200 MPH train from Indy to Chicago. It's about a 3 hour trip or worse by car, depending on traffic. A train could put me in Chicago in under an hour. Even a 150 MPH train could get me to Chicago in about 90 minutes.

It goes from being a difficult weekend trip to being quicker than driving to Bloomington, Ind., which I do somewhat regularly. Chicago would become a day trip, which would be fantastic.

If they put in something like that with reasonable prices for tickets, I'd probably be in Chicago all the time.
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Dutch Pear
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
 
2009-04-17, 06:19

Hi speed trains are fantastic! It takes 3h and 45 minutes to get from home (leiden, the Netherlands) to the heart of Paris (500 km away), so thanks to hispeed trains, me and the mrs get to go there for a good romantic long weekend once a year.

So yeah, hispeed trains do wonders for maintaining a great marriage!
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AsLan^
Not a tame lion...
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Narnia
 
2009-04-17, 06:27

There are several great reasons to take high speed rail over air travel.

-No hassle check in. You just get a ticket and get on the train.
-Train stations are usually in city centers rather than on the outskirts.
-Easier to implement value added services, such as dining cars, vending machines, internet access (cell phones work too), and I've even been in a train car that was an improvised movie theatre. After the train started moving they turned off the lights, pulled down projection screens in the aisle, and played the movie with surround sound etc. Good way to travel if you forgot your book

Another interesting feature is low cost freight. Say you have something heavy or bulky you want to ship across the country. Rather than paying exorbitant shipping rates, you just get it to the train station, they put it on the freight car and the receiver picks it up same day from another station down the line. A third party could even coordinate the whole thing (the delivering and receiving) which would should save you money as well.
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Capella
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2009-04-17, 06:47

I would love to see this implemented. New Jersey and NJTransit have totally spoiled me for local rail; having HS rail that connected major cities would be AWESOME, not to mention more environmentally friendly than air.

I hope Florida would get some of it but I kind of doubt it.

"A blind, deaf, comatose, lobotomy patient could feel my anger!" - Darth Baras
twitter ; amateur photographer ; fanfiction writer ; roleplayer and worldbuilder
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curiousuburb
Antimatter Man
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
 
2009-04-17, 07:38

B-b-but it might be sacrilegious... or dangerous!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?)

“Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads’ … As you may well know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.”
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College London.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” —
<-- Source
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2009-04-17, 07:52

Quote:
Originally Posted by AsLan^ View Post
There are several great reasons to take high speed rail over air travel.

-No hassle check in. You just get a ticket and get on the train.
Which will go away as soon as the system becomes critical enough to attract paranoia about terrorists. Expect TSA security cattleyards.
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2009-04-17, 07:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb View Post
B-b-but it might be sacrilegious... or dangerous!
<-- Source
15 miles per hour!!! Holy crap!

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pscates2.0
Mr. Farmiga
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-04-17, 07:57



I just noticed the hat.
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chucker
 
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2009-04-17, 08:03

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb View Post
B-b-but it might be sacrilegious... or dangerous!

[..]

<-- Source
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pscates2.0
Mr. Farmiga
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-04-17, 08:04

I just noticed the hat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Which will go away as soon as the system becomes critical enough to attract paranoia about terrorists. Expect TSA security cattleyards.
Exactly.
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curiousuburb
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Join Date: May 2004
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2009-04-17, 08:06

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Which will go away as soon as the system becomes critical enough to attract paranoia about terrorists. Expect TSA security cattleyards.
Call me after the first train is hijacked to Cuba.

As for the high speed rail proposals... how will hobos cope without a Fulton?

Last edited by curiousuburb : 2009-04-17 at 08:23. Reason: finally found link
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ronmexico
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
 
2009-04-17, 08:12

Won't happen...there is too much space, too many roads, a functional airline ind, and too many cars for Americans to feel that their tax money should go to a high speed rail system. I wouldn't want to pay for one. Put that money to R&D for better fuel mileage.
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2009-04-17, 08:24

Quote:
Originally Posted by ronmexico View Post
...there is too much space,
That was my gut reaction too. I love the idea of a high-speed rail, but when the Administration likened it to what's happening in Europe I wanted a comparison of distance between cities. So I roughed this together (it's pretty close to scale):



I don't think we'll ever get a cross-country hsr at these distances, but it'd be nice. Anyways, it's interesting enough to me to quick hack together a couple maps to look at.

Yurrup is tiny!

So it goes.
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curiousuburb
Antimatter Man
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
 
2009-04-17, 08:31

For Alaskan trips, you can ride through BC (needs upgrading anyway), but where's the train to Hawaii, eh?

As for Yurrup being tiny... they ain't the only ones, o munchkin neighbour. [/Canada]

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
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ronmexico
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
 
2009-04-17, 08:31

That is very well done!
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Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2009-04-17, 08:41

I am all for HSR as long as it doesn't get diluted into some BS Amtrak-style system where you go fast for 20 minutes and then stop at every podunk town between destinations A and B. Hi speed rail should not replace regular long distance trains but compliment them. Make it more of a premium service. Few stops, short transit times, good food and service, and pay a premium for it (to the tune of a typical airfare or slightly less).

There ought to be several hubs.

Chicago to:
Milwaukee & Minneapolis (planned)
St. Louis & KC (planned)
Indianapolis & Cincinnati
South Bend - Detroit

Detroit to:
Toronto
Cleveland - Pittsburgh - Philly

Philadelphia to:
Baltimore & Washington
Newark & New York

Atlanta to:
Nashville
Memphis
Charlotte
Charleston
Birmingham
Tampa

Dallas to:
Memphis
Houston
New Orleans
San Antonio
Albuquerque

Phoenix to:
Albuquerque
Vegas
Los Angeles

LA to:
San Jose & San Francisco (planned)
San Diego

SF to:
Sacremento
Portland
Reno
Boise

Portland to:
Seattle
Vancouver
Boise

This way one hub links to another and it can become a legitimate means of moving around major population centers without switching to BS Amtrak service.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2009-04-17, 08:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb View Post
Call me after the first train is hijacked to Cuba.
How about after the first bomb in cargo sends a 150mph kinetic shrapnel weapon with a few metric tons of mass hurtling through a major city corridor? Bomb on plane: 100-200 dead. Bomb on train in metro area: a few times that, plus building damage, plus taking out a major transportation system. Plane taken down: rest of planes can keep flying. Train taken out: rails need to be replaced before any other trains can run.

"Welcome to AmeriRail! Please drop your pants and bend over for a standard security check. *fnap*"

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2009-04-17, 08:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb View Post
As for Yurrup being tiny... they ain't the only ones, o munchkin neighbour. [/Canada]
True, but what's the stat, something like 90% of your population is within 200 miles of the US? It's more like you have a thin wide actual country with people with a big-assed national park tacked on top.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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