I would love to have a good high-speed intercity train network in the United States connecting the major cities in each State.
I just looked up an Amtrak from Atlanta to Dallas: 3 legs around 64 hours. Cries in American. (there's no connection in New Orleans, so the trip planner routes to Chicago)
I also hear funny arguments (in my opinion) about why high speed Rails are a bad idea. Oh it's too expensive. Oh it is ok for countries like China because they have lot of people etc etc. Excuses. I thought we like choices as Americans. Right now, if I don't want to drive, my only option is to fly mostly in a shitty plane cramped up with strangers on a 4 hour flight. I would gladly trade that with a train even if that takes say an additional hour or so. Are Amtraks the best we can do America ?
In the UK, there's archaeological surveys, bio-diversity/green considerations, carbon impact, political lobbying. The list just goes on and on and on.
The US, at least, is largely an empty continent. You can probably draw a line between cities and not hit many things. Plus the US love-affair with cars means you could, if you wanted to, build terminals outside major cities and rent a car to drive the last part and still conceivably run a profitable service.
In the UK, we must have our terminals in the city centres which adds so much more to the cost as we have to tunnel under and into the cities.
They offered $500 an acre. That land is easily worth $10,000 an acre, and that would have also reduced the value of the rest of their land and house. Their house is on a hill and the view is wonderful, and the county also tried to put a water tower up right in front of their house.
Long story short after a long fight a man with some pull got involved on my parents behalf, and the county ended up with some extra land (sold at a reasonable price) and the water tower was put behind a woods (from their perspective) instead, all of a few hundred feet away. It was years of stress for my parents.
It's more accurately a common law problem. European states with Napoleonic law appear to avoid the cost spiral.
> You can probably draw a line between cities and not hit many things
The empty parts are away from cities. The California and Capitol corridors are (a) prime rail routes and (b) almost contiguous megalopolises.
Germany alone has like 3 major extremely over-budget infrastructure projects I can think of.
I'm going off cost per mile to build rail and road. Even when European projects go over budget, they still clock in below the U.K.–on average–which clocks in way below the U.S. (The latter gap is best explained by institutional ineptitude.)
At least not in France. The "SNCF" had to be rescued by the French state three times since it was created in 1937. And it was created because the private companies it replaced were bankrupt.  (in French)
Each year the French state gives ~16 Billion Euros to the company  (in French)
"European states with Napoleonic law appear to avoid the cost spiral."
Do you have any hint of other European states with Napoleonic law that avoided cost spiral?
Asking out of genuine interest - do you have any ideas as to why this might be?
The problem isn't legal, but entirely one of political will.
Some people will have an emotional attachment to their land/homes as well. The only way for something like this to work is to spend so far above market rate that people come out ahead.
That's part of giving them fair value. It's not just the number of square inches you take, but what you did to the value of what they have left.
That's just calculating money. The real problem is time. They can tie you up in court for, probably, a decade. (IANAL, but I think a determined individual who was willing to spend money on lawyers could do something around that long.)
If you've ever been on a London commuter service you'll see they're pretty packed.
Edinburgh or Glasgow to London is a similar distance as LA to SF. Those trains take about 4 hours right now versus 8 hours on Amtrak, about the same as the 8 1/2 hours the Flying Scotsman took from Edinburgh to London in 1888.
Fortunately these Central Valley grade separations are merely expensive while the CalTrain corridor work on the peninsula is experiencing explosive growth of costs from the the complexity of grade separations because of the very tricky maze of rights of way especially in and around Redwood City: https://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-exploding-cost...
Additionally, those highways typically enter cities, so stations could be built over them, often right in the city center. That does leave details about how those stations are accessed, but this seems minor since everything else has already been dealt with.
I wonder if an executive order could make it happen.
The cost of building something like that is likely to be prohibitive because you'll need to dig support pylons by the road and each and every pylon would need a ground survey for existing utilities, and so on. It adds up really quickly, even with a concrete factory on site manufacturing identical parts (which they do for tunnel building for example).
So it is doable, maybe a good idea if you have the money, but I heard California is burning money like there is no tomorrow and there are no funds for such a project (maybe not true, it's just what I heard).
I must be missing something here. Surely trains have a much lower carbon impact than cars and planes do, right?
In the PRC, if the government wants to build a high speed rail line, it's getting built and F-U if you want to stop it. In the US the process is 'democratized' and every little busybody comes out to protest the construction, drag the process out, or get some variance approved for some hitherto unexpected concern.
(For one example, check out the incomplete stub at the eastern terminus of I-70 -- I don't believe the cost of the land was a major factor in that case)
The reason we don't have nice things like China does is just political will, not any legal barriers.
States have their own eminent domain powers which vary, however in general they're easy to sandbag in the courts for years, preventing the state from doing anything while the landowners argue over the money.
Importantly those highways don't need to be free to use. The government can take land and build a for-profit railway, in conjunction with a private corporation if they want, as long as it was to benefit the public.
A major problem I have with this is appraisal prices often don't jive with reality. For example in San Fransisco houses almost always sell above asking, if the government were to step in and give the land away to a private person at asking they would be in effect getting a discount. Similarly my own home has had a lot of work put into it that doesn't effect it's appraisal price meaningfully, if forced to sell at that price I'd lose money.
At this point, they don't even pretend to respect the intelligence of the people.
A common-sense change might be requiring minimum quantities of local signatures to limit the potential impact of a small opposition.
"In one case, anti-abortion activists filed a CEQA lawsuit to try to block a new tenant (Planned Parenthood) from using an already constructed office building in South San Francisco. They cited the noise caused by their own protests as the environmental impact requiring mitigation. This lawsuit delayed the new tenancy by at least 18 months."
"Governor Jerry Brown, in an interview with UCLA's Blueprint magazine, commented on the use of CEQA for other than environmental reasons: "But it’s easier to build in Texas. It is. And maybe we could change that. But you know what? The trouble is the political climate, that's just kind of where we are. Very hard to — you can’t change CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act]. BP: Why not? JB: The unions won’t let you because they use it as a hammer to get project labor agreements." "
Would high speed rail be that different? Not being snarky, I really don't know. I just figure that if it's very fast and/or expensive, it's probably not going to be very roomy on the inside. That Chinese train looks like it's about the same width or less than most airliners.
- More space (including the Chinese ones). While it might not be wider than a plane, it's order of magnitudes longer. So, each row has less seats, and rows are much farther from each other than on a plane.
- More room for bags and suitcases as well. There's usually no need to check your luggage, unless you have an excessive amount of them.
- No turbulence
- You can stand, walk, eat, drink, open the table, work with electronics, etc. at any time.
- No long-ass waiting time before and after. For a 8:00 train, all you need is to be able to walk onto it at 7:59. Whereas for a plane, they won't let you on unless you are present at the gate before 7:45 (the exact time depends on the airport). And not to mention the security checks.
- Air is better
These restrictions were added to flying one by one, boiling the frog. It can and it may be implemented for trains also.
- No need to wait in any way to out your bags or suitcases. Maybe a fast X-ray scanner where you put them in a side and pick them in the others in about 10 seconds.
- You know and can select where you want to sit precisely during the ticket purchase, unlike AmTrack.
- Due to the previous detail, you can show up to the train door even a minute before leaving without Any problem.
- All trains have a previously programmed leaving and arrival time, so there's no need to wait for traffic control in normal conditions.
With all of this, even with a train and a plane having the same travel duration, in a plane you will have to wait for a lot more of "bureaucracy" than in a train.
All of this is based in personal experiences using mid-distance trains in Spain, and the fast long-distance ones are even better and more comfortable.
We can always find something to justify putting on airs of superiority, but the fact remains that our infrastructure stagnates while the rest of the world manages to modernize. Forget the China comparisons if they are so triggering. Europe still manages public works. Individual rights have to give at some point for the good of society.
Start? The entire labor movement, the public accommodation portion of the civil rights movement, and the rest of the transition from gilded age capitalism to the modern mixed economy has been a process of reexamination of and evolutionary progress from the classic capitalist conception of properry rights. Just as, for that matter, the several centuries of evolution from feudalism and other pre-capitalist economic systems through Enlightenment liberalism to the peak of gilded age capitalism was such a reexamination of pre-capitalist ideas of property rights.
And while you can conceptualize them roughly as successive and mobotonic, both of those are oversimplifications; elements of pre-capitalist patronage-oriented systems were still around past the peak of capitalism, and isolated points of reversions from capitalism to them or to purer capitalist models from their replacements occurred throughout the process and still do.
But the idea that society is sitting on some static foundation of property rights that is waiting for a beginning of a reexamination is...not remotely tenable.
(1) painfully slowly, or
(2) catastrophically, with massive bloodshed.
And while #2 often produces more rapid change considered over a short term, it also tends to be less secure change subject to equally rapid and equally bloody reversal.
It's frustrating, but I’m not convinced its solvable.
I think another factor here in the US is the government bidding process that results in driving up costs, time, etc.
Because of highways, we're already connected in ways that wouldn't even be possible with trains. It's just faster and more practical to drive the entire way, or drive to an airport and from an airport to your destination, than to add a train station into the mix. In France, you can walk from your apartment to the metro, change to the regional train, and even go international without getting in a car. This will never be possible in the US because we build cities and suburbs around the highway system.
There is plenty of room for more rail in the US because I want to get "there" faster and planes are not faster for many trips.
The interstate helped make America what it is. It created a massive westward expansion even greater than the railroads. It turned San Jose from prune and peach trees into Silicon Valley. It turned Florida from a useless swamp into Miami. It enabled the escape from Detroit that led to that city's bankruptcy. It wiped out countless communities (especially communities of color and rural farm communities) when it skipped over them in its development, or put a pylon right through a local neighborhood.
I think the history of the interstate and what it's become is fascinating. This fab promo video from the construction era shows some of the PR they used to sell it to the public: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnrqUHF5bH8
No offense, but that sounds so violently American. Do you realize that most of Europe is covered by a network of standardized, multilane highways with exits and services that is much denser than the IHS?
You're right about the former soviet republics though, the trip to Riga and especially Tallinn doesn't look very comfortable.
...I love poking at fun at the state of Florida as much as the next guy, but come on, "a useless swamp"? You really are asking for downvotes with that one lmao
The true history of Florida is that it was abandoned by everyone from the Spanish to the US military because it is basically uninhabitable without mosquito repellent and air conditioning. Lacking those inventions, there were no investments or population in Florida of any size. It was a useless swamp.
When oil tycoon Henry Flagler was gifted a friend's property on what is now Biscayne Blvd in return for his promise to build a hotel there for the wealthy patron and her friends, Miami was born. It did not develop much further than the railroads, however, until Flagler's railroad was lost at sea during the Galveston Hurricane and never recovered financially. It's now known that if the Florida Overseas Railroad had operated for 100 years, it still wouldn't reach profitability. Transportation to and from Florida (other than by boat) was a fantasy propped up by oil money. There was still no serious business development. Key West was the capital of Florida for 100 years, if that tells you anything, because it's a port city with better access to the rest of the world than anywhere else in Florida.
What changed all of this was the interstate system. For the first time, Americans had both cars and somewhere to take them. Jackie Gleason famously semi-retired to Miami only to wind up ruthlessly promoting it on a weekly TV show where he encouraged Pennsylvanians and New Jerseyites to leave their snow-covered driveways behind and come down to sunny Florida. Even Disney World's location was selected by Walt because of its easy access to the interstate, meaning guests would come from many states to visit.
Without the failure of the railroad (and its subsequent rebuilding as a freeway) and the connecting interstate to bring people to Florida, along with the charm and influence of Jackie Gleason, Miami would not have become The Magic City -- a name it gets from being the only city in the US which went to "City" status in one step, without ever being a town or settlement or any other geographic designation prior to that. There would be no Disney World. And Miami would not have become the Latam capital that it is. It is, after all, part of US 1, the very first (most important?) of the interstates. To this day, all three of the major north-south routes in the Miami area parallel the original US 1, which still exists in many places, places occupied by about 5 million people. All of that happened because of the interstate.
It's quite something to see an alligator from your car, I can tell you that!
Tldr the americans interstate system is nothing more than a copy of the german autobahn... And was never something unique.
The idea definitely germinated in the Autobahn. The proof is in the pudding. (I just love that expression.) The US used its scaled interstate system to achieve a range of product and population distribution that was unprecedented. It also clobbered passenger rail in the process. Conversely, Europe, not having a well developed interstate (would need to be inter-country to even scale to a few US states), did not develop or extend its road system in the way the US has. Instead, it built trains.
It's not a matter of one is better than the other. Each one is better for the countries involved because of their size and geography.
If we're talking about all motorway style roads, there's some additional roads in the US that qualify: 67,353 miles or 108,394km.
It’s even standardized: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_E-road_network
That sounds more similar to the US Numbered Highway system than it is to the Interstate Highway System: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Numbered_Highway...
The Interstate Highway System is a different system - entirely controlled-access motorways, with a minimum of 4 lanes, divided, and no at-grade crossings.
As someone who actually just finished a month trip from eastern Canada to the Yukon and back, and drove almost the entirety of the trans Canada highway, it’s laughable compared to the US road infrastructure.
There are large sections that are 2 way single lane highway.
There are parts of this “highway” that slow to 40km/hr as you drive through a small town.
I mean I’m glad it’s there, but I’ve also taken long road trips through states and found the interstates highways to be a big step up in quality.
While not part of the Interstate system, it's of course connected. The road is quite expensive and the tolls make so much money for the State of Florida that they don't need to charge income tax or corporate tax. Pretty amazing.
I wouldn't trade our Interstate for anything, either and anyone who says that the roads outside of Paris are anything like US interstates just hasn't been on the latter. Anyway, I also love European trains and have spent lots of time on those. The benefits of going from Métro in France for a day trip to Belgium, then back to Paris in time for dinner is just fabulous. No car. No luggage. That is simply not happening in the US.
Here's a random bit of French motorway, not radiating from Paris, and a random bit of interstate.
I don't see any difference.
I love your definitely non-random town selection in the US. Excellent. My comment was aimed at the overall level of standardization and features of the American interstate, as well as its early and pivotal development in our country's history. That's all. It was not a slight at anyone else's roadways, however exceptional.
Any discussion on reallocating some land or dollars to alternative transportation is immediately rejected by the car dependent majority. “Why should a portion of gasoline tax go toward public transportation?” “Bike lines increase traffic!” “The new development would change the neighborhood character!” “Add more lanes!”
This is absolutely possible to do in the USA. When I worked with an engineering team in Copenhagen I did it several times a year. I don’t even live in NYC.
Even domestically I can take the train from my West Coast city to the airport, fly and then take the train to my family in the Virginia suburbs.
The Chinese probably have some funky calculation that shows it makes the country that much more efficient.
For reference, it takes 4.5 hours to travel from one end of the Netherlands to the other by train. China is 231X larger.
We could do much more with our existing rail lines if the will was there. I maintain that we should "nationalize" the rail lines (the literal rails and whatnot) and invest in making it safer and faster. Not maglev, but at least have passenger trains run at a decent clip and not have to be sidelined for freight.
Ah, well, not overlaid, not to scale, but nonetheless:
Military & Security Spending
In fiscal year 2015, Pentagon and related spending will total $598 billion, accounting for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending. That's roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined.
We don’t get shiny trains, but we might have a more stable form of government?
1. Eminent domain and generally-high construction costs make the initial time and money outlays exorbitantly high, resulting in projects never getting off the ground or having to compensate with much-too-expensive tickets
2. Even if you get to the middle of another city, having to rent a car to get to where you need is a pain. It's easier to drive from Dallas to Houston in a car, because you have a car at the end of the trip. Only some cities have fast public transport; the rest are so big it's hard not rent a car or Uber everywhere, both options are expensive and time-consuming.
3. Trains likely take more time than flights for the mid-to-long distance journeys planes are good for.
4. A cultural lack of interest in passenger rail. It's just not a part of the culture, and is seen as weird/enthusiast thing to do, unlike in Europe, India, or China.
Moreover a rail attendant/engineer for a long haul trip cannot be back at home to family at the end of the day, for a transcontinental flight attendant or pilot it's possible, so the labor pool is meaningfully different, and supply and demand is a thing.
That would be problematic for some long distance train connections in germany as well (north-south connections), but they just schedule around that: attendants change mid-journey as needed.
You don't need attendants on rail at all - what is there for them to do? For flight you need them to oversee preparing for a crash trains should get this failure mode should be designed out - which does imply doing the regular maintenance and using good safety systems. Just give a small discount to anyone with current first aid/CPR and you can be sure there are more than enough regular riders to take care of the remaining issues.
Even if you do decide you want attendants for some reason, train should stop not less than once an hour, which means the crews can get off the train after 4 hours and staff the one back home. (I don't believe freight rail shouldn't do the same, but they have different operations from passenger rail such that more than an hour between stops might be reasonable)
Note that if the train really is going through the middle of nowhere at one hour you just pick a random dot on the map and grant it a station just to get your stops. The cost to stopping a train is less than 5 minutes for the full trip (this adds up if you stop every few km, but when it is once an hour it isn't a big deal)
Not true. You need people manning the cafeteria car, cleaning the bathrooms, checking tickets, etc.
>train should stop not less than once an hour
The Southwest Chief goes from San Bernardino, CA to Albuquerque, NM in 14 hours. It makes 8 stops along the way, inclusive of the endpoints. Your point here still largely stands, but these long haul trains most certainly do not stop at least once an hour.
Best practice is to not have them.
> cleaning the bathrooms
Do it at the end of the line when the train is stopped.
> The Southwest Chief
Amtrak is a bad example for anything. They are running tourist trains, and should follow the practices of cruise ships not modern railroads.
So no food options on a 14 hour train? The train's losing a lot of captured audiences there and people like to... eat. In that time the average US person eats at least three meals, you simply can't pack that much, especially for a family.
> Do it at the end of the line when the train is stopped.
Ever been to a music festival and looked at the toilets at the end of the day? Now imagine you're in a semi-airtight tube with that for 14 hours.
> Amtrak is a bad example for anything. They are running tourist trains, and should follow the practices of cruise ships not modern railroads
Have you ever taken one on the East Coast? They are not tourist trains, they're commuters and travelers.
As for food, get off at any station and eat.
Yes bathrooms beed to be cleaned. However that is one person who cleans them between 2 stations and then nobody for the next station, and someone the station after. (This is an example, the real way to handle it might be different )
* Check passenger tickets
* Observe the cars & make sure people aren't breaking rules, etc
* Serve food/drink if applicable (e.g. for business class)
And so forth. This is how the KTX and Shinkansen work, and they know what they're doing.
Checking tickets can be done by not allowing anyone on the platform. Or world best practice is random checks and large fines if you are caught without a ticket.
Breaking rules is tricky. There is some need for that, though there are options, though in the end I will grant you this.
Trains should never serve food or drink. Passengers can get off the train at a station when they need that, and get on the next train. Space used for the food and drink is space that could be used for more seats. There is a reason all railroads have been trying to do away with food and drink service. It is considered bad practice everywhere.
> There is some need for that.
> Trains should never serve food or drink. Passengers can get off the train at a station.
There aren't going to be stations all across Nebraska or what have you. And even if there were, stopping repeatedly would defeat the purpose of high-speed rail. All that time speeding up and slowing down starts to add up very quickly.
It doesn't take long to unload and reload a modern train. France and the US do bad, but there are better examples where it can be done in a minute.
They will never, for good reason, be built for most routes.
Because they're very expensive, both to build and operate, so they're only sustainable between large cities at a mediums distances apart.
China, with maybe 10x the population density of the US, has a huge number of such routes. The US does not.
In fact, the cost of building & maintaining the highway system is quite astronomic.
If we were designing the interstate system today, that's actually a fun thought experiment. What would we change? I would probably focus more on throughput -- cars can be half as wide and still seat tons of people, 5 lane highways today could easy be 8 lanes of narrower cars.
As you point out, several studies have shown that over time, travel time converges to the same value, despite additional capacity.
However, I think it is important to note that more lanes means more people are still getting from point A to B.
Peak hours are always going to cause congestion.
The only problem is we can't afford to build enough lanes. There is a limit to how wide you can go, and up or down is vastly more expensive than at grade. We could do it if we wanted to spend the money - but most such places find that a better bus and (not or!) train network is a better investment.
Why would you go narrower? That makes problems worse for trucks and other cargo conveyance; note that in general, newer highway standards tends to increase lane width, not decrease them compared to older standards.
(I guess you can see the same effect with railroads--the UK railroads have smaller loading gauges than newer networks like the US, Germany, or Sweden).
If it takes only marginally more, or even less time to travel by train than by plane, I'm taking the train any day.
And I'm talking above 120mph. None of this 70mph "high speed" slow stuff.
Spain has plenty of them, according to Wikipedia only China has more. And if I'm not wrong, Spain is building them in other countries too.
If you've got real numbers, I'd like to see them.
How do you secure a railway?
If trains go 600 kph, do we get a TSA circus along the length of all railtracks? Is this even feasible?
"hundreds occupied high-speed railway tracks for around 3 hours, blocking services linking Figueres, Girona and Barcelona,"
I once rode the Eurostar from London to Paris and as I recall all the high speed sections were enclosed in very high, barbed wire fence. So some security is definitely needed. Collision energy goes up with the square of velocity.
I see that mostly as part of the larger problem that the US doesn't build much of anything these days.
The US has several population clusters and for example the Northeast corridor in particular with 50 million inhabitants is a reasonably good target for a high speed rail network.
Not only does it result in fast, convenient, walk-on travel between cities, it also results in a lot less gridlock meaning less commute time wasted, and more affordable, walkable real estate.
Its a gigantic investment to do high-speed train and almost always is a burning money pit that needs to be constantly subsidies.
You already have an existing road network that with increasingly self driving EV (at least on highways) can be used.
While I'm "not bullish on trains" in the US, as another poster put it, I do think it will work here. Houston is already America's 3rd largest city with 8M people and the route to Dallas (Hwy 45) is horrible, unsafe, and extremely busy, all the time.
Now, since the high-speed rail link opened in 2008, the Madrid-Barcelona air route doesn't even make the top 20 of busiest routes worldwide. That is the case even though the flight is less than 1h 30m, both cities' airports are well connected to and close to the city centres, and high-speed train tickets have always been more expensive than flying on average. The killer feature of the high-speed train, particularly for business users, is to be able to get from one city centre to the other in at most 3h 20m —if it is a stopping train— or 2h 30m —if it is direct. No need to travel to and from each airport, or deal with airport security, queues, delays, etc. No need to disconnect your phone during the trip. No need to switch off laptops on departure or arrival.
And this example is for only two cities which are farther apart than each of Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio are from each other. Imagine if it were possible to get between each of their downtowns in 1h 30m or 2h at most, or from downtown Austin to downtown San Antonio in 30m. The synergistic effects on the economy are hard to predict, but they would be huge.
I'm very ignorant on the topic, so please enlighten me if I'm missing some stuff, which is very possible. I'd honestly love to know.
* Existing NEC (DC to Boston via Baltimore, Philly, NYC, Hartford/Springfield/Worcester or Providence)
* NYC to Montreal and Boston to Toronto, with an interchange at Albany
* Midwest star shape, centered at Chicago, with prongs to Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Louisville or Cincinnati. The southern Midwest region is kind of hard for me to crayon a network.
* (Not part of the US strictly speaking) Detroit to Quebec via Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal. Basically all of Canada's population on one rail line, with easy access to the US via interchanges at three separate points.
* Hooking up the Midwest to the NEC, although I'm somewhat dubious of the viability here.
* Texas Triangle (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio)
* California: SF, San Jose, Sacramento, LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix.
* Maybe viable: Portland-Seattle-Vancouver
* Maybe viable: SEHSR, from Miami to Atlanta, and thence to Midwest (via Nashville) or NEC (via North Carolina's Research Triangle and Richmond).
(Citation: this is largely based on Alon Levy's crayoning, found here: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/03/22/high-speed-rai...)
This is the problem. The real route is Boston - New York - D.C. The others are lower population, lower GDP and not in line with the other three. But if you build the core route and exclude Philadelphia, you'll have an uproar in the Senate.
One of the chief advantages of trains is that you do not have to cater only to point-to-point routes; you can instead serve a combinatorial explosion in routes for comparatively little time: a stop adds only ~5 minutes to a HSR train, and that's the worst-case scenario.
There is no advantage to bypassing Philadelphia: the amount of money it costs to bypass the city is going to be quite large, and you will miss out on all the potential revenue from stopping at the city itself. From my practical experience riding the train, the biggest factor in existing slow trains in Connecticut isn't all the stops it makes in Connecticut, but the incompetence of Metro North's dispatching that keeps a high-speed train plodding along below highway speeds between stations.
(Also, side note: Philly's MSA is larger than Boston's, and Philly provides more Amtrak riders than Boston's 4 stations combined--and one of those isn't even on the NEC!).
Is that accurate? When I road HSR in Japan, I remember the speed in-city being much lower than in the countryside, so bypassing cities seemed key to maintaining the high speed part.
What you're talking about instead is the penalties imposed by a more constrained right-of-way in urban environments. Except when we're talking about Philadelphia (or most of the Northeast in general), you can't really escape from a constrained right-of-way anyways--a quick crayoning suggests you're adding about 20 miles of railway route which, even at 200mph, adds more time than you're saving by itself.
Consider again the cost of bypassing to save time. How many millions of dollars are you willing to save a minute of travel time? It is far cheaper to put that money into straightening the worst curves of legacy inner city track than to spend it bypassing the city altogether, not even accounting for the loss of revenue by not serving what are objectively large cities.
The coupling of modern high-speed trains is also a significant part of their crash safety. Keeping the train connected if it derails means there's less chance of a loose vehicle punching through another. (See how e.g.  has most of the vehicles pretty much intact.)
I think in most cases, running an express train followed by a stopping train is good enough.
The issue is that steel wheels on steel tracks doesn't provide enough grip to accelerate, so the train takes a lot of the time to get up to speed.
Maglev, meanwhile, uses a linear motor, so you can accelerate very fast if you want to.
70dba is rather a lot, though, I imagine you'd end up with a lower limit in the US since I don't think most people are going to be easily convinced that another inter-city transit method is going to be worth the noise to them.
Trains spend a lot of time speeding up and slowing down. A single stop adds much more than five minutes to total transit time. [EDIT: Apparently this doesn't apply to maglev. This could be a game changer for HSR in the American political landscape.]
That is false even for non mag-lev. Do the math as I did: at .7 m/s/s (which is what shinkansen does) it takes less than 90 seconds to get to 300 km/h. That leaves far more time than is needed at the station (1 minute is plenty if the train is designed right). You don't count stop time at all because it averages out with the acceleration.
By contrast, when a train departs a station, there are frequently passengers who are still roaming the aisle with their luggage. And I might have a cup of coffee or something sitting on the table in front of me (or behind me, from the perspective of the train's direction of acceleration).
For the sake of comparison - a Toyota Corolla will do 100km/h/6s. You don't need to fully stow your cargo, you just need not to have drinks on the table. Even standing you would be fine, though there is some danger you'd trip.
Beyond that, buses see accelerations on the order of ~0.2G often, and that's with people standing up, in an unpredictable fashion.
FWIW, the numbers I generally see bandied about for acceleration on (decent) trains is about 1 m/s^2.
0.1g is the acceptable lateral acceleration when standing up without bracing. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40864-015-0012-y)
If you get caught standing up, even 3.5 m/s/s is not dangerous. It is uncomfortable, but in a high speed train you are expected to be sitting down.
Also you wouldn't need to put drinks away. As I said, that's the acceleration of a Toyota Corolla. You would need the drinks to be covered though.
The limiting factor in longitudinal acceleration in trains is that we expect people to be standing up for the whole trip. This isn't the case in a high speed train.
As for curves - the solution is not to go through any sharp curves unless you are already close to a stop and would have to slow down anyways.
Perhaps this would be interesting to you, "Passenger Stability Within Moving Railway Vehicles: Limits on Maximum Longitudinal Acceleration".
You don't need to wait for everyone to be seated. You're not going to fall over at 0.2G or 0.3G, it will just be uncomfortable. But you should plan for everyone to be able to find a seat.
Ah, wasn't aware of that. Thank you.
The whole reason the Houston to Dallas route is workable is that it does not stop at all in between.
Feeder trains bring new passengers on board the primary train. They leave the station a little ahead of the incoming primary train in order to accelerate up to its speed just at the rendezvous point.
Another empty feeder had already rendezvoused with the primary before the station and passengers disembarking were offloaded onto it.
In short, the feeders can be small. The primary train need not stop at all the points in between.
I would love to model this graphically.
The major Midwestern cities are remarkably close in distance from Chicago as major French cities are from Paris, and in terms of population counts, the US has consistently larger cities.
In France, the cities are dense with decent to great transit.
In the US, you have low, flat, sprawling cities with no real transit to speak of. You have to drive.
car rental, ridehailing, metro bus/train, taxi, friends/family pickup, etc., just as with air travel.
Clearly not having overheads of airport security will probably reduce the minimum distance required for this, but as a first pass it's good data source.
Most local transit systems are run by people who drive though, and it shows in how bad the majority of the system is.
Historically, the cheapest ways to ship anything are by sea, by rail, and by truck, in that order. Airplanes are still inordinately more expensive but folks are willing to pay for that quick delivery that trucks and rail simply can't do.
Kind of like how, supposedly, 4G networks were more widespread in pockets of Africa you'd never expect before they were widespread in the US, because those parts of Africa didn't have 2G/3G infrastructure to depreciate and customers to migrate off before 4G could be deployed.
Right not politicians are looking at things like hyperloop which maybe can be useful in the future, but right now are power point slides and other hype. Instead we could go with something that works - there is plenty of things much better than we have.
What trips in Europe are 1300km and how long is that train ride?
I would love an Atlanta to Raleigh or Atlanta to Savannah train but I think your comparison is kinda extreme. A better comparison would be Atlanta to Athens/Columbus/Chattanooga.
Now spending a trillion dollars to invade and try to remake a country in the Middle East... that's not waste. Neither is bailing out financial institutions so they can go back to the casino.
If we don't get our priorities realigned, China will absolutely dominate the 21st century and we have no right to complain. We did this to ourselves.
Btw, other countries determined the maglev tech to be uneconomical. I think India and Saudi Arabia and some other places were interested but ultimately nothing became of it.
Maglev is complex because:
* it guarantees you can't run services beyond the limit of the new-built track,
* the extra speed comes with higher operational costs (because drag, so you need the time saving to increase modal shift), and
* higher construction costs (to get the higher speeds, you need to build it with very large radii corners, which limits your ability to choose one's route to minimise significant structures; and if you want city-centre stations, you have no choice but to build a new line all the way in, and it turns out that acquiring land in cities is expensive).
I wouldn't _totally_ write off maglev, but there are relatively few corridors which align to make all of this worthwhile.
My understanding about maglev operational costs is that the energy consumption of each service is higher (due to the need to maintain the electromagnets, which end up consuming more energy than is used to overcome the rolling resistance of steel-on-steel), though the overall operating costs are hard to judge (especially when the only operational line is both short and there is little in the way of public data about its costs).
I don't know if beaming power is practical. Tesla was working on it long before we were born.
There is a lot of potential for rail in the US, but Atlanta to Dallas isn't it.
I'd love overnight trains to come back to Europe.
Are they gone? I've gone backpacking in Europe a couple times with a rail pass or tickets in the last ten years, and regularly used overnight trains.
The last is the biggest. You need to close track regularly to maintain it, and closing all tracks for 8 hours at night is the easiest for people to figure out.
> first, what do you do with the train during the day when nobody wants a bed (regular trains park at a station overnight and are ready to go the next morning).
Most trains are taken (empty) to a depot for cleaning and maintenance — the schedule is generally planned around this. It's also where the drivers turn up for work, and it's easier to cope with illness etc this way.
A few trains will be left near a station to run the first train(s) towards the depot in the morning.
Nevertheless, I imagine there are places where costs have been cut to the bone, and there aren't spare sidings for a night train.
> Third, how will you maintain the track if there are trains running on it
You plan the night train with sufficient slack in the schedule to take an alternative route. This can also help with the second point.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25420455 from 7 months ago, etc.
Which is a plain idiocity. A train derailment, even of a non-high speed train, will make for a many times bigger bodycount than an even A380 crash.
Three fatalities. Seventy-two people transported to hospital.
Fun fact: I was on the first fire engine that arrived on that accident.
There's a lot of adrenaline. I think even the most seasoned, salty veteran would be lying if they said they responded to that call all cool, calm and collected.
But you go back to training. Which is instilled into you as "don't train until you get it right, train until you can't get it wrong".
Scene safety. For yourself, crew, bystanders, the involved.
Resource needs. More ambulances? Cranes?
Then setting up for a mass casualty incident - usually broken down into triage, treatment, and transport - assigning resources to those.
You're right though, it's hard - you want to not be bored, to have something to do, but you don't want someone to have a horrible day. There's a mental balancing act going on.
I remember one of my EMT students, on her first ride along, was for a bad trauma (felled tree bounced and hit someone in the back, causing significant spinal damage and chest injuries). We rendezvoused with a helicopter, intubated, did needle decompressions of the chest, and off they went. My student was a little 'off' afterwards. I asked if she was okay. "I feel so guilty!". I completely misread her, told her nothing was her fault, and said it was okay that she didn't participate as much as possible in patient care versus assisting. "No, I feel so guilty because that guy is so sick, but that was f-ing awesome to see!"
On the other hand, an aircraft crashing into a populated area will definitely kill everyone on board plus all the unlucky folks on the ground who happen to get hit by it.
A subversionist can easily sabotage the railway over a bridge, on a slope, or time it to have a collision with another train.
This is pretty much the worst-case kind of derailment: the train derailed mid-switch, causing half the train to go down one track and the other half to go the other track. The sideways car then crashed into the immediately adjacent road pillar, destroying the car and the road on top of it. The rest of the train then plowed into the carnage and folded up like an accordion.
Total death count: 101, of 286 passengers.
An A380 will carry more passengers (500-600, I think), and a typical plane crash will have a much higher death train.
Otherwise, yes, trains are almost as safe as air travel, if not even safer.
Trains also are electric which is a plus.
You can get to the station 2 min before it leaves and jump in.
In Europe, Japan and Taiwan etc, it's a good idea to be there a few minutes before (especially if you're not familiar with the station), but it's always less time than required for getting on a plane.
PS. Do I sense some missalocation of resources in the western world ?