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We talk about green jobs. Building wind mills, installing solar panels, and all that jazz. But how about something even more down-to-earth, something that's been proven to work in history and something that other countries have already implemented with great success?

I'm talking about trains. Not the "chugga chugga choo choo" kinds of yesteryear, but ultra-aerodynamic, ultra-fast trains like France's TGV (stands for train à grande vitesse, literally train of big speed), that can clock up to 357 mph on a good day.


Not only could a national train system create thousands upon thousands of new jobs, but it would also be extremely environmentally-friendly. If you live in Madison, WI, and wanted to visit family down in Chicago, then instead of taking the 3+ hour car trip (and using that much gas), you can take the ultimate form of public transport - cheap, consistent, and safe.


Above is the map of all of France's trains. As you can see, it virtually connects to every part of France so a citizen in any part of the country doesn't have to travel to reach the nearest stop. It also goes to neighboring countries like Italy and Switzerland.

If we had a web of railroads, going through every single state and leading to a midwestern city near the middle of the country (Lincoln, Topeka, maybe even Chicago or St. Louis), think of the economic prosperity it could bring. Paying $100 to go from LA to New York as opposed to $500 sounds pretty nice, right? It would do wonders for tourism and commerce in general. Traveling not just across the country but maybe from one part of your state to the next becomes easier, cheaper, and safer. And you stay on the ground the whole time.

EDIT: Instead of having a giant train system inefficiently and expensively going through the entire country, we should have multiple train systems going through neighboring population centers, like the Midwest, West Coast, East Coast, Southwest, etcetera.

It would do wonders for lowering gas prices and lowering the prices for goods in general (no more huge shipping costs, because there would be trains on this system that could be solely for shipping goods).

And a lot of the jobs caused by the original project (which, in theory, could be done in less than 10 years if enough people work on it) would stay on, because of needed repairs, conductors, train staff, etcetera.

I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I think that this could really do wonders to help our faltering economy, in a sort of New Deal-esque "get out there and work" way. It would also do wonders for bringing our country together, when it's much easier and quicker to go from place to place in our nation.

That's it.

EDIT: Like a man should be able to, I'm molding my idea based on the great reception you guys have given me. I'm drawn to the conclusion that having multiple regional train systems is the best way.

Originally posted to HMBeast on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:09 PM PST.


I think a national train system is...

79%1070 votes
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| 1346 votes | Vote | Results

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  •  Tip Jar (255+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skybluewater, Joe Bob, exsimo2, DavidW in SF, canyonrat, ssmt, fcvaguy, hester, Buckeye BattleCry, dansac, rhfactor, Rolfyboy6, ScientistMom in NY, MikeHickerson, LBK, exotrip, LynChi, Xan, VetGrl, jdld, akeitz, eeff, TX Unmuzzled, dkistner, Sandy on Signal, freelunch, Woody, red moon dog, shpilk, object16, MarkInSanFran, bigforkgirl, eyeswideopen, SF Kid, JSCram3254, 88kathy, westegg, sponson, DAVE DIAL, srkp23, nudger, DaleA, slatsg, michael1104, ctsteve, dmsilev, OldYellerDog, Melanchthon, dangoch, entiel, MrSandman, Miss Jones, Wilmguy, KevinEarlLynch, leevank, rufustfyrfly, HeyMikey, antoinette from NYC, RebeccaG, lecsmith, grrr, dufffbeer, lcrp, KateCrashes, jesses, KayCeSF, Josiah Bartlett, Timroff, sebastianguy99, greeseyparrot, Gowrie Gal, Jersey Joe, rapala, paige, NoMoreLies, citizenx, TN yellow dog, llywrch, amRadioHed, reflectionsv37, NeuvoLiberal, aaraujo, lotlizard, WolfmanSpike, moodyx, FindingMyVoice, LithiumCola, bookwoman, Team Slacker, djohnutk, psyched, xaxnar, begone, debedb, martini, Orinoco, BobzCat, mjfgates, RustyBrown, Opakapaka, HoundDog, allmost liberal european, Samwoman, ginja, tecampbell, imabluemerkin, justalittlebitcrazy, FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph, plf515, CTLiberal, max stirner, carp, ER Doc, Dinclusin, doinaheckuvanutjob, blue in NC, lazybum, Coffee Geek, MadMs, revgerry, jjellin, mapman, Nulwee, liberaldemdave, Aaa T Tudeattack, we are 138, beaukitty, marykk, out of left field, Cronesense, miamiboats, Loudoun County Dem, Stwriley, la urracca, kath25, SJLeonidas, Jimdotz, LamontCranston, Giodude, sabishi, Heyroot, gatordem, jnhobbs, millwood, Terra Mystica, extradish, bluesweatergirl, mconvente, tdub, Shahryar, shanay, The Overhead Wire, Judge Moonbox, IdahoDem, Wes Opinion, Lujane, MrJayTee, DailyKingFish, pickandshovel, vernonbc, Jeff Y, mnguy66, ShempLugosi, mofembot, fool mee once, mattc129, Groucho Marxist, DixieDishrag, BYw, pelagicray, caps lock on, Pastry Assassin, debheadley, scrubjay, Tennessee Dave, penguinsong, MD, SciMathGuy, Pris from LA, Rhysling, The Totalizer, number nine dream, arainsb123, DontTaseMeBro, ARS, snackdoodle, imisa, Shhs, DemocraticOz, moira, SciVo, Yalin, Daily Activist, virginwoolf, redtex, tryin to make it real, Groch, asym, johngoes, ninshubur, winkk, Losty, SnowItch, notksanymore, Living in Gin, FundaMental Transformation, Reverend Floyd, Underwater Archaeologist, Leftcandid, ljfxiki, Words In Action, gadrielle, Railfan, Lazar, Norbrook, YellerDog, oohdoiloveyou, angry liberaltarian, Latex Solar Beef, flitedocnm, Flagship, been fooled more than twice, Susan from 29, Erkenntnis, wvmom, Mara Jade, ATFILLINOIS, RJP9999, ahyums, Jimmm, AJ in Camden, NYWheeler, Futbol Jo, Unenergy, WestDem, kissmygrits, Otteray Scribe, Floande, karehiro, Quantumlogic, bicycle Hussein paladin, genepoole, wentletrap, grannyboots, Korinthios, greenmama, ObamOcala, Freeman Bevan, skpow, FightingRegistrar, Vladislaw, AmbroseBurnside, Quincy Woo, sjr1, Darkpoole


    •  I do wish there was more dialogue in this country (47+ / 0-)

      about a national high speed rail network... the train system we have is really laughable... it's someplace to start, and that's about it.  Even regional high speed networks would be a great start, and would make a lot of sense on the coasts.  Then we could build from there...

      Check out The Albany Project for the latest in NY state political news.

      by Team Slacker on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:28:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Expand that to a national mass transit network (62+ / 0-)

        with high speed as a part of the answer.

        Maybe instead of building crappy energy-hogging cars, the Big3 could be reorganized to manufacture a new generation of trains, trolleys and buses.

        Given that the automakers set out to destroy mass transit, there would be a certain poetic justice in their change of product line. . .

        Try my dream: President Obama

        by MrSandman on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:42:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It would be fitting (28+ / 0-)

          considering that they killed trolleys and streetcars in the early part of the last century.

          President-elect Barack Obama.

          by noabsolutes on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:58:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  California just passed Prop 1A (21+ / 0-)

            that makes a down payment on high speed rail between SF and LA (and eventually San Diego).  I read that they plan to get up to 200 MPH so a trip from SF to LA would take a few hours and supposedly cost $50.  I think that is great and very realistic.

            The diarist is a little unrealistic in thinking that you could travel between NY and LA for $40.  Also there is nothing about the time.  A few weeks ago I took Amtrak from San Diego to Santa Barbara.  It only cost about $30 but took about 4 hours.  I needed to get to San Jose but a train from San Diego to SJ took 12 hours and  cost $125.  Instead, I took an Amtrak bus from Santa Barbara to SJ and the total price from San Diego to SJ was $53.  Except for the 10 hours, it was a nice ride.  But I'd much prefer a 2 hour trip from San Diego to SJ for $50.  

            I think the California  high speed train is a nice start for what could become a regional train system meeting up with another similar system moving west from the east.  I suspect there would need to have many hubs to make it reasonable to go from LA to Seattle or Dallas by going to a near hub and catching another train going to another destination.  The French train system shows that a extensive network would need to be built to become affective.  The cost of such a system would probably go to the $ trillions.  California determined that the $10 billion would need to be invested into highway infrastructure anyway to deal with increased travel needs, so one could argue that the $ trillion would need to be spent anyway to build new highways and bridges.  

            Let's hope that insightful people beginning thinking in this way.  Not sure I'd make the trip from NY to LA many times, but I'd sure give it a shot.  At 200 MPH, the 20-25 hours or so that it would take is a bit much but if my trip from San Diego is any example, it sure was comfortable and relaxing.  Much better than any airplane trip, just much longer.

            "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

            by dangoch on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:25:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually I think it's pretty funny that this (12+ / 0-)

              diary is titled, "Why aren't regional-based train systems being discussed more?" and right above it was the regional-based transit diary STUNNING Victory for Mass Transit in the Bay Area [update x2].

              •  I think I paid $4.05 (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                exsimo2, rhfactor, madhaus

                to ride BART, the San-Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system, from Fremont to Berkeley.

                I also paid $1.50 to ride a bus to the Fremont station.

                A total of $5.55 to get from a hotel in Newark, CA to downtown Berkeley.

                California would be better off subsidizing the existing systems rather than building a new one.

                The fares are more reasonable in San Diego ($9 for a two-day pass) and the Trolley there is heavily used.

                •  This is an idea we should post on (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  rhfactor, madhaus

                  Barack Obama wants us to submit our ideas over the website

                  I think if multiple people suggest this idea, it would get a lot of attention.

                  Currently, I spend about a $140 in gas, and 7 hours each way to drive to Columbus, OH from Chicago. Or I spend $180 and 3 hrs each way to fly there.

                  I would certainly appreciate taking a high speed train for half that price, without all the inconvenience involved in flying.

                  •  ASIDE re : How much faith do you have (0+ / 0-)

                    that citizen ideas, proposals, feedback will be shuttled through the Executive Branch, routed to highly experienced point-people in their respective areas of expertise, by task-dedicated professional, whose entire jobs consist of thoroughly reading everything, top to bottom, when funneled up from the "first-pass-filter" software used to scan all inputs?

                    I really want to believe that

                    Barack Obama wants us to submit our ideas over the website

                    and I do feel certain that he DOES want non-governmental people to have access to the ears and machinery of government.

                    But that's theory .... plus a web-mechanism that, simply put, is a neutral pipeline that moves data from our end to someone's computer, where it gets processed and routed "somehow".

                    The question is, what does "somehow" look like specifically. I'm an information designer by trade, and, to date, I have never seen an idea-submission system that really works in an optimal manner. What I consider optimal is, a system that has various fail-safe check-points built in, whether human-based, algorithm based, or combinations thereof, that make sure that first-pass screeners of ideas are not given 100% gatekeeper ability -- to kill submissions that do not trip their personal switches of interest.. But rather, there are built in assurances that novel ideas, things never really expressed before as being possible, are recognized as needing breathing space -- and funneled to people trained in ideation and brainstorming, who know, professonally, how to filter first-pass ideas and discount the parts that may seem like "wishful thinking" or "ridiculous" and weight-heavier those components that look at ideas in completely fresh ways.

                    Put more simply: Does anyone have any idea of WHO exactly is the "Czar" or frontline manager of the whole routing & filtration system? Or -- is that not yet designed (which is okay and expected; they just won the election 3 weeks ago and can't have been expected to prep for each & every scenario of what might be instituted after winning)?

                    I don't mean to sound pessimistic in this New Age of Hope in Possibilities.. but, right now I would have zero faith that any new bold ideas would really, currently, get the kind of incubation and development they might truly merit. The last people I would ever hire for such a system would be staffers used to working in a US Senator's or House of Representatives office. If I base that on how my Senators' offices are run -- Boxer and Feinstein -- and my Represenative, Pelosi, I feel confident in saying that any adoption of, or carryover of, practices used in COngressional offices dealing with citizen "input" instantly equates to failure in the "Change" department.

                    Anyone know?

                •  Currently we have no passenger rail link (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  between SF and Los Angeles that doesn't require using a bus.

                  The reason is that the tracks are already at capacity and that there is no room to add passenger trains on them. There is only one train, the Coast Starlight, Amtrak's passenger service between LA and Seattle, and because it is stuck waiting for freight, it takes 16 hours to go from the east bay to Los Angeles.

                  Even with the "bus bridge", and other inconveniences, Amtrak ridership has been setting records every month, and Amtrak California is running nearly at capacity. No empty seats on the buses that I've ridden lately.

                  Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                  by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:03:15 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  false choice (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  rhfactor, madhaus

                  in fact, prop 1a does both, and we need to do both if we're ever going to transition from a gas-based car + plane paradigm to an electric rail paradigm. which we need to do, because of both global warming and peak oil, which will kick our ass in the next couple of decades if we continue as is.

                  surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

                  by wu ming on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:19:58 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I voted for Prop 1A here in California... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              amRadioHed, Tennessee Dave

              ...take a glimpse into our future:


            •  Trans-continental passanger trains are a bad idea (18+ / 0-)

              I doubt there is someone here who loves trains more than I do, but let's be realistic about what a good train network does, and doesn't do.

              I'm pretty familiar with France's rail network, and Germany's to an even greater extent. I can tell you this: A French family vacationing in southern Italy, or a German businessman traveling to Bordeaux, wouldn't really consider taking the train. Even in Europe, they fly. It's a bad idea to try to replace the airplane with high speed rail. We need to replace the car with high speed rail.

              What European rail networks do well are the medium-length runs. As a rule, nobody wants to take a train trip that's longer than 8 hours. With trains like the TGV and ICE, you can get pretty far in 8 hours... about a fifth of Europe when the railbed is modern and the landscape is flat. What's more, your trip will be faster, more comfortable and (importantly) cheaper than if you drove alone in a car. An 8-hour train trip compares favorably with the same trip by plane: Maybe it's more expensive, but it's far more convenient, since you don't have to bother with the stupidity of airports.

              But the real secret to developing a train culture is having a critical density, both geographically and temporally. In Germany, even a small town has a train connection to the nearest major travel hub at least once every hour. A town of 50K+ will usually have a train every half hour on the major routes. Cities typically have three layers of light rail: Streetcars, the Subway (U-bahn) and then suburban light rail (S-bahn) - all tightly coordinated with the longer-range trains.

              What I'm trying to say is that the real trick is to provide an alternative to the need for using a car. And most of the car use in the US is connected with daily commutes. What's necessary aren't the giant arteries so much as the little fingers that bring rail close to where people live, and take them to where they work. Once this is in place in various towns, it will become far more tempting to travel between them on the major arteries. But don't be confused by the posted map. If it really showed all the active railbeds that serve passenger traffic in France, you wouldn't be able to read it because there are so many. And it's those little connections are the key for actually getting people to use the trains.

              In the USA, we just don't have those, and without them we will never get a train culture. I hope we have the will to build them out, though my guess is that it is too expensive to do at this late date. Sure, there will be extensions of subways and suburban light rail like BART, and that's definitely good. But they're not gonna build a subway in Phoenix, Las Vegas or San Diego, even though these are on their way to becoming million-plus cities. Heck, you won't even see a proper three-tiered rail network in a giant metropolis like LA or Dallas/Ft. Worth, even though much smaller cities like Frankfurt have these.

              I predict that because of this fundamental lack of local infrastructure, US train ridership will always be disappointingly low, so connections will be disappointingly sparse, so the convenience to the passenger will be low, so ridership incentives will be low.

              Only in the Northeast corridor, where population densities are higher than most places in Europe, does high speed rail make sense now, but even there, the short-run "hub-feeder" and daily commuter connections are what needs to be upgraded. In 50 years, when these upgrades might match what France has now, I'll be an old man. They have not only a 60-year head start, but also the advantage of not having given up on their passenger rail system after WW2, like we did.

              Because we're playing catchup, our role model should be a cities like Curitiba, Brazil, not Frankfurt or Osaka. Curitiba has busses that have many of the advantages of trains, but require far less up-front investment. Of course, ours should be electric.

              •  tipped but for different reasons (9+ / 0-)

                I like the title but totally disagree with the commentor's take. There is the assumption that we'll be able to fly as we have in the past, but that isn't a valid one. Airlines are going bankrupt en mass this year due to finance issues and peak oil is going to assure they stay down. Rail doesn't compete with air, it competes with bicycle, horse, and oxen drawn wagon, just like it did a century and a half ago.

                 And yes, we're all going to live, work, and vacation closer to where we grew up ... at least if we ever want to see family.

                •  Airline companies are like car companies (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Some are going bankrupt, some are thriving, and the reasons are the same: old companies have legacy costs, while new companies don't.  There's nothing intrinsically unprofitable about air transport.  

                  -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

                  by Rich in PA on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:17:01 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  oil goes much above $100, and they're all dead (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    madrone, lump1

                    the CEO of southwest said it just last summer. that isn't even getting into what happens as the oil isn't even there, much less expensive.

                    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

                    by wu ming on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:21:31 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Bad economics ... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      if oil goes above $100, plane tickets get more expensive. But since the 1980's, the cost of a discount round trip ticket between the East and West coasts has more or less stayed constant, while everything else has skyrocketed. When oil gets high, there will still be people who have to travel, and they'll pay the cost of the tickets. There just won't be as many people flying. They'll just be paying 1970 prices and not 2000 prices for their tickets.

                      And I expect the CEO of Southwest is correct, if oil goes up, all the airlines will go bankrupt. But that hasn't stopped the airline companies from flying in the past, and it won't in the future.

              •  Japan is an excellent model (11+ / 0-)

                Their transit systems made me just plain depressed about the abysmal state of transit in the US.

                It's not just the trains, which are an efficient and effective network in Japan, but the buses as well.

                As part of a recent trip I spent a week in Kyoto, which is about twice the population of San Francisco. Their subway system is fairly rudimentary -- two lines forming a cross through the city -- but well-implemented.

                The incredible thing in Kyoto was the bus system. Every day we would pick up all-day passes for the bus system (only Y500 or about five bucks). We never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus at any time. The bus network ran everywhere in the city, and it was very easy to transfer and make a connection because of the frequency. (We rode a lot of buses.) Every bus stop had a complete map of the stops and where you were, the timetable, and a live display of which bus was coming next, and how far away it was. Every bus had a clear visual display inside the bus of the destination and the next stop in full Japanese, simplified Japanese (hiragana only), and romanized (i.e. "English"). There were constant announcements of next stops and connections in both Japanese and American English -- on every bus, not just "tourist" buses. Our Japanese was minimal at best, yet we had no trouble getting anywhere in the city we wanted to go. It made the US look like a third-world country.

                One of the tricks to this was that the buses were smaller, so were more effective in navigating the streets and merging with traffic, and could be more timely, and were less costly to purchase and operate, unlike the lumbering double-length MUNI beasts that slowly and infrequently gallumph through San Francisco. SF could learn a lot from Kyoto.

                In Tokyo, take the example of buses in Kyoto and apply it to subways and rail. They move more than 14 million people daily throughout the city on these systems, and the information infrastructure integrated with this was excellent. On every train, there was a display of exactly where you were on the line, how many minutes to your destination from your current location, all connections at the forthcoming stop, and visual and audio in full and simplified Japanese and in English. It's an absolutely amazing achievement.

                The state of transit in the US is just appalling in comparison. We would do well to implement city systems like this throughout the country to provide the connection points for longer run high-speed rail.

          •  They should totally bring them back! n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  this is a great idea and probably more likely to (8+ / 0-)

          withstand the test of time and the excess global capacity we currently have in the auto-industry.

          The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by HoundDog on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:10:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Trains are without question the future (23+ / 0-)

            in my opinion. The fact that the system has deteriorated to the point it has is nothing short of disastrous. As well as being a great way to travel it's the most obvious environmental transport solution out there, from what I've seen. There's much reason for optimism right now though, I fully expect Joe Biden to finally bring a rail  friendly voice to the executive branch, I hope it has an impact.

            hope springs eternal

            by ahyums on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:37:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not to mention that... (10+ / 0-)

              as our population ages, there will be much more interest in a safe, cheap and reliable rail system in place of so much car travel.

              •  When the Baby Boomers march into Old Age, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wings Like Eagles, Flagship

                Many will be wearing tshirts proclaiming, "Macular Degenerate." Many will have arthritis severe enough to keep them from driving, many diabetics won't be able to feel the gas and brake pedals with their feet.

                There will be a whole lot of people who will want to remain active, but won't be able to keep on driving. We need to start planning now for the increased demand. (Well, we actually needed to start 40 years ago, but better late than never.)

                Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

                by Judge Moonbox on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:32:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  One good part (7+ / 0-)

              The only thing approaching a silver lining is that the system is bad, we have this golden opportunity to start over from scratch with something for the 21st century instead of taking a band-aid approach to a 19th century system.

              •  Schumpeter argued that "creative destruction" at (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Otteray Scribe

                times like these frees up the resources and improves the motivation for innovation and the next cycles of expansion.

                And if we try to prevent them by locking resources that should be freed, not non-competitive companies and incompetent management we stifle growth of jobs and prosperity -- exactly the opposite of our intent!

                The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

                by HoundDog on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:24:17 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  You are right (12+ / 0-)

              When I was a kid in the '50's you could get on a train in any small town in America and go to any other small town completely by train. My aunt used to travel from Galveston, Texas to Cushing, Oklahoma (population about 7000) entirely by train. We would pick her up at the depot in Cushing. All small towns in Oklahoma had passenger depots so I assume other states also had them in most small towns. Most freight was also shipped by train and picked up at depots by trucks for local delivery. In the early '60's the trains began to disappear. I have always wondered why.
              I am glad to see a diary on this because I feel that trains can help solve the energy crisis, create jobs and much more. Shipping freight by trains is vastly more energy efficient that by trucks on the roads. The savings in road maintainence and repair would be incredible. From what little research I have done I found statistics claiming that one 50,000 semi going over a bridge is equal in wear to about 10,000 cars going over the bridge. I travel from Okla. City to Dallas on I-35 frequently.  From my own estimate while driving on I-35, it probably only takes a few hours for 100 semis to cross one bridge. This amounts to about 1 million cars. At least some section of I-35 is always under repair. I am convinced that it is in large part due to the huge number of heavy trucks on I-35. It is time to rebuild our railway systems!

              I'll have the Milquetoast Fascism with a side order of revisionist history, please.

              by J G M on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:50:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  By the 60's the Interstate Highway System (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NoMoreLies, J G M, lazybum, Quinton

                … was complete and started giving trucking a tremendous economic advantage over rail.

                Traditionally, a railroad had to own all its trackbed and bear the full cost of maintaining its infrastructure. A trucking company, on the other hand, contributes a little to upkeep of the roads through various taxes and tolls, but is otherwise not burdened with having to finance and manage the road system.

                See the national finals of Dutch children's chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen's 2008 Song Contest December 14 in Hoorn!

                by lotlizard on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:01:28 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  which is why the 19th century rail paradigm (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Green Tea, J G M, Quinton, ahyums

                  needs to give way to a 21st century publicly owned (high speed + urban light rail) infrastructure.

                  surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

                  by wu ming on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:23:15 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Thanks, your answer makes sense (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Several yeras ago, I read an article in Reader's Digest (of all places) which quoted Dept. of Transportation statistics and claimed that the taxes that large trucks pay don't actually cover all the damage and wear that they do to roads. Good for the trucking industry but not so great for the rest of us.

                  I'll have the Milquetoast Fascism with a side order of revisionist history, please.

                  by J G M on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 08:39:18 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, those wonderful high speed trains don't oper (25+ / 0-)

          operate in a vacuum. In between those main lines are local lines and, better still, integrated bus, tram and other public transportation systems.

          One is not dumped off in some remote spot to find a cab or hike. Stations are multi-mode terminals and it is often just an escalator ride to subway or air terminal ticket area or a short walk to the bus or tram platform.

          Compare that to Washington, D.C. and the absolute idiocy of Union Station being within sight of the bus terminal, the Metro line at the top of the retaining wall above the buses and Amtrak on the next rails over. One can sit in either a bus or Metro and see the other within a softball toss with no connection other than a five or more block hike, a taxi or a Metrobus out on the street with no shelter.

          Guess what? In 1967 Congress directed that Union Station be like a European or Japanese station; multi-mode. There was a recent hearing on why that is still not done. One wants to consider boiling certain laggards in oil!

          The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

          by pelagicray on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:38:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  A GREAT Public Works program... (11+ / 0-)

          This could put a lot of people to work building a system that would evolve and last over a hundred years.  This would be a green project too.  

          They've been advertising that a train can move a ton of freight some 200 miles on a gallon of fuel.  That would be about 2000 passenger miles per gallon.  OK make that 1000 passenger miles per gallon allowing for our overweight lifestyles and a hundred pounds of luggage each and to just be conservative in the estimate.

          How does that compare to flying?

          I managed to get 33 mpg in my ton or so CR-V with 1 passenger on a recent trip.

          A green project that puts people to work for a long lived project, sounds like a good investment in the future to me.

          I am here to represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

          by Josiah Bartlett on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:55:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This would be great for Texas (5+ / 0-)

            But no one in Austin really seems to think so. That's the problem with Texas politics - it's big and people assume big means cooperation and large public projects like this can't happen here. When state congressmen and women gather in Austin, they all assume they can't agree because everybody's fighting for their own interests. They set the bar for cooperation incredibly low for themselves, and then amuse themselves with how "Texan" they are in how they can't get anything done. This is how the Texan people get cheated time and time again.

            But damn, this would be a godsend for Texas. A well-regulated, large-scale pubic works project like this would put thousands of Texans to work and make travel and shipping across Texas more affordable and environmentally friendly. Plus, Texas could benefit from greater work force mobility - too many people are stuck in poor towns too far away from potential jobs or a financially feasible way to hunt for jobs in other areas of the state. Then, there's plenty of industries that would welcome cheaper shipping costs for freight travel to, out of or through Texas. And then there's the traffic congestion in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and the Dallas Forth Worth areas which is nothing short of hellish, and that's being nice about it. Mass transit may be the only way to improve that in these metro areas (unless they invent flying cars soon).

            Really, it's beyond stupid that Texas isn't investing more in mass transit. I guess it may have to take this being implemented elsewhere in the US and make enough Texans envious before we get such a thing started here. Or the second coming of FDR who'll point a stern finger at Texas and say "Get it done!"

            "Your world's no wider than your hatred of his" - Elliott Smith

            by croyal on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:25:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're not free to build railroads around country (4+ / 0-)

              One of the big interests in blocking Texas High Speed Rail is Southwest Airways. They're afraid that rebuilding rail service between Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, and San Antonio will be too much competition.

              In reality, a genuine energy policy would put more people on their planes with disincentives to driving than incentives to use buses and trains would take away.

              Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

              by Judge Moonbox on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:39:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  I've just returned from a trip to Paris/London (25+ / 0-)

        And it was an eye opening experience for me and my wife.  I had no idea that we, as a nation, were so far behind in mass transit.  
        I've done Amtrak, three whole days to get from Houston to Virginia.  My wife and I took that trip for the "romance" of train travel.  We stopped at so many small stations and kept pulling off to a sidetrack to allow freight trains to pass, it felt like it took forever to get to our destination.  But since it was our first trip by train, I thought that how it was to be.
        Two weeks ago we were in Paris and were SHOCKED!  The city's metro trains allowed you to traverse the city without going first through a central hub.  The regional trains allowed you travel to outlying regions surrounding the city.  Finally, the high-speed rail system connected more distant cities, which had their own metros and regional trains.  We went from Paris to London in 3 hrs.
        And to insult to injury, the city rail,the regional rail, and the high speed trains all serviced the airports.
        Interconnected.  Organized. On Time.

        "Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it" --Shakespeare, "Henry V," Act IV, Scene 1

        by entiel on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:45:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They're every bit as good as they seem (9+ / 0-)
          on a visit. I've lived mostly in Paris since 1998 and the transportation system in Paris, across France, and throuhout the rest of Europe is simply stunning. It's a complete shock to be back in the US, the first thing I did was buy a car.

          I've commuted on trains to Brussels, between Paris and London, and lots of other places and it all works wonderfully. I rented a car now and then just to take a trip to the country or something but on the whole could exist across the whole continent without one.

          It's a challenge for us simply because the country is so big, but we're fools that we're not working on it more. Just for quality of life issues alone, in addition to environmental interests.

          No turkeys were slaughtered in the making of this comment.

          by TimeZoned on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:10:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  yes the french system is fantastic (5+ / 0-)

          in fact, it seems to me that pretty much everywhere i have been to in the western world has better mass transit than we do.

          paris is amazing, there's always a metro stop nearby, no matter where you are in the city.

          the chicago el, with its exterior platforms, makes me want to cry on cold winter days.

          in montreal, in the heart of winter, one can hop on the metro and get to the other side of town and go through several transfers without having to go back out. it makes commuting a lot easier.

          last time i was in paris, there was a strike-- the french were protesting against the end of the 35-hr work-week program that the government was trying to institute, and the whole transit system came to a halt for a couple days. it forced us to change our plans, but it also made us realize how differently people exert their power over there.

        •  And you don't even need Mussolini to run them (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody, northLondonLiberal

          Democratic countries can make the trains run on time.  Go figure.

          "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

          by mbayrob on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:06:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I took the Eurostar 4 years ago. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody, lazybum, Tennessee Dave

          It was so smooth, I didn't realize we had hit the top speed until we crossed the River Medway. On Amtrak, even the best-maintained tracks will cause some swaying.

          The reason it took so long for Britain to build the Channel Tunnel Rail Link from London to Folkestone was that Margaret Thatcher was downright hostile to rail transit. She envisioned the Chunnel as an automotive tunnel, but allowed it to be all-rail when she saw how much it would cost to ventilate it. It took another decade for a new Prime Minister to complete the project.

          Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

          by Judge Moonbox on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:46:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  You saw the result of 60+ years of investment. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stranded Wind

          France has put a significant fraction of their resources into rail travel since WW2, as has every other European country. The system you rode took an incredible amount of work over many decades to put into place, and a train culture gradually co-evolved with it.

          We can't point at France and say "Ooh, I want one of those!" Or, I guess we can, but we should be prepared to die long before it's built, even if we really apply ourselves starting today.

          We are a country of roads, and as much as I love trains, I strongly suspect that the wiser investment for us would focus around electric cars with standardized, swappable batteries. But that's probably a pipe dream too.

          I'm hoping that at least China and India have enough sense to do it, and soon. China has every reason to do it. Electric cars are mechanically very simple and could me made domestically, and their totalitarian government would make the standardization issue fairly smooth. Oil prices and pollution are what's slowing their growth, and if they have the courage to leapfrog over us technologically, I'm sure the economic rewards for them would be considerable.

          •  need to do it all (4+ / 0-)

            Very good point about our lack of infrastructure. I grew up in Germany, and the inefficiency or just plain absence of public transit systems in the US is shocking.

            So sure, big intercity high speed passenger rail systems will not be as great, or will seem a little stupid when compared with Europe, but if a few of them work well where the economics and demographics are obvious (NE Corridor, LA-SF), it will be part of building the rail culture we need by convincing the public that rail is a useful alternative to cars and in some cases airplanes. And so we should build them selectively.

            Meanwhile, we need to build up regional hubs and the infrastructure for integrated rail/road public transit, AND at the same time develop technological solutions for individual cars to take advantage of all the asphalt we've laid.

            None of these things are mutually exclusive.

            •  We have some of the infrastructure (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling, lazybum, lump1

              I was trying to figure out a way to get home to Boise for Christmas from Seattle. I don't really want to drive in the snow over the passes and since I'm unemployed I didn't want to pay to fly with my son. The trains used to be cheap and the trip from Portland to Boise was beautiful through the mountains and along the rivers.

              I went online to get tickets and found out that the train from Portland to Chicago doesn't run any more. I can take a train to Portland and a bus to Boise (2-day trip) or train to Spokane and then bus to Boise. Again a two day trip.

              Why have we let this get to this point where our choices are being eliminated? Why have we stopped investing in our futures? Are we going to have to go through the equivalent of WWII in recession/depression order to remember that a country has to keep planning for the future instead of just making instant cash to by SUV's, MacMansions, and happy stockholders.

              I agree with what you have written about, trying to recreate France would be a mistake, but generating high-speed trains up and down the coasts, and start to work on trains within the cities to merge with existing bus systems seems to make so much sense. But I haven't heard a word about it. In fact in Seattle we're still trying to build bigger roads. The light rail system is still working on the hub system that does nothing for the outlying suburbs where the traffic problems (and new jobs) are. Ask Microsoft about trying to get their workforce to and from Redmond without using cars. Their connector buses fill up the minute they are announced.

        •  My story (0+ / 0-)

          I had a high-speed connection from Grenoble->Lyon->Paris, and the train from Lyon to Paris was delayed for an hour.

          When I arrived in Paris, I was given a voucher for a free ticket or refund due to the delay (train arrived at 10PM instead of 9PM)

          These guys take their train times seriously.

          Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

          by sacrelicious on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:59:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  We've been dialoguing about trains for forever (7+ / 0-)

        It's time to DO something. I live in NY. I love our train system that gets me up and down the coast.  On the other hand, I DRED having to go back to Ohio. There is one train track for both freight and passenger trains. That means the passenger train sits, sometimes up to an hour or more, while the freight train takes precedence. When I get to Ohio, I am stuck unless I rent a car.  Ohio wonders why they aren't attracting bright young people and they aren't retaining the ones they have?  Lousy transportation is likely one of the problems.

        The truth about John McCain's Keating Cheating

        by tikkun on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:19:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  True, there was a major bill introduced to do (10+ / 0-)

        something similar this week - yet 256 comments in - it is not even mentioned - though the Boston Globe and LA times covered it.

        "Senators John F. Kerry and Arlen Specter introduced a bill today to fund high-speed rail lines along the East Coast and in several other key areas of the country.

        Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said the legislation would help repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure, and at the same time create jobs when the country appears headed for a deep economic recession.


        The bill would provide money for tax-exempt bonds to finance rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour. It would include $10 billion over 10 years to fund improvements in the Northeast and California, and $5.4 billion over a six-year period for 10 rail corridors, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities along the East Coast."

      •  I agree. Start with East Coast/West Coast (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Mid rails and then connect those.

        Seattle - Portland - San Francisco - Los Angeles (and all the I-5 cities in-between)  The right of way already exists along I-5.

        On the East Coast, they could follow I-85 and I-95 and would connect a huge number of the major cities.

        Not sure about the Midwest/Central, but I'm sure there are as obvious of paths.

        East to West could mirror I90 - I10.

        The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States puts an exclamation point on Democracy!

        by SnowItch on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:54:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  on the west coast (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          amRadioHed, SnowItch

          i'd start with san diego to redding, and vancouver bc to eugene, and link them with a slow train, and then eventually build the more expensive line through the mountains between eugene and redding.

          but generally, yeah, that's how we do this.

          surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

          by wu ming on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:26:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Corridor Between Chicago and Detroit (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Amtrak has a regular run between Chicago and Detroit.  They also have runs from Chicago to Milwaukee, and further on to Minneapolis.  But it's all in danger of being lost, as federal subsidies have been reduced, and the states have to pick up more and more of the cost.  (Thank you, Republicans, with your "government doesn't work" meme, and your "no tax increases ever" solution to our nation's problems.)  

          Personally, I'd just love to be able to take a train from Green Bay all the way to Cleveland, but I don't imagine that will happen in my lifetime.  

          There's a lovely little commuter line, the South Shore, that runs between South Bend and Chicago, and uses electric trains.  I used to take it to visit Chicago when I was visiting my parents near South Bend.  The South Bend station was finally moved to the South Bend airport, making parking much easier for their riders.  The train makes stops at all the major cities along the way, and takes you right to Randolph St., putting you about a block away from the Art Institute.  

      •  Also, with the cost of housing down drastically (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming, Judge Moonbox, snackdoodle

        it is a great time to put in new rail lines.

        My only caviat on high-speed rail is please lift them off the ground - otherwise they become bullets for animals, children, elderly and cars stuck on tracks.

        •  Why would they be anywhere near by? (0+ / 0-)

          Cars would go under the tracks if at all.

        •  High speed lines in Europe and Japan are always (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, ginja, lazybum

          dedicated lines with no grade crossings and as far as I've seen they are always fenced or otherwise separated from adjacent land.

          This is a long video, but gives an overall idea of a run in Spain.

          This is a short video. Notice the fencing at the end.

          If you look closely in this short one you will also see fencing on a TGV line.

          The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

          by pelagicray on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:32:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  High speed? I'd settle for... (22+ / 0-)

      ...regular speed trains with more stops and reliable departures/arrivals.  


      Travel by train is extremely enjoyable and is going to make economic sense in the very near future.  Thanks for the diary.

      •  NOT more stops! (18+ / 0-)

        Look, I hated the train in the northeast when I lived there because it stopped like every 3 minutes. That's just un-American.

        We need express trains from major metro areas with limited stops that can go 350+ MPH like a regional jet. Trust me, if Texas had ultra high speed rail between Houston (4th largest city in the U.S.), Dallas, Austin, & San Antonio -- Texans would use it. But right now, you can pretty much get from anywhere in the Houston metro area to Austin via state highways in less than 3.5 hours. A plane ride is 40 minutes in the air. The trip from the house to the gate is longer than that, even with no delays.

        But rail is notoriously reliable because it withstands all weather and is meticulously well-managed traffic.

        However when you can get in your car and be in another city in 3-4 hours with no hassle -- you gotta have a damn good alternative to beat that... especially in America.

        Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

        by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:10:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  More stops = more areas of coverage (7+ / 0-)

          Right now Amtrak has huge gaps in the areas it services.  Places like Phoenix and Las Vegas don't even have train services.  I'm not necessarily advocating every podunk town have a train station, but rail does need stops in a few more actual cities.  

          I think high speed rail is actually not even the realistic goal at the moment.  The US needs to improve its train system so that it's at least up to the standards of the Ukraine or Bulgaria.  

          •  No, we need to leapfrog our technology. (10+ / 0-)

            This is like developing countries that go from NO telephone service to ALL cellular service.

            With technology, you don't make wise investments with incremental changes. You must invest in leapfrogging in order to come out ahead.

            And there has never been a greater economic need for this solution, or a better economic climate in which to enact it.

            Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

            by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:48:11 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You can't leapfrog with trains. You just can't. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              What train networks need before they work are the little commuter connections and the "hub-feeder" connections. All European towns have these, and this is what makes European train networks actually sustain ridership.

              And these little fingers amount to an incredible amount of track and work. And there's no "leapfroggy" way of doing that. It's expensive and laborious and painfully slow.

              •  Took more than 10 years to restore passenger (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TX Unmuzzled, lazybum

                service from Boston up to Portland, Maine - a distance of all of 100 miles. There were freight lines in place, and a history of passenger rail service that had ended only 40-50 years earlier.

                Expensive, laborious and painfully slow are exactly right.  It could have been faster and much cheaper if the state ahd put eminent domain into play.  I think the times might allow that now.

                The good news is that the service has been very popular.  Still, needs a big subsidy to keep operating.

          •  I think stops in major cities (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grrr, Norbrook

            and at stations that are shared with Amtrak (not shared track though) would work. Amtrak could be re-structured to handle regional routes instead with it's existing trains and track. If this rail network codeshared with Amtrak, you would take the high speed train to a major city's station, which would serve as a hub, and switch to the Amtrak train to get to your destination, all on the same ticket. This is basically what we have now with airlines and it seems to work well enough.

          •  There should be express trains and local trains.. (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Woody, lazybum, sgbean, mofembot, BYw

            just like subways.

        •  Actually, you need a mix... (17+ / 0-)

          ...frequent-stop locals to funnel passengers to larger cities, regional express trains to connect those to major metropolitan areas and high-speed rail to connect the major cities from coast-to-coast.

          •  No, think airports. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Xan, RossBleakney, Wings Like Eagles

            This is basically equivalent to a system of regional jets (think Southwest Airlines) and airports.

            If you take a 350 MPH train that can bullet from Houston to Austin in ONE HOUR and make it a 2.5 hour trip because of all the "convenience stops," then you ruin the value and it will fail.

            People can drive 30 minutes or so to a regional "trainport" and gladly come out ahead. But once the difference between traveling alone in the comfort and flexibility of my car versus public train travel -- if the difference becomes only 1 hour from 3.5 hours to 2.5 hours -- I'll be driving every single time.

            This isn't about affordability - it's about viability. And you can't be viable in this nation by stopping every 30 miles no matter how fast a train moves.

            Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

            by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:45:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  if we could come up with some sort of scheme (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Xan, James Kresnik, RossBleakney

              to get people's CARS on the trains (like ferries) that would help a great deal.  People don't have to pay attention and drive all that way.  They have their short distance transport with them when they arrive.  I'm not sure how this could be done ... flatcars set up like those car carrying 18 wheelers we see going from distributors to dealers?

              schadenfreude ... it's whats for dinner.

              by TheGryphon on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:52:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's been done already (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Xan, RossBleakney

                That's how you drive between the UK and France. You drive your car onto a ferry train, the train crosses the Channel Tunnel, and you drive off on the other side. Not sure how it works, but it works. I think if we had something similar that would be pretty nice. I know I'd use it. I'd save on gas, and I wouldn't have to rent a car when I reached my destination.

                •  Makes Sense for Long Trips (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Xan, grapeshot, lazybum, Tennessee Dave

                  The interstate freeway system (built at big public expense during the fifties) did two things: provided fast regional car transport and comfortable long range trips. The first increased the size of the suburbs and allowed cities to grow in a fairly cheap manner. Make of it what you will, but this sort of thing was probably inevitable, it just would have been paid for by state and municipal governments (L.A. would still have freeways). The second, though, is most applicable to this part of the conversation. Being able to drive, say, from Chicago to St. Louis fairly quickly is why many do. Yes, it is faster to take a plane, but many folks want a car when they get there. What is more, for people who travel with their family, such trips don't have to be that fast (if you're traveling from Chicago to Yellowstone with a bunch of kids, you are likely to drive, not take a plane). Just as there were two big uses for the interstate freeways, I think there are two big uses for an improved rail system:

                  1. Vacation travel -- This would cover the U.S. and not be much faster than existing travel. If you park your car on the train, you have full mobility once you get to your destination(s). This would work like a cruise ship, perhaps, with train cars for entertainment. Even though the mode of travel would be very different than what is currently offered, it would not require much of a change to the infrastructure. The rails and the trains would be much the same; the only difference would be the addition of several train cars (some to carry the automobiles and some for entertainment).
                  1. Fast travel between cities that are close to each other. This is what Europe has because Europe has a lot of big cities that aren't that far from each other. It doesn't make a lot of sense to connect cities across a very big continent and expect it to compete against plane travel. Traveling from L.A. to Chicago (or New York) on rail only makes sense if you very patient (even with very high speed rail). Traveling from Chicago to Cleveland on a train, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense. Creating regional high speed systems will give us the biggest bang for the buck, although it won't mean we will travel coast to coast on a train very quickly.
              •  They have even put... (5+ / 0-)

                ...entire trains onto ferries.  I took a train from Denmark to Germany in 2003 and they rolled the whole damn train onto a ferry.  The ferry crossed the water, docked, and then the train came off and went on its way into the German countryside.  During the ride, we could get off the train and go up into the ferry and sit down or go duty-free shopping or go out onto the decks.  It was awesome!

            •  Before I'd even bother to invest in high speed (8+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joe Bob, tikkun, Xan, Woody, maryru, mofembot, BYw, Norbrook

              rail between Houston and Austin, I'd be looking at the public transportation in each city.

              The Northeast - as loathesome as you find it - is set up with the multiple train systems and stops - regional and long distance and you don't need a car when you get to most of the major cities.  I miss the train rides.  I got a lot of stuff done during those rides that I couldn't ever do in a car.

            •  However, trains are different to planes in ... (11+ / 0-)

              .... that they can stop and start in much less time.

              Part of the way that HSR systems work is by having two to four stops in the metro area that they are drawing on, and one stop for the smaller cities along the way. Its not stops every three minutes, like a mass transit service.

              And its straightforward to have some trains that attract the longer distance travel, and others that attract local travel. The HSR system approved for California in Prop 1A would have express services LA to SF in under 3 hours, as well as services that will have all stops through the Central Valley, which will be putting Fresno within LA or SF in under two hours.

              And since most of the the infrastructure is common to the Local and semi-Express and Express services, it is more commercial viable to have Fresno and Bakersfield ON the HSR for some routes than to leave Fresno and Bakersfield off the HSR line running through the Central Valley.

              There is local transit, which can easily have a stop every half mile in downtown areas and every five to ten miles in suburban areas, there are regional stopping trains that will have stops every ten to thirty miles, and there are inter-regional services, that are going to connect to the transport hubs of the regions they serve.

              Check out the Ohio Hub ... its not a train every thirty miles all up and down, but where there are stations that are that close together, there are good commercial reasons for having them ...

              •  Forty years ago the old Shinkansen line from (5+ / 0-)

                Tokyo to the south ran two trains. One was "light" or "lightning" and was express. The other, "sound" if I recall, made more frequent stops. Regular trains fed both sets of stations.

                I'm not entirely sure at the moment, but I think the two ran on the same rail with computer control maintaining separation. The central computer control made acceleration/deceleration so smooth I remember being very puzzled at a Japanese train leaving late. When I raised the shade we were not in Tokyo Central, we were well out.

                That was my first high speed rail and I most remember my beer sitting, hands off, with rice fields blurred nearby and Fuji in the distance. Not a ripple. That was over forty years ago.

                The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

                by pelagicray on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:54:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Have none of you ever heard the terms (8+ / 0-)

              Express and local?  Both are important parts of serious public transportation. Cars are a terrible nuisance.  I only keep one for emergencies.

              The truth about John McCain's Keating Cheating

              by tikkun on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:28:22 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  The "comfort" of driving? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I don't care how nice your car is, it just can't compare to the comfort of being able to stretch your legs and walk around or sit at a table with your travel companions while you enjoy a meal and a beer.

              We hope your rules and wisdom choke you / Now we are one in everlasting peace
              -6.63, -6.97

              by amRadioHed on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 01:02:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've lived both ways. Yes, comfort. (0+ / 0-)

                Yes I have a nice car (used), but it's not its amenities that please me most (though I do really enjoy driving), it's the convenience of privacy compared to having to shuffle about with the public. I know that makes me "shallow" or whatever, but I'd also be lying if I said it wasn't true. I like not to be bothered, to listen to my own music, to decide when I want to stop and get coffee, choose where I go to eat and what I eat. And if I need to "stretch my legs," I stop at a McDonalds.

                Aside from that, the countryside is gorgeous. And so is the open sky.

                I did the whole train thing, both local and regional, in NYC/Boston/DC for years... and I hope I never have to go back to that.

                Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

                by TX Unmuzzled on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 03:10:21 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Not every train needs to stop at every stop (3+ / 0-)

          you just have more stops and then alternate, train #1 stops at the 1st, 5th, and 9th stops, train #2 stops at the 1st, 3rd, and 9th stops, train #3 stops at the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 9th stops, &c. Which is what passenger trains do just about everywhere in order to serve a large area while making enough stops that the whole area is covered.

        •  Au Contraire (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tennessee Dave

          I live in NY. I love our train system that gets me up and down the coast quickly, comfortably and reasonably.  On the other hand, I DRED having to go back to Ohio. I can drive which is uncomfortable, tedious, and expensive. Then there is the trains.  There is one train track for both freight and passenger trains. That means the passenger train sits, sometimes up to an hour or more, while the freight train takes precedence. When I get to Ohio, I am stuck renting a car. ACK!  Ohio wonders why they aren't attracting bright young people and they can't retain the homegrown variety?  Godawful transportation is likely one of the problems.

          The truth about John McCain's Keating Cheating

          by tikkun on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:24:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Vous devez en avoir les deux! OR (6+ / 0-)

        ya gotta have both -- although, better yet, we need what the Germans have: THREE types of trains: ICE (long-distance, high speed "TGV" trains), Regional, and S-Bahn or local trains.

        I live in France and have worked a lot this past year in Germany. I take the TGV from Provence to Paris a couple times a year. I took all three kinds of trains in Germany. Both countries are indeed light-years ahead of the US, and it isn't because they're dealing with smaller geographical areas (France is the same size as Texas)... it's because of planning and priorities.

        The biggest obstacle to any kind of decent train service in the US, imho, is that the freight trains own the track and freight takes priority over Amtrak. That was the killer bad decision. That has to be fixed or new passenger-dedicated track has to be laid. Freight in France and Germany shares the same rails but mostly runs at night (wee hours).

        TGV requires new track, period. Can't run high-speed trains over most existing track (TGV track is run separately in France in the "high-speed" places outside of cities; TGV uses the regular track for entrance/egress in origin/destination cities). So high-speed in the US will require laying track, and a lot of it.

        Laying track is important... as would be (in my opinion) laying track made from steel made (dare I say it) in the USA. Retooling our heavy industry makes sense to me (especially having seen what dismantling it did to places like Pittsburgh).

        Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

        by mofembot on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:59:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Lyndon Larouche (4+ / 0-)

      has been talking about it for decades.  Sorry, I just had to point that out.

      I've ridden the TGV and it's wonderful.  For medium hops, it's much faster than taking a plane.  And smooth as silk.

      Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest... Gibbon

      by Dinclusin on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:26:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The industry makes no money if it's not being (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      spent on gas.

      I, for one, would love a system like this, and they do this in Europe NOW.

      "Washington, DC: Where Corrupt Officials are discovered daily."

      by The Truth on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:46:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great idea! Isn't this one of (4+ / 0-)

      Biden's preferences?  I recall hearing his name with respect to support for Amtrak.

    •  tipped and rec'ed...i hope Team Obama... (7+ / 0-)

      ...has one person (at least) dedicated to monitoring all the great ideas flying around places like dKos!

      My idea is to split FEMA back out of DHS (weakening LIEberman in the process)and terminating all disaster relief (hurricane, etc.) related contracts within 6 months. Take all that labor back into the government, with oversight, saving BILLIONS in contract abuse waste and putting thousands to work (I used to work for a FEMA contractor and I know how much waste there is in those contracts, first hand).

      "A time comes when silence is betrayal." ~ MLK, Jr.

      by liberaldemdave on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:19:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is something Obama talked a lot about (5+ / 0-)

      in the campaign - he kept using the example of the Midwest and how much better it would be for people from Greenbay to Chicago to St. Louis to Indianapolis to Cincinnati to Grand Rapids to Detroit, etc etc etc to get on high speed rail and travel to each other rather than drive or fly.

      Strategy '08: Obama vs. the other guy

      by dansac on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:32:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There should be regional rail systems... (3+ / 0-)

      connected at a central hub with an airport at each hub to allow for rapid long-distance travel from one region to another on full, comfortable, large, efficient, planes.

      You would train from your home city to your regional hub, plane to your destination hub, then train to your destination city.

      All of the flights would be unscheduled, but frequent, departing when full (but within a maximum guaranteed time), from comfortable, passenger friendly hub airports.

    •  Heck, your diary talks about the Madison/Chicago (4+ / 0-)

      trip by car (3 hrs) on the expensive, annoying tollway. Just remember, in 1947, the Chicago and Northwestern 400 trains made the trip in 2 hrs flat, downtown Madison to the Chicago and Northwestern station on the loop. Trains routinely did over 100 mph, in the streamliner age from 1934 to about 1950, before the railroads were hobbled by selective regulation and competition from government subsidized roads and airports. The US railway system was the envy of the world, copied by the Japanese and Europeans, who took it to the next step

      I'd be quite happy with 125 mph trains from Madison to Chicago, let alone the superspeed 200+ mph Euro/Japanese trains.

      "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

      by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:50:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ever hear of a little blog fella called Atrios? (7+ / 0-)

      Jeebus Christmas, Man--the guy writes about it all the time.

      We blog about trains here all the time.

      I mean, where ya been fella--off on a train without wireless? HAHHA?

      So here's how the rail died in my lifetime and on my railline.  The asshattry in Congress decided that rail needed to stop at every railroad crossing in in Porkbarrell and East Jesus, USA.  But the only corridor that was profitable enough to support it, was here in the Northeast.  So they priced the shit outta the market here, and fucked everything up.  Even my slimeball Repuke drunken stripper club going Congresscum at the time tried to stop it, but he didn't have the requisite seniority to blow the right folks on K Street, so, we in the northeast currently pay exhorbitant rates from NYC to Philly and DC, so there can be one person on the train from  Wabash to Armpit, Nebraska, instead of figuring out some sensible and profitable routing and building lines from there.

      America is fucked up like this.  How do you expect people to become diverse if they can't hop on a train and see other part of the country where there are, oh, I dont know, say OTHER KINDS OF PEOPLE.  It ain't leaving the country to go see some of them there, ya know, furriners, but for crissakes, let's get folks started somewhere.

      Trains are awesome.  They should be cheaper than planes, but aren't, and that's way fucked up.  You can drink on trains, play cards, meet lovers, solve problems, write novels, go for a walk, sleep, eat, play board games, and on certain occasions, I've even danced with learned the Rom words to Blue Suede Shoes with some lovely folks while staying up all night traveling to Granada.  

      At various times, on various trains, I've learned recipes from other folks who love to cook, why a lovely little old lady decided to stay single her whole life and never regretted it for even and instant, I sat with Gene Shalit once and he confessed to me what he really thought about Bo Derek, which I can't tell you, because then I'd have to kill one of us, and I can't remember which one it is, it was so long ago.

      And on it goes.  These are just some of the thing that many interesting things that have happened to me while traveling by train.

      I would share with you with fabulous adventure of plane travel, but I haven't any.  There are no more air travel adventures, pretty much since the invention of "no frills" or "sub human" flying cattle class was introduced.  Except that I've traveled in real cattle boat, and that actually was an adventure, so even manage to screw up that particular two car funeral.

      Nope, the only adventure in air travel today is if you and you luggage arrive at the same destination, roughly within the same day of one another.  And that's not really and adventure, so much as a kind of unexpected sort of coincidence.

      No, no more travel for me.  Except by train.  And then, it's "All aboard!"

      Frankly, I don't know what America is waiting for, but the waiting period is over and it's time to deliver first class passenger rail service to Americans.


      That's the jobs and infrastructure and green technology program I want to see.

      Subverting the dominant paradigm every chance I get. And I get a lot of chances.

      by Casey Morris on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:20:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Please update this diary w/this (0+ / 0-)
      This is the Ohio hub Project that our Dem Govenor is working on.

      "...the fundamentals of our economy are strong"- John Sidney McCain 09/15/08

      by Shhs on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:24:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama has mentioned this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... and so has Biden. I think we have the best possible chance of getting it done or at least started in the next 8 years.

      One thing, though -- There must be occasional raised tracks and wildlife corridors built into the design.

      "The survival value of intelligence is that it allows us to extinct a bad idea, before the idea extincts us." -- Karl Popper

      by eyeswideopen on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:23:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I want to HR this tip jar (0+ / 0-)

      High speed rail is poison for the United States. There are a few places where fast lines make sense but only a very few. We can run medium speed rail (110mph) everywhere with existing right of way, while high speed requires much different turn radii as well as tighter track tolerances - and those lines won't bear freight sized loads.

       I'm glad to see a rail diary in the rec list but one pushing high speed? That is another distraction along the lines of The Hydrogen Economy - the perfect thing for Detroit and big oil to help along, as it'll never get built with the financial constraints we experience.


      •  Where do you live? (0+ / 0-)

        Hi speed trains would be fabulous here in the Northwest. Most of our neighboring cities of any size are 3-4 hours away by car. And with security it takes about that long on a plane as well. Planes aren't comfortable any more and certainly not as relaxing and comfortable as a nice two to three hour train trip.

        Boise to LasVegas? Seems like a great place to put a high speed train. Here in the northwest there's lots of open space to put high speed.

      •  SAC-SF, SF-LA, LA-LV, LA-SD...? /nt (0+ / 0-)

        --- ZROMG! The New GOP found a new leader and animated him from the grave! "Zombie Reagan! Oh My God!"

        by opendna on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:06:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nice job. Congrats on making the rec list! (0+ / 0-)

      I had the honor of updating your tags.

      See the national finals of Dutch children's chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen's 2008 Song Contest December 14 in Hoorn!

      by lotlizard on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:49:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Cheaper? (0+ / 0-)

      If we had a web of railroads, going through every single state and leading to a midwestern city near the middle of the country (Lincoln, Topeka, maybe even Chicago or St. Louis), think of the economic prosperity it could bring. Paying $100 to go from LA to New York as opposed to $500 sounds pretty nice, right? It would do wonders for tourism and commerce in general.

      Do you have some basis for that price comparison?  Today train prices are roughly equivalent to airline prices.  What would change that would cause a cut in the price of train travel by 1/5th?

      High speed rail service would help make it more competitive with air travel, but only on shorter trips.  New York to LA would still be much faster by airplane unless we're talking about some pretty exotic rail technology.  Chicago to New York, would be totally viable if the speed was faster.  But I don't see how it would be cheaper.

      •  HSR is faster, thus more trips per rail per day (0+ / 0-)

        thus more passengers moved, thus cheaper tickets. and then there's the electric thing, which makes it insulated from what will be increasing oil prices.

        surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

        by wu ming on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:30:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes but... (0+ / 0-)

          That means more trains, more staff, more power (even if it's not coming from oil).  The cost of running an airline is:

          • Capital costs for equipment
          • Wages of employees
          • Fuel costs

          How would that equation be any different for trains?  You have the capital cost of the train itself, the rails, etc.  You've got engineers, track workers, service staff on the train, etc.  Fuel costs aren't as much of an issue so, in the long run it may be cheaper on that basis alone.  

          So overall the cost structures of trains aren't a lot different from airplanes.  The only major difference I can see is that it's a more predictable cost.  Trains don't have to circle waiting for a storm to pass, burning fuel the whole time, etc.

  •  There would need to be dedicated passenger-only (52+ / 0-)

    rights of way laid down.  The freight railroads right now will pretty much not allow any more passenger traffic on their rails than Amtrak has right now.

    This is an obstacle, but one we can overcome, especially if this is part of Obama's national infrastructure plan.

  •  Coast To Coast... (17+ / 0-)

    Bullet trains, both cargo and passenger. Powered by solar and wind.

    "Employees are the rungs on the ladder of success. Don't hesitate to step on them." Ferengi Rule of Aquistion #211

    by Vladislaw on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:15:48 PM PST

    •  The opening steps (26+ / 0-)

      are to get bullet trains in those areas with population centers within about 400 miles of each other.  That's a lot right there.  Once that gets well under way the advantages of the bullet trains will increase the pressure for the very long hauls cross continent.

      Examples of the 400 mile radius include most of California plus Las Vegas and maybe Phoenix.  Then there's Pheonix-Albuqueque-Santa Fe-Colo Springs-Denver-Ft. Collins-Cheyenne.  The classic route of the Empire Limited New York-Alban-Rochester-Buffalo-Erie (stub for Pittsburg)-Cleveland-Toledo (stub for Detroit)-Chicago is another.  Chicago's rail hub has many pssoibilities, Especially Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis-Kansas City.  Texas is another fertile area for high speed rail.

      •  Cali took the first step... (12+ / 0-) approving Prop 1a. High speed, Shinkansen-like rail between San Diego and San Francisco, with a spur to Sacramento.

        We also have an ally in the VP-Elect. Joe Biden takes Acela between his Delaware home and DC on a regular basis. He has been a trusty friend of Amtrak even during periods when it seemed to have no other friends.

        Wake up and smell the peak oil! The low prices are temporary! Production has peaked and will fall! It's train time again!

        Palin had her 15 minutes. They did not go very well.

        by Pris from LA on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:46:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I traveled between (0+ / 0-)

          San Diego and Oakland about ten days ago.

          The Greyhound bus left San Diego at about 8PM and arrived in Oakland at about 7AM.

          The overnight bus gave me a full day at my destination.

          A superfast 7AM-10AM train would force me to get up at about 5AM and leave me with three hours less time at my destination.

          Bear in mind that fifty sleeping train cars at $2 million each would only cost $100 million.

      •  Texas is PERFECT. (13+ / 0-)

        Texas is the 2nd most populous state (and growing) behind California with MORE huge population centers: Houston (4th largest in U.S. behind Chicago), Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin.

        Texas would be the perfect place to start this, plus a perfect population and business climate to prove its viability. See my comment above.

        It takes me 3.5 hours one-way to drive to Austin on state highways. On this bullet train, I could get there in ONE SINGLE HOUR. That's gold, even for us who love to drive on open highways. With 20 mins to/from station driving, that would grow the Texas economy exponentially.

        I think bullet trains (350+ mph) may be the new Interstate & Defense Highway Act.

        The only way we're going to beat deflation is with massive, massive spending -- most importantly on productive endeavors (read: NOT WAR) to lay the foundation for returns in generations to come.

        Remember, the New Deal wasn't even enough to turn the economy in the 30's -- it took the more massive undertaking of WWII spending/production to pull the economy out of the ditch.

        Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

        by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:25:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Plus it would greatly improve air (6+ / 0-)

          quality in the region by getting cars off the road and planes out of the air.

        •  Southwest Airlines killed your HSR system ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TX Unmuzzled, BYw, Stranded Wind

          ... in Texas, after it was first approved.

          •  You're right, the Texas "triangle" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            (Houston-Dallas-SA) was the original geographic model for SWA, too. I'd love it to be Texas, but politically it's unlikely... ROW issues (see "private property rights" and "trans-Texas Corridor," one state instead of the many that Congressional support would likely require, and the aforementioned airline (American Airlines would also probably fight like the dickens...)

        •  I'm going to use something I almost never use! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TX Unmuzzled

          (Hate those things normally.)

          You got converted with that TGV speed run. Now, since everything is supposed to be bigger and better in Texas you'd better get cracking because TGV is a toy--maybe. If you aren't going to be just a little ole backward place in these matters you just have to start catching up with this:

          Switzerland is the only country developing maglev (magnetically levitated) high speed systems of transportation involving tunnels under partial vacuum.

          Swissmetro underground maglev is the SciFi part of this equation.

          Another reference says:

          Swissmetro is a futuristic Swiss national transportation project, based on high-speed maglev trains travelling in low-pressure tunnels at about 500 km/h.

          Another link: The Swissmetro/Eurometro Concept.

          Yep, sounds far fetched and who knows what the financial meltdown may do to these projects. Just remember, those crazy Swiss are well on the way with a tunnel under the Alps and can tunnel like nobody else! Oh yeah, Vakuumtunnels!

          The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

          by pelagicray on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:27:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Denver has been developing light rail (0+ / 0-)

        for nearly a decade. I've been taking the train into downtown for years. The metro area is on its third phase of expansion right now.

        Quite frankly, it's one of my favorite things about living in this city. I use a car only for weekend driving.

        I can't wait for the day they extend it down to Colorado Springs (not to mention up to Fort Collins and Boulder) -- and it's really needed.

  •  I dunno why (14+ / 0-)

    it was my first email suggestion to the incoming administration.  Jobs, infrastructure and energy independence all rolled into one.  All aboard!

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:18:23 PM PST

  •  Part of the reason is density. (16+ / 0-)

    Huge areas of the country are not populated enough to make it worthwhile.

    But there are many areas [like the Northeast] where increasing train service would be great. When I was kid, my mom [who didn't drive] used to take me from Manchester NH to Boston for doctor trips .. I was a really sick kid [years later, they still have found
    no hope for me, I'm sick and can't be helped ..;p].

    But that service that ran from Concord to Boston has been gone for years: the tracks are still busy with rail traffic, just no passenger rail service. It's a shame, because even though I like driving and don't mind driving in Beantown, I'd go a lot more often if there was train service. Sometimes it's too much trouble to take the cah to Havid yahd ..

    2008, the Year the Republican Party dissolved into a little pond of goo

    by shpilk on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:20:49 PM PST

    •  Then only have a few stops in less populated (8+ / 0-)

      areas. I means, looking at that map of France I posted, you can pretty much tell where the populated areas are based on how many stops there are.

    •  I beg to differ (13+ / 0-)

      Huge areas of the country are not populated enough to make it worthwhile.

      Although Missouri is not a densely populated as say, Rhode Island, a hi-speed passenger rail system would be a boon to us. I could easily imagine a rail system between KC, STL, and Springfield being used quite often.

      Once it is proven that people will use this system, more track can be laid to smaller cities.

      Without a campaign to endorse, my sig line feels so empty.

      by exotrip on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:28:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The whole idea is to get from one population (25+ / 0-)

      center to another.  Actually, a steel wheel rolling on a steel rail is the single most efficient means of land transportation.  Large loads with relatively little fuel per pound.  

      Besides, the air traffic control system is pretty well saturated.  If you were to sit in an air traffic control center for one work shift, you might never want to fly again.  

      Furthermore, the train station is usually in the middle of the city, unlike a big airport which may be over in another county and a forty or fifty dollar cab ride into the city.

      It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

      by Otteray Scribe on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:28:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Even in a more densely populated Europe, (15+ / 0-)

      trains do not reach every city and village.  Even they know that it's not possible.  So, there is an enhanced bus system, at least in some countries, that fill in as an adjunct to the rail system.  This is doable here, but it will take time for people to get over their love of cars.

      •  this is quite true (4+ / 0-)

        I have never owned a car yet and am half through my professional life in central Europe. Yes, theres a difference between the relatively less populated countryside and the very well connected towns. And yes, I did and will continue to take good care that I am living and working in easy proximity to public transport. The bus systems arent equally well developed in all countries but where I am now they are excellent and essentially if you combine good rail with good small scale connecting bus systems, you really dont need a car to get around. Bike, bus, train is the stepped scale that has supported me for 45 years already and I fully recommend it.

        Cars are practical as supplementary on hand means for the odd transport needs and special errands; and then in nearly all cases a rental is sufficient. We could make do with half as much as we have (but that´s like saying people shouldnt have TVs. True, but unrealistic. For the moment.)

      •  People need no incentive to give up cars. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, BYw

        Just look at how fast big cars got ditched when gas prices went above $4. And I live in Texas (and I love to drive).

        Look, with a train that goes 350+ mph, you don't have to convince ANYONE. I will use that train for all regional business and visit family more -- are you kidding?! Of course I would. It takes me 3.5 hours of driving one-way right now to get to Austin. My 65 yo mother is frightened to drive it, but she must in order to see her new granddaughter. She'd be on a train like that in a second.

        You do not need to convince people to give up cars if you just give them a better alternative.

        But with this country's experience with trains (Amtrak) and mass transit failures all over the country again and again... people need to see the truth. Once I did, I became a convert. I just couldn't imagine creating a national system of Amtrak, whose "Acela" high-speed train (so-called) was an absolute JOKE when I lived in the northeast.

        Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

        by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:31:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Stick to the urban areas (0+ / 0-)

        We're way too spread out for mass transit to completely replace cars.

      •  The goal for most of the country isn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Boise Grad

        to get rid of cars.  Rather, to get rid of some car and airplane trips.  People who live in the suburbs can still drive around their town, but take commuter rail into a nearby city for work and take regional rail to visit Grandma/go on a business trip.  

        I mean, I don't like driving, and will only live places where I don't need a car.  But I'm not most people.

        the secretary of war is out of order. so's the plumbing. make a note of that. -groucho marx

        by rufustfyrfly on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:00:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I would gladly travel high speed across (9+ / 0-)

      country on the ground.

    •  Start with separate Eastern and Western networks. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Skip the Great Plains to begin with, except maybe Chicago.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:05:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Chicago (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, BYw, MKSinSA, Boise Grad

        is where you switch trains between the networks.

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:32:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Just like the 19th century. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey, paige, marykk, BYw

          That's why the rail lines were developed in the way that they were. Actually, Chicago was the stop along the Great Lakes shipping route from NY to Chicago, then had trains fanning out to supply the west. This is why the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (commodities trading) is still centered there today.

          Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

          by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:35:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Earlier today you recommended a comment I made, would you be interested in taking a quick spending issue poll? Just scroll to the bottom, thank you for your time.

          "Employees are the rungs on the ladder of success. Don't hesitate to step on them." Ferengi Rule of Aquistion #211

          by Vladislaw on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:40:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  DO NOT SKIP TEXAS. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, liberaldemdave, mofembot, BYw

        Look at a map. Houston (c. the same size as Chicago), Dallas, Austin, San Antonio.

        Texas is PERFECT for this.

        Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

        by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:32:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then Houston to New Orleans (400 miles) . . . (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          liberaldemdave, BYw, pelagicray

          . . . and New Orleans to Atlanta (400 miles), which makes a nice hub for Charlotte, Orlando, Birmingham, Memphis, Chattanooga, Columbia, Greenville/Spartanburg, Knoxville, Nashville. . . .

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:37:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You see? Once you start looking at populations (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TX Unmuzzled

            and distances you begin to have a cross country high speed network already. From Texas you stretch over into the west and suddenly you are in California.

            It won't connect the high density population on the Northeast and Northwest corridor, but it would link the coasts with something much better than we have.

            The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

            by pelagicray on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:34:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Texas is the same size as France. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TX Unmuzzled

          If France can do what it does, Texas can, too!

          Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

          by mofembot on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:24:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Skip the Great Plains? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw, Stranded Wind

        ... except of course Chicago to St. Paul and Chicago to Kansas City?

        You mean skip the Rockey Mountains ... that is, for crossing the Great Plains east to west, stick to the present system to begin with.

        But the Midwest Hub and Ohio Hub are far easier to get off the ground in terms of dollars per passenger mile than California, with the big distances between Northern and Southern California.

        •  Let's not skip the rocky mountain states (0+ / 0-)

          We want trains.

          Look at Denver's light rail system -- we love it. We want more train coverage throughout the region.

          Next step -- connecting Colorado and New Mexico train systems. I would KILL (not literally) to be able to hop a train to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

          •  I'm thinking that the corridor ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... being developed in Colorado doesn't cross the Rocky Mountains. But the western leg definitely crosses into the Rocky Mountains.
            Rockey Mountain Rail

            The comment is more about the impulse in the blogosphere to make national maps when the action is in regional and inter-regional trips. You'll note that the main leg runs North/South, connecting into New Mexico and up to Cheyenne, rather than focusing on connecting Denver to the East Coast or West Coast.

            •  That's all well and good (0+ / 0-)

              There may be fewer routes, but there is no excuse for not ultimately making the east/west connections.

              Definately develop the north/south corridor along the rocky mountain front range. I was detecting an "impulse in the blogosphere" that the needs of the rocky mountain west for train service are trivial compared to the oh-so-important needs of the east and west coast.

              Whether it's Colorado, New Mexico or Montana, we want our trains too and we don't want to hear that we don't have enough population density to justify it. What's more, at least in Colorado we've been passing bond initiatives to develop them at least partially on the backs of local taxpayers.

              All of those cities along that corridor are rocky mountain cities, they are NOT midwestern cities -- I should know, I'm a lifelong native of the area. The midwest stops at the Kansas border and the West begins.)

              For the midwest I think there should be a major hub at Chicago and a regional hub at Kansas City or St. Louis to extend midwest train coverage.

              For the West I think there should be a hub at Denver and a smaller hub at Salt Lake City to extend western train coverage.

              For the south I think maybe Memphis or Baton Rouge or Jacksonville would make a nice regional hub city as well as Atlanta.

              If anybody is thinking that is unfeasible and wants to limit the focus to the needs of the coasts, then they are thinking too small and discounting a lot of their fellow Americans for not living in the "right" place (e.g., huddled along the country's coasts.)

              There are existing train tracks through the mountains -- and existing tunnels that were made for trains during the 1800s to solve some of the worst of the levelling problems. I know -- I've taken the Amtrak from Denver heading west. There are still narrow gauge tracks peppering the mountains, some of which are still in use -- how do you think they ever got the coal/silver/gold down from the mountains?

              •  Also, note that the ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ... electrification of STRACNET would, in itself, represent a substantial opportunity for improvement of the existing network of services.

                Don't confuse the question of what corridors are viable for HSR with what corridors are viable for passenger rail. HSR gets a lot of blogosphere attention because its "sexy", but for a lot of the Great Plains and Mountain West, expansion of the Amtrak backbone and bringing operating speeds up toward 79mph offers a benefit that is more widely available across a much wider range than daytime corridor services.

                Here is the railroad passengers AMTRAK route expansion proposal ... click through the Plains / Colorado / Wyoming graphic link and note the inclusion of Ft. Collins, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, the link to the southeast via Lubbock and Amarillo into Texas, and the link to the Pacific Northwest via Cheyenne and Casper.

                Electrification of STRACNET and establishing the basis for high speed freight would reduce current bottlenecks plaguing Amtrak, reduce operating costs by allowing primarily reliance on electric traction, and increase operating speed.

                It also implies that it would once more be possible to offer a modern overnight sleeper between Denver and Chicago, leaving after the end of normal office hours and arriving before the beginning of normal office hours the next day, swapping the current "red eye" and arrival on the outskirts of town with a good nights sleep and arrival at a choice of several locations, including right in the heart of the CBD.

                So electrification of the freight rail system and cracking the bottlenecks facing high speed freight rail may not be as sexy as the French TGV style trains, but the opportunities offered to passenger rail should not be overlooked.

                •  Right (0+ / 0-)

                  I for one was never arguing that we need to go careening through the rockies at 350 mph. It would be a huge improvement to get passenger trains going 75-100 mph in this region.

                  Not every piece of the national rail issue needs to be a super-sexy solution. We need to work on what is practical and get each region unlocked from the automobile-only model of transportation. THAT should be the goal, not a super-sexy project like connecting NYC to LA by a TGV style service (and rest of the country be damned).

              •  On the Midwest and inland Northeast .... (0+ / 0-)

                ... (given that calling a state like Ohio that borders on a state with an Atlantic seaport, and has a port that accepts and originates Atlantic cargoes "Midwestern" is a bit silly) ... obviously. I have comments elsewhere in this thread on that, over and above previous diaries, like America, as it turns out, was Made for High Speed Rail.

    •  Over 75 percent of Americans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      DO live in areas dense enough to be served by at least commuter rail (average 1-2 people per acre or more). Our rail network was 4 times the size it is now when US population was less than 1/3 of what it is today in 1918, the year of peak size of the US rail network. Even small towns such as Rubicon Wisconsin (where my mother grew up and at that time consisted of less than 400 residents) was served by rail before cars became the it thing for transportation. My mother's mother used to use the train to commute to high school in the next town early in the 20th century.

      "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

      by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:25:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Inter-Urban (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, maryru, Coffee Geek

        Small towns were frequently served by a kind of train called an 'Inter-Urban'. It was similar to light rail and frequently electric. There would be only one rail, and usually only one train. It would connect with the heavy rail, then head out of town. In town, it would serve as a trolly car. Out of town, it would carry people, mail and freight to smaller villages. It would also pick up produce, livestock and mail. A route of 20 miles would tie together most places in a midwestern county. They even had grain hauling and cattle cars. The rights of way are still out there.

    •  I disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Coffee Geek

      Back at the turn of the last century, when the train systems actually worked really well, population density was a lot lower.

      I get a little tired of this attitude that if you're not on the east or west coasts, somehow you aren't important enough to need robust infrastructure. There are a lot of great smaller cities in between there that could expand if they were better connected.

      It's our mindset about it that needs to change. We need to break out of the tyranny of the automobile.

  •  Grammar police (12+ / 0-)

    "Penultimate" does not mean "very best". It means "next to last".

    Common mistake.

    •  Seriously? (5+ / 0-)

      Out of my whole post, THAT'S what you found worth posting about? Ugh.

      "Common mistake." is a fragment, but you don't see me whining about it, do you?

      Oh wait.

      •  message (7+ / 0-)

        Sometimes the message is aided by good use of language.

        Sometimes it is hindered by the opposite.  Also.

      •  Maybe the author meant (7+ / 0-)

        that this would be the "next to last" type of transportation needed before we head into space with our jet packs.  

      •  Now, Beast, OF COURSE he can't be doing that.. (0+ / 0-)

        You're being silly.  Leo is just being a helper bunny.  And we know this by his gentle demeanor and poking-fun-at-myself community helper bunny behavior.

        First of all, Leo points out that he is being the "Grammar police", thereby being self-mocking.  And then Leo thoughtfully acquires a pseudonym that helpfully points out that he is just some asshole named Leo in New Jersey, thereby also showing us his playful and self-mocking side.

        What Leo is really trying to tell you is that his use of the term "Grammar police" should have been your penultimate clue that he was not serious, but in fact, gently self-mocking his nearly uncontrollable urge to correct grammar.  The ultimate clue to his self mockery, would have been found in Leo's clever choice of pseudonym, Leo in NJ.  In picking a state known for it's gentle correction of other's manners and quiet demeanor in not calling attention to oneself...oh wait, that's New Hampshire.

        It's Leo in NJ.  Whew! [headsmack] You almost fooled me, Leo in NJ.

        Now, Beast, the difference between Leo and me, is that Leo thinks that pointing out that you used penultimate incorrectly is a correction of your grammar.  It isn't.  It is a correction of your definition.  It's also possibly, as a commenter strains to point out below, possibly a correction of your usage.  But it certainly isn't a correction of your grammar.  However, if Leo were to argue the point of whether it's a correction of your syntax or some other semantical point, that could, indeed, make him a card carrying member of the "Grammar police".

        At this point, however, Leo is only a member of the "Definition police".  

        Sadly, though, when it comes to being a member of the "Grammar police", the "Definition police" is only the penultimate spot of achievement.  

        It's okay, Leo.  It's a common mistake.  

        You're welcome.  See, I can be a helper bunny, too, Leo.  And I'm not even from New Jersey.

        Subverting the dominant paradigm every chance I get. And I get a lot of chances.

        by Casey Morris on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:58:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Because airliners don't need tracks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dburbach, SplishSplash

    and cross the country in a few hours?

    •  And tickets cost (18+ / 0-)

      hundreds of dollars. And you're high up in the air. And you have to spend hours and hours waiting and going through security.

      •  Sure, but how long will (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        it take a train to haul my sorry ass to New York from San Antonio?

        •  In that case (10+ / 0-)

          Flying would make sense. I don't see even the most Utopian green rail system making air travel obsolete. We are afterall a big country.

          Without a campaign to endorse, my sig line feels so empty.

          by exotrip on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:32:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm guessing approx 48 hrs each way, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but I have a feeling I'm underestmating.  Also: way more expensive than flying.  

          •  What makes you think it would be more expensive? (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            debedb, marykk, BYw, Otteray Scribe

            Considering your method of transportation isn't burning expensive jet fuel by the second...

            •  Because you're mode of transportation requires (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              extensive infrastructure investment, and the slow- speed infrastructure-already-here equivalent (Amtrak) can cost nearly double, depending on route.

              •  such a massive investment (9+ / 0-)

                is precisely what we need right now. And the long term societal benefit is monumental

              •  But it's like comparing apples to oranges (15+ / 0-)

                I hate to go on about France like this, but a ticket from Paris to Nice, which is about 600 miles, costs $90. Meanwhile, a ticket to go from Chicago to Memphis, which is about 530 miles, costs around $200.

                •  That is to say (0+ / 0-)

                  The Paris-Nice trip is on the trains, and the Chicago-Memphis trip is on a plane.

                  •  Planes use WAY more fuel, make WAY more CO2. (8+ / 0-)

                    Not even a close comparison. And that's with current diesel-electric trains, which burn diesel fuel onboard to generate electricity for the electric motors that move the train. If we switched to electrified rails, or overhead power, or maglev, then we could skip the fossil fuels altogether and generate the power with wind, or solar . . . or nuclear.

                    Or coal, which would be lousy, but still way better than jet fuel on a CO2-per-passenger-mile basis.

                    My question is why the major airlines, and FedEx and UPS, aren't investing in high-speed rail.

                    Oh, and under around 400 miles, high-speed rail is even time-competitive with flying.

                    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                    by HeyMikey on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:59:58 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  How much is "way more" fuel? (0+ / 0-)

                      got some hard numbers?

                      •  Numbers more rail-friendly than even I realized. (6+ / 0-)

                        Passenger air travel in the US in 2005 got about 45 passenger-miles per gallon of fuel, emitting 140 million tons of CO2 in total (1). Passenger cars on highways traveled over 1.5 trillion miles with an average of 1.59 occupants, at about 44 passenger-mpg, emitting about 750 million tons of CO2. Both air and automobile are heavily dependent on liquid fuels whose future supply is uncertain.

                        Successful high-speed rail systems, implemented in Japan and Europe, particularly the French TGV system, run on electricity with an efficiency equivalent to 300 to 500 passenger-mpg. And electric power is the easiest form to generate from new energy sources such as wind and solar energy. High-passenger-load high-speed rail would dramatically reduce the impact of the passenger transportation sector on energy consumption and CO2 emissions.


                        Incidentally, I Googled "passenger miles per gallon air rail" and this was hit #6.

                        This British site claims rail is more like 40 to 150 passenger miles per gallon, which is still from 1.3 to 15 times better than air:



                        The same site has a chart for CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer (rail beats air by a long shot, and beats most cars significantly), and says the following (emphasis mine):

                        Aviation's impact on the climate is worsened by the fact that the polluting emissions happen largely high up in the atmosphere.  Here they can do more damage, with not only CO2 but also water vapour and nitrogen oxides having an effect, with the whole referred to as radiative forcing.  

                        In total, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change estimates that the warming effect of aircraft emissions is about 1.9 times that of carbon dioxide alone, due to the other gases produced by planes.  (A higher figure of 2.7 was previously used, but a more conservative one of 1.9 is now preferred, and is the one commonly used).  

                        Aircraft are not uniquely bad, on a per mile per passenger basis.   Planes are roughly comparable to cars, in their fuel consumption per passenger mile, just in terms of carbon dioxide output alone.  Long haul flights are a little more efficient, per passenger kilometer, than short haul flights, as a high proportion of the energy is required to climb to cruising altitude.  However, this does not take account of the radiative forcing effect.  With a 1.9 multiplier, the figures for the climate changing effect of flying look very different.

                        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                        by HeyMikey on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:23:41 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  Relative efficiency (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BYw, RJP9999

                        For what it's worth from "the google":

                        This is useful to give a sense of the orders of magnitude difference between various modes.

                        Maximum efficiency possible in long distance service

                        Mode and
                        Number of passengers on miles per gallon

                        Diesel‑electric commuter rail with standees 936
                        Regional Electric Train 650
                        High Speed Electric Train (300 km/h) 630
                        Tesla Roadster 328
                        Transrapid maglev (400 km/h) 316
                        Highway coach 280
                        Diesel‑electric commuter rail 260
                        Toyota Prius 238
                        Ford Explorer 150
                        Hovercraft 80
                        Aircraft 70
                        Helicopter 20

                        •  some problem with those numbers (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          starting with what type of airplane?  The effective passenger-mile rating for a twin-seater is much different that a modern turboprop or a current generation jet; and there is several generations of both turboprops and full jets in use.

                          •  Not precise figures (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bustacap, BYw, marsanges

                            The specific numbers aren't the point.  You can track back to the link and figure it out.  The commenter wanted some relative relationship; I'd say 10x is strong indication that air travel sucks in terms of efficiency.

                            The essential point is that it takes a hell of a lot of energy to lift hundreds of people tens of thousands of feet above the earth to then race them thousands of miles across the country, versus rolling people on steel wheels.

                        •  I can't get your link to work. n/t (0+ / 0-)

                          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                          by HeyMikey on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 09:29:44 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Not gonna happen (6+ / 0-)

                      They aren't investing because they never have and never will pay for infrastructure.  It slays me to hear critics say that the cost of laying new track is just too much, meanwhile we continue to fork out scads of money on airport expansion (runways and terminals), air traffic control, and of course, TSA screening.  FedEx and Northwest Airlines aren't the ones paying, us taxpayers are at every level (Federal, state, local).  The funny part is that us 'Merikans paid the railroads to lay track ALREADY through massive land giveaways in the nineteenth century, only to be the stooges of the whole world by not nationalizing the RRs from day one.  

                      My point is that this kind of large scale long term investment will only ever go forward through federal government initiative.  The important question is who profits and in that case the answer is simple - we do.

                    •  High speed rail is more problematic in the (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      west, California and the Cascades, particularly, because of the likelihood of earthquakes.  It's a problem in the far northern tier because of winter, and we're a damned big country. I think that some regional lines and hubs are a great idea and I hope that we do go with more development. I also know that Warren Buffett is investing in rail, so it seems likely that something will happen.

                      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                      by FarWestGirl on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:35:12 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Japan has earthquakes and snow (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        elfling, Otteray Scribe

                        and it certainly hasn't slowed them down in the least.  A truly impressive national and set of local and regional systems.

                      •  Of course none of these problems (0+ / 0-)

                        hamper the highways

                        •  Force= mass x momentum. The highways aren't (0+ / 0-)

                          supporting 300mph on narrow, elevated tracks. If you're old enough to remember the '72 Sylmar earthquake and the freeway that collapsed, dumping cars and trucks over the edge, or more recently the 880 that pancaked in the East Bay during the Loma Prieta, or the 10 and others in LA during the Northridge quake in '94 then the concept of 300mph during a quake should be enough to give you pause. Then there's the Chatsworth train derailment in Sept of this year and they were going at a regular groundrail rate. Safety, and inertia, are issues, especially at such high speeds.

                          I would be interested to know what provisions the Japanese have made to deal with their bullet trains during quakes, because they have some impressive ones.

                          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                          by FarWestGirl on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 09:52:12 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                •  France is smaller than Texas and has higher (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dburbach, wondering if

                  population density.  In the US, you are going to have more square miles paid supported by fewer citizens.  You can't infer the price of one based on the other.  Apples to organges, and all.

                  •  Then have regional ones, like people discussed. (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    marycone, Bronx59, BYw, Boise Grad

                    Have a midwestern train system, and a west coast one, and an east coast one. Base it off of population centers near each other and have a few trains splintering off connecting less populated areas to bigger cities.

                  •  Oranges and Clementines (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    Americans are also far more mobile than most of the world's people, so we could infer that ridership would be higher.  

                    I don't really see the "square miles" argument is much of a burden because it's about potential ridership between two points rather than the number of people living along the tracks.  

                    Finally, are you conceding that France is simply superior to the US of A?  Because if they can build the TGV, we should certainly be able to build a competitive system here.

                  •  But in Texas, one arguably has far fewer (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    high-density population centers. Lots of open space (just like in parts of France... France is a very "empty" country in many places). Anyway, make a list of Texas's top 10 population centers, and most are in the central-eastern/southeastern part. Except for El Paso, not much is in the west and hardly anything or anyone, relatively speaking, is in the panhandle.

                    So long as there is REGULAR train service once or twice a day to outlying, low-density areas, trains would work as well in Texas as they do in France. But as someone noted above, there has to be a viable way for people to get from the train station to their ultimate destination. (I do not know how Texas is doing re: local mass transit.)

                    Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

                    by mofembot on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:30:38 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  It's not a train vs. plane issue. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dburbach, mofembot
                  Ryanair can fly you from  Paris to Barcelon--a longer distance--for €15.

                  The European trains are getting killed by airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet}, [Wizz Air, etc.

                  •  Oh, but even those "zero" base fares (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Quinton, RJP9999

                    end up being a lot more once the taxes and fees are added. (Fees and fuel charges are pushing everything way up.)

                    French trains (the SNCF) are fighting back with sales and upgrades. Gotta say, it's great to be able to walk around on the train, head up to the snack bar... as opposed to having the non-stop sales-pitch for lottery tickets, "luxury items," and overpriced cart food on Ryanair and Easyjet (I've flown both a lot).

                    The jets are fine for truly long-distance/indirect routes. (There's no decent way to get from Provence to Germany without going through Paris... 13 hours minimum, I think.) But give me a train (even an overnight one!--not so expensive when booked well ahead of time) on a direct route anytime for comfort.

                    Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

                    by mofembot on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:35:12 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Don't forget airport parking (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Quinton, mofembot, Otteray Scribe

                      I've been using Amtrak California lately. I had a free ticket on Southwest that I could have used for a trip from SF to LA.

                      When I did the comparison, the cost of the airport shuttle and parking on each end was more than the cost of the whole trip on rail. In part, this is because there are rail/bus connections quite close to those particular end points.

                      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                      by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:27:25 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  And on sale, it's a lot less. (0+ / 0-)

                  Provence to Paris, with several weeks' lead time, can be as cheap as ~25 euros one-way. Unbeatable.

                  Book excerpts: nonlynnear; other writings: mofembot.

                  by mofembot on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:26:05 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  We built railroads across the country before (8+ / 0-)

                with incredibly inefficient, irresponsible technology (read: slave labor) and nowhere near the power of an industry-friendly federal government. We could do it again, with more energy efficiency, better worker protections, and environmental responsibility built into the plan, if it came from a smart administration and cooperative states. What governor is going to cry about getting billions of dollars in grants to drop his/her unemployment rate?

                President-elect Barack Obama.

                by noabsolutes on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:01:29 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Extensive infrastructure is a feature, not a bug. (4+ / 0-)

                Also, Republicans expect Amtrak to be self sufficient, so ticket prices are high, and they aren't able to build dedicated, high speed lines.

                We don't really expect the same of the airlines.  When they start losing money, we just give them some more.

                the secretary of war is out of order. so's the plumbing. make a note of that. -groucho marx

                by rufustfyrfly on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:14:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  So does the air travel ... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NoMoreLies, BYw

                ... and the infrastructure investment is primarily there to serve the one hour to three hours trips along the route.

                Of course, since Amtrak is over-booked for the many of the routes that it runs, and only owns a given number of carriages, it no longer offers as many saver fares to fill up seats ... but that is more a political decision that subsidizing air and road travel is a higher political priority.

          •  nope (7+ / 0-)

            You're roughly 36 hours too high.

            NY to LA (not perfect but a good estimate at a cross country trip) would be roughly 2800 miles.  If our train is as good as the French one (and it damn well better be! :snark), it would go 350 mph.  That's 8 hours.

            Now that's at speed and non stop.  But there's hardly 40 hours of stops and speeding up.  I'd personally be surprised if there were more than 4 hours of that.  So let's call it 12 hours.  In 12 hours you could go from coast to coast.  That's an overnight trip.  Catch and 10 or 11pm train, read a little, go to bed and wake up in LA around 8am.

            The plane isn't that much better.  A flight from NY to LA is a little over 8h and costs between $166 (Delta) and $362.  You can add in at least an extra two hours at the airport.

            An Amtrak ride between NY and LA does take 4 days but costs between $193 and $243, not really that big a difference in price.

            Check my numbers Google maps LA to NY distance, Amtrak's website for those numbers, Travelocity for the flight.  I put the date of travel at Feb 1 to remove last minute prices.

            "While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free" -Eugene V Debs

            by RevolutionRock on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:38:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It won't be 350mph all the way (0+ / 0-)

              I'd love to see someone build a track that is straight enough and flat enough to travel at 350mph on the stretch from Denver to Sacramento -- mountains all the way!  

              Even in France to do that super-TGV test they found a stretch of track that was especially straight and level; they can't run their whole network at 350mph.

              •  I realize (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Otteray Scribe

                One hopes that a fair it of it is at or close to 350, that's why I added the four extra hours.

                At 80% speed the whole way (280mph) the trip is 10 hours.  At half speed the trip is still only 16 hours (which is still 2 hours shorter than the trip from Chicago to Raton NM).

                I'm sure there's a bunch of places in the Midwest and Plains where you can have some nice long straight shots, that's what Kansas is for right?

                "While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free" -Eugene V Debs

                by RevolutionRock on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:42:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Tilt trains run through the Alps at good clips. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Otteray Scribe

                Passengers don't realize they are in a curve.  Though these are not technically "high speed" Cisalpino cut times considerably with these things. The new equipment, delayed now, isn't quite a slug:

                The ETR 610 has impressively demonstrated its technical capabilities by reaching a speed of 262 kilometers per hour in the Lötschberg tunnel.

                And here is video:

                The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

                by pelagicray on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 01:02:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Considering most planes travel at what (11+ / 0-)

          400-600mph? And this type of train has reached upwards of 357mph, and is improving all the time... take into fact that with that kind of flight on an airplane you're bound to spend a handful of hours before, after, and maybe sometimes between waiting for security and other factors. I don't see the time element being too much of a deterrent.

          Not to mention you'd be paying a slim fraction of the price.

          •  Need alternatives (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tryptamine, maryru, BYw, RJP9999

            Exactly why I hate air travel with a passion.  Right now if I'm within an eight hour drive of where I need to be, I'd prefer to drive.   My first choice would be rail but most of the time that's not even an option, between uneven reach and horrible schedules with Amtrak.  By the time I figure in the excessive wait at the airport, hassle of sitting on the tarmac, changing planes, retrieving bags, and riding in on a $50/taxi or shuttle to the "city" from the airport I'm time and money ahead.

            •  Just spent 11 hours door-to-door (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wilmguy, Otteray Scribe

              on a 600 mile trip by plane.  Delays caused by "traffic", no other explanation.  And when I finally did get in the air, it was crammed into a 50-seat commuter jet.  It's become so unpleasant to fly that I've turned down a couple of trips this year, and I love to travel!

              A fast and efficient train system would be wonderful, and there's no reason we shouldn't have one.

              •  Sounds about right (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                maryru, Otteray Scribe

                I've had my share of those trips; 12 hours door to door when it would have taken an hour or two less to drive, including a couple of stops to eat, fuel up, take a break.  And hey, get this, I don't have to walk around in my socks, put car seats through an xray machine, carry said car seats through two or three terminals, and pay through the nose for every inconvenience.

                While we're ranting about the quality of air travel, my favorite recent experience was discovering the baggage surcharge for the first time a month ago.  I've always been annoyed with the carry on policy and the irrational move to allow people to jam MORE shit in the cabin as its gotten more crowded.  Now I pay $30 extra bucks to check a bag AND have to put up with a plane full of jackasses adding extra time and hassle during both loading and unloading.  It's just miserable flying now and I completely agree, I'd do almost anything to not these days.

                •  Baggage charge (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Otteray Scribe

                  Yeah, I got hit by that for the first time last week.  And people are definitely bringing much more & larger baggage on board, despite the alleged carry-on regulations.  What happened to those little measurement boxes, anyway?

                  I think the charges should be reversed, so that you have to pay extra to bring anything more than one small bag on board.

                  To be fair, I should have noted that I did get 2 8-ounce bottles of water for free during my trip, including ice!  And I was offered my choice of peanuts or a granola bar.  Not bad for $607 plus $15 baggage fee....

          •  And on the train (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe

            You can get up, go to the bathroom, use the snack car, plug in your laptop, and you have a lot more room to stretch.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:32:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  There is a place for both systems (13+ / 0-)

          both air and rail.  An extensive and efficient cross country rail system would relieve the pressure on the air traffic control system which is close to the breaking point.  A train that can run across vast distances at close to three hundred miles per hour is, for me, the deal-maker.  You would not need that kind of speed to go from New York to DC, but from NY to San Antonio at that speed will come close to the speed of air travel if you factor in changing planes, airport waits, travel to and from the international airports, etc.

          And the tickets might be cheaper.

          It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

          by Otteray Scribe on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:38:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes you do need that speed from NY to DC. (6+ / 0-)

            I used to make those trips a lot for business, as did all of my colleagues. The northeast from Boston to DC is practically one continuous city. You either used the air shuttles that left every hour, or you took the train - and in the winter, you were more likely to use the train to avoid weather delays.

            350 MPH between DC, NYC, and Boston would be awesome and would spike business and personal travel, which would seriously bolster and build the economic activity and overall economy.

            The bullet train is a REGIONAL solution. Air travel still makes sense for long-distance interstate travel, especially inter-coastal travel such as San Antonio to DC. It's San Antonio to Houston and New Orleans that needs serious help.

            This is just like Southwest Airlines. They need to be replaced by high speed rail, and they've already proven it's viable. (They themselves started up to replace regional bus routes.)

            Texas: Our Permanent Lock on the Presidency. Key: 5 points in 4 years.

            by TX Unmuzzled on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:40:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Disagree about cross-country vs. regional (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe

            At O'Hare in Chicago, many of the flights are from relatively close cities like Milwaukee and Indianapolis.  Each of these flights needs traffic control and time on the runway.  Replace these flights with rail trips, and the nation can save lots of money on airport expansion.

            Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

            by Yamaneko2 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:22:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  what about from St louis to St Paul (9+ / 0-)

          Or Des Moines to Omaha? People use the interstate all the time for these trips b/c there is no rail alternative.

        •  Do you know off-hand what is the greenhouse (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alba, RJP9999

          effect of air travel compared to doing the same thing by car? Because I've heard it's huge, on the order of tens of thousands of dollars worth of gasoline, at least for trans-Atlantic flights that go over the arctic. So if air travel were priced to account for the greenhouse effect, the extra time you need to go by train might be worth it.

        •  The question is not whether there is some ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SingleVoter, NoMoreLies, BYw

          ... task a system will not do well, but whether there is some task a system will do well.

          New York / Albany, New York / Boston, New York / Philly ... those are wonderful routes for 110mph trains. Cleveland / Columbus / Cincinatti, Pittsburgh / Columbus / Indianapolis / Chicago, ditto, San Antonio / Houston, ditto.

          New York / Chicago? That's going beyond the range of 110mph trains for most of the market, and in the range of HSR. Same with LA/SF.

          And New York / LA? Until jet fuel becomes much, much more expensive than it is today, that is for flying.

        •  I don't think that pro-train travel supporters (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          expect people to ride from NY to San Antonio on train all the way. The real intended plan is to take people from places like Houston to San Antonio.

          •  But how often to normal people travel long (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe

            distances? Compared to shorter ones?

            Unless you are a business traveller, you probably would use more regional connections more frequently than long distance ones. Heck, perhaps even if you were a business traveller.

            I would definately go more frequently from Denver to San Francisco or Chicago or Kanas City or Albuqurque if the rail service was better. But I desperately need a better way to get from Denver to the south end of Colorado Springs without getting in a car to do it.

      •  After one incident (0+ / 0-)
        security on trains will match that on planes.

        It's coming.

    •  Airplanes can't be electrified (19+ / 0-)

      And use a ton(s) of petrol-based fuel that must be imported.

      Besides, air travel doesn't make much sense if you are going short distances within the country. For example, the geographic point I made to shpilk above. No one except people owning private airplanes would consider flying from KC to STL. A passenger rail system here makes much more sense.

      Basically, unless your trip would be greater than 4 hours by car, I don't see the point in flying.

      Without a campaign to endorse, my sig line feels so empty.

      by exotrip on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:31:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Depending on where you are, avgas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        exotrip, HeyMikey

        runs in the neighborhood of six dollars a gallon.  Even a relatively small jet engine burns about 200 gallons per hour.  Speed offsets some of the burn, compared to a lower gallon per hour propeller plane, but that is still very expensive travel.

        It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

        by Otteray Scribe on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:50:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Airlines are a dying industry (8+ / 0-)

      Sure, oil prices may be low for the moment, but that's not a permanent state of being.  I don't think airlines can be profitable with oil over 80 or 90 a barrel and before you know it, oil will be back in the triple digits.  Airlines were starting to die off earlier this year and when oil prices rebound, the job will be finished.

      So this is the perfect time to think of reasonable alternatives for moving people around.

  •  As compared to previous years, (10+ / 0-)

    there's been a lot of train talk this year. My husband is a self-confessed train freak, so I follow this a lot. If anyone is going to make trains happen in this country, it will be this administration. However, as other commenters mention, there are problems with trains in this country that don't exist in Europe, notably population density, and the fact that few folks have ever thought of traveling by train. So we're a generation or more from Europe's trains, but I see improvements coming.

    P.S. Madison to Chicago in two hours by car??? I don't think so.

  •  living in France right now (26+ / 0-)

    cannot tell you how cool the TGV is...

    it really is the difference between civilization and barbarism if you ask me.

    Our system wouldn't have to be coast to coast, but definitely many regional hubs would be in order and it would make a world of difference.

    "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." --J.R.

    by michael1104 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:29:34 PM PST

    •  Exactly (9+ / 0-)

      It wouldn't replace air travel, it would replace (God willing) the interstate.

      Without a campaign to endorse, my sig line feels so empty.

      by exotrip on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:38:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Was travelling on the NW Corridor (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob, DaleA, NoMoreLies, BYw, RJP9999

      a few months ago, sitting near a couple from Taiwan.  Taiwan just got a new bullet train, and they were looking out the window at our rail system saying "I thought this was supposed to be a wealthy country."

      And that's one of the best rail services we've got!  Civilization and barbarism is right.

      the secretary of war is out of order. so's the plumbing. make a note of that. -groucho marx

      by rufustfyrfly on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:21:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  civilized is right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, RJP9999

      On a trip to Canada last year I took VIA rail from Montreal to Quebec City. I would not have done it any other way.

      The fare was very affordable. There were no outrageous advance purchase ticket requirements as with air travel. There was no security hassle or eons spent waiting in a terminal or at a gate.

      Adding to the affordability and convenience: the train went from downtown to no arranging for a ride or $30 in cab fare at each end of the trip. Lastly, the train cars are very nice. A 'coach' seat on the train was every bit as spacious as first class on an airplane.

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

      by Joe Bob on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:07:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you ask me the difference between (0+ / 0-)

      civilization and barbarism is not so much the TGV as the fact that in European cities and even towns I am minutes by foot to one mode of the continental transportation net. That net is not full of broken links as we see here in the U.S. that prevent reasonable use of the systems we have.

      For example, I live under twenty-five miles from the Washington Monument. There is rail and bus and air from D.C., though the bus station is off by itself within spitting distance of a Metro line up above with not connection. There is public transportation, Metrobus, that will get me into the city during morning rush. It stops until evening when it gets one out of the city. If I am not moving at those times there are broken links all over.

      There is a bus service, ironically called the "Connector" that simply does not connect with the all day Metrobus terminus about one and a half mile from where this non-connecting "Connector" collecting people (not much ridership) from further out turns to go off into another part of suburbia.

      That is insane. It is like a computer system with broken interfaces everywhere. It is one reason there is far less ridership than could be expected. It connects two suburban points without making just over a one mile diversion to connect with D.C. that connects with the even larger network.

      It is barbaric, uncivilized--and just plain stupid.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 01:17:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  can you wait 58 (3+ / 0-)

    more days !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  •  Ah but... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, HeyMikey, debedb, SciVo

    You first have to remove the airlines tax exemption on fuel.I live 150 miles from London and 300 miles from Paris. It costs me £130 for a return train ticket to London. A return air-ticket to Paris costs me £60.

  •  Because oil companies are smart (5+ / 0-)

    they understand just how far they can squeeze the consumer before letting off the pressure momentarily to prevent a fundamental shift in the transportation system to get started.

    This sig line is in foreclosure. For details on acquiring a credit default swap on this sig line, contact H. Paulson, Dept of the Treasury, c/o Goldman, Sachs

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:46:46 PM PST

  •  a link.. (11+ / 0-)

    Multiple Birds – One Silver BB: A synergistic set of solutions to multiple issues focused on Electrified Railroads


         • Excessive Oil Consumption by the USA, much higher than OECD average
         • Economic, Energy, and Environmental costs with related National Security issues that result from excessive oil consumption
         • No Real Plan to Significantly Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
         • Lack of Non-Oil Transportation: there are no alternatives for essential transportation that don’t use oil
         • Inadequate Railroad Capacity
         • Speed and reliability of today’s Rail Freight cannot compete with Truck Freight for many cargoes
         • Weak Electrical Grid with limited inter-regional transmission and stability problems
         • Lack of markets and transmission capacity for remote Prime Wind Farm Sites
         • Chronic Under-investment in long lived, beneficial infrastructure

    The Silver BB

         • Electrify 36,000 miles of mainline railroads
         • Expand Railroad capacity and speed by adding double tracks, better signals and more grade separation
         • New 110 mph tracks for passengers and freight added to existing rail ROWs as a second step
         • In many, but not all cases, use the railroad ROW as new electrical transmission line corridors
         • Promote the use of rail lines, usually spur lines, as wind turbine sites with rail transported cranes and materials
         • Take advantage of the lower marginal economic costs of railroads, where the more we use it, the less it costs per unit. A diffuse economic benefit for many sectors of the economy.

  •  We probably need several regional systems more .. (11+ / 0-)

    than a true national system.  For the forseeable future, even at fuel prices that are several times what they are today, it's not going to be practical to travel coast-to-coast by train, because even with VERY high speed trains, it's still going to take too much time.

    But San Francisco to Los Angeles or Seattle, or Chicago to Kansas City or Cleveland, or various other similar routes all over the country WOULD make sense.

    The thing I'd really like to see is a return of the old inter-urban railroads, which connected smaller cities in the same or adjacent states all over the country during the early part of the 20th Century.  They were basically considerably faster versions of streetcars, except that they generally operated on their own rights-of-way.  They were basically similar to the light rail systems that many cities now use for commuting.

    It seems to me that the critical element of getting people to use public transportation is having sufficiently frequent, reliable, and inexpensive service that it's a reasonable alternative to owning a car.  Once people feel they pretty much have to own a car in any event, fares have to be VERY cheap (or gasoline VERY expensive) to persuade them to use public transportation rather than a car.  But if they can avoid the fixed costs of owning a car, as they can in NYC and to a lesser extent in Washington, DC, then it's much easier to persuad them to use public transporttion.

    In much of the country, most trips that aren't strictly local are between nearby cities, and a return to a modern version of the inter-urban railroads could make cars unnecessary for such trips.

    •  I have traveled across this country (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, leevank, xjac, marykk

      several times in a CAR.  I would love to have been able to make the trip by train. Speed of travel is not always a consideration.  

      It would also be nice to have decent and coordinated public transportation in destination cities, too, so one doesn't need to rent a car on arrival.  

      •  Absolutely! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tryptamine, GMary

        What we absolutely need to make that work is reliable, frequent service.  Nobody is going to take the train, rather than a car, if you may need to wait an hour or two beyond the scheduled departure time, and if you then miss a conneection and have to wait hours for the next train to take you to your ultimate destination.

        I also traveled across country (from Baltimore to San Francisco, and then back by way of various National Parks) a couple of years ago, and it would have been wonderful to do it by train.  That trip would have been impossible by air, and totally impractical by train, so I HAD to use a car.

  •  Agree (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, KateCrashes, debedb, subav8r, RJP9999

    I believe that this could be a good source of jobs for those in Detroit. We should be subsidizing sustainable transportation, not SUV's.

    Republicans : Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor

    by ctsteve on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 01:49:38 PM PST

  •  French TGV (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, HeyMikey, KateCrashes, debedb, subav8r

    I have ridden on the French TGV It was SOOOO nice! Compare that to the awful way of flying in the US these days and there simply is no comparison. I wish we would have something similar to the French TGV here in the US.

  •  Alas, a diary that speaks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moira, RJP9999

    to my heart. I agree that train transit would work and be a big hit in it was safe, fast and clean. Bring it on!

    "Damn it, baby, you've got to be kind"__Kurt Vonnegut

    by Texasblue on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:00:46 PM PST

  •  I'm hopeful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, HeyMikey

    That when Obama speaks about investing in infrastructure, it includes passenger rail.

    To me, its hard to believe that we have no rail connection from the nation's capital's international airport (Dulles) to the nation's capital. London has it, so does Paris.

    And, its ludicrous that if you take Amtrak from New York City to Portland Maine, you take the train from New York City to South Station in Boston, then get off, take the subway or taxi to North Station in Boston, and get on another train to Portland. Just nuts.

    We also need high speed rail in the major corridors - DC-NYC-BOSTON and SD-LA-SF-LV. That would be a great start.

  •  YES YES and more YES Love this Idea! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement. Alfred Adler

    by Hamsun on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:03:27 PM PST

  •  One of the fundamental problems is that... (5+ / 0-)

    ...most of the railroad tracks and right of ways themselves are privately owned.

    It would be difficult to seize the corporate held lands (even though by and large they were eminent domain'd and given to the Robber, er, Railroad Barons) for a national rail system, and probably cost prohibitive to seize enough land to build a duplicate system.

    Rail History Here

    Side note - I love the TGV but my favorite railroad is the Shinkansen, it rocks!

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood" - Tom Robbins

    by ARS on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:05:23 PM PST

    •  you can negotiate an agreement maintain for use (0+ / 0-)
      •  True, and Amtrak has done this... (5+ / 0-)

        ...on a few lines.

        however, when a freight train wants to go through, they have the right of way. I've spent more than a few hours stuck on the tracks outside of Chicago, missing my connection...

        (I used to enjoy taking the Lakeshore Limited from NYC to Chicago. I rarely have the time these days...)

        "It's never too late to have a happy childhood" - Tom Robbins

        by ARS on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:26:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  recapture/reuse highway infrastructure (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, NoMoreLies

      it may not be necessary to depend on existing (private) railroad infrastructure.

      how about this: recapture/reuse the decaying highway infrastructure?

      instead of spending billions to build short-sighted highway projects (I69 anyone?) how about designing railways (using elevated tracks where feasible) into the median and/or repurposed lane(s) of existing concrete highways?

      under the new  national (democratic) administration, perhaps money will flow into railway construction over/on-top-of existing highways.  building new highways may benefit a few (and then what?!?) but building railway infrastructure onto existing highways could provide a similar short-term benefit for workers while also benefiting the economy, the environment, and everyone for a long, long time (100s of years?) to come.

      shift federal/state highway funding toward recapture/reuse of highway infrastructure to route 21st century trains.

      and while we are building elevated tracks in the medians and/or inner-lanes of existing highways we can also bury big-bandwidth fiber optic transmission infrastructure for public-benefit, municipal broadband projects.

      if we are going to indebt ourselves and our children and our children's children for decades to come, let's do so for an outcome and a purpose that benefits everyone!

      in fact, after a time, if the new embedded railways are more efficient, the existing railroads may line up to pay to run their cars on the public's infrastructure.

      •  It would be a nice thing to have... (0+ / 0-)

        ...separate passenger and freight rail lines.

        I have no idea what the cost breakdown would be, and it would be a tough sell in congress in today's political climate. Hopefully, one of the legacies of the Obama Administration will be a national shift away from selfishness back to a community based decision making process.

        "It's never too late to have a happy childhood" - Tom Robbins

        by ARS on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 05:28:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  France is smaller? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.
    We inaugurate President Barack Obama in 59 days!

    by TrueBlueMajority on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:06:10 PM PST

  •  Other Kos diaries on rail. (8+ / 0-)

    Bruce McF did a great series of diaries on high-speed rail, a year or so ago.

    Useful DKos tags to check out:

    HSR (high speed rail)

    passenger rail

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:10:22 PM PST

  •  In one word.... (0+ / 0-)

    Why isn't a nation-wide train system being discussed more?

    Can you say AMTRAK?

    •  Amtrak is and has been on a choke collar (12+ / 0-)

      and a starvation diet.  It's a perverse application of free-market fundamentalism to expect a major transportation mode to be financially self-sustaining.  The annual subsidy to Amtrak is just enough to keep it from starving/suffocating but not enough to make major improvements in service.

      If we had treated the interstates the same way, they never would have happened.


      •  n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I propose we nationalize the domestic airlines and then tether all modes together.  Let's see how long the bastard airlines keep it going under the same conditions and how much better rail does at the same time.

        •  airlines have been dipping into chapter 11 (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Stranded Wind

          If you haven't noticed, they're not doing well either. (I'm quite glad that we don't have national airlines like they do in Europe!)

          That said we actually do subsidize airlines. The only public transportation out of the town I live in (Kirksville, MO) is via an airport, and it exists purely because of federal subsidies that average a few hundred dollars per passenger.

      •  One word explains everything: Oil. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bmcphail, Neon Vincent

        Highways and airlines get billions of subsidies every year because the vehicles use fuel that is derived from oil. Modern train systems use electricity, which is generated by coal and nuclear and could be generated by solar and wind.

    •  What's wrong with Amtrak? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, SJLeonidas, Neon Vincent

      That a little bit of attention and decent funding wouldn't cure.

      I travel Amtrak daily on the Northeast Corridor and the service is excellent, despite the aging right-of-way and 35 year old (but renovated) rolling stock on the "Regional" service.  They're generally on time, reservations and ticketing are done efficiently, the conductors are polite and do their job, and they're as good as any airline.

      When you get off the Northeast corridor, Amtrak doesn't own the right-of-way, which explains why their on-time performance outside the Northeast corridor has problems.  But the rolling stock is still in decent shape, and the staff generally do their best to make things work out.

      We need expansion of rail capacity for freight as well as passenger.  There are all kinds of crazy bottlenecks -- for example, the main west coast rail freight line runs on a city street in Oakland, California at about 10 mph.  (I found this out once when I was late for a conference at a hotel in Jack London Square, on the wrong side of 100 cars of double-stack containers creeping down the street.)  The main east coast freight line runs through a single-track tunnel built under the streets of Baltimore in 1870.  In 2001, all east cost freight traffic was disrupted by a train fire in that tunnel, not to mention that it was impossible to get from one side of town to another for a day or two.  

      And some of our rail corridors could use some realignments.  Amtrak's Texas Eagle takes 10 hours to travel from Dallas to San Antonio.  You can drive it in 6.  But then look at a railroad map of Texas.  The rail route is less than direct, as compared to I-35.  And while I-35 is a major freight corridor, too , there's certainly enough car and bus traffic to suggest that if the rails connected the cities directly, hourly "classic" corridor service between San Antonio-Austin-Waco-Dallas-Fort Worth would be viable.  It's not like Texans refuse to take trains, they seem to be running successful commuter rail between Dallas and Fort Worth.

      I certainly hope that Mr. Obama's infrastructure rebuilding plans include lots and lots of attention to rail, and I hope that Congress also gets behind a push to grow Amtrak, but fancy hi-tech TGV can wait, it's enough to get our "classic rail" infrastructure up to snuff.  And 90 mph trains are still faster than driving.

  •  This made me chuckle... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opendna, tryptamine, BYw

    And you stay on the ground the whole time.

    Is someone afraid of flying? Heh.

    Anyways, it would be awesome if we had a nationwide rail system. I hate driving and Amtrak ain't that great on the West Coast so this would be a dream for me.

  •  transcontinental high speed rail is uncompetitive (7+ / 0-)

    I love the idea of a high-speed rail network. There happens to be a vast unpopulated area between the West Coast and the Mississippi Valley. (sorry Denver and Phoenix, you're very isolated). Trains are by their nature very inflexible and cannot compete with jet travel for flexibility of routes and cannot compete with the 550 MPH.

    High Speed rail is ideal for shorter distances in high density areas. Hence, Western Europe and Japan are well suited for this type of transport. There are a few areas in the USA that can financially support High-Speed Rail:

    Boston-New York-Philedelphia-Baltimore-Washington-Norfolk

    New York-Albany-Buffalo-Toronto




    San Diego-Los Angeles-San Francisco-Sacramento

    Los Angeles-Las Vegas


    (maybe a connection between the Northeast and Florida by way of Washington-Charlotte-Atlanta-Orlando)

    Other routes are too long and/or too unpopulated

    •  yeah, this is a good idea, there are certain (0+ / 0-)

      corridors that need to be covered.

      but good luck on putting a TGV through the rockies.

    •  Well, to the Chicago add Cincy/Dayton/Columbus (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sabishi, BYw
    •  You could still get traffic out west (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Connecting to National Parks and other tourist attractions that are visited by millions of people every year.  And you left out Albuquerque.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:26:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  to jestify the capital and operational expense (0+ / 0-)

        A transcontinental route needs to have a logical route through major traffic centers

      •  most logical transcontinental routes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I am highly sceptical that a transcontinental high-speed rail route would make economic sense. If the taxpayers would agree to heavy subsidies I would propose the following route alternates:

        Southern Route:
        Los Angeles-Phoenix-El Paso-Dallas-Birmingham-Atlanta-Charlotte-Richmond-Washington-New York-Boston (with possible connection in Dallas to a Chicago-Houston line and a connection in Atlanta to Miami)

        Northern Route:
        San Francisco-Sacramento-Reno-Salt Lake City-Denver-Kansas City-St. Louis-Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philedelphia-New York (with possible connection in Kansas City to Houston, connection in Chicago to Atlanta and Miami, connection in Toledo to Detroit,Toronto and Montreal, connection in Cleveland to Cincinnati and connection in Philadelphia north to Boston, and south to Washington and the Southeast)

        Hybrid or spur:
        At Salt Lake City, replace Northern route connection to San Francisco with a route through Las Vegas to Los Angeles.  Or else have the northern route split at SLC and go to both locations

    •  A few more: (4+ / 0-)


      Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City

      San Francisco-Los Angeles






      It wouldn't be all that difficult to tie a number of these high-speed routes together with lower-speed routes having lower frequency of service to create a true national system for those who wanted to use it.

      •  Maybe (0+ / 0-)


        Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City

        San Francisco-Los Angeles







        •  I-85 should be most of the DC/Orlando route (0+ / 0-)

          Richmond, and then the triangle, Winston-Salem/Greensboro, Charlotte, Greenville, Atlanta

        •  not enough traffic? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw, GMary, RJP9999

          Jesus, how bad does it have to get? Do we have to wait till we're at a complete standstill to try to fix it?

          Ever tried that Memphis to Nashville to Knoxville drive? and the I-5 corridor is truly awful. I'd say the Portland to Vancouver line needs a bunch more trains running on it.

          Whoever is coming up with these formulas needs to think outside that box--I think if you build it, many of us will come along.

          •  What's the current air & auto traffic btwn M-N-K? (0+ / 0-)

            Both Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville have metro populations of about 1.3M, 1.5M and 0.7M with a distance of 390 miles. Compare to the Ohio route: Cleveland, Arkon, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati with metro populations of 2.1M, 0.7M, 1.8M, 0.8M and 2.1M for a distance of 260 miles. thats 3.5M/390 miles verses 7.5M/260 miles or a density difference of 320%

            If Tennessee air/auto traffic can justify the rail competition, the high speed rail would make sense.  I am skeptical.

    •  the trains run all over Japan and it is NOT (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DavidW in SF, elfling, BYw, RJP9999

      a short distance area. Japan is a very long, thin country the size of Sweden. It does have two areas of high population density - the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolis and the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe region, but the traintracks crisscross the whole country.

      I mean, how bad could Senator John McPalpatine possibly be?

      by terra on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:27:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You forgot one... (0+ / 0-)

      Norfolk - Raleigh/Durham - Winston-Salem - Charlotte - Greenville - Atlanta.  

      Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

      by Yamaneko2 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:33:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  it will have to be negotiated by states first (0+ / 0-)

    How to sell this idea:

    The selling points here is that the roads need to freed up from long distance commuter and regional tourist traffic. That the roads are only for RVs, tractor trailers and contractors.

    Trains will be powered by small, efficient gas turbines, putting up centenary lines is too expensive.

    It will boost economies in the south, who have been held without decent rail transit for too long.

    All of the rail cars, locomotives will be built here in our auto plants.

    After 10 years the system will be opened to private operators. The tracks will be maintained by govt.

    •  Current deisel-electric is more efficient than (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wilberforce, NoMoreLies

      gas turbines electric of the same power level.

      Railroad diesel runs about 40% efficiency, gas turbine of the same power level is more like 28-30 percent.  So you want to decrease fuel efficiency by about a quarter.

    •  gas turbines? (0+ / 0-)

      heck no! They need to be electric. It would be foolish to build out a huge new infrastructure and design it to be locked into non-renewable fuels. Dealing with climate change and energy independence is part of the whole reason to expand high-speed rail to begin with. Powering the trains via electricity provides the most flexibility in how the power source is produced ie. the dirty: coal and natural gas, or the clean: solar and wind, etc.

  •  I still vote for a NATIONAL system (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, Kelly A H, BYw, virginwoolf

    Just connect the regional hub centers with high speed rail.  Say LA, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, New York and somewhere in Texas.

    I would also like to say as someone who is afraid of flying that this is a doubly great idea.

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

    by greywolfe359 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:15:20 PM PST

    •  Why wouldn't anyplace (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in the middle of the country get a hub?  They may not be big cities now but they would become bigger if they were transportation centers (which would also force a lot of red-staters to realize that this country hangs together or hangs separately).  

      •  How about Denver? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        As a hub to all the places of the West.  Just a thought.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

        by greywolfe359 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:27:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, I was thinking about Denver but (0+ / 0-)

          I think there would also need to be someplace in the middle further east though.  Like in Kentucky or St. Louis or someplace like that.

        •  Denver is much too isolated. (0+ / 0-)

          distances are too far and destinations are too small

          •  The way Denver gets less isolated is to get (0+ / 0-)


            You build the region -- connect all the front range cities and then go up to Wyoming and down to Albuquerque.

            Denver will get light rail out to the airport -- it's a matter of time. I don't know why it wasn't done in the first place, but give us credit for the light rail we've already built.

        •  Denver's Light Rail doesn't go to (0+ / 0-)

          their airport. It's way out in BFE. They could have laid the tracks when they were building the highway. I've read Denverites have been discussing and fighting over it for years now.

          "Stalin Bread. First it represses you, then it gives you the gulags."

          by londubh on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:01:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's a great example of the problem of airports (0+ / 0-)

            that the "Denver Airport" is pushing an hour of travel from Denver, between the time from terminal to parking or rental car or shuttle, the long travel between the terminal and the front gate, and the gate and the actual city of Denver. It's there for safety and noise reasons... and it's creating sprawl.

            Denver's Amtrak station is right next to the stadium.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:41:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Isn't it called AMTRAK? (0+ / 0-)
  •  Yes to bullet trains. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TN yellow dog, BYw

    We have an aging population. This would be a great way to travel.

    You gave Obama a To Do List. What is your To DO List?

    by redtex on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:18:55 PM PST

  •  Let me play the skeptic (4+ / 0-)

    $40 to get across the country? This is so exaggerated you should correct it as a mistake... In France it costs a hundred euro to go from Paris to Marseille (like going Boston to DC). So it's $130 from Boston to DC... remind you of something? Amtrak???

    High speed passenger trains are COOL and fun but don't go telling yourself that they can solve any problems until you have some numbers to back it up (and NO, pie-in-the-sky ultra-optimistic numbers don't count).

    Until some huge revolution in technology comes along to put this anywhere near feasibility, planes will rule inter-regional transport. Blah...

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." --fellow Philadelphian, Ben Franklin

    by SplishSplash on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:21:59 PM PST

  •  Great Idea. Regional. Different compartments (0+ / 0-)

    so some of us can travel w our Pooties, large and small. I have large.

    "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

    by hester on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:22:34 PM PST

  •  we have to get the right people in on this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wilmguy, BYw, bicycle Hussein paladin

    Rail projects as of recently have been hindered by flat-out bone headed decisions.

    There is also a kind of utopian bubble around these projects...that usually get poked after a lot of unforeseen obstacles come up. Rail projects are very complicated and much more involved than most think.

    If it does happen, we need to get a good solid business team down there...not just a bunch of rail fans (full disclosure, I am one).

  •  It's not economically feasible. (4+ / 0-)

    It is impossible to have both freight and high speed passenger trains on the same tracks. I'm pretty sure that generally there's not enough room in the rights of way for parallel freight/passenger tracks. The way this works in Europe is that almost all freight is carried by trucks ... you probably won't believe it, but currently the U.S. freight rail system is the envy of Europe.

    Regional high speed networks are feasible, but I don't think there's enough population density in the U.S. to put in a high speed passenger system. And displacing the current freight system for high speed passenger traffic would be a disaster, making all the goods shipped by rail more expensive.

    •  Speaking of trucks.. (0+ / 0-)

      How will a high-speed line between DC and NYC compete with a $5-10 electric bus?

      The corridor is having a very successful bloom of buses that fulfill many of the needs of travelers. Maybe it's not as cutesy as the train idea but it works, it's environmentally better than cars and it's cheap and will only get cheaper.

      "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." --fellow Philadelphian, Ben Franklin

      by SplishSplash on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:31:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I won't take a bus to NY from DC (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wilmguy, NoMoreLies, BYw, abraxas

        Many other people won't. Buses share the same right-of-way as cars. People won't ditch their cars to ride buses.

        •  500/250/2.50 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A good rule of thumb when considering routes is to make journeys of 500 miles at up to 250mph in 2 hours 50 minutes (OK three hours but it spoils the symmetry but you could restore that by aiming for a return first/pullman class ticket at $250)  

          For the US you should also probably add in "park and ride" stops 10 to 20 miles away from the central city station to attract drivers who do not want to go into the center on what might be unavailable public transport or simply to serve the suburbs. Given spare platform capacity at the stations, these could also be used to inject commuter trains in the periods between the main fast service. Just such a scheme will operate on "High speed 1", also known as the Channel Tunnel high speed rail link. During the Olympics in 2012 the "Javelin" high speed commuter trains will shuttle between Kings Cross, Stratford for the main Olympics site and Ebbsfleet, the only new station on the line. As the Eurostar trains will not stop at Stratford during the games, it will be the interchange for spectators from France and Belgium.

          For those of you interested, the Shuttle in the Channel Tunnel which carries cars and lorries only links terminals at the two ends of the tunnel. The trains have a special wider guage than the passenger service so would not run on the main route. Cars are carried on double deck units with appropriate loading ramps. Larger commercial vehicles are carried in single deck units with special "club cars" for the drivers to rest and have refreshments. Drivers and passengers stay with their cars. Their units have full sides and are hermetically sealed when travelling. The single deck units are open sided and therefore open to the wind rushing by - hence the club cars.

          The tunnel is an alternative to the ferries and are more attractive for cars. Ferries are marginally cheaper for trucks and the extra time is convenient as commercial drivers are required to take breaks after certain lengths of time driving (no cheating, there are recording machines in the cab and these are checked) On the other hand weather in the Channel can be terrible and strikes can close ports. This happens so frequently that the police have a set routine of turning a motorway (freeway) into a giant truck stop. The Chunnel is more reliable (that is unless there is a fire as there was recently)

          As currently configured, the Shuttle trains would not be suitable for high speed passenger rail tracks. Similar car trains were popular on routes between London and Scotland but the cost and relative incovenience meant they died out when air travel became cheap enough to be able to hire at the other end for a similar cost.

          Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Barack could run, Barack ran so our children could soar

          by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:49:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I ride the Chinatown (0+ / 0-)

        bus lines.

        Twenty dollars one-way and thirty-five dollars round-trip fares are hard to beat.

        For schedules, addresses and prices:

        The BoltBus $1 routes never meet my arrival needs.

        I usually buy my ticket in person. From a woman at the foot of Manhattan Bridge or from a person in a dingy waiting room at 610 I St NW.

    •  Solve this problem (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Bensch, Quinton, SJLeonidas

      by double tracking the principal routes, eliminating grade crossings, straightening track, and removing or burying track in trenches in congested urban areas.

      Then your freight trains will be capable of carrying time-sensitive freight and compete head-to-head with trucks over distances of 400 miles.

      Addressing your concern, most freight would travel at the same speed as passenger rail, so there would be little conflict. That conflict, with unit (bulk commodity trains hauling coal or grains) would be minimized by occasional long sidings.

      Electrify the system and even greater savings accrue.

      See the vision at RAIL Solution

      •  You can't double track (I think) (0+ / 0-)

        because the rights of way aren't wide enough. You'd have to buy land from everybody who owns land adjoining the tracks, or set up separate high-speed rail lines, at exorbitant cost. This is indeed the ideal system, but the 19th century railroad barons didn't buy wide enough swaths of land to make the upgrade easily.

        Freight trains CANNOT travel at the same speed as passenger rail. Freight trains are very heavily loaded, and the high-speed tracks and trains can't handle the weight. Plus, running and maintaining high-speed rail tracks is considerably more expensive than running slow rail, and you can't expect to make freight trains to pay for this (except for time-sensitive freight, which I expect is a fairly small fraction of the total.

        The vision at RAIL Solution is indeed fantastic, but it would be very expensive to get there.


  •  Best reason? Backpacking! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anyone who has backpacked as a teen or young adult knows that the USA sucks for student travel.

    Imagine how changed our youth/YA would be if they could board a train and actually MEET other people. That alone is reason enough for change in this country.

    •  I have and it doesn't? (0+ / 0-)

      You can get anywhere you want. Sure, it takes time, but it's a BIG WORLD and the US is a BIG COUNTRY.. Also, student backpackers can handle a little adversity like actually sitting in a bus.

      Oh, and you can still meet people there, too.

      "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." --fellow Philadelphian, Ben Franklin

      by SplishSplash on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:33:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  regoinal trains yes! (0+ / 0-)

    i just wish my city would get with the 21st century and instill a public smoking ban first, sheesh!!!!

    "It's always nice to meet a young conservative. Someone who is filled with hope that nothing will change in the future." -Cobert

    by astronautagogo on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:29:34 PM PST

  •  Be ready to fight the Teamsters... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sabishi, abraxas

    ... and the trucking companies.  I've spoken on this before, and a train system that's at least 20th century (instead of the 19th century rail we currently have) and banning 18 wheelers would go far to reducing emisions, fatal accidents on freeways, and traffic.  AND make driving a car more pleasant, without the 35,000lb death machine blowing past you on the freeway every few minutes.

    Won't happen though.  The Teamsters and the trucking companies have the lawmakers by the scrotum.

    :: Hopeful even still ::

    by Rick Aucoin on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 02:36:50 PM PST

    •  Re-employ the truckers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bensch, Rick Aucoin

      on the expanded railroad system. The railroad industry has some of the highest wages and benefits for blue-collar type work. Engineers and conductors and even maintenance of way workers are paid at least as well if not better than truckers by the railroads. It is my understanding that both private (like Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe) and public sector (Amtrak, Metra, and the east coast commuter agencies) railroads routinely pay a good living wage in the 40-80,000 range for their mostly unionized workers.

      "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

      by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:47:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But... (0+ / 0-)

        How many workers per ton of cargo shipped are used by the rail system, or would be used by a reasonably engineered 21st century rail system, compared to how many workers per ton of cargo are used in this trucking business we have so much of today?

        It'd be an uphill fight, big time, against some very influential lobbies, I think.

        :: Hopeful even still ::

        by Rick Aucoin on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:03:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Regional trains fit an emptying aviation niche (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, NoMoreLies, Bensch, bmcphail, BYw

    Regional jets looked pretty good until fuel prices skyrocketed and air carriers began going bankrupt.  The new commercial aviation business model looks to be geared toward transcontinental and intercontinental service in the latest Airbus and Boeing behemoths.  These don't work for regional service.

    A high-speed regional train fits neatly into the slowly vacating niche of regional commercial air travel.  I'd venture to say that regional airports could be pressed into regional train service--which provides a neat link-up between commercial aviation and commercial train service.

  •  yes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, BYw

    The upper Midwest is the perfect place, too! Infrastructure development got us out of the last Depression....

  •  I would love to be able to... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glic, BYw

    hop on a high-speed train for $250 and be with my kids and grand kids in about three hours rather than the grueling 12-hour car trip it now is.

  •  People want it, but don't want to pay for it! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They want new and green technology only if the government gives it to them for free. Look at how narrowly the SF bay area ballot measure passed. With the kind of traffic congestion in those cities, who would not want that train line? But no one wants to pay a few extra cents a day for it.

    •  Au contraire: 4 rail measures passed in CA (0+ / 0-)

      All but one of the ballot measures, statewide and regional, passed in California; all the regional measures needed a 2/3 vote. They weren't just bonds, but taxes:

      Prop 1A: $10B bond for HSR from San Francisco to Los Angeles
      Measure B Santa Clara: 1/8 cent sales tax for BART to San Jose
      Measure R Los Angeles County: 1/2 cent sales tax for passenger rail expansion
      Measure Q Sonoma/Marin SMART rail & bike: 1/4 cent sales tax

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:39:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a fantastic idea. (0+ / 0-)

    The sooner the better.  I hope our legislators get on this.  Put the bank bailout on hold and get this done first!

  •  We need this plus more (0+ / 0-)

    Not only a National and regional train systems like you describe, but also include trains for transportation to work and wherever you want to go.

    If you go anywhere, especially in the mid-west, there are train tracks all over the place. We should upgrade these tracks to modern ones, or build new elevated tracks next to them.

    People in the suburbs, rural areas and the city could all use these to go to work or go downtown to sporting or other entertainment events.

    I love this idea. Not only will it put America to work, and with good paying jobs, but it will help with the environment and help us transition from a petroleum based economy to the new alternative fueled economy.

    Sign me up!

    McCain: US economic woes 'psychological'

    by DAVE DIAL on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:12:34 PM PST

  •  I fully agree with you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But unfortunately Republicans have been extremely hostile to Amtrak, rail transportation, and public transportation for years. What we also need to do is change land-use development policies to encourage walkable development and discourage sprawl.

  •  We need them for shipping too (0+ / 0-)

    In a world without fossil fuels, trains are the only way to ship things long distance.

  •  And you won't even have to (0+ / 0-)

    take off your shoes!

    the secretary of war is out of order. so's the plumbing. make a note of that. -groucho marx

    by rufustfyrfly on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:23:54 PM PST

  •  I worked on a show about ACELA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Tuesday, November 25th at 10PM ET/9C

    "Extreme Trains: HIGH SPEED TRAIN"

    History Channel

  •  Granny's car keys (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, djMikulec, Wilmguy, NoMoreLies

    In about 20-30 years, we are going to have a HUGE population of people in the 75-95 age range, who have failing eyesight and reflexes and plenty more. Having these nice trains--local, regional, national--would make that car key decision not quite so painful and isolating.

    This alone is a compelling reason for mass transit.  

    The idea of this many 80-year-old drivers in the USA is a dystopian nightmare. (My apologies to the elderly who might be reading this--but there are a whole bunch of yall who'd benefit from transportation alternatives to driving yourselves around.)

    Before too long, this will be me, and I sure hope the US has a bunch of fast trains so I don't need to drive.

  •  We used to have it (0+ / 0-)

    It was dismantled when cars became widely available. Many hiker-biker trails are built over old rail lines. Rebuilding it will be expensive.

  •  Gets my vote (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, catfood
    I live in the greater Cleveland area.  In years past Cleveland was a busy hub for train travel.  Not any more.  

    If I want to take a train to see my family in the Kansas City area, the only train available to me passes through at 1:00 AM.  It goes to Chicago with a 4 hour layover, which is no big deal.  The return trip arrives in Cleveland at about the same time.  The AMTRAK stop is in Muni Parking - a huge parking lot, crammed between the freeway and the back dregs of the city.  It is isolated, poorly lit, and you're asking for trouble if you're out there alone - which I would be.

    If there was a good train system and schedule for Cleveland I would travel much, much more.  I know planes are faster, but trains are more practical and, for me, a preferred method of travel.

    Good diary.  Thanks.


  •  North American Network proposed routes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marycone, SJLeonidas

    I am sceptical of the economic viability of spanning the continent with high-speed rail but if a network were to be built I propose these routes:

    West Coast
    Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-Sacramento-San Francisco-Fresno-Los Angeles-San Diego-Tiajuana

    North Trancontinental
    San Francisco-Sacramento-Reno-Salt Lake City-Denver-Kansas City-St. Louis-Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-New York

    South Transcontinental
    Los Angeles-Phoenix-El Paso-Dallas-Birmingham-Atlanta-Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington-Philadelphia-New York

    Southwest Spur
    Los Angeles-Las Vegas-Salt Lake City-connect to Northern Route to New York

    Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City-Tulsa-Oklahoma City-Dallas-Houston

    Mexico Extension
    Connect from Midwest/Texas line-Dallas-Austin-San Antonio-Monterrey-San Luis Potosi-Mexico City

    Minneapolis-Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago-Indianapolis-Louisville-Nashville-Atlanta-Jacksonville-Orlando -Miami (with spur Orlando-Tampa-St. Pete)

    Canada Extension #1

    East Coast Line
    Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington-Richmond-Raleigh-Charlotte-Atlanta-Jacksonville-Orlando-Miami (with spurs to Norfolk and St. Pete)

    Ohio Extention
    Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati-Louisville-connect to Atlanta-Miami

    Canada Extension #2
    New York-Albany-Buffulo-Hamilton-Toronto

    Canada Extension #3
    New York-Albany-Montreal

  •  I'm with you (0+ / 0-)

    but don't mix freight and high speed passenger service.
    Freight lines might need some selective improvement to increase speed and there may need to be improved inter-modal service. In general though, there's not that much to be gained from higher speed freight and freight really increases the cost of maintaining track.

    •  What if instead of freight on separate trains (0+ / 0-)

      and track, freight goes on the same train as a passenger one, like what a lot of airlines do? Like a separate car for freight. It would be a green alternative to trucks and airplanes.

      Obviously, for time-sensitive things, you'd want a faster method like air, but for goods that aren't mission critical, then I think it's a viable option.

      •  A lot of branch lines and small freight (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        deliveries ran "mixed freights" that included both passenger and freight cars before the 1950s. Also, the Railway post office delivered mail and was at least as timely in delivery as mail is today, and a lot of it went on passenger trains. There is no reason we can't go back to that on a lot of the small regional, low density rail networks.

        Light freight trains can easily be set up to equal the speed of Amtrak (79 mph) outside of the Northeast Corridor, which would work just fine as local service to link many of the small towns here in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and for "milk run" trips of less than 200 miles or so. It would also help economize by providing multiple services on one train, as opposed to running single purpose trains, which are more justified for the large-scale, heavily  regional and national rail network.

        "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

        by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:54:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We MUST build trains: local, regional, national.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, SJLeonidas

    The infrastructure we build now, must be able to provide transportation and energy to the population while we simultaneously cut carbon emissions by 90% over current levels by 2050.

    20%-30% of carbon emissions are from light trucks and cars.

    And a hefty percentage from semi's as well.

    Anyone who thinks we can get to 90% reduction w/out trains is retarded.

    We must have:

    1. Extensive mass transit for every city over 250k
    1. Local/regional lines connecting smaller cities to the big cities.
    1. A Regional system connected nearby big cities
    1. National routes between big cities.
  •  Amtrak does have regional corridors. (0+ / 0-)

    It's basically up to the states to pay part of the way, tho, making development off all the regions beyond the Northest a little iffy.

    Here's a piece on the Midwest Regional Corridor.

  •  A bill was intoduced this week for that (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, NoMoreLies, Bensch, TayTay, SJLeonidas

    By Senators Kerry and Spector. (Kerry has been speaking of this for a long time - it is great that he got a Republican co-sponsor as well as Many Democrats.

    "Senators John F. Kerry and Arlen Specter introduced a bill today to fund high-speed rail lines along the East Coast and in several other key areas of the country.

    Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said the legislation would help repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure, and at the same time create jobs when the country appears headed for a deep economic recession.


    The bill would provide money for tax-exempt bonds to finance rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour. It would include $10 billion over 10 years to fund improvements in the Northeast and California, and $5.4 billion over a six-year period for 10 rail corridors, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities along the East Coast."

    •  It would be better (0+ / 0-)

      to subsidize Amtrak fares.

      If you look at a DC-NY Amtrak schedule a regular unreserved train may take 45 minutes longer than an Acela train.

      Acela requires reservations, which take time to make, so the advantage is even less.

      I gave up on Amtrak long ago due to the high fares.

      I'll not pay $60 for a DC-Philly round-trip.

  •  I live in France and the trains are too expensive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I live 100km from Paris. It costs me 15 euros each way to take the train there - and that's if I buy the ticket in advance, and then the ticket is non-refundable. If I wait until the day of my trip to Paris to buy the ticket, it costs 24 euros each way. And that's not even for the fast train. I simply can't afford it. Americans who come to Europe with a rail pass don't understand the true cost of these trains. And another thing: the trains here use aprox. 1/4 the energy (here it comes from nuclear plants) to move a person as a car does. But it still requires a lot of energy. Trains are more energy efficient, but they are not the magic bullet that is going to allow America to continue using so much energy and to keep moving people around so much, forever into the future, as many seem to hope.

    •  clean nuclear energy (0+ / 0-)

      It is easier to have carbon-free trains than buses, cars and planes.

      15 Euros for 100 km is actually a good deal.  Bonn to Frankfurt is 160 km and it costs 35 Euros on a slower train.

      I have another example.  A friend wanted to go from Bonn to London.  One-way plane was ca. 50 Euros, train, 200.  Then they charged for excess luggage (which was OK for trans-Atlantic flights, but exceeded their limit), extra 160 Euros.  Add taxis, and the train was actually cheaper (but with two changes of trains, rather slow connection).

  •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

    The only question is why wasn't this done 30 years ago? Part stupidity, part arrogance, and partly due to the powerful interests that don't want it -- i.e. auto and oil companies.

    But the California vote was a step in the right direction. Incidentally, LA County also passed a half-cent sales tax most of which will fund rail projects.

  •  The map doesn't show the whole of France's (0+ / 0-)

    railroad network, only the major routes.  Local routes are not shown.  And the density of the network is what makes it so efficient.

    •  The density of *population* makes it efficient (0+ / 0-)

      The fact that there are 70+ million people in a country that's not even 10% of our area.

      -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

      by Rich in PA on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:07:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Discuss trains - fine; Casinos pay for some! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Improved, fast train service in Metro/regional areas in the US is long over due. I agree with this posting, but would point out that not every train has to be TGV with 160 mph potential to be successful and helpful to transportation and economic concerns. Present day USA technology can easily come up with 110-plus mph trains, mainly on existing trackage,though some upgrades will be required. For a Minneapolis/Madison/Chicago run, a regular schedule of 125 mph trains would be a godsend!
      A TGV system could be built right away between Los Angeles and Las Vegas -- ultra-fast bullet trains, and let winnings from the ever-expanding casinos pay for it!! A good place to start,I think, what do others here think of this?  
     Just take the big urban centers and big commute areas - Chicago, San Francisco (already has some), Los Angeles, DFW, and create good feder systems within those areas and betweent them. How about Chicago/StLouis in a little more than two hours on a dedicated track, that's winner for me. Dallas/KC and Dallas/Houston/ SanAnton -- most attractive idea and let oil extracted in Texas pay for it. Make the systems local for the most part and find local ways of paying -- obviously with Fed input on capital costs. We are talking Billions - better spent Billions thant Iraq.  Seattle/Portland/SanFran/LA -thre is already service, but it needs to be upgraded and made more economical for users.
      A huge program of engineering public opinion to support AmeriRail would be a vital part -- Obama should take the train on all short trips -- even Washington/Chi. That corridor, via Cleveland and Pittsburgh/Phila should be a good early place to start, also.
      I am not talking here about gusseying up existing railroads, rather where necessary building new tracks and roadbeds, safe fenced systems (a la francais), trains of 100 mph plus, and on long hauls go ahead and spend the money for true TGV -- 160 mph Bullet trains. Obviously for most trips of 800/1000 miles or more, time-saving jets are perferred by most. But I agree with HM Beast and 80% of the posters here who want an upgraded national rail program -- a rail equival. of the Interstate Highway System, in effect. Ever ridden the trains in Europe? Heaven!!!!  We could do it if we really wanted to.
    Last year I did Copenhagan/Frankfurt in an easy day on clean, comfortable most enjoyable trains -- how very pleasant and efficient they were. Electric powered, too.
      Anyone here know how Obam & Co. feel about this?


    •  A slight problem (0+ / 0-)

      I believe that the casinos are suffering badly in the downturn. Good idea tho and one I have suggested on here as it fits the right profile to be competitive with a plane journey in terms of overall travel time.

      Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Barack could run, Barack ran so our children could soar

      by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:53:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Now that we have a project in California (0+ / 0-)

      with funding for High Speed Rail between LA and San Francisco, perhaps the Vegas casinos will elect to help fund a Vegas-LA spur using the same technology. You could get from Vegas to LA in a bit over an hour, doorstep to doorstep, and the train, unlike an airport, can drop people right on to the Strip, perhaps connecting to the monorail system that the casinos built.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:43:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love trains!!!!!! (0+ / 0-)

    I used to travel alone to go visit my grandparents in another state. I was only 9 when I started (Can you believe that? It was a different world then). The porter took very good care of me. Passenger trains don't come anywhere near me anymore. I want them back! I want my children to experience what I did. They're old enough to go alone, even. Honest.  

    Hey, Hannity! You're ugly and your mama dresses you funny!

    by forever blue on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:57:15 PM PST

  •  After (0+ / 0-)

    being neglected for umpteen years, now might be the perfect time for this subject to surface. It would be nice to hear that the new Administration has it's collective ears open for such projects.

    Common Sense is not Common

    by RustyBrown on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:09:22 PM PST

  •  I think I can (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think i can

  •  Answer: (0+ / 0-)

    the essential history and character of the American culture, incorporating as it does speed, power, individuality, freedom, success, and exuberance, and the Detroit and oil industry lobbies.

    Witness the intense debate and publicity on the fate of the Big 3 automakers.

    Good question.

  •  the New York MTA is by far (0+ / 0-)

    the best example. Unlike Amtrak, it is cheap, and efficient. A ride from New Haven to New York costs 50 dollars on Amtrak, whereas the Metro-North MTA train costs 14 dollars. The Long Island Railroad is also another good example of mass transit.

    Keep that faith, keep your courage, stick together, stay strong, do not yield! Stand up, WE'RE DEMOCRATS AND WE'LL NEVER SURRENDER!

    by deaniac20 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:19:52 PM PST

  •  I took the TGV from Paris to Lyon this spring (0+ / 0-)

    180 mph and no seatbelts.  But the wine and pâté en terrine were delicious.

    Very nice way to travel.

  •  State ownership (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The old People's Party (Populists) wanted state ownership of railroads and telegraphs. Not federal nationalization. STATE ownership. There's a lot we should be doing the state level right now.

  •  HSR needs high traffic and under 3 hours (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA

    SF - LA and NYC - Washington have the traffic and right distances to make HSR a winner but how many other 200 ~ 500 mile lines would have enough traffic to make it pay? Chicago - ?, Atlanta - ?, Houston -?

  •  there should be multi-state railroads, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not a national system. Amtrak is a national system, and a complete failure. Railroads like the MTA system, which does New York and Connecticut, along with New Jersey west of the Hudson, are the best example. They are cheap, $14 to New Haven and back from Grand Central, as opposed to Amtrak's $50 dollar fair, and efficient, always being on time. More train systems like the MTA are what is needed. No big federal bureaucrary, efficiency and economy first.

    Keep that faith, keep your courage, stick together, stay strong, do not yield! Stand up, WE'RE DEMOCRATS AND WE'LL NEVER SURRENDER!

    by deaniac20 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:36:16 PM PST

    •  Amtrak isn't a failure (0+ / 0-)

      Its expected to pay its way when no other transit system in our country does - not airlines and not cars. Trains on much of the routes are full, and ridership records are being set in the last year.

      The republicans have starved it and hoped that it would go away. John McCain in particular hates Amtrak.

      Prices are high in the northeast because there is enough demand that the trains are full, and there is no more capacity to run more cars or more trains.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:46:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As it turns out I write on this subject (0+ / 0-)

    from time to time on my various local yokel blogs, and all i get back is that glazed look like I'm talking to aborigines about space travel. Just unbelievable. Local Train Systems like the one you describe is the way to go. I talk about the "train stations" being located in the bigger Malls. Plenty of free parking, and usually connecting bus service. Great diary! We need this system! Maybe one of Obama's ppl are tuning in.

    Second Life NetRoots Nation. Party with us at Cafe Wellstone!

    by winkk on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 05:57:09 PM PST

  •  Midwest plans, centralized in Chicago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind
  •  But then all those goddamn people from Chicago (0+ / 0-)

    could come spend money in Madison! Wouldn't that be terrible? snark

    This is just to say Forgive us victory tastes delicious so sweet and so cold

    by Dave the Wave on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:31:05 PM PST

  •  How do you get to Toledo from Detroit? (0+ / 0-)

    Through Chicago.  That's American efficiency!

    Thanks Big 3.  You're destruction of the interurban was another of America's worst acheivments.  

    Yay for Corporations!

    "It stinks." - Jay Sherman

    by angry liberaltarian on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:05:53 PM PST

  •  Thing is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catfood, NoMoreLies, Bensch

    For the cost of the banking bailout, we can build enough high-speed rail to service all current Amtrak routes, twice.

    Isn't this a better investment of $350 billion? Seriously?

  •  And People Movers! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Here in South Florida, we have the Miami-Dade Metromover. Systems like this could link from larger train systems, like our north-south three-county Tri-Rail system, to airports, convention centers, even downtown areas, to form a complete transportation system. If that was done here from the Tri-Rail to the three big airports (Palm Beach International, Fort Lauderdale Airport and Miami Airport), the reduction in traffic would be tremendous. It would be so easy to get to the airports without worries about traffic jams to make you late. Of course, the losers are the airport parking garages, but hey, with what they're charging these days, it wouldn't make me cry.

    "All across America there are quiet storms taking place." -- President Barack Obama

    by Carrie Ann on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:18:05 PM PST

  •  Guess which train is Chinese and which American? (4+ / 0-)

    •  yes (0+ / 0-)

      Matt Lauer in his "where in the f*ck is Matt Lauer" thing a few years said it was better in China than the US.  Thanks federal government for the worst leadership wall street can buy for peanuts.

      After 8 years of darkness, a great nation chose to reapply power to the beacon of light America stands for.

      by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:21:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jim Kunstler blogs on this topic regularly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind

    Jim Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, blogs on this topic regularly.  Add him to your RSS feed, he's worth reading.

    "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers." Carl Sagan

    by John3 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:32:54 PM PST

  •  Part of Obama's infrastructure rebuild? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John3, NoMoreLies, arainsb123, flitedocnm

    I would think that the biggest bang for the buck on trains would be metropolitan systems that allow 60% of Americans to live and work without using cars.

    It is more the daily transportation needs more than the travel transportation needs that need the most immediate rebuild.

  •  GM could build these (4+ / 0-)

    The NY Times had a great editorial last week on using US automakers to build trains for the nation, based in part on a 1972 (!) article in The Atlantic which covered nearly the same topic.  Sad that people have been suggesting this type of train infrastructure since 1972 and nothing has been done.

    "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers." Carl Sagan

    by John3 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:37:20 PM PST

    •  Electro-Motive, a locomotive manufacturer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      used to be part of GM. In the 1930s and 1940s, they built some of the world's most advanced locomotives, capable of speeds then of up to 125 mph. They build the F7, E8 and E9s, some of which are still used today, and powered much of the national freight and passenger network up until the 1970s. GM sold off the division a few years ago. I'd bet they are regretting that now.

      "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

      by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:13:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We desperately need train service here in Montana (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind, GMary
    •  I'm sorry, but this will never happen... (0+ / 0-)

      ...nor should it.  Massive fixed transportation infrastructure for fewer than a million people, in a huge state? Not until money is free.

      -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

      by Rich in PA on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:05:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We ARE creating a regional rail system in NM. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, GMary

    It's called the Rail Runner, and it will probably turn out to be Bill Richardson's most enduring and best contribution when the dust of his governorship settles. There's been a lot of criticism of this project, but it's going forward. While not akin to the TGV technology, the tracks between Albuquerque and Santa Fe are brand spanking new, as are the trains. This new route is supposed to open next month, and those of us who live along this corridor can't wait.

    Here's a cute video:

    "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

    by flitedocnm on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:05:33 PM PST

  •  if it is good for the country (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure the federal government will do it, I can hope, but 40 years of history says leopards don't change their spots.

    After 8 years of darkness, a great nation chose to reapply power to the beacon of light America stands for.

    by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:23:00 PM PST

  •  I've been asking Obama for this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    since before the primaries were over, through his campaign website.  I really wanted him to address it on the campaign trail.

    It could have increased his win percentage in a state like Ohio, where there is a regional rail system drafted and ready to go (looking for federal support), by at least several percentage points.

    It would certainly make living in Pittsburgh, where I am now, a lot less of a nightmare.  Just wait and see, Kossacks... getting around this place is like trying to get around an MC Escher drawing. Stay in the city or very close to it.  Expect to take long bus rides if you're staying in any of the hotels to the west near the airport.  "Oh, there's the sign for the supermarket!  But where's the supermarket?  Oh, look straight up and behind you!  Now how do we get up there?"

    Bridge, tunnel, up a mountain, down a mountain, onto the freeway overpass, another bridge, and around a cloverleaf just to get to the other side of the divided freeway. It's like urban planning by Dr. Seuss.  There's a subway, but it's taking them a year and a half just to add a new stop just on the other side of the river to the north shore.  Anyone north, west, or south is high and dry.  I drive 30-40 minutes to get eight miles to the downtown area, then have to walk 20 minutes from the north shore to downtown to get to work.  It should be a ten minute ride.

    However, the closest I ever got to feeling like an Obama administration might push hard on this is when he picked Biden for his VP.

    -9.25; -8.56 Republicanism: "the worship of Jackals by Jackasses."

    by JAS1001 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:44:03 PM PST

  •  Freight moves most efficiently by rail (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Improving the rail infrastructure to carry freight using higher speeds, opens the possibility of time-sensitive freight going by rail. This has huge fuel savings, environmental, public health, and economic benefits at much lower cost and higher through-put productivity than building highways.

    RAIL Solution offers a regional example of how this vision would work.

  •  Air travel *is* mass transit (0+ / 0-)

    There's no ideological basis for preferring rail travel over air travel, except that air travel is currently privately-owned while progressives assume that rail travel will be publicly-owned.  It's not impossible for air travel to be a public utility, just as it's not impossible (by any means) for rail travel to be private, as it is in the UK.  

    Before we start talking about moving people from NY to LA by rail, we need a more complete discussion of why air travel is dysfunctional and whether there is a real intrinsic benefit to moving people one way vs. another.

    -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

    by Rich in PA on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:13:40 PM PST

    •  There is no ideological basis (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      there is a sustainability basis. When oil gets expensive, and it will again in the not too distant future, cheap air travel will become a thing of the past. Plus, as has been mentioned upthread, trains can be run on non-fossil fuel, non-internal combustion, electrified energy, while planes require fossil fuels and generate much more greenhouse gases per mile traveled. Efficient planes can overcome some of this, but not all of it. I am OK with some longer segments still serviced (trips greater than say, 700 miles) by air on a regular basis), however, air travel efficiency and time savings declines rapidly, plus planes don't have time to get up to speed. I'd just as soon see rail act as the main network for the <700 mile trips, and feeders for the transcontinental travel and coast to coast trips best for air travel. The short hop flights should be phased out.</p>

      As for government subsidy, up until Amtrak, the governments penalized rail, which was privately owned, and subsidized both airports and roads, which are built and maintained by government. Railroads had to build and maintain their own infrastructure, plus pay property taxes on it, which unfairly penalized rail and accelerated its decline relative to cars and air travel.

      "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

      by NoMoreLies on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:22:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What about trips of less than 700 miles... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that not so many people want to make?  That may well be the majority of such trips, outside of a couple of corridors.

        -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

        by Rich in PA on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 05:44:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Air travel has a number of disadvantages (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Especially for short hauls of less than 600 miles or so.

      1. Air travel uses far more energy than rail
      1.  Airports have to be located far from tall buildings and outside of city centers, due to noise and safety concerns. They create and require sprawl. Look at how far, for example, Denver's new airport is from Denver. To connect with air travel requires a network of shuttle buses and rental cars. Airports cannot be used for walkable transportation.
      1. Trains can run directly into urban cores, across the street from high rise commercial or residential buildings.
      1. Air travel is heavily subsidized by the government, and even so, airlines are teetering on bankruptcy.
      1. California's HSR program is seen as a public-private partnership.

      NY to LA probably won't be a high speed rail project any time soon, because that distance is better served by air due to time constraints. But that's OK. HSR between Los Angeles and San Francisco will free up a lot of airport capacity that can be used instead for the longer haul transport. The alternative in California is building at least two new airports and widening one or both N-S highway arteries, at a cost far higher than the HSR project.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:56:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If we're talking about sustainability... (0+ / 0-)

        ...then we need to get everything on the table.  And we're not, as far as trains are concerned.  You're talking about an awful lot of building--and say what you may about air travel, it doesn't need infrastructure between the airports.

        -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

        by Rich in PA on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 05:45:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Airports are very, very large (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          HSR has a much smaller footprint, even including all the rail.

          The price tag to modernize LAX alone is nearly $10 billion, and that doesn't expand capacity, which is capped by agreements with respect to noise and safety. Currently, the LA airport authority has opened a tiny terminal in Palmdale to try to expand some service away from the overcrowded LAX. They're paying on average $300 per passenger (on top of whatever fare the passenger pays) to operate it.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:54:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  plus planes can't carry all the freight (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and in many cases of medium distance, trains can be faster for passengers than planes.

    This is not an ideological issue. It is a issue of cost, practicality, time competition and future fuel availability. In most cases mentioned above, rail buries the air transport competition. Electrify the principal rail corridors and this mode of transportation can be shifted to renewable fuel sources.

  •  trains are why I love living in Japan (0+ / 0-)

    It is so convenient. I don't own a car, and I don't need to (pretty much every store has delivery available if you can't carry your purchases home on the train). The Shinkansen (Japan's bullet train, a little bit slower than the French counterpart IIRC but still turns a 12+ hour regular train journey from Osaka to Tokyo into a 2 1/2-hour day trip) is awesome, but pretty much anywhere you need to go you can get to by train here, unless it's REALLY countryside.

    But even more than city-to-city high speed travel, I think the local train system here is something to look at for the suburban US, if possible. At least where I lived (suburban, western PA) everything was so ridiculously far apart that if you didn't have a car, you were basically screwed. Even in small-town Japan, every town has a train station or two, some to take people in/out of nearby bigger cities, some just linking from one side of town to the other. If we could connect rural neighborhoods to areas where shopping centers, etc, were located it would be extremely convenient. Who knows, people might start WALKING again, if they could take a train into town instead of driving there.

  •  I found this map (0+ / 0-)

    It is on the Federal RR Admin Site

    Cronology of High Speed Rail Corridors

    It seems the regions have been designated.

  •  Question: How hard is it to detach railcars? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I wonder how hard it is, given enough trackspace, to attach and detach railcars to a train.  If it is relatively easy, then a second level of rail lines can spread out from the main line between cities.  For example, a line terminating in Orlando can split, with one set of trains headed to Fort Myers via St. Petersburg and the other to Miami.  

    Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

    by Yamaneko2 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:37:07 PM PST

    •  Amtrak already does that. (0+ / 0-)

      First of all you an add and subtract cars on a train in just a few minutes.  The main limit is set by how many engines you have up front pulling.  Freight trains can stretch for a half mile or more with up to six engines pulling the load.

      Without looking it it I can't remember the names, the Chief is one, but Amtrak starts two trains to CA out of Chicago as one unit then divides them to go the different destinations.  

      It used to go out as three trains.  One was the Desert Wind that ended up in Seattle but we lost it about 10 years ago. It was really cool to sit in the observation lounge car and watch the three engines way out front hauling us up the Rockies.  I think we split up in Salt Lake.  Each train got its own engine and off we went.  

      They also start one section of the Empire Builder from Portland (Our daily Chicago train)and another begins in Seattle.  They meet up around midnight in Spokane an continue to Chicago as one train.  Takes about 15 minutes to combine the two sets.   Probably other examples but I don't know those.  

      "Vote Your Hopes Not Your Fears."

      by YellerDog on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:28:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  regional grids conencted via (0+ / 0-)

    a few well-designed national lines can connect the whole country with hispeed rail.

    J Street: an organization for middle-east peace and security (Wiki)

    by NeuvoLiberal on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:43:57 PM PST

  •  Electric Trains (0+ / 0-)
    1. The entire national rail network needs to be electrified.  We keep talking about electric cars but nobody mentions rails which are very easy to electrify.  No fancy new technology needed.  You probably got one for Christmas at some point and the Acela Joe-Amtrak rides is electric.  Electric railways have been in operation for over a 100 years.

    Electric trains are more efficient, non polluting, and not dependent on foreign oil to operate.  A smart rail grid will also carry power from windmills and solar electric plants built in wastelands to the urban centers right along with the trains so you get a two-fer out of the deal.  Build a modern train grid instead of another expensive overhead grid that is subject to wind damage.  

    1. The idea that coast to coast rail can't be competitive depends on what they are competing against. If are really talking green then electric or fuel cell jet planes are pretty sci-fi.  Jets not only use even more fuel per passenger mile than cars they pollute the upper atmosphere.  Electric semi's seem to be a ways out there too.  
    1. All transportation is subsidized.  We have to get over that and subsidize passenger rail on par with roads, airports and ferries.  As hobbled as Amtrak is it is moving record number of passengers despite decades long attempts by Republicans to kill it.  Yes long haul requires more subsidy than commuter but it still serves a purpose.  Right now the big crunch is not enough sleepers and wouldn't you know, sleepers are the profitable part of the train.  Duh!
    1. I agree that we only have to work toward high speed rail.  What people want is dependable service.  Right now Amtrak's on time performance outside the east coast is not good but it totally out of their control.  Frankly the freight railroads just want them to go away.  They are already running at capacity in most places and routing the passenger trains on their tracks is just a costly nuisance to them.  

    Still if we release the funds and get the hell out of the way you'll see Amtrak take off like a jet plane.  

    We are also operating a regional network called Cascadia here in WA, OR, and BC.  We have 4 trains a day between Seattle and Portland and one between Seattle and Vancouver BC.  A second train is planned for BC hopefully next year and long range plans call for 8 trains to OR.  The existing trains are full.  Reservations are required.  They are so popular that you can't just go down to the station and hop on the train.

    Seattle's Sounder heavy rail commuter is also full and there are expansion plans both in lenght and frequency, our light rail will be up and running in 09 and we just passed a tax increase to expand light rail north and east from Seattle.  We are getting it together here in the NW and hoping for some rail funds in Barack's massive public works project.

    Finally trains are just cool.  If you've never done it, take your kids on a train ride just for the hell of it. When you see how comfortable the ride is you just might get hooked.    

    "Vote Your Hopes Not Your Fears."

    by YellerDog on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:12:14 PM PST

    •  Join NARP (0+ / 0-)

      I forgot.  Join NARP and your regional version.  NARP is the National Association of Railway Passengers.

      Amtrak would have been killed off years ago without the efforts of NARP.

      In the NW we have WASHARP which is a regional version of the same and is responsible for our Talgo-Cascadia trains.  Check out the links for lots of good infomation and sign up for their newsletters.

      "Vote Your Hopes Not Your Fears."

      by YellerDog on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:43:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes Yes. High speed rail (0+ / 0-)

    from Portland to Chicago could get me there in about 8 hours including time added for getting to the train and parking. Right now, if I go to Chicago, I get up at 4 in the morning to make a 7 am flight. The flight itself is four hours. Then, because the airport is not in the center of the city, add another hour to get somewhere. Total time door to door if the flight is on time (hahahaha), around 7 hours. The energy required for my presence on the train? Not even close to the carbon footprint from the flight.

    For PDX to SFO the comparison to flights is even better. Air travel in short corridors no longer makes sense. This is another initiative that could create thousands of jobs and generate a new economic impact similar to what occurs with highways, which might change the way that America travels and result in millions of new jobs in centers as opposed to places accessible only by automobile.

    820 Illinois-427 Senate Sponsored-152 Senate authored. Obama record on Bills. Palin record 0-0-0. Palin Lies-1 big one and counting.

    by marketgeek on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:30:49 PM PST

  •  Love the idea but not sure about the excecution (0+ / 0-)

    We have a huge-ass country. It's not impossible but at the same time, it requires a LOT of cooperation between people to make it come alive.

    Conservatives are close-minded, shallow, superficial people that live in a fantasy world where everything is black and white and there are NO shades of gray.

    by Brad007 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 11:37:53 PM PST

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