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Image of the Day: As California Goes...
Sarah Kuck, 12 Nov 08


From Current TV:

The 800-mile network of trains would operate at upwards of 220mph and cost around $45 billion to construct, but it'll create 320,000 permanent jobs by 2030 and reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuel by 12.7 million barrels of oil per year.

On Nov. 4, California passed a plan to develop high-speed rail lines that, once constructed, will run from Sacramento and San Fransisco to San Diego. Seeing this I couldn't help but hope that the old adage about California is true ( As California goes, so goes the nation), especially at this time of year.

With the holiday season just around the corner, people are already beginning to talk travel -- and more specifically their frustrations with it. In North America, air travel is the mode of choice for many long distance travelers because it typically costs less time and money. Almost heartbreakingly ironic, is that train travel, although heavily romanticized and less environmentally harmful, is usually just as expensive and is hugely time consumptive in comparison.

This isn't the case everywhere:
Click the image to enlarge

And many Americans, spurred on by either gas prices, environmental concerns or just plain hatred of air travel, have been asking why.

In 1993 the Clinton Administration proposed a High Speed Rail Development Act, but a detailed U.S. Department of Transportation plan has yet to move out of its conceptual stages.

Here's what it looked like in 2001:


Many who wish to see high-speed rail happen across the United States are hoping that the Obama Administration will re-inspire the federal government to take up this challenge once again.

Image of California Rail Line and cutline: Current TV
Image of Europe and US Rail Lines: Wikipedia

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What is the economy that demands city center to city center transportation? A trader and transaction economy.

But there are history-shaking limits and alternatives appearing now. As if ye-olde ship captains carrying cargo or making deals in far off ports, our view of business transportation systems is being heavily challenged on many levels.

What will hi-speed rail contribute? Node to node and intermodal systems must be rethought in the near future, perhaps collapsing many years of effort to merely capture conduits and fund new technology.

Posted by: Brian Hayes on 12 Nov 08

How much infrastructure does an airship need?

I'm not thinking about dangerous(ish) hydrogen or pricey helium for bouyancy, either. I'm thinking a soft (0.1 atm) vacuum, which would provide the same amount of lift, and would be easily maintained by pumps.

Surely, in these days of kevlar and hexane, we have a lightweight, impermeable material that's strong enough to cope with a ~ 90kPa pressure difference!?

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 12 Nov 08

Even though the country is effectively broke, I hope we do manage to effectively invest in and build out a high speed rail network in the places that have been outlined (especially up here between PDX & SEA!)

It's gonna be a tough road, but I think the country can handle it (we just have to get through this financial mess somehow)

Posted by: Adron on 13 Nov 08

I'm Portuguese and I'm used to travel by train (600km weekly). Last summer I was traveling for a few months in the U.S. west coast and I was really surprised that, even if I was using amtrak, I usually ended up going by bus instead of train. ie: LA -> Santa Barbara, SB -> San Luis Obispo, SLO -> San Francisco. After this I did SF to Seattle by plane because I didn't feel like doing it by bus. I would have had preferred to do it by train but public transportation just sucks in the US. And it's not only the trains! In LA bus go every hour instead of the every 5-10 minutes I'm used to. Even the subway in LA goes by every half hour. What about using and improving the current infrastructure? That would be wise instead of just spending loads of money in high speed trains. Regular lines with minor modifications can have trains that go as fast as 230km/h. How much are you willing to spend to get those other 70km/h?

Posted by: Rui Ferreira on 13 Nov 08



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