National Boards > General Highway Talk

Freeways killed the railroad star

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--- Quote ---More flexible, yes.  More efficient is arguable.
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Well, I'm from the Netherlands, a country with congestion like Los Angeles, and a rather large rail network for passenger use. However, 90% of the trips done by car still take twice the amount of time with public transportation... even in rushhour. The problem with rail (and/or buses) are that they just do not offer door-to-door transportation. You almost always need additional transport to reach your destination, which adds up in travel time. Combine that with the very large suburban areas of low density in American cities, and it's easy to understand why people do not travel by rail anymore...

It's really not just about the construction of freeways that killed the railroads, but consisted of various factors like spatial development and population density, travel times and distances, affordability, alternatives such as freeways or by plane, and financial problems, the cost per mile exponentially increase by passenger rail when more people use it, in the Netherlands, the annual investment in public transport is twice as high as the roads, yet it carries 10 times fewer mileage, hence a 20 times higher investment per travelled mile.

--- Quote ---And to drive the high speed rail point home, the acela is a very quick, comfortable, and popular alternative to driving and flying in the northeast. There definitely is a market for more high speed rail in the United States.
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I don't even think that Acela would actually be counted as "High Speed Rail". I thought HSR should have a general speed of 150 miles an hour or faster, Acela has like 110 mph, which is more like a fast intercity train than HSR. French TGV and German ICE generally operate at 170 to 190 miles an hour.

Wasn't there a law in the late 1800's that imposed restrictions on US rail companies because they too much power at the time? This law was all good and well when rail had the virtual monopoly on land transport but it starting strangling the rail companies when faced with stiff competition, first from cars and trucks, then from aviation. Because of these tough regulations the rail companies couldn't compete with road and air.

The construction of the US Highway system and paved roads started the end of the railroads.  A combination of the interstates and air travel finished them off.  However, if we could get high speed rail throughout the country, combined with the TSA it would kill air travel (cross-country and international flights would still be in demand, but there's no way the airlines could survive on that alone; there's too much competition in that industry now).  Has anyone seen the White House blog post on rail?

Well railroads aren't going to end, railroads are still much more efficient for freight than any other transportation (aside from boats). They can carry up to 2 km of cars at 130km/h here in Canada (with 3/4 locomotives) where trucks can only carry at most 2 cars at 110km/h.


--- Quote ---I don't even think that Acela would actually be counted as "High Speed Rail". I thought HSR should have a general speed of 150 miles an hour or faster, Acela has like 110 mph, which is more like a fast intercity train than HSR.
--- End quote ---

Amtrak calls it that because the Acela trains are capable of 150 mph or more.  However, only a few miles in Rhode Island is the train allowed to run that speed.  The Northeast Corridor runs on an alignment that was designed over 100 years ago.  Plus, freight trains and commuter trains also ply the rails of the corridor.  All true high speed corridors are passenger only.

IMHO I think that its amazing that Amtrak can get 100+ mph over such an infrastructure.  I read that several years ago, Amtrak had some officials from Japan's "Bullet Train" over here to ask for help on dispatching the corridor.  After looking at what runs on the Northeast Corridor, the Japanese couldn't figure out how Amtrak was doing it.  They thought that the mix of high-speed capable trains, commuter trains and freight was an impossible task!

I think that the market would be there for true high speed rail in the northeast.  However, getting a new right of way would be a tough proposition due to the high cost of construction plus rampant NIMBYism in the northeast.  A new Northeast Corridor would have to run through the same part of New Jersey that I-95 was supposed to go through and we all know how that turned out.


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