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#1 Xi

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 02:08 PM

What do you think about it? Suppose it took 4 hours to travel from NY to Montreal via rail (that's on the high end of things, allowing for slower HSR and an hour at the border), would you travel by rail rather than flying? How about cross-continental journeys -- would it be worth it for you to spend 18 hours in a train from New York to LA rather than flying 3 hours + 4 hours in the airport (also consider that rail stations tend to be more centrally located than airports)?

Do you think high speed rail could ever be feasible economically in the United States? Do you think the government should invest in HSR infrastructure? Are there specific regions where it's more feasible, for example, between New York and Philadelphia, Boston, or DC?

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#2 TimeRebbe

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 04:19 PM

The Northeast Corridor already has high speed commuter rail, although im sure the entire track would benefit from upgrades. I don't think theres room in this country for Maglev; theres not enough demand and not enough potential usage to make it economically feasible for the government to build it (offering some tax credits for private investors, maybe - LA ==> San Fran ==> Los Vegas just might do the trick).

purchasing right-of-ways to lay new track is expensive; upgrading existing track and expanding it to accomodate High Speed Diesel/Electric service should do the trick. Still a boatload of money tho, IIRC Amtrak hasn't shown a profit since the 70's.
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#3 Kalashnikover_Rebbe

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 04:36 PM

4 hours is not "high speed" enough for it to be worth it for me.... Unless it was substantially cheaper, and nowadays rail is not much cheaper than flying, if at ALL....
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Posted 13 February 2011 - 04:40 PM

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#5 rvn2590

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 04:50 PM

What do you think about it? Suppose it took 4 hours to travel from NY to Montreal via rail (that's on the high end of things, allowing for slower HSR and an hour at the border), would you travel by rail rather than flying? How about cross-continental journeys -- would it be worth it for you to spend 18 hours in a train from New York to LA rather than flying 3 hours + 4 hours in the airport (also consider that rail stations tend to be more centrally located than airports)?

Do you think high speed rail could ever be feasible economically in the United States? Do you think the government should invest in HSR infrastructure? Are there specific regions where it's more feasible, for example, between New York and Philadelphia, Boston, or DC?

Opine™.


There are specific routes (i.e. Boston to D.C. corridor) where there is enough demand to make high speed rail viable. I would support government expenditure to invest in these routes. The problem is that the government wants to invest in less popular routes which have no realistic chance of being profitable/heavily used. Congressmen representing the less viable route areas do not want to fund projects that don't include their areas.
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#6 Xi

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 05:19 PM

4 hours is not "high speed" enough for it to be worth it for me.... Unless it was substantially cheaper, and nowadays rail is not much cheaper than flying, if at ALL....

Really? You'd be spending nearly that amount of time in the airport, going through security, weighing your bags and counting your carryons, etc.
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#7 Xi

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 05:28 PM

The Northeast Corridor already has high speed commuter rail, although im sure the entire track would benefit from upgrades. I don't think theres room in this country for Maglev; theres not enough demand and not enough potential usage to make it economically feasible for the government to build it (offering some tax credits for private investors, maybe - LA ==> San Fran ==> Los Vegas just might do the trick).

purchasing right-of-ways to lay new track is expensive; upgrading existing track and expanding it to accomodate High Speed Diesel/Electric service should do the trick. Still a boatload of money tho, IIRC Amtrak hasn't shown a profit since the 70's.

Acela is a start, but for most of the journey does not sustain the speeds necessary to be considered high speed by the DOT (nevermind European standards). And I agree, the right of way is expensive.

FTR, Acela has shown a profit, and the demand on those particular routes is huge (it's definitely not worth flying between DC and NY if training it takes under 3 hours). Imagine if it would take only 2 hours or less to do those routes -- I can't imagine anyone flying.

There are specific routes (i.e. Boston to D.C. corridor) where there is enough demand to make high speed rail viable. I would support government expenditure to invest in these routes. The problem is that the government wants to invest in less popular routes which have no realistic chance of being profitable/heavily used. Congressmen representing the less viable route areas do not want to fund projects that don't include their areas.

Would you support, in theory, government tax breaks and similar incentives for building high-speed rail in less profitable areas? Do you think transportation is at all part of government responsibilities, even when it would not be profitable for the private sector to build the infrastructure?
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#8 Kalashnikover_Rebbe

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 05:34 PM

Really? You'd be spending nearly that amount of time in the airport, going through security, weighing your bags and counting your carryons, etc.

I've never flown to Canada, but when I used to regularly take the Delta Shuttle to Boston it was very quick....

There are other factors as well, like where I would catch the train, how I would get there, baggage rules and requirements etc...
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#9 rvn2590

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:33 PM

Acela is a start, but for most of the journey does not sustain the speeds necessary to be considered high speed by the DOT (nevermind European standards). And I agree, the right of way is expensive.

FTR, Acela has shown a profit, and the demand on those particular routes is huge (it's definitely not worth flying between DC and NY if training it takes under 3 hours). Imagine if it would take only 2 hours or less to do those routes -- I can't imagine anyone flying.


Would you support, in theory, government tax breaks and similar incentives for building high-speed rail in less profitable areas? Do you think transportation is at all part of government responsibilities, even when it would not be profitable for the private sector to build the infrastructure?


Transportation infrastructure is a legitimate government responsibility. Since governments give a free ride to those in cars by subsidizing roads (except toll roads which are pay as you go), it is in theory legitimate to subsidize even non-profitable train lines. However, we have a serious budget deficit so we cannot afford a massive national system. We have limited money to spend so should target the areas where we get more bang for our buck. Also Amtrak has a mediocre track record in efficiency why throw good money after bad? Another point is that those who travel on Amtrak make more money on average than the average person a massive investment would be a subsidy of the rich which is problematic.
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#10 TimeRebbe

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:17 AM

there are few places in the country where any form of HSR would be economical. If you can take the acela all the way up to Toronto or Montreal, i'd bet it would get a lot more ridership than the regular amtrak. The entire NE Corridor needs some massive rail infrastructure improvement; double the speed of Acela and you'd double ridership along the whole line between Baltimore/DC and Boston. But you'd probably need to build a new track adjacent to the existing ROW, and once youre laying new track, doesn't it make more sense to make it compatible with as much traffic as economically feasible?

The ARC Tunnel had the potential to double the capacity at the already overcrowded Penn Station, except that it would have required building a whole new station underneath; there would be no track connection to grand central (you;d have to take the shuttle from 42nd st) and no track connection to the Amtrak line.
"10 a.m. - We begin our descent. On the way down, Chief of Landfills Thorne informs us that Mount Trashmore contains - I am not making this up - human body parts AND dead whales." -Dave Barry
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
"I guess the problem is that I think most people are idiots (granted, WELL MEANING idiots)" --KR

#11 starwolf

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:28 AM

Following 9/11, it takes about the same time (net) to take the fast train form Boston to NYC as it does to take the shuttle, if you factor in lines/waiting time in the airport etc.

In addition, you can get some work done on the train, as well as purchase a passable drink.

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doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, and the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.

#12 Bluelaptop

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 07:44 AM

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About a hundred years."

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#13 politico

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 10:10 AM

How about cross-continental journeys -- would it be worth it for you to spend 18 hours in a train from New York to LA rather than flying 3 hours + 4 hours in the airport (also consider that rail stations tend to be more centrally located than airports)?

not unless i'd be staying in LA for at least several weeks. the prospect of budgeting in two full days (one at each end) on travel for a weekend or even a week-long trip is not at all appealing.
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#14 Moshi

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 10:49 AM

Maybe as far as stimulating activity the primary benefit is to make it easier for people to commute to work -- or between offices -- from one market to another? E.g. unemployed people from Philly might be able to take a job in DC if they can get to DC in an hour by train. and vice versa.
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#15 TimeRebbe

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:33 PM

Where the cities are relatively close to each other, but just a little too far to make driving inconvienent, thats where it makes sense to add high speed commuter rail - while it might be fun to get to Chicago by train, its too far away to make sense. Adding high speed service from Chicago to Detroit and Milwaukee probably would make sense
"10 a.m. - We begin our descent. On the way down, Chief of Landfills Thorne informs us that Mount Trashmore contains - I am not making this up - human body parts AND dead whales." -Dave Barry
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
"I guess the problem is that I think most people are idiots (granted, WELL MEANING idiots)" --KR

#16 FYI

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

Trains are often more comfortable seating/resting wise, so it would probably definitely be an option. even now I've considered travel by train at times for the comfort, but it's just as expensive as flying usually, if not more.
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#17 Eliyahu

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 02:54 AM

I doubt if there is a bigger railfan on H.com, so I feel a bit qualified to comment on this.
This current "High-Speed Rail" scheme is unquestionably going to be one of the biggest money-wasters in our lifetimes! It is going to DESTROY freight capacity - they plan on sharing tracks between 30 MPH coal drags and 130 MPH passenger trains - and the routes chosen are asinine! Houston to Mobile, Alabama? Really? And, the government being the government, they're going to keep throwing money at it until Ray Charles could see it won't work.
Amtrak was designed from day 1 to fail, so it's always lost money. Between ICC regulation of the rail industry, forcing money-losing passenger and freight routes to be retained and regulating freight rates so low that Penn Central was created and bankrupted, and the 10% Federal Excise Tax on passenger travel, the railroads wanted OUT! Amtrak's common stock is entirely owned by the heirs of the railroads that participated starting in 1971, it is the preferred stock that is government owned, and the railroads have refused buy-outs several times.
If America is to have Passenger Rail, forget "High-Speed". Subsidize Amtrak on a realistic level, to allow better schedules outside the costly North-East Corridor. The Western trains are actually marginally profitable, but if I want to ride the Sunset Limited from Houston to Los Angeles it only goes 3 times a week (and in the middle of the night) while I can depart IAH probably 3 times per hour.
Cut out ALL the airline subsidies, they're probably received trillions over the past 60 years and always have their hand out for more.
Back in the late 80s, there was a plan called the "Texas Triangle" which was to link Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin/San Antonio. There was even a voter-approved referendum if I recall correctly.
What happened?
SouthWest Airlines happened. They sued the entire project into the ground to protect their intrastate revenue, at the expense of future generations.

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#18 Spiffy

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 07:21 AM

After Succos I took the train from Toronto to New York. It was a 13 hour trip on the train itself- but add the 45 minutes it took to get to the station (ok, we left from Aldershot b/c it's a much more pleasant drive than going downtown and a far easier station to navigate than Union) and the 30+ minutes it took to get from Grand Central to my IL's house, and it was probably closer to 15.

That being said- it was significantly cheaper than flying. Flying from Toronto to NY is crazy, crazy expensive (even on cheap airlines like Porter Air) for 3 tickets, and even Jet Blue which the closest airport is Buffalo gets very pricey. So it was just under $200 for myself and 3 children, and to fly would have been at least $500+.

Another thing about the train was the room. There was SO much space! Even an airline like Jet Blue, which is not the sardine can that El-Al is, can't hold a candle to the train. The leg room was fantastic. There were also outlets, so I could plug in the computer and use that as entertainment. The train itself is noisy, and even though it's a small, confined space, I didn't have the same need to police the volume of my kids that I do on a plane. (before the haranguing starts- no, I didn't let them yell or run around, but they didn't have to whisper, either). Also, the view out the windows is very enjoyable.

No hassle with weight restrictions on luggage, and despite the conductor's dire predictions when I boarded the train that customs was going to tear them apart, they did nothing of the sort. The one drawback to this particular route is the border. At least an 1 1/2 hour wait with the train stopped and the electricity off. It gets a little claustrophobic after a while. And you're technically not really allowed to bring food in, but the dining car is not quite an option for us, and I had to feed the kids something, so that part of the questioning was a little tense, but as I'm not a drug runner and was totally legal, we got through ok.

All in all, even though it was long, and exhausting, I would definitely go by train again, no question. Far less stressful than flying and a far more comfortable trip. Any type of train that could speed up the trip even more, I would totally be for. Although if train travel became more common, my guess is that security would be heightened which would be a massive pain. Security at the airports, if you're traveling by yourself with children- and even if you're not-, is a major source of stress (at least for me).
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#19 TimeRebbe

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 01:19 PM

When i went to montreal, i took the bus since i wanted to travel overnight, but next time i go, i"ll take the train - far more comfortable, and slightly cheaper (and longer)

And when my brother comes to visit from baltimore, he takes the Acela to penn station. it takes him about 3 hours total, as opposed to 5 by bus. And its more comfortable
"10 a.m. - We begin our descent. On the way down, Chief of Landfills Thorne informs us that Mount Trashmore contains - I am not making this up - human body parts AND dead whales." -Dave Barry
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
"I guess the problem is that I think most people are idiots (granted, WELL MEANING idiots)" --KR

#20 rvn2590

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 02:51 AM

Here is a link to an interesting article about liberals love for trains: http://www.newsweek....insolvency.html

George Will writes: " the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism."
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