Friday, November 25, 2011

Thinking outside the high-speed rail train box

Watch this video.

Please note here that this blog opposes high-speed rail in California, and in the United States, for the simple reason that its costs to build and operate far exceed any reasonable or justifiable cost-benefit ratio.  And the idea in this video from the UK, fetching as it may be, would make those costs even higher. 

Instead of train stations, this designer tells us, there would be secondary regional and urban rail systems making this passenger transfer possible, thereby keeping the HSR moving during such transfer at its higher speeds. Average speeds (which is what really matters) would be greater, and not building fancy train stations would be less costly. 

Never mind the forest of technological obstacles for two trains to run smoothly in total synchronization, inches apart.  (Think about going from one car to another on the same train, as we do now, and how jiggly that is, while the two cars are connected.)

The reason this appears on this blog is that we are looking admiringly at "thinking outside the box."  Even as a HSR opposer, I want to encourage such dramatically different considerations about transit.

Instead, the CHSRA is determined to build what Europe and Japan have had for over forty years, and buying their hardware off the shelves from those countries.  

How un-American is that?! It is, as Dwight MacDonald called it, "Against the American Grain."

Is this how the Obama Administration wants us to "Win the Future?"  With copy-cat shopping from the high-speed rail Malls of other countries?

The HSR from London to Paris, illustrated in this speculative video, carries 10 million annual passengers.  Let me repeat. Two of the most important cities in the world, Paris and London, have ten million passengers travelling between them annually. (The original forecast, before the building of the Chunnel, was twice that number.) 

London =  8.2 million; Paris = 8.9 million. SF = 900K; LA = 3.8 million

Now, shall we talk about passenger ridership between San Francisco and Los Angeles?  How many passengers would ride high-speed rail if we had it?  Of course, we have no English Channel separating our two cities, that accounting for more Euro-tunnel passengers than if it was easy to drive between them, as it is here.

One final, and philosophical point.  Our California train promoters identify a lot of the train's potential opportunities and therefore believe that we should ride this train, thereby abandoning other transit modes, like driving and flying.  They see this as a moral obligation. It's in our best interests, they tell us. 

Which is to say, they are not telling us how many people might want to do this, but how many people should do this; that is, ride the high-speed train.  Is this another example of the government, in its maternal role, telling us to do what's good for us, and charging us to make that happen? Is the high-speed rail authority our AUTHORITY?  Are they our stern father, shaking his finger at us, and telling us to get on that train, whether we want to or not?

If that reading is true, isn't it strange that all those rebellious kids who are such passionate high-speed rail supporters, also have such a strong aversion to the kind of authority represented by their parents?

No comments: