Argentina has recently announced plans to construct the first true high-speed rail in the Americas. Although most developed countries, particularly in Asia and Europe, rely on high-speed trains to whisk people around, the U.S. is woefully behind the curve. Come this November, that may be longer be the case; California voters will decide whether a high-speed connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco merits passing a $10 billion bond measure.
Projected speeds are up to 220mph, with a downtown SF to downtown LA travel time of less than 2½ hours. The California High-Speed Rail Authority also hopes to extend lines to San Diego, Sacramento, and the Central Valley.
The staples of America’s travel landscape are cars and, for longer journeys, airplanes. We at Carectomy have spent quite a bit of ink (or perhaps pixels?) demonstrating the downside of cars. We’re not big fans of airplanes as a travel solution either.
Bullet train travel is much less stressful than air or car travel. In France, TGV trains depart frequently to various destinations around the country and the rest of Europe. There are no check-ins; passengers may arrive 5 seconds before the train departs if they wish. Weather delays are uncommon, except for snow, which reduced the travel speeds, but otherwise rain and fog will have no effect. Because of centrally located stations, rail travel is deemed faster than flying. Air France actually uses the TGV system for code-share.
Although the Northeast Corridor’s Acela Express touts its service as “high-speed,” and the trains are capable of speeds of 150mph, the layout and disrepair of the tracks and frequent road-crossings keep the speeds way down. In fact, the Boston to New York leg is only 30 minutes faster than the typical Amtrak route but costs about three times as much.
California has the opportunity to revolutionize travel along a highly-trafficked route. High-speed trains are fast, efficient, and a greener alternative to car or plane trips. In fact, the Rail Authroity is sponsoring a study (PDF link) on making the train line Zero-Emissions. Train travel is also allows passengers to stretch out and relax or set up shop, stay connected online or by cell phone, and get to work.
Thanks to carectomy-patient Brian Goldner for keeping after us about California’s upcoming High-Speed vote.
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