Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Pardon me boy, is that the Chatanooga maglev?

Georgia officials will be talking this idea to death next week. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“What we have in mind is a high speed rail that can provide competitive travel times between Atlanta and Chattanooga,” said Mohamed Arafa, communications director for the state Department of Transportation in northwest Georgia. “We are very early in the process so we are just thinking about it.”

He said the proposed 110-mile magnetic levitation system would run from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Chattanooga.

The meetings will be in Atlanta Tuesday, Rome Wednesday and Chattanooga Thursday.

Arafa said officials hope to determine the range of issues to be addressed — identifying the need for such a line, developing solutions and evaluating the potential impact of different solutions. “It is very preliminary,” he said.

Several questions spring to mind.

  • Why maglev technology? Isn’t this exceedingly expensive?
  •  The Atlanta terminal is the airport. Will that also be the situation in Chatanooga? (Not a disqualifier, just an honest question.)
  • Is the sole purpose of this project to provide airline connections?
  • If the answer is “yes,” why would the people of Georgia pay for a project which exclusively benefits airlines operating in interstate commerce? (Again, not a deal killer, just wondering.)
  • Would the airlines operate the trains as is the European model?
  • Has Geergia DOT considered fast conventional rail service?

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

One Response

  1. Speaking as a maglev proponent, I suggest some tentative answers to your list of good questions.
    • Maglev technology is safe, fast, clean transportation. It has environmental features that include low noise and vibration and all-electric power that make it a good long-term approach for the USA, where we do not have a good high-speed passenger rail infrastructure already in place.
    • Studies have shown that maglev is about as expensive in capital cost as true high-speed rail (as in Europe and Asia, travelling at 190 mph and higher) and can even be less expensive especially in more demanding terrain where maglev’s superior grade-climbing and turning allow it to navigate hills and turns more easily, with shorter lengths of tracks.
    • The Atlanta airport terminal is not the southernmost station; there may be more stops as commuter collectors to the south. That will be similar to the situation in Chattanooga, where a downtown connection at the existing commuter rail station is planned as well as one at Lovell Field.
    • The purpose of this project to provide connections to airports, yes, but will also include station stops in major cities and towns along the way for commuters and regular folks. Ridership studies will be done to pinpoint the likely riders.
    • Since the answer above is not “yes,” the people of Georgia are not paying for a project which exclusively benefits airlines operating in interstate commerce.
    • Whether the airlines would even operate these trains is an open question. The European model is a winner, though, and should be considered.
    • Georgia DOT considering fast conventional rail service as a main competitor to the maglev approach and will also look at Amtrak-class non-electrified trains, too.

    By the way, there is another study underway to look at the Chattanooga – Nashville connection using maglev technology that will look into these same sorts of elements going to the north. You have a link to the project already.

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September 2007


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