Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Joe Vranich is still alive? (Who would have figured?)

The Arkansas Times blog directed me to this somewhat partisan article. Frankly, I can’t quite fiugre out what’s wrong with the New York Times. The Obama administration scored an important political breakthrough for better transportation by increasing Amtrak money and seeking to improve HSR.

Joe Vranich has been, from time to time, a proponent of good transport policy, but one wonders if he has not assumed the position of permanent curmudgeon. Joe, this is America. It’s all about politics and that means spreading mney around on a regional basis. He (conveniently) forgot to tell the NYT reporter that a national HSR system would cost trillions.

Of course, these days that does not seem to be much of a problem.

He also fails to note the environmental issues and a larger question as to whether HSR is even justified on some routes. (I am speaking in the true European sense of 200 mph. trains and I think Mr. Vranich is too.)

Finally, it’s not airlines versus trains. Each has an appropriate place in the mix. If there were good HSR service, airlines would concentrate on the routes they best handle and we could all live in peace and brotherly love! (Sorry.)

Anyway, here’s the story.

It may be the longest train delay in history: more than 40 years after the first bullet trains zipped through Japan, the United States still lacks true high-speed rail. And despite the record $8 billion investment in high-speed rail added at the last minute to the new economic stimulus package, that may not change any time soon.

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That money will not be enough to pay for a single bullet train, transportation experts say. And by the time the $8 billion gets divided among the 11 regions across the country that the government has designated as high-speed rail corridors, they say, it is unlikely to do much beyond paying for long-delayed improvements to passenger lines, and making a modest investment in California’s plan for a true bullet train.

In the short term, the money — inserted at the 11th hour by the White House — could put people to work improving tracks, crossings and signal systems.

That could help more trains reach speeds of 90 to 110 miles per hour, which is much faster than they currently go. It is much slower, however, than high-speed trains elsewhere, like the 180 m.p.h. of the newest Japanese bullet train. (The Acela trains on the East Coast are capable of 150 m.p.h., but average around half that.)

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

One Response

  1. Bill says:

    Joe Vranich long ago lost all credibility with people who are actually involved in passenger rail transportation. His only claim to fame is a willingness to spew a predictably virulent and increasingly tiresome strain of misinformation whenever someone in the media pulls his chain.

    The Vranich brand of support for passenger rail service might be compared to a prostitute’s promotion of sex education – done only to the extent that it advances a separate, self-serving personal agenda.

    Joe is well aware that promoting a high speed rail line solely in the northeast is a recipe for political defeat. His unyielding opposition to any level of rail operation at less than TGV speeds assures that the high initial cost of such a system will inhibit construction for years. In a worst case scenario, Joe’s all-or-nothing position on passenger rail could result in no high speed rail in the USA, simply because Joe is unwilling for HSR development to take place in a logical, incremental fashion, building upon existing services across the nation.

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February 2009


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