Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Japan’s newest high-speed venture: a cultural disconnect?

I finally got back from the UK on Sunday. Between the cold, the jet lag, and the start of a new term at school, I haven’t made any posts in the past few days, but now I’m ready to jump back into the fray.

The Los Angeles Times and Wired’s Autopia blog have stories about new Japanese plans to build maglev tracks that are faster than the country’s famous 186 mph Shinkansen bullet trains. Attempting to explain why a country with an already near-flawless HSR system would go to the trouble of such an expensive new project, the LATimes points out that building fast efficient trains is something Japan prides itself on, a mark of achievement.

It seems that in America, we focus our pride on our own private possessions. We spend hours polishing our new cars, but couldn’t care less how the local mass transit system looks. The projects we do take pride in seem to, paradoxically enough, be the things that we use the least. The Empire State Building is an office building, it’s a private space, something even a New Yorker would only go inside as a novelty.Us provincials may only see it on postcards.

So why is it so hard for politicians to support transportation improvements that will directly affect their constituents? We don’t need superstar trains to write patriotic songs about, but we should at least be aiming to provide the sort of humble civic satisfaction that comes from a convenient, timely, and comfortable train trip.


Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Washington State rail ho-hum

A reader dropped me this line.

They loosened slightly on East Link light-rail but rejected the move to restore funding for capital rail projects to near levels of what the Governor wanted.

And her’s the link.

It was a seriously heated debate. A few senators seem to understand the importance of intercity rail and trying to press the issue hard.

If you haven’t heard, the 2nd train has been approved to Vancouver BC, but only for the Olympics and the legislature has added a note to study a 3rd SEA-VAC train by 2010. Post on Seattle Transit Blog will be up tomorrow morning.

Finally, since the State of Washington  blocked funding for the Point Defiance Bypass, which would have rerouted Amtrak and reduced travel times. It also prevents Sounder Commuter Rail from extending to Lakewood from Freighthouse Square.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Texas rail passenger progress

Progressive Railroading has word ot Texas developments, which are highlighted here.

Legislative efforts to pump state dollars into the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund cleared their first hurdle on March 30. A Texas Senate committee passed a bill and sent the measure to the full Senate.

The bill would tap into existing transportation-related fees to allocate about $90 million annually toward the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund. The funds would leverage bonding authority to help finance freight- and passenger-rail projects in the state.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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April 2009