Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak, high speed rail, and political reality

In my own awkward halting way, I have attempted to bring my political knowledge to bear on the political situation in which transportation advocates exist. This is not an easy world.

I found an internet site, Moderate Voice, that fairly well, and comprehensively captures the essence of our sorry state of affairs. You aren’t going to like this. It made me very uncomfortable and I think I disagree with parts. Nonetheless, government in America does not respond to Americans.

Health Care Reform is “exhibit A” and is the general topic of the post I found so enlightening and encouraging. Stay with me. Here is what Marc Pascal had to say on medical costs and the massive paid opposition to any substantive change.

The wealthiest Americans and largest corporations control the business of this country. The U.S. has been, is, and will be an oligarchy or plutocracy (essentially the same), and our “meritocracy” simply exists to buttress this near complete control of the U.S. economic and political system. All members of Congress are so dependent upon campaign contributions for their continuing existences, that only those with enough money or the ability to raise significant amounts of money have access and effective control over the actions of Congress.

But now on to the good part.

For example, new spending on Amtrak, rail mass transit, and high speed rail has garnered broad bi-partisan support in Congress, simply because the wealthiest Americans and many large corporations now see a direct future benefit to their own bank accounts by way of ostensibly doing something good for the American public. (It also helps that the housing bubble and other investment options are pretty well discredited.) If they did not see these public investments ultimately benefitting themselves, they would not now be playing such a large role in the current and future budget plans of this Congress and this Administration.

This post is meant to focus advocates of various meritorious ideas geared to help the majority of Americans to take the realistic view that for those proposals to ultimately become enacted, they must principally get the approval of the wealthiest Americans, investors and businesses.

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

Former Nevada governors push Maglev

Republican Kenny Guinn and Democrat Bob Miller are backing a Maglev corridor between southern California and Las Vegas. Their opinions were published in the Las Vegas Sun and represent one of the clearest and most concise arguments in favor of the Maglev technology. Part is highlighted here, but you should read the whole thing.

Maglev is emissions-free, does not rely upon foreign or domestic oil and uses less energy and emits far fewer pollutants than traditional forms of ground or air transportation. This dramatically reduces CO2 emissions on the highways.

Instead of using wheels, maglev trains hover above the tracks — or guideways — levitated by magnetic force and propelled by electricity. There is no physical contact between the train and the guideway, which eliminates friction and enables high speeds with little to no noise. The base of the train wraps around the guideway and the train therefore cannot derail. Additionally, while the tracks of traditional trains require frequent maintenance and repair, the maglev train guideway, or track, is expected to be in service for 60 years or more with minimal maintenance.

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

DesertXpress high speed train ready for construction next year.

You already know this headline has a big “if.” The story runs in the Contra Costa Times reports developers will spend $4 billion in private investment for a Victorville to Las Vegas high speed rail link. This is not the Maglev proposal.

The preliminary environmental study is complete and the FRA needs to sign off. The business plan suggests a ticket price in the $50 range.

As planned, the DesertXpress line would allow Southern California passengers to board trains at a north Victorville train station and speed to Sin City as quickly as 150 mph. The line, which would generally follow the route of the 15 Freeway, would feature 183 to 200 miles of track, depending upon its ultimate alignment.

DesertXpress is still awaiting approval from the federal government. The firm has completed a draft environmental impact statement and Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Rob Kulat said the agency could make a decision in nine months.

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

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May 2009