High-speed rail enthusiasts dream of national system

Feb. 20, 2013

By John Seiler

High-speed rail enthusiasts don’t just want it for California. They want the whole country covered by high-speed rail tracks. An alert CalWatchDog.com reader tipped me off to this from the Plan Your City Web site:

“You might have seen it on social media somewhere, but in case you haven’t heard of it, Berkeley-based artist and high-speed rail advocate Alfred Twu recently posted a map he created on the Guardian’s website (the map was originally featured on the California Rail Map google group, where additional resources on high-speed rail are listed). It’s drawn a lot of attention, from graphic designers and cartographers to transportation activists to politicians alike.

“It’s not just any map. His US High-Speed Rail map is a powerful, graphically rich statement of where US transportation policy should be heading (and if Twu has his way, at 220 mph). This map comes to us after he published a rail map of California last year….

“Twu is no stranger to high-speed rail advocacy. He’s worked on getting California’s high speed rail approved in the 2008 elections. Yet the map might be his biggest impact yet on the debate surrounding high-speed rail in the US.”

Here’s the map:

US high speed rail system

By my reckoning, a Los Angeles-to-New York City trip on such a system would take 24 hours. That’s assuming it goes 220 mph the full way. If it stops to pick up passengers, it would be longer.

Here’s another map of a proposed high-speed rail system:


Oh, wait. That’s United Airlines’ route map. Other airlines have similar maps.

And instead of taking a day or more to get from L.A. to NYC, it takes only 5 hours and 23 minutes. And costs just $318, nonstop.

The high-speed rail enthusiasts, including Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama, seem not to know that in 1903 Americans Orville and Wilbur Wright invented trains with wings. Nowadays, the flying trains hold hundreds of people and fly in excess of 500 mph.


And they’re safe. The last fatal crash of a commercial airline was four years ago.

By contrast:

* A June 2011 train crash in Reno, Nev. killed six.

* Also in June 2011, “NORTH BERWICK, Maine — An Amtrak train traveling at 70 mph smashed into a tractor-trailer Monday in a fiery collision that killed the truck driver, injured a half-dozen others and sent flames more than three stories high, a witness and officials said.”

* In June 2012 in Oklahoma, “Three crew members were killed when the Union Pacific trains slammed into each other Sunday morning just east of Goodwell, about 300 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.”

* In Aug. 2011 in Ellicott City, Md., “Days before they were due back at college, two friends on a midnight stroll across a train trestle in Ellicott City died in a freak accident in which a passing freight train derailed, dumping thousands tons of coal down from the raised tracks.” The girls were 19.

* In Nov. 2012 in Midland, Tex., four people were killed when a train slammed into a parade of veterans.

These were low-speed trains. High-speed rail would be going much faster, and cause much more damage.

This is a technology that is unsafe at any speed. Flying still is the safest, and cheapest, way to travel. Always will be.

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