Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thoughts on High Speed Rail

For me, the attraction of "high speed rail" lies in the vision of sleek, aerodynamic trains gliding silently into the heart of a major city center. Passengers race across a gleaming platform, hop aboard, and are whisked away directly to the next big city center. It's an enticing vision, to be sure. The reality, I fear, will be far less attractive.

The trains will be sleek, I am sure, but they are more likely to lumber into town across the same grimy route Amtrak follows. Stations are unlikely to be the grand, bright, airy uplifting variety we see in Europe; more likely they will be the same dark, cramped urban stations Amtrak uses today. And does anybody think such a system will operate without the Transportation Security Administration's involvement? Passengers won't be racing anywhere, they will be shuffling along in interminable lines, shoes in hand, waiting for patdowns and xrays. It will be no different from air travel.

And honestly, if the train is ultimately no different from the plane, why not just fly?


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