US High Speed Rail

This beautiful, hypothetical American High Speed Rail map is the work of Alfred Twu, an artist who worked on California's High Speed Rail campaign.  He writes about the map, and the popular response it generated, at the Guardian:

While trains still live large in the popular imagination, decades of limited service have left some blind spots in the collective consciousness. I'll address few here:

Myth: High speed rail is just for big city people. Fact: Unlike airplanes or buses which must make detours to drop off passengers at intermediate points, trains glide into and out of stations with little delay, pausing for under a minute to unload passengers from multiple doors. Trains can, have, and continue to effectively serve small towns and suburbs, whereas bus service increasingly bypasses them.

I do hear the complaint: "But it doesn't stop in my town!" In the words of one commenter, "the train doesn't need to stop on your front porch." Local transit, rental cars, taxis, biking, and walking provide access to and from stations.

Myth: High speed rail is only useful for short distances. Fact: Express trains that skip stops allow lines to serve many intermediate cities while still providing some fast end-to-end service. Overnight sleepers with lie-flat beds where one boards around dinner and arrives after breakfast have been successful in the US before and are in use on China's newest 2,300km high speed line.

There are few things I want more for the United States in the short-term future than a high-speed rail system.  I'm glad this has sparked even more conversation -- I hope the majority of the country comes around soon.

California's new rail project

Los Angeles and San Francisco are, thanks to a bill passed today in California's legislature, getting a high-speed rail line.  From the AP article:

"No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement applauding the legislative vote. "With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative."

Governor Jerry Brown hasn't yet signed the bill, but he lobbied in support of the bill, so it's unlikely he'll veto it.

The first stretch of the track scheduled to go down is going between Madera and Bakersfield.  And since I have no idea where those places are, I assume my readers don't, either.  Here's a reference picture:

So, it looks like it covers about a third of the total distance the rail will, ultimately, service.

The decision was not without its critics:

Republicans blasted the Senate decision, citing the state's ongoing budget problems.

"It's unfortunate that the majority would rather spend billions of dollars that we don't have for a train to nowhere than keep schools open and harmless from budget cuts," Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said in a statement.

Budget cuts which I doubt Democrats are pushing through -- and what does it say about Sen. Tom Harman's sense of his state that he feels that Los Angeles and San Francisco both qualify, as destinations, as "nowhere"?

This is exactly the kind of project our country needs.  The AP article unfortunately does not make any statements about the intended speed of the train, but if it's much like the ones in Japan, China, Taiwan or Germany, the max speed of 300 mph, passing through Bakersfield and Medira, puts the 400 mile trip at less than an hour and a half.  It's a seven hour drive, and I don't care how fast a plane is -- it takes longer than two hours to get on and off one.

Apart from that, high speed rail is less gas-heavy than airplanes, and has a lot of potential to run on clean energy. I am in favor of everything about this project.

Now we just need rails across the country and up and down the east coast.  Then put in vertical farms, and we can let the rest of the country drift back to wilderness.

Vacuum Travel. Eff. Yeah.

I'm glad I started following SourceFed on YouTube.  In one of today's videos, they explore the proposal and possibility of Pneumatic tubes to build super-fast trains connecting distant locations.  Like, NY to LA in 45 min. The trains would travel at over 4000 mph, and would be an awesome alternative to plane travel.  I mean, imagine building an above-ground vactrain, and putting solar panels along the top of the tube all the way across to power it.

I want this to happen.  I want this to happen to the point that I would consider voting for Romney if a promise to build this within four years was part of his stated policy.  (And congress explicitly had his back.)