High-Speed Rail

Please Note.

Since high-speed rail has become simply a buzzword for improved rail service, as of now, I’m going to refer to anything that isn’t actually high-speed rail but which its proponents call high-speed rail as tin-hsr, in other words, this is not high-speed rail. Sorry.

11 replies on “Please Note.”

I am absolutely delighted you are taking this stance. It is critical that people clearly understand the difference between what moderate capital can bring, moderate improvement, and what significant capital can bring: A total and radical transformation of transportation options and the choices users make.

Cutting an hour or two from NYCto Buffalo is good, but making NYC to Buffalo 1.5 hours or Philly to Chicago 4.5 hours would be amazing. I think this nation should invest in the amazing not the marginally better.

I, too, think that is a good stance to take, because we are fooling ourselves — and misleading the public — by pretending that we’re building the TGV when we’re really not.

But do you see a problem with the term “higher-speed rail”? I can see that perhaps it, too, can be misleading, but I think it can be a decently accurate description of the kinds of rail links we’re talking about building in America. Then again, “HerSR” is not as easy to say as “tin-HSR”.

And I agree with the other commenter that NYC-Buffalo in 1.5 hours or Philadelphia-Chicago in 4.5 hours would be amazing. However, I was at a NARP membership meeting in Baltimore yesterday, and the organization’s vice president expressed NARP’s position of supporting incremental increase, which makes sense to me. After all, had France, Germany, Japan, and the other nations with true high-speed rail not been incrementally improving their systems over the decades since World War II, would they have been in a position to establish true HSR when they did? And since we’re catching up from a considerable distance behind, perhaps incremental is the way to go. Then again, I guess playing catch-up could also be a reason just to shoot for the real thing.

Point being, I can understand both angles, but I think I’m leaning toward incremental improvement myself.

But train services between 90mph and 125mph are HSR in the US … there’s legislation that says so.

And the class of rail between a conventional Interurban Express and a bullet train is a valuable service in its own right. Getting into sneering invidious comparisons, lumping it together with any and all “mere” improvements in frequency, quality of rolling stock, alignment, as “improved rail service” is an extension into rail of the destructive backbiting that seems to plague interactions between advocates of different modes of transport.

And the solution is simple. Call the class above regular rail and below bullet trains “Rapid Rail” and call bullet trains … wait for it, since I bet you will say this caught you by surprise … bullet trains.

How ’bout calling the current service, outside of the Northeast Corridor, it’s branches and a few other places – service so slow it would embarrass our great grand parents? Third world works but that is an insult to the third world.
I’m happy with calling improvements that get us back to what would have been possible in 1955 and what they were planning for 1965, rapid rail. And rapid rail is good enough for New York to Philadelphia. Or Oakland to Sacramento…. for now. Gets you there in less than an hour. Rapid rail between Buffalo and New York cuts the travel time down to the vicinity of four hours. . .

If you could make it from Buffalo to New York in 90 minutes, Buffalo to Chicago would take 2. It’s 535 rail miles from Chicago to Buffalo and 435 from Buffalo to New York. Albany to NY in 90 minutes would be an improvement. You are talking about 290 MPH average between NYC and Buffalo ( mileage from New York Central timetables of March 1956 ) Philadelphia to Chicago is 817, 4.5 is 180 MPH average. ( Pennsylvania timetables of March 1956 )

Full HSR should get you from city to city at an average speed of 270-300 km/h, including stops, in flat terrain. Applied to the Water Level Route, it’s 2:20-2:35 from Penn Station to Depew, and more than 5 hours from Penn Station to Union Station, Chicago.

to the blogger

sry i forgot ur name. kinda off topic but what’s ur thoughts on the recent support from Bloomberg, Arnold (can’t spell his last), and the other gov (forgot where he’s from, geez) and are u gonna do a blog about it?

I like the new acronym. We need to be clear with our language as to just how bad train service has gotten in this country, and the steps it will take to get it up to speed. In this vein I would suggest the priority for the administration is to achieve NOTROT – Now Our Trains Run On Time. The sooner they can resolve the priority problems Amtrak has running on private tracks, the sooner people will take Amtrak seriously again and the ridership will boom. I can’t think of a single person who I have talked to about riding Amtrak who didn’t have some story about sitting on a siding for 45 minutes while the freights rolled by.

The FRA’s 1997 document, “High Speed Ground Transportation for America” uses the term “Accelerail” for incremental improvements to existing routes for speeds up to around 125 mph. While I like the idea of calling a spade a spade, I think Accelerail is more descriptive and less inflammatory than “This Is Not HSR”.

I like tin-hsr, but as Kyle says, it’s a bit inflammatory. Perhaps we could refer to it as MSR — Medium-Speed Rail.

The acronym risks becoming a distraction, especially off-putting to new readers. Every time you use it, it will have to be as a link to this point.

Why not just put “HSR” in quotation marks to indicate that you are using the source agency’s language and explicitly not endorsing it?

Maybe I’m just a geek, but I’m super excited about ANY rail improvements and making ’em faster sounds good.

Besides, didn’t you agree that they over funded HSR in the stimulus package and underfunded tin-HSR? It’s a way to get the money where it needs to be….

But I want it all. I want good MSR and tin-HSR and comprehensive HSR.

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