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Old 04-02-2012, 07:04 AM   #1
Voodoo
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Unites States - Intercity Rail (Amtrak)

The discussion as been brewing in the Republican Presidential thread about the possibilities of improvement of Amtrak beyond what it is today. Our current situation is that the publicly owned Amtrak runs passenger lines on a lot less track then USA passenger rails used to run on many decades ago. Ridership is up but so is the cost of operations. Amtrak must pay for every mile of track it runs its trains on to private track owners; namely CSX.

It is my opinion that Amtrak could be improved but it would take a considerable effort to overcome the following obstacles: None of the track the trains run on are publicly owned; Nearly all of the trains use diesel engines; It takes great effort for Amtrak to run on time due to the rails being shared by freight trains.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:49 AM   #2
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The current system needs a lot of work, but high-speed passenger rail connecting major cities across the U.S. would be a great improvement to our infrastructure. As fuel costs increase the cost of driving or flying to another city is going to continue to go up. The U.S. is a large country, and connecting every dinky town with passenger rail would be silly, but I see no reason not to build high-speed rail between major populous centers such as Minneapolis to Chicago (and on to Ohio and Michigan), San Francisco to L.A., many parts of Florida, etc.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:50 AM   #3
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*Atlas Shrugged reference*

Glad we have that out of the way. What America needs is to first develop a better mass transit infrastructure within the larger metropolitan areas. Inter-city distances are so large, that no train can ever be feasible.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:26 AM   #4
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*Atlas Shrugged reference*

Glad we have that out of the way. What America needs is to first develop a better mass transit infrastructure within the larger metropolitan areas. Inter-city distances are so large, that no train can ever be feasible.
I think it would highly depend on the speeds the train would be allowed to travel by and the area. For instance, Oklahoma City to Dallas, Texas to Houston, to San Antonio is about 4 hours each leg. If that could be reduced to 2 hours (say, for instance, HSR (High Speed Rails), that'd be a viable alternative to planes for business travel.

Or, take the "greater NY metropolis" area of Boston, NYC, Philly, DC, Baltimore. You can practically take trains NOW from one end of that leg to the other, and it's definitely a better alternative to aircraft and car commute. Heck, at less than 5 hours away, you could include Pittsburgh in there and give them a bump. Richmond VA is less than 3 hours from DC, and Davidson NC is less than 5 hours from there. So just like the Texas/OK scenario, if you could get some HSRs in there, that'd work well.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:39 AM   #5
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Glad we have that out of the way. What America needs is to first develop a better mass transit infrastructure within the larger metropolitan areas. Inter-city distances are so large, that no train can ever be feasible.
Cities are working on intracity infrastructures now. I'd like to focus on intercity though. The distances aren't so large to make trains unfeasible as it is currently being done. I don't follow what you are talking about.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:51 AM   #6
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Pff, just go maglev.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:02 AM   #7
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This would be great. I hate flying (not flying itself, but all the hoops you have to jump through to do it anymore). It would be great to have a viable alternative and get some different competition going.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:13 AM   #8
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Expect the same hoops to show up at train stations once TSA gets their grubby paws into it.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:50 AM   #9
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Pff, just go maglev.
German Rail is well on their way to MagLev.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:50 AM   #10
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Expect the same hoops to show up at train stations once TSA gets their grubby paws into it.
What was most interesting about my trip to Germany in March was the difference in entering USA versus entering Germany/EU. Pretty eye opening... Security Theater? Absofuckinglutely.
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Old 04-02-2012, 12:13 PM   #11
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What was most interesting about my trip to Germany in March was the difference in entering USA versus entering Germany/EU. Pretty eye opening... Security Theater? Absofuckinglutely.
Well I can safely state that I've been through more security in Europe than the US. The TSA put me through a metal detector, UKBA added in bomb and drug sniffers. Either I'm the most trustworthy looking guy in the world or the weakest.

There's a few serious hurdles to tackle for intercity US high speed rail, distance being the least of them. Maglev really isn't feasible in the large scale unless you want to fry every electronic/magnetically sensitive device a passenger carries and conventional high speed rail is extremely limited in speed due to its ability to tear the rail lines apart. There's also the cost, it's been budgeted in the past at around $100 million per mile. That's a tall order for a country that would rather see that kind of money sunk into maintaining the road infrastructure.
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Old 04-02-2012, 12:36 PM   #12
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Well I can safely state that I've been through more security in Europe than the US. The TSA put me through a metal detector, UKBA added in bomb and drug sniffers. Either I'm the most trustworthy looking guy in the world or the weakest.
Wow... I went through nothing besides the initial screening at the Orlando airport on my way to the plane. Once I arrived in Germany I was asked 3 questions. On the way back, I got the same screening as when I left BUT I also received another similar screening once I arrived back at the Orlando airport.

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There's a few serious hurdles to tackle for intercity US high speed rail, distance being the least of them. Maglev really isn't feasible in the large scale unless you want to fry every electronic/magnetically sensitive device a passenger carries and conventional high speed rail is extremely limited in speed due to its ability to tear the rail lines apart. There's also the cost, it's been budgeted in the past at around $100 million per mile. That's a tall order for a country that would rather see that kind of money sunk into maintaining the road infrastructure.
MagLev has some huge hurdles. I see you said that the country would rather sink that money into road infrastructure. I don't see this as an either/or situation. As much cash as the Federal Gov't here wastes on maintaining failed companies, providing golden parachutes and more or less wasting away millions on pet project... Gah... It is enough bullshit to make J Arcane batshit insane.
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:02 PM   #13
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Cities are working on intracity infrastructures now. I'd like to focus on intercity though. The distances aren't so large to make trains unfeasible as it is currently being done. I don't follow what you are talking about.
It would take years, if not decades, for a Metro like LA, or even Houston, to have a functional infrastructure. These cities were built around the automobile as you guys say, so I don't think it would be that easy!
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:33 PM   #14
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It would take years, if not decades, for a Metro like LA, or even Houston, to have a functional infrastructure. These cities were built around the automobile as you guys say, so I don't think it would be that easy!
You keep coming in talking about city public transport. This is a discussion about Amtrak and what can be done about that dinosaur.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:56 PM   #15
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Wow... I went through nothing besides the initial screening at the Orlando airport on my way to the plane. Once I arrived in Germany I was asked 3 questions. On the way back, I got the same screening as when I left BUT I also received another similar screening once I arrived back at the Orlando airport.
I like to think my Scottish accent confused the TSA enough that they waved me through.

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MagLev has some huge hurdles. I see you said that the country would rather sink that money into road infrastructure. I don't see this as an either/or situation. As much cash as the Federal Gov't here wastes on maintaining failed companies, providing golden parachutes and more or less wasting away millions on pet project... Gah... It is enough bullshit to make J Arcane batshit insane.
Here's the thing, which powerful corporation or group is willing to lobby in favour of the technology? Widespread maglev tech would result in the US having less need for oil (think about it, Seattle to Portland to Oakland or Dallas to Houston fairly quickly and without a car) and that will never sit well with the people in power (or the guys who fund it)
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:54 PM   #16
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You keep coming in talking about city public transport. This is a discussion about Amtrak and what can be done about that dinosaur.
I believe the point is you need good intercity transit before intracity transit becomes useful.

Indianapolis for example is the 12th largest city in the country and has almost no public transit to speak of. The taxi system even sucks. Assuming a train from Chicago can get you outside or even decently inside the city, your only choice of transit is taxi because the city was designed around driving to your locations.
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Old 04-02-2012, 05:21 PM   #17
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I believe the point is you need good intercity transit before intracity transit becomes useful.
Hmm... Agreed.
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Old 04-02-2012, 05:45 PM   #18
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I should take a train somewhere. A friend of mine rode the rails to San Antonio to visit his family. Said it was surprisingly enjoyable.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:21 PM   #19
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This would be great. I hate flying (not flying itself, but all the hoops you have to jump through to do it anymore). It would be great to have a viable alternative and get some different competition going.
Being able to travel longer distances with my toiletries would be really nice, you hear that TSA? I usually end up checking a bag when I fly, even though a lot of airlines charge for even a single checked bag now. Honestly flying is such a hassle, from the cost and all of the fees, to being crammed in a sardine can with other human beings several thousand feet up in the air. I've had a few flights that weren't bad, but I've had some that were pretty awful.
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:58 PM   #20
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I should take a train somewhere. A friend of mine rode the rails to San Antonio to visit his family. Said it was surprisingly enjoyable.
Train is a really good option for single person travel.

Past that, and you start to realize how the cost of gas gets split among all the passengers in a car.
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