In re: Passenger trains in Columbus

“State leaders are determined to connect Ohio’s three largest cities by passenger rail as early as next year, an idea that Gov. Ted Strickland endorsed in his State of the State address Wednesday.

The so-called 3-C corridor was abandoned in 1971, a consequence of falling ridership and the breakdown of the national rail network. Columbus, which lost all passenger rail service in 1979, now is the second-largest city in the country without rail service. (Phoenix is first, although light rail reaches a suburb.)

“Our goal is to link Ohio’s three largest cities by passenger rail for the first time in 40 years,” Strickland said during his State of the State speech. “This will be the first step toward a rail system that links neighborhoods within a city, and cities within our state.””

via DispatchPolitics : Passenger trains could roll next year Columbus Dispatch Politics.


I won’t go through my rail rant again, but I am excite about the fact Governor Strickland is pushing the 3C project and wanting to get the major cities of Ohio connected by rail, the fact that there is no rail connection for passengers is astounding, considering the distances (i.e. a few hour trip).

Now I know they aren’t talking high speed, just getting anything going is a good start, but people gotta start thinking about the possibilities of high speed rail, imagine an hour trip to Columbus from Cleveland via a high speed rail, suddenly an Ohio state game, even an evening basketball game is a no brainer, and suddenly some of Cleveland and Cincinnati’s atractions can be day or even evening trips.  

For people who think its a garbage idea I’d ask them to check out good rail service in other countries.  Riding trains that run well is a pleasure travel loses a lot of its hassle as you can jump on and read a book, walk about when needed.  I said I wouldn’t rant, so I’ll stop now, but hopefully we are seeing the beginning of rail coming back in Ohio and beyond.


In re: Chicken or the egg – either way Columbus transport sucks

Columbus Ohio may be good at creating chain restaurants and the insurance business, but it is not good at public transport.  Of course with cheap gas flowing through its veins Columbus has sprawled and built countless highways and no one seemed to care – until now that is.  Now that gas is riding up towards $4 people are thinking that they might want to take the bus in, instead of drive the 15-20 miles they have between their homes and work, but no dice as apparently some of the routes from park and ride stations only run at the strangest times in around 7 o’clock and back around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, meaning no one with a full time job can use it (apparently this is due to a union contract, or so someone who has complained to Cota has said).  The problem is of course how is there going to be a whole schedule of buses waiting to take these people when no one was riding it in the first place, clearly running empty buses as people were content to drive themselves was not going to be viable and one cannot expect all of a sudden there to be routes that fit these peoples schedules when they never put fare money into the system.

This all comes back to why I want high gas prices in the first place (via a tax) that sends the message to people the true cost of their automobile usage and helps funnel that money back into more efficient mass transport.  I for one am behind the idea of street cars in Columbus and in general creating a much better transport network for central Ohio, but we cannot expect it to just be there when we have refused to use and fund it for so many years.

See also Christian Science Monitor article on getting better gas mileage

In re: Rail Speed Record Set at 357.2 mph

Surprisingly this didn’t happen on an Amtrak line, instead in France where a train was modified in order to reach this astounding speed, only as a demonstration.  Japan had earlier beat this record by a few MPH using magnetically levitated trains, but this was the fastest a conventional train has been and close to apparently the practical speeds.

“For its mission to break the speed record, the train was modified with a 25,000-horsepower engine, and adjustments also were made to the track, notably the banking on turns. The rails were treated so the wheels could make perfect contact, and electrical power in the overhead cable was increased from 25,000 volts to 31,000 volts.

The V150 was equipped with larger wheels than the normal French TGV — or ”train a grande vitesse” — to cover more ground with each rotation, said Alain Cuccaroni, in charge of the technical aspects of testing. French TGVs normally cruise at about 185 mph.

But this was more than a stunt. The demonstration was meant to showcase technology that France wants to sell to multibillion-dollar overseas markets such as China.” (See article at NYTimes)

Even a mere 200mph or 300 mph is pretty amazing, as here in the US where many folks would never consider using rail travel due to the large distances, would suddenly realize that they could cover distances in high speed rail in greater convenience, comfort and speed then cars or air for many destinations.  Hopefully our country as I’ve long harped on will start devoting a bit of the resources we do to highways to highspeed passenger rail, my hope is to have a Cleveland to Columbus trip in 1 hour, which is extremely doable, but is probably unlikely to happen anytime soon, and Cleveland to New York, well at least this week you can now can the train during normal hours, with Amtrak making the strange move of moving the time the train to New York passes Cleveland to 7 am, from the previous 2am.

In re: Automobile myths – debunked – debunked…

The Washington Post had an article with five ‘myths’ about suburban expansion, the paving of of America and car travel , namely…

  1. Americans are addicted to driving;
  2. Public transit can reduce traffic congestion;
  3. We can cut air pollution only if we stop driving;
  4. We’re paving over America;
  5. We can’t deal with global warming unless we stop driving.

The article sets to debunk these, but unfortunately the article is pretty stupid in its arguments.  The comments on the Volokh Conspiracy blog concerning this article are pretty interesting, although repetitive.

In re: Big talk

Here we are in the biggest struggle of our lives and we are funding both sides — the U.S. military with our tax dollars and the radical Islamists and the governments and charities that support them with our gasoline purchases — and you won’t lift a finger to change that. Why? Because it might impose pain on the oil companies and auto lobbies that fund the G.O.P., or require some sacrifice by Americans. (Thomas Friedman “Big Talk, Little Will” NY Times [subscription req’d])

In this editorial I thought Friedman hit on one of the issues that bothers me with the current Middle East strategy, kinda like the Guns & Butter, we want to fix Iraq, but without using Powell’s ‘overwhelming force’ and troop numbers, we want to fight the Islamic terror, but continue to allow ourselves to remain energy dependant in such a way that we fund it. 

While radical changes in energy will be painful, spending massively on new technologies and energies, mass transportation (trains?) and the like instead of rebuilding Iraq would possibly have put us in a position where we would have been less likely to be experiencing what we are.

In re: Highspeed rail? Not for Americans

I've mentioned several times before how much I like traveling by trains for so many reasons (this being by trains in places that have trains, such as much of Europe)  We on the other hand have no such trains, or at least the closest we've come to a highspeed train in a high traffic corridor was the Acela, which posted fairly reasonable times such as between Washington, D.C. and New York's Penn Station, the transit time is 2 hours 48 minutes, an average speed of 89 mph (143 km/h).  A trip from Boston to D.C. only averages 68 mph, no better than what you can do in a car (of course you have the benefit of not having to drive, but still).  To compare these speeds to the rest of the world is pretty sad, "Eurostar trains run on the hour, speeding London passengers at up to 186 mph to Paris in about two and a half hours, for about $266 round trip. Trains between Barcelona and Madrid soon will reach 210 mph."  

Part of the problem was the design of the train, for which we demanded a brand new design which came in too big and heavy to work properly (the brake problem came from this).  It is understandable that we want safety, but already train travel is much much safer then cars, so it is a bit confusing why we demanded such a high standard (it would like insisting all cars be made 1000 pounds heavier to gain incremental gains in safety).  

So how would a fast train work in America, well the trip from NY to DC would turn from the hassle of the airport into a pleasant (depending on how much you like or dislike such a trip or what you have waiting for you at the other city) hour and a half train ride, which gets you into the center of the city, rather then out in queens or at dulles.  

I've tried to express this to people before and lots of them are interested but then they bring up the costs, oh yes the costs.  Aren't trains expensive?  The market won't bear them out, we don't want to subsidize transport.  Hmm, do we not? We have no problem subsidizing other means of transportation, such as the highways and the airports.  Oh those are different…are they?  I guess I am unclear on how spending $119 billion on air travel is that different, it is similarly a subsidy (the costs of your airline tickets, don't pay the costs to build and maintain the airports completely)  So the last thing I'll mention (because I do need to get back to studying) is the argument, we already spend money on trains and they haven't worked.  Well a lot of people don't realize how little we spend, "Over the 20-year period from 1978 to 1999, federal spending on rail travel totaled $18.3 billion" 
(quotes come from "Why don't we have high speed trains in U.S.") 

In re: All Aboard Ohio

So I’ve have mentioned time to time (especially when I was in Europe likely) about my love of train travel, in that you can catch the train in the downtown instead of treking to a far-away airport (2 hours ahead of course) wait for security and the rest of the headache. Trains, are simple, you go and get on and end up in your destinations center, you can see the landscape. There are plenty of reasons to like trains, but apparently not here in America. After experiencing European train travel a while back I began to wonder why in the US we don’t have better trains. In fact in Columbus, they no longer have passenger rail service and in Cleveland the only trains come through at 1am and take a slow route to Chicago that doesn’t beat driving.
So what to do? Is it hopelss? When I’ve asked people why not here, they usually say that the US is bigger then the European or Asian examples of highspeed rail. This may be true for stretches of the center, but what about on the East-Coast and the Midwest, not to mention the Westcoast where a train would make perfect sense.

Well thankfully some people haven’t given up, one group All Aboard Ohio has been working to advance forward the rail plan called the Ohio Hub plan (executive summary in pdf), that works to link together a train network and other means of transport. The plan is really promising. I’d hope that if you live in Ohio you’d give the plan a look and then email your state senator to support it (only about 10 so far have) and to do so before friday and ask him or her to co-sponsor Senator Schuring’s Resolution on Ohio Passenger Rail Development.

I’ve often thought how great it would be to take the train to Cleveland if Iwas just going up for a weekend, as I could read or do work, instead of driving up. You might counter this with the Greyhound service that already exists, but I for one don’t find this really an adequate solution, as part of the appeal of the train is the potential for travel at 110mph as the proposal sets out.