Thursday, July 23, 2009

shinkin' like an american

by 2015 there will be three new high speed train lines in the united states. one will run from boston, through new york and philly, all the way to d.c. another will run from san fransisco through sacramento to l.a. and the third? chicago will have three loius, detroit, and minneapolis. is this a surprise to you? it was to me. i'd heard that this was being talked about, but i didn't know it was actually being done. the line from minneapolis to chicago looks to be running through my hometown, so maybe going to chicago will be a more common occurrence. but maybe not...depends on what outrageous fee they decide to charge. by 2025 they'll have connected d.c. with atlanta, miami with orlando, seattle with portland, l.a. with vegas and phoenix, and dallas with houston. and there are more plans after that. too many to detail here.

technically there already is a high speed train running from boston to d.c. it's called the acela. ever heard of it? it runs at up to 150mph, which is measly compared to china's 267mph trains. a plane goes about 500mph. can you imagine those chinese trains? wow. anyway, the acela. i'm not sure if they're planning on updating it or what, but it's part of the plans for this big railway experiment.

the problem i see with this idea is the immense cost. yeah, it's going to take like a bajillion dollars to build how much do you think it will cost to ride it?

for example, one of the most popular shinkansen (high speed trains, affectionately known as "the shink"--rhymes with 'blink') trips in japan is from tokyo to kyoto or the other way around. kyoto is famous for temples and cherry blossoms and lots of other stuff and tokyo is...well, tokyo. it's a distance of about 500km which is like 310 miles. not very far, huh? for a little perspective, provo to vegas (a five hour drive) is like 375 miles. anyway, the shink trip from tokyo to kyoto takes like two hours and 15 minutes or so. it also costs something like 25,000 yen (according to i don't really know what the exchange rate is anymore, but lets just say it's about $250. it's more than that, but let's just keep it simple.

now think about that for a minute. a lot of japanese people don't have cars. but most americans do. really, would you pay $250 a person to travel from salt lake city to vegas on the train? when you could drive? when you could fly for less than $200 bucks a person? (i kayaked two totally random dates and it came up with $184.)

on the acela you can get from d.c. to boston in six hours and 36 mins. this really only comes to an average of 72 miles an hour. you can drive faster than that. and you can't even be on the internet the whole time. what is up with that? a round trip ticket costs $280. flying (again through kayak) is $135. so why take the train? because it's green. but let's face it, americans aren't as concerned with being green as they are with having money. maybe like a thirty dollar difference, sure, but $145? and three more hours? i think not.

so who is going to ride these trains? they're going to have to charge way less to get people to ride them. i'm not usually very conservative, but i feel like there might be a better use for the $13-500 billion the government is planning on spending on this...especially with the current economy. 2/3 of americans who EVER ride trains reside in nyc. so...yeah, it's more green...but like i said before, who is going to ride these trains?


Sophie said...

Yeah, it does just depend on how much they charge for it. They have to make it considerably less than airfare would be. I like the shift toward more public transportation though. That's something that is seriously lacking in the states.

Automobile Birdsinger said...

I totally agree with you. And as for the shift to more public transportation, these trains really are not going to help with that. We already have public transportation to these long distance locations, airlines. We need more in our own cites, not to get across the nation.

aHighFiveFantasticTime said...

i'd ride them