National Train System Advocacy

By Deane Barker on October 18, 2004

Transportation Crisis: This is a good article — and a good site — that argues for the creation of a national high-speed rail system. They propose a three-tiered system, starting at the top:

Top Level National System – This level of trains would serve as the national fast system now covered by airplanes. It would consist of all high-speed train lines connecting central cities together into a web of train lines across the nation.

The trains operating at this level would be state-of-the-art Eurostar type trains that regularly travel at 200 –300 mph. These trains would offer a wide range of services making it convenient for business and leisure travelers. These would include the full range of seat configurations, lounge and dinning cars, sleeper cars, and business cars with internet connections, and various business and retail services.

Then there are two tiers below that — regional and local.

I’d need to study the subject a lot more, but a 300 m.p.h. train could compete with air travel, I think. A Boeing 747 cruises at about 550 m.p.h., but travelling by train could be cheaper and more comfortable enough to make up the difference.

You can do more as a passenger on a train than as a pasenger on jet — move around, get easier access to communications, hold a meeting, etc. I’m also assuming that time lost to infrastructure would be less too, as it would be quicker to get a train loaded and in motion than it would a plane.

Of course, there’s always the cow issue.



  1. Great idea, but my first thougt was that the terrorism issue would be even bigger with trains than aircraft. Instead of having to worry primarily about the bad guys getting access only at airports, with trains you’d have not only the stations to protect but thousands of miles of track in the hinterlands. Imagine what a well-placed half-pound of C4 could do to a track out in the middle of Nowhere, KS, at 2am, moments before a cross-country bullet train came by.

  2. I think it’s too optomistic to think that the companies operating the trains wouldn’t just jam-pack them with airliner seats in order to squeeze every last dime out of their investment. Given the fact that they don’t have to consider take-offs and landings, they might even come up with something worse (although after spending 3 hours in a tiny seat with an impatient 1-year-old, I can’t think of what might be worse).

    I’m sure more services and roomier accomodations could be made available, but they’d probably go at a premium, perhaps even in excess of first-class airline seats.

  3. The ailines will fight this “tooth and nail”. Southwest Airlines did all it could to prevent the study of a high speed train link between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio/Austin. (Of course this is where Southwest was born.) Keep in mind that Southwest’s 737s typically fly at about 350 – not the higher speed of long haul airlines.

    I do no think trains would be any less secure than airplanes. (think missiles) On the positive side, it would be hard to drive a plane into a high building.

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