Daily Archives: January 30, 2011

When it Comes To Transportation, North America is Getting Further Behind by the Day

Why? Because, if you ask a random North American what the fastest mode of travel is, he will say “plane” and when you ask him what the slowest mode of travel is, he will say “train”. And now that “safety regulations” require an average traveller to be at an airport at least 90 minutes before takeoff, if not two hours, when you add that to time on the tarmac and waiting for luggage at the other end, an average trip is at least two to three hours longer than flying time.

In comparison, you can get on the train, sit down, be moving in ten minutes, get off, and go. And if the train moved as fast as a plane, it would be faster. Much, much faster. And there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be. China has High Speed Rail (HSR) that travels at speeds up to 270 mph (the Maglev line in Shanghai, while the Harmony Express goes 250 mph). And now China is spending 745M US on domestic HSR expansion to build 19,000 miles of railway over the next five years.

And China is not alone in High Speed Rail. Japan has been doing it for years and Taiwan is also a big supporter. And it is not just Asia. HSR is also big in Europe. Germany has at least 10 lines that go 250 km/h or higher and HSR is spreading across Europe.

And now there is talk about a HSR line between Beijing and London that would go through Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev, St Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Astana, Irkutsk, Ulan Bator, and Khabarovsk and get passengers to their destination in a mere 19 hours.

Just imagine what HSR could do in the US. At 250 mph, Bangor (Maine) to Los Angeles (California) would only take 11 hours. If these lines could do people or cargo, there would be no need for internal air travel, or for inter-regional truck transport. After all, flying time (which requires at least 1 connection) is 8 hours and adding in airport wait times, it’s much more than 11 hours.

But the US, like Canada (who probably can’t afford it since only a few cities have enough population to make it worth while), won’t even think about it. As a result, Europe and Asia are going to get an edge while North America falls further behind.