Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

High Speed Rail Not a Zero Sum Game

I was prompted by this letter to the editor that seems IMO to think that if a high-speed rail system is built in California, all trains will stop at all stations, so it's important to make sure there are only a tiny number of stations. Given that I've just returned from a country that has a high-speed rail system and manages to run multiple levels of service on it, I felt moved to write a letter to the editor of the Fremont Argus in reply. I don't expect my reply to see print, so I'm putting it here as well:

Jacque Burgess writes ("Too many stops", October 4) that "For [High Speed Rail] to be successful, there can be no more than two or three stops on the route to and from Los Angeles." An examination of countries that actually know how to operate a high-speed rail system, such as Japan, shows that this is not so. I just returned from a three-week trip to Japan, where I traveled extensively the length of the country on both their conventional rail and high-speed Shinkansen service. Japan Rail operates three levels of service on the high-speed line. All trains go fast (nearly 200 mph), but some super-express ("Nozomi") trains make almost no stops, other limited ("Hikari") trains make a few stops, and yet other stopping ("Kodama") trains stop at almost all stations, sometimes pausing for some minutes to allow faster services to pass them at the intermediate stations.

High Speed Rail is not just about getting people from the Bay Area to Los Angeles quickly, any more than Interstate 5's only purpose is to transport people from Sacramento to Los Angeles. It is also about moving people through the rapidly growing Central Valley. It is appropriate for there to be stops throughout the valley, and for the service to be scheduled with super-expresses that bypass most stops and other services that still go fast, but serve more stops.

By the way, I was bemused by the reference to "15-minute stops." Why in the world would the train have to stop for fifteen minutes? Japanese high-speed trains stop for perhaps two or three minutes at most. They roll in, people get off, people get on, and the trains leave, on time to the minute.

The USA should not be ashamed to learn from people who have not forgotten how to run a railroad.


It amazes me that people can put forth so many silly ideas while completely ignoring something that's been working in practice for years. But I guess it shouldn't really surprise me, since anything not invented here doesn't really exist, I guess.
Tags: high speed rail, trains
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