Saturday, January 10, 2009

What is Normal Speed Rail?

Those of you who were paying attention to the ballot propositions in California should know that there was a ballot measure authorizing a bond for the construction of a High Speed Rail system from LA to San Francisco. This all-new rail line is estimated to cost $40 billion and promises an end-to-end time of 2 hours and 38 minutes. Sounds great, right?

I am of the opinion that before trying to run, you should learn to walk, and that before attempting as grandiose a project as a high speed rail network, it would make sense to first build out a network of Normal Speed Rail. Normal Speed Rail would reach far more people than HSR, and unlike the current HSR proposal, it could be built incrementally as improvements to existing rail lines.

What do I mean when I speak of Normal Speed Rail? I mean the kind of rail service one sees in other developed countries, as well as in the Northeast Corridor in the US. It means conventional electric trains, running on conventional tracks, with a top speed of 125 mph. This should be the standard for intercity rail service on California's major intecity rail corridors. Only once we have that does it make sense to start working on high speed rail.

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