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The Northeast corridor merits high speed service- over 200 MPH- on dedicated right of way separate from slow speed steel wheel service currently operated by Amtrak. The ability of Amtrak to deliver a sophisticated state of the art technology is open to question.It is also questionable whether conventional steel wheel technology can provide cost effective high speed service as compared to maglev with its much lower O&M costs.As a minimum, the planning for the corridor should evaluate both technologies with no bias.
Jkintslinger: It might be helpful in evaluating your comment if we knew who you are and what your involvement is in high speed rail (HSR). We agree on one thing: HSR does require a dedicated right-of-way, if for no other reason that safety of operation.
Steel wheel service operates at 200 mph now in France and Japan, so there is no reason why it cannot do so in the U.S. As for mag-lev, I may be mistaken (and I assume someone will happily point that out if I am) but to the best of my knowledge there are no mag-lev systems operating anywhere in the world other than at amusement parks and for short hauls between city center and airports.
You question whether steel wheel service can be cost effective. I think you first must define cost effective. Passenger rail service does not make money anywhere in the world. Some few systems cover their variable (operating) cost, but fixed costs are the responsibility of government (taxpayers.) Are any of these cost effective? Mag-lev has lower O&M cost than steel wheel technology, you say, but considering the lack of full-scale mag-lev systems, we do not have any proof of that statement. We do know that construction of a mag lev guideway would not be an inconsequential undertaking.
I think several of your positions are begging the question, in the old meaning of the term: they are taking as a given the thing that needs proving. I'm not as sure as you are of the relative total costs of rail vs. magnet, and there are some real advantages to a sytem that can use normal track as a workaround for damage, as a limp-home route for out of service equipment, or for low-speed, and lower cost repositioning of assets. A good bit of maintenance facilities could be shared or repurposed, as well.
I also think that there are real security advantages to systems that are actually on the ground, and do not require outside energy to keep 'em where they belong. We've been lulled into complacency by a decade of theatrical mummery posing as transportation security, but thyere's still some real threats, and the kind of designs that promise low operating costs often do so by keeping weight down beyond normal parameters.
(That's a bit like how the port authority made those two skyscrapers feasible, isn't it?)
Responding to several readers, I served as project director for preparation of an EIS for a proposed Transrapid maglev service from Washington DC to Batimore with a stop at BWI Airport, performed for FRA and MD DOT.
Estimates were based on experience at the German Transrapid test track and experience at the maglev operation in Shanghai that has been successfully in commercial operation for over 5 years. Central Japan Rail is proceeding to parallel its 200 mile Bullet Train with a maglev train which they consider the next generation high speed system.
Thank you, Mr. Kinstlinger, for responding. I don't think we have enough hard data or evidence yet to pronounce mag-lev to be the answer to HSR, but I appreciate you stimulating the discussion.
The BWI project was (is?) a good example of a niche market where maglev might be feasible even now. I'd originally thought you were advocating much larger systems; I think it is going to be a while before the numbers will work for Boston-NYC or NYC-DC. My apologies; I should have recognized the name a little better; you've been pushing for a mid-size demonstrator for quite a while, now.
I think I agree with you that a preferred solution often is selected way too early, and that particular parts of a transit system might be better served, even in a largely conventional rail system, by something other than conventional rail. The devil is in the details of connections, and owners and abutters often have a vested interest in keeping the (lucrative) parking facilities filled.
City pairs like Baltimore and DC, or, for greater range, Seattle and Portland, might often be better served by a centrally located airport, like BWI or SEA or DFW, with a high speed link both to the served cities. I don't think it can scale up to 200 mile distances yet for maglev, but that will change with time.