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Topic: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies". (Read 28965 times)

  • mjmsprt40
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Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Today, I have a job coming up actually for tomorrow morning. From Chicago IL to Lincoln, NE. So, here's the drill as far as transportation goes (remember that I'm carrying a large, heavy crate tomorrow so for me there is only one option-- this is for the sake of people who are getting themselves and maybe family from one place to the other). This information comes from Google Maps.

By airplane--- not counting the nonsense at each terminal where minutes become hours-- it's about an hour and a half flying time.

By car--- it's a little over 7.5 hours not counting stopping for fuel, eating, using the facilities and whatnot. Add another 2 hours just to be safe, so let's say 9.5 hours.

By Amtrak passenger train-- it's almost 15 hours. I kid you not. Only riding a bicycle would be slower. (But, after riding a bike for more than 500 miles you'd sure be buff.)

I really don't expect trains to catch on unless they can do something about that time.

Sorry, RJH--- maybe someday they'll come up with high-speed rail here. Until then, planes for any distance over 400 miles, cars for any distance under that except in the cities, where commuter rail has definite advantages over the car.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

  • ensbb3
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #1
Amtrak stops have diminished over the years. Part of that time prob involves a bus ride. Where used to Nashville had Amtrak trains coming to it, now if I wanted to leave from Nastyville there'd be a bus ride to Memphis, Atlanta or North Carolina first.

(I was planning to take the boy on a train ride to the capital at one time... Just driving there seemed to be the best option tho.)

High speed trains are what we need.

  • Belfrager
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #2
By airplane--- not counting the nonsense at each terminal where minutes become hours-- it's about an hour and a half flying time.

By car--- it's a little over 7.5 hours not counting stopping for fuel, eating, using the facilities and whatnot. Add another 2 hours just to be safe, so let's say 9.5 hours.

By Amtrak passenger train-- it's almost 15 hours. I kid you not. Only riding a bicycle would be slower. (But, after riding a bike for more than 500 miles you'd sure be buff.)

I suppose that's because you don't have anymore cowboy's outlaw gangs assaulting trains. If so, trains would go faster than horses...

Clearly the ninetheen century was your golden age and still is. After Billy The Kid, nothing, just an empty vacuum.

Trains aren't "profitable", simple as that.
High velocity trains even less.
A matter of attitude.

  • jax
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #3
The US train system is basically a freight  transport network. Not that efficient, but very extensive and can ship large amounts of goods long distance for low cost. Amtrack shifts a few people very slowly for high cost, and there's not a big market for that. The  US  has grown to European densities along many corridors, wirh its consequences, a generation ago Europeans became like the Americans and the European left-wing hated that. Now you look set to become like us and I imagine the US right wing will hate that.

Therein the rub..First you need to solve the last mile problem,  a practical cost-effective means to get from where you are to the station and from the station to where you want to go. That's not particularly hard, public transport, taxi, car rentals, parking.  Then you should have several routes that make sense from an engineering and economic view, but they are not going to happen successfully due to culture wars, tribal politics,  and special interest. They will conspire to make any project massively delayed,  massively over budget,  and no longer along a route and under conditions that would make sense or money.

500 miles should be around a 3 1/2 to 4 hours train ride at price-optimal speed. The crate can be shipped separately at slower speed, though the cost may be too high.

  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #4

The US train system is basically a freight  transport network. Not that efficient, but very extensive and can ship large amounts of goods long distance for low cost. Amtrack shifts a few people very slowly for high cost, and there's not a big market for that. The  US  has grown to European densities along many corridors, wirh its consequences, a generation ago Europeans became like the Americans and the European left-wing hated that. Now you look set to become like us and I imagine the US right wing will hate that.

Therein the rub..First you need to solve the last mile problem,  a practical cost-effective means to get from where you are to the station and from the station to where you want to go. That's not particularly hard, public transport, taxi, car rentals, parking.  Then you should have several routes that make sense from an engineering and economic view, but they are not going to happen successfully due to culture wars, tribal politics,  and special interest. They will conspire to make any project massively delayed,  massively over budget,  and no longer along a route and under conditions that would make sense or money.

500 miles should be around a 3 1/2 to 4 hours train ride at price-optimal speed. The crate can be shipped separately at slower speed, though the cost may be too high.


Taking the bolded--- I sometimes wonder about things like this. Not that I'm complaining, mind--- 525 miles at $1.03 a mile isn't to be turned down. Still--- this crate comes from Japan, by air, to O'Hare airport in Chicago. I pick it up from cargo on the South side of the field, and drive it to the factory it's going to in Lincoln, Nebraska. One wonders why they didn't transfer the thing to a puddle-jumper plane at O'Hare for the final miles. Coulda had it in less than half the time it's gonna take me to do it, even at the best time I can make.

But, hey--- lack of planning on their part is why I have a job, so I ain't complaining. Just wondering about it.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #5
While we're thinking on it--- seems freight speed varies quite a bit depending on what is being hauled and where. I cross the Mississippi tomorrow. They have barge-trains there that can be awesome to look at. 30 barges or more, hauling bulk freight up or down the river with a couple of big towboats to push the thing. They promote this by telling you how many trains it would take to haul all that freight, and how many trucks they "take off the road" with a big barge-train. Note that one barge can hold as much as half a dozen big trucks-- it gives you some idea of the scale.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

  • rjhowie
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #6
The motor car industry a long number of decades ag did a neat job of diminisng passenger rail in the USA. I know, o know the old standard additional point is distance however there ar other big places and one which is bigger where passenger trains are still up there.  The other night I watched a well know tv man who is doing aseries on rail all over the owlrd. His hour length documentary on Japan was brilliant. Russian the biggest nation has a great service too - and look at the Chinese advances. Unfortunately America is way behind on the matter of rail. Jax is well right on the degree of goods traffic in the States it really a freight system and the passenegr side is sadly a joke. Once you lose something that was once better used it is hard to get it back. That incident mjsmsprt40 is shocking.

In general modern progressive nations all tend to have excellent rail services and even those that like to moan here suitably ignore that well over 6 billion rail journeys happen a year and vastly more than the time the Government ran them for years and did not do a good job at all. Amusingly on the website of my favourite rail sim company virtually all the America members do freight with only a rare passenger and in Gt Britain it almost all passenger which neatly reflects the actual.

On both my trips to the ex-colonies I did some train travel on the East Coast and was enjoyable for a rail fan like me but when you came into Philly from the north all the empty and unused platforms was a sad view of what once was. Here although a much smaller country even on longer trips of 400 or 00 miles you will see more than one train a day and I noted that on Amtrak you might get one and in places a not even daily. Sp whatever techy advances there have been passenger rail is not anything great across the water and does not look like improving. Meanwhile other nations are into bullet trains and always faster times.

I have a National Assoc of American Railroads date back to the 1950's someone gave to me. It covered the US, Canada, Mexico and even Cuba before the revolution. It is over 2 inches thick. Today you would fit the same in a pocket. Sad.
"Quit you like men:be strong"

Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #7

Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #8
There are important considerations in choice of travel. If I want to visit my daughter in San Diego, there's no way that I would choose a train or a bus. Likewise, a business man wants to get to a distant destination quickly. Sightseeing is another matter. A car might make a great deal of sense. A guided bus tour might also make sense, but if I wanted to visit the Grand Canyon via a bus tour, it would cost me more than a flight.

It's a big country. Size matters.



  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #9
Size matters indeed. As I entered Nebraska on Interstate 80 yesterday, the milepost showed some 445 miles to the other end of the state. Most of that, once you're past Lincoln, is wide open plains with nothing to break the persistent wind.

The speed limit in Nebraska, once outside city limits, is 75 mph. Actual speeds probably faster.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

  • jax
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #10
Size matters less than density, as long as the travel distance is within the competitive range.  In the low end it competes with cars and buses, high end airplanes. For a speed range of 80-250 mph that is a range from 50-1000 miles where trains may compete.

In dense areas commute trains can compete on volume. No other means of transport can move as many as fast, a road network would only lead to gridlock.

That trains can compete doesn't mean they will. Foremost they depend on traffic. The cost per additional passenger can be low, but the investments are huge. The US is getting denser, there are many routes that should be profitable if done right.

  • Barulheira
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #11
Scotland doesn't fit into Texas. :sherlock:

Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #12
 :devil: Neither does RjHowie, but in a different sense. :devil:

  • Belfrager
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #13
Scotland doesn't fit into Texas.  :sherlock:

Curiously I don't think that Texas fits anywhere in Europe. Neither Texas nor any of those "states".
A matter of attitude.

  • rjhowie
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #14
It is kind of unfortunate in a way that the Texas outline does not have what the background does have and that is an impressive number of passenger services. Even in countries across the world which are very big and catching up on cars have railways far more impressive than the USA has. When you consider in the wider look at things that modern and wide train services are the part of countries what is left in the States is a remnant of what once was. Very progressive in many things but way behind other modern countries when it comes to trains.
"Quit you like men:be strong"

  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #15
RJ--- passenger service could hardly be made profitable here. That outline of Texas over Europe doesn't take into account the fact that in that space in Europe you have a number of major cities. In Texas---- you've got miles and miles of zilch. The cities are few and far between, and it would take a miracle of God to make the train pay for itself. How many people go from Houston to Lubbock? How much do you suppose they'd be willing to pay for the privilege of doing so on a train? (Houston to Dallas--- maybe. Problem: Both of these cities have airports, and a puddle-jumper plane can get you from one to the other in maybe an hour. A train would take--- fergit it.)

Trains don't work well here because of the distances, and more to the point because there isn't the density of population centers that you have in Europe.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

  • Belfrager
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #16
Quote
The greatest historical event in transportation on the continent occurred at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, as the Union Pacific tracks joined those of the Central Pacific Railroad.



So much trouble for nothing...
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #17

Trains don't work well here because of the distances, and more to the point because there isn't the density of population centers that you have in Europe.

Last century they thought they had the required population density worth to cover the continent with a network of trains, but now...

  • Frenzie
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #18
Problem: Both of these cities have airports, and a puddle-jumper plane can get you from one to the other in maybe an hour.

That might've been true in the 1980s, but even in such optimal circumstances that time's deceptive. It wouldn't realistically have taken any less than two hours even back then. Now it'll easily be three hours. Suddenly your two-hour train ride doesn't seem so uncompetitive in matters besides price.* If time's your primary concern I'd say a 3-hour car ride is still in the race against that one-hour flight.

* Admittedly, those two hours are as deceptive as the one hour mentioned for the flight. So you might say that makes it three hours, but at a significantly greater level of comfort and at a lower cost and environmental impact.

  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #19


Trains don't work well here because of the distances, and more to the point because there isn't the density of population centers that you have in Europe.

Last century they thought they had the required population density worth to cover the continent with a network of trains, but now...


In the 1880s they didn't have planes and automobiles. A steam-powered train could travel at 25 mph and keep doing it for several miles, having to stop only for coal and water and oiling the moving parts. It wasn't that hard to outrun the Wells-Fargo wagon on the open prairie.

Call it progress: There was a time when, if you wanted to move passengers and goods over long distances, you chose steamboats and barges. Then the trains came and took that business away from the river steamers, which could not compete with the trains. Then, around the time the 1800s were giving way to the 1900s, some folk came up with ideas about planes and automobiles. It took awhile, but eventually the superhighway and the jet plane settled the issue for long-distance passenger rail in the same way rail had done to the steamboat.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!

Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #20
It took awhile, but eventually the superhighway and the jet plane settled the issue for long-distance passenger rail

Until now. The XpressWest will be competitive with taking the plane to LA in terms of actual travel time. As Frenzi said, the one hour time in the air is very deceptive. You're liable to spend spend two hours at the first airport and an hour getting out of the second. If this venture proves successful (especially in light of the difficult mountain and desert terrain the train will need to cross), it wouldn't be at all to see a renaissance of train travel in the US, with real travel times rivaling jet travel. If you're going from say Chicago to Miami, a jet would be the better option (the longer the distance to greater the airline's advantage) , but going from LA to LV, the hassle of the air travel seems nonsensical.

  • rjhowie
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #21
Hy mjsmsprt40. I can partly go along with what you say about distances but wonder how indepth that one is. Russia is even bigger and China with it's bullet trains another large country. Even if smaller and heavily populated, Japan when I watched the documentary of the reporter doing the bullet train service in a great length of the county to the north a road journey on the motorway was not the fastest. The bullet train took 4 hours whereas a car took 8 hours!  Now as I said the  programme showed the centre where Japanese rail is now working on even their fastest world beating train!

There seemed to be very clever programme by the motor care industry decades ago to push in front and they certainly did that in your country. Texas is only one area anyway and when one considers in all sorts of countries rail is a modern thing and in even a bigger place points out something wider. So for whatever reason we may muse on for the sad decline of US rail travel the country is I am afraid way behind everyone else. Unfortunate but a sad fact of life that other modern places are so way ahead.
"Quit you like men:be strong"

  • Frenzie
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #22
If you're going from say Chicago to Miami, a jet would be the better option (the longer the distance to greater the airline's advantage) , but going from LA to LV, the hassle of the air travel seems nonsensical.

As a rule of thumb, I'd say travel time has to exceed five hours by car or train until flight becomes attractive. But even for going to e.g. Berlin (a little less than 8 hours by train; 1.5 or so by plane) I'd at least consider the train as an option. To make matters a little more clear:

- Taking the train to Brussels takes about a half hour. This is the same regardless whether I go to Brussels Airport or Brussels North/Center/South to switch to an ICE. You can either add this time to the flight time (makes 2 hours), or deduct it from the train time (makes 7.5 hours).
- You want to aim for 2 hours early at the airport for EU travel. You need to be at the gate half an hour in advance, plus it's 15 minutes security and 15 minutes to actually get to the gate. An hour should do, but it'd be unwise. So we're at 4 hours for the flight vs 8 hours for the train.
- Add another hour to get out of the airport. That makes 5 hours for the flight; 8 for the train. The precise measurements obviously depend on where you're coming from and where you're going to.

There's still a three-hour difference to account for, but unless you pay heaps and heaps of money the comfort can easily be worth it. Worst case scenario you've been able to read a book or dream away while staring out the window in a seat where you can actually fit your legs; best case scenario you're actually able to get some serious work done. In the plane scenario you've only realistically got about half an hour to maybe even try.

PS The budget option is something like a 12-hour bus ride. With a comfort level that's unfortunately in many ways closer to an airplane. Well, that or hitchhiking. :P

  • ensbb3
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #23
It has to be over an eight hour drive before I'll even consider flying. Capitulation is usually what's landed me on a plane. I've no problem driving 10-12 hours... It'd take that long to get the slightest complaint out of me. I start bitching within an hour of stepping in an airport. After four I'm completely done with everything.

  • mjmsprt40
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Re: Why trains don't catch on here in the "ex-colonies".
Reply #24
It would have to be really something to get me to fly. Just ain't agonna doit until the Second Coming if I have anything to say about it.

Been on a train a few times--- OK, RJH, all commuters of one sort or another but trains none the less. First ever was a South Shore train to the Loop, where we switched to a Green-Line train to the West Side. This was wayyyyyy back, when the Austin neighborhood was working-class white, and my uncle owned a house near Central and Lake Street. They even had a smoking-car on the South Shore train, that's how far back in time that was.

Since then--- some CTA trains in and out of the Loop--- the only times I've driven into and out of the Loop was pickup or delivery of packages, for any other purpose I'll stop in Forest Park and take the Blue-Line train every time.

I think I've been on an IC train once--- the electrified branch of the line that goes from Chicago to New Orleans, I was headed into Chicago at the time. Not sure though, I was young and the South Shore and IC run close for a few miles in the final ten miles into the city.

Anywhere else--- I'm driving.
What would happen if a large asteroid slammed into the Earth?
According to several tests involving a watermelon and a large hammer, it would be really bad!