Solutionary Rail: “Higher” Speed Rail

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Rail Electrification Options: Why Solutionary Rail recommends starting with “Higher” Speed Rail

Currently, the buzzword for rail travel is “High Speed Rail.” The term is being used broadly, but what does it mean? Brightline in Florida is being called “high speed,” even though it travels at just 79 mph. So what is High Speed Rail and what are our best options? What about freight transportation – should the bulk of freight continue to be carried by trucks?

Drilling down a little, there’s a difference between ultra-high speed bullet train rail, high speed rail, and what Solutionary Rail advocates, “higher speed rail”:

  • Higher Speed rail (HrSR) – meaning moderately faster than current rail — refers to maximum speeds of 80 mph for freight and 125 mph for passengers.
  • High Speed rail (HSR) – even faster — refers to mostly passenger trains traveling typically 150 mph and up to 200 mph.
  • Ultra High Speed rail (uHSR) – very fast “bullet trains” – refers to passenger trains traveling over 200 mph.

Why does Solutionary Rail recommend starting with Higher Speed Rail (HrSR) rather than with faster high-speed trains? It’s not an “either/or” choice, but consider this:

  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan for freight and passenger trains traveling at higher speeds (HrSR) of 80-125 mph require simply upgrading the tracks we have now, on the corridors we have now, and electrifying the system with high-voltage overhead power lines – sooner and for much less money than building a network of faster high speed passenger trains.
  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan includes a return of more high-value freight to the railroad and therefore a reduction in the number of trucks on the highway, relieving congestion and reducing wear and tear on our roads, in addition to providing a viable alternative to air travel for passengers.
  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan for an upgraded, electrified rail system does not rule out faster, high-speed and ultra high speed passenger rail where these makes sense. Solutionary Rail’s “higher speed” option could lay the groundwork for faster HSR by laying HSR-grade track whenever there is an opportunity to.

  • Greeley Miklashek

    I wonder if the author has ever traveled by AMTRAK. I have, all over the US. Aside from all of her irrelevant BS, the railbeds are largely owned by freight rail corp’s. and are therefor, just like our hiways, poorly maintained and rough to travel on. In the NE quad, which I frequented between MI and MA, the top speed was 69mph day and night. 24 hrs to BSTN. I was thrilled NOT to be driving on our crowded hiways. West of CHI the rolling stock is roomier due to larger later built tunnels and the beds better maintained so top speed was 79mph. Plenty fast enough to make CHI to LA a 50 hr.amazing trip where I got to meet and talk with dozens of interesting fellow travelers. Get off you high horse sister and take a train trip. You might actually learn something about our rail system.

  • kevinzeese

    Not see why you are attacking. Solutionary Rail is an excellent vision that will enhance train travel, freight trains and 21st Century electricity grid.

    Glad you ride the rails. It is a great way to travel. The US has never put enough investiment in the rail system, Solutionay Rail would change that.

  • Greeley Miklashek

    I’d settle for track repair and increased government ownership of passenger rails. That alone would break the bank. The rest is silly “pie-in-the-sky” or on-the-rails.

  • kevinzeese

    We need to transform the economy to respond to the climate crisis. This requires not only clean, sustainable energy by 2030 but remaking our transit system which in part is elevating transit and shipping by electric rails. Solutionary Rail transforms both the energy grid and transit. It is consistent with the ecosocialist Green New Deal we need. These are some of the essential developments needed due to decades of poor policy. See under vision.

  • chetdude

    I’ve traveled by AMTRAK, you guys in the northeast corridor have it easy. Take the train in the west and you are most likely to leave and arrive about 4-6 hours later than “scheduled”. Last time I took a train from Tucson to L.A. and then the Coast Starlighter from L.A. to Oakland. We left Tucson at 2 in the AM, 4 hours late. Then the 6 hour layover at Union Station in L.A. (before the concession stands had opened). Then we were 2 hours late arriving in Oakland. There are spots near Salinas where the train has to slow down to less than 5 mph to make it through the degraded track.

    Have you seen “Taken for a Ride”. It was not an accident that the best urban light rail and national passenger rail system on the Planet was dismantled in favor of the higher profits derived from trucks, diesel buses and individual transportation pods (cars) – highways not railways…with the infrastructure financed by the taxpayer.

    Solutionary rail is exactly what you are asking for: as part of a REAL Green New Deal, improve the existing system so that it becomes the best alternative for regional travel.

    Then we could use large portions of the interstate right-of-way for higher speed rail between regions. For instance, a high speed rail system could easily be laid down over I5 in California saving Trillions of dollars in acquisition and construction costs.

    A REAL Green New Deal must begin thinking way outside of the box…

  • Greeley Miklashek

    And WAY outside the budget, until we stop spending all our money on guns and tax cuts for the uber-rich.

  • chetdude

    We COULD have done it in just 18 years if we’d started in 2001 instead of holding a $6 Trillion dollar “war for oil”…

    Yes, we have to stop spending for endless war and recover our treasure from those who have stolen it from the Commons over the last 40 years…