Monday, March 2, 2009

What the future holds...

Today I was involved in a discussion about high speed rail. The subject came up because local politicians are trying to get a high speed rail line established in New York State that connects Albany to Buffalo with obvious stops in Rochester and Syracuse. One side of the argument is the standard, "it's a waste of money and we have cars..." , while the other side is , "The future is coming and even if you don't want to be part of it, it needs to be embraced." I am more on the side of the future.

Why do I believe in high speed rail? Mostly because I see it as a great economical way to travel. Most high speed trains are more electric than anything, so they are much more environmentally friendly. Secondly, I think that our future is going away from fossil fuels, and with the advent of fully electric cars I can see a great future where the 2 technologies will work together in a great symbiosis.

Of course I have no idea how the planners are thinking, but from what I know of electric cars today, they do have their limits as to the distance and speed. ( I'm sure that as they become more prevalent these limitations will be stretched , but still they will not be as infinite as the fossil fueled vehicles we use now.) Has anyone here not seen the "Smart Car"? Well they are pretty cool, and I see no reason why the future high speed rail trains can't be built in such a way that theses cars can be integrated into a train. Picture this: in the future we will get in our cars for the long trip to grandmas house, but instead of getting out on the interstate highway, we will drive to the nearby rail terminal. There we will buy a ticket just like now, but instead of unloading all of our junk and hauling it to the train, we will simply drive our smart car to the gate, (similar to how we do for ferries to cross lakes and other water bodies now. ) The train arrives at the station and the car drives itself into a berth ( it IS a smart car!) to ride to the station nearest to our destination. While on the train our batteries are being topped off, we are free to sight see as we ride along, all of our luggage untouched by anyone but us. Our seats are comfortable and to our liking and the sound system or video player plays what we wish to see or hear. When we arrive at our station we simply drive off the train and continue to our destination. This gives us the benefit of mass transit, and the freedom of our own vehicle.

If we wish to go on a sight seeing vacation, we follow a similar pattern, but we can disembark the train and re-board the next scheduled train to continue on our way.. Of course there will be some logistical problems occasionally, and there is no way to avoid it. Too many people and there will never be enough space for everyone all the time, but it will be a learning curve and it will get better as experience teaches us all how to use the system more efficiently.

It needs to start someplace, and sooner or later there will once again be mass transit for the most part. Perhaps it is still decades away, but it will happen. Of course population density makes these things much more prevalent in European and Asian countries like Germany, France and Japan, but in the last 40 years these countries have become the technology leaders in transportation technology. There has been talk for years of such high speed rail lines in places like California to connect San Diego and Los Angeles to San Francisco and Sacramento, or the east coast to connect Boston and New York City to Washington and Miami. Why not New York City to Cleveland via Philly and Pittsburgh? Or Cleveland to Nashville? Or any amazing city to any other! It makes a more sense than the airports and worries about rental cars. But this is just my thoughts. Nobody has set anything is stone yet. Coast to coast in 48 hours in your own car and not getting a single speeding ticket? How cool would that be? Take the express train, Indianapolis to Denver in a day, running at 300 mph across the open prairie! I have to quit here because other wise I could do this dreaming forever!

Embrace the future. There is no reason not to at least try!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG - You're such a dreamer, dude. I'm a dreamer too - I dream that my 401K hasn't lost 60% in the last year and a half and I believe it's lost that amount because reefer-smoking, utopian, un-realists like you have totally f'd up the business world. Get a clue, dude! Consumers, like you and I, drive our economy and our part of the world. We support things that make sense to us - things that make financial and personal-choice sense. I choose to drive my personal automobile because it's cheap, convenient and available. When it's financially advantageous to me to take the train, or more convenient, or it's the only choice, then I’ll do it. Otherwise, why should I, my neighbor, and all other WORKING TAX-PAYING New Yorkers, pay for it? Give me a break.

Let's make the Erie Canal deeper and wider to support ocean-going shipping. That'll fix everything. It's just as good an idea as the fast-train, in my humble opinion.


I'm lucky - I have a sailboat and can leave this sinking ship. Good luck to you all - I’ll miss this country that once was the greatest on this planet.