Modernization of Rail Transportation Technology and Infrastructure in the United States Kyle Pozan • firstname.lastname@example.org
Overview • A brief history of transportation in the United States. • A case for railroad regulation reform and the implementation of high-speed rail. • Current U.S. rail network. • Future U.S. Rail Plans • Potential Barriers to the Successful Development of a High-Speed Rail Network • Conventional high-speed rail. • Maglev rail transportation.
History of Transportation in the United States • The railroad revolutionized transportation in the United States. • Land grants and government subsidies allowed for the rapid expansion of rail transport in the U.S. • 2,000 miles of track were laid by 1840; 30,000 miles of track by the Civil War; 70,000 miles of track were laid in the 1880s alone.
By 1910, rail travel accounted for 95% of all intercity transportation. • In the 1920s, trains carried 1.2 billion passengers annually. • However, by the early 1930s, automobile travel had begun to make inroads in the rail passenger market. • Today, freight trains dominate the U.S. rail system.
The Birth of the Automobile • At the turn of the 20th century, the automobile was poised to change the face of transportation in the United States. • By 1910, over 200 automobile manufacturers were incorporated in the United States. • Aided by the Interstate Highway System under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the automobile lead to mobility on a scale formerly unknown, playing a major role in urban sprawl.
The Rise of the Airline Industry • Like the Interstate Highway System, the airline industry has shrunk the vast distance that separates the Eastern and Western borders of the United States. • The The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 created the Civil Aeronautics Board, an organization authorized to oversee the airline industry. • Airline transportation took off when Congress deregulated the airline industry in 1978.
Current Methods of Transit and Their Respective Issues • Currently, the three principal methods of transportation in the United States are inextricably tied to petroleum.
The U.S. Rail Network • Long-distance rail travel is not seen by many as a viable form of transportation in the United States. • While there are over 75 airlines in the U.S., only one major passenger rail company, Amtrak, is currently in operation. • Amtrak is federally owned. • Private investment in railroads is almost nonexistent.
Amtrak • The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, d/b/a Amtrak, is a government-owned intercity passenger rail service. • Amtrak service includes over 500 destinations.
Amtrak is considered to be one of the most energy-efficient forms of transportation. • There is ample room for improvement, however. • Criticisms of Amtrak • Seen as a bailout for corporate rail interests and union rail workers. • Criticized it as a waste of precious government funds. • Not a viable form of mass transportation.
The Acela has been a success, serving over 8,000 riders per day. • The Acela, however, operates at an average speed of 70 mph and is subject to numerous federal regulations that hamper its expansion. • It’s route is limited to the Northeastern Corridor.
Many criticism, however, are based on comparisons with European and Asian rail service. • A majority of passenger trains in the U.S. have a maximum operating speed of 79 mph., with the Acela being a notable exception. • U.S. trains are not as energy efficient as their European and Asian counterparts.
High-Speed Rail Projects • In January, President Obama announced an $8 billion award to states for the development of 13 new, large-scale high-speed rail corridors.1 • It is the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created under Eisenhower. • The plan also includes $1 billion annual allotment in the federal budget. • Allocations to continue annually for 5 years. 1 White House Press Release (Jan. 28, 2010).
Not Up To European Standards • The two largest projects will see maximum speeds of 110 mph.2 • High-speed trains in Europe and Asia travel at an average speed of 120 mph and can exceed 215 mph. • Planning studies for additional service enhancements are included in the budget. • A majority of the budget will be spent on improvements rather than new construction.3 • Station renovations. • Bridge expansions. • Overhaul of signal systems. 2Id. 3Id.
Funds will not be spent on dedicated tracks that would require a separate right of way. • This would be required for true high-speed rail. • Will likely be subject to stringent federal regulations.
Japan Case Study • Benefits of high-speed rail are obvious in Japan. • By 1994, the high-speed line from Tokyo to Osaka accounted for 80% of the travel between the two cities.4 • By car, they journey is 7 hours. • The same trip is only 3 hours via high-speed rail. 4 Hiroshi Okada, Features and Economic and Social Effects of the Shinkansen. Japan Railway & Transport Review (1994).
Time saved from switching from a conventional to high-speed rail network is approximated at 400 million hours. • The value of the time saved is $6 billion (U.S.)5 • The high-speed rail network is credited with rejuvenating rural towns. • Privatization saved Japan’s high-speed rail network from bankruptcy.6 5Id. 6 Id.
Overly Dependent • In 2009, the U.S. trade deficit was $380 billion.7 • More than half of the deficit, $204 billion, is oilrelated. • Automotive imports accounted for $79 billion. • A consistent trade deficit weakens the economy. 7 U.S. Census Bureau
High-Speed Rail Technology • Two Approaches • Traditional High-Speed Rail Technology • Maglev Technology
Conventional High-Speed Rail Technology • Standard gauge track. • No at-grade crossings. • Trains either travel above (via bridges) or below (via tunnels) automobile traffic. • Implementation of a traditional high-speed rail network would require dedicated rail lines.
Bridges and tunnels would be constructed. • Dedicated rail lines and at-grade requirements would therefore result in an infrastructure overhaul.
Articulated train cars share wheels and trucks. • They are, more or less, permanently attached. • One major benefit of conventional high-speed rail is articulated train cars. • Articulated cars provide for smoother rides, less vibration and the design reduces the likelihood of jackknifing. • Less wheels and trucks means less frequent maintenance. • Articulated cars allow for the train to tilt.
Magnetic Levitation Trains • Conventional high-speed rail utilizes standard gauge rail, diesel engines and overhead electrified wires to propel trains. • Magnetic levitation, or “Maglev”, trains is a system that uses magnetic energy to suspend and propel trains. • No engine is required to pull cars down the track. • No fossil fuels are used.
The magnetized coil running along the track, called a guideway, repels the large magnets on the train's undercarriage. • This allows the train to levitate. • Wheels are used at slower speeds when the magnetic force is not strong enough to suspend the train.
There is no friction, allowing for an incredibly smooth ride at unprecedented speeds. • Magnetic energy used to propel the train can be recaptured when the train slows down.
“Tokyo's electric trains get 6,600 miles to the gallon.”8 • Constructing a high-speed rail system would result in 29 million fewer car trips and 500,000 fewer plane flights each year.9 • Results in an annual reduction of 6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. • A national high speed rail system will significantly reduce our dependence on cars and oil. • It would significantly reduce carbon emissions. • The electrical portion of the system can be powered by renewable energy. Thank you! 8 USA Today (Mar. 4, 2008). 9 Center for Clean Air Policy (2006).