“The keep our head buried in the sand” High Speed Train sales pitch.

By jreighley - Last updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 - Save & Share - 2 Comments

Obama is proposing a high speed rail system.  It is expensive.

I like the idea of high speed rail.  Especially in some of the places I travel.   It probably wouldn’t be a boon to my hometown of Spokane. Although it would be nice to be able to jump on a train and get to Seattle or Portland in a couple of hours, I can  accomplish the same goal in a hour and a half or so right now via the airport.  I wouldn’t say that the current cost is at all prohibitive.

I can (And do) leave my house at 4:30 AM and be at work nearly anywhere on the west side of the country by 1 PM.  There may be a few cases where a high speed rail system could shave an hour or two off of that commute time, but they would tend to be the exception, not the rule.

People are selling this train as a way to avoid TSA.   I highly doubt it.

A bomb on a train going 200 miles per hour is going to be just as deadly as a bomb on a plane.  Beyond that, a train will likely be able to carry a lot more people than a plane can.

Moreover, the bomb doesn’t even need to be on the train.  If somebody where to park an oklahoma city style moving truck anwhere along the route and fire it off a few seconds ahead of the train, there would be surefire mass destruction.   Trains would be much easier to hit than airplanes because they follow a very narrow and unchanging route.

I have also heard of far more “subway shooters” than I have aircraft shooters.

I would love to be able to fly down to Fresno, jump on a train and be in Bakersfield in a few minutes.   Or work a half week in Oxnard, then take a train for 30 minutes and finish a workweek in Riverside or San Diego without having to endure several hours in LA traffic.    That is a good sales pitch.

But the idea that trains can be more secure than airplanes without any TSA scans and pat downs  seems humorously ignorant to me.  You will need the security scans of the passengers as well as security all along the route.  Security is a much bigger problem for trains than it is for Aircraft.

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  • Peyo

    I certainly don’t believe that trains are a must-have in every town in America, but is there someone here preaching for a reasonable deployment of high-speed rail where it makes sense — and rebuking crazy projects?
    Your assumptions are just wrong. Bombs have exploded in trains at high speed and did not kill anyone (near Marseilles, France, in the 80s). The bombs in Madrid subway killed many, because a subway is heavily packed — a bomb in a supermarket or a gas station would be way more dangerous actually.
    As for your 1.5hr travel time by air to anywhere, I still doubt it. As you need 45 min minimum for check-in (without luggage), and few flights are scheduled under 1hr travel time, that would be a travel time from airport to airport, at best…
    I’m still hungry for reasonable arguments. Please spare us the non-sense…

  • http://www.fingertoe.com/blog Josh Reighley

    Peyo – I think your logic is lacking here. The fact that bombs have gone off before without mass casualties does not mean that they couldn’t.

    Nobody had intentionally rammed airplanes into skyscrapers before 2001, and that didn’t make the destruction any less real on September 11th..

    I would be more inclined to think that terrorists would take out a bridge with a Terry McVeigh style bomb than loading a bomb on a train. It will be very difficult to secure thousands of miles of track through rural America.

    As a frequent flier in a relatively small airport, I can tell you that It does not take a long time to travel 300 miles. If you eliminate security at the train station you could perhaps shave 30 minutes off of the first leg of whatever journey. But that is a big if. Anything that has a lot of people is going to be a target. Remember that even High Speed trains move at a much slower velocity than a commercial aircraft