Re: [carfree_cities] Re: Amtrak
- on 06-Jan-05 23:43 Doug Salzmann said the following:
>>>(And, along the route of the Empire Builder...)First of all, the Empire Builder doesn't serve Wyoming. Secondly,
>>And one could site very similar numbers for the interior of Spain,
>>or most of Scandanavia -- i.e. countries that have excellent
>>interCITY rail routes which also happen to pass through very remote
>Not a good comparison at all. Spain covers (very roughly) about the same land area as Montana and Wyoming, but those states have a combined population of about a million and a half people (in contrast with Spain's 40 million or so).
>Imagine a rail route across Spain from Seville (700,000), through Madrid (3,000,000), to Barcelona (1,500,000). A similar diagonal route in Wyoming and Montana might begin in Cheyenne (55,000), pass through Billings (90,000) and Helena (27,000), and terminate in Missoula (61,000).
>To return to the real world, the route of Amtrak's Empire Builder, from Chicago to Seattle, is more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers). For those who can't picture the American West, it's about like traveling from London to Istanbul, and there are amazingly few people along the route.
>It just doesn't make sense to spend much public money on passenger rail service in such a situation and, as I said before, it doesn't matter very much in the greater scheme of things. The most pressing infrastructure problems for our fragile future are urban problems.
despite the low population base, it is the most heavily ridden
long-distance train in Amtrak's network. As I have said before, the
average Empire Builder trip serves more passengers than any airline
flight in the world.
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- OK, one more time -- then I'm finished with this one.
On Fri, 7 Jan 2005, emccaughrin wrote:
> > Yes, but we were talking about rail service in vast, unpopulated
> > rural places.
> Um, no. The discussion is about rail service to cities in the west,
> not to some cattle ranch way out in the plains somewhere. There are
> large metropolitan areas in the west -- Denver, Salt Lake City, to
> name a few -- with populations large enough to justify rail service,
> and not so far apart that rail cannot be competitive.
Well, that's two ;^)
I have no problem with competitive rail service in the west. Indeed, I'm a fan and have ridden many of the long-haul trains in the region. I'd simply rather spend the subsidy money in more productive ways (I have a list).
Of course, if passenger service between those city pairs really is competitive, the railroads will be eager to provide it.
> Norway has 300k km^2 and a population of 4.5 million. If one were to
> go by a naive interpretation of its 15 persons/km^2 density, Norway
> has no business running passenger rail because at it isn't "dense"
> enough -- and yet it runs comprehensive, 140mph rail service that is
> far better than anything you will find in even the most heavily
> populated US metropolitan area.
Come on, now. Norway's rail system is heavily concentrated in the more-populated southern part of the country. To the extent that it does serve the northern portions (does it extend beyond Bodo?), let's remember that we're talking about a long, very narrow corridor.
To put things in perspective (again), the Norwegian national rail network totals about 2,500 miles of track -- just a little more than the route of our oft-cited, lonely American long-haul, the Empire Builder.
Not to let this end without further (perhaps naive) reference to population density, the state of Montana, alone, is larger than Norway and, at 2.39 persons per square kilometer, is about *one-sixth* as densely populated.
I just don't think the arguments for subsidizing rural passenger rail service in the US are persuasive, definitely not in a resource-constrained world. Certainly, there are many other subsidies on which I'd merrily pull the plug, also (autos, airlines, ranchers and loggers, warmongers and arms merchants...), but, if given the chance to divert the handout from Amtrak to a really useful urban project, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
I suppose I should close by confessing that it would be fine with me if *all* long-distance travel was relatively difficult and (at least) moderately expensive. In a world of six-plus billion humans with an emerging permanent energy crunch, it is dangerous folly to encourage casual gallivanting around the globe.
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