The slow train may as well be no train.

The Eurostar trainI’m a huge fan of high-speed rail. I’m a huge fan of trains in general. When I travel for business from Tampa to Jacksonville, I take the train—$29 one way—and it’s a wonderful way to travel. However, it doesn’t go much faster than a car either—and still takes 5 hours for the trip (when everything goes right). It’s a bare-bones service, as if we Americans don’t know how to provide the “real rail” experience—which is what I got when I took the Eurostar through the Chunnel from London to Paris.

The glamor of the Eurostar train, which hits 200 m.p.h. in France (but not in the UK at the time) was amazing, from the sleek boarding area to the inside of the train. Everything was made to give the impression of a first-class plane ride- plus. It’s this experience that makes rail travel superior to airplanes- from the ability to walk around comfortably, and enjoy fine dining- to even having a restroom that isn’t smaller than a porta-potty (which is what most airliners provide). Plus, as you buzz by the countryside at 180 mph, you feel as if you have transcended the car, the road and the hassles that come with it.

But, on the Amtrak slow train, you get none of that. In fact, other than having leg room, a place to plug in your laptop, and a larger restroom- all you have done is give up the driving (and the mobility you’d have when you arrive) and broken even on expense. That’s why Amtrak is struggling.

With the longest ride in the State of Ohio being about 4.5 hours- by car or a slow train, it won’t make much of a dent in the number of cars on the road. People won’t give up their mobility at the ends of their journey without either a gain in speed, a substantial saving of money or a much improved experience (free wi-fi for starters). Although the proposed 89 m.p.h. train is a start in the right direction- it’s not going to make it financially, or practically- unless the speed can be at least doubled within a few years.

Why spend stimulus money to build a slow train? Ohio needs to look at the big picture and the message it wants to project to the world. Building last century’s rail system now is a cruel joke and a waste of money. If this is the best we can do, we should seriously reconsider new-rail in Ohio.

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5 Responses

  1. Greg Hunter March 30, 2009 / 10:20 am
    Look this whole thing should be an Engineers Dream. The train moves at high speed and never stops.

    Have the luggage and passengers re shuffle to last car. Drop it just before train station it comes into station and launch the other cars onto the unit as it passes by. Easy. Then the train station could have Rental bikes, Buses or Rental Electrics to get around the City and then off. High speed all the way. We need Transit Oriented Development, with Permaculture Farms lining the outskirts of Dayton.

  2. Drexel Dave Sparks March 30, 2009 / 11:41 am
    Right now Dayton leaders think Permaculture means the permanent way our citizenry is trapped in a lifestyle of Old-Milwaukee’s Best, Beef Jerkey, Marlboros, Lottery Tickets and High Fructose corn syrup.

    How do you change the system that draws its very sustenance from this sickeness?

  3. Greg Hunter March 30, 2009 / 11:58 pm
    Apparently the same way the country started? :)
  4. JohnSpinelli March 31, 2009 / 12:19 pm
    Tubular Rail (www.tubularrail.com) is a Texas company that thinks its patented trains-without-tracks technology represents an affordable, efficient and green sweet point between slow, heavy, costly traditional steel-wheel trains and very fast and exorbitantly priced high-speed rail like Maglev or Euro-style railroads. Mr. Esrati is right that French TGV trains , like the one he took from Paris to London, can reach speeds of 180-mph, but the important number is that they average only 88-mph. Same situation with the Acela in the US, the only “high-speed” train in operation. It too can go fast, but it’s average speed is less than 90-mph, certainly not fast enough to convince drivers to park their car and take the train. German train officials say that trains will not take drivers off roads if their train trip doesn’t cut their travel time in half. Here in Ohio, the headstrong dash to spend $250 million now and another $800 million from Washington over the next decade or more to produce a freight-rail-based passenger rail train that will only average 57-mph is truly misguided. The mission of Tubular Rail, Inc. is to create revolutionary transportation solutions for cities such as Chicago, as well as other urban and non-urban high-traffic areas. Our system’s benefits include minimal building costs and infrastructure disruptions. Beyond improved travel, our unique, practical use of green technologies and the multiple economic benefits they provide, suggest that the world need no longer bear the mushrooming prices, problems, and pollution caused by existing, outdated transit systems. Simply put, TRI technology can go where tracks can’t. Who wouldn’t want to keep taxdollars and jobs locally rather than shipping them to Spain, France, Germany, Japan and China, countries home to companies that control Bullet Train technology. How can we do it? Watch our “trackcless train” technology on the Discovery Channel program called “FutureTrains” here (http://www.tubularrail.com/video.htm). Then decide for yourself which train is right for Ohio’s or any other state’s future, the ones that run on freight rails or the one that doesn’t need any rails at all? Plus, Tubular Rail costs are an affordable alternative to fast trains on fast tracks and are smarter than investing in slow trains running on slow freight track. Hundreds of train accidents occur each year, as did recently in Henry County in northwest Ohio. So for safety reasons alone, TRI technology is grade-separated to avoid crossing costs and collisions with EMS vehicles, families or kids on skateboards. We are bound for the future, so why are so many decision makers, especially federal and state transportation and planning officials, so headstrong to journey back to the past? Heed the words of Charles Kettering, the inventor of the first electrical ignition system. He said, “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Finally, Mr. Esrati’s post is the first one we’ve run across, except for the comments we’ve have made as part of our guerrilla marketing campaign to introduce our new-trainways technology to the public because the media is blissfully ignorant of the real facts and doesn’t know the right questions to ask of Ohio’s transportation director or others who, while they may be sincere about the need to have more public transit, just have their facts wrong. Ohio’s statewide media has received two media releases from Tubular Rail, but with the small exception of Jim Nash of the Dispatch running a blurb on the paper’s political blog ( ), they have to a news source ignored reporting on our new, visionary “trackless train” technology. The Cincinnati Enquirer kept up dangling for five months on a story after their statehouse bureau reporter expressed interest in writing about us. The media has fallen down on their job to inform the public, as Mr. Esrati is attempting to do, that options other than no train or the slow train exist today. In 2025 when the Ohio Hub Plan (totally out of date and inaccurate in a dozen ways) says a multi-state federal corridor system is done at the cost of tens or hundreds of billions of dollars are spent, we will only have a passenger rail system that moves a little faster than trains did during the Civil War. Does Ohio really want to spend all that money over all those years to produce an antiquated, out of date train system? Governor Strickland needs to listen to other voices, like ours, if he wants to avoid a major blunder that won’t make money, won’t take drivers out of their cars, won’t reduce truck congestion on our roads, won’t contribute to reducing carbon emissions and will require an ongoing public subsidy. I testified before the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee on Ohio’s proposed Transportation Budget. One senator submitted two amendments on our behalf that would redirect some of the $250 million that will be wasted on the 3-C Corridor route to providing “proof of concept” for Tubular Rail. We’ve been trying to reach Gov. Strickland or his top development officials for over eight months, but I guess the job of wondering where Ohio is going to produce more home-grown jobs — which our technology represents — is too much to look at the innovation of our technology. We did have a brief and not-welcoming audience with Ohio’s new transportation director, but she was down on us from the start, which we expected given her history with the Federal Railroad Administration and her past work with the Ohio Rail Development Commission. The biggest barrier to real transportation reform are the people who constitute the status quo of transportation agencies, groups and supporters because they think what we have is the best we’ll ever have. What a sad frame of mind that is. Ohio talks a good game about innovation, but while others are rushing to the future, Ohio is rushing backwards.

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