Significant improvements to the trip times of the San Diego to Los Angeles rail connection could be affordably made. Alon Levy is a public transportation expert and writer at Pedestrian Observations. He described what could be done for California and on the east coast.
The Los Angeles-San Diego corridor is 128 miles long and mosty straight. Target trip times of two hours should be achievable even with the frequent stops on the Pacific Surfliner. Trip times of about 1:45 or 1:50 are possible which would be competitive with driving even outside rush hour. The investment required for this ranges from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to the very low billions.
In 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration released new regulations for passenger rail safety, which allow lightly modified European trains to run on U.S. tracks. Previously, ancient U.S. rules required trains to be heavier. In 2010, US trains were allowed to run faster on curves, subject to safety testing.
* electrifying the corridor from San Diego to Los Angeles, and as far north as San Luis Obispo would cost about $800 million. Electric trains have far better acceleration than diesel trains. An electric train can reach 100 mph in 76 seconds which is 90 seconds faster than a diesel train can reach 60 mph.
* a tunnel at Miramar Hill would shorten the trip by 4.5 miles and save 7 minutes. This would cost $500 million
Boston to Washington train trip times could be cut from 7 hours to 4 hours for a few billion dollars
Buy faster trains and more of them. A 16-car train every 15 minutes from Washington to Boston, with a one-way travel time including turnaround of about 3:30, would require 30 sets, or 480 cars, or $2 billion.
* Speed up commuter trains instead of bypassing them.
* Upgrade every station to allow for full speed operations. A slow station like Penn Station means 1000 meters at 50 km/h when it could go 200. This costs 54 seconds.
A total cost in the single-digit billions would cut travel time nearly in half.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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