Lots of issues raised in online comments posted with both versions of Sunday's story (in The N&O and The Charlotte Observer) about North Carolina's pretty good prospects for getting some of the billions of dollars President Obama plans to spend to start building several high-speed rail corridors across the country.
Trains are Dinosaurs ... Having lived for a decade in Europe, believe me, they are a huge money pit - none make a dime in Europe, not even the high speed trains. The MAGLEV train that the Great Unifier wants to fund so Harry Reid can bring gamblers from LA to Las Vegas was developed in Germany over 20 years ago and was a total failure. - kmisegades
Republicans say Reid, the Democrats' Senate leader, wants stimulus loot to build a proposed magnetic levitation train between Las Vegas and Disneyland. This route is not among the 10 high-speed corridors designated since 1991 by the USDOT. We'll see whether the USDOT decides nevertheless to drop big bucks in Vegas.
Some people from both ends of the state are simply not excited about the prospect of traveling by train between Raleigh and Charlotte in as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes.
I made the drive one time in 1 hour and 45 minutes. This is a waste of money. - john galt
Now that's high speed.
Was this article written from a DOT press release? Where were the questions important to taxpayers? For example, precisely how many people per day purchase plane tickets from RDU to Charlotte? What will it cost to cut off most at grade crossings in terms of emergency response times, school bus routing and commute pain? In fact, aside from construction and land acquisition costs, what will it cost NC citizens to have the privilege of scooting across the state fast? How many stops between the two main terminii in NC? How far will a typical traverler have to drive in order to ride? What will parking cost? - tradingpath
Good questions. (The answer to the first is No, but I get the point.) Some answers won't be knowable for years (parking now at Raleigh's Amtrak station is free, FYI - there just isn't much of it). Some questions we'll want to pursue in further reporting.
In terms of cost, the story did mention a USDOT study predicting that the proposed southeast intercity service would be a financial success -- a prediction it did not make for other high speed corridors. It is expected to generate enough ticket revenue to cover its operating costs. More info at www.sehsr.org.
Mark Barroso raised several issues by e-mail:
Like most stories featuring the views of rail boosters in our area, your story omitted an inconvenient fact that has saddled most communities with such services with enormous amounts of debt: people don't use trains because they still have miles to travel after they get off the train.
The visionaries of rail service think everyone in Charlotte are just trying to get to downtown Raleigh. That is not reality. Even if the travel time by rail gets down to the travel time by car, you still have the time and expense of a taxi/bus/rental car to get to your destination.
Rail travel in NC cannot possibly be competitive with car travel for this reason. Ever. Our population and business centers are not dense enough, nor will they likely relocate to new transportation nodes. Low ridership will require high public subsidies forever.
Ever? Density and transit are sort of chicken and egg. They promote each other, and won't likely happen without each other.
Wake, Durham and Orange are supposed to grow by nearly a million people in the next 25 years. That's a big number, and I don't know whether it will happen, but I can tell you that growth projections for the past 30 years have been consistently LOWER than the growth we actually experienced. If we build a good transit network, more of that growth is likely to go into urban density and less is likely to go to the far flung suburbs of Chatham, Alamance, Franklin, Johnston and Harnett counties.
The federal stimulus billions are aimed at intercity trains only, but local and state officials are not planning this service in isolation. By the time the faster train service is up and running, if it indeed happens, there are expectations in Raleigh and Charlotte to have new "intermodal" stations like the Amtrak depot in Greensboro now, in the center of downtown with trains under the same roof as local and regional buses and taxis.
Raleigh just started its first fare-free downtown circulator bus, and Durham plans to do so in the coming year. These circulators and the approximately 300 additional buses to be added to Triangle roads before the trains start running are aimed at providing easy connections for people stepping off the trains. (There are similar goals for improved transit within Research Triangle Park, but its spread-out layout will make that a tough goal to accomplish.)
The idea is that when you step off the train in Raleigh, you wait only a few minutes to step onto the free circulator that loops past the convention center, the museums, the state government complex. Or you catch a bus to other parts of Raleigh or the Triangle.
That'll be different. If it happens.