Future of Air Travel

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SanAntonioClyde

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The pandemic has thrown the airlines into a financial abyss that some will not survive. For the next year or so I suspect most of us will have some degree of hesitation to jumping back on the silver birds. Prior to this crisis air travel was exploding but approaching a comfort limit with passengers. An issue not widely discussed by the general public but in the halls of planners was the crunch of airport capacity. As discussed in recent issue of "CityLab", airports were faced with being landlocked which hampered runway expansions, airport terminals designs were ill suited to meet the need to handle the increase in passenger thru-put, and parking capacity was becoming a major financial issue.

In Europe there was a movement to shame travelers off short flight in favor of rail travel.

No to look at todays situation.

So with our country seeking to recover, could there be opportunities to begin a national interest in rebuilding a true modern passenger rail system? While there are tons of obstacles here, nevertheless I advocate that we need to increase our discussions with our neighbors, business leaders and elected officials about the financial benefits rail travel has to offer our country. The time might be right to do so.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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No sorry. The time to rebuild passenger rail will be longer than the time to reboot the airlines.
 

sttom

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I would like to see federal funds going to rail service and infrastructure, but that is going to take a huge fight. Best case scenario we could get something through in 2021, but if the past is any indicator of the future, it would be an insufficient amount of money compared to the money we throw away keeping the highways in a state of tolerable disrepair.

To even get rail back to being a functional form of transportation we'd need to treat it like the interstate highways. Which got an inflation adjusted $260 billion to start construction and effectively a blank check ever since. I don't see Amtrak getting that much of a cash infusion and reoccurring source of funding, no matter what the strings may be. Any number followed by "billion" is enough to scare the public into being against something or at the very least mobilizing a small number of noisy "concerned citizens" that will really people against it.

And to poke us a bit, our most far reaching plans or ideas are to get the long distance trains up to twice per day and maybe some 500 ish mile quasi corridor trains running. To get rail to be useful, we frankly need more than that and I don't think any advocacy group is up for that.

This isn't to mention that people's memories are short. The public at large will likely forget about the Coronavirus long before we could convince Congress to put rail in the same position as the highways or even the first mile of track is built.
 

John Bredin

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And to poke us a bit, our most far reaching plans or ideas are to get the long distance trains up to twice per day and maybe some 500 ish mile quasi corridor trains running. To get rail to be useful, we frankly need more than that and I don't think any advocacy group is up for that.
Somebody's advocating for more: Congressman Seth Moulton has formally proposed, with a bill in Congress, $205 billion over five years for high speed rail and other rail improvements. Moulton's own website on his plan. Wired article. Moulton's plan (pdf file).

Of course asking for billions will rally opposition, as you note, but IMHO a comprehensive plan with elements that appeal to various constituencies (private and public investment, transit-oriented-development, etc.) is also a flag for supporters to rally around. "Make no small plans..." and all that.

While I don't agree with everything Moulton says, I'm heartened by a quote from Moulton in the Wired article:
Wired said:
As for Moulton, he’s not looking forward to any specific train ride, if or when this national network is built. He’s looking forward to the first one. That will be a tipping point, he thinks. “The first line will inspire a lot more interest in high-speed rail in other parts of the country,” he says.
For all that hasn't happened, all the plans that have been frustrated by know-nothing opposition, transit and intercity passenger rail have had some success in this country, including in some red and purple states. It's my firm belief that those successes have been where there's already an operating service, practically to have a service base to expand upon and politically to (1) have a constituency (riders, businesses in towns with service) for keeping and expanding service and (2) concretely refute the "nobody will ride here" opposition meme.

For example, North Carolina is purple (Dem governor, GOP assembly) but has consistently added trains and made improvements to the Carolinian/Piedmont service because they had a base service to build from. Houston ("oil city" if there ever was one) expanded its single light-rail line to multiple lines, while San Antonio with no rail transit bans public spending on starting any.

The important thing, which Moulton gets, is to get something built and operating. While neighborhoods and suburbs may fight the first light-rail line in their metro area out of NIMBYism and a fear of lower property values, they often fight to get service in later expansions once the first line shows that property values rise near a transit station in their city like most everywhere else. :rolleyes:

This isn't to mention that people's memories are short. The public at large will likely forget about the Coronavirus long before we could convince Congress to put rail in the same position as the highways or even the first mile of track is built.
I think rail advocacy (beyond seeking relief money to keep present rail systems intact) will be more successful when people have somewhat forgotten about coronavirus in the visceral or emotional sense. The meme that "coronavirus spread in New York and New Jersey because of dirty dangerous public transit" (rather than because NYC is a world city where people from everywhere meet and mingle) is still strong. Even the even-handed Wired article refers to "public transit [as] tight corridors, surfaces teeming with who knows what." And all passenger rail gets lumped in with that to some degree. While I understand why Moulton is promoting his plan now, I think it would have even more traction with the public when fear of the virus has faded but economic fallout still lingers.
 

sttom

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$205 billion is nearly sufficient (at least in my book) but we still need a source of reoccurring funding like the highways get. We need to work on expanding less high profile corridors like most of the state supported services. We need a feeder system of trains before we can really work on high speed rail. The reason is, most people still live in suburbs and most suburban cities won't be getting a high speed stop. This hurts rail and will further divide the country.

I want to drastically expand rail in this country, but we also need to work on the less sexy parts of it like having more NEC style service across the country. Even the list of projects included at the end come off as more a wish list than an actual plan. The design of new train service isn't sexy, and that is one thing I don't like about some of the advocacy groups is that they tend to make the new proposed trains seem more sexy than they really need to be. Even the plan admits that it wants to fund gadgetbahns or "The inclusion of projects that are neither higher-speed nor high-speed rail reveals the need to refocus passenger rail funding in the U.S. to avoid developing lines with 20th-century technology. " Personally funding pipe dreams is a way to kill increasing train service. Hell even the mayor of Miami campaigned on expanding commuter rail and has walked back hoping that self driving cars will save us.

P3s aren't exactly the best model to go with. Denver is using one to build its commuter rail line. So far the private part has contributed $450 million in funding and will be getting $7.1 billion back which is a rate of return of 15 to 1. That's a great return for the private partners, the rate of return for most rail projects are closer to 4 to 1 to the public at large over 20 years.

And this plan has done more to annoy me than make me feel hopeful for the future because its just more par for the course. Its more going straight for the dessert of public transit (high speed rail) without the meat and veggies being done (local Amtrak service and non rail public transit). And on top of that, they want to use a magical funding mechanism that will likely end up with the public getting bilked on the finances for an expensive train that most people won't be able to afford to ride or even live near where it stops. Oh yeah and it will be private, Amtrak is hardly to be mentioned in any of these plans.

What I posted in the Future Ideas part of the forum would be a better place to start. Which is to start by providing funding for Amtrak state corridors, interstate corridors and new equipment. I'm not being self centered, but I am starting with where we are and trying to be cognizant of that. Not just assuming that we can some how P3 our way to where Europe's rail systems are, which is way more than high speed trains. And we don't have the conventional trains to do the thankless work of carrying people from one town to a town 50 miles away. I get that members of Congress don't care about people like me who don't live in a major urban center, but transit advocacy needs to not forget that either and fall on their face for literally anything that comes along.
 

Dakota 400

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I think it would have even more traction with the public when fear of the virus has faded but economic fallout still lingers.
I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but, I do think that "fear of the virus" is going to become "sufficient concern about the virus" that our economy is going to suffer for some time. There has been, for how many recent years, "hot air" blowing out of our Nation's Capital about the need for major investments in infrastructure. The need still exists; Amtrak could benefit. Will such an investment happen? It takes leadership, statesmanship. Such an investment, just as what was done in the 1930's, put people to work and helped to re-start a very sick economy. Was it done perfectly? Of course not. The plans were made by humans. Humans are noted for not being perfect. Such investments worked then; why would such not work in 2020 and the years beyond?
 

John Bredin

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sttom: I included my remark about not agreeing with everything Moulton said because of his pro-gadgetbahn and anti "20th century tech" remarks. I also disagreed with him making some of the right noises about improved conventional or "higher-speed" rail as a necessary feeder to HSR but then limiting the funding for higher-speed rail to 20% of the total. And the list of projects at the end isn't even a wish list, because Moulton included HSR and gadgetbahn projects alongside plans for higher-speed and conventional service while opining at the top of the list that there are too many non-HSR projects.

All in all, Moulton seems to do very well laying out the problems with the present transportation faux-free-market non-system but then makes some of his problematic policy proposals :) because he "buys" some of the conservative/"free market" critiques of passenger rail as it exists in the U.S.

All that said, putting forth a plan and a bill is a good place to start a debate. If he gets only the moon by asking for the stars and if representatives of regions that would be better served by improved conventional rail ask "what about us?" and successfully push for significant amendments to that 20% cap, we would do well.

Dakota 400: I agree both that concern about coronavirus isn't going away soon and that stimulus by infrastructure investment should work. But advocating for investment in passenger rail has more of a "headwind" with the public while lots of people are literally afraid to leave their homes than otherwise.
 

20th Century Rider

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Don't forget to watch the Spacex launch today scheduled for 4:33pm Eastern Time. Will be covered on several stations. Note that weather is questionable. 🤠

49399916862_804a949893_k-1024x642.jpg
 

John Bredin

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I'm of two minds about this SpaceX business.

On one hand, I have a niggling fear in the back of my head about entrusting two lives in the name of the nation to an absolute loon who picks twitter fights with rescuers, builds an electric truck that looks like a prop FUTURE! sportscar from a bad 1970's sci-fi movie, names his poor* kid X Æ A-12, and then doubles down and renames him the even more outré X Æ A-Xii.

On the other hand, Tesla cars impress the hell out of me, and I would buy one if I wasn't a humble civil servant. :)

*Figuratively, of course.
 

20th Century Rider

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I'm of two minds about this SpaceX business.

On one hand, I have a niggling fear in the back of my head about entrusting two lives in the name of the nation to an absolute loon who picks twitter fights with rescuers, builds an electric truck that looks like a prop FUTURE! sportscar from a bad 1970's sci-fi movie, names his poor* kid X Æ A-12, and then doubles down and renames him the even more outré X Æ A-Xii.

On the other hand, Tesla cars impress the hell out of me, and I would buy one if I wasn't a humble civil servant. :)

*Figuratively, of course.
Yup... the guy is a bit controversial. But I wouldn't put it past him to achieve success with his kind-a wild high speed rail idea between Chicago O'hare and downtown. It would shoot through an underground tube. We gotta show China!

hyper-car_wide-e2aecec00df62004e65c088b942a0c12eaf9e94d-s800-c85.jpg
 

jis

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I thought that the whole thing about Hyperloop comes about because Elon figures he is good at building rockets that fly in space. So why not figure out how to repurpose them on ground? To do so first you have to create a space like environment on ground, ergo tubes with space-like vacuum in them. How to keep things in the space like vacuum without bumping into the sides, ergo levitation from all walls. And voila - Hyperloop! :D

For those that are humor challenged, this was meant to be a joke. Not serious. ;)
 
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20th Century Rider

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You could host a Zoom Meeting and do just that ....
Hey Qapla... it was fun to connect with you and others on zoom... lets do it again soon during 'happy hour!' Or maybe in person with SanAntonioClyde on the river walk with margaritas. An awesome place; I got a free night coupon for the Marriot! ;)
 

MARC Rider

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I thought that the whole thing about Hyperloop comes about because Elon figures he is good at building rockets that fly in space. So why not figure out how to reppurpose them on ground? To do so first you have to creat a space like environment on ground, ergo tubes with spacelike vacuum in them. How to keep things in the space like vacuum without bumping into the sides, ergo levitation from all walls. And voila - Hyperloop! :D
Nothing new under the sun.
When they first built BART in the San Francisco area, they picked an aerospace contractor to build the trains. "Oh, let's build an airplane with wheels." As I recall, they spent years, maybe decades trying to fix the resulting problems.
 

MARC Rider

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On one hand, I have a niggling fear in the back of my head about entrusting two lives in the name of the nation to an absolute loon who picks twitter fights with rescuers, builds an electric truck that looks like a prop FUTURE! sportscar from a bad 1970's sci-fi movie, names his poor* kid X Æ A-12, and then doubles down and renames him the even more outré X Æ A-Xii.
Don't forget that he insisted on opening his factory during an epidemic when everybody else in the area was shut down.
 

anumberone

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The guy is a strange duck. But, Space X is real, Telsa is also real. Space is a stones throw from my house and I'm amazed what he has managed to build in such a small amount of space.
 

20th Century Rider

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It won't be long before other manufacturers start selling electric cars that are just as good as Tesla.

Nobody is indispensable.
The extravagant Tesla ain't for me. I gotta dented 2006 Camry with quality issues... door locks don't work, air conditioning only works when it's cold, and stuff keeps falling in between the seats... I don't like the design and all the problems but I intend to drive it into the ground or as long as the engine still works. Cars are a depreciation and for those of us who aren't rich, new cars are a bad-for-the-wallet decision. Have a friend who lives in a very modest small apartment, but he spent $70k on a new entry model Tesla which he says pretty much drives itself. He's got a new girl friend who just loves his car. My battered hulk sits in front of the new lodge home I bought last year and paid in full. I guess that in the end it's whatever makes you happy! 🤠
 

sttom

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Nothing new under the sun.
When they first built BART in the San Francisco area, they picked an aerospace contractor to build the trains. "Oh, let's build an airplane with wheels." As I recall, they spent years, maybe decades trying to fix the resulting problems.
I live in the San Francisco, I can confirm we are still dealing with issues the plane engineers

I thought that the whole thing about Hyperloop comes about because Elon figures he is good at building rockets that fly in space. So why not figure out how to repurpose them on ground? To do so first you have to creat a space like environment on ground, ergo tubes with space-like vacuum in them. How to keep things in the space like vacuum without bumping into the sides, ergo levitation from all walls. And voila - Hyperloop! :D

For those that are humor challenged, this was meant to be a joke. Not serious. ;)
The Loop and the Hyperloop are two different tube related projects. The Hyperloop is a maglev in a vacuum, the Loop is basically a high speed underground highway. The video I attached goes into more detail as to why the Loop is stupid.

 

MARC Rider

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the Loop is basically a high speed underground highway.
Well, then, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (built in 1940) has a number of "loops." I-95 in downtown Philadelphia runs underground. There are two tunnels connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, and a couple more connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens. The concept of a tunnel isn't exactly a new idea.
 

sttom

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Well, then, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (built in 1940) has a number of "loops." I-95 in downtown Philadelphia runs underground. There are two tunnels connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, and a couple more connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens. The concept of a tunnel isn't exactly a new idea.
But the method of digging the tunnel is the new thing. Cause somehow, in some magical way, Elon will manage to dig a half mile per day! Also, instead of your car, you'll be on a flat bed thing or a minibus travelling at 100+ miles per hour....on rubber tires! Its all very wishy washy, emphasis on the wish.
 
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