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Japanese JR-Maglev  (Source: Yosemite)
Government funnels $45M into maglev proposal.

President Bush signed a transportation bill that will help fund a high speed maglev train between Disneyland and Las Vegas. The initial $45M investment will be used for environmental studies to evaluate construction impact on one portion of the proposed maglev route.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., showed support of the project and said the maglev train "will safely and efficiently move people between southern California and Las Vegas."

As more nations begin to roll out maglev train systems, critics in the U.S. grow increasingly frustrated over the lack of support of organized high speed trains in the United States.

With speeds up to 300 MPH, the maglev train will be able to transport passengers between the two locations, about 250 miles apart, in less than two hours. Most drivers who go from the Los Angeles or Anaheim area to Las Vegas are forced to take Interstate 15, but the highway routinely is clogged with gridlock during rush hour.

Congress must now choose the maglev system over other train projects under consideration by the government, including a diesel-electric train that was proposed after a 2005 funding mishap that delayed the Disneyland-Las Vegas line. Japan was the first nation to launch a diesel-hybrid train system, but the train was twice as expensive to build as a regular train.

The United States Maglev Coalition (USMC) is an organization wanting to develop maglev technology in the U.S. The group helped the federal government fix a September 2005 report that "unfairly and erroneously criticized maglev's costs while ignoring its benefits."

Maglev trains are extremely expensive to create, so $45M could easily lead to a multi-billion dollar investment. The Shanghai maglev train network cost almost $30M per mile to create, and a proposed route in Japan is estimated to cost up to $82B to complete.

Germany, Canada, England, China and Japan are included in the small selection of countries that either have working maglev systems or are testing maglev technology.



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This idea has been around since 1979...
By Doormat on 6/9/2008 12:34:24 AM , Rating: 5
I grew up in Vegas, and I can remember the idea of a mag-lev train between here and LA ever since I was a little kid. It was always around the corner.

The idea for Vegas is that half of our visitors come from Southern California. And with gas prices going to $5, $6, $7/gal, people aren't going to be able to afford the tank of gas needed to get back and forth between LA and Vegas. If you cut off half of the tourist base for Vegas, it will fall apart.

The other issue is that we can stop spending so much money on fixing and improving I-15. Granted its still less to widen I-15 to 5 lanes in each direction than to build a mag-lev rail between LV and LA. China spent 1.3B on their mag-lev rail in Shanghi and its only 19mi long, or about 64M/mi, in China, where labor is plentiful and cheap. In the US I could expect costs to be around 100M/mi if not more, or about 25B for the entire 250mi project. Even if you were to cut costs in half due to economies of scale, its still 12.5B, or about the cost of building an entirely new 8-lane highway along the corridor.

Then you have to look at how profitable (or not) it would be. At around 20B for the entire project, at 5% over 40 years, excluding operating costs, it would need to earn 100M/yr, or $273,000/day. If the train could hold 250 people and ran 4x/day in each direction, the cost would be around $273/person each way, or over $500/round trip. Gas is going to have to get really really expensive to compete with that. Even if you expand it to 60 years, it only goes down by about 15%.

Its a great idea and I'd love to see it built (I'd love to hop on a train and go to a baseball or basketball game), but the build cost would need to come down dramatically before its possible. And to be blunt, its likely that if construction costs came down enough, the alternatives (like building more roads) would come down as well.




RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By Oregonian2 on 6/9/2008 3:40:56 AM , Rating: 1
Only a thousand people go from Southern California to Vegas a day? Las Vegas has over 124,000 rooms (http://govegas.about.com/cs/faqs/l/blfunfacts.htm)

Certainly not all full nor all from LA, and all won't take the train (depends on prices though...) but still that only may be a few percent of the rooms.

Compare the price/benefit ratio of a Maglev as described as compared to the price/benefit of the nice modern four lane highway already built from Las Vegas to the infinitesimal almost people-free tiny town of Paraumph (albeit the reasons to go there may be different somewhat - wink - wink).

P.S. - My mother lives in Henderson.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By Doormat on 6/9/2008 10:52:50 AM , Rating: 2
More than 1000 people leave SoCal for Vegas each day, but how many trains can you run per day? If you figure there is an early morning 6am departure (the first WN flight of the day leaves Vegas for LA at 6), and then one every two hours up until 8pm, thats 8x day. So you're still looking at $273/rt if you could fill each train 100%. Even last minute WN reservations are about $200+taxes/rt.

Though there is the ability to recover revenue through non-farebox methods - you could sell WiFi onboard for $5/trip, ads, high priority (and high priced) freight, etc.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By masher2 (blog) on 6/9/2008 11:05:03 AM , Rating: 3
I don't see why they couldn't run a train every 30 minutes or even closer. The route will be bidirectional I'm sure; there's no need for one train to arrive before the next begins.


By Doormat on 6/9/2008 7:01:09 PM , Rating: 2
True, but whats the marginal cost of running each train? Much like with airlines, you don't want too high of a frequency because your load factors fall and you're operational costs skyrocket. Now if the cost of running each train one way is very low, then yea, launch them every 30 minutes, even if you only fill it up 25% you've made money.

If you need 60-70% load factors to make money, then it gets tough to provide that often of service.

Finally, it doesnt even have to be regular. As anyone who travels between the two cities can tell you, starting thursday nights there is a lot more traffic into LV and sunday afternoons are awful, it can take up to 8 hrs to get back to LA from LV. Much like airlines, charge more for peak travel times and adjust prices as the price of gas goes up and down.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By Alexstarfire on 6/9/2008 8:04:40 AM , Rating: 2
5 lanes.... HA. If we had a 5 lane, in each direction, highway in downtown Atlanta it'd come to a crawl; though, it still comes to a crawl with 7? lanes, or is it 8?

Anyways, a Maglev would be a lot better if they built it from coast to coast and not on a little piddly 250 miles stretch. Jeez, I could take a round trip and still have gas left over in my tank. If it's going to cost billions of dollars just to put up a maglev on that little stretch... then maglevs certainly aren't the way of the future. Though, if they ran it across the country and had stops in all the major cities on the way, like Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, Las Vegas, Pheonix, LA, etc. then it might be a lot better off. Course, you could start it even in Miami and have it go through Tampa, or you could start it in New York. Either way, it'd be much better to do that than just from LA to LV. Course, if they plan to expand then.... you gotta start somewhere.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By EricMartello on 6/9/2008 9:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Anyways, a Maglev would be a lot better if they built it from coast to coast and not on a little piddly 250 miles stretch


They're building it on a small stretch because they want to study the impact that its construction will have on the environment.

I agree about the $30M / mile pricing making this train a loss leader for the transit authority that operates it...or something that tax payers can expect to pay off over the next 20-30 years. It would seem to me that they need to find a more cost-effective method of producing maglev trains before they become feasible.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By masher2 (blog) on 6/9/2008 10:59:13 AM , Rating: 2
> "They're building it on a small stretch because they want to study the impact that its construction will have on the environment"

They're building it over a small stretch because -- at construction costs of ~$100M per mile -- a country-wide maglev would bankrupt the nation. Besides, even at 300 mph, few are going to want to ride all the way from NYC to LA.


RE: This idea has been around since 1979...
By EricMartello on 6/10/2008 3:16:30 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They're building it over a small stretch because -- at construction costs of ~$100M per mile -- a country-wide maglev would bankrupt the nation. Besides, even at 300 mph, few are going to want to ride all the way from NYC to LA.


Bankrupt? Us? What are you talking about, we'll just borrow more money from China.... :)

The ideal place for a high speed train is between two points that are far enough apart to be a hassle to drive, yet close enough together to the point where flying would also be a hassle. Example:

PHL <-> NYC

That might be the most perfect place to put a maglev train, or other high-speed rail. Amtrak tried this with Acela but failed, realizing that they'd have to redo all the tracks to support train speeds of 120-150 MPH.


By The Irish Patient on 6/10/2008 11:54:00 AM , Rating: 2
For those who don't live in the Northeast corridor, Amtrak has a (potentially) high speed train called the Acela running between Boston and Washington, DC. The problem is that speeds are severely limited by the ancient track for most of its route.

I take the Acela occasionally from New Haven, Connecticut to DC. The Acela is no faster than a clunky commuter rail car from New Haven to Metropark, NJ. Then it gets up and flies the rest of the way to DC.

Let me tell you, the Acela is a thing of beauty at sustained speeds of 100+ mph. Trains like this (with track to match) are what this country needs, not some pork barrel maglev project. This is old tech that works. No one would fly between NYC and DC if the track got fixed up all the way. Same thing between NYC and Boston.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher











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