said by a333:
Perhaps not cross-country trips, but linking up the length of each coastline and its major centers using the EXISTING tracks (but improving them so that they are worthy of high-speed service) is certainly something worth pursuing.
Why? What niche will it fill that isn't filled cheaper and more efficiently by air travel?
As it stands, the only reason trains are more attractive for mid-range regional trips (think Boston to DC) is because you don't have to deal with the post 9/11 security regime and resulting delays. The travel time is roughly the same once you take airport security into account. It remains unclear how much longer this will remain an advantage, TSA is currently attempting to expand their security theater into other forms of transportation, including rail and bus stations. Fixing airport security would solve a lot of problems with our air travel system, but that's an entirely different discussion!
said by a333:
All of those combined cost quite a lot less than building a whole new line (and don't require the headaches of new zoning/permits/et. al.)
So why doesn't the private sector do it? It would be all over it if there was money to be made. Why should the Government step in and spend billions of dollars on rail, particularly when we have other infrastructure (roads and bridges) demanding attention. That infrastructure is already the responsibility of Government, and most would agree that it's failing us, how many other first world countries have had bridge collapses in a major metropolitan area
said by a333:
Also, air has its own growing pains these days... increased traffic means we have to re-think an air traffic control system that hasn't been re-thought since the 1960's. New runways also lead to NIMBY cases who do not want to be put in the approach path, and experience the associated noise (or at least the perceived noise), or the potential safety hazards.
Well, the air traffic control system needs to be modernized regardless, though a lot of issues there could be solved simply by hiring more people. I concur that air travel has it's own NIMBY issues, I just think they are easier to manage than those from rail.
Speaking more broadly, NIMBY, and its step child BANANA, are holding us back more than our mass transit system. Everybody wants cell phone reception, but nobody wants to look at a communications tower. Everybody wants cheaper electricity, but it requires a major battle to obtain the required right-of-ways to build new transmission lines. Politicians grandstand, the tin-foil hat (cell phone towers cause cancer!) crowd comes out, and any new infrastructure project turns into an expensive public relations nightmare.
Our excessively burdensome regulatory structure does not help matters either. It took more than a decade to complete the environmental impact studies for the Cape Wind project. Combine that with the nasty PR/NIMBY battle and it's a wonder the company behind the project didn't pull out in favor of investing their capital elsewhere. Would you have the patience to sit on billions of dollars of capital for more than a decade, when you could send it elsewhere, probably offshore, and earn returns today?