Public Transportation

Fifty most populous cities and metropolitan areas are as determined by Wikipedia.
Distances between cities are driving distances as determined by Google maps.

36 Comments on "Public Transportation"

  1. Sadly, the trip between Washington and New York—which does use the fastest trains in all of Amtrak—doesn’t come anywhere near 1h37m. If only…

  2. Neat. Now calculate how much it would cost to build.

    There’s no time like a deep recession for massive infrastructure projects, though.

  3. The distance between Minneapolis and Milwaukee is 336 mi. Going 149 mi/h would take over two hours to get between them. Did you mean 2h12m between the two instead of 1h12m?

  4. malarkey, you have to keep in mind that this is like mathnet.

    the numbers are made up
    but the problems are real.

  5. Mike: I’m confused then. The caption suggests that the numbers are real, and the 40m for PHL-BAL or 41 for PHL-NYC are certainly correct.

    en-bee: Acela only runs at top speed for short stretches in New England. Mostly it’s more like 120 rather than 150.

  6. One of the many problems on the Northeast Corridor line is that the Acela trains were simply added to the older rail system instead of having a dedicated service route. The new, expensive, high speed trains co-mingles with commuter traffic and the occasional freight train. Amtrak boggled Acela from the beginning; instead of buying “off the shelf” engines, they commissioned their own proprietary system. Beyond that, Acela trains fail because instead operating as city to city direct express trains, they make stops in regional cities. This is the greater problem with Amtrak– the need to operate trains in as many congressional districts as possible.

    Also, a number of destination cities would probably benefit from high speed rail service, even if they don’t qualify as the 50 largest metro areas. Atlantic City, for instance, would benefit tremendously from a high speed rail connection directly to Manhattan. In the best of times, New York to Atlantic City is 2.5 hours by car or casino bus. That’s assuming their isn’t traffic. If a high speed rail line could reduce that to 30 or 45 minutes, there probably would be plenty of folks heading down to gamble for a night out. The same sort of relationship is probably true in many other tourist cities that are otherwise too close to their metropolitan hub to justify flying for the average consumer.

  7. It’s interesting to see what becomes the hubs for the network.
    Memphis has the most connections with five. Then St. Louis, Dallas, and Houston each have four connections.

  8. Forgive my ignorance, I’m foreign. Does nobody ever want to get from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque in a hurry?

  9. I’d REALLY like to see what majick they can work to get ANY train from Salt Lake City to San Francisco in 4:57 (since we’re ignoring the second largest mountain range in the continental US, we can also safely ignore the Capital of California — nobody pays attention to them anyway). Same thing for LV-SF in 3:57 (same comment about Fresno and the Sierra Nevada mountains).

    We won’t even consider Denver to SLC, though, until they can answer the SLC-SF route.

    Serious question, though: As someone with more knowledge of Physics than high speed rail transport, how different (aside from the higher maintenance efforts required) are the standard rails in place today from rails that can handle high speed traffic? The stresses of several hundred tons of rail car and locomotive, repeatedly hammering on the rails and substrate therein, must be insane.

  10. Um, NYC-Rochester is a pretty bizarre choice for a route, frankly. The Albany Amtrak station is one of the ten busiest in the system because of traffic between the state capital and NYC. A NYC->Albany->Syracuse->Rochester->Buffalo line following the old New York Central would make more sense and would probably help revitalize upstate New York.

  11. A deep recession is a fine time for massive infrastructure projects. Put millions back to work and improve the country while we’re at it. I seem to recall it working okay some years ago.

  12. Wouldn’t it make a better route from St. louis > Indy > Chicago than backtracking from Indy>St.L.> Chicago?

  13. Lisa – this route puts Chicago closer to the Western states.

    Brad – I tried to limit the number of routes on the map, and neither Jackson nor New Orleans looked populated enough to demand a direct route between the two.

    Mike – you are probably right! This is a map I made up irrespective of tracks and stations already on the ground. If If I could get that kind of information, well – I still wouldn’t know what I was doing.

  14. I like the point, but as with the other posters the logistics are kinda screwy here for me. For instance, over the middle of the country the two most popular and heavily traveled routes are the I-35 corridor from Minneapolis to Dallas/Fort Worth, and the I-70 corridor from St. Louis to Denver. Having direct lines. Even though Des Moines, Iowa isn’t on the list it would out of necessity become a hub because of good rail access, and the crossing of I-80 and I-35.

    Almost all highways in the Midwest track closely with rail lines anyhow, not sure how it is in other parts, but the Midwest, Plains, and Western states all do. This means also, that there are no direct shot lines and right-of-ways between Denver and Salt Lake city. I know a new high-speed line would have to be built, but you have to think of property right and existing right-of-ways, and possibly the existence of a national forest or wildlife refuge in the way. Sticking with established routes, if not the same track would be closer to reality.

    What program did you make this with? I’d like to work on my own version, using yours as reference would be cool. Heh, maybe we would register and start a collaborative community and lobbying group ;)

  15. I like Steve’s point. Wouldn’t it be easier to generally follow existing interstate highways when possible?

    It would be fantastic if the routes could take into account common tourist traffic. For instance, do people from Florida often visit Nawlins? If so, give them a direct route from Jacksonville and you’ll save them 3 hours. Same for Midwesterners who like the Carolina shores – a route from Nashville to Virgina Beach would work.

    And don’t forget about the Mormon Express from the Cities of Salt and Sin!

  16. This is a great gedankenexperiment.

    Being a former Arizonan, however, it seems to me that it would make sense to ditch the Phoenix-San Diego route, turn LA-San Diego into a spur line, and run the line from Phoenix to Riverside/LA.

    Also, a El Paso-Albuquerque-Colorado Springs line and a Dallas-Tulsa-Kansas City line would be somewhat logical.

  17. If the routes were only used for commuter and vacation travel, well that would be one thing. Most of these routes are also used for freight and unlike interstate highways, sometimes there is only one set of tracks on a given leg. Amtrack officially has the right of way, which means freight is supposed to pull off on a side track to wait for Amtrack to pass. However, most freight loads are too long to fit on these side tracks, so when there’s a right of way issue, Amtrack usually loses. This was the reason why on a Tucson to Dallas trip, it took us 12 hours just to get to ElPaso, and then bussed by Amtrack to San Antonio, where finally got on a train to Dallas. Our Tucson to Little Rock train escapade was almost 24 hours in the making. Maybe it’s better going east to west, or north-south.

  18. To Roger:
    The problem isn’t the difference in the tracks, but the fact that local trains, sharing one set of tracks with high-speed trains, interfere with them, making everything unduly slow.

  19. The more difficult problem is the local mass transit.

    You take the train from New York City to Buffalo — then what? Buffalo has a whopping 6 miles of subway lines, in a straight line. Only a handful of American cities have enough of a mass transit system to be worth traveling to by high-speed rail for a quick day-trip.

  20. california just passed Prop 1A, which issues state bonds for the research and development of high speed rail. to give everyone an idea of the cost, the bonds being issued are in the area of 19 Billion dollars…and that only includes the first 5 or 6% of CONSTRUCTION.

    I voted yes on it, but I dare anyone to try and make that work in a state or country with the economy the way it is.

  21. Heh…awesome spanning tree. Is it minimal? Maybe that’s the wrong question. A minimal spanning tree weighted for distance or time might not be the most convenient, have the most riders, nor make the most sense or profit, which i suppose makes a better question, or something closer to it.

  22. There is a difference between high speed ready track and traditional track. The biggest issue is that newer high speed ready track is made with concrete rail ties rather than wood rail ties and is therefor stronger and more durable. This improvement was one of the biggest investments needed for Acela service in the northeast, along with tightening of the overhead electric catenaries.

    However, the state of existing track and catenary wires is meaningless. A true high speed network will need dedicated track to achieve the best speeds, free from sharp turns, grade crossings, steep inclines and commuter trains. The rail system, especially on the eastern seaboard is too old for a modern high speed rail network and building a new system from scratch would be far better.

    As a side note, China has nearly completed its high speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai, which will cut the journey from 11 hours to 5. When completed the system will be the longest high speed route in the world at 743 miles. Currently 110,000 workers are constructing the line; meanwhile our country is giving out money to automakers.

  23. It’d be neat to have it dip into Canada up from Minneapolis; particularly to go west so like you know people in Minneapolis can have a more direct route west. Also to Roger regarding Sacramento: do you have any idea how many people commute to and from SF from (or to) Sac? The capital corridor train is ALWAYS full for commuter hours, and it is usually a minimum of 2 and a half hours. These people would GREATLY appreciate a quarter of this time commute every day. Not to mention weekend travelers down to the bay from Sac; bout half of SF’s tourism comes from in-state, and driving on I-80 from Sac on a saturday, the freeways are just jammed pack.

  24. Another problem with commuter rail sharing tracks with high-speed trains – standing at a commuter station when the Acela speed by is TERRIFYING.

    Side note: Why is Las Vegas always so much farther south than I am expecting?

  25. From Jacksonville you cannot get to Atlanta without going to Washington DC first. AmTrak needs to rethink that.

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