October 24, 2014

Texas #HSR — my latest thoughts

Japanese bullet train. / Photo via Texas Tribune
It looks like high-speed rail is a tad closer to reality in Texas, at least for the Dallas-Houston run.

That said, I'm not totally enamored of any of the nine proposed route options linked above.

I could see one or two straight runs, but I'd also like to see some "non-express" runs. And, to do that, we have to have a different route.

By car, if you take I-35 and Texas 6 rather than I-45, there's two small metropolitan areas between Dallas and Houston — Waco and Bryan/College Station. One or two non-express runs are still feasible, IMO.

Right now, part of Amtrak's problem (other than having no direct service between Dallas and Houston at all) is that it's trying to be an alternative to Greyhound as much as to airlines.

Check out all the places the Texas Eagle stops between Dallas and Austin, for example:
Fort Worth (perfectly fine)
Cleburne (why?)
McGregor (greater Waco, but why not in Waco?)
Temple (why, if you're stopping at McGregor)
Taylor (OK I guess)
Austin

If Amtrak did have a Dallas-Houston line, it would probably have eight or nine stops.

The point is to find a niche between the bus and air, in my opinion.

And, you can still do that with HSR in the way I outlined.

Of course, having just one run a day each between Dallas and Austin, in addition to none between Dallas and Houston, shows another problem. Even on regular trains, you mix an additional run or two a day with fewer cars on each one, which means quicker service.

Or, run an extra non-express route or two on weekends. Wacoans go to DFW, and College Station folks to Houston, for culture, special shopping, events, etc., on the weekends, via train.

That's how it's done in Europe. Here's the route of the French LGV Nord that goes from Paris to Calais (to hit the Channel Tunnel)
Gare du Nord (Paris)


Distances?
1st leg is 129 km; second is 55 km, third is 53 km; fourth is 122 km. The short legs are perhaps a bit on the short side, but you get the idea; a stop every 75 miles, even, is not unreasonable.

Ditto as another TGV line shows:

TGV Paris - Luxembourg stops at the following destinations:
    Paris
    Meuse TGV
    Metz
    Thionville
    Luxembourg City

Distances? 264 km on the first leg, 98 on the second, then local "milk run" distance on the last two. 

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