Saturday, November 22, 2014

"The Little Prince" Transportation Commentary.

"Good morning," said the little prince. "Good morning," said the railway switchman. "What do you do here?" the little prince asked. "I sort out travelers, in bundles of a thousand," said the switchman. "I send off the trains that carry them: now to the right, now to the left."

And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman's cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder.

"They are in a great hurry," said the little prince. "What are they looking for?" "Not even the locomotive engineer knows that," said the switchman.

And a second brilliantly lighted express thundered by, in the opposite direction.

"Are they coming back already?" demanded the little prince. "These are not the same ones," said the switchman. "It is an exchange." "Were they not satisfied where they were?" asked the little prince. "No one is ever satisfied where he is," said the switchman.

And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lighted express.

"Are they pursuing the first travelers?" demanded the little prince.

"They are pursuing nothing at all," said the switchman. "They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only children are flattening their noses on the window-panes." "Only the children know what they are looking for," said the little prince. "They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry..." "They are the lucky," the switchman said.

See: Pages 70 and 71, "The Little Prince," by Antoine De Saint-Exupery.

The little prince learned  how time and place utility is created through transportation.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Built In Lack of Reliability and Mobility

Here is the explanation of why and how a flight is canceled. Weather is the major reason. But, among the weather decision are additional variables. Time Agazine report on Morning Joe MSNBC program:

Inmobility and No Reliability
The extent that airline cancellations argues for the restoration of conventional speed passenger rail service.

This New York Times article gives a picture of what happens to the interruption of travel:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

High Speed Rail Route Pennsylvania

On August 21, 1906, the new York Times reported that Joseph Ramsey, former president of the Wabash Railroad announced that a right of way survey had been made across Pennsylvania. The intent of the survey was to build a new railroad across Pennsylvania in order to have the distance from New York to Chicago be 200 miles less than the distance between the two cities covered by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The proposed line was to have no grade more than .04 per cent. And, it was to use electric locomotives rather than steam locomotives.

The route would have crossed the center of Pennsylvania generally about some 20 miles south of today's Interstate 80.

Interstate 80 has 6 per cent gradients. Notable is Snowshoe, PA to Milesburg, PA. Had the I-80 followed the proposed route for Ramsey's Railroad, the savings in fuel would have been remarkable.
Imagine tractor trailers unencumbered by the grades they encounter today. Imagine being a motorist not being held up by tractor trailers.  A .04 grade would have meant smooth flowing streams of tractor trailers rather than the clumps of traffic a motorist contends with today.

The remarkable thing about Ramsey's proposed New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad was that it was to use electric locomotives. In 1906 electrical engineering had progressed to the point that a high voltage direct current system could have been installed and reliably operated. As the railroad was to require three years for its construction, it would have spanned the period when alternating current systems and locomotives were perfected. In 1906 the development of steam locomotive design had exploited all the mechanical designs for efficiency. This culminated with attempts to apply multiple cylinder designs, three cylinders instead of two cylinders, to fully use the energy of steam. The idea was to use the exhausted steam from the visible high pressure side cylinders channeling it to a center low pressure center cylinder. The center cylinder had a larger cubic capacity and from it the remaining steam was exhausted out the stack. The third cylinder was attached to the drive wheels through a crank mechanism that was part of the drive wheel axle. This was a complex mechanical design that disappeared a few years later when advanced designs were developed for superheated steam. Before superheaters steam was steam saturated with considerable water vapor. Eliminating the water vapor by heating the steam before its energy being applied to the driving cylinders meant there was no need to pursue complex three cylinder designs. Nonetheless, while the steam locomotive using superheated used more of the steam energy and was more efficient; steam locomotive availability for work seldom exceeded 75 per cent. There was so much time preparing, firing, fueling  and maintaining a steam locomotive that their availability for work was so limited.

Had the New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad had been built, even with all the additional costs to string overhead wires and construct power plants, the electrified railroad would have had significantly lower operating costs. The NYPC Railroad's rates would have been  much less than steam operated railroads.The the whole history of the Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central Railroad Erie Railroad and Baltimore Railroad, all railroads connecting New York to Chicago, would have been significantly different.

IF a High Speed Rail HSR (150+ mph) were to cross Pennsylvania it might likely generally follow the proposed NYPC route. But, rather than slavishly follow the watershed stream location of the NYPC, placing the route on higher elevations of Pennsylvania's ridges and mountains would take the route away populations. It would lessen the NIMBY (not in my back yard) challenges that would be part of a new right of way and new HSR line.

Current Status High Speed Rail

High Speed Rail (HSR) is defined as speeds higher than 125 mph.

How the political process interferes with mobility:

Current Status American Inmobility

Take a look at

Here is a graphic presentation of Amtrak ridership with comments.


Why do Americans accept an intercity transportation system that fails completely in winter weather?

Why should travelers be faced with total and complete inability to complete interstate travel?

Would a transportation system that might lose some capacity during a winter storm be preferable to one that ceases to exist for days at a time?

Would such a system contribute to economic activity rather than impede it?

The Airline industry has been inmobile and incapable of any travel performance for an inordinate number of days in January and February.