When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed,
as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon
Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge
and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the
most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California
high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest
bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.
The underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one. It
would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if
it is actually better than flying or driving. The train in question would be both
slower, more expensive to operate (if unsubsidized) and less safe by two orders
of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?
If we are to make a massive investment in a new transportation system, then
the return should by rights be equally massive. Compared to the alternatives, it
should ideally be:
• Lower cost
• More convenient
• Immune to weather
• Sustainably self-powering
• Resistant to Earthquakes
• Not disruptive to those along the route
Is there truly a new mode of transport – a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars
and boats – that meets those criteria and is practical to implement? Many ideas
for a system with most of those properties have been proposed and should be
acknowledged, reaching as far back as Robert Goddard’s to proposals in recent
decades by the Rand Corporation and ET3.
Unfortunately, none of these have panned out. As things stand today, there is
not even a short distance demonstration system operating in test pilot mode
anywhere in the world, let alone something that is robust enough for public
transit. They all possess, it would seem, one or more fatal flaws that prevent
them from coming to fruition.
The above quote is taken directly from Tesla Motors web site.