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A National Maglev Infrastructure?

  1. Aug 21, 2009 #1
    A particular pet idea of mine is that of implementing a nationwide Maglev intercity transportation system. Essentially what I would like to see is a brand-new infrastructure program - - - not totally unlike the interstate highway program of the 1950s. In fact, the maglev guideways would not be greatly different from highway programs. The government (because of the initial cost) I see as building the infrastructure, and leasing it to any and all members of industry, which would be companies that would own and operate the trailns themselves. This is somewhat similar to to the arrangement with commercial aircraft - - - government controlled infrastructure, like airports and air routes, and industry ownership, control and operation of the vehicles. In the end we would get a grid connecting our cities.

    The system is fast (potentially very fast) clean, and though the initial (construction) costs are higher it is comparable in operating cost to conventional rail - - - and a lot cheaper than air, not to mention cleaner and quieter. The following links are given for general reference:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/transportation/4232548.html" [Broken]
    http://www.maglev2000.com/works/how.html" [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2009 #2
    What I see as a great prospect for a Maglev system is with trains that employ Halbach Arrays. This greatly simplifies the implementation of Maglevs. I also see a new look at the design and configuration of the system. There is no reason to have to copy present-day conventional trains. They could easily standardize this new system to larger trains (large enough to easily carry autos, etc.), to a higher gauge, and with many other differences. The following links are to Halbach Array systems.

    1. https://www.llnl.gov/str/Post.html" [Broken]
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halbach_array" [Broken]
    3. http://www.skytran.net/press/sciam02.htm" [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Aug 21, 2009 #3
    Maglevs are fast, that we know, but the conventional approach to maglev is not much faster than for high-speed rail (500km/hr, 300 mph). So why go with it. It costs somewhat more than high speed rail and cannot be operated on standard rail. It has a special potential, however, that I see.

    http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2004-04/trans-atlantic-maglev" [Broken]discusses a proposed transatlantic train tunnel, and where it is probably feasible from a physical standpoint, I cannot see how the world could ever afford it. On the other hand it does propose an interesting feature, the enclosure of the trains into evacuated tunnels. This allows the trains to eliminate most of the problem of air friction, the main inhibitant limiting top speeds. (There is no rail friction, and maglev friction is negligible.) Speeds could be increased to ranges of 1000 mph. This would make continental air travel obsolete - - - and at lower operating costs.

    Initially the infrastructure could be designed open - - - to operate at conventional speeds everywhere - - - but at some later date, the long-distance intercity routes could be enclosed and then operated in the high-speed vacuum mode.

    The following videos discuss the transatlantic tunnel idea:

    http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/extreme-engineering-season-1-shorts-hypothetical-trans.html" [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Aug 22, 2009 #4
    This would be especially suitable within the United States where the railroad infrastructure in many places is either non-existent (gone), or in shoddy shape. We chose to rely heavily upon interstate highways and airline travel (guzzle). Now, we have a chance to start almost anew on our train infrastructure (note that I don't say rail here). We might either get back on track, possibly with something really new, or we might just vegetate.

  6. Aug 23, 2009 #5
    In the early 1990s, the Department of Transportation conducted a comprehensive study (http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/TNM.html" [Broken]) of the possibilities and feasibility of Maglev transportation within the US. There were several conclusions, but one that should be brought up first is that there is no hope that private industry wil (or can) go it alone in this arena. It's too expensive (especially the infrastructure) and there are too many potential pitfalls in any given approach to expect any company to risk it. They just don't have the resources - - - but the national implications are enormous. Government must participate

    Several decades ago, several American groups began and demonstrated the applicability of Maglev and the Government backed several of these. Then the Government in its wisdom, abandoned its participation (in 1975). The justification, "let the marketplace take its course". Meanwhile the German and Japanese governments supported efforts from their countries. The result, all present products come from those countries - - - especially Germany.

    A few of the conclusions from the DOT study were:

    1. A fast Maglev system will be of great help in cutting pollution and dependence on foreign oil, mainly by cutting into air traffic, but also somewhat in reducing intercity auto traffic.
    2. Speeds of 300 MPH are achievable.
    3. Initial investment will require public assistance; private industry won't go it alone.
    4. There are system capabilities and possibilities better than those existing.
    5. We should devote effort and resources to a newer, American designed system adapted to American needs.
    6. An American design effort would give a boost to American engineering and the American economy.
    7. We should move to electronically switched guideways, rather than the presently used mechanical switches. This results in higher speeds and higher safety at speed.
    8. Both existing and new right-of-ways can be incorporated.
    9. Costs for an American system would be greater than the rail-based (slower) French TGV system; but on par with the German Transrapid.
    10. Costs would (in 1990) be from $27 million to $46 million per mile, cheaper than for urban rail systems.
    11. The construction and operating costs would be amortized in only one corridor - - - the northeast corridor.
    12. Almost all corridors would cover operating costs alone.
    13. The system would greatly augment our high-tech employment sector.
    14. Joint ventures with companies abroad should be permitted.

    It should be noted that this study came out before the advent of Halbach Array systems (like Inductrac) so there is no mention of them therein. We should incorporate these.

    Then, in around 2000, the US Government launched a http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/200" [Broken], to have various regions around the nation propose demonstration projects to prove the maglev concept. There were seven initial selected proposals, which were later narrowed to two - - - Baltimore/Washington and the Pittsburg area. In all of these proposals, there seems to have been a serious communication disconnect. They all proposed the German Transrapid system. First of all, we don't need a demonstration of this system - - - it already exists (Shanghai). We can simply go and observe and study it where it is. Also it isn't the job of the US Government to help develop foreign technology - - - any more than it would be for the German Government to promote and develop US technology. They need to go back and get new proposals - - - for US technology, and in particular Halbach Array technology. It is too promising to ignore.

    Some examples of present proposals are the following:

    http://www.bwmaglev.com/" [Broken]
    http://www.portauthority.org/PAAC/News/TransportationStudies/PAMaglevProject/tabid/312/Default.aspx" [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Aug 23, 2009 #6
    The real question is what would cause people to use maglev when we can't get them to use existing rail or mass transit? If there were a simple answer like 'It can be much cheaper than automobiles without adding extra hassle.' or ' It can be faster than air travel and more comfortable' then I'd be all for it. Right now it seems to be a solution that can only work if people are forced to use it. There are reasons why people choose personal automobiles over mass transit and airplanes over trains.
  8. Aug 23, 2009 #7
    People use planes for one reason, they are considered faster, so they would substitute it for air travel if it isn't overpriced. The Northeast corridor shows that. For cars it's more of a problem. Most wouldn't give those up. Cars afford transportation at the destination end. We could eventually replace planes, however.

  9. Aug 23, 2009 #8
    We should remember that much of what is transported is not people. Material shippers will use that which is cheaper and more expedient. Also, remember that rail travel was once the dominant mode in the US, as it is almost everywhere else. Union practices in the 1930s through the 1950s made rail transportation uneconomical. Featherbedding on railroads was far greater than anywhere else. This is why trucks are so prevelent today. Hopefully the lesson has been learned.

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