Written by Henry Chang
Holidays are right around the corner and everyone wants to go home. Unfortunately for commuters, this is not that simple. For California residents in particular, the main options for commuting are by car, by airplane, or by train. Driving a car is convenient but both tiring and costly depending on traffic and local gas prices, respectively. On the other hand, flying on an airplane is expensive but offers the most relaxing choice. Riding a train gives an intermediate alternative, providing the capacity to work or sleep at a more reasonable cost across long distances. However, navigating through train stations presents a challenge as well. Given these, how can public transportation be improved in accessibility and efficiency? One idea that has been in progress is the High-Speed Rail Program, an initiative to construct a magnetic levitation (maglev) train across California to reduce the inconveniences of transportation.
Maglev trains, also known as bullet trains, have already been proven effective in various areas like Japan and France. Instead of using typical steel railway tracks, these modern train tracks take advantage of magnetic properties for its tracks—such as the fact that two magnets held close can either attract or repel—to move passengers from one place to another at “bullet” speed, over 200 miles per hour! By using strong magnets, the trains actually float over their tracks at rest and at max speeds, significantly reducing energy normally lost due to friction . In addition to having blistering speeds, maglev trains are powered by electromagnetic forces so fossils fuels are unnecessary, meaning that this mode of transportation is also environmentally friendly . Since these magnets are powerful, ongoing research is working to optimize conditions for passenger safety . With these benefits, it is only a matter of time until urban areas that suffer from heavy traffic daily grasp this technology.
Understandably, progress on a project of this scale does not surge overnight. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has been taking the lead on construction of a maglev train system that connects Los Angeles to San Francisco with a goal of finishing by 2029 . Yet, complications continue to arise as the suggested timeline advances primarily because of the cost. “The total construction cost estimate has now more than doubled to $68 billion from the original $33 billion,” partially due to the high prices of California real estate needed, and has consequently increased the predicted ticket prices . To ensure the project’s success, it will be essential for political support to be present and heard in favor of funding.
After working day in and day out, people look to the holidays as an escape from stress, as a breath of fresh air well deserved. Current public transportation provides options for commuters to return home, but difficulties can delay even the best of plans for up to days. Whether for a tradition of eating turkey or hanging up lights at home, being able to take a maglev train should be on this year’s wish list.
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4. Postrel, Virginia. "California Hits the Brakes on High-Speed Rail Fiasco." Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 28 June 2016. Web.