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Efficient Transportation Network

Trains and Cars can mix
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(+3, -2)
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It is known that with respect to transportation of massive amounts of material, the most efficient way to do it is via railroad. It is sad that the state of the railroads in the USA has degraded so much from its heyday, especially when you see the massive amounts of material that get moved all over the place by less-efficient auto and truck engines. So, what to do?

First, obviously, some significant infrastructure upgrades are in order. Far too many places are connected by a single set of railroad tracks. Everywhere should be double-tracked! Then you almost totally eliminate head-on train collisions (there will always be someone stupid enough to deliberate try to gum up the works). Perceptions of unsafety while riding rails will be diminished both by the newness of the infrastructure, and the fact of having two sets of tracks for oppositely-moving trains.

Next, more trains need to run on more frequent schedules. What will all these trains be carrying? People AND their cars! Whole semi-tractor trucks, too (not only the trailers, as is common now). All ordinary roads between cities should be thought of the way to go when you want to wander around a lot, going from Point A to Point B without regard to how long it takes to get there. But for all those who simply hop in the car and drive straight from (for example) New York to Washington DC, well what if instead they drove onto a train? The cost of a ticket should be less than the cost of gas to drive, simply because trains ARE more efficient than cars! Also, the inter-city trains should be non-stop and high-speed (certainly faster than highways at rush hour!), thus attracting customers.

As part of the new infrastructure thing, all road/rail intersections need to be bridged so that autos and trains can never collide. (Considering how many railroad tracks are laid on a raised embankment, many (not all, though) such intersections should probably have the road going under the rails.)

Of course this overall Idea cannot be implemented everywhere at once (too much infrastructure to build). A few selected pairs of cities could be connected with frequently scheduled trains as described, starting the snowball effect of raising revenue to expand the network.

Vernon, Jun 18 2002

'Put the car on the train' is baked. http://amtrak.com/plan/autotrainpol.html
[StarChaser, Jun 19 2002]

Le shuttle http://www.bbc.co.u...2/alabaster/A134740
Baked x 2 [stupop, Jun 19 2002]

Level Rail Pseudo-Coaster Level_20Rail_20Pseudo-Coaster
As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Mar 12 2008]

Moving-belt walkway and 2 different speeds http://books.google...v=onepage&q&f=false
As mentioned in an annotation. Looks like I mis-remembered the folks who developed it. I also seem to have a memory (possibly false) of attempting to find this link when I first wrote the annotation, but couldn't. Later, though, I succeeded, and linked it to a different Idea, but had forgotten about this one. So now the anno finally gets the link it needed, years ago. [Vernon, Nov 05 2013]


       Biggest problem is that new stations would have to be built like airports, far away from the center of town. Old cities are unlikely to have the space to build an expanded train station. Tampa has at least one old station downtown, but while it was in its day a major station, it's smaller than the last bus station I was in.   

       I like the idea of trains, but they're so slow compared to airplanes, and have no real price saving. Last time I went to California, I looked into it. It would have taken three days to get there, and three days back, leaving me one day of my vacation to do anything. And it cost ten dollars MORE than the plane that only took 8 hours.   

       Combining the two might be a good idea...Train to airline hub, airline hub to airline hub, train from hub to destination, sold as one package. Can't bring the car like that, though.
StarChaser, Jun 19 2002

       Putting cars on trains is an old idea, but it doesn't seem to be very popular any more, except where there's no alternative like the Channel Tunnel between England and France. You used to be able to take your car by train between Edinburgh and London in Britain, but this service has been discontinued. Although trains are often quicker than cars over the same route, when you take into account the time for loading (which will require moving the train to a separate terminal), plus the time to drive to the station, it saves little time.   

       Furthermore, as mentioned, it requires a lot of station modifications, which will be impossible at smaller or less busy stations. And the cost of taking a car by train may well exceed that of driving it, due to the added expenses of the railway system, the train, ticketing, staff, etc.   

       The rest of the idea is better, although much is not exactly novel. In Britain there is a problem with perception of the dangers of rail travel, due to a series of accidents, although it is still safer than going by car. So measures to improve safety and the perception of safety would be very welcome.
pottedstu, Jun 19 2002

       I'd quite like to see a facility to allow people drive cars on and off moving trains.
stupop, Jun 19 2002

       A bit like driving the mini's onto the bus in 'The Italian Job'?
DrBob, Jun 19 2002

       StarChaser, I don't know why train travel is so expensive, when it remains true that the railroads are the most energy-efficient way to move large masses. Greed, maybe? Or perhaps the economy-of scale just doesn't favor moving people around. But moving people and their cars SHOULD be less expensive than the cost of the gas it takes to drive between City A and City B.   

       Yes, putting cars on trains is baked. But doing it competitively/economically is not baked, and I'd like to know why. Also, please remember I'm comparing trains with cars, not with air travel. By train or car, if it takes about the same amount of time to travel, then the important thing is the cost, right?   

       stupop, some years ago in Popular Science there was described a pedestrian-transport system (moving walkways) that had a unique system to get people up to speed onto the main mover. Imagine a rectangle that is 4 times longer than wide. Now bend the rectangle a bit, into a rhomboid (diamond-like) shape -- it still has edge-ratios of 4 to 1. OK, now take a bunch of these shapes and line up their short sides one-after-the next. Move them conveyor-fashion toward a curve. DURING the 90-degree curve, realign the shapes so that the long edges will be arranged one-after-the-next. The shapes do not change their directional orientation while going around the curve! In order to accommodate the extra length (4 times the prior edge-size), after rounding the corner the moving shapes are going 4 times faster than before rounding the corner. Pedestrians standing on the moving shapes now simply shift sideways onto the main moving walkway. Pedestrians wanting to get off do so, too. The moving special shapes go around another corner, and slow down again, to 1/4 the main moving-walkway speed. At the slowed speed, the pedestrians can easily step off onto the ordinary unmoving ground. Obviously if the special moving shapes have a side-ratio of 50-to-1, then the main moving walkway can be moving 50 times as fast as the slow portion of the moving-special-shapes. (There may need to be something to hold tight during acceleration/deceleration.). It seems to me that this system could let cars board trains easily...if scaled up from pedestrian dimensions..   

       If I recall right, the company that designed that acceleration/deceleration system is a German outfit named TransRapid. But the above-described idea is relatively old, and I didn't see any sign of it when I looked at their web site (they are concentrating on maglev stuff these days).
Vernon, Jun 20 2002

       You don't need to build two sets of tracks to double your throughput. Simply place a set of rails actually on the train itself. Then when two trains meet, one just goes up and over the top of the other one.
Dipstick, Mar 12 2008

       [Dipstick], that Idea has in a way already been posted. See link. Do note it specifically mentions half-height trains, so that the doubled height does not have problems with overhead wires, bridges, tunnels, etc.   

       Your suggestion also has a problem in that trains currently have a height which is "safe" relative to the width of the track. Too much higher, like one train on top of another, and it could easily tip over sideways.
Vernon, Mar 12 2008

       //build two sets of tracks to double your throughput.   

not_morrison_rm, Nov 05 2013


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