Planes vs. high-speed vs. 'higher-speed' rail in TexasThis story on the Eurostar London-Paris high-speed rail caught my eye yesterday in the Chronicle Travel section. I have ridden it before, and it is a wonderful service. The speed is deceptively quiet until a train going the other direction passes by in the blink of an eye at a 300mph net speed difference. And London and Paris have great local transit connections at each end, of course. It was during my McKinsey management consulting days, and the travel department bought me a first-class ticket on a non-peak train, so I ended up with an entire first-class car, and hostess, to myself. Not bad at all...
But I digress. What jumped out at me from the article was the one-way prices:
- First class: $425
- Second class (i.e. coach): $300
- Advance purchase restricted second-class/coach: $80-$160
- Continental first-class walk-up fare: $264
- Southwest walk-up coach: $136-$151
- Southwest advance-purchase restricted coach: $49-$106
So tens of billions are spent to provide service that is twice as expensive as we already have? No wonder everybody wants the Feds to pay for it.
A more cost-effective alternative for Texas may be "higher-speed rail" running around 100mph on existing tracks (the 'higher' is relative to existing trains, not HSR, so we have the confusing situation of higher-speed rail being slower than high-speed rail). More here and here, as well as a Texas track map. This would also be compatible with the plans for 290 and Galveston commuter rail.
I've been collecting some other HSR links for a while now that are worth passing on:
- Famous economic blogger Megan McArdle's viewpoint in The Atlantic
- The Austin Contrarian on the messed-up map currently proposed (which connects Houston to NOLA instead of the rest of Texas) and the possible negative secondary effects on flight service (not just the flights that compete directly, but flights elsewhere that depend on those flights to feed them passengers).
- The HAIF HSR debate (hat tip to Jessie)