The Acela’s Success Bodes Well for California HSR
A great op-ed in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times by Dan Turner makes a strong case that the Acela’s success means California high speed rail should do even better once it’s built:
Currently the only high-speed train in the United States, Acela runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston via Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. It is the only part of Amtrak’s network that actually makes money instead of losing it, and has been gobbling market share from commercial airlines. According to a recent New York Times story, 75% of travelers between New York and Washington now go by train; before Acela’s arrival in 2000, only about one-third of travelers between those cities chose Amtrak.
Business travelers prefer Acela to flying because the train has power outlets, Wi-Fi and cellphone access, making it easy to work during the trip. They also don’t face the security hassles of airports nor the long ground travel and waiting times that can erase the speed advantage of airplanes.
There’s no reason to think California’s bullet train couldn’t be as successful, and maybe more so. For one thing, California’s train is designed to move faster, with a top speed of up to 220 miles per hour; Acela has a top speed of 150 mph but averages only about 75.
The whole thing is worth reading. It comes on the heels of this New York Times article showing that the inconvenience of air travel is a major factor in fueling Acela ridership:
“On the train, you’ve got power outlets and Wi-Fi, you can talk on the phone — it’s usable time,” said George Hamlin, an aviation writer and airline consultant who frequently rides Amtrak between Washington and New York. “Even I’m guilty of it,” he said of taking the train.
I keep making this point, but a lot of California journalists refuse to believe this. The difference is that the Acela actually exists and journalists and others can see for themselves the many ways in which it is superior to flying. Once California high speed rail is built, many people on this coast will see it too.