A Year in Infrastructure

Monday, January 23, 2012

Andrea Bernstein, director of the public radio Transportation Nation project and senior correspondent for WNYC, looks at the ups and downs of transit and infrastructure politics through a chart of presidential word usage with WNYC reporter Alex Goldmark

Comments [30]

Political Pop from America

Vote and Die! =) dont vote this year!

Jan. 26 2012 01:11 PM
Mike from Inwood

Who are these people? Train seats are uncomfortable? Compared to what? Train seats have a lot more room than the seats on airplanes, buses or even the back seats of mid-sized cars.

Jan. 24 2012 01:47 AM

How can you think that government does not subsidize rail?
Take a look at this:

BTW: What is the average per rider Federal Treasury cost for Amtrack?

Jan. 23 2012 11:19 PM
Ernie from Long Island

We all know that air travel is dysfunctional even in the best of times, but worse in difficult challenges like blizzards.
The modern 2nd generation Maglev that has been developed on Long Island by Maglev inventors, Gordon Danby and James Powell can operate in almost any conceivable weather. That may sound like too large a claim, but consider this. The 2nd generation Maglev which is known as Maglev 2000 can run on an elevated beam with all the electrical components inside completely protected from the weather. The snow accumulation on the carrying beam would be small as the wind would blow most of it off, and snow and ice are magnetically transparent. The train itself has a high lift about 6 inches from the carry beam, therefore there will be no physical impediment to the trains forward motion.

The Maglev 2000 uses electronic switches, therefore, no frozen switches. Electronic switches are relatively cheap to build. By building into the system many switch alternatives we can by-pass stations easily to improve commuter schedules.

The Maglev is fast and extremely efficient, but it does not have to go fast to still be worthwhile. It is ideal for commuter trains because it uses the kinetic energy in the vehicle itself to brake. A conventional train has brakes similar to the brakes on a car. The steel and brake pad dust goes into the air we breath. In a conventional commuter train we throw away all of the energy we created in the vehicle every time we stop it With the Maglev, 90% of the kinetic energy is converted back to power in the guideway.

Another consideration is freight. The trucks that carry freight are just as vulnerable to bad weather as planes and conventional rail. The Maglev 2000 has enormous lift capacity. A specially designed Maglev car can carry two fully loaded 50 ton trucks and move in all kinds of weather at speeds of up to 300 MPH. The savings to the truckers would be substantial and the reliability of on-time shipping would be greatly enhanced. This would be a boon to the freight industry, while at the same time creating an entirely new manufacturing industry.

The inventors have devised a cost effective modification that will allow the Maglev to operate on conventional right-of-ways such as the Long Island Railroad. The modification would not prevent conventional trains from operating when the Maglev was not in service.

What is the economic viability? The Maglev infrastructure cost is considerably less that the wheel and track so called high speed rail that is used in other countries, and it is inherently faster. The HSR being promoted by Germany and Japan as well as other designs cannot carry freight. Freight is important because it is the most profitable part of the transportation system. Maglev can stand on its own economic merits.

Ernest Fazio is Chairman of Long Island Metro Business Action (LIMBA) and spokes person for Maglev 2000

Jan. 23 2012 01:52 PM

Maglev info YouTube videos April 2011

Jan. 23 2012 12:23 PM
Gomez Films from Uptown from New York City -- Uptown

I am an independent filmmaker living in Uptown Manhattan Inwood. I have been working in and out of New York various television jobs. Living out of New York is another world. I grew up on the 8th Avenue subway (A train line) and enjoyed the freedom of exploration and independent thinking whom was not enslaved to an automobile. I value the railroads here in our country, and hope one day we can evolve into a society that values communities depended on rail transportation. Rail transportation allows passengers to learn humility, diversity, and creativity. The New York Subway has no class system. Passenger rail doesn't discriminate between the various diversity of economic class amount people or passengers. Furthermore, long distance rail travel offer passengers to meet new people in the dinning car and the need to appreciate the passage of time. Who cares that the distance between Chicago and New York is 21 hours. During that time people can read, open up to meet new people, see amazing sites from their windows, and truly see the amazing riches of our country. Southwest Airlines is a joke!!! If you consider Southwest Airlines civilized travel then you are crazier than my wife!!! Listen, if I want to be coupe up in a "risk taking flying machine.." then I rather take my chances on the 8th Ave Express train from 125th Street to 34th Street. If, you have 350.00 to spend on air travel, then you can invest that same amount into a train ride in a luxury sleep in which currently Amtrak has to offer!!!! I am sick of air congesting, I sick of oil consumption, and I sick of my nation fueling a war in the middle east because my fellow citizens cannot stand to enjoy a lovely train ride of 21 hours than to wasting 300 barrels of oil for a 3 hour flight to Chicago. In closing.... I have a dream in making a film about High Speed rail, and hoping to get "Right & Left" views on rail Infrastructure here in America. I am curious... what is your rail story? I love railroads and I hope in my life time to see at least one complete 300 speed short rail system built from DC to B-town / LA to SF. Thank you for listening. 常勝

Jan. 23 2012 12:20 PM

Any upgrade to rails should be MagLev. New Magnetic Levitation tech uses larger clearances and can be implemented on existing railroad tracks without disabling conventional trains.
Conventional high speed rail requires constant tweaking of the rail bed to keep the rails smooth enough to not derail the fast train. Point loading on rails is hard on the tracks.
New MagLev doesn't need this sort of very expensive maintenance. Magnets spread loads evenly. No impact. Smoother ride. Magnetic stability.
Cost of installation is only slightly higher than conventional rails. Excellent fuel efficiency.

Jan. 23 2012 11:59 AM

Come to think of it, Amy from Manhattan, you're right.
The proposals seem to concern Tampa to Disneyland and Bakersfield to Fresno.
Why don't we just designate equally large population centers as "cities" instead of neighborhoods? Wouldn't that entitle New Yorkers to some of this "pork"? Or is it just available to Floridians and Californians?

Jan. 23 2012 11:57 AM
Mike from Inwood

cochi asks: "A small detail about the famously nice and fast European railroads: they are all government-subsidized. Imagine that in today's America, if you can."

I imagine we subsidize roads and airports, so why not rail?

Jan. 23 2012 11:57 AM
Mike from Inwood

The problem with high-speed rail in the northeast corridor (or even along both coasts) is that to be high-speed, the rails must be fairly straight. Unfortunately, the real estate on both coasts is so developed that getting the land rights for high-speed rail would be difficult.

The only reason Amtrak loses money is because it must maintain unprofitable rails into rural areas and through unpopulated western states to get the votes of those senators to maintain its funding.

Jan. 23 2012 11:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

IN Europe, people pay HIGHER taxes, and live in SMALLER apartments, and generally not that far away from work in oversized suburban homes as do many Americans. America INSANELY dispersed its population out of cities and into distant suburbs in the '60s and '70s and now wonders why there is a big energy problem. Or rather, a rising COST-of-energy problem.

Jan. 23 2012 11:51 AM

@Mike from Jersey City:

Are you a first time listener?
If the discussion is about politics, those are the distinctions
made by WNYC-NPR personalities. Brian is a faithful supporter of
that standard.
I hope you didn't buy that olfactory capability for
your radio to experience anything but "Car Talk" or "This American Life".


Jan. 23 2012 11:50 AM
Ana from North Arlington, NJ

I live less than 10 miles away from Manhattan and although I love taking the train to the city, it baffles me that I have to connect to another train making the total of my commute to more than an hour! in Europe this would be a 20 min trip tops!!!

Jan. 23 2012 11:47 AM
Amy from Manhattan

geTaylor, have you heard anyone actually propose high-speed rail between boroughs? Trains that go at that speed usually travel between major cities.

Jan. 23 2012 11:47 AM

A small detail about the famously nice and fast European railroads: they are all government-subsidized.
Imagine that in today's America, if you can.

Jan. 23 2012 11:47 AM
Mike from Inwood

This woman has been on an almost-empty train on the north-east corridor? Only an Acela train which are much more expensive but usually no faster. SOmeone else must have been paying for her ticket. The other trains are very crowded.

Jan. 23 2012 11:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

HOw can anyone compare a HUGE country like the US to relatively small countries like GErmany, France, Italy, Britain, etc.? Yes, in certain densely populated metropolitan areas, maybe fast trains make sense. But it's a huge investment, and most people here would still prefer to use private transportation. Smaller, more efficient and "smarter" cars that can park themselves, etc.

Jan. 23 2012 11:45 AM
CGJ2012 from Brooklyn NY

I have to disagree with the last caller from NJ -- I commute regularly between NYC and DC for work and it's been about 5 years since I've been on an train that wasn't overfilled. There's a huge demand for train travel in the North East (witness standing-room only Amtrak trains!); high speed rail would create jobs, boost tourism and work travel and be pretty awesome to boot.

It's time we made this investment in a longer-term move away from gasoline and foreign oil dependence. All of our cities are built around the automobile; better rail and HSR infrastructure will enable us to move forward more sustainably.

Jan. 23 2012 11:45 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Ummmm...wouldn't more people ride the rails if they were faster????????? Seems like a no-brainer to me...

Jan. 23 2012 11:45 AM
Nick from UWS

We just need trains in this country. Never mind "high speed rail". Just get the trains working again...we already have thousands of miles of dormant track. What kind of idiocy is this? Stop talking about high speed rail when we can't even have simple trains running.

Jan. 23 2012 11:45 AM
MM from NYC

In regards to high speed rail, which I would love and use, such infrastructure requires long stretches of straight track with no grade crossings. The existing rights of way just do accommodate this sort of development just don’t exist and I doubt any politician at any level has the stomach required for the eminent domain seizures, costs, and long construction time-lines associated with it

Jan. 23 2012 11:44 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Did anyone watch Bill Moyers last night? Housing construction - one of the major labor categories that pulls us out of recession - is still buried and going to stay buried. The 'too big to fail' problem has if anything been made worse by the actions taken by Bush/Obama so far. Thus the likelihood is that it will happen again and probably within a decade.

I hate to sound like a fiscal reactionary but the Fed's actions to continue to keep the flywheel turning has given the greenlight to risky speculative behavior with the Treasury covering losses when the speculators guess wrong. They did it with Mexican debt under Clinton, the bailout of Long Term Capital, and finally, the housing bubble. Something has got to give.

@Mike - I might agree with your perception of the 'verb problem' if the GOP were acting reasonably. Since Obama's inauguration, the GOP has been incapable of acting like good American citizens who believe in established governing processes. Why should Brian work to both sides sounds objectively equal when one side never behaves as if the welfare of American citizens matters to them?

Jan. 23 2012 11:44 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Did Pres. Obama mention the bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007? Seems to me a lot of people need to be reminded of that as an example of why we need infrastructure spending.

Jan. 23 2012 11:42 AM
Nick from UWS

It shows how pathetic American politics has become where we now need a geek with computer programs to "analyze" what the President is saying, in order to "interpret" what he is saying. Has it really come to that? That Americans believe that our politicians are saying something real, but need a computer program to interpret it?

When will Americans understand that politicians say things that will emotionally stimulate their constituents so they will get votes and maintain power. That is the ONLY reason ANY politician says ANYTHING.

Jan. 23 2012 11:42 AM
oscar from ny

President Obana wants to build a fast speed rail road than he should focus on the enginnering process...theres a magnetic train that japan uses...we should use this technology and perfected...

Jan. 23 2012 11:42 AM
Ana from Brooklyn

In this difficult economic time, why can't we do what Roosevelt had done during depression and start a WPA program, where people do build bridges and rails. Germany has a similar program now, that helped them maintain one of the strongest economies in Europe.And no one calls Germans "communists", as they would here.

Jan. 23 2012 11:38 AM

I never really took president Obama's promises for high speed rail seriously - who wants to travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan at 300 mph?

Jan. 23 2012 11:37 AM
John A.

Mike, Gingrich is leading right now. That's your smell there.

Jan. 23 2012 11:35 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Ultimately electric cars, not electric trains, represent the future of most American transportation. Obama just recognized a piece of reality.

Jan. 23 2012 11:32 AM
Mike from Jersey City

BRIAN'S VERB PROBLEM: Hey, Brian, I appreciate that you're going to be under heavier-than-usual-pressure this election year, but could we police the verbs a bit. Republicans "howl" "rail" etc. Democrats "consider" "protect" etc. It's starting to smell.

Jan. 23 2012 11:28 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.