Thursday, April 23, 2015

Magnetic Deflation

Have you ever heard of magnetic levitation technology?  If you're an American - and you probably are, if you're reading this blog, since that's where my readers most likely are, according to my statistics page - you probably haven't, even through it was invented by Americans.  Magnetic levitation is an innovation that allows a vehicle to float above a set of tracks using electrically charged magnets for lift and propulsion, thereby reducing friction and increasing speeds.  And it's being pursued in other countries, but not here, because "Maglev," as it's abbreviated, is best suited for mass-transit vehicles, especially intercity passenger rail, and, well, you know how we stupid Americans view passenger rail as a bygone, obsolete form of transport!    
Well, there's nothing antiquated about this story. This past Friday (April 17), a seven-car Maglev train being tested in Japan set a new world record with a speed of 366 miles per hour on a test track near Mount Fuji.  Then it set a new record four days later with a maximum speed of  374 mph.
Central Japan Railway hopes to get a commercial version of the Maglev running between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027, and while it won't go as fast as the test train, the commercial train's projected 313-mph top speed ain't to shabby either.  (The Maglev will cut the travel time between Tokyo and Nagoya to forty minutes, less than half the time taken by the bullet trains currently being used.)  If you want ho-hum passenger rail speeds, consider American passenger rail.
Needless to say, I find it appalling that a rail technology Americans invented was abandoned in this country, and that other countries (including China) are developing it for passenger trains while we obsess over the Kardashians and their in-laws.  We're even having a hard time getting conventional high-speed rail off the ground - after all, the Kochs are trying to stop it, and they've succeeded in Wisconsin, a state they bought in 2010 - and here the Japanese are taking our idea and moving it forward, literally and figuratively.  
The company that developed this new Maglev train wants to export the technology to the United States - bringing it all back home, you might say - and possibly build a Maglev train to run between New York and Chicago, reducing the rail travel time to two hours.  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  The Republicans who now control the government, currently setting up an apparatus to retain control until the end of time, have no interest in advancing public intercity transit.  And if Scott WalKKKer is our next President, forget bullet trains for Amtrak; he'll get rid of Amtrak altogether.
Right now, California is moving forward on a conventional high-speed rail line.  House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, far from being proud of his home state's efforts to bring passenger rail into the twenty-first century, has vowed not to let one dime of federal money fund the project, which he dismisses as a "boondoggle."  Anyway, he's pre-occupied with something more  important to him than expanding intercity passenger rail - pushing through further abortion restrictions.
As you can tell - if you didn't get the hint from my October 2014 post about Japan's bullet trains - I'm really pissed off about all this.

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