Acela: This Not So High Speed Train Has Got the Re-emergin' Railroad Blues
In the old folk hit "City of New Orleans," Arlo Guthrie laments "this train's got the disappearin' railroad blues." The putatively high-speed Acela has just the opposite problem. For those of you who don't know, the Acela is Amtrak's "high speed" train system that never delivered its promise of speeds over 100mph.
All that money for high-speed rail in the stimulus bill bypassed Acela like a freight train speeding past a creaky old hobo that couldn't jump in time. While anyone who's driven I-95 in the last 30 years can tell you that Acela's 71-mph average speed between Washington and Boston is faster than you can realistically drive it these days, it's hardly competitive with air travel and fails to deliver on the promise of high-speed rail.
That's got long-time transport critic Christian Wolmar scratching his head. Wolmar says the President needs a quick win for high-speed rail, and that Amtrak's Acela service is a perfect candidate. Straighten out some track, remove some regulations, and Wolmar envisions real high-speed rail on Acela, like the 3 hours it takes a Parisian to travel the 500 miles to Marseilles.
With successes from the ground-up high-speed rail projects in the stimulus years away, Wolmar may be on the right track.