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View Poll Results: Should the US build or improve it's HSR network?
Yes 249 89.57%
No 29 10.43%
Voters: 278. You may not vote on this poll

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Old December 6th, 2009, 11:18 AM   #881
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Originally Posted by FlyFish View Post
For all the ranting and gnashing of teeth above the simple fact is this. The highways exist, that is the system we have. It is a system the we armerican like better than rail travel. How do I know this? Well, morons like me drive instead of taking a train.
Flyfish, underlying this is another issue which you seem to either ignore or wilfully neglect. I assume the former, because people who are reared in very individualistic socities often argue that "if there's not a consumer demand for XYZ, manifested by a willingness to pay for the services of XYZ on the part of the public, then it would be wasteful for the government to spend money on XYZ".

As a political economist, let me tell you that this argument is seriously flawed. Even my arch-conservative colleagues in Chicago would agree with me on that one. Big public projects usually produce benefits to large segments of the population - many of whom would not themselves dream of using the services that are provided. Let me give you an example: when the French built their first HS line between Paris and Lyon (where BTW, to rebut another of your arguments, no one previously travelled by train...) it was seen by most the population as a huge blessing. Why ever? I mean, most of the population have never been in a TGV train. The answer is, the new line (1) gave a shot in the arm to the economy of Lyon, which started developing high-tech clusters and whose unemployment almost halved; (2) the traffic on the overcrowded highway Paris-Lyon greatly improved; and (3) alleviated air congestion over Eastern France and Switzerland that had become at the time a real problem.

If you want to assess whether that HS railway was a good idea or not then you need to assess all the economic benefits it conferred, not simply how much money the passengers were willing to cough up. One thing is certain, you can not go around with a collection box and ask the Lyonnais people who found a job to pay up for the accomodation. Economists call these benefits outside the reach of user fees "externalities" and they can be reaped only through the allocation of public funds.

President Lincoln understood this. He engendered the largest tax-financed railway investment project in the history of the western world. Perhaps Mr. Lincoln should be accused of being, somehow, "un-American"?

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"tax the rich", the answer to everything.
I wouldn't say that. But the United States will definitely need to increase taxes over the next 5-10 years. Currently the tax revenues are barely enough to fund defense, homeland security, Medicaid and Medicare. Every penny above those four programmes is financed by borrowed money.

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Old December 6th, 2009, 01:25 PM   #882
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This is a waste of time and money..., if americans were really interested in passenger rail travel, amtrak wouldn't exist and the private companies would still be running passenger service. And if there was any hint of new american interest, i'm sure norfolk southern or some other rail line would be testing the waters.


Why build something the people don't want?
and if americans were interested in public health insurance, that would exist too, right?
and if americans wanted the war to end, that would happen too, right?
and if americans wanted to investiaget Bush, that would happen too, right?
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Old December 6th, 2009, 03:15 PM   #883
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Well, I think we had better not to start "partisaning" this thread. I usually have a form answer that is: representatives are elected by the people, if American people wanted to, they could change 100% of congressmen, governors, mayors and event POTUS within a decade.

I'm usually in favor of high-speed passenger trasnportation projects, as long as:

(1) the government build and mantain only the tracks and stations, without operating trains by itself.

(2) private railway companies are allowed to compete freely with each other, without subsidiation of routes or any monopolistic time-fixed concessions. Services should be added, modified or withdrawn accordingly to solely discretion of private companies (like airlines).

(3) if demand for traffic in a given dedicated HSR rail line surpasses capacity, competitive bidding would select who could run trains at a given time/weekday there.

(4) current railways remain dedicated ONLY for freight traffic, and optimized for that. US have the one of the most efficient freight rail opertaions in the World, in part due to the fact that railways don't have to care about prioritizing passenger traffic and giving it right of way.

(5) hibrid, Third-World solutions like "improved" tracks for 100-120 mph traffic or single track diesel operations are not even considerated and discarded outright. It's better to have no HSR than have a sub-standard system in place, which cannot compete with air traffic in medium routes.

(6) a long-term solution for maitenance financing of existing public highway system is put on place, be it extending tolling, increased (but not that much) gas taxes etc.
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Old December 6th, 2009, 04:27 PM   #884
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Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
Well, I think we had better not to start "partisaning" this thread. I usually have a form answer that is: representatives are elected by the people, if American people wanted to, they could change 100% of congressmen, governors, mayors and event POTUS within a decade.
There is an old slogan we have here that explains why what you say above won't happen and it goes something like this. "They are all bums and should be thrown out, except my guy, he's alright." It's unfortunate but true.

My tax the rich snark above was for Hoosier and his ilk for whom the Government is the solution of all problems and the evil rich are the corner cash machine. I don't know what they plan to do once these taxes have eliminated the rich but that 's for a political forunm. Anyway, that is an ideological difference that makes this nation strong. He can believe that, I can believe that the Governemnt is not the solution but in fact the root cause of most of the problems and hopefully we are Governed somewhere in the middle.

All six of your items above are valid and to an extent I can agree with all of them. If we weren't in such a massive financial hole right now I might even be a supporter, especially in areas where folks already ride trains. My problem is that we just do not have the money, and a Government overseeing a recessionary economy would be horribly irresponsible to raise taxes and take even more private money out of the system.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 12:48 AM   #885
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In that case, ready-to-shovel highway repair and reconstruction projects should be absolute priority.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 01:22 AM   #886
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andrelot, liked very much to read your post.

From what I know of the USA, if the country really goes for High Speed rail I have no doubt that the US lines will be as efficient as it can get, probably surpassing their European counterparts.

I am yet to know a people with such capacity of delivering efficiency as, I am sure, will happen with HSR.
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Old December 8th, 2009, 07:29 PM   #887
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Originally Posted by hoosier View Post
The $8 billion won't be awarded by the FRA until next year. Florida's legislature is holding a special session to fund the SunRail commuter rail project in Orlando so that it can get some of the federal HSR money to build a line between Orlando and Tampa, among other things.

But there won't be any sizable funds for HSR available until Congress passes a new transportation bill, instead of extending the existing one by six months at a time, which is what it is doing.

The Obama administration is wrong to hold up passage of a new transportation bill. They want to keep kicking the can down the road because they are a bunch of spineless pussies when it comes to addressing crucial issues that might generate criticism.

Isn't this a result of American politics? Elections seem to be reactionary and if you want to get re-elected, just keep the status quo.

HSR to the public is a huge unknown. If they pushed it gung-ho and committed to something, it gives the opposition some fuel to burn them in the next election... and then if they lose office, the cycle starts again.

Very rarely does anything eventful ever happen in the first 4 years. It only happens during the last four years. Then, just as they're starting to get going, they're not allowed to run again.

Next year, the campaigning for president 2012 will begin... and again, nothing will get done for another two years.

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Old December 9th, 2009, 06:16 AM   #888
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Originally Posted by FlyFish View Post
Bingo!


For all the ranting and gnashing of teeth above the simple fact is this. The highways exist, that is the system we have. It is a system the we armerican like better than rail travel. How do I know this? Well, morons like me drive instead of taking a train. If there is money to spend it makes much more sense to repair what you have than to start something else. If there was a sufficient market and any hope of a profitable operation someone out there would build it. This country is bankrupt, now is just not the time.

"tax the rich", the answer to everything.
Yeah dude but people like you drive instead of taking the train because our railroad system is not adequate to 21st century standards!

There are places in this country where it's become more convenient to take the train you know? And just because YOU drive and prefer driving, it doesn't mean that all 300 MILLION of us prefer driving like you do.

I'm gonna say this again: here in Southern California we have more cars than what the highways can take, but we already have five lane highways! What are we going to do, build larger highways?? How the hell are we going to do that, we already have huge highways. And we already have plenty of highways!

Trains are more efficient when it comes to traffic space (as they can move a lot more people in much less space), and then of course they have a much lower impact on our cities and the environment.

And then, you're making the wrong assumption that if there was a market for rail transportation, someone would build the network. This is the silliest thing I ever heard: don't you know that the highways are also built by the government? If the highways weren't there, nobody would build them! But this doesn't mean that there isn't a market for auto transportation!

The government needs to build the HSR network, like it builds highways, and then it should let private carriers compete for service.

It's simple. It's easy, and it's done everywhere in the world.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 11:06 AM   #889
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As I've written before, I'd agree to government building high-speed tracks, stations and setting up an authority to maintain and manage them. However, I'm not in favor of government getting involved in running the trains, buying the engines and setting up timetables. That should be left to the private market, and competing railroads should be able to run trains in government tracks provided they met objective criteria in regard of safety, speed, payment of track fees etc.

However, much of the public might see high-speed rail as an attack coming from uban-cool upper-class transportation engineers in the suburban lifestyle! We should not try to sell HSR as a mean of "containing" sprawl or "revitalizing dowtowns" where few potential users of HSR live. Instead, some HSR stations should be build near major highway junctions, or at least provided with good road conections like airports have theirs, so one can drive to a HSR station, park his/her car (cheaply, not in extensive downtown parking garages), take a HSR, disembark, rent a car and continue his/her trip, akin to what happens with air travel.

If you do that, you'll atract interest and demand from people who can PAY for HSR. We should not treat HSR as an extended metropolitan transportation that need to "reach out" to poorer users etc. It's not a "right" or a social need to travel from Los Angeles to S.F. as it might be travelling from Queens to Midwtown.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 09:45 PM   #890
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Originally Posted by jayOOfoshO View Post
Yeah dude but people like you drive instead of taking the train because our railroad system is not adequate to 21st century standards!

There are places in this country where it's become more convenient to take the train you know? And just because YOU drive and prefer driving, it doesn't mean that all 300 MILLION of us prefer driving like you do.

I'm gonna say this again: here in Southern California we have more cars than what the highways can take, but we already have five lane highways! What are we going to do, build larger highways?? How the hell are we going to do that, we already have huge highways. And we already have plenty of highways!

Trains are more efficient when it comes to traffic space (as they can move a lot more people in much less space), and then of course they have a much lower impact on our cities and the environment.

And then, you're making the wrong assumption that if there was a market for rail transportation, someone would build the network. This is the silliest thing I ever heard: don't you know that the highways are also built by the government? If the highways weren't there, nobody would build them! But this doesn't mean that there isn't a market for auto transportation!

The government needs to build the HSR network, like it builds highways, and then it should let private carriers compete for service.

It's simple. It's easy, and it's done everywhere in the world.
Hey, I understand all of that except taht silliest thing ever part. There was a market for rail travel once and someone built it. Then there wasn't and they stopped providing it. if it is there again, someone who wants to make a buck will take full advantage. Yes, I know who built the highways, sheesh, get off the highways. Anyway, I'm just calling it as I see it. When I went from Norfolk to DC for a long weekend last spring I had two realistic choices. Drive three hours or buy four train tickets for about six times the price of driving and take six hours to get there. Easy choice. If there was a high speed rail connection would it have changed my mind? Probably not because the six times as much part is always going to be an issue for many people.

I'm just saying lets keep it real. This is presented by many as the panacea that will solve this problem or that problem and the truth is that it won't. Plus we "need" it because the Euros have it. This is a forum that by nature has as it's membership folks who want to see this sort of thing so I know that an opinion poopooing the idea will not be popular.

I have said on this thread about a thousand times that HSR would be awesome in SoCal and the NEC if you could snap your fingers and have it be there. The trouble is that the current rail systems there support frieght and we cannot screw that up or we'll be introducing a highway traffic snarl like no one can imagine. That being the case a whole new rail network needs to be contructed where no or insufficient right of ways currently exist. Have you seen the population density on the NEC? The only way to do this without about 3 million lawsuits from property owners would probably be to re-build I-95 with the HSR going right down the center and then offshoot it into the appropriate cities. That should only cost about 200 billion and that's only from Boston to DC. SoCal would be a similar investment down I-5.

It's easy to say that the gov't should do this and the gov't should do that but practical realities are often much different. The first practical reality is that the United States is virtually bankrupt. The second is that the infrastructure we currently have needs huge investment and it would be irresponsible to create another one before you fix the one you have. The third is that whether you want to hear this or not it is not a national priority. Go to a news site and see what your elected reps are working on. They are working on staying employed, not on solving any problems.

I traveled the NEC for four years and because my work was ten blocks from the train station I did it by train from Philadelphia to DC. Would I have liked the trains to go faster? I guess so but the service as it stands right now was sufficient. It is faster than driving, more convenient than flying and the trains are packed to capacity meaning Amtrak was profitable over that route. Is it worth 200 billion of my Grandchildren's money (at 6% interest) to make that trip in half the time? Well, there's the question.

Many of you vote a resounding yes. Me, not so much.
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Old December 10th, 2009, 12:09 AM   #891
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Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
As I've written before, I'd agree to government building high-speed tracks, stations and setting up an authority to maintain and manage them. However, I'm not in favor of government getting involved in running the trains, buying the engines and setting up timetables. That should be left to the private market, and competing railroads should be able to run trains in government tracks provided they met objective criteria in regard of safety, speed, payment of track fees etc.

However, much of the public might see high-speed rail as an attack coming from uban-cool upper-class transportation engineers in the suburban lifestyle! We should not try to sell HSR as a mean of "containing" sprawl or "revitalizing dowtowns" where few potential users of HSR live. Instead, some HSR stations should be build near major highway junctions, or at least provided with good road conections like airports have theirs, so one can drive to a HSR station, park his/her car (cheaply, not in extensive downtown parking garages), take a HSR, disembark, rent a car and continue his/her trip, akin to what happens with air travel.

PT and HSR go hand in hand and a more urban style (or at least denser) environment is attracted by them as well.

If you do that, you'll atract interest and demand from people who can PAY for HSR. We should not treat HSR as an extended metropolitan transportation that need to "reach out" to poorer users etc. It's not a "right" or a social need to travel from Los Angeles to S.F. as it might be travelling from Queens to Midwtown.
You can have both, central urban stations and a few suburban stops. But in my opinion most stations should even if located in suburbs be used to create urban subcenters around it and make it a major hub for local PT, which in itself also makes an urban subcentre around it were reasonable.

HSR should not exclude car drivers, but looking at the simple numbers makes pretty clear that a substantially car based feeder system is rather unfeasible. HSR has higher possible capacities than aviation has, it would be unreasonable to create enough parking lots for that. It would be insane trying to serve that with cheap surface parking lots.

I know its oranges and apples but have a look at China, how they are constructing high speed rail. As we speak they have more than 10 000 km of HSR under construction. In sum a dozen high speed lines interconnecting the entire country in a shorter time than probably the Californian HSR takes to be built. I know densities etc are vastly different, but the US has a certain number of very promising corridors for HSR as well but people are talking about being bankrupt and not be able of lifting the investment. If thats true, the US indeed ceased being the most powerful country in the world.
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Old December 10th, 2009, 12:24 AM   #892
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who cares?

at this point it is pretty clear that Obama is not gonna do anything, so you can put a fork into your HSR as well, at least for 3 more years
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Old December 10th, 2009, 12:37 AM   #893
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Well, I still think we should promote HSR American-style, which means with thousands of parking spaces attached to each station, even if it means people living downtown have to take a light rail or cab to a suburban HSR station.

Anyhow, China is not building "10000 km" HSR, truly HSR is only 3.400. Then, they have a population that is 5 times the American. Then, there's no such things like eminent domain, due process of law, fair compensation etc. They just seize your home/farm, period. Landlords there have less rights than American ones had in the 1800's. Also, there is no NIMBYism out there.

Just look at California High Speed project: every technical decision is attacked from every side: those who want the mountain route A, those who want to tunnel as much track as possible, those who don't want new planned stations to alter the "character" and "ethnic uniqueness (=majority Spanish speaking)" of their "communities (=concentration of illegal alliens)".
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Old December 10th, 2009, 12:50 AM   #894
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Well, I still think we should promote HSR American-style, which means with thousands of parking spaces attached to each station, even if it means people living downtown have to take a light rail or cab to a suburban HSR station.

Anyhow, China is not building "10000 km" HSR, truly HSR is only 3.400. Then, they have a population that is 5 times the American. Then, there's no such things like eminent domain, due process of law, fair compensation etc. They just seize your home/farm, period. Landlords there have less rights than American ones had in the 1800's. Also, there is no NIMBYism out there.

Just look at California High Speed project: every technical decision is attacked from every side: those who want the mountain route A, those who want to tunnel as much track as possible, those who don't want new planned stations to alter the "character" and "ethnic uniqueness (=majority Spanish speaking)" of their "communities (=concentration of illegal alliens)".
you can bitch about chinas kilometres, but it all depends on where you draw the line

100 mph is the standard speed on most of ther lines RIGHT NOW
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Old December 10th, 2009, 02:35 AM   #895
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... China is not building "10000 km" HSR, truly HSR is only 3.400.

You are wrong. 14,000km of HSR is currently under construction and by 2020 they are planning to reach 25,000km
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Old December 10th, 2009, 04:14 AM   #896
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There are plans to build small HSR lines basically commuter lines with high speeds, NJT wants to restore the Lackawanna Cut-off , starts in Andover,NJ and goes to Scranton,PA. Trains will be electric and run at 120 on straight sections and 80-100 on curvy sections. Sections might be done by 2025 , everything is on hold intill the ARC project is done. Between New Jersey & New York, so more capacity is added. Another project New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor project set to fully open in 2021 , Trains will run at 110-120 mph and assuming they'll be Electric , most of the the State is Electric. Will HSR happen yes , i'm only focusing on the NE where things happen faster. NEC needs alot of improvement. New Bridges in CT , wider Track Spacage on curves to allow trains to tilt. Theres also talk of a Boston-Worcester-Springfield HSR corridor , its commuter type corridor. Theres also talk of extending the North East Corridor to Richmond & a Branch to Newport News. I think High Speed Commuter lines will dominate the North East by 2025 , theres alot planned , most are partially funded or will begin construction soon. as for Regional HSR in the NE yes it will happen by 2020 , outside NE , your guess is as good as mine

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Old December 10th, 2009, 04:32 AM   #897
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Sorry, I don't think any line build for 150mph or more, with dedicated passenger track, completely grade-separated, without any speed reduction in curves can be trully consideres to be "high speed". "Pimping" freight lines and begging freight rail companies (which are in no need of bailouts btw) to allow "priority" to disruptive (under a freight system viewpoint) passenger trains running on diesel units at 100mph is not really HSR.

It would be, in an urban setting, to compare an "enchaced" bus service like those of L.A. with a truly subway line. HSR is the future, "modernized" freight lines are lip-service to inner city dwellers.
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Old December 12th, 2009, 11:07 AM   #898
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From Midwest High Speed Rail E-letter

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This week was an exciting week for high-speed rail!

The Conference Committee approved $2.5 billion for high-speed rail in the 2010 appropriation on Wednesday. Feedback from congressional staff revealed that our FourBillion.com campaign played an important role in getting the appropriation raised from the expected $1.2 billion. Your emails and phone calls did make a difference. I would especially like to thank US PIRG for mobilizing their members around the country.

Earlier in the week, the Florida Legislature took a major step towards high-speed rail by passing a bill that creates a new statewide passenger rail agency, approves commuter rail in Orlando and increases funding for Miami commuter rail. (We were not involved in this one.)..............
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Old December 12th, 2009, 08:01 PM   #899
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It's easy to say that the gov't should do this and the gov't should do that but practical realities are often much different. The first practical reality is that the United States is virtually bankrupt. The second is that the infrastructure we currently have needs huge investment and it would be irresponsible to create another one before you fix the one you have.
Flyfish, I have a problem with arguments that shift over time while the cause they promote remains the same. In your case, this applies to the reason not to invest in high-speed rail. Back in the days of the dot-com boom the tentative steps toward a HS connection in central Florida (I understand that plan's back on the agenda?) was roundly ridiculed by conservative commentators. The US was flush with money, it is true, but "bullet trains just don't offer the freedom of choice that this great country is all about...." (Or some such tripe.) Now, ten years later, HS trains are still a bad idea, but now the reason is that the country has no money! OK, then please tell me this: if the US of A find itself rolling in 5-10 years' time, will you then come out as a strong supporter of a modern railway system?

Secondly I have a more fundamental question: are you (and other Americans) not afraid of missing the train (!) of modernity? I'm a grizzled European and I have so many times over the years heard my fellow euros scoff over American "silly ideas": television remote controls for those "too lazy to go to the TV and press the button"; PC mouse for those "too dumb to use their keyboard"; cosmetic surgery for those "too decadent to follow a proper diet", etc. etc. etc. Each and every time we have fallen flat on our faces, with our part of the world following the US lead with 10-15 years' delay. But...

...THIS time round it's the Europeans and the Japanese pioneering high-speed trains. In the meantime the Chinese, and the Russians, and the Brazilians, and the Taiwanese, and the Turks, and the Koreans, and the Moroccans, and the Saudi Arabs.... have decided that, hey, this is great - they want it as well. In the dungeon of conservative curmudgeons, then, sit the Americans, and scowl "Nah... we don't what this. We don't need it. It's alien to US values!" Flyfish, are you not afraid of becoming - as the Europeans have been on countless occasions - stuck in the mud?
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Old December 12th, 2009, 08:31 PM   #900
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From what I read, people in Florida did want a HSR but the conservative politicians canceled it. Personally, I see HSR happening in the Northeast,(upgraded Acela), Midwest, and West Coast in 20 or so years.
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