Cuomo administration indicates a low bar for fast trains

High speed rail in Taiwan. (jiadoldol via Flickr)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo is ostensibly interested in bringing high-speed rail to New York.

In November 2010, he asked U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood to direct stimulus monies to New York State that had been rejected by other states, arguing that high-speed rail "could be the 21st century Erie Canal."

New York got about $560 million, and is now making incremental improvements to the existing rail infrastructure between New York City and Albany, a route that carries about a million passengers a year.

But the result of that work, as Heather Rogers wrote in an article on Remapping Debate, will be underwhelming.

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"Under the most likely scenario being examined, the trip between Albany and New York City—currently a two-hour-and-20-minute journey—would still take more than two hours to complete," the article says.

Here's more:

What about trains that go as fast as 160 mph? Or 220 mph? Those options have already been rejected by the governor and his Department of Transportation (DOT) in a study that the agency is currently conducting on HSR. Gone with these superfast options are what some experienced observers call the potentially substantial benefits of true HSR service.

By international standards, to be deemed “high speed,” trains should be able to attain a top velocity of at least 125 mph to 150 mph. Most go faster: those in Italy, Germany, Japan, and China can reach 186 mph; in France, the electric TGV can hit 199 mph; and the Shanghai magnetic levitation, or maglev, train can race at 268 mph.

In the U.S., in what appears to be in part a triumph of labeling over substance, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), three years ago, created its own definitions for HSR. The agency defined high-speed service in the “regional” context — that is, service between major or medium cities up to 500 miles apart — as encompassing trains that can attain a maximum speed of just 90 miles per hour.

...

According to Cuomo administration estimates, trains with maximum speeds of 90 mph to 110 mph traveling along the state’s existing Empire Corridor, which connects New York City with Albany, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, would see an average speed of around 60 mph. Trains that could reach 125 mph along the corridor would average between 75 mph and 85 mph.

The Cuomo administration plans to release the results of its High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Project late this summer. It is not doing anything in the meantime to raise expectations.

Marie Corrado, project director for high-speed rail at the state department of transportation, told Rogers the agency made its decisions based on a "very elaborate" analysis, which she declined to produce.

Read the whole article here.