Friday, December 21, 2007

Rail Revival?

Railroads are posed to stage a comeback. U.S. railroad miles peaked at 380,000 in 1920s, then went into decline as the interstate highway system and the motor carrier industry provided competition. By 2006, railroads had abandoned nearly 70% of its track, with only 120,000 miles of track left.

Recently, however, rail transport has been making something of a comeback, as rising fuel prices, concern over global warming and fuel supplies, and traffic congestion, have brought energy efficiency to the fore. A 2000 study by the Oak Ridge national Laboratory found that intercity rail was the second most efficient mode of passenger traffic, surpassed only by intercity bus service.

This month, the national Surface transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission recommended a $357.2 billion investment in rail by 2050 to significantly expand intercity passenger rail service by 2050, citing safety, energy efficiency, and as an alternative to driving.

At the same time, other countries are exploring even more energy efficient forms of rail travel. Earlier this year Japan unveiled a clean energy hybrid prototype that uses a battery powered motor at low speeds. Japan has plans to run a hybrid tram in Tokyo, although they are still trying to modify and improve the hybrid train's performance.

In the U.S., a popular program in recent years has been the rails-to-trails movement that has converted abandoned railway right of ways into bicycle and hiking trails. But with the resurgence of interest in rail traffic, rails-to-trails has come into conflict with possible future rail development. In California, a long planned coastal hiking a and biking trail, envisioned as an alternative to auto traffic, has run into a roadblock as the state transportation agency--trying to balance the demands on the rail corridor--waits for rail plans that could include a high speed train system reaching from Sacramento to San Diego.

Although these developments are largely under the radar now, rail transportation is very likely to become increasingly important in the future as an efficient alternative to highway traffic.


At 6:58 PM, Blogger adrian2514 said...

Does anybody know about this site ( ) ? I have seen other environmental sites with carbon calculators like yahoo and tree huggers, but I am wondering what the deal with is? I saw they also published a list last month of the top ten greenest cities ( ). Does anyone know if this site is better than the others? Fill me in!

I took their carbon foot print test and it was pretty interesting, they said that I put out 4.5 tons of carbon, does anyone know about any other tests?

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At 2:26 AM, Blogger adrian2514 said...

I really enjoy reading your blog, it always has great insight. But I am very frustrated with the fact that so few people are talking about presidential candidates and their thoughts on global warming. Now that it is down to just a few candidates I would think that this would be a bigger issue.

Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article ( ) live earth is also asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change. I just saw a poll on that says people care a lot about what their next leader thinks of global warming. Does anyone know of another poll or other results about this subject?

Here is the page where I saw the EarthLab poll: This is a pretty legit website; they are endorsed by Al Gore and the alliance for climate protection and they have a carbon footprint calculator. Does anyone have a strong opinion about this like I do? No matter what your political affiliation is or who you vote for this is an important issue for our environment, our economy and for homeland security.

At 2:04 AM, Blogger frflyer said...

High speed trains could replace much of air travel, and I hope the proposition in California passes.
It would take passengers from the S.F Bay area to L.A. in two and a half hours. It's about 400 miles.

Rail freight is also an important issue. An emphasis on using rail for long distance freight would save a lot of fuel. CSX has a TV ad saying they can ship a ton of freight 400 miles on one gallon of fuel.

When we replace coal fired power plants with renewable energy, that will free up a large amount of rail capacity. A huge percentage is now used for coal.

I have a new blog on climate change and energy solutions at

At 2:06 AM, Blogger frflyer said...

Sorry my blog url had an error.

Here is the correct one

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trains are just so awesome, I everyday used to go to work, there is never a traffic jam and it never delays.
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