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Transportation

Maglev On the Drawing Boards 334

Posted by kdawson
from the float-like-a-butterfly dept.
longacre sends along a Popular Mechanics article on the growing interest in magnetic levitation trains in the US. It's unclear how many will actually get built here, at $100 million per track mile. (In recent years we've discussed maglev projects in China and Germany.) The article has a map of many proposed transportation projects in the US, some of them maglev, and a video of a General Atomics maglev prototype in action. On a related note, an anonymous reader recommends this article on a proposed maglev wind-power turbine, said to offer the promise of replacing 1,000 conventional wind turbines.
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Maglev On the Drawing Boards

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  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:03AM (#21490923)
    It's unclear how many will actually get built here, at $100 million per track mile. ... "years of war in country X/Y/Z" per track mile ?


    Geez. As if finding money to throw around was ever a problem for politicians. And building a coast-to-coast maglev line would be a much less dangerous waste of money than some other, er, projects.

    • by hjf (703092) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:08AM (#21490967) Homepage

      days of war in country X/Y/Z" per track mile ?
      there, fixed it for you
      • by megaditto (982598)
        What's the current number, by the way? Last I recall it was about USD 1 billion per week for Iraq.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rho (6063)

          I've seen numbers anywhere from 5 to 12 billion dollars a week. It's hard to calculate exactly because there's a mess of hidden costs--medical and the like.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AvitarX (172628)
          With the aging equipment and copious amounts of private labor the cost is about $700,000/year for each soldier and support.

          (based on spending requests), (200,000,000 total/year). The cost of the war in Iraq and Afganistan combined is 3,000,000,000/week (triple your estimate), with 80% of that being for Iraq.

          My source is: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/28/AR2007082801984.html?hpid=topnews [washingtonpost.com] and based on bills the white house wants passed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by david.given (6740)
          The official Pentagon figures [zfacts.com] are 6.8 billion dollars a month, or approximately 9 million dollars an hour. Which means that one hundred million dollars would pay for slightly more than eleven hours worth of war.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Flip the equation around and it gets even better.

            March '03 to March '08 is 60 months. That's $408 billion invested into war in Iraq.
            At $0.1 billion per track mile, America could have paid for 4080 miles of maglev rail infrastructure. Even at double the cost, that's still over 2000 miles.

            According to Google maps, Boston to Miami is 1500 miles. And Chicago to Washington is 700 miles.
    • All we need is some rural politician to champion it. A Ted Stevens comes to mind. This would be perfect for pork, copious amounts of pork.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @10:02AM (#21491481) Homepage Journal
      but here is the real issue.

      How many votes per mile of track can a Congressman buy?

      Answer that instead.

      The amount of money just wasted in earmarks alone could solve a multitude of problems, from medical care, rehabilitation for our vets, maglev, NASA, and more. You name it, we have the money for it.

      The problem is, not all of the above garner vote buying opportunities.

      The real reason the Iraq war annoys Congressmen is that it deprives them of money they could have used in directed vote buying campaigns. Instead of a monument to a living Congressman (read: new pool in your neighborhood or library - etc) it went overseas and is lost to them. Now it does garner votes in a negative way but Congressmen prefer postive vote buying expenditures.

      Now the problem I see with the maglev tower is, who is going to want it in their backyard? It looks more palatable than a windfarm but its so damn tall that that the land area may be moot versus the "sight pollution". Of course we already have giant cooling towers but this thing looks larger.

      We really need a new Mahattan project for our generation - one that frees us of fossil fuel generated power. Of course our next problem will be heat pollution - all that power does have a side effect (green power or not)

      • Now the problem I see with the maglev tower is, who is going to want it in their backyard? It looks more palatable than a windfarm but its so damn tall that that the land area may be moot versus the "sight pollution". Of course we already have giant cooling towers but this thing looks larger.

        How bad would this 'sight pollution' be compared to the steel, glass and concrete towers all over the place now? Besides, sometimes it's nice to be able to look out the window (or look up) and think to yourself: 'Holy s

    • A fleet of state funded 747s would get everybody there quicker/cheaper.

      Plus, what about all the new power cables and power stations it would need. A project this big would cause a worldwide shortage of copper (which would push the "price per mile" through the roof).

      America is simply too big for this sort of project. Building vast stretches of maglev track doesn't add up.

      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        A fleet of state funded 747s would get everybody there quicker/cheaper.



        Only as long as fuel and airports are cheap.

    • I talked to a MN state employee who told me it was easily over 100 million per mile for new freeway and in the downtown its over a billion per mile. This was about 5 years ago during a discussion about the lack of funding for bridge repair and how we were 10 years behind on funding and it would take a disaster before the idiots fixed it. (fyi: MN was the state who's downtown bridge collapsed earlier this year; which will likely cost over 300 million to build without lightrail support.)

      One also has to kee

  • Why get so fancy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:04AM (#21490933)
    The Japanese, who probably ride more miles of rail than any other country in the world, rely on plain old rails. Even the famous Bullet Trains run on rails.

    Sometimes it feels like Americans are trying to put the cart before the horse when they don't even have anything to put on the cart.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bsane (148894)
      Exactly...

      How is maglev better anyway? So you reduce your rolling friction to zero, what do you save? 1% of total operating power? You'd spend a lot more if your using electromagnets to keep the 'lev' action going...

      On the subject of maglev windmills- I fail to see any real savings here. Windmills are hard to turn because they're doing work (ie creating power with a generator), the actual friction involved is very low.

      If you want a train/subway, just build the damn thing. Same goes for windmills.
      • by Smidge204 (605297) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:46AM (#21491273) Journal
        The advantage is speed. A maglev train is essentially a plane without wings, so speeds of 300+MPH are not unreasonable right now. In theory, though, a Maglev can reach the 500+MPH of a commercial jet.

        Of course, the French TVG is also about that fast, so that advantage no longer really holds much weight until the technology improves. Maglev right now is pretty much a "bright shiny thing" to make the public all doe-eyed so they don't mind the pork as much. (Much like the "Hydrogen Economy")

        You might not have noticed, but America is a pretty big country. If you want to cross it, you have three options: Plane (~500MPH), Train (~80MPH) or car/bus (~60MPH). Assuming you're not making the trip for the scenery, the choice is pretty much a no-brainer.

        A fast train, ~300MPH, would make trans-continental travel easier. Even if it took twice as long, it would still be same-day travel and I'd prefer to take a high speed train than an aircraft (unless I *had* to get there in 6 hours). If a viable Maglev train could cover the distance at the same speed as the jet, though, then there is no advantage to flying at all.
        =Smidge=
        • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @10:12AM (#21491599) Homepage
          You might not have noticed, but America is a pretty big country....

          True, but a significant portion of intra-US trips take place within the northeast, the most densely populated part of the country. Washington-Boston is 450 miles; New York-Chicago is 800 miles. There's also a lot of intra-West Coast travel -- LA-San Francisco (400 miles), LA-Phoenix (375), San Francisco-Seattle (800 miles).

          One of my pet peeves is that many Americans, when told about how Europeans are much more likely to travel by train, reflexively point out how big America is. It's true, but when Europeans travel from, say, Madrid to Warsaw, they fly. It's the sub-1000-mile trips on which trains can be competitive with both air and car travel if they're upgraded to high-speed standards -- something that can be done far more cheaply and easily than building a maglev. And with trains being far less polluting per passenger than either cars or planes, and air travel being an increasingly unpleasant experience, it's high time to invest in upgrading rail corridors.
          • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:30PM (#21493327) Journal
            One of the big stumbling blocks to long, high-speed rail out here in the West of the US are all these bumps we have called mountains... There's several mountain chains that run parallel with the West coast, and those seriously impact the ability of rail to maintain speed.

            Additionally, these mountains tend to have pretty steep pitches, meaning that low-enough grades for rail transport are few and far between.

            Out East, where the density of population is higher and the land considerably flatter, trains can maintain speed. It can make sense in that case. But here, where a lot of the daily flights are literally one-day business trips, spending 6 hours each way on a train between Seattle and San Francisco turns a one-day trip into at least a 3 day affair.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587)
          You'd still have to worry about security though. At least a plane at altitude is very hard to shoot down. So unless you manage to plant a terrorist or bomb on the plane it's safe until landing approach.

          With the train you could place a bomb of sufficient size anywhere along the tracks set to detonate at the right time to take out the train. Not saying this can't be solved, but we do have to be careful.

          Still, I think that it'd be an excellent idea, especially if you relax baggage restrictions as compared t
          • by Smidge204 (605297)
            It's neigh impossible to hijack a train and crash it into, say, a national landmark, bridge or government building.

            =Smidge=
            • It's neigh impossible to hijack a train and crash it into, say, a national landmark, bridge or government building.

              Thus, maybe the USA will finaly have some user-friendly mass transportation that is
              BOTH 1. very fast *AND* 2. doesn't require mandatory body cavities search because of some post 9/11 paranoia.

              Cumbersome regulations like the limit of transported liquids are the main reason why I prefer trains when travelling through europe (It's much faster here, thanks to TGV in France and similar projects in o

          • by Peeteriz (821290)
            Also, there is a world of difference in the "wasted time" between airplane and train. With airplanes, and their ridiculous check-in, baggage, and security procedures, you waste a significant amount (compared to even a NYC-Miami flight) of time, while for a train you could simply arrive 10 minutes before departure, wave a ticket at somebody or some device, and be ready for travel.
            Also, the trip to a train station most likely will be shorter than a trip to the airport, since airports (especiall
            • by Firethorn (177587)
              Maybe for a standard train, but I'd imagine that these high speed ones would be somewhat like an airplane - the majority of your luggage is stored seperatly. Even the trip might not be shorter - you wouldn't have stations left and right, and a semi-logical place to put the station would be around the airport.

              Then again, they could go the bus route or have compartments where you put the luggage inside the train. Eh, whatever, there's many possibilities.

              You could have a lot more entrances, that would speed
          • by vadim_t (324782) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:32AM (#21492535) Homepage

            You'd still have to worry about security though. At least a plane at altitude is very hard to shoot down. So unless you manage to plant a terrorist or bomb on the plane it's safe until landing approach.

            With the train you could place a bomb of sufficient size anywhere along the tracks set to detonate at the right time to take out the train. Not saying this can't be solved, but we do have to be careful.

            Can we drop this terrorism bullshit already? It's very tiring.

            I say this as somebody who daily used the train that got blown up in Madrid (though wasn't on it at that time), had a classmate die there, and a friend who was in it, but wasn't hurt. I don't give a damn about the terrorists. I still use that same train.
            • by Firethorn (177587)
              The madrid bombings didn't take out a whole train - killing most of the passangers. Realistically speaking, they could have done the same thing in a crowded mall for the same effect.

              I said we have to be careful. By spending a little effort in designing security for the tracks now rather than later, we not only make it harder for the terrorists but also keep people from wandering in front of the train and getting smeared.

              Please note that I'm overall optimistic about the system.

              Though I think HSR should be
        • by JimBobJoe (2758)
          In theory, though, a Maglev can reach the 500+MPH of a commercial jet.

          Doing so is easiest in a partial vacuum. A few years ago the Swiss were entertaining a project [articlesextra.com] to have Maglev trains in partial vacuum connecting its major cities.

          There are a few people in the UK considering such a system for its major cities. Such a system would have an enormous effect for the US. Consider the case of my state of Ohio, which is a fairly high population state, but that population is spread over 7 metro areas, the 3 bigges
        • by rcw-home (122017)

          In theory, though, a Maglev can reach the 500+MPH of a commercial jet.

          And rail-based rocket sleds have reached mach 8.5.

          The limiting factor for both is: how much do you want to spend buying, regrading, tunneling under, and/or bridging over land so that you can make the track straight enough?

      • From the article on maglev trains...

        Maglev proponents argue that it is easier to maintain--most designs do not include wheels, transmissions, brakes or axles, thus reducing the need for repairs. "Engineers joke that the only moving parts are the doors," says Richard Thornton, MagneMotion's CEO.

        From the article on the wind turbine...

        It would also increase generation capacity by 20% over conventional wind turbines and decrease operational costs by 50%.

        Bearings have to be inspected, maintained and even

      • by Bob-taro (996889)

        On the subject of maglev windmills- I fail to see any real savings here. Windmills are hard to turn because they're doing work (ie creating power with a generator), the actual friction involved is very low.

        Great point. Plus, that's a vertical axis wind turbine they show, which is about 1/2 as efficient [wikipedia.org] (in terms of power per area swept). Maybe the point is that they can build a much bigger turbine using maglev technology than they could otherwise, but is that somehow better than smaller, MORE efficient HAWTs?

      • How is maglev better anyway? So you reduce your rolling friction to zero, what do you save? 1% of total operating power? You'd spend a lot more if your using electromagnets to keep the 'lev' action going...

        Mainly it's the dynamic loading on the rails that is the problem with trains going faster and faster.

        A maglev is like a hovercraft with the load spread out over the full length of the train. A tiny imperfection in the rail doesn't cause every passing carriage to hammer at it, reducing the need for rail in
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jo42 (227475)
      How can there be a growing interest in maglev trains when there is an overall decreasing interest in travel by train?
      • by tetrahedrassface (675645) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @10:38AM (#21491849) Journal
        Actually, Amtrak ridership has Increased [google.com] over the last 6 years.

        I hope it continues to increase. There is currently a bill [kidk.com] that will give Amtrak a much needed funding increase. Before all the trolls start saying that rail is wasteful consider carefully that any road in the U.S is subsidized heavily. Amtrak has done an amazing turnaround over the last 8 years despite the airline and road construction lobbyists trying to kill it. If Amtrak had even a small amount of the funding that airlines and interstates have recieved during this period we could all have an economical and comfortable travel alternative. I hope they build one or more of the Maglevs simply because I live in Chattanooga (Choo-Choo). We don't even have passenger rail service and haven't since 1970. As anyone who has been to Europe, or ridden on a well managed Amtrak line can attest to, rail is comfortable and fun. For me riding the rails is not as much just getting there, but enjoying the ride.

        It is a sad state when a supposed first world country like the U.S tries to kill travel alternative like rail. When all the planes were grounded after 9/11 the trains kept rolling. When gas goes to 4.00/gallon they will be rolling. That is reason enough to support passenger rail. Oh, if anyone with Amtrak happens to read Slashdot, why the hell does a city like Chattanooga, Tn which was once one the largest rail capitals in the world, not even have a passenger service? That is a disgrace. We want rail service and we want it badly. Norfolk Southern and CSX also lobby against passenger travel because they want the mainlines all to themselves for frieght. Be it maglev or diesel electric passenger service Chattanooga should have an alternative to driving or flying. We didn't get the song Chattanooga Choo Choo for just any old reason.

        Build it, and they will come. With flying becoming even more of a hassle, and fuel prices on an ever higher trajectory passenger traffic rail will continue to increase. On a train you can go to the dining car and have room to stretch out, have wifi and a nice cocktail. Chattanooga not having passenger service is the greatest single disgrace our city has at this time. It is part of our heritage. It truly is heartbreaking, so Amtrak, build it or at least open one line to Atlanta. The future is bright for rail folks. One way or the other the economics are starting to make sense again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        In your small bubble maybe. In the UK and europe the demand is growing massively.
    • Actually, just about every high-speed rail system uses normal standard gauge track. Of course, that track needs to generally be built to a much higher standard (ballast must be up to spec, concrete ties, no narrow curves, space between the tracks if the trains can tilt into curves, etc... one of the major design flaws of the Acela was that the tracks were placed several inches too close to each other, which severely speed of the trains)

      This also allows for backward and forward compatibility. Old trains ca
    • The Japanese, who probably ride more miles of rail than any other country in the world, rely on plain old rails. Even the famous Bullet Trains run on rails.

      Well, sure, because plain old rails were the best technology available at the time when the train systems were constructed. Will they tear down the tracks and replace them with maglev once that technology becomes feasible? Probably not, because the economic hit of shutting down arterial railways for a couple years would be devastating. But that's hard
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      Not sure where you get the energy costs being similar.See the energy costs in the PM article. The interesting thing is that the Maglev uses less energy than the high speed rail, yet is more than 50% faster.
      In addition, the Japanese have a number of different models including a Maglev, and a number of monorails. Japan is increasingly moving to monorails (which are rail based), and away from the standard twin rail system. Why? Because the twin rail system is dirt cheap to build on land, but a small earthqua
  • Too expensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:08AM (#21490969) Homepage

    It's unclear how many will actually get built here, at $100 million per track mile.
    The problem is that this technology is still a bit away from being fully completed. And $100 million per track mile is very optimistic considering the Japanese Linimo HSST cost some $100 million per kilometer, or rougly 0.62 miles. I mention this particular maglev construction because it could be similar to what the US is looking for - a low speed version that works perfectly within cities. Still, anything faster than that is also extremely expensive.

    Maybe this technology is still 20 years away from being feasible at all. Why not spend money on regular trains and install extra isolated windows in cities at only a fraction of the cost?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chrysrobyn (106763)

      And $100 million per track mile is very optimistic considering the Japanese Linimo HSST cost some $100 million per kilometer, or rougly 0.62 miles.

      I've had a fascination with maglevs since Popular Mechanics did an article in the early 1990s or late 1980s. Finally, I made it to the World Fair in Aichi in 2005 and saw the Linmo ("Linear Motor"). Actually, I rode it. It was awesome. Not the "awesome" that kids use when they do well on a test, but the "awesome" from waiting for something and then unexpect

    • by jimicus (737525)
      "$XXX per track mile" sounds remarkably simplistic - particularly when you consider that Japan is a much smaller area of land than the US, with a much denser population.
      • by AGMW (594303)
        ... particularly when you consider that Japan is a much smaller area of land than the US, with a much denser population

        I'm guessing you actually meant a much higher population density.

  • by tjstork (137384) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (ykswordnab.ddot)> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:10AM (#21490985) Homepage Journal
    The US Rail system needs a track upgrade. The east coast is going from horrible to better, but beyond the great divide, track conditions are apalling. Seems to me the best way to go would be to get more track certified for 120-150mph runs in the northeast corridor, and that would take the demand off of congested airports, and would certainly be more fuel economical.
    • Seems to me the best way to go would be to get more track certified for 120-150mph runs in the northeast corridor

      Of course, that idea is complicated by the fact that the Northeast Corridor is among the most densely populated areas in the nation, and a hundred thousand homeowners who don't want a bullet train whooshing through their backyards (in some cases literally -- upgrading the track for high speed trains will require use of Eminent Domain to seize some homeowners' properties) is a force to be reckoned
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:12AM (#21490999) Journal
    A hundred million bucks a mile? Do they have to coat the trains with moon rocks?

    -jcr
    • by eebra82 (907996) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:57AM (#21491409) Homepage

      A hundred million bucks a mile? Do they have to coat the trains with moon rocks?
      They build jet fighters, melt them and use it for tracks. Apparently, John Woo is involved in this project too.
      • by jcr (53032)
        Just out of curiosity, I looked up a couple of things you can buy for a hundred million bucks.. That amount of money will buy three airplanes like this one [aircraftdealer.com], for a start.

        -jcr
  • With the track so expensive, they are assuredly not the most efficient solution. The only reason you do a project like this is one or more of ...
    • Showing off to other states how advanced you are.
    • Possible side benefits from the technology you develop to solve the engineering problems
    • Government corruption sponsored by the engineering firms involved

    Personal Rapid Transit [csmonitor.com] systems would seem to be much smarter.

    They fit in with the western "everything personalised" thinking. Because they are a monorail based syste

    • by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:24AM (#21491091)
      Most European cities would shit a brick if you suggested putting in an elevated monorail. Underground is far more expensive, but far more desirable, as it doesn't spoil the view that has taken hundreds of years to evolve.

      A monorail is far from ideal.
      • 100 years to evolve... and stop.

        While I love the landscape/cityscapes in Europe, in any city that hasn't shut down their growth an elevated platform is probably the simplest/cheapest solution for growing the mass transit. Certainly there are obstacles (power lines, obstructed views, etc) but they are many orders of magnitude less than the obstacles faced by an underground system.

        I just have this image of a subway being built under an old European city, them discovering another city buried underneath the '
        • by dave420 (699308)
          In city planning, simplest/cheapest is rarely the best option. Having elevated railways would damage cities based on tourism, as all their favourite tourist destinations and vistas would be blighted by utterly utilitarian mass-transit systems. "Simplest/cheapest" in city planning means cookie-cutter houses, grid-layout for streets, poor public transport. Heck - "simplest/cheapest" means Los Angeles. Yikes.

          And has been pointed out, excavations in Europe often turn up lots of interesting stuff. Usually n
          • by swillden (191260)

            grid-layout for streets

            Grid layout is the absolute best way to build streets, at any price.

            • by dave420 (699308)
              Not particularly. If the city which you're planning has major population centres spread out in a non-grid-alignment, or conflicting routes, it's very ineffective to use a grid. Unless you want endless queues of people turning left-right-left-right, or driving clear across town to make one turn, then clear back to get to their destination. Or into the sun at sunset/sunrise. Again, it's cheap and easy, but it's far from ideal.
              • by Retric (704075)
                The advantage of a grid is redundancy, 1 million people don't all want to go from A to B so forcing people to use a few highly congested areas is a bad idea. All non grid systems assume things will stay the way they are so as populations moves your system will become less efficient.

                The problem is you need two grids one at low speed and another grid of limited access highway for long distances. And you have to deal with natural obstructions like rivers etc.

                Going left right left right is the same distance b
      • You're right ; in fact, what I would consider ideal would be for people to just travel less, particularly office workers.

        I'm an extreme case ; I can spend up to 20 hours a week commuting, but for me there is no correlation between being in the office and being more productive ; I got much more done this weekend at home than I did in the first two days of this week.

        So ; yes, if people cared about aesthetics less, PRT in cities would be ideal. Hell, it would be pretty good on the suburban scale in places like
  • by JBMcB (73720)
    At $100 million per mile, I can't see how these would be cost effective. I think the money would be better spent improving existing railway and bus infrastructure, and fixing traffic problems caused by poorly designed highways.

    Of course, a comprehensive plan of improving infrastructure isn't nearly as sexy as a fancy, space-age flying train.
    • by hey! (33014)
      The $100M/mile figure is not set in stone. Not only will technology change, simple economics will drive that figure down the day a major installation is planned. Imagine there were no such thing as computers, and you came up with the complete engineering specifications for the Wal-Mart $200 PC. There is no way you could produce that thing without spending millions of dollars per unit, at least at first. The same here. If you could build a NYC to Philly mag-lev link for $100M/mile, there's no way it wo
  • ... for fleas [wordpress.com]!
  • And I don't mean just the government -- it seems to be a culture around here from the public on up to the government that they have to just find something, anything, to spend money on. If the Christmas season isn't proof enough of that, this is another perfect example.

    Why even waste money talking about maglev trains when they could improve existing infrastructure using technology a generation or two ahead of the antiquated stuff we have in the US and get the same result using five percent of the money?

    Its s
    • by llZENll (545605)
      It's just an article someone at PM wrote, it gives you no insights about public or political desires on how to spend money. Actually spending per person was down this year on black friday.

      The reason articles like this are written is because it is more exciting to think about spending money on some gee-whiz new technology than any boring existing technology we know works.
    • In Pittsburgh, the Feds approved an extension of the light rail system to the NorthShore which is home to football and baseball teams and... a casino. The politicians didn't even want it! But since the money was already appropriated... they are building it anyways.

      That goes along with a billion dollar airport which is basically EMPTY. Only in America!
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:32AM (#21491139) Journal

    Google for the cost of highway construction and one of the gems you find is this http://www-pam.usc.edu/volume2/v2i1a3s2.html [usc.edu] link.

    Read it and weep. 100 million per mile? Most costly project was 1 billion per mile and plenty of other projects are higher as well.

    Now google a bit further and you find more "reasonable" costs of 20 million per mile being quoted but it makes it bloody clear that roads are very expensive indeed.

    Yes sometimes they are cheap at a 1-3 million per mile, if the highway is simple and the conditions are ideal. This is however rarely the case. If you follow these kinds of projects you will also know that there are always complicating factors. For instance the straight road sections might be cheap, but the points where they connect to the rest of the road network, that is where the money really starts to bleed away. As for when you need a bridge or a tunnel. Just forget it.

    Also offcourse not all highways are the same. One going through open desert vs one going through a city has huge extra costs in the form of safety, sound reduction and landcosts.

    A further thing you might want to ask, how costly is maintenance, and what is the capacity of this network? It is less hassle to replace tradiotional rails then it is too resurface a road. How long is this 100 million per mile going to last you before more millions are needed to maintain it?

    Then there is the question of what you get for it, if this 100 million dollar per mile track means you don['t have to construct/upgrade 10 road systems per say 20 million dollar per mile, then you are actually saving money.

    But please slashdotters, next time you feel like posting about how costly something is, do a bit of research first. Although I really wish reporters would do it as well.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)
      I think BART is rated at $25M/mile, at least the last time I read a report on it.

      And they considered that too expensive to do anything with it, so there's gaping holes in the BART network that will permanently be plugged with buses.

      Hmm, a Maglev between San Francisco and San Diego would only be $500 billion dollars, or roughly equivalent to the Department of Defense's entire budget for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

      Somehow, I don't see that happening. Ever.
  • Hmmm. Maglev seems like a very nice idea. But financing is my sticking point. It's a train system that probably will not run through my state; and if it did, it would probably be on the other extreme. So it would be a $100million/mile train line that I wouldn't benefit from, yet I would have to pay for! I'm getting the same feeling I got in college whenever they would want to build a new sports complex. Screwed!
  • Maglev doesnt seem to have much to offer in the wind turbine arena. Plain old ball bearings have very low friction, not much can be gained by lowering the friction to zero.

    And what's the deal with "1000 times the power"? The power is proportional to the swept area, so you'd need a windmill 33 times bigger. And its weight would go up as the cube of 33, which wul dbe mighty unweildly.

  • The article says 1 gigawatt (that's 1 billion [US] watts) from a structure that would cost ~$53 million to build. What are the drawbacks? Why hasn't someone built one yet? That seems a lot cheaper than mining, shipping, and burning coal. Expensive maintenance costs? May not be cheaper than the status quo for the current energy manufacturers, but what about some Richard Branson type?
    • by Smidge204 (605297)
      Earnshaw's theorem probably has something to do with it.

      In a nutshell, it's impossible to levitate something statically using only static magnetic fields. You will either need dynamic feedback (electromagnets, power required), mechanical constraints (friction) or rotational stabilization (tricky to get right so you can't rely on wind power to do it, also requires power)

      The only other option is diamagnetic materials, but the magnetic fields you would need to levitate something that massive using only diamagn
      • it's impossible to levitate something statically using only static magnetic fields.

        So how does this thing work?

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8nCg0n0zXM [youtube.com]

      • Earnshaw's theorem [wikipedia.org] only applies to a static configuration of magnets, which this is not.

        Go read about Inductrack [wikipedia.org] for a more detailed description of the idea. It is dynamically stable with no electromagnets or feedback systems. It is an exceptionally clever/simple design, and the only energy required is to overcome a small amount of electromagnetic drag.

        The only drawbacks, are that the electromagnetic drag force in Inductrack varies inversely with speed, and also the lower efficiency of the vertical

  • Germany (Score:5, Informative)

    by thefirelane (586885) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:40AM (#21491199)
    As someone living in Munich... I can tell you the German Maglev train is going nowhere. Everyone is opposed to it, except one politician who wants it as his 'swan song'.

    They can either put in a Maglev for 1.2 billion euro for a 10 minute trip, or build a normal express S-bahn for 1 million for a 20 minute trip.

    Maglev really makes no sense at all, but what do I know, maybe its more of a Shelbyville thing
    • Well, the Maglev in Munich might happen in the end... when a politician wants their white elephant, it's hard to change that. In any case, as the traffic between the airport and the city is huge, 10 minutes per person can be significant.

      But in any case, you are wrong in one thing. The normal train would cost quite a bit more than 1 million. With 1 million you won't built even 200 meters of rail. And even less in a sub-urban area. The cost will probably be more close to 300 million. But in any case, the magl
      • But in any case, you are wrong in one thing. The normal train would cost quite a bit more than 1 million. With 1 million you won't built even 200 meters of rail. And even less in a sub-urban area. The cost will probably be more close to 300 million. But in any case, the maglev is much more expensive.

        But they run the RE trains on the same rails as the S-bahn... so they could use the existing lines and just put an express S-bahn on them from the the Hauptbahnhof to the Flughafen.

        I wasn't here for it, bu
      • I was going to say what secret does Germany know about trains that allows it to build 20 minutes worth of Express S-Bahn (now there's a measurement unit for you!) for 1 million euro? It seems to me that 20 minutes worth of new line here in the states costs about $675.4 million.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by NickCatal (865805) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:43AM (#21491243)
    If Shelbyville and North Haverbrook [wikipedia.org] can afford it we can too!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    - I hear those things are awfully loud...

    - It glides as softly as a cloud.

    - Is there a chance the track could bend?

    - Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

    - What about us brain-dead slobs?

    - You'll be given cushy jobs.

    - Were you sent here by the devil?

    - No, good sir, I'm on the level.

    - The ring came off my pudding can.

    - Take my pen knife, my good man.

    I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
    Throw up your hands and raise your voice!

    - Monorail!

    - What's it called?

    - Monorail!

    - Once again...

    - Monorail!

    - But Main Stre
  • It's easy (and somewhat logical) to say that rail infrastructure should be funded through state and federal taxes. The problem, though, is that all that such a funding model accomplishes is shift money from rural to urban areas.

    Here in Pennsylvania, Gov. (Fast Eddie) Rendell wants to toll I-80 and basically send all of that revenue to Philidelphia and Pittsburgh. That's a pretty piss-poor way of selling mass-transit to the people when the bottom line is that it's just another tax subsidy for urban areas.

    G
  • A key advantage is that trains travel from city center to city center. That means you get off work at 5:30pm, walk a couple blocks to the station, and you're off to your weekend getaway in Marin or Montreal. There's no searching for a taxi or airport shuttle or sitting in miles of stand-still traffic with all the other folks trying to get away for the weekend. That's a lot of time, expense, and aggravation saved.

    Then there's the passenger experience. You could be cramped in an airline seat like veal, or
    • I don't think rail will be able to compete with air travel and Interstate roads for city-to-city routes in the US. To survive, they would need heavy gov't subsidies, as Amtrak does today. I do believe that light rail commuter systems can run close to the break-even point even in smaller (1-2 million) metro areas. The common wisdom is that urban sprawl prohibits mass transit in the US, but in all the sprawled cities I'm familiar with, the "sprawl" is pretty congested along several spoke roads radiating fr
    • Maglev and High speed rail is better city to city travel. Monorail, subways, el and lower speed rail is better for inter city and small city to city runs.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @10:11AM (#21491587)
    can't seem to make money on the current economies of rail travel. Even at the lowest estimates ($5 million a track mile) I doubt either of these rail systems could make this technology profitable.

    Public transportation all over the world requires government funding. Here in the US we seem to think that private companies and capitalism are the answer for everything. Unfortunately for us, this system usually enriches a select few people, provides goods and services that are mediocre at best, and cost quite a bit of money for the users of those goods and services.

    The Northeast is particularly bad. Years ago, my wife was commuting to North Jersey - for the cost of her monthly train pass, (nj transit and path) and her monthly parking pass - she could have bought a nice BMW. (Instead she drove a VW Jetta to the train station).

    If these companies can't make the current economics work with that kind of revenue, maglev has no hope of ever becoming a reality.

    -ted
  • I still remember the article in 1961 on flying cars.....
  • The RUF makes more sense. http://www.ruf.dk/ [www.ruf.dk] Cheaper by an order of magnitude per mile and you can drive on and off it. The lesson of the internet is that the first and last mile matter.
  • The French have proved conventional contact-rail trains are more than capable of matching current Maglev trains....

    World records:
    TGV: 574.8 Kph
    JR Maglev MLX01: 581 Kph

    Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6521295.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    That's a whole 6-7 kph difference between the technology now and of the future.
    That and a huge magnet.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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