Is the future of transportation coming to Maryland?

High speed inter-city rail transportation in the United States is nearly nonexistent. Amtrak’s Acela Express in the Northeast Corridor, capable of speeds up to 150 mph, averages just 65 mph due to limitations of the existing track. But two proposals for trains using very different technology could radically change the future of transportation in the Northeast Corridor. Here’s an introduction to these game-changing technologies.

Elon Musk to start hyperloop project in Maryland, officials say

by Erin Cox and Sarah Gantz (Baltimore Sun), October 19, 2017

Maryland has given transportation pioneer Elon Musk permission to dig tunnels for the high-speed, underground transit system known as a hyperloop that Musk wants to build between New York and Washington.

Hogan administration officials said Thursday the state has issued a conditional utility permit to let Musk’s tunneling firm, The Boring Co., dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover.

It would be the first portion of the underground system that Musk says could eventually ferry passengers from Washington to New York, with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia, in just 29 minutes. Maryland’s approval is the first step of many needed to complete the multibillion-dollar project.

Administration officials said they will treat the hyperloop like a utility, and permitted it in the same way the state allows electric companies to burrow beneath public rights-of-way.

“We have all sorts of utilities beneath our roadways,” [Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete] Rahn said. “In essence, this didn’t need anything more than a utility permit.”

The Boring Co. aims to reduce traffic congestion by creating a low-cost, efficient system of tunnels. The company has developed tunneling machines it says will drill quickly through soft soils at a fraction of the cost of traditional tunneling.

The hyperloop technology uses electric motors and magnets to transport train cars through a low-pressure tube.  The firm has proposed building a similar hyperloop in Southern California.

Rahn, the transportation secretary, said the Boring Co. will start with two 35-mile tubes between Baltimore and Washington. Rahn said the company hopes to assemble its drilling machines at the Hanover site.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-hyperloop-in-baltimore-20171019-story.html

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop may have competition from a maglev train with $28 million in government funding

by Danielle Muoio (Business Insider), September 11, 2017

The Northeast Maglev (TNEM), a private company, was founded in 2011 with the goal of building a high-speed rail between New York and the country’s capital. TNEM wants to first build the route between Washington D.C. and Baltimore before eventually extending it to New York.

TNEM said its rail would be able to transport passengers between Washington D.C. and Baltimore in just 15 minutes. Traversing D.C. to New York would take an hour. By comparison, Amtrak’s Acela train, its fastest option, takes just under three hours.

Central Japan Railway Company Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV), U.S.- Japan MAGLEV, LLC (click on image for source)

A maglev train built by Central Japan Railway set a world speed record of 375 mph in 2015. The maglev will eventually connect Tokyo and Nagoya, but won’t open to the public until 2027.  Central Japan Railway, a private company, has said it will collaborate with TNEM on the US project.

TNEM has acquired a railroad franchise and a $28 million grant from Maryland’s Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation. The company has also collected $100 million in private funding.

Three alternate routes being considered for the Maglev between Baltimore and Washington. Dashed lines indicate section below ground. (Maryland Transit Administration – click on picture for image source)

Still, a maglev train won’t come cheap. The Baltimore-Washington D.C. route will alone cost “north of $10 billion,” Rogers said. He said tickets would cost “slightly more” than an Acela train, but declined to give specifics. “Tunneling is the main cost and the main driver of schedule,” he said.

http://www.businessinsider.com/tnem-maglev-challenge-elon-musk-hyperloop-2017-9

What is The Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV)?

SCMAGLEV is the latest advancement in the world of high-speed ground transportation. This revolutionary system is not your typical train. In development since 1962, the SCMAGLEV is a futuristic magnetic levitation system that uses powerful magnetic forces for all aspects of operation—acceleration, deceleration, guidance and levitation—resulting in operating speeds of over 300 miles per hour in everyday service, and travel times unlike anything traditional trains can achieve.

Rather than riding directly on standard steel railroad tracks, SCMAGLEV trains levitate between the walls of a unique concrete structure known as a guideway. The U-shaped guideway has walls surrounding the trains on both sides, making the system free from derailment.

http://www.bwmaglev.info/overview/what-is-scmaglev

Everything you wanted to know about bullet trains

by The Economic Times, September 18, 2017

What is a high speed railway?

There’s no standard definition, but a railway system designed for speeds above 250 kmph [155 mph] is generally called high speed — sections of these routes may have lower speed limits for safety reasons. Only 16 nations have high-speed railways — China boasts the world’s longest network with 27,000 km [about 17,000 miles] of such tracks. Japan, Spain, France and Germany are the others where tracks dedicated for high-speed trains stretch over 1,000 km [621 miles].

Japan Central’s N700 high speed train, with maximum speed of 177 mph
When was the first high-speed network built?

Japan’s high-speed line between Tokyo and Osaka was inaugurated in 1964; the famous Shinkansen ‘bullet train’ (named for its shape) could reach a speed of 210 kmph. In 1977, sections of the Florence-Rome line became Europe’s first high-speed railway at top speed of 250 kmph. The entire route was completed in 1992. The national French rail company started its first full high-speed line, between Paris and Lyons, on September 27, 1981, with top speed of 260 kmph.

Can these trains run on conventional tracks?

Most high-speed trains run on conventional tracks similar to conventional gauge systems, but built with stronger material. The train on such a track is likely to have two synchronised engines (power cars), one at either end. Most receive power from roof-mounted pantographs and overhead supply lines. A large part of route alignment is kept straight to support high speed. Although in most countries these trains operate on dedicated tracks, many can also run on conventional tracks at reduced speeds.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/railways/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-bullet-trains/what-are-maglev-trains/slideshow/60731143.cms

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The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Transportation has been in the news a lot lately. Governor Hogan announced his intention to spend $9 billion on a massive highway project. Howard County is holding public hearings on how to upgrade our public transit system. Columbia Association just held its annual BikeAbout. And Horizon Foundation is holding its Open Streets event Sunday October 1st.

We need to think of these aspects of transportation as an integrated whole or else we’ll waste a lot of money without fully supporting our community needs. Contrary to Governor Hogan’s approach, Howard County has committed to a “Complete Streets” policy, and the Open Streets event will demonstrate what that is.  Here I attempt to make sense of it all. Continue reading The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Howard County is a bicycling community – Join the fun!

As temperatures cool, more and more people are bicycling, for fun, exercise, and basic transportation. Howard County provides numerous opportunities to join the movement. There are several events coming up in the next few weeks and organizations that are devoted to cycling. Our transportation infrastructure is changing to support a more walkable and bikeable community. Bicycles are now available on demand for short trips around Columbia.

Come join the fun. There are no excuses not to. Continue reading Howard County is a bicycling community – Join the fun!

Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Who knew we have petroleum pipelines running through Howard County MD? On a recent doctor visit out Dorsey Hall Drive in Ellicott City, I discovered these signs for a petroleum pipeline managed by Colonial Pipeline Company. Surprised by my finding, I decided to do some research. Come to find, there are numerous natural gas and hazardous liquid (petroleum) pipelines throughout Howard County and the USA.

Colonial Pipeline right of way (ROW) looking south across Dorsey Hall Dr. and US29 (left) and headed north to Marriottsville and Dorsey Junction in Woodbine (right) [photo by Harry Schwarz]
Map showing pipelines traversing Howard County, MD; The Colonial pipeline is indicated by the red line (map by National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) Public Viewer)

Pipeline Basics

by The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, US Dept of Transportation (PHMSA)

The energy transportation network of the United States consists of over 2.5 million miles of pipelines. That’s enough to circle the earth about 100 times. These pipelines are operated by approximately 3,000 companies, large and small.

Most hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines are located underground in rights-of-way (ROW). A ROW consists of consecutive property easements acquired by, or granted to, the pipeline company. The ROW provides sufficient space to perform pipeline maintenance and inspections, as well as a clear zone where encroachments can be monitored and prevented. Continue reading Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Our car-centric culture endangers people and our planet

We allocate an awful lot of space to accommodate the automobile and they are a major cause of global warming. To create a sustainable future, we will need to lessen our dependence on cars and develop alternative means of transport. 

Howard County is beginning to build this future with consideration of  public transportation, development of bike trails, and implementing shared usage of roads. Columbia is grappling with the same issue as we plan for downtown development and rejuvenation of our village centers.

The United States had a very different infrastructure about 100 years ago, until cars took over the roads. How we became a car-centric nation, and what it might look like to share our roads and encourage alternatives to the car are the subject of these articles.

Howard County Complete Streets Policy (DRAFT – October 2016)

Vision: “To ensure that Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to live and travel freely, safely, and comfortably, public and private roadways in Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile, ensuring sustainable communities Countywide.” – Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Executive, Council Resolution 35-2016.

Scope:  The County shall approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users of all ages and abilities, including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive cars and trucks. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, subdivision and land development, new construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation, repair, and maintenance. This applies to both new and retrofit projects.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/Complete_Streets

When city streets were a public space

By Nov. 4, 2015

Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side
Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side

It’s strange to imagine now, but prior to the 1920s, city streets looked dramatically different than they do today. They were considered to be a public space: a place for pedestrians, pushcart vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars, and children at play.

“Pedestrians were walking in the streets anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, usually without looking,” Norton says [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City]. During the 1910s there were few crosswalks painted on the street, and they were generally ignored by pedestrians.

As cars began to spread widely during the 1920s, the consequence of this was predictable: death. Over the first few decades of the century, the number of people killed by cars skyrocketed.

As deaths mounted, anti-car activists sought to slow them down. In 1920, Illustrated World wrote, “Every car should be equipped with a device that would hold the speed down to whatever number of miles stipulated for the city in which its owner lived.”

The November 23, 1924, cover of the New York Times shows a common representation of cars during the era — as killing machines. (New York Times)

The turning point came in 1923, says Norton, when 42,000 Cincinnati residents signed a petition for a ballot initiative that would require all cars to have a governor limiting them to 25 miles per hour. Local auto dealers were terrified, and sprang into action, sending letters to every car owner in the city and taking out advertisements against the measure.

Most notably, auto industry groups took control of a series of meetings convened by Herbert Hoover (then secretary of commerce) to create a model traffic law that could be used by cities across the country. Due to their influence, the product of those meetings — the 1928 Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance — was largely based off traffic law in Los Angeles, which had enacted strict pedestrian controls in 1925.

Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn’t walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history. “The campaign was extremely successful,” Norton says. “It totally changed the message about what streets are for.”

[For more on the auto industry’s campaign to assure that cars had primary use of roads, read the whole article at the link below.]

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history

Murder Machines: Why cars will kill 30,000 Americans this year

by Hunter Oatman-Stanford (Collectors Weekly), March 10, 2014

“If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City].  In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then.”

1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)
1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)

As cities attempt to undo years of car-oriented development by rebuilding streets that better incorporate public transit, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian needs, the existing bias towards automobiles is making the fight to transform streets just as intense as when cars first arrived in the urban landscape.

“The fact that changes like redesigning streets for bike lanes set off such strong reactions today is a great analogy to what was going on in the ’20s,” says Fried. “There’s a huge status-quo bias that’s inherent in human nature. While I think the changes today are much more beneficial than what was done 80 years ago, the fact that they’re jarring to people comes from the same place. People are very comfortable with things the way they are.”

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/murder-machines/

The U.S. Ended Up Much More Car-Dependent Than Europe

Between the 1920s and 1960s, policies adapting cities to car travel in the United States served as a role model for much of Western Europe. But by the late 1960s, many European cities started refocusing their policies to curb car use by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation. For the last two decades, in the face of car-dependence, suburban sprawl, and an increasingly unsustainable transportation system, U.S. planners have been looking to Western Europe.

The numbers show the need for change. In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/02/9-reasons-us-ended-so-much-more-car-dependent-europe/8226/

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

by Mark Wagenbuur, who blogs at BicycleDutch

[The Dutch became a car-centric nation similar to the United States, but then they chose a different road.]. 

Featured image at top of post

From Greater Aukland (2014) – http://transportblog.co.nz

The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

Howard County has few transportation options for people traveling into DC. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may be a relatively inexpensive option.

Montgomery’s bet on an ambitious Bus Rapid Transit system hinges on Route 29

By Luz Lazo (Washington Post), May 13, 2017 – ABRIDGED

Montgomery County’s years-long plan to build a 14-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on one of Maryland’s busiest commuter corridors appears to finally be moving from idea to reality.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has championed BRT as the county’s next major transit undertaking, included $21.5 million for the project in his capital budget. A County Council committee earlier this month signaled its support for the BRT project, voting to send the plan to the full council for approval of funding for the design phase, putting the project one step away from construction — and closer to a 2020 opening.

The plan as it stands would put buses on shoulder lanes for a portion of the route, but also in regular traffic. This decision, which sacrificed earlier plans to have a reversible HOV lane in the southern portion of the route, cut capital costs by more than half to $31.5 million. Officials say the money will pay for new stations, buses, and new bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The county’s portion will be matched with a $10 million federal grant.

For the complete article, go to:  https://is.gd/cgXjJC

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy – ABRIDGED

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It does this Continue reading The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

How we got those highway signs with mileage of distant cities

I-70 west, at I-695 in Woodlawn

“Go West, Young Man”
June 04, 2007|By Rob Hiaasen (Baltimore Sun)

. . . . Tom Hicks, a state highway administrator in Maryland, decided to immortalize Cove Fort [the western terminus of I-70, in Utah] in the minds of Marylanders heading west out of Baltimore toward Frederick, Hagerstown and across nine other states connected by I-70. He and another highway man, Paul Farragut of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, got to thinking about a different kind of mileage sign, one with a bit of geographical whimsy and one that, for more practical reasons, would test a new type style. It’s not often an act of traffic engineering captures the imagination of, well, anyone.

“I was just excited that we have an interstate that ends and begins in our region,” says Farragut. He had never been to Cove Fort but was always amused by a sign Continue reading How we got those highway signs with mileage of distant cities