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Intercity passengerstransportation infrastructure

As we enter the 21st Century, long distance travel remains dominated by the transport modes developed in the early decades of the 20th Century. In the United States, virtually all intercity passenger travel is by private autos or commercial airlines. Trains and buses carry only a small percentage of intercity passengers. The fractional split between air and auto modes depends on distance - for trips less than approximately 1000 miles, most travelers choose to drive, while for longer trips, most choose airplanes.

Intercity passenger travel is big business in the US. While autos and airplanes have served us well in the past, their limitations are becoming ever more apparent. Unit costs, whether cents per passenger mile for air travel, or cents for vehicle mile for autos, are high, and will go higher as the world's petroleum becomes scarcer and more expensive.

Moreover, the already congested airways and highways are rapidly becoming worse. It is no longer unusual to experience airline cancellations or delays due to weather or heavy traffic. The average speeds on major highways, both urban and suburban are dropping, and travel times are increasing sharply.

Major advances in US auto and air travel capabilities are unlikely. Aircraft technology is essentially mature - fuel energy and unit costs will probably improve, but only marginally. No new airports have been started in the US for over a decade, and many have reached their saturation point. Similarly, the construction of major new highways has become very difficult due to increasing costs and opposition from environmental and local planning groups.

Our present auto and air transport modes have essentially reached a dead end. We need a new mode of transport - maglev - if the problems of congestion, delays, pollution, rising costs, and increasing fuel scarcity are to be effectively addressed.

 


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