High Speed Rail is Passe

The best quote I have ever read about the future is Amara’s Law “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

I don’t know if I have ever read a futurist science fiction story that didn’t have people zipping about in supersonic somethings. In the 60’s it was the Concord and high speed rail that seemed to be the way of the future. The Concord floundered on fuel prices and high speed rail stalled on infrastructure cost. There is renewed interest in high speed rail. Don’t do it people. Just say no to high speed rail. The future will write that wireless internet killed high speed rail.

Bus is making a comeback. How can it be that the transportation mode of choice of the poor is returning as the mode of choice for the middle class. The answer is simply connection. If transportation time is dead time then you want to get it over as soon as possible. The richer you are the more you are willing to pay to not be in your moving equivalent of a prison cell. The visionaries of the past never foresaw the developmental convergence of the telephone the radio and the television in such a way that where you are does not matter very much. If traveling means being strapped into a chair for six hours and being bored out of your mind the if you can change that to 5 or 4 hours then a lot of people would be willing to pay for the privilege.

Contrast that to today. Traveling today is like that old joke about a teenager being sent to his or her bedroom. It is not a punishment when the television and the telephone is there. Traveling is no longer like going to prison. It is more like going to the office or the theater or the proverbial modern teenagers bedroom. Under these circumstances how much is a doubling or even tripling of speed really worth. Almost nothing and definitely not the billions of infrastructure costs. Buses are better than high speed rail. But wait there’s more. Self driving cars are going to change everything.

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