Thursday, August 05, 2010

Here we go again faster

A high speed train from city to city - superfast!
There seems to be some sort of drive in people to spend less and less time where they are and want to be somewhere else ever faster. Currently there are plans to build a high speed rail line linking the cities of the east coast. Raleigh to DC in 2 hrs or something like that.
The cities of the east coast are largely built in a line, following the fall line up the coast; so does the highway, the current train lines, and so will the new high speed line. The problem is that a string of smaller towns also grew up along the trade routes following the fall line. (Raleigh was located off this line in an attempt to build North Carolina's capitol city in a more central location - but the route to Raleigh from Petersburg follows another anciently established trade route - the Occanechee trail.)
The high speed train will run right through these towns - shortest distance is a strait line. And the trains will be going so fast that they ain't stopping. You could say the train is skipping right over these towns, except that it will be cutting right through them. A story on NPR described an effort to build some overpasses, but a lot of dead ends. (There was a lovely train overpass that we used to use to get to my high school. There was occasionaly a guy lurking in the dark between the piers with his pants down waiting for the girls to pass through.)
Author and urbanist Jane Jacobs' critique of traffic engineering was that its single minded goal was to get people from the suburbs to zip zip to their offices downtown and back - fast as possible while completely overlooking what this did to all the places where people were trying to live in between. We seem to be doing that again - running right through people's lives, through their places in an attempt to be somewhere else faster.
One plus however - less need to buy overpriced hot dogs in the lounge cars.

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