Friday, September 11, 2009

Keeping MAGLEV Inc. Afloat

In the latest victory to justify and allow their continued existance, a $28 million grant was awarded to MAGLEV, Inc. yesterday. Check out the article here in the Post Gazette.

My feelings on MAGLEV are pretty clear. I don't have a problem with the technology, and would love the idea of getting on a MAGLEV train and getting to Philadelphia in an hour or Chicago in a few. I just think this application as a commuter route to a nearly empty airport is absolutely ridiculous. All at a cost of $3.75 BILLION. By the way, that's in 2003 money. It's a safe bet that a more updated estimate would put the cost over $4 billion for 54 miles of MAGLEV track. Transportation in Pittsburgh already has enough black sheep, we don't need another. For the record the NSC at least allows Pittsburgh to expand its light rail network in the future to the north and west of the city. I don't envision a rapid transit system in Pittsburgh of interconnected MAGLEV lines.

I guess the bright side is that apparently this money was earmarked specifically for MAGLEV and does not come out of any sort of HSR funding.

While the MAGLEV funding wouldn't come out of a pot that Pittsburgh could use for transit, it's tempting to think about what you could get if you managed to get $3.75 billion for transit in Pittsburgh! Imagine the LRT or subway system you could have! Bottom line, there are so many better uses for the $28 million, let alone the $3.75 billion.

I feel like a broken record.


dhd said...

MAGLEV is like the monorail in that Simpsons episode... and if China can't get it right, what chance does Pittsburgh have?

Nick said...

A lot of people seem to be using both of those arguments towards the Maglev lately...

I will disagree with those arguments by saying that I think Maglev has real practical value, but that value is only truly realized at some future juncture, and probably not in the next decade or so. Vacuum tubes used in conjunction with maglev could be used to send the thing flying at THOUSANDS of miles an hour. So saying maglev is a flash in the pan and will be left to the annals of history is a gross overstatement.

I agree with you that maglev shouldn't be built here unless it was nearly entirely funded by the federal and state governments. If we have it "gifted" to us, I'm not going to complain. But you're right, if we were to use the $500 million of the connector or even HALF of the maglev cost (1.5-2 bil)to develop our dated T network to the East and other areas, it might actually look competitive to other metro networks.