Today marked the first day of bullet train service between Guangzhou and Beijing, China, the longest train line of its kind in the world. Using magnetic levitation to reduce friction between the track and cars, the train will zoom along at 186 miles per hour. If a similar train were built between New York and Washington, D.C. — and it totally should! we support this! — it would take a mere 72 minutes to traverse the 226 miles separating the two cities.
In reality, Amtrak trains hobble along the Acela corridor at an average speed of about 71 MPH (83 MPH between New York and Washington), even though they're capable of reaching speeds up to 150 MPH. The reason they travel so slowly lies in the train tracks themselves: the route between Boston and D.C. is so crooked in so many places that trains have to constantly slow down in order to bank a curve or negotiate a hilly climb. (This also prevents Amtrak from running the necessary wire to power a bullet train equivalent.) Laying down straighter track would require a massive amount of labor and materials — and, especially in the highly populated Northeast, the relocation of thousands of people — which is why some politicians think the private rail industry should intervene.
So, no, unfortunately: high speed rail isn't coming to New York, or elsewhere on the Acela line, any time soon. Hopefully Amtrak's famously horrible Wi-Fi will be fixed by the time it does, though.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.