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Japan's MagLev Gets Go Ahead

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the arise-commuters-of-japan-arise dept.

Transportation 159

ThinkPad760 writes "The Japanese government has finally given approval to build the long awaited MagLev train linking Tokyo and Osaka via Nagoya. But don't hold your breath. Construction will start in 2014. The Tokyo Nagoya section will be completed in 2027 with the final section to Osaka complete by 2045. I was hoping my wife could buy me a ticket as my retirement present, but looks like I have a wait a couple of years after that."

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159 comments

Gay people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278002)

Faguettes.

2027? 2045? (1)

caius112 (1385067) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278004)

It's funny because the technology will be long outdated by then.

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278042)

Knowing Japan, by 2014 they'll have found a way to build it in 1/3 of the time.
Meanwhile the rest of the world will continue to lag 10+ years behind them in technology like we have for decades.

Re:2027? 2045? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278084)

Naw, compared to Dubai, Japan is living in the middle ages.

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

citizenr (871508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278104)

Naw, compared to Dubai, Japan is living in the middle ages.

because swimming in SHIT on the streets is so futuristic

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278606)

Wait, are you making an offensive Muslim joke or an offensive tsunami joke?

Re:2027? 2045? (3, Informative)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278630)

He is referring to the fact that the city has grown so fast that they don't have a decent sewer system, much of the sewage goes into septic tanks which are drained and then tankers drive it to a sewage processing plant. But some tankers illegally dump it so it ends up in the sea.

Re:2027? 2045? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278930)

Tankers dump the shit into the damn storm drains (the few the city has, anyway).

And International City stinks of sewage because of the fucking sewage processing plant nearby.

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278192)

The trains in Dubai are manufactured by Kinki Sharyo [wikipedia.org]

Re:2027? 2045? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278488)

Dubai doesn't have street addresses. Consequently there's no functioning postal system, and that's not the only infrastructure that is dysfunctional in Dubai. Beyond infrastructure, Dubai's society is firmly locked in the dark ages too. The oil money is attractive, but other than that, Dubai has nothing going for it.

Dubai is what happens when people with too much money on their hands want something that they don't know much about. The city will last at most until the industrialized world has been weaned off its oil addiction. Then Dubai will crumble under the forces of nature.

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278646)

Perhaps you should learn some history of Dubai. The city largely exists as is specifically because they understand the oil money won't last forever. That city specifically exists as is knowing full well the money will run out. Dubai is their answer, not the question.

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278826)

No it isn't...

If you want to see the answer to what one does with such a large source of oil wealth in a small country, on looks to Norway. When brand new desalination plants are built that run on oil you know there's a serious lack of forward-thinking.

Re:2027? 2045? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278850)

That's what they want, what they don't know much about. What they got is a city that will not outlast the availability of oil or the demand for it.

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278778)

Knowing Japan, by 2014 they'll have found a way to build it in 1/3 of the time.

Given that the project is high parallelizable, they could have done that already just by putting more workers and equipment on the job.

RAILGUN (1)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278072)

You say this now - but when they shoot down your orbital space-elevator, you won't be laughing.

Re:RAILGUN (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278210)

Nor will you when I drop a colony on your headquarters, loserboy. Sieg Zeon!

Re:2027? 2045? (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278074)

Will it? Where's your nearest thing to a 1964 bullet train?

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278226)

Probably, but only because we invested in the R&D to make this a reality.

It would be like saying that we shouldn't bother with developing new CPUs since the ones in 10 years will be 10x faster.

Nothing drives innovation faster than demand for what's currently available.

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

jonadab (583620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278420)

There's something about the plan that the summary isn't telling you: they're not linking Tokyo and Osaka by bullet train for the first time. It's more of a technology upgrade. They've had nozomi shinkansen (pronounced "no-zo-me-sheen-kahn-sane") making said trip in under two and a half hours, reaching speeds somewhere in the (rough estimate alert) neighborhood of 200 mph (though they can't average their top speed due to curves and acceleration and stuff), since the early nineties. You pay through the nose for the fastest train service, but it's available if you've got money. Before the current fastest service was introduced there were slower versions, going back to the sixties. Some of the slower lines are still in operation and are naturally somewhat more affordable to ride than the newest fastest one.

According to the linked article, the new line will allow speeds over 300 mph and make the trip in under 100 minutes. I assume the quoted speed is a minimum for when the service is rolled out initially and that they'll find ways to improve it and shave a few minutes off the trip after they get it initially working (as they have done in the past with existing train services).

Re:2027? 2045? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278432)

Did you just type out the pronunciation for an already romanized Japanese phrase? Really?

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

PwnzerDragoon (2014464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279542)

Japanese written in Romaji doesn't have a built-in pronunciation guide, people who don't know anything about Japanese can and will mispronounce it. Just look to English words taken from Japanese, the spelling is the same but the pronunciation is different in many cases (karaoke, karate, Honda, etc.)

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

SpammersAreScum (697628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279824)

Romaji should be very easy to pronounce correctly (barring the "r"), but Americans manage to severely mangle it anyway. "karaoke" is pronounced as written "ka-ra-o-ke", not "carry okie". And, along the same lines, I should note that "shinkansen" is not pronounced "...-sane"; it's pronounced as written: "...-sen", as in "hen" or "yen".

Re:2027? 2045? (2)

DeathSquid (937219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278756)

It's more of a technology upgrade. They've had nozomi shinkansen (pronounced "no-zo-me-sheen-kahn-sane") making said trip in under two and a half hours, reaching speeds somewhere in the (rough estimate alert) neighborhood of 200 mph (though they can't average their top speed due to curves and acceleration and stuff), since the early nineties.

I live in Japan and speak Japanese. That's definitely not how you pronounce shinkansen. :-)

This is not simply a technology upgrade, like previous shinkansen improvements. This is a new set of tracks following a new inland route, of which around 60% is expected to be tunnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%AB%C5%8D_Shinkansen [wikipedia.org] has more details. Interestingly, it will be funded privately.

This type of vast infrastructure investment is why Japan's economy works so well despite western economists talking it down for decades now. The problem is that short term econometrics don't account for ongoing infrastructure benefits that keep delivering for decades. Japan has been investing like this since the 50's and that's why the standard of living here is streets ahead of anywhere else I've seen.

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278828)

This type of vast infrastructure investment is why Japan's economy works so well despite western economists talking it down for decades now. The problem is that short term econometrics don't account for ongoing infrastructure benefits that keep delivering for decades. Japan has been investing like this since the 50's and that's why the standard of living here is streets ahead of anywhere else I've seen.

It's worth noting that this model broke in the aftermath of the 1990 recession and hasn't worked since. There's a good reason that economists have been dissing Japan for the past few decades, using phrases such as "the lost decade."

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

okazakiOm (1249958) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278918)

I've been living in Japan for most of the last quarter century, and must disagree with your standard of living statement. You must live in Roppongi Hills or somewhere just as posh to make that qualification. As a matter of fact, I'm moving back to my hometown of San Francisco to improve my family's standard of living. Here in Kyoto, utilities are extremely expensive, public education is a shambles, the police and judiciary are corrupt, the population is elderly and the young 'uns are apathetic and realize that their future is working at a Family Mart. I can get all that in the good ol' US of A, and I'd rather have the American version after all this time. Most of Japan is a third-world country with a very shiny high-tech veneer of the first world overlaid upon it here and there.

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

DeathSquid (937219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279024)

I've been living in Japan for most of the last quarter century, and must disagree with your standard of living statement. You must live in Roppongi Hills or somewhere just as posh to make that qualification.

As a matter of fact, I'm moving back to my hometown of San Francisco to improve my family's standard of living. Here in Kyoto, utilities are extremely expensive, public education is a shambles, the police and judiciary are corrupt, the population is elderly and the young 'uns are apathetic and realize that their future is working at a Family Mart. I can get all that in the good ol' US of A, and I'd rather have the American version after all this time.

No expat lifestyle for me, I'm sad to say. However, I find that living expenses (including utilities) in Japan are far less than, say, Australia. My lifestyle is much healthier due to far less car-centric cities. The food is better quality and there is less pollution in major cities. My carbon footprint is lower. As for the "good ol' US of A", the last time I went to the doctor here, it cost me about $10. The last time I was mugged here was never. There's almost no graffiti, there are no beggars, the streets are clean, and the subway doesn't stink of piss.

Young people with motivation and education here have great opportunities. Those who can't be bothered end up working at convenience stores. So what?

You sound like you have had some bad experiences with the police/judiciary/education system. I'm sorry to hear that, but perhaps your experiences are not typical?

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

okazakiOm (1249958) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279226)

No bad experiences with the police or the judiciary, thank heavens. My carbon footprint here is much less than it will be in the States, I agree. The only time I've had someone try to mug me was in Sydney [epic failure on the mugger's part]. Graffiti and beggars I don't like, but I can live with them. The subway where I'm from doesn't smell like piss. Health care is cheap here, but you get what you pay for. They just inoculated my son with a live polio virus, ferchrissakes! Racism and racial profiling are open and in-your-face. Why should my J-citizen children who look more European than Eurasian have to put up with it? It's not going to change. The government is so inept it makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. My experience is atypical only in that I have been here for so long and have enough degrees in Japanese to realize that this place, which I had so much hope for in the Eighties, is heading downhill and won't climb up again in my lifetime. Dollars to doughnuts you have no children, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Re:2027? 2045? (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 3 years ago | (#36280178)

uhh... my son was given the live oral vaccination for polio as well.....Here in the states. That is how it is delivered in most places.

Just for comparison.... (2)

Timtimes (730036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278012)

Let's point to the many long term development projects right here in the United States. Crickets. Enjoy.

Re:Just for comparison.... (3, Insightful)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278032)

As an eternal optimist, I think we (the U.S. public) aren't being loud enough. We need to take this disorganized grumbling about higher gas prices and start asking for efficient, interstate mass transport, like maglev (or the theoretical vactrain). It can be done, but Congress won't authorize it unless we don't let them weasel out of the problem. Maybe all it will take is a single letter from every constituent to their representative, flooding their offices.

Re:Just for comparison.... (0)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278036)

You're kidding, right? Why would you imagine that the people who gave us Amtrak and similar debacles could possibly produce an efficient rail system?

-jcr

Re:Just for comparison.... (2)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278054)

Well, Congress may actually have to raise our taxes (gasp) and not contract the lowest bidder, but progress isn't free.

Exactly why? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278076)

Why would they have to raise our taxes? Invade one less third world shithole per presidency, and the budget wouldn't be balanced, we'd have a fucking surplus that could see us with goddamned maglev trains to the goddamned doorstep.

But of course, THAT'S SOCIALISM. And we don't stand for none of that there socialism here in 'murrica.

Re:Exactly why? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278764)

Invade one less third world shithole per presidency, and the budget wouldn't be balanced, we'd have a fucking surplus that could see us with goddamned maglev trains to the goddamned doorstep.

If only that were true. Current US deficit is more than twice the annual cost of the military, including a few wars in there. A lot of that is the US paying an economic premium for having an unusually bad batch of idiots in charge. Maybe getting rid of the military and putting in someone with some good economic and political chops might do it. I suspect however, that the sacred entitlement herd will have to be culled too.

Re:Exactly why? (1)

PhrstBrn (751463) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278958)

If only that were true. Current US deficit is more than twice the annual cost of the military, including a few wars in there. A lot of that is the US paying an economic premium for having an unusually bad batch of idiots in charge. Maybe getting rid of the military and putting in someone with some good economic and political chops might do it. I suspect however, that the sacred entitlement herd will have to be culled too.

Perfect, so let's cut military spending in half, and use that half to pay off a quarter of the deficit every year (or whatever fraction it is) and we'll be high sailing in 4 years or so (5-6 depending on how your math works). I'm assuming your numbers aren't pulled out of your ass.

Re:Exactly why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36279136)

He wrote deficit, not debt?

Have you not been paying attention? (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278174)

Well, Congress may actually have to raise our taxes (gasp) and not contract the lowest bidder, but progress isn't free.

Raising taxes: given.

Then it's not the lowest bidder - it's the one who has donated the most money to the political party in power.

Then that company builds out a half-assed train that no-one ends up using because it goes right to some congressman's home town instead of somewhere useful.

Do you seriously expect anything else out of congress?

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278080)

If I was going to be idealistically republican rather than pragmatically democrat (I'm neither, I'm pragmatically a British lib-dem for all the good that got us), then I would refer thee to the way corporations used to be before, er, corporations took over.  Where you could invest a few dimes into building some railroads, and get them back as a shareholder once they are built.  Figuring out what went wrong with the economy and why the people at the top of corporations are ambitious in the process of making money rather than doing it for a reason is for you guys to figure out.

Actually, we need to figure that out too.  And work out how to fix it.  And when we do, we have to assassinate all lawyers or we won't be allowed to.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278088)

Unless you want to donate an additional 10-20% of your income to said Congress, and the next 200 years worth of Congress thereafter, don't hold your breath for a vactrain or maglev. These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever.

The route between these two Japanese cities is hugely profitable for their current high speed rail routes. There are 185,000 individuals who live on each mile of that proposed route. And it's currently their most heavily traveled route. In fact, I believe I read recently that it is the only route in the world of such high speed trains that even pays for itself. The rest are pure fluffery and/or outright subsidy. I, for one, prefer not to subsidize other people's transportation.

What I would love to see in the US is just some basic train routes between major cities in a regional space. I live in Central Texas, and it would be wonderful to see a Dallas / Austin / San Antonio / Houston route. It would cut down on significant traffic between those cities on the highways. However, an airline ticket between any of those cities can be had for generally $100, and the government doesn't subsidize it. I wonder how likely it is that a train could match that; particularly a train that had the governments greasy hands all over it.

Re:Just for comparison.... (5, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278240)

These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever.

The problem with this mindset is that it only measures ticket sales. If you make travel between cities incredibly fast then you open up all kinds of new business opportunities and larger efficiencies.

There is certainly a need to balance cost/benefit but too often we only balance direct costs vs direct benefit while ignoring the larger returns that result.

Picture for a moment Broadband internet. If a couple of universities needed to move large files then it wouldn't make sense to lay fiber optic lines across the country--you could just overnight fedex them. But once you do lay fiber to everybody suddenly you can teleconference, you can have movies delivered to the home, you can create an entire entertainment sector where people play MMOs etc etc...

When I was in highschool I had to plead with my parents to get internet. And then a second phone line. And then broadband. Now thanks to what I mostly learned on the internet I have a high paying job. It was a great investment that they made--but not one necessarily that looked like it should pay itself off. I mostly wanted high-speed admittedly to play games. As a gaming connection it was a complete money loser. But it opened up my world and from that I found unintended consequences.

Conservatives tend to be the ones who always bemoan the unintended consequences of market intervention. But for some reason everyone seems to believe that there can only be negative unintended consequences.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278744)

The problem with this mindset is that it only measures ticket sales. If you make travel between cities incredibly fast then you open up all kinds of new business opportunities and larger efficiencies.

Intangibles which you can value arbitrarily high are a convenient way to ignore that the train isn't paying for itself. If all this value is being created, then the value would show up in the form of higher ticket sales.

Conservatives tend to be the ones who always bemoan the unintended consequences of market intervention. But for some reason everyone seems to believe that there can only be negative unintended consequences.

Probably because that is the kind that is far more likely to occur. Also, since when has "We might do something useful by accident" been a good argument for continuing an activity?

Re:Just for comparison.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278832)

How much money do highways and interstates cost the USA every year? Clearly, these roads are running at a loss and should be closed down. They only provide an intangible benefit, after all.

Re:Just for comparison.... (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278902)

How much money do highways and interstates cost the USA every year? Clearly, these roads are running at a loss and should be closed down. They only provide an intangible benefit, after all.

Toll roads (the road analogue to selling train tickets) turn that intangible benefit into tangible benefit.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278768)

Also, you can't have rail to every house and business. And urban areas are already heavily connected with roads and airports, especially in places which have bemoaning conservatives.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278814)

Actually it highlights a massive flaw in our Capitalist model... if this were to be done by private industry it would never happen because they would need to directly turn a profit, the other associated benefits and profits would not be factored into it at all and it would never get off the ground (bad pun intended).

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278848)

Actually it highlights a massive flaw in our Capitalist model... if this were to be done by private industry it would never happen because they would need to directly turn a profit, the other associated benefits and profits would not be factored into it at all and it would never get off the ground (bad pun intended).

What's the flaw which this highlights? US railroad builders in the 19th Century were quite cognizant of the ability of railroads to raise property values and other things and they had a variety of ways to profit from that. A number of railroads were actually part of some grander scheme (for example, railroads were a key component of the massive, "open range" cattle drives that turned scrub and grass on vast tracts of unclaimed land into beef on eastern US dinner plates).

But why spend your own money to make this happen, when you can spend public money to create and maintain the rails?

Re:Just for comparison.... (2)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278926)

Well, seeing as how I worked for the US side of one of Japan's most well-known (and loved) train mfrs... I may know the reality of the situation here in the US. And even from your own post, notice how you had to go back to the 1800s? Ever notice how our infrastructure is STILL in the 1800s? It may come as a surprise but wooden railroad ties are not the bee's knees of technology an haven't been for quite a long damn time. It is one of the main reasons why we can't have any sort of high-speed rail here.Nah, everything is perfectly fine with our system... just keep telling yourself that.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279038)

Nah, everything is perfectly fine with our system... just keep telling yourself that.

I deeply apologize for not buying enough of your no-doubt wonderful company's products, but I don't deal in fashion. The wooden tied rails are what the US needs for moving cargo while high speed rail just duplicates the collectively better transportation systems of road and air, both which, I might add for fashion's sake, are 20th Century products not 19th Century products such as your trains.

Re:Just for comparison.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278430)

Yes all those Private companies who wisely invested in the Highways .. very long sighted of them. Or was that the Govt? No subsidy? How about tax free aviation fuel .. nice saving there. And various other similar non obvious ways in which Govt pushes & pulls transport policy in the direction it wants/needs. If Air/Road were made to clean up their emissions, or held to higher stds the cost/benefit equation may look different, very different. How about trains powered by Boiled Water, fuelled by renewable resource like wood ...... Casey Jones, a-coming round the mountain woot woot.
Or Atomic powered trains..

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278632)

These things are ridiculously expensive and virtually never pay for themselves -- ever

Just like highways and roads then?

Re:Just for comparison.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278802)

> However, an airline ticket between any of those cities can be had for generally $100, and the government doesn't subsidize it.
Wrong. They're hella subsidized. Jet fuel. Airport infrastructure. Various other things.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279062)

You could easily have 10 million riders per year. Multiply that with an average ticket price of $100. That's a billion dollars per year. Now, that may not be enough to pay for construction of the track and 5% interest on the construction cost, but it would be enough to pay for trains and maintenance and operations, which opens up the possibility for a market driven scheme...

Let the government build the tracks with tax money (or rather with government loans payed back over time). Once the tracks are in place the government would auction time slots to private train operators. The state government would not be allowed to subsidize operations of these companies, but local governments/cities would be allowed to do so to some extent if they want more frequent service to their city. The track, track operation and track maintenance would be owned and run as a state government owned business, which could be sold to private buyers later if it becomes profitable. You should be able to pay more and more of the maintenance with user fees as the ridership grows over time.

This way you get your rail line, and you get competitive rail operators who will compete for your ticket money in order to increase their profits.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278216)

All it would take is a reasonable plan. So far, every plan (in the United States) I've seen has failed because of one or more of the following reasons:

1) The train would run through a sparsely populated area and there would be no one to ride it, thus the train would lose money and be a waste of energy.
2) The train would cost too much to build and operate. These suckers are expensive. The high speed rail in California is estimated to cost $45 billion, and so far voters have only approved $9billion (via bond). Where is the rest of the money coming from? It's a question that needs to be answered.
3) A lot of people don't realize how expensive trains are. I took an hour-and-a-half trip in Spain recently, and it cost 50 Euros. Are people really willing to pay that? The trip from SF to LA will cost two or three times that. What is there to entice a person to ride the train instead of fly or drive? Flying in Europe is often cheaper than taking the train. And if you have more than one person going (talking about the US again), driving is just more economical, and not necessarily slower.

I really hope these issues are resolved, because I like riding a train much more than I like riding an airplane. But they do need to be resolved.

Re:Just for comparison.... (3, Insightful)

DeathSquid (937219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278810)

A lot of people don't realize how expensive trains are. I took an hour-and-a-half trip in Spain recently, and it cost 50 Euros. Are people really willing to pay that? The trip from SF to LA will cost two or three times that. What is there to entice a person to ride the train instead of fly or drive? Flying in Europe is often cheaper than taking the train. And if you have more than one person going (talking about the US again), driving is just more economical, and not necessarily slower.

Until you've used a good train system, it is really hard to understand why it is better. Afterwards, it's obvious.

For example, in Japan (and Europe) fast trains are better than commercial flights because there is no messing around getting to and from distant airports, no long checkin queues, no excess luggage charges, no long security queues, no requirement for invasive searches/imaging, much more legroom, more comfortable seating, a smoother ride, you can use your phone/electronics the entire trip, no waiting for checked luggage to appear at the end (or maybe not), and they are much more punctual and much less affected by inclement weather. For a city to city trip, I would prefer a fast train for any trip less than around 4-5 hours.

A fast train may even cost a bit more than a discounted flight. But I still prefer them because they are generally faster, more reliable and far more comfortable.

Furthermore, fast trains are safer (Japan's shinkansen has had zero fatalities due to derailment/collision, ever) and they can make use of non-carbon emitting power sources. They are especially far safer (and more relaxing) than driving.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279858)

In the USA. train stations are very seldom in useful areas of a given city. more often they are farther out than the airports.

The cit I live in and my parents city. The train stations are 10-15 miles away from anywhere useful, and while they are attached to the bus stations the busses don't go every where, indeed.

For fun I timed it out once. to go by bus/train to my home to my parents would take something along the lines of 6 hours to travel what I do in my car in 90 minutes doing the speed limit. The train ride itself is nearly 2 hours long and costs $30. My car uses $12 of gas.(at $4 a gallon)

So why spend more, take longer doing it, to travel? when for $24 I can have a mom cooked meal and spend a couple of hours with my family in the same time it would take me to get to the there by bus/train.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278472)

> We need to ... start asking for efficient, interstate mass transport, like maglev... It can be done,

It can be done, but there's relatively little point in doing it here.

The US is not Japan. 90% of our population is not concentrated on 10% of our land. Americans like to have yards and tend to want to live in small enough communities that they can actually get to know the majority of the people in town. When a city gets bigger than about fifty thousand people or so, most of the population moves away to "bedroom communities". We're a LOT more spread out than Japan.

Suppose we did build a bullet train linking the major cities. Presumably the main line would run New York to Chicago to Denver (just because it's on the way) to Los Angeles, and then you'd have branch lines to Miami (with stops in D.C. and Atlanta) and Seattle (with a couple of stops along the way) and one of the cities in Texas. If I wanted to ride it, I'd have to drive for almost six hours to get to the station -- and that's *close* by US standards. A lot of people would have to drive several times that far. And it would only *go* to a very limited number of places, which usually wouldn't be very close to anywhere I want to go.

Even if they ran branch lines to EVERY major city (which would cost about eleventy gazillion times as much to do here as in Japan, because we have a much larger number of major cities, and they're a lot farther apart), I'd still have to drive for an hour and a half to get to downtown Columbus. It wouldn't be worth going that far out of my way to ride the thing except *possibly* in situations where I would otherwise fly. And again, that's *close* by US standards -- I live in the ninth most densely-populated state, out of fifty, and within Ohio I'm not in the most rural region of the state (the southeastern part). A lot of people would have to drive for two or three hours to get to a major city.

I know it sounds cool to be able to hop on a fast train and go 300 mph to someplace on the other side of the country. Believe me, the basic idea sounds cool to me too. But it's just not practical in the US. Our population-density profile is wrong for it.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278096)

The first step would be to convince a US politician to give a shit about anything that happens after their term of office.

Re:Just for comparison.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278668)

Even if you restrict your attention to the public arena, the US has plenty of long term plans. They might be disasters in the making (such as the high speed rail plans), but the US has them.

I think there is a broad conceit that planning is always better than not having a plan, just as acting now is somehow always better than acting later. What is ignored is that sometimes what the plan implements is worse than no plan, especially when important details are glossed over (such as why build infrastructure that is poorly used and a serious money sink?).

It's also not clear to me from the story why Japan should have a 35 year plan for maglev trains rather than a 10-15 year plan. It might cost a little more to hustle construction, but they also miss some of the drama that can happen with long term plans when the plans get changed every few years (or the circumstances change). Longer isn't better.

Look at the bright side (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278022)

A faster trip to the funeral home you'll never find, unless they bring back the Concorde..

Oh Japan. (1)

Reed Solomon (897367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278046)

Always with the magnets.

Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (5, Interesting)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278052)

TFA mentions 67 minutes travel time. The Shinkansen takes 155 minutes for the same distance, so this would be a significant improvement. The cities are 500 km apart, even an airplane would not take significantly less than an hour.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278340)

It may be significant if trains are still relevant in 34 years.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (2)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278412)

It's not too much of a stretch. They've been relevant in Japan for 140 years.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278446)

Why wouldn't they be? A country with the population density of Japan can't support individual transport methods for the same leg to get the volume of people needed, and bulk transport like Airplanes have recently shown to have security clearance lines which are longer than then entire trip would take on the maglev.

For distances like this, the convenience of buying a ticket and getting on can't be matched. Providing there is sufficient volume of people traveling between two destinations a train is an excellent choice.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (2)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278556)

As these things are competing with air travel, high speed rail will come into it's own as the high energy liquid fuels required for aircraft become scarce.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278730)

As these things are competing with air travel, high speed rail will come into it's own as the high energy liquid fuels required for aircraft become scarce.

And why would high energy liquid fuels become "scarce"? Oil isn't the only source for them.

Re:Compared to Shinkansen or airplane (1)

xelah (176252) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279068)

There are other problems with air travel, too. As well as the inevitable externalities (noise spread over a wider area near airports, pollution dropped over populated areas) they also require a huge land area for airports, and those airports are often not near to where people want to go. So you end up spending only a fraction of your time on the fast aeroplane and much more of it in terminals and on local transport. Besides....is there enough airspace for as densely populated and travelled area as this?

yay! (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278068)

we can all get crammed into a tin can that runs at 300 mph rather than 150!

Re:yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278168)

I'm not really seeing a downside...

Re:yay! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278224)

we can all get crammed into a tin can that runs at 300 mph rather than 150!

After analyzing your very well thought post, we chose to outlaw mechanical vehicles - be it on ground, air, or water. From now on, you're free to use the much safer horse for all your transporting needs. The air model is still in the experimental stage, but we assure you engineers all over the world are working full time on solving the few issues left.

The Department of Transportation

Re:yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278264)

On one of my last business trips to Japan, I was caught in messy disagreement between JVC (Yokohama) and their "parent" Panasonic in Osaka. Both needed our two factory engineers to make their Divx DVD production schedules and Panasonic pulled no punches, yanking Sill & Bam out of Yoko and into Osaka in about 30 minutes + train ride.

Later that evening couple of us "async visiting managers" went to both facilities to try to smooth things over without much luck. Our secret weapon was a white engineer, who had done did a year internship at Sony, after US college and might help us figure out what was going on to some extent. for example, we had hoped that he could get us past the "no foreigners" signs on the sex shows near the Shinjuku train Station.

Point to rail traffic: it seemed that a Shinkansen left Yokohama for Osaka about every ten minutes. We got on an earlier train then our reservations,not paying much attention, and took some stoic Japanese seats for the ~2.x hour ride. It never occurred to us why these Japanese were standing in aisle -- we had their seats. They did not feel comfortable taking empty seats of their ancestors or the Yakuza.

Fun stuff until bankruptcy.....

Re:yay! (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278692)

dude..what?

Re:yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36280040)

I had a job! ;-)

Re:yay! (4, Insightful)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278330)

As opposed to being groped or scanned, and then stuck in a 1 foot by 1 foot seat on an aluminum can that can fall out of the sky? Or be stuck going about 5x slower than said tin can in a car? o.o

I don't know of any transportation method in the world other than maglev that can get you from the downtown area of one city, 300 miles away, to the down town area of another city in 70 minutes. Much less one that could acomplish that while not requiring security scans or invasive groping, and a scan of your luggage, or heck, any luggage weight limits whatsoever.

Re:yay! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278860)

I don't know of any transportation method in the world other than maglev that can get you from the downtown area of one city, 300 miles away, to the down town area of another city in 70 minutes.

Airplanes, of course, can do that now.

Re:yay! (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278976)

No, they can't, because the overhead of check-in, security, waiting for a runway, baggage check, baggage pickup, etc, adds hours to even the shortest flight.

Re:yay! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279058)

No, they can't, because the overhead of check-in, security, waiting for a runway, baggage check, baggage pickup, etc, adds hours to even the shortest flight.

None of those things require adding hours to the flight. It's worth noting that in the US, the same government which burdens US airlines also promotes high speed rail.

Re:yay! (2)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36280214)

I should rephrase then. I don't know of many transportation methods that can get you in the door of your departure station and out the door of your destination station traveling 300 miles from downtown to downtown in an hour and a half.
(Disclaimer, I live in Japan)
This is part of why the shinkansen is so succesfull. Note that I realize my previous analogy is maglev to planes, and this is shinkansen to planes. So this is a seperate discussion.

But the reason why the shinkansen has been succesfull is that generally airports aren't built downtown. They're built far away, where the noise pollution and traffic would be undesirable to put smack dab in the middle of town.

however, in Japan, trainstations are generally as close as possible to the heart of town, and as such, you can merely enter the station, buy your ticket in five minutes, board in another 5, be on your way, and at your destination be out in five minutes.

However the same process takes nearly an hour (counting both departure and arrival) in a best case scenario with an airplane. Thus, for shorthaul flights the planes don't make any more sense than a train. And Japan is shorthaul travel centric due to the size of the country. Going from the northern most island (Hokkaido) to the southern most island (kyuushuu), airplanes make total sense. But if you're just hopping a flight from Tokyo to Osaka, which is ALMOST possible to do in a straight line, there's just no point in bothering with aircraft because, even WITH the costs and journey times being similar, people generally dislike airports, you generally have to pay for parking at the airport (where as rail stations are close enough that bicycle access is highly practical) and there are many many more places to get into the rail network. I live pretty far from downtown in my area but I can technically start a rail journey to Tokyo with a ten minute bike ride to the local train station, on a complete whim. (The last part is important, I feel that air travel is less flexible than rail, I rarley if ever have a problem getting a ticket with 0 advanced notice unless it's newyears.)

Having a working maglev line between Tokyo and Osaka may tip the scales enough that even if it is slightly more expensive than the shinkansen (and I can guarantee you it will be), it will STILL be the fastest way to get between the two points, thus probably gobbling up most of the passengers that would have otherwise flown. That's probably why this line is being constructed. I think the Tokyo Osaka route is one of the most heavily traveled non local train routes in the world, so there's probably enough traffic to make it pay.

Re:yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36279132)

You realize that in the US, the TSA controls rail as well, right? The security procedures are pretty much the same.

Re:yay! (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36279484)

I love karma whoring.  You make a sarcastic humourous comment about the reality of trains (I get the london underground every day), and we get "insightful" comments about the advantages of trains over aeroplanes or cars.  I've learnt nothing except that there's a lot of karma whores on slashdot.

I grew up in Japan (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278108)

They kept saying that maglev trains will be everywhere by 1985, and that there will be cities in space by 2010.

The illustrations showed them using black land-line telephones and mainframes that spit out hexadecimal ticker-tape, too.

Re:I grew up in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278236)

Last I checked we do use phone lines still (DSL) and mainframes. The hexadecimal ticker-tape though is a little outdated. So they maybe were talking about the early 90's or late 80's instead of the 2010.

Re:I grew up in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278866)

They kept saying that ... there will be cities in space by 2010.

Well, Honda builds an Odyssey. What more do you want?

30 years? (1)

Nihn (1863500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278248)

Really, 30 years from start to finish? Why? Are they using that new contraption they came out with last year? The shovel they call it, will revolutionize the way we build. But seriously....30 years......

China has abandoned the MagLev.. Japan picks it up (0)

ausrob (864993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278276)

China experimented with MagLev technology in Shanghai and found that ultimately it used too much power and required too much maintenance and ultimately abandoned it in favour of the CRH trains. These alternative trains (designed by a combination of French, German and - ironically - Japanese companies) currently operate between Beijing and Nanjing (and other major cities in the region) at will eventually be running to Beijing. These have a lower top speed (theoretically can reach 380kms/hr) than the MagLev, but they run on reinforced rail and cost far less to run. It's interesting that the Japanese are pursuing MagLev technology in light of its shortcomings.

Re:China has abandoned the MagLev.. Japan picks it (2)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278346)

It's interesting that the Japanese are pursuing MagLev technology in light of its shortcomings.

I'm no expert, but maglev of course has advantages and disadvantages. It is much more expensive to build the line, but because there's basically no wear (there's no physical contact, either with the rails, or with overhead catenary), it's much cheaper to maintain (maintenance on a heavily used conventional HSR line is quite demanding, as there's a lot of wear, and the line must be kept within strict tolerances). When using super-conducting magnets, the train can also be lighter (much of the motor mechanism is part of the track, not the train), and it's simpler to reach very high speeds and very high acceleration.

Anyway, JR has more experience running conventional HSR lines than anybody else, so their judgement is not to be sneezed at -- and they're paying for the line themselves, so clearly they're putting their money where their mouth is...

Re:China has abandoned the MagLev.. Japan picks it (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278454)

Also note that the Japanese maglev uses fairly different technology than the Chinese maglev did -- repulsive levitation instead of attractive (allowing a much greater gap size), super-conducting magnets rather than conventional ones (less power, less weight), and propulsion that's an integral part of the levitation system (avoiding the need for a separate propulsion mechanism) -- so they can't be compared directly as easily as it might seem.

Re:China has abandoned the MagLev.. Japan picks it (1)

piripiri (1476949) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278386)

Switzerland too [wikipedia.org] .

Re:China has abandoned the MagLev.. Japan picks it (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36280160)

>China experimented with MagLev technology in Shanghai

And Japan has been experimenting with Maglev in Yamanishi and Miyazaki since the 70's.

With 40 years of active research behind them, I suspect the Japanese have a very good idea of the issues they're looking at.

Whether they've figured out a way to build and operate the train economically or the track is a political boondoggle remains to be seen though the fact that they've laid out such a leisurely timeline suggests the decision was more political than technological.

Dont those things need electricity? (3, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278286)

Just saying, first things first.

No (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36280104)

No, they're magnetic, not electric.

OT: The front page of Slashdot is giving me an err (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278290)

(I got here by using longer urls into my profile)

Where is the backup meeting place/blog for slashdot if and when the site has problems?

(e.g. Google has this status page for their apps: http://www.google.com/appsstatus [google.com] )

Re:OT: The front page of Slashdot is giving me an (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36278436)

Where is the backup meeting place/blog for slashdot if and when the site has problems?

(e.g. Google has this status page for their apps: http://www.google.com/appsstatus [google.com] )

The real world. Sorry.

The Japanese know how to plan long term (1, Flamebait)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278374)

Over here, at least, one of Greenpeace's main arguments is that nuclear power plants take too long to build - 5 years.

A bit more information at NHK... (3, Interesting)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278378)

From Maglev project gets go-ahead [nhk.or.jp] :

Japan's transport ministry has ordered the construction of infrastructure for magnetically levitated trains, putting the country's project for next-generation high-speed rail service fully on track.

The ministry on Friday ordered the Central Japan Railway Company, or JR Tokai, to build maglev train tracks between Tokyo and Nagoya.

Maglev trains boast a maximum operating speed of 500 kilometers per hour, and could travel the 340 kilometers between the 2 cities in just 40 minutes.

The ministry told JR Tokai to build the tracks on an almost straight route, using underground tunnels to pass beneath a mountain range.

The firm plans to start an environmental assessment this year and begin construction in 3 years.

Maglev trains are to start operating between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and between Tokyo and Osaka in 2045.

The project is expected to cost 9 trillion yen, or nearly 113 billion dollars.
Friday, May 27, 2011 17:04 +0900 (JST)

The first leg is specified at 340km, and the total appears to be roughly 500km. At nearly 9 trillion yen, that would be 18*10^9 yen/km, or about 350 million dollars a mile. That looks ridiculously expensive, though a significant part of that may be drilling through mountain ranges. Often the maglev components themselves are insignificant compared to the necessary ground work, or securing rights of way.

Still, I'm curious how much of that cost could be avoided by opting for an Inductrack [wikipedia.org] based system instead. Inductrack is an elegant passive magnetic levitation system, which is vastly cheaper than conventional systems due to its profound simplicity. It also seems likely that they chose a nearly straight path, exactly because of the excessive track cost. If that is the case, the path flexibility afforded by using a cheaper technology, may have allowed for significantly less ground work and a more attractively priced system.

In a country like the US with large flat expanses, Inductrack would make for an excellent intercity transit network. The costs are very reasonable, even when compared with conventional high-speed rail.

Re:A bit more information at NHK... (2)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278536)

Maglev track isn't cheap, but I don't think it's a significant part of the total cost... as you say, boring the track through several mountain ranges is likely the biggest component, along with, perhaps, land-acquisition (especially in the cities). A short path length not only reduces land and construction costs, it reduces journey times on the final system, which is very important for them.

Moreover, initial track cost is less of an issue than long-term maintenance cost.

In any case, JR has been developing their maglev tech for a long time, and have a lot of experience with it, and it meets their criteria pretty well (e.g., the large gap size makes the system more robust against things like earthquakes). They're not very likely to suddenly switch to something new unless the benefits -- both initial and long-term -- are absolutely incredible, and obvious. While inductrac sounds interesting,it doesn't sound like it really meets that threshold.

Well ... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278514)

Let's hope it won't become a horrendously overpriced money pit like the German Transrapid.

Energy (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36278946)

Oil will run out before coal. Construction will ramp up when flying becomes less affordable.

Fukushima Daiichi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36279228)

How about using that money to buy the empty cities in China for the Japanese people to live in so they don't all die off in one generation from radiation poisoning, cancer, birth defects in the next generation, etc.?

The survival of an entire race of people is more important than a shiny train through a future wasteland.

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