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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Future Schlock

Useless concept of dirigible-with-airport-on-top from about 1930

I thought the bright boys of society were supposed to be all concerned now about global warming, energy reduction, green spaces, and other worthy things. But take a look at this Next Big Thing coming down the track, if somebody gets his way:

What I Say:  How.Fucking.Stupid.

Your Head Trucker is no engineer or scientist, but he can think of at least half a dozen extremely good reasons right off the bat why this concept needs to sink out of mind just like the Titanic:

1. There's already a major investment in city transportation (cars, buses, subways, trams, etc.) - why spend many billions of dollars to create another kind of transport that nobody really needs? Ordinary trams cannot move at 200 mph, so you'd need a whole new industry to produce them.  But is that a crying need for anyone at all?  Is it really sooo haaard to go catch a train at the train station?

2. You'd have to add a dedicated high-speed tram line to existing high-speed rail lines for the concept to work. That means many billions of dollars taking more land away from agriculture or other present uses, billions of dollars adding tracks, roadbed, power lines, signals, switches, etc., etc. Why? Who really needs this, to justify spending all that money and grabbing all that extra land?

3. That high-speed tram doesn't run through everybody's neighborhood. So people still have to use their conventional in-city means of transport to get to a - wait for it - platform where they can catch the special tram. Hello? What's wrong with this fucking picture?

4. You can bet your ass that the fares to ride the high-speed trolley would not cost anywhere near the same as the regular in-city transportation fares; for one thing, it would have to cost much more to cover the costs of building this new system; for another, you can also bet your ass that city officials would see it as a cash cow, so guess who would get stuck with paying five or ten times as much to get to where they can catch a train as they do now? You.

5. Trains of any kind, even high-speed ones, do not, like your Lionel set, run in a continuous loop from one side of the continent to the other and back again. They typically run on dedicated high-speed lines (different from regular railroad tracks) from one major population center to another, where they have to stop. There's nowhere else for them to go, except back to the other major population center. So it's a false idea that you would save time by not having to stop anywhere - and if you are worried about intermediate stops in BFE, see reasons 1-4 above. Trains have to stop periodically each day to be inspected, repaired, perhaps refueled, have their onboard supplies replenished, etc.; and train crews have to be replaced at certain times or distances, too.  The need to have support and administrative services in a centralized location - like a train station - will not, cannot disappear.  So the net effect for good of this multi-billion- , maybe multi-trillion-dollar idea would be . . . what, exactly?

6. Not everybody lives in the heart of a major city. Tons of folks use big-city terminals to transfer from a high-speed train to slower regional trains (or in some cases, buses, subways, etc.). Where else would you have them do that, other than in a major train station . . . with platforms for different trains running at different times and speeds to different destinations? This bright idea is still not going to deliver everybody to his own front door, and never will.

7. It's a gruesome disaster just waiting to happen, expecting hundreds of people to make a cross-train connection while whizzing down the tracks at 200 mph or more. Just think of everything that could go wrong . . . which, according to Murphy's law, would surely go wrong. No.Thank.You.

Jeezus. The things some people get paid big fucking bucks to dream up. How come I can't find a cushy job like that?

Atomic-powered dirigible from 1956, with detachable (!) exhibition hall.
Click to enlarge this goofiness.

Honk to Ptak Science Books for the illustrations.

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