Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1. List and general description of entries to date.

Note: most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations. Profile of characters (see link at top of page). You’ll catch on quickly. Thanks for your time and interest…and comments.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Conversation began Entry #289.

092615_2031_Characters1.jpgJC:  “Alright, now I have an idea for how to make America great again.”

Greenie:  “Could we use another slogan, please?  Making America great again is so Trumpish.”

Jordan:  “I agree the slogan is Trumpish.  However, the ideas we’re discussing, unlike the Donald’s ideas, will make America great again.  At least for now, let’s keep the slogan and try to discuss practical solutions, OK?”

JC:  “Agreed.  The conversation is still among us chickens so using the slogan is ‘no harm, no foul’ so to speak.”

092615_2031_Characters2.jpgGreenie:  “I shouldn’t even smile at that one…but it was pretty good.  Now, JC, stop the puns and tell us your idea.”

JC:  “Simple – increase the gas tax and use the funds to rebuild infrastructure.”

Greenie:  “But we don’t need to destroy more land for a bunch of new roads.”

JC:  “Who said we’re talking only more new roads?”

Jordan:  “Then, if not new roads, what’s your plan?”

albert-einsteinJC:  “Two prongs.  (i) Reconfigure existing roads into smarter roads.  Smarter roads can carry more traffic with a lot less congestion; (ii) rebuild and expand the rail system to handle more passenger trains and freight traffic.”

Greenie:  “I like the idea of better trains but that seems so…well, old fashion.”

Jordan:  “JC, you might be on to something.  Smart highways and smart trains.”

JC:  “Jordan, you’re an experienced commuter in a number of cities.  Which do you prefer, commuting by car or rail?”

metro-north1Jordan:  “Commuting by rail in metro areas is easier, more pleasant, less expensive and faster.  Plus, you can work on the train.”

Greenie:  “What about longer trips – say Washington to Manhattan or even to Boston?  Take the train, plane or drive?”

Jordan:  “Drive, no, unless absolutely necessary.  To NY, train for sure.  By the time you travel to the airport, go through security, wait at the gate, then taxi for takeoff…and probably wait so more, you’re more than halfway to NY.  Then the same wasted time at the destination getting out of the airport, then travelling to the city.  Plus, with a plane and especially driving you end losing lots of productive time.”

JC:  “What about DC to Boston?  That’s about twice as far as NY.”

Jordan:  “That’s where an increase in the gas tax could have the most impact in getting people off the highways and/or out of planes.  Some of the gas tax money could go toward a high-speed rail line.”

Greenie:  “Is high-speed rail practical in the Northeast.  I mean, there are so many curves and old bridges.  Lots of buildings are almost right up against the tracks.  Rebuilding would cause a major tear-up.”

BarriersJordan:  “High-speed rail needs to be defined given the barriers that exist.  High-speed in the Northeast corridor is not going to be like a bullet-train in Japan.  Making that happen would be outrageously expensive and disruptive.”

JC:  “Well, then could high-speed rail in the Northeast average say 100 mph?”

Jordan:  “100 mph average seems like a decent target.  If the trains average 50 mph now, then duh, a 100 mpg average speed would cut travel time in half.  So an 8-hour trip from Boston to DC would be more like 4 hours.”

JC:  “What if we took the major metro areas – DC, NY, Boston, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas…and some others – and drew a 200-mile radius around them?  What percent of the population would be covered?”

Pie ChartJordan:  “Don’t know exactly but I’ll bet you’re pushing 85-90%.”

Greenie:  “You really think the existing railbed could be used?  I realize some improvements would be required but how do we avoid just tearing up more land?”

Jordan:  “With some creative thinking and some application of technology, I’ll bet speed could be doubled without much tear-up of new land.”

bullying-20clipart-bullyingJC:  “This sounds great but what about resolving the conflict between freight and passenger traffic?  The little that I know about rail, the freight railroads seem to keep resisting any efforts to add passenger traffic to certain rail lines…in fact, most rail lines.”

Greenie:  “I agree.  Each side seems to want their own dedicated rail lines.  How does that conflict get solved?”

Jordan:  “The solution is in the approach.  In metro areas many of the freight and passenger tracks are likely to be the same.  In less densely populated areas, would be possible to have more dedicated tracks.”

JC:  “I keep coming back to the question, ‘Do we really need two sets of tracks?’  That seems like old-school thinking.  What about smart trains and smart tracks?”

Greenie:  “Surely, smart trains are easier to manage that smart cars or smart trucks.  The trains just can’t wander off the tracks.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Other than difference in speed between freight trains and passenger trains, I don’t know of a technical reason the two can’t share the tracks.”

JC:  “While we’re at it, why do freight trains have to be so long?  They seem to go on forever…and are so slow.  With all the self-driving technology for cars and trucks, why can’t there be faster, shorter freight trains?”

Greenie:  “Seems like a no-brainer to me.  What’s the real barrier to making these ideas a reality?  Jordan, any thoughts?”

Jordan:  “The discussion about resistance from railroads reminds me of an article we had to read in graduate school.”

JC:  “You can remember that far back?  Just kidding.”

Thumbs DownJordan:  “The article was in the Harvard Business Review and written by Theodore Levitt.  The title was ‘Marketing Myopia.’ An example of the myopia was the railroads viewing themselves as being in railroad business and turning thumbs down to considering being in the transportation business.  As a result, the railroads lost a huge share of the logistics business to the trucking industry.”

Greenie:  “OK, nice observation from ancient history.  But how does that solve the problem we’re talking about?”

Jordan:  “If we think back to some of the other ideas to make America great again, the barrier to accepting the idea was…”

JC:  “…commitment, right?”

Greenie:  “Commitment and support from the Feds, especially Congress.  If that’s the barrier for smarter railroads and faster trains, then what the barriers to improving highways without tearing up new land?”