Maglev is key to future

April 05, 2003

Stephen Kiehl's article in the March 30 Sun asked, "Would anyone ride the maglev?" The answer is that there is a high probability some 30,000 to 33,000 riders a day would use the maglev in its initial year of operation of 2010.

This estimate comes from a careful and painstaking study by Alex Metcalf, a national expert in travel projection who used survey and analytic procedures that have proved successful for many other highway and rail projects throughout the world.

The maglev system is not intended for the average commuter who travels between Baltimore and Washington daily.

Commuters are generally cost-sensitive and will find that using the MARC system, as they do today, will meet their needs adequately.

The real and long-term purpose of the maglev system is not merely to improve travel time between Baltimore and Washington. It is to demonstrate the safety, reliability and attractiveness of a new magnetically levitated, super-high-speed (up to 300 miles per hour) technology in a short, 40-mile corridor before it can be constructed over several hundred miles along one or more high-density travel corridors in the United States. Possible sites include the Eastern seaboard, the California corridor and corridors in the Midwest, Texas and Florida.

When the maglev between Baltimore and Washington proves a success, it will most likely be extended from Boston to Charlotte, N.C. This will divert travelers not only from highways but, more importantly, from overloaded airports in a corridor in which 30 percent to 40 percent of air passengers travel 400 miles or less.

Indeed, the Eastern seaboard, struggling under intense congestion in its highways and airports, will lose out in competition with other regions unless a new technology that breaks its gridlock is introduced.

Solving that problem is the ultimate objective of the maglev system. And it is well worth the investment.

Jack Kinstlinger

Hunt Valley

Is it really important if anyone rides maglev between Baltimore and Washington? Of course not.

What's important is that America has maglev.

It must start somewhere, and it might as well be here, where it has an opportunity to succeed.

And if Alex Metcalf is even half right about the number of people who will ride it, then the state will receive a return on investment of at least 2-to-1. Maglev will thus contribute money to the state that can pay for roads.

And that's not all. For example, one can only imagine how maglev would benefit center-city economic development and jobs in both Washington and Baltimore, thus enhancing our Smart Growth policies.

One can also imagine the pressure maglev would take off of parking at the Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. And the ability to travel from Washington to New York by rail in one hour would alleviate air traffic problems.

Most important, maglev would enormously advance the technology of transportation in America. Rail technology has only modestly advanced since the 1800s. Air transport is a hectic mess.

A new maglev system in the northeast corridor would carry people and cargo faster, cheaper and in a more environmentally sound way than the current system of trucks, airplanes and railroads does.

We would still need the support system of trucks, airplanes and railways so maglev could off-load people and cargo, but the overall system would be more efficient.

Short-haul air travel would become a thing of the past - and, with maglev traveling at 300 miles per hour, people would get everywhere more quickly and safely.

Unless we want bumper-to-bumper traffic from New York to Los Angeles and airports growing even more overtaxed, our policy-makers cannot keep doing business as usual.

Maglev is the future. And it's got to start somewhere.

Lawrence Shubnell


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