Are MAGLEV Trains Going to be Built?

Like most neat ideas, MAGLEV (magnetically levitated) trains seem to be way off. The Japanese and Germans have built a few short-run systems, but I wonder if the technology is just too complex? Barring and big advances 9like room-temperature superonductivity), are we likelyb to be riding these things in our lifetimes?

Whaddaya mean “going to be?”

Yeah, advanced countries already got 'em.

Apart from the very real Chinese maglev, at 18 km long, I’m not sure I would call the Japanese test track so short. It has tunnels, bridges and slopes. Furthermore, the plans about building a maglev line are quite concrete and the sheer scale and cost of building a new train line is the major hurdle, rather than technology.

What I wonder is if it will ever be done for long-distance traveling. For instance, if a MAGLEV was built from New Orleans to New York City (this would probably be convenient only for me, since I’m trying to psych myself up for a 20 hour driving trip to NYC in a couple of months).

This is roughly a 1300 mile trip, takes about 4 hours by air or 20+ hours by car. If the MAGLEV did 200 MPH, and never had to slow down for crossings or sidetrack for other trains since it’s on a proprietary system, it would be about 6 1/2 hours. I’d guess they couldn’t do like Amtrak and stop at every station in every little town with a population of 50. If they stopped at 2 to 5 major cities on the way for 10 to 20 minutes, it would add about another hour onto the trip.

Would there be enough demand for this service that they’d be able to do it cheaper than the airlines? Right now, I can fly New Orleans to JFK for about $500 round trip on JetBlue. I seem to remember “Modern Marvels” stating that the cost to build MAGLEV is several million dollars per mile. It seems like they’d have to charge a LOT more money than the airlines just to pay off the construction bills. So why would anyone pay more money to sit on a train twice as long as you would on an airliner?

I’m only questioning this for long distance travel. If you have half a million people willing to pay a few dollars each day to cover a 20 mile commute, I can see it paying for itself, not to mention the benefits to the environment and highway infrastructure of taking all of those cars off the road every day.

Now that I’m rereading my last sentence, would a MAGLEV system be able to handle a daily commuter population that large?

I think the big advantage is fuel cost. Some of the electric power could even come from solar/wind out in the big empty areas of the country. A nice thing about trains is that they can go right into the middle of a city so that the total trip time is often shorter. They should also be less susceptible to weather delays.

There are some schemesthat let trains plow on through intermediate stations and still pickup/dropoff (Car Talk reference: Pikov Andropov) passengers.

Barring things like a massive terrorist attack on planes, it’s not cost effective nor time effective to build these things.

I live in Chicago and it’s got a wonderful public transit, but if you can afford a car why bother. Unless you’re going from Subway station to subway station, it’s never faster than driving. Sure it’s cheaper but if you can afford it you will drive.

I can get from my house to the John Hancock in under 20 minutes. If I take subways and hit every subway exactly as they are pulling into stations it takes me just under 90 minutes. Hardly convenient, and if I have to wait for buses it’s worse.

So when you’re talking between major cities you have to justify the expense of building a line, including the years you’ll be tied up in court when people sue to stop the state from taking their property. Then you’d have to be sure there are enough passengers constantly to ride the line that won’t move to air. You can put additional airplanes in the air but you can’t just build more track.

The only place high speed is viable is from places like DC to NYC. Where you have high populations in very dense urban settlements.

The US doesn’t have that. Chicago and LA are second and third and even then you have rural areas inbetween urban areas.

Bottom line is people LIKE to go when they need to go and to be flexible. Those are the people that drive the money. Poor people who don’t have a choice don’t really count. So you have to appeal toward rich people or corporations who could always fly a private plane

I asked the question beause I do not see how you can pay for the enormous amount of electricity used to keep the magnet coils at cryogenic temperatures. Sure, the German and Japanese demo lines ae impressive-but barring advances in room-temp superconductors, I don’t see MAGLEV as feasible.

What are you talking about? Maglev does not require superconductivity to operate, although it would be nice. All the large-scale maglev systems in use today use conventional electromagnets and permanent magnets.

Well, I think it’s important to note that MAGLEV trains are not currently much faster than other high-speed trains. So, when you’re talking about the impracticality of New Orleans to New York, that’s really a concern for high-speed rail period, not for MAGLEV specifically.

I was surprised that wikipedia says operation and maintenance costs are lower for MAGLEV. No cite, though - does anyone know? I’d have thought the opposite, just because a MAGLEV track has to be more complex, but if it’s true, that’s another point for building them.

Why would that surprise you? In a conventional railroad system, trains running over tracks with steel wheels makes a helluva lot of vibration–a key enemy of all things mechanical. You don’t get that with maglev.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought about it much, but I’d have guessed that the extra cost of maintaining the electromagnets in the track and the train, plus the control systems, would have outweighed the mechanical savings. But then, I’ve got no idea how much it costs to maintain a modern railroad, so that would be a VWAG.

You’re forgetting the time needed to get through airport security – that adds a couple of hours to a flight right there. And then airports are usually in the outskirts of the town, so you have the time needed to get into the city added. For many mid-distance travels (like Minneapolis to Chicago, for example), a high-speed train would probably take less time overall than a plane trip.

Yes, generally. Once the tracks are built, accommodating more passengers is just a matter of adding more trains, or more cars to existing trains. The main limit is safety requirements for a minimum distance between trains.

I’ve taken t e Shanghai maglev many times. it’s the fastest 18km to the middle of no where you’ll ever take. if it’s rush hour, the intl airport - maglev - subway is faster. during regular traffic, it’s faster for me to take a taxi door to door.

thanks to the german taxpayers that paid for the system. i believe the biggest number of riders are Chinese tourists and not people making plane connections.

In a densely populated area, integration with other train lines is a great plus. That’s something the Japanese bullet train does far, far better than its European counterparts. I can buy a Shinkansen ticket from “anywhere in Osaka” to “anywhere in Tokyo”. Practically, this means that you can hop on a local train at the station that’s a ten-minute walk from your home, at some point change onto the high-speed line, and do the same thing in reverse when you’re in Tokyo. While the tracks are separate, the regular and high-speed stations are the same, making connections simply a short walk. Furthermore, with a few exceptions (I’m pointing at you, Gifu-Hashima) Shinkansen stations usually drop you in very convenient places.