Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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All Abourd?

Robert Downes - March 23rd, 2009
All Abourd
Robert Downes 3/23/09

Wouldn’t it be nice to travel from Northern Michigan to Detroit or Chicago at 200-300 miles per hour on a magnetic levitation train?
That’s still in the realm of science fiction, but last week’s announcement of plans for a hydrogen-powered MagLev train linking Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing does get the wheels of possibility spinning for the future...
Last week, State Representatives Bill Rogers (R-Brighton) and Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) announced the creation of a bipartisan task force to study the possibility of building a MagLev rail system down the medians of Michigan’s freeway system.
“The elevated rail, designed by Michigan-based Interstate Traveler Company, would not need any federal, state or local funding,” stated Rogers and Schmidt in a news release. “The project could create thousands of jobs for Michigan residents, allow for clean, inexpensive travel, and provide a conduit to distribute electricity, potable water, fiber optics, hydrogen and oxygen.”
Information about the magnetic train line seems a bit half-baked (as evidenced by the above claim that it will somehow be useful as a “conduit for potable water“). It would be built at a reported cost of $2.3 billion, and the hope is that a “HyRail” system could eventually be built across the U.S. State Democrats are also on board the task force, including Reps. Jimmy Womack (D-Detroit) and Mike Huckleberry (D-Greenville).
“We’ve been following the Hydrogen Superhighway for five years now,” said Rep. Huckleberry. “The devil will be in the details, of course. But this concept has enough potential to make it worth pursuing. I’m hoping that we can develop this technology and transportation idea into Michigan jobs.”
If and when the project is built, hydrogen-powered MagLev trains could whisk passengers between Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing at 200 mph. Assuming it’s a success, it’s no stretch to imagine that other links would surely extend to Grand Rapids and the cities of Northern Michigan.
The task force is holding four public hearings on the train project: in April, a hearing in Lansing will consider passenger and safety issues. Thereafter, hearings in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit will address energy concerns, environmental impact and financing.
But, as Mike Huckleberry notes, the devil is in the details.
For starters, it’s hard to imagine that a private company could build such a train for $2.3 billion, which seems to be pocket change these days. One can only imagine that Uncle Sam will be tapped on the shoulder at some point during construction of the “Hydrogen Superhighway.”
Fair enough; there are plans for a high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to L.A., and Michigan deserves to be on the same federal gravy train (pun intended).
But what about the train itself? In an artist‘s conception provided by the company, it doesn‘t look any bigger than the Detroit People Mover. Compare this to the vast bullet trains of France or Japan which move hundreds of people at 120-150 mph, with dozens of trains arriving at the station, one right after another. One can only imagine that scores of the MagLev train pictured would be needed to move passengers and recoup the company‘s investment.
There will also be safety concerns. What happens when a trailer truck goes careening into the freeway median on an icy winter night and hits one of the train supports just as the 2 a.m. run is rolling down the tracks? Many of us have seen these jackknife accidents, so the prospect of truck-train collisions is no fantasy.
One can only imagine, however, that people with the know-how to build a MagLev train will be smart enough to find their way around these obstacles. Let‘s hope so, because Michigan‘s future depends on this sort of new technology to get us back on track.

 
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