Maglev comes with a train full of uncertainties

In the commentary, “Maglev is 'totally doable,' in Northeast corridor” (Nov. 16), the word “doable” is not the standard we should be looking for. Financially and technically proven are the words that should sell a maglev system. There are only five existing commercial maglev systems in the world ranging in distance from 3.8 to 19 miles. The proposed Baltimore to Washington, D.C. route is 40 miles — two times any proven commercial system to date. And the closest of an existing system is 19 miles going to an airport in China. Daily traffic going back and forth day after day from Baltimore to D.C. cannot be compared to airport traffic. Of those five existing commercial systems, only two are outside China. Those two, in South Korea and Japan are 3.8 and 5.5 miles, respectively. The Baltimore-D.C. proposed maglev system is seven times the distance. The Baltimore-Washington Parkway has a daily flow of 105,000 vehicles, and Interstate 95 handles 200,000 daily. The system in Japan handles 16,500 daily. What is the new maglev system projected to handle?

The next question is, how would these passengers gain access to the maglev system? If this system is linked to Baltimore’s light rail, what additional throughput does the light rail need to handle and can it? What additional parking is required? Will the light rail need to be 24/7 with an increase of runs in a daily schedule, requiring more cars and more upkeep? If the purpose is to attract drivers from I-95 and MD 295, how will that happen? What’s the link and infrastructure to accomplish this link?

Kevin Coates’ point of automated high–quality mass production of component parts begs the question, “What mass production?” There are proposals for various systems in the U.S. and the world, but how many are beyond the proposal stage? Economy of scale requires large quantities of parts to be built over a certain schedule duration to see a savings from large mass production. Can that be realized?

We need to understand that a maglev system, while it provide additional throughput for travelers, is not a panacea. It’s just an additional tool — and very new technology that comes with financial, technical and infrastructure support challenges.

Patrick Walsh, Linthicum

Become a subscriber today to support editorial writing like this. Start getting full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
30°