A film produced after the TGV‘s first year. The French had self-service ticket vending and seat reservation for its high speed train in 1981!

14 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: TGV Year 1”

  1. France has a land area of 240,000 square miles. USA has 3.7 million. Certainly not to say we can’t. Or shouldn’t, and laying first high speed tie right now, worth a lot of work and a hard fight.

    But like everything in transportation, things aren’t led into being by prudently ahead of time so they’ll be there when needed. They are blasted into existence by people and other forces yelling louder than caricature of the needy.

    I can see two promising forces. One, even with advances, fossil fuel could start costing enough that air travel will cost too much. Reversing seventy years of aviation predominance.

    The same way that our malignant (cell biology, not just morals) land use will finally make it impossible for anybody to move. Time and events are on our side. So time best spent now perfecting the technology we’ll need.

    With a blast-proof plate on the tail end of the first train.


    1. We razed huge sections of our cities to built freeways, and they connected dense cities with high speed rail. Look at Sweden if you want to see how a country with similar population density can get infrastructure right.

    2. “France has a land area of 240,000 square miles. USA has 3.7 million.”

      We don’t say that about IRS offices, VA hospitals, Walmarts, or federal courts. “Oh, the country is too big and has too many sparsely-populated areas, we can’t have VA hospitals and Walmarts everywhere.”; instead we just have more regional offices for the more regions, and larger ones for the large conurbations like California. We do have a specific problem with huge sparsely-populated gaps like Spokane to Minneapolis and Portland and Sacramento, that are challenging for even 250 mph trains to achieve reasonable travel times, but that doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. It just means that maybe we’ll leave those gaps as the last problem to address.

      After the 1970s oil crisis, Europe built high-speed trains and installed subways and cycletracks in its cities so as to not be dependent on foreign oil from unstable regions or an energy-intensive mobility paradigm. An additional benefit is it gives them more resilience in recessions or wars, because people do not suddenly can’t get to work because they can’t afford gas or car repairs. The US went the opposite direction, into SUVs and hypersprawl. You see the six-lane arterials every mile in Dallas and Florida, and how many of those were built in the 1950s and 60s? They’re mostly in post-1980s developments. We build six-lane arterials; they build light rail with downtown tunnels in cities as small as 300,000.

      1. “Why should we build a railroad through 2,000 miles of nothing to connect California, a state with almost nobody, to Omaha, a city with almost nobody? We have all this war debt to pay off first. We really should wait until there are cities and industries there for the railroad to serve first.”

        – said nobody in 1865.

        The First Transcontinental Railroad was finished in 1869.

  2. Calculation here is a lot more complicated than how many people there are in how many square miles. Northern half to two thirds of Sweden are pretty much unpopulated- and not for love of open space.

    Could also say that Sweden’s present high standard of living is very recent. So for many years, the way Sweden sprawled was to the United States to avoid starving to death.

    Right now, whole country has 10 million people. Washington State, which isn’t a big one, 7, putting the two in same general league. But cutting to this particular chasing event:

    During critical years, between Second World War and now, compared to us, the Swedes had no place they could afford to sprawl to. Let alone afford a car they could use to spawl with.

    Now that average Swede can buy a car, same thing is happening as in Kenya and many similar places. Shopping malls and traffic jams. Since we got seventy years in this mode, we could be the ones to rediscover rational land use and transportation, and show them the way back.


    1. The US did have the largest railroad, interurban, and streetcar network in the world before we threw it away.

      1. Mike,the loss of all that electric rail spoiled a lot of my life. It would’ve been my leading career choice- if it hadn’t pretty much finished dying same time I graduated college.

        But “threw it away” implies actions based on things like greed or spite. Starting about 1915. people voluntarily decided they wanted the cars they could now afford. Also,all that coal smoke replaced by 100% clean gasoline.

        Sentiment often not “Good Riddance” to the streetcars, but “Glad I’ve got my new Ford now too.” And also, “Good thing we’ll always have the streetcars to keep all those other people off the roads.”

        Doubt there was a single instance of tearful people being ordered off their streetcars at gunpoint and forced to “get behind that steering wheel and step on that pedal!”

        At one point in history, majority of Americans decided they wanted different life and its new modes of transportation. And honestly believing there was less than no harm in it.

        Revenue wise, railroad owners were glad to have airliners and Greyhound get passengers out of the way of their freight. Now that once again peoples’ transportation system is their main obstacle of freedom, next 70 years are ours.

        Wish I could live to hear, or read in the venerable world-respected Seattle Transit Blog: “The US did have the world’s biggest lane-striped linear parking lot system before we threw it away!”

        Maybe by then we’ll have a magnetized catapult that can save us all those scrap steel trains, by doing just that. Scrap-carrier could stay out past the three mile limit, where it won’t be in the way of the hydrofoils as the bales come whistling across Elliot Bay, a mile overhead..


  3. Two micro thought clouds:

    1) As a small child, I enjoyed playing with the Micro Machines version of the TGV. Fun. Some are still on eBay, I checked.

    2) Bummer in 2018 you can’t reserve your particular seat on Amtrak Cascades – only class. I hope that changes soon. Shouldn’t be hard to write the code.

      1. The current system is ridiculous. Seating should either be completely open or seat assigned at time of purchase. Passengers should be able to wait on the platform for the train. We could save 10 minutes at both Portland and Seattle stops.

      2. You have to admit, our Cascade’s system is very antiquated – at least when compared to anything I’ve seen in Europe or Japan.

  4. 3rd & Pine has a brand-new real-time display with a bright backlight. When we last looked at it the bulb in the right half had burned out so it was really hard to see the times (the purpose of the display), and half the time it was off completely. There’s a stub for an ORCA reader but no reader. perhaps waiting for future RapidRide lines or for ORCA2.

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