In the June 8th edition of the Herald-Progress Jon Jewett, a resident of Ashland, published an editorial entitled A Closer Look at the DC2RVA Controversy. He notes that the DC2RVA project is based on an assumption that highway traffic between Richmond and Washington D.C. will continue to grow at 2% per annum, as it has done for the last 40 years. Hence the new rail service is needed to help alleviate the congestion on I-95.
But the future is not always a linear continuation of the past — step changes occur, often as a consequence of disruptive technology. Jowett suggests that we are about to experience one of those step changes with the advent of driverless trucks and cars.
Anecdotally, Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The changes that driverless vehicles will bring about could be as disruptive as the switch from horses to the internal combustion engine. We don’t know.
In spite of the pace of technological change it appears as if the DRPT is busy, in Jowett’s words, “building new municipal stables in the early 1900’s to meet projected increases in the use of horse-drawn carriages.”
Jowett discusses the vehicle side of the issue. What about the trains? As regular readers of this blog know I have been discussing the potential for Hyperloop Trains and how they could create an end run around this whole DRPT project.
When I asked the DRPT about this concept in a formal comment I received the following response,
The 2002 Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) Tier I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and in subsequent studies determined that the railroad corridor would be developed incrementally parallel to the existing tracks to develop the corridor along existing track, and to rely on fossil fuel locomotives to ensure inter-operability of the infrastructure. The hyperloop concept is one that could serve the topic of future study in Virginia.
The key part of the above quotation is the number ‘2002’. We are working with a plan that was developed almost a generation ago. This appears to be, to put it mildly, short sighted.