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A Better Way to Fly

January 31, 2011

My round-trip ticket cost $850. That was for an hour and ten-minute flight. On the return trip I experienced the full arrest treatment at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, 45 minutes on the tarmac waiting for a gate at O’Hare with no bathroom access, and then standing on the cold, dark, loud tarmac waiting for “carry-on” luggage.

I am a frequent flyer. I spend much of my time persuading business and civic leaders to embrace the bold vision of 220-mph bullet trains. That often means being there in person. And because we don't have fast trains in the U.S., I spend a lot of time flying: enduring invasive and time-consuming airline security, being prepared for weather delays and cramming into small airline seats.

There is a better way, and I have experienced it firsthand in China, Japan, France and Spain:  Bullet trains that can do the equivalent of St. Louis to Chicago in two hours and Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago in two-forty-five. Next year, China will prove that trains can link Chicago to New York in less than five hours – their target is Beijing to Shanghai in four.

In addition to speed, bullet trains offer:

  • Hourly departures, with extra trains at peak travel times
  • Business-class cars with luxurious legroom and ample space to work
  • On-board food and beverage service
  • 100% safety record
  • 95% on-time arrival record

During a recent trip to China, I bought my ticket in Guangzhou at 4:45 p.m., caught the 5 p.m. train to Wuhan, and stepped off the train, 640 miles away, just three hours and 17 minutes later. My first-class ticket cost only $115.  No one told me to turn off my iPad for take-off or landing.  No fasten seat belt signs delayed nature’s call. This level of performance and flexibility creates a competitive advantage that is hard to quantify, but we are going to try.
The first step is to create a comprehensive feasibility and cost/benefit study. We have completed <a href="mhsra-bullet-train-proposal">Phase I of this study:</a> we now know how fast the trains could be, where they might run and how much they would cost. We are seeking donations to complete Phase II, a demonstration of the real dollars-and-cents value that bullet trains will add to our economy.
We know bullet trains are good for business – they are helping transform China's economy just as they have been doing in Japan and Europe for decades. But they won’t become a reality in the U.S. without a strong business case and an intensive educational campaign. Please join me in a push to bring this valuable business tool to the Midwest by making a donation today.