The Trans-American Hyper Rail | Ilija Dokmanovic

Anyone who is familiar with the landscape and urban environment of the United States will know that it isn’t particularly person-friendly.

What I mean by that, is that much of the design, layout, and living conditions of America haven’t been designed around people, but rather automobiles. Before I jump into why this is an issue, I first must point out that I’m not anti-car. Cars and trucks have been a large factor in the liberation of ordinary people from the confines of their communities, and the control of governments and abusers of authority. The personal freedom that comes with the ownership of an combustion-engine automobile cannot be understated, and it is a great shame that these days especially we see an even greater push by governments or manufacturers to either dissuade their usage by hiking up petrol prices and taxes citing global climate alarmism, or integrating them into a digital realm that they have the final control over.

Cars are great. But America is far too intrinsically designed around them.

Wherever you go in the United States, cars dominate the scenery and the culture. Fast-food and drive-throughs would not exist had it not been for the dominance of the car and the mobility of working Americans looking for a quick and fast meal at their diners. Billboards, these advertising eye-sores that take up the once pristine landscape, would not be as commonplace or as littered throughout the globe had it not been for automobiles racing down stretches of roads and highways. The infamous “business parks” were built just outside of major urban areas to maximize space, and accommodate the transportation of office workers who drive in. Highways and turnpikes, these webs of intricate asphalt paths that have carved through mountains and forest alike would not exist if not for cars.

Rock and roll greasers, Elvis Presley, NASCAR, Jay Leno; the list could go on, and there are countless studies on just how intrinsic cars are to American culture and life – particularly Martin Melosi’s Automobile in American Life and Society. However, what matters the most, transportation of people to their desired destinations, is still incredibly lacking despite the overemphasis on a means of transport being such a cultural staple.

If you don’t have a car, good luck leaving a 10 mile radius of your house in order to find work. Going grocery shopping? Well, frankly you can’t find a place to get a week’s worth of groceries within walking distance or only a short public commute away. If you want to travel interstate, you have to wait for a charter bus that may take you near where you need to go, but you’ll have to find the rest of your way. Want to get to some remote part of the Midwest? Good luck without a car!

It’s pretty crazy to think that Australia, one of the most sparsely populated continents, has a better and more efficient public transport system connecting cities and rural areas than a country that has around 330 million people.

Frankly, America can do, and deserves better. Which is why for Project 22 I put forward the idea of the Trans-American Hyper-Rail. If China can get a high speed rail connecting its cities to its rural, rugged countryside within a decade, the country that sent men to the moon can do the same, and do it better.

So, what would the “TAHR” look like, and how would it operate?

Most people who have proposed a similar system have it in their heads that this would be an over-ground maglev system, much like China’s. Of course this idea saves a lot in terms of costs and allows the passengers of the TAHR to enjoy the landscapes of the continental United States.

While this does work for the most part, there are obvious obstacles – mainly major roads and turnpikes that are in and around major American cities. To overcome this problem, I propose that the TAHR isn’t just an overground maglev, but rather an integrated system with underground stations in all major American cities and State capitals. This would mean that much of the major infrastructure that is already in these cities can remain as needed, and that the TAHR doesn’t have to bother with reduced speeds while entering major urban areas.

The underground stations would also have the added benefit of serving as commercial hubs for both small and large companies who want to set up shops or trading networks, utilizing the TAHR’s fast, efficient, and lesser risk means of transport. 

Of course this would have a marked effect on the trucking industry. We have seen in the past year how much Western nations are reliant on trucking and road-transport systems in order to continue to keep shelves stocked and trade to continue. While the TAHR would mean a lot of people would lose their jobs, an exchange program can always be introduced to train, employ, and ensure that America’s backbone isn’t completely broken and discarded – but rather transferred to a more efficient system where they would also be just as needed and wanted in order to build, maintain, and expand the TAHR as needed.

It would also mean that truckers who spend much of their lives away from their families on the road can finally spend the time they need building those connections and creating stronger family bonds. The TAHR would exist not to just connect people and boost trade, but also support a large sector of the population.

Of course the TAHR wouldn’t just support blue-collar workers. The TAHR needs to be, and feel world-class. Ever look back at pictures of trains and planes from the early-to-mid 20th century? They’re incredibly luxurious, and are built around the needs of humans rather than just the need for efficiency.

Vitruvius wrote extensively about the principles of design. It must balance efficiency, durability, and be aesthetically pleasing. TAHR would need to be designed along the same principles; providing a safe, fast, affordable transport for a large number of people, but also providing civilians with A-Grade comfort and hospitality services.

Paying for a ticket on the TAHR and using such a system should feel like a privilege, and that exchange goes both ways. No more horribly stale, pastel gray and blue plastic interiors and piss-soaked vinyl floors and stained carpeting of the AMTRAK. Comfortable seats, large spaces for families and couples to travel, dining services that provide fresh ingredients and American food from all regions for the customer to enjoy. The TAHR should be a source of pride for American travelers, with each ticket price getting what the customer paid for – whether it’s a short trip for business along the Northeast Coast, or a cross-country journey to explore the continental United States.

As for the stations themselves, why should we stray from the classical designs which once were found all across America in railway stations. Grand Central Station in New York, or Cincinnati Station could serve as blueprints for what future stations or renovations of existing train stations could look like. The blend of Art Deco and Neoclassical styles being utilized around the next great mode of American transportation could usher in an aesthetic age which could rival that which the car once did. With great aesthetic change, comes great societal change too – and lord knows that the United States could use that shift in a more positive direction.

By blending Art Deco and Neoclassicism, it allows the TAHR to pay homage to the roots of the American culture of Roman-style republicanism, but also embracing the futurist aesthetic that celebrates the conquering spirit of man and an American dream of a greater future. Not shying away from the greatness of this technological marvel, but remembering that it is a machine working for the benefit of man, not the other way around.

Many naysayers have argued about the feasibility of such a project – but frankly it’s more feasible, and beneficial to dedicate government resources to this project rather than commit it to the same government black-holes that suck the US taxpayer dry. Construction of the TAHR could provide hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Americans with work and steady income – plus necessary skills to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector in the American economy.

It wouldn’t come cheap – nothing worthwhile ever does – but its long term benefits would become clear and realized, as the project could have the potential to pay itself off once constructed. Trade and transport done through the TAHR can have reasonable costs which pay the necessary dividends, and the interconnectivity and trade potential connecting states and economies is gargantuan.

The control of such a system would also be something that needs oversight. No one institution or organization should retain a monopoly of control over such a system – even the federal government. There would need to be a fine balance of public control and representation, worker representation, and government oversight. But such checks and balances are possible, especially in a high-trust society that can be fostered.

Like I said in the introduction, China has been able to build a high speed railroad that interconnects its country within a decade. American exceptionalism knows no bounds when the energy is put into the right area. Manifest Destiny once pushed Americans into outer space, that same energy can help unite a country under a common purpose to help build the largest infrastructure project in America’s, if not the world’s history.

Maybe America’s fractured identity could be mended by such a great goal, and the ease of transportation connecting people under a more unified idea of America that once existed.

Photo Credit.

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