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Reply #55: Let's compare apples to apples. Amtrak claims 28% higher fuel efficiency than passenger vehicles. [View All]

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slackmaster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-11 04:05 PM
Response to Reply #51
55. Let's compare apples to apples. Amtrak claims 28% higher fuel efficiency than passenger vehicles.
Edited on Mon Feb-14-11 04:19 PM by slackmaster
...According to U.S. Department of Energy data, Amtrak is almost 20 percent more efficient than domestic airline travel and 28 percent more efficient than auto travel on a per-passenger-mile basis.

The claim in the OP of 468 passenger-miles per gallon isn't sourced, and I find it hard to believe unless it assumes some very high figure for ridership. (A Wikipedia article cites the figure as the result of a test of a particular system with the assumption of every seat being filled, but the source document is not found - See footnote 31 at ).

People are light as cargo goes. An empty passenger train burns just about as much fuel as a full one. Rail is certainly efficient at moving heavy cargo, but you don't see many empty rail cars crossing the country. Non-expiring subsidies for rail transport take away the incentive to continually assess which lines are pulling their weight financially and which are not, like Amtrak's Los Angeles to New Orleans line. Taxpayers carry the burden of under-utilized Amtrak routes.

It's an undeniable fact of physics that the effects of air friction become exponentially worse the faster you go. If all other factors are equal, a faster train is always going to be less efficient than a slower one.

Using Amtrak's real-world figures as a guidepost, we could achieve the same fuel savings without spending a dime of public money by using tax incentives or penalties to force vehicle makers to improve the efficiency of the nation's passenger vehicle fleet by 28%.

I love trains, but "progress" for its own sake isn't really beneficial.
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