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From Amtrak Joe to Hydrogen Power

Faster Headlines:

...There was an election, and the world came to a standstill. Nothing in high speed rail or transit oriented development happened last week.

Through the Tube....


Great Big Beyond:


Scientific American


From the Captain:

"Ladies and gentlemen, in case of emergency, or a very close election during a pandemic, an oxygen mask may be required. As we wait for election results, please bang your head on the compartment above you. Then please put on your mask before going out and celebrating with others."

Whew! What a week.

However, we now know who will be the next President of the US. What we don’t yet know is what will investment in transportation look like under a Biden administration. From our understanding, it will look very, very good indeed.

While it was underplayed during the campaign, President Elect Joe Biden had the nickname 'Amtrak Joe'. For nearly 40 years, he had the choice of driving or flying between Washington and Delaware; but always took the train. Scranton PA, where Biden grew up, was a railroad town (the interstate was built after Biden left). As Senator he sponsored several bills to support investment in rail, and even had the Wilmington Delaware Railroad Station named after him. As VP, he was the one who announced the Passenger Rail And Investment Act of 2008 and 2015, which provided funds for high speed rail in the US. Then let’s not forget that after the Democrat National Convention in August, Biden left on a train with an Amtrak engine as the logo.

So what does this mean for high speed transportation in the US? Well, the Biden Administration has made it clear that infrastructure is one of its main priorities. High speed rail was not mentioned directly, but neither was aviation. However, with the nickname “Amtrak Joe”, you can guarantee that Biden wants high speed rail. The only question is…when will it be politically prudent to publicly do it.

However, it’s the indirect support for HSR that will matter. Under a Biden administration, there won't be epic battle of words and withholding of funds for building California’s high speed rail like there was in 2019. More importantly if the Biden administration invests in Amtrak, Wall Street will look more favorably on funding high speed rail projects. This was probably the reason Brightline West delayed its bond offering for LA to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, while Texas did not go blue, the Republican margins were smaller and both Dallas and Houston went strongly blue.

So while high speed rail high speed rail has been mentioned yet, it is a very Bright(line) future now. Let’s just get to 2021 and see.


Future Transport:

When we rang in the New Year on January 1st, 2020 who would have thought we would be at this place in aviation by November? In late 2019, the discussing the growing trend of Flygskam (flight shaming) could be seen in a 4% decrease in traffic in Sweden. However, then the pandemic hit and flight shaming was forgotten about as that 4% decrease became a 60% decrease. Meanwhile, airline revenue management systems went haywire because their programming couldn’t handle the epic reduction in demand, which is a whole other topic.

However open the cowling and you will see a whole new green movement going on. These highlights include:

Grounding of a majority and end of production announced for Boeing 747 and Airbus A380:

Net zero hydrogen aircraft by 2035:

Further implementation of bio fuels:

And of course, there is the electric airplane

Of course, there are major issues with all of these solutions. It will be a sad day to see the end of the iconic 747 that changed aviation forever. Bio fuels will likely not be able to produce the volume needed; and the adoption of a hydrogen aircraft bring doubts not only on the cost of development, but since energy is needed to make the hydrogen it is a question of the true net zero impact. The bright spot is electric, but there are still so many technical issues to resolve before entering commercial service from the weight of batteries to recharging capabilities to the electric turbine.


Not So Vintage Travel:

Instead of the traditional look back, in honor of the incoming Biden Administration and "Amtrak Joe", decided to go with some very cool posters that emerged over the past few years from Amtrak. Take a look and find your favorite.

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