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An interview with Brightline

Updated: Mar 11

Photo Courtesy of Brightline Media Relations

Meeting: Tuesday, Online, March 12th, 7 pm (central),


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This week: Tom Roadcap from Brightline

Tom studied at the University of Illinois - Champaign/Urbana, where he was part of their AREMA student chapter, and then found his way to Brightline in Florida. At Brightline, Tom worked on crossings, straightening curves, and the all-new infrastructure from Cocoa Beach to Orlando. Currently, the plan is for Tom to move to Las Vegas to work on Brightline West.

This week: Tom will be giving us an overview of the Brightline projects as well as his own insights into the experience of working for Brightline.


Accessibility versus Mobility…what is the difference?

Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

The Concorde was the fastest commercial airliner in the world. It traveled at over 1,200 mph.  Compare that to a Boeing 737 that travels at 525 mph.  The Concorde was fast.  It covered a lot of distance in a short amount of time.  That is what mobility is about…it is covering the most distance in the shortest amount of time.

But then there is "accessibility". 

No, we are not talking about handicap accessibility here.

Accessibility is not about covering the most distance in the shortest amount of time, but rather the greatest destinations in a given period.  This was the Achillies heel of the Concorde.  The Concorde was fast, but it wasn’t accessible.  Due to its sonic boom, the Concorde was limited to overwater flights.  It then needed long runways to take off. Finally there was the problem with its economics (it burned a lot of fuel to get to 1,200 mph), it was only accessible to the movie stars and CEOs.  The general public could not afford a ticket on the Concorde.

However, the Boeing 737 is accessible. It could use any major airport and could fly over land. Its fuel-efficient engines made for great economics opening up travel to the middle class.  Yes, it was slow compared to the Concorde, but it could fly over land.  The Boeing 737 gave more people, more access to the world.  That is why today it is almost common practice for a cash-strapped college senior can now travel to Florida for spring break. 

But the 737 and the Concorde tell us another interesting story.  You would think the public would be demanding faster and faster aircraft.  However, the public demands more and more accessibility.   That is why over the past 20 years you have seen the airlines invest in regional flights, cross-marketing, and global partnerships…rather than new supersonic aircraft. The public will pay for “ACCESS”.  Not mobility.

Sadly, rhis mentality is why we don't have high-speed rail. We like our automobiles and our expressways because they give us access, meaning they serve the most destinations. Planners measure the “Delay minutes” in congestion on the expressways.  So we build bigger expressways to make traffic move so cars can cover more mileage.  But then due to induced demand (meaning because of reduced congestion more people make more trips), congestion returns.

However, if we measured transportation in terms of mobility, then we would be in a whole different world. Instead of being stopped at stoplights, we would be shuttled in and out of cities at speeds of 200+ mph. Instead of having to deal with a over crowded hub airport, we would just board a high speed train at the local station and fly across the midwest. Imagine a world where mobility mattered more than accessibility.

Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, Wikimedia Commons


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high-speed rail and high-speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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