Saturday, November 20, 2010

SoCal's Metrolink adds more crash-savvy cars from South Korea

In a follow-up from this December 2009 story, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the L.A. area's commuter railroad is buying twenty more Hyundai Rotem Co. coaches, touted as providing "first-in-the-nation" safety technology, which will make up 137 of 160 passenger cars:
Bolstering the effort to improve safety at Metrolink, directors of the commuter railroad on Friday agreed to buy 20 more state-of-the-art train cars that can better protect passengers and crews during a crash.

The board of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority pushed aside financial pressures and unanimously voted to exercise an option to buy the cars made by the South Korean Hyundai Rotem Co. for $1.68 million each, about $1 million below the market value.

Rotem cars have energy-absorbing crush zones and other safety improvements now required by the federal government — measures that Metrolink has sought since a deadly crash on the border of Glendale and Los Angeles five years ago that killed 11.
While I'm happy to see South Korea becoming a go-to place for highly safe high-tech, it bothers me that the United States finds it so difficult to make things like this. Could be Americans' general aversion to public transport having led to a profound lack of a demand and thus little opportunity for such an industry.

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3 comments:

  1. "Could be Americans' general aversion to public transport having led to a profound lack of a demand and thus little opportunity for such an industry."

    Could be that Americans are spread out over much, much larger landmass than the 50 million in South Korea who mostly live close together in apartments.

    And it riles me to no end that my tax dollars go to supporting Amtrak, which comes nowhere close to my home in rural Texas.

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  2. John, people in the US are not so spread out as to make public transport infeasible to use. Most Americans are somewhat clustered, many of them into large urban areas. In fact, here in Honolulu, which is essentially developed as one big line with along the southern coast of Oahu instead of a city radiating out in all directions, railway would be an ideal way to bypass traffic along the single H1 corridor. But the hold-up is political infighting and incompetence about planned routes (here's a key they seem to not understand: start by making the transportation go to the universities), not a lack of people to use it.

    Moving on to California, one-fourth of the state's population live in a single county (out of over fifty counties), not terribly unlike Seoul, so there's definitely a user basis among the 9 million or so residents of L.A. County, but it's only recently that they started taking railway seriously.

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  3. Oops... I neglected to tie that in to my main point. Despite places like Los Angeles County or Honolulu having the population density (and size) to support railway, these projects ultimately face many problems because of a lack of desire to use it. Part of that is because of the lack of supplementary support by a frequent and extensive bus system, but that goes back to a vicious cycle of low supply and low demand (it's much better in Honolulu than in L.A. or OC).

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