The building attention and commitment by federal, state and local transportation authorities toward introduction of European- and Asian-developed high speed train systems into American transportation networks constitutes the first time that a major expansion of the nation’s transportation infrastructure would not be an outgrowth of fundamentally American industry and technological innovation. After leading the world in aircraft, automotive and trucking industries for decades, and the railroad industry for the first half of the 20th century, all of these US industries but aircraft and aviation have fallen from their once preeminent positions. While US transportation industry set international manufacturing and technology standards during its years of leadership, American transportation systems represented the state of the art in modern, efficient transportation technology, manufacturing, service and infrastructure. Having lost the initiative and innovative advantage once enjoyed by American transportation industry, transportation planners are now clamoring to reintroduce a refined, and very expensive version of steel wheeled, steel rail trains to the US transportation environment. As such, these imported light rail, heavy rail, trolley, metrolink and high-speed trains will most likely stunt development of the next generation of mass transportation systems that the nation really needs.
The Chinese high-speed trains that represent the most advanced rail and manufacturing technology of any nation, can not be duplicated or improved upon by US rail or manufacturing industries and are not likely to be adaptable to, or accommodated by antiquated US rail networks and their mid-twentieth century industrial manufacturing base. Efforts to simply transplant state of the art high speed trains, tracks and infrastructure into a remote area of California’s central agricultural valley, illustrate the fundamental incompatibility of American transportation systems and environments with advanced rail systems developed for use in distinctly different industrial, transportation and mobility structures.
Embedded in the $300 billion development plan of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) are several outsourced contracts for rail cars on a variety of its systems. After making years of accommodations and concessions to preserve an Italian manufacturer’s potential $150-300 million exclusive rail car contract, and prohibiting all competing bids to supply new and replacement rolling stock, the LACMTA was forced to discontinue the agreement after the Italian manufacturer repeatedly failed to meet basic engineering specifications and delivery deadlines. The contract has been subsequently awarded to another foreign-based manufacturer. In a similar outsourcing of passenger rail car producers, the Southern California Regional Rail Transportation Authority has contracted to replace its fleet of dangerously vulnerable Metrolink passenger rail cars with much safer South Korean-manufactured models.
Official shunning of the fledgling US monorail industry, and the inexplicable ignoring of the world wide development and service record of monorail technology and industry appear to have led federal, state and local transportation planners, designers and decision makers into a default position, with high-speed rail trains and imported rail cars as the only options. Rather than encouraging development of American industry-based innovation in transportation technology that monorails would represent, the US transportation establishment is pursuing transportation system improvements that are marginally effective, expensive and foreign to the US economy.