Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Italian high-speed rail: Freccia Rossa!

Having recently had the opportunity to travel in Italy using their high-speed rail system, I feel compelled to file another in a string of thousands of reports from Americans envying European trains.
The Freccia Rossa (red arrow) is the Italian Railway’s high-speed train, operating at speeds up to 300 kmh (186 mph) on dedicated right-of-way.  (FYI, there is a competing high-speed rail company, Italo!)  The trains are fast, clean, comfortable, and punctual with all reserved seats.  Overhead monitors track location, speed, next station, and other useful information in a very user-friendly format.
Why can’t we do that here?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Florence Tramvia rolls smoothly ahead

Having recently had the opportunity to ride the Florence tram (“Tramvia”), I’m happy to report that it appears to be a great success.  It’s modern, clean, frequent, smooth-riding, and very popular.  Although one line has been operational for a few years, a recent extension of that line to the other side of town and the inauguration of Line 2 from the main train station to the airport has created a real system.  Most of the system is on reserved – but not grade separated – right-of-way, so there is enough cross traffic to keep speeds slower than I would like and to generate occasional collisions. 
As I have commented before with respect to the Strasbourg and Luxembourg trams, this mode really seems to work well in medium-sized cities which can’t justify a full-blown metro but need more than buses.  Why can’t we do this in the U.S.?