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    “An Entertainment Corridor: Developing Sustainable High Speed Rail In The American Southwest” - Part I

    The following is the transcript of my architectural thesis abstract in 2004. I was entirely focused on high-speed rail transport as early as 2001, and between 2001 and 2004, I traveled Europe and America conducting my own experiential and academic research into passenger rail to shape my instincts about the potential of this mode of transit.


    “An Entertainment Corridor: Developing Sustainable High Speed Rail In The American Southwest (abstract)”                                        original text by Fernando Arias, 12 December 2004

    Air travel enjoyed a steady increase in operation and revenue earnings during the last decade of the 20th century. In terms of a cumulative national transportation system in the United States, airlines grossed $58,453,000 million in total passenger revenue during 1990, compared to Amtrak’s $941,000 reported earnings that same year. By the end of the decade however, Amtrak’s mere $821,500 dollars in passenger revenue was cast in the shadow of the airline industry’s staggering $84,317,000 million in reported earnings.[1] Clearly people prefer to fly!


    However, the commercial success of the airline industry would soon come to a critical halt when the attacks of September 11th on New York opened new fears of air travel for the public worldwide. Adding to this pandemonium, compounding long queues at airports due to canceled flights and extensive delays, was a crippling dependency on air travel that indicated our primary transportation system was in dire need of restructuring and transformation.


    In an effort to respond civically to such a tragedy, I realized with great intensity how a national high-speed rail system might compliment an already established airborne network. But given the historical decline of rail travel in the United States, to propose another conventional rail system was not feasible. In fact, it was due to the speed limits of rail travel that air transportation grew to such a massive scale after WW2.


    Industry and Capitalism, as concepts in practice require a fast and convenient recycling of consumption. This breeds a virulent urge to keep up with the pace with communications and technology. Naturally, or deliberately, with the advance of the 1960’s commercial aviation, it became obviously clear that faster air travel would become the superior and preferred mode of recreation and commercial travel. These shifts in consumer attitudes paved the way for the eventual decline of the national Amtrak rail system.[2]


    There is currently only one actively operating high-speed network in the United State’s Amtrak system. Called the Acela trains, they operate along an east-coast corridor that manages mostly commercial travel along the primary political and business centers of the New England seaboard[3].


    It became evident to me that for a national mass transit system to succeed, it has to service and cultivate existing relationships among the cities and regions in which it operates rather than outright compete with the airline industry. Yet, investing in an expanded Acela network would not be economically justified since this tired, frail system has failed to deliver competitive national transportation service in the modern era.[4]


    My view is that we already look to technology to keep our messy desks in order and our appointments on schedule. We seek out technology to produce the icons of our beliefs so that the feelings of loss, disconnection, and abandonment do not distract us from our pursuit of the future. At once distracted by newness and bound by growth, it has been through technology that we have entertained the nature of our species.[5] Hence, a natural extension of these beliefs led me to conclude that investigating advanced railway technology is the only ideal long-term solution to achieve a flexible, diverse transportation network in America. And because magnetically levitated trains operate at comparable speeds and convenience to air travel, they offer an exciting and viable solution to the ensuing problems and concerns about fuel economy, urban recollection, and the successive safety of a completely improved transportation infrastructure.[6]


    Looking years ahead, though we might greatly benefit from transportation initiatives in other regions, I see a unique opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of a high-speed magnetic rail network in the South Western United States. Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas already, and historically, relay a vast supply of entertainment capital and resources among each other. Here, tourists convey about from city to city along a historical network of experimental entertainment and celebrity leisure that dates back to the existential lifestyles of the 1950’s Open Road phenomena.


    To demonstrate the likely success of this unique high-speed rail system, a new focus into the annexation of the Southwestern urban centers of Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas is required. By activating this recognized collection of entertainment hubs, the likely success of a 21st century network of leisure and entertainment could inform the rest of the United States about the broader economic and health benefits such a system might offer on a global scale.


    Ultimately, in rethinking the future functions of the American national transportation infrastructure, I aim to design proposals to diversify and extend its public service with the adaptation of a magnetic high-speed rail network. My vision is to not only supply greater connectivity between land and air travel along established city centers, but to generate new cultural and economic possibilities along the corridor’s stakeholders and prove how this technology is the true future of American transportation.


    Originally written by Fernando Arias at The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI_ARC)

    [1] No. 1035 U.S. Scheduled Airline Industry—Summary: 1990-2000

    [2] Ronald D. Utt Ph.D. End Of The Line For Amtrak’s Current Management (Feb 21. 2003);

    Elliot D. Sclar Amtrak Privatization: The Route to Failure Economic Policy Institute; (June 2003)

    [3] (last update Feb 2001).

    [4] (last update Feb 2001);

    [5] Nana Naisbitt High Tech/High Touch: Technology and Our Accelerated Search for Meaning  (1st edition published June 2001)

    [6] California - Nevada Interstate Maglev Project: Transportation for the New Millennium;


    The California MAGLEV Deployment Program

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