Reaction to Richard Guadagno's Comments Regarding
Essential Requirements & Setting the Record Straight Regarding His
by Kirston Henderson, MegaRail Transportation Systems, Inc.
I was happy to hear that Mr. Guadagno agrees with some of my conclusions regarding system requirements. I regret that he apparently believes that I took them from something that he had written sometime in the past. Had I known of his writings, I would have referenced his set of requirements and expanded upon them. I had developed the set of requirements about thirty years ago when I began my efforts to devise a solution that would be practical.
Mr. Guadagno obviously has strong disagreement with some of the requirements listed in my paper. While he is welcome to his views, I am convinced that he is hopelessly wrong in his conclusions on these requirements.
Mr. Guadagno is clearly a purest with the purest of objectives for saving mankind from disaster. Unfortunately, I believe that the chances of accomplishing his objective probably range somewhere between slim and none!
It is important to point out that the separate heavy rail MegaRail concept disparaged by Mr. Guadagno was developed in response to a desire of state transportation department officials to provide such a capability. This separate capability is envisioned as being used to supplement current, heavily used and saturated conventional railroad lines. The heavy cargo MegaRail lines would be built over current railroad rights of way in teaming arrangements between MegaRail, State Transportation Departments, and the Railroads. Far fewer miles of heavy-duty line would be built than the MegaRails designed for automobiles, passenger vehicles and high-speed cargo. Transportation officials in one state are showing a significant level of interest in the heavy cargo concept.
Mr. Guadagno appears to believe (1) that it is somehow improper for commercial companies to earn a profit for their shareholders and (2) that only the Federal Government is capable of developing or implementing any innovative solution to our transportation problems. He further appears to consider that any attempt to develop a system that will pay for itself and earn a profit from operations is not to be desired. I submit that if we wait for governments to solve our problems, we will never see them solved until they reach a crisis level involving possible national survival. At this point, I see little evidence of any broad public or government support for any major effort on the part of the Federal Government to make major investments in such a project.
Profit making companies have a pretty good record in solving problems and can easily solve the transportation problems. I don't remember any government inventing the automobile, airplane, steamship, or railroad or launching a successful effort to produce any of the above. The Federal Government does deserve credit for assisting those profit-making companies in building the railroads. Of course, the Federal Government benefited greatly from the rapid construction of railroads. It was a worthwhile partnership for both the government and the railroad companies. The progress would have been far slower without the land grants. Because the cost per mile of railroads has always been rather high, it might have been difficult for railroads to recover their investment from operating revenue without the large construction subsidy provided by the government. Other than this example of government-private industry cooperation, I would hesitate to give the government much credit for the developments that he cited.
As a good example of current systems that are not economically viable, light rail systems have clearly demonstrated an inability to pay their way in recent years. They typically end up as a considerable burden to taxpayers. The same set of economics has also made it difficult to fund high-speed rail systems except in those cases in which a national government has provided massive subsidies. As taxpayers, we really can't bear much more of this sort of approach to transportation.
With regard to "exotic" technologies, one can wait forever for the impossible and never get anything. If we are to solve our serious problems on a timely basis, we must exploit the technologies that are available now. I suspect that there are several people advocating systems that require technology developments that have been waiting a long time for the full technology and funding to implement their dreams. I further suspect that they are not likely to realize their impossible dreams. I also doubt that many investors are lining up to fund their proposed developments.
Mr. Guadagno takes strong exception to my requirement that massive earth moving projects must be avoided and seems convinced that such are essential to provide useful transportation. The stated requirement was based upon recognition of the simple economic fact that if the project becomes too expensive, it will not be afforded and can not really be accomplished. Massive earth moving projects tend to be expensive and thus can make it difficult to fund projects involving massive earth moving.
In response to Mr. Guadagnošs comments regarding his perception of a limited capability of MegaRail to handle steep grades, it is necessary to point out that MegaRail is able to handle far greater grades than normal highways because all MegaRail traction surfaces are completely protected from weather elements. However, MegaRail lines using steep grades must operate at a lower speed in order to avoid a requirement for excessive motor sizes. (His InTranSys appears to have the same limitation.)
Mr. Guadagno disparages the use of rubber tires on MegaRail vehicles and visualizes excessive heat build up, energy waste, and tire wear as insurmountable problems. It is worth noting at this point that most current passenger and freight movement is aboard vehicles with rubber tires. Furthermore, the tires of these vehicles are forced to suffer the effects of rough pavement, potholes, etc. that create rather rapid tire wear and damage. Mr. Guadagno is correct in noting that a considerable amount of heat is generated in the flexing of rubber tires. However, if relatively stiff tires are used, the heating effects can be significantly reduced. If the tires are designed to operate primarily on absolutely smooth steel rails, the tires can be designed for far less flexure and heat generation. Operation of the tires on smooth surfaces instead of the rough surfaces of conventional roads can also result in greatly increased tire life. It is important to note here that if we are to have a practical dualmode electric automobile that is not required to have a costly separate set of load bearing wheels and propulsion system, the use of rubber tires is probably a practical necessity.
With regard to MegaRail construction material, Mr. Guadagno appears to be seriously misinformed. All MegaRail structural elements are of conventional, low-cost structural steel. They are not of the far more expensive and scarce stainless steel as claimed by Mr. Guadagno. As shown on the Rail Design section of the MegaRail web page, only a very thin outside covering of stainless steel is used to protect the structural elements and avoid the eyesore of rusting hulks that would require frequent cleaning and painting. Other less costly covering materials have been considered, but the long life and low maintenance of stainless steel has led to its selection.
Mr. Guadagno has also jumped to and published a grossly incorrect conclusion with regard to MegaRail construction cost. To set the record straight on this matter, typical MegaRail system installed costs are expected to range between three and four million dollars per mile. The rail has been designed for low material and labor cost in order to make it affordable. I don't know how Mr. Guadagno's InTranSys is projected to cost because I have seen no cost estimates for this project. From my limited knowledge of this system design, I would expect it to be quite expensive to build and would likely require a prohibitive portion of the Federal budget to implement on any wide scale basis. It would be interesting to see some cost estimates for InTranSys.
For some reason, Mr. Guadagno seems to believe that MegaRails will be far larger and more light blocking than described in our publications. He insists that the height and width of the rail structure would have to be greatly increased. I don't know what sort of structural analysis led to his conclusions, but it obviously does not agree with our own. He appears to believe that the elevated rail described for MegaRail would collapse or sag under loads. I suppose that we could invite him to come to Fort Worth this fall and watch the first prototype MegaRail collapse and dump the automobile ferry and automobile in a twisted heap of junk! We would be happy to find a safe place for him to stand while he watches the show. We will also have to find him a shady place to protect him from our hot Texas sun. Unlike his InTranSys guideway, I fear that the MegaRails will not offer much shade.
Mr. Guadagno further implies that MegaRail Transportation Systems is another greedy robber baron intent upon earning undeserved profits at the expense of the environment. MegaRail and its shareholders are offended by his implications.
I want to assure both Mr. Guadagno and everyone else that MegaRail is working very hard to provide a transportation system that is the most environmentally friendly system that the world has ever seen. It may not fully satisfy Mr. Guadangno, but it appears to satisfy most other environmentalists who have seen it. Because of its very low impact on the environment, MegaRail is not expected to have much difficulty in meeting even the most stringent environmental concerns. MegaRail does not inject anything of consequence into the atmosphere, seriously impact drainage, take up major sections of land or present noisy eyesores for the surrounding area. We are more than happy to have MegaRail compared to any other solution to our traffic problems.
Last modified: June 19, 2000