Air Taxi or High-Speed Rail

I like to take an interest in my sponsors, so I clicked a link from a Siemens ad I saw on my blog which took me to their sponsor page whence I found this treasure-trove of fake news reports that Siemens put together. Siemens seems to make a lot of infrastructure products, so a lot of their advertorial content relates to stuff I’m interested in. Indeed, at times I’m already totally in the tank for what they’re selling, as in this propaganda video for high-speed rail.

That’s what I thought of as I read James Fallows’ fascinating article on air taxis in the current issue of The Atlantic. Jim’s an aviation enthusiast so he’s excited about the rise of DayJet, but it sound ecologically problematic to me and — relatedly — something that could well be rendered impractical if we adopted sound carbon-pricing policies. Jim takes this on a bit in the piece and we learn that “Bruce Holmes’s response is that most of DayJet’s customers would otherwise have driven, probably alone and in a large car — and the new jets are designed to beat or match such trips in fuel consumption and overall carbon output per passenger mile.”

This is fair enough, but of course an even more ecologically sustainable alternative for these kind of shortish intercity trips would be high-speed rail. What’s more, at several points in the piece DayJet executives say they think they probably couldn’t export their business model to the northeast, the only part of the country where we have decent passenger rail, so the air taxi people themselves seem to think that rail would be a more appealing alternative to short-haul flights if the infrastructure got built. What’s more, the Acela is actually pretty crappy when you compare it to the true high-speed rail they have in Europe and Asia. So let’s build some trains!

Photo by me, available under a Creative Commons license