Building the World

September 2, 2022
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TRANSPORT: Origins of Labor Day

“Golden Spike Ceremony: Promontory Summit, Utah, 1869” marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Soon, the new railroad industry would be linked to Labor Day. Image: National Archives and Records Administration (NAI #594940. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

When the Transcontinental Railroad, with more than 1,800 (2,900 kilometers) miles of track, opened in 1869 with the driving of the Golden Spike in Utah, thousands of workers had toiled to complete what had been the largest government project in history, to date. A cross-country trip that had previously taken months of overland perilous journey across deserts and mountains, or a sea-voyage around South America, was now possible. But working conditions were arduous and dangerous. Rail travel proved more comfortable: George M. Pullman began converting passenger cars into sleepers, employing “Pullman porters” to work aboard. Hiring practice discriminated racially, and enforced extremely long working hours – 400 per month.

“Pullman strikers and Illinois National Guard at Arcade Building,” 1894. Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Image: wikimedia, public domain, Included with appreciation to all workers on Labor Day.

When Pullman laid off 30% of the workers in the recession of 1893, Pullman porters and employees walked out on strike. Train travel stalled in 27 states from Illinois, home to the Pullman company, and the West Coast. In the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, a crowd derailed a locomotive pulling a postal train, and the U. S. Attorney General enacted an injunction against the striking workers. President Grover Cleveland sent troops. Riots broke out, hundreds of rail cars were ravaged and burned by protestors; the National Guard fired into the mob, killing 30 people and wounding many others. This was in July 1894. Ironically, Cleveland had just signed, in June, a bill declaring a new holiday to honor workers and promote good conditions. The first Labor Day was celebrated on the first Monday in September of that year.

“A. Phillip Randolph – political and social leader.” Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Image: wikimedia, public domain. Included with appreciation to A. Phillip Randolph and those in the BSCP union.

The Labor Day announcement raised national attention regarding Pullman workers. The Guard was recalled and the strike was over by August. While Labor Day began a new era of awareness of worker health and safety. Pullman porters now worked in better conditions: some earned more money, others advanced to management positions. But hours remained long. In 1925, Pullman porters, organized by A. Phillip Randolph, formed a union: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). It took more than ten years to negotiate better working hours – 240 per month.

Transport has always initiated economic and social change. Ships, rails, wheels, and wings caused major shifts in commerce, communication, and culture. Labor Day honors all workers. Around the world, there are Labor day celebrations, some in May. But in the United States, the holiday is always observed in September, and we have transport to thank for its origin and celebration.

“Labor Day” by S.D. Ehrhart, 1909. Image: Library of Congress #2011647501. Public Domain. Included with great appreciation to all who labor.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Transcontinental Railroad,” Chapter 17, Building the World. Pages 205 – 238. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. ISBN: 0313333734.

Loomis, Erik, A History of America in Ten Strikes. The New Press,  2018. ISBN-10: 1620971615.

United States Department of Labor. “History of Labor Day.” https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

Whitney, Asa. A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific. New York: George Ward, 1849. Text available in Building the World, pages 215-227.

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July 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Heat melts airport runway

“Aircraft landing at Zurich International Airport” by Kuhnmi_DSC-3711.2, 2014. Creative Commons license 2.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciaiton.

Airline woes have lately taken a toll on passengers, crew, aircraft maintenance, and profits. But during this week’s heat wave, an airport runway melted. When London, England, UK suffered a temperature rise to 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Luton airport had to suspend flights to repair a runway damaged by intense heat. Transport infrastructure is made of materials susceptible to heat. Roads buckle, and airport runways are specialized roads.

“Hammersmith Bridge, 1827.” Original drawing scanned by Project Gutenberg. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Bridges are also vulnerable. City of famed London Bridge saw some structures falling down. Hammersmith Bridge was wrapped, Cristo style, in a cooling material designed to reflect sunlight away. The temperature control system, costing about half-million dollars (420,000 Pounds), is designed to keep the 135-year-old bridge from melting and placing an untenable load on its support pedestals that are made of cast-iron, also vulnerable to heat.

“Three Rail Tracks” by photographer G-Man, 2003. Dedicated to the public domain. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Railways become hot grids when sunlight sears the rails. With the high ambient temperatures combining with sun rays on the rails, the heat reaches 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). The solution? Painting the rails white.

Wildfires cause damage to people, animals, plants, and also to the atmosphere. “Carbon Monoxide from Amazon Wildfires in 2019.” NASA/JPL-Caltech. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In Europe and the UK, heat is causing wildfires: 27,000 acres scorched in southwestern France, causing 32,000 people to leave their homes. Spain’s wildfires caused the state railway to suspend service; in Portugal, one person died every 40 minutes between July 7-13. In the United States, over 100 million people are sweltering in record-breaking heat. In China, heat melted the roof of the museum housing cultural treasures of the ancient Forbidden City. Sadly, each season brings the same dangers and the same warning: according to World Weather Attribution (WWA), the 2021 heat wave was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” In addition to human and natural resources suffering, heat waves damage economies: projected economic impacts in Europe by 2060 are expected to increase five-fold (García-León 2021).

“How a heat wave forms.” by U.S. weather.gov. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. With appreciation.

Bad as that news is, it is also an indication of the potential savings – in human, natural, and economic resources – of innovations that can halt and reverse climate change – and also innovations in materials more suitable to a warming world. Even with climate goals met, warming will continue for some decades. Aging transport infrastructure is due for rebuilding: bridges, roads, and runways need an upgrade. What kinds of materials can be developed for a changing climate?

García-León, David, et al., “Current and projected regional economic impacts of heatwaves in Europe.” Nat Commun 12, 5807 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Keeping Hammersmith Bridge cool- and open – in the heatwave.” 13 July 2022. https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2022/07/keeping-hammersmith-bridge-cool-and-open-heatwave

National Weather Service, NOAA. “WetBulb Globe Temperature.” https://www.weather.gov/tsa/wbgt

Vera, Amir. “It’s so hot, roads are buckling, they’re putting foil on a bridge, and roofs are melting around the world.” 22 July 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/21/weather/global-infrastructure-its-so-hot-extreme-heat/index.html

World Weather Attribution (WWA). “Western North American extreme heat virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” 7 July 2021. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/western-north-american-extreme-heat-virtually-impossible-without-human-caused-climate-change/

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December 7, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Sugar High

“United Boeing 767-300ER taking off from London Healthrow” by photographer and aerospace engineer Adrian Pingstone, 2007. Public Domain wikimedia commons.

Air transport, first achieved in December 1903, reached an important milestone in December  2021. United Airlines flew a commercial jet with a full complement of guest passengers entirely on renewable, non-fossil, fuel derived from sugar and corn. The flight Chicago ORD to Washington DCA flight carried 100 passengers using 100% sustainable fuel (SAF). The achievement followed United’s 2019 Flight for the Planet demonstrating biofuel blend energy, zero cabin waste, and carbon offsetting. The 2021 United success also announced new partners in the Eco-Skies-Alliance, and a pledge to purchase non-petroleum feedstocks to deliver the same performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a much smaller environmental effect.

“Sugarcane” by photographer Biswarup Ganguly, 2010. GNU Free/CC3.0 wikimedia.

Sugarcane ethanol is produced by fermenting sugarcane juice and molasses. Brazil and the USA are among the world areas engaged in biofuel production from sugar and corn, with scientific innovations on fermentative processes. There are concerns about land use for biofuel, and deforestation, but SAF remains an important element in new energy options. Brazil is a leader in sugar-based fuel, while U.S. expertise is mainly in corn. (Kang and Lee 2015). The U.S. biofuel industry has created 68,000 jobs, produced 17 billion gallons of sustainable fuel, and saved 544 million metric tons of Co2 from entering the atmosphere. (Minos 2021)

“Refueling a plane in Athens.” by photographer Jebulon. Wikimedia CC1.0 Public Domain.

While biofuels are arguably not as clean and green as electric or solar flight (achieved by small commuter planes such as eGenius), sustainable fuel is a practical step because it works with existing flight infrastructure like aircraft engines, refueling equipment, maintenance, and airport design.”SAF can be 100% compatible with our current aviation fleet and infrastructure,” observed Dave Kettner of Virent, among the partners who flew on the historic occasion, joined by World Energy biofuel producer and distributor, Boeing, CFM International, and U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. Electric vehicles may be the answer for automobiles, buses, and trucks: the U.S. Federal Highway System and other major roads of the world will be rebuilt with charging stations and lanes for autonomous vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway or Japan’s Shinkansen can be adapted for maglev, electric, or hyperloop trains. But maritime shipping and aviation are not as easily converted from fossil fuels. Air transport has just taken an important step toward a more sustainable future.

Kang, Aram and Taek Sooon Lee. “Converting sugars to biofuels: ethanol and beyond.” 27 October 2015. Bioengineering. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering2040184.

Lewandowski, Jan. “Building the Evidence on Corn Ethanol’s Greenhouse Gas Profile.” 29 July 2021. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/04/02/building-evidence-corn-ethanols-greenhouse-gas-profile

McCue, Dan “United Airlines makes history flying the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind.” 11 June 2019. Renewable Energy Magazine. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/biofuels/united-airlines-makes-history-flying-the-most-20190611

Minos, Scott. “United Airlines first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel is officially off the ground!” 1 December 2021. U.S. Department of Energy. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/united-airlines-first-passenger-flight-using-100-sustainable-aviation-fuel

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “Inventing a flying machine.” https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers-online/fly/1903/

United Airlines. “United to become first in aviation history to fly aircraft full of passengers using 100$ sustainable fuel.” 1 December 2021. United Airlines News Release. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-to-become-first-in-aviation-history-to-fly-aircraft-full-of-passengers-using-100-sustainable-fuel-301435009.html

World Energy. https://www.worldenergy.net

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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November 9, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Rebuilding Back Better

“Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge” by Eric Vance, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011. Image: Public Domain, Wikimedia.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the paths to a better future. From electric vehicle charging stations, to bridge repair or replacement, American roads will soon experience the biggest rebuilding project since the US Federal Highway System of 1956. Here’s a summary of what to expect over the next five years (Lobosco and Luhby, 2021):

Roads – $110 billion for road repair and upgrades. It is estimated that 173, 000 miles of US roads are in bad condition;

Trains -$66 billion for passenger and freight trail, modernizing the Northeast corridor, and upgrading intercity rail to high-speed capability, with additional funds of $12 billion;

Broadband – $65 billion to improve reach and signal strength of Internet;

Bridges – $40 billion to repair or replace the 45,000 bridges in poor shape;

Public Transit – $39 billion to modernize and upgrade subways and buses;

Airports – $25 billion to repair aging airports and upgrade to low-carbon tech;

Marine Ports – $17 billion for improving marine ports, a major part of the supply chain;

Safety – $11 billion for better protection for cyclists and pedestrians;

Buses and Ferries – $7.5 billion for zero or low-emission ferries and school bus transport;

Electric Vehicles – $7.5 billion for a national network of electric charging stations;

Communities – $1 billion to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. This was one of the goals of the Central Artery Project in Boston.

In addition to the transport upgrades, the American Infrastructure Bill will begin rebuilding the electric grid ($65 billion) and correct water infrastructure problems from Flint to Benton Harbor and beyond, replacing lead service lines and old pipes. Finally, uncapped gas wells and abandoned mines will be remedied with a $21 billion fund. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) passed on 6 November 2021, as nations gather in Glasgow to address response to climate change at COP26. It is now time to rebuild the world.

Lobosco, Katie and Tami Luhby. “Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.” 5 November 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/28/politics/infrastructure-bill-explained/index.html

United States Congress. “H.R. 3684: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr3684/text

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June 17, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

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January 28, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT/SPACE: Can the Internet fly?

Google/Alphabet Loon. Image: wikimedia

Wave Goodbye to Loon. The visionary project, to beam down the Internet from floating balloons, called it quits. For nine years, Google/Alphabet sent up as many as 35 floating globes – the size of tennis courts – with the goal of transmitting internet capability to areas where land-based infrastructure is not feasible. Of course, the balloons used Google autonomous navigation technology to steer themselves. But this week, the start up wound down. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s telecommunications system, Loon helped to get the island back online. Another good outcome: Telkom, a telecommunications company in Kenya, inked a deal to bring 4G to remote areas. Because almost half the world does not yet have internet access, it’s a big market. Land-based technologies picked low-lying fruit, but there is still room for growth – above.

Starlink satellites stacked and ready to launch. Image: SpaceX and wikimedia commons.

Flying internet is a rapidly developing sector. Since early days of COMSAT, satellites are proving better vehicles for connectivity, even to what some call “notspots” (Kleinman 2021) with a vision of bringing the whole world online. It’s a movement that recalls the achievements such as the telephone and telegraph (connections were laid under the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad). Here are some satellite enterprises delivering broadband internet today – and tomorrow:

FLYING INTERNET PROVIDERS

Apple – A plan to develop their own satellites prompted Apple to recruit two Google satellite experts: John Fenwick and Michael Trela will work with Greg Duffy, Dropcam founder who joined Apple recently. Apple may partner with Boeing to launch more than 1,00 low-orbit satellites.

Starlink –  Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink will require 42,000 satellites. SpaceX launched 60 satellites on 20 January 2021 to tally 1,015 so far (only 951 are still in orbit). In 2020, SpaceX carried out 14 launches. Possible subscription: $99 monthly fee + $499 for hardware.

OneWeb – Founded in 2014 by Greg Wyler, OneWeb re-emerged from potential bankruptcy with help from Bharti Global and UK government. 648 satellites will form OneWeb network constellation. Development of terminals is with Intellian Technologies and Collins Aerospace. Customers? While at first it was rural folks (OneWeb promises they won’t be overlooked), now it is telecom companies. Second generation satellites will include intelligence and security capabilities. New funding from SoftBank Group Corp and Hughes Network Systems/EchoStar tallied $1.4 billion in funding to put first-generation fleet in place in 2022.

Project Kuiper Constellation  – Funded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s satellite project plans to launch 3,236 satellites. In March 2019, Project Kuiper filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Federal Communications Commission. The satellite array will orbit at three altitudes: 784 satellites at 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at 379 miles (610 kilometers), and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles (630 kilometers). The plan is to provide coverage from latitude 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south – that’s where 95% of the world’s people live. (Boyle 2019)

Telesat – With priority Ka-band spectrum rights and a fifty-year history of technical prowess, Telesat Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will link to customer terminals and electronically steered antennas (ESAs) for commercial, government, and military use. The first launch happened in January 2018.

LeoSat – The vision was a constellation of 78 -108 satellites but in 2019 the company laid off its 13 employees after investors dropped support. The investors were Hispasat, Spanish satellite operator, and Sky Perfect JSat of Japan. LeoSat still exists but for now is dormant.

Viasat – This satellite system offers internet access from geosynchronous orbit. New entrants like Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, Telesat will use Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for lower latency and lower cost.

03b – Using medium Earth orbit (MEO), this constellation offers fiber-equivalent connection. The prime contractor is Arianespace for the operator SES Networks.

Athena Facebook filed with the Federal Communications Commission to launch Athena to provide broadband access to “unserved and underserved” areas of the world. The filing included a new name: PointView Tech LLC.

Boeing – The aerospace giant plans to launch and operate 147 satellites for a broadband constellation. Apple may help.

Satellites: a traffic jam in the sky? Can astronomers still see the stars? Image: Starlink, initial phase  – wikimedia.

PROBLEMS: Are satellite constellations the new Milky Way, or are we creating the same kind of traffic jam above that we suffer from on land? Some astronomers already report difficulty in seeing the sky. Negative comments from astronomers caused Starlink satellites to come up with a visor that prevents sun reflection, reducing glare – its a sub-company called VisorSat. OneWeb chair Sunil Bharti Mittal pledges environmental stewardship, working with astronomers on issues like reflectivity. (Amos, 2020) And then there is the problem of space debris: getting satellites up is easier than getting them down,

OPPORTUNITIES: Why are so many players entering the flying internet competition. Opportunity: Morgan Stanley projected that “the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in  2040, up from $350 billion today.” (Conroy 2019) Of that, $410 billion will come from satellite-based internet services.

GPS Constellation. Image: wikimedia

Amos, Jonathan. “OneWeb satellite company launches into new era.” 18 December 2020. BBC.com

Boyle, Alan. “Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ Constellation.” 4 April 2019. GeekWire. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/amazon-project-kuiper-broadband-satellite/

Foust, Jeff. “SpaceX surpasses 1,000-satellite mark in latest Starlink launch.” 20 January 2021. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/spacex-surpasses-1000-satellite-mark-in-latest-starlink-launch/

Henry, Caleb. “LeoSat, absent investors, shuts down.” 13 November 2019. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/leosat-absent-investors-shuts-down/

Kleinman, Zoe. “Satellites beat balloons in race for flying internet.” 25 January 2020. BBC.com/Tech. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55770141

Matsakis, Louise. “Facebook Confirms It’s Working on a New Internet Satellite.” 28 July 2018. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-confirms-its-working-on-new-internet-satellite/

OneWeb. “OneWeb Secures Investment from Softbank and Hughes Network Systems.” 15 January 2021. https://www.oneweb.world/media-center/oneweb-secures-investment-from-softbank-and-hughes-network-systems

Raymundo, Oscar. “Apple is reportedly looking to put broadband-beaming satellites into orbit.” 21 April 2017. Macworld. https://www.macworld.com/article/3191474/apple-is-reportedly-looking-to-put-broadband-beaming-satellites-into-orbit.html

Yan Huang, Michelle, Bob Hunt, David Mosher. “What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth.” 9 October 2020. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-elon-musk-42000-starlink-satellites-earth-effects-stars-2020-10

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April 13, 2020
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Trains as Mobile Medical System

India is rebuilding trains as rolling hospital wards, refitting coaches into care facilities with 16 beds. Indian Railways is modifying 20,000 carriage coaches, for a total of 320,000 new isolation pods, announcing the program on the same week COVID-19 cases increased by 1,637 infections and 38 deaths. Sports stadiums are also being deployed: Assam’s Sarusajai stadium will hold 1,000 patients, while Chandigarth’s complex will become a temporary jail to impound those who violate lockdown policy. (Singh 2020).

India’s rail system. Image: wikimedia.

Using trains for public health and education is not a new idea. When the Canadian Pacific Railway opened, special purpose carriages were a regular part of the route. Trains brought health care and education to previously unreachable places. Children saw a teacher once-a-week in a classroom car, then homeschooled until the next whistle stop. The Trans-Siberian railway and Russia’s rail system offered options like mobile therapy.

FIVE REASONS FOR USING TRAINS AS MOBILE MEDICAL SYSTEM

Trains, with their flexible number of carriages, can be configured to custom purposes.

Another factor? Speed and access. Amtrak is the only railroad in North America that holds right-of-way service speed: many stretches of track are certified and maintained for speeds up to 100+ miles per hour (160+ kph) on routes with no other traffic.

A third factor? Idle. With the advent of air travel and the building of the United States Federal Highway System, trains were already second class. Add stay-at-home lockdowns and social distancing for those few who must travel, and you’ve got a lot of idle equipment.

A fourth factor? Expensive to maintain idle. Planes, buses, and trains are all idle. Planes can be parked, buses can use roads already serviced for general vehicles. But trains require tracks and that means specialized maintenance.

A fifth factor? Subsidized, anyway.

“Red Cross Train, France” by Harold Septimus Power, 1918. Imperial War Museum, Art.IWM.ART 1031 Wikimedia

Proposal: use Amtrak train network as a mobile medical system. India shows that trains can easily be retrofitted as hospital wards, isolation units. And why not rolling ventilator-ready beds with the respiratory equipment already installed? Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York will send medical equipment to the next peak place. The virus is a rolling phenomenon: a rolling response is a good option.

Amtrak system map. Image: wikimedia

The United States Transcontinental Railroad once transformed and united a country. Now, can rails help address the virus crisis? Afterwards, American rail needs rebuilding, anyway; repurposing medical cars will offer a chance to rethink Amtrak. Will Japan’s Shinkansen, upgraded with maglev trains reaching 374 mph for the Tokyo Olympics, be an inspiration? One hopeful step is Amtrak’s strategic agreement with Alstom (2016) to produce 28 next-gen equipment to replace the Acela Express now entering 20 years of service. The new transit format is due to roll out in 2022, a timeframe parallel with virus response needed now. Many countries have train systems; this idea is scalable. But at the moment, the United States is experiencing an urgent medical crisis. We need every idea and every option. Let’s use sections of Amtrak as a mobile medical system.

Alstom. “Alstom to provide Amtrak with its new generation of high-speed train.” 26 August 2016. https://www.alstom.com/press-releases-news/2016/8/alstom-to-provide-amtrak-with-its-new-generation-of-high-speed-train/

Amtrak.https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/corporate/nationalfactsheets/National-Fact-Sheet-FY2016-0717.pdf

Congressional Budget Office. “Federal Subsidies for Rail Passenger Service: An Assessment of Amtrak.” https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2018-10/41955-Amtrak.pdf

Japan Rail. “New Maglev Trains for Debut at Tokyo Olympics” Tokyo Summer Olympics Guide. https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics.

Singh, Charanjit. “India turns trains into isolation wards as COVID-19 cases rise.” Charanjit Singh, quoted in the article, explains that Chandigarh’s temporary jail is a day’s sentence to education on sanitation and public health, before being released that evening to go home and stay there. 2 April 2020. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/india-turns-trains-isolation-wards-covid-19-cases-rise-200402071515155.html

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July 25, 2019
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Flygskam (Flight Shame)

“C-141 Starlifter over Antarctica.” Photographer Gralo. Image: wikimedia.

Flight shame, or as coined in Sweden “Flygskam,” is taking off. The movement prompted France to levy a flight tax ranging from 2-18 euros. KLM celebrated its 100th anniversary with a campaign urging passengers to fly less, stating that aviation causes 3% of human-caused carbon emissions. Recommended transport alternative for short distances: trains. Japan is upgrading fast-train system, Shinkansen, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Channel Tunnel and EuroStar encouraged travelers to take the train. Will the United States, developer of the market-changing Transcontinental Railroad, redesign tracks for mag-lev or hyper-loop?

Greta Thunberg speaking at French Parliament 2019. Image: wikimedia.

Flygskam began when Olympic gold medalist Bjorn Ferry, and others championed the movement including climate activist Greta Thunberg; the teen nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize completed a climate-change European speaking tour mostly by train, urging travelers to forgo short-haul flying. As linguists note, every neologism might give rise to its opposite: now there is a new term:Tagskryt” or “train bragging.”

BBC. “What is flygskam? Greta speaks up about ‘flight-shaming.'” 19 July 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/49032117/

Elking, Isaac and Robert Windle. “Examining Differences in Short-Haul and Long-Haul Markets in US Commercial Airline Passenger Demand.” Transportation Journal. Vol. 53, No. 4 (Fall 2014), pp. 424-452. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/transportationj.53.4.0424.

KLM. “Fly Responsibly.” https://flyresponsibly.klm.com/en

Pennetier, Marine and Geert De Clereq. “France to tax flights from its airports, airline shares fall.” 9 July 2019. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/aticle/us-france-airlines-tax/france-plans-new-tax-on-outbound-flights-airline-shares-fall-idUSKCN1U412B.

PRI. Public Radio International. “‘Flight shame’ in Sweden prompts rail-only travel movement.” 30 April 2019. PRI’s The World. https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-04-30/flight-shame-sweden-promts-rail-only-travel-movement.

Thunberg, Greta. “Speech at French Parliament” 23 July 2019. @GretaThunberg. https://mobile.twitter.com/gretathunberg/status/1153940926517194752/ and https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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July 6, 2018
by Building The World
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New York/London: 2 Hours or New York/Shanghai: 30 minutes

Hypersonic 51A “Waverider” from US Airforce. Image: wikimedia.

Faster: that’s the quest of transport. From wheel to rail, from sail to steam, from wing to rocket, the history of transportation might be summed up in one word: speed. Speed changes economies: when the Transcontinental Railroad connected the United States, travel from coast to coast went from several months to just 10 days. Two new developments may set a new pace. Boeing announced development of a hypersonic jet with the speed of 3,800 mph, cutting the current 7 hour New York to London trip to 2 hours. Not fast enough? Why not hop a ride on BFR that may fly from New York to Shanghai in 30 minutes, when it is not landing on Mars, predicted by 2022, by Elon Musk of SpaceX.

Musk, Elon. “BFR: Earth to Earth.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqE-ultsWt0.

Wattles, Jackie. “Boeing’s hypersonic passenger plane could get you from New York to London in 2 hours.” 27 June 2018. CNN tech. http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/27/technology/future/boeing-hypersonic-plane-concept/index.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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May 10, 2018
by Building The World
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Hail to the Ride

Didi’s app logo. Image: wikimedia.

Next time you hail a ride, consider this: China’s ride-hailing market is already greater than the entire world’s combined, at $30 billion. The United States ride-hailing market is $12 billion. A report by Bain & Company predicts China’s market will soon double. China’s equivalent of Uber and Lyft is Didi Chuxing. In fact, Didi bought out Uber’s China operations in 2016, giving the company instead a 18% stake in Didi. But only 40% of ride requests arrive via the Didi app; equally powerful are Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Allpay. Order movie tickets and dinner along with your ride? Do it in one click with Meituan Dianping, with 320 million users. Bain’s Raymond Tsang estimates China’s ride-hailing market will reach $72 billion by 2020. The advent of self-driving vehicles may be part of the strategy: Didi is an AI and autonomous conglomerate. When the United States Transcontinental Railroad was built, telegraph communications infrastructure was laid under the tracks. Will ride-hailing vehicle and communications infrastructure be planned as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing the New Silk Road into the future?

Pham, Sherisse. “China’s $30 billion ride-hailing market could double by 2020.” 15 May 2018. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/15/technology/china-ride-hailing-market/index.html. Includes link to a video on Didi’s expansion into Brazil.

Alibaba Holding Group: stock symbol: BABA

Didi Chuxing: http://ww.didichuxing.com

Tencent: stock symbol: TCEHY

For telegraph infrastructure combined with transport building, see sections 18 and 19 of “An Act to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line,” 1 July, 1862. Building the World, pages 237-238.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

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