The Daily Parker

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Planes and trains in the Northeast

The Economist's Gulliver blog looks at JetBlue's new landing slots and concludes it may not work for them long-term:

JETBLUE, the low-cost American carrier, won an auction last week for the right to operate eight additional round-trips from both Washington's Ronald Reagan airport (DCA) and New York's LaGuardia airport (LGA), essentially doubling its presence at both sites.

JetBlue bid $72m for the slots, over $26m more than its rival Southwest. The deal is widely seen as part of JetBlue's recent effort to gain more of a following among business travellers, especially because Reagan and LaGuardia are so close to their respective downtowns.

But in the longer term, the real question for Reagan and LaGuardia is whether Amtrak will ever operate true high-speed rail service between New York and Washington. The existing Acela Express service between the two cities takes under three hours, and is relatively competitive in terms of speed and price with flying—especially when taxis to and from LaGuardia are taken into account. Penn Station, where the Acela stops in New York, is in the heart of midtown Manhattan; Washington's Union Station is just steps from the US Capitol. It's hard to imagine flying could remain competitive if Amtrak were to cut travel time between New York and Washington to under two hours.

My recent experience in Japan suggests that two hours between Washington and New York is not only feasible, but wouldn't even require Shinkansen-level high-speed rail. Washington Union Station to New York Penn Station is 360 km, which, including stops, requires trains to go 200 km/h—coincidentally, the speed that the Acela actually achieves through parts of New Jersey. In other words, two hours New York to Washington only requires better track maintenance.

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