NAMTI is a non-profit educational website/institute created to increase the exposure and level of understanding for advanced magnetically levitated (maglev) transport technology.
NAMTI’s core position is that maglev is not rail technology and therefore should not be subjected to the rules and regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is primarily a slow-rail safety agency with a mechanical engineering focus and background. The FRA staff has no background or in-depth knowledge of electronically controlled and operated maglev transport systems.
Since maglev transport technology (and there are several types of magnetic levitation technology) is an electronically based transportation system, and NOT mechanical, it belongs in a completely separate agency and not under the domain of the FRA.
The FRA has ignored this advanced technology for 30 years and held it hostage to outdated and outmoded rules and regulations. We think leaving maglev technology to the FRA is the equivalent of putting a 19th century blacksmith in charge of the computer and internet industry.
NAMTI supporters include a highly educated international cadre of scientists, engineers and academics who completely understand the many advantages maglev transport has over traditional high-speed steel-wheel-on-steel-rail transport and regional air transport. In particular, maglev technology has proven it has dramatically lower annual maintenance costs. This is a very sensitive subject that high-speed rail (HSR) manufacturers and advocates do not want to reveal or discuss.
It is evident to those of us familiar with both HSR and maglev technologies that the recent push in the United States for HSR, exclusive of maglev, is driven purely by rail lobbyist campaign contributions and not by fact-based scientific or engineering analysis.
To that end, NAMTI is committed to refuting the many maglev myths being circulated by the rail community, not the least of which is their claim that maglev is “too expensive” or “unproven.” What is proven is that America’s national passenger rail system, Amtrak, is a money losing dinosaur and should be broken up and privatized. What financial necessity exists for the continued long distance Amtrak trains that run only 3 times a week in several parts of the U.S. and are often a dozen hours late or more? These are not essential transportation modes, but federally funded holiday excursions trips for a few people to relive a bygone era.
Before America can begin to deploy truly advanced ground transportation, it needs to scrap the decades old Amtrak operating system that limps along on Congressional subsidies. Privatization of passenger rail operations will bring about innovation, but the government must be a steady financial partner in underwriting initial infrastructure capital costs for lines that stand an excellent chance of covering operations and maintenance costs from the farebox.
NAMTI challenges the U.S. DOT to fund the construction of a maglev line in the U.S. to demonstrate that America can still embrace, design, improve and build new technology on a large scale – a technology that can actually cover its own operating costs without the need for taxpayer subsidies.
No more studies are needed. Data is available on the latest versions of maglev technology – IF people want to find it. Case in point, the Central Japan Railway Company is building and self-funding a new 220 mile high-speed superconducting maglev line to connect Tokyo with Nagoya. The trip will take only 45 minutes and will reach speeds in excess of 300 mph. This new Chuo Shinkansen line will be 80% in tunnels and very straight and flat in what is a very mountainous country.
Indeed, maglevs are being built and deployed in other countries. The Chinese have 10 years of solid experience in operating a high-speed maglev at 99.97% on-time, to the second, reliability and are now deploying low-speed maglevs. The Germans have developed modularized guideways to make maglev infrastructure cheaper to build than HSR’s elevated lines. The Japanese have operated a commercial 5.6-mile 9-station low-speed (60 mph) maglev in Nagoya since March of 2005, also with 99.97% on-time, to the second, reliability.
North America needs to deploy maglev to enable all-weather travel and to advance the reliability of intercity travel in North America to 21st century standards.
NAMTI also implores the U.S. DOT to reinstate the position of Chief Maglev Scientist, which it allowed expire in 2004 with the retirement of Dr. John Harding. However, NAMTI would like to see this new position in a new maglev agency, not in the FRA. The question is, is Congress up to the task?
How can the U.S. government make any credible or informed decisions regarding maglev technology versus high-speed rail when it does not at least employ a chief engineer or a team of professionals who are fully informed on the technology?
The short answer is: America cannot. Which means, America will be left standing at the station, or worse yet, stuck in ever-worsening traffic jams while the rest of the world deploys 21st century mass transportation systems and leaves us in the dust.