When viewed objectively and scientifically, the SCMaglev makes a great deal of sense. But don’t just take our word for it. Review the facts from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the result of four years of study by over 30 Federal, State, and Local Government Agencies, Scientists, and Field Experts.
The Northeast Corridor of the U.S. is an economic powerhouse – but congestion threatens to constrain future economic growth. The population in the Northeast Corridor is projected to increase nearly 15% by 2040. Auto traffic between the cities in the region is expected to increase by 22% by 2040.
Over 192,000 workers, or 7 percent of total commuters to the Washington, D.C. MSA, commute from the Baltimore MSA; and over 160,000 workers, or 13 percent of total commuters to the Baltimore MSA, commute from the Washington, D.C. MSA (DEIS)
According to the DEIS, up to 57,000 daily car trips could be diverted off our region’s roads by the SCMaglev.
According to a peer-reviewed investment-grade ridership analysis, the Superconducting Maglev would have considerable ridership demand.
Currently, there are approximately 117 million person trips (2017) between Washington, DC and Baltimore. Demographic and Economic forecasts suggest that this number will continue to grow at an estimated rate of 0.93% compound average annual growth from 2017 through 2050.
Left unchecked, 94% of these trips will take place by automobile.
No Build Alternative
Beginning with the route from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, the SCMaglev will provide an attractive alternative to millions of auto passengers every year. SCMaglev will capture more than 17 million person trips per year as soon as it’s in service. By 2045, the SCMaglev could capture nearly 25 million person trips per year. Of those trips, the project would capture 11 to 16 million car trips from our roads per year.
Further, independent ridership analysis suggests the SCMaglev will reduce the automobile transportation share from 94% to approximately 82%.
Capturing more than 24M person trips including 16M from “auto” annually by 2045
Low Environmental Impact
SCMaglev technology offers major benefits to the environment. The SCMaglev is expected to significantly decrease vehicle miles traveled in the region – teamed with renewable energy the SCMaglev could transport millions of people without any emissions. By reducing auto and air trips the SCMaglev will also reduce highway congestion, noise pollution, pavement maintenance costs, and provide a host of additional environmental benefits.
Transportation has become the the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. The U.S. transportation sector — which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, and boats — has emitted 1.9 billion tons of CO2 annually for three straight years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. All four Maryland counties within the proposed route of the train, and the District of Columbia are considered by the EPA to be ‘nonattainment’ areas for minimum air quality standards.
The DEIS notes SCMaglev will capture between 11.38 million to 16.48 million of automobile trips per year from 2030 to 2045 depending on the station alternative selected. This will reduce regional Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMTs) by 9 to 12 percent by 2045. Therefore, as the DEIS states, “the SCMAGLEV Project will likely result in an overall reduction in regional mobile source emissions.”
Moving People Efficiently
The SCMaglev will help the region efficiently manage growth and relieve stress on the environment. With significantly lower emissions per passenger mile, this train provides an eco-friendly option for those traveling between the region’s top economic powerhouses. Fewer cars on the road mean less emissions and contaminants that harm air and water quality.
The DEIS predicts the SCMaglev will produce more than $460 million in annual travel time savings in it’s opening year, and reach up to $696 million by 2045 (4.6-1) and between $31 to $47 million in annual congestion relief (4.6-2). This means that even people who don’t ride the SCMaglev will benefit from less regional traffic!
This technology is entirely electric and the use of superconducting magnets allows the SCMaglev to consume much less energy than single occupancy automobiles, and 50% less than a commercial airliner. Overcoming air resistance is one of the largest expenditures of energy in any transportation platform. The current stage of SCMaglev’s development is the result of countless hours of wind tunnel and materials design – all efforts to keep weight and air resistance at a minimum.
In fact, the lead car of the latest version of the L0 developed by Central Japan Railway is 13% more aerodynamically efficient than the previous version.
Reducing the number of vehicles on the roads means huge decreases in harmful air emissions. Reduction of harmful air emissions associated with vehicle miles traveled:
- 2,000,000 Tons Greenhouse Gas Emissions*
- 76,000 Tons Carbon Monoxide
- 15,000 Tons Nitrogen Oxides
- 4,000 Tons Volatile Organic Compounds
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, this reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to taking 1.5 coal fired power plants offline for a year!
* This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions estimate also accounts for average air emission factors for electricity generation in Maryland from fossil fuel sources.
Reduction of auto and air trips also include:
- fuel conservation
- noise pollution reduction
- pavement maintenance savings
- safety benefits
To minimize the impact on the surrounding communities and environment, the train’s first phase will run mainly in deep underground tunnels and in overhead viaducts along the existing Baltimore-Washington Parkway transportation corridor. These design features will make it easier to avoid negatively impacting streams, wetlands, floodplains and other natural and cultural features, while still allowing for the free movement of wildlife, pedestrians and vehicles.
On a per-seat basis, the SCMaglev is shown to consume less energy than other modes of transportation. The efficiency of SCMaglev can be attributed to the use of superconducting magnets coupled with lightweight train construction and an extremely aerodynamic profile. JR Central has improved the energy performance of the Shinkansen (“bullet”) train by over 100% since its initial operation in 1964, and those engineering advances have been applied to the SCMaglev system. In fact, JR Central has just introduced an improved version of the lead car of the L-Zero SCMaglev that is 13% more aerodynamically efficient than the previous version.
“Maglev between Washington and Baltimore could mean a lot more than a fast trip. It could help save the planet.”
– Baltimore Sun Editorial Board
Any transportation project has the unfortunate side effect of relying on the use of concrete. The production of cement, a critical component in concrete, is a large producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Construction of any large project will of course produce harmful emissions. No construction of heavy infrastructure is entirely clean – from hydroelectric dams to highway expansions. Yet this is not to say that nothing can be done about it.
BWRR is actively following innovative High Speed Rail industry developments and best practices, including the HS2 project in the UK which is currently running feasibility studies for reusing excavated tunnel clay as an alternative to cement in concrete production (and thus reducing emission from having to important cement), using Alkali-based concrete, and electrifying construction utility vehicles as much as possible.
The cement industry is moving toward a cleaner product and greener production methods. We are continually monitoring the advancements and hope to be able to take advantage of them in construction of the SCMaglev infrastructure. We are also very conscious of the relatively new concept of embodied carbon, or taking into account the entire lifecycle of the building materials used in a project. Embodied carbon is not just the measure of greenhouse gas emitted when making the cement, but the output emitted mining the raw materials, producing, transporting, assembling, using, and even repairing or replacing the concrete.
Central Japan Railway – A Culture of Safety
Over the last half century, Central Japan Railway developed a culture of safety and technology in the Tokaido Shinkansen “bullet train” operation. A combination of highly skilled personnel, extensive safety training, sophisticated technology, and continuous safety-related investment has resulted in an unparalleled 50+ year safety record. Bringing the SCMAGLEV system to the Northeast Corridor not only brings the technology, it will also bring this same safety dedicated culture to the US. Routinely transporting over 300,000 passengers per day, the Tokaido Shinkansen operation has not had an accident resulting in injury to onboard passengers since commencing operations in 1964.
SCMaglev – Proven Safe
At the heart of the SCMAGLEV system is a sophisticated train control technology. To ensure safety, trains are equipped with numerous failsafe and redundant safety systems.
The SCMAGLEV travels in a completely dedicated guideway, thereby eliminating the possibility of collisions with freight or other types of passenger vehicles. Additionally, the U-shaped design of the guideway itself prevents derailments.
To date, the SCMaglev has safely transported over 300,000 passengers and travelled millions of miles.
SCMAGLEV has been approved as safe for humans and the environment, meeting strict magnetic field exposure guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). As part of the EIS process and the FRA’s review for safe train operation, magnetic fields and potential impacts will be evaluated in the EIS and by the FRA’s Office of Safety.
WHO is globally recognized as “the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations’ system,” and includes among its responsibilities “setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation.”
Zero Emissions – No Toxic Fumes
The SCMaglev is fully electric and produces no emissions.
The Fresh Air Emergency Egresses (FA/EEs) do not emit any toxic fumes. FA/EEs provide underground facilities and stations with an emergency evacuation to the surface in the event of an emergency. Key elements include fan equipment, airshafts, emergency exits, control facilities, and emergency response equipment.
Road Safety – Saving Lives
The Maryland Department of Transportation states there were 530 deaths on Maryland roads in 2019, a 3.7% jump from the 512 in 2018. SCMaglev has the potential to capture more than 18 million person trips while diverting 12.6 million trips that would be taken each year in automobiles.
Reduced auto travel will reduce the number of traffic crash injuries and fatalities for drivers, passengers and others.
Though it is early to predict exact ticket pricing – route selection, detailed engineering, permitting, and mitigation methods all need to be finalized first – we’re looking in to innovative ways to make the train accessible to all. We do know that ticket prices will vary based on a number of factors including destination, expected capacity, day of the week and time of day. While a last-minute ticket from DC to BWI for a business traveler during a peak hour may be on the higher end of the scale, a ticket during an off-hour from DC to Baltimore may be on the lower end. We also anticipate opportunities to provide specialized pricing for local businesses and airline carriers that would benefit local and regional commuters, along with visitors to the Baltimore-Washington region.
At this point, Using dynamic pricing, we expect ticket prices to range from less than $1 per mile to around $2 per mile. To compare, a trip from Washington Convention Center to Baltimore is around $20 one way by car ($19.54, 34.9 miles to Cherry Hill Light Rail Station; $20.38, 36.9 miles to Camden Yards). (Source: IRS Mileage Rates)
Mobility as a Service – Multimodality – Connectivity
Mobility as a Service, sometimes called Transportation as a Service, refers to a widespread deviation away from personal, single-occupant vehicles, and towards service-based transportation. This includes rideshare options like Uber and Lyft, e-scooters, bike sharing, and many more. Think of Mobility as a Service as a single ticket covering all modes of transportation involved in a trip.
Mobility as a Service has numerous benefits, from environmental, geopolitical, to economic and social.
We see the SCMaglev as the high speed spine of the modern transportation network. Connection with local commuter rail, light rail and subway, bus, rideshare, e-scooter, and other innovative ways to cover first and last mile connectivity is key to getting people off of roads and onto efficient and clean transportation.
A Corridor Constrained by Congestion
According to a study performed by INRIX in 2017, traffic congestion costs the average commuter in the Washington, DC area $2,060 per year and costs the area $6.3 billion per year. The average commuter in the Washington, DC area spends 102 hours per year sitting in traffic!
Amtrak’s 2012 Vision for the Northeast Corridor indicates that the Northeast Corridor is home to 52% of the United States’ worst highway bottlenecks. The study predicts a 22% increase in auto travel by 2040 and a 200% increase in delays over the next 30 years.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) comprehensive plan for improving the Northeast Corridor (NEC FUTURE), half of all national airline delays and 30% of all US airline trips originate in the NEC. The plan projects a 102% increase in airline passengers by 2040.
Existing Rail Lines at Capacity
MDOT-MTA plans note that scheduling more trains to meet the increasing ridership demand of 2% per year (especially the Penn Line which is 3%) is difficult because MARC doesn’t own their own tracks and leases them from Amtrak (Penn Line) and CSX (Camden Line). According to the 2018 Cornerstone Plan (P.58), “MDOT MTA works closely with host railroads to negotiate and facilitate improved MARC service. All three MARC lines are experiencing capacity limitations such that providing additional MARC service would begin to conflict with host railroads’ operations.”
According to the 2010 NEC Infrastructure Master Plan, by 2030 passenger rail between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. could realize capacity utilization higher than 100 percent while the 2014 NEC Commission added that multiple segments of the NEC are experiencing critical infrastructure challenges due to capacity constraints . On a more regional level, MDOT-MTA expects at least 70 percent of all MARC system stations to be at capacity by 2025 while also noting that scheduling more trains to meet increasing ridership demand of 2-3% per year is increasingly difficult as high volume of Amtrak trains prevents the number of MARC trips that can be provided on the NEC . These capacity constraints mean that the number of MARC trips will remain stagnant even as demand for MARC service grows. This is supported by a February 2021 Johns Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative report that found that due to track capacity and fleet rolling stock limitations, the only realistic option to increase express rail speeds between DC and Baltimore would be to cut out local commuter stops. The report also notes that expanding MARC Service could furthermore be difficult because in addition to track limitations, Union Station and Baltimore Penn Station are already at capacity in terms of parking trains at the stations.
Broken Infrastructure / Growing Problems
75% of all US weekday rail commuters ride on the NEC. Yet, the current rail infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor is over 100 years old. It wasn’t designed, nor is it suitable for true high speed transportation. The infrastructure is shared by 9 passenger and 4 freight railroads. As the rails are shared, all trains are limited in speed by the slowest trains on the network. That is, a high speed Acela train can only go as fast as the slow freight train ahead of it. As a result, the NEC’s current high speed train, Acela, can only average 85 miles per hour. In its current state, only 6% of the NEC’s rail infrastructure can support speeds of 150mph.
Room for All
SCMaglev stations are planned to have access to METRO’s Red, Green, and Yellow lines in Washington, DC, and the MTA Light Rail in Baltimore. Interconnection with multi-modal transportation options will provide easy access to SCMaglev and help meet first/last mile needs in clean and efficient ways.
There will still be a need for Amtrak and MARC, the services they provide are indispensable and must continue to be upgraded as part of a comprehensive mobility plan that removes people from cars and incentivizes them to more environmentally sound transportation.
Independent ridership analysis suggests that the majority of SCMaglev riders will be those that decide to take the SCMaglev instead of driving a personal vehicle. The analysis also shows that while some existing regional and commuter train riders will be enticed by the speed of the SCMaglev, most will stay with their preferred rail service.
No Homes Taken
Routes under consideration do not take private homes and are primarily in very deep underground tunnels – imperceptible at ground level. Great care has been taken to find potential routes that minimize negative impacts to residential landowners during construction and operation of the project. BWRR’s preferred route keeps the Baltimore-Washington Parkway between the SCMaglev and the overwhelming majority of homes along the route.
Both alignments currently under consideration would not require the taking of any homes. We are committed to a strategy that emphasizes the importance of identifying and using land in a manner that will minimize any negative impacts to residential landowners during construction and operation of the project.
Comprehensive and detailed design is ongoing that includes mitigation measures for impacts including but not limited to appearance, noise and vibration. BWRR will work closely with landowners and communities to provide information and address concerns.
Noise and Vibration
With appropriately designed noise and vibration mitigation measures, project developer, BWRR is confident that noise and vibration impacts will be minimal and at or below applicable regulations. The EIS process is designed to identify the worst-possible scenario, and to serve as a catalyst for a process where we work alongside local, state and federal agencies to determine mitigation measures to eliminate or minimize noise and vibration impacts – both for construction and operation. During deep tunneling construction, sensitive monitoring equipment will be deployed along the route to detect any unacceptable levels of vibration. The DEIS itself provides a list of design features that “would minimize and potentially eliminate all noise and vibration impacts (DEIS 188.8.131.52).”
Also to be considered as part of the EIS process are recent advancements in SCMaglev technology that have been made in Japan. Assumptions made in the DEIS, specifically regarding the sound generated from aerodynamic airflow of Maglev trains (what the FRA calls “Regime III Noise”), are based on a 2012 FRA Document High Speed Ground Transportation Noise and Vibration Assessment, that uses the German Transrapid System (TR08) as its model. To be clear, the JRC Chuo Shinkansen SCMaglev system is much more advanced, and quieter, than its German predecessor from over a decade ago. In fact, in just the past year, Central Japan Railway Company has made improvements to the Series L-Zero including an improved front end shape that reduces air resistance by approximately 13 percent and results in noise reductions.
An overwhelming majority of academic studies suggest that underground infrastructure has little to no effect on home value. In fact, most studies show that home values near transit stations increase in value and that regions with robust transit systems are more attractive to businesses and economic investment. Residents of the Baltimore and Washington, DC region need only to look at the metropolitan areas of both cities for examples of homes and underground transportation infrastructure existing together – without issue.
Jobs, Careers, Opportunities
According to the DEIS, construction of the SCMaglev project (Alternative J-03) would create 161,000 job years in the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington CSA over seven years – including 123,000 construction job years and 38,000 professional services job years. Employee Earnings from the construction of the SCMaglev Project would be $8.8 billion. Our estimates also indicate the SCMaglev project could create:
- Nationwide: 205,000 construction job years, 14,000 permanent jobs
- Maryland: 74,000 construction job years and 1,500 permanent jobs
In addition to construction and SCMaglev operations jobs, thousands of permanent jobs will be created by retail, office and other businesses located in transit-oriented developments at SCMaglev stations.
The SCMaglev will create new paths for local youth to establish careers. Leveraging supportive partnerships with supporters like the NAACP and North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU), construction of the SCMaglev will utilize and help develop skilled labor for future construction.
Ground vibration from existing SCMaglev train in Japan measured at 1-tenth (0.1) the level perceptible to humans. The US SCMaglev will be significantly deeper than the measured level in Japan, hence undetectable by humans.
The physics of magnetic levitation dictate that very little vibration is produced by the SCMaglev – much less than traditional steel-wheeled trains.
Building the SCMaglev
The exact alignment has not been finalized in the permitting process. However, we estimate the cost of the first phase, from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, would be north of $10 billion. Final project costs will depend on Build Alternative selected by the FEIS.
While this may seem an exorbitant amount to spend for some, we must consider the cost of the alternative. The millions wasted every year in traffic congestion and the lives lost due to traffic accidents and poor air quality. By comparison, the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) comprehensive plan for improving the Northeast Corridor (NEC FUTURE), will cost more than $100 billion and only allow the Amtrak Acela to travel at its designed speed of 160 miles per hour.
Paying for Construction
Financing will come from a mix of sources. Japan has agreed in principle to finance half of the Baltimore-Washington cost. The remainder of funding will come from U.S. government loan and grant programs, and the private sector.
At this time BWRR does not anticipate any cash investment, loans or annual operating subsidy from the state of Maryland. To date, the cost of the Environmental Impact Statement has been paid for by a Federal grant, the Maglev Deployment Program. The Maglev Deployment Program grant was awarded to the state of Maryland after consideration of thirteen other corridors around the country. In order to receive the grant, the state of Maryland was required to pay a 20% match. Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail paid the required 20% match. As Northeast Maglev and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail are headquartered in Baltimore, this grant money is already providing jobs to many Marylanders.
The Baltimore-Washington SCMaglev Project is not being built using a public-private partnership (or P3), a cooperative arrangement between the public and private sectors that is commonly used to fund infrastructure projects like the Purple Line in Maryland.
The State of Maryland will eventually own operate, and be responsible for 100% of the assets of the Purple Line project. The State pursued a P3 model to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Purple Line in an effort to reduce costs and pass off some of the risk to private partners.
The Baltimore-Washington SCMaglev will be a train system used by the public but owned and operated by the private sector. Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR), the developer of the Baltimore-Washington SCMaglev Project, holds a railroad franchise from the State of Maryland.