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Roger Corbin, Nassau County Legislator

January 23, 2009 @ 12:00 am EST


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We had a much bigger agenda this morning. Our speaker, Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin, was delayed by an accident on the Expressway.

To fill the time we began an in-depth discussion on MAGLEV. The information is below.


When Mr. Corbin did arrive he was his usual font of information coupled with his usual lack of reticence when discussing Long Island’s tax problems. According to Roger we could better manage tax revenues, and at the same time create a better outcome for everyone. The problems are several.

We segregate communities in terms of wealth producing industries, and industry poor sections of the both counties. If we all participated in the gross revenues derived from taxes, no disparities in education caused by low revenues would exist. As it turns out, the wealthiest communities have the vast majority of the industries; therefore the taxes in Garden City with all of its industry will pay lower taxes than a place like Uniondale where many of the people are quite poor.


In addition the multiplicity of school districts creates an overburden of bureaucracy. This layer of management justifies itself on the basis of keeping local control. Yet, as Corbin points out, this local control failed to control the many $millions in fraud that was written about in Newsday last year. Nor did it prevent the phony pensions that were created by various professional doing business with the districts. Facing these issues, as they did in Montgomery County Virginia, will take desperate times and courageous leadership. Corbin thinks we may have arrived at that juncture where the fraud, multiple layers of management and spurious claims on the taxpayers dollars can no longer be tolerated.


Montgomery County Virginia has a demographic that is roughly similar to Long Island. They were where we are now. They junked a system of managing schools that is sadly similar to what we are dealing with. After successfully making that change, they began to look at other facets of their municipal structures. The Fire department sanitation, and other services were later consolidated. We can and must address this stupidity.


My friend, and mentor Paul Townsend beat this drum for years to little avail. Maybe now the pain is severe enough.

: Terry Townsend, Ernie Fazio, Roger Corbin and Bill Miller


MAGLEV Train Transportation Technology


The concept of magnetically levitated vehicles has been known for a long time. In the 1960’s Drs Gordon Danby and James Powell at Brookhaven National Laboratories pursued the invention. Their basic design was developed in Germany and Japan and small lines were built in those countries and in China. The Chinese adopted the German version of the technology.

In the United States there were several plans to build out a system and those plans are still out there. Senator Moynihan was a champion of these systems and had he lived they probably would have been built


In the meantime the original inventors never stopped perfecting the design. The result is that the system that could be built today is more economically viable than the original designs, or the designs that were actually built in Germany, Japan and, China.


The original designs required a small clearance. That small clearance of 3/8 of an inch dictated that the guideway be constructed with very precise tolerances. This design was expensive to execute and it was inherently incompatible with conventional rail. The present design has clearances of 4 ½ inches and this allows the construction pieces of the guideway to be mass-produced, reducing the production and construction costs. It appears that the cost of the Chinese system was $90 million/mile. The new design would be in the order of $22 million/mile. That is still not cheap, but it is economically viable.


The MAGLEV is powered by linear sequential motors that drive the vehicle forward at the same time powerful magnets levitate it. Because there is no rolling stock friction, the only impediment to motion is air resistance, which is negligible at low speeds. At high speeds in excess of 300 miles/hour there is considerable resistance moving through air at sea level. Therefore while the theoretical speed may be much higher, as a practical matter the energy needed to go faster than 300 MPH would diminish the inherent efficiency of this mode of transportation.


Three hundred MPH is quite fast, and while it does not match the 550 MPH achievable by aircraft at 30,000 feet in rarified air, it has the advantage of being closer to the final destination of the traveler. In other words a traveler leaving Grand Central Station in New York going to Union Station in Albany, would have a travel time that was similar to air travel. However, without the trip to and from the airport on each end of the journey, and departure delays, they would reach their destination sooner.


The new system is compatible with existing rail. The same example of a New York City to Albany would be economically and logistically impossible without the ability to travel on existing roadbeds. By placing the operating pods on the outside of existing track the vehicle is lifted and propelled down these modified tracks at a more modest speed (approximately 120 miles/hour) when approaching and leaving the cities. When it reaches a point outside the city it would transfer to a dedicated elevated guideway.  When the MAGLEV emerges into open territory, it can travel at its recommended speed of 300 MPH


What is probably most significant is the economic viability of the new system because it will be able to transport trucks. The cost of moving freight by trucks is substantial. With the new system, tractor trailers can drive on and drive off the MAGLEV after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles at 300 MPH using less energy than the truck at 60 MPH. The MAGLEV would have to capture only a small percentage of these trips to pay for itself in 5 years.