The U.S. hasn't quite figured this out yet, but Europe and Asia have proven that high speed rail is an efficient and environmentally friendly way to move people between urban areas. And we're not talking just-get-Amtrak-to-floor-it American-style "high speed," but blisteringly fast magnetically levitating trains, like this new Japanese prototype.
This general design may look familiar to maglev fans, but the picture shows the first production prototype carriage of the train that will be speeding between Tokyo and Nagoya. Like any maglev, the train needs a special track that allows it to levitate slightly, negating the majority of the friction that traditional trains have to overcome and making ludicrous speeds possible. How ludicrous? Upwards of 311 miles per hour. 311 miles per hour will get you from Tokyo to Nagoya in 40 minutes flat, which is more than twice as fast as a conventional train. And by conventional train, we mean a bullet train.
Without the track to slow you down, all you need to worry about is friction from the air, which is why this maglev has such a crazy looking front profile. The front car is 92 feet long, of which the front 45 feet are all poured in to the aerodynamic nose. Behind that is seating for 24 passengers, and the rest of the train will consist of another 13 cars, with a total capacity for seating 864 passengers.
Building the new section of maglev track will start in 2014, but this train won't be carrying its first passengers until 2027 or so, by which time high speed rail here in California will probably not have had a chance to be completed to the point of failure yet. By 2045, Japan's maglev service will extend to Osaka as well, although that's far enough into the future that we should have some significantly faster ways of getting around by then.
Via Asahi Shimbun