I can vouch for the cool factor of the Shanghai magnetic levitation train, having ridden it last fall. It was, indeed, a tourist joyride for me: I had transportation to and from the airport, and took the train simply for kicks.

What I found interesting was that, like an airplane, I didn’t really feel the speed of the maglev. I was definitely aware of it—the rate that the train whips by cars going 100 kilometers per hour on the freeway ensured that. So, too, did the prominent speedometer that blithely noted when we cracked 430 kph. But the lack of contact with the track kept the cars isolated from friction and gravity, minimizing the physical sensation one would expect.

The maglev would be much more useful if the local government found a way to wind it more into Pudong, or at least better connect it with Shanghai Metro. As the Slate article notes, the way the maglev ends at a rather desolate aboveground station is something of a letdown. Still: this is one cool train.