Congress Elections High-Speed Rail President

For Advocates of Alternative Transportation, A Difficult Election Day

» With major exception of California, high-speed rail projects put in limbo nationwide after Republican gubernatorial wins. GOP takeover of the U.S. House is likely to result in continued difficulties passing a transportation bill, let alone a progressive one.

The 2010 midterm election wasn’t about transportation. But the takeover of several governorships, many Senate seats, and the U.S. House of Representatives in general by the Republican Party portends difficult times ahead for both the Obama Administration’s agenda and the Democratic Party in general.

For advocates who hope for the creation of a major high-speed rail system connecting the country’s largest cities, a Republican-led House is not good news: The party’s chosen spokesmen have been criticizing President Obama’s fast train initiative since it was announced in early 2009 and their rhetoric has been mostly unchanged. In general, Republican senators have been unwilling to vote for bills that have aided in the production of alternative infrastructure. The Bush Administration, the most recent example of Republican sentiment, was anti-rail and in favor of decreased funding for agencies like the Federal Transit Administration.

There are, of course, some GOP members who haven’t been enemies of the program, notably likely new House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica of Florida; it is possible that he and people like him will play a more prominent role over the next two years.

Yet the more problematic aspect of the GOP’s new power is the party’s unity around the issue of fiscal austerity. Whatever one’s personal thinking about the importance of reducing budget deficits, the fact remains that transportation is largely funded by the government, so a decrease in public expenditures in general likely means fewer funds for highway and transit projects. There is little hope for exceptionalism in transportation: Considering their votes on the 2009 Stimulus bill and their complete opposition to increasing taxes (which will be necessary for any transportation program), Republicans appear not to share the philosophy of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, for instance, whose leaders have cut back massively on social programs even as infrastructure spending has been maintained.

Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots for transportation proponents tonight: In particular, the victory for Governor Jerry Brown (D) in California means that the nation’s biggest high-speed rail project has support from that state’s executive office. And the fact that the Democrats have maintained control over the Senate means that any radically anti-transit legislation is unlikely. I have focused on intercity rail in this article because the issue is easier to track at the national level. The future of highway and transit funding is likely to evolve over the next few months. Republican control of the House and Democratic running of the Senate will mean unpredictability when it comes to the future of transportation funding in Washington.

The Gubernatorial Races

Democratic Governor Ted Strickland lost his reelection race in Ohio, putting in question the construction of the planned 3C line, supposed to connect Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland with intercity rail service for the first time in several decades. His opponent John Kasich is a major opponent of the project and likely will campaign to return the $400 million the federal government gave to the project in 2009. Those funds will be redistributed to another state more interested in developing its rail program.

In Wisconsin, the defeat of City of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) by Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) indicates that the planned Milwaukee-Madison intercity rail line is now on insecure footing. Mr. Walker has opposed the project vociferously, claiming that a $7 million a year operating subsidy is too much for a state that spends more than $1 billion a year on highway projects alone. If Mr. Walker were in complete control, he would undoubtedly cancel the program, whose capital costs will be almost entirely funded by $810 million in federal grants. But departing Governor Jim Doyle (D) signed agreements with the federal government on Monday assuring that his state would build the project — an action clearly motivated by his fear that Mr. Barrett would lose the race. Will Mr. Walker try to counteract those statements and throw that money back to Washington? That remains to be seen.

Florida is in a slightly different situation. Earlier in the campaign, GOP candidate Rick Scott positioned himself against his state’s true high-speed rail project to link Tampa and Orlando while his Democratic opponent Alex Sink supported the program. Even so, after the U.S. awarded the state an additional $800 million to pay for the project last month, Mr. Scott appears to have changed his mind, as long as his state does not have to contribute anything additional for the scheme. It will be hard to dismiss billions of U.S. dollars, but the Obama Administration will have to assure continued funding in order for this project to advance.

Wins for Democrats in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York mean that nascent rail programs in those states are likely to move forward, though Republican gains in state legislatures could make this a more difficult situation. Republican wins in Alabama, Georgia, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Texas indicate that intercity rail lines are unlikely in those places in the next few years, since U.S. funding for projects is now contingent on a state contribution. The wins for pro-rail Republican Rick Snyder in Michigan and Tom Foley in Connecticut mean little change in those states’ moderately entrepreneurial governments.

In Maryland, Martin O’Malley’s (D) reelection indicates that the Purple and Red light rail lines proposed for suburban Washington, D.C. and inner city Baltimore, respectively, will move forward. His opponent, Republican former Governor Robert Ehrlich, had been promoting the replacement of those projects with cheaper bus rapid transit lines.

The victory of John Hickenlooper (D) over Tom Tancredo (AC) and Dan Maes (R) in the Colorado gubernatorial race was good news for proponents of alternative transportation, since as mayor of Denver, Mr. Hickenlooper has been a major cheerleader for new light rail lines and also implemented the B-Cycle bike sharing system.

Most important for rail pushers, however, is the election of Democratic candidate Jerry Brown in California, replacing Republican Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Mr. Brown, unlike his opponent Republican Meg Whitman, has been a strong supporter of the state’s more than $40 billion true high-speed rail project. The program continues its momentum thanks to this result.

The Congress

Democrats have maintained control of the Senate and thus will be able to prevent any excesses by the Republican House. That said, the small majority that the Democratic Party now holds will make the passage of any significant legislation all but impossible.

The new Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica, has been a supporter of high-speed rail even as many of his colleagues have shown their despise for the mode. Mr. Mica’s primary interest has been in the Northeast Corridor, where he believes that a true high-speed rail system would be more appropriate than anywhere else — including his native Florida. Will this mean he will pledge to support Amtrak’s $117.5 billion plan to do so? Unknown.

Mr. Mica, however, has not been a supporter of tax increases to pay for transportation investments, either in highways or transit. He has yet to develop a serious strategy for renewing the federal funding commitment for such projects.

Down the Ballot

There were few referendums specifically regarding transportation in this election, but several that did stand out were major defeats for transit.

In Florida’s Polk and Hillsborough Counties, voters shot down proposals to increase sales taxes to pay for transit expansion. The Polk proposal would have ramped up bus services and potential allowed for the creation of light rail. Hillsborough County had been pushing strongly for a light rail line running through Tampa, but that project is now impossible because of a lack of local funding.

In Texas, the City of Richland Hills has voted to keep itself in remove itself from the Fort Worth Transit Authority (the “T”). The city currently contributes about $800,000 a year to a system that evidently benefits few of its residents. In response, the T may eliminate the city’s station on the local Trinity Railway Express commuter line. It will remain in the system.

A measure to fund improvements for Portland’s Tri-Met transit agency was defeated by suburbanites.

What Now?

President Obama and Democrats still in control of the Senate are likely to spend the next two years in open conflict with the Republican Party. The GOP-led House will serve as a major obstacle, but no bills will pass through the upper chamber without major bipartisan support simply because the Senate has evolved into an institution in which 60 votes are necessary to approve any legislation.

Nevertheless, there may be prospects for agreement between Democrats and Republicans on the passage of more funding for transportation programs. Democratic visions of a massive, $500 billion transportation reauthorization bill — replete with intermodal assessments and a huge high-speed rail grant — seem unlikely. So do any bills that clearly preference cities, such as legislation that emphasizes “complete streets” or “livability.” But there remains hope for bipartisan agreement about how to move forward on highway and transit funding: In the past, transportation has been something that Democrats and Republicans have been able to agree upon.

271 replies on “For Advocates of Alternative Transportation, A Difficult Election Day”

It’s probable that after Ohio returns the money, and if Wisconsin does so as well, Obama will redistribute it to Florida and California. The administration seems to support both.

Pennsyvinia really could use these funds in that they had a plan to restore 21 miles of thrid main line track on the double track Harrisonburg Philli Main Line that used to be a four track wide railroad from Pittsburg to Philli so all they have to do is relay the thrid main line track on the existing former four track wide rail bed next to the existing double track main line. Right now the Amtrak trains are very jammed with people on the Harrisonburg Main line and it’s having some of the fastest Amtrak and commuter rail passanger growth in the county.

Vrginia could really rock and roll if they even got a 100 million out of that 400 million such as they could build a 30 or 50 miles of thrid main line track between DC and Richmond Vrginia. Or maybe build a new three or four track bridge to replace one of the existing major double track river crossings of the rivers between DC and Richmond VA

How much do those estimates contain? Just the bridge itself, or expanded 4-track approaches in DC and VA?

My understanding was that they were considering a 4-track bridge that would connect to the 2-track approach under Union Station as well as a new 2-track Virginia Ave tunnel. On the Virginia side, you’d have a 4 track line from the bridge all the way through to Alexandria, where VRE’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines split.

1.8 billion for all of that is a lot more reasonable than just 1.8 billion for a new bridge. I guess it would also depend on how they’d phase construction – if it was a new 2-track span and then replacement of the current 2-track span, or a brand new 4-track span…

Or Virginia and North Carolina or PA or IL (Chicago’s CREATE) or WA, though I’d much prefer NY for biased reasons.

I have to say the TriMet measure was a poorly thought out measure thrown together at the last minute to replace a retiring 20 year old bond that funded Westside MAX, it surprised a lot of people when it was announced that it would be on the ballot as it came out of nowhere. If I’m not mistaken, this was their first ballot measure in 12+ years. It would have funded new buses and bus stop improvements and was heavily painted out to help seniors and riders with disabilities. I personally thought it was targeting too narrow of an audience and should have been painted out to benefit all riders but apparently their polling said otherwise.

I fear it now gives TriMet a black eye that it doesnt need after many highly publicized issues in the last few years (service reductions, crashes, union payroll issues, WES commuter rail problems, expensive Milwaukie MAX line funding issues, claims of a neglected bus system due to rail expansion, etc). Everyone with an axe to grid against TriMet was against it… anti-Portland-anti-transit people, angry motorists once stuck behind a bus, bus riders scapegoating rail expansion, transit riders pissed about service cuts and fare increases, choice riders who dont like buses, etc.

I think the new Toronto mayor is interesting — he’s sort of Tea Party (i.e. confusing rants against spending and taxes and almost everyone/everything), but also sort of Republican (bikers, dead bikers, and street cars should stay off the…streets – which are for cars), but he is also sort of Democratic/Progressive and claims to love subways (which, fortunately for them, do not run on the streets) — he’ll start by rolling back some car taxes, but what happens from there, who knows?

First, its not so clear that Wisconsin’s race will eliminate the HSR line there: Wisconsin and USDoT sign agreement for HSR line, so any $$$ that gets spent between now and when the new governor takes over must be refunded to the federal government if the new administration decides to ax the program.

Second, it really is pretty automatic that Ohio’s outcome will eliminate the 3C line. It was not automatic that Strickland would have been able to get the line approved, and could well be even harder for Kasich to get it even if he wanted to. For the board that has to approve state long term capital works commitments, the Senate Majority appoints two, the Senate Minority one, the House Majority two, the House Minority one, and the Governor appoints one (I believe the chair), and on today’s result, I assume the Republicans will take the State House back, so it will be 5 Republicans to 2 Democrats on the board. Under the deal that got the approval of the starter line operating subsidy through the Ohio State Senate, a 5-2 supermajority vote is required to approve the capital commitment on the HSR line. Not only would Kasich have to flip, but he would have to flip two of the four Republicans from the State Legislature, which is not automatic after the way they demonized the line.

However its $375m that Florida and California and maybe Illinois and New York will get to tussle over … $25m was approved to be spent for final design of the line, which went on a party line vote after the USDoT advised that it would not have to be refunded if no line was built, which gave it a loophole out of the supermajority vote. I guess that the $25m part of the $400m being a design grant, the deliverable is a design.

Unless the USDoT allowed Ohio to contract to build the Cleveland to Columbus leg with the money on hand and return the balance if there was not enough to finish the Columbus to Dayton leg, and then if not enough to finish the Dayton to Cincinnati leg … and unless there is some background story that I don’t know about, like Voinovich hating Kasich’s guts and willing to trade that in return for voting a transport authorization, I don’t see any way that that gets through a lame duck Senate.

I shed no tears for a 3-C project that would only have disgraced the HSR brand. What I don’t get is why didn’t Ohio DOT have the vision to work with Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania to at least plan stages for a 220 mph line from Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh. There are two sub-par Amtrak routes traveling through most of that corridor.

I’ve been to most of those cities that the rail line will run though in Ohio and most of the land is very flat and there are abondoned rail beds all over the place and many of them you could stand on and look for miles and miles down them do to them being very streight and level. And at the same time this thing is only going to run at 40 miles on hour and China is drilling 200 mile on hour high speed rail lines though mountains and building 300 foot tall bridges though some of the most highest mountain ranges in the world.

Ohio could have at least had a train going 90 to 110 miles on hour on some of those tracks.

They did. That’s how they convinced Indiana, which doesn’t care about rail at all, to put in an application. It was supposed to be part of a 110mph line between Pittsburgh and Chicago. There was bi-partisan support for this line too. Then Strickland pulled the rug out from under them and directed ODOT to apply for the 3C corridor. Republicans felt betrayed, Indian has probably been scarred from ever venturing into rail improvements again. So the Republicans promised to try and cancel “Strickland’s boondoggle” after that occurred. The Republican’s vision is to work on the Pitt-Chi corridor first, then the 3-C.

The 3C has been the first stage corridor of the Ohio Hub since the days of Bob Taft. Cleveland to Toledo then up what I believe is an abandoned / vacant / disused (??) line to western suburban Detroit, then western Michigan, Gary, and Chicago is Stage 2. The Fort Wayne / Lima / Columbus / Pittsburgh is Stage 3.

And service to Cleveland and Toledo that leaves out Columbus and Cincinnati was supposed to make downstate Republicans happy? Say what?

Anyway, if that is the fiction they have to make up to try to back out of their demonizing the soundest rail corridor in the state but try to talk their way into still keeping some of the money … more power to them. Hope the duplicitous lying bastards succeed.

What is the source on this?

Source, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.

The Republicans only care about subsidies that will need to be used for 20 years on the 3C. If the Pittsburgh to Chicago route required zero subsidies then lets do it. If subsidies ever did need to be required, the costs would have been split up between 3 states.

At 50% load factor using DMU’s it broke even

Ah, so Toledo’s Congresswomen says that Toledo was supposed to be first, and the Triple C was a political ploy by Strickland to jump Columbus and Cincinnati to the head of the queue, despite the fact that all the modelling shows the 3C as the strongest stand-alone route and the 3C route has been planned as the first stage of the Ohio Hub since Taft was governor. I’m shocked, you could knock me over with a feather.

The subsidies for the 3C Quickstart only need to be there until the full 3C corridor project is finished and the trains can run 110mph. And of course, the Pittsburgh / Cleveland / Toledo / Chicago Amtrak route needs subsidy ~ you have to get transit speed competitive (as Cincinnati to Columbus leg with the 110mph speed limit) or better (as Columbus to Cleveland with the 110mph speed limit) before you get into no operating subsidy territory.

Indeed, the subsidy starts out less than the OhioDoT mowing budget and as each segment is finished to 110mph and the timteable can be upghraded, the subsidy required will drop.

If they seriously want to build it to minimize the subsidy they could have proposed to take one of the two 3C legs to 110mph right away. Say, Cleveland / Columbus, would be in surplus sometime within the first five years, the surplus once it arrives could be dedicated to improvements in the Cinci and Cleveland routes to Chicago, such as supporting a daytime departure.

You are so far out of the loop it’s hilarious. I work for the state senate republicans.

How about you ?

You have no knowledge of what went on, between Ohio, Indiana officials and Marcy Kaptur.

You keep relying on 4 + year old information that is worthless.

You used the figures from that “four year old plan” projecting 0.86m ridership of the Pittsburgh / Cleveland segment in 2025 assuming that the 3C was already built, to get a 1.37% mode share and …

… when looking up from there the same tables have the 3C at had 2.56m ridership and a 1.95% mode share. So in other words a larger share of a larger transport market.

And of course the surplus projection of $12m operating surplus at a load factor of 50% on Pittsburgh/Cleveland that you point to is in the same table as the surplus projection of $50m at a load factor of 69% on Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati.

Indeed, anyone with genuine understanding of transport economics would know that a four year old report means a report performed before the last oil price shock, so likely to be biased low in its projections of mode shares when we consider the oil price shocks that will be hitting in the decade ahead.

As a Republican staffer in the state legislature, its natural that you focus on the inside baseball, but when you wander into the transport economics, and start arguing that Strickland chose an inferior corridor for purely political ambitions, you are obviously just continuing in campaign spin mode.

News flash: Kasich won, there’s no need to keep up the pretense that there was some other far more brilliant corridor and “if only” Strickland had picked that one, y’all would have backed it to the hilt. If he had applied for the MRRS Cleveland / Toledo corridor, y’all would have been up in arms that he was just pandering to his electoral base and betraying Columbus and Cincinnati.

You have to take a page from Fox News and when the time for a lie is over, drop it until you need it again. A sword stays sharpest if kept in the scabbard.

The question of whether Strickland went for the better corridor for pure, high minded public spirited reason or as a crass (and, given the flood of Chamber money, entirely misguided) political calculation that he was going to be in a position to be campaign on any positive issues is a total red herring on the claim that the 3C is a silly place to start, and it makes more sense to start on a route to Chicago with no guarantee that it will actually be a 110mph corridor running all the way to Chicago.

Ohio long ago established that any passenger rail would be started with the 3C line and it clearly has the greatest passenger potential and at least at this stage the greatest possible support from CSX and NS for the potential route enhancements.

It was purely political decision in Ohio. ODOT has been turned into a political arm of Governor Strickland. He figured the cities being served would adore him and elect him back in again.

Dayton, Cincy crushed him last night.

Here is the original application from Indiana in the Chicago – Cleveland portion.

Why would Indiana apply for the grant if Ohio wasn’t on the other end ? They wouldn’t, Strickland stabbed the hoosiers in the back, the modereate Republicans in Ohio in the back and Congreeswoman Marcy Kaptur, who was instrumental in getting the rail funds.

Here is her reaction after Strickland changed direction – WTF ?

2 million riders yearly on this route – poof !!

3C as the Starter line was originally worked out under Taft. Are you saying that Strickland stabbed Indiana in the back by getting Taft’s ORDC to put the 3C as stage 1 in the Ohio Hub and Cleveland to Chicago via Michigan as Stage 2?

I do not know where you are getting Michigan in the mix. Taft has not been in office for 4 years and his study was completely flawed and a fantasy as well.

The Pittsburgh to Chicago service was to run on the exact same route that the Capitol Limited does at a much higher speed during daylight hours. Lima and Fort Wayne was to be bypassed.

Concrete ties, continous welded rails, more thruway motorcoach service to nearby population centers and lighter more fuel efficient DMU’s.

All down the toilet.

The ORDC plan and before they were formed the Ohio HSR Commission plan has been built on the 3C corridor for a long time. It overlaps with the Midwest Hub between Toledo and Cleveland, which is part of stage 2 of the Ohio Hub, and from Toledo to Fort Wayne, which is port of stage 2.

On the “why should Indiana have to finish their northern link in the Midwest Hub first, before Ohio starts building the rail corridor that connects to it … because Indiana is between Ohio and Chicago, Ohio is not between Indiana and Chicago. That’s just plain geography.

Your point about Indiana perhaps using the congested freight mainline instead of the Fort Wayne alignment proves the point: If Ohio had done the full EIR and design for the Fort Wayne alignment and Indiana settles on the South Bend alignment, a chunk of change has just been wasted. If Ohio does the full EIR and design for the South Bend alignment and Indiana changes its mind and its Fort Wayne again there’s a chunk a change down the drain.

So the whole “stab in the back” argument is just political posturing.

And if Ohio is ever going to finish the Ohio Hub, Ohio needs to get the 3C finished. The projection of Pittsburgh / Cleveland running an operating surplus depends in part on the existence of the 3C services to connect to.

Oh, and by the way: while claiming that the multiple studies done under the Taft administration were flawed, despite relying on selecting figures drawn from the more recent of those studies as part of your argument … you neglected to list any flaws.

I could just assume its the same BS that political spinners trot out when they want to denigrate what they don’t fully understand themselves, but, please, what precise flaws are you claiming. Include order of magnitude estimates to make clear how you are not just quibbling around the edges of a 199% operating ratio but eliminating the 2:1 operating revenue : operating cost ratio.

I also take it that either (1) you don’t understand the difference between the 3C corridor and the proposed Quickstart project in the 3C corridor or (2) since you have no substantial argument to offer as to why a 110mph service with two hour trips between Columbus and either Cleveland or Cincinnati would not get nearly 2% traffic mode share, so you just bluff.

Any rail traffic above 90mph will require all new rail lines costing billions of dollars.

There is no evidence any amount of traffic on the 3C will remotely come close to what the fantasy projections were.

If there were 30 trips a day between the cities via Greyhound, Mega Bus etc, it might be possible, not even close. There is no market for it.

You’re flogging a dead horse, it’s dead.

buckereychuckle, if you don’t even know enough to understand that there is a standard rail class for 110mph, the next signal class up from 79mph supports 125mph, the next level crossing class up from 79mph is 110mph and that the traction being used by Amtrak California and the Cascades Corridor today would have an operating speed of 110mph if the speed limits allowed it …
… what exactly are you doing here talking about the caliber of the Cleveland / Columbus / Dayton / Cincinnati corridor as a transport corridor?

I mean, you quote an article from the USA Today as if its a technical report, so its not clear whether you are unable to understand the regulatory and technical rationale for the three speed classes of HSR or simply can’t be bothered to understand it, since it make uninformed claims easier to make with a straight face.

And as far as “billions”, the whole 110mph speed limit 3C corridor would cost over a billion but under two, and Ohio had $400m of that on the table, slashing the likely state match to get the rest of the way to under $200m, and allowing it to be done in ongoing increments rather than all at once. Either one of the “2C” corridors would cost well under a billion to do as an HSR corridor, and once it hit surplus, revenue bonds on the operating surplus could finance the state match to complete it, if there was Federal intercity transport funding available.

If you are only competent to talk about these projects as a political football, stick to that, and drop the campaign mode need to pretend that whatever was proposed by the other party is bad, and if only they had proposed something else, why, in the spirit of bipartisanship you would have supported that other proposal.

Kasich is sending it back because your party demonized the two-stage strategy for getting to 110mph on the 3C corridor for purely political reasons, to prevent it from being available as a Strickland talking point with undecided voters.

I can’t tell whether you are too lazy or too dumb to realize that you quoted evidence that contradicted your argument.

Quote: “Light freight density, limited gathering and distribution conflicts and appropriate geometry — 110mph may be appropriate in limited circumstances”.

Those are the corridor segments in the Ohio Hub 110mph corridors where an average of 10 miles of passing track are added for every 50 miles of track.

Quote: “In most cases — train management conflicts, maintenance requirements and safety will limit top speed to 80 or 90mph”

Those are the corridor segments in the Ohio Hub 110mph corridors where there is a new track in the corridor alongside the existing freight tracks.

What you linked to is the basic common knowledge about mixing Regional HSR passenger rail in freight rail corridors that the Ohio Hub was design around from the beginning. This was just as well known in the 90’s when the Ohio HSR planning process first started as it is today.

What is unclear is whether you have too shallow an information base to understand what you read on that slide, or someone more informed than you deliberately misled you, or you are trying to deliberately mislead others.

The turkey shoot analogy is right, except you are the turkey.

I am using your evidence and publicly available information.

Your evidence is a PowerPoint slide show summarizing the opportunities for achieving the 110mph service on track shared with freight.

Your evidence implies that separate 110mph track is required for heavily used freight corridors.

The most recent Ohio Hub follows the previous Ohio Hub and MRRS design standards of separate Passenger track for heavily used freight corridors, but provides for wider center spacings than requested by Norfolk Southern and CSX:

A key engineering assumption, adopted for this Study, involved the centerline offset between an existing high density freight track and a new FRA Class 6, 110-mph track. Both NS and CSX requested that new Class 6 high-speed passenger tracks be constructed at a minimum 25-foot centerline offset from the adjacent freight track. However, in order to accommodate possible future capacity expansion, the 25-foot offset was increased to a 28-foot centerline offset. The 28-foot offset would allow a future siding with 14-foot track centers to be constructed between the new 110-mph passenger track and the adjacent freight track. Based on the field reviews the costs associated with the 28-foot offset were estimated and included under the line item “High-Speed
Rail (HSR) on New Roadbed and New Embankment.
” This line item includes new track and ties, track ballast, sub ballast and the earthwork required to build a four-foot-high embankment.

So your big “gotcha” evidence is that the Ohio Hub corridors (and the MRRS corridors) need to be built as they are designed to be built in order to support the service they are designed to support.

When your bluff is called by actually reading your supposed evidence, there’s nothing in your argument but political partisan hot air.

Maybe your political football stories are more honest and/or well information than your laughably bad attempts to argue transport economics, but they would be more credible if you had not pretended to know things about transport economics that you do not in fact know.

Now I see that Strickland selecting 3C over Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Ft. Wayne-Chicago was both a political decision and timing of ARRA funding decision. 3C has little technical merit compared to taking 2-3 years longer to plan a solid 220 mph Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Ft. Wayne-Chicago route proposal.

But the 3C benefit/cost ratio is higher. You seem to be taking the greater benefit of the 220mph corridor into account and ignoring the 4x to 10x cost.

And its not just that construction could start faster, but also that construction can be completed in two years, versus the 5-15 years required for a 220mph all grade separated corridor. What allows the Florida system to progress so rapidly (unless Mica kills it) is the long standing retention of an expressway median alignment specifically for a 160mph style HSR corridor.

Let’s be honest- the Ohio medium-at-best speed rail was always a lousy project (39 mph avg speed?!?!) and was probably the most political and least necessary of the HSR grants. I have no qualms about seeing that money redirected as long as some other HSR project advances due to 3C’s demise.

The Wisconsin project’s demise would be a disappointment- the rationale and market always made sense there, and I think it would have been a good 110 mph service showcase.

You’re right that the Ohio Hub was a lousy project. But eventually they upped the average speed from 39 to 55 mph.

But Wisconsin’s project sucks/sucked, too. With slow speeds, low frequencies, and low platforms, it’s Amtrak plus, instead of modern intercity rail.

I still expect that network design principles mean that Wisconsin’s project was better than the low-speed 3C:
(1) Madison is a perfect town to expect good train ridership from thanks to its geography and demography, unlike Columbus and Cincy and Cleveland;
(2) Madison would connect directly to Chicago, which is a major transportation hub; the 3C would connect to nothing, due to Amtrak only coming in in the middle of the night.

It is also notable that the new-passenger-service portion of the Wisconsin line would be reasonably high speed (110 mph); it is only the extensive quantity of not-new line which keeps the speed down.

Setting aside the 3C’s status as the most densely populated corridor w/out passenger rail service abnd Colmbus’s status as the second most populous metro area w/out passenger rail … why would the demography of a state capital, metro area of 1m, location of a 50,000+ enrolment campus and of one of the three cities in the state with over 10% non-car residents and connected to the other suffer relative to Madison? Exactly?

The 3C was originally abandoned at the time of the Penn Central collapse because Columbus was then a cowtown about the size of Madison today (not saying Madison is a cowtown, mind ~ but the Columbus that I was born in definitely was). But its metro population has more than doubled since then.

Wisconsin is a good scheme. One-hour service from Milwaukee to Madison and an average of about 80mph. That’s comparable to the top line services on the UK’s electrified network prior to the 2002-05 introduction of the Pendolino. Assuming similar improvements from Chicago to Milwaukee, it would be substantially faster to take the train end-to-end than it is to drive. I, for one, would certainly use it end-to-end. Two hours Chicago to Madison simply is not realistic for driving, not even diagonaling on I-90. And not remotely realistic for flying, given security considerations. 110mph max, 80mph average on rail would deliver it comfortably, and continue to serve as a useful connection in the long run to presumably higher-speed services to the lakes of St. Louis and Detroit. I don’t know why you keep bashing these scheme and lumping it in with political tokens like 3C. It is far better thought out and planned.

The thing about that route is that the two legs of the route, Milwaukee/Chicago and Milwaukee/Madison, have large enough transport markets, and when the whole route is upgraded to 110mph the Madison/Chicago is also well within the three hour radius of the main intercity rail transport markets …

… when you add up the total transport demand on the corridor, the rail hits break even at a very low share of that total transport market.

A system with sufficient operating surplus to cover real depreciation in ordinary conditions is a self-funding insurance policy against a crisis in petroleum supply: if there is a crisis, load factors will move to their max, operating surpluses will expand, and internally financed investment in capacity expansion is an easy political decision to make, with no general fund commitment required but an ability to announce the actions that state government is taking to make more seats available.

Nonsense. The 3C rail corridor is the most densely populated corridor in the country without regular passenger rail service. The 39mph “speed” was always a red herring, and many of the people spreading that line knew perfectly well that it was just political spin.

First, that was based on preliminary timetabling on the conservative basis required to make a firm plan for required number of sets and avoid juicing the ridership projection: an operational timetable waited in part on the final design part of the final design and build.

Second, the project was the first phase of a 110mph corridor. Hence “quickstart”: build the track to support the 110mph service first, start running services on it, and then perform the level crossing and signaling upgrades required to speed it up to 110mph service, which could be done as one project or in increments.

I agree. There are those on these transit and rail forums who sneer at projects that are not 220 mph trains from the start. But we can’t afford to build 220 mph rail lines everywhere. 90 or 110 mph max speed lines, if the slow bottleneck points are fixed, that can match or slightly better automobile travel times, will get a lot of passengers. If the idea is to wait until you build a 220 mph corridor or nothing, you will get nothing most of the time.

Besides, would California be moving to build the CA HSR system if it did not have the Surfliner, Capital Corridor, San Joaquin services? Would SC and VA be supporting and working towards the SE HrSR corridor if they did not have a range of Amtrak trains serving their states? It is instructive that the states that are showing the greatest public resistance or indifference to HSIPR are states that have minimal passenger service – Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas. Wisconsin has the Hiawathas, but those serve Milwaukee in a corner of the state and appear to have little visibility to the much of the rest of the state, especially the rural areas.

The Bottlenecks in Vrginia can easly eat up a hour to 40 minutes before you get up to DC. Such as the big slow CSX freight trains getting in the way on the existign double track main line ate a hour up on our trip up to Lancaster Pennsyvinia. Entering the eletric NEC Catenary Anoimly can easly eat up 40 minutes also. The NEC Catenary Anomily is the place where you change from oil powered trains to eletric powered trains.

Viriginia has a long series of bottleneck-fix plans. Some are moderately expensive, some quite expensive. Unfortunately some of the more expensive ones have to be done to see real improvements. For some reason they keep not *quite* getting funded.

WA and NC both managed to get key bottleneck-removals funded.

An engine change should be 5 minutes and take two guys to do it. Amtrak seems to have 5 guys and it takes a half an hour. Sigh!

Nobody’s sneering at trains that don’t go 220. We’re sneering at trains that use the same business and regulatory models as Amtrak’s current runs: heavy trains, low speed on curves, etc.

The idea isn’t to wait until 220. It’s to start by reforming passenger railroad regulations, just like every other country that got serious about upgrading its trains.

More ODOT koolaid your drinking.

Cleveland has 4 trains a day, so you can eliminate the Cleveland from your methodology.

Cincy has AMTRAK service as well, so you can eliminate them too.

Akron is mixed in with this so called corridor, but the 3C would have had no stop near it, the train would have just wizzed on by 45 miles away, so how you can count Akron in on the population mix is beyond my thinking.

That leaves just Dayton and Columbus that does not have rail service, this justifies 400 million and 20 years worth of state subsidies ? NO, not a sellable product.

The word there is corridor. Passenger rail corridor service tends to have this trait of running between end points connecting them to population centers along the route in between. The strongest intercity rail markets are two hours, then three hours.

The 20 years of subsidies is just if its never upgraded to 110mph, but that’s like the Doctor Doctor jokes: don’t do that … upgrade it and eliminate the need for operating subsidies.

One other BIG item of note: current House Transportation chair Jim Oberstar lost his reelection bid. So he not only lost his transportation committee chairmanship, he’ll be out of Congress entirely. This is significant given his support for alternative transportation (namly bicycles and rail), and he was one of the few in Congress who truly understood the vast transportation infrastructure needs in our country and was trying to do something about it. His loss is a major blow to US transportation.

And Oberstar was the only one who was serious about a funding scheme. The Obama Administration hasn’t a clue about funding. They need to bring in David Cameron from the UK for a basic class in how you pay for stuff.


Obama’s USDOT knows how to fund transportation quite well. In America, its been done politically (spoon-fed Amtrak routes, not on technical merit (220 mph lines).

What’s missing from his USDOT, is a 220 mph Interstate HSR Network vision, uniformly high service standards and a map that can be sold to the public like Eisenhower’s USDOT did for the Interstate Freeway System. Like the Freeways, Congress would determine the rate at which segments are funded.

Whatever you might think of the Wisconsin election, it was a campaign issue and the No side won. This is different than the ARC situation where Christie said he supported it, then cancelled it after the election. Opposing HSR was a big part of the WI governor-elect’s platform.

I don’t agree with the approach of trying to cram though so much short term spending that it results in a fait accompli on a project the voters seem to have rejected. Ultimately I think tactics like that are self-defeating. The public has to be sold on the value, and that’s not likely to happen while the economy is in such terrible shape and government finances are a wreck.

That’s a large part of the case in Wisconsin. About 6 weeks ago, my uncle (a township commissioner in Minnesota) attended a conference for the National Association of Towns and Townships. He mentioned that several township commissioners/supervisors in Wisconsin were complaining about the proposed Madison-Milwaukee rail because they could not see the benefit to them. That tells me that project supporters did not inform/explain the benefits to these rural areas.


If they were on the route it benefits them. If they were near the route it benefits them.

If they were, say, north of Eau Claire, perhaps they can suck it up and recognize that it benefits a lot of other people in the state, though not them? Or is that just too difficult, too altruistic?

It was really a slaughter out there. I think Wisconsin and Ohio’s train projects are dead. It seems really stupid to start building it in Wisconsin when you know that Walker is going to Chris Christie it. I say either shift the money to making Chicago to St Louis true high speed or move it to California or the East Coast.

Oberstar is gone which is a real loss. I hope there is a chance that the transportation bill could get done during the lame duck. It is one of the less polarizing things that could be tackled. Looks like any hope of climate change legislation is dead for the next two years and probably indefinitely.

First, remember if Walker “Chris Christie”s it, Wisconsin has to pay back all the money spent up to the point that Wisconsin reneges. And unlike Chris Christie, there are no funds to be raided to keep a road widening project going. Without some other interest group in the state being in line to get any money as a result of axing the project, spending money to ax the project while slashing budgets elsewhere might be a tough sell in the state legislature.

You are right that returning the money won’t allow any money to be fed to roads. Though he seems to think it could be. Yet I think he might still return it considering Christie gave up $3.3 Billion from the feds just to get that $1.25 Billion for highways to the suburbs. Walker seems pretty serious. He is already considering lawsuits. Shame really cause I think that This is a corridor that is prime for rail.

For Christie, it was $3b from the Feds and $1.25b from the state for “them”, or $1.25b from the state for “us”, and he picked “us”.

There’s no state match to offer for a money grab in Wisconsin project. How much the existing administration can spend, if they wish to, and put the incoming administration on the hook for, that’s anyone’s guess.

I think Wisconsion wasted to much time in getting the new trains running. Such as there are several old train stations in these towns they could have quickly brought up a older Amtrack train and have it pick up people at the proposed train stops to get people used to the idea of the new train. And then they could start building the new train stations which would add more and more people to a tempory Amtrak route which would help make it sold. But instead they wasted time with expenssive studies and compaining instead of getting even a primitve train route running.

It would be cheaper to run a primtive basic train route first instead of doing all these crazy studies and it would also have less money tied up in it.

Problem is, with Richard Nixon’s National Environmental Policy Act, you can’t start *anything* new using federal money without doing studies.

On the whole this is a good thing, but the requirements for the studies seem to sometimes go too far.

The Madison-Milwaukee route needs a major rebuild to support the track which crosses a swamp, so the studies were necessary there anyway.

A correction:

John Lynch (D) was re-elected as Governor of New Hampshire, so NH projects should continue moving forward. However Ayotte (R) won on of NH’s Senate seats, and is not particularly anti or pro rail as far as I know.

Lynch however should continue pushing NH rail projects.

Anyone know where Iowa guv-elect Terry Branstad stands on passenger rail? The present (and just-defeated) governor, Chet Culver, was a major backer of the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City (hopefully on to Des Moines and Omaha) project that just got $230 million from the Feds. Is Branstad likely to pull a Walker/Kasich or not?

I see the HSR glass as half full. The election gives the USDOT and Congressional Transportation Committees air cover to make faster progress on other 110 mph Emerging HSR and 220 mph HSR routes.

For the next 6 years, they will have no problem redeploying/redirecting monies that other would have gone to Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Madison-Milwaukee, and NJ ARC project monies. What remains to be seen is can they pull some of the wasted funds from federal highways to HSR and Rapid Transit.

Wisconsin has agreed to take the money, so if the new Governor wants to ax it, he has to come up with the money to pay it back. In the middle of his other painful cuts thanks to his Congressional buddies preventing a second round of stimulus grants to states, its possible that even some Republican legislators will balk at axing a program that frees up no new money for anything else, not only costs the state money.

Remember that Chris Christy made his decision as a money-grab, to be able to continue with a road widening project. With the Wisconsin HSR line, there’s no money to grab, but only money to refund for funds already expended.

There’s barely any money to take from the miniscule Texas and Indiana allocations, and I seriously doubt either governor will bother to try to send the money back. The Indiana money mainly benefits people travelling through (not to) Indiana anyway, and the Texas money mainly benefits freight, so…

We’d be glad to have their funds in Vermont. Our application for the Western Corridor to Burlington did not get funded in the last round, despite the legislature passing a resolution that it is the state’s most important project.

A bit biased here, but I’d rather they spend it to improve the Vermonter, so I can get up to the NEK in a reasonable time. Right now, it takes 2 hours longer via the Vermonter than it does driving, nevermind that there’s no evening departure from DC (which I need given my schedule).

The Vermonter was one of the big winners in the stimulus grants awarded in late January for the number of potential passengers on it. The re-route to the so-called Knowledge corridor in Mass will shave at least 25 minutes off of the travel time along with adding more larger population stops in central Mass. The (funded) improvements to the new Haven-Springfield corridor along with other improvements should reduce the travel time from St Albans to New Haven by well over an hour, maybe 75 minutes or more.

The plan is also to add a second daily train running to at least as far as White River Junction from New Haven along with two daily trains running to Greenfield Mass to provide 4 daily trains serving the corridor in central Mass.

Good overall for the Vermonter. But in my particular case, unless I can hop on a train in DC in the evening, and get to WRJ inside of 9.5 hours, it still doesn’t help me.

Very few people are going to want to arrive in Vermont in the dead of night. ( Evening departure in DC + 9.5 hours = dead of night )

To Adirondacker (since I can’t directly reply to your comment): I don’t disagree that few people would want to arrive in the dead of night, though it’d be more like early morning: 8pm DC departure + 9.5 hours = 5:30am WRJ arrival, and 7ish in Burlington.

But even without an evening departure, at present, I can drive up to the NEK in less time than it takes the Vermonter to get to WRJ, where I’d still have an hour-plus to go after getting off the train.

How much was it? While Wisconsin’s money may or may not be going out to the next in line, and while Perry asked for the relatively small amount of Texas money so he might want to keep it … the $375m from Ohio definitely is coming back. Even if the Republicans wanted to renege on the promise to ax it, they’ve done such a job demonizing it among the Fox voters that if they vote for it, they set themselves up to be primaried.

Well, if Kasich hands the money back, I hope the USDoT just goes back to the projects that were submitted and find out which applicants are still interested, to get the money out as soon as possible.

It’s not a matter of IF Kasich hands the money back, it’s WHEN Kasich hands the money back. That’s going to happen when he realizes that the Feds are going to stand firm on the money not being usable for highways.

Is the Vermonter the one that might get to run to Monteral in Canada one day? I’m thinking about taking that one up to Rutland Vermont one day to see what it is like. So far it’s cheaper to take Amtrak from Vrginia to the Northeast right now.

The Ethan Allen runs to Rutland from New York via Albany. It’s the same route the Adirondack uses to get to Montreal until the Ethan Allen heads east, north of Whitehall. The Vermonter goes from Washington DC to New York then to Vermont via New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. It used to go to Montreal but doesn’t anymore.

The Vermonter only goes to St Albans, just before the border. It used to go to Montreal, but not anymore. It is planned to reach Montreal again, at least that’s what the news said when Vermont got 50M$ earlier this year.

The daily NYC-Montreal trip is in New York via Albany (and all sorts of other little towns). I just took it the other day. It’s ridiculously slow (especially the northern portion), ridiculously bumpy, and really beautiful up to Albany (going along lake Champlain). With a scheduled travel time of 11:05 hours, vs. 8-9 hours for the greyhound, the train can barely compete, even it’s a tad bit cheaper. Especially since the bus has wifi, runs several times during the day, and might actually be a smoother ride.

For Quebec (or Montreal), giving the money to either Vermont or New York would be nice. Possibly giving it to Vermont would make more sense – given that this could be a natural extension of the Massachusetts project that’s already funded. Also, a fast Vermont line could be part of Boston-Montreal.

I’m planning on taking the train to rutland this Spring which it sounds like a intersting ride.

How many years ago did the last trains run to Montreal?

If they plan to have it go back to Montreal they could run a test train for say five or ten weeks instead of doing all these crazy enoveromental studies in that most of the train stations that where used earler should most likely still be there along the existing tracks and in Montreal.The expairmental train could be a basic Amtrak serivice train and then after the test train runs then Amtrak could add on to the exparimental service by adding more trains and getting a higher quailty new train set up and make track improvements too as they up grade the exparmental train.

is planning on adding a big

I don’t think there were any stations between st Albans, VT and Montreal. At this point it wouldn’t matter to extend the Vermonter anyway – it takes 10:11 hours from St Albans to New York, longer than the corresponding stretch on the current train along lake Champlain. Only when the track upgrades in Massachusetts and Vermont are in place would it make sense to extend that.

Ironically, the slowest portion of Montreal-NYC is the part in Quebec. Plus, the hour wasted at the border should really be gotten rid off, with pre-clearance in Montreal (which would benefit all trains that cross the border).

With all due respect, Yonah… please don’t advance the frame that the GOP is for “fiscal austerity”. Certain elements of it certainly, but when a party campaigns on a platform opposing new taxes (and calling for more cuts), but hasn’t identified any substantial spending cuts, that ain’t austerity.

The Tory/LibDem coalition in the UK, OTOH, seems to take austerity seriously. Their agenda has not been good for alternative transportation either, but they do seem to be attempting to reduce Britain’s public debt.

As far as infrastructure goes – notably transport – nowhere near as bad as feared. Crossrail is going ahead pretty much unchanged, and they’ve moved the timetable for High Speed 2 forward by two years.

As for the rest of the cuts – austerity may be necessary but the timing could not be worse. Cut government payrolls when the economy’s rebounding and the private sector can absorb job losses and also provide jobs to people who’ve had their benefits slashed? Naah, we’ll do it when we’re still in the trough of recession. Idiots.

Can anyone out there help answer this question. Why are Republicians so fixated on being anti-rail. I mean, they are against Amtrak, they don’t like light rail and Bush, Jr. absoutely hated streetcar service. The FTA did not approve any Small Starts projects for streetcars, even after The Congress directed it to do so. I’ve asked my Republician friends and business associates (transit) to explain this to me. All I get is a muffled answer about no one will ride it, it requires massive subsidies, it’s too expensive on the go, etc. Forget abouot successful examples. It seems to be in their DNA. What gives?

Two things, I guess.

For one thing there are many Republicans that are anti-government. To the extent that rail projects can succeed on their own without the involvement of government, they are probably OK with it. But when public money gets involved they start to object. Of course money spent to build roads doesn’t seem to raise anywhere nearly as many red flags.

Some Republicans perceive rail as being something that only poor people would use. I guess the thinking is that anyone who can afford a car wouldn’t ride a train. And their base doesn’t have many poor people, so for that reason it isn’t a political priority.

There is also a dynamic here in that some Republicans will oppose anything that they perceive Democrats as being in favor of, and I expect that this will be a strong motivation for many of the new Congressmen that are being swept into office. It may in fact be their downfall.

Simpler than that (though you’re right about the “Republicans will oppose anything Democrats are for” part).

With a small number of exceptions (Paul Weyrich), Republicans are car-worshippers. They idolize cars as some sort of magical “freedom machine”. The concept that anyone could find cars annoying and unpleasant and trains pleasant is alien to them.

It’s not exactly that Republicans worship cars. It’s that the modern-day Republican base is extremely ruralist – it’s run by people who’re actually rural, or who are exurban and think they’re rural. Urban Republicans aren’t really anti-transit: the Manhattan Institute wants the subway to go non-union, not drop dead as Randall O’Toole prefers.

The same urban/rural distinction is true elsewhere. In Switzerland, the ruralist, Tea Partyish SVP is pro-road, and the more urban, libertarianish FDP is pro-transit.

Third, the funding of propaganda mills like Reason, Heritage and Cato by the American Petroleum Institute and some of their members (one of those originally founded by one of their members), and the consistent anti-rail taken by those three, without any corresponding position against parking or automobile operating subsidies, suggests there is a vested interest in avoiding the establishment of intercity transportation systems that are either oil-independent at the outset or far more readily made oil-independent than the car and plane alternatives.

And the Republican Party is first and foremost a representative of large natural resource extraction firms.

what Jack and Bruce said along with the added bonus of pissing off tree hugging dirty hippy bagel eating chardonnay sippers.

Rail and transit are seen to be collectivist enterprises, subject to control by the political means, and at risk of being managed for the benefit of employees or elected officials instead of customers. Roads/cars, in contrast, are more individual (at least in the sense that the individual can pick the schedule and the route).

Principled opponents also object on the basis that rail is never fully funded by users, so it amounts to a transfer of wealth from non-users to users. It is true that road travel is also subsidized to a certain extent, especially if externalities are included, but the subsidy per passenger required for trains dwarfs that required for roads and even air travel in any mathematically honest assessment. Road construction and maintenance have historically been funded from gas taxes while operating costs are funded by the vehicle owners. Air traffic infrastructure is paid for chiefly from ticket surcharges and operating costs are funded by fares. Thus, with respect to air and road transport, both capital and operating costs are for the most part paid for by users in rough proportion to their level of use. In contrast, rail and transit capital costs are typically funded from gas taxes or general revenue (i.e., paid by drivers who aren’t using the funded service, or the public at large whether or not they use the service), and while some of the operating costs of rail and transit are recovered from users via fares, with a very small number of exceptions, no passenger rail service charges a high enough fare to cover the full operating costs of service, so the operating costs also have to be funded out of gas taxes or general revenue.

Also, if you make a list of the benefits touted by rail proponents, you’ll probably find that the benefits either don’t appeal to republicans or republicans might consider the benefits outweighted by the associated costs. Examples:
Benefit: Trains can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Response: Not unless they are powered by clean power, and what about the environmental impact of building new infrastructure? And there are many much cheaper ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Extreme right-winger response: Who cares?
Benefit: HSR would provide an alternative to cars and airlines. Response: Why spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build a partial substitute for a system that already exists and works reasonably well?
Benefit: Passenger rail is an essential component of rebuilding america’s cities on a more sustainable, livable footprint. Response: private property rights, etc.
Benefit: Economic stimulus. Response: We’ll get the same stimulus from spending the same money on [insert republican-favored government project], and there will be little to no long term economic benefit from new infrastructure that, if successful, will only move a small number of people perhaps slightly more efficiently or sustainably than existing systems do.

Gas taxes on roads that are funded by gas tax have never fully funded the work on those roads ~ it has always been cross-subsidized by driving on unfunded city streets.

As the suburban share of the population driving on subsidy-receiving highways has risen and the urban share of the population driving on subsidy-paying street has fallen, the illusion that gas taxes pay for the maintenance of roads has become harder and harder to maintain, and the highway fund has recently required topping up on a regular basis.

And the “subsidy per passenger” is a massively biased figure, since on the one hand, so many trips are in heavily congested urban areas where the benefit per individual taking the train in rather than a car is equally high, and on the other hand the total subsidy to cars swamps the total subsidy to rail. Remove the subsidy to cars: eliminate zoning parking mandates, charge sufficient license fees to cover all automobile law enforcement costs and not just highway patrol, charge sufficient gas tax to cover the maintenance of all the roads being driven on by gas tax payers … and the cost of driving would be so much higher that it would push people onto common carrier transport. Then the increase in ridership would allow for more cost effective common carrier transport, and less subsidy per rider would be required.

And rail would be a particular beneficiary since it is so capital intensive and so dominated by overhead costs. So one of the things driving up the subsidy to rail is the multiple hidden and cross subsidies to driving.

“Remove the subsidy to cars: eliminate zoning parking mandates, charge sufficient license fees to cover all automobile law enforcement costs and not just highway patrol, charge sufficient gas tax to cover the maintenance of all the roads being driven on by gas tax payers … and the cost of driving would be so much higher that it would push people onto common carrier transport.”

This is a great idea. Gas taxes should be much higher. I think your conclusion is quantitatively wrong (if passengers in all modes paid the full cost of transport driving would still be cheaper than rail), but we’ll never find out because no one is proposing to do this. Instead we’re debating whether to spend hundreds of billions of dollars of public funds to be allocated by political means on HSR. For now HSR lines are being planned in places where there is a coalition of politicians, train enthursiasts and bureaucrats with a hunch that people will eventually use them (or who think that whether or not people ride it, building line X will me a good first step), instead of by promoters who have run the numbers and think they can make a profit by offering a superior alternative to driving. As you’ve pointed out, this will not happen until people pay the full costs of driving, but spending massive amounts of money on HSR isn’t going to solve the real problem. And it’s a HUGE amount of money.

There is, of course, a counter-argument that since the riders are only one beneficiary, funding all transport on rider-pays violates the principle of beneficiary pays – when a large number of beneficiaries free ride, the result is likely under-provision of the service.

While I think your/Bruce’s proposal here is worth trying, I should point out that:
(1) Republicans at the national level passed laws *prohibiting* the conversion of “free” roads to toll roads.
(2) In New York City in particular, they passed a law prohibiting the tolling of particular bridges in particular directions.
(3) Republicans in the NYC suburbs, at the state level, have fought tooth and nail to prevent NYC from charging for its roads through either congestion pricing or more tolled bridges. They have also fought to remove taxes designed to make them pay for their use of the roads indirectly.

Republicans routinely fight against parking meters, too.

The fact is, I agree with you: there is no evidence that anyone — except Mayor Bloomberg, who is an indepedent these days — is seriously trying to implement road pricing or eliminate the subsidies for driving. But suburban Republican politicians are particularly awful, in that they are consistently trying to force city dwellers to pay for their road usage.

Given this unfortunate situation, where Republican “give us free stuff and make the other guy pay for it” politicians still get elected, I’d rather spend a few billion on high-speed rail than not.

You may think it’s a huge amount of money, but have you looked at the military budget? Approximately $800 billion (with a “b”) per YEAR. That’s enough EACH YEAR to pay for EVERY planned high speed rail project. With lots left over. It could probably buy a 220-mph line from NY to LA.

Of course, military spending is the other Republican sacred cow…. and that cow is the elephant in the room. :-) Not that a lot of Democrats are doing much better at cutting it, but at least SOME of them are trying to address it.

“the subsidy per passenger required for trains dwarfs that required for roads and even air travel in any mathematically honest assessment”

Not even slightly true. The subsidy per passenger for roads is astronomically high, far far far far far far far far higher than for trains.

Now, this isn’t *required*. If we eliminated all multilane freeways and the corresponding megabridges, and restored little-used rural roads to gravel status, then yeah, road subsidies wouldn’t be that big per-passenger. But as *roads currently are* the road subsidies are really huge per passenger (and it is largely due to a small subset of the roads).

Plus, what Bruce said. :-)

See above, and also consider that multilane freeways carry massive amounts of freight in addition to passengers, so make sure you’re not double counting your subsidies. Also, I think we might disagree about what constitutes a subsidy. If the project is paid for from income or sales tax, it’s subsidized. If the project is paid for by the user (fares, tolls, gas taxes, etc) then it’s not subsidized. Road subsidies are not one bit better than rail subsidies. Make all users pay the full cost of their transportation and it will be easy to tell which technology is most appropriate.

Railroads carry massive amounts of freight, too – about as much as highways, if you measure by ton-miles.

It doesn’t matter, anyway – you can compute something like a farebox recovery ratio, including depreciation and full life-cycle amortization, in which case roads perform about as well as the worse transit systems in the US. Texas DOT did a study and found not a single road in Texas paid for itself: the best paid 50% of their costs (about on a par with the NYC subway), the worst paid 16% (worse than Sunbelt LRTs).

Roads only outperform transit and rail if you measure passenger-miles. But comparing different modes by passenger-miles is stupid because a) passenger-miles don’t vote, and b) passenger-miles are used as a proxy for revenue within the same mode, not across modes.


Aren’t you comparing operating expenses to capital expenses? Farebox recovery ratios for transit exclude capital expenses, which in the case of rail are considerable and ongoing, whereas for highways operating costs are paid for by the vehicle owners. The percentages you cite would I assume be the percentage of the capital costs of the road paid for by gas tax and tolls on the vehicles using it.

Also, can you explain why you think passenger-miles are an inappropriate comparison across modes? Isn’t it precisely the lack of demand for the capacity provided by rail that requires such subsidies? Surely you would agree that it’s possible to build and maintain roads, freight railroads, and some bus lines at an operational and capital profit, but not possible to do so with rail transit apart from presumably the New York Subway if it was priced correctly. Even with high gas taxes meant to account for negative externalities Europe builds many profitable freeways and uses the money to subsidize transit networks.

If the project is primarily paid for in non-user gas taxes, as Interstate highways are, wouldn’t all the gas tax revenue in excess of the tax consumed on the use of the Interstate Highway be a cross-subsidy?

David, farebox recovery ratios do include depreciation. Farebox operating ratios don’t; people sometimes incorrectly use “recovery ratio” to mean “operating ratio,” though. The NYC Subway has a farebox operating ratio of about 67% and a recovery ratio of about 50%.

Passenger-miles are inappropriate because they don’t capture either passengers or revenues adequately, because of the different pricing and capacity. A rail network that’s underused will show very low passenger numbers, not just passenger-miles; passenger-miles only measure how far people travel.

It is in fact possible to build rail profitably. In Europe nearly every intercity railroad is profitable. Regional and commuter trains are something else: European metro areas subsidize them with various regional payroll and income taxes (and not taxes on cars or gas, which go into the general national fund; unlike the US, European countries don’t pretend to keep their general and road funds separate). But in countries that make sure rail is well-patronized, such as Japan and South Korea, regional trains are profitable, too, or at worst lose trivial amounts of money.

I want rail lines to be profitable. Many rapid transit systems in Asia and the Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon high-speed lines cover both operational and capital costs but the Japanese wrote of literally hundreds to billions in debt to make their rail network profitable. An Amtrak study found that the Germans averaged an annual $11.6 billion subsidy in the ten year period ending in 2006.

In another article I read that the total European rail subsidy amounted to ~$100 billion/year. I find these fundamentals challenging though certainly there are many thoughtful responses here on Transport Politic. I’m a rail enthusiast but I find the numbers shake my images of transit oriented towns and cities connected by an efficient and modern rail and rapid transit network.

The subsidies in Germany do include ALL services the Deutsche Bahn provides, in particular regional and commuter services. And in that amount you will also have aftereffects from the reunification.

Similar reasons are for the “total European” numbers; they include services ordered by regions and cities.

So, this can not be compared with Amtrak; one would have to compare these numbers with Amtrak PLUS all other passenger rail operations.

For intercity traffic (that’s where HSR would be included), there is an operational profit, and if not, it is accepted, as providing alternatives (extending highways) would be way more costly.

Amtrak loves issuing those studies to argue that its chronic loss is normal. But as Max said, they’re not apples to apples. DB’s intercity division is profitable. So is SNCF, which boosts numbers by completely dropping locally-funded regional services from its main accounts.

Alon, if the US had the widespread expressway tolling that France has, and expressways linking ot boulevards rather than running on through the center of major cities, and gas taxes at an appropriate level for an oil import dependent economy, it seems likely that Amtrak’s need for operating subsidies on regional corridor trains would be much lower.

Indeed, more track where the priority is in fact passenger rail, rather than merely de jure passenger rail, and the improvement in on-time performance and opportunities it would open up for building a route matrix and the subsidies required by the skeleton interstate passenger rail system would also be smaller.

@David, I don’t want rail services to be profitable. Profitability means that a fraction of those who benefit are covering all of the cost and then some.

However, I am strongly in favor of focusing intercity rail capital subsidies on investments in corridors that not only have more total benefits than total costs, but also can generate operating surpluses, so that the intercity system does not compete for operating funds with higher priority local oil-conserving and oil-independent transport.

In Ohio looking ahead to 2014, since the Republicans have successfully demonized the Quickstart, I’m looking to a linear staging of the 110mph 3C, building the Cleveland/Columbus 110mph first and once it proved out the ridership projections, using revenue bonding to extend to Dayton then Cincinnati. By 2014 the Chicago / St. Louis corridor ought to be running, which will also make a direct build out of a 110mph corridor an easier sell.

“Also, I think we might disagree about what constitutes a subsidy. If the project is paid for from income or sales tax, it’s subsidized.”

Property tax. It’s usually property tax for roads. :-P Do you agree that that’s a subsidy, in general?

N2, you do a fair assessment of Right-wing think-tank response. The same idealogues who completely ignore that we’ve spent $1.8 Trillions (inflation adjusted) building the interstate system and gas taxes didn’t pay for half of it. These same guys who ignore the hundreds of billions spent by all taxpayers to build airports. And guess what, tens of millions of American don’t fly yet tolerate airport noise and pollution.

Both common “personal freedom” transportation modes enjoy taxation of all without benefit to all. Before ruralists and exurbanites complain about not getting much direct benefit from HSR and Rapid Transit, they should be thankful they got super-highways and airports first.

As noted in this Economist article, essentially every city of significant size in the US consistently votes Democratic for national office (even in Texas and Utah). The few cases where major cities are not represented by Democrats in Congress tend to arise from gerrymandering to split cities into multiple districts that also include rural areas. Given the consistent rejection of Republicans by city-dwellers, it is not surprising that when Republicans gain power they support rural interests at the expense of the cities (and obviously this is self-reinforcing, making them even more unpopular in cities).
Both urban mass transit and high speed rail projects primarily benefit cities; this is a good thing, as encouraging more people to live in dense cities will make the country more efficient environmentally and economically, but it’s not surprising that Republicans oppose such projects given their constituency. By contrast roads spending in the US entails taking income and gas taxes paid primarily by people in urban areas and spending them on freeways that primarily benefit rural and exurban areas (city streets do not generally get funding from federal or state gas taxes), thus providing a way for Republicans to reward those who voted for them with money from those who didn’t.

Given the still-consistent migration away from rural areas towards urban ones, one should hope this should clear itself up eventually. But the joker is suburban districts, which are Democratic in some areas and Republican in others.

A prime example of why principled conservatives object to government subsidies would be a comparison of Megabus and Amtrak for a New York to Philadelphia trip for tomorrow (11/5).

Megabus: $7 for a 2 hour trip, a private company driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, and through tunnels and bridges which are tolled to cover the capital expenses of the road.

Amtrak: $48 for a 1 hour, 35 minute trip or $102 for a 1 hour, 5 minute trip on the Acela. Even with those prices the NEC isn’t able to fully cover capital expenses.

Megabus only offers some $7 seats on their buses. I believe their regular fare on that route is $15 or $18. Greyhound is $12, btw, these days, though I think you need to pay $5 more if you want a guaranteed seat at a particular time.

What evidence do you have that the roads, tunnels, and bridges they travel on (mostly but not exclusively tolled, as MegaBus and Boltbus will frequently switch to US-1 and I-295 if the Turnpike is backed up) have their capital expense covered by the tolls and fuel taxes megabus pays?

Fwiw, Amtrak Regional Rail’s fare goes down to $36 if you book 2 weeks in advance. And I thought Amtrak “makes money” on the NEC? Or is that really just Acela?

The New Jersey Turnpike certainly covers it’s entire costs through tolls, though I can’t speak to a specific analysis of what tolls are paid by each bus relative to their cost impact on the road. The overall demand between cars, trucks and buses is enough to make it feasible. Turnpike tolls, along with tolls on the Port Authority bridges and tunnels and gasoline tax sourced federal money comprised the entire funding (except for whatever percentage of the federal component, and federal pass-through to the state is actually sourced from debt) for the now defunct ARC tunnel. That is to say that the demand in general is sufficient to fund not only the roads and crossings but provide cross-subsidies.

I used $7 and $48 because they were the lowest available prices when I checked. The Acela has an operating profit, but the NEC can’t support all of it’s capital expenses. Perhaps with better FRA regulation and proper high-speed rail run with market labor costs the NEC would be profitable. I can only hope so.

Megabus doesn’t come remotely close to covering those road costs. A 20-ton bus causes 10,000 times the road wear of a 2-ton car, while paying maybe 5 times the gas tax.

Also, $7 versus $48 is the wrong comparison: the right one would use average fares paid, not lowest fares.

Toll roads don’t get gas tax money back. Yet another way the red states screw the blue states. If I read the NJ Turnpike toll charts correctly buses pay the same tolls as passenger cars.

Some years ago, I did some work for a state road authority, in which the numbers for maintenance planning were calculated. These models neglect passenger cars completely, and only count in the maximum axle load, the average weight of the truck and the number of trucks per day.

The numbers quoted by either of you sound plausible, because the axle load of the bus may be higher than the axle load of the semi. In any case, the 20 ton bus causes the same wear as several thousands of passenger cars.

So, buckerychuckle, what is the axle load of a 40 ton semi and the axle load of a 20 ton bus, how much damage is done per axle, times how many axles?

Bear in mind that the damage is not a linear function of weight, so you have to take the appropriate power functions into account. For example, if one axle load was 25% heaver, then under a square power function, it would be 56% ((1.25)^2-1) more damage per axle, under a cube power function, it would be 95% ((1.25)^3-1) more damage.

If you need a reference to the correct formula for weight to road damage, ask someone studying engineering with an interest in transport issues, they’d probably have a reference they could give you. Alon could probably hook you up with the formula.

The crib notes version is that the actual formula is a fourth power law. A 20-ton bus has an axle load of about 10 tons, and a 40-ton semi has an axle load of about 9 (the leading axle has a much lower load than the rest). The sedan has an axle load of about 1. This is what gives the factors of 10,000.

The more complicated version is that fourth power rule is an experimental first-order approximation. In reality the correct power ranges from about 3 to 5 depending on road and tire conditions. For road pricing purposes, any power from 2 to 5 would work fine. The point is that, on roads as well as railways, freight vehicles cause far, far more wear than passenger vehicles.

A 40 ton semi = 9600 implies on the order of 4*(9^3.5) + cab axle. Obviously the damage is higher on uneven or damaged surfaces so that may be level road in good condition.

2*(10^3.5) = the damage of 6,000+ cars. On the above, that + certainly includes 10,000 and extends well beyond.

Since the damage goes up for uneven surfaces and broken pavement, maybe there should be a heavy vehicle toll that rises based on the condition of the road.

I’m not entirely sure why a company which drives on property-tax-subsidized roads (yes, it does — where do you think it lets passengers on and off?), makes use of property/sales/income-tax subsidized policing of said roads, and also drives on “toll” roads which have received extensive cross-subsidies (NJ toll roads here, the tunnels actually do cover their costs) — is supposed to be an example of a “principled” argument against government subsidies.

That’s a very useful comment on the relative impact of trucks on road wear and it would be great to see what proper pricing would look like. I couldn’t find accurate numbers of trucks versus cars on the turnpike, but it seems that there’s a minimum of 20,000 trucks using the port and something like 600,000 cars on a daily basis. If tolls were eliminated for the cars (which omits the question of the half of the turnpike restricted to cars, wear and tear from the weather and other costs) then each truck would face something like $300 more in tolls. Applying this unscientific analysis to Megabus it might mean something like $6 more per passenger. There are many variables, such as accounting for other roads and crossings, but even if Megabus had to double price from $15 to $30 it would still come out significantly ahead of Amtrak at subsidized costs.

My point is not to argue that the rails should be ripped up and replaced with bus lanes, but that at a minimum the private intercity buses do a much better job at the moment of providing low cost travel than amtrak. Insofar as they’re subsidized they prove a much more effective way to subsidize intercity transit. Moreover, they provide a much better quality of service, providing wifi long before Amtrak did and proving no more susceptible to traffic (judging subjectively) than the trains are to delays and breakdowns. Buses seem to benefit from the synergies of being able to blend with passenger and freight road traffic, allowing costs to be diluted and subsidies to be less visible to the average citizen.

My main concern is that even where passenger rail is most in demand, the NEC between New York and Philly (my home), it is uncompetitive. My impression is that this is due to foolish NRA regulations that crippled the acela, unnecessary levels of staffing and well above market labor costs. If the NEC were a genuinely profitable high-speed corridor run by a company with an eye to customer satisfaction then I think you would see support for rail explode. We at least need to move to a model similar to that of the SNCF in France which seems akin to a public-private partnership. If our hopes for rail transit are dependent on political decisions and charity from gas taxes then I am doubtful that we will see anything happen. All of this of course would be greatly helped by proper pricing of roads, though if freeways became completely funded by freight trucks then that might cause the opposite result (but be good for freight rail).

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor doesn’t receive operating subsidies. Amtrak in general does, but not on the routes where it’s competing with Megabus. If Megabus had to run buses from Chicago to Seattle to make Congress happy, it would lose money, too.

Moreover, they provide a much better quality of service, providing wifi long before Amtrak did and proving no more susceptible to traffic (judging subjectively) than the trains are to delays and breakdowns.

Quality of service is very subjective. On a train I have plenty of space at my seat. There’s a spacious bathroom with a toilet that flushes, not a bucket with blue stuff in it. There’s food service cars most of the time. It’s faster. The stations have better amenities. WiFi was a big splashy deal in 2005. Nowadays people who need their Internet fix have their own data plans. Work on the train from what I’ve read.

It’s precisely the political control that I think is a core problem. Not only does it force Amtrak to run long distance lines at huge losses, engendering understandable political opposition, but also leads to a northeast corridor line whose competitiveness is compromised and earning potential limited. When I say that a genuinely profitable NEC would greatly help rail travel nationwide I mean a line that covers both capital and operating costs, similar to Tokyo-Osaka or Paris-Lyon. Such a line would be accepted even by Randal O’Toole and a money-making rail company would be welcomed to open lines anywhere profitable, or where public-private partnerships could be agreed upon to help cover capital costs.

I don’t know if the Acela would be truly profitable if freed from the foolish regulations that led to overweight, maintenance-intensive, unable-to-tilt trains, but it would greatly help if the NEC had it’s profitability and competitiveness maximized.

I mention the wifi issue because it’s a simple and low-cost feature that is now ubiquitous on intercity buses and has finally been added to Acela (if not regional Amtrak the last time I rode). It’s true that Amtrak has a competitive advantage in speed and should have a competitive advantage in comfort and amenities. When my wife travels for business to New York or Philly and the firm is reimbursing then Amtrak is definitely the choice because her time is valuable enough to the firm to make it worthwhile, and she has a data plan. However, even most business travelers don’t have data tethering plans. I think of the example of a friend who is a scientist and a non-driver who recently made the trip from Princeton to Cornell via train to New York and bus to Ithaca. She doesn’t have a data plan, but was able to prepare her talk using the wifi on the much cheaper bus. All of that is to say that Amtrak would be much better off as a private company, even if only ‘above the rails,’ driven by the desires of customers rather than as a bureaucracy subject to unwise political decisions. The French seem to have had great success following this model with the SNCF and RFF.

David, the Acela is truly profitable. It’s not nearly as profitable as Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon, but unlike the Interstate system, it actually deposits money in the government’s coffers every year.

PPPs are very good at transferring money from the public sector to the private sector. But if the goal is to build things at low cost, then there’s no substitute for a more competent public sector. A government too incompetent to build things itself is too incompetent to ensure the private sector builds things well instead of looting the taxpayers. The successful cases of PPPs are those where the private partner stands to gain something from the project’s success, for example an airport connector when the partner is the airport’s dominant carrier.

O’Toole wouldn’t support any sort of rail investment, no matter how profitable. He’s in the business of selling cars and oil, or at least the people who fund him are. He’s called for closing down the New York City Subway, for crying out loud. His is the sort of person you defeat, rather than negotiate with.

My main concern is that even where passenger rail is most in demand, the NEC between New York and Philly (my home), it is uncompetitive.

It was my understanding that the NEC trains (Acela and Regional) are pretty full (in which case there is sufficient demand at the fare they charge). Am I incorrect?

David Keddie,

Acela and Megabus serve different markets and should coexist. But first Amtrak needs the kind of assistance that car, bus and truck drivers take for granted on the Interstate highways — an optimized, uniform super-structure that attracts a lot of patronage. Easing some FRA regulations for HSR would also help.

To get there, USDOT/Congress needs to “wisely” increase HSR funding around the country, so that Acela Amtrak does not have to overprice Acela tickets in support of low patronage lines elsewhere. I believe the 2010 Congress/USDOT did that, but the money pot was too small.

But make no mistake, even with Megabus and the same Acela prices, 40 Acela trains daily with 105 minute DC-NYC trip time vs. 162 minutes today, Acela would have no problem averaging 80% capacity and generating a larger operating profit. Ditto for 30 Acela trains daily with 120 minute Boston-NYC trip time vs. 217 minutes today.

Population growth will ensure that cost-sensitive travelers not interested in big time-savings, but wanting a more comfortable ride than Greyhound, would still be pleased with Megabus. Unknowingly, they would also enjoy Acela removing cars from the interstate freeways/tollways.

The Acela has a 60% load factor, and the Regional has a 45% load factor. Both can be readily computed as passenger-miles per seat-mile.

Capacity and load factor are not the same thing. Load factor measures how full the trains are, whereas capacity measures how much ridership there is relative to how much could be provided based on existing constraints.

I’m not entirely sure why a company which drives on property-tax-subsidized roads, makes use of property/sales/income-tax subsidized policing of said roads … is supposed to be an example of a “principled” argument against government subsidies.

I couldn’t agree more Nathanael. Its the same “mislead the general public” arguments trolled up by the Reason and Cato on command.

The transit nerds are shitting their pants right now. Our new Tea Party overlords are salivating over the chance to cancel all high speed rail and federal funding for transit projects across the nation. 30/10 is dead on arrival.

But don’t worry, the Tea Party is more than likely to continue entitlement programs like social security despite pledges to take a bite out of government spending. Military spending is safe, I presume. Roads and highways, well you *need* those, right?

If the Tea Party were serious about cutting the deficit, I’d be all for them. But they, like most politicians who decry government spending and pork, are for a different kind of spending.

Just transit nerds need to be worried? Transit is the least of our worries now.

Who should be worried? Well, the two camps of teabagger antagonism — people who don’t 1) Look Like Them and/or people who don’t 2) Think Like Them.

What do you think is going to happen when a large group of low-information and high right-wing authoritarian and social dominance orientation personality traits is going to do now that they have a taste of power?

Think of the various factions under the Tea Party umbrella and what are some of their beliefs are, especially the 180-degrees-from-reality ones (birthers, gold bugs, etc.). Now that they have power, they will act on their beliefs and only grow more dangerous.

At this point, the only hope and change left for Americans are a passport and an overseas bank account.

Meh. They only control the House, not the Senate. Plus The President can veto, anyway. It’s gonna be two years of noth’n getting done. And two years from now, the Teabaggers will probably be as demoralized as the left was now.

Ant6n, the scenarios of nothing getting done works to the teabaggers’ advantage, not Democrats.

With the takeover of the House, with filibusters now standard operating procedure in the Senate, and with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling effectively making the campaign contributing class the fourth branch of government, Democrats have been cowed.

And that’s just the rational scenario.

There’s the off but not implausible probability of a putsch, such as another impeachment hearing or an attempt by Oath Keepers.

The economy won’t turn around fast enough or strong enough to chasten the moderate electorate, and the shakiness of the financial sector will be a problem lingering long after.

Don’t assume things will turn out rationally.

The economic and political climate often changes in 2 years. Tuesday is evidence of that.

Sticking to transportation, one of those changes is states that didn’t get HSR or Rapid Transit funding will hear or see many states that did. Since new jobs are the stories the Americans wants to see and hear, there should be plenty of coverage of tracks being laid, catenary being strung, and new trains being built in American factories. Indications are the October 2012 economy will be stronger. So anticipate fuel prices approaching $4/gallon again. Public sentiment will warm to more HSR and Rapid Transit.

And if we’re really lucky, they’ll find bin Laden.

Things will most certainly not turn out rationally, but ignorant right-wingers underestimate the left at their peril. Right-wing faux populism is no match for real left-wing populism when it’s unleashed, and that is getting more and more likely every day unemployment stays over 9%.

The 3C is Ohio has been dead for over a year. Outgoing governor Strickland has been living in a fantasy world.

This past summer, he had an opportunity to rectify the situation when he applied for second round funding. Did he go back to the original plan with Indiana and PA on the Pittsburg to Chicago service ?

NOPE – the idiot applied for service between Columbus and Toledo. A route that currently has two Greyhound trips a day.

Wisconsin, from what I’m being told, Gov Elect Walker intends to go to US FEDERAL court to get an injunction to stop the Madison – Milwaukee rail line. It seems in all the haste in Wisconsin all the contracts were issued under the NO BID proccess against state law. The bids must be advertised in various trade and print publications. He will get a 90 day stay, and by then he will be governor and kill it.

As of today, Wisconsin has only expended funds on enviromental studies and architect drawings. none of which has to be paid back.

I’m sure ZERO has to be paid back.

It’s the exact same scenario in Ohio where the first 25 million given to the state was for enviromental, engineering and architectural renderings of proposed stations.

Walker is going to Federal Court on FRIDAY for an emergency injuction.

He won’t get his injunction unless he has an especially corrupt judge. He has no case; the law is quite clear about the powers of “lame-duck” governments, for better or worse. If he wants to change that, he needs to reduce the election-inauguration gap.

Funds for environment studies only have to be paid back if no environmental study is delivered, similar for final design. If they acquire corridor for the project, the state has to pay back the federal government if the project is axed.

The Republican spinner is, however, certainly to be trusted for legal advice in the same way that a pharmaceutical salesman is to be trusted for medical advice, which is to say, not in the slightest.

“wins for pro-rail Republican Rick Snyder in Michigan and Tom Foley in Connecticut mean little change in those states’ moderately entrepreneurial governments.”

How come “Tom Folley in Connecticut” is crossed out.

According to the results map at 89% of the votes has been counted and Foley leads with 552,106 votes and Malloy only has 543,682 votes?

Vrginia is Republican but it’s high speed rail and rail projects haven’t been changed as of now and they now want under the existing goverment to keep going foward with extending Amtrak down to Norfolk and Vrginia Beach.

Crossed out because Malloy won. CNN’s and AP’s numbers are blatantly wrong for New Haven, see the CT Secretary of State’s office.

Amen BruceMcF, but this is really sad for our nation.

Why do a large contingent of Republicans ignore the consequences of Peak Oil when even the Petroleum Institute acknowledges its coming and some even acknowledge the dangers of America importing 90% of its oil and 70% of oil consumed being used for Transportation. Building sustainable transportation should not be political, given our Peak Oil condition is a national security threat. Unfortunately, it won’t get many (not all) Republicans attention until we have gas lines around the block again.

Now let me give a shout out to Republicans John Mica and Kay Bailey Hutchinson who do get it, but are in the minority of their party.

Trains can run on electricity easily. Electricity can be generated in many ways, most of them without using significant amounts of oil.

Considering much of the rest of the industrialized world is electrifying rail lines without much fuss or great cost, it should not be that hard in the US to do if we were to build dedicated passenger tracks along the freight rail corridors and other ROWs for passenger rail. Electrifying rail lines is not that major an undertaking in other countries.

Electrifying rail lines isn’t very expensive in the US, either. The New Haven-Boston electrification cost $2 million per km, same as it would abroad. US railroads are just used to diesel, and on top of that don’t have to pay high (or any) taxes on it.

The fuel efficiency of buses and trains depends on their maximum fuel efficiency per seat mile, how close to their maximum they achieve in operations, and their load factor.

A 110mph intercity train maintaining 90mph~110mph for most of its route and operating at the same load factor as an 70mph intercity bus is more fuel efficient, and cuts energy consumption by over 50% on conversion from diesel to electric catenary.

Debating fuel efficiency of DMU vs bus loses focus on the big picture. Due to 3 elephants in the room, its best to build more electric-powered Rapid Transit and HSR than biodiesel city and intercity buses in high-traffic capacity routes. Biodiesel and CNG-powered BRT and intercity buses are best left to lower traffic routes and markets.

The first elephant is Peak Oil. By 2018, the last big supplier of cheap oil hit Peak Oil condition. We’ll get through that, but more expensive oil (including from larger offshore, Canada & Alaska sources) will take a bigger bite of everyone’s budget. By 2030, more leading nations will compete for diminishing supplies of expensive oil. Macroeconomics and history tell us thats a recipe for price shocks & gas lines. By 2040, as the Peak Oil charts indicate, any leading nation overly dependent on oil is in for a world of hurt, see

The 2nd elephant is Global Warming. I’ll leave your imagination to calculate is impacts by 2020-2040.

The 3rd elephant, population growth, means there is no “No Build” transportation alternative going forward. We will either build more oil transportation infrastructure or build more sustainable-energy infrastructure.

Peak Oil, Global Warming and Population Growth dictate that we build more sustainable-energy infrastructure that plugs into HSR and Rapid Transit, due to their higher capacity. Experience tells us to spend our money wisely in routes to ensure high patronage demand per dollar invested.

As folks in this forum know, dedicated mass transportation routes take 8-15 years to build/upgrade in America. So its in our national economic security interests to plan properly and build more electric-powered transportation infrastructure asap, while there’s still cheap oil.

Diesel traction isn’t that vulnerable to peak oil. The increase in operating costs coming from a large rise in oil prices will be noticeable, but won’t be unrecoverable. On lower-trafficked lines diesel traction should still be used: peak oil will increase operating costs, but it should increase transit ridership even more. That said, major intercity and commuter lines have no business running on diesel.

Alon, pardon my incomplete comment. I should have noted that a cleaner burning mix of sustainable biofuel and diesel fuel will be okay for freight trains and freight trucks.

We are in agreement that major intercity and commuter lines have no business running on diesel.

ThomasD, I would specify that major freight lines (ones with 24 trains a day or more) arguably really ought to be running with electric traction as well, particularly the container routes which appreciate higher speeds. Electric freight engines are perfectly well-understood technology.

Biofuel doesn’t really do all much good – it displaces food crops, raising food prices around the world. However, cleaner-burning engines, as suggested by the EPA’s Tier 4 standards, are an excellent solution for lines that can’t be electrified yet.

I’d say the only major freight line on which electrification is really important is the western part of the Northern Transcon. The Cascade Tunnel is a health hazard as well as a bottleneck. Elsewhere, I’d defer to the decisions of the Class I railroads’ managers. Yes, there are some other good models for running freight, e.g. Switzerland and China. But at this stage demanding the US switch its freight model is comparable to bickering over whether Switzerland or Japan has the better passenger rail network, rather than to asking the US switch its passenger train model.

Given the share of oil imports required to fuel long haul truck freight, a set of national electric freight rail corridors is one substantial slice in the energy independence pie.

And of course it would only require an interest subsidy, since the original capital cost of the corridor upgrades and electric infrastructure can be refunded by user and access fees ~ in effect, a Steel Interstate Tollway system.

To Alan: One example how a modern electric heavy haul locomotive would look like is the IORE double engine, which is used to haul iron ore on the Kiruna – Narvik line in northern Norway/Sweden. Designed by Henschel/ABB (now merged into Bombardier), they haul 8600 tonne trains at speeds up to 50 mph.

FWIW, the Swiss way of freight handling is heavily influenced by the fact that the network is at (if not over) load by passenger service, so that freight trains have a limited number of time slots, and MUST operate according to schedules and ON TIME. In one example, the Heitersberg line, a simple double track line, they have to be weaved into the paths of 9 hourly passenger trains… and that leaves them about 2 time slots.

By sustainable biofuel I’m referring to algae, cooking oil waste, not biofuel from corn and the like. Even Boeing is working on this type of sustainable biofuel.

Regarding “deferring to the Class I’s managers”, BNSF has already analyzed electrification. They concluded that it doesn’t make sense to do it on less than a nearly-systemwide basis due to engine change issues (!!!), and that it makes sense at fuel prices a few dollars-per-gallon higher than what they currently have (exactly how many has not been released).

I am pretty darn sure I understand the future trends in fuel prices at this point — up. Electrification is going to pencil out as profitable very, very soon, and I hope they’re doing the engineering now.

Nathanael and BruceMcF,

I could support a 30-40 year switch of freight trains to electric traction, but I don’t see much interest by the freight train industry. My GUESS is they are:

* betting on sustainable-biofuel and/or CNG powered trains
* somehow equate electrification with more regulation
* fear the expense of electric conversion might reduce profits

So at this point, I just want their cooperation to upgrade and share 4-track routes where appropriate.

There is a DC voltage system in Chicago of catenary wires that powers the Metra Lines. The Transcontental route used to be the Old eletric Miliwalkie Road line. But the Miliwlkie Road catenary system was around 700 miles and it was broken up into two districs that where scraped in the 1970’s. Right now under existing sutations they should be able to start extending this eletric system along the oil powered Metra Line lines that are right now at the end of the catenary lines. They could then add eletric oil powered change over locomtives to this system so that the catenary system could start coming out of the metra system and on to the Amtrak high speed rail line.

If I where going to extend eletric catenary in the US I would start at the NEC and build a new 25Hz feed to let Vrginia Power let it’s cheaper power into the Amtrak power transmission system and then extend the H beam NEC catenary masts down to Richmond and build a feeder eletric lines to power up VRE and the Mayland Commuter Rail systems around Washingtion DC. And then build two branch lines to power up Norfolk and New Port News and then march on down with the army of Pennsyvinia Railroad H beam catenary masts down to North Carolina.

Here is a video of what the new catenary heading down to Richmond Vrginia should look like

I would also consder going up along the Hudson River and on along the New York High speed rail system to the Canada boarder to meet up with the great Tronto Go eletric train system proposal. But I would do this with with legions of New Haven Catenary masts to give the high speed rail lines a New Haven Railroad look to them.

You mean all new catenary on the diesel Metra lines, right? Metra Electric (and the South Shore) doesn’t connect with the other Metra lines at all (or with Amtrak tracks for that matter).

Or, in fact, intercity buses are much less efficient as intercity trains.

If you do full lifecycle analysis, it becomes obvious (buses have to be REPLACED sooner as do roads, and roads are more oil intensive than rails).

But if you don’t, then it’s largely about load. Full, many-car intercity trains are more efficient than full intercity buses, half-full intercity trains are less efficient than full intercity buses. So don’t run a train unless you can fill it up. Nowadays, we can.

IOW, the gallons per seat mile is lower for the DMU. The bus is only more fuel efficient if it is able to have a higher average load than the DMU: a higher load factor is necessary, but not sufficient.

If a DMU with a capacity of 70 per car has the same fuel efficiency as a motor coach with a capacity of 56 per bus, then a 50% DMU load factor requires a 63% load factor to beat the fuel efficiency per passenger mile, and 70% load factor for the DMU would require an 88% load factor for the bus to beat it.

Upgrading the DMU to diesel/electric hybrid allows it to run off the wires and upgrade from dynamic to regenerative breaking while running under the wires without requiring catenary the full length of the route. That opens the door to incremental upgrade of DMU corridors to electric catenary, especially if a longer intercity route is shared with a shorter intra-metro route.

Yeah. And all else being equal, the DMU will have higher average speed, a smoother ride, and more reliability, so it will have more passengers than a bus, rather than fewer. Zierke’s website provides a couple of examples where railstituting a bus line doubled ridership.

Diesel/electric hybrids are neither here nor there. The difference between rail’s fuel consumption and cars’ is so great that it’s more important at this stage to get people to ride trains than to make the trains more efficient.

I have been surprised at how few dual-mode diesel-electrics there are out there, given that essentially *all diesel trains* operate with a diesel generator and electric motors. (Diesel-mechanical and diesel-hydraulic are practically dead concepts.) It seems like the difficulty in making room to add a transformer and pantograph would be small, and you could have a single diesel-and-or-electric train design platform which could be converted with ease. What am I missing?

(Diesel-mechanical and diesel-hydraulic are practically dead concepts.)

In the US, maybe. Elsewhere, not so much. Germany prefers diesel-hydraulic transmission to diesel-electric, because it makes the trains somewhat lighter. The Desiro is diesel-hydraulic, and the Talent can be either diesel-hydraulic or diesel-electric. I think the Coradia is diesel-hydraulic too – I’m not sure, but the version sold in Britain is listed on Wikipedia under “diesel,” which is separate from “diesel-electric.”

To Nathanael: The main reason why there are so few electric/diesel dual mode _road_ locomotives out there is weight. Both, a diesel engine with generator and a transformer with inverter are quite heavy pieces of equipment. (OK, this applies for AC electrified networks only). The reason for electro-diesels are mainly in fully electrified networks to have some units which work also when power has to be shut down, or to reach some non-electrified spurs.

That said, there are quite a few small dual mode switchers around which were intended for switching in stations with some non-electrified tracks, and maybe some short road jobs. Their power rating is rather small, however.

About diesel-hydraulic transmission… not dead at all… ask all those happy customers of Vossloh, providing diesel hydraulic units with power ratings up to 2500 kW.

And not to forget Voith (who definitely know how to build (diesel-)hydraulic drives…

In the 1920’s though to the 1950’s there where diesel powered passanger car trains that where more like a cross between a passanger train and a double lenth bus. They would be about the size of two city buses added on to one another and would carry about 200 to 50 people but where small enough that they could carry traffic on the lightly used branch lines to pick up passangers. I could picture something like this comming back to the US lesser used branch lines and low ridership Amtrak lines in that they would help greatly cut costs by having this smaller thing instead of the big and bulky heavy passanger trains on some of the routes.

Those diesel railbuses still exist. Bombardier has a version, and JR-Hokkaido is developing one.

For larger DMUs, there’s already a huge market. There are DMUs about as large as a single railcar sold throughout Europe and Japan; on low-trafficked lines, trains sometimes run with just a single car, or at most two. Bombardier’s Talent, Alstom’s Coradia, Siemens’ Desiro, and Stadler’s FLIRT can all be configured as single-car diesels. There are also a bunch of diesel-specific vehicles like Stadler’s RegioShuttle. Those even make the engines, gears, etc. out of bus parts so that the trains can be maintained at the same shop as the local bus fleet.

It’s amazing how on Interstate 95 how you can see six lanes of bumper to bumper cars and trucks all moving at 50 to 60 miles on hour in a none stop flowing to stopped river of metal for the whole lenght of Interstate 95 Interstate 495 and Interstate 695 in Richmond, Washingtion DC and Baltomore and into Phili along with all the four lane wide highways between Harrisburg Pennsyvinia and the DC area. If a regular slow speed Amtrak train can carry 200 to 500 people at a time and run though this area and there are only aroudn ten or 20 of them running between DC and Richmond and North Carolina along with to New York City we have only seen a sample of what Amtrak ridership could be in this area. Such as if you took all the people that are in cars on only a one mile section of a eight lane section of interstate 95 or a one mile section of a six lane section of Interstate 95 that would most likely fill two to four filly filled loaded Amtrak trains from one mile of Interstate 95 in this area.

This means that right now Amtrak under existing traffic could have ridership grow steadly and should be able to have new ridership growth that would easy fill at least five new trains in the general area.

But if oil where to go up back to four dollars a gallon or possibly to five dollars Amtrak will become so flooded with new passangers the existing system might crash. Think of what type of ridership would flood out Amtrak if a amount people driving cars on a 20 mile section of interster where to jump on to Amtrak.

They’d be full now if the prices were cheaper, how can you compete with Megabus prices? A friend of mine got a job in Milwaukee and wanted to commute by Hiawatha, but it’s far too expensive and the times don’t work for commuters (not to mention that the job is in the suburbs and there is no way to get there from the station).

I just read that the Madison-Chicago plan has been ‘election proofed’ – does anybody know if this is true and whether the Talgo plant in Milwaukee is up and running, I saw that they already had an order for two Cascades train sets.

Megabus relies on free roads, to an extreme degree — its prices are kept low by letting people wait in the rain on unmarked street corners.

This is not a long-term-competent business model.

There are notices in Chicago Union Station that Megabus patrons, as moochers, are not welcome and will be kicked out (you know, unless they’re transferring to a train).

To save $50 I’ll happily wait in the rain. Megabus runs profitably between New York and Philadelphia using almost no free roads (tolls for the Lincoln Tunnel, the NJ Turnpike, and the Betsy Ross Bridge). Other routes have fewer but still some tolls, and the tolls do not seem to have an appreciable effect on ticket price. They may get free use of loading zones as bus stops in some cities, but the market price for tying up a handful of parking spaces for five minutes is not very high. Megabus has also been running in the UK for 7 years, paying few tolls but much higher gas taxes, and remains profitable there. Their business model is far more competent than Amtrak’s.

There’s all sorts of hidden subsidies in toll roads. They are quasi governmental they are exempt from many taxes. The Turnpike is miles away from the Lincoln Tunnel, state highway connects the two. Megabus gets to use it free unless they are buying fuel in New Jersey…..

Stagecoaches were profitable before the advent of railroads. In some countries the railroads were completely sub par, allowing the stagecoaches to stay in business into the 20th century. But that doesn’t mean their business model was viable.

In the UK, even though roads *still* receive larger general-tax subsidies than railroads, the two systems are funded in an essentially parallel manner, unlike in the US.

Result: you can tell that most of the railroad operators make “above the track” profits, just like the bus operators make “above the road” profits….

Ohio and how political Governor Strickland has turned in into.

Everyone in Ohio laughed at his 39mph average speed on the route. So he instructed Woodside to redo a study and they did. This time assuming the entire route would be void of all freight trains the entire way…voila faster times. This is preposterous.

Many Bishop, lead planner for the 3C in Ohio, arrested for drunk driving. The arrested for applying for a duplicate DL days later. Charged with two seperate felonies. Allowed to keep a position at ODOT.

Clearly, Bishop would rather have been on a train when drunk, but felt he had no option other than driving :-)

Ray LaHood would be best off ensuring tangible and successful results in the corridors which are still going to be built after all this electioneering.

HSR won’t gain any credibility if people aren’t actually getting permanent jobs after construction, unethical contracting is going on, construction and passenger safety is compromised, and transit connections to stations are half-hearted and unimaginative. There is still plenty of opportunity for the planners and bureaucrats to get some of these railroad plans right the first time around, proving to Ohio and Wisconsin that they missed out on a real economic force for good.

The only possibility I see from the state Republicans, if LaHood allows Ohio to drop the plans for the 3C, then reorient the allocated funds back to the Pitt – Chicago route.

Getting INDOT back to the table again ? Would you trust Ohio ?

If INDOT and PENNDOT agree, then Kasich must believe this route can break even. OSU logistics and transportation studies show yes, it can and will. And we didn’t spend 25 million to figure that out.

The 3C concept and idea are buried in the state house lawn, it’s dead.

Its reassuring to hear that they did not stop doing their jobs after election day. It must be real annoying that the Governor-elect must wait until the election is certified and he is sworn in before he is allowed to start Governing.

I presume his first act after being sworn in will be to ask the legislature to take up a law allowing a Governor-elect to skip those niceties and take over as soon as some cable news show declares the race.

Yes, it’s kind of like putting a new roof on your house and in just 8 weeks, the state comes in with bulldozers and demolishes your home to make way for a new road project, and you knew the state was going to do it.

Yes we are so luck Ohio is looking out for the taxpayers. No wonder the state is bankrupt.

Because, of course, Ohio’s bankruptcy has nothing at all to do with a massive economic downturn. Not at all.

Quite. Rather than the pretense that it was about a specific plan, he just flat out and said Passenger Rail in Ohio is Dead. His sponsors at the American Petroleum Institute will be so pleased.

OK, let’s go ahead and come up with a really good alternative, one which bypasses both Ohio and as much of Indiana as is possible. (Michigan’s been taken over by Republicans… but they haven’t tried to kill rail yet, have they?)

Reinstate the Canada Southern and run trains via Detroit and Niagara Falls — completely sealed, no Canadian stops, so no immigration hassles — from New York to Chicago. I betcha Michigan and New York would back that.

Wins for Democrats in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York… (emphasis added)

The Minnesota race hasn’t been decided yet. Right now Dayton has less than a 9000 vote lead over Emmer, which is less than 0.5% of the votes, therefore potentially triggering an automatic recount. However, there are several weeks before the results will become official and it is determined whether a recount is needed.

Just in WISDOT issues order to all vendors, contractors and suppliers to cease all work on the Madison – Milwaukee rail project.

We’re playing hardball now.

Can the Milwaukee-Madison funds be shifted to upgrading Milwaukee-Chicago as part of an eventual 220 mph line between Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City? Such a line touches 3 states, 4 major cities, and would pass “true High Speed Rail” muster with Congressman Mica.

By 2016, It would also get Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to think harder about a firm commitment to 220 mph interstate HSR.

I’d get Metra (and electrify that line) to connect to Milwaukee at the same time as upgrading the Hiawatha speed.

Walker used to be for it before he was against it. In the state legislature he was a key supporter of the Wisconsin high speed rail, a project championed by Governor Tommy Thompson. Both Walker and Thompson put their finger in the air this year and decided they could rabble rouse Tea Party votes by flip-flopping. Which is what they’ve done. The Milwaukee suburbs came out huge for Walker. And all they’re interested in is an allegedly faster commute and a McMansion in the cornfield.

It’s time for someone to call thier bluff. The unceasing mantra is states-rights, reduce the gas tax, stop funding alternative modes, etc…

Enough. Give it to them.

Eliminate the federal gas tax and let the states fund thier own transportation. The oil companies will be stuck with thier pants down defending higher taxes on thier products. how awkward. Start taking down Interstate signs. Let them sell naming rights and collect tolls. The general public will love that. Let airfares cover the whole cost of airports. Let shippers pay for rail and port expansions by raising the price of imports.
We’ll see how quickly those rural states that suck the federal bottle dry start whimpering when they are crushed under the weight of unsustainable asphalt that has been subsidized by cities in donor states for half a century.
Does anyone think NYC, LA, Chicago are going to let themselves fall into disrepair just because the feds packed up and went home? These cities funnel all of the nation’s wealth through thier institutions. All of our economic transactions depend on the regional power centers and rest assured they can fend just fine.
Let the Partiers drink thier Tea. It will be a very bitter brew. Next up on the chopping block: eliminate all agricultural subsidies. Flood, Drought, Frost? Better pray for help cause uncle sam is broke.
Obama’s gotta play ball. Start taking swings like Hank Aaron and then the crowd will sit up in thier seats.

Walker also wants no other state to receive these returned funds for their projects!!Screw him if he ruins his states program ..we are still going ahead!!

Tough. His choice is use the money for rail or put it into the high speed rail pool. That’s federal law. And federal law preempts state law. There’s something in the constitution called the Supremacy Clause. I’m not sure if he’s read it.

I’m positive he hasn’t read it. Or if he has, he doesn’t understand it. Or if he does, he disagrees with it…

I want gravity to be scaled back by 20% when I am cycling uphill to work and up by an extra 20% when I am coasting downhill. Don’t mean I’ll get it.

Its just grandstanding for the ignorant, he knows perfectly well that if he turns the money back, the USDoT allocates it to someone else who wishes to use it for its appropriated purpose. Same as Kasich knew when he said “it should be spent on roads” that he was leading people on who wanted to believe it was actually possible to spend it on roads.

I really don’t like a lot of these road people in that they will most likely get us more stoplights and the roads themselves are bottomless pits that are always hungery for funding while with the railroads they get something done on them and they don’t complain for a hundend years once they get something. A lot of these railroads that these high speed rail projects are going to take place on are mostly double or even triple the age of the interstates and all these roads these people want to dump the money into.

DBX and BruceMcF,

Thanks for the clarification on the funds going back into USDOT’s HSR pool.

Since the Ohio Gov-elect is so clearly anti-rail and passenger rail is such a small part of Cleveland and Cincy transportation ethos, its best to redeploy that $400M. If iin one week’s time, the Wisconsin Gov-elect is not smart enough to ask that the $822M be redeployed to upgrade Milwaukee-Chicago segment so it can be part of a 220 mph Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis-KC route, then redeploy it as well.

There are two new states who do want the money, Virginia and North Carolina and they know HSR benefits are real because they are close enough to small it. Add that $1.22B + $120M (Virginia + $568M North Carolina + $1B (ARC money). Then use that $3B plus 20% state and local contribution ($600K) to extend Acela per DC-Richmond-Raleigh-Charlotte. String the catenary to support 220mph service to leverage Acela’s next generation trains.

South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama are already designated HSR corridors. When they see those HSR jobs and benefits by 2017-ish, they’ll want to accelerate HSR work for a Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta-Birmingham Acela.

Of course a more realistic NEC upgrade plan will provide momentum as well.

Two major news items:

Talgo announced that they will leave Wisconsin and take their 120+ jobs with them if Walker doesn’t build the Madison rail line. Walker may yet see sense.

Governor Cuomo of NY is actively campaigning to get the Ohio and Wisconsin money for NY. And yes, we do have projects which need it and qualify, if not enough to use all the money.

AFAIU, the total of the applications NY put in (pdf) was $500m, in lots of bits and pieces, so if they still want it, there’s a lot of flexibility to allocate a chunk of almost any size up to $500m to NY as soon as the hand back is formalized.

I had thought there was a big $1b+ Empire Corridor application, but that might have been an envelope budget rather than the funds applied for.

Talgo will soon have about 40 employees in their new WI facility. They claim they’ll employee up to 125 in the near future.

The reason they would close the facility is they don’t have any other orders to build new train sets right now. If the WI order is scuttled, they’re back to twiddling their thumbs and doing maintenance work on existing equipment.

Bruce: yes, that’s correct, the ‘big’ number for the Empire Corridor is just the sum of a lot of little projects. Someone smart got involved and followed the NC principle of planning to remove all low-speed bottlenecks before building long stretches of high-speed-limit track. And there are a lot of bottlenecks.

Allen: yep. Talgo says without the WI order they’ll shut down in 2012 due to lack of work.

should have built the facility in OR or WA which has been using their equipment for 12 years, big oops for Talgo to gamble on WI


My guess is 125 mph & more frequent trains for NYC-Albany-Sysracuse-Rochester-Buffalo route will be featured in Amtrak’s upgrade plans. So I doubt the USDOT will redeploy other state’s HSR funds to that route NY state. In the larger scheme of things, that may not be bad as long as they convince Mica that the 125 mph service level is just a phase before 220 mph service — something NYDOT and several mayors are already trying to do.

Assuming $3.4B HSR/ARC money for Ohio and New Jersey is redeployed and Given Mica’s penchant for world-class HSR (), one scenario that seems sensible and politically feasible to drive Northeast and Southeast faster towards 220 mph service is:

$2.0B on NEC upgrades between Trenton and New Haven.
$1.4B added to $0.7B already for DC-Richmond-Raleigh-Charlotte

I know that New Rochelle-New Haven would not be 220 mph, but with upgrades and FRA regulation changes it can reach 120 mph, zero auto crossings and higher capacity for the entire NEC.

I’m sure that Midwest Congresspersons would prefer that Madison-Milwaukee funds be redeployed in the Midwest. So there are two reasonable scenarios:

(A) Add $822M to upgrade Milwaukee-Chicago for 220 mph
(B) Add $822M + $1239M + $35M to Chicago-St. Louis 220 mph

If the new Wisconsin Gov has any sense, he should eat his “Rail Is Dead” words, opt for A and claim credit for creating over a billion in new jobs. The argument that rail will only help Milwaukee people spend more money in Chicago is a red herring. People who want to shop and dine in Chicago will drive there anyway. At least with 220 mph service, Wisconsin will give more people in Chicago and St. Louis a convenient reason to visit downtown Milwaukee more frequently.

Short term plans. Short stretches of 125 MPH tracks already exist. Long term plans have been for 125 MPH service since the Turboliners arrived. … and wore out and didn’t get replaced….

ThomasD, the $3+ billion of federal ARC funds is FTA New Start transit funding and has to be reallocated to local transit projects, not high speed or intercity rail. Although there may be commuter rail projects that also benefit Amtrak that might get a piece of the redistributed ARC funds.

The cost of upgrading and double tracking the entire Chicago to St. Louis corridor for 8 daily 110 mph trains is around $3.1 billion. Not sure how much of that is on top of the $1.1 billion IL got for the Chi-StL corridor. To build a separate 220 mph corridor for that route is going to be in the ballpark of $10 billion or more and will take years of engineering studies and political & public discussion before any concrete can be poured.

The cost of 220 mph on Chicago-St. Louis is not “$10 billion or more”; it’s $8 billion, plus contingency. Unlike the $3 billion 110 mph plan, it has the unique benefit of being faster than the streamlined trains of the 1930s, which got killed by pre-Interstate road building.

“ThomasD, the $3+ billion of federal ARC funds is FTA New Start transit funding and has to be reallocated to local transit projects, not high speed or intercity rail. Although there may be commuter rail projects that also benefit Amtrak that might get a piece of the redistributed ARC funds.”

AlanF, Thanks for the clarification that ARC funds would be redistributed to local transit projects.

If the definition of local transit projects is New Jersey, it can stretch from Newark to Trenton and Northern NJ can still use a chunk of the funds for other transit projects. But it seems Christie would reject those funds on the same basis that he doesn’t want NJ to put up 20% of costs.

If the definition of local transit projects includes other states willing to put up 20%, I’m sure MA, CT, NY, PA and MD will have no problem carving up that $3B, including for commuter rail transit ROW shared with Amtrak.

I think Vrginia could have fun with 400 million of Ohio’s money and if Wisconsion gives up their 800 million New York Could have a blast building their rail system projects. I think Vrginia and New York have several things in common with their projects they have been hoping that the high speed rail funding comes while Wisconison never was really that happy about it in the first place and Ohio hasn’t been that really wow about it or jumping for joy and now they both seem to be complaining that this is a pain so I think they should get that high speed rail funding out of those places right away. I’ve also heard rumors that Florida’s high speed rail system might go belly up so that’s going to be when the real fun beguns for New York North Carolina and Vrginia who would love to cut that hunk of beef of 3 billion dollars up between them.

$400M is not really enough for Virginia. A bit over half a billion would pay for the planned improvements from Washington to Fredericksburg. On the other hand, the NEC Master Plan says you could do everything Amtrak and MARC want between Washington and Baltimore for $600M. If I were FRA I’d probably prefer Maryland to Virginia.

VA was just awarded $45 million in the FY2010 HSIPR grants for Preliminary Engineering and Tier 2 EIS studies for the Arlington VA to Richmond corridor and an Appomattox river bridge replacement. I don’t think the FRA will be giving additional major funding to VA for the DC to RIchmond corridor until the engineering studies are further along.

There was a $2.something million award in the HSIPR stimulus grants in January for engineering studies for replacing the Long Bridge across the Potomac river and the segment running to Arlington, VA (to become a 4 track segment). So that is why the VA study grant was for Richmond to Arlington, not DC.

Concrete ties and continous welded rails have allowed the Canadians to boost the speed of their trains substantially in the past ten years.

80 – 90 mph between stops is the norm now.

To Bruce MCF and all the others that insist the 3C was the first route to be built in Ohio, and insist ex Governor Taft as he proposed it years ago.

This is the official map, as agreed to from all the governors in the Midwest in 2004 should increased funding become available for rail purposes.


Where is the 3C route ?

Where did the 3C in Ohio come from ?

Where did this Ohio rail hub idea come from ?

Hardly, just the opposite.

Clarifying as to what a cluster mess Strickland did to the entire rail proposition in Ohio.

If you don’t want to know what went on behind the scenes with various players and state officials in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, why are reading then ?

The fact that you are saying untruths on the points that can be verified casts doubt that your account of what went on behind the scenes is entirely true.

If the untruths on the verifiable points are because you are too lazy to be bothered to verify them or too dim to understand what you are reading, it still may be that you are giving an accurate accounting of the behind the scenes politics. On the other hand, if they are deliberate lies, either fed to you or invented by you, that obviously are biased in the direction of the political strategy of the ORP, then there seems to be a faint prospect of getting an unbiased account of what went on behind the scenes out of what you say.

buckereychuckle, you keep insisting that Strickland picked the 3C route for political reasons ~ which is likely true ~ and then engage in continuing Republican campaign sloganeering which insisted that its a bad route, which is patent nonsense.

And nothing you can say can change the fact that the Ohio Hub plan was developed long before Strickland became Governor, under Voinovich and Taft.

I can tell you are a Republican though, in the way that you deliberately replace what I said, which is true, that it was developed under Taft, with something that I did not state. Taft was obviously no strongly pushing any passenger rail plan, since if he was pushing hard, Chicago / Cleveland would have been in Phase 1 of the 2004 MRRS rather than later.

The 3C was studied in . It found operating ratios over 1, Benefit:Cost ratios over 1, and work continued. The 3C plan was developed on the assumption of the MRRS system (which was of course in development long before 2004 as well). Strickland was Governor in 2001?

The full Ohio Hub plan was developed and presented side by side with the MRRS system in 2004. Strickland was Governor in 2004?

The staging proposed at that time is in this map. As anyone can see, there is no “stab in the back” of the MRRS in this phasing. Instead it is in sync with the proposed 2004 MRRS phasing, which is why the Phase 2 connection that connects Cleveland to Toledo then extends to Detroit: that Chicago / Detroit link of the MRRS is in the first phase of the MRRS (Chicago to St. Louis, Madison, and Detroit), and the 2004 MRRS route from Chicago to Cleveland via Fort Wayne and Toledo is slated for a later phase.

In 2004, when the MRRS that you are referring to as the gold standard is slated to go through the Fort Wayne alignment that you have, inconsistently, denigrated, the 2004 Ohio Hub integrates to the 2004 MRRS route at Detroit, Fort Wayne, and Cincinnati.

Obviously if Indiana changes its mind between 2004 and 2009, and has the MRRS alignment to Cleveland go on the South Bend alignment, that affects the Cleveland / Chicago route and the Pittsburgh / Columbus / Chicago route. The routes unaffected are the 3C and the Columbus/Detroit route.

Now, according to you, Indiana changed the alignment that was in the 2004 MRRS. That would require a revision of the Ohio Hub routes that were slated to run through the Fort Wayne alignment. Ohio didn’t have a Cleveland / Toledo / Chicago via South Bend route on the shelf: indeed, the ORDC would not have even had stakeholder discussions with the corridor owner regarding what works would need to be done on the corridor to allow the passenger traffic to run on it without any negative impact on freight traffic.

We really didn’t. You said that because of the lack of service to Chicago, 3C would underperform. I don’t have an opinion either way, and it’s irrelevant here anyway. I’m complaining that you’re portraying the regionwide Chicago hub network as evidence that Ohio’s plan was politicized.

“Underperform” is also a relative term. Since over 80% of the ridership projection is in-corridor transport ~ Columbus / Chicago via either Cleveland or Cincinnati are, after all, a bit of a long way around ~ underperforming a 190%+ operating ratio by 20% on the revenue side leaves a 152% operating ratio. Underperforming a 190%+ operating ratio projection by 10% leaves a 171% ratio.

And the ridership projection for the 110mph 3C was made when gas was well under $2.50/gallon. Getting the intracity mode split up by up by a few tenths of a percent would easily cover a loss of 15% or so ongoing travel.

Quoting from the legend of that map: “Alternative High Speed Rail Routings”. Yet again you point to evidence that undermines rather than supports your argument.

Given the direct evidence you provide there that the route through to Chicago from Toledo is not yet decided, and there are two distinct alternative alignments in play, how exactly could Ohio hope to get funding for that corridor and promise to be able to break ground in 2011?

Since you have shot the transport merits of that line of argument out of the water with your own evidence, that leaves the “whatever Strickland had decided to do, the ORP would have said it was the wrong way and the other one was the right way” as the more plausible explanation for your conclusion.

This is my evidence on that point:

See, there, I’m using your evidence against you. You claim that there is one route, via the Capital Corridor, and as evidence present a map which show two alternative routes, one on the Capital Corridor alignment and the other on the Fort Wayne alignment.

However, for your claim that the Indiana project application went on the Capital Corridor route, I can actually use another piece of evidence that you yourself introduced: IN-Chicago Cleveland HSR Service:

The Indiana Chicago-Cleveland Corridor High Speed Rail Service Program will implement high speed passenger rail service at speeds of up to 110 mph in the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Eight round trips per day will be provided from Chicago to Toledo via Fort Wayne and nine round trips from Toledo to Cleveland with an end to end corridor express travel time of 4 hours and 22 minutes. A map of the corridor is attached.


I never claimed that, I said Ohio left the table leaving Indiana holding the bag with no time left to turn in the application.

Strickland cancelled the last meetings, Indiana only had this option on the table.

Once again you have proven nothing.

I never claimed that, I said Ohio left the table leaving Indiana holding the bag with no time left to turn in the application. Strickland canceled the last meetings, Indiana only had this option on the table.

You have said far more than just this one point, including stating that: “The Pittsburgh to Chicago service was to run on the exact same route that the Capitol Limited does at a much higher speed during daylight hours.“, without any evidence that that concept was far enough advanced to have a prospect of gaining funding .. especially since the last alternatives analysis for Chicago to Toledo found Fort Wayne to be the preferred alignment and the last alternatives analysis for Pittsburgh to Cleveland found the Youngstown branch line to be the preferred alignment.

OK, folks, it’s time for a nice little reminder about comment rules, which you can find here. I will repeat the warning I make every time the comment section becomes a bit heated: If I consider a comment to be designed specifically as an insult against another commenter rather than a thoughtful response to the issues raised in the article, I will delete it.

BTW – The MN gov election isn’t over yet. With less than 1/2 % separating Dayton and Emmer a recount will occur.

Hey, Yoanh’s right folks. All this heated commentary is just beating a dead horse in the first place. The fact of the matter is that rail advocates in Ohio have bee pushing for this for decades and Ksich has now killed it along with all other things passenger rail. Nobody dislikes that fact more than i do but he’ll be running the show staring in January and we’re stuck with that unpleasant reality for at least the next four years. I kept hoping that that somehow I’d be proven wrong but, sadly, I wasnt’t.

Certainly the killing of this project was locked in much earlier in the year when the either the Republican party decided to demonize the project or collaborate in that strategy. By the time Labor Day rolled around, killing the project was a certainty if Kasich won.

The slender reed of a hope that Kasich would pivot on “this” project being a bad one but “another” project being a good one was dashed immediately when Kasich announced the death of passenger rail.

The next four years is indeed locked in as no progress in Ohio while work in other states progresses. The discussion is over what strategy to adopt going into 2014, whether to go back to the bet the bank on the 220mph strategy that failed in the 80’s or to pursue the building of something on the back of the strong prospects of the Cleveland/Columbus corridor.

“Mr. Hickenlooper has been a major cheerleader for new light rail lines and also implemented the B-Cycle bike sharing system.”

Hickenlooper did not implement the B-Cycle bike sharing program.

Is it possible for the federal government to reallocate Wisconsin High Speed Rail funding to the affected county governments and to subvert the state opposition?

I don’t know if they could, but it wouldn’t be productive anyway. The individual counties don’t have Transportation Departments capable of coordinating a major project like this.

If they do have Transportation Departments, their main job is probably keeping gravel county roads in good shape, filling potholes, and plowing/salting the roads in winter.

The Federal Department of Transportation also does not have the expertise or manpower to coordinate the actual execution of a project on the ground.

The rules for the ARRA HSIPR funding was that only states could apply. I’m not sure if that was written into the law or if it was DOT/FRA rules.

There was a separate pot of money granted to Amtrak, much of which went to ADA compliance and security enhancements.

And in addition to the above, the counties are not in a financial position to be able to make the commitments required to reach an agreement to take funds on this scale.

Wisconsin’s best hope, short of the “newly elected Governor makes a politically embarrassing backdown that could well doom him in the 2014 Republican Gubernatorial primary”, is that a god slice of the money stays in the Midwest/Great Lakes, where it will do the maximum good in terms of demonstration effect.

lets outlaw the republican party. They have set this country back long enough. The rest of the civlized world is passing us up now and in the future.


There is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that CSX is going to let the east-west main line they spent a billion and a half buckos improving in the 1990’s be infested by “high speed” DMU trains. NO EFFING WAY is THAT gonna happen!

If there is ever service between Chicago and Pittsburgh it will go the way of the old PCC&StL line through Ft. Wayne and Lima then most likely follow a the old Pennsy secondary line along the arch of the Ohio south of Canton to Pittsburgh. NS won’t let IT’S east-west main line be infested by “high speed” DMU trains, either.

The Pennsy is a fine alignment on the west end because it was built by “The Standard Railroad of the World”. Unfortunately, bypassing Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown in favor of Ft. Wayne, Lima, and “somewhere south of Canton” is a pretty poor trade.

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