DOT High-Speed Rail Intercity Rail

As Ohio and Wisconsin Sink into Self-Imposed Austerity, California and Florida Profit on Rail

» Florida’s high-speed project is now fully funded from the federal government; California is closer to connecting Fresno with Bakersfield. Other states, including Washington and Illinois, also receive major allocations.

Ohio and Wisconsin will not be getting the new intercity rail lines whose construction Washington agreed to fully fund just ten months ago. The November election of Republican governors meant the revocation of state support for projects that would have connected some Midwestern cities to the national rail network for the first time in decades, including along a line between Milwaukee and Madison and another between Cleveland and Cincinnati. These politicians ran successful campaigns partly based on a refusal to subsidize future train operations.

Today, the federal Department of Transportation announced that it would reappropriate the $1.2 billion in funds once meant for Ohio and Wisconsin to thirteen other states, with the large majority heading to California and Florida, which are building the nation’s only true high-speed lines. Wisconsin will be able to keep $14 million, a tiny fraction of its original award, to spend on improving the existing Amtrak Hiawatha service.

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority will receive $624 million in funds, increasing the state’s total take in the national intercity rail program to $3.9 billion. It announced late last month that it would build a 65-mile corridor in the state’s Central Valley for the first phase of what will eventually be a $45 billion network of 220 mph trains connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. $616 million of the allocations received today will be dedicated specifically to extend that initial line south to Bakersfield. This should relieve the recently popular rhetoric that the project is a “train to nowhere” because its initial construction would terminate in the little-known city of Corcoran; the new expenditures would connect Fresno and Bakersfield, whose metropolitan areas collectively house 1.7 million people, no insignificant sum. That said, future funding from Washington will be necessary to pay for the whole project, even on top of the $10 billion approved for the project by state taxpayers in 2008.

While smaller, Florida’s $342 million grant represents the last piece of federal funding necessary to pay for an 84-mile line planned for the Tampa-Orlando corridor, along which trains traveling at up to 186 mph will run by 2015 if all goes to plan. As long as the proposal is signed off by new Governor Rick Scott — not the world’s biggest rail supporter, but not fully against it either — construction could begin in 2012. The $2.7 billion project now has $2.35 billion in U.S. funds backing it and $280 million in state funds committed.

Governor Scott is likely to be searching for private partners to cover those latter costs, since he suggested during the campaign that he didn’t want his state’s taxpayers to be on the line for any of the program’s costs. The announcement earlier this week that Japan’s JR Central railroad was willing to offer the state a $210 million loan for the line and that China’s CSR Corp will invest in U.S. manufacturing with General Electric in order to improve its chance to win the right to operate lines in Florida and California should assure him that such aid is forthcoming if a deal that allows the private company to collect ticket revenues is negotiated. Virtually every high-speed rail system in the world is operationally profitable.

The announcement by the Department of Transportation a month before the sitting of the new Congress, in which the House of Representatives will be Republican-led, was likely strategic, designed to prevent the projects in California and Florida from being de-funded, as some have suggested. Incoming House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica of Florida has previously stated his skepticism about the Tampa-Orlando line, even arguing that it be curtailed to a 20-mile segment between the Orlando Airport and the Disney amusement parks. But the full-funding of the project made possible today seems to have convinced Mr. Mica of the full project’s merits. He was quoted in the Tampa Bay Business Journal as saying that “This means we could probably construct the line (to Tampa) without taxpayers underwriting the cost of it,” and that it is therefore an acceptable investment. I assume he meant the State of Florida when he said “taxpayers,” since the national rail program is of course being sponsored by debt that will eventually have to be paid back.

With full support from the incoming Governor of California Jerry Brown, the federal government has now virtually ensured construction will begin on these two significant projects. They must be undertaken very carefully since they represent the first American efforts to invest in true high-speed rail on new, dedicated corridors. The federal government must monitor each project’s progress with an eye towards keeping costs in line and completion on time.

The Department of Transportation has not, however, abandoned its interest in slower-speed intercity rail projects, despite the abandoning of the Ohio and Wisconsin lines. Washington state received some $161 million to improve the line between the Oregon and Canadian borders. Other states, including Illinois, New York, and Maine, will benefit from smaller grants detailed in the table at the conclusion of this article.

The government is likely to have another $1 billion to spend on intercity rail programs in Fiscal Year 2011, based on the budget bill the House of Representatives passed yesterday. That legislation must be approved by the Senate before it enters into law.

U.S. High-Speed Rail Awards

StateNew Awards (m$)Total Awards (m$)Funding Lost (m$)
North Carolina1.5569.70
New York7.3184.80
Northeast Corridor0125.30

Image above: Proposed Downtown Tampa High-Speed Rail station, from Florida Department of Transportation

211 replies on “As Ohio and Wisconsin Sink into Self-Imposed Austerity, California and Florida Profit on Rail”

It will be interesting to see if there is any popular backlash towards the Rep. governors of Ohio and Wisconsin tomorrow. Unfavorable press before a term even starts could help convince the new (and old) Iowa governor Branstad to continue with the rail line to Iowa City.

There won’t be any backlash against either the new governor of Ohio or the new Governor of Wisconsin over the slaughter of their state’s rail projects.

There is some backlash already, not least because our incoming governor just refused $400 million for a project which could have been made more viable by being built in phases (read: not south of Dayton, maybe only to Columbus). Kasich and the Ohio GOP have decided that only two forms of transportation matter: cars and planes. Trains are for moving the coal that’s burned in the powerplants in the Ohio Valley, which are owned by First Energy and American Electric Power, which have a long history of causing plumes of acid rain to the north and east. These companies are major players in the lobbyist game in Columbus.

Ohio is racing backwards. We do still have an infrastructure of manufacturing, which is still relevant to both a rail resurgence, and to developing wind technology to fit the conditions on the Great Lakes. For both rail and wind, these manufacturers are typically concentrated in the northeast sixth of the state–yep, the heart of the Rust Belt. Metals and precision machinery still have a presence in Ohio’s economy, which is all the more significant when you remember the state hasn’t had a net gain in jobs for almost 11 years.

Ohio’s inability to act on passenger rail has a lot to do with our past prosperity coming from the auto industry, like Michigan. Now, both states are racing to the bottom. Ohio is so anti-rail and anti-transit that the state constitution all but forbids operating assistance to transit operators; Ohio’s per-capita state funding of public transit is less than New Mexico’s. There is also the old north/south divide: it’s perfectly fine for northern Ohioans to pay to drive on the Turnpike, but don’t dare suggest that the same happen on 70, 71, 75 or 77. Cleveland has a local rail network only because the Shaker Rapid was a legacy of private investment, and that same money built most of the right of way for the Red Line on the East Side of Cleveland.

There is a low but growing noise, an angry noise, that our governor puts *his* ideology over *our* jobs and *our* economy. Every urban area in Ohio has problems, and most have problems the rest of the country would count as chronic and severe. We don’t want to pay taxes for the services we get, and we don’t want to change the way services are provided because “local control” is ultimately a form of permanent bipartisan patronage. Because taxation is such a fratured mess, it’s difficult to build a clear case and make clear cost comparisons. There is geographical jealousy, and this is exacerbated by the continued movement of people and jobs (and wealth) south and west, out of Northeast Ohio. Northeast Ohio has the largest existing rail infrastructure, and it’s not unreasonable to speculate that Republicans in places like Warren and Butler counties are convinced that any rail project is just another way to get them to pay for Cleveland’s and Youngstown’s problems. This has been the bread and butter of state politics for over 20 years, and the GOP has worked very hard to perpetuate this mindset.

Ohio isn’t California, or Connecticut. It’s a state where there is no leadership from government, and what clear voice was provided by Conrail as the state’s primary rail owner was destroyed fifteen years ago. What private investor would come into a market where the government seeks to create a hostile environment–and where that hostile environment is rooted in politics, not in economic reality? A rail renaissance would buy immense spare capacity on Ohio roads and at our airports, as it will clearly do in California, and that capacity would last us far longer. Don’t put Ohio’s refusal down to a lack of interest. Put it down to internal conflict which is pushing one of this country’s largest states closer and closer to economic implosion, all in the name of a “conservative” ideology which is more statist plutocracy than anything else.

If half of what you’re saying about Ohio transportation politics are true, I’m really glad that $400M was redeployed. Without ongoing political support for HSR coupled with Rapid Transit and Airport connectivity, Ohio would have been a lousy example of regional rail, not HSR.

IMO it was best that California, Florida, and Illinois got the lion’s share because they are building 186-220 mph HSR service. With Mica and LaHood in accord about the need to boost Northeast Corridor service as well, we’re going to hear more about public and private investments in 2011 to boost that service as well, most likely to 185-200 mph.

Given our sorry national funding priorities, it is politically useful to Phase 1 upgrade existing 60-79 mph Amtrak lines to 110 mph top speed, 70-75 mph average speed with 10 daily trains in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine, Virginia and North Carolina. It is important to convince middle America that HSR is not just a East Coast and West Coast benefit. So we must quickly re-establish Chicago as a major hub connecting 110 mph Detroit, MIlwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and eventually Des Moines lines.

For any other leading nation, the latter lines would also be upgraded to 168-199 mph (270 kmph-320 kmph). But in the broken infrastructure politics of America, we have to give our citizens a sample of Emerging HSR service the Northeast Corridor proved as viable over 20 years before true HSR merits serious investment nationwide.

In 2-3 years, maybe Cincy, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Ft. Wayne will wise up and form a HSR projects coalition for federal funding before Texas wakes up with their own California scale project. It may take until the 2016 Texas governor election to get it together, but when they do, there’s going to be a giant sucking sound on the USDOT’s HSR budget.

Under existing language, a “city project coalition” could not have applied for funding. It was a state making the application.

That came up when the “Harry Reid’s Train to Las Vegas” lie was used as a talking point ~ the proposal closest to being shovel ready was a private venture, so not able to apply, so there was no “Train to Las Vegas” that was really eligible for anything other than the smaller pool of planning funds.

If you are referring to the Desert Express Train to Las Vegas, I hope it completely changes alignment and train type.

Although they claim to have $4B in private Las Vegas money backing their Desert Express project, this uber-dumb alignment tops at 140 mph from Vegas to Barstow to Victorville, the latter of which is nearly 75 miles from Anaheim and Downtown LA and a two hour drive in normal traffic. DE train backers stop at the small town of Victorville just short of the mountain pass to greater LA. This one has all the earmarks of wanting for a government handout to complete the most expensive part.

If they push ahead with the DE, I for one will lead the charge to call it the “Dumb Express.”

If the Vegas money behind this scheme has half a brain, they will switch alignment to Vegas-Barstow-Palmdale and convince Nevada DOT to pay additional fees and manage a 220 mph extension from California HSR at Palmdale. What do they think will shuffle more Angelenos to Vegas – a 1 hour 45 minute party train trip time with CHSR high frequency or a 4 hour trip that includes a 2 hour drive just to reach the DE train? The Palmdale connection would also open Vegas to NorCal for even more train riders.

Victorville *is* on the way to Palmdale, for what it’s worth. The CHSRA has not yet selected an alignment or station location in the Palmdale area, so I suspect that the Desert Xpress backers are waiting for that to be nailed down before trying to get the Palmdale connection.

I do not imagine that they ever intended to terminate at Victorville permanently.

“Victorville *is* on the way to Palmdale”

Only If you consider 30-40 miles out of the way. I’ve driven through Victorville many times on the way to Vegas and it is no where near Palmdale.

From LA to Las Vegas, there are two basic routes – the existing freeway route through Cajon Pass, and an alternative route through Palmdale. They have about the same length; the difference is that one is better if you live in NorCal and the other is better if you live in the Inland Empire or San Diego, and that one uses a mountain pass that will have to be crossed anyway to get to NorCal and the other requires a new mountain crossing.

I don’t think CHSRA or USDOT will fall for the sucker play to tunnel through the San Gabriel Mountains (I-15 corridor) just to please Vegas investors. Its a bad decision for several reasons.

1. LA-Palmdale-Barstow-Las Vegas using 220 mph CHSR trains could make the trip in 1 hour 45 minutes. That trip time and high frequency trains will make it a huge success. In contrast, even with substantial I-15 corridor tunneling, LA-Ontario-Victorville-Barstow-Las Vegas in 3 hours by 140 mph trains will NOT attract as many people in SoCal.

2. More convenience for 10 million people in the Central Valley and SF Bay Area outweighs more convenience for 3.5 million people in San Diego metro area.

3. Money saved by not tunneling through I-15 corridor will enable faster CHSR funding for 220 mph Riverside-Palm Springs-Phoenix that benefits all of California.

Just drove through Cajon Pass on 12/26; it was packed. While driving I thought of another good reason for the eventual LA-Vegas train to go from Palmdale-Barstow-Vegas instead of Victorville-Barstow-Vegas.

There is a huge constituency of businesses lining I-15 who don’t want too much SoCal-Vegas traffic siphoned away by HSR. By not having the train go directly south along 1-15 and I-215 corridors those business could still count on many drivers from Riverside, San Bernardino, and northern San Diego counties. Lets remember that some people enjoy driving their luxury/sports/SUV autos so much or will be carrying multiple passengers, so they won’t mind paying $8-10/gallon to/from Vegas.

Theres also a huge number of people from LA and Orange counties who have experienced 4.5 hours (best case) to 7 hours (worst case like today) driving to Vegas. For them, an LA-Palmdale-Barstow-Vegas route at 220 mph and sub-2 hours priced at sub-90% of Southwest flights would be a no-brainer decision. Adding Northern California-Palmdale-Barstow-Vegas via CAHSR trains would be the cherry on top.

Lastly, the CAHSR train would ease I-15 and I-215 capacity issues during holidays and weekends.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
“Both gubernatorial candidates (in Wisconsin and Ohio), now governors-elect, told us they weren’t going to spend that money as the law is written. And if grants that are obligated to places that aren’t going to use them as the law intends, then we will give that money to places that will use it as the law intends. You can ask governors-elect whether they decided not to put people in their own state to work just because Barack Obama proposed it as a project. My hunch is that there are people sitting around their kitchen tables in Ohio and Wisconsin who are wondering why they’re not at work because (of) a partisan political food-fight by a governor-elect.”

It’s the first day of class and the teacher already knows your name.

Well at least the rail depart showed they had guts in that instead of letting them change the laws to dump it into roads at least they took it back and sent it back out to rail only which is very good news showing the saying this money is for passanger rail and it is going ot be used for passanger rail.

There won’t be any immediate backlash. The backlash will not come until and unless the opening of HSR services is in the news and someone takes advantage of it to say, “that could have been us, but so and so said no.”

Which is already happening. The backlash is immediate, and extends to independents and business-minded Republicans.

Folks are already counting up the jobs lost, factories lost or already moving (Talgo) because of Walker’s decision.

No businessmen I know throws away $810 million in infrastructure upgrades and 5,000 jobs just to make a political point. Either Walker is working on the Obama takedown effort, or it’s just kabuki theater designed to leverage other resources. Some sources indicate it’ll go forward eventually once the thinkers in Wisconsin weigh the alternatives, I’m not so sure.

Yes, I should have prefixed that, “In Ohio …”

There’ll be a backlash in Wisconsin, because Wisconsin got the Talgo plant, now likely to relocate to Illinois, and losing a manufacturing plant has, for some reason, a lot more potent symbolism than losing ten times as many construction or service operation jobs.

There’ll be publicity about the loss of the rail in Ohio ~ there already has been, I saw a headline on the loss of the rail project in the very Republican and very tiny local newspaper in the service station today ~ but it’ll be to lay the groundwork for a backlash down the track.

Unemployed people, especially in the construction trade in Wisconsin and Ohio that voted for the Republican nominees deserve to be unemployed. This is coming from a union guy.

On balance possibly a good thing that the Ohio and Wisconsin projects were cancelled so we can get true high speed rail in Florida and California, and better upgrades elsewhere.

Will the extra money be spent on already partially funded projects (say Chicago-St Louis) or completely new ones?

I think what doomed both these projects is they didn’t take the money and run. Such as soon as they got one dime of that money the suporters should have broken ground right off the bat. That way if it was a real project and not a study it would be much harder to kill.

Now as for Florida and Califronia I still think their projects could still be slaughtered in that all they are doing is talk and studies and not building anything so they are still easy prey.

This is construction funding we are talking about … every single one of the projects at this level of spending is for breaking ground.

If the California HSR Authority gets the EIR/EIS cleared and the approval for the release of state bond funds, then the money already granted from the Federal government goes to construction.

And if this money is sufficient to either get through or around Corcoran (sp?), then if anything is appropriated over the next two years, they can apply in fairly small increments, since from Corcoran its at grade until Bakersfield.

What doomed the Ohio project was 16 years of Republican governors, so there was no ongoing incremental upgrades like in Washington and Illinois to leverage.

And having Republican governors is a self-perpetuating curse, since it results in Great Rip-Off Economics policies that end up driving both talented young people and formerly blue collar unemployed out of the state, maintaining the Republican tilt.

Well said BruceMcF.

The only thing I’d add is don’t hate moderate Repubs who didn’t engage in this job-killing political theater. The shame is on voters picking so many Right Wing zealots over moderate Repubs who actually knew how to negotiate and govern.

Vrginia is a Rupub state but they are moderate Repubs so they least suport it half and half. But the Teacettle party I find so strange and unfexable with things that they worry me.

“…announced late last month that it would build a 65-mile corridor in the state’s Central Valley for the first phase of what will eventually be a $45 billion network of 220 mph trains connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego.”

Until California lines up all of the funding needed, it’s not a “will eventually” but “may eventually”.

The Oregon/Washington project along the Amtrak Cascades corridor deserves this extra investment. Along with California and the North-East Corridor, it is probably in the top 3 of places ready for higher-speed rail (it’s better than Florida, where the cities are spread out around the state, and auto-oriented). I believe the Cascades route is already one of the busiest in the Amtrak network, and with the cities of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver at reasonable distances, even 110 mph rail can be competitive with flying for trips from Seattle, which is only 140 to 175 miles away (about 2.5 hours with 110 mph rail and stops every 50 miles; faster than flying when you consider security and wait time)

But Oregon and Washington really need to work the British Columbia to plan a true, >150 mph high speed project, which could connect Portland to Vancouver in under 3 hours. This would be a huge benefit to smaller cities in the corridor, like Eugene and Salem Oregon, and Olympia Washington, which would get direct service to major cities without a long drive to an airport or a long car trip.

I think Washingtion projects is a good route in that most of the projects they are working on have gone law suit few and the people there are behind them and suport them.I also like it in that it is a very long one with several major cities on it with big well respected transit systems.

Florida I’m worried in that it is 84 miles long and costing 3 billion dollars and it has five stops. It sounds like there are to many high speed rail funding eggs in one basket with the Floridia high speed rail project.

Joseph E,
Since the newest tilt-trains are capable of 185-200 mph on mild cures, think upgrading from 110 mph to 185-200 mph and future connection to California HSR via Eugene-Redding-Sacramento.

There are only three tilt trains I know of that can go at that speed, and none tilts very much. The Talgo 350 and Fastech 360 can both achieve about 7″ of cant deficiency at their top speed of 220-225 mph, and the N700-I can achieve 6″ at its top speed of 205 mph. In contrast, slower tilt trains, such as the Pendolino, can achieve 12″, at 150 mph.

That said, Sweden is looking for the possibility of very high-speed tilt trains, targeting a cant deficiency of about 10″. The researchers I’ve read on this (and there aren’t many, so caveat emptor) believe that the only reason nobody’s developed 220 mph, 10″ CD trains is that nobody’s asked for them yet.

Such trains could not achieve full speed on a legacy line unless it was already quite straight, for example the southern half of the NEC or the oldest Shinkansen and TGV lines. Greenfield lines can usually be built with enough curve radius not to require tilting. Sweden’s search for a tilt train comes from its mountainous terrain, where any reduction in curve radius translates to a large cost reduction.

But these “110mph corridors” are corridors designed for 60mph transit speeds relying on Talgo-style diesel passive tilt to go 110mph. Upgrading them to 125mph with electrification and active tilt seems to me to be a quite reasonable prospect, and still under half the cost of an Express HSR corridor …

… but for corridors where the transport benefit justifies the capital cost of going faster, better to have an Express HSR corridor to run through at full speed and use junctions with the 125mph Rapid Rail corridors to proliferate the available origins and destinations that get the benefit of that Express HSR corridor.

Alon, I assume that more curves and a better cant deficiency are required in the Northeast. It won’t be cheap, but the corridor has the traffic to make the numbers pencil out by 2020.

BruceMcF wrote,
“better to have an Express HSR corridor to run through at full speed and use junctions with the 125mph Rapid Rail corridors to proliferate the available origins and destinations that get the benefit of that Express HSR corridor”

I get your point but start from the perspective that 185-220mph Express HSR + VHSR Routes must be our first priority due to some very Big Sticks about to whack America. For every three or four 110 mph routes upgraded to 125 mph, we can have one Express HSR route on the network backbone.

IMO, its best to create a well-selected cache of 110 mph feeder routes having 2 passenger-only tracks. After 2030, upgrade them to 125 or 150 mph.

A better cant deficiency is required everywhere. There are (low-speed) tilt trains that do 12″ on medium-quality track, and non-tilt trains that do 6-7″. The FRA forces the tilt trains down to 6″ and the non-tilt trains down to 3″.

The NEC is the only place where, subject to the requirement of full-fat HSR, this makes a huge difference in construction cost. In places like California, it doesn’t really matter since the ROW is straight or greenfield anyway; in that case, you might as well go with lower values to reduce FRA regulatory risk and expand the pool of potential trains.

There is of course the magic effect of having 110mph passing track connecting to slower track:

A track owner or a railroad operating above Class 5 speeds, may request approval from the Federal Railroad Administrator to operate specified equipment at a level of cant deficiency greater than four inches in accordance with §213.329(c) and (d) on curves in Class 1 through 5 track which are contiguous to the high speed track

Combine an express superelevation on a Class 4 track ~ say 6in. on a 1,000ft radius curve ~ with a stretch of Class 6 track ~ say a fairly straight section with few level crossings ~ and it seems that it is possible to apply for a waiver for higher cant deficiency for the whole stretch.

Which only makes sense, because as we all know, the speediness of the Class 6 track inspires all Class 4 track it it connected with to do a better job of maintaining passenger comfort in curves.

Ah, yes, that. But even then it’s insufficient, since a low-speed non-tilting train should be doing 6″ of cant deficiency and the FRA magic high-speed rail waiver allows up to 5″. The official excuse is that high-speed trains (defined the FRA way) can handle the curves better.

However, in the proposed new rule, Class 3 through 5 track can be superelevated to 7″, though anti-rollover standing balance rules of AFAIRAU 50:100 weight distribution between the high and low wheel might restrict the rolling stock that could use that track, and passenger rolling stock can be qualified by test rather than waiver is static lateral carbody acceleration is under 0.15g, up from 0.1g under the present rule.

In the discussion of the static lateral carbody acceleration section, it notes that a completely stiff suspension could allow cant deficiency of 9″ without tilt. Amtrak Amfleet trains operating under the current waiver are cited as reaching up to 0.13g.

Amtrak Amfleet trains are currently allowed 5″ north of New Haven. The 0.15g rule corresponds to about 6″ of cant deficiency with real-world suspension; 9″ is hypothetical for a perfectly stiff car. The FRA is starting to align its regulation here with most other countries’ practice, which is good.

Even more critically, that is not a permission to apply for a waiver, its a certification with supporting testing, so project designers and manufacturers can aim for the standard rather than worry about whether the waiver will be granted.

The superelevation rule was also tightened, where existing phrasing was 7″ on a related measure, which when combined with allowed tolerance from design standard translated into a maximum 6″ superevelation ~ the new rule states it in terms of superelevation as a design standard and tolerance is defined around that, so 7″ superelevation on express track becomes possible. There is standing balance requirements on rolling stock, so not all rolling stock would be permitted to use that corridor, but to me, you do not want every coal and granite train to qualify to enter an express bypass anyway.

AFAIU, 15″ camber is ~61mph for a 1000ft curve radius curve (given ~5.75deg curvature), while with 9″ of camber from 4″ of superelevation and 5″ of cant deficiency, that same curve is ~47mph. The freight speed on that same express curve is ~49mph, where it is ~41mph on the same curve with 4″ superelevation.

So if a tilt can bring the allowed cant deficiency for the new 0.15g standard to 8″, that’s lovely.

“IMO, its best to create a well-selected cache of 110 mph feeder routes having 2 passenger-only tracks. After 2030, upgrade them to 125 or 150 mph.”

To ensure I don’t sound like I’ve contradicted my emphasis on 185-220 mph routes, the cache of 110 mph feeder routes should be to/from Top 41-100 Metro Areas having under 1M population. They may or may not be in the 185-220 mph Interstate HSR Network.

Two examples of Top 41-100 Metro Areas illustrate the distinction. Winston-Salem should be a 110 mph spur from Greensboro spur on 185-200 mph Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta HSR network spine. In contrast, Fresno and Bakersfield are on the California HSR network spine to receive 220 mph service.

By 2030, we’ll know which of those 110 mph legacy lines should be upgraded to 168-186 mph (270-300 kmph).

We get more immediate passenger transport benefit now if we pursue Midwest Regional Rail System model 110mph corridors, and focus the 10:50 pessenger-only and two-track passenger only track to those corridors that achieve patronage to justify upgrade to the increase in train frequency to justify it, along with electrification and upgrade to 125mph.

A full-system focus on capital cost and transport benefit requires recognizing the substantial difference between the capital cost of systems based on quad gates with speed-sensitive trip at 110mph, systems based on hardened gates and partial grade separation for 125mph, and systems based on full grade separation above 125mph.

Those are substantial system wide capital cost thresholds where a transport market that fully justified the capital subsidy for a 110mph corridor may well not justify the capital subsidy for 125mph, even though the 125mph system may have twice the market share on transit time alone, justifying more frequent services, gaining an additional increment of market share on higher frequency, and so provide substantially more transport benefit and substantially higher gross operating surpluses.

And of course, with changing energy cost environment, a transport market may justify a 110mph system today, when in 2015 the same total transport demand will justify a 125mph system.

If 110 mph routes connecting our Top 40 Metro areas are being funded in Phase 1 as 110 mph Emerging HSR routes that will later be capable of 185-220 mph like the St. Louis-Champaign-Springfield-Chicago corridor, thats fine.

But thats not what I’m reading for most 110 mph routes connecting Top40 metro areas..

Emerging HSR routes should have standards to dedicate, purchase or build 2-passenger only tracks in each route and be required to get a substantial amount of curve easing to enable 100-110 mph over most of its route. In Phase 2, track profiles can be upgraded, grade-separations, catenary and new locos can be efficiently added to support 185-220 mph.


Economically, you make a good point, but we both know that rail critics relish the gift basket of reasons to fault Conventional Rail then paint Emerging HSR and HSR with same brush to reduce rail investment. Now the stakes have grown higher for 185-220 mph HSR routes entering construction, we should not refill those gift baskets.

Since it appears that 110 mph Emerging HSR routes will be a political and technical reality in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Coastal California and much of the Northeast, these routes can’t afford major delays or fatal accidents. They must also be time competitive with non-stop freeway driving for 250 miles and have sufficient frequency to be an alternative to flying.

To ensure that Emerging HSR wins public confidence and perception battles and achieves lower operating subsidy or slight profit, 110 mph Emerging HSR needs refined operating standards:

2-passenger only tracks
curve easing
high percentage of grade separations for urban trackage
quad safety gates elsewhere
stops averaging 40+ miles apart
75-80 mph average speed
10-14 trains daily, route population dependent
80% on-time performance, minimum
slightly higher FRA allowable cant deficiency
pricing similar to Acela Regional trains

Lastly, Emerging HSR routes interconnecting Top 40 Metro Areas under 500miles apart must have a 12-15 year upgrade path to 185-200 mph.

I think it would be well worth the money to go along these rail lines and go and cut a lot of the curves out all out togetter in that a rail line doesn’t eat as much land as a highway strighting project so it would be well worth the money.

Vrginia’s S Line they plan to chop out a lot of the major curves.

This ties in to the proposed rule change that allows higher cant deficiencies … a combined package of fixing bottleneck curves that are tighter than 1,000ft curve radius and speeding up transit speed through 1,000ft curve radius curves, combined with a combined cant from track superelevation and vehicle cant deficiency of 18″ would allow around 60mph around a well-maintained curve, on (Cant/(.0007*6deg)^0.5 and a floor of 60mph and ceiling of 110mph on track with any curves at all is going to be faster than a floor of 40mph and a ceiling of 125mph.

Curve easing and passing track should be designed as a package, to identify opportunities for higher gradient cuts that can both eliminate curves and shorten total track mileage.

And note that this applies to express freight too, since the biggest immediate win in terms of oil independence is long haul rapid freight corridors.

An express curve of about 1000ft radius with 7″ superelevation is just a shade under 6 degrees of curvature per chain, so taking 6 degrees, the 2″ cant excess speed for a speed minimum for freight on the express curve would be around 35mph, the balanced speed is about 40mph, and the 3″ cant deficiency allowed all vehicles is 48mph. A floor of 45mph and a Class 5 ceiling of 90mph gives substantial benefits for freight transits as well, especially when bypassing sections where heavy rail freight are climing hills at bicycle speed (which is to say more my bicycle speeds than tour de franc speeds climbing the same grade).

There’s been a movement here in ohio to form some kind of consortium to do something about the 3-C corridor so that the State won’t be on the hook with subsidies although I’m 100 per cent cerain that it’s too late since Uncle Sam has decided to withdraw the money so there’s NO HOPE for the 3-C corridor what soever. This idea is a good one that should have been set up as a plan B to be implemented upon Kasich’s election.

A 79 mph line averaging only 49-50 mph was never a good idea for HSR … sounds like a ripoff to John Q Public no matter how may ways you spin it.

Why didn’t Ohio DOT plan a 125 mph Cleveland-Toledo Phase 1 and a 125mph Cleveland-Columus Phase 2? That would have positioned Phase 1 as an independent utility line could be further speed upgraded and extended in either of three directions, depending on which route became more amenable for federal funding.

It also would have signaled to Ohioans an intent to go from Columbus to Cincy as the preferred Phase 3, without committing to it.

I have to agree. While it may be good to have any rail service, 50mph will not capture the public’s imagination. You’re correct, everyone should plan for 125mph passenger rail service….at the very least it has to be faster on average then the highway speed of 65mph.

The top speed isn’t too important; it’s a tool intended to achieve high average speed. It’s equally or more important to ensure higher permitted curve speed, better acceleration, shorter station dwell times (the 3C plan calls for 3 minutes, which is excessive) and less restrictive station throats. Of those the first three are a matter of FRA regulations. As a result, the Cleveland-Columbus leg loses about 20 minutes versus best practice, and the Columbus-Cincinnati leg loses nearly an hour.

Why not 125mph, because it cost another tranche more ~ it may not technically require full grade separation, but it is heading in that direction.

Why 3C in Phase 1 and the Lakeshore in Phase 2? Because the ridership projections say that the 3C operations are the more lucrative at 110mph, so that is the Phase 1 backbone ~ part of the Lakeshore ridership depends on network effects from the 3C junction.

Why build 110mph track first in a “Phase1.1” and then work on rolling out 110mph signaling and crossings in an incremental “Phase1.2” … because they mis-read the politics. At least, that’s my argument.

There is a lot of momentum in these kind of projects, and the momentum in the Ohio Hub has always been for building the whole 3C as the first step …

… and so the plan that was laid out for doing the 3C in steps when the word came down that the whole 3C was out of reach was more a transport planners plan than a political plan.

A more political plan would be to build a conventional rail commuter line Dayton / Cincinnati on 110mph class track wherever feasible, an actual 110mph corridor Columbus / Cleveland, where the 110mph trains can get the best advantage over the most drivers, the Youngstown / Cleveland alignment as a conventional rail speed line, and a conventional rail connector from Toledo to Detroit. Put it up and let the Feds wear the blame if they did not decide to fund some particular segment.

Then the phasing is to extend the 2C Emerging HSR to Dayton (with already existing hourly connection to Cincinnati), then upgrade the Dayton / Cincinnati corridor to Emerging HSR signals and crossings, then upgrade Cleveland / Toledo to 110mph, then upgrade Cleveland / Youngstown.

The 3C corridor is the most densely populated corridor in the country without any rail service. Columbus metro is 1.5 million, Cleveland-Akron is 2.8 million. The right of way is easy–the line from Cleveland to Shelby is in pretty good shape, and any way you take into downtown Cleveland is already grade-separated or nearly so. Most freight swings west to Marion, so there’s an existing parallel route where freight to Columbus can be diverted. Although this line is mostly single-track south of Shelby, there aren’t many lineside towns, and double-tracking and grade separation wouldn’t be overly difficult. There are only a few curves which would really need reconstruction, and none of those are in the middle of a populated area.

Cleveland to Toledo would make a lot more sense if it continued to Detroit. Neither state even bothers to discuss that notion, which is roundly idiotic, but our joint economic meltdown is reflective of our inability to help ourselves. Cleveland to Toledo…well, that’d be nice, but there are far more lineside towns unless you dip far to the south. Use the existing shore line and you have to deal with a swing or lift bridge at Toledo, Port Clinton, and maybe Cleveland. Come into Cleveland via Elyria and there’s a fairly tight curve at Berea. The more southerly option would miss Elyria, Vermilion and Sandusky; there is yet another study for commuter rail in this corridor.

3C beyond Columbus gets messy. The line skips Springfield, and there’s no good track into Dayton. Once you get to Dayton, there are something like three rights of way (two definite and one would require new track), and none of the cities south of Dayton seem to attach any priority to restoring any passenger service in this century. This is the core of Ohio’s GOP turf, and the Ohio GOP has spent two decades building the power to do the bidding of the deepest-pocketed lobbyists. Among the implications: utilities are big spenders, and three major incidents (2004 blackout, and Bush-era fight over scrubbers in overhauled existing coal-fired power plants, near-penetration of containment vessel at Davis-Besse nuke plant) demonstrate how little the state cares about anything but stroking its biggest spenders. We had a 20% income tax cut five years ago, phased in, and we knew five years ago we couldn’t afford it. The Ohio GOP does not want to pay for anything but highways. It’s not a stereotype or sour grapes.

Ohio is better positioned than almost any other state, because we have major population centers with open country in between, and we have an immense inventory of rights of way. We’re not growing, but that has its own advantage in that right of way encroachment isn’t the problem it would be in North Carolina, Virginia or Florida. Where there aren’t existing rights of way suitable for HSR, there are typically ways to get into or around populated areas without astronomical costs. One example of the utter lack of priority Ohio establishes for its rail potential: the eastern approach to Cleveland Union Terminal (not used by Amtrak in decades, but where local rail network operates) is about to be blocked (for all but existing RTA rail lines) by a 5000-space garage for the new casino. Existing Amtrak service uses the shore line, which involves a drawbridge at the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Downtown is on a bluff, surrounded by water on three sides, so losing the existing r/w is a huge loss. ODOT has made no comment about it.

I don’t see any private consortium coming into Ohio. I don’t see it because the state is so utterly disengaged from necessity. We had competing railroads, and the individual routes aren’t necessarily relevant today. Conrail was engaged in creating a true network, taking the pieces and building a much stronger whole. All the state sees now is the private companies–NS, CSX, Wheeling & Lake Erie–with no concern for something cohesive. It’s as pointless and stupid as allowing three companies to build parallel toll roads. If–IF–Ohio engaged the private companies, and sought to create an open-access network where all major corridors were grade-separated and electrified, there would be a reason for private investors to come here. We’re not going to have a nonprofit or jointly-owned rail network, so we’re not going to have public rail/private train like Sweden. The Swedish model is clearly viable, but it requires a government to decide on things like priorities. Ohio is too busy doing what Chrissie Hynde sang about–paving every town down the middle, by a government that had no pride.


If I make an exception from my mantra to build 185-200 mph between Top 40 Metro Areas stance, it sounds to me that a USDOT-MichiganDOT-OhioDOT-PennDOT-Amtrak coalition can find a 125 mph interim solution, they would utilize mostly existing trackage and likely operate at break-even: Chicago-Kalamazoo-Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philly-NYC.

For the benefit of readers who don’t know, Amtrak Keystone is receiving ARRA funds to upgrade Philly-Harrisburg to electric-powered 125 mph service. Amtrak Wolverine is receiving ARRA funds to upgrade Chicago-Hammond-Kalamazoo-Detroit to diesel-powered 110 mph service; Wolverine route could be further upgraded to electric-powered 125 mph for about $1B. Feel free to correct or refine my cost estimates to follow.

Amtrak Capital Limited already runs 79 mph locos in the DC-Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo corridor and Amtrak Pennsylvanian runs 79 mph locos in NYC-Philly-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh corridor that is really curvy and mountainous between Harrisburg-Pittsburgh.

Upgrading 50 miles of track ROW for electric-powered 125 mph Detroit-Toledo service should cost about $200M. Upgrading Toledo-Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh for electric-powered 125 mph could be done for $1B. Thus, 125 mph Chicago-Kalamazoo-Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh service could run 10-12 times daily for only $2.2B by 2018.

By 2018, high gas prices and 185-220 mph California, Florida, Illinois and NEC HSR service & demos will stimulate more demand for 185-220 mph Interstate HSR. In that environment, Phase 2 should begin tunneling a straighter route through mountains between Harrisburg-Pittsburgh for an estimated $4B of USDOT funding and $1B from PennDOT over 7 years.

By 2020, 185-200 mph upgrade work for Philly-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Ft. Wayne-Chicago could start and finish in 2026, a year after tunneling. I know its dream, but it is practical.

The Alleghenies are really difficult to cross. The Capitol Ltd. takes four and a half hours to go the 150 miles between Cumberland, Md. and Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvanian takes five and a half to go 250 miles between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Just upping the top speed isn’t going to help.

Cleveland to Detroit is the most critical missing link in the entire national rail network; it would get people from Detroit to New York City, which is (for whatever reason) the most requested Amtrak route which doesn’t exist.

Quite true, and get the total transit speed down to where the route fits inside the clockface, a daytime corridor Chicago / Detroit / Cleveland / Pittsburgh could run as a sleeper to Harrisburg / Phillie / NYC, to turn around and run daytime to Pittsburgh, evening to Cleveland and a sleeper to Chicago. Then a sleeper from Chicago to run daytime from Pittsburgh through to NYC can turn around and run as a sleeper from NYC to Pittsburgh and a daytime corridor to Chicago.

No, there isn’t going to be a consortium as such coming into Ohio but what I’ve been reading about lately is some kind of 3-C authority to run the service. I would imagine this would be something along the lines of the Jount Powers Board which runs the Capitol trains in California. What would be different at this stage I don’t know but something like this, the JPB in California and the authority involved in running the Downeasters all sound like good alternatives to always depending on staes for new routes. Now just see if Kasich will go along with it. The time is now to pursue such a thing.

I wouldn’t count on that with Kasich. He’s declared war on all government; his current plans include slashing the number of state cabinet agencies from 29 to 10 or 11, and getting rid of hundreds of independent commissions and licensing boards. Ohio’s already had experience with this (the monster called Job and Family Services), but there’s an undeniable truth at work. It’s not Kasich or the Ohio GOP per se who have made the 3C such a sad non-starter. Ohio has a huge number of special districts–watershed, conservation, school, health, mental health, transit, park–and they have a tendency to have some power of taxation. This is on top of counties, cities/villages and townships. The power of taxation may be sales, or property levy, or income, or one or more of the above, sometimes in combination with budget appropriation from a larger agency. The result is not so much that taxes are outrageously high, but that there are so many hands in the pot, and there’s rarely any geographical clarity to it (school districts may exclude part of a city; park districts may include part of an adjacent county). It’s the outcome of the Ohio fantasy of “local control,” which it isn’t and never will be, because it inevitably relies on higher levels of government to keep it running. ODOT under Jerry Wray isn’t going to push for passenger rail, at least not unless it’s private money pushing for it. In Ohio terms, that means the state sells out the public, and the lobbyists get to hand out more do-nothing patronage jobs paying $100k or more per year (FYI, these are the kind of jobs Kasich is trying to shield from existing public records laws). Anyway, between Kasich’s personal animus toward passenger rail, Jerry Wray as his ODOT Chief Paver, and the combination of need and ideology as forces to reduce the fragmentation of government in the state, I don’t see Kasich doing anything close to agreeing to any kind of joint powers board or special district for passenger rail development. He won’t allow ODOT to do it.

The real question is what Lt Gov Mary Taylor thinks about passenger rail. I expect her to be governor in two years–after Kasich runs for Senate or Prez, loses the primary, and either goes back to Faux News, or to a GOP bunker like the Cato Institute. Kasich is currently doing everything he can to alienate all government employees (most recent attack: binding arbitration for cops and firefighters; he wants to get rid of it, while still denying right to strike), and has commented on the need to cut prison population by a quarter or more, but without changing sentencing laws. That means counties would pick up the tab. State school funding will be cut at least 10%, maybe more, which will force many districts into receivership and probably force up property taxes. He’s also threatened to take over the Cleveland schools (GOP did it before; it did no good). Point is that Kasich’s on track to be our political Pol Pot, and Mary Taylor is likely going to be left to clean up the mess. That’s why somebody needs to be asking her–discreetly, of course–what she thinks.

New York by all accounts has even more and worse local government districts than Ohio. Perhaps one difference is that the proliferation is agreed to be a problem. I’m not saying New York is doing great at running its government, it’s doing awfully, but it’s not doing the sort of cancel-funded-popular-projects crap which happens in Ohio. I have to attribute that to Repbulicans: totally insane Republicans can’t win in much of NY state (though Randy “Shotgun” Kuhl provides a counterexample).

The wingnuts can’t even win in the reddest districts. 23rd Congressional District’s Republican primary was won by the guy who lost to the Democrat in the special election about a year ago.
Nobody won a majority though. The right leaning vote was split between the batsh*t insane Republican and a third party candidate which gave the Democrat a plurality and the seat.
Paladino went down in a spectacular fireball in the Governor’s race. Couldn’t even win the hometown vote in Buffalo.

BruceMcF wrote,
“A more political plan would be to build a conventional rail commuter line Dayton / Cincinnati on 110mph class track wherever feasible, an actual 110mph corridor Columbus / Cleveland, where the 110mph trains can get the best advantage over the most drivers, the Youngstown / Cleveland alignment as a conventional rail speed line, and a conventional rail connector from Toledo to Detroit. Put it up and let the Feds wear the blame if they did not decide to fund some particular segment.”

There’s more than one way Ohio could have skinned the cat for a 110 mph top speed, limited stops, and short dwell times for 75 mph average speed in Phases 1 & 2.

The Ohio guys made too many sophmoric mistakes. I hope other HSR corridor staff are reading this blog doing case studies to bone up before the next funding tranches which should be even tighter.

Not from Cleveland to Cincinnati for in the neighborhood of $400m, it couldn’t have done the track, signaling and quad gate, and speed sensitive level crossings. Its more in the range of $1b.

Cleveland / Columbus is the easiest of the two legs, with the best effective transit available, so doing the 110mph there would the direct approach. From there, asking for more than you can get in terms of Dayton to Cincinnati commuter rail as independent utility for that leg of the 3C, the Youngstown alignment as that segment of Stage 4, the Toledo/Detroit as that segment of Stage 2, means that the USDoT is Scrooge and the State Government promises to keep asking for the rest of it as more HSR funds become available.

My bad Bruce. I meant to say 110 mph lines in those corridors.

But I’d add that it should have 4-track where ever necessary to ensure 2 passenger-only tracks and other tweaks to achieve 75 mph, 10 daily trains and 80% on-time dependability. Such an approach would have avoided Phase 1 derision and signaled Phase 2 upgrade for significantly more speed, frequency on-time boosts to come, just as Illinois has positioned for Chicago-St. Louis.

But now you’ve increased the cost of getting from Cleveland to Cincinnati toward the $2b range, when the Ohio Hub 110mph system following the MRRS design approach yields 2 hours Cleveland/Columbus and 2 hours Columbus/Cincinnati.

How does pushing the total cost of the package up make it easier to fit it into a budget in the neighborhood of $400m?

Columbus to Cleveland, doesn’t even require that much, but that would be ideal for Columbus / Dayton / Cincinnati.

If new passing track is Class 6, as noted elsewhere, it can “infect” the Class 4 track that it is connected to, permitting an application, at least, for better cant deficiency for passenger trains on the whole line.

For Columbus-Cleveland, the important thing is level boarding at all intermediate stations, to cut dwells; with 4″ superelevation, even FRA-approved cant deficiency would be fine, and trains wouldn’t need to slow down on any curve. An FRA waiver would be useful for improving acceleration time a little and cutting operating costs.

However, south of Dayton, the curves get tighter, so higher cant deficiency would improve speed considerably. It might conceivably get Cleveland-Cincinnati down to 3:45, at which point four trainsets are enough for two-hour service.

Won’t the new FRA regulations on passenger train cant deficiency allow cant deficition greater than 5 degrees, depending on suspension, without a waiver, through testing equipment for stopped balance and lateral steady state carbody acceleration?

Making sure the passing track is in the worst curve section, to allow for 7″ superelevation in curves, is also important to raising effective transit speed: I am certain that the program level design they had was the one from the middle of last decade, and of course the detailed design they were doing now would have been under the existing regulations, even as new, more beneficial regulations seem to be coming into force (at least, I don’t see any notices of hearing requested during the public comment which expired on July 9, and since BNSF, UP and CSX were in the committee that passed the recommendations on the FRA by consensus, I expect its just going through the normal ripening deadlines before taking effect).

“How does pushing the total cost of the package up make it easier to fit it into a budget in the neighborhood of $400m?”

It doesn’t make it easier. But in the long run, Its better that HSR people demand what’s really needed (185-220 mph) between our 1 million pop. metro areas by 2030 rather than settle for mouse nuts.

Lets take a page from the freeway game plan. One reason the Interstate freeway system was built so comprehensively is everyday people rose up and demanded 6-8-10 lane freeway expansion.

Can anyone confirm that the 615 million for California, if matched by the State, would be sufficient to complete the segment from Bakersfield to Fresno (plus a little extra to Madera)? I would love to see work on this whole segment starting next year.

If California continues to get 50% of new HSR funding, even at only 1 billion per year we should be able to spend the 10 billion of bonds within 15 years, though of course it would be much better for congress to fund at least 2 or 4 billion for HSR a year, . Now we just need those public-private partnerships to work out, to fund the system.

If Amtrak gets to run on this new 100 mile section it would really knock off time on their existing train route and raise ridership. If the section of track is a 100 miles then they should put catenary up and Amtrak could bring in some eletirc locomtives over from the NEC for it.

I followed the route on google street view and looked at down town Fresno too it is very flat and there are no building in it’s way. In fact there was a powerline and a gravel road that went though most of the route on google streetveiw and they could build the railroad bed along this thing.

According to the estimates of the various alignment options through or around Corcoran, with a 40% state match it would be enough to get past that segment. After the stink that Merced raised over starting the segment at the point where the Wye alignment is uncertain, it seems unlikely they will pull that end further south so that they can get closer to Bakersfield.

But they can get into the direct run through to Bakersfield, right along the BNSF alignment, so small dribs and drabs ~ or even if the high contingencies set aside do not turn out to be needed ~ would quite easily extend the southern end of the segment toward Bakersfield.

Once the segment is up against the edge of Bakersfield, and especially if the Wye location is settled so that they have the option of extending North at that point instead of South, getting Bakersfield to settle down on a reasonable alignment through the city ought to be politically easier.

I looked at the thing on google streetview and it might make better sense to build the high speed rail line to full grade seperated standards out in the open or along the freight tracks but then when you get with in five miles of Fresno cut a splice into the tracks and let it merge back on to the existing Amtrak route to avoid all the expessive bridges though the City of Fresno. Or they could could raise the grade of the rail tracks up 20 feet above the streets of Fresno on railroad fills and small overpasses for the streets go under the tracks.

There’s a lot of detail on the CA HSR site stepping through the ongoing decision making of what options were originally available, what options have been ruled out at what point and why. I think its under the heading of environmental impact reporting.

The best part about this news is that the complaints about a “train to nowhere” should now disappear, even though they were very dumb in the first place. It was like complaining that the foundation of a home doesn’t provide shelter as is useless.

It’s a shame about the folks in Ohio and Wisconsin fighting to keep the money. I don’t think they expected it to go away so fast.

Talgo has also mentioned that they will leave Wisconsin in 2012.

One thing the article didn’t mention is that the $1 billion approved by the house for 2011 was apparently requested by Obama….even though the house wanted $4 billion last year and could probably request the same this year. Why on earth would Obama do that???? Hopefully the senate steps it up.

More “surrender in advance to maintain Republican goodwill”. The House would probably not request $4b, but could easily have requested the $2.5b that was actually appropriated last year.

I am completely sick of Obama’s “give the right-wingers what they want in advance” tactics. It’s bizarrely and depressingly appropriate that Ray LaHood, a former Republican, is the cabinet member who has been the strongest in fighting against right-wing know-nothing behavior. I notice he wasn’t involved in the request to reduce HSR funding. :-P

It is what it is. Truth is that North American rail needs a coherent and continent-wide concept comparable to Interstate system. That includes MX and CA, and there is no long-haul passenger rail now in Mexico. When you factor in Alberta, for example, the I-15 corridor takes on a new significance. Canada has very clear strategic reasons to consider investment in mixed HSR parallel to the Trans-Canada, which might also be the best path for HSR across the Great Plains (at least the northern part thereof).

Canada is its own mess right now. Harper and the Conservatives are doing to Canada what Liberal and Labour are both doing to Australia. Both are lightly populated, both have a very consistent habit of subverting economically advanced areas to the whims of outback resource extraction. It causes resource-based currency inflation (a.k.a. Dutch Disease), which also happens to undermine local power in favor of state/provincial and federal power, specifically in regard to contracts with multinational resource extractors (BP, Rio Tinto, Weyerhauser, etc.)

Obama has no choice at this time. Part of me feels like this line of thinking/discussion should be considered off-topic here, but ultimately we’re talking about transportation as a component of our continued prosperity. It becomes political when one party or another is so overtly biased because of money or ideology, rather than real matters of economics, or sovereignty, or national identity. Obama has been compelled to shake hands with Faust, but I don’t see Obama in the Faust role (yet).

No politician in the US, Canada, or Mexico will come out with a blunt truth which would go all but unnoted in Europe or east Asia (especially the latter). Premium rail is directly equivalent, and directly comparable to, the US Interstate Highway System. It’s also integral to sovereignty. (Imagine this conversation taking place at the same time as the geographical/geopolitical aspects of the War on Drugs.) Goods and people need to travel, and the most efficient way to travel right now is steel wheel on steel rail. Maglev and planes and trucks don’t come close. In Europe and east Asia, there’s no question that the investment is there as a foundation for the basic economic survival of a country or multi-state region. In North America, we still don’t get that…which is why we spent $1 bil-plus on Alameda Corridor in LA, but didn’t/don’t bother to consider how all those Chinese imports were supposed to get east of Barstow in a just-in-time format.

We’re too scared to speak the truth. China, Japan and South Korea are all engaged in neo-mercantilism. Trade secrets become state secrets (more than vice versa). Trade is implicitly and explicitly rigged against imports. We endorse this in the US, through our failure to enforce trade equity. Part of that equity is demanding some return for the use of the US dollar and the US military as stabilizers for the oil market. This is where the US trade imbalance shows itself, and this is where we act like nothing’s wrong. We pay our competitors to outdo us, and we don’t even fathom our stupidity. Worse, we don’t understand that our self-appointed role as oil-market stabilizer has destroyed US manufacturing, and is also indirectly doing same in Canada’s manufacturing heartland (especially southern Ontario).

After all that rambling, the truth is a simple one. We have the means to pay for 200 mph rail across the US, and we have an obligation to assist Canada and Mexico in doing the same. We do it to maintain our prosperity, and we do it to maintain our potential and our power. We do it to reclaim our industrial prowess (as a continent), and we do it to maintain, strengthen and enhance democracy, as opposed to fostering income disparity with credit-based imports.

We have a unique market. We have immense cross-country distances where we need to carry people and goods, but 220 mph passenger trains haven’t been considered compatible with 125 mph freight. In the Great Plains, both north-south and east-west, we have to create the innovation. We have to do what seems impossible right now. We’ve done this before, we can do it now.

Them cutting it down to One Billion is shamefull in that there are to many places that want that money all over the US and they are building some major projects with this money. If we had acess to Four billion dollars for a high speed rail funding pool and Califroinia took One billion from that it leave Three billion for the rest of us which would take a lot of pressure off of Caliroinia taking all the high speed rail money.

I think there will be a political backlash. The responsible parties are complaining the money isn’t being redirected to different projects in their states or at least being returned to the Treasury. Apparently they are relearning a hard lesson in the practicalities of federalism: you may be able to block federal spending in your locale, but that doesn’t mean you can block federal spending in other locales, and meanwhile you are still on the hook for federal taxation.

In other words, trying to impose austerity on the federal government through local measures is unlikely to work out well. And there was an implied promise to that effect in the last campaign season that is now slamming into reality.

The implied promise was from the two gubernatorial candidates to the roadworks industry that they could grab the money for them. And if Walker may have said that just because he hoped it was true (his prior record seems to include more than a little decision making on what he hoped to be true without checking to find out) … Kaisch was a Congressman before he was in the business of making millions trading on his political connections to sell dud securities to Ohio pension funds, and he certainly knew full well that the way he wanted it to be heard was a lie.

Its a deniable lie ~ he can always say, “I said it SHOULD go, not that it WOULD or COULD go” ~ and, indeed, trust a dud securities salesman to know how to say a deniable lie.

That too. Frankly, their campaign was made up of multiple mutually-inconsistent promises, often to the same people. The question then becomes which 9 out of 10 promises will they end up breaking.

Some things are worth remembering. More than a decade ago, there was an expressway ( OH 129) built in southwest Ohio; it was intended to be a toll road but somehow the GOP-controlled legislature decided to rescind that. In Ohio, there’s only one toll road, the Ohio Turnpike, and there’s a long history of the Ohio GOP trying to dismantle the Turnpike Commission. Part of that is the fact that Turnpike jobs are harder to turn into patronage; the rest is that the Turnpike Commission is based in Berea (suburban Cleveland), not Columbus, and therefore less accessible to lobbyists than ODOT.

Did I forget to mention that Gov-elect John Kasich is from this area? Think this was before he went to work for Lehman Brothers.

The Wisconsin situation is disappointing, to say the least, since the Gov-elect’s actions there not only affect Wisonsinites, but Minnesota as well.

Also disappointed that more didn’t go to the NEC.

The NEC didn’t have an application in for these funds. Every single amount listed in the “up to” are applications already approved but not funded to the full amount of the application, and all but California is bringing the allocation up to the full amount requested.

Handing states already approved and with the contractual arrangements for accepting the funds already in place or in process is the quickest way to get the money re-allocated and to ensure that it goes to breaking ground as soon as possible.

If NY had had a more reasonable corridor grant request, which was partially funded (NY asked for $7.9b in the corridor round), they would have been in line to see more, but it would have been on the Empire corridor, not in the NEC.

Here in the Pittsburgh area, we were also forced to rely on Ohio for any hope of decent passenger rail service in the near future, since Pennsylvania was woefully unprepared to make a serious request relating to Pittsburgh (and the bulk of the state government not particularly caring about anything west of Harrisburg anyway).

And in fact we’ve probably STILL got a better chance of Ohio turning this back around before Pennsylvania does.

In Ohio, we’ve got a window of four years to get a more appealing first stage package hammered together and available for a standard bearer to run on, and two years if its going to be part of trying to take advantage of the Presidential election year demographics in elections for the State legislature.

Strickland’s comments, from the Sunday Plain Dealer:

Kasich is claiming that “everything is on the table” for cuts. What Ohioans don’t understand is that there are two areas he plans to wield the ax, and they will have immediate fiscal and legal consequences. It’s clear that he plans to cut at least 10% from local education funding. This is likely to force dozens of school districts into receivership, but it’s also likely to resurrect one of the deepest political conflicts in the state. Four times the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the current funding structure violates the state constitution. These cuts will exacerbate the problem.

Next, Kasich suggests that it’s the fault of DRC (Rehab & Corrections) that up to half of the state’s prison inmates are in for less than a year. Truth is, in the mid-90’s, then-Gov. Voinovich tried to help out his hometown by having state prisons take short-sentenced offenders, instead of going to county jail. Now, at least four counties in Northeast Ohio (Ashtabula, Mahoning, Medina and Stark) have had well-documented problems keeping their county jails open. Without changes in sentencing law, this likely means that something like 10k to 15k prison inmates could be dumped on county jails…which means counties will have to come up with the money.

What all of this has to do with trains in Ohio is not so convoluted. Kasich is part of an ideological faction who believe gov’t exists entirely to benefit business. One of the most glaring examples is the “stranded cost” refund to First Energy. Their customers have a state-mandated surcharge on every electric bill, to compensate First Energy for the costs of two nuke plants (Perry and Davis-Besse) which were built with the assumption of a guaranteed market. The PUC therefore decided that ratepayers–mostly households–could repay $11 billion to First Energy. This is how Ohio operates on a good day.

I don’t want to get off into politics. It’s not about party affiliation, it’s about perspective. Kasich is all for more freight trains, but he’s not even in office and he’s drawn a bead on an entire emerging sector. We weren’t able to get as far as Wisconsin, so we don’t even have jobs to lose.

Isn’t it a matter of national sovereignty when our own politicians thwart internal investment, and open the door to control of our domestic transportation network to foreign interests? Seriously? We’ve sunk so far that we have to grovel to get the Chinese to invest in trains we can easily pay for ourselves, but choose not to?

It’s not that *we* choose not to. It’s that *all too many of our politicians* choose not to. But you know that.

I’m not sure how to get politicians responsive to the needs of the country. Too many seem more interested in convincing the country that we don’t really need to have any of those good things…

I’m shocked Pennsyvinia didn’t try to do some projects between Lancaster and Phili in that they had a website talking about how they wanted to rebuild 22 miles of the thrid old main line railroad track along the Hairisburg Mainline

Pennsylvania may have made a mistake in submitting one big application for $489 million for the Keystone East corridor in the stimulus round. The state submitted 3 smaller applications: $18 million to close the last 3 public road grade crossings on the Keystone East and $1.35 & $6.3 million for PE & NEPA design work for signal & interlocking upgrades, all of which were granted. If PA had broken the big application into smaller pieces for the 3rd track reinstallation, interlocking overhauls, station upgrades, they might have gotten 1 or 2 of them funded. NY, NC, WA, CA all submitted a shopping list of projects and did pretty well.

The NEC and Keystone East already have good service with a lot of trains per day, compared to other corridors. The NEC has a huge backlog of projects to get to a state of good repair, but it could consume several billion of the initial HSIPR funds with only very modest improvements in run time. The thinking may have been to put the focus of the ARRA and FY10 HSIPR elsewhere and let the NEC & Keystone East mostly get taken care of later.

Maybe Minnesota can push for the Iowa route to Chicago. A nice straight greenfield route could run quite fast, Iowa City-Minneapolis. Go via Rochester.

Yonah, the announcements do not say “will receive”, they say, “will receive up to”.

The majority of these are taking majority funded applications and allowing for bringing them up to full funding.

I’m disappointed that NY didn’t get more of its bottleneck removal projects funded. The Park Street Bridge and second station track in Syracuse are cheap but would have large positive knock-on effects, for example; and there are a few others like that.

NY did get $18.5 million in the FY2010 HSIPR awards for “Syracuse Track Construction and Signal Improvements” which may cover the 2nd station track in Syracuse. Tne Empire corridor has done ok in the HSIPR awards and also got $18.5 million for the Niagara Falls rail station in the Tiger 2 grants. NY did not get much of what it asked for, but did get funding to address some of the most significant bottlenecks.

Looking at the list of NY HSIPR applications, including the FY10 applications, I agree, that several hundred million more put to the right improvement projects would go a long way to improving the Empire and Adirondack corridors.

The State and CN have been quietly improving the Adirondack corridor for years. It’s never going to be much more than it is, it’s too twisty and hilly. The biggest improvement to the Adirondack corridor, one that happens in one fell swoop, is the second track between Albany and Schenectady….

It hugs the shores of Lake Champlain. Curves around lovely bays and inlets. Next to the mountains that come down to the shore. You want high speed between Glens Falls and Plattsburgh you need a new ROW with tunnels and viaducts.

You won’t ever get high speeds from the current line, but you could squeeze medium speeds by adopting the operating practices of JR-Hokkaido. The NY-Montreal run should be taking 6 hours at most, not 11.

Of course, it doesn’t actually make that much sense to do NY-Montreal on the current route; although longer, the route through Vermont has better intermediate cities and can be sped up significantly more easily due to flatter terrain. But by gum, the Adirondack is funded by New York, and it’s going to go through New York!

We need a national system.

Oh, uh, footnote to that, the current funding for upgrading the Adirondack tracks appears to all be south of Whitehall, so it won’t be wasted in the event of a reroute through Vermont.

As a Wisconsinite, my biggest disappointment is that Illinois got so little of what used to be our money. I would rather the money have stayed much closer so that every single time we looked to our south, we could see what might have been.

^As a former Wisconsinite now living in Chicago (actually heading north to visit the family via Hiawatha later today), I have to agree with you, even if it would have worsened my dilemma of how to feel about the midwest HSR. The Wisconsinite in me is saddened by the loss of jobs and a vital economic connection (I’d imagine connecting Chicago and Minneapolis with Rochester and Madison would be the biomedical industry’s dream) and jobs in Milwaukee, but the Illinoisan in me wants to gloat over stealing away Talgo and federal funds.

I think there already is something of a backlash in the state—the LaCrosse Tribune’s steamed that Walker’s stopping the Milwaukee-Madison line (understandably, since LaCrosse would likely be the stop between Madison and Rochester) despite having endorsed him, and I remember either the state or the Milwaukee chamber of commerce finding itself in a bind over supporting both Walker and HSR last summer.

That said, I’m glas the funds are going to support true HSR in California and Florida, and appeased Mica somewhat in the process. Does anyone know what the Maine money’s going to—maybe brining the Downeaster to Bangor?

We don’t have Talgo yet, but I think there’s a nice spot in Chicago at 111th Street in a place called “Pullman” which would be perfect.

The additional “up to” $3.3 million Maine funding is the difference between their application request of $38.3 million for the Portland to New Brunswick extension and the $35 million the project was awarded in January. Same for the rest of the “up to reallocation amounts for the other states. So outside of the CA, FL, WA reallocations, the rest of the reallocations won’t have much of an effect except to fully fund the original ARRA applications.

If Maine can bring in the work on the News Brunswick extension under their project application estimate, then the FRA may allow them to use the remaining funds on other upgrades on the current corridor in Maine. But an extension to Bangor is not in the plans at all. Augusta is as far as the Maine plans go.

I’d thought that WA, FL and IL were also to fully fund the original grant request.

That’s the point: the quickest way to get the money spent is to put the new money through existing grants already committed or in process to being committed, adding the portions of the applications not funded in the original grant.

Bruce, according to this press release, Washington still has some unfunded projects from their ARRA application.

“This additional money brings Washington’s total funding for passenger rail to $782 million, when combined with $621 million in federal rail funds awarded earlier this year.

There were 14 rail projects valued at $602 million in the original application that did not receive funding”

But awarding applications that were not funded at all in the first round does not get the money out as fast as taking applications that were partially funded and filling in the difference. The WA money is the difference between the application for the corridor round and the amount that was awarded.

The WA applications may be singular in the press release, but they were plural in reality ~ the amount listed seemed to me to be the exact balance between the WA corridor project request and the original corridor project funding announcement.

Projects that were not funded at all would not have grant commitments in place or in process, and so would take more time between allocation and breaking ground.

Yes, the “up to” amounts are to fully fund the submitted requests, although in the case of CA and WA, they submitted multiple overlapping applications so it is hard to tell without picking apart the applications. My comment about many of the re-allocations not having much of an effect is that the $2 or $3 million additional awards are pretty small. Might help those states cover cost overruns or do another small track project. CA, FL, WA, and to a lesser extent, IL are the major winners from the re-directed funds.

That the re-directed funds are going to the applications already selected makes sense given the political situation and because this is stimulus money which needs to be committed & spent. This allows the FRA to obligate the funds much more quickly rather than pick from the applications that were not selected in January. Unfortunate, however, for the applications that just missed the cut back in January and might have been in line for some funding if there had been more then $8 billion to go around.

Sir…oh, SIR…there’s a typo in your headline. You said “austerity,” but it should be “obscurity.”

Yeah, I’m from Wisconsin, and I’m ticked as hell. Recall election, anyone?

In a way, I’m worried this will end up giving ammunition to the Republicans. So far, Walker has only been able to say that he would redirect the funding. The ultimate decision has been made for him by U.S. DOT and Governor Doyle. I’d really like to put all the blame on Walker, but he’s got a certain level of deniability now.

He only has a level of deniability if people let him get away with bullshit. Claiming that he really thought that funds appropriated for the construction of HSR and applied for to build an HSR system could be diverted to roadworks is either stupidity, ignorance, or deliberate deceit ~ denial of the deceit leaves us with stupidity or ignorance as explanations.

Lovely sarcasm, Danny. (In case you couldn’t tell, that was also sarcasm.)

But now the initial leg of the CAHSR won’t be a “train to nowhere” as the self-appointed experts lunged at the throat of that all-too-obvious meme this week. Now it will go from Fresno to Bakersfield, where, as Yonah said, 1.7 million taxpayers live. Still not the heaviest travel corridor, but it is a start, and it will put the whiners in their place.

It makes some sense as Bakersfield-Fresno is relatively lightly populated, thereby allowing for a fast track. North of Fresno, the population centers are somewhat larger and closer together.

Equally important, California voters and the CHSRA played its cards right.

Voters showed a $9.9B local commitment to “exciting” HSR that stirred demand and imaginations and elected a new governor to accept the HSR baton from the outgoing governor.

The CHSRA played smart tactical politics by selecting Fresno to Bakersfield as Phase 1. In that manner, the USDOT has proof positive that California needs the lion’s share HSR money to build the spine of world-class California HSR network, whose first demos will be 220 mph. They were very careful not to position the enhanced SF Bay Area and SoCal commuter rail stuff.

“The CHSRA played smart tactical politics by selecting Fresno to Bakersfield as Phase 1.”

Well, the FRA told them they had to pick a Central Valley segment, and they initially chose north of Fresno to not quite Bakersfield. I heard they got a stong hint that they ought to connect to Bakersfield with the additional money.

That said, it’s a good place to start building. Once the Central Valley segment is built, there will be plenty of impetus to extend it at the ends.

With or without the hint, there is still the fact that the SF/SJ EIR/EIS is not yet finalized, which means that there is still at least one court hearing between today and the determination of the Wye alignment.

And they have already proposed to go as far north as they can, until the Wye alignment is sorted out.

So south toward Bakersfield is the only immediate option.

Rather, the political move was giving funding for Merced station design.

It hasn’t gotten much reporting, but there’s an interesting point about the central valley:

Jim Costa is the house representative for Fresno and the surrounding cow lands.

Jim Costa has been fighting for HSR for years and years.

The feds made the announcement that the HSR line MUST go through the valley in phase 1, just days before Jim Costa was up for re-election.

Both valley possibilities included Fresno.

Essentially, the HSR committee was forced to award the money to Mr. Costa’s district, and ONLY his district.

I have already sent Mr. Costa my thank you note for bringing $4 billion to Fresno, while the next closest house rep, Mr. Nunes, sat around with a thumb up his ass.

I must also note that Fresno has a 16% unemployment rate.

Well I’m not much of a fan of the CHSRA, despite being a fan of high speed rail and thinking that it could work in CA. And I understand that they have political pressures.

But if you want a starter route in CA, you start with San Diego to Los Angeles. It already has the highest ridership of any train corridor in CA (third highest in the nation), which makes the route pretty risk free(you don’t have to worry about low ridership killing the whole system). And it connects two major population centers that have strong existing cultural links…complete with heavy traffic and distances that are very HSR friendly.

In principle, you’re right. But in practice, there are the following problems – some real, some political:

1. The available amount of money isn’t enough for it; it involves a lot of urban construction, making it more expensive per unit of route length than the Central Valley.

2. The primary route should be LA-SF, so the starter route is a subset of it.

3. The simplest route from LA to SD, along the coast and I-5, was rejected due to NIMBYism, forcing a detour through the Inland Empire. The travel time increase isn’t very large, and the cost might be the same as going LA-SD and then putting the Inland Empire on a branch, but it means that if you want to build LA-SD only then it’s more expensive.

4. CAHSR is a politicized project. A SoCal-only starter line would annoy too many of the NorCal-based board members. The Central Valley is a politically neutral choice, because it lies between the two political power bases.

Two other problems with the LOSSAN route besides NIMBYism:

1: The environmental impact reviews would blow the costs of a high-speed line out of the water. The line wouldn’t be feasible at any price. Since the rails occupy choice beachfront real estate in southern Orange and northern San Diego counties, you’d also have the trouble with a militantly conservationist Coastal Commission. There’s also the matter of running near the San Onofre nuclear plant.

2. LOSSAN is too overdeveloped to offer a good high-speed rail service. The corridor does need some kind of regular, clockface commuter service to serve the local stops. Orange County has a major trip generator at every stop. Fullerton, Orange and Irvine have universities. Buena Park, Fullerton and Anaheim serve two major theme parks. Anaheim serves two pro sports venues. Santa Ana is the county seat. Irvine is Orange County’s central business district. San Juan Capistrano’s mission is a major tourist attraction.

The starter line for CHSRA should be LA-Bakersfield. It would connect the existing San Joaquin and Surfliner corridors. The next segment would then be a high speed bypass line for express trains from Bakersfield to around Newark. Trains would then use existing Caltrain and Capitol Corridor tracks to reach S.F. (via Dumbarton), San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento (via Tracy).

That will be a very useful piece of passenger train trackage, but it’s not ready to be built now. This construction needs to be started RSN.

Yep. LA-Bakersfield is crucial, but it isn’t sufficiently “shovel-ready” for ARRA funding. Here’s hoping they get it sufficiently “shovel-ready” for the next time funding becomes available from some source.

Transitplanner, are you by chance synonymouse on the Cal High Speed Rail blog?

Your plans sound very much alike. Build a much more expensive line that would be less productive when it finally runs.

California already has a Newark-Bakersfield bypass. It’s called the Southern California to Bay Area airline market. The point of HSR is to pick up people in places airlines wouldn’t touch, or wouldn’t serve without super-expensive tickets.

There’s also a very good reason why the Altamont alignment wasn’t chosen. Your plan calls for serving three different destinations. You have to build more HSR-grade rail, plus you’d have to split the frequency of those trains to serve the terminals.

Besides, the Altamont pass communities are stuck in a bind: They are populated cities, but apart from Livermore, they don’t really have any need for an HSR station. The communities would just get a view of high-speed trains passing through their neighborhoods.

Line of sight, San Diego to Los Angeles is 111miles. Not really a distance that demands Express HSR ~ a 125mph corridor would likely to be tremendously successful, and could be built in much less time.

Plan are already underway to upgrade Pacific Surfliner to 110 mph between LA-San Diego via 2 tracks, new locomotives, run through tracks at LA Union Station, better crossing arms, more grade separations and more frequent service on this profitable line. Prop 1A reserved $950 million for HSR feeder services such as Amtrak California routes and there are federal funds too. See

Not sure what the Pacific Surfliner upgrade plans are west of Moorpark.

I think that would be a good idea in that it is a existing rail line that has shown it can have good high ridership on it vs building a railroad line in the middle of no where. I bet they could raise the whole 350 mile railroad line to a 110 or a 125 miles on hour for four to five billion dollars vs building a 50 mile 220 milion on hour section that might not even be able to get catenary and new trains anytime soon.

Ocean Railroader wrote:
“I bet they could raise the whole 350 mile (Pacific Surfliner) railroad line to a 110 or a 125 miles on hour for four to five billion dollars vs building a 50 mile 220 milion on hour section that might not even be able to get catenary and new trains anytime soon.”

Several problems and two big opportunities with your suggestion for Pacific Surfliner upgrade vs. current CHSRA routes.

First, Pacific Surfliner route can be upgraded to 110 mph top speed in the price range you suggest. But even for $10B, it can’t be upgraded to 170 mph (135 mph average speed) such that Express HSR Surfliner could be time competitive with CHSR trains that will reduce demand for flights and drives between SF Bay Area and LA.

Second, Pacific Surfliner is a more casual route where people want to enjoy beautiful scenery traveling no higher than 110 mph, not at 170 mph.

Third, California’s population is growing fastest in the Central Valley and the state has a legitimate need for CHSR between Sacramento and LA along the CV corridor.

Fourth, a coastal rail route does not go to Palmdale, which will become important to CHSR as the most logical corridor to Las Vegas.

Fifth, demand for a significantly faster trains between LA-San Diego is 3-4X demand between LA-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo. So the SD-LA rail segment should be upgraded and managed as a separate train service from the current Pacific Surfliner segment north of LA.

IMO, the best compliment to the LA-SF and LA-Sacramento CHSRA routes should be to electrify LA-Anaheim-Irvine-Oceanside-San Diego with complete grade separation, curve easing, noise mitigation, regulation change to permit higher speed through Camp Pendleton and a new tunnel south of UC San Diego. Purchase track from the freight train company currently under-utilizing this route segment. With 110 mph top speed via CHSR trains, only those 4 stops with raised platforms and 2 sidings for 80 mph average speed. That partially coastal route could replace the more expensive CHSRA I-15 San Diego route and provide 6 trains per peak hour with 1 hour 30 minute trip time and 95% on-time performance. More frequent, electrified Metrolink and Coaster commuter trains should also cover the SD-LA infill stations such as Norwalk, Fullerton, Orange, Santa Ana, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, Solana Beach, Old Town.

CHSR Riverside-San Diego via I-15 route monies could be redeployed to extend CHSR LA-Riverside to Palm Springs at 185-200 mph. Such a CHSR extension would be a huge invite to extend 220 mph interstate service through the dessert to Phoenix.

IMO, Surfliner north of LA should be a separate Emerging HSR line replacing both Coast Starlight and Capital Corridor. After upgrade it should feature 110 mph top speed, stops averaging 25 miles apart for 70 mph, and 12 daily trains while preserving the beautiful relaxing views. For about $4B, that can be accomplished with lighter next-gen locos, more grade separations in urban areas, better crossing arms everywhere else in a route with this approximate stop spacing:

LA-Burbank Airport-Simi Valley-Oxnard-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo-Salinas-Gilroy-San Jose-Fremont-Oakland-Martinez-Suisun City-Sacramento-Auburn-Reno.

Federal Transit Admin, California DOT (Caltrans) and Amtrak seem to be slowly upgrading the LA-SD Pacific Surfliner segment with this future option in mind.

For political and practical reasons, I’m guessing the CHSRA doesn’t want to mention either option until the Anaheim-LA-SF HSR service begins in 2019 and. By then, CHSRA will also have a clearer idea about HSR patronage, remaining Prop 1A bond money, California state finances recovery, higher gasoline prices and increased demand for Interstate HSR routes that will raise priority for USDOT/ Congressional funding.

If four stations can be provided with 80mph average transit speed, it seems that more transport service would be provided on the corridor if the coastal route is sped up to 70mph transit speeds with more than just those four stations, and if the focus is on providing service along the corridor rather than end point to end point, that is exactly the kind of transfer that ought to already be available at LA-US and Irvine when the Express HSR gets to LA-US.

Given the operating speed of the Express HSR, it can connect SD to LA-US via the Inland Empire faster than any Regional HSR can do.

The very first step that needs to be taken, though, is to raise the passenger platform limit on California freight lines from 8″ to 1’8″, which remains compatible with the between-truck flatcars with beds 2′ above the railhead. Level boarding is possible with low floor rail cars ~ heck, its possible with ulra-low floor rail cars with tram height platforms ~ but AFAIU its not possible with FRA-compatible passenger cars. 1’8″ would be possible. And with non-FRA compliant rolling stock running on headway-time-separation on PTC corridors, 1’8″ is still low enough for ramped access to the bottom deck and stair access to the top deck of bi-level trains.

The reason to stick with 4 stops along the Surfliner route is to be no more than 15 minutes longer than CHSR Riverside-I15-San Diego route and 80 mph average speed is 10 mph faster than 70 mph LA Union Station-SD San Fe Station driving speed.

Faster, frequent electrified Metrolink and Coaster commuter trains can pick up the slack at infill stations for lower price to patrons.

The short-term value of track from Fresno to Bakersfield isn’t just about Fresno to Bakersfield, is it? Amtrak San Joaquin trains (which are already frequently sold-out) could presumably achieve a travel time improvement that benefits links from those cities to Sacramento and the Bay Area as well, even though the Bay Area approach remains circuitous in the near term. Timed connections with ACE trains at Stockton could add further reach, though Altamont remains a circuitous path for travel between the Central Valley and South Bay.

I think it’s more about cutting through the path of least resistance. The Caltrain integration and the desert passage from the Antelope Valley to Bakersfield are going to be the real challenges.

I had wondered what would be the effect if the Lancaster-Bakersfield gap were closed and in the interim, the San Joaquins could come down to Los Angeles.

Granted, it would be slower than the Thruway bus option that exists right now. On the other hand, when I took the San Joaquins, the bus connection between Bakersfield and L.A. is almost universally despised. People might settle for the longer train ride.

It’s worth looking at (Bakersfield-Lancaster segment). Metrolink is already engaged in system improvements, and I wonder if planned upgrades would allow for San Joaquins running directly into LA Union. Seriously–who the hell wants to ride a bus to Bakersfield so they can get to a train? It’s absurd on its face. Obviously San Joaquins running through Antelope Valley aren’t going to be as fast as the Surfliners, but it’s a clear and tangible improvement to get them into LA. There’s really no need for a station between Lancaster and Bakersfield, so the questions would be track capacity and track speed.

Seriously–who the hell wants to ride a bus to Bakersfield so they can get to a train?

Nobody wants to, but they have to. The problem is that the bus is reasonably quick. It takes about the same time on the train using existing track from L.A. to the Antelope Valley as it would be to get from L.A. to Bakersfield on the bus.

I’m all but arguing for image over reality. Hell, electrify the HSR line, and run an existing diesel San Joaquin consist on it for PR pix. Railfans will know the difference, but chances are the general public won’t. (Example: earlier this week I saw an episode of “CSI: Miami.” Metrorail and Metromover are both 3rd rail–there’s no catenary in Florida. The building they use for the CSI Miami facility is a credit union in El Segundo, near the end of the LA Green Line. The catenary poles are very prominent in the shot.)

The bus may be faster, but the image can matter more than reality. Who rides the Thruway buses? In the Southland, you don’t have to be even a D-list star to get worked up about image. For example, I seem to recall that a lot of Charles Shaw wines (“2-Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s) is from vineyards around Lodi. Lodi is an utterly unremarkable place. Board-flat, just like Stockton, and you haven’t even reached Sacramento yet. But Lodi proved that you don’t have to be in Napa or Sonoma to produce high-quality table wine. (The vines in Lodi owe a lot to the dot-com bubble as I remember it.) So you can take a discount “wine train” to the Central Valley…yes it might be longer than driving, but that’s assuming that there’s no construction, no tule fog, no tumbleweeds, nothing else to impede traffic. Of course it’s not the primary mode, but that has its own cachet and its own market.

If you happen to be a Latino resident of the Central Valley, an extended San Joaquin could be a more reliable connection to family and friends in places like Norwalk, or Fresno, or anywhere else the train stops. Longer assumed travel time doesn’t account for longer real-time but unpredictable delays. That matters when you work two fulltime jobs, or have only one day off. California has a unique market, and unique convergences of opportunities. That’s why I would advocate for an extension of the San Joaquin down to LA, because it could–would–be more predictable than buses or other modes. I do wonder how much thought CHSRA has given to the millions of people barely making minimum wage in California. Slight fare adjustments and service distinctions could make a huge difference in commercial viability.

That’s not the short term value, since they won’t run Amtrak trains on the corridor as soon as its finished unless Californians decided down the track to abandon the HSR project, but its the fall back plan, and the fact that it is present reduces the risk to the Federal government for funding the first segment of an SF to LA corridor: and taking it to the edge of Bakersfield makes that an even more dramatic improvement available to the San Joaquin if the CHSRA is rolled up and California has to turn to the back-up plan.

The table is incorrect on the VT funding. Vermont was awarded $50 million for the Vermonter corridor in the original ARRA HSIPR awards in January. The up to $2.7 million fir VT covers the total applied for.

VT has begun the track work funded by the ARRA awards. I think VT, ME, IL are the only states to have started actual track upgrades work so far.

NY’s broken ground on projects, but they aren’t track upgrades (NY got funding mostly for station and platform stuff, which to be fair, is more of a priority for us — lots of junk stations with capacity limitations — than our good-for-79mph-practically-everywhere tracks).

I don’t know if they have actually broken ground for it but the second track between Schenectady and Albany was funded. The enhanced reliability should cut 20-30 minutes off schedules.

That was good news. I think they’re doing surveying for that right now, which isn’t technically “broken ground” yet. But I believe they have broken ground on the Niagara Falls station, and I know they started on the demolition of the old buildings at Albany-Rennselear (ugh I can never spell that right).

Just curious as to where all this federal money is coming from. Is it being borrowed or just printed?
The federal government has no money. I live in Washington people here have no concept of money it’s just numbers on a piece of paper.
Even if these projects had the ridership of the DC Metro or even the Amtrak NE corridor they would still lose money. Every weekend part of the system is shut down for maintenance which means you can’t rely on it if you really need to get somewhere at a specific time.
The big story in transportation is the bolt/mega/vamoose deluxe buses.

Indeed, lots of those who make loud noises about borrowing and taxing labor under equally severe misunderstanding about what is going on.

Its all originally printed. When the issuer of a money spends, its creates new money. When that would result in an excess of new money, then some or all of that new money has to be drained out of circulation.

When the issuer of a money “borrows” its own money, its an operation to drain money from circulation in return for welfare for the rich in the form of interest payments on bonds, just as taxes are an operation to drain money from circulation without any welfare for the rich.

The primary question for the federal government spending is the resource question: does it consume resources that could be used to some better purpose, or does it create new resources that expand the productivity and possibilities of the economy. Reckless foreign adventures, like the Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (and after a decade of invading the place we are still invading it), consume resources. Capital efficient investment in new transport infrastructure when our existing transport system is faced with becoming obsolete in the next two decades, that is creating new resources for the economy.

Bruce, I generally agree with your overall idea, but even I wouldn’t say our (American) existing modes of transportation will become obsolete.

A lot of “peakers” and “doomers” are forecasting a swift, cataclysmic end to oil and the unraveling of society. We’re in lesser danger now of a disruptive break in the petroleum supply chain than we were in the 1970s.

The bigger problem the U.S. faces is the “boiling frog” scenario, where conditions are changing so gradually that we’re not even noticing them, but by the time we do, it’ll be too late to do anything.

Peak oil means we’re on the downslope of supplies, but Earth will not suck its fossil fuel endowment dry. Before that happens, the price of crude will reach a point where it ceases to be viable as a commodity fuel. It’ll become too expensive to burn it in engines.

What’ll likely happen is that what capital we have invested in petroleum collection will be powered down, and its high commodity cost will mean it will be used for high-value economic goods. That’ll mean the R&D sector will play with hydrocarbons and look for new polymers.

The bad news for drivers, though, is that our love for driving will make us economically and ecologically uncompetitive as we’ll grow more energy-hungry.

We already have developed alternative fuels to gasoline, and we can make a switch if we absolutely must. Unfortunately, the more alternative fuels we need to burn, the more our overall energy consumption will cost because there won’t be the scale afforded by a market-standard fuel source and technology.

This also means more ecological resources (land, materials and feedstocks) will be tied up to obtain the energy we need to keep our standard of living going. And since everything in nature has a finite capacity, we only create a new peak problem for ourselves.

Economically, the big picture shows that the U.S. must devote most of its labor costs just to keep gas tanks filled. And now that capital has the broadest and fastest access to labor in the history of civilization, why would capital bother with America and its costs?

So the imperative is very much there.

What is the relevance of “A lot of “peakers” and “doomers” are forecasting a swift, cataclysmic end to oil and the unraveling of society. We’re in lesser danger now of a disruptive break in the petroleum supply chain than we were in the 1970s.” to what I said?

Surely a far greater threat than the prospect of a disruptive break in the petroleum supply chain is the fact that commodity markets that are pressing against productive capacity are subject to more price volatility, and it is the impact of price volatility on our net import bill when we import twice as much as we produce that is perfectly well capable of overturning the sluggish recovery that GDP has experience since mid-2009.

Indeed, we built a consumption-driven economy on the existence of the Great American Middle Class, built in the great income compression in the latter part of the 1930’s and first half of the 1940’s, and then we removed the real media income growth that it was based on and tried to substitute for it with unsustainable asset bubbles. Being unsustainable, they collapsed.

How does an American economy that has had its growth engine ripped out stand up to successive oil price shocks? And if it could find a way to grow, how could it sustain the growth in the face of successive oil price shocks?

Bruce, the likelihood of a disruption that severs the supply chain is very low, even under a peak oil scenario. “Naked” production — or oil suppliers unable to deliver supplies to cover a contract — would have to be widespread. Plus, most contracts are pure speculation plays and aren’t delivered.

Volatility is a bigger concern to providers of alternative fuels or technologies, and that’s when a price falls below a support level.

The “boiling frog” scenario is what both you and I are getting at. When you asked, “How does an American economy that has had its growth engine ripped out stand up to successive oil price shocks?,” prices act as a filter. Lower values are priced out of the market.

The long-term implications are that as prices rise steadily upwards, Americans’ carrying costs of energy are going to be a larger proportion of their income. “Working for gas money” will put American workers at a global disadvantage.

Good comments Wad.

In addition to Peak Oil and Global Warming conditions that will weigh far more heavily next decade and beyond, population growth and global warming amply the reasons we much build an HSR network and Rapid Transit faster.

If we had all electric cars tomorrow, we still can’t afford to build the freeway/tollway and airport capacity to move everyone in reasonable periods of time. Thats a key California has chosen to build HSR rather than widen I-5 freeway and the major airports. The longer we wait to build, the more painful and costly it will be transitioning.

It looks like what is killing the old road building ways of doing things is that we have to things working aginist cars is first in the 1950’s and 1960’s when all the roads where built was that we only had three billion to four billion people living on the earth so things where fairly empty at the time so there was lots of room to build roads and freeways do to land being cheap. But now the human population has gone up to seven billion and will go up to eight billion in the next 10 to 20 years thus land right now is very hard to get do to all the people and cars. So this is what ended the age of the freeway.

Another factor killing our way of life is that we have outsorced to a point where even the most basic thing such as something sold at dollar tree must be brought in on a containter from India or China and then unloaded at a port city and dragged across the US hunderds of miles to reach say a dollar tree in the midwest. We never really had that much of that going on in the 1930’s and 1960’s when all the roads where built so that to is over loading the system.

Where going to have try something different with moving things around or we could eather cut down on the extra four billion people or stop out sorceing to get our freeway way of life back like it was in the 1950’s

A third thing is that the highway fund is a cross-subsidy from urban motorists, who on average pay the majority of their gas tax driving on streets excluded from receiving federal highway funds (and at least in Ohio, excluded from receiving state gas tax funding), to suburban and rural motorists, who on average pay a larger share of their gas tax driving on interstate, US, state, county and township highways that receive gas tax funding.

The gas tax never covered the cost of the roads that were being driven on, but when roughly half of drivers were paying subsidies to the other half, in the 1950’s when we have a much greater urban share of the population, the free ride received by suburban and rural motorists was much greater.

Fast forward, we now have half of our population in suburbs, and over 70% in suburban and rural areas, and the free ride given to them by urban motorists is much smaller. Rather than increase the gas tax to make up the difference, which would have undermined the suburban property development that is the accustomed way for real estate developers to make money in piles deep enough to be able to afford to buy the politicians they need, we have made up the difference by failing to spend what is required to pay to maintain the subsidized road network in a state of good repair.

Off-topic and tangential, but still relevant. The first freeway in Cleveland was the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, which opened in (I think) 1939 or 1940. The first true urban-clearance-style freeway was the Inner Belt, which cut north-south across the industrial eastern end of downtown, then west-wouthwest and parallel to Carnegie (Chef Boyardee’s restaurant was in this area, which used to be called “Big Italy”), then across the Cuyahoga on a broad arc into Tremont. This 8-lane bridge was directly parallel to a streetcar bridge, the Central Viaduct.

In Cleveland’s case, the Inner Belt bridge connected first to I-71 and I-90 east (in the 60’s), then to I-90 west (in late 80’s) and I-490 (original path of 90–90’s). What makes this significant is that Cleveland’s Red Line rapid transit line was the first new urban line built after WW2. It used the Cleveland Union Terminal bridge from downtown to Ohio City, then worked along two railroad r/w’s to get to West Park, which was then suburban but inside city limits. The eastern half of the line was largely built by the Van Sweringens, who also built the Shaker lines, along with the Terminal Tower complex. At the same time, they built and controlled the Nickel Plate line.

Nearly all of what I’ve described on the rail end was done with private money, or it was public money which was clearly going to be recouped. The Inner Belt was a highway project never expected to pay its own way, but parallel to an urban rail line expected to do so.

Today, one of the two biggest highway projects in Ohio is replacement of the Inner Belt bridge; it happens to be of the same design as the old 35W bridge in Minneapolis. Ohio DOT wants a two-stage replacement. Two 5-lane bridges. Early in the process, one proposal was rerouting 90 out of downtown proper, and east along a rail corridor, then north, then rejoining the current 90 corridor. This was ruled out primarily due to cost (estimated $1.6 bil, at least 5 yrs ago), but that road would be easily contracted out as a design-build-operate-transfer. In fact, a better look a a map of Cleveland shows that it could be matched on the west side with one or two north-south toll roads, in existing corridors.

Note that Ohio Gov-elect, John Kasich, shows no enthusiasm for toll roads. Unless they are existing toll roads brought under his direct control (Ohio Pike). In other places, political interests from far left to far right, and everywhere between, have found common purpose to put a price tag on motor traffic. Notice that Kasich is incoming GOP gov of the ultimate swing state, yet he does NOTHING to push his influence re: toll roads within USDOT. Other big Ohio project is Brent Spence bridge (71/75) in Cinci. It too could be private contract DBOT, or Turnpike project…but notice how a big state like Ohio refuses to marshal market forces when it comes to infrastructure projects which can be turned into patronage of one kind or another.

And I was making an observation, not a prediction ~ our existing transportation system is obsolete. It was fits the circumstances of the US as effectively energy independent and having so much growth in productive capacity that the major challenge is generating demand to keep it employed.

“Reckless foreign adventures, like the Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan”

BruceMcF, I agree with most of your points but it should be clarified that invading Afghanistan was mishandled, not reckless. Unlike the manufactured Iraq war, terrorists who planned 9-11 actually hid in Afghanistan. The mishandling was due to Bush & Cheney not sending as many troops as the generals on the ground requested to cover hilly Afghan terrain more quickly. Only 12K were sent initially while the generals wanted 50-60K.

As we learned many years later, our undermanned troops were within days of catching bin Laden in November 2001 – the guy even wrote last will because he thought the end was near. Had Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld listened to the generals early on, our soldiers could have been out of there in 2002 with bin Laden in tow — the real mission accomplished. State Dept, $10B rebuidling funds, NGO and UN clean-up from there on. Bush II could have saved over a $1.5T in national debt and thousands of lives. What a shame.

Since the 1 year long Iraq Surge showed a modest degree of success, I give President Obama the same leeway for Afghanistan. But if we can’t accomplish our military objectives by August 2011, then It is dumb to stay tied to another un-winnable war over false pride and rhetoric — something the chicken hawks who never send their kids into battle are good at.

After withdrawal, America obviously needs a portion of the saved military funds for HSR, Rapid Transit and sustainable energy infrastructure.

The War is costing us the tax payers 151 billion dollars vs the ten billion dollars we have spent over the last two years on high speed rail. It also had over 4000 people killed in it.

ThomasD wrote: After withdrawal, America obviously needs a portion of the saved military funds for HSR, Rapid Transit and sustainable energy infrastructure.

China let us borrow its credit card to pay for these wars. I think it would like its money back.

The reason CAHSR has any chance of success is that it’s going to be outside the tried-and-failed operating model of Amtrak. It’s modeled after the TGV and Shinkansen, which do not shut down for maintenance except late at night. The Shinkansen has been shut down one day in its 46-year history, and the TGV shuts down only for strikes.

And the scary part is that Americans don’t even think enough to remember the brothers exchanging a look when their father died at the end of “The Good Earth.”

Every weekend part of the system is shut down for maintenance which means you can’t rely on it if you really need to get somewhere at a specific time.
The big story in transportation is the bolt/mega/vamoose deluxe buses.

Yes all those deluxe buses cruising up and down the NJ Turnpike never ever get stuck in traffic….

“Just curious as to where all this federal money is coming from. Is it being borrowed or just printed? The federal government has no money. I live in Washington people here have no concept of money it’s just numbers on a piece of paper.”

Sure the Feds have no money. Thats why we’re spending $710B on defense this year and bi-partisan commission acknowledges that at least $96B is total waste.

If you think Boltbus/Megabus is a big deal, you obviously haven’t rode European and Asian HSR at up to 186-199 mph – operating profitably.

I saw a report that we are going to spend $157 Billion dollars on the two wars going right now and it gets funding. But the high speed rail which was only 2.5 billion had got a billion cut out of it.

Off-topic: please, please go back to the regular WordPress commenting system. Disqus is eviscerating the threading system. For example: Danny’s 11:45 am comment of today was posted in response under the comment he wrote yesterday at 12:24 pm; now it’s presented as a separate thread.

On top of this, Market Urbanism, which uses the same system, has had issues with dropped comments.

Also confusing for those of us who think 12/11 was a month ago rather than today. If you do go to some other system, please keep the written-out months for your international readers – it would be very much appreciated.

You people are like little kids playing with imaginary train sets.
You have to face the fact that the US is not a densely populated country it is far behind any major European or Asian country.

Who besides tourists and rail fans are going to ride these trains?
As for the Wisconsin rail service tell me what is to be gained by putting Badger Bus out of business? After a blizzard which do you think would be operating sooner bus or rail?
The open air segments of the DC Metro were shut down for several days after the blizzards of Feb 2010. Not good.

Are you seriously saying the country should emulate New York, California and Illinois?
Those states are all on the verge of bankruptcy.In addition they are losing tax paying middle class people. They are unattractive to businesses because businesses can’t afford to be there. I won’t even get into Europe’s debt situation and low birth rates (meaning the debt burden grows higher per person every year)

Sorry to burst your dreams. I like trains too. Here’s a suggestion get into freight trains they’re the real deal.

BTW The Deluxe buses are about $25 or less DC to NY (less than $10 to Philly)and pick up and drop off in various locale. They also make money and pay taxes in addition to fuel taxes and tolls. They are very popular.

After a blizzard which do you think would be operating sooner bus or rail?
Rail, definitely.

You have to face the fact that the US is not a densely populated country it is far behind any major European or Asian country.
California has the same population density as Spain. Ohio has the same population density as Germay.

You have to face the fact that the HSR passenger rail corridors are not being proposed for Alaska or Wyoming to Montana or Utah to South Dakota, but for the places where the population exists.

Who besides tourists and rail fans are going to ride these trains?
The same people who ride airplanes on 300 to 500 mile routes, and spend the absolute majority of their travel time getting from the front entrance of the airport to sitting in their seat on the plane. The same people who show up to ride the Amtrak speed trains when they are made available with more frequency, more reliability and improved transit speed. And many of the people who are driving two hundred to five hundred miles because they have to, not because they want to.

Are you seriously saying the country should emulate New York, California and Illinois? Those states are all on the verge of bankruptcy.In addition they are losing tax paying middle class people. They are unattractive to businesses because businesses can’t afford to be there. I won’t even get into Europe’s debt situation and low birth rates (meaning the debt burden grows higher per person every year)
Are you seriously saying that this country can afford the luxury of splashing out tens of billions extra to build interstate highway lanes and on airport expansion instead of HSR between major metro populations 100miles to 500miles apart, and will be able afford the massive subsidies to driving and flying required to keep the system running when gas hits 5/gallon? What about when it hits $8/gallon?

You are an example of why this country has fallen so far from the nation that was the arsenal of democracy and the two-front victor in a full-commitment world war.

Thinking in stereotypes and talking points is no way to solve the serious problems facing the country.

Specious argument. If average density is relevant to anything then, given that the US has nearly 10 times the population density of Canada, the US should definitely go for HSR as it’s considered feasible in Canada. Or you might ask why of the 50 densest nations, only 5 have HSR, yet major European or Asian countries outside the top 50 do have extensive networks.

And anyway Florida has the same population density as France, and Mass has almost the same pop density as Japan.

So the jist of your argument is: “Trains bad, Buses good, Rails bad, Roads good. More of the same good. Different bad.”

Just for fun, compare “donor states” with “recipient states”. California, Illinois, and New York put far more money into the federal coffers than they get back.

You may be a very bright person, but on the subject of sustainable transportation for the oil-depleted 21st century, you are missing insight. Open your mind and study the real facts of HSR vs. long intercity drives and short flights.

Explain to me why I and every other American should be compelled to fund your fantasy world. Why should our military be used to provide security for an industry almost entirely outside our borders? It’s an indirect subsidy, it amounts to at least $200 bln a year, and that’s just the impact on the defense budget. If the same amount of money were invested in improvements/repairs to electrical grid, alt energy, and rail, then we would be taking a subsidy and turning it into internal investment. Yes, oil prices would go up–as they should, since the US military’s presence has a huge damping effect on real market costs. You are saying this is about the market, right? That our “toy trains” are inherently unrealistic from a market perspective? Your argument holds water only if you accept a de facto American imperialism is not only valid, but worth maintaining. I have more faith in this country than relying on that crutch.

After a blizzard which do you think would be operating sooner bus or rail? The open air segments of the DC Metro were shut down for several days after the blizzards of Feb 2010.

The reason the DC Metro had segments shut down after the blizzard was because they are not used to large amounts of snow. However, areas that frequently get large amounts of snow will have the capabilities to keep their rail systems running. For example, this past weekend there was a huge blizzard here in the Twin Cities. It got so bad that Metro Transit pulled the buses off the streets, but the light rail kept running.

i am confused. i thought that there were many multi lane freeways in la etc that have large traffic jams and that there were many flights to other parts of california. none of this can be true.

how many people would switch their cars or flights for a deluxe bus / not very many. but if you are sitting in a traffic jam or trawling along at 70 mph and a high speed train blows by you at 220 mph you might think otherwise.

how can it make rational sense to anyone to spend billions FIGHTING wars in other peoples that we are never going to win and willnever be thanked for – thanks afghans for your comments about british troops !

Why is this more sensible, palatable or even economically feasible then the alternative of getting off the oil addiction BY INVESTING in natural gas and solar and wind power for LESS MONEY and less danger to usa and uk citizens !

this alternative energy can be used to power electric trains which are proven as being the most efficient means of transporting people ie the most people for the lowest economical and environmental cost (these two cots are actually the same thing by the way !)

high speed is a necessary evil if you like to get people out of the oil guzzling cars and planes !!! yes it costs but there is a cost to NOT doing it. ask anyone whose child hasnt come home from duty in the middle east. do we really want people to die so we can drive a hummer to mcdonalds ??? dont answer that please !!!! aaaaaaaarg !!

This is probaby the only smart decision that the HSR folks have made – to build between Bakersfield and Fresno. It’s exactly what BART did in the 60’s. The test tracks were in Concord and Union City/Fremont if I remember correctly. This had the double benefit of building in cheap land where the NIMBY pressures were less, and more importantly, the track was laid at the furthest ends. Nobody would want to waste all that sunk money by not finishing it. Similarly, you don’t build the first stretch of HSR track on the Peninsula, or in Burbank – duh. Now if they would only wake up and realise that the Altamont route makes the most sense – for all of California.

Why would the Altamont route be the best for California?

The terrain is challenging, and getting a straight track for high speeds will be very costly. The present track, used by the Altamont Commuter Express, is so slow that the commuter buses run by the San Joaquin RTD are faster than the train.

Also, it would overbuild the system. Altamont proponents say three separate services need to run: L.A.-San Francisco, L.A.-San Jose and L.A.-East Bay (similar to the Capitol Corridor).

You get more track, but you don’t get triple the service, you get trunk service divided three ways. It’s the trunk that dictates service supply, not the branches.

San Jose is a good hub site, and it’s better to approach it from the south. You have two rights of way covering either side of the bay, rather than three. Plus, the population demand that would warrant any kind of train service is along the Capitol Corridor, not Altamont.

The San Joaquin Valley would be better served by a Fresno to Sacramento line. The demand for San Joaquin-to-Bay Area service warrants bus more than rail.

Altamont doesn’t have to follow the existing UP track, just like the preferred Tehachapi alternative doesn’t follow the Tehachapi Loop.

Altamont proponents do not say three services are needed. They say two are needed, one going to SF and one to SJ, and point out that there’s much more commuter traffic coming to the Bay Area from Stockton, Modesto, and Tracy than from Gilroy and Merced. They also argue (not very convincingly in my view but that’s a separate story) that frequency is not important at the predicted traffic levels, so the split wouldn’t reduce traffic.

Altamont makes a lot of sense once the HSR network is up and running and the Bay is in a position to get a standard gauge connection between SF and Oakland. Then Sacramento / Oakland / San Francisco / San Jose / CV / Los Angeles / San Diego is a fine corridor with multiple overlapping two hour and three hour trips.

The Livermore etc. NIMBY’s wanted Stage 1 to go elsewhere, and they got their wish. They will be singing a different tune by 2020.

the Bay is in a position to get a standard gauge connection between SF and Oakland.

Sounds like a great idea. SF to Sacramento in under an hour. Or SF to Santa Rosa in an hour….. where are they going to put the station in San Francisco?

Another reason why it’ll be easier in 2020, when the HSR station is not a local political football in a pre-existing development scheme, but can become a player in a game where some new development scheme is the political football, with the HSR supposed to play the role of crushing running back barreling the ball over the end zone for a win.

One would hope but it’s not designed for trains to come in from the east, they eliminated those options years ago. The best they can hope for out of Transbay is an eXclusive Bus Lane across the Bay Bridge to a station in Oakland.

The real estate dealings made it impossible to extend trains from Transbay to Oakland. The decision to go ahead with those dealings and not preserve the land is one of the triggers that set Richard Mlynarik off.

I don’t get it..

Why does everyone in their bickering ignore that Florida’s plan includes a stop at Walt Disney World?

Disney pays a private company (Mears) to bus their resort guests to WDW from MCO. They pay per-head the same amount as is being estimated for the HSR to make it profitable in the first year. There’s a reason when the full funding was in doubt Mica was willing to drop Tampa and not WDW.

It’s an area the size of San Francisco with a high population density – and surprise surprise – no actual residents. Every person travels to get there, and almost all of them come from east or west on I-4.

To note, WDW used to have its own airport. Still technically dose, it’s a short take off and landing strip near the main parking lot for the Magic Kingdom park.

So while everyone and their grandmother is debating if California will work going city-to-city and thinking its the brightest star in the sky, they’re forgetting that Florida’s HSR will open first and is as close to guaranteed to being successful as anything can be in life.

As a side-effect those tourists can go back to Ohio and Wisconsin thinking maybe train travel isn’t so bad. As long as they don’t think of it as an amusment park ride.

Ohio is one of the major tourist feeders for the WDW resort. Yes, it’s behind Tampa (WDW’s largest local contingent.. and again more reason for the rail), Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, but it’s sizeable.

Even in the most remote parts of Ohio, town an hour or two from an airport, you can find a little travel agency advertising WDW vacations.

Robert, one easy way to look at the relative importance of Disneyworld is to check TGV ridership at Eurodisney. The French Wikipedia says, “Son trafic annuel était de 2,6 millions de voyageurs en 2008… La clientèle de la gare est à 55 % touristique (parcs Disneyland), et à 45 % régionale.” In English: the annual traffic in 2008 was 2.6 million, of whom 55% were Eurodisney tourists.

How many people get there on an RER train? There isn’t going to be an RER in Florida for a very long time.

Numbers are fun.. and it’s baffling why Scott has none of these.

WDW’s four main parks have 47.5 million visitors in a year. Disneyland Paris with its 1.43 million riders on TGV (55% of 2.6million) only has 15.4 million visitors.

Quick and easy math says WDW has 3x the potential (4.29 million).

And hard numbers say that Disney pays Mears to shuttle guests to/from MCO, to the tune of 2.2 million guests each year since the program started.

Disney has agreed to a stop on its property and to link it’s internal transport to the station and to “support” HSR. That’s essentially 2.2 million guaranteed riders. Not to mention the Orange County Convention Center stop which will feed Universal Orlando’s 2 parks and Sea World and all their hotels/resorts.

And wonders of wonders, FL HSR’s projections updated in 2009 say 2.68 is the anticipated ridership in 2015.

It’s going to work. Hurry up and build it.

Of course Disney supports the project. It’s a huge giveaway for it, making it more accessible for some tourists. The question is whether Disney and convention centers are enough to create a high-ridership high-speed rail system. It’s not preposterous that it could (look to e.g. the success of the airport-city HSR line in Oslo), but neither is it obvious.

For what it’s worth, SNCF believes that HSR will have higher socioeconomic rate of return in California and Texas than in Florida.

I’m surprised Disney is supporting it.

The entire point of the free shuttle buses funded by Disney for its guests that arrive via air is to discourage them from renting a car and taking a day trip to Universal or Sea World. Whatever money they lose on the service is gained by trapping visitors on their property.

The entire strategy at Disney World is to do whatever it takes to keep guests on property for as many days as possible. By day 7, the marginal cost of visiting the parks for another day is much lower than on day 1. It’s sort of like popcorn sizes at movie theaters. “For an extra 50 cents you can visit Epcot for another day even though it’s a bastardized shell of its former self!”

If they get a high speed rail station, not only do they not have to foot the bill for these coaches, but someone else will be paying for it, either their guests or the state or both, depending on if the damn thing is profitable or not. But since Universal and Sea World are also a hop, skip and a jump away from HSR, that will make it more difficult to trap visitors in Disney World Hell (they have really let the place go).

I almost wanna suggest you hold your breath on the success of the Gardermoen line in Norway. Norway has had several problems with road and rail tunnels, specifically tunnels which have a tendency to leak, or to demonstrate structural instability. Gardermoen did, don’t know if it still does, but this is in the aftermath of other Norwegian (road) tunnels having some striking structural problems (like repeated partial implosions). Norway is far richer than Spain, yet the problems cited with metro (Valencia) and HSR (Madrid-Barcelona, near Lleida if I recall) in Spain have been no worse than what Norway’s seen…

There have been some spectacularly disastrous tunnel projects in Scandinavia lately. But I think the Gardermobanen has taken a large share of traffic to the airport which is where it’s success lies.

I’m well-aware of the Gardermoen line’s tunneling problems. They led to large cost overruns, placing the line’s per-km cost about on a par with that of American at-grade HSR lines. The cost overruns may have led to government investigations and media ridicule, but in the US the same cost would be considered a bargain.

Huh. I had no idea that those theme parks were so popular — I don’t get it myself.

Well, I guess Tampa to Disney World to Orlando Airport makes some kind of sense then. But it kind of sucks for Orlando residents, who get nothing.

I don’t get it either, especially since even long-time WDW fans are fed up with the lack of maintenance and new attractions. Unless it is based on a recent movie, Disney isn’t going it anymore. Service is subpar. The joint is trashy. Still get millions of visitors a year. Now that is brand recognition.

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