High-Speed Rail Honolulu Light Rail Midwest High-Speed Rail Ohio Texas

Intercity Rail in Texas, Ohio; Changes to Honolulu's Rail Plan

Ohio’s Governor Ted Strickland prioritizes new “3-C” rail connection between Cincinnati and Cleveland, through ColumbusOhio Hub Map

In yesterday’s State of the State address, Governor Ted Strickland (D) announced that he’d be working towards the development of a new rail corridor – the 3C – between Cincinnati and Cleveland, via Dayton and Columbus, connecting the states’ four largest metropolitan areas and implementing the first phase 0f the Ohio Hub plan.

This will be the first time in forty years that Ohio’s major cities have been connected by rail – and will mark the first rail service for Columbus, the state capital, in decades. According to the Toledo Blade, however, residents of the state’s fifth largest metro area were a bit dismayed by the lack of proposed service for Toledo. On the other hand, the Ohio Hub’s second phase proposes improving the existing train line between Cleveland and Chicago, which would serve Toledo. And while service to Toledo already exists, there is none to Columbus currently, so the 3C line probably makes the most sense as a first phase.

The plan Mr. Strickland wants to implement would rely on economic stimulus funds from the federal government, but it would not produce high-speed rail. Rather, it would allow for Amtrak-style service at speeds of 60 to 90 mph along the corridor. Ultimately, the Ohio Hub would form a part of the greater Midwest High-Speed Rail system. (Perhaps the system should actually be referred to as Midwest “High-Speed” Rail?)

Texan rail advocates pitch their “T-Bone” plan to the state legislatureTexas T-Bone Map

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, generator of the Texas T-Bone plan, is actively pushing its project for a true high-speed rail connection (200 mph) between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio, with a spur running from Temple to Houston.

The proposed project, whose price tag is likely to run in the $12 to $18 billion range, could be completed by 2020 and would represent the state’s second serious attempt at implementing a high-speed rail system after the early-1990s Texas TGV project failed because of its inability to receive enough funds from private sources (that proposal was supposed to be funded entirely through non-governmental money).

This time, the project won’t face opposition from now-neutral Southwest Airlines, as the Texas TGV did. And the federal government’s willingness to open its coffers to high-speed rail investment suggests that the T-Bone may in fact find the funds it needs to be implemented. Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has expressed his support of the project, though he’s been unwilling to commit state resources to the project thus far, convinced instead that as the state becomes more populated, the project will be able to pay for itself.

Let it be known that the transport politic considers it highly unlikely for a major high-speed rail investment such as this to ever be constructed with solely private funds.

Honolulu’s 20-mile proposed rail system to be re-routed via airport and Pearl Harbor

Say Yes to the Honolulu Rail System blog reports that the Honolulu City Council voted yesterday in favor of a change in the planned routing of the city’s rail system, which is currently being planned. Instead of running along Salt Lake Boulevard, the line will now be redirected via the Honolulu airport and Pearl Harbor, adding a predicted 8,000 daily riders and increasing the system’s cost by $200 million. With a total project cost of more than $5 billion, this represents chump change.

This change has been under consideration since the week after the election, when Mayor Mufi Hannemann suggested that it would make more sense to include airport access in the first phase of the project, rather than as a spur to be built in the future, as it would add significant ridership and help residents and tourists alike get to the airport, which is a huge economic generator for the region as a whole. The Salt Lake alignment now becomes a potential future extension.

Images above: Ohio Hub from Ohio DOT; Texas T-Bone corridor from THSRTC

High-Speed Rail Honolulu New York

HSR in New York Advances; Honolulu Transit Tax Under Threat

HSR Between New York, Albany, and Buffalo Gains Support From a New Senator

New New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D), who was appointed by Governor David Paterson after Hillary Clinton resigned to become Secretary of State, has declared her intentions to push for high-speed rail in New York State. Ms. Gillibrand met yesterday with Ms. Clinton, Mr. Paterson, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D) to discuss their priorities for the state, and Ms. Gillibrand excitedly told the press that all four were ready to work towards better rail in the Empire State. According to the Village Voice, she said “One area that we all agree on is that we really want high-speed rail,” excellent news for New Yorkers whose Upstate congressional delegation has recently been fighting to push the issue to the front burner.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D) told the Niagara Gazette that high-speed rail was the top priority for that delegation, and that they have already met with congressional and federal leadership about the issue. Considering New York’s large population, relative ease of connecting its major cities (they’re all aligned along a single route), and economic dynamism, high-speed rail seems perfect there. Ms. Slaughter also addressed the question of what exactly she meant by “high-speed” and answered 200 mph… eventually. This is a better response than the usual 110 mph, which is hardly fast at all.

Can New York expect a California High-Speed Rail-type project, with 220 mph trains, on its horizon? We’ll have to see, but the first question that has to be answered is where the money is going to come from.

Honolulu Transit Tax May be Used for General State Needs

Honolulu passed a popular referendum for a 20-mile long light rail system, running the length of southern Oahu just last November, but the transit tax that would pay for the system’s completion is already under threat. The Star-Bulletin reports that Hawai’i Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has proposed using transit tax revenues to shore up the already under-threat state budget. The 1/2-cent excise tax has been around since 2005. But she’s been met with significant opposition from recently re-elected Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has been one of Hawai’i’s biggest proponents of the rail mass transit system. Mr. Hannemann argues that it would make little sense to delay the rail project, considering that its construction would in itself serve as an economic stimulus. Read more about it on the Say Yes to Honolulu Rail System Blog.

Bay Area Detroit Honolulu

Detroit Mass Transit; San Francisco Congestion Pricing; Honolulu Impeachment?

The Detroit Free Press reports today on Detroit’s rapidly advancing plans for a light rail system in that city’s core. The first segment, as we’ve reported before, will be a 3.4-mile line running from Downtown to New Center along Woodward Avenue (which is now being called The Regional Area Initial Link, TRAIL). There continues to be some confusion about whether this project will replace, compete with, or merge with the Detroit Department of Transportation’s proposed Woodward Light Rail line. We’re betting on a merger.

Other phases of the project, which has been approved by the state legislature and the local council of governments, will extend the system for another 5 miles along Woodward, as well as add a commuter rail line to Ann Arbor and install a network of rapid buses throughout the 900,000-person city.

The project plans to apply for funding from the coming stimulus bill, making it the 1,000th transit agency to announce its intention to do so. (Pardon our sarcasm.)

San Francisco, wishing to repeat the failed fight New York had in 2007 over congestion pricing, is developing its own plan. The city, looking at the success of London in reducing congestion (whose own anti-pricing new Mayor, Boris Johnson, recently reduced the size of the zone), wants to charge motorists when they enter the city center. The federal government, whose current Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, is close to obsessed with pricing zones, has provided $1 million to sponsor the study.

In the abstract, this makes sense. San Francisco is a dense and walkable city whose streets would benefit from fewer cars. There are also quite a few strong public transportation options, including Muni Metro, and BART. But BART’s Oakland-San Francisco Transbay Tube is reaching capacity, meaning that a sudden increase in commuters would overwhelm the system. If the city wants to be serious about reducing congestion, a second BART under Bay line would be a valuable investment. So how about more BART and congestion pricing?

In Honolulu, people disappointed by the November election, which not only served to reelect of Mayor Mufi Hannemann, but also endorsed his 20-mile rail system, have decided to call for his impeachment as a last resort. These individuals, whose project will almost certainly fail considering Mr. Hannemann’s enormous margin of victory and his continued popular support, claim that the mayor lied about the rail system and should therefore be pushed out of office. Their website,, is a bit lacking in specifics about how exactly he lied and the specific reasons for impeachment.

This cynical movement, whose actual basis has nothing to do with Mr. Hannemann himself and a lot more to do with their opposition to the rail line, which is marching towards construction as we speak. Sorry guys.

Beijing Chicago Honolulu New York President

Chicago to Benefit from Obama Election; Beijing Commuter Rail; ARC Costs a Lot More

Finally, the end of a long and dramatic week!

The Wall Street Journal had a nice report today about the potential benefits of an Obama Presidency for Chicago, which needs funding for transit as well as for its fledging 2016 Olympics bid. It’s not hard to imagine that Obama will focus on his adopted home town, especially now that his White House Chief of Staff will be Rahm Emanuel, another Chicago native. Also, one of the new co-chairs of his transition team, Valerie Jarrett, who is the chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Board, once was the chair the Chicago Transit Authority and worked in the city planning agency. She will be a strong proponent of transit and smart growth and she’s a good addition to the Obama team.

We will be discussing Obama’s influence on specific local projects, including the Chicago Olympics bid, in a post this weekend.

In Beijing, the government has announced the construction of a 100-kilometer suburban rail line which will provide efficient suburb-to-city centre commutes that are currently only realistically possible on the highways in automobiles. This comes on the heels of the city’s recent announcement that it will built two more subway lines, this in addition to the opening of three lines in July for the Olympic Games. Overall, the city plans 516 km of urban rail by 2015, up from 200 km today.

Note: by 2015, New York City will have (theoretically) completed the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, a 4 km line. Don’t laugh, cry.

Meanwhile, in the New York Region, the Access to the Region’s Core project, which will provide a second rail tunnel from New Jersey to East Midtown, is now estimated to cost $8.7 billion. That’s $1 billion more than estimated last year. Based on the fact that the states of New York and New Jersey are approaching bankruptcy, either the federal government gets involved to a greater extent or this project isn’t happening.

Anyone think this project doens’t make that much sense, anyway? The new tunnels won’t connect New Jersey riders to the tracks at the existing Penn Station, meaning that through-running Amtrak trains can’t use them, and the terminus is on the West Side, which New Jersey commuters can already get to. Why isn’t the station being built in the vicinity of Grand Central instead? It would make a lot more sense.

Finally, opposition mounts in the Salt Lake area of Honolulu following yesterday’s announcement that the rail line that was approved this week might bypass that area in favor of providing better service to the airport. Expect further controversy before the situation is resolved…

High-Speed Rail Honolulu Light Rail London Los Angeles

CAHSR May Get Federal Funds; Honolulu LRT to be Re-routed; London Transit Plans Shrink

Now that the election’s over, we can start talking about some of the consequences. The most important event Tuesday night was the decision by California voters to approve a $10 billion bond for high-speed rail in that state, and the High-Speed Rail Authority there is already beginning work. Though construction won’t begin until 2010 at the earliest, the Authority has already been allocated $40 million for the completion of the environmental studies. But the main task of the agency will have to be finding the other $22 billion that will be necessary to complete the first link, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with an extension to Anaheim. This money is expected to come from federal and private sources.

Some of the $1.5 billion recently allocated by Congress for rail projects will probably go to California. But Democrats have previously promised a lot more funding for high-speed rail, so we might see $10 billion from the legislature for this project if the infrastructure bill we discussed previously comes through. California’s line will be the first funded in the nation, especially because the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is from San Francisco, and the head of the Senate’s infrastructure committee is California’s Barbara Boxer. There will be money for this state’s system, probably allocated during the first few months of Obama’s campaign.

Private companies need to be attracted to contribute the other $12 billion necessary, and they’re likely to chip in for land surrounding proposed stations where public-private development will be encouraged. The real question is whether the current real estate downtown will negatively affect this project or whether these sources of money will look at the long-term of high-speed rail.

Meanwhile, the Bus Riders’ Union, always defending buses, sees this project as a “luxury train” and is likely to push for its derailment. Fortunately, the BRU, which we’ve discussed in the context of Los Angeles, has little influence statewide.

In Honolulu, the rail system that was approved on Tuesday is likely to be re-routed. Current plans are to have the 20-mile system leave downtown and head west through a section of the city called Salt Lake. This would mean that any airport service would come in another phase as a spur line. But it appears that the vote in favor of rail has changed the minds of some council people (a map showing the two routes is in the Honolulu Advertiser story), who now suggest that a line to the airport would be more valuable than one through Salt Lake.

There are benefits to both routings: whereas the Salt Lake line would serve more locals and a major mall, the Airport route would be better for tourists. Reelected Mayor Mufi Hannemann has in the past expressed his interest in the airport route, so we’ll see in the next few weeks what the council decides.

Meanwhile, in London, which, as we’ve discussed before, has a major transit system improvement plan, new Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson is scrapping a large number of projects meant to improve service in poor East London, which voted for him over former Labour Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. Livingstone had a number of projects planned for the east side of the city, including tram extensions and the pedestrianization of several open spaces in the city’s center.

Johnson, however, sees those projects as unnecessary and instead wants to focus on the government’s Crossrail program, a regional rail through link with underground stations in the city center (much like Paris’ RER or Philadelphia’s CCCC). He also wants the continued improvement of London’s Underground with air conditioned trains. This is disappointing news for East London but keep in mind the city has an astonishing 39 Billion Pounds worth of transit projects that will be complted before 2018.