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Old 07-16-2012, 06:51 PM
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Is High-Speed Rail a good idea for California?


Here in the Golden State, there is a push to build the California High Speed Rail. It is supposed to be able to whisk people from San Francisco to L.A. in under 3 hours (it takes a good 5-6 hours to drive). It is supposed to be a big job creator, and is supposed to help link far-flung rural communities to the big cities efficiently, thereby spurring local growth, as well as modernize rail corridors along the way. Supporters argue that the interstate highway system was one of vision with no end price tag but somehow was built anyway - and this is like that.

Opponents have pointed out the promised connection speed between the two cities is not realistic, is already estimated to be too expensive and will likely go over-budget, is being opposed by farmers and small communities it will plow thru, and no one will see any benefits for many years. They say ridership numbers are wishful, and tickets will be more expensive than promised. Opponents also point out that the state would do better to invigorate existing rail, air and road infrastructure, as benefits would impact more people and arrive sooner. Not to mention, BTW, that we are broke at the moment.

The Governor is backing this project, along with party-line support (and opposition), and so far thay are clearing all hurdles in getting this going. Voters approved the project back in 2008, but are starting to get cold feet when faced with the staggering costs ($65B to >$100B).

My question - can this project really meet the benefits it is promising, without turning into a massive and expensive boondoggle? Is HSR the future of transportation, or is the future already here via air travel? Are there any comparable projects being eyed elsewhere?
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Old 07-16-2012, 06:54 PM
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My humble opinion is that it is pretty much guaranteed to be a massive and expensive boondoggle.

If the true cost of traveling by these trains was included in the cost of the ticket, no-one would be able to afford to ride. This is even if they amortize the build cost over 30 years or more.

If it's such a good idea, let private enterprise fund it and keep the (imaginary) profits. Ye gods, I can't imagine what this is going to do to taxpayers.


Roddy
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Old 07-16-2012, 06:55 PM
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Hey both California and the Federal Gov. are both bankrupt! Its perfect-and it won't be $65 billion-more like $300 billion (Boston's "Big Dig" was originally $2 billion-now over $24 billion.) For Obama, its a wonderful way of getting union votes.
For the taxpayers, a disaster.
I'd like to know just how thgis thing can be justified-we are moving away from commuting..so building a train is exactly the wrong thing to do.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:11 PM
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Hey both California and the Federal Gov. are both bankrupt! Its perfect-and it won't be $65 billion-more like $300 billion (Boston's "Big Dig" was originally $2 billion-now over $24 billion.) For Obama, its a wonderful way of getting union votes.
For the taxpayers, a disaster.
I'd like to know just how thgis thing can be justified-we are moving away from commuting..so building a train is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Obama's not the Governor of California. Blame someone else.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:19 PM
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Here in the Golden State, there is a push to build the California High Speed Rail. It is supposed to be able to whisk people from San Francisco to L.A. in under 3 hours (it takes a good 5-6 hours to drive).
I've always thought it was a very incomplete analysis to only cite the end-to-end time when trying to justify rail projects. The Acela runs from Boston to Washington, but I doubt very many people use it for that trip. It does get riders on parts of the route; Boston-New York, New York-Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Washington, etc. I gather that it's considered a success.

I don't remember what the proposed route in California is, but I doubt that there are many large population centers. I think the success of the project would depend on how the towns along the new corridor grow in response to it, Would there eventually be enough population all along the route for the ridership numbers to justify it? I don't know.

Has anyone suggested that the state start buying up the land it needs now, while it's cheap, and delay construction? You could see if people will move to a place where that service is expected, and give time for the technology to improve.

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If it's such a good idea, let private enterprise fund it and keep the (imaginary) profits. Ye gods, I can't imagine what this is going to do to taxpayers.
Why is rail always expected to operate on a different economic model than other forms of transportation in the U.S.? With everything else, governments own and maintain the infrastructure (airports, roads, waterways) and private carriers take passengers. (There are exceptions to both.) Why is rail a failure if it can't pay for its own tracks?
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:40 PM
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Obama's not the Governor of California. Blame someone else.
From the Huffington Post:

The move marked a major political victory for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

and:

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:41 PM
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I love the *idea*, but, in practice, I don't think enough people will take it.

If I were the guy in charge, I'd work to expand *low* speed rail, cargo rail, car carriers, etc. Compete with the airlines on the basis of *price*.

Who the hell *needs* to be in San Francisco in three hours? Tomorrow is fine. If the matter is urgent, just use telepresence (telephone, video conference, computer sharing, etc.) If the matter is *deadly* urgent, fly.

It's creating a "middle ground" where one just isn't needed.

(Besides, if you drive, you can stop at the Harris Ranch restaurant in Coalinga. Spend the money you save on a big honkin' steak dinner. Try the "rocky mountain oysters!")

Far more important is that the cities improve bus service. We've got to use our cars a lot less, and that means decent urban transit.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
From the Huffington Post:

The move marked a major political victory for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

and:

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday.
Initial funding was approved by voters Nov 4, 2008. Long before Obama took office. I would still blame the voters and the Governor first.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:51 PM
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I don't know about California, but in Ohio it was turned down because it would cost the state more money than what would be taken in. It wasn't financially viable.

The problem with high speed rail is that it's a commuter train and not a full transportation node. So going forward with that model it is best used in dense population corridors like we see on the East Coast of the United States or in countries like Japan. Connecting cities that are 3 to 5 hours away by car isn't really a commuter train function.

What it has the potential for is a gradual redistribution of communities that will take advantage of proximity to the line.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:57 PM
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Initial funding was approved by voters Nov 4, 2008. Long before Obama took office. I would still blame the voters and the Governor first.
ACTUAL funding was just approved as cited. Since the article ties it to the President as well as the Governor it's probably from the same stimulus money pile my state turned down.

And by money pile I mean future debt.
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:59 PM
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I love the *idea*, but, in practice, I don't think enough people will take it.

If I were the guy in charge, I'd work to expand *low* speed rail, cargo rail, car carriers, etc. Compete with the airlines on the basis of *price*.
I concur. This is my worry as well. I think there is ample demand for efficient and clean transportation within the Bay Area, and within the L.A./San Diego area. I take the train occasionally for work from Sacramento to San Francisco - a corridor where intra-city train service make some sense. I cannot see how SF/L.A. makes sense unless it is a non-stop, but every county along the way will demand a stop - stopping adds time to the trip. Even between Sac and SF there are several stops that are barely worth it.

In Europe, somehow they have worked out trains that hit every local stop, and then there are different trains hitting only the major cities. These are not high-speed, and share the same track system. Something like that seems like a better idea.

As for the topography along the proposed route - a good number of miles will not be able to accomodate HSR top speed. From SF south it's all urban/suburban for at least the first 50 miles, then there is a mountain range to get over before it can take advantage of a couple hundred miles of flat, open farmland. Then, at the southern end of the Central Valley, there are more mountains all the way to L.A. suburbs.

I cannot help but speculate that the Governor and some in the legislature are either pandering to the unions, and/or are seeking legacy projects. I am looking for the potentially positive aspects to this project, but I keep coming up with only the negative ones.

Last edited by snowthx; 07-16-2012 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 07-16-2012, 08:05 PM
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I agree it's a terrible idea.

As for comparable projects - Morocco's building a high speed link between Casablanca and Tangier. Here's a list of other proposed projects from wikipedia ranging from the possible to the absurd.
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Old 07-16-2012, 08:11 PM
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I concur. This is my worry as well. I think there is ample demand for efficient and clean transportation within the Bay Area, and within the L.A./San Diego area.
That would make a lot more sense.
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Old 07-16-2012, 08:38 PM
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I don't know about California, but in Ohio it was turned down because it would cost the state more money than what would be taken in. It wasn't financially viable.
For some reason, Ohio (before the whole thing was canceled) got the idea that it could do a half-assed "starter" service. I have no idea why anybody ever thought a train averaging 35 MPH along the same route as a freeway with faster bus service would be competitive.

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The problem with high speed rail is that it's a commuter train and not a full transportation node.
It actually competes with airlines where it exists.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 07-16-2012 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 07-16-2012, 09:08 PM
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I don't think it is a good idea. Not enough people will use it and it will be expensive and not networked to many other cities.

My vision for the future is that cars become fully autonomous along pre-programmed routes and that they can follow other cars within inches, and some will even be able to automatically hitch to the cars in front of and behind them and use existing roads. It won't be as efficient as a train by a long shot, but it will be far more flexible in terms of times and destinations than a train network.

We aren't there yet, but Google has us very close.
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Old 07-16-2012, 09:20 PM
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My humble opinion is that it is pretty much guaranteed to be a massive and expensive boondoggle.

If the true cost of traveling by these trains was included in the cost of the ticket, no-one would be able to afford to ride. This is even if they amortize the build cost over 30 years or more.

If it's such a good idea, let private enterprise fund it and keep the (imaginary) profits. Ye gods, I can't imagine what this is going to do to taxpayers.


Roddy
And yet the rest of world (from France, to China, to Scandinavia, to Germany, the UK, Japan et al) has embraced high-speed rail for the all the benefits and quality of life it brings to its communities and businesses - to say nothing or reducing the travelling time between destinations.

None of these places ever considered it a "boondoggle" - a boon, certainly, but never a boondoggle. I think it's emblematic of the US that it won't go near these projects - by and large - unless the private sector pays for it; and they invariably won't do because there's not short-term profit gain for investors. That's a difference to the other places named above, who think long term and what the gains are for the people they serve and not the investors (as most if not all the projects I named are, in some way, subsidised by the local or national governments).
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Old 07-16-2012, 09:40 PM
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Yes, America and in particular California pioneered railroads in the 19th Century, and I think it can happen again. Arguably its more legitimate than say welfare and about on the same level with roads in that it benefits all people.
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Old 07-16-2012, 09:56 PM
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I don't remember what the proposed route in California is, but I doubt that there are many large population centers. I think the success of the project would depend on how the towns along the new corridor grow in response to it, Would there eventually be enough population all along the route for the ridership numbers to justify it? I don't know.
The first leg will serve Madera, Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. Current public transportation options into the San Joaquin Valley are pretty useless. I need to go that way occasionally for work, and would absolutely take the train instead of a 5-hour drive from Sacramento to Bakersfield if I could. Sacto to LA wold probably be a toss-up, but I'd certainly consider the train if the convenience factor was high enough.
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Old 07-16-2012, 10:22 PM
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And yet the rest of world (from France, to China, to Scandinavia, to Germany, the UK, Japan et al) has embraced high-speed rail for the all the benefits and quality of life it brings to its communities and businesses - to say nothing or reducing the travelling time between destinations.

None of these places ever considered it a "boondoggle" - a boon, certainly, but never a boondoggle. I think it's emblematic of the US that it won't go near these projects - by and large - unless the private sector pays for it; and they invariably won't do because there's not short-term profit gain for investors. That's a difference to the other places named above, who think long term and what the gains are for the people they serve and not the investors (as most if not all the projects I named are, in some way, subsidised by the local or national governments).
I agree with most of what you say, but keep in mind that those places have a more steady history of rail travel that is ingrained into and supported by their economies. We have a boom/bust situation where rail travel was big until something better came along. In those countries, they took steps to get to HSR. First, the basic rail network connecting the cities with stops everywhere, then "express" service that bypassed smaller locations, then "inter-city" was developed connecting major city centers. I propose that evolution is what we should be doing in CA, and not just shoot for the moon.

People on this board are always talking about demand being a better driver for economic decisions than the simple availability of money. I agree 100%. Just because money is becoming available to invest in this scheme does not make it a good idea. I concur with an above post that rail travel should be considered infrastructure and need not be compared to profit-making enterprises. Which is why I think we should be steadily building up capacity and demand for rail travel before investing in such a massive project.
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Old 07-16-2012, 10:35 PM
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If they used maglev, which has been shown to operate at 361mph in an experimental mode, then they'd have something. LA to SF in under an hour and a half. Now THAT would compete with both airlines and private cars.
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Old 07-16-2012, 10:37 PM
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And yet the rest of world (from France, to China, to Scandinavia, to Germany, the UK, Japan et al) has embraced high-speed rail for the all the benefits and quality of life it brings to its communities and businesses - to say nothing or reducing the travelling time between destinations.
It's worth looking at why high-speed rail works in those places. I don't have cites to back this up, but I believe they have higher population densities (meaning more people taking shorter journeys than our spread-out cities), better public transportation in cities (meaning less reason to drive someplace if you can get around effectively without a car once you're there), and more people living near city centers (meaning it's easier to get to a central, downtown train station and harder to get to an airport in the boonies). I suspect California is not yet to the point where this project would be cost effective.

However, The U.S. is headed in that direction. We'd be foolish not to look into HSR and prepare for the time when it will be an effective transportation solution. While looking for some data on Acela ridership, I found this description of Amtrak's ideas for the Northeast Corridor; cutting travel times in half by 2040.
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:25 AM
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...If the true cost of traveling by these trains was included in the cost of the ticket, no-one would be able to afford to ride. This is even if they amortize the build cost over 30 years or more...
You mean how the "true cost" is always included in airline tickets?

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...Who the hell *needs* to be in San Francisco in three hours? Tomorrow is fine...
I wonder if there'd be much of a market for a night train between SF & LA? Arrive at train station in one of those cities in the evening, board train, have dinner, retire to a private compartment or roomette (or even a berth), sleep, wand wake up at your destination early in the morning.
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:36 AM
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I advocate the bullet train as opposed to nothing, but I think the money would be far better spent in upgrading the state's conventional rail system. Just providing double tracking along the many routes that lack it, and even quad tracking along heavily used routes, would do a world of good. If you've ever gone anywhere by train in SoCal, you know you spend a lot of time stalled on sidings, making way for freight trains.

Another badly needed upgrade is the Run Through Tracks project at Los Angeles Union Station. The station was designed, in the 1930s, as a terminus, with three major intercity routes ending there, but it would work far better today as a run-through station, where trains could stop and then continue on in the direction of travel without having to back up and turn around. (The LRT Gold Line already does this on its own run-through tracks.)

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 07-17-2012 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 07-17-2012, 01:52 AM
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If they used maglev, which has been shown to operate at 361mph in an experimental mode, then they'd have something. LA to SF in under an hour and a half. Now THAT would compete with both airlines and private cars.
The San Joaquin Valley is probably the most ideal site you could ask for for maglev. Build that and feed into it with Talgo technology using existing track. But they won't do it that way.

As cool as the idea sounds, and as much as I love trains, it's be money down a rat hole or so expensive that it will never be finished.

It probably will not proceed. Lawsuits are going to tie it up. For one thing, the project is not what was promised the voters in the original prop. That alone could put the kibosh on the whole deal.
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Old 07-17-2012, 02:51 AM
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As a European who travels on high speed - and not so high speed - rail often enough; and has had the pleasure of negotiating LA on public transport: this probably isn't going to work as well as you would hope.

Assuming the goal is for people to leave there car at home and take a train instead, you need good public transport once you arrive at your destination as well. Let's just say this might be problematic in a city the size of LA; maybe you can put a Herz in the trainstation, but that sort of defeats the purpose.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:25 AM
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As a European who travels on high speed - and not so high speed - rail often enough; and has had the pleasure of negotiating LA on public transport: this probably isn't going to work as well as you would hope.
It has improved a lot and is about to go hell's bells in the next ten years with many new rail lines and extensions going to be completed ahead of schedule because the feds decided to loan us the money against future sales taxes.

By the time (if ever) HSR gets here, we'll be ready.

One thing about the system in LA is that it is very complicated to navigate. If you don't know what you are doing, you are screwed, if you know, you can get about anywhere pretty easily.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:38 AM
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I don't know if it's good for California, but it's good for me personally. I have to travel to SF fairly frequently on business and I'd much rather take the train than deal with the hassle of flying. It's a particularly attractive option since the Expo line extension will be coming through my neighborhood in a couple of years, giving me an easy way to get to Union Station.
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Old 07-17-2012, 08:56 AM
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The San Joaquin Valley is probably the most ideal site you could ask for for maglev. Build that and feed into it with Talgo technology using existing track. But they won't do it that way.
Yes, the valley is ideal for any HSR, however, if you look at the typical drive from SF to LA going the route they are proposing, more than half is within urban/suburban corridors, or thru mountains, where no HSR technologies can come to full speed.

Additionally, I doubt any rail will be able to do a 185 mile run from Los Banos to the bottom of the Grapevine at top speed, with stops planned in Fresno and Bakersfield.

And, as pointed out, once you got to downtown LA, then what? You are still going to need a car (most people). SF would probably be OK without a car, but I daresay none of the other cities along the HSR proposed route are set up as well as SF with public transport once you arrived.

Any seismic event will probably close down the tracks for inspections for days.

I like trains as well, but I would much rather see re-inforcement to the current system as described above.
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:38 AM
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High speed rail will happen at some point or another. It may be now, it may be fifty years from now. But the US cannot be a modern country without doing the things that modern countries do, and that includes building high-speed rail systems. So if it is going to happen, why put it off? The costs are going to happen one way or another. Gas isn't getting any cheaper and airplanes are not getting any faster, and we will need a real mass transit solution. So why not just build the damn thing and start getting the benefits now rather than waiting until we absolutely cannot wait any more?

Yes, high speed rail is expensive. Transportation is inherently expensive. Our highway system is expensive, and if we paid for it on a fee-per-use basis rather than burying those costs in various taxes, it'd be obscenely expensive (and in countries where tolls finance the highway system, it's easy to drop $100 bucks or more on a day trip.) Who is complaining that the highways don't turn a profit? Air travel is expensive, and even with subsidies and bailouts, airlines generally totter on the edge of bankruptcy. Subway and bus systems are expensive. It's just damn expensive to move people around. Transportation just isn't a cost-efficient thing to do.

But it is absolutely essential for our economy, not to mention our standard of living. Transportation is what makes business happen. Teleconferencing is great, but businesses still create wealth by bringing people together. Creativity comes from people coming together. The things that give our life value- our family and friends- rely on transportation. The Romans did what they did because they figured that out. Mao wrote that to build a city, you must first build a road. NGOs working in developing countries are obsessed with transportation, because transportation is what makes economic growth. Two of the most seminal developments in our nation- the transcontinental railroad and the highway system- are transportation related. Transportation is one of the foundations that makes a nation work.

California should have had high speed rail decades ago. It works, and CA is a good candidate. Yeah, it only takes an hour by plane. But once you get out to SFO, clear security, wait at the gate, board, and then get to wherever in LA you are going from whichever airport you happen to land it, it's quite an ordeal. I grew up in Sacramento, and we usually drove because flying is just such a PITA (Sacramento's airport is also ridiculously far from the city itself.) A train, however, can transport people directly to and from the densely populated areas where people live and work. And in trains, you can get work done and move around as you like. An executive leaving her office at 9 AM for the trainstation down the street, working for a few hours until she gets to LA in time for her lunch meeting is a lot more effcient than her having to get the hell out to SFO, spending hours in lines, not having wi-fi or cell service for an hour, and then having to figure out how to get where she is going to from on of the LA airports is less effcient, and ultimately worse for our economy.
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:23 PM
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You mean how the "true cost" is always included in airline tickets?



I wonder if there'd be much of a market for a night train between SF & LA? Arrive at train station in one of those cities in the evening, board train, have dinner, retire to a private compartment or roomette (or even a berth), sleep, wand wake up at your destination early in the morning.
I've been on the night train between Chicago and Washington, DC and lots of people ride it. It also makes late and wee-hours stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland for people who think those places are cool.
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Old 07-17-2012, 01:54 PM
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For Obama, its a wonderful way of getting union votes.
California is just about the last place where Obama needs votes.

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Who the hell *needs* to be in San Francisco in three hours?
People who live in the LA area and need to attend a meeting in SF and be back at the office the next day. Yes, you can fly, but until somebody develops the solar-powered airplane that can carry hundreds of people at a time, there will always be people looking for a "cleaner" alternative to jets.

However, there is another problem with the plan: you need a branch line to get to San Francisco itself - it's on a peninsula, so you can't go "through" the city. (One possibility is to go to San Jose, then take the existing commuter rail service. Another could be to extend the subway to San Jose, but either you have to go through Oakland or open up a can of political worms trying to extend it through a county that hasn't been paying taxes into the system for 50 years like other counties have.)

Meanwhile, there's another route that nobody seems to be mentioning; connecting LA to Las Vegas.
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Old 07-17-2012, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
Yes, high speed rail is expensive. Transportation is inherently expensive.
This is what your argument seems to boil down to: rail is costly, and therefore it is good. But what could CA accomplish if it used those hundreds of billions of dollars (of Federal and state money) for other transportation needs? How about more clean busses (hybrid, whatever), either inter-city or intra-city?

Just because rail is the most expensive ground transportation option (hell it might even cost more than planes depending on ridership) does not make it a good use of money. Basically, in cost-benefit terms, there is no worse use of money imaginable than to choose the path California is pursuing, especially in a state that's almost completely bankrupt already.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by neuroman View Post
How about more clean busses (hybrid, whatever), either inter-city or intra-city?
Trains can travel at 200 mph without producing any CO2 or other pollution. There's no way a hybrid bus (or an airplane) could match that.

Also, high-speed rail is virtually immune from delays, and safer too. The Japanese bullet train system hasn't killed a single passenger, and average delay is about 20 seconds.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by lisiate View Post
I agree it's a terrible idea.

As for comparable projects - Morocco's building a high speed link between Casablanca and Tangier. Here's a list of other proposed projects from wikipedia ranging from the possible to the absurd.
Have you ever lived in a country that has high speed rail?

It changes everything. I was in Chengdu, China, when they opened the Chengdu-Chongqing bullet train. What had once been an unpleasant and unpredictable 4 hour bus ride (hoping you didn't hit traffic) is now a comfortable two hour jaunt that leaves and arrives every hour like clockwork. Soon, it will be down to under one hour. Traveling between these cities went from something you plan your day around, into something you do on a whim. I lived a four hour drive from both Chengdu and Chongqing, so it used to be that I'd have to chose one or the other to spend my weekend in. After the rail line, I bus or drive into Chengdu on Friday night, spend Saturday at the office in Chengdu, hop an afternoon train and meet with coworkers in Chongqing, and be home in time for Sunday dinner.

This is just one individual story of increased collaboration, but multiply that by hundreds and you start to see the full impact. A drummer in one city can join with a guitarist in another. A CEO no longer loses half her day in airport security lines to get to a meeting. A Grandmother is able to see her grandchild every other weekend, despite living a few hundred miles away. A college student is able to attend a conference on another campus and not miss any classes. All of this trade and collaboration increases wealth and happiness.

There is nothing absurd about the projects you posted for. Developing and middle-income countries are great candidates for high-speed rail, because they are quickly urbanzing, and connecting urban centers multiplies that power of that urbanizaiton,
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:07 PM
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Trains can travel at 200 mph without producing any CO2 or other pollution. .
Generally and statisically speaking? Uhh, no.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:09 PM
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My question - can this project really meet the benefits it is promising, without turning into a massive and expensive boondoggle?
The whole project really makes me wonder whether Governor Brown has lost his marbles. California has been in financial crisis for the past five years and shows no signs of getting out of it, the state faces a half trillion dollars is unfunded pension liabilities, businesses and workers are fleeing the state as a result, and what does Brown want to do? Go for a public works project with a pricetag of one hundred billion dollars. Where is the money going to come from? Well, he's got the first ten billion covered by bonds (which future Californians will have to pay back) and federal subsidies cover a little bit more. What about the remaining 80+ billion dollars? Is the Tooth Fairy going to provide it?

Just consider: when politicians first sold voters on the plan four years ago, they promised a pricetag of 65 billion dollars, a ride time of less than 3 hours, and a minimum of 29.6 million trips per year. Now that they've got the money, they've changed their tune. Higher prices, longer times, and fewer trips per year. This is how government boondoggles always work. Make the promise, pocket the money, and break the promise.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by neuroman View Post
This is what your argument seems to boil down to: rail is costly, and therefore it is good. But what could CA accomplish if it used those hundreds of billions of dollars (of Federal and state money) for other transportation needs? How about more clean busses (hybrid, whatever), either inter-city or intra-city?

Just because rail is the most expensive ground transportation option (hell it might even cost more than planes depending on ridership) does not make it a good use of money. Basically, in cost-benefit terms, there is no worse use of money imaginable than to choose the path California is pursuing, especially in a state that's almost completely bankrupt already.
Check for comprehension.

All forms of transportation are expensive, but it's a price we pay for living in useful societies. By a pure income-in vs. income-out analysis, nobody would ever dream of building the New York subway system. But those subways have been essential to making NYC one of the richest, most creative, most dynamic cities in the world.

Again, by looking at income-in vs. income out, highways don't make sense. Airlines don't make sense. City transportation systems don't make sense. No transport more expensive than a dirtbike (to go over the unpaved (free!) roads, makes financial sense. But we as a society probably don't want to live in a situation where our transportation system resembles Somalia's, and indeed if we did, our economy would take an enormous hit. So we invest in infrastructure. Again, this isn't some absurd thing to do. Pretty much every developed country and many developing countries have built or are building high speed rail. Yeah, it sucks in the short term, but when you are looking in the long term, it makes a lot of sense. And other countries are indeed looking in the long term. China is figuring out how it can build infrastructure that will serve them into the next century. If we keep making our decisions based on short-term outcomes, we are quickly going to find ourselves left behind.

The problem with busses is that they are inherently slower than driving and inherently unpredictable (you can't ever county on a bus to be enitrely on schedule.). Unless there is massive infrastructure investment in express lanes, etc., (which I'm gonna guess you disapprove of), busses are tied to traffic, and have the additional need to stop. Busses are a stopgap transportation method, not a long term solution.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:30 PM
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This will be a huge waste of money. I doubt that many people will use it. I live in Northern california, while my wife's family is from SoCal, so I make the trip down to LA several times a year. Once I took the AMtrak because I was sick of driving, and it was actually worse. The train does not go over the mountain range north of LA, so the train drops you off, and then you have to move your luggage out and ride a bus for another hour or two before it drops you off at another train station and ride a new train into LA. Even if the new rail overcomes this problem and connects directly to LA, I don't think that I will ride it because once I get to LA, I will have to pay for the added expense of a rental car. If they include a rail car which can also transport my car along, I might consider it, but the time savings is likely only to be on the order of 1-2 hours, depending on traffic.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:31 PM
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Trains can travel at 200 mph without producing any CO2 or other pollution.
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Originally Posted by billfish678 View Post
Generally and statisically speaking? Uhh, no.
It depends on how you generate the electricity. Get it from hydroelectric, wind, or solar and there's no CO2 directly produced. There are other environmental issues, and probably CO2 released during construction of the powerplant (and the rail line itself), but that depends on how you parse scr4's claim.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:01 PM
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It depends on how you generate the electricity. Get it from hydroelectric, wind, or solar and there's no CO2 directly produced. There are other environmental issues, and probably CO2 released during construction of the powerplant (and the rail line itself), but that depends on how you parse scr4's claim.
That can be applied to pretty much any mode of transportation so its a mostly meaningless claim.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:48 PM
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The more successful HSRs are the ones built on mostly flat land and occasional bridges. In order to have competitive HSR, you need nearly straight lines with little to no variation in topography to achieve top speed. This is why HSR from LA to SF is not going to be competitive. Bakersfield to Sacramento? Sure, if the numbers are there.....that's as flat as California gets, but that only serves a minority fraction of the state. But if you are actually going to have true HSR in California, you have to make some very high-cost tunneling in those mountain ranges to make it competitive.....and that's why HSR works in the Eastern U.S. as opposed to the Western U.S.
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Old 07-17-2012, 05:42 PM
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That can be applied to pretty much any mode of transportation so its a mostly meaningless claim.
I disagree. Fully electric cars are still in the earliest stages of development. I've heard of a few very recent experiments running airplanes on biologically-derived fuels. Neither of those are proven technologies. They are theoretically possible, but haven't been adopted by the market and proven in real-world use. All of the existing high-speed rail systems I'm aware of are already electric.

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Originally Posted by Yeticus Rex View Post
The more successful HSRs are the ones built on mostly flat land and occasional bridges. In order to have competitive HSR, you need nearly straight lines with little to no variation in topography to achieve top speed. This is why HSR from LA to SF is not going to be competitive. Bakersfield to Sacramento? Sure, if the numbers are there.....that's as flat as California gets, but that only serves a minority fraction of the state. But if you are actually going to have true HSR in California, you have to make some very high-cost tunneling in those mountain ranges to make it competitive.....and that's why HSR works in the Eastern U.S. as opposed to the Western U.S.
One of the best rail trips I ever took included a leg on the high-speed line from Brussels to Frankfurt. I was in the front car and could look through a glass partition and over the engineer's shoulder and through the windshield. It was night, though, so not too much to see. But we must have been going through lots of very short tunnels; I could see the lights flashing very rapidly past the side windows. I think it was rolling-hill country, but to avoid the weightless, roller-coaster effect, they had tunneled just through the tops of the hills.

We must have been running late. The train was rated for 300 km/h, and we were doing a steady 296.
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Old 07-17-2012, 05:51 PM
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For some reason, Ohio (before the whole thing was canceled) got the idea that it could do a half-assed "starter" service. I have no idea why anybody ever thought a train averaging 35 MPH along the same route as a freeway with faster bus service would be competitive.
That's the problem with all trains. In order to pick up people along the way they have to stop.



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It actually competes with airlines where it exists.
They haul freight and mail?
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Old 07-17-2012, 05:56 PM
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I disagree. Fully electric cars are still in the earliest stages of development. I've heard of a few very recent experiments running airplanes on biologically-derived fuels. Neither of those are proven technologies. They are theoretically possible, but haven't been adopted by the market and proven in real-world use. All of the existing high-speed rail systems I'm aware of are already electric..
A high speed rail is only as green as the grid that feeds it. How green is the grid right now? And how many electric/hybrid cars could you buy/subsidize for the cost of this high speed rail system? It might be handy to zip along Cali at high speeds, but economically you are going to have crunch some numbers that the green aspect is even a positive compared to other ways to spend the money, much less how much of one.

Somebody with good search skills should go dig up poster Sam Stones? posts on subways and high speed rail systems and the economics and relative energy efficiencies of them from a year or three back. Lots of good meaty data in those.
For those trying to do a seach IIRC it had to do with Florida's flirtation with such a financial black hole.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:01 PM
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That's the problem with all trains. In order to pick up people along the way they have to stop.
I don't have any exact figures, but high-speed rail stops don't take very long. You can walk around while the train's in motion, so you get your stuff and wait by the door. There are doors at both ends of every car, instead of just one like on an airliner. The train probably stops for less than a minute, and electric motors have gobs of torque so it gets back up to speed pretty quickly.

That said, if you stopped at every town with a traffic light and a diner, high-speed rail wouldn't be worth the trouble. But a few stops in the en route cities don't slow it down too much.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:02 PM
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I'm not against high speed rail, but building it in the name of creating jobs is a joke. If California wants to create jobs, maybe they should start by getting rid of all these asinine laws they have passed.

I live halfway across the country and I'm getting tired of seeing 4-5 warning labels on everything I buy explaining that the Republic of Kalifornia has determined that it causes cancer. My vehicle is a dog because it had the misfortune of being born in that state and is filled with emissions control junk which cuts the horsepower. Firearms sites have to maintain a separate list for California approved firearms and magazines. Try to buy a lawn mower online without seeing the word California in every freaking product description.

SHEESH make it STOP!

They tried to outlaw porn movie production and in the process unwittingly became the porn capital of the country. Bright people out there.
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Old 07-17-2012, 07:05 PM
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A high speed rail is only as green as the grid that feeds it. How green is the grid right now?
I assume it's different in different parts of the country, but I don't really know the details. I was just backing up scr4's post that said high-speed rail can operate without generating ongoing CO2 emissions. In theory, it can. In practice, the required technologies are in a more mature state for HSR than for other common forms of transportation.

That's all.
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Old 07-17-2012, 07:31 PM
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I assume it's different in different parts of the country, but I don't really know the details. I was just backing up scr4's post that said high-speed rail can operate without generating ongoing CO2 emissions. In theory, it can. In practice, the required technologies are in a more mature state for HSR than for other common forms of transportation.
I concur with this. Countries with HSR (Japan, France, Germany, China) have well-developed or developing nuclear energy sources that can support vast electric train systems. We do not have that, and more nuclear power plants in CA are not in the realm of reality for the forseeable future. For those of us living out here, it was only a few years ago that the term "rolling blackout" came into being - sometimes I think the state is held together by duct tape and baling wire.

But hey, the "drill baby drill" crowd around Bakersfield may support a train if it was powered, directly or indirectly, by oil!
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Old 07-18-2012, 12:54 PM
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I support rail but selfishly. I hope everyone else uses it and leave the roads to me.
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Old 07-18-2012, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by neuroman View Post
This is what your argument seems to boil down to: rail is costly, and therefore it is good. But what could CA accomplish if it used those hundreds of billions of dollars (of Federal and state money) for other transportation needs? How about more clean busses (hybrid, whatever), either inter-city or intra-city?
Right, and we're going to get people to flock to the downtown L.A. Greyhound station, or to stand on a street corner, which is what happens with many of the newer niche bus companies. Do you plan to ride the bus from L.A to San Francisco yourself? Incidentally, L.A.'s transit agency the largest LEV bus fleet in the country, but we also have rail lines, with more to be added.

Quote:
Just because rail is the most expensive ground transportation option (hell it might even cost more than planes depending on ridership) does not make it a good use of money. Basically, in cost-benefit terms, there is no worse use of money imaginable than to choose the path California is pursuing, especially in a state that's almost completely bankrupt already.
HSR may be the most expensive ground transportation option, but I don't think the intention is to compete with other ground transportation modes. It would compete with air travel, and unless they can figure out a way to make kerosene out of fracked natural gas, I don't think the overall trend of airfares is headed anywhere but up.

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 07-18-2012 at 03:19 PM.
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