Sunday, December 25, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Electronic highway signs show commuters that trains are a viable alternative to freeway trafficIRVINE - Caltrans and Metrolink have jointly developed a pilot project to show commuters that trains are a viable alternative to freeway traffic. Both train and freeway travel times are now displayed on electronic highway message signs near the Fullerton and Anaheim train stations."For travel between Orange County and downtown Los Angeles' Union Station, trains are often faster than freeways," said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "We want to give commuters real-time information to help them get to their destination quicker."The train and highway travel is being displayed weekdays on the northboundInterstate 5 and westbound State Route 91 electronic signs located closest to the Anaheim and Fullerton train stations. The travel times will resemble the message shown here:DOWNTOWN LA MINFWY 5511:55 TRAIN 40"This pilot project will highlight the time a commuter could save by taking a Metrolink train, but that's only one of the many benefits of opting for public transportation over driving your car," said Metrolink Board Member Paul Glaab. "Commuters can also save money, have a positive impact on the environment, and enjoy a stress-free commute. We hope this project will encourage Southern Californians to get familiar with their public transportation options."Caltrans provides the freeway travel time information using data collected from its vehicle detector stations throughout the freeway system. Metrolink provides train travel times, which include Amtrak and Metrolink train departure and trip duration information.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
We apologize that it has taken longer than expected for us to reply. We have had an unusually high number of e-mail requests. Your patience is appreciated.Apparently, there is a programming glitch which the appropriate department is now working to resolve. All Pacific Surfliner trains offer unreserved coach and upgraded business class seats.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Direct Amtrak service between Florida's two largest cities is just a few years away.The state will spend about $118 million to restore passenger service to Henry Flagler's old railroad — the Florida East Coast Railway — between Jacksonville and Miami.That money will help build eight new stations in coastal towns between Stuart and Jacksonville, build a critical connector just north of West Palm Beach and make other improvements to the railroad.The Florida Department of Transportation estimates Amtrak service on the FEC could begin in 2015.Currently, Amtrak service between Miami and Jacksonville runs on CSX Transportation tracks that parallel Interstate 95. But that trip takes about 10 hours because CSX tracks veer into central Florida and then through Orlando.A direct route on the FEC would shorten that trip to six hours.Total cost of the project is $250 million, which includes the trains. But FDOT hopes Amtrak would provide the vehicles or partner with the state to get federal money for the trains.Initially, service would be one roundtrip daily. Eventually, that would expand to two roundtrips."Amtrak has said they don't just want this, but this is its best opportunity to expand," said Kim Delaney, a planner with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. "This is the fastest and least expensive way to restore passenger service on the FEC."The Amtrak project also may open the door for Tri-Rail's long-awaited northward expansion to Jupiter along the FEC tracks. The commuter line now ends in Mangonia Park, just north of West Palm Beach.But the Amtrak proposal is separate from a plan to return commuter-rail service on the FEC between Miami and Jupiter.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
“The sale is a highly promoted event that has ancillary media like comic books and movies associated with it. We do a 75 percent price reduction, our Counter-Strike experience tells us that our gross revenue would remain constant. Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40. Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40. Which is completely not predicted by our previous experience with silent price variation.”
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The 18.8-mile Intercounty Connector, which opened in full Tuesday, could be the last publicly funded highway built in Maryland for a generation, as the state’s tolling agency, which financed its $2.56 billion construction, reaches its debt limit, local transportation experts said.Financing for the six-lane toll road linking Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County leveraged the Maryland Transportation Authority’s statewide toll collections.But the transportation authority’s debt capacity is tapped out from borrowing to build the ICC and $1 billion in express toll lanes on I-95 northeast of Baltimore, state budget analysts said. Mounting debt recently prompted the authority to raise tolls statewide as the authority also struggles to maintain its aging bridges, tunnels and roads.“You’re probably looking at another 20 years before we see another major road like this be built,” said Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.Supporters say the ICC provides a vital east-west link long missing from Maryland’s highway network, but some critics worry about the toll road’s long-term financial effects. They say the ICC’s hefty price — it’s the most expensive road Maryland has ever built — has hamstrung the state’s transportation finances for years.“The state has mortgaged its transportation future in many ways to the ICC,” said Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), a longtime critic of the highway. “The opportunity cost of building the ICC has been huge, because it’s foreclosed improving many other roads.”Whether the highway proves worth the investment — and at what cost — will play out over the next 10 to 30 years in several key measures: how many vehicles the ICC absorbs from local roads, time saved by motorists who use it, job growth from companies that rely on it to attract workers, and the impact it has on local streams and air pollution.“The road, from an economic standpoint, will pay for itself many times over,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who helped put together the ICC’s financing plan in 2005 when he represented Montgomery in the General Assembly.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Orange County Transportation Authority is considering sending state high-speed rail officials a memo urging them to "pull the plug" on the proposed $98-billion Anaheim-to-San Francisco project.The 17-member board will vote next month on the wording of a message it plans to deliver to the state's High-Speed Rail Authority, which has overall authority to contract for construction of the rail system if the state Legislature and federal officials approve financing.OCTA plans and builds most Orange County highway and rail systems, using federal, state and local tax money. But it has no jurisdiction over the planned 520-mile high-speed rail project.A vote of no-confidence would come in part from a Republican-dominated board and be directed at Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators and members of Congress who support the rail plan.But it was a Republican, former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who spearheaded much of the local support for the project. Pringle also served on the OCTA board and chaired the High-Speed Rail Authority in 2009 and 2010.With Pringle gone, no one on the OCTA board spoke up for the rail system during Monday's meeting.And at least six of the OCTA board members said they opposed the way the project is being handled.The high-speed rail project has been beset by management problems. Voters approved the system in 2008 on the condition that when it is finished, no tax money will be used to operate it.A new business plan released earlier this month was hailed for its realistic approach. But that created other problems, because the plan estimated the cost would be $98.5 billion, more than double the previous $43-billion estimate. It also predicted that most private investment, which had been promoted as a way to offset tax money, wouldn't materialize until after the system is up and running.The rail authority's new business plan is open for public comment through January, which prompted OCTA board member Peter Herzog, a Lake Forest City Council member, to suggest the board send its own comments. Some wanted to vote immediately to oppose the project."The emperor has no clothes," said Supervisor John Moorlach, one of the OCTA directors. "Sometimes with a deal, it's good to tell someone 'no.' "But OCTA Chairwoman Pat Bates, also a member of the Board of Supervisors, said, "Today, I don't think, is the day we should say ‘pull the plug.' I think we should have a deliberative process and not just knee-jerk here."The board asked two of its committees to review the business plan and next month recommend what to tell the High-Speed Rail Authority.Even though a no-confidence vote would have no legal effect on the rail authority, OCTA board members said such a vote coming from the transportation agency in California's third largest county would carry impact."Orange County already is left out of most of it," said Fullerton City Councilman Don Bankhead. "The whole thing doesn't make sense anymore."
Friday, November 4, 2011
Edit on July 7, 10:15am: This brief paper puts forth in lives the difference between current standards and CEM: With only a 30 mile per hour impact, 55 lives would have been lost in the demonstrated collision with FRA equipment, but none with a CEM consist.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Since June, Caltrain has made significant progress in determining what capacity could be realized on the Caltrain corridor. The HST service would require at least four trains per hour per direction to serve the estimated passenger demand to and from the Peninsula and San Francisco. The Phase 1 service plan used for the Project‐level SF to SJ EIR stated that eight high‐speed trains phpd would be required for a fully built out Phase 1 during peak periods. Consequently, Caltrain has focused its operations simulation efforts on studying scenarios with six Caltrain trains and four high‐speed trains phpd which will offer the required performance level expected of high‐speed rail and the passenger capacity expected during this initial phase. While the initial model results show promise that such an operation is possible, as discussed above there are compromises that will need to be made by the Authority in order for the blended approach to work. Specifically the Authority will need to accept:• That the high speed trains will not operate at 125 mph as originally envisioned for the SF to SJ corridor and consequently not be able to make the 30 minute travel time goal between SF and SJ as stated in Proposition 1A. It is not yet clear whether high‐speed trains will need to operate at 79 mph or possibly may be able to reach speeds of up to 110 mph on the Caltrain corridor. Further investigation continues.• That the high‐speed trains will operate on a railroad with “at‐grade” crossings. The original performance criteria for the statewide system required a “fully grade‐separated” system.
An estimate of the capital cost of providing the necessary infrastructure for a blended solution indicates that it remains substantial. Initial estimates based on the existing engineering work by the Authority puts the total at approximately $5.3 billion (2010 dollars) for the mid‐line overtake solution....The Transbay Transit Center (TTC) in downtown San Francisco is the preferred destination for the statewide HST system in San Francisco. According to recent estimates from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the estimated cost of developing the tunnels from 7th and Common Street, to the Transbay Terminal at Fremont and Mission Street is approximately $2.6‐$3 billion in year of expenditure dollars. This estimate includes the tunnels, stations and platforms at the TTC that would be able to serve thehigh‐speed and Caltrain trains. The $2.6 billion cost of this project is not currently included in the $5.3 billion estimate for the blended service described above.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Canadian Pacific on Monday said it will be the exclusive Canadian rail transportation provider for trailer supply company Contrans, using innovative multimodal flat rack containers from Calgary, Alberta-based Raildecks Intermodal.
CP has been testing Raildecks' 53-foot collapsible, multimodal carriers through this past summer at its Toronto Intermodal Facility in Vaughn, Ontario. The testing proved successful on CP's long-haul intermodal trains, offering an alternative to shippers who have been relying on trucks to move their products over a long distance, Raildecks said.
“Raildecks’ innovative product extends the efficiencies of intermodal rail to industrial products shippers,” said John McBoyle, vice-president Intermodal at Canadian Pacific. “We believe industrial product customers will be attracted to the consistency, efficiency and , reliability of our long-haul intermodal network.”
“The Raildecks solution provides a viable option to convert some of the industrial freight that is moving over the road to be transported on intermodal rail,” said Raildecks CEO Rick Jocson. “By converting a traditional over-the-road commodity to rail, Raildecks are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, freeing up major roads and highways, and reducing costs for shippers.”
“We are excited to be able to provide shippers with a brand new service offering,” stated Stan G. Dunford, Contrans' chairman and CEO. “This will revolutionize the long haul flatbed market and will result in substantial efficiencies and savings for shippers.”
The Raildecks solution should allow for increased use of rail by customers using flatbed trailers and cars at present. Additionally, routes currently constrained in train length due to sidings or other issues should see a capacity increase for those cargoes currently traveling on flat cars due to the doubling up that these cars provide.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Totally OFF TOPIC but, I hope, informative :I came back yesterday from a trip in the Parisian region (Marseille-Paris and back, 480 miles)The good :- Took an IDTGV, so could book on internet and print the tickets myself- Only €100 for the entire trip, decided only two days before departing- Was able to upgrade to first class for €2 on the Marseille-Paris leg- Was able to change my ticket the day before I was supposed to leave for a €10 fee and did it all on internet too, including printing the new ticket- Still as fast and cool as ever- on the return leg, arguably in an off period, I was able to strech my legs as much as I wanted for 45 min, I was in a face-to-face configuration and the guy who was in front of me got out at Avignon and nobody took his place. Everybody staying in the car after Avignon either was alone on its two seats side or didn’t have someone in front of him in face-to-face configuration, smart seat management from SNCF- Los of seat and elbow room in first class (lateral seat configuration : 2+1 instead of 2+2 in second class) ; so much seat room in fact, that I felt a bit loose in my seat (and I’m 240lbs)- The croque-Monsieur at the snack car, still shockingly good (I mean, good, which is shocking given SNCF standards)The bad :- Last-time tickets on the busiest part of the week-end can grow to up to €110 for a single trip- First-generation TGV first class atmosphere (dark grey, dark red, and black) was good for regular TGVs, but on the duplex, lower and less luminous it is sad and even creepy- On my first leg the TGV was so old that the first class car stank of old furniture textile, and even old, very old, cigarette odour ; the smells of the arguably refined perfumes that the first class passengers use in abundance, as a social status sign, all mixed, didn’t help either- Not only that, but for the first time of my life in a TGV, I was annoyed by the noise of the train itself (still on the first leg, first class), which, instead of a whirr comparable to a cat’s purring, was rather comparable to a vacuum cleaner noise ; still not as noisy as the dreaded Parisian RER, but, hey, it had to be a very, very old TGV- more than €6 for a croque-Monsieur, the rip-off goes on at the snack car
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Building a high-speed train route over the Grapevine instead of through the Antelope Valley could save up to $4 billion, according to a July progress report released Wednesday.A conceptual study identified more than one feasible alignment over the mountain pass, prompting engineers on the project to propose a more in-depth study of the Grapevine proposal, originally rejected in 2005.But missing from the conceptual study, as of July anyway, was a close look at what effect a Grapevine route would have on the project's overall economics."More detailed analysis of ridership and revenue figures is required to complete the analysis between the Grapevine and Antelope Valley Alternatives," engineers with Parsons Brinckerhoff wrote in the July update released Wednesday by Bay Area opponents of the project.Board members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority are not expected to review the study's findings until October or November, at which point they could decide whether to launch a detailed study that would place the Grapevine in direct competition with the Palmdale route.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
A plan is in the works that could lead to a significant expansion of rail service between San Diego and Los Angeles.Regional transportation agencies are considering joining forces for a super authority that would oversee 351 miles of coastal rail between San Diego and San Luis Obisbo.Among the many changes forged by that authority could be as many as 27 additional daily train trips along the San Diego-Los Angeles corridor, officials said.Currently, Amtrak has 11 daily trains each way.If such an agency comes into being by 2014, as supporters believe, Coaster trains could be running all the way to Los Angeles and Metrolink trains could run from Los Angeles to San Diego, in addition to Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains.The Metrolink currently comes as far south as Oceanside, which is the northern terminus for the Coaster.The San Diego Association of Governments, the regional planning agency, endorsed the concept of the broad rail authority at its board of directors meeting Friday. Other agencies along the corridor are being asked to back the concept.The San Diego-L.A.-San Luis Obisbo rail corridor — known as LOSSAN to officials — is the second-busiest in the country and is also a complex patchwork of fiefdoms that includes seven owners and five operators, while passing through seven counties.All the various interests have a voice on the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Joint Powers Board, which strives to coordinate and support the numerous interests, but in 2009 its members began looking for a “new vision for the corridor.”From the discussion at the Friday’s meeting, it appears the LOSSAN group needed to look no farther than Northern California for a role model: the Capitol Corridor between San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento — the nation’s third busiest rail corridor.SANDAG officials were told Friday that a single administrative authority would create greater efficiencies in the rail corridor, better manage assets and carry greater clout in Sacramento and Washington.SANDAG board member Matthew Hall, mayor of Carlsbad, expressed the concern of many, saying “I want to make sure we don’t end up with lots of control and no money.”Nobody was underestimating the magnitude of the shift in power the creation of a super agency would require. SANDAG for example, currently is administering the $1.5 billion improvement project on the county’s coastal tracks, which are owned and operated by the North County Transit District.“The group used to be the 800 pound gorilla,” observed Chris Orlando, chairman of the NCTD board and a SANDAG member. “Now the 800-pound gorilla is in Los Angeles.”Still, the benefits of a super agency proves alluring and the board voted to back the process.“We’re not getting married,” said SANDAG chairman Jerome Stocks. “We’re agreeing to date -- and so far it is only a lunch date.”
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Domestic intermodal rail service is now service competitive in relatively shorter-haul traffic lanes traditionally dominated by truckload carriers, and after more than three decades is finally being regarded by shippers as a viable transport option, according to a long-time intermodal consultant.Lee A. Clair, a partner at management consultancy Norbridge Inc., said domestic intermodal service can compete with solo truckers on stages as short as 500 to 550 miles, a distance usually covered by a solo truck driver in one day. Clair appeared on a Sept. 16 webcast sponsored by the investment firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co., which transcribed Clair's remarks.Based on total freight spending, rail-based domestic and international intermodal represent only 3.8 percent of the total U.S. market, Clair said. However, intermodal is now the largest class of traffic moving on North American class I railroads, based on units moved, Clair said. The consultant defined units as containers, trailers, or carloads.Domestic intermodal has grown to become nearly as large as the international segment, which has traditionally been most closely associated with intermodal service, Clair said.Shippers looking to reduce their fuel spend and their carbon emissions are increasingly eyeing intermodal as a more cost-effective alternative to truckload carriers for domestic deliveries. Railroads, in turn, are investing more marketing dollars and operational resources into strengthening their domestic intermodal businesses.The trend is a break from the past, when U.S. intermodal service was considered an extension of international service that involved a prior or subsequent ocean freight movement. For railroads to compete strongly in the domestic arena, however, they must deliver consistent and reliable service comparable to truckload operations at shorter distances. A typical intermodal move stretches anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 miles.Domestic container traffic in the second quarter rose to 1.22 million containers, a 9-percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to data from the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA). International container traffic rose 5.4 percent in the same period to 1.88 million containers, IANA said.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
School kids don’t cope well with geography, tests show. But adults shy on knowledge of our own state’s heartland? What is there about California’s central valley they don’t understand? A lot, it would appear from those — media included — who call the valley “nowhere,” as in deriding federal support for state high-speed rail to begin with a Bakersfield-Fresno-Merced link. They say it’s a “train to nowhere.”Well, let’s see. For a century and a half, “nowhere’s” crops have fed and clothed (lately with China’s help) much of the known world. For good measure, valley wines pleasure international palates. The best rival French vintages.“Nowhere” supports six universities awarding bachelor’s and higher degrees, among them the University of California’s Merced campus. College commuters are a mainstay of Amtrak valley service. Faster trains would boost their numbers.What’s next hurts but must be said. “Nowhere” is an unthinkingly crude term. Valley people suffer high rates of asthma and other pulmonary disorders linked to automotive and agricultural air pollution. For them, fast trains spell relief. That’s an unsung part of high-speed rail’s rationale: Good transportation, competitive with cars and some flights, is a sound way to address tainted air.A step-back, second-wind high-speed rail review is in order. Flexibility in confronting challenges is a hallmark wherever trains at 100-200 mph have proved their worth. Big question: Is insistence on Bay Area primacy truly the best route to a north-south rail alternative to congested air- and freeways? Airplanes also pollute, remember.Peninsula resistance to high-speed rail has mounted. Neighbors fear losses to rail corridor widening. Recently proposed “blending” of high-speed rail with commuter rail, using the same tracks, may stem such fears. But only as a stopgap, pending corridor tweaking for higher speeds.Grade separations, vital to speedy trains, present tough issues. San Bruno’s grade sep will raise rails 17 feet before they dive under Interstate 380. “Humps” and high speed don’t blend well.While the Peninsula mulls high-speed rail, another scenario is emerging. It would have the California High-Speed Rail Authority consider, up front, extending new trackage from Merced to Sacramento. High-speed rail’s first operational stage would then embrace two-thirds of the Central Valley — almost a miniature of the entire system, of real value in and of itself, but poised to spread wings.Sacramento is after all our state capital, worth more than second tier in high-speed rail’s vision. Making it an early destination could change minds among legislators who aren’t high-speed rail fans. It would boost the capital’s urban stature while benefiting valley travelers.What a feather in CHSRA’s cap — making the valley a stand-alone segment of the whole, with trains running sooner and more affordably.We have that opportunity. Sound arguments support its study, including these: Terrain north of Merced is largely non-urban and level enough for relatively rapid construction; conditions favor incrementally faster trains that could provide valley service within a few years (the incremental approach has worked well in France and Spain); CHSRA stands to benefit from early train experience — the valley would make a good lab.Federal Railroad Administration startup funding would put trains within striking distance of Sacramento. It’s logical for California’s capital to be part of high-speed rail’s earliest loop.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Using empirical evidence from analyzing fares on high-speed train routes in Europe and Japan, it appears the CHSRA’s high-speed rail per mile rate should be about $0.44/mile to recover operating and construction costs; 80% higher than their presently-used $0.24/mile. Setting aside for a moment the fact that all but two of the world’s high-speed rail routes are subsidized, and assuming they at least break even, the analyzed per mile rate would make a one-way SF to LA ticket cost about $190.5 Therefore, if the CHSRA’s assumed private operator must charge enough to break even, four tickets for a LA/SF round trip would cost at least $1,520.
First the lie: The California High Speed Rail Authority is not required to recover construction costs, only operating costs and any revenue bonds sold on the basis of HSR ticket revenue. It is therefore, irrelevant, to cite what may be needed to recover construction costs.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
A study performed by Laurence Wylie in 1949 indicated that new diesels would be slightly cheaper to operate on the Coast Division than the old electrics. The purchase price, interest and taxes are what made diesels are more expensive choice.This closeness of costs was not unique to Milwaukee. A 1948 study on the Great Northern electrification found diesels to be slightly cheaper to operate there also. The Great Northern blamed this on the exorbitant rates it was paying for electric power. Its variable rats went as high as $.01 per kilowatt hour (kwh) including demand charges. Joe Gaynor, who headed the G.N. electrification, felt the rate would have to be cut to $.005 per kwh for economics to justify expansion of their electrification.Energy costs were one of the factors favoring electrics on the Milwaukee. From the late 1940’s through the late 1960’s, the Milwaukee paid $.09 per gallon for diesel oil compared to $.068 for enough electricity to produce equivalent power. (Calculations and locomotive tests showed that one gallon of oil equaled 12.5 kwh which were purchased for $.00544 per kilowatt hour.) This rate was quite good in comparison to the Pennsylvania RR which paid roughly $.009 in 1950 and $.013 by 1966.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Shippers shifted freight from all-truck modes to intermodal at the fastest pace in years during the second quarter, according to a closely watched survey by the Wolfe Trahan research group.Based on preliminary results of the survey conducted in July and early August, the shift from roads to rail occurred more than at any point in the last eight years, the analysts said, and shippers expect to shift more domestic cargo to intermodal in the months ahead. The full results of the survey are scheduled to be released before Labor Day.During the April-June quarter, “shippers in our survey shifted a net 4.5 percent of their volume from truck to rail,” said analysts Edward Wolfe and Scott Group, for “the highest net shift to rail in the past eight years of our survey.”Shippers also said they expect to move a net 3.6 percent more to rail from highway-only transport over the next 6-12 months, which is a pickup from recent surveys. In this year’s first quarter, shippers projected a 3.2 percent net shift in the coming year, up slightly from last year’s fourth quarter.For most of last year, surveyed shippers told Wolfe Trahan they only expected to shift a net 1.3 percent to 1.9 percent of their business away from road delivery to intermodal.While rail industry officials often credit the shift to improving rail service times and investments to convert more of their rail networks to doublestack clearances, researchers found a strong correlation between modal shifts and oil prices.When average quarterly oil prices were below $70 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude during 2009, the survey found freight shifting back to trucks and the delivery convenience they provide.But when WTI quarterly pricing moved above $70 per barrel in 2010 followed by a spike this year, shippers increasingly put more cargo aboard trains for the long-haul part of the trip.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Consider, for instance, that NCTD in San Diego County was able to purchase twelve Siemens Desiro DMUs at a total price of 52.2 million when they set up the Sprinter rail service, a price of 4.35 million per unit. For this price, instead of receiving 6 locomotives and 42 rail cars, California could have purchased 48 such multiple units. Four unit consists would enable 478 coach seats and 24 business class seats, using Desiro Classic specifications and assuming each end car contains business class seats. These twelve trains would be capable of taking over, in part or in full, for any of Amtrak California's routes and providing increased service in the process, perhaps allowing even for an authentic Surfliner Express rather than the paltry 15 minute savings currently offered.
As a further note, it is outrageous that California is the only state to spend substantial sums of it's own money on increasing capacity through this measure. 42 million, 20% of the total funding, came from California's own funds. Only Illinois paid as well and their funding amounted to a paltry 11.6 million, barely 5% of the purchase that was made for and about 2.5% of the total projects Illinois is involved in. Further Federal funds should require a state match similar to that of California's.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
That modern American conservatism is, in general, highly opposed to high speed rail programs is not a matter of dispute and one that I do not believe I need to source or prove. In certain respects it is even understandable where passenger rail advocates have grossly misrepresented or wrongly implied basic passenger rail improvements as being “high speed rail”, such as was the case in Ohio and Wisconsin and is the case, although the funding remains, with line upgrades and extensions in Illinois and Iowa. That is not to say that I oppose those projects, merely that I understand why, with the lackluster reality of 79 and 110 mph trains when the implication is one of bullet trains, conservative opposition might greatly result. However, opposition to the lines in Florida and California, where the lines are truly high speed, is less clear, if perhaps even more vociferous. So what are some of the reasons that I, as a self-identified conservative, support high speed rail in California if the zeitgeist of conservatism is opposition to high speed rail programs in the United States?
1. High speed rail systems support themselves
As I have previously noted, every high speed rail system in the world brings in enough revenue to cover its operational costs. While they may not necessarily cover the initial capital costs of constructing the lines, that makes them no different from most toll roads and certainly no different than any newly constructed highways. The overall economic benefits of increased mobility and commerce are sufficient to make the initial capital investment a worthwhile expense, especially given that the government can take the long view and evaluate investments not merely over the next few quarters, but over a century or longer (which is not to say, of course, that projects are necessarily a good idea if they take a century to recoup their investment value).
2. High speed rail, especially where it overlays commuter rail, decreases congestion
Currently, despite not being time competitive against cars, the Metrolink commuter rail system ”clears the equivalent of one lane of the 91 Freeway per day” and is expected to do so with another lane following the Perris Valley Line extension. Trains operating on the OC Line add an additional half lane of capacity in terms of riders and cars removed between the hours of 4am and 8am while the San Bernardino Line, over the course of one hour (5:15am to 6:12am) removes just under 2,000 riders, or a full lane of traffic, from the highways. 125 mile per hour commuter trains sharing lines with high speed intercity trains will represent trip times that are not merely time competitive with cars, but outright faster than automobiles on uncongested roads, leading to greater use of them and decreasing overall trip times for those who stay on the roads while others change modes.
Similarly, because high speed rail is competitive with airlines on shorter distance hops of five hundred miles or so, with rail journey times under three hours taking approximately 70% of the air-rail market, air congestion can be lowered (assuming proper regulatory authority is granted to airport managers to ensure that flights are actually dropped rather than replaced with smaller jets and turboprops), resulting in safer air travel with fewer delays.
3. High speed rail reduces the need for other capital investments
We do not live in a static world, but rather a dynamic world of fairly continual growth (at least for the next few decades), and our infrastructure planning must plan for the future. That means we must rationally look at the most cost-effective means of expanding transit mobility to keep up with the expected population growth, expected to reach approximately 44 million by 2020 and 49 million by 2030.
What the recent “Carmageddon” flap in Los Angeles showed, although it was not remarked upon, is that it can no longer be taken as a given that highway spending is the most cost-effective means of reducing traffic congestion. One billion dollars is being spent upon that project in order to add a single carpool lane in each direction for a total of ten miles. One hundred million dollars per mile is tremendously expensive, on par with the cost of building and upgrading urbanized high speed rail lines, and more expensive than building greenfield rail lines (even with America’s cost inflation relative to the rest of the world when it comes to infrastructure projects). For all that, the additional capacity is only up to 2,300 vehicles per hour per direction, or about 4,600 persons since this is a carpool lane requiring at least two persons per vehicle. By contrast, a rail line, for the same money or less, would be capable of carrying as many as 8,300 passengers with ten minute intervals between trains, not including standees, effectively doubling the capacity of the highway improvement for similar amounts of money. With the tremendous population growth in the Inland Empire that we have seen in the past decade and expect to see in the future, it makes far more fiscal sense to utilize high speed rail to expand our mobility solutions rather than the continual expansions of highways that has previously been the case in the California. This is especially the case when high speed rail is more than capable of operating without additional government spending and as the Phase II expansion through the Inland Empire, in particular, is currently intended and expected to be financed through CAHSR revenues and private investment rather than taxation or general obligation bonds.
4. High speed rail insulates intercity travel and commerce from oil shocks.
The heart of economic growth lies in the rapidity and affordability of transport, both for goods and persons. With the current poor fuel efficiency of American cars and the general inefficiency of short distance airline hops such as represented by intrastate air travel, rising fuel costs pose a general harm to our ability to continue to engage in the normal travel and personal commerce to which our economy is accustomed, the loss of which most likely having a deleterious effect upon the economy as a whole. With extremely low profit margins hovering around 2% and cumulative losses of $54 billion over the previous ten years, it is entirely possible that, although the Bay Area-Los Angeles Basin represents the heaviest travelled air corridor in America, future oil shocks may result in curtailment of service, either by airlines seeking to cut costs, or from travelers cutting their own costs and forgoing travel and with it the commerce that would have resulted. Electric high speed rail, by contrast, is unaffected by increased petroleum prices. For those who have work commutes that may be accessed by rail, the steady fares of high speed rail and commuter trains on high speed rail trackage in the face of fuel price increases may very well represent a viable alternative which saves them money. Discretionary income saved (or rather, continuing to be spent in a discretionary manner) rather than being turned into non-discretionary income for transportation is far more beneficial to the economy.
5. High speed rail, as currently designed in California, expands travel and commerce opportunity and activities
Currently, if one wishes to travel in California somewhere other than between the LA Basin and Bay Area, their only choices are extremely expensive air fare or a lengthy piece of driving. Personally this was quite recently hammered home to me when, looking at the potential for meeting up with a friend from out of state who would be visiting Sacramento, I was faced with the options of either spending several hundred dollars on airfare, with inconvenient flight times, or 8-9 hours each way driving, the latter of which was not a feasible option due to work scheduling. For many areas, such as in the Central Valley, driving is currently the only option. With the more convenient transit that high speed rail can generally provide, travel and tourism, already major industries in the state, can only benefit.