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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

... A Four Step Program

Step 1. Give states a framework to develop plans, either individually or in groups, and present them to the Federal government for vetting, approval, and funding support.

Step 2. States do that.

Step 3. Fund a substantial number of seed corridors, so that a large number of metro areas (House) and States (Senate) have a stake in maintaining ongoing Federal HSR funding.

Step 4. Keep funding the construction of more.

But that's been my plan for a while. Join me over the fold for why this is suddenly in the news.

That is my plan. But, OTOH, I'm just an obscure Development Economist with a field specialization in Regional Economics, so the fact that its my plan is neither here nor there.

More newsworthy, it seems to be the plan of the Obama administration. So, unlike the Bank Bail-out, I find myself on the "cheerleader" side of Administration activity.

Give Me an H! Give Me an S! Give Me an R! What's It Spell? One Piece of the Energy Independent Transport Puzzle! YEAH!!!!


Wait a minute, what about the network map?

What about it? You want a network map, here's a network map:

That from a crude spreadsheet of pairs of 1m+ metro areas within a line-of-sight radius for Express HSR, based on geometric mean population per mile. Its main flaws, of course, are lack of detailed knowledge of local conditions ... for example, the Pacheco Alignment selected for the California HSR system, with HSR train running up the Caltrain Corridor from San Jose to San Francisco, has the impact on an HSR service of making San Jose and San Francisco into a single destination zone from Southern California, and adjusting for that adjustment would make for a much stronger corridor between LA and the BAY.

But, that's the point of the strategy, above. Those dots and lines are not a corridor map, they are a service map. One strong network economy of HSR is the ability to provide multiple trip-pair services on a single train with far less difficulty than an airplane.

Here is the (newly buffed and polished) Department of Transportation map of the HSR corridors that have already won official designation:

These corridors are shown laid out over a ghost of the existing Amtrak intercity network, which is reasonable since connection to existing passenger rail service is one of the criteria for designation.

They are not a design for a future HSR network. What they are is the result of the pieces of the four part strategy that were already in place. To make a long story short, we had everything in the above strategy except the money.

IOW, Shorter Obama: "High Speed Rail makes sense. Let's take our HSR plans and start funding them".


zOMG, some of those are not Bullet Trains! MASSIVE FAIL

There is some hyperventilating about the fact that many of the systems being talked about receiving funding are not going to be among the fastest trains on the face of the earth.

This hyperventilation is based on a fundamental misconception about how HSR works.

High Speed Rail does not work by being the fastest mode of transport on the planet. The fastest mode of transport on the planet is the Rocket. After that the Supersonic Plane. After that regular Jet Aircraft ... which, should be noted, is the mode that has commercial passenger operations ... then short-haul commuter jets, then prop planes, then ... I'm not sure what is next. Sooner or later we get to bullet trains.

High Speed Rail works be being fast enough so that it can offer competitive trip speeds, and then leveraging the other competitive advantages of rail over air and car transport to carve out a successful market niche.

How fast is fast enough depends on the distance between two cities.

Outside of congested areas, conventional rail cannot compete for speed against cars on the Interstate Highway system, so for most of the country, conventional rail relies entirely on its other competitive advantages in order to attract patronage ... not everyone has a car, some people dislike driving and view it as a tedious chore, on a train you can watch a movie on a portable DVD player or get work done on a laptop, there are some (mostly urban) destinations where having a car is a pain rather than a benefit, etc.

For conventional rail with conventional signaling and running over conventional level crossings, Federal Railroad Administration regulations typically mandate a top speed of 79mph. Add in slow zones for curves, station stops, etc., and conventional rail is only faster than the Interstate in congested areas.

Raise the top speed to 110mph and the effective trip speed to the 80mph-90mph range, and for most non-insane drivers a train trip begins to be faster than driving. This is the "Emerging HSR" class of HSR. When you take an existing rail corridor and upgrade it to take faster than conventional trains, this is the first step up from there. 110mph here is a limit for a specific class of upgraded level crossings.

Raise the top speed to 125mph and the effective trip speed to the 90mph to 110mph range, and for all non-insane drivers, a train trip of 2 to 3 hours begins to be significantly faster than driving. This is the "Regional HSR" class of HSR. 125mph here is the limit for trains relying on conventional signaling with lights and information next to the track ... beyond 125mph, signals have to be brought into the cab.

Most of the planned corridors on the DoT map above are Emerging HSR corridors ... and by the same token, since they were the ones that states took seriously enough to push through the process, they are mostly strategic enough corridors that they are likely to end up as Regional HSR corridors.

For many metro areas trip pairs, an effective trip speed of 100mph, which is a radius of 300mph, is fast enough to bring trips down to 3 hours or less. For others, its not. For Cleveland/Cincinnati, Regional HSR is certainly "High Speed Enough". For the LA Basin to the Bay Area, Regional HSR is not "High Speed Enough".

And that brings the final class of HSR, "Express HSR", also known as bullet trains. This is the class which would be referred to as HSR basically anywhere in the world. It requires all grade separated corridors ... 200mph is too fast to take across a level crossing, no matter how "hardened" the crossing may be. It requires that the track be banked for operation far above the speeds of normal container freight cars. It requires an ability to broadcast signals into the driver cabs of the trains. It requires broader, more sweeping turns than conventional rail. In order to keep the mass down and the driving energy up, it essentially requires an all-electrified corridor.

It is, in other words, not an incremental upgrade to an existing rail corridor. It might use an appropriate existing rail Right of Way, but it would use that right of way as a location to lay new bullet train tracks. And its not uncommon for bullet train systems to use the margins of rural and suburban Expressways for their Right of Way.


Fighting HSR Segregation

Now, assuming good design, you get what you pay for. Or as a programmer I am acquainted with writes, "Good, Fast, Cheap ... pick any Two out of Three".

The danger in providing only Express HSR funding is that an Express HSR corridor is expensive. Not every part of the country will find it possible to justify the required state contribution.

That means that if we segregate Express HSR out as the "only true and holy" HSR, we leave it politically exposed to counterattack in the areas that are left out.

And where, precisely, is left in? Well, California has passed $9b in state bond funding for a California HSR system that is Express HSR. The Northeast Corridor is the only place in the country that has established a "Regional HSR" system (though because it is operating in such a congested rail corridor with substantial legacy constraints, it operates in effect as an Emerging HSR system).

Florida and Texas have at various times flirted with bullet train systems ... indeed, a Governor Bush helped kill the flirtation in both instances.

Anyway, California, and the Northeast Corridor. That's it.

Now, instead of fighting over the "true and holy meaning of HSR", suppose that all of the systems that met the original Department of Transportation HSR corridor designation are given a definition as a "class of" HSR.

Now you have Southeastern Corridor, the Gulf Corridor, the Empire and Keystone corridors, the Ohio Hub, the Midwest Hub, possibilities for Emerging HSR corridor development in Texas, the Cascade Corridor in the Pacific Northwest, the New England Corridor connecting into the NEC. Add to that the Front Range corridor presently in early exploratory stages, and there is a massive footprint ... in total number of beneficiary states, for the Senate, in metro populations served, for the House, and even in terms of Swing States, for Presidential Politics.

And unlike bullet train corridors, those are systems that can have their foundation corridors built and put into operation in five years or less, which means corridors that can see ground broken before 2012 and passengers being served before the 2014 midterm elections.


Express and Regional HSR Should Be Friends

When built out, one way that Express HSR and Regional HSR work together is by sharing transfer passengers.

However, by electrifying the Regional HSR line, the Express HSR train can also simply continue on the Regional HSR to a destination that is off the HSR corridor.

So consider the following Express HSR alignment: New York City directly through northern Pennsylvania to North Central Ohio to Fort Wayne Indiana and on to Chicago.

"But it doesn't go to..." is the first reaction. If I set out that map, then assuming anyone was reading, the reaction would be to point out all the places it does not go. But that is ignoring the Midwest and Ohio Hubs. Which is a silly thing to do. Consider the following (note that this is from the Ohio Hub site ... it does not include the entire Midwest Hub, but only the eastern corridors ... the Midwest Hub does actually extend from the Great Lakes into the Midwest proper):

Only the far western stretch of that bullet train alignment appears in this map ...

... but from where it crosses the "Pittsburgh to Cleveland via the Rail Line I Cycle Commute Over" alignment, a bullet train can run from New York City to Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit, from where it crosses the Triple-C from New York City to Columbus to Cincinnati (and likely on to Louisville and Memphis).

... from Chicago, Chicago to the Triple C to Buffalo and Albany, Chicago to the Cleveland / Pittsburgh corridor to Pittsburgh / Harrisburg / Philadelphia, as well as after upgrading the Pittsburgh / DC alignment, Chicago / Pittsburgh / DC.

That is, after all, how it is done overseas ... quite a large number of the French TGV routes, for instance, keep going for quite a way beyond the end of the bullet train corridor. In the map to the right, grey lines are TGV's running on conventional French rail corridors ... which, because of the differences between European and American rail systems, could be considered to be running on "Regional HSR" lines.

Indeed, much of the French TGV system was built in stages, with individual segments of a corridor brought into service on completion, with each segment reducing the travel time on that corridor until all bullet train corridors are completed.


Anyway, that's how to build a HSR system

It doesn't actually matter whether someone is an "Amtrak incrementalist", a "Rapid Rail advocate", or a "HSR advocate" ... its the same plan.

Which is why its not big deal if "Emerging HSR" and "Regional HSR" is not what some Europeans would call "Real HSR". Now that we have the blueprint, we have the language to say "Express HSR" when we mean bullet trains, "Regional HSR" when we mean full fledged Rapid Rail, and "Emerging HSR" when we mean turbocharged conventional rail corridors with plans to build toward full fledged Rapid Rail.

Its a natural coalition of interests, which is a durable foundation for a political coalition among the supporters of the full range of systems.

Those of us living in flyover country no that this is not really building the "Regional HSR" in the outback ... but we do need to be building systems between the Appalachians and the Rockies if we want the robust political coalition that will allow the building of ten and twenty year infrastructure projects in the new century ahead.

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:18 AM PDT.

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  •  Sorry this is a little late ... (254+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skybluewater, Sharoney, PeWi, JekyllnHyde, Alumbrados, AggieDemocrat, Ray Radlein, Odysseus, decisivemoment, ferg, snookybeh, kate mckinnon, apsmith, gogol, miasmo, tikkun, Alice in Florida, abarefootboy, jxg, pHunbalanced, PeterHug, RunawayRose, RAST, wu ming, akeitz, eeff, x, Sandy on Signal, elfling, prfb, frisco, AustinCynic, Bob Friend, object16, MarkInSanFran, bumblebums, opinionated, raines, bronte17, 88kathy, djMikulec, DaleA, Kevvboy, ATinNM, retrograde, Ignacio Magaloni, sberel, dmsilev, celticshel, Eddie C, wader, WeatherDem, ManhattanMan, oldjohnbrown, Dallasdoc, mrkvica, Miss Jones, liberte, grrr, dufffbeer, Green Tea, alizard, Man Eegee, Wife of Bath, rambler american, Josiah Bartlett, Timroff, jim bow, rapala, paige, tergenev, Bluesee, radarlady, NoMoreLies, el dorado gal, ek hornbeck, PBen, Big River Bandido, panicbean, Simplify, drewfromct, devadatta, nevyn, serrano, dsteffen, benny05, daddybunny, JanL, Indiana Bob, psyched, terjeanderson, xaxnar, CJnyc, maryru, gwilson, Orinoco, BobzCat, Keone Michaels, Pinko Elephant, mjfgates, vigilant meerkat, alefnot, koNko, Wary, Albatross, NBBooks, tecampbell, global citizen, nilocjin, imabluemerkin, max stirner, ER Doc, hlsmlane, Pilgrim X, Turbonerd, JugOPunch, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, nannyboz, The House, Damn Frank, Nulwee, bmcphail, DBunn, bear83, marykk, timewarp, nathguy, Mithridates, Gravedugger, Loudoun County Dem, dmh44, possum, SouthernFried, Kathie McCrimmon, mamabigdog, RandomGuyFromGermany, Wino, Via Chicago, NCDem Amy, SJLeonidas, deepeco, joyful, Drowning Wave, Seneca Doane, misreal, chicago jeff, letsgetreal, jnhobbs, rogereaton, Chico David RN, keikekaze, Bikemom, willb48, TomP, bluesweatergirl, kafkananda, I, brklyngrl, mamamedusa, puffy66, elwior, brooklynbadboy, lineatus, thetadelta, Archangel, bettync, jamess, daddy4mak, carver, noddem, AJsBodBlog, RDemocrat, valsagem, echatwa, waiting for hope, mary13L, dont think, Grass, dzog, shortgirl, Tennessee Dave, penguinsong, maggiejean, cameoanne, DontTaseMeBro, Sauron21, Michael James, Gwen12, Stranded Wind, velvet blasphemy, ProgressiveTokyo, Virginian in Spain, petral, Bord weall, TylerFromNE, degreesofgray, kevinpdx, winkk, stevenwag, vadasz, A Voice, strangedemocracy, Dragon5616, Tricky, Super Grover, unfinished60sbusiness, Fedallah, Norbrook, sulthernao, ladygreenslippers, YellerDog, political junquie, p gorden lippy, LaughingPlanet, Interceptor7, superheed, DrFerbie, on board 47, CcVenussPromise, Big Danny, LeanneB, FrankCornish, Eddie L, Anne933, HartfordTycoon, axel000, DrFitz, qi motuoche, NYWheeler, MsGrin, Colorado is the Shiznit, links, grannyboots, implicate order, Thassa, AuroraDawn, island in alabama, coachjdc, Omahan, AfroPonix, zukesgirl64, smileyman, theone718, sjr1, MPociask, MCinNH, enhydra lutris, antooo, Qwertysapiens, wide eyed lib, cherish0708, sum quod eris, lincoln deschain, Curiosity

    .. I promised 12noon to a few people who asked, but my bike rack lost its attachment nuts on the way to the corner store for some mile, and then the photo link taken from kos's front page post turned out to "not be an approved site" for pictures, since dailykos.com is not on the list.

    •  You mean the left hand (27+ / 0-)

      doesn't know what the other left hand is doing?

      Great explanation, Bruce. I wish I'd had this when the Tennessean posted a piece headlined Obama vision for high speed rail network skips Middle Tennessee. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, "d'oh."

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:37:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for writing this diary and for the (12+ / 0-)

      detailed analysis.  I agree 1000 per cent.  Obama's new plan is a good "foundation" for future growth, to use his word.  

    •  An important question: (8+ / 0-)

      Eventually, we will probably start to see various HSR systems linked together.

      Is anyone doing anything to make sure that the loading gauge, motive power voltages, HSR train coupling technologies and platform heights are uniform?

      In other words, are we going to piecemeal-fund 10 different non-interoperable standards and hobble ourselves permanently? Or will there at least be enough of a standard so that even if we start with rapid rail in some areas that we could fairly easily upgrade to HSR without rebuilding hundreds of miles of infrastructure?

      Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

      by Gravedugger on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:08:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do not know. I hope so, but that level of ... (8+ / 0-)

        ... detail will be available when the application guidance is given for the different kind of projects.

        Since the California HSR is going to go 25kV AC, and since 25kV AC always was the planned electrical supply standard for east of the Mississippi, from back in the 1970's when the first, abortive, plans were drawn up for freight electrification ... I expect we will be at a common standard there, and not the patchwork quilt of the NEC.

        The design envelopes ... especially the loading gauge, since the solution to loading gauge problems is always "get smaller", and then you have trouble with platform gaps ... that's where I hope that the fund application guidance and/or the National Railway Plan will give reason to believe we will have a process that ensures an inter-operable network.

      •  In a Word - - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        No.

        Can you say national program?
        The Interstate Highway Act had uniform standards.  Perhaps too uniform.  But drivers have a fairly broad understanding of what to expect in Nebraska or in Georgia.  Rail has greater structural requirements for uniform standards.

        Meh.

        •  In Europe (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, Judge Moonbox

          You can take a true High Speed Train from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam or Cologne, or another from London. And as I understand it, that is five national railroad systems that are different in significant operating standards and equipment. So the trains can't be off-the-shelf French TGVs, but had to be specially designed and equipped for the multiple standards. I'm sure that drove up the costs considerably, but still they got it done.

          If there is one easy thing for the feds to do in this case, it would be to set some national standards, and I hope they do. But you are right, I think the feds blew it when they got involved in financing some big public transit projects back in the '60s. It would help keep the cost of buying new or added subway cars lower, for example, if they used the same kind in Baltimore and Washington as on BART or the Chicago Loop. No, we have more different kinds of subway cars in the US than Boeing has planes. But hey, in NYC we have different specs for the numbered lines from the lettered lines, and life goes on in its messy way.

          OTOH We're down to just five or six big freight railroads that will play a big role, certainly in everything less than bullet train routes. I expect they will find it in their interest to standardize everything where possible.

          •  The PBKAL corridor. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Woody

            The EU's Trans-European Network-Transports priority axes included one connecting Paris, Brussels, Cologne (Koln in German), Amsterdam, and London. It's mostly complete but I haven't been able to get an updated report--the last I read was before the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Phase II project extended Eurostar service to St. Pancras Station.

            It happened that the service to the Low Countries chose to use the same equiptment as the Eurostar. However, they still have problems with true interoperability. They had projected an extension to Frankfort, but it would take another 4 years to get the system that would allow them to send a (modified) TGV train down an ICE corridor.

            Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

            by Judge Moonbox on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:20:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  good diary (0+ / 0-)

      .... and then the photo link taken from kos's front page post turned out to "not be an approved site" for pictures, since dailykos.com is not on the list.

      dailykos.com itself isn't approved because then any old hacker (posing as a diarist or commenter) could then link to dkos images hundreds/thousands of times within various dkos posts.

      This would be a classic "Denial of Service" (DoS) attack. Hundreds of people doing this would really slow down the site.

    •  Meh. (5+ / 0-)

      As long as Amtrak is sharing freight lines they will only be as fast as the freight train stopped in front of them.

      There is no reason a trip from Chicago to Detroit by train should take 5 to 10 hours which it currently does on Amtrak.

      How does the new plan fix this?

      •  CSX has been a major roadblock (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ticket punch, Judge Moonbox

        in the northeast for the reasons you said.

      •  Laying new track. That's what $$$ buys you ... (6+ / 0-)

        ... that plans on shelves do not.

        Remember that most freight corridors have ample room for new track, while local property taxes lead freight railroads to try to get by with as little track as they can.

        So when an Emerging HSR line is built on the same alignment as an existing freight line, the MONEY is going, in part, to laying new TRACK in that alignment.

      •  Wow! Can I ride with you? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        The Amtrak Wolverine timetable I'm looking at shows Chicago departures at 8:30 a.m. arriving Detroit 3:15, also at 12:15-6:49, and (my favorite) 6 p.m.-12:32 a.m. (I always thrill to the thought of arriving in Detroit after midnight, don't you?). Anyway, that offers 6 and 1/2 hours at best. So I love your riding time of 5 hours and 10 minutes.

        But seriously. Speeding up conventional passenger trains is simple. Not cheap, not fast, not easy, but a collection of simple steps.

        Double-tracking the right of way is always the best, but plenty of long passing tracks will help a lot. Smoothing out tight curves where possible by realigning the tracks and right of way. Getting the roadbed and tracks up to required conditions, because heavy weight at high speeds puts serious pressure on rail, ties, and roadbed. Modern signaling is important (and in this case, in response to some nasty crashes, Congress has imposed a requirement for new generation technology for all the Amtrak routes in the not-too-distant future). Eliminating as many ground crossings of roads, streets, and highways as possible, and hardening the others with better roadblocks etc. And more. But those steps will keep you busy for a while.

        Amtrak actually owns a stretch of this route, from near Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, and it has been spending for several years to get this stretch ready for 110 mph operation. Now installing the new generation signaling is being paid for as part of Amtrak's little bit of the stimulus funds.

        The problem is the everywhere else on the route. Especially in ChicagoLand, a spaghetti platter of intertwined rail lines and streets and highways.

        The good news is that planning is well advanced for upgrading this route, including untangling the knots in Chicago (see CREATE Project).

        So apparently the planners think they can cut the travel time from 6 hours and more to 4 hours or so, using the current right of way and the current equipment.

        Presumably if the trainsets took only 4 hours each way, they could be used for two roundtrips every day, with a timetable like, depart Chicago 6 a.m., arrive Detroit 10 a.m, depart Detroit 11 a.m., arrive Chicago 3 p.m., depart Chicago 4 p.m. arrive Detroit 8 pm, depart Detroit 9 p.m. arrive Chicago after midnight.

        In other words, you might get departures every two or three hours, six or eight trips a day each way. (Early morning trains might depart Kalamazoo each direction and late night trains might stop there.)

        All for about $1 billion. A deal.

        By the way, don't look for big time savings from skipping stops. The small cities and towns along the corridor will benefit from and heavily support faster trains. People in Detroit can still fly to Chicago, and some will, even after the trains speed up. But trains will grab 80% market share out of Hammond/Gary- Niles/South Bend-Kalamazoo-Battle-Creek-Jackson-Ann Arbor.

        (A small bonus will come from the fact that after Chicago-Battle Creek, the Blue Water train branches off East Lansing-Flint-Port Huron. Its schedule will therefore speed up by about an hour as well. The Detroit trains now continue to Pontiac, and it could also benefit from a two-hour savings.)

        Later on, another billion dollars will probably get you an electrified route, with faster acceleration out of stations etc, and get the timetable down to about 3 hours each way. That will also require new equipment.

        Of course, we'll be lucky to get the first billion. But if this route gets eight trains a day at four hours per trips, it will become one of the busiest routes in the Amtrak system, with what, half a million, nearly a million passengers? (Back of the envelope, eight trains each carrying 300 passengers times 365 gets me to 876,000 -- check my math).

        Those passengers become the political base for getting the second billion invested to cut another hour off the trip and attract another million riders to the rails from the highways. I mean, if we think that is worthwhile.

        •  Central to Eastern Time Zone. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody

          Railroad timetables list times at the individual station's time zone.  A train that leaves Chicago at 8:30 and arrives in Detroit at 3:15 will have travelled for only five hours, 45 minutes.  That said, Amtrak spends a lot of time waiting for freight trains to pass, so a ten-hour trip to Detroit is not unreasonable.

          This all said, I took the International in 1990, estimating speeds along the way.  After the big jam at Porter, IN, it was either stopped and waiting for a freight train, at a station, or doing 70-80 mph from Porter to Port Huron.  

          2009: Year of the Donkey. Let's not screw it up.

          by Yamaneko2 on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:56:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I almost missed the train! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BruceMcF

            Thanks for helping me to learn to tell time and read a timetable! Glad I am riding with you now. Well, I guess I got the departure times right, but my ETA was off!

            So the goal is to get the timetable down from 5 1/2 hours to under 4 hours for a billion dollars or so. I think they can do that.

            As you suggested, getting the slow freights out of the way will speed up the runs. That requires more and longer sidings, or better yet, doubletracking long stretches. But it is simple to do with existing right of way and equipment.

            That part of the route east of Kalamazoo is apparently not so busy any more. The freight operator (I seem to recall NS)  was trying to spin it off or sell it, making it a short line instead of a trunk line. Not sure how that played out, but I think the plan stalled.

            Maybe if the feds get deep into spending a billion to upgrade the route,  Amtrak could end up owning more of the right of way. That has one obvious benefit. When a freight line adds a second track, the local tax man will send them a bill double what it was before. That's why freights tore out "spare" tracks all across the country, to save on their property taxes.

      •  Amtrak service is disappointing (0+ / 0-)

        I live in the exurbs.

        Theoretically, you can take Amtrak to the big city in about 2 hours. But the travel time is often closer to 5 hours.

        So, driving is the only real choice, if you want to make meetings on time.

        If Amtrak was more reliable, and a little faster, it would take 100's of cars of the highway.

        I hope this new rail service is not related to Amtrak in any way.

        •  Amtrak cannot run on track that does not exist .. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw, MCinNH

          ... and if the track that does exist is single track with a coal train coming the other way and no sidings, Amtrak just has to wait until the coal train has cleared the line so it can proceed.

          Now add 10 miles of a second track for each 50 mile section. Best case, the coal train is scheduled to be in the double track section when the express service is heading the other way. Worst case, it just waits until the express service has passed by.

          And with a crossover at the halfway point, several coal trains heading either way can stack up, and then pass each other once the express service has passed by.

          And the same process works for express container freight as well as for passenger trains, especially in the middle of the night when an express container can offer evening drop, morning delivery with high reliability to a wider range of cities.

          Try to put the double track on a curvier part of the line, and the curves on the express track can be banked for higher speed operation by express freight as well as Amtrak, Emerging HSR or Regional HSR.

          And add dedicated express track in the busier parts of the line where 10:50 passing tracks do not offer enough additional capacity.

          And upgrade the level crossings to permit 110mph through the crossings, and provide grade separations to the busier crossings.

          That's the "Emerging HSR" class in a nutshell ... how you get 80mph to 90mph average trip speeds by keeping the train running between 100mph and 110mph for the majority of the route.

          Its based in part on lessons learned in improving the reliability of the conventional rail passenger service operated by Amtrak, where in California and Illinois, for example, a number of routes have been able to improve their on-time running to over 90%, with ongoing capital improvements allowing it to continue to improve.

    •  Some definitions are in order..... (9+ / 0-)

      I am retired from railway supply and rail car, including passger car, building and I know the industry.  There are simple engineering facts that people need to keep in mind: up to 160 mph relativly conventional and very long established physical engineering perameters hold -- the first Japan bullet train was 160mph, remember? That, in most instances of inter-city, is fast enough, and it is VASTLY less expensive to build that higher rated rail systems, higher speed I mean.
      But if you want Chicago to Seattle at 225 mph you can get it -- but at a very high price. And I see no reason for that to happen.
      If inter-city, and within-region systems can be expeditiously built, basically out of upgraded and improved existing lines, such will take huge pressure off highways and airports, will sharply reduce carbon emissions and will demonstrate highly favorable economics. If this is what Obama is out for, I am for him -- and he can do it and it will work. If you look at the successful European systems, that is what they really are --- upgraded conventional systems. Back in the 1930s, there were steam locomotives that would haul trains at 130 mph. We can do that or better with existing technology -- it will take 'will,' leadership and funding, and the benefits are highly obvious.
      Problems are geography and roadbeds. Get the lines going where the people want to go, build new high-quality roadbeds, get rid of intersections of rail and highway, and you will have something America has needed for half a century or more. There is just one nasty little problem: There are no rail passenger car builders left in this country; General Motors has seen to it they are long since out of business, and the US will have to look overseas for engineering and rolling stock. Damned shame, yes? Let's let President Obama sink his teeth into that one. We tried to tell 'em, but in the 1950s-90s nobody was listening. Fifty years ago, Budd Co., St. Louis Car Division of General Steel Industries,Inc., the Pullman Co., and several potential consortiums could easily have equipped the US with high-speed trains within a few years' time, but the interstate highway system and Detroit-Oil-Rubber lobbying cabal squashed it all. Don't let that happen again! I don't mind telling you, GM is getting what they deserve - on several counts.  
      I urge all to support Obama strongly on his rail plans. They are good sense.

      •  Add to that ... (7+ / 0-)

        ... that in the California case, where the LA Basin and the Bay area are within 3 hours by a 220mph system, then given the size of that transport market, and the cost of tunneling to establish efficient alignments between the two, it makes sense for them to establish an Express HSR system.

        But for someplace like here in Ohio, if it costs five times as much per mile to get an Express HSR system, we are much better off laying five times as much track with that money, and building a broader 110mph system.

        In current conditions, I might be able to see a bullet train system Miami to Atlanta if that is four or five hours ...  not necessarily on Atlanta to Miami passengers, but on Miami to central and north Florida passengers and Atlanta to central and north Florida passengers. I can see LA to the Bay.

        And upgrading as much of the NEC as possible to allow the Acelas to stretch their legs a bit more seems like it makes sense.

        For much of the rest of the country, getting the "Emerging" and "Regional" HSR systems up and running is what would create the conditions where we could start evaluating the possibilities for others.

      •  Put GM to work on rail cars! eom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, enhydra lutris
        •  Rail cars from Wisconsin? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoreLies, ticket punch, BruceMcF, MCinNH

          In Wisconsin, the politicians are talking about converting the Janesville GM plant that closed in December 2008 to building passenger rail cars for the new routes.

          Of course, because there is no American rail car builder, it would have to be a 'transplant' -- a local assembly plant with the good design, engineering, finance, marketing, and other management jobs at the foreign headquarters of the foreign company. But we Americans should be getting used to that by now, right?

          •  Just like wind turbines ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw, MCinNH

            ... since decisions to fund rail turned away from evaluating whether the full public and private benefits outweighed the costs, to balancing benefits to favored contributers and narrow political ideologies, we have lost much ground in terms of productive capacity.

            Build up the market in America, and design, engineering, finance and marketing jobs that are specialized to best serve that market will follow. It may not be the same as if we had maintained the market throughout ... but it will be an improvement on today.

    •  It's never too late for common sense . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      . . . and a roadmap to a future that makes sense.  Thanks for this inspiring diary.

      "If elections really changed anything, they would be outlawed."--Emma Goldman

      by keikekaze on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 03:28:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama's rail plans are too timid. (0+ / 0-)

      Not that they aren't a huge step in the right direction, obviously; however, has anyone else wondered why we're just playing catch-up with the French? We ought to up the ante by proposing an ultra-high speed, world-wide mag-lev train network.

      Seriously. It is completely possible to build a land bridge across the Bering Strait and similar geographic barriers, effectively enabling high-speed land-based (and potentially carbon-neutral) transport to just about everywhere but Australia.

      "Today, there is but one party in America, and that is the Property Party." - Gore Vidal

      by TylerFromNE on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:07:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Skeptical electorate (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, BYw

        I think many many more folks will sign on to high-speed rail after seeing some of the first track conversions (ie, conventional -> emerging HSR) and train runs.

        If the will exists to push this faster and further from outside of the Obama administration (ie Congress and/or States), then it will get done faster and further.

        If gas prices continue to go up, or if (god forbid) there is a sequel to 911, then you bet people will be clamoring for rail transport.

        --
        Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

        by sacrelicious on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:34:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Great to see this on the Rec List. (0+ / 0-)

      Really, really great.

      There is hope. Keep writting.

      Love it. You just made my day.

      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

      by koNko on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:41:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So when can we expect rapid transit (0+ / 0-)

      between DC and Boston? Or is it simply too crowded to be able to do easily?

      •  A segment of more rapid transit ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... we could see. Upgrading the electrical infrastructure between DC and NYC would bring the top speed up to 150mph. Straightening some curves in Connecticut where it is too crowded to tilt would speed up that section.

        Really running the Acelas at 150mph for a useful stretch north of New York may require a new alignment up from central CT into central MA and then to Boston from the west.

        Getting up to 220mph or more ... there's not all that much terrain in the Northeast Corridor that is like the terrain where HSR runs at full speed in Europe. We might need almost continuous viaducts to get there.

  •  To be honest I am grateful that Obama (40+ / 0-)

    is pushing these proposals finally. I have always been a strong supporter of Amtrak. My greatest fear was McCain winning because, instead of bickering over what proposal is the best, we would be aggressively fighting to save Amtrak. McCain would be developing a plan to shut down Amtrak and and all passenger rail.

    Obama and Biden are the first pro-rail Presidents and Vice Presidents that we've had in a very long time. Frankly, if they can get just ONE of these corridors up and running outside of the Northeast, that will be a key victory. The goal right now should be for short-term wins. That is, if they build a corridor and it attracts ridership, then other communities will clamor for it. To get buy-in and to convince a larger population, if we achieve short-term wins, then others will almost certainly follow.

    And if it really goes well the HSR network could easily be national. That is, people will want to travel between DEN and SLC. They will also want to travel between SLC and Reno and so forth. I do think that a national network would be possible.

    •  There will be four Regional HSR at a minimum ... (22+ / 0-)

      ... the Cascades corridor is already running at 79mph, and running with equipment that is capable of both running at 110mph and of taking curves at 110mph without the track itself being banked ... so-called "tilt trains".

      A coast to coast "Express HSR" backbone would be New York City to Chicago to St. Louis to Kansas City to Oklahoma City to Dallas to El Paso to Phoenix to Los Angeles. Of that, the part that would not be built based on the size of the cities being connnected within a given 500 mile radius would be Dallas / El Paso / Phoenix.

      Colorado is already studying a "Regional HSR" corridor, both Cheyenne / Denver / Colorado Springs / New Mexico border and from Denver into the mountains generally along an Interstate Highway alignment.

      It just has not reached the point of applying for designation, so its not on the map yet.

      •  Oops, I didn't list the four ... (13+ / 0-)

        ... Cascade Corridor between Portland and Seattle, in the Midwest Hub between Chicago and St. Louis, in the Ohio Hub Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati, and in the Southeast Corridor from DC through Virginia and into North Carolina. Even assuming that the NEC and California HSR projects get $4b of the $8b, $4b is ample to get those projects underway as well as funding lots of alignment planning and environmental clearance for the projects that have been on the shelf for the past eight years of a rabidly anti-rail administration.

        Swing state status ... well, the Pacific Northwest have gone blue for a while, but it always takes some time to make sure they come home ... and Missouri and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina need no introduction.

      •  Well (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terjeanderson

        People could connect at various cities to further HSR trains. Again eventually I could see the corridors being connected.

      •  It's Too Bad (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        celticshel, Ms Citizen, Judge Moonbox

        that the northwest corridor won't be getting bullet train service.

        And yes, flying between Seattle/Portland/Vancouver is incredibly wasteful, especially when a drive during good traffic can take you between Seattle and Portland in about 4 hours. But Southern Oregon is badly served too... having to fly in to regional airports or spend twice as long on a bus as just driving down I-5. So isn't Eugene, Oregon included on the Obama map? (It looks like is.) Only thing is, southern Oregon (the true swing of Oregon) is actually very far south of Eugene (which always seems to be made out to be the southern end of civilization) and depends on I-5.

        That is all. Individually, I wish you the best, but collectively, my dearest hope is to outlive you - groovetronica

        by Nulwee on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:20:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eugene, Oregon is on the ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          celticshel, Nulwee, MCinNH

          ... Cascades Corridor. That's more important than whether that portion of the corridor has gained designation.

          For example, the Ohio Hub extends from Pittsburgh through Columbus to Detroit, from Pittsburgh through Cleveland and Toledo to Fort Wayne, and from Buffalo through Cleveland and Columbus to Cincinnati ... with the corridor continuing as part of the Midwest Hub from Fort Wayne to Chicago and Indianapolis to Chicago ...

          ... but only the Cleveland to Chicago and Cleveland to Cincinnati legs are designated. Those are the segments to be built first, and so until they are built, there's no hurry to get designation for the rest of the Ohio Hub.

          If the next round of investment in the Cascades Corridor is between Portland and Seattle, then the existing Eugene service that continues through Portland to Seattle also benefits.

      •  A potential Seattle-Portland rail traveler (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

        This trip is currently a four hour run. Burlington Northern freight traffic is literally in the way.

        FAIL. Three hours or less.

        Yes, I read, loved and rec'd the diary.

      •  Phoenix-Tucson-El Paso (0+ / 0-)

        Actually, this stretch is not so bad. It's only about 110 miles between Phoenix and Tucson, which has over a million in the metro area. This is a viable route for enhanced passenger rail.

        Then it's about 320 miles from Tucson to El Paso. We probably should measure from Tucson to Las Cruces, so less than 300 miles. Las Cruces has 200,000, El Paso is nearing 800,000, plus Juarez, Mexico, for a metropolitan area well over 2 million.

        But it's a loooooong way from Phoenix to L.A. And a long way from El Paso to Dallas, with only Odessa and Abilene on the way. One good thing out West, lots of empty, cheap land for straightaways.

        We can be sure that the entire route would support more trains than Amtrak's current three-day-a-week Sunset Limited.

        •  The thing about Phoenix to LA is that the ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw

          ... California HSR project will already have done the hard job of getting into and out of the LA Basin, and a Phoenix run would be able to tap into a string of LA stations without any additional cost.

          358 miles line of sight, so longer than three hours by Regional HSR, so a Regional HSR line would not be able to tap much of the existing air travel market ... but three hours or less by Express HSR, so it would be able to tap that market. That's why I sketched Express HSR Phoenix to LA ... as a spur from the California 220mph system.

          El Paso to Dallas is 569 miles line of site, so even Express HSR would be hard pressed to tap much of the air transport market ... which is why the solid trip pair lines came to and end in the crude 2006 spreadsheet model in the diary. There's a cost of gas where a Regional HSR line would be viable, on competition with driving alone, but I'm not sure what price that would be.

          •  Two ways (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw

            Between Dallas and El Paso, take the sleeper car. Flat, empty, boring. "What are looking at? asked one. "I'm looking for something to look at," his friend replied. There would be stops at Abilene and Odessa where the citizens would be grateful for the ride. But never gonna get many passengers or make money.

            Between San Antonio and El Paso, take the Dome car. It's beautiful scenery almost all the way. One stop for Del rio and one for Big Bend National Park. Not many passengers or ever make money. But what's the big deal.

            Too many people here fall into the anti-government Amtrak-haters trap here, worrying that every lousy segment must make or break on some p&l.

            Right now Illinois spends $30 million a year, round numbers, operating three trains a day between St. Louis and Chicago. Am I getting the numbers right? They are losing $10 million a year per train!

            So can we waste $10 million a year on a train between San Antonio and El Paso? Do that for 1,000 years and we would equal the bailout for AIG for Citi.

            Oh, where is the outrage over bailing out train service to some lonesome towns in West Texas!

    •  Amtrak is so mid-twentieth century (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, arlene, TylerFromNE

      If the U.S. seriously intends to compete in the twenrtieth century economy it will have to develop an HSR network, eventually being coast to coast and border to border.  

      I've had plenty of negative personal experience with airline commuting.  For years I did the dreaded L.A./S.F. commute, all the time wishing that there were a "bullet train" connecting the downtown areas of those two cities.  The total time of travel per trip would have been more like two hours rather than four or more considering the time wasted on crowded freeways between the airports and the relative downtown areas, not to speak of jangled nerves.

      And it's only a matter of time when the country's major air corridors will have maxed out.  We'd better have a working HSR system in operation at that time.

    •  Hey, the market always knows best... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, NoMoreLies

      I mean, just look at your latest 401(k) statement. Don't you want some of that free-market awesomeness in transportation policy?

      "Today, there is but one party in America, and that is the Property Party." - Gore Vidal

      by TylerFromNE on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:02:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the clear explanation (19+ / 0-)

    ... of the "ladder" of HSR classes. As is so often the case, we can't intelligently discuss this issue until we have propagated a few basic concepts and the necessary vocabulary.

  •  ZOMG!! No Bullet Trains = Massive Fail!! (15+ / 0-)

    Seriously, there is a plus side to having some bullet trains in the mix.  They are important technological achievements.

    There are some people who might not care much about rail who could be "brought on board" if we told them we would make ours faster than the Japanese.

    We should treat the drive for rail as a Moon Shot, a call to national action, sacrifice, and ultimately, Achievement.

    I am willing to spend a few billion too much, if it means we have something dream-worthy. Besides, we aren't going back into space anytime soon...

  •  We need to hustle to get Rights-of-Way (19+ / 0-)

    We need to do this now, while real estate prices are weak. We will also need infrastructure in the city centers (parking, etc), so we will need to make some land buys there.

    Better to do it now, than during a boom.

  •  get same ambition, passion that started freeways (16+ / 0-)

    When the Interstate Highway System was first proposed, people went all out with it. From the beginning they envisioned it as what it would eventually become: something to change the face of the nation and transform everything about Americans' lives. They worked hard to sell it to the people, to the corporations, and to others in the government, and when it came time to break ground, the money and the political will to see the project through was guaranteed.

    Rail advocates in and out of government haven't done this. Instead, we act like we're ashamed of ourselves for even suggesting a return to rail. We go into debates with the idea that nobody wants rail and that everyone and their mother is going to fight us. We compromise our vision thinking we can appease the fence sitters with "low" budgets and "small" projects of limited utility and appeal, and then we act surprised that we haven't inspired anyone.

    I think we need a change of attitude, and sell and fight for a renaissance of rail the way the Interstate boosters sold and fought for the freeways. We need to share our true ambitious vision with the rest of the country and get them on our side with hope and enthusiasm for the brave new world rather than "I guess it's not too much of a change" or "I guess it won't cost us too much."

    These high speed rail corridors are a good start, but they need to become Phase 1 of a much more ambitious program of rail construction that's going to change America the way the railroad did back in the 1800s, or the way the freeways changed America in the postwar period.

    Bring back the streetcars in inner cities large and small; bring back the light rail lines that connected downtowns with their suburbs; bring back commuter rail on a large scale. Think about short-range freight rail to replace most trucking; think about new streetcar networks in the suburbs themselves to help them become little cities in their own rights instead of nowheres dependent on a distant urban core for meaning.

    For example, look at this map of Vermont in 1879 and how dense the rail network used to be even in a state that small and as sparsely populated as it was in rail's heyday - Vermont today has only 9 train stations that receive service. That is how ambitious our plans for the whole country need to be, because only something that revolutionary is going to inspire people.

    Only something that revolutionary is something that simply has to be built.

    •  If you are going to argue that the Ohio Hub is a (11+ / 0-)

      .. project of limited utility, I would like to invite you to step outside.

      And look around.

      And talk to some ordinary people, worried about losing jobs, or still worse, having lost their jobs.

      We very much need the construction money flowing through this state, after the devastation of nearly two continuous decades of Hurricane NAFTA/WTO, but damn if we can afford more road building and the state and local budget hangover they leave behind. We need this project.

      And if it is not ambitious enough for you, I don't give a damn, as long as you do not try to make an argument for a more ambitious program by belittling a very well thought through and very useful project.

      •  I'm not saying it shouldn't happen (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sharoney, DaleA, terjeanderson, PatriciaVa

        I'm saying that new rail construction shouldn't stop with it.

        Take a look at the maps: the new corridors don't even connect to each other. This is not a "national high speed rail system" because at some point you need to get off the high speed train and onto some other mode of transportation to leave the region. Many of the corridors are being built in a vacuum: i.e. without much or any local rail to carry people closer to their real destination.

        When I say they're of limited utility, I mean that the only people who are going to use them are going to be people who take that specific route on a regular basis, and then who are headed somewhere within a short distance of the terminal. That may be a lot of people around the big cities, especially during the work week, but compared to how much their competitors the freeways get used for the same and other purposes, it'd be very easy for some know-nothing Congresscritter or local pol to argue for more money for the highways instead.

        This is doubly true when rail sees very little use other than that specific route. If you plan to build these corridors as the hubs of a much larger and denser rail system, you have the ability to sell high speed rail as a new way of moving people and goods around the country instead of an essentially local project whose ultimate goal is nothing more than reducing traffic on the freeways and recessionary make-work.

        As far as jobs go, the plan so far is not the birth or rebirth of an industry the way the railroads were in the 19th Century, especially not if people bring up all the objections that I expect them to and shoot the plan down. Those jobs are only going to last until the project is finished, and if there's pressure to finish as quickly as possible ...

        •  Under present conditions, the dominant market ... (9+ / 0-)

          ... HSR trips are one to six hour trips, with the biggest weight in the one to three hour part of that.

          Cross country travel is a secondary market at the moment.

          I understand the impulse to ignore the successful experience of the Japanese, the French, the Germans, the Spanish, the Italians, and our own prior successful experience in putting together national road system, but I do not buy the argument.

          FIRST get seed corridors started.

          THEN, after we have some experience under our belt, and even more importantly after there are users of those corridors who will be enthusiastic political supporters of extending the system, design the national network.

          •  HSR isn't all there is to rail transport (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sharoney, kate mckinnon, NoMoreLies

            Let me just say I agree with you 100% - build these proposed HSR corridors without delay.

            That being said ... how can I say this as delicately as possible? ... you're underestimating how extensive and dense a rail network I want America to have, both high speed and otherwise.

            Build these HSR corridors, but don't stop there. For Phase II, build other HSR corridors to connect them. For Phase III, build slower commuter lines to connect the big cities to their satellite cities so you don't have to live within a few minutes of the HSR station to use the HSR train without a car. For Phase IV, build streetcar lines to connect the suburbs of both the main cities and their satellites to the HSR and commuter stations respectively. Build trams to scurry around urban cores. Provide freight service as well as passenger service along all these new routes.

            Look at the dense, multi-level rail systems around the biggest cities: NYC's subway, Staten Island and Long Island trains, and the Metro-North Railroad; Chicago's Metra and 'El'; and San Francisco's BART, Caltrain, and Muni. Now envision similar systems around and in America's second and third-tier cities, along with rural rail like Vermont used to have. That's how far I want to go: this HSR plan is only one step on a long journey to me. That's what I'm trying to convince you of; to make you want to go farther too.

            Build the HSR just the way that you yourself want, but don't limit yourself to that, especially not in an attempt to make this HSR plan (and rail in general) easier to sell. More is better in this case. Be ambitious. Envision something that'll reach as many people as possible. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Help build and keep the momentum for the short-term plan with a long-term dream.

            •  Where I disagree with you ... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sharoney, Visceral, Steve Love, MCinNH

              ... is on whether the proposed network map or getting momentum on Federal Funding is the highest priority.

              To get hits on the Internet, a nice looking Network Map is the highest priority.

              To get route miles built, getting the funding going is the highest priority. Get that going, and then we can build the route map ... just as we did with Federal subsidies to road building starting in the 1930's, which laid the foundation for development of the Interstate Highway network map.

              •  It's hard to fund or bid on a general idea (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sharoney

                Just try asking companies to bid to build this thing with only a general idea instead of a specific plan: they'll either laugh at you or bid triple or more what it should cost because they have to give themselves plenty of room for changes, mistakes, etc. Your fiscal hawks will shoot this thing down on that basis alone.

                Government funding is the same way. A general idea is for passing down to a committee or study group to hammer out details, not the basis for a Congressional spending bill or DoT budget item. Get people on board with good ideas, but don't expect to get funding without a detailed plan.

          •  Yep (6+ / 0-)

            This is the kicker notion that I don't think many people appreciate - for the short and medium term, cross-country trips will not be a good applications of HSR. From a logistical perspective it's too hard to start with lines that big, but the real problem is distance - the US is a big country with not all that much in the middle.

            Most people who would want to use HSR live on one of the coasts, and will want to use the rail network to get to the other: even with a good HSR network, that's far (much farther than in France or Germany), and at that distance the advantages consumer rail has over flying Southwest are drastically lower.

            I can get from Paris to Marseille (effectively the top to the bottom of France) on the TGV Med in just over three hours. For sake of comparison, that's only about 500 miles, or slightly less that the distance between Boston and Richmond VA. That's why it's easier (among other reasons) for the Europeans to have nation-wide HSR networks: things are closer together.

            In other words, exactly as Bruce McF said - start with smaller local networks, get people involved and into them, and then slowly grow outwards (with some long-term plan) and connect the networks.

            AT&T offers exciting work for recent graduates in computer science. Pick up the phone, call your mom, and ask for an application.

            by Scipio on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:29:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I live in Toledo, OH-- (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody, NoMoreLies, BruceMcF, MCinNH

              --and I make frequent trips to Cincinnati (drive), Chicago (drive), Washington, DC (drive), Boston (fly) and NYC (fly).  If the proposed set of HSR/non-HSR connector segments is implemented, I'll be using rail for all of those.

              Now, it would also make me quite happy to have all the other mass transit options in place, so that I could get where I need to be without renting a car at my destination--along the lines of Switzerland, shall we say.  I would be tickled pink if Cincinnati, for example, would build a regional transit network that coul get me from Union Station (I guess that's where the CCC lines would end up) to Clifton or Mongomery.  But I'll certainly use the first stages of the network as a good step forward.

        •  If you are going to leave the region, you get on (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, Ms Citizen, MCinNH

          because at some point you need to get off the high speed train and onto some other mode of transportation to leave the region.

          a plane.  We are not building the new system for the sake of rail travel as an end in itself.  We would be building it because the present system of autos, buses and planes does not work in all instances.  
            We are not looking for passengers who take the Canadian train from Victoria to Montreal because they want to see Canadian scenery.  We are trying to rebuild a system that provide basic transportation that is convenient, fast and energy efficient within and between highly populated areas.  Sightseeing comes way later.  ;-)

          Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

          by Steve Love on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:59:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We need more conventional trains (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies, ticket punch, MCinNH

            High speed rail is necessary to attract business travelers. Beware that it may end up priced for the expense account rider, and not for the likes of us.

            Meanwhile there is enormous pent-up demand for conventional rail, the kind Amrak provides on its starvation budget or a little better. Every time more conventional trains have been added to a route, the trains get filled. And especially when the timetable has been speeded up even a bit.

            CalTrain between Sacramento and Oakland/San Jose and between L.A. and San Diego, Milwaukee-Chicago, Chicago-Detroit, Raleigh-Charlotte, Boston-Portland, ME, Richmond-D.C., Harrisburg-Philly, and perhaps most notably of all between Chicago and St. Louis. The State of Illinois paid to add two more trains to the three Amtrak had on that route and passenger loads doubled. Every time trains are added in this country, they get filled.

            The Cascades trains running four times a day between Portland and Seattle, with extensions at either end, already carry more passengers between those big cities than airplanes do. But Washington State's rail planning document says that almost none of those passengers are on business trips!

            So while we all want faster trains between the big cities, and dream of a national system of faster trains, we would help millions of passengers if we simply had more conventional trains running on the current Amtrak system and some additional routes.

            There is nothing wrong with having a national train operator -- let's call it Amtrak -- that provides an alternative for people who do not want to drive or fly but who do want to travel. Tourists, family visits, whatever. Some people have a phobia about flying. Others are obese or handicapped and enjoy the wider seats and aisles on trains. Others find trains relaxing. And many  businesses benefit from trains that stop in small cities and towns where air service is rare, inconvenient, or expensive.

            Adding trains to the existing system is almost impossible now, due to a shortage of equipment, and Amtrak will need to order hundreds more passenger cars soon to meet this need.

            But don't fall for the line from the haters, that the government can't run a railroad, or that Amtrak is a failure. It will remain the base of our national rail system for may billions of dollars and many years still to come.

            •  Note that intercity trains have long had ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ticket punch, MCinNH

              ... expense account tickets priced out of reach of the average traveler, alongside tickets priced within the reach of the average traveler. That's business class and economy class. In business class, charge for the extra space per seat, and then a premium for being away from the hoi polloi who are not willing to pay a premium.

              Since HSR is tapping a larger share of the transport market, it is likely to be pricing at a discount to the airlines rather than at a premium to Greyhound ...

              ... but it is also a mistake to lapse into either-or-ism between Amtrak and HSR. The improvements made in support of Emerging and Regional HSR will speed up Amtrak services along the same corridors, and Amtrak will act as a recruiter for many of the HSR services, helping to maintain load factors when arriving from and departing from the end of the route.

        •  Arguments against the California HSR (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody

          Visceral, your comments are on point.

          Moreover, let's not forget President Obama has committed to healthcare reform, with its concomitant costs.  He has also promised not to raise taxes on HHs earning less than US$ 250K.

          Europe can subsidize HSR because its density is FAR different from the US.

          Some arguments against California HSR.

          http://online.wsj.com/...

          California Is Headed for a Real Fiscal Train Wreck
          The state should spend less before calling on Uncle Sam.

          By SHIKHA DALMIA

          ....Another rosy assessment comes in estimates of annual ridership. The Rail Authority says the trains will carry 65 million riders each year. But the Reason Foundation's study gives a much lower estimate -- 23 million riders annually -- after looking at Japan and France, which have the world's strongest markets for rail. Neither country has achieved the kind of ridership California is predicting and both countries have far higher population densities in the cities served by their bullet trains than Los Angeles and San Francisco.

          To attract riders, California's rail will have to out-compete cars and airplanes by keeping a lid on commute times and fares. To keep commutes short, the state legislature has put statutory limits on travel times. The Los Angeles-San Francisco commute, for instance, is legally required to come under two hours and 42 minutes. This is probably impossible because it would mean that the train will have to post average (not potential) speeds of 200 miles per hour, something that has not been achieved anywhere in the world, even in places whose flat topography allows for far straighter routes.

          And as for fares, the Rail Authority is promising a $70 ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is about half of Japan's Tokyo-Osaka ($135) and France's Paris-Marseille ($140) train and far less than the $172 Amtrak charges riders traveling between New York and Washington -- all of which are shorter and, with the exception of Japan, heavily subsidized.

          It seems that California is promising to build a train that is faster, cheaper, more efficient and serves more riders than any high-speed train in the world. And all it has to do to pull off this miracle is defy the laws of economics and physics....

          Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

          by PatriciaVa on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 12:32:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Hurricane NAFTA/WTO (5+ / 0-)

        hit all of the USA, the ground zero is rust belt states like OH and MI.

        this is infrastructure, jobs you can't outsource and greener than cars/airplanes.

        We would be stupid NOT to scream for this.

        Let's do it!

        Douchebags for tea bags! FOX/GOP = NO! 09

        by MinistryOfTruth on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:56:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Love the VT RR map (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, NoMoreLies, FishBiscuit, Visceral

      thanks for including it -- what a great reminder of the role rail used to play (and still could if we could get beyond our auto-centric world view).

      Sadly, many of the lines on that map are gone forever - converted to recreation trails (not a bad thing in and of themselves)

      When Howard Dean was governor, he pushed an experiment with commuter rail running into Burlington from the suburbs of Shelburne and Charlotte - a short route of less than 15 miles... it rain from 2000 to 2003

      Sadly, the train never attracted ridership sufficient to justify the expenditures. That could have been because of the extremely short length of the line, the infrequent service, or the fact that it only served the relatively affluent communities of Charlotte and Shelburne. (I personally thought it would have made more sense to look at a longer commuter line north of town to the more working class towns of Milton, Georgia, St Albans and Swanton and/or a line running between Burlington and Montpelier/Barre stopping at Waterbury, Richmond, WIlliston).

      When Jim Douglas became governor in 2003, he immediately pulled funding for the commuter rail experiment -- and probably put a nail in the idea of local train service in VT for decades to come

      Once social change begins,it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read...You cannot oppress people who are not afraid anymore.

      by terjeanderson on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:33:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Freight + no cars in 1879 = density (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terjeanderson

        Vermont was mostly farmland in those days, so you had a lot of farmers in little villages who needed to get their goods to markets faster and beyond the range of horses. Since there were no cars, a great deal of people had no real options for going far and fast except the train. That's what justified the density of the rail network back then.

        The Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express that serve Vermont today are for commuters to Albany and NYC: the trains run only twice a day, once in the morning (and pretty damn early if you're staring in St. Albans) and once in the evening. Try to get around Vermont itself by rail and you're pretty much out of luck because of the schedule.

        A similar density of rail service is still present in parts of Europe and Asia where the car culture hasn't yet taken over. Tiny Switzerland actually has the densest rail network in Europe, so it's not as though rail travel is only practical for large distances or express service between big cities.

        That's the point I've been trying to make with the other guy, that we need to take rail that far in this country. We've done it already; we know it can work. A rail system that dense and flexible is going to make for a much stronger competitor to cars, trucks, and freeways than something limited to express travel between urban cores, and that's the direction I at least want rail to go: forget niche markets and take aim at the car.

        •  one place still like that (5+ / 0-)

          The New Jersey shore has a rail system that stops every 2-3 miles. It's possible to live there without a car. Teenagers there are much more independent than they are in car-dependent suburbs.
          The disadvantage is it takes 2 hours to go the 40 miles to New York City.

          "I'm going to be on you like a numerator on a denominator." -Principal Skinner

          by dufffbeer on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:18:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's the way to go! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terjeanderson

            There's demand for light rail like this in many parts of the country for local service along a few well-traveled corridors within a small state or a large sprawling metropolis. Combined with higher levels of service that travel farther and faster but with fewer and fewer stops, you can replace the car in most of the places where most of the people in the country live.

            With the problem of going to NYC, you just need to put service to NYC on a separate express line that stops in just a few places. Use the Coast Line to get to those stations, then take the express to NYC. That's the way rail transport has to work, and is its only real drawback.

          •  . (5+ / 0-)

            This is why there are local trains and express trains.

            •  Precisely. Where I live, ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MCinNH

              ... the Pittsburgh / Cleveland alignment will definitely go through, because one option goes through the north side of town and the other the south side. And in either case, it most definitely will not stop.

              But that will be track improved for passenger operations used eight times a day for the Regional HSR. There is every opportunity to add a local train going to Cleveland to that mix leaving a siding one one end of its route when the HSR has passed and getting to a siding on the other end, connecting with Cleveland light rail or mass transit as well, before the HSR gets there.

              THAT train could stop in this town.

    •  time to move the Overton Window! (10+ / 0-)

      would you rather get on a train, or wait 2 hours with delays at the airport?

      Let's make HSR the new trans-continental rail project of the 21st century.

      Jobs, American infrastructure and ecologically friendly policy all rolled into one.

      Yeah, baby!

      Douchebags for tea bags! FOX/GOP = NO! 09

      by MinistryOfTruth on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:54:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That depends (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yoshimi

        If my two-hour wait at the airport means that I'll actually get on the plane on time, and that the plane will get to where it's going on time or in a reasonable approximation thereof, then I'm fine with it.

        However, while it's been decades since I was last on an Amtrak train, from what I hear the schedules are more or less guesstimates. Trains come in and leave at extremely odd hours--when they come in or leave at all. When it costs as much to take the train as it does to fly, but the train takes three times longer to get where I want to go and I can't even be sure of when it will leave, I'll fly.

        •  That's what the money is for ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sacrelicious, baudelairien, MCinNH

          ... whether its single track next to busy freight sections or 10:50 passing track in areas with light freight use, for the "Emerging HSR" networks, to dedicated corridors built directly to allow 200mph+ operation, for "Express HSR" ...

          ... they are being design from the ground up to allow schedules to run on schedule.

          Indeed, much of the incremental improvements in the Midwest and California have been more focused on improving reliability of service than on speeding up the trip, but with the Emerging HSR corridors and up, we will be getting both.

          •  That is good to hear. (0+ / 0-)

            You might want to include info on it in your diary.  To me it looks like they are using the same lines.

          •  Still (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            smileyman

            Among other things, I'm a modern European historian. I go to France every couple of years to do research in their national archives. I can get pretty much anywhere I want or need to go in France by train in a reasonable amount of time and for a decent price. That's absolutely not the case in the U.S. right now--and nothing I'm seeing in any of the plans to date will do much to change that. I understand that we're not going to get back to the days when you had train service pretty much everywhere--but it would be far more useful to have a rail network that took people where they wanted to go--including when they wanted to go between these self-contained networks. The plan is great if I just want to go from Chicago to Detroit or Ohio. But what if I want to go from Chicago to Washington? Or from Chicago to Las Vegas?

            Plus, while the numbers right now are basically calculated on the basis of business travelers, I think that's incredibly short-sighted. One of my best buddies from college lives in Las Vegas. Every summer for most of the last decade, I've gone out west to visit him, and we've been traveling around to the various national parks dotted all around the intermountain west. If you travel to those parks, you see an awful lot of exhibits showing people arriving there by train--which, I think, would still be a valid and viable travel plan in this day and age--except for the fact that there isn't much of a functioning rail network to serve them anymore.

            As we were making plans for our summer vacation this year, I was looking into the possibility of going up to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. There is actually rail service to the park--if you start in Seattle or in Chicago. For us to get there from Vegas, however, we'd have to take a bus from Las Vegas to California, then another bus from California up to Washington, and then the train to Glacier. If I remember correctly, the thousand-mile journey would take something on the order of three and a half days, and cost us something on the order of $500 each. That would mean we'd have to have a full week just to travel back and forth from Vegas to the park: a week during which we couldn't do anything except travel, whereas if we did our normal thing, we'd go up to Cedar City, catch two or three shows at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and then strike for Montana from there. We could get there in a day if we drove straight through, or in two relatively easy stages if we didn't want to push that hard. Unlike the train trip, we'd be at leisure to stop whenever we felt like it and to explore the local attractions when we were so minded--and even with hotel accommodations and theater tickets, we'd still spend roughly the same amount as the train trip would cost--and probably less.

            •  I don't disagree, ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MCinNH

              ... but I would piggyback this kind of passenger rail service onto the back of a transcontinental Rapid Electric Freight Rail system. Once the cross country freight mainlines are set up to handle 100mph freight and deliver it on schedule, then we can establish long haul passenger lines for very little additional investment that will be able to run on time and offer far superior trip times to the current Amtrak.

              •  I don't see that coming (0+ / 0-)

                They can do freight that way in Europe because the distances are less. But in the U.S., the scale of the network is just too big--all the more so because we're really transitioning away from a goods-based economy. For delivery of finished goods, roads and air freight make more sense than does rail delivery, particularly in the "just-in-time" era In the economy we currently have, rail freight is at best an adjunct and at worst an irrelevance.

                •  You are assuming the characteristics ... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NoMoreLies, MCinNH
                  ... of the current network, and then using that to argue that a system with different characteristics can't work.

                  100mph is over the threshold where the extra time to shift containers to rail at the rail origin and terminus are compensated by the faster freight transit time.

                  That is, assuming that the container freight can get from point to point for a shipping savings per pound-mile and can keep to a schedule.

                  Electric rail freight requires less than 10% the energy of motor road freight per ton-mile, so as energy costs rise, the price advantage of electric rail freight over motor road freight will continue to rise.

                  $100/barrel oil puts us over the threshold where the system would be self funding, and the government role would be financial ... first, financing the capital works, and second, owning the electric infrastructure so there is no local property tax liability.

                  $50/barrel oil might not put us over the threshold, so it may be necessary to fund it with a sliding oil import duty that goes away at some moderately low, but not dirt cheap, price of crude oil, like $80/barrel or or $100/barrel.

                  •  No, I'm assuming (0+ / 0-)

                    a declining amount of freight, and an exponentially increasing number of delivery points for what freight does get shipped. Unless you're going to put a logistics depot and at least one rail line in every mid-sized town, there's no way to make rail freight work.

                    Plus, look at a map. The number of rail lines isn't increasing, it's decreasing. I've lived in railroad towns most of my life. My late uncle Jim was a railroad worker. The rail company he worked for no longer exists. Most of the places around here that used to have railroad tracks on them are now parks, nature trails, wetlands, and forest preserves.

                    And then there's how to pay for it. I live on the far western fringes of the Chicago metro area. We're a university town, with a huge population of students from Chicago and its metro area. A not-inconsiderable number of our faculty and staff also live in that area. Currently, we have commuter rail from downtown as far out as Elburn. (And that station only opened three or four years ago.) This county was incorporated into the Chicago-Aurora SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area) by the Census Bureau nearly two decades ago. The prime criterion for that assimilation was the percentage of the workforce that lives here and works in the metro area--I believe the threshold is 26% or above.

                    However, it's going to be years before we get commuter rail service out here. Why? Because in order to bring Metra out here, the voters of the county would have to approve a supplementary tax (on the order of 1.5% to 2.5%--I forget the exact levy) to pay for the service. It would never pass. Why? Because most of the students don't vote here--and neither do most of the people who would use the service if it were in place. I don't think it's too big of a stretch to foresee a similar fate for any kind of supplementary tax to support a high-speed rail system.

                    •  Unless you are going to put more crude oil ... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MCinNH

                      ... in the ground, there's no way to make transcontinental diesel road freight work. Which means for long haul freight, we have to change what we are doing now.

                      Plus, look at a map. The number of rail lines isn't increasing, it's decreasing.

                      Which goes back to my point ... you are projecting current conditions under current institutions to judge on the potential of new capabilities under new institutions.

                      •  Speaking of projecting current conditions... (0+ / 0-)

                        Who said anything about diesel?

                        My point, which seems to have sailed over your head, is that the road infrastructure is more or less already in place. The rail infrastructure, on the other hand, not only is not, it's actually shrinking instead of expanding. You're not going to be able to build a high-speed rail network on the cheap by upgrading existing track, the way they've been doing it in Europe. Why? Because we've been ripping up thousands of miles of track every year since the late 1960s. And a network-based rail plan isn't going to do much to cut down on transcontinental road hauling--since that's where most of the freight has to go. I don't know if you've noticed, but we don't manufacture an awful lot of stuff in the U.S. anymore. Mostly, we import it. So all the stuff that we want to have in our stores has to come inland from the ports. Stuff coming from Asia has to go all the way across the country to the east coast; stuff coming from Europe has to go all the way across the country to the west coast; stuff coming in from Africa and South America has to come up from the Gulf coast; and stuff coming down from Canada has to go down to the Gulf coast. See any planned high-speed rail links to make any of that possible on the DOT site?

                        Me either.

                        •  The infrastructure to continue using the ... (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          NoMoreLies, MCinNH

                          ... road infrastructure is not in place, and, in case you have not noticed, the roads are not self-repairing ... they are paved with crude oil by-products.

                          If we want to preserve the roads we have, we need to get the long-haul trucks of the road. If we want to be able to count on being able to ship goods nationwide, we need a long haul transport system that can run on sustainable domestically produced electricity.

                          •  We can make the crude oil by-products (0+ / 0-)

                            from other things. Or go back to making roads out of concrete, which we did until oil got cheap. And given that the road infrastructure is already in place, it would seem far more economical and practical to build a long-haul electric vehicle that could carry freight than it would to try to build a sufficiently robust high-speed rail network. Especially since doing so would eliminate the need for switching from rail to road.

                          •  Concrete is also energy intensive ... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            cappy

                            ... and under present manufacturing methods a major CO2 emitter.

                            The reason we went to making roads with asphalt is because asphalt is cheaper, so going to making it from concrete as concrete is rising in cost will mean that the road maintenance will become more expensive ... and we are failing to keep our roads in a state of constant repair now.

                            Rail freight is 3 times as energy efficient as road freight, and rail freight is more space efficient, so the same overhead electric supply infrastructure can be shared by more ton-miles of freight. And in most of the nation, road works are increasing cost, with new lane miles costing more than the lane miles they are adding too, while in most of the nation, rail works are decreasing cost, with new track miles costing less than the track miles they are adding too.

                            And the long haul transcontinental electric rail technology exists now, while long haul transcontinental electric truck technology is purely speculative. We can put the infrastructure in place to get half of the long haul freight in the country off of crude oil in six years ... we cannot be sure that we will have a long-distance electric road freight technology in six years time.

                        •  What about ripping up roads (0+ / 0-)

                          or using the centerlines of divided highways for rail trackage. Besides, the cost to maintain a railroad bed is much cheaper than the cost to maintain an interstate highway being pounded to pieces by heavy trucks and freeze-thaw northern climates. Besides, concrete roads are even more vulnerable to the effects of freezing and thawing and deterioration due to road salt than asphalt roads. Ever drive on I-43 in southern Wisconsin? The washboard effect of this lightly used interstate (compared to those in Chicago) is a direct result of its concrete construction. It is deteriorating very quickly.

                          Railroads suffer much less of these effects, don't use road salt, and are much less impacted by inclement winter weather. Ever notice that the Metra trains run on time in snowy weather, while the roads are snarled, gridlocked parking lots littered with slide-offs and jacknifed semi trailer trucks.

                          "There's a bailout coming, but it's not for me, it's for all the creeps watching the ticker on TV"-Neil Young

                          by NoMoreLies on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:43:43 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Most divided highways do not go ... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MCinNH

                            ... where the trains want to stop, because Expressways are such hogs for space compared to rail ... so expressway alignments are more commonly used for Express HSR, which is looking for longer sections of track between stations. But Express HSR, which needs the all new, all grade separated track, has different turn radius for 220mph than the Interstate Highway system is designed for.

                            So the norm in Europe is for Express HSR alignments along Expressway rights of way to be in the margin of the ROW, rather than in the median.

            •  probably wouldn't have enough passengers (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tari

              to make this pay off

              What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is. ~ Dan Quayle

              by CParis on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 02:15:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do you have any idea (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NoMoreLies, BruceMcF, Ms Citizen, MCinNH

                how many people visit the national parks every year? In FY2007, there were 272 million visits to the national parks. Zion National Park alone had almost 3 million visitors last year. And I can testify from personal experience that a lot of the people visiting those parks, especially in the summers, aren't from around here. I love walking the trails and hearing all the languages of the world as people make their way around the park. A lot of those visitors are used to making journeys by train. And, frankly, if it's done right, train travel is a hell of a lot more pleasant than air travel is. For one thing, you have a lot more room to move around, and the fact that you don't have to try to cram it all onto an airplane means they can provide real food with considerably more variety than you'll get on virtually any flight nowadays.

                •  Thing is, the frequency would not ... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  CParis, tari, MCinNH

                  ... be a large number of trains per day, so if the infrastructure is available that allows 110mph passenger trains to run, and run on schedule, and the train just has to pay an access fee, that makes for something well worth looking at.

                  On the other hand, if it has to build its own track, that makes for a much harder system to finance.

                  •  A couple of trains a day would suffice (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Ms Citizen

                    Take a look at those figures from Zion again. Their quietest months are December, January, and February--when they still get around 60,000 visitors per month. I know the roads around there pretty well--and getting to Zion by train in winter would be a hell of a lot easier than getting there by car is. The site for the Grand Canyon seems to be undergoing redesign, so I can't get facts and figures. But I do know that the North Rim gets around two to three million visitors per year, despite the fact that it's closed for around a third of the year. (There's only one road that leads there.) The South Rim is open longer, and gets around ten times as many visitors.

                    Back in the '20s and '30s, Santa Fe (and also, if I remember correctly, Union Pacific) used to run trains to the major western parks on a regular schedule. You could go to one, or spend more and go to all of them. Indeed, between northern Arizona, southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, southern Nevada and western southern California, you've got a huge park complex in a reasonably small area: Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Escalante/Grand Staircase, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Cedar Breaks, Mesa Verde, Sequoia, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree, just to name the big ones. Add in a spur from Salt Lake City and you could add Yellowstone pretty easily. Those are all big-name attractions--and I know they're popular with foreign visitors from personal experience. Ruby's Inn, the Best Western hotel just outside the entrance to Bryce Canyon, is the only hotel I've ever stayed at in the United States where there were signs and menus, etc., in languages other than English and Spanish. I heard at least six different tongues being spoken in the dining room during our trip there five years back.

            •  US is a little larger compared to France or Japan (0+ / 0-)

              yes size makes a difference

              •  No, really? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ticket punch

                I hadn't noticed.

                </snark>

              •  How about compared to Europe? (0+ / 0-)

                Europe is a little larger than California, yet Europe has HSR and California does not (but will have sometime around 2020). Europe is a little larger than Ohio, with a lower average population density, yet Europe has HSR and Ohio does not.

                Comparing all of the US to part of Europe is an apples to orange slices comparison.

                •  Britain and the NEC states are a close match (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BruceMcF, tari

                  for population and area. Britain has two high-speed mainlines (east coast and west coast), and the Northeast has one. Where you'd run a second high-speed mainline in the Northeast is up for debate, but it's certainly worth working toward.

                  As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

                  by ticket punch on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 06:20:18 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  A second line (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ticket punch

                    You are absolutely right that we need to be looking for a second route in the Northeast Corridor. The one we have now is full.

                    Ever wonder why Amtrak runs full Acela trains hourly  but won't add half-hourly departures? The tracks are full.

                    Ever wonder why the Acela fares seem to rise to meet what the market will bear? They've been selling all the seats they can put on the tracks.

                    Ever wonder why the Regional fares are so high? They fill the trains anyway.

                    Ever wonder why more drivers don't switch from the Jersey Turnpike to use the trains between NYC, Newark, Philly, Baltimore, and D.C.? The trains are already full.

                    Amtrak told the State of Virginia that it could not add another train NYC-Charlottesville -- simply no more slots. (So they are extending a morning train that used to run only D.C.-NYC. It will leave VA pre-dawn and return post-midnight. Great schedule, hunh? If better than nothing leaves you satisfied.)

                    The hourly Acelas, the slightly slower and cheaper Regional trains to D.C. and VA, several long-distance trains heading down to Carolina or Florida and even one or two to Chicago, many Keystone trains to Philly and Harrisburg, not to mention commuter trains, have filled up the tracks and especially the tunnels on the existing NE Corridor.

                    We need at least one more train tunnel under the Hudson, and probably two.

                    New Jersey has been pushing a plan for a tunnel that will dead-end under Manhattan, so no connections from it to Long Island or New England, ever. The new tunnel to carry Jersey Transit trains will open up two or three slots in the rush hour for Amtrak, like that will make some big difference.

                    To begin to think about half-hourly Acela and Regional departures out of Penn Station we'll need a new tunnel for Amtrak alone. Either move all the commuter rail out of Penn Station or build a new tunnel or both. That will cost several billions, so we may not live long enough to see it happen.

                    Amtrak will probably also need a new tunnel under Baltimore Harbor, especially to have some super-express trains run nonstop between NYC and D.C.

                    And to extend NE Corridor Acela-type service down to Richmond or beyond will require a new tunnel under Capital Hill and/or a new bridge over the Potomac.

                    It might make sense to have a tunnel, or a bridge, to carry some trains from New England around NYC, with passengers from Connecticut to Philly, instead of them all passing through Penn Station.

                    And the NC Corridor Main Line through New Jersey is also full of intercity traffic. You can keep all the commuter trains on dedicated tracks, or off the intercity tracks in other words. Then admit you're running all your intercity trains without passing lanes in case of problems. The main line is full.

                    Until we double capacity on the main line, or get other lines more or less parallel to handle local and commuter traffic, it's hard to see frequent service or low fares or many more passengers on the NE Corridor.

                    Building a new lines through New Jersey could require an Act of Congress. The Garden State, to its credit, has adopted stringent restrictions protecting what little is left of its open space. And I can understand they don't want to start making exceptions and slide down that slippery slope.

                    But federal power could find a right of way for a new high speed rail line. Or dig a loooooooooong tunnel. Another way might be to head due west on little-used ROW into the Poconos, then build new tracks heading southwesterly toward Harrisburg, skirting the suburbs of Philly and Baltimore, entering D.C. from the less densely populated northwest side. Much eminent domain in that scheme too.

                    None of these solutions will be cheap or quick or easy.

                    But we need good rail service for environmental and national security reasons. And we need for its supporters to understand what it will take to get that.

                    The British planners are aiming for main line service out of London every 15 minutes -- "turn up and go" is what they want to offer the customer. That would make intercity rail a kind of mass transit between their big cities. Alas, we haven't begun to dream of such a thing on this side of the pond.

                    •  I'd tunnel under Long Island Sound myself, (0+ / 0-)

                      and run Acelas down the length of the island and through Queens.

                      Before that, however, I'd deed the ENTIRE Northeast Corridor over to Amtrak.

                      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

                      by ticket punch on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 08:05:07 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  The Long Island route (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BruceMcF

                        Sounds crazy ... but the current reality is really crazy. Due to maritime law, Amtrak cannot operate more than one Acela per hour between Boston and NYC. Pat of the Congressional authorization. So the trains are full, and priced at what the market will bear. No half-hourly Acelas between the Hub of the Universe and the Capital of the World.

                        Maritime law means that no bridge can block a navigable waterway. The New England shore, most especially Connecticut, has rivers, bays, harbors, inlets, yacht basins, whathaveyou every few miles along the coast. And every one of them must have a drawbridge open within an hour of being requested to let your high-masted yacht in or out of the navigable waterway. That will never change.

                        Realistically we are looking at putting the railroad inland through western Massachusetts and down the Hudson, or cutting through the hills of Connecticut and Westchester, or, now that you mention it, crossing the Long Island Sound with a bridge or tunnel.

                        But then. They need to add tracks to the LIRR and run local trains both directions every 10 or 15 minutes. And I've been assured that such a thing next to impossible to imagine. So where we gonna put an Acela track?

                        Well, if we don't build more trains and sharply cut down on greenhouse gases from planes and cars, the ice caps will melt, the shoreline estates of Long Island and Connecticut will all be under water, and we just won't worry about it.

                        •  What is wrong with Boston / Albany / NYC? (0+ / 0-)

                          As a genuine Express HSR corridor, I mean?

                          Sure, it looks like an acute angle on the map ... but what matters is trip time. There will be lots of viaducts in stretches of the route, but Boston/Springfield/Albany is 150miles, line of sight, Albany/New York is 140miles, line of sight, get effective average trip speed to 160mph, and it just over two hours, Boston/NYC.

                          Plus by going around the corner, you've introduced a shortcut to Toronto, a shortcut to Montreal, and have laid the foundation for a western bypass from New England to DC.

                          And if the investment in the fastest corridor from the NEC to the Great Lakes is Harrisburg/Pittsburgh, then the investment in the bypass from Harrisburg to DC is also the access from Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, etc., to DC.

                          •  No way is easy but ... (0+ / 0-)

                            "Realistically we are looking at putting the railroad inland through western Massachusetts and down the Hudson, or cutting through the hills of Connecticut."

                            And if you think there's a strong chance of doomsday ice cap melting, then the current shoreline route will have salty waves lapping at the ties. (Good thing they are made of concrete nowadays). But then again, the same higher sea level could threaten the shoreline tracks along the tidal reaches of the Hudson River between NYC and Albany.

                            I'm cool with a line heading west out of Boston to Albany and then beyond in two or three directions. But like you, I want to make progress where it is easier to do, and get back to the costly and intractable NE Corridor problems much later.

                            Of course, if the ice caps do melt, both Boston and NYC are likely to become smaller, less important cities. Doomsday won't come easy.

                          •  I don't want to get back to the NEC later ... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... its just that with the frequency of population centers along the line, it is of very high value as a Regional HSR line for the population centers between DC and NYC and between NYC and Boston, while there are a variety of alignments that can serve to get Express HSR Boston / NYC / DC, so I support continuing the long, slow, grind of incrementally speeding up the NEC as a tilt-train route.

                          •  Not so fast (0+ / 0-)

                            Resources are limited. Congress may decide to spend $7 billion (by one estimate) to speed up service between D.C. and NYC  (or more billions to Boston). But I just don't see it going first with a whole new route west of the Philly, Balto., and D.C. burbs that would surely cost much more. That's the only way to get top speed and half-hourly trains, but instead I see billions being poured into upgrading the existing route.

                            Faced with that, I want HSR Express Detroit-Chicago, St. Louis-Chicago, and L.A.-S.F. before we commit to a new line flanking the existing NE Corridor route.

                            BTW I had to read your comment half a dozen times to get your intent. I stumbled because Northeast Corridor is both a geographic term -- for the megalopolis "stretching from Lewiston, Maine to Fredericksburg, Virginia ... home to more than 55 million people (based on 2006 estimates)" -- and a railroading term meaning specifically the main line within it that currently carries Acelas.

                            So let me put it this way. To serve the cities of the Northeast Corridor with passenger trains, we are stuck with the NEC until after HSR has proved its worth elsewhere. In the meantime, I also support grinding out what improvements we can afford on the NEC. But I'd hold back the big bucks and push for a new flanking route after we have examples of successful HSR Express in other parts of the country.

                          •  And if we get dikes anywhere ... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... its NYC, but building those dikes will be a real vicious EIR/EIS process that I am happy I do not have to worry about.

                          •  20 feet or 200 (0+ / 0-)

                            The sea level could rise 20 feet if the entire Greenland ice cap should melt away. That would flood the ground at the former World Trade Center, and put a few downtown subway stations under water level at low tide, nevermind the inevitable storm surge. Not to mention the runways at JFK and LaGuardia. Ah, well, what do I care. I'm 64 and by the time this threat to the infrastructure arrives I will be in the rest home.

                            Then if or when the Antarctic ice cap melts in whole or large part, the sea level will rise up to 200 feet above today's level. At that point, the Northeast Corridor will need a station serving Atlantis.

            •  I dunno about Las Vegas to CA, but I (0+ / 0-)

              do know that CA to WA is doable by train - I did it last year.  Actually, you can go almost all the way from Mexico (Baja) to Canada via rail up the west coast.  I'm pretty sure you can get to Winslow, AZ from CA, so that all you need is LV to Winslow.

              "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

              by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:54:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Let's see: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody

              Looking at the Obama map, you would be on HSR from Chicago to Cleveland over the northern route, or Chicago to Cincinnati over the southern route.  In either case that is half the route.  

              In Europe, you would have to be mad or penurious (and under 26, to qualify for a 2nd-class Eurail pass) to take the train 2000 miles.  Rail Europe timetables.  The 730 miles from DC to Chicago are greater than the 655 from Paris to Madrid, and Paris-Madrid takes, at best, eleven hours, 59 minutes.  If you could just upgrade tracks to average 70 mph, including stops, the US train would beat the European equivalent.  Under the Obama plan, with 100 mph Chicago-Cleveland and 70 mph Cleveland-DC, the trip would take fewer than 10 hours.  

              I'll agree with earlier posters, though, and state that the best candidates to replace air with rail are the short hops within regions.  For example, extending HSR directly to Chicago's airports would end the need for connecting flights from places like Indianapolis, Madison, Rockford and Davenport.  

              2009: Year of the Donkey. Let's not screw it up.

              by Yamaneko2 on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:48:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Once the connection is made between ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... Barcelona and France by Express HSR, then that time will come down.

                And note that the Chicago to Cleveland alignment is just the part of the route that has pushed for and been granted designation ... the full plan calls for the Toledo / Cleveland line to continue to Pittsburgh, where the connection to DC by Amtrak is even more direct ... indeed, it would not be surprising to see some of those services simply continue to DC, to eliminate the transfer.

                •  No argument there. (0+ / 0-)

                  My argument is that with moderate efforts akin to those Illinois already carried out and by repairing roadbed and maintaining signals past Ohio, you can travel the 750 miles between Washington and Chicago faster than Europeans can travel 655 miles from Paris to Madrid.  This will change when the AVE runs from the Spanish border to Barcelona and meets the TGV.  

                  2009: Year of the Donkey. Let's not screw it up.

                  by Yamaneko2 on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 12:05:40 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  That's a good idea. Forming coalitions are the (3+ / 0-)

      I think we need a change of attitude, and sell and fight for a renaissance of rail the way the Interstate boosters sold and fought for the freeways.

      key to getting legislation through. The IHS was passed because Caterpillar could see sales, the Portland cement companies and agregage suppliers saw local customers and Howard Johnson saw new locations.  
         If the new rail system is seen as being built with Indian or Chinese rails and Spanish or French rail cars and engines there will be hard political hill to climb.  If, on the other hand, the new rail system can be seen as the impetius for a rebuilding of the American manufacturing base everyone wins!

      Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

      by Steve Love on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:51:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Too many countries have domestic content ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MCinNH

        ... requirements on their national rail systems to be able to raise a WTO dispute if we do the same.

        It can't be 100% local content, because we want to use proven technology rather than a stab in the dark ... but it certainly can be assembled in the US using a large share of US made components and fittings.

        •  Other nations buy products and then (0+ / 0-)

          because we want to use proven technology

          reverse-engineer them.  Is there any reason we cannot take a page from their book...or that deal work only one way?

          Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

          by Steve Love on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:02:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If we were to take a page from China's book ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MCinNH

            ... we would insist that the overseas owner of the technology produce in a consortium with a local partner, and then look the other way as the local partner steals the IP.

            Up front its the same system ... plus letting existing makers bid eases the financing, since an established maker can sell the trains on a part cash up front, part revenue sharing basis.

            •  So, are you saying that we need to reinvent the (0+ / 0-)

              wheel if we cannot steal the technology from the Spanish?  Are we going to rebuild the railroads on the back of European technology, with them skimming of 20% of our revenues?
                Mind you, that might not be a bad deal in that we create jobs HERE and the money we ship overseas just might end up as T-bill purchases down the road.
               How do you come down on this?

              Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

              by Steve Love on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:05:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What makes you think that the imported value ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... added of trains will come to 20% of farebox revenue? With standard 50% domestic content requirements, it would be in the single digits, don't you think?

                And when the trains are paid off, its 0%, if the local producer has introduced its own train based on lessons learned.

                •  You have to realize that you have just (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BruceMcF

                  grabbed me out of my relative ignorance on this rebuilding plan and total ignorance of railroad finance.  So, if I hear you correctly we will indeed, do reverse-engineering on the trains we buy from France or Germany and make our own from there on out.  And I like the idea that we will keep most of that early money at home.  
                    That works for me.  Now if I can just get elected to Congress I will work to see that happens. :-)

                  Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

                  by Steve Love on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:23:35 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  We could ... will we? (0+ / 0-)

                    I dunno. The Chinese certainly would (since they have). In the 1800's, that's exactly what we would have done.

                    Today, I'm not sure. But the bulk of the employment is in the construction of the corridors and the operation of the line ... if we have a local value added requirement, then a European train maker would focus the more labor intensive parts in the US, since we work cheaper than Europeans do.

                    •  This is an interesting aspect of what you (0+ / 0-)

                      since we work cheaper than Europeans do.

                      are describing.  It will be interesting to see if that holds true once organized labor gains more power.  Let's hope that our labor force does not remain to Europeans what Chinese labor force has been to us: the cheap way to get things built.

                      Join the "Partnership for a Pete Sessions-free 32nd CD of Texas."

                      by Steve Love on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 07:15:10 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Korean plan (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BruceMcF

                        Korea bought some HSR trains from France to get their system started, then built more trainsets in their own factories. Now they can bid for export orders. This technology transfer was on the up and up, unlike some other unethical business practices in the Far East.

                        The French manufacturers didn't seem too worried. They seem to think they can outbid the Koreans, with the advantages from their volume of home-country business and their on-going R&D giving them an edge.

  •  North Carolina too (6+ / 0-)

    It's interesting that your initial network map didn't include North Carolina (probably because there are no metro districts of >1 million.  On the other-hand, as a previous commenter noted NC is in the mix & has been subsidizing it's own passenger rail.

    Why?  Because there's a densely populated corridor from north of Raleigh to Spartenburg SC.  I summed the county populations that would probably be on a Regional HS rail line from the Virginia border to Charlotte.  The total was >4 million over about 260 miles.

    •  Yes, that's the dashed red lines ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, MCinNH

      ... when growing metro areas between 500K and 1m were added.

      And as I said, it was just a spreadsheet model ... where you have multiple metro areas close enough together that three stations in the cluster are the equivalent from the perspective of rail patronage to a single metro area with two outer suburban stations and one central urban station, then a true ridership model will pick that up.

      I fully expect that an Express HSR corridor plan will be developed that runs through North Carolina ... if not in the next five years, then after the Emerging HSR corridor starts operating and skepticism fades about HSR running operating surpluses.

    •  You could probably even connect a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      line to Atlanta and it would work well. The problem is, though, that most GA politicians, especially the Republicans from the Atlanta suburbs, are very hostile to rail.

    •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ticket punch
      North Carolina has three million-plus metro areas:

      *    Charlotte
      *    Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill
      *    Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point

      •  Not in the table I was using ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... and the census statistic I was using, back two or three years ago when I draw up that map.

        That's where the dashed lines came from ... some sub 1m areas were growing fast enough that clearly they would be 1m areas in the 2010 data.

        •  From census.gov (0+ / 0-)

          2008 Estimates (.CSV file):

          Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC                2,338,289
          Raleigh-Durham-Cary, NC                               1,690,557
          Greensboro--Winston-Salem--High Point, NC      1,552,495

          •  I was not using 2008 estimates. (0+ / 0-)

            How could I have used 2008 estimates in a diary written in 2006?

            •  They haven't grown THAT fast (0+ / 0-)

              From the same file, the 2000 population for each of those metro areas was:

              Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC                     1,897,034
              Greensboro--Winston-Salem--High Point, NC           1,414,656
              Raleigh-Durham-Cary, NC                                     1,314,589

              •  Urban populations or metro populations? (0+ / 0-)

                I'm sure that the information which data I used is in that diary.

                •  Metro populations (0+ / 0-)

                  This discussion started with my response to Enzymer's assertion that North Carolina has "no metro districts of > 1 million."

                  •  Enzymer was not asserting, but speculating ... (0+ / 0-)

                    ... regarding the maps made in the diaries, "America was made for HSR", linked to in this diary next to the map. Given that context, I'm not 100% sure Enzymer was speaking precisely wrt the distinct census categories.

                    •  I was speculating (0+ / 0-)

                      That the reason BruceMcF's map didn't have regional HS rail links highlighted in NC was because of the fact that there are no extremely dense city centers in NC.  For example,  the Fed's divide the Research triangle region into 3 Metropolitan statistical areas, each under 1 million.  Likewise the Triad is also divided into two major and 3 minor statistical areas.  

                      You are right that Charlotte has an area greater than 1 million, but the greater Charlotte area is also fragmented in the reporting structure used by the Feds.  I hadn't checked to see if it was fragmented into sub 1 million units, sorry.  I don't see any reason to make a big deal out of this.  The only point I was trying to make is that if you use the Federal MSA's, North Carolina on the surface looks less attractive by rail than if you really look at the population distribution.  If you include counties on the most likely high-speed rail lines and their immediate neighbors you have much more than 1/2 of the NC population.

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/...  

                      Just as Florida has reason to push for a Florida only system, the density of the Piedmont makes NC a good candidate for a rail system.  The low density between Richmond and Raleigh is an issue, but there is a lot of traffic from RDU to Washington.

                      •  And HSR is not mass transit ... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MCinNH

                        ... it is not density per mile along the corridor that is important, but the population of the catchment of each station and the transport market based on the trips offered on the line. Two substantial population centers, linked by rail trips of one to three hours, do not need a lot of population along the intervening section.

                        Or, in other words, increasing the average speed of the trip has the same effect as bringing the stations closer together, so it has the same effect as increasing the population density.

                        •  Not to give up on the West (0+ / 0-)

                          Fast trains can work if the end-city pairs are large enough even if the area in between is empty. That makes for some intriguing calculations out West. Land costs are cheap, often the terrain is flat, controversies over use of eminent domain would not tie up the project in the legislature and the courts. And maybe folks are not so impatient as they are in the Northeast Corridor :-) so you don't have to spend for the very fastest system -- just get something a lot faster than we've got now.

                          A Western route like El Paso-Las Cruces-Albuquerque would not have to be 220 mph to get plenty of riders.

                          ELP to ALB is 225 miles. Get a top speed of 110 mph with conventional trains on dedicated track with the new signaling. Cover 150 miles of flat, empty, desert straight-aways in about an hour and a half. Then average 60 mph over the remainder in the ALB suburbs and the short stretch between Las Cruces and El Paso. That adds another hour and 15 minutes. You get from downtown Albuquerque (metro pop 850,000) to downtown El Paso (metro 750,000 -- not counting :-( 1,500,000 plus in Juarez, Mexico) in less than three hours without breaking the budget.

                          BTW Beautiful views of desert mountains would fill the dome cars. But the tracks would follow the Rio Grande River, and parallel mountain ranges, not cross them. This could be fast track for business riders and carry tourists as well.

      •  And all were flyspecks 100 years ago, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody, MCinNH

        which is when our rail network was built out - with a few exceptions like South Florida.

        Charlotte-Atlanta wasn't a viable rail city pair even 30 years ago, but it is now.

        NC makes the case for assembling more right of way AND laying more rails. So do Austin and Phoenix and Orlando and . . .

        As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

        by ticket punch on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 06:23:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  a bullet train from the Northeast to Florida (4+ / 0-)

    If it goes 200+ mph and makes few if any stops between Washington DC and Orlando. Would a lot of people take it, enough to be worth the cost? I think so. This is at least one exception to the short-distance rule.

    "I'm going to be on you like a numerator on a denominator." -Principal Skinner

    by dufffbeer on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:22:48 AM PDT

    •  Its a corridor where a night sleeper ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... would work quite well, but that's not the frequency of services to justify a bullet train.

      But for a full fledged Regional Rail corridor, its pretty much a dead pipe cinch, just from looking at the individual segments.

      DC/Richmond/Raleigh ... obviously.
      Richmond/Raleigh/Columbia ... can't see any problem with that
      Raleigh/Columbia/Savannah ... sure, that's a fine corridor
      Columbia/Savannah/Jacksonville ... certainly, that'll be a winner at 90mph trip times or higher.

      So that's DC to Jacksonville, for those who want to take the train. Most will be on shorter trips, but you keep the train running through because the shorter trips overlap, and because even if the end-to-end patronage are only 5% or 10%, its still paying passengers.

    •  Well (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, JanL, BruceMcF

      I think it would probably stop at these cities:

      New York
      Newark
      Trenton
      Philadelphia
      Wilmington
      Baltimore
      Washington
      Alexandria
      Richmond
      Petersburg
      Rocky Mount
      Raleigh or Fayetville (there are two ways to go to FL)
      Columbia or Charleston
      Savannah
      Jacksonville
      Orlando
      (Probably another town in the Orlando like Winter Haven or Winter Park)
      Kissemme
      Tampa
      Okechobee
      West Palm Beach
      Delray Beach
      Deerfield Beach
      Fort Lauderdale
      Hollywood, FL
      Miami

      •  A regional train should stop at all those cities (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        island in alabama

        There should also be a faster express train that skips most of them.

        "I'm going to be on you like a numerator on a denominator." -Principal Skinner

        by dufffbeer on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:20:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Those are th emajor cities between (0+ / 0-)

          NYC and FL. If you wanted to really narrow it south of DC you would probably have it stop just at Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia, Savannah, Jacksonville, and Orlandd; but, even then, most of those towns would want service.

          •  which then puts most of us back on airplanes (0+ / 0-)

            if the NYC to Miami train makes 25 stops - you have to figure 7-10 minutes at each station

            What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is. ~ Dan Quayle

            by CParis on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 02:18:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  So where would you have it stop then? (0+ / 0-)

              What towns between NYC and MIA would you limit stops to?

              •  I would not choose to drive between NYC (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Woody

                and Miami, and I suspect alot of others are in the same boat.  So unless the train time is closely comparable to a flight, it would lose.

                Seems the target needs to be people making the intermediate trips, if you want to get folks out of their cars.

                What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is. ~ Dan Quayle

                by CParis on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 02:36:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah (0+ / 0-)

                  Not everyone is going to go from NYC to MIA. Some people may only want to go from DC to Richmond, others from Richmond to Raleigh, Raleigh to Colubmia, Columbia to Savannah, Savannah to Jacksonville, Jacksonville to Orlando, Orlando to Tampa, and/or Orlando to Miami. You aren't probably going to get riders who will ride all the way down the east coast.

                •  You ignore comfort. A few extra hours, (0+ / 0-)

                  but the entire trip without the agony of airplane seats, a trip where you cn get up and walk around, it makes a BIG difference.

                  "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

                  by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:03:32 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Many choose not to drive OR or to fly (0+ / 0-)

                  John Madden hates to fly, and travels across the country in his own bus. Aretha Franklin won't fly. Whoopie Goldberg said she had to be sedated to fly to London. And a zillion non-celebrities don't fly for their own good reasons.

                  Obese people may be charged extra if they overflow the narrow-ass airplane seats, and that is a HUGE and growing market. Very tall people hate to fold up their bodies to fit into a coach seat, and unless they are in the NBA they hate to pay the fare up front. Claustrophobes have real trouble coping with airplanes. Families travelling with kids prefer trains with wiggle room and not so many glares from other passengers. Some people can't drive or fly for medical reasons.

                  There's a hundred reasons people choose to ride trains. We prefer wide seats and aisles, we like a choice of meals in the dining car, we enjoy looking out the windows at the passing scenes, we can read a book or have a good conversation with a friend without having to concentrate on navigating the road, we can get up to use the bathroom at any time, we never clutch the armrests through turbulence, and often we save money.

                  Not to mention the environmental and national security reasons to support train travel.

                  And there is a huge pent-up demand for train travel. We have no idea, really, how many more people want to ride the train. Amtrak has been starved of funds and equipment and forced to cut routes for decades. But in every case where intercity trains have been added, they always fill up.

                  Of course, few politicians or talking heads on the TV opinion shows ride the trains much. They ignore the desires of millions of regular citizens who want more and better trains, high speed versions in the future, better conventional train service in the meantime.

          •  A stop added to a rail service does not ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dufffbeer, MCinNH

            ... slow it down nearly as much as adding a stop to a flight ... stations would be 30 miles to 50 miles apart, and large metro areas would normally have an outer suburban station on one side, a central urban station, and then an outer suburban station on the other side.

            And with the capacity of the bullet train tracks, you can easily run both Limited Stops and All-HSR-Stations services in the same corridor.

      •  Sorry, but it would start in Boston (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody
  •  Get us off the freight rails (9+ / 0-)

    It is time for some bold initiative and use the existing right-of-way corridors of our interstate highway system. Why not design a new rail system that isn't beholden to 19th century design? If you want to improve our electrical grid, use the new rail lines to distribute new green power to the trains and communities.

    Stand Up! Keep Fighting! Paul Wellstone

    by RuralLiberal on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:28:57 AM PDT

  •  Los Angeles to Vegas. Let's get it on. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dufffbeer, JanL, BruceMcF, FishBiscuit, MCinNH

    Can't wait.  Jump on the 8 AM High Speed train to Vegas and get my Parlay's and Teasers in before 10 AM kickoff.    Can they get this thing going now please.

    I believe in President Obama, and The Beatles

    by bookkillrr on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:44:42 AM PDT

  •  I can't believe no one's posted this yet! (21+ / 0-)

    electiontrains

    Oh, and thanks much for the diary and everything you're doing to bring it about!

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

    by LaughingPlanet on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:49:06 AM PDT

  •  I feel smarter and much more informed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, dufffbeer, BruceMcF

    after reading this (rather than confused and slightly annoyed as I too often do). Thanks!

  •  Only BOS-NYC-DC and SD-LA-SF are truly... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tari, charliehall, Lone Republican

    ... justified by the traffic volume traveling those routes. Maybe LA-LV might sneak in as well.

    The cost to eminent domain the right of way for a proper HSR will be in the hundreds of $billions.... just for the land. Many $billions more for the construction and operation.

    In those two corridors it could actually help in many ways, and might be worth justifying, but otherwise, nope, not gonna do it.

    Personally I'd rather spend the money on interplanetary transport ships... think Space Aircraft Carriers, and ultimately teraforming Mars.... we are going to need the room ;-)

    •  It depends on whether the land is ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alba, petral, MCinNH

      ... existing transport right of way. A NYC to Chicago Express HSR alignment might rely heavily on existing I-80 right of way, for example.

      Also, Regional HSR (aka Rapid Rail) has been "proper" HSR since the HSR corridor legislation was first passed, so its clearer to just use the new DoT term ... "Express HSR".

    •  seriously...interplanetary ships??? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Jester

      never going to happen as the cost for the government to maintain toll booths between here and Mars is too expensive.

      I am putting my money into personal rocket packs as it cant do any worst than my mutual funds.

    •  there are many more not just CA and DC-Boston (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, The Jester

      Minneapolis - Saint Paul to Chicago would connect two huge cities.

      I would argue the North East high speed should go into Durham/Chapel Hill in North Carolina. The NC triangle should be connected.

      Connecting Detroit to Chicago is a political necessity.  

    •  Oh jeez, more coastal elitism at dKos? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, BruceMcF, The Jester

      Have you ever actually been to the Upper Midwest before incorrectly deeming that Cleveland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit (and everything in between) simply don't have that many people and simply aren't close enough together? (hint; they do and they are).

      Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

      by bigtimecynic on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 05:08:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This has nothing to do with Elitism... (0+ / 0-)

        ... NYC-DC could be anywhere, what matters is the ACTUAL MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE in consistent volumes high enough to justify the monumental expense.

        You are telling me that a sufficient % of the Chicago population works and regularly commutes to Milwaukee or Minniapolis or Cleveland as to justify HUNDREDS of $BILLIONs be spent?

        Using a highway expansion as an example, we start by analyzing the ACTUAL USAGE of the route. We lay down counters to measure the traffic, and if it goes beyond a particular treshold that would justify expansion, then we get that ball rolling.

        Well, by assessing the air commute, current Amtrak commute and ground traffic, involved in the Boston to NYC to DC, this is the only route that could remotely justify the implementation. If this route doesn't justify a HSR then nowhere in the US can.

        Next would be the LA to SF route. It has nothing to do with coasts or elites, it is all about how many people ACTUAL TRAVEL on a regular basis over that route and would a HSR make that more EFFICIENT on a SOCIETAL level.

        Would the life quality of not just the commuters but all the people affected by the current system be improved to such an extent that the HUNDREDS of $BILLIONs spent would be justified.

        You don't just do giant government infrastructure to hear jack hammers, you do it because it is truly justified.

        Cold, hard analysis of the real numbers and the real impacts on society.

        •  There is no doubt that the cost-benefit is higher (0+ / 0-)

          on the coast because of the population density. But the question becomes: where is the cut-off threshold below which a project isn't worth it? You have many good points, but to be convinced, I would need to see the cold hard numbers before I wrote off the Great Lakes region. I don't have them, so I err on the side of optimism.

          Also, remember the thrust of this diary is the many tiers of high speed rail.  You don't necessarily need to build new ROWs or electrify them in the midwest. If you put 90 mph turboliners in there on some modernized track, it would be a huge improvement at fairly small cost.  The key, above all else, is to either get a dedicated track not controlled by the freight companies, or to force some concessions from the freight companies to allow HSR trains to travel at certain times of the day without being held up behind slow freight trains.

          Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

          by bigtimecynic on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 08:27:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mid West $3.5 billion (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pHunbalanced, BruceMcF, MCinNH

            Nine Mid Western governors wrote to support three HSR lines: Chicago-St. Louis, to get the running time down from 5 1/2 hours to 4; Chicago-Detroit, to get the schedule down from 5 1/2 hours to 4 hours; and Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison, shaving time to Milwaukee and adding new service to Madison.

            The top speed for these upgraded lines will probably be 110 mph and leave lots of rail fans disappointed. But really, a billion plus into Detroit, a little more into St. Louis, a little less into Madison is a great start. And it is good value for money. Far less than the price of a couple of interchanges on the interstates or wider highway bridges over major rivers.

            That line St Louis-Springfield-Normal-Chicago only has five trains a day now, about 3 hours apart. Those trains are all full, and for the intermediate markets, like Springfield-Normal and Springfield-Chicago, the trains have a large and growing share of total trips. Trains have knocked the puddle-jumping planes from the sky. No one flies from Springfield to Chicago any more unless they are going to change planes at O'Hare.

            Get the run time down to four hours, schedule the departures about two hours apart, fill those trains.

            The improved frequencies alone cut travel times. Like this: You want to leave town as soon as the meeting ends at 11:30 a.m. If you have to wait for the 1:45 p.m. train, that's a pain. But if you can grab the new noon departure that's a huge gain.

            The planners have promised the Govs that they can cut the times and boost ridership using existing right of way and current equipment, just adding more passing lanes, better signaling, etc.

            So the combination of shorter runs and increased frequencies will fill more trains. The next step would probably require electrification and buying special trainsets and locomotives. So to get St. Louis-Chicago down to 3 hours or less will cost another billion or two. But this first step will show that it can be done on a dozen other routes, like Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati/Louisville, Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati, Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philly, Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities, St. Louis-Kansas City, Chicago-Des Moines-Omaha, etc.

            The success of these first routes will show the value of further investments in rail all across the country.

        •  Hundreds of billions of dollars? (0+ / 0-)

          The entire Ohio Hub is under $10b for the 110mph option.  The full Midwest Hub might be $10b's, but certainly far short of $50b. And those are the network maps with the most total track miles.

          Its easy to yell HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS and then start talking about cold hard analysis, and looking at the difference in benefits between Express HSR in the Northeast Corridor and between SoCal and NoCal ... but its also bullshit to compare absolute benefits and ignore cost-benefit trade offs.

  •  NY to LA in hours, and no flying! (0+ / 0-)

    Give me a job building these things, make them state jobs with good pay, and we got major economic stimulus for everyone!

    Go Obama!

    Douchebags for tea bags! FOX/GOP = NO! 09

    by MinistryOfTruth on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:51:10 AM PDT

  •  excellent coverage (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Anne933

    Bookmarked for future reference - very nicely done indeed.

    "Not dead ... yet. Still have ... things to do." -Liet Kynes

    by Stranded Wind on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:52:55 AM PDT

  •  talk to me about "Other Passenger Rail Route" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, BruceMcF

    on that map.  Is that the "Emerging" class you are talking about?  I live in MS, and I understand why there is no population reason for there to be a stop of any sort in my state, but logistically and politically, there is a looong blue line along I55 with no stops between Chicago and New Orleans, shouldn't that stop in St. Louis, Memphis, and maybe somewhere in the MS delta like Natchez?  Or do I fundamentally  misapprehend the map?

    As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. A Lincoln

    by TheGryphon on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 10:55:26 AM PDT

    •  Those are the corridors that have ALREADY ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alba, Anne933

      ... gained designation. If an obvious Regional HSR route is not on the map, write your Governor, State Representative, and State Senator to get off their buttocks and get to work.

    •  That is, the colored lines are the designated ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dufffbeer, FishBiscuit

      ... corridors, the ghost network behind is the existing Amtrak network.

      •  okay so the gray line along 55 I'm looking at (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        is an existing Amtrak corridor thanks!

        As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. A Lincoln

        by TheGryphon on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:07:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Bruce, I'm replying to you down here (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, Floja Roja, BruceMcF

        because I want you to see it, but I don't want to derail (ha-ha) the conversation.

        Can you address the cost and practicality of securing HSR systems (of various kinds) from (international or domestic right-wing) terrorist sabotage?  This, to me, has always been the possible Achilles' Heel of HSR, given that I expect an increase in sabotage in the future.  Once a plane is up in the air, it's hard to harm.  But tracks run on the ground -- and are accessible both to those who would harm them directly or place obstacles on them.  I wonder whether we can have good enough monitoring of tracks to prevent the sort of high-profile, spectacular crashes that would, after all this expense and effort, dissuade the public from taking trains "because the terrorists are targeting them."

        I don't mean this question to be unfriendly; I would be thrilled to be convinced.

        •  At the cost of Express HSR alignments per mile .. (6+ / 0-)

          .. and given that they need to be fully signaled, which might as well be lines carrying in-house TCP/IP traffic, they can have visual surveillance of much of the corridor, fence break alarms, etc.

          Of course, terrorist sabotage of an Interstate Highway is easier ... drive car bomb onto Interstate, set it off when under bridge ... and we have not see all that much of that, so the focus will probably be on securing the most critical bottlenecks, like tunnels.

          •  I don't think that train travel and driving (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek, BruceMcF

            are comparable in that respect.  Driving, like it or not, is currently a "default."  We have horrific accidents all the time, yet people don't pledge to stop driving.

            Compare that with what happens after a plane accident or hijacking (back in the day), when as I recall plane travel would dip for some time.

            HSR travel, more so than current Amtrak, seems likely to be more similar to train travel in this respect: one act of sabotage is more likely to make a bigger splash.  However, if the idea is that terrorism just isn't that large of a concern, and that basic measures such as the ones you note should suffice, that will have to do.  I assume that proponents are prepared to answer these questions repeatedly and well, because I suspect that I'm not the only one with similar concerns.  Thanks!

          •  specific proposal here (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MCinNH

            Put the whole network under constant video surveillance, including the use of night vision cameras.  

            Each camera mounting has two cameras: one for continuous broad-field view, one equipped for long-range optical zoom, pan, tilt, etc.  

            The fields of view of the broad-field cameras overlap such that 100% of the track and right of way are covered.  The video stream for these cameras is processed through motion-detection software.  When motion is detected, the second camera is focused on the source of the motion.  

            Now how shall we pay for the cost of monitoring this system...?

            Most of that will be free.  

            As I've been saying since the campaign, we are the new national neighborhood watch.  (And of course a good neighborhood watch is backed up by an alert police department, about which more in a moment).  

            Open a browser window, enter the URL, and you get connected to the broad-field camera system.  The system automatically assigns you to a group of segments to monitor, and shows you a map so you know where they are.  

            You could select to monitor in "patrol/flyover" mode where you're getting the equivalent of the view from the train operator's cab, but sped up considerably.  Or you could select "slide show" mode, where you get random views within a large region or across the country.  In either case, you'd have a "stop" and "back up" button on your browser, in case you see something and want to stop the changing images to go back to the one that's of interest.    

            Depending on your household computer & media system, you could also have the video signal displayed on your television while you're working on the computer.  

            The monitor network would of course log the IP addresses of everyone who's watching at any given moment, just in case baddies try to use the system to scope out the rail network for future bombing or whatever.  

            If you notice something suspicious, you can a) click a link to text-message the monitoring center, so a security officer can look at what you're looking at, b) call a toll-free phone number at the bottom of the page, that includes a unique identifier, e.g. "dial 1-888-see-rail, and enter 123-456-789 at the prompt."  The unique identifiers would of course change for each person each day, and they would enable the monitoring center to identify the area you are watching.  

            The monitoring center itself would actually be two or three regional centers, each staffed 24/7 by officers.  They would be able to do rapid flyovers using the broad-field view cameras, and they would be able to zoom in on suspicious activities or objects using the zoom cameras.  

            They would have immediate access to local police dispatchers for cities & towns across the entirety of the rail network.  They would also have the ability to send voice and text messages to train operators on the entire network, including setting off an "urgent message alarm" in the cab of any train.  

            So now you have the best of both worlds: the national neighborhood watch is keeping an eye on most of the network at any given moment, and the officers are doing a combination of systematic flyover and close-up on scenes where something is moving.  

            No one is going to be able to get a bomb or an object anywhere near the tracks with that kind of surveillance occurring.  If they have shoulder-launched missiles, they are most likely going to try to shoot those at airliners.  And the scenario of "park a truck bomb just out of view, wait for the train to come along, and then speed toward the track" would be covered by the monitoring center's "flyovers" just ahead of each train; so at minimum the train operator could be warned.

            --

            One more security issue that needs to be dealt with.

            Train operator bathroom breaks.

            In years past, on certain rail lines, administrative rules made it difficult for train operators to take bathroom breaks.  In part, this was monitored by a "keep-alive" circuit in the cab, that the train operator would have to respond to whenever it went off.  As a consequence, one of the train operators developed a little gadget that could be attached with a few wires, that would respond to the "keep-alive" while he (and soon, his fellow train operators) went to the bathroom.  

            That kind of workaround is a safety hazard.  Yet, bathroom breaks whenever needed, are a necessity that can't be avoided.  The obvious solution to this is to have two people in the cab at all times, and have one of the "flight attendants" on each run trained to be the backup when one of the train operators goes to the bathroom or otherwise takes a break.  Thus there are always two people in the cab: a full-fledged train operator, and either another of same or a qualified member of the "flight crew."  

            --

            Other, unrelated:  Power supply & climate-clean energy:

            The rail rights-of-way are ideal for running power transmission line.  Thus we could provide feeder lines to bring in renewables and nuclear from sites that would otherwise be uneconomical to use for building those resources.  

    •  The line through MS is the City of New Orleans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      Amtrak train that runs from Chicago to New Orleans.

  •  Needs a Colorado Front Range Line... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    ...from Fort Collins-Denver/Burbs-Colorado Springs-Pueblo and a spur out along the Arkansas River to the Lamar Amtrack stop: Something I will suggest to my Senators.

  •  Rail is the most energy efficient transportation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy, alba

    Europe and Japan are way ahead of us in just about every measure of energy efficiency.

    Earth is the only good piece of accessible real estate for many light years around.

    by tsunami on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:06:32 AM PDT

    •  Doesn't that depend on usage? (0+ / 0-)

      If you have a train that's only transporting a few people, then it seems to me it's not energy efficient at all because it's huge mass still has to be hauled but it's not carrying much.

      Trains are only efficient for hauling large loads. If we don't fill the trains then they are inefficient, correct?

      •  Its far more energy efficient per seat ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Spock36, MCinNH

        ... and, yes, if you move trains around long distances that are less than 1/10th full, it would be more energy inefficient than moving lots of cars around with only one person in the car.

        However, when we are talking about systems that are going to have to get an operating surplus in order to fund further capital investment in the network, its a self-limiting problem ... only those seed corridors that do attract passengers will continue to grow.

        •  economic vs political decision making (0+ / 0-)

          Isn't it only a self limiting problem so long as the decisions regarding the growth of corridors are made for economic rather than political reasons.

          Based purely on economics, there hasn't been reason to continue a whole bunch of Amtrak lines for a long time. But since the government owns it all, the decisions are political not economic.

          •  You are making commercial = economic ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nathguy, MCinNH

            ... but commercial sense means that the cost to the producer is less than the revenue available from the direct consumer. Economic sense means that the total benefits are more than the total costs.

            Based purely on economics, we'd have been subsidizing Amtrak more heavily and putting more of that subsidy into capital improvements to support the service improvements that attract ridership.

            It would, of course, still be subsidized, since its not economically efficient to charge the additional passenger the full average cost of their transport when they are being attracted away from either cars or planes, saving the public subsidies that they received and saving on the free-rider costs that they generate.

            However, we have been operating under an ideology promoting private wealth and public poverty, so we have been spending less than is economically efficient on rail. At the same time, we have been operating under a thoroughly corrupted system of government, so existing entrenched interests have been able to buy exemptions from the ideology.

            •  amtrak and passenger rail does best (0+ / 0-)

              in an environment of high energy prices.

              high energ moves people into cities, it moves people closer to
              public transit, it moves people to use mass transit,

              now the key is we are far better off having a service running at 100 MPH
              running 6 trains a day then a service running 125MPH running 4 trains per day
              or 200 MPH once a day.

              i used to take the amtrak to chicago, and it sure would have been nice to
              have 4 trains a day rather then the daily run.

              George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

              by nathguy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 04:54:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't know where you get your frequencies ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MCinNH

                ... the 200mph would have the most services per day, the 125mph the next most, then the 100mph, then the 79mph.

                The quicker the trip, the larger the share of the total market goes by train. And then virtuous circle effects kick in ... the larger the share, the more services, the more services, the better the frequency, the better the frequency, the larger the share.

                •  frequencies (0+ / 0-)

                  consider a 600 mile trip with various trains.

                  at 200 MPH, you get 3 hours out, 3 hours back, and 4 departures
                  a day with one train.

                  at 150 MPH you get 4 hours out, 4 hours back, and 3 departures a day
                  with one train.

                  at 100 MPH, you get 6 hours out, 6 hours back, 2 departures a day
                  with one train.

                  but,  say you don't invest too much into the corridor and put that
                  into rolling stock. and buy 5 more trains.

                  it's a 100 MPH, but you can have the trains running an hour apart.
                  that means i get a train every hour, and thats' a net service improvement.

                  it's a wash for me weither i wait 6 hours for the train or on the train.

                  George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

                  by nathguy on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 02:44:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  OK, I see your mistake ... (0+ / 0-)

                    ... you are treating capital funds as a fixed amount and allocating it between trip speed and rolling stock.

                    But get trip speed down to the level that the service generates an operating surplus, and the operating surplus can buy more rolling stock. So the fixed capital fund assumption is not accurate.

                    The bigger the share of the total transport market the trains can capture, the greater the frequency that can be supported by the line, because there are more trains that you can fill up and yield an operating surplus doing so.

      •  Success measurements, anyone? (0+ / 0-)

        It seems to me that every new mass transit system recently has been quite successful in terms of ridership compared to predictions. Am I dreaming this just because it has been true in Los Angeles?

        I've traveled in France and Germany and Italy and England and the trains are always packed...beyond packed.

        It seems like FUD to think that it wouldn't happen the same in the US.

        If it were only as bad as 1984.

        by siegestate on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 03:45:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MCinNH

          In the 70s there were some misoveroptimistic projections for a few transit systems. Miami was on iirc. Saint Ronnie Reagan and the rightwingers never got over it.

          But in the current century every transit line to open has exceeded projections: The DART system that runs over 45 miles in Big D and where they are rushing to double the system. The Hiawatha light real line from the airport to downtown Minneapolis a few years back. The Main Street light rail in Houston. A start-up line in Charlotte NC. An extention in St. Louis. The hugely popular system in Salt Lake City. The Phoenix light rail that opened at christmastime. Those off the top of my head. Almost every transit line or extension has exceeded the official ridership forecasts.

          Well, the Las Vegas monorail not so much, but that was private money because govt transit experts told them it was not a good plan for their money.

          It is also true of trains. Every time and every place where intercity trains have been added to the schedule, they fill up. Seattle-Portland, L.A.-San Diego, Sacramento-Oakland/San Jose, Boston-Portland ME, St Louis-Chicago, Raleigh-Charlotte, and a few others

  •  How deal with track sharing issue? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eean

    Bruce,

    Great post, but one thing that puzzles me is how upping the speed is really going to make things faster if the high speed trains have to stop and pull over every time a freight car wants to use the track.

    Does the proposal call for separate track just for these trains? If so I haven't heard that before and even if that's the case, won't it stop or slow down and numerous stations along the way.

    I took the St. Louis to KC route a couple years ago and they stopped or slowed down for every dinky little town train station along the way just in case someone there wanted to get on. Won't that make it too slow as well?

    •  New track is part of all three levels ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Spock36, eean, MCinNH

      ... for Emerging HSR, it can be shared track with 10mile in 50mile passing sidings in areas with light freight use, dedicated track where existing track gets heavy freight use.

      For Regional HSR, it will likely be dedicated high speed passenger and high speed freight track all the way (since high speed freight and high speed passenger service both need to run to schedule and both suffer from slow bulk freight trains).

      For Express HSR, it will be dedicated, fully grade separated HSR track.

      A mile of Emerging and Regional HSR Track is cheaper to lay than adding a lane-mile to the Interstate Highway ... but since we have only been putting dribs and drabs into passenger rail, we have not been able to afford to lay much track.

      With an ability to invest $100m through $500m on a project, now we can lay the track we need to eliminate freight/passenger bottlenecks.

      •  Thanks for the answer (0+ / 0-)

        If that's the plan, then I'm excited about it, particularly if it's cost effective compared to other options.

        But I would like to see it formally compared to other options as I think doing so tends to clarify advantages.

  •  Fee schedule discourages train use (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy

    Another problem with passenger trains in the US in my mind is the fee schedule. For the St. Louis to KC route, it's $25 each way.

    For one person, that's OK. It would cost about as much in gas to drive. But for four people that's $200, it's much much cheaper to drive and even if you cut the current train trip time in half -- to 3 hours -- it's only going to be slightly faster than traveling by car.

    An even better alternative is taking the bus, which would be cheaper than driving and just as fast.

    It seems to me that Amtrak should offer cheaper group rates and cheaper round trip rates. After all, trains are really good at hauling lots of heavy stuff. So the cost of hauling 1 person vs. 4 isn't that much different. If you could off make it $40 round trip for one and then $10 more for each additional person in a group, then it would be just $70 for a family of 4 and that might just be competitive enough.

    Otherwise, it seems to me we'd be better off creating a bus lane along the highway between cities and allowing the busses to travel a bit faster than normal.

    •  But Amtrak is at capacity in a lot of routes ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spock36, ticket punch, charliehall

      ... it could offer "better fares" and attract more people to buy tickets, but with only so many seats available to be filled, it does not good.

      Until Amtrak has the funding to buy the rolling stock to add cars to services that are presently selling out ... and to add a second daily schedule to schedules that run through big chunks of the country in the middle of the night ... ticket discounts to sell out faster will just cut farebox revenue.

      •  only have KC experience, but it wasn't full (0+ / 0-)

        Is it at capacity on the routes we're talking about for high speed rail?

        The train I took was about half full with three cars plus a dining car.

        If the routes are at capacity then why don't they add more cars to the train? Those engines can pull a lot of cars can't they?

        If the answer is that they don't add cars because of funding, then doesn't that present a problem for the viability of rail in general since one would assume that a transportation service at capacity would be prospering financially and therefore able to fund the purchase of additional cars. If it can't, then is it a financially viable idea at all?

        Is there a plan in all this to make it financially viable without constant government subsidies?

        •  For one of the transcontinental routes ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MCinNH

          ... the load factor goes up and down through the day and depending on the population density and array of transport alternatives available in the area the train is passing through. Obviously it has to bring all the train it needs for any of the route, since it is running coast to coast far away from anywhere to set down unused passenger cars or collect needed ones.

          For the regional corridor routes ... much the same, and of course the train has to be over half empty at the terminus of the route, because the majority of trips are between stations somewhere along the way.

          The regional corridor routes are the routes that will get the biggest boost in load factor from slashing trip speed, since they will start to get more of those passengers to the route terminus, because the route terminus will be within one to three hours (competing against air) and one to six hours (competing against car) of a far larger transport market.

          •  Terminus was most full point (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ms Citizen

            When I said half empty, I was in the first place being generous and in the second referring to the point at which it was most full, which was upon it's arrival at KC.

            It did pick up passengers along the way. At St. Louis, it was maybe a quarter full.

            Of course, my experience may not have been indicative of a normal day.

            According to this news release,

            http://www.amtrak.com/...

            ridership increased 30 percent last year -- but it's also not as high as they want it. I rode a couple years ago, so I'm guessing my experience was probably normal.

            •  This is three cars, though ... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody, Spock36, eean, MCinNH

              ... half full for three cars would be 3/4 full for two cars ... and if that same train fills up some other time during the service week, there's no benefit shuffling it back to some other corridor that needs the capacity.

              When you run at higher speed, you get a bigger share of the total transport market. That means that you can run the trains more frequently. And you set up the train schedule so that there are more frequent services during more popular times of day.

              So that is one way that HSR gets better load factors than conventional rail.

              You also are running through more of the corridor at a similar time of day ... an eight hour route that starts at 4pm ends at midnight, one that starts at 6am ends at 2pm. And the train car that was at one part of the route with passengers when it was running during a strong demand time of day is still connected to the train three or four hours later. Cut that down to four hours, with more services per day, and it much easier to match passenger miles and seat miles.

              Improved load factors are one reason why HSR normally run operating surpluses while conventional rail normally needs operating subsidies.

            •  Service got better (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BruceMcF

              You rode one of the worst lines in the Amtrak system. It has gotten better, and ridership has increased. But as you prove, the lingering memories of bad experience take a while to fade.

              Generally the Union Pacific got all the bad press for the messed-up route. Some said the UP was a cussed bunch and in with the Bushies who wanted to drown the government-owned passenger rail system in the bathtub. If that was the case, they must have followed the election returns in 2006 and 2008.

              Reliability is MUCH improved. I think this is the section of Amtrak that showed the greatest improvement in on time performance of any, at a time when the whole system did much better.

              The UP says it has fixed sections that were in bad repair.

              The State of Missouri, iirc, put in a few million, a very few, to help fix some things. Missouri picks up [some of?] the operating losses on this route, so Amtrak runs two trains each way instead of just one. Of course, if they put more money into the pot, they could get more trains and better tracks. But until a few months ago, Missouri was controlled by Repubs, and now we are in a recession or depression.

              Meanwhile most attention has been focused on the route from St. Louis to Chicago, where the State of Illinois stepped up to pay for operating two additional trains, and has sunk substantial millions into upgrading the line.

              I doubt if Missouri will belly up to pay for much or any track work toward Chicago. But down the line it might need to match federal funds to get better service to Kansas City.

        •  They don't have more cars. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Spock36, eean, MCinNH

          If the routes are at capacity then why don't they add more cars to the train? Those engines can pull a lot of cars can't they?

          They don't have more cars.

          If the answer is that they don't add cars because of funding, then doesn't that present a problem for the viability of rail in general ...

          Based on what? Conventional rail around the world needs subsidy ... a large share of the benefits it provides are third party benefits, and so there is no reason to expect the passengers to pay based on benefits that someone else receives.

          At the same time, HSR services around the world require infrastructure subsidy to get started, but reach a operating surplus within their first five years of operation.

          So there is no real world experience to justify projecting from Amtrak operating subsidies to HSR operating finances ... subsidies are normally required for Amtrak like services, and normally not required for HSR services.

          Since one would assume that a transportation service at capacity would be prospering financially and therefore able to fund the purchase of additional cars. If it can't, then is it a financially viable idea at all?

          Of course interurban conventional passenger rail at the socially desirable service level is not a commercially viable idea. That is one thing government is for ... to fund things where a substantial share of the benefits are received by third parties. And to tax things where a substantial share of costs are experienced by third parties.

          That's what the Ohio Hub ridership modelling on the Triple-C corridor projects ... the 79mph system is projected to get around 85% of its operating costs in fares, and the 110mph system to get 130% of its operating costs in fares.

          The first is a subsidized service based on an expectation of benefits to those other than the passengers themselves, the second is a service that can be self-funding, once its established ... including helping to fund its own expansion.

      •  well the interconnect services suck (0+ / 0-)

        and they could fix that now.

        1. You get off at the average station, and there is zero information

        on local buses, local trains, etc....

        1. The big urban stations need car rental that runs when the trains

        arrive.

        I would take the texas eagle to Dallas for the weekend, except
        you can't get a rental car for the weekend at Dallas station.

        What the heck?

        i can't be in dallas without a car for the weekend.

        George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

        by nathguy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 04:59:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  the problem is, how to define a group? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cowgirl

      Let's assume you do it like car pools:  any group going with one "driver."  In that case, one person books tickets for a group.  Problem is, this will rapidly lead to ticket scalping and resale on Ebay and other sleazy arrangements that end up creating impossible complications for most riders most of the time, and ultimately driving prices up through capture of resources.

      Let's assume you do it by "family."  OK, what's a family?  Gay couples need not apply?  Close friends living together long-term but not romantically need not apply?  And does the OctoMom get a discount for her entire brood of 12 - 16 kids (I lost track after they broke my ZPG meter)?  And do we add one more layer of social discrimination against single people?  Bullshit to that.

      No go, no way, no how.  A seat is a seat, and relationship should not confer privilege.  In places such as Afghanistan, the individual's identity comes from the tribe.  In the USA, the tribe's identity (the nation at-large) comes from the collective contributions of its individual members.  

      One person, one seat, one fare.  Children under 5 could travel free with parent or guardian, ideally in a designated car so that other passengers aren't subjected to the acoustical torture of screamy babies (and perhaps we offer discounts to adults traveling w/o kids, for sitting in whatever additional spaces may exist in the "screamy baby car").  Perhaps we could also offer discounts to elders over 80.  Aside from that, everyone pays the same fare.

  •  Excellent. HSR needs existing network to work (7+ / 0-)

    This is the diary I wanted to write but didn't have time to!

    In short, high speed rail CANNOT work without this kind of a plan as a precursor.  The cost of high speed rail means that you have to have very high frequencies on the high speed rail lines to work, and that means you use the HSR as a spine with many different routings on and off the HSR where high speed trains take advantage of improvements to existing routes.

    As an example, a Chicago to Minneapolis high speed project in the Midwest might work as follows.  New trackage is built from near O'Hare airport, cutting up through southeastern Wisconsin to around Watertown where a grade-separated connection allows the line to offload trains from Chicago to Madison and take on trains from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities, passing to the north of Madison, picking up trains from Madison to the Cities at another grade-separated interchange near Wisconsin Dells, dropping off trains to La Crosse and Rochester, MN at another intersection near Tomah, picking up high-speed local services just west of Eau Claire and finally ending just southeast of St. Paul and using terminal trackage for the last few miles.  In other words, one single route performs a multitude of tasks.  At any given point there might be a train every five to ten minutes, but obviously that would never be economic for end-to-end, so you have several different service configurations along the track.

    We already see this in Europe.  There are a total of 12 paths per hour in each direction on the high speed line from London to Paris.  Eurotunnel has six for its car and truck shuttles through the tunnel from Cheriton to Frethun (i.e. portal to portal but that's it); Southeastern has six from Ashford to London for high-speed commuter services; SNCF and Thalys share six in northern France.  Eurostar has six paths from London to Lille, but fewer on Lille-Paris and Lille-Brussels.  It uses ONLY ONE for through London to Paris service.  Some of the others aren't in use yet.  But one gets used for London to Brussels.  And there are various other services, including London to Euro Disney, London to Avignon (700 miles in five hours !!) and so on.

    So you see one line doing tremendous multitasking.  

    Now the key thing to watch for those who think Obama is on the wrong track is the paths on the London-Paris route occupied by local service operators Southeastern and SNCF.  They are not end-to-end, they use just portions of the HSR.  And to put it very bluntly, they combine existing rail network with the high speed line and WOULD NOT BE VIABLE IF THEY DIDN'T.  High speed rail for just a portion of their journey time is immensely helpful.  Southeastern, for example, stands to reduce times from several Kent cities to London, not just Ashford, in some cases by as much as a reduction from two hours to one, by mixing the National Rail network with High Speed One.  Upgrades of the existing network from either 60mph or 75mph to 100mph are a crucial part of this process.  Going from 60 to 100 transforms the economic prospects of the service, especially when you consider that as much as 40 percent of the journey is on that pre-existing track rather than High Speed One.

    The only countries that have had to do high-speed rail as a standalone did so not from preference but out of necessity.  Japan and Spain are ahead of any other countries on construction simply because they have non-standard track gauges and pretty much all HSR technology is standard gauge.  France and Germany on the other hand have combined massive upgrades to the existing network with strategically placed segments of 180mph high speed rail.

    Maybe with all this I probably should have just written the diary anyway!  But nice work anyway.  

  •  What about dedicated bus lanes instead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CParis, k00kla

    I wonder if high speed trains are really the way to go from an environmental and efficiency standpoint compared to a national bus system with dedicated lanes.

    A lot of cities these days that aren't big enough to support rail are creating dedicated bus lanes that allow the bus system to avoid traffic and shoot right on to its destination sometimes even at higher speed than allowed by normal traffic.

    Call it high speed bus.

    Could the same principle be applied on highway routes between big cities with dedicated bus lanes.

    Wouldn't that be cheaper for both the government and passengers?

    •  Normally the reduction in capital cost ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Spock36, petral, MCinNH

      ... per passenger mile for buses is because it is assumed that someone else is paying for the infrastructure that its running on.

      And buses cannot go faster than conventional rail, so they cannot compete against car travel or plane travel in the same way that Emerging HSR can do, never mind Express HSR.

      Now, buses are very useful complements to rail, but not to be built as imitation rail lines, operating more slowly than rail can do, and providing less transport capacity per lane-mile than a mile of track can do ...

      ... but rather to run routes that connect to train stations, with the train station acting as a patronage anchor for the bus service and the bus serving as a recruiter for the train service. And of course, in a well designed route, with the train station just one patronage driver in a chain, in connecting residences to train stations and retail centers and commuter destinations ... they also naturally connect each of those with each other.

      And that applies for local bus loops operating round and round to local neighborhoods, the local train station, the local shopping center, the local office precinct ... and for regional coaches, operating as "Quality Buses", connecting small cities and towns off the line to each other and to one or more rail corridors.

      •  Good point. Buses are subsidized too as are cars (0+ / 0-)

        for that matter.

        •  But subsidy is direct from usage through gas tax (0+ / 0-)

          ...Since users of the highways pay for them through a tax on gas and through toll roads, I'm not sure that your statement that someone else is footing the infrastructure bill is entirely true.

          •  Well, no ... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies, Spock36, ticket punch, MCinNH

            ... Urban and inner suburban motorists do a lot of their route miles on city streets that receive no Federal Highway funding ... that cross subsidy means that they have to devote local sales and income tax revenue to roadworks. Then that cross subsidy makes it seem like users of Interstate Highways, US Highways, State Highways, County Highways and Township Highways are paying for the Federal funding from the Highway Trust Fund, when in reality they are only paying a portion, and are cross-subsidized by urban drivers for the rest.

            So the interstate coaches driving on the Interstate Highway system are subsidized by local urban and inner suburban sales and income tax revenue in just the same way as any other Interstate Highway driver is.

            And over and above that, the extra costs that drivers impose on third parties is more than the gas tax, so by rights there should be another, larger, gas tax going into general revenues, to avoid getting a free ride. Whether the free ride is called a subsidy or is called an "externality" mostly depends on whether or not you want people to actually grasp the extent of the free ride that drivers take in the US.

          •  Tax free land use (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MCinNH

            Highways take up wide swathes of land and pay no taxes on any of it. Not to mention public parking lots and garages and other subsidies.

            Air infrastructure -- terminals, runways, garages, etc -- is likewise government-owned and tax-free.

            Trains occupy narrow strips of land that are heavily taxed when owned by the freight railroads that carry passenger trains.

            In fact, the railroads' property taxes are very high. As absentee owners they don't have much sway with the courthouse crowd. The property taxes include counties, cities, school boards, utility districts, public hospital authorities, and more. That is the main reason the freight lines tore up every mile of track they could get by without.

            These combined local property taxes, of course, feed into the cost base used when the fee is set to haul Amtrak's trains across these heavily taxed strips of land.

            In effect, Amtrak must use some of its famous federal subsidy to pay local property taxes.

    •  Get Real (0+ / 0-)

      Busses can't go any faster than cars- which defeats the purpose of having such a system in the first place.

      There is a reason no country has even given such a proposal thought, because it is ridiculous and impractical.

      Operating a bus at 100+ mph is insanely dangerous. Trains are far more stable and won't skid off the track the way wheels on pavement do.

    •  why not dedicated 120 mph lanes for cars? (0+ / 0-)

      An autobahn connecting New York and Boston? Problem, our roads suck - don't support going beyond 90/100mph. You can go easily 140 mph on German highways - no problem - perfect plane highways with tilted curves for stability at high-speed. Fun to drive. Well - few people will like this statement here - but modern highways with no speed limits are a good alternative to flying.

  •  There is also need... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scipio, CParis, ebohlman, Ms Citizen

    To expand the old intrastate rail networks as well establishing new HSR. To use Michigan as an example, bringing back rail between Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids (etc.) and Detroit. It would create a feeding system at key points in the HSR network and would function much the same way a hub does for major airlines.

    1)You expand the reach of rail beyond the major metropolises
    2)Restoring, rebuilding and electrifying the old intrastate rail networks would create thousands of jobs as would restoring, rebuilding, or building new train stations to handle the passengers.

    On a side note: I know I'm going to be attacked for this idea, but I think that rail should be viewed as a competitor with the car and not with the airlines, except on short haul routes. If you can get there in roughly the same time or in less time on the train as it would take in a car or the plane, people will usually opt for the train.

    I urge people to junk, what I consider to be, the dreams of HSR routes from NYC-LAX because there is no way it will ever be able to compete with the 20 widebody flights a day between LAX-JFK/EWR on American, United, Delta and Continental on either cost per passenger or time basis. Fight the battles where they can be won by establishing a series of interconnected short haul high speed rail networks. Chicago - Detroit - Ohio, the Northeast Corridor, DFW-AUS-SAT, SFO-LAX are all fantastic examples.

    •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

      Most of the people I've seen advocating high-speed rail between the likes of NY and LA are pretty open about being afraid of flying. That's really a special case and the market probably isn't there.

      However, regional/express HSR could indirectly reduce the number of cross-country flights and reduce the demand on ATC and airspace. If it's a short rail trip from Boston to NY and from Seattle to Portland, then you don't need Boston/Portland air traffic; the trip is train from Boston to NY, air from NY to Seattle, and train from Seattle to Portland.

      It's just the nature of American geography that connecting the West Coast with the rest of the country by passenger rail is going to be sticky, with the primary market being leisure travel of a sort that you can only count on in a booming economy.

      I do agree with the posters who assert that the national rail network needs to be built incrementally rather than as part of a Grand Plan. The main consideration here is that in any large system, you often don't truly know what the final configuration needs to look like until you've already got part of it working. Often you find that 20% of the effort meets 80% of the needs, but you can't tell which 20% and which 80% at the beginning. The key here is to keep future compatiblity in mind; the initial small regional networks need to be compatible with each other so that if it eventually looks like a good idea to interconnect them, it can be done.

      As an aside, everyone should read the chapter "Standards and regulations" in W. Edwards Deming's classic Out of the Crisis. Most people will be surprised to know just how much standardization effort has to be put in just to make possible all the little things we take for granted.

      There is nothing so practical as a good theory—Kurt Lewin

      by ebohlman on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 01:02:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MCinNH

        There are many people afraid of flying. Or obese, and afraid of being charged extra when their avoirdupois overflows into their seatmate's space -- a large and growing market segment, it looks to me. There are some tourists who want to ride transcontinental, to simply get the feel of the vast American continent. Taken all together these folks might not fill a daily train between NYC and L.A.

        But no problem. The electric train between NYC and Harrisburg will be filled with people going to Harrisburg, but room enough for all the claustrophobes or the obese, and tourists too. Again from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, mostly Pennsylvanians, but plenty of room for the others. And on to Youngstown and Cleveland and Toledo and Chicago and a hundred stops later to L.A.

        The long distance trains that Amtrak runs carry only a few passengers for very long distances. By the time the Texas Eagle gets to Texas, it does not have many passenger on board who started out in Chicago the day before. But it fills up in Texarkana and Marshall and Longview and Mineola with people going to Dallas for a weekend or an overnight or a week. But even with Gov Perry advocating secession, those Texans will not shove the Yankees off the train if they want to stay on board to San Antonio, or even continue to L.A.

        The national Amtrak system has been under unrelenting attack from haters who use it as an example that government can't do anything and always wastes money. And the haters have starved it of funds, forcing cuts in its schedules and dropped routes to make their case, and then sneered at those who still ride the rails. But in fact the Amtrak system works for millions of citizens every year. It works better than the alternatives of driving or flying that are theoretically open to all Amtrak riders too.

  •  I would add a line from FL to Wa (0+ / 0-)

    I would also make Kansas or western Ia the hub the main hub.  This is will spur economic activity in ( middle America)

    The network map should resemble a bike wheel.

    Also,  Wi-Indiana-Mn-IL-Ohio-Mi  should be responsible for all manufacturing, incluing all rail lines and cars.

    Also, around each stop,we should have mini developments that include: Housing, shops, restaurants and mini farms.  These mini developments should be ran on solar/wind power and other renewable sources.

    This is all part of a manufacturing/ green energy program i like to call:

    The Rust Belt Project

    You diary is excellent.

  •  The Shinkansen. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RAST, alefnot, nathguy

    .
     I've ridden Japan's Shinkansen (aka "Bullet Train"; "Shinkansen" actually means "New Trunk Line"... kind of loses something in translation, eh?) more times than I can count.  Whenever I'm hosting, taking around, other Americans in Japan and we're on the Shinkansen their reaction's always the same:  "Why can't we have this in the U.S.?"  Well?

     I posted this pic earlier this week in another HSR story:
    .

     
      From October '07, I'm on the Shinkansen, shooting through the window

    .
     bg
    _______________

    "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

    by BenGoshi on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:43:15 AM PDT

  •  WRONG! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy, FishBiscuit

    There must be a national plan.

    The National Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956 should be the model.  
    And, yes, a functioning rail passenger system is an act of national defense.

    There have been state plans galore for the past 30 years and none have come to fruition.  Regional plans have fared even worse - esp. in the Midwest.

    The reason - money, politics, and turf wars.  
    The state plans do not have the scope or length of financing to accomplish anything beyond the planning stage.  California's recently approved High-Speed Rail is dead in the water.  No way can California pay for it.

    How do you do it?
    With a national system that includes expanded express rail and connecting services for all states - along with the high-speed corridors.  There ain't no way in hell that Harry Reid is going to push the current plan if it leaves out Las Vegas.

    I posted a diary on this subject -
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    A small corrective -
    The French already HAD a national passenger rail system on which to build the TGV.  To try to compare Amtrak to SNCF is ludicrous.  Bordeaux has always had passenger rail service - and damn good service, too.  There hasn't been a passenger train in Nashville in 30 years.  Big difference.  One train goes through Cincinnati every other day - or should I say in the middle of the night.  Phoenix had its trains service - every other day as it was - moved to a desert trailer 30 miles away.  So, please, don't compare our passenger rail to France's.

    We have had 30 years of "Piecemeal = Failure".
    While the French have the TGV and Germans have ICE, Americans have a few extra glorified commuter trains like the Capitols, the Hiawathas, and the Surfliners.

    And the reason is quite clear -
    A lack of a national passenger rail program.

    •  The Interstate Highway Plan IS the model ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MCinNH

      ... just as the Interstate Highway Plan was preceded in the 1930's by the expanded Federal investment in the U.S. highway system, and the French National HSR network was preceded by establishment of the first HSR lines, and the Japanese HSR network was preceded by establishment of the very first bullet train corridors in the 1960's ...

      ... we should focus on getting the hard to solve problems solved, rather than the easy to solve problems.

      Planning is very cheap and easy compared to getting a political coalition behind the money.

      What made the Interstate Highway System the institutional success that it was, was not the original network map itself, but the Highway Trust Fund framework and the rules and procedures for local areas to push for getting "their" interstate build, or entrance ramp added, etc.

      •  There Are 17 Dem Senators - (0+ / 0-)

        From the states totally left out of the above map.
        It doesn't stand a snowball's chance politically.

        Funding state by state programs at the federal level is doomed to failure in the current political and economic climate.  Only a comprehensive system that is multi-tiered with gradations in service level will get the votes needed for passage.

        •  But you are reading the map as the ... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody, nathguy, Ms Citizen, MCinNH

          ... outer envelope. Its the corridors that have already won designation.

          And some of the Democratic Senators in states that are not directly on the route map will be strong supporters anyway. Amtrak is not a vote loser in North Dakota ... being able to connect to a faster train in Minneapolis makes the existing Amtrak service even more useful.

          •  Any Plan That Connects Texarkana to Little Rock - (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nathguy

            But doesn't connect Memphis to Nashville right next door -
            Is in for a heap of trouble.

            The Interstate Highway Act has as its political antecedent the Bureau of Public Roads' Yellow Book - which outlined five north-south and three east-west corridors.  In the case of the history of the Interstate System, these were not built first.  In fact, to be politically viable, the Interstate System had to include all states - not just eight corridors.  Thus the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 outlined a system almost twice as large as envisioned by the BPR's Yellow Book.

            I suggest that a system of a few high-speed rail corridors will never gain the funding necessary for completion.  To truly make a comparison with the Interstate System, one has to consider the initial program of a limited number of highway corridors that never gained political traction.

            •  you could do this (0+ / 0-)

              run passenger rai on the high speed freight net.

              George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

              by nathguy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:11:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Who Cares About Little Rock? (0+ / 0-)

              Hey, are they planning to put the HSR station next to the Clinton Presidential Library?

              Come on, Johnny, this map was patched together in the closing years of Bill Clinton's Administration. Of course the "national" map was going to include something in Arkansas, whether it made good sense on the numbers or not.

              So broadly speaking the route runs from Little Rock through Hot Springs and then through "A Town Called Hope" down near Texarkana. For real. You are too serious a guy to take that particular route so seriously.

              Obama is a busy guy. We're losing one world economy and two wars right now, but he takes time out to throw a few billion toward high speed rail by whatever definition. Looks to me like Obama has  already committed more funds for building rail than Acela and all other Amtrak capital projects, grand total combined.

              Can't we agree that Obama is friendly and trying to be helpful?

              (I even like his Secretary of Transportation, who seems to get it on these issues. At first I had feared that he was the bipartisan token, but he's gonna be O.K.)

              So the President had a quick meeting with his VP and Sec Transportation and agreed, "Let's do something for high speed rail." They grabbed a map that's been around in one form or another since 1998 or so. They grabbed a recent report, December 2008, from a fancy commission on transportation needs set up by the Congress elected in 2006. That gave them a figure of $8 billion to go with the map. They have a press conference, and ran the plan up the flagpole to see who would salute.

              Johnny, it's a lousy map. Get over it. The map will change when Congress adds more HSR routes. That is called log-rolling. It's a lousy number. A drop in the bucket. It's a start.

              In Washington they're looking to see who salutes this plan, and who takes shots at it. You don't want the D.C. bean counters and vote counters to misapprehend your position and put you with talk radio and others blathering against it. Of course you favor more and better trains. Work on the plan's features as we move along.

              We need to say, together if we can agree on what to say, something like, "It's great to see our new President recognize the need for substantial investment all across the country to improve speed and train service and increase the number of passengers using rail. The full effort will take careful planning and execution and considerable funding for years ahead to make the President's vision come about."

            •  Plans don't connect cities. Policy makers ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... that fund construction connect cities.

              If Tennessee cannot get its act together to plan for corridors, that's not a problem that can be solved by drawing a line on a network map.

  •  As someone who just (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Ms Citizen, enhydra lutris

    took his first train trip, upstate New York to DC and back, I found it superior to air travel already. If these plans start to come on line there would be a revolution in passenger travel here in the US>

    We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals- *President Barack Obama 20 January 2009*

    by coachjdc on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:54:26 AM PDT

  •  Is Chicago-St. Louis not in the inititial plan? (0+ / 0-)

    President Barack Obama!

    by kate mckinnon on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:55:34 AM PDT

  •  Rail is faster for long-haul that you'd think (4+ / 0-)

    Versus driving.

    Driving, you have to stop for gas, for pee breaks, for lunch, for dinner. Plus, you lose the late night hours, unless you have a way to stay awake at 3AM.

    Trains don't have all that lost time.

    Downside of trains, they will not let me take my crazy 90lb golden retriever.

    Member, The Angry Left

    by nosleep4u on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:56:21 AM PDT

  •  the biggest downer about HSR is that i (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandy on Signal

    just can't see it being economically competitive if more than one or two people are traveling together. even with the various offered discounts for kids, amtrak currently costs more, by the most generous measures, than putting a family of 2 adults and 2 or 3 kids into a minivan.

    of course, if the price of energy triples, so that the cost of both the minivan and its fuel go much higher, HSR will be competitive. but that's really only saying that many families simply won't be able to travel anymore, at least not without a lot of other structural changes in our economy and our lifestyles.

    I don't know what to say.

    by UntimelyRippd on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 11:56:53 AM PDT

    •  No need for a one-size fits all solution. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandy on Signal, MCinNH

      Trains are justified based on the numbers of passengers they do attract, not based on the numbers they do not. The same argument applies to driving versus flying, and yet there are families that fly.

    •  Wrong (3+ / 0-)

      HSR is FAR faster than driving. If you want to spend six hours driving between Washington and New York fighting traffic, paying tolls, stopping for bathroom breaks, etc. Go right ahead.

      I would rather spend TWO hours on a bullet train that takes me from city center to city center and where the bathroom is only a few yards away.

      •  ...and beer is available! eom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody, BruceMcF
      •  fair enough. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59

        if you live in the city center already, and if you're traveling to the city center, and if it's a 250mph bullet train, not one of the 125mph trains to which much of this diary is dedicated, and if you're talking about the super-congestion of the NY-DC corridor, you might be right. on the other hand, if you have to drive to the city center, if you have to pay $15 to $30 per day to park your car there, if you have to depart and arrive according to the rail schedule, if you're traveling from Chicago to Minneapolis rather than NY-DC, if you need to rent personal transportation at your destination ... unfortunately, the benefits start to dwindle. believe me, i've done it. this last xmas, due to delays caused by weather, i found myself compelled to cash in my family's train tickets home and opt for a one-way car rental. yes, it sucked driving those hundreds of miles on Dec 24th, rather than relaxing -- that's why i chose the train in the first place. but that was really the only major downside. and if i had rented the car at my origin and driven round-trip, instead of it being a one-way rental with a huge drop-off charge, i would have spent about $300 less round-trip than what my train tickets cost me. that's a $300 tradeoff of after-tax dollars for about 15 hours of driving. twenty after-tax dollars per hour is a pretty decent wage these days.

        i think the truth is that a personal vehicle carrying 5 people over long distances is a relatively efficient means of transportation, in terms of everything except the time of the driver. (i just did a little wikipediaing. it looks like a hybrid vehicle getting 40mpg is burning about 3.2MJ per mile, or .64 MJ per passenger-mile, with 5 passengers. one source says "US intercity rail reports" about 5MJ per passenger-mile, only slightly better than a 25mpg car with a single passenger. that's pretty shocking. another says that Amtrak reports 39 passenger-miles/gallon of diesel, which doesn't jibe well with the first source. though heaven knows what they'd get if the trains were full, nevermind if the trains had modern engineering. the highest rail efficiency i saw reported was for Swiss commuter light-rail, which claimed an astonishing .14MJ/passenger-mile.) to the extent that it is less efficient than it appears, because so many of the costs are externalized, well again, that just means many folks wouldn't be able to afford to travel, if they were paying a "fair price".

        and note my response to BruceMcF, whose comment is immediately above yours: i'm not arguing against HSR. i think it's an important objective, and i'm 100% in favor of it. i think there should be one from Chicago to Door County, Wisconsin, so that all the Chicagoans going up for weekend romantic getaways aren't clogging the freeways in and out Milwaukee on friday and sunday. i'm just grumpy that it won't solve my usual long-range transportation problem.

        I don't know what to say.

        by UntimelyRippd on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:10:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  HSR is faster than driving (0+ / 0-)

          And the time savings grow as the distance traveled increases.

          And in Chicago and soon Minneapolis- you can take the train from the suburbs to the city center, thus avoiding parking in the first place.

          I do not support a piecemeal approach to HSR. I support new terrain high speed only tracks that can reach over 200 mph, paralleling interstate highway corridors.

          •  you have now asserted twice that HSR is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Woody

            faster than driving.

            i have not once suggested otherwise.

            so ... whatever.

            yes, in chicago you can take the train from the nearer suburbs, at a reasonable cost and schedule. but once you're relying on the outlying Metra trains, its a whole different deal. depending on where you are, it's 10 to 20 minutes to get to an appropriate station in non-congested traffic. since you cannot predict the traffic, to be safe you must add 15 minutes to your travel time. we will say, plan 30 minutes travel time to get to the train station and get on the train. (pay $20 for a taxi, or pay for long-term parking when you get there.) if you're lucky the train runs you to Union Station, where you're going to hop on that HSR, though that certainly isn't how things are always arranged currently. we'll just assume it, though. optimally, plan for a 15-minute snafu on your Metra train's arrival, not because it's likely, but because the price for failure is unacceptable. then plan for 15 minutes of getting from A to B at Union Station and getting on your train (and we just blew off the baggage check). so you need to plan to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time, but unfortunately, the closest you can get to that is one that arrives 50 minutes prior to your HSR's departure. note that a huge part of the accumulating delay is due to the need for building in slack-time at every connecting link in your travel plan.  i'm already in for 80 minutes' added time just to get to union station, and i haven't even counted the 45 minutes it's going to (minimally) take for your Metra train to get you to Union Station.

            it's a six-hour drive from schaumburg to minneapolis, 6.5 if you throw in a couple of bathroom breaks. if your train averages 200mph while actually moving (not likely), and loses 10 minutes debarking and embarking passengers in Milwaukee, and stops nowhere else (bit of a shame, i'm sure the dells would love to have it stop there), you're looking at 2.75 hours actual moving time plus 1.33 hours various "lost" time, or 4.08 hours for the trip, and we still haven't gotten to the actual destination.

            yes, HSR is faster than driving (and for that matter, faster than flying, given the potential delay-grief involved there). but it isn't that much faster, for a lot of people. (someone coming from one of the closer suburbs, taking a CTA train rather than Metra, could reliably slash an hour out my calculation -- the CTA trains run more often, you're running a shorter distance, etc. etc. etc., so instead of planning for 125 minutes to get from your door to Union Station, you can plan for more like an hour. though if you need to switch trains to get to Union Station, you've got to sacrifice another 10 minutes.) and again, there's a significant tradeoff in convenience: you arrive when the schedule says you arrive (optimally), not when you want to arrive.

            like i said: i like trains. i'm in favor of trains. in the case i just described, it's hard to see why a solo traveler wouldn't opt for the train. but it's also hard to see why two parents with a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old would, given the various uncertainties and inconveniences associated with it (e.g., herding your kids through train stations), unless the train was at least price-competitive. what's price competitive? right now, it costs about 50 cents to drive a marginal mile (though most people are oblivious to everything but the cost of fuel). so i need to be able to put my family of four on that train for a total of about $400. the current best price i could get from amtrak, assuming i had planned ahead, would be about $450. i need to add to that my taxi or parking to get to my commuter train, my commuter train tickets (another 30 or 40 bucks on metra, depending on where i'm coming from), whatever expenses i have at my destination ...

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:57:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not an (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              pHunbalanced, Woody

              all-or-nothing proposition. The idea here (if you're going to be practical) isn't to abolish cars completely; it's to stop using them inefficiently. It may well be that car travel will continue to be the most practical means of family travel like you describe. But what percentage of total travel is that as compared to, say, business travel? If we can get most of the more frequent business travel onto the trains, then the existing highway system would be way more than adequate to accommodate the kind of travel that trains can't, and the overall environmental/energy impact of the remaining car travel would be a small fraction of what we have now.

              We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As I said in another comment, it's often the case that 20% of the effort gives 80% of the benefit. One of my other but related heresies is that I think transit activists should put less emphasis on using public transportation as an alternative to owning a car and more emphasis on it as an alternative to driving to work. There are millions of people who could, assuming transit is adequately funded, cut their car usage by 80% or so with little or no sacrifice, but would have to make enormous changes in their lives in order to cut it 100%.

              There is nothing so practical as a good theory—Kurt Lewin

              by ebohlman on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 01:31:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  ARRHGHGHGHGH! (0+ / 0-)

                I'm not letting anything be the enemy of good. See my other comments. I'm just grumbling because I wish the trains would be a good option for traveling with my family, but it's not likely to happen -- I don't really see how to make it happen.

                Jeez louise.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 04:05:39 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  The second car (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                pHunbalanced

                I'm with you on this. It will be very hard for households to live without a car. But today they need two, unless they have teenagers and need a fleet. But suburbs full of kiss-and-ride drop-offs at the rail stops are ripe for bicycle use. Especially dorky bikes with places to haul the stuff and maybe a little electric booster for that long uphill stretch. Closer in to the rail station you can build town houses with only one space in the garage.

                Car ownership is expensive, while biking and transit is cheap. When the folks with one versatile car start spending their vacations in the South of France while the folks with two SUVs in their garages stay home watching reruns on HBO, popular lifestyles could start to change rapidly.

                •  We went to one car a couple years ago (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Woody

                  I started commuting by bike, bus in the worst part of winter. I got healthier and saved a ton of money. It will be more of a challenge now with a baby, but I'm currently out of work so the challenge isn't hitting us yet. Who knows. Maybe if the economy continues to suck, my baby will be old enough to ride in the trailer safely by the time I find work.

            •  OK- Here Goes (0+ / 0-)

              Sure, once you get to the main city station on the high speed train, there will be additional time to transfer to another mode of transportation to get to your final destination. But this is no different than flying. It takes a while to rent a car, take a cab, or get transported to long-term parking to pick up one's personal automobile. And after that, there is the time consumed driving from the airport to one's final destination.

              Neither driving or flying are quick or easy when going from city to city.

              It seems clear to me that HSR is the fastest, most efficient, and hassle free method of intercity travel, and this viewpoint is shared by the Japanese, French, Germans, and Spanish.

        •  Unlike an airport ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... in a large metropolitan area, there can be an outer suburban station on one side, a central urban station, and an outer suburban station on the other side. For most people, the closest train station will be either as close or closer than the airport.

          Also, unlike conventional rail, HSR trips of one to three hours are short enough and will be frequent enough that it will be commercially sensible to offer discounted fares for off-peak services ... that is, the service that leaves fairly full after the offices close may be running half empty at full fare tickets in the route that brought the train in ... just like airlines, those seats will be sold at discounted to fill them up, shifting the cost conscious travelers around to the spare seats, making more seats available for the time-conscious traveler for the times in strongest demand.

      •  6 hours? (0+ / 0-)

        Even from NY and DC, between the city edges and suburbs where most people live, driving is a very efficient means of travel.  

        I drive between Montgomery Co, MD and Southern Westchester, NY monthly and, staying away from rush hours, couldn't transport myself faster with two waiting limos and an Acela or Delta Shuttle.  

        A two hour Acela might make travel times even.

    •  good point> (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      although the same issue exists with air travel.  in france, there's a program for large families ( i think it still exists ) which guarantees certain kinds of discounts.  this would be a great way for trains to get a leg up on air travel and maybe chip away at car trips as well.  trains are really SOOOOO much easier to travel on than planes with kids--  space to walk around, scenery, less crazy security hassles, etc.

  •  Yeah, running those empty... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    ...high speed trains through rural Oklahoma to insure "...(House) and States (Senate) have a stake in maintaining ongoing Federal HSR funding.", makes a lot of economic sense. Its nice that we have unlimited funds to pour down this particular rat hole. Los Angeles to San Francisco and the northeast corridor warrant investment and development. The rest not so much.

    •  Dallas to Little Rock - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nathguy

      But not Dallas to Houston.

      Oklahoma City to Tulsa -
      But not Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

      Hmmmmm - -
      Texarkana, we have a problem.

      •  Is Texarkana where the state house is located? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rogun, johnnygunn, Bronx59, MCinNH

        I thought it was Austin.

        Oklahoma City to Tulsa makes a lot of sense for an Emerging HSR service ... going on to Dallas makes even more sense.

        Las Vegas to Los Angelese by Emerging HSR would work ... but the Senate Majority Leader wants an Maglev system, which would cost more than the California system per mile, but be unable to run onto the California system tracks.

        So Nevada residents ought to tell their Governor and State Representatives and State Senators and MOST ESPECIALLY their Senior US Senator to stop building castles in the sky and start working to get Las Vegas added to the California Corridor system.

        And, yes, Texans should tell their Governor to stop fussing about secession, and sit down and finally decide on the alignment between Dallas and Houston, so that Texas can apply to get that alignment (whichever one it is) added to the route map.

        But without the offer of actual Federal funding, there has been very little incentive to get people out of playing imaginary games with imaginary trains and into the less fun but more productive process of hammering out alignments, settling on class of service, and starting to sort out where the state funding is going to be coming from.

        •  Ummmm - (0+ / 0-)

          A national plan - with a range of parameters - is far more likely to get offers than the current collection of routes.  Again, that was a component of hammering out the Interstate System.

          Dual carriageways, grade separation, limitation of gradient.
          Some exceptions allowed for terrain, special conditions.

          And every state poured in its requests.

          But to pick ten - including some very iffy routes -
          Is the wrong way to go.

          What will the parameters be for HSR?

          1. Electric? (Or some diesel?)
          1. Dedicated track?  (Or shared with freight?)
          1. Grade Crossings? (None?  Limited?)
          1. Ownership? (Public, Public/Private, Private?)
          1. Interlinks? (State system or regional requirement?)

          If some of these are outlined first, then submitted corridors can be linked without a mish-mash of incompatible systems.

          •  That was, however, not what was done at ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rogun, MCinNH

            ... the outset. The Federal Highway System was not where we started, it was over a decade into the process of Federal funding of national highways. Similarly for the other HSR systems in the world.

            All of those corridors already represent some level of state involvement in putting together a preliminary plan. Many of them are the backbones for far more extensive route network plans.

            There are enough corridors to ensure that lots of different regions have a successful funding application, and the larger funding levels will go to those projects that have already got a detailed corridor plan to back it up.

            Which sets the precedent for states, individually or in groups, to get serious about developing their corridor plan.

            On interoperability ... what can I say except I don't know? I hope its in the National Railway Plan when it is released this year, I will call for it to be in the NRP, and if it is not, I will complain that it is not.

            But interoperability is easy for corridors that are destined to remain on paper, unfunded. Its getting the funding stream started that turns it into a live issue.

          •  Ownership seems likely to be ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... on the lines set down in the Amtrak bill, public corporations along the lines of public development corporations, simply because that has already gone through both the Senate and the House.

            Grade crossings are already established by FRA regulations, the main question is clarifying what the 125mph standard grade crossing means, since its mostly notional at this point. 110mph quad gate grade crossings with speed sensitive trigger, 125mph "hardened" grade crossings, over 125mph fully grade separated.

            The shared with freight will also be national, since it will follow from FRA regulation as well. Likely 110mph, shared with freight with PTC (PTC on all corridors share with passenger trains is on the way anyway), Express HSR only sharing the corridor with special package freight on fully compatible bullet trains ... again, Regional HSR, more up in the air, perhaps shared with freight that meets a class standard ... in any event, the promised safety standards incorporating HSR will result in a national answer for that one.

            Up to 125mph will be a mix of electric and diesel, Express HSR will be electric.

            Interlinks, platform heights, loading gauge ... for that, I don't know what to expect, so I'll be waiting to see if there is anything in the application guidance or the NRP that gives any indications.

            •  Equipment (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BruceMcF, MCinNH

              I wandered over to read a report on the Charlotte-Spartansburg-Atlanta-Macon segment of the SE Corridor worked up by the Georgia Dept of Transportation. Yeah, right, real friends of HSR. Anyway, based on population, construction costs, etc. they wanted to endorse a system with 150 mph diesel service. But they couldn't do that, since nobody makes 150 mph diesel locomotives. Go slower or go electric.

              I expect that some level of interoperability will come to pass based on what equipment is available at what price. Any Buy American sentiment in Congress will tend to limit the likelihood of variance.

              Building the Acela as a unique piece of hardware didn't turn out so well. Don't know what they will use if they go to electrifying D.C. to Richmond. But at some point too soon the Acelas will probably have to be scrapped anyway.

              Of course, buying four or five trainsets at a time loses the volume discount. (The Cascades is facing that problem iirc, seeking two or three more Pendolinos, of a model that is out of stock.)

              So we could see the MidWestern lines moving toward one big fat next-generation equipment purchase that would upgrade the trains running St. Louis-Chicago, Detroit-Chicago, and Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago. And by the time those cars and locomotives were leaving the factories, part two of the order would come for the new trains Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati, St. Louis-Kansas City, Cincinnati/Louisville-Indianapolis-Chicago, Twin Cities-Milwaukee, Quad Cities-Chicago, Omaha-Des Moines-Chicago, Cleveland-Toledo-Chicago, Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philly/D.C., etc. So the national standard might be set by the network spreading out of Chicago.

              I'm just not as pessimistic about how this will play out as Johnnygunn seems to be. I expect support for fast trains to snowball as the first new examples come along.

              I hate to call them demonstration projects, but if the St. Louis-Chicago and Detroit-Chicago routes both demonstrate how to get the timetable down from 5 1/2 hours to 4 hours for a little over a billion bucks each, filling trains running every hour or two, then almost every other state will clamor to get in on the good thing.

              The voters, and the politicians, will not be saying, "Build us a fancy one-of-a-kind system." They will be saying,"Build us a corridor just like the ones out between St. Louis and Chicago and Detroit." The problem will solve itself.

      •  I really don't believe that there would e that (0+ / 0-)

        much demand for LA to LV.  I could be wrong.

        "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

        by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:16:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  In routes that are targetting ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, MCinNH

      ... operating surpluses in order to be able to fund revenue bonds to expand the system ... they are not going to run empty trains back and forth.

      When we are running more than half empty trains through the middle of nowhere in Amtrak, its because its the middle of the night ... the train emptied out and when day breaks, it will start filling up again.

      But with daytime HSR services with trips of two to three hours, that's not a problem ... the trains are run to match the demand for the seats.

    •  Give me a Break (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, BruceMcF

      HSR wouldn't serve rural Oklahoma, it would connect the states two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. All rail and road runs through rural areas, because the planet is not just one big urban agglomeration.

  •  The Fastest! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishBiscuit

    I personally think that Obama make a statement to somehow unite American in embracing the high speed rail strategy.  

    America likes to have the best and be the best. Therefore, I think one way to bring everyone together on this issue is to make it into a challenge of our ingenuity against the rest of the world; like having the FASTEST high speed rail system in the world.  

  •  I am so happy that President Obama has (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    vigorously embraced HSR. He really does get it. . . .

  •  I've never ridden the train (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, nathguy

    I'd like to though. I go from Minneapolis to NYC every few years, it would be nice to take the train instead of flying. I have a two-year old, and that's an awful lot of time on a train. I've looked at getting a room on the train, but that gets to cost too much. A train that went from Chicago to NYC without having to go through DC would take a lot of time off the trip.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 12:42:52 PM PDT

    •  The Lakeshore Limited (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, A Citizen

      runs once a day each way direct from NYC-Chicago.  It is a wonderful train, it takes about 18 hours.  One thing to keep in mind, since you have never ridden a train, is that trains have lots more room to move around than an airplane....but you're right that it would be a long trip with an 18-month old.  That said, my mother used to take my two brothers and I on the train Chicago-Mobile twice a year, and we loved it.

      My suggestion:  give it a try one way and get a cheap airfare back.

      I am really enjoying my stimulus package.

      by Kevvboy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:29:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  split the trip. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      overnight in chicago

      George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

      by nathguy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:18:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  TGV Goodness (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    Here's a short video I took while my train left the station in Marseille, France:

    Depature of « Paris Sans Arret » from Marseille.

    To have something like that in the US...would be nothing less than marvelous.  BTW, that whole photo album is about the French rail system.

    Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we will...help our community!

    by politicslovr on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:22:10 PM PDT

  •  the trick is to own the tracks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy, Notus, tari

    rail road companies these days are a cynical bunch. Most of them, save for the UP are heavily influenced by lawyers. And they will milk this train idea for every penny they can get. They don't like people anywhere near trains, it raises their liability and someone might see how poorly managed they are.

    Currently, with Amtrak, the toll fee for traveling over no NE corridor areas forces Amtrak to raise their prices to just under what an airline costs.

    I hope that these new HSR corridors are owned and run 100% by Amtrak. Its safer, cheaper and more efficient.

    "the government is full of vampires!" - Glenn Beck

    by superHappyInDC on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:22:52 PM PDT

    •  It's more complicated (0+ / 0-)

      The tracks in the Northeast Corridor are full.

      Aceles every hour, Regional Northeast trains, long distance trains heading to Florida and Carolina and  New Orleans and Chicago, Keystone trains going to Harrisburg, and commuter trains in NYC, Newark, Philly, Baltimore, and D.C.

      The tunnel under the Hudson River has time slots like landing slots at LaGuardia Airport, and they are all used. You cannot add one more train out of Penn Station.

      Meanwhile the tunnels through Baltimore are congested. The bridge over the Susquehanna may need replacing soon. If you want to run more trains through D.C. to Richmond and the Carolinas, you will soon need to spend a billion to get from Union Station to Virginia.

      In classic economics, when supply is limited, prices rise. Unfortunately the market clearing price for a train ticket on the NE Corridor is pretty damn high. Of course Amtrak is a monopoly, but it is here a "natural" monopoly. No rail competitor can enter the market because the tracks are full. And no government can order more trains or pay for more trains to run with lower fares.

      In addition, Amtrak is limited by law to running one Acela per hour between Boston and NYC, because under maritime law, entry and egress from any navigable waterway cannot be blocked by a bridge. When your high-masted yacht shows up at the drawbridge, you must be given passage within an hour. So the number of trains is limited.

      Now, I'm no fan of the freight lines. You are quite correct that most of them seem to have a bad attitude about passenger rail. But we need to understand the full problem if we want to solve it.

      •  I thought that Amtrak bumped up the tickets (0+ / 0-)

        on the NE corridor to help subsidize the other parts of the system that lost money, no?

        There could also be a linking of the transit systems. There is already talk of having the VRE and MARC trains cross over into each other's territory.

        "the government is full of vampires!" - Glenn Beck

        by superHappyInDC on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 03:09:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Competition (0+ / 0-)

          If you could get VRE trains running from Richmond to Baltimore, Wilmington, and Philly, they could undercut the Amtrak prices. We won't hold our breath.

          But now, who can blame Amtrak for making money where the sun shines. Remember it wasn't that long ago that the Bushies tried to kill off Amtrak by holding down the subsidies in the face of rising costs. The board refused to go along and borrowed and cross-subsidized the way through. The fiscal damage from that melodramatic escapade will not be paid off for some time.

          •  Well, those routes don't mesh well with long (0+ / 0-)

            distance runs.

            There is probably room for the state run railways to work. VRE, as far as I know is run by Amtrak employees anyways...at least as far as handling the equipment.

            I mean, what buzz-kill would it be if your train from DC to Atlanta had to bumble along at 40mph and drop off commuters every 2 miles.

            "the government is full of vampires!" - Glenn Beck

            by superHappyInDC on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 06:34:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Somehow we have to find the political will (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, FishBiscuit, Ms Citizen, spyguy999

    to stop the suburban sprawl so that rail-based transit can have a prayer in this country.

    Why not an announcement of no new interstate highways, and instead fund the same amount that would go into new highway construction into a crash program to implement the map above?

    It's not as if the auto companies are any huge constituency now.  There should be enough juice in an Obama second term to get this done.

    I am really enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:24:23 PM PDT

  •  Are the trains made in the USA? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishBiscuit

    Other questions:

    What's the upside? The downside is what this will do to the airline industry. Fuels savings per passenger/mile? Is it enough to justify the expenditure?

    Would we have Fedex and UPS high-speed freight cars? That would seem to make sense.

    It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

    by Fishgrease on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:28:13 PM PDT

  •  If it's not fast enough... (0+ / 0-)

    Then I'll fly.  An American system must be high-speed or it can't compete because cars and flying are relatively cheap for long distances.

    For example, from Houston to New Orleans I can fly there, inlcuding airport time, in one hour and a half, max, probably less.  If HSR can beat that, then it will work but I don't think it can.

    •  break that up (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      88kathy, Bronx59, FishBiscuit

      How long to the airport?
      From the parking lot to the terminal?
      Front of terminal until through TSA?
      TSA to gate?
      Gate to boarding?
      Boarding to Taxi
      Taxi to Takeoff?
      Take off to Land?
      Land to Jetway?
      Jetway to front of Terminal?
      etc.

      Nonstop flight time is listed as 1:12 ....

    •  So? Trains complement planes. The point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, FishBiscuit, enhydra lutris

      is to have options. No one is going to take away your planes.

      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

      by ticket punch on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 01:47:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But who would use a train? (0+ / 0-)

        Do you want to spend taxpayer money on something that might not be used when planes are more efficient in many aspects?

        Europe has a robust budget airline system (even during the economic crisis).  The trains have had to compete with them and are on the losing end.

        Is it our responsibility to have a train system because it's cool or do we have a responsibility to our deficit?

        •  Who would "use" the fire department? n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          88kathy

          As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

          by ticket punch on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 03:00:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  How many Interstates have you "used"? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          88kathy, NoMoreLies, enhydra lutris

          How many airports? How much of the Intercoastal Waterway? And how much personal benefit have you seen from the Iraq Adventure?

          As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

          by ticket punch on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 03:17:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  When the train trip is two hours, it will ... (4+ / 0-)

          ... dominate air travel for common carrier passage on that route, when it is 3 hours, it will get in the range of 2/5 of the common carrier market, and fading down rapidly after that.

          And, the factoid that trains are on the "losing end" of competition with airlines in routes of 3 hours or less is a diet factoid, which is to say, fact-free.

          Indeed, since Madrid to Barcelona opened, it has rapidly taken over about half of the travel market that used to go by air.

        •  Last year my wife and I took Amtrack (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Woody

          from the Oakland-S.F. Bay Area in CA to Seattle.  It cost more than flying and took way longer.  Loved it.  Will do again.  We got to sit back and watch the scenery, read, do whatever, drinking wine and cocktails and eating ok food, sleeping when tired. walking around stretching our legs, comfortable seating, you name it.  Vastly more comfortable and civilized.  Train pulled up, we got on, carrying water, no baggies for toothpaste, no pat downs, no x-raying the hand luggage, no hassles, no long lines, smooth and serene.

          You get relatively high speed trains at relatively decent prices and you will have plenty of customers.  Air tavel sucks in so many ways that it is worth some extra time and extra money to avoid it.

          "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

          by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:27:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The haters (0+ / 0-)

          The anti-government crowd has used Amtrak as Exhibit A in their argument that the government can do nothing right and wastes money. And by starving it of funds they have reduced service levels so that you could believe that big lie.

          Us "socialists" believe that government can be made to work for everyone. Just as "you" will never take a train, others will "never" take a plane or drive. They deserve some way to travel.

          Nobody will force you to take a train. But Amtrak provides a choice.

          Allow me to repeat myself.

          John Madden hates to fly, and travels across the country in his own bus. Aretha Franklin won't fly. Whoopie Goldberg said she had to be sedated to fly to London. And a zillion non-celebrities don't fly for their own good reasons.

          Obese people may be charged extra if they overflow the narrow-ass airplane seats, and that is a HUGE and growing market. Very tall people hate to fold up their bodies to fit into a coach seat, and unless they are in the NBA they hate to pay the fare up front. Handicapped people, say with a bum knee or bad hip, may need the space they find on a train. Claustrophobes have real trouble coping with airplanes. Families travelling with kids may prefer trains with wiggle room and not so many glares from other passengers. Some people can't drive or fly for medical reasons.

          There's a hundred reasons people choose to ride trains. We prefer wide seats and aisles, we like a choice of meals in the dining car, we enjoy looking out the windows at the passing scenes, we can read a book or have a good conversation with a friend without having to concentrate on navigating the road, we can get up to use the bathroom at any time, we never clutch the armrests through turbulence, we enjoy seeing the countryside and the opportunity to feel the vastness of our country, and often we save money.

          Not to mention the environmental and national security reasons to support train travel. Even if you do not take the train, when someone takes the train instead of driving a car or riding a plane, that someone makes your life safer by reducing the need to import oil from the Middle East. Someone puts less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps save Houston from the monster Category 5 storm.

          It's hard to put a dollar value on these environmental and national security aspects. So the usual thing is to give them no dollar value at all. But what is it worth to you? A buck? Ten bucks? Amtrak's fat subsidy works out to about $3 or $4 per person per year. Obama looks to double that with the proposal for annual funding for HSR. Is that price a dealbreaker for you?

          There is a huge pent-up demand for train travel. We have no idea, really, how many more people want to ride the train. Amtrak has been starved of funds and equipment and forced to cut routes for decades. Many cities get no trains at all: Phoenix, Las Vegas, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Tulsa, Des Moines, Columbus OH, and many others. Others get their "service" in the dark of night because all the long distance trains run onc e a day in each direction, Or less.

          But in every case where intercity trains have been added, they always fill up. Where states have paid to add trains, they fill up. Seattle-Portland, Sacramento-Oakland/San Jose, L.A.-San Diego, St. Louis-Chicago, Boston-Portland ME and others.

          Of course, few politicians or talking heads on the TV opinion shows ride the trains much. They ignore the desires of millions of regular citizens who want more and better trains, high speed versions in the future, better conventional train service in the meantime.

    •  It's Not Just About Speed (0+ / 0-)

      and you're forgetting the excitement which will be generated/created regarding new HSR technology. just look at all the train nuts still around who were gaga about the train system we used to have- prior to the advent of jet airplanes.

      give people decent seats, a vid screen, an internet connection, a decent dining and bar car and you're good to go.

      what's your hurry to get to NOLA.. are the bars running out of booze there?

      WELCOMING the Al Franken Decade!!

      by Superpole on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:51:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The U.S. Has the Density to Support HSR (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bensch, BruceMcF, FishBiscuit, tari

    The East and West Coasts along with the Midwest, Texas, and SE all have more than adequate density to support HSR.

  •  A better idea (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nathguy, Ms Citizen, tari

    The "emerging HSR" in the NE Corridor has been emerging for four decades. The Acela Express is only ten minutes faster than the Metroliners that were running forty years ago -- and part of that gain is simply from fewer stops. There are serious bottlenecks in the Baltimore, Hudson and East River Tunnels, and the fact that Amtrak doesn't control the tracks between New Rochelle and New Haven. Furthermore, grade crossings in Connecticut are a serious safety hazard.

    Start by fixing the NE Corridor. The ridership is already there. La Guardia Airport is so overused that it is routine for an aircraft to spend 40 minutes on the tarmac waiting for a takeoff slot. Extra NE Corridor train capacity will have a spillover effect everywhere.

    Then work on the rest of the country.

    •  Do it where it is hard and expensive and time ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bensch, nathguy, MCinNH

      ... consuming and ONLY THEN then move on to where it is easier, less expensive and can be finished much more quickly?

      Well, lesseee who that is a better idea for ...

      The Northeast Corridor?

      Ignoring the low hanging fruit will not get the improvements on and near the NEC done any faster ... indeed, because it will proceed as a regional special interest instead of as a national program, it is likely to mean that the work on the NEC goes more slowly.

      The majority of the country?

      The majority of the country has to wait for no discernible reason for transport improvements that will be of use today and which provide the foundation for an Energy Independent transport system.

      So nobody wins, but at least the NEC loses by less than the rest of the country, so on a relative scoring, I guess it comes out ahead?

    •  three tunnels and they unify the (0+ / 0-)

      entire network.

      and if they add more electricty, they can run Acela faster.

      George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

      by nathguy on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:24:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  agree - just wrote this below - needs a new track (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      the shore line can never be fast - curves, swamps, ocean - too expensive and complicated. We need a separate track and it should go via Hartford and Worcester, not along the long shore - rather more like I84 and MassPike.

  •  An even better idea (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, Bronx59

    The freight rail network in the NE is in awful shape, especially east of the Hudson River. You can't even get a freight train across the Hudson more than about a dozen miles south of Albany. That means zillions of pollution belching 18 wheelers going through some of the most densely populated areas of the country. The NE Corridor passenger service sort of works, at least between Boston and Washington. The NE freight rail service doesn't really function at all. That should be a bigger priority.

  •  HSR will only work when it is FREE (0+ / 0-)

    That’s right. I sad it. It will only work when it is FREE.

    This will only happen when our country is able to produce abundant supplies of low cost renewable energy. Wind solar, hydro and nuclear.

    When the cost to run the trains is personnel and maintenance you can offer the rail service for free or a small nominal fee. The rest of the funding can come from sales of food and beverage, high speed internet access, advertising in the train, leases to car rental companies at each station etc.

    This will take countless cars off the road alleviating stress and cost to the road systems as well as a huge effect on green house gasses.

    This is not feasible at this time due to the cost of energy but this is really the only way this will ever work.

  •  Great diary, Bruce. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    And love the "Dead Heart" video.  A classic!

  •  I am pumped that Obama is pursuing this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, djwinfo

    I have been critical of some things (bush crimes, executive power, geithner/summers), but on just about every other front, Obama has been very, very good.

    The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes - Robert Jackson's addresses to the Nuremberg Trials

    by Indiana Bob on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:27:28 PM PDT

  •  The railroad in my backyard is on that map! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Holy crap! One of the lines planned for upgrade (Boston-Montréal) literally goes through my backyard. That's awesome.

    Thank you President Obama!

    francophile impénitent

    by AtomikNY on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:40:50 PM PDT

  •  Great Diary, BUT (0+ / 0-)

    I still don't get the gaps in the line between Chicago and Miami and the lack of a coast to coast HSR line.

    Focusing on regional HSR is fine, but I think we need to get busy with both regional and the long range lines.

    in addition, the parsing as to what HSR really is or isn't is bogus-- in the context of nations like France and Japan having true HSR. it sounds a lot like you're making excuses as to why the U.S., an often lauded "first world nation" can't have true HSR.

    BTW, China is investing $1 Trillion in their rail system thru year 2020. by comparison, Obama's stimulus package allocates $8 Billion for HSR.

    WELCOMING the Al Franken Decade!!

    by Superpole on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 05:50:49 PM PDT

    •  I still don't get the infatuation with C2C (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, ebohlman, ticket punch, Rich in PA

      I understand many people have issues with air travel, be it afraid of flying or from an environmental prospective.  These are legitimate issues.

      That being said, Coast to Coast high speed rail simply isn't competitive with air travel. I can get on a plane from a west coast city and be in an east coast city in 5 hours for under $300.  

      We should be focusing on sub 500 mile routes connecting major cities that will compete against air travel or even replace it all together.  This is a better allocation of resources in my opinion.  

      •  Uhhh. I Thought It Was About CHOICE (0+ / 0-)

        in wonderful America, it's supposed to be about having choices.

        you choose to fly coast to coast, but that hardly translates into any sort of generalization.

        right now, we have basically two choices: flying, and the stinking car. what exactly is wrong with a third choice?

        and again, it's not about speed alone.

        WELCOMING the Al Franken Decade!!

        by Superpole on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:10:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Choices are fine when it is viable choice... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ebohlman, Rich in PA

          I don't fly coast to coast that often, because as my name implies I live in Omaha, almost the center of the country.  I'm all for choices when having choices makes sense.  

          I think it is about speed to most people.  Speed and cost.  On a 500 to 600 mile route, you end up with a total travel time that is within an hour or two at the most of flying.  A cross country trip even under the best of circumstances for the train (no stops, 150 miles, a straight line route, etc.) ends up being a 16+ hour difference.  

          If it works out that a 500 mile segment major city to major city route works out to a cross country route works out that's fine.  It just doesn't make sense to me to build a coast to coast high speed route just to have it.  The longer the route becomes (or the more stops you put on it), the less advantageous it gets.  

      •  Wait a few years. If I spend 5 hours (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody

        on an airplane, I have to be helped off and spend about 10 hours in traction (slight exaggeration, but not too much).

        "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

        by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:32:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Widen the horizon to 750 miles from 500 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody

        to take in longer segments that operate overnight: Chicago-Washington, Dallas-St. Louis, Philly-Atlanta.

        I count only the waking hours.

        As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

        by ticket punch on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 06:33:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Countries like France and Japan also have ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... trains that are not Express HSR that run between cities faster than cars. Those, however, are taken for granted, they are called "Express Trains".

      Fighting over whether to call higher speed trains than we presently have "High Speed" or not is just bad old habits from decades of Republicans squeezing public infrastructure spending and forcing natural partners to fight each other for funding, to avoid the common interest turning into a political coalition.

      The reason for the lack of a coast to coast line is that there is a quarter of the country between the Plains and the West Coast where very few people live. Trains that have to earn their keep and justify substantial capital expenditure per route mile with 100 mile to 300 mile or 500 mile trips are not going to do that in the Mountain West.

      The reason for the gap between Chicago and Atlanta is that Georgia and Tennessee have never got their act together to plan the system and sort out the alignment and put in for a corridor. Its not a "manna from heaven" framework, state governments that can't be bothered to take catch up with the 21st century and get off their fat asses do not somehow automatically get corridor designations.

  •  yes, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    the other part that needs to happen is Amtrak needs to be cheaper.  i live in nyc, don't own a car, and travel by train within the metro area (nj transit, metro north, lirr, etc.).  when it goes beyond that though, there has only been one instance in which taking the train was economically justifiable (from nyc to albany, as it turns out).  Amtrak, and particularly the Acela train, can be as expensive as a plane ticket, and when it gets right down to it, most families will opt for a longer car trip than a much more expensive train ride.

  •  Bruce... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desmoinesdem, BruceMcF, Bronx59, tari

    Simply awesome diary as always. It will take me a while to digest it all, but very well written and put together.

    Take a tip and rec and enjoy the rec list. You deserve it.

  •  outstanding post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, BruceMcF

    I tipped and rec'd you here and linked to the Midnight Populist version of this diary on my Twitter feed.

    Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

    by desmoinesdem on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 06:35:09 PM PDT

  •  Here's My Future Vision for HSR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enhydra lutris

    Not what I would like too see, but what I expect:

    1. you can buy your seat for 1x.
    1. your boss's seat for 2.5x.
    1. The featured seats you see on 60 Minutes bur cannot afford for 7.5x.

    Just like airliner travel, you will soon enough be taking your shoes off and getting your 4.2 oz bottle of toothpaste confiscated.

    Still, it will be better for me to get to LA from SF than by anything landing at LAX.

    The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by easong on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:07:08 PM PDT

  •  Great Diary. Thank You! (0+ / 0-)

    makes all sense. Yes, I like to see the political will to move into this direction and keep making it better and I am happy to see that this plan aims at broad political support.

    The Acela in the North East is kind of a joke once you ever traveled in Europe or Japan. Very slow. Plus the shore line goes through very difficult terrain, swamps, rivers, ocean, beaches, lots of curves, impossible to transform into high-speed. Will always stay in the "emerging" class - unless new tracks in a different area are built. New York Boston needs to go via Hartford and Worcester - no along the coast. Only chance I see to make this connection a bullet train.

  •  There's an easier way (0+ / 0-)

    Call it an Illegal Immigrant Deportation System.  You'll have all the political support and funding you need.  Just build a spur to the Mexican border so people think you're serious.

    Al que no le guste el caldo, le dan dos tazas.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:30:31 PM PDT

  •  FWIW, re (0+ / 0-)

    last graf.

    Those of us living in flyover country no that this is not really building

    know vs no.

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:01:33 PM PDT

  •  I sincerely hope (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    that we get HSR now if not sooner.

    We need 21st century solutions.

  •  Strange Compromise (0+ / 0-)

    Rather than compromising on "rail for everyone," even when rail is useless in most places, why not "rail for the BOS-WAS and something else for other people"?

    The entire nation's air travel system is hostage to the delays of the east coast, and these delays stem in large part from congestion at a few airports from high frequency flights to a few other cities.  Knock the shuttles out of the sky and you have a whole new LGA to play with.

    If we cannot muster the political will to acquire the land and build the track and buy the train sets so we have real TGV-speed rail from Boston to DC - a market that might actually support the service - I don't see the point of wasting the money giving the rest of the country some watered-down version.  Outside the northeast we are not connecting French cities; passengers will arrive in places and need cars anyway.

    And as for the CA high speed rail plans, I'd like to think that I can be an optimist, but few people who walk the earth today will see a high-speed train run from LA to SF.  There will never be enough money, there will always be local opposition cloaked in the mantle of environmentalism, and the powers of eminent domain are far too weak.

    •  If we can't do the hard, why try the easier? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MCinNH

      How about, because its easier?

      I do not understand the argument that because the Northeast Corridor is so congested, the existing rail corridors are so built out and so heavily used by a wide variety of rail services, and abandoned rail corridors tend to be taken for some other use ... so that establishing a new class of rail service is a long, slow, difficult task ...

      ... therefore, in areas where we have spare room in existing rail corridors, idle corridors that nobody has bothered to push through the line abandonment process but will simply remain idle for decades, where there are 1m+ metro populations that are one to two hours apart by 110mph rail ... we should wait until the long, hard, grind in the Northeast Corridor is finished.

      Indeed, where did the idea come from that Regional HSR is watered down Express HSR? They are distinct services classes, with their own benefits and their own costs.

      In the original HSR corridor legislation, from the 90's, several classes of service were lumped together, which has caused all sorts of confusion as HSR is discussed in the US. The new policy document clears up a lot of the confusion by taking the pool and defining three distinct classes.

      What is termed Emerging and Regional HSR in the policy is a class of service that other countries take so much for granted that they do not need a special name for it ... but compared to passenger rail in the US, it is quite definitely higher speed.

      For effective rail service, the question is not "how fast is the train", the question is, "how quick is the trip". Given the distances between cities in the Great Lakes and eastern Midwest, 90mph and 110mph average trip speeds is fast enough for viable services that can generate operating surpluses.

      And they offer a clear and obvious improvement on what we have today.

      •  Distraction (0+ / 0-)

        Because it is not high speed rail, because it is not useful, and because it confuses a government service with a welfare program.

        What is termed Emerging and Regional HSR in the policy is a class of service that other countries take so much for granted that they do not need a special name for it ... but compared to passenger rail in the US, it is quite definitely higher speed.

        Other countries have cities that do not require cars once on site, other countries have an inferior network of roads, other countries have different geographies and population densities, and other countries have far larger populations who do not have cars.

        There is a tiny window where 110mph rail is superior to both driving and flying.  Anywhere below 300 miles on somewhat open roads the car will win; the speed advantage of the train is eaten up by the time needed to get to the station (have to arrive with enough lead time to get on the train), the need to match up with the train's schedule, and the time to rent a car at the train stop and actually drive to the final point.  By 400 miles, if not well earlier, the plane is faster than either mode, even with the extra time of getting to/from airports and clearing security.

        Building rail in places it is not useful is at best a distraction from building a working system where it is useful.  Furthermore, it confuses people by making them believe we have something we do not.  For all the PR of the Acela, it is barely faster than the Metroliner and nothing remotely like the TGV.  Depending on the time of day, it may be inferior to the plane, and there is no reason for that to be the case in the NEC.  So let's focus on a place where the technology would actually be useful and get it right before trying to do it wrong in a bunch of other places.

        Finally, waste is a bad thing, and we should certainly not encourage it.  The government should seek to provide its services at the lowest possible cost.  Wasting money in the Midwest on the grounds that we need those votes is silly.  The Northeast contributes far more to the federal government than it receives.  True high speed rail is a project it needs, and it should receive it on the merits of the project, not as some horse trade.  The horse trade takes place every time the Northeast pays its taxes.

        •  One size fits all never fits all. (0+ / 0-)

          inally, waste is a bad thing, and we should certainly not encourage it.  The government should seek to provide its services at the lowest possible cost.  Wasting money in the Midwest on the grounds that we need those votes is silly.

          The argument in the diary is rather to tolerate the egregious expense of getting anything done at all in the Northeast Corridor in order to keep that big Senate block on our side, so that we can maintain the funding required to get a genuine Express HSR system built in California, and so that we can build the passenger rail infrastructure needed to harvest the low hanging fruit in the Great Lakes, Midwest and Southeast Coast.

          This is High Speed Rail we are talking about with Express HSR, not mass transit ... it is far more expensive per route mile than Rapid Rail even in terrain suited to it like the Great Lakes. When that cost is multiplied by the extra cost of building through so much densely populated areas, the cost per route mile explodes. And, of course, you don't reap the benefits of HSR from thirty or forty of miles of infrastructure.

          It would seem to be a backward looking 20th century attitude, assuming that cheap oil will be around forever and the last jump from dirty cheap to moderately cheap was an aberration, that would tolerate restricting progress toward energy independent interurban transport to a small corner of the country.

  •  Jacksonville to LA in 15 hours? (0+ / 0-)

    2400 miles, Jacksonville-Tallahassee-Mobile/Biloxi-New Orleans-Houston-San Antonio-El Paso-Phoenix-LA??? Or something similar for a 200 mph+ train???

    Makes the most sense IMO to have the major East-West route go through the South.  Growing population in the South, flatter terrain.......other hubs could easily link up to the the ones listed.

    Is this too much dreaming?  

    •  Its making it government consumption rather ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... than government investment. The market under present conditions is for Regional HSR routes of 100 miles to 300 miles, and Express HSR routes (between larger metro areas) of 100 miles to 500 miles.

      Transcontinental routes cannot be justified for passenger rail unless they are composed of overlapping and connecting segments along those lines.

      Now, there is a continuous network that can be built of 100mile to 300mile corridors from the East Coast to the Texas through to Minnesota band ... but between there and the West Coast, there are gaps.

      On the other hand, it would also make sense under the risk of repeated oil price shocks to start building an electric Rapid Freight Rail network, able to take container freight from one part of the country to the other at 100mph.

      And for that, transcontinental routes make perfect sense ... those are the routes where the energy saving is the biggest so the payoff is the greatest.

      In the context of a Rapid Freight Rail network, it would be possible for Regional HSR trains that come to the end of the Regional HSR grids to keep going to the west coast on the Rapid Rail network.

  •  Great diary (5+ / 0-)

    I really like the way this diary engages the pragmatic approach to rail travel while indicating that it could lead to real high-speed rail in the US (and is probably the only way to get there).

    Having lived in Germany, Austria, and currently living in France, I see exactly what the diarist suggests. I'm in Strasbourg, which the TGV serves to Paris, but not completely at TGV speed. About 1/3 into the duration of a trip to Paris on the TGV you get onto the real TGV line and hit full speed. The full TGV continuation all the way to Strasbourg and into Germany is almost complete. Until it is, near full high-speed service links the two cities. And those trains are frequently quite full.

    In the US, I live in Kentucky, about 90 minutes from Louisville. My family's in Wisconsin. So I can look at that Louisville-Indianapolis-Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis line and see real advantages. It's nice to have a car when we visit family at Thanksgiving, but the roads can be icy, and I'm out of practice after 15 years living in the South and abroad. If I can bypass the long, long, long drive through Indiana and make it to Chicago, where I can hop a regional train to my dad's house and then one later to my mom's across the state, I'd be quite pleased. It's more comfortable, it would involve less worry, it'd be safer, and at times it'd be faster even if the train can only go at the speed of a car (as long as the line were dedicated to passenger traffic).

    It's 500 road miles exactly from my house to my dad's. I wouldn't consider a train to visit my in-laws in California, but I definitely would to visit my family.

    And I'd also probably visit Chicago more, too, since I'd have to stop there to change trains. I love the city but drive right past it too often. I might even pick trains to have a nice, long layover to walk over to catch an exhibit at the Art Institute or (and?) grab some pizza. We need to also consider opportunities like this that will be more likely with interurban rail transportation.

  •  Indianapolis-Louisville-Nashville-Birmingham (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    That is the line I want to see appear on this map. It would be a critical piece in this puzzle, and more effectively pull together the East of the Mississippi population regions, making it easier to traverse to the primary business and population centers.

    "We must become the change we want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HeartlandLiberal on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 06:55:13 AM PDT

    •  Here it is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      The National Association of Railroad Passengers has its own snappy flash mapof needed routes, combining all levels of speed and service frequencies. But it is a national network wish list that includes the route you want.

      Note that Obama is proposing to put federal dollars behind these various rail corridors where the states put up 20% to match. On their track record, if you will, of paying for added trains, states like North Carolina and Virginia, Illinois and Michigan, Washington State and California seem likely to be most active with faster trains. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, not so much.

    •  Indianapolis / Louisville is already ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... in the Midwest Hub. Its just not Stage 1, so there's no rush to get designation of the corridor.

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