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View Diary: Night Train: Losing HSR Battles while Winning the Transport War (49 comments)

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  •  What good would that do? (6+ / 0-)

    The trains would have a low frequency, whatever incidents happen anywhere on a multi-thousand line corridor would result in delays all along the corridor, and the load factor would be dragged down because its impossible to match up the demand for transport between Denver and Salt Lake City with the demand for transport between Chicago and St. Louis.

    Plus, maglev does not magically eliminate the extra energy required to get up from 220mph to 350mph, it just "reduces the increase".

    The sweet spot for train demand is two hour to three hour trips, and so the sweet spot for the demonstration effect having the most benefit is corridors with one or more strong two to three hour trip demands along the way.

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    by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 03:58:29 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  You are right in your specifics (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimpy, psyched, Earth Ling

      but wrong in your "demonstration effect" argument. We need a coast-to-coast high speed rail to show the possibilities of the system, both for freight and passenger service.

      •  It would be true if we ... (11+ / 0-)

        ... had an urgent need for coast to coast high speed passenger rail trips, but we more urgently need 100 mile to 500 mile high speed passenger rail trips than we need for coast to coast. And if we need 100mile to 500mile trips most urgently, distorting the corridors to link them up coast to coast is a waste of valuable resources that could be better used to provide more corridors.

        Since I keep arguing for nationwide electric freight rail, I obviously don't disagree about the need for long haul freight rail, but there the second half of your suggestion gets even worse: maglev for freight rail would be a massive waste of money and energy, when 100mph electric freight rail would be able to pull a substantial portion of our energy glutton long haul trucking off the road and save 10% of our crude oil imports.

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        by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 04:14:19 PM PST

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        •  It's ok to "distort" corridors (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Earth Ling

          Out west, most of the settlements already follow railroad rights of way, so nothing would be distorted. As for the midwest, the densely settled areas already radiate out from Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Minneapolis, etc. and any profitable corridor would include a few of those anyway.

          Combined freight and passenger service ought to support at least two northern routes, plus one central and one southern route. In this political climate, with the anti-government party locking down the south, we'd have to start with a northern route.

          At the very least, I would expect regular service from Albany to Chicago. Without Ohio, there ought to still be traffic on a route from Albany to Chicago via Rochester, Buffalo, Hamilton, London, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo. Without Wisconsin, going westward to Portland would still be possible via shorter hops between Rockford, Dubuque, West Union, Rochester, Minneapolis, Albany, Fargo, Bismark, Billings, Helena, Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane.

          The equipment could still fit the needs of each segment, and there's no need to have the same level of service throughout. But, connectivity helps bring in some freight revenue to get started.

          Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

          by chimpy on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 05:05:34 PM PST

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          •  Its going to be hard ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chimpy, NoMoreLies

            ... to get a transcontinental 300mph HSR corridor system funded to the tune of $100b+ right now.

            And you still haven't said what the point is of building a passenger rail corridor that links up with other corridors in a line from coast to coast, when there are corridors that will provide more transport service, but don't lie along the designated coast to coast line and so don't get built.

            The Steel Interstate system that I've proposed would make 110mph electric passenger rail service available anywhere along the link that is useful, and indeed could host transcontinental trains along the line of the Amtrak conventional rail long haul routes ... but they are laid out in service of freight transport tasks and as a result funded on a national basis with interest rate subsidy and the original capital cost repaid by user and access fees.

            But it can't be built with ~$1.1b, lump sum. And it couldn't have been built with $8b, lump sum, either.

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            by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 05:40:28 PM PST

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            •  Exactly, it can't be done today (0+ / 0-)

              But, the individual corridors can be built today. And, aligning them in expectation of a future national network doesn't really distort the individual corridors that much. Plus, if they the local corridors are aligned to accommodate a national network, that makes a national network more attractive. For each segment, let it get built for passengers or for freight, but then use it for both.

              And, the point of a national network is economic development. Most of the benefit comes from moving freight. A good enough network would compete with air freight on cost, and with trucks on cross-country speed. Aligning a national frieght network with either new HSR rights of way, or with the old ROWs opened up by HSR, reduces the cost of both the HSR and the freight lines, and helps get them access to the busy city centers.

              Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

              by chimpy on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 06:26:40 PM PST

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              •  But the freight corridors ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chimpy

                ... need to be designed to be long, to attract long haul truck traffic despite marshalling overheads at both ends. And the passenger trips of that length are a very small share of the main passenger rail market.

                Its as if you are treating the map at the front of the piece of corridors that are presently qualified for transport funding as HSR corridors as if its a target system map, rather than as the nucleus of corridors from which a national network will grow.

                And one substantial benefit of that approach is the whack a mole problem that it presents to opponents. Your proposed approach means that they only need to kill a small handful of massively expensive projects in order to kill all HSR projects. Under the existing system, however, they put a lot of effort into killing them all, and are only going to succeed in taking out a maximum of three. And one of the three looks like its going to leave a deep bruise on the Governor-elect that pulled the plug.

                And this is their best opportunity to kill corridors, before we actually have any examples running yet. It gets harder for them once these trains start running at times as fast or faster than driving.

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                by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 07:25:22 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I would not start with long-haul (0+ / 0-)

                  I think we have the same target systems in mind, and similar choices for early nuclei. The distinction I am trying to make, is that a preference can safely be given to local hub systems that would eventually help promote that target. It's my opinion that any distortion caused by these preferences would be small, because many settlements already fall along good choices for long-haul routes.

                  Like you say, once some local corridors or triangles are running, it's almost irresistible to want to connect them. For example, consider Ohio: Losing Ohio puts a big dent in the eventual long-haul conversion plan. But once there are profitable networks near both Chicago/Indianapolis and Albany/DC, both West Virginia and Ontario would be jumping at the chance to make that connection.

                  Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

                  by chimpy on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 07:40:03 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But Ohio is not lost for long haul energy ... (0+ / 0-)

                    ... independent freight, since the propaganda sticking point was the operating subsidies required until the corridor could be upgraded to 110mph ... and the Steel Interstates require no operating subsidies.

                    And indeed, Ohio is only certainly lost for passenger rail for a four year Governor's term. If there is 110mph Rapid Rail HSR from Chicago to Detroit, including service to Ann Arbor, sooner or later Columbus is going to insist on its own 110mph corridor to some damn place.

                    And if you can swing Central Ohio, you can swing the State.

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                    by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 07:53:06 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

          •  To make last nights groping for a way to ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... express it clearer:

            Suppose you have to choose between the "right" medium length corridors, at the expense of being a little bit off for the long haul corridors, and the "right" long haul corridors, at the expense of being a little bit off for the medium haul corridors?

            You'd want to get the medium haul corridors right, and accept the longer haul corridors being slightly longer transit distance than perfect for those trips.

            Because the medium distance trips are more frequent than the longer distance trips, and getting a medium length trip inside two hours or three hours is more important than trimming a long haul trip from twelve hours to eleven hours.

            The critical thing for the long haul trip is getting an effective set of amenities. But seat (and seat incline), snacks and meals, wifi and power plug ... if its miserable for 12 hours, cutting it down to 11 hours is no great benefit.

            Plus since the medium haul trips will be on the order of 4/5 of passenger miles, if not more, then if the medium haul trips provide the best balance of medium haul transport possible, it will support a greater frequency of service, which sacrificing medium distance ridership in favor of slightly shorter long distance trips will undermine.

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            by BruceMcF on Wed Nov 17, 2010 at 02:54:23 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I see (0+ / 0-)

              I think the long-term goal has to be (reasonably) efficient for long routes, and I also think that most local networks are already built along formerly busy long-term routes anyway. So, there probably isn't a huge cost in choosing those proven routes over new ones.

              But, I see your point on the passenger tradeoffs. And, the importance of local service levels over long-haul efficiency might hold true even as energy prices rise. I had expected the energy cost to be much more significant as oil is exhausted. But, rail is so efficient, this may not be true for a long time: the handling and storage costs of freight will probably still cost more than the fuel.

              Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

              by chimpy on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 07:59:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The 220mph corridors ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chimpy

                ... are new alignments, and some will be expressway rather than rail corridors ...

                ... and the conventional rail corridors are laid out for primarily 1% gradients. Electric 125mph corridors can handle 2% or 2.5% ruling gradients which may change the optimal alignment substantially.

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                by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 07:44:54 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

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