Skip to main content

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

As I mentioned in last week's Sunday Train, the California HSR Authority came out with a revised draft Business Plan.

And why do you revise a draft Business Plan? Because some people suggested some modifications to your previous draft Business Plan might be in order ... for instance, if there's a possibility that you cannot get bonds authorized to start work on the part of the corridor where the Federal Government has already put some funding on the table.

The new, revised, draft Business Plan seems to mark the final passing of the baton from the Judge Kopp absolutist vision of the what an HSR "simply has to be" to the more grounded, realistic vision of Governor Brown ...

... and in the process of dragging the HSR Authority back into touch with reality, it is quite possible that Governor Brown has saved the California HSR project.

There are two qualifiers here. The first is that without an account of someone privy to the details of the Governor's intervention, we won't know what changes were things the California HSR was on track to doing anyway, and what changes were pushed upon them. But even there, what "the HSR Authority wanted to do" was likely heavily influenced by the changing of the guard from Schwarzenegger appointees to Brown appointees at the Authority.

The second is that getting to work is not yet a done deal. Supporters of the project ~ whether ongoing supporters or those won over by the newly revised plan ~ still need to work to help see the project through to construction of the first construction segment.

The devil is in the details, so we go chasing the devil below the fold.

First, some details about Sunday Train

First thing, given the slow blogging rate in the last two months of 2011 and the haitus in the first three months of 2012, there may be a higher than normal number of readers new to the Sunday Train reading, so some background details on the long running Sunday Train series may be in order.

The Sunday Train is not actually restricted to trains. My blogging on sustainable transport as a key part to both an ecologically sustainable and an Energy Independent American Economy evolved into the Sunday Train, and while trains are a strategic part of that, they are far from the sole or even principle component of a sustainable transport system.

The Sunday Train is not a transit blogging series. This follows from the above ~ the Sunday Train is a sustainable economy blogging series. Sometimes transit pops up as an issue, sometimes the focus is on intercity transport, sometimes the focus is on Active Transport, sometimes the focus is on sustainable personal vehicles.

The Sunday Train is not newspaper level coverage. Although I am not an orthodox "if I can't say it in calculus it does not exist" economist, I am an economist, and I like to dig into the details where I can. So in that light, I can make my first money back guarantee: if you find that the Sunday Train goes into a boring amount of detail, I will gladly refund my share of your ticket price.

The Sunday Train is not a professional Benefit/Cost report. On the other hand, this is a being done in my spare time, so the series chases down questions I am interested in. And of course, because of that, I can make extend the terms of my money back guarantee: if I don't cover some aspect of a question at hand in exhaustive detail, I will gladly refund my share of your ticket price.

And now, time to get this Sunday Train out of the station.

The Other, Other Plan, Which They Decided to Call the Other, Other Plan...

So, what is the plan? From the Midwest HSR Association site:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority released a revised Business Plan to launch the nation's first true HSR service, capable of traveling 220 miles-per-hour from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. The new plan implements service within ten years, cuts project costs by $30 billion, and utilizes existing rail lines on the northern and southern ends of the system.

Under the revised draft 2012 Business Plan, construction begins this year on the 300-mile Initial Operating Section, stretching from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

Construction of the entire 520-mile rail system will finish in 2028, with service to begin in 2029.

Following the release of a draft plan in November, the California HSR Authority received comments from a broad range of interested parties, including the general public.

This new plan also improves the safety and efficiency of existing urban rail systems. These improvements will bring immediate benefits to commuters and ultimately allow the integration of local systems with high-speed rail.

Key changes in the revised plan include:

  • Constructing 300 miles of electrified railroad from Merced to San Fernando Valley in ten years.
  • Improving existing rail service in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions to integrate those systems with high-speed rail service.
  • Cutting $30 billion in costs.
  • The potential to access cap & trade funds as a backstop to federal funding.

The improved system will cost $68.4 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars, a $30 billion reduction over the previous plan. Six billion dollars in funding has already been identified for the first segment of the Initial Operating Section, including $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.7 billion in voter-approved Proposition 1A bond proceeds. Cap and trade funds are also available as a backstop against federal and local support to complete the initial operating section. No operating subsidy will be required.

How does this save $30b? Most of that is lurking under the phrase, "integrate those systems with high-speed rail service". From the Mercury Bee last week:
The updated business plan also devotes up to $2 billion to improve existing urban rail. Linking with those systems rather than pushing the high-speed rail line into California's major cities is one of the biggest cost-savers in the new plan.

"We are not sitting here saying that we 'saved' $30 billion," rail authority chairman Dan Richard said Saturday. By using existing railroad rights of way, he said, "We can deliver high-speed rail, as the voters voted for it, for $30 billion less than if we had to build our own system the entire length of the way."  

For an idea of how the original plan was going ... uhhh, "off the rails" ... well, anyway, not going well, and how a constant cost estimate of a bit over $30b in mid-2000's dollars which was a "Year of Expenditure" cost of around $45b had nearly doubled in cost to around $98b ... we can turn to the scathing reaction of Judge Kopp, former chairman of the California HSR Authority:
"I call it the great train robbery," said Quentin Kopp, a former state senator and rail authority board member. "Because they plan, if they can get away with it, to take money out of high-speed rail and bestow it on to commuter rail systems," he said.

"This isn't high-speed rail," Kopp said, "High-speed rail runs on dedicated tracks."

... which seems, sadly, intended to be a factual statement, no matter how divorced from reality it may be.

See, Express High-Speed Rail runs on dedicated track when it is going at Express High Speed Rail speeds, but the sections from San Jose to the San Francisco TransBay Terminal, and from the San Fernando Valley to LA's Union Station were never planned to run at 220mph. Even during the period when Judge Kopp played a leading role in the California HSR Authority, they were always planned to be the 110mph to 125mph speed corridors that are, in US federal law, also designated as "High Speed Rail", but which Europeans and Japanese would simply consider to be normal express urban passenger rail corridors.

After all, the near universal nationwide 79mph rail speed limit in the US was the result of a failed policy to force freight rail operators to upgrade their mainline systems to include Positive Train Control (PTC) signal systems. The rule, put in place half a century ago, was that anything 80mph or more had to have PTC installed. In reaction, the freight rail operators cut the top speed on most corridor that they owned to 79mph. Meanwhile in Europe and Japan where passenger rail played a far more important role in deciding where new Express track would be built, there was no artificial speed limit, and so "normal" express passenger rail speeds have moved incrementally upwards over time.

However, if you are going to upgrade a corridor to 125mph in the 50 miles between San Jose and San Francisco, or the 12 miles between Burbank and LA Union Station ... why would you make that a corridor that can only be used by Express HSR trains? It makes all the sense in the world to share that corridor with Express "Electric Multiple Units" (EMU's), which are designed around the world with top speeds of 110mph and 125mph.

Well, on this point, Judge Kopp is wrong, and either Governor Brown's appointees or Governor Brown himself is right. And that is really no surprise, since back in the 1980's, Governor Brown knew more about High Speed Rail than it seems like Judge Kopp ever bothered to find out.

Consider the highly successful Spanish HSR "AVE" line between Madrid and Barcelona. Nobody can look at the first year results of ridership when the Madrid to Barcelona corridor was finally completed and say that the Spanish are clueless regarding HSR. Given these results, the Spanish are "cluefull" indeed:

And now consider how many HSR trains they operate per hour (tph = trains per hour) on that corridor, leaving Barcelona for Madrid on a regular weekday schedule:

  • 6am-7am: 4tph
  • 7am-8am: 3tph
  • 8am-9am: 2tph
  • 9am-3pm: 1tph
  • 3pm-7pm: 2tph
  • 7pm-9pm: 1tph  

Judge Kopp's plan was to grab big chunks of existing public rail right of way to run dedicated exclusively HSR 125mph corridors. Anywhere there was an obstacle, the "Rapid Rail" urban HSR corridor would go over the obstacle on a viaduct or under the obstacle in a tunnel. Now, while this strategy might make civil construction contractors mouth water, it does have the small drawback that it is an insane waste of resources. What the HSR provides is speed. Efficiency, speed and flexible operation does require a corridor that is free of freight trains and the heavy weight penalty that Federal safety regulations imposed due to the risks of collisions with freight trains. But  there's no sane reason in the world why a 125mph urban stretch of corridor cannot be shared by HSR trains and by lightweight, fast, EMU trains providing effective local express passenger service.

That is, after all, how France built their highly successful network: using the Urban Express Passenger Rail corridors to get from the center of large cities to the outskirts, and then entering the dedicated Express HSR corridor to go from the outskirts of one large city to the outskirts of another.

Now, sure, large US cities do not normally have those "Urban Express Passenger Rail" corridors in place. But that is no excuse to build them and then fail to use them efficiently.

Merced to Burbank? Really?

The interwebs they were buzzing with some spokesperson or other using the phrase "Merced to Burbank".

See, the staging of the plan is like this:

  • First, when the Initial Construction Segment is finished, from a bit south of Merced to just north and east of Bakersfield, the San Joaquin will get to start using the corridor
  • Then the corridor will be exiended in two segments, first to Lancaster/Palmdale and then south to the San Fernando Valley and north to Merced
  • And then the first HSR service will run from the San Fernando Valley to Merced and back (under two hours each way), connecting with the existing Northern California intercity rail services in Merced
  • And then the HSR will be extended to the Bay area at San Jose, running the "Bay to Basin" route from San Jose to the San Fernando Valley
  • And then the HSR will be finished at the bookends, to run from San Francisco TransBay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station

A couple of points jump out. First, "San Fernando Valley" is not automatically Burbank. However, Burbank seems likely, since it is between the Burbank Airport and Downtown Burbank that the Antelope Valley Line, in a publicly owned corridor, junctions with the Amtrak and Ventura County line running west, which is 40% publicly owned, 60% owned by Union Pacific. The 12 mile or so section between Burbank and LA Union Station requires upgrades to handle the higher speed traffic, including grade separations all the way, and the way that the substantial freight traffic in the corridor will share the corridor with local and intercity passenger rail still has to be hammered out.

Note that this is where the California HSR Authority was first planning on taking half for itself for an exclusive HSR corridor, leaving two tracks for the local public owners of the corridor to share with the freight trains. The owners of the corridor said, "uhh, no, over the next twenty years we are going to want more than just two tracks in that section", and so the plan became to build a HSR viaduct over the trenched or elevated local rail corridor, or else an HSR tunnel under an elevated local rail corridor. Dropping the arbitrary "exclusive to HSR use" plan means that the corridor can be developed into a normal integrated local and express corridor, with the express corridor capacity with a 125mph speed limit and having ample capacity to allow the HSR through.

However, the terminus in the San Fernando Valley is one of those planning contingencies: if development of the upgraded Burbank to LA Union Station segment allows it, obviously one would be happy to keep the "Initial Operating Service" running through to LA Union Station, even if you had to haul it there with a diesel locomotive. In reality, whether the San Fernando Valley station will end up being in Sylmar, Burbank Airport or Downtown Burbank is still up in the air, especially since its the end of the Third Construction Segment. Planning for the Second Construction Segment is going to have to be finalized while the ICS is being constructed, and then after the funds for the Second Construction Segment are scraped together, planning for the segment that will end in the San Fernando Valley somewhere, maybe stopping there and maybe with through running to LA Union Station ... will have to be finalized then.

Another thing that pops out is that the staging sequence doesn't say whether the San Joaquin will be the first user of the Merced to Palmdale corridor or whether it will be possible to start the HSR from there. There's language in the business plan that basically says, "maybe". Certainly if the San Joaquin can get to Palmdale, it can run down the current Antelope Valley Corridor and end its service in the LA Basin itself. And being able to run 110mph between Palmdale and Merced would let it run at a Bay to Basin trip speed that is competitive with or appreciably faster than driving (depending on congestion at the origin, destination or both).

Whether the HSR can run with an assured operating surplus in that portion, relying on connecting rail service on both ends for much of its traffic ~ the revised draft Business Plan is not banking on it, but it leaves the door open. For one thing, if a private franchise operator were to bid to operate such a service with no public subsidy, than that on its own would seem to comply with 2008's CA-Prop1a. Then the details of how that service would operate would not be exclusively decided by the California HSR Authority in any event.

A third thing that pops out is that Phase 1 was always described as San Francisco to Anaheim. The 2008 CA-Prop1a sets down a target SF-TBT/LA-US speed to meet to qualify as finishing Phase 1, and allows but does not require all sorts of other services to be part of Phase 1 ~ but Anaheim has been the preferred option for the terminus of the Phase 1 corridor from SF to LA for over three years now. What happened to Anaheim?

It seems like what happened to Anaheim is that the cost of a dedicated HSR corridor from LA Union Station to Anaheim was about $6b, to save about 10 minutes of HSR train travel time. It seems like you could electrify some of the existing rail corridor and get PTC signalling on a 79mph portion of corridor from LA Union Station to Anaheim for a lot less than $1b. Indeed, it seems likely that a potential franchisee bidding to operate SF/LA service might work together with local rail authorities to make sure that precisely that happens. However, while the Burbank to LA Union Station is going to be common to the Central Valley and LA to San Diego route in Phase 2, so that every minute counts ... Anaheim seems to be off that critical path, and spending an extra $5b or more on clipping 10 minutes off of LA Union Station to Anaheim might not be worth the money.

So, that's the Plan. Waddya Think

As always, on-topic discussion in the Sunday Train is not limited to specific issues or points raised in the diary, but is also open to any sustainable transport topic that may come to mind.

But with that said, what are your thoughts on the "Other, Other Plan", which they've decided to call the "revised Draft 2012 Business Plan" (no matter how much Monty Python fans would have loved it if they had called it "The Other, Other Plan").

And Now, with the warm up act out of the way, the Headliners

I know, ...
    that the sunset empire shudders and shakes
I know
     there's a floodgate and a raging river
I say
     the silence of the ribbons of iron and steel
I say
     hear the punch drunk huddle as they drive on a hammer and wheel

Sometimes you're beaten to the call, ...
Sometimes you're taken to the wall ...
    But you don't give in

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 02:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking, Climate Hawks, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Every journey of 900 miles(*) (35+ / 0-)

    ... begins with a first step.

    (* Not intended to be the distance between San Francisco and San Diego)

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 01:46:54 PM PDT

    •  I'm hopeful about this (7+ / 0-)

      And happy the governor took action to keep the project from falling apart.

      But 2028 is way too long from now.  No plan made today will last that long, let alone to the end of the decade, given the economic challenges headed our way.

      The next step, it seems to me, is to figure out how to get them to move up the timeline to finish the project by 2020 or so. - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:36:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not doable. (8+ / 0-)

        With is why its significant that they will start using the corridor long before its finished. First in 2017 with the San Joaquin from Merced to Bakersfield when the first construction segment is finished, and then with the Initial HSR from the San Fernando to Merced, in the early 2020's.

        Its the corridor being put to use that will help keep the project going ahead.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:43:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ok, hopefully it will. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, Aunt Pat, Lujane, RunawayRose

          It's just that post peak oil budgets are going to be a whole new level of squeezed.  The question will be whether we'll have enlightened leadership that realizes we need a good electric train system, or one that cuts money from everything in response.

 - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:04:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thing is, the fact that HSR does not ... (11+ / 0-)

            ... require operating subsidies under 1980's conditions means we can be even more confident that it won't require operating subsidies under post peak oil conditions.

            If the US ever gets serious about sustainable transport, the capital subsidies to intercity transport like the California HSR system are going to pale in comparison with the capital subsidies to get sustainable, energy independent local transport up and running. And still, since it will use labor and equipment, which we have, and save energy, which we are a massive importer of, in real resource terms it uses what we have in abundance to conserve what we will need to conserve in a post peak world.

            The numbers sound big in a transport context, but it does need to be kept in mind that much of the spending is for things that do not need to be redone ever, or that have a 100 year lifespan ... and then, it mostly big when compared to the dribs and drabs public transport spending that the US is used to ~ if they were placed under the Defense budget, they'd be close to a rounding error.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:15:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Time clipping (6+ / 0-)

    I think it would be far better to spend the money to get the route up and running with trains than to it would be to clip 10 minutes of travel time here and there while increasing the costs by millions of dollars. Couldn't time clipping be done after the service is in place? I imagine it may be easier to get funding for HSR service improvements than it has been to get funding to get even started.

    •  It does depend on what the time clipping ... (5+ / 0-)

      ... consists of.

      There's no time to be clipped on the Express HSR sections through the CV unless, for instance, the corridor is built for 180mph and you need to rebuild it for 220mph.

      The first four segments ~ the initial construction segment, then to Palmdale, then to the San Fernando Valley, then north to San Jose ~ are all bullet train corridor, and there's nothing that you could pinch pennies on without making the cost of hitting the target time explode through the roof due to the rework.

      But if the electrification of the Caltrain Corridor is done when the Bay to Basin is done, but the DTX is not finished, then running at 110mph to 4th and King instead of stopping at San Jose would work. As upgrades proceed, the HSR would spend part of each trip creeping along shoe fly tracks to get around each stage of grade separation to finish the corridor for 125mph, but it would be a single seat ride, and under 3:30 to the LA Basin in any event.

      At the LA side, given the number of individual grade separations, they are either going to raise or lower the grade of the whole corridor. The time to do that is before the HSR is using is, since as it stands there is ample space in the corridor itself to put track at grade along one edge, work in the other side of the corridor, put a pair of tracks in there, then do the same work and complete a four track system. That'll work whether its trench or berm. So its after the grade separations work is completed that the HSR can plan on using Burbank / LA Union Station.

      Now, the plan does not include that section until the final stage, but if its available earlier, of course you'd use it. If the LA Union Station / Burbank corridor work has been finished when the Express HSR corridor is completed through to the San Fernando Valley, the HSR First Service will obviously just run through to LA Union Station.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:07:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm pleased with the new plan (6+ / 0-)

    Why not start with improvements on the lines that are already hugely popular, San Joaquin, Capitol, etc...

    We need options that get people out of cars as soon as possible. So lets begin by improving the routes some folks already know are winners.

    It will be fun to explore the expansion of improvements as they come online.

    "Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -- Vaclav Havel

    by greendem on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:18:40 PM PDT

    •  Yes, part of the plan ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... where I began discussing the general foundation last week but will explore again sometime soon ... is the releasing the ~$700m in funding from Prop1a that was to be allocated to train systems that would be connecting to the HSR corridor, and get that work started soon.

      So, for example, between the HSR Palmdale and the HSR San Fernando Valley stations, there will be people living along the Antelope Valley line who will be using it as a link to get to one of the HSR stations or the other, and so the Antelope Valley line will get getting upgrades that will allow Express trains to run faster and without interfering with local trains.

      And when the San Joaquin starts running at 110 mph between Merced and Bakersfield, and then hands over to the even higher speed HSR "Between Merced and Burbank" and becomes a connecting service to complete the trip to the Bay ... it will be on an upgraded corridor compared to today's Bay to Merced leg.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:31:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't live in California... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Hoghead99, Aunt Pat, RunawayRose

    but this is very interesting.  I don't think there's too much detail at all.

  •  Thanks Bruce! (7+ / 0-)

      You're doing a great job, keep 'em coming!

    Re: HSR-kinda....... We had some 70 MPH territory on our RR. Most places the upper limit was 60, but there was one spot where you could do 70, if the train consist permitted. Had an older engineer tell me one time, "I know this sounds crazy, but stuff happens a lot faster at 70 than it does at 60." Well, I just kinds filed that one away........

       Fast forward a few years, I am pretty new to engine service and have a nice, short, hot train, good for 70 MPH. So OK, here we go........... And I found out........ "Stuff happens a lot faster at 70 than it does at 60!" I mean dang, we're talking  2 mile blocks here, but when you go by the Advance Approach (flashing yellow), you'd better be doing something about slowing down and doing it now, as to wait and see!

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:59:05 PM PDT

    •  Yes, AFAIU, modern versions of PTC ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... use 1km (0.8mi) blocks and will automatically use the service brake (and dynamic braking for a sparkie on an electrified corridor) when the train comes to the practical headway of an occupied block up ahead.

      The requirement of PTC for higher speed trains was by no means just some bureaucrat's imagination ~ when you are running passenger trains at 110mph with 3 minute headways, some form of PTC is a must ~ but it hit just at the time that railways were giving up on higher speed, high reliability delivery time freight and focusing on moving bulk freight at costs that the trucks couldn't compete against. So instead of the electrification and higher speed trains that the Europeans got, instead we got the single track revolution.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:07:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The more things change....... (5+ / 0-)

           ...I remember reading some years back about a western freight RR, um, Great Norhtern, mebbe? Had electric locomotives. The trains running downhill in dynamic braking would put juice into the wire for trains grinding uphill under power.

           I guess maintenance of the overhead wire got too costly, so they dieselized a bit at a time. Tch....

        Compost for a greener piles?

        by Hoghead99 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:16:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They decided that the copper in the ... (4+ / 0-)

          ... wires was worth more as raw copper, when they had to decide whether to complete the electrification and eliminate a double locomotive change for the non-electrified portion, or scrap the electricity.

          If they had made the other decision, they would have made far more in profits a few years later when the first Arab Oil Embargo hit and the cost of diesel went up. Indeed, it might have been that railroad buying some of the others, instead of being one of the railroads that got bought.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:31:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If that was Great Northern, (0+ / 0-)

          I remember reading that the GN had debated either extending electrification to Everett WA or ventilating the Cascade Tunnel for diesels back in the 1950s. Since the ventilation requires doors at the ends of the tunnel, they can only handle 29 trains a day, and there's a risk of a locomotive hitting the door. The official story is that steam locomotives had to be changed every 100 miles or so, so having one division electrified wasn't a hassle. When they switched to diesels, having to change locomotives at Skykomish and then Wenatchee looked ridiculous when the locomotive could continue all the way to Chicago.

          The Milwaukee Road pulled their electrification down in the 1970s--just when the energy crisis hit and the bottom fell out of the copper market. That could be the one you're thinking about.

          Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

          by Judge Moonbox on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:14:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  California may be the only place in the US (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, Aunt Pat, BruceMcF

    outside of the Northeast with the population needed to support HSR. I would divert all the HSR money to California and the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak has a 50+ billion dollar capital improvment plan that is not getting funded. (I took the Acela Express from New York to Washington and back last week and found it to be a very pleasant experience; the capital improvements are needed to keep those trains running for the next generation.)

    •  Florida would be another. (6+ / 0-)

      They already had a consortium of private investors willing to guarantee that the state would not have to subsidize service in return for the Orlando/Tampa franchise. Of course, they have a reserved expressway median alignment, which is no good for 220mph but, on the other hand, Orlando and Tampa are much closer than SF/LA, so 150mph would be ample.

      There's also Houston / Dallas, which was one of five corridors that the French HSR operator SNCF expressed interest in.

      And there's the Midwest centered on Chicago ~ SNCF expressed interest in that one as well.

      As far as the Express HSR, those are the only sure things. First we would get those built, and their performance would tell us which of the other more marginal cases might justify Express HSR.

      Of course, then there's the 110mph to 125mph class of rail, which on the one hand does not get nearly as far in the 3hrs required to capture a big slice of single-day trips ~ but on the other hand can be 1/5 to 1/10 the cost of Express HSR, so does not require nearly the same area in the catchments around the stations along the route. There are a number of those that could hit an operating surplus quite comfortably ~ the other two Tea Party Governors that gave HSR money back, ours here in Ohio and Walker up in Wisconsin, they gave money back for the start toward 110mph corridors that, when they hit 110mph, would certainly have generated operating surpluses.

      But there are lots of potential corridors that are more marginal, and again, its after experience with the 110mph corridors that we will have the base of information to tell which others are financially viable under current conditions, and which might have to wait for five or ten years before conditions are right.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 08:40:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How may years did it take the Northeast to get (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

    high speed rail?

    The answer is surprising. Plans to electrify various trackage were announced over a century ago, but were not complete from Washington to New Haven and Philadelphia to Harrisburg until 1938. Yet it was another three decades before true HSR existed, with the advent of the Penn Central Metroliner service in 1969.

    •  As far as Express HSR ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... it hasn't really had it yet. US railroads hit moderately high top speeds in the early part of the 20th century, and was able to sustain them for long stretches on Express track out along the long, straight sections of the Prairie ~ but not at what is now considered current generation "High Speed Rail" in Europe or Japan, of 180mph to 220mph, with average transit speeds in excess of 100mph.

      The Acela hits higher top speeds than the first generation Japanese bullet trains of the early 1960's, but the average transit speeds are not at the level that would be expected of Express HSR in most countries. Large stretches of the corridor are limited to 135mph by antiquated untensioned catenary, other large stretches are in CT are officially 150mph but the train cannot sustain those speeds because the track is too close together to allow it to use the tilt train mechanism and there are curves that require slower operation.

      The last time we had a push to HSR, the opponents successfully quarantined it in the NEC, and then choked it down to the kind-of, parway HSR that we have there today. And despite their best efforts to ensure that it was a failure, it has captured a substantial share of the combined rail and air market in the corridor.

      This time, despite their best efforts, they were unable to quarantine Rapid Rail improvements in the Northeast, and with the ongoing improvements in Virginia, Chicago/St. Louis and the Pacific Northwest, it will become far more difficult to pretend that Rapid Rail is a special case requiring local population density, nor that the substantially higher costs of the Northeast are actually typical for Rapid Rail.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 08:53:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very informative. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, BruceMcF, RunawayRose, hotheadCA

    I am glad I found Sunday Train.  Thank you for writing about this topic.

    Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

    by Aunt Pat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 09:13:55 PM PDT

  •  What is the projected ridership? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can't seem to find it, and think it's likely you already have.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:08:24 AM PDT

    •  I believe that is in the Business Plan ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

      ... let me look (btw, while I'm looking, its here (pdf) ...

      ... ok, its in Chapter 5, page 5-16. These figures are not initial ridership, but after five years of "ramp-up", as experience in European HSR is that there is about a 5 year ramp-up period before the system hits steady state (either stable ridership or growing, depending on conditions of broader transport demand between the populations connected by the corridor).

      The modelling also includes more pessimistic assumptions and more optimistic assumptions, for a low and high model projection, which are the two numbers I give.

      Phase 1: 20.1m ~ 32.6m
      Bay to Basin: 14.0m ~ 24.3m
      HSR-First Service: 7.4m to 13.5m

      Note that the ramp-up period for the system extensions is, effectively, on the increment between the prior and following system. So if the HSR First Service operated for 5 years and hit 8m, and the Bay to Basin was then launched and was heading to 15m, the ramp-up would be on the 7m increment ~ something around 2.8m additional by the end of the first year, something like 5.6m additional by the end of the third year.

      The ramp-up that they are using, and the existing HSR corridor ridership profiles that they base it on, is on page 5-14.

      (When comparing these riderships to transit boardings, be careful to account for the fact that the average miles per trip will be far more on the HSR than on a normal transit system).

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:50:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tip, rec, "like", (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox, Ahianne

    hoping nephew sees this.

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:46:10 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

    For those of us on the ground (in my case in Bakersfield) the screaming can be overwhelming. The coherent serious thought you bring to this is refreshing.
    I'm hoping you or someone can answer a question that comes up repeatedly, that I don't know the answer to.
     Has anyone done a cost comparison to building/completing State Route 65 versus the cost of the high speed rail?

    ex-SSP. What would Machiavelli do?

    by hankmeister on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:26:51 AM PDT

    •  I don't know where that information would be ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      ... the California HSR Blog has a post saying that Widening I-5 More Expensive than HSR to Anaheim, comparing just one urban section ... criticized by many as costing too much ... to how much California spends on a road widening project.

      The first 2012 draft Business Plan before Gov. Brown seemed to have stepped and knocked some heads together was claiming that the HSR was cheaper than the alternative means to the same transport capacity by road and air infrastructure costing $150b ~ but I think that the Peer Review Panel criticized that claim, so I don't know how strong that figure actually is.

      The figure they were using previously was $100b, and that seems reasonable to me.

      I expect the detailed appendices to the Business Plan will appear this week ~ the Board meeting was put off from April 5 until this week, and I expect it was because they would not have been able to get all the material into form for distribution in time, given that they seemed to have finalized last minute details in the last week of March, like the North California Unified Services umbrella organization for the San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, and Altamont Corridor Express and the San Joaquin running on the first segment to be constructed.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:42:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        that doing a comp versus the alternatives such as adding lanes to I-5/99 and/or building SR65 would have dealt up front. The argument that is generally made by those in favor of high speed ground transport that we can't afford to keep building freeways. Which I believe to be true.
         However, nobody seems to have come up with facts to defend against the following three red herrings that are commonly used by opponents.
         We should just:
        A) "add four more lanes to I-5"
        B)We should just finish Highway 65 as it was originally planned by the state. (Bakersfield to Roseville)
        C) We should spend the money upgrading Hwy 99 in to an interstate.
        If someone, i.e. the state, could come with cost responses for those three scenarios it would make the project a lot more salable to the skeptics.

        ex-SSP. What would Machiavelli do?

        by hankmeister on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:35:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The thing is ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ... the analysis that has been done on that front so far has been done more for serious cost benefit analysis, and not for purposes of pure political propaganda. So it can say things like it would cost $100b to provide the same intercity transport capacity.

          Its not something I dig into, since widening I-5 doesn't do much damn good if we get into a pointless fight in the Straits of Hormuz and 20% of the world's oil supply goes off the market in a day or two.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:33:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site