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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

This is more or less the three year anniversary of the first Sunday Train ~ a bit less than more, since this is the 12th of August 2012 and I think that the first Sunday Train was 16th of August, 2009. It emerged from a variety of blogging I had been doing over the previous couple of years, with a notion that if I set down a target of blogging on Sunday, it would make it easier for people to track the Sunday Train down. It was originally posted at my midnight-populist blogspot, Burning the Midnight Oil, crossposted to Agent Orange, My Left Wing, Progressive Blue and Docudharma, but I was never really enthusiastic about building up my own blog, and nor about  the constraints of blogspot, so over time I settled on writing the Sunday Train at a community blog, cross-posting it to other community blogs, and posting the summary to Burning the Midnight Oil, with cross-links to the blogs containing that week's full post.

The crosspost list also varied from time to time: of those original community blogs, I rarely visit My Left Wing or Docudharma much anymore, and the best of Progressive Blue has been folded into the broader coalition at Voices on the Square, which since its launch last month has been the new home base for Sunday Train. The Sunday Train still rolls into Agent Orange (aka "daily kos"), and has for some time also stopped at Hillbilly Report and the Stars Hollow Gazette, and occasionally at the European Tribune.

In celebration of the three year anniversary, more or less, I am reprinting the diary  from the 16th August, 2009, "zOMG, these aint REAL HSR trains!"

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence, crossposted from MyLeftWing please subscribe

I've seen this before ... indeed, it was mentioned recently in some discussion threads of Libertarians Against Choice ... the effort to play divide and conquer by arguing "if it doesn't go 220mph, it isn't worth doing".

John Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune asked last Monday Are 110mph trains on the right track? (secondary link - trouble w/primary), establishing at the outset the false frame that 110mph and 220mph trains are two different "tracks" and we have to choose between them.

This is, of course, nonsense. Indeed, the first generation of bullet trains were 125mph trains, which is the second tier of the three-tier Department of Transport system.

However, there may be more going on here than just the run of the mill "make stuff up based on my uninformed reaction without finding out the facts" that seems to dominate the op-ed pages.

Where does this meme come from? Some of it is a natural reaction. "110mph? How fast do those European trains go? Why can't we go that fast?" But some of it is clearly cultivated, since I see it in the writings of anti-HSR propagandists like O'Toole, where we find in a mix of facts, half-truths, red herrings and outright lies the following argument:

The FRA is not proposing to build 200-mph bullet trains throughout the U.S. Instead, in most places it is proposing to upgrade existing freight lines to allow passenger trains to run as fast as 110 mph – which means average speeds of only 55-75 mph. This would actually be slower than driving for anyone whose origin and destination are not both right next to a train station.
The first distortion here is the misleading pretense that the FRA is proposing the corridors. This is simply not the way the process works. Instead, a state or a group of states proceeds with preliminary planning, including identifying potential ridership and identifying potential alignments. As part of the process of getting ready to apply for Federal funding, any alignment that is not yet part of an existing Dept. of Transport HSR corridor needs to apply to be added to a corridor (or designated as a new corridor - under the original Clinton-era HSR legislation, Congress has one more corridor designation available to hand out).

So the "corridor map" you see around is not the result of some top-down master rail planner somewhere ... but of a bottom-up process. When people ask questions like, "why isn't Atlanta / Chattanooga / Nashville on that map?" ... the answer is because Tennessee has not made the progress required to get it on the map.

The second distortion is the unstated suggestion that the only competitive advantage that rail can have over cars in transport markets is faster speed ... because after all, nobody ever takes passenger trains that are slower than driving.

Except, of course, they do ... experience in several states, including HSR funding applicants California and Illinois, is that providing more frequent and more reliable conventional rail results in increased patronage ... even though it is quite often a bit faster for those same passengers if they drive.

The third distortion is a 50:50 mix of outright lie and red herring. As described in technical detail in this report on tilt-train technology from Sweden (pdf), when a track is shared with slower speed trains, and the track is banked for the slower speed trains - and this is essential when the slower trains include heavy freight, with their axle loads of up to 33 short tons - that means that curves impose a speed limit on trains, even if trains have a much higher top speed.

In fact, four factors interact: distance between stations, top speed, power of the locomotive, and the banking possible around curves. The closer stations are together, the more important a powerful locomotive becomes, because so much time is spent pulling out of stations ... but once stations are over 4 miles to 12 miles apart (depending on the tightness of the curve), the ability to tilt is more important.

So if you run a conventional train with a locomotive that can reach 110mph then it is perfectly reasonably to say that trip speed will be 55mph-75mph. However, with stations 30 miles apart or more, as in the Ohio Hub and Midwest Hub plans, and if tilt-train technology is used, the fastest trip speeds rise to the range of 85mph. If the line is then electrified, which increases acceleration and deceleration, that top speed can exceed 90mph.

Indeed, O'Toole is either confused or bullshitting when he says (p. 9):

It is unlikely that moderate-speed train operations will save any energy at all. Such trains will mostly be Diesel-powered, and increasing speeds from 79 to 110 mph will significantly increase the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of those trains. Saving energy requires that trains accelerate slowly and coast into stations rather than brake heavily, but such practices reduce the time savings offered by higher top speeds.
... since the primary factor determining the energy efficiency of intercity rail is the load factor ... the percentage of time that the average seat is occupied. Even Diesel 110mph tilt-trains have better fuel efficiency per seat-mile than cars do, so as long as their load factor is higher than that of cars, they are saving energy.

And how do you get load factors up? Well, consider the Triple-C corridor, from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati. At 79mph, that is two main transport markets - Cleveland/Columbus and Columbus/Cincinnati. At well over 3 hours, Cleveland/Cincinnati, the end to end trips fall outside of the day trip market, which is a strategic threshold for attracting riders from a wide range of market niches. The typical seat will either by occupied twice, or will be occupied for one leg but not the other.

At 110mph, Cleveland/Cincinnati comes into range for the day trip market. That increases ridership, and in particular increases the seats that are sold to be occupied for 100% of the route. And it also increases the frequency of rail services that can be offered, which makes it easier to match up to periods of stronger transport demand. And, of course, more frequent services means it is easier to use discounts to shift price sensitive passengers onto services with less demand, making room on the high demand services for the departure/arrival sensitive passengers ...

... all of which translates into higher load factors.

O'Toole is, of course, not interested in actually analyzing energy efficiency ... his interest is coming up with arguments against the HSR policy. But the point of interest for this post is the way that he works to divide Emerging HSR from Express HSR, which is presented as better than Emerging HSR (albeit "probably not good enough"):

True high-speed trains save energy by using lighter equipment, but the energy cost of higher speeds party offsets the savings from hauling less weight. Any remaining operational savings are not likely to be sufficient to recover the huge amounts of energy consumed and greenhouse gases released during construction of new rail lines.72
(Also note here the talking point on CO2 construction parroted by Freakonomist Ed Morris, despite the fact that he was citing a source that debunked the claim.)

Emerging HSR and Express HSR Are The Same Track

So, the Libertarian anti-rail propagandists are out there spreading the talking point that "and most of these are not 'real' HSR anyway", aided and abetted by Express HSR enthusiasts who have fallen into the trap of talking down one option as a means to boost the chances of another one.

But it just does not hold water. Well chosen 110mph routes will be able to generate operating surpluses, so once they are up and running, they will not be fighting against other transport for public funds. Indeed, they will be able to support revenue bonds for their own capital improvements ... including, importantly, electrification.

By sharing stations with cross-cutting Emerging HSR corridors, Express HSR stations will have substantially more reach by supporting Emerging HSR / Express HSR transfer passengers.

Indeed, just as in France, once the 110mph corridors have been electrified, then a single 220mph corridor can host multiple services that continue beyond the end of the 220mph corridor to various points on the main inter-urban network. While they would not operate at the same speed as a train designed for those routes, they will benefit from the increased capacity and untangling of freight trains and passenger trains that has been undertaken for the Emerging HSR services.

Also, the process of establishing the 110mph Emerging HSR corridors will include untangling bottlenecks that currently plague express intercity services running through our major metropolitan areas. It is not critical for the Express HSR service to run through the densely populated core of major metropolitan areas at full speed ... but it is critical to have unimpeded access. Indeed, one of the reasons that the French HSR corridors were so financially successful is that they were able to leverage the existing infrastructure to allow Express Intercity services into major metropolitan areas, so 220mph corridor construction could be focused in the countryside where it was much less expensive.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a program focusing on Express HSR alone faces extreme political vulnerability. Competing against heavily subsidized interstate road and air infrastructure, Express HSR corridors will require substantial up-front capital subsidies. Relying on development of new rights of way, completely grade separated from the existing road and rail networks, these systems can take a decade or more to build. And under current conditions, relatively few states would be likely to participate in the first round of corridors ... a special concern given that the US Senate is normally where progressive policies go to die.

However, when all the types of rail services that offer substantial improvements on what is presently available are collected together into a single package, the result is much more politically robust. Over 70% of the states can make a quite serious and reasonable case for inclusion in some form of "Higher Speed Rail" corridor, whether Emerging HSR, Regional HSR or Express HSR ... and, indeed, over 60% have already done so, at least to the point of gaining corridor designation for their starter lines.

And unlike Express HSR, the Emerging HSR corridors can deliver results much more quickly, with many of the ones that have already completed their environmental impact statements able to go from funding to running services in three to four years time. And the ongoing launching of services in various parts of the country will naturally lead to cries of, "why not us?" ... which lays the foundation for maintaining the ongoing funding required to construct the Express HSR corridors.

What is the Strategic Point

And that would seem to be the strategic point behind that particular Libertarian talking points - divide and conquer. Whenever "the other side" is stronger in coalition than separately, it should be expected that part of the attack is an effort to wedge the coalition apart.

And the particular appeal of this particular wedge strategy is the fact that you can get Express HSR enthusiasts to do some of your dirty work for you. Despite that fact that a "standalone Express HSR" policy will not be able to deliver as much money for Express HSR as the coalition strategy will do, there will always be those who fall into the trap of seeing the funding going to Emerging HSR and Regional HSR and think, "why, they shouldn't get that money, we should".

And so all that the Libertarians propaganda mills need to do for this particular talking point to take a life of its own is to encourage the politically naive among Express HSR supporters in that misguided jealousy.

You Can Help

At the shallow end of the pool, you can subscribe and contribute to promoting other versions of this diary, at Docudharma, ProgressiveBlue in addition to MLW, and the original draft at Burning the Midnight Oil. In the deeper end, but not too deep, join an organization fighting for a more Energy Independent transport system ... Transportation For America, the National Association of Rail Passengers, the US HSR Association and/or a local Citizen Rail Group (links courtesy NARP)

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Three years isn't such a long time ... (28+ / 0-)

    ... now, how long its been since US transportation policy was dominated by concerns of energy and material efficiency, now that's been a Long, Long Time.

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

    by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:30:06 PM PDT

  •  I Fracking Love Trains (12+ / 0-)

    as I know you've heard me say many times. And if we stay on schedule in a few years I'll be able to get from where I live outside of St. Louis to Chicago in a few hours, not the six it takes now.

    That I can get on a train at around 6 AM, get to Chicago, have almost an entire day to tool around, and then head back home the same day .... well that is something I might do monthly. Cause as much as I love St. Louis, it isn't Chicago :).

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:17:06 PM PDT

    •  In a few years at 4hrs ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... how many more to under 3hrs depends on policy between now and then ~ it certainly could be done before California is running from the LA Basin to the SF Bay, its a lot easier terrain between Chicago and St. Louis!

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:24:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  LOL. Much Easier Terrain :) (6+ / 0-)

        Just put down a chalk line and build the darn thing.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:30:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ryan opposed Milwaukee to Madison. (9+ / 0-)

        We should remember, when we're discussing midwest corridor proposals, that Ryan supported Gov. Walker's cancelling the Milwaukee to Madison HSR corridor--one which will link to the Chicago to Milwaukee corridor which already has 7 daily trains and extend to Minneapolis. (When they do get to the Twin Cities, they'll need a new station in Minneapolis, because the downtown redevelopments cut off the old stations from any viable corridor.)

        Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

        by Judge Moonbox on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:00:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How Can You Be Against A Transportation Project (8+ / 0-)

          a few weeks ago this women I was dating, we were going to Forest Park in St. Louis. I picked her up. She was confused when I drove past the exit for 64 that would have taken us there. I didn't even think to mention I planned to take the Metro. I mean it is just how I get around. I drive 4 miles from my house, park (parking is free) at the local community college, and get on the Metro.

          She said, "only poor people take the Metro." I said I am not poor. She didn't think it seemed like such a good idea. I have to report that she LOVED it. It was faster, cheaper, and took us literally exactly to where we wanted to go.

          When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

          by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:10:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And the Ryan budget zeroes out ... (8+ / 0-)

          ... Amtrak funding.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:33:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Tea Partisans want to give Big Oil bigger monopoly (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BruceMcF, G2geek, Aunt Pat, Woody, RunawayRose, BYw

            The Republicans have long had a hostility to anything that can provide an alternative to energy consumption, especially when it comes to driving. Ryan is not a TeaPartisn, but his wing of the GOP has been just as hostile to things that put the country ahead of the energy industry.

            Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

            by Judge Moonbox on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:47:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Quite, that is a major source of funding ... (4+ / 0-)

              ... for the radical reactionary movement in Republican politics.

              In general terms, that began back in the 1970's with US peak oil. Before the 1970's, higher levels of economic activity and employment also meant higher production quotas in the West Texas oil fields, and economic slow downs meant lower production quotas, so Big Oil was part of the New Deal coalition.

              After US peak oil, the West Texas oil quotas were raised to 100%, and control over oil pricing passed outside of US borders, at which point Big Oil left the New Deal coalition and joined the Republicans.

              Of course, that is just establishment corporate money ... independently wealthy oil billionaires like the Kochs were free to pursue their own radical reactionary agenda well before that.

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

              by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:53:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  ...or Dallas to Houston (6+ / 0-)

        with roughly 6+illion people at each end, very little reason to stop in between and only several hundred feet elevation difference (it's REAL flat).  Southwest Airlines runs roughly 56 flights both ways between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM every weekday.  They are not opposed, and there is an urban rail system at each end (96 miles in Dallas, 25 miles in Houston).

        I'm just sayin'...

        Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 07:44:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ye, Dallas to Houston was one ... (5+ / 0-)

          ... of the five corridors that the French national passenger rail operator SNCF put in an expression of interest in.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 07:45:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Southwest used to be opposed. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The proposal to build HSR in Texas--from Dallas to Houston, Dallas to San Antonio, and Houston to San Antonio--has been floating around for decades now. It was close to getting started under President Clonton, but Southwest and others objected.

          Maybe now, they see a value in reducing energy consumption, as high fuel costs hinder their ability to attract customers in corridors where HSR is not a threat.

          Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

          by Judge Moonbox on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 05:41:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My understanding is that they are now "neutral" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

            Previously, under CEO Kelleher, they actively worked against it.

            Considering Texas weather, and the reliance SWA has on its Dallas and Houston hubs for connections, the reliability of HSR to go right on through thunderstorms when the airports are bogged down is a real plus.  Assuming the bridges and tracks aren't washed out, knowing Texas storms!

            Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

            by tom 47 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 07:01:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Their business has shifted ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Judge Moonbox

            ... with an increase in the average passenger-miles per trip on Southwest, so now they see value in the gates that would be made available, where at the time that the Texas Triangle was being pushed, that would have been value to be captured by other airlines.

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

            by BruceMcF on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 07:39:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I Don't Think I Ever Mentioned This To You Bruce (8+ / 0-)

    many years ago I worked at the ad agency that did most of the work for Amtrak. Long story short, I was the market research guy. Amtrak paid my firm a small fortune to fly me around the country (yes I know that is funny) to take some of the most popular Amtrak lines.

    I was already a fan of Amtrak and trains since I lived just two blocks from Union Station in DC and for me tooling around on the east coast, well rail was the only way to do it. But after taking about a dozen trips I feel in love even more.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:27:36 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary. (5+ / 0-)

    "The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country-and we haven't seen them since." - Gore Vidal

    by blueoregon on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:36:28 PM PDT

  •  I work in transportation (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, G2geek, Aunt Pat, RunawayRose

    and I understand what the politicians in California are doing.  They are trying to keep the HSR money, put something in place that builds its way to a true HSR system while not committing billions that California does not yet have.

    It is an uncomfortable way to split the sheets, but it keeps the HSR moving forward while we are in the middle of a huge economic downturn.

    There are lots of opponents that would like to see it die, but I am not one of them.

    "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

    by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:38:57 PM PDT

    •  This diary was back in ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... 2009, but then, as now, the California HSR was an Express HSR and facing the problem of logrolling federal support for HSR. Except now, over the next four years, the Chicago / St. Louis, Michigan, and Virginia Rapid Rail systems will be going into service, and Washington (state) and North Carolina conventional rail sytems ready to step up to Rapid Rail in another round of funding, so the prospects for securing that logroll are very strong. With funding secured for the next five years, the California delegation has lots of time to secure the funding required in 2017/2019.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:58:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Does CA Have The Political Will? (6+ / 0-)

        I can only really speak for my state. We wanted all the money the feds wanted to give us. Sure there were a few wingnuts in the state house that didn't want it, but not many. Generally speaking everybody, even the Republicans wanted the money.

        Heck about three years ago, both Democrats and Republicans from "downstate" (the term for southern IL, where I live) came together and stop all work in Springfield cause a large percentage of highway funds were going to Chicago and not here for our local rail system.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:02:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh I Should Note In The County I Live In (8+ / 0-)

          if you are handicapped or a senior citizen all mass transit is free. 110% free. For me a one day pass is $7.50 or $1.75 for a two hour pass. I mean how cool is that.

          When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

          by webranding on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:05:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The biggest hurdle ... (8+ / 0-)

          ... was the one they passed last month. With work for the next five years funded, the opponents have lost their best chance to kill the project.

          And despite the noisiness of the opposition, the support is not just from the Democratic side of politics ~ Disney wants it, for one example.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:38:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  re. last week: folding bikes: (7+ / 0-)

            I missed the chance to comment on last week's entry, so:

            Better & more accessible folding bikes with cargo capacity!

            The key to this is to fold the bike into a configuration that works like a hand-cart or two-wheeled shopping basket.  Instead of carrying the folded bike like luggage, the user would wheel it onto the bus or train, and wheel it off.  

            This configuration would also provide means of attaching a cargo container with about a cubic foot of carrying capacity (essentially your classic milk crate or equivalent).  While riding, the cargo box would fit above the rear wheel.  When folded and being wheeled around, it would hang from an attachment point on the folded frame.  

            I actually designed something like this years ago, in the form of a cargo trailer for the Strida folding bike.  The cargo trailer would have 2 - 3 cubic feet of capacity and function like a 2-wheeled grocery cart in stand-alone mode.  The Strida folding bike would be hung from hooks on the side of the trailer that normally faced the person when they were pushing it.  

            This was not intended for long-distance use, but for city use where public transport covered the longer distances.  It's not a "biker's bike," it's a basic practical solution for urban environments.  Thus you'd hook the trailer to the folding bike, and pedal to the nearest bus or urban rail stop.  Then fold up the bike (the Strida is designed to be easy and fast to fold), clip it to the trailer, and roll the trailer onto the bus or train as easily as rolling a two-wheeled grocery cart.  

            At destination, roll off the bus or train, unclip the bike, unfold it, attach the trailer, and pedal off to the grocery store.  Do your shopping, load the bags into the trailer, and pedal back to the bus or light rail stop.  Unhook the bike from the trailer, fold up the bike, and clip into the trailer.  Wheel it onto the bus or train, have a nice ride back to your local stop, roll it off, set it up, ride it home.

            Strida is here:

            Another clever urban folding bike is here:

            Here's a typical folding shopping cart:

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 08:08:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, I more or less did the roll-on, ... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sychotic1, G2geek, RunawayRose, BYw

              ... roll-off thing sometimes with my Dahon folder, though it did not act like a cart and it took a knack to do it.

              Not all buses, though, are ultra-low floor boarding. If its steps up into the bus, with wheelchair users requiring use of a lift, having the bike in a bag slung over your shoulder reduces (though as reported last week, does not eliminate) the risk that there will be an objection to bringing it on.

              In areas that allow people to roll the portable little shopping carts onto a bus, a folding bike that doubles as a portable little shopping cart would give a second argument ~ "but, that lady over there has her cart on the bus!"

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

              by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 04:31:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  ultimately this is about disability rights. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, BYw

                What do you call a shoulder or back that hurts like hell when you try to sling something heavy over it?  

                Compared to someone who's young & spry, it's a disability, and it's a predictable one that comes with age.  

                Any transit agency that doesn't allow a little old lady to roll her little portable shopping cart onto the bus, is just begging for an ADA lawsuit.  What's she supposed to do, carry a week's worth of groceries in a frame pack on her frail shoulders?  Oh Boy!, here comes a slip-and-fall accident that's directly attributable to policy, with a huge medical bill and a lawsuit to make anyone wish they hadn't gotten up that day.

                Once you allow it for the 90-year-old, or the 20-something with a spinal injury, you also have to allow it for the 50-something or the 40-something who has the normal aches and pains of age.  

                Electric powered bicycles got legalized that way.  Basically anything that looks like a bicycle but has a battery and motor, is street legal anywhere in the US.  In some places the motors are limited to 350 watts or a top speed of 15 miles per hour, but none the less.  And from there, anything with comparable power and speed characteristics is also legally a "bicycle" even if it has four wheels and it's completely enclosed; thus we have velomobiles.  

                There are disability rights issues in play with velomobiles as well: for example someone who is subject to vertigo and can't balance on a bicycle, has to have three or four wheels on the ground.  Someone with a compromised immune system has legitimate need of protection from rain and cold wind.  Etc.  

                But getting back to the starting topic here, it seems to me that there should never be an issue with "something like a small portable grocery cart that has a folded bike strapped to it."  If it fits into the space allotted to some other permissible device, it's got to be permissible.

                BTW re. your complaint about your bike falling under the bus, seems to me a bungie cord could fasten it to something on the rack at the front of the bus, to prevent it falling off.  

                And yeah I also agree that those racks on the front are an ungainly and aesthetically objectionable adaptation: what's needed instead is an adaptation of the interior space in the bus, and hooks to vertically hang the bikes are a viable solution.  

                While we're at it, let's also have all-wheel steering on buses, so they can turn tighter corners (think of a "hook & ladder" truck) and, using the "crab steering" mode, glide into bus stops in perfect parallel alignment with the curb.  The latter will also prevent bus rear-ends sticking out into traffic, thereby removing the hazard of automobile drivers trying to speed around the bus and squeezing lanes to do it.  

                All this stuff can easily be designed by engineers and built on assembly lines in the US.  All that's needed is the political will.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 07:50:21 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  What issue there should never be ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... and what issue there is are sometimes the same thing.

                  Remember that the discussion was bus drivers instructed by the transit authority to object to taking a folding bike onto a bus, in a bag, and onto a bus that is running nearly empty.

                  Something the same general size and weight in the same bag that wasn't a bike would certainly be allowed.

                  If its in folding bike in a configuration as a shopping cart, and they allow shopping carts, that particular transit authority would probably fight against allowing it on. The question is making it harder for them to win that fight.

                  BTW re. your complaint about your bike falling under the bus, seems to me a bungie cord could fasten it to something on the rack at the front of the bus, to prevent it falling off.
                  It wasn't a complaint about my bike falling under the bus, its a feeling like its going to fall under the bus.

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

                  by BruceMcF on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 10:01:42 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  yep, more lawsuits! (0+ / 0-)

                    Yes, I meant "felt like it might" rather than "actually fell under the bus," thereby demonstrating once again that attempts at brevity by way of omitting words, are usually doomed to fail by way of generating additional back-and-forth that ends up using more words than were originally omitted;-)

                    Re. "bus drivers instructed by the transit authority to object to taking a folding bike onto a bus, in a bag, and onto a bus that is running nearly empty."

                    OK, so now two passengers attempt to board a bus, carrying more or less identical ruck-sacks, one containing a folded bike and one containing bagged groceries of equal weight and bulk.  The driver, following his orders from the transit authority, asks what's in the ruck-sacks, allows the passenger with groceries, and denies the passenger with folded bike.  Ka-ching!, lawsuit time!

                    Meanwhile back at the grocery cart:

                    Assume the Strida folder, with its composite belt drive, thus no chains and no grease.  Or assume the Sinclair A-Bike with its totally enclosed drive system.  Now let's go one step further and build the trailer with solid sides all made of fiberglass, so the whole thing is an enclosed pod with a hinged door, and the folder goes inside.  Ultimately it's a relatively simple matter to engineer something to accommodate any objection to concerns that the object may cause trouble to another passenger whether by injury on sharp protruding parts or by harm to clothes from contact with dirty or oily surfaces.  

                    So ultimately it's a matter of a transit authority objecting to "the idea of a bike," as distinct from an equivalent "non-bike object."  And that's the point around which a lawsuit over the "shopping cart with space for folding bike" comes into play.

                    What I'm getting at here, is that in order to be of any value at all, a transport system has to accommodate peoples' real usage needs, that may include carrying something other than a briefcase to and from an office tower.  The most basic of these is the need to get to and from the stops at either end: e.g. home to outlying bus stop, and downtown bus stop to work, school, or shopping; and then back again, and that's where we get the folding bike issue.  Next comes the ability to carry goods from shopping to home, and that's where we get the folding shopping cart issue as an absolutely defensible ADA accommodation.  

                    But if the transit agencies are geared to "office commuters with briefcases ONLY," as a matter of policy and philosophy, they are going to get exactly that, and the rest of us will find other ways.  

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 02:21:33 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Happy anniversary Bruce....... (8+ / 0-)

       I really enjoy Sunday Trains, although the discussion and writing is often above my pay grade!

       I wonder about 110 MPH traffic on 2 mile block CTC. An old hogger told me years back, "It sounds crazy, but stuff happens a lot faster at 70 MPH than it does at 60." I thought well, that does sound crazy. But when I began running the 70 MPH territory, I quickly found out that what the man told me was oh so true! I can only wonder about 110 MPH!

       Thanks again for a really good series. Highball!

    Best, HH99

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:10:34 PM PDT

    •  The signaling is part of the upgrade ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... track from class 3 or 4 to class 6, level crossings to quad gate and speed sensitive, and Positive Train Control signaling.

      The requirement for PTC signaling at speed limits of 80mph or higher is a long-time requirement ~ its why so many mainline speed limits are 79mph. The requirement for PTC on all rail corridors with passenger rail traffic is supposed to come in sometime this decade, but in any event its always been part of the planning for the 110mph corridors.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 06:49:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We'll know fairly soon! (6+ / 0-)

      BNSF is installing PTC between Everett, Washington and Vancouver, B.C. as part of a multi-subdivision proof of concept test. The pictured Talgo's will be running along that track, so we'll see if and how well PTC can help fast running stay safe.

      Most of the Bellingham Sub is single track, with quite a few long sidings (enough for 125 car coal trains) the length of it. Currently it is running 2 Amtrak round trips daily, between 4 and 5 manifest freights, and around 3-4 coal train roundtrips daily. There is a plan to build a local coal port in Whatcom County (near the border), so coal traffic would expand to 9 round trips a day. Currently all coal goes to the Roberts Bank super port just across the border for shipment.

      BNSF can't double track the sub, as geography in a few points has decided that railroading is too cheap. There is an eleven mile stretch south of Bellingham that is bounded by a small mountain chain on the up side, and the salt water on the other. I'm estimating a couple of billion to upgrade, so that's not going to happen: tunnels to raise, neighbors to buy out, the list is extensive.

      So, throw some Talgos that really need to stretch their legs and PTC into the mix, and we'll see how well it works.

      Oh, and I was born and raised in Bellingham, with the BNSF (GN, actually) running 70 feet from the house. My parents are still there, and protesting the coal trains currently. There is some subsidence going at  the property edge, and it all started since BNSF started the coal trains on a regular basis. The Talgos are ghostly quiet, the ES44AC's and SD70ACe's are not.

  •  Keep shining a light on this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, G2geek, Aunt Pat, RunawayRose

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

    by marykk on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 07:03:46 PM PDT

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