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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

At the beginning of this month (the 3rd of September, to be precise), in XpressWest Has $1.5 Billion In Private Investors – And A Strong Argument for Victorville ~ Robert Cruickshank brought our attention to an interview with the Tony Marnell, CEO of XpressWest, on the progress in developing a bullet train between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

When I lived in New South Wales, Australia, I was amused by the fact that the old rail three letter acronym for the Melbourne Express, MEX, was part of the basis for Sydneysiders called Melbournians "Mexicans" (they were also, of course, "South of the Border"), and the TLA for the Sydney Express, SEX, part of the basis for Melbournians calling Sydney "Sin City". But here we have a proposal for a real Sin City Express.

The Project Proposal

As illustrated above, there is a grander vision for the Vegas to LA corridor to be the basis for a broader Southwestern rail network, but the focus at the moment is on the main LV/LA  trunk of the proposed XpressWest system.

The proposal at hand is to built the first phase as a rail corridor from Victorville to Las Vegas. Vegas bound passengers would, in effect, treat Victorville as a park and ride lot for Las Vegas. Then the plan is to extend the corridor to Palmdale, in time to connect to the California Express HSR system at Palmdale, using the Palmdale to San Fernando Valley segment of the California HSR Initial Operating Service to access the LA Basin.

This is, indeed, one of the  controversial parts of the project. In the interview, Vegas Inc: Partner outlines vision for high-speed rail system, Tony Marnell argues:

Why Victorville?

I may have had a bit of an advantage because for 10 years I was the CEO of a public company that owned the Rio. I could look at the slot cards of my customers that list their ZIP codes. That was an ingenious thing.

Steve Wynn (chairman of Wynn Resorts), Jim Murren (CEO of MGM Resorts International) and Sheldon Adelson (chairman of Las Vegas Sands and owner of the Venetian) were doing that – looking at where their driving customers were coming from. And they’re not coming from Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Laguna Beach or downtown Los Angeles. They’re coming from the Inland Empire.

The Inland Empire is only 40 minutes away from Victorville. That’s why it makes sense.

At least, that is the case being put forward as to why it makes sense on a demand front: they know where the Las Vegas bound traffic is coming from, and Victorville puts them close enough to enough of that traffic to make it worthwhile.

On the flip side, the cost front, this is one of the less expensive places in the country to build Express HSR, with an alignment that has already passed program level Environmental review, and on an alignment that requires very few grade separations. With a planned top speed along the alignment of 190mph, they reckon they can get between Las Vegas and Victorville in 86 minutes ~ just under an hour and a half.


Infrastructure, Financial Risk versus Real Risk

The finance for the project is to come from claimed private finance of $1.5b, and a request for a Federal Rail Authority infrastructure development "RRIF" loan for $5.5b to $6.5b. That is within the authorized capacity of RRIF lending, but would dwarf any single RRIF loan made to date.

The controversy regarding this finance involves the risk involved in the lending. As Alon Levy argued in Reason Releases Fraudulent Report Criticizing XpressWest{1}:

It is in reality quite easy for HSR to make enough money to cover above-the-rail expenses, and even track maintenance is quite cheap at about $125,000 per double track-km, but covering interest expenses is harder. Despite the canard that only the LGV Sud-Est and the Tokaido Shinkansen have paid back their interest, sourced to as far as I can tell just one person and reproduced by Cox and Moore on PDF-page 43, in reality multiple intercity railroads are profitable even including interests. This includes all three main island Shinkansen operators in Japan, SNCF, and DB. The belief that they are not comes from two sources: in Europe, conflation of subsidized commuter lines with profitable intercity lines, which are usually run by the same national railroads, and in Japan, the fact that the government wiped the accumulated operating deficit debt of Japan National Railways after splitting and privatizing it, but not Shinkansen construction debt (see references here).
So the problem is not whether the rail corridor can cover its operating expenses, but whether it can generate a sufficient surplus over its operating expenses to cover its capital cost.

In this, Alon Levy confuses actual financial risk and the theory of the pricing of risk in market interest rates. He argues:

At a riskier rate of return, things are troubling, as Paul Druce notes: he compared revenue estimates to the 30-year T-bill interest rates as of last year (3.75%), and found that operating margins would need to be above 25% until 2031 to maintain profitability. XpressWest is now looking for a larger loan than Paul assumed, but at a real rate of return of 2 or 3%, interest would indeed bite into the cost. If the project is that risky, it should therefore not be funded. That said, European transit projects tend to go ahead with a benefit-cost ratio higher than 1.2, which is certainly true of this project.
However, the US would not be making this loan as a financial speculator. The current rate for 30 year bonds is around 0.5%, and the RRIF would be charging the current Treasury rates on the bonds funding the loan, plus a few points for administrative overheads.

And this is exactly as it should be. A requirement for receiving the loan is that there is a positive benefit/cost ratio on the full economic benefits, and the full economic costs. So long as the XpressWest project can cover the actual interest rate charged, the fact that a market interest rate on the project would be higher due to the risk is immaterial: the loan is repaid, on time, which funds the $32m interest per year on the bonds.

But consider the worst case scenario. The XpressWest covers its operating costs, including track maintenance, but does not yield a surplus sufficient to pay the $32m interest per year. XpressWest might seek some form of bridging finance, but unless there is a prospect of revenues rising to meet the $32m in interest cost, then either the loan is restructured, or else XPressWest goes bankrupt.

If the loan is restructured, the government would have to, in effect, convert part of its loan into equity. If XpressWest goes bankrupt, the government ends up owning the rail corridor.

But in either event, its an Express HSR corridor and will generate an operating surplus. So to maximize performance of the loan, the corridor continues to operate. The net economic benefits that were a pre-requisite for granting the loan in the first place continue to be experienced. And, meanwhile, the XpressWest investers made a $1.5b contribution to the construction of the rail corridor, which would have to have been made by grant funding if it had been a publicly funded{2} HSR corridor.

Further, the odds are very high that the underperformance of the corridor will only be a temporary phase. There is no doubt that once there is a direct Express HSR corridor from the LA Basin to Las Vegas, the corridor will be able to generate surpluses well over $30m annually, since once there is a single seat connection from Las Vegas to the LA Basin, the primary transport demand from the LA area to Las Vegas is supplemented by reverse flow trips from Las Vegas to LA.


Notes

{1. As you might surmise from the title of Alon Levy's piece, the main focus of his piece is responding to the fraudulent arguments of one of the anti-rail "Liebertarians". Click through to his piece for the complete take-down.}

{2. Note the difference between finance and funding. If I lend Joe money, and Joe  repays me by stealing the money from Susan's purse, I provided the finance, and Susan provided the funding. The finance is what provides the money when the project needs it ~ but finance is typically expected to be refunded. The funding is finally pays for the project. In many so-called "public-private partnerships, the private side provides private finance, at higher cost than public finance, and the public side guarantees the funding, including private profits, in one way or another. That is normally a quite daft way to proceed. In the XpressWest proposition, the public provides finance, at dirt cheap interest rates at the moment, and the project aims to have the traveling public provide the funding. And there is no profit guarantee: the $1.5b that private stakeholders are putting up is at risk if they can't generate a profit from this Express HSR railroad.}


Conclusion

Your thoughts? On XpressWest, Express HSR in general, or indeed on any topic in sustainable transportation?


Midnight Oil ~ The Dead Heart

This may be running through the American Outback, but the Mojave is not didge territory:

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Seems to me that you have to be able (5+ / 0-)

    to transport people fast enough that, door to door, you beat air travel. That has to be the real bottom line. If you can compete on that, you have a product. If you count the time at the airport where you go through security, check bags, etc, you are looking at a good 90 min these days. If you have a 1-hour flight, you are looking at 2.5 hours total. That means that your train has to be able to do 500 miles in around 2.5 hours, i.e. 180-200 mph.

    The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

    by Anne Elk on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:12:05 PM PDT

    •  Not for people who would have driven ... (13+ / 0-)

      ... for people who would have driven to Vegas from LA, you don't have to beat air travel, door to door.

      And indeed, time is not the sole determinant ~ reliability is second, price is a third, comfort is a fourth.

      The Vegas train is 86 minutes from Victorville to Vegas, so they have the door to door flying and driving time from the Inland Empire to Vegas covered. Until the train is a single set through to the LA Basin, they would be less competitive from downtown LA, but no everybody in greater LA lives in downtown LA.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:25:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They won't stay in Victorville for very long. (0+ / 0-)

        I can't see them terminating trains in Victorville even in the nterim before they extend the line to Palmdale. Unless the line though the Cajon Pass is heavily congested, I think they would want to extend the trains to San Bernardino and continuing to LA and San Diego.

        If XPressWest wants an electrified fleet (The fastest Diesel locomotives on the market can only hit 150mph.), they would slap on the diesels at Victorville for the trip south.

        Terminating in Victorville strikes me as a poor alternative, and finding a way to bring the trains into LA and SD sounds much more attractive (again, unless the rail congestion in Cajon Pass is unbearable.)

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

        by Judge Moonbox on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 06:41:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They'll be using bullet trains ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox, thomask, BYw

          ... and won't be sharing corridor with freight.

          They surely aren't going to be taking their trains over the Cajon pass to go down the Metrolink line ~ which includes single track portions along an expressway without room to be expanded to double track ~ but they might work with Metrolink to bring their train over the Cajon Pass to Victorville. That would provide a connection that goes right through the heart of their Inland Empire catchment.

          With the plan to go via Palmdale onto the California HSR corridor, a viaduct over the Cajon Pass freight rail corridor would be a quite expensive proposition that would only be used for a handful of years before it was bypassed.

          If the California HSR was to change their route into the LA Basin, they'd have to look at another route, but that would be a permanent connection rather than a temporary one.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 07:05:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Can't Use The Cajon Pass (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BruceMcF, BYw, elfling

            They would have to build all new track to get XPW down that way.  Track there is used HEAVILY by freight trains.  Too expensive to build new track and no room really.  That's why they terminated at Victorville.  Going west to Palmdale, where they can hook up with Metrolink, is a good alternative.  Metrolink is ALREADY running there, so even if HSR never gets built they can build a link there for a one-seat ride from LV to downtown LA along Metrolink from Palmdale to LA.

            •  Not only is it heavily used ... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ozsea1, BYw, elfling

              ... but its heavily used by freight trains going on a slope with a gradient and a length that means that they run slow ~ a train capable of 220mp dawdling along behind a freight train going 20mph is no way to compete with car and planes.

              That's why I described it as requiring a viaduct for the Vegas train to use that same corridor.

              And, yes, while the Antelope Valley line is currently a slow line, it is publicly owned, and with upgrades to capacity with doubled track sections and to operating speed with track superelevated for higher speed operation, could be sped up a bit, if the California HSR corridor does not end up going along that alignment.

              But the ideal for the Las Vegas line is to hook up with a dedicated bullet train corridor, and the current alignment for the California HSR Initial Operating Service alignment is from the San Fernando Valley through Palmdale to Baksersfield to Fresno to Merced. So hooking up at Palmdale would present a one seat HSR corridor into the LA Basin.

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

              by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:51:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Air Travel's Not as Fast as It Used to Be (14+ / 0-)

      with Homeland Security and other complications. And any train I've ridden is more comfortable. I think for some of the flying market a somewhat slower train trip would be OK.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:51:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  frankly I think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MPociask

      that if you can merely make it close, competitive in speed and price that alone would be enough

      It's unlikely that rail will approach the 550 mph of a plane but there are other advantages especially if you can get rail up to 150-200 mph

      •  For 300mile to 500mile ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        duhban, Judge Moonbox

        ... corridors, the 550mph of a plane is offset by the effective 0mph that the passenger is traveling while waiting in the terminal to be ticketed to a flight and waiting at the gate until its time to board.

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        by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 08:51:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  even past that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          I wouldn't mind taking a train if done like in Europe or Japan but I agree and while if this election goes well then I'll have some hope of that happening

          •  Past three hour trips ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            duhban, Judge Moonbox

            .... the rail share in combined rail/air intercity travel tends to drop. That is, rail is dominant over those distances when it can offer 2hr trips, is strongly competitive when it can offer 3hr trips, and past that starts to drop off.

            The problem with 4hr and longer trips is that they start to drop off being same day trips. For same day trips, 2hrs is 4hrs total, 3hr trips are 6hrs total, and 4hr trips are 8hrs total ... and when you include the time to get to and from the intercity train station, the hours in the day to so something on the trip start to get squeezed.

            At the same time, for a Start of Business 8:30am arrival, a 2hr trip is a 6:30am departure, a 3hr trip is a 5:30am departure, and a 4hr trip is a 4:30am departure, so "getting up a bit early" to catch a morning train is a lot more likely with 2hr than with 4hr trips.

            And, yes, if some tea partiers running for the House get smacked for extremism, then the chances of additional HSR projects getting up and running over the next four years do go up substantially.

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            by BruceMcF on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 04:14:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  for business users I agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Judge Moonbox

              but I think if you make rail competitive it could become an attractive way for families to travel but I do agree that first the 2-4 hour window needs to be worked on.

              •  The trip data that is the basis for that ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                duhban

                ... is total trip data, not broken down by type of trip.

                Note also that those are trips, not end to end corridor transit ... a four hour corridor may serve a large number of 2hr and 3hr trips. A big advantage of trains over air travel is that trains can stop at a station at a cost of under five minutes, while planes lose half an hour or more with a stop, so its far easier for trains to offer overlapping trips to a variety of destinations along the corridor than it is for planes to do so.

                Also note that there is a particular market niche for sleeper train travel in the 8hr to 14 hr trip time.

                But inclusion of same day travel combined with the multiple trips served by day by the same equipment makes 2hr to 3hr trips a substantial target for both Rapid Rail and Express HSR.

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

                by BruceMcF on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 01:54:27 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  I don't live in California anymore (5+ / 0-)

    but, if i did, i would definitely try a train trip to Vegas instead of flying. I hope it gets built.

    And completely off topic:
    I walked to the store the day after Labor Day and gleefully discovered Trimet is taking a bath on the MAX lines now that the free fare zone has been discontinued. Hopefully, they will come to their senses before Christmas and renew it.

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 06:08:48 PM PDT

  •  Lots of reasons for high speed rail to Vegas (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, PeterHug, ozsea1, BYw, indres

    Ridership, potential rights of way, finances, connectivity to elsewhere.

     But let me digress.

    There's a 1994 novel by Dean Ing in which a mag lev line to Vegas plays an integral part. The route looks pretty much like the one on the map, IIRC. The Big Lifters is about an industrialist with some interesting ideas about transportation - getting long haul trucks off the roads, high efficiency trucks for local delivery, using airships for serious freight transport...

    There's one scene in the book where they do trials of using the airship to pluck a container off a train in motion, and vice versa.  

    But the Vegas mag lev line comes into the story because a group of people working in secret within the company want to take  the vehicle they've built to do MOW work on the line under contract to Santa Fe and use it to launch a SSTO scramjet to orbit from the one section of the line that happens to line up perfectly for laser-boost into LEO. Bingo! Payload to orbit cheaper by a factor of ten at least.

    Add in a terrorist thread to the plot, mix in some organized crime stuff, add a dollop of sex, and it still makes for some good reading today - and it happens to cover a lot of the issues that come up here all the time in an entertaining way.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 06:49:40 PM PDT

  •  Did anyone hear the word "trains"? (9+ / 0-)

    Anyone?

    Watching the Democratic Convention, I heard "roads and bridges" a few times. Well, sure, we need the jobs. And I heard the President say "roads and bridges ... and runways."

    Didn't hear anyone mention trains. Perhaps I missed it.

    I do hope Obama was pandering with that word "runways".  I don't know of a serious proposal for a new or greatly expanded airport that's anywhere near shovel-ready. So if we get stimulus part 2, no need to spend on runways.

    We do still need to spend a lot more money on trains, High Speed and regular, from the Northeast Corridor to the Midwest to California HSR. Many billions more.

    Sadly, much of the good news for Amtrak and American-style HSR coming from the Recovery Act will not start kicking in until next year: The 110 mph service between Chicago-St Louis, added stretches of 110 mph Chicago-Dearborn, and two more Talgos making daily runs Seattle-Portland and down to Eugene. The first of a new order for coaches should start showing up by spring, for those fast Midwest services and some California trains.

    Maybe when there's progress to point to, Obama can start talking about improving the trains again.

    [Sorry to go off topic, but Bruce generously invited general comments.]

    •  Happily, though ... (12+ / 0-)

      ... much of the good news for Amtrak and Rapid Rail is kicking in next year.

      That's a big part of why no trains at the Convention ... while the tea baggers have succeeded in controversalizing trains for political purposes ... they haven't actually stopped construction, and once those trains start running, it becomes much harder to tell fantasy slander against them.

      That makes 2014 and 2016 as the time to slam back at the tea baggers for all the BS claims they made about those Rapid Rail services, once the Rapid Rail services have already started running.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 07:10:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, don't sheet everything home to ... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thomask, ozsea1, BYw, MPociask, Judge Moonbox

      ... the White House ... given that those who would be in the coalition in the House and Senate are in states that presently have big projects funded and underway, there is a substantial political incentive to keep quiet and keep building right now, when the Tea Party extremists are likely to be at the peak of their power, and to start building momentum for the next big step once these projects are in operation and its time to look to the next step along the way.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 07:21:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama has shown (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody

      a huge committement to rail but I think he's trying to play it down till it's done that way people will see it

    •  A correction to myself (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, Judge Moonbox, indres

      The new cars arriving by the early part of next year are not new coaches. Those will arrive a year later, 2014, so we have a longer wait in the Midwest.

      Next year we'll begin to see the first new baggage cars, sleepers, diners, and crew dorm cars in 20 years or more.

      These will replace rundown and near-antique cars (many dating before Amtrak was formed in 1971) on the Long Distance trains out of NYC. Those are the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, the Capitol Limited (D.C.-Chi), the Cardinal to Cincinnati and Chicago, the Crescent to Atlanta and New Orleans, and the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor to Miami.

      They will supply the needed cars to allow a daily Cardinal, now doomed to a losing three-days-a-week schedule.

      The new cars will allow these six East Coast LD trains to go faster along the electrified NEC, where the old ones threaten the antique catenary overhead. They will have bigger windows, better a/c and heating, improved plumbing, and other good stuff. They will provide greater capacity for the premium-priced sleepers, giving a nice boost to revenue and the operating bottom line.

      But grand total, there are only 130 of these cars coming.

      Amtrak needs to be buying coaches by the hundreds per year to replace the obsolete fleet and expand frequencies and routes.

      •  I wish the Western routes had had more cars. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody

        I had a convention in Phoenix, and wanted to get to Santa Fe as soon as it was over. I tried booking Amtrak--they have through ticketing on Greyhound to Flagstaff--but Amtrak's coach reservations were sold out for the day I wanted to go. I took Greyhound to Albuquerque and Railrunner to Santa Fe, and while waiting for that train, I saw the Southwest Chief make its stop. They only had 8 cars. I'm sure that if Amtrak had been able to add to its long distance fleet, they would have had enough cars to put on the Southwest Chief that I could have booked a reservation.

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

        by Judge Moonbox on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:06:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But given the number of sets they run ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... speeding up the service to cut out the need for one set is as likely a source for more cars per train as buying new cars would be. If you have a six day turn round trip, adding one car per train takes six cars. If you can squeeze a six day turn down to a five day turn, you have one extra car per train already, with more to spare.

          Indeed, that's how the three times a week Sunset and daily Texas Eagle can turn into a daily Texas Eagle / Sunset sleeper with a corridor train from NOLA to San Antonio ... less waiting at connections means more efficient use of train sets.

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

          by BruceMcF on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 09:25:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Charlotte Transit (8+ / 0-)

    I used this during the DNC Convention

    2012-09-03_16-39-50_875

    I bought a week pass for 20 bucks !

  •  Sustainablity is independent of money/finance/etc (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    Who cares where the money comes from. Well it's best to eliminate the middle man bloodsuckers of capitalism when you can. But the point, I would think especially for Libertarians, but maybe Libertarians don't actually care about sustainability, is: is the return to society worth the energy to do it? First, in this case are we saving energy, especially rare fossil energy by doing it? Second then if not, or maybe even in addition, is society better off because of the expenditure of the energy to do this? And finally third, is this the best of all possible uses for the energy expended.?

    After that who cares. Build it, then bankrupt all the investors, then socialize it. That'd be the best way. All the money transactions are bogus anyway. Screw em'.

    A train to sin city is probably a stupid waste of energy. Move the sin to virtue city (L.A. etc) rather than the people to the sin. That would be the best and least energy usage.

    •  As far as the energy ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, BYw, Judge Moonbox, indres

      ... CO2 emissions, the answer is, yes, we are saving energy and CO2 for the traffic displaced from car to HSR, yes, we are saving energy and CO2 for the traffic displaced from plane to HSR.

      The capacity utilization is not as high a the California HSR is likely to be, but because there are so few grade separations, it will use substantially less concrete per track mile (on average) than the California HSR.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 09:31:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Huh? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, BYw, Judge Moonbox
      A train to sin city is probably a stupid waste of energy.
      Whether you think it's wise of them or not, people will continue to travel to Vegas for the obvious reasons and the destinations they travel there for aren't going to be moved en masse to a city that probably doesn't want or need them because it has other headaches to deal with and sources of revenue. And as long as people travel to Vegas, wouldn't it be a vastly better use of energy to get them there by much cheaper and cleaner HSR than cars or planes? I'm sure that CA would be able to generate a healthy revenue stream off of it, too.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:15:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I took a train from Germany to Paris. (9+ / 0-)

    I loved it.  I loved the ride, and instantly fell in love with it.
    I have taken flights from L.A. to Vegas and hated pretty much every moment of it.  The parking sucked.  The lines sucked.  The TSA was a joke.  Taking off my shoes sucked.
    I have gone to Vegas about 10 times since the TSA took over, and I have just jumped in my car and drove.  It's about 2 hours longer, but I have better AC, better music, and a much more comfortable seat in my car.  

    I don't think the Bullet Train should be a private business, it should be of national interest and investment.  Why can't the U.S. have several Bullet trains ?  Why can't we invest in something that we all could benefit from, and progress at the same time?  

    I would love to take a bullet train some day.  Here.  Not in Japan.  That is too far of a drive.

    " With religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

    by EarTo44 on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:25:54 AM PDT

    •  If the finance is approved ... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EarTo44, kovie, Odysseus, ozsea1, BYw, Judge Moonbox

      ... this will be the second bullet train system approved to go ahead this year, after the California HSR finally got the go ahead on its first construction segment in July.

      Illinois is already beginning planning of a 220mph corridor from Chicago to St. Louis, Amtrak is proceeding with planning a 220mph corridor for when the Northeast Corridor reaches capacity, and there is a private consortium that is talking about Texas HSR (though I don't know how serious that last effort it).

      We could very well go from none to four completed or under construction by the end of this decade.

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

      by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:55:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I rather hope the saint louis one (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox, indres

        is approved and started soon as it would be a boon to saint loius

        •  My impression of St. Louis. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          duhban

          I was at a convention in St. Louis 6 years ago, and I had trouble understanding the city. I didn't feel it was a declining heavy industry city like Cleveland or Buffalo. Eventually, I decided that it's what Baltimore would have been if Washington wasn't so close.

          If a high speed line is built from Chicago to St. Louis, it won't have the impact that DC has on Baltimore, but it will still be a pretty big stimulus. (I think they should also work on the lines to KC, and through Indianapolis to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Detroit.)

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

          by Judge Moonbox on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:18:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  KC to SL to CHC HSPR (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Judge Moonbox

            could be the foundation to a cost to cost HSPR system for sure now getting the funding though could be interesting but I think it doable

            •  And if the Express HSR from STL to KC ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              duhban

              ... cannot be sorted out in the medium time frame, its still an option to pursue a Rapid Passenger Rail corridor as an extension of the 110mph Chicago/STL corridor while also working on the Chicago / Springfield / STL Express HSR corridor.

              If a transfer is required, a cross-platform rail transfer is a lot nicer than a transfer from a feeder airplane to a hub service.

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

              by BruceMcF on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 01:57:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Stuck in Vegas to LA traffic (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, BYw, indres, Judge Moonbox

    20 years ago! It took hours to take I-15 down to Temecula because of how heinous things were. For local folks in LA wanting to get to Vegas this project is a no-brainer, and should have been built years ago.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 06:52:06 AM PDT

  •  I don't get why Repubs are so dead set against HSR (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, mconvente, BruceMcF, elfling, indres

    It would benefit local economies in at least two ways, first in the jobs and cash  infusion it would directly create, and then in the long-term benefits it would give the regions it would connect. Plus it would be great for the sorts of manufacturing and other firms that tend to back the GOP. Is this really about the marriage of radical small government libertarian ideology with craven political opportunism in order to appeal to the crazies who've taken over the party at the grass roots? Or is there some other angle here I'm not getting? It's like refusing to take medicine that could save your life because it's not free or some crazy person told you it was part of a communist plot to kill Americans. What gives? This is SMART spending!

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:10:21 AM PDT

    •  Repubs hate seeing government succeed on any level (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie, duhban

      n/t

    •  The funny thing is that at ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie, elfling, duhban, Judge Moonbox

      ... the local level, town and city Chambers of Commerce are often on board with getting rail service for their town/city ... indeed, in the California HSR project, when the Orange County Transit Authority was engaged in anti-HSR posturing to try to make tea partiers happy, it seems that Disney and other large employers in the area called them on it, and after that they took a more reasonable attitude.

      Historically, intercity rail that is able to cover its operating costs from fares have been looked on favorably by many Republicans. At the moment, with President Obama taking a strong pro-HSR stand in the stimulus, much of it may be part of the "deny that successes are good things after all".

      Another part is how much influence the "Liebertarians" of Heritage, Reason and Cato have on policy ... which is similar in a way to the Windpower where Iowa Republicans are complaining about beltway ideologues getting between them and their lease payments and the local employment that makes them look good.

      Right now they want to avoid seeming moderate, but if the more pro-local-development Chambers of Commerce get on top of the Liebertarians, we could see more Republicans supporting HSR as a way to seem more "middle of the road".

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

      by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 09:48:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So it's the crazies + the cravens, then? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

        I.e. teabaggers + politicians eager to exploit them to hang onto power even though they know it's good policy and even good politics otherwise.

        If so--and I think it is--then this is a long-term loser for the GOP, because they can't hold onto power with only the teabagger vote, but because they need (or believe they need) their vote, they will end up alienating centrists and business, whose support they also need, in order to get it. It's an untenable political pose for them, just as it's an untenable policy situation for the country.

        For the country to succeed, the teabagger takeover of the GOP must end.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 10:09:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lots of countries are like that ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie, indres, Judge Moonbox

          ... when radical reactionary movements get a lot of sway, it messes things up in most countries.

          Its a normal trend in US politics for the first election after losing the White House to be more closely aligned with the base primary electorate, and then if that fight is lost for the party to move toward the center over time until it wins.

          However, the effective propagandizing of the radical reactionary movement has made the base primary electorate of the Republican party a lot more radical than it once was. There's an open question whether the GOP can slide back toward the center without shattering.

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

          by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 01:18:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That trend has been almost entirely (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            indres, Judge Moonbox

            on the right in recent decades, as Repubs react to loss by moving ever further to the right, and Dems react to loss by moving ever further to the right (or, if you prefer, the center, which is really the same thing because the center has itself moved to the right in recent decades and is only now starting to swing back left).

            Thankfully, even as the right continues this trend, Dems appear to have stopped moving to the right (on most issues, at least), even if they haven't been moving back to the left as fast as we'd like. Who knows what'll happen after the election.

            But clearly, ideology + politics is behind nearly all of this, not anything resembling genuine and legitimate policy differences. Sure, ideologues on the right would say "Well of COURSE you'd say that, being doctrinaire in your big government being the solution for everything ideology", but unlike the right, the left's policies tend to be driven by hard research and analysis and not just what "feels" right. I.e. it tends to work, in practice, and isn't just about doing the right thing (as we see it).

            Of course, being ideologues, they reject the relevance of such. Which makes them ideal "allies" for the opportunists, who exploit their insanity to suit their political agendas, which has far more to do with personal self-interest than with what's right or what works. And that, in a nutshell, is the past 40+ years of GOP misrule. Thankfully, this alliance appears to be going off a cliff, but with what political consequences, no one knows. Perhaps we'll have a better idea after the election.

            I'll close with this image, which you've probably seen, but if you haven't, it needs no explanation, even if it is a bit dated now:

            Photobucket

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 02:53:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Don't forget that Bush ran as a ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Judge Moonbox

              ... "compassionate conservative".

              Nixon ran on a peace "with honor" platform, declared "we're all Keynesians now" and established the EPA. A far cry from Goldwater, the election after the Republicans lost the White House.

              Reagan won in the first Republican try to win back the White House, when an American political base tends toward its base. So except for Carter being one helicopter short, in 1984 the trend would have been for a Republican to be more centrist and if that didn't work, in 1988 for a Republican to be even more centrist.

              And Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, and lost the vote, which had the Bush regime not been installed by a bloodless coup, would likely have seen a more moderate figure running in 2004.

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

              by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 08:47:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Fealty to Big Oil. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie
      I don't get why Repubs are so dead set against HSR
      It would benefit local economies in at least two ways, first in the jobs and cash  infusion it would directly create, and then in the long-term benefits it would give the regions it would connect.
      They've become so dependent on contributions from oil billionaires that they can't afford to think of what's good for the whole country. I was surprised that an article on evolving platforms said that the GOP supported public transit in 1980.

      But then, if the Republicans hadn't sold their souls to Big Oil, we wouldn't have a Two Party system.

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

      by Judge Moonbox on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:22:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Used to take Amtrak (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Judge Moonbox

    from SLC to Vegas, the route then went on to LA. IIRC they closed down in the 80s. It was a great way to go to Sin City and I know it would be popular if it opened again. A bullet train would be fantastic.

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 01:58:17 PM PDT

    •  What patronage were they geting? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas

      Would you recall how many passengers they were getting on average, and how many it would have taken to have made the cut? (I have the same questions about the SLC to Portland and Seattle train.)

      As I examine the California Zephyr schedule, SLC's arrival tines are in the "graveyard shift," midnight to 6:00 AM. If the line to Denver got some upgrades, they might be able to come and go at a decent hour. Might this improve the turnout?

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

      by Judge Moonbox on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:38:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  At that time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        IIRC the line was from Portland to SLC to Vegas and LA. Both times we took it the cars were pretty full. The first time we took a regular car and the second we got a sleeper, the departure time from SLC was around midnight and we arrived in Vegas at about 8am.

        That time worked great because we basically slept during our regular hours and woke up in Vegas. We disembarked right into a casino/hotel on Fremont St. We came back, as best we both remember by leaving in the afternoon and arriving home at night.

        As for the Denver route IMO ridership would improve a great deal if it was a day trip. There is some awesome scenery on the way and I know people would enjoy being able to view it. I found this little personal blog where the folks talk about the scenery on the trip from Denver to SLC.

        "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

        by high uintas on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:20:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Its 3:30am eastbound ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        ... since the train out of Denver eastbound leaves Denver as a 7:10pm night train.

        Its 11:05pm arrive, 11:30pm depart SLC westbound, because the train into Denver is a night train, arriving 7:15am.

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

        by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 08:37:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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