Tuesday, February 17, 2009

America Speaks, Obama Acts

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Note: Rafael wrote much of this post, and I've made some edits and additions. -Robert

There's an interesting article in the Politico today on President Barack Obama's central role in getting the $8 billion in HSR funds into the stimulus.

The article portrays the $8 billion for HSR in the stimulus bill as part of some dastardly backroom plot to force high speed rail down the throat of an unsuspecting and unwilling public. David Rogers also mentions the $1.5 billion already allocated in HR 2095 in the fall, but portrays it as a modest George W. Bush policy in comparison with Obama's alleged spending spree. In truth, Bush's hands were de facto tied by the fact that it was tacked onto an omnibus rail safety bill coming on the heels of the Chatsworth disaster, just before an election that put a lot of GOP seats in the House and Senate in play. HSR was something that was forced down his throat by a veto-proof bipartisan majority in both houses.

While it's true that there was little discussion of HSR as a new direction in transportation/energy/environmental policy in the national media both during and after the election campaign, the same is not true of California and possibly other parts of the country. Perhaps Rogers should look beyond the beltway from time to time.

Especially considering that the public strongly supports high speed rail. The Politico article makes it sound like Obama and Rahm Emanuel cut some kind of backroom deal for the HSR funding, that it was done merely to give Obama some sort of "signature project". But in fact, Obama was actually doing what the people asked him to do.

Back in January the Obama transition team put together the Citizens Briefing Book on Change.gov, allowing the public to vote for the policy proposals they liked best. High speed rail funding was one of the top vote-getters, and one of the very few to actually elicit a video response, in which Obama promised to fund HSR. Which he has now done. Our new president opened up his administration to the people, they told him what he wanted, and they did it. Imagine that!

Obama wasn't sneaking anything in at the last minute here - he was just following orders. Our orders.

The piece goes on to say the Obama will ask for an additional $1 billion (egads!) per year for HSR in the general budgets for the next five years. First off, he's got another election to contest in 2012 and so far, he's not spoken about any specific plans related to a possible second term. Second, Rogers may be confusing Amtrak grants with HSR capital projects. The sum he is in a tizzy about wouldn't be large enough to deliver HSR infrastructure in the 11 already designated corridors. For that, Congress would have to appropriate at least ten times as much annually for the next 20 years.

The $1b/year number appears at odds with Rogers' claim that the President has suddenly embraced HSR as a new signature issues because the new electricity grid and renewable electricity generation have supposedly failed to capture the public's imagination. Again, the beltway bubble appears to be a reality distortion field.

Rogers also incorrectly states that the HSR money came from narrowing the focus of a business tax break. In fact, it came from re-allocations and narrowing the focus of funding in the transportation section of the bill: the original House bill contained $30b for highways, $2b for fixed guideways and $1b at the discretion of the Secr. of Transportation, subject to a competitive bidding process. The Nadler amendment increased that latter number to $2.5b. The Senate's version allocated the $2b to a specific type of fixed guideway, namely HSR. It also moved $3b out of the highway budget and into the discretionary pot, increasing it to $5.5b. At the President's request, this potential slush fund was also allocated to a specific type of transportation spending, namely HSR. The remaining $500 million came from shifting funding for brand-new local transit services to HSR and Amtrak. If you add it all together, aggregate transportation spending was actually reduced to help make room for the AMT patch that the three GOP senators demanded. Math is hard.

More credibly, Rogers states that spending the money will take time and be complicated by freight rail operators that own most of the nation's existing railroad tracks. He seems blissfully unaware of the single biggest HSR project out there, the one in California, which actually involves laying hundreds of miles of brand-new, dedicated and electrified tracks. CHSRA made a shrewd political move in deciding to run the system on renewable electricity alone, because that makes the California system an even better fit for the President's policy objectives.

Note that railroad ROWs could even be critical to building the new, smart electricity grid (presumably based on HVDC trunk lines) and, that the railroads themselves could be (partially) electrified in the process. The technical hurdle is the minimum safe distance between high voltage (hundreds of kV) DC transmission lines (exposed or shielded and buried) and 25kV AC overhead catenaries, especially if both systems depend on electrical ground for the return path. Lightning arcs between the tow systems are another risk that would have to be reliably avoided.

That said, there are indeed serious ROW issues with legacy freight operators even in the California project, especially the sections of the preferred route that depend on UPRR's co-operation: SJ-Gilroy, Stockton-Fresno, Bakersfield-Palmdale (except Tehachapi Pass) and, Redondo Junction-Colton. The Fremont-Stockton section of the HSR overlay through Altamont Pass would also involve a UPRR ROW.

In the Central Valley, it's possible that CHSRA will be able to cut a deal with BNSF for Stockton-Fresno to overcome opposition by UPRR. The route section Fresno-Bakersfield, Palmdale-LA-Anaheim-Irvine (except for the run-through tracks at LA US) and Miramar-San Diego all depend on BNSF sharing its ROW anyhow, but that company is more willing to negotiate than UPRR.

In any case, Obama's HSR move shows that he really is going to put his money where his mouth is - and that when the public demands sustainable transportation, our president will listen.

24 comments:

Kyle - Boston said...

Great write up. I really hope Obama goes for a national HSR network that uses renewable energy. That would really make my half a century.

nikko pigman said...

Great story guys. Glad to know that we're taking such a decisive step towards HSR. At first I was convinced that the whole HSR speel from Obama was more talk and less action. Let's just hope the fund doesn't get corrupted by some sort of mandate or some ridiculous policy is instituted that would counteract the effectiveness of the funding.

I was wondering, what did you all think of starting a message board so we could continue discussion of topics even if it isn't the subject of the most recent post.

Rafael said...

@ nikko pigman -

if you scroll down the page, you'll see an hierarchical archive of all previous posts by date. I usually check back with posts for a few days after they are published to read and sometimes answer late comments.

I don't have permissions to change the blog layout. If there's a way to add links to e.g. the three posts preceding the current one at the top right, above the links to CA HSR sites, that might be useful. Alternatively, the whole archive section could be moved to the top, with just the top level (calendar years) shown by default. While we're at it, I'd love to get rid of the whitespace to the left, just as Clem Tillier has done on his excellent Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog.

Realistically, though, the sheer volume of fresh HSR-related news is so large that discussion effectively ends after a day or two. Robert and I feel that a new post most every day helps build and maintain traffic, i.e. readership levels. It's a lot of work but we feel this project is worth investing the time.

BruceMcF said...

I was going to say don't overstate the cost of the designated "HSR" corridors by pretending that they are all bullet train systems ... $10b annually over 5 years would launch the rapid rail corridors among the designated corridors.

But on the other hand, $5/barrel imported oil tariff and we can electrify STRACNET and establish 32,000 miles of Rapid Freight Rail, which can readily accommodate Rapid Passenger Rail anywhere there were population centers close enough together for a fraction of the incremental cost per mile, so I don't know whether under $2b to establish the Cleveland / Columbus / Cincinnati route is cheap as chips or more expensive than it should be.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

I am fully aware that rapid rail ought to be much cheaper than a California-style full-fat HSR system. $2 billion for the CCC might be an excellent deal, but it depends on what the required delta is:

- have the owners of the preferred alignment agreed to make it and the ROW associated with it an investment in kind to a public-private partnership or else to legally enforcible trackage rights and associated fees? Any capital improvements to a privately owned railroad ROW, e.g. upgrading its speed classification, are counted as increasing value for the purpose of computing property taxes.

- are there still lots of sharp curves with little or no superelevation in the preferred alignment, forcing trains to slow down severely, such that the advertised top speed of e.g. 110mph can only actually be achieved in a few short segments?

- is the alignment already at least double track?

- are there enough bypass sections to ensure passenger trains can stick to a sufficiently aggressive timetable?

- are the freight rail operators willing to submit to such a timetable or else, to give priority to passenger trains by waiting at bypass tracks until the dispatcher allows them to proceed? Will any of this impact the freight operator's ability to compete and/or permit them to offer rapid freight? The last thing you want from rapid rail is to shift freight from rail to road.

- is the track and trackbed in a sufficient state of good repair to facilitate raising its speed classification? Have systems and maintenance processes to detect failures such as broken rails and loose connector plates (sectional track only) been installed?

- is there a detailed track geometry database? Are maintenance systems and processes for keeping it up to date in place?

- are all of the remaining grade crossings, especially those in populated areas, already equipped with four gates and additional measures to qualify for an FRA quiet zone?

- is the signaling system already adequate for upgrading the speed classification? Has a positive train control system (e.g. ATCS) been installed in the corridor? Are all operators prepared to make appropriate modifications to in-cab signaling and train control systems, especially those related to traction power and brakes, such that an automated system can reliably override driver instructions (or compensate for the lack of them)?

- are there fences or other measures to discourage confused people, livestock or wildlife from wandering onto the tracks?

- are there systems and maintenance processes in place to minimize the risk of derailments and that of follow-on collisions on the same and adjacent tracks, even if those are the property of another railroad? In the latter case, has a reliable system of emergency communication been established to warn each others' signaling systems or staff in the timely fashion required for high tph counts and packed passenger trains traveling at high speed?

There's probably more that I can't think of right now, but I hope I'm getting my point across: for a corridor to get a rapid rail designation in my book, it has to be built, maintained and operated with the objectives of punctuality, high line haul speed and appropriate safety - not lowest cost per mile for each ton of freight.

It's not that low-cost freight is inherently a bad business model. On the contrary, it is profitable. The geography of the US is very different from Europe, where most rail freight is for time-sensitive higher value goods over shorter distances. It needs to compete with trucking because bulk freight can be moved at lower cost across the sea and/or along inland waterways.

The challenge for rapid rail in the US is to enable rapid passenger and regional time-sensitive freight services without breaking bulk freight operators' cost-sensitive business models and without burdening taxpayers with excessive recurring costs for trackage fees or infrastructure maintenance.

And last not least, the challenge is to generate sufficient demand for intercity rail services to make all this effort worthwhile. For passenger services, that requires not just beefed-up parking/rental car facilities, connecting transit and/or infrastructure for folding (electric) bicycles plus on-board terrestrial broadband internet access.

It also, perhaps most importantly, requires a cultural shift away from just cars and short-hop planes and toward some level of mass transit utilization. This can be encouraged by transit-oriented development and increased costs (e.g. license fees, fuel taxes, carbon surcharges) for cars and short-hop flights, but ultimately its a matter of psychology and habits.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Aaaaa! What happened to the post? Somehow a whole chunk in the middle - the best part - got deleted.

Robert Cruickshank said...

OK, I rewrote the key section. Still wondering what the hell happened.

Rafael said...

@ robert cruickshank -

wasn't me, perhaps you inadvertently selected some text you didn't mean to and pressed delete. It's happened to me before, Firefox is sometimes overly "helpful" in selecting text. It's a feature!

But thanks for fixing the post.

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal ... most of the system is new track in existing corridor. Most of the existing heavy rail alignment is single track, some of it is double track, but for the most part there is room for the new track where required ... obviously the existing double track freight lines continue in use because of demand for the capacity, so that is of course all additional track.

I have not seen a section where they report on discussions with the current owners of the rail corridors, but I have not read the entire report in detail - I focused on the overall design envelope, capital cost summaries, ridership modelling and financial performance estimates. The impression I have is that in general freight operators seem happier to sell unutilized corridor and trim their property tax bill than to add passing and layover sidings and lots of switches to the track they are operating.

On whether the trackbed is suitable, whether the superelevation is appropriate for tilt-trains to take curves at or about full speed, whether the track is up to the standard required ... reading the capital cost chapter, it appears to me that that is what they were costing when they were estimating the capital cost. I did read through several of the sections where they were detailing the choice between rail crossover at grade and grade separations, and they definitely included the speed rating of each type of switch and crossing in the speed limit for that section of track.

There are some lightly used sections that they plan on refitting rather than constructing new track alongside, I'd be happy to read the capital cost chapter in more detail and quote what the Ohio Rail Development Commission says about that.

The road crossing upgrades are, of course, a big chunk of the infrastructure cost. As to whether they have included quad gates, speed sensitive trips and appropriate signalling on the corridors ... from my recollection, they have.

As you would expect with a 110mph system, there are some grade separations, both heavy freight / Rapid Rail and road / Rapid rail, but unlike a bullet train system, not full grade separation.

The Ohio Hub is not an Amtrak regional corridor system, its a 110mph system, and they seem to understand perfectly well that they have to achieve reliable on-time performance as well as substantial travel time reductions in order to attract riders.

Even if they've often only been getting crumbs of financing in order to keep the lights on, the ORDC does seem to maintain an understanding of what is required in order to have the infrastructure to operate a successful daytime passenger corridor.

Anonymous said...

"alot of curves...forcing trains to slow down severely, such that the advertised top speed of e.g. 110mph can only actually be achieved in a few short segments?"

Uhh.. Thats CHSR from SF to SJ.

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal, if you are curious, the Capital Cost chapter of the report, Ch2 has a lot of the route segment detail. 2. Engineering Assessment and Capital Cost Estimates

mike said...

Anonymous,

Far from it. Go ride the Shore Line between NYC and Westerly, RI. Then you will have a true idea of what a windy railroad is like. Acela Express can only average 63 mph on that segment despite reaching a top speed of 125 mph.

The Peninsula corridor is actually quite straight. Hence, excluding the terminal approaches in SF and SJ, CA HSR will be able to average 110 mph with a top speed of 125 mph.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:20am -

Clem Tillier wrote up an excellent post on sharp legacy curves the Caltrain corridor and feasible HSR speeds in it. San Bruno is arguably the worst of the lot and should be fixed.

One way to do that is to change the alignment of at least the HSR tracks via eminent domain, but that's never a popular option. An alternative is to use active tilt trains. The Amtrak Acela Express is an example, but its design was compromised by FRA requirements to increase buff strength to absurd levels.

JR East recently announced design details of the E5, its latest bullet train, which will go into service in December 2010. Slated to run at top speeds of 320km/h (205mph) on the congested Tohoku shinkansen line, it incorporates features from the visually striking FasTech 360, a development platform. While that was able to reach 360km/h (224mph), it could not meet JR East's extreme objectives for noise emissions and emergency braking distance, so the speed ambitions had to be scaled back for the production version.

That's not to say a production version of the FasTech 360 itself would not be suitable for California. It's probably an expensive piece of hardware, but it meets the top speed objective, tilts and is probably quieter than any other design at that speed.

Aaron said...

Wow @ the E5. The Nozomi is bloody fast, and it's "only" 300km/h. Wonder what they're going to call it - so far the various Shinkansen levels of service have had rather poetic names (Nozomi - Hope; Hikari - Light; Kodama - Echo, although the names primarily apply to the Toukaidou mainline). I've always wondered if they have any plans to expand up into Hokkaido and Sapporo City, but that's neither here nor there.

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafael, "- is the track and trackbed in a sufficient state of good repair to facilitate raising its speed classification? Have systems and maintenance processes to detect failures such as broken rails and loose connector plates (sectional track only) been installed?"

It appears from the Engineering Assessment that the ORDC has evaluated the cost of upgrading common track, and in heavy freight mainlines are focusing on new track. E.g., p.2-4: "A key engineering assumption, adopted for this Study, involved the centerline offset between an existing high density freight track and a new FRA Class 6, 110-mph track. Both NS and CSX requested that new Class 6 high-speed passenger tracks be constructed at a minimum 25-foot centerline offset from the adjacent freight track. However, in order to accommodate possible future capacity expansion, the 25-foot offset was increased to a 28-foot centerline offset. The 28-foot offset would allow a future siding with 14-foot track centers to be constructed between the new 110-mph passenger track and the adjacent freight track. Based on the field reviews the costs associated with the 28-foot offset were estimated and included under the line item 'High-Speed Rail (HSR) on New Roadbed and New Embankment.' This line item includes new track and ties, track ballast, sub ballast and the earthwork required to build a four-foot-high embankment."

From that, it also appears that they have had discussions with the corridor owners.

"are there fences or other measures to discourage confused people, livestock or wildlife from wandering onto the tracks?"

Pp. 2-4, 2-5: "The capital cost estimates also include fencing of the corridor. Urban areas receive six ft. chain link fencing to protect the corridor from trespassers. In some case, downtown historic districts receive decorative fencing, a more expensive option. In addition, rural segments operating at 110mph are provided with woven wire fencing to prevent the intrusions of livestock on the right of way."

"are there enough bypass sections to ensure passenger trains can stick to a sufficiently aggressive timetable?"

Pp. 2-4 "Where existing rail conditions are not suitable for passenger operations, the capital cost estimates provide for replacement with 136 lb CWR. In single track territory, 10 mile passenger sidings are provided at nominal 50 mile intervals to allow passenger and freight trains to pass."

"are there still lots of sharp curves with little or no superelevation in the preferred alignment, forcing trains to slow down severely, such that the advertised top speed of e.g. 110mph can only actually be achieved in a few short segments?"

"Realignment and Superelevation of Curves
Physical forces on the passengers, rolling stock and track serve to limit the speed at which a train can safely or comfortably operate through curves. The overall track standard defined for the MWRRS, which was also applied to the Ohio Hub, was to increase super-elevation to as much as 4½ inches where necessary to achieve desired passenger speeds. For lines with very light freight operations or for high-speed intermodal trains, additional increases in super-elevation might be possible, but in no case will superelevation exceed the value that balances freight speed at 60 mph or be greater than 6.0 inches. Where heavy freight operations (e.g., slow coal trains) predominate, lower levels of super-elevation are used.

Passenger speed limits have been calculated based on a cant deficiency value or 'unbalance' of up to six inches which has been approved by the FRA for passive-tilt equipment now operating in the Pacific Northwest corridor. This value has been demonstrated on new tilt type passenger equipment, but exceeds that generally permitted by the FRA for passenger service using conventional non-tilting equipment or that has been permitted by the Class 1 freight railroads for passenger service operating on shared use track.

It is not envisioned that curves will be realigned due to the reconstruction cost and environmental considerations associated with this type of improvement, however, spirals may be adjusted to permit higher approach speeds. Both the increase in superelevation and cant deficiency will result in reconstruction of the existing track curve geometry, lengthening the curves (spiraled section) and shifting the track laterally toward the center of the arc. This work is included in the capital cost estimates where curve speeds are increased."

Rafael said...

@ Aaron -

the names you refer to don't map to train designs but to the service level they are used for:

Nozomi = express train
Hikari = semi-express train
Kodama = local train

The train design is variously defined by series number (e.g. 500 or 700) or a generational code (e.g. E4Max - bi-level 4th gen or now E5).

The word "shinkansen" literally means "new main line", a reference to the fact that Japan's original rail network was narrow gauge. For higher speeds, fairly straight standard gauge was needed. Later on, some of the legacy network was upgraded to standard gauge but only the worst kinks in the alignment ironed out. Meanwhile, the word "shinkansen" has acquired the additional connotation "bullet train".

The FasTech 360S, which was the development platform for the upcoming E5, featured experimental retractable air brakes that were to be used to supplement the regular mechanisms in an emergency. The public gave the FasTech the nickname "nekomimi shinkansen" i.e. "cat-eared bullet train" because of those air brakes.

The associated braking distance determines the minimum headway in minutes between consecutive trains and hence, maximum line throughput in tph (trains per hour).

Aggressive emergency braking also comes in handy during an earthquake, when the overhead catenary system is automatically deactivated by a watchdog system based on ground accelerometer arrays.

JR East's engineering objectives for the FasTech were to deliver a drop-in replacement for the aging E2 (top speed 275km/h) that could operate at up to 360km/h on the ame line. However, it was to produce no more noise and also maintain the headways, which are just a few minutes during rush hour on the Tokyo end of the Tohoku shinkansen (the original new main line running north from Tokyo).

These objectives proved too ambitious for that particular line, which is why the E5 will be bumped up to "only" 320km/h in JR East's FY2012. The more striking of the nose designs has carried over to he E5, as has the active suspension. The distinctive air brakes appeared to have been rejected.

Like their German and French counterparts, Japanese engineers have the expertise to design trains that can run safely at around 400km/h (or more) on test tracks. For JR East, the constraints on top speed in commercial operations are noise and emergency braking distance. Those operational constraints will be different in California, so the FasTech 360S design is worth considering for that application even though JR East had to reject it.

However, because the tracks in California will be designed for top speeds of 220mph from the outset, an active tilt system is not required. It might still be useful to avoid having to slow down in the sharpish curves of legacy alignments, e.g. near SF and SD, but the line haul time gained may not be worth the additional cost and complexity. It's certainly preferable to straighten the alignments and/or increase track superelevation.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

thank you for taking a close look at the engineering document for the CCC line of the Ohio hub.

From what you state, it appears the incremental per-mile investment required there is indeed an order of magnitude lower than in California, which is excellent news. Let's hope the same holds true in other states as well.

The Bear Republic's remaining railroad ROWs are old, narrow and often twisty - or point blank unavailable for the brand-new tracks FRA currently requires for proven, off-the-shelf but non-compliant rolling stock, the only kind that will run fast enough without breaking the bank or compromising safety. That's why freeway median(s) have to be used for LA-SD.

The CCC design presumably calls for conventional FRA-compliant locomotives and consists of unpowered cars, so sharing ROW and possibly even short 79mph sections of legacy track with freight operators doesn't pose a regulatory problem.

Still, I'd much rather the FRA finally shift to an active safety concept for avoiding train-on-train collisions so passenger railroads can safely operate lighter rolling stock (Caltrain already proved safety for grade crossings accidents). Freight railroads can get by with extreme buff strengths, because tph counts are low and train-on-train collisions rare.

The Metrolink disaster at Chatsworth proved that relying on engineers alone does not provide sufficient active safety for passenger trains and, that extreme buff strength is useless at all but very low relative speeds. HR 2095's requirement to install PTC on busy lines and in locomotives/self-propelled rolling stock nationwide is a hugely important first step toward making mixed traffic possible as a rule rather than as an exception.

BruceMcF said...

"From what you state, it appears the incremental per-mile investment required there is indeed an order of magnitude lower than in California, which is excellent news. Let's hope the same holds true in other states as well."

There's a reason both the designated HSR corridors and the regional Rail Commission planned corridors are especially dense in the Great Lakes ... areas that were industrializing in the late 1800's and early 1900's, but have a lower population density than the Northeast Corridor, have quite a lot of interconnected legacy routes to choose from, with most of them either single or double track in rights of way originally allocated for quad tracking.

For example, the reason why there are two alignments to choose from between Pittsburgh and Cleveland is because Youngstown used to use the Ravenna/Warren branch line to haul material from the lakefront port at Cleveland, so in addition to the existing Amtrak route through Alliance, with the decline of heavy industry in Youngstown there is the almost unused alignment that can be upgraded without requiring major works for widening underpasses, overpasses, and culverts. The fact that it also goes through a better population center (Youngstown) and road hub (Warren) is basically gravy.

That matrix seems to be what allows, for example, the Ohio Rail Development Commission to talk with CSX about adding single track at 28 feet from existing freight rail centerlines to included space for later expansion of capacity with 10 mile in 50 mile running sidings.

CSX is also keen on seeing an independent double and single passenger track on their main southeastern trunk ... they floated a public proposal to that effect a couple of years back ... so in addition to the sale tax savings, they may be willing to talk with the ORDC about new track side by side their existing track as a way of setting a precedent for that.

The impression I get is that California's freight rail system was established more for raw material and commodity exports, which tends to give a more dendritic rail grid as opposed to the matrix in the northeastern quarter of the country, and dendritic systems do not tend to have as many interconnecting lines between the main corridors.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

it's true that California's railroads were established to ship commodities such as ore, timber and crops plus military equipment and supplies. However, the biggest single obstacle has always the mountainous terrain (Sierras, Tehachapis, Central Coast, southern Cascades) and earthquakes (e.g. Eel River line between Santa Rosa and Eureka, Santa Cruz mountains).

On th other hand, except for the (important) lines to Oregon and Reno, California railroads don't have serious issues with snow and frozen switches, wet leaves, mudslides etc.

Anonymous said...

@ Aaron
Hokkaido Shinkansen will be built in three stages. These distances are "eigyo kilo" for calculating fares, and may be greater than actual.
1. Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate, 148.9 km. Grade 8%, bridges 4%, overpasses 23%, tunnels 65%. U/c since May 22, 2005. Projected service Jp. FY2015, i.e., by March 2016.
2. Sapporo to Oshamambe, 124.1 km. Construction scheduled Jp. FY2009-2019.
3. Shin-Hakodate to Oshamambe, 87.2 km. Construction not scheduled yet, but thorough service projected for Jp. FY2020.
Time between Tokyo and Sapporo should be 3 hours 57 min. Since 1999, more people have flown between these cities than any other pair of cities in the world. The Hokkaido Economic Federation expects most travelers to switch to the train.

BruceMcF said...

"Let's hope the same holds true in other states as well."

I think the same holds true across the Ohio and Midwest Hubs, so that'd be Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and to Louisville in KY, Pittsburgh in PA, and Buffalo in NY.

The Empire Corridor and Keystone Corridor may be a tad more expensive due to terrain.

nikko pigman said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't been noticing. I wish Anon was still here. You know the one who was ridiculing your future oil price remarks immediately after oil prices fell? Yeah, I want him here.

On another note, California finally got a budget passed!

nikko pigman said...

sorry I meant who has been noticing.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:11pm -

good thing they've already built the Seikan tunnel, otherwise the Hokkaido shinkansen line might never have got off the drawing board. It'll be interesting to see how they intend to run trains at 300+ km/h in winter. Hokkaido gets oodles of snow.

Btw, JR East is planning to roll out its new E5 bullet train in December 2010, supposedly delivering service all the way to Shin-Aomori.