Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday Open Thread

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

So I'm off to Portugal for 2 weeks, and you will be in the capable hands of Rafael and Matt Melzer, who will be doing some guest posts. There will be some open threads every other day, although if any of the guest posters want to move one of those to another day in order to post something, particularly if it is timely, they're welcome to do so.

Today's topic: rising gas prices. Breaking the magic $3 mark across the state. It was when gas prices stayed above $3/gal for an extended period in mid-2006 that the housing bubble burst. Sure, the bubble was going to burst eventually, but it burst at a specific time and due to specific causes, which we can't overlook. Further, the gas price spike of 2008 surely helped play a big role in sending the economy into a tailspin in the latter half of that year.

As a number of economists are coming to realize, any economic recovery could be strangled by rising gas prices. The underlying factors are still there - peak oil, exacerbated now by slackening investment in production. Any hint of recovery is going to send gas prices soaring.

So tell me again why we would NOT want to be investing in a form of transportation that is not dependent on the fluctuating price of oil? That could promote economic growth instead of throwing a drowning economy an anvil?

109 comments:

A Non said...

High gas prices will drive the alternative/green auto industry to Cheaper, sustainable energy personal vehicles, that get people where they need to go, will rule the landscape soon. Since trains only go in straight lines, they don't get anybody to where the actually need to be (unless you sleep in train stations), and you have to GET to the train first as well. Meaning you need transportation to get to the transportation. Inefficient, cumbersome, expensive.

The market drives toward efficiency, and we'll see high gas prices really sparking the innovations in auto (that is SELF) transportation options.

HSR - a ridiculous dinosaur, before its even built.

Devil's Advocate said...

@ A Non: you have a point, but only up to a point (no pun intended). The purpose of HSR is to provide a viable alternative in medium-long distances (200-400 miles) where it would be much faster and efficient than both cars and airplanes. Nobody wants to debate the extraordinary utility and versatility of private auto transport. We all realize that cars have that advantage! The are not bound by travelling only in 'straight' lines. And I don't expect that people will use the HSR for short trips, unless they don't have a car, or unless in that short segment highways are so congested that the high speed train makes sense. This type of transport is for people who want to go from LA to Fresno comfortably in less than 90 minutes while they work on a lap top instead of subjecting themselves to a long boring drive on CA-99/I-5. Or for those who want to go from SF to LA faster than a plane (door to door) while working on a laptop or reading a newspaper, without the hassle of airline security and airport transfers. My skepticism with this project has to do rather with two facts:
1. Too many stations in small towns which will probably slow down the trips (even for express trains) without a significant increase in passenger volume.
2. A route between the Bay Area to LA areas that by detouring to the CA-99 corridor and the Mojave/Palmdale area significantly increases the length of the journey with deleterious effect on competitiveness. I can understand the CA-99 30 mile detour, since there are two major cities in that route (Fresno and BFL), but I can't conceive the Palmdale detour, which adds an additional 45 miles (compared to a Grapevine route) with no significant benefit in terms of extra passenger volume. It would probably make sense to choose the shorter route between BFL and LA, and improve the Metrolink connection from Lancaster to LA. If a tunnel through Grapevine is the problem even a route parallel to the aqueduct to palmdale would be a better and shorter option instead of the Mojave route.

The two points above make me think that after everything is said and done, people will still opt to fly between the bay area and LA, simply because it will be faster and probably just as cheap. I simply don't buy that this train will cover the 450 miles between SF and LA of this route in less than 3 hours, even if the train makes no stops in between.

Adirondacker said...

Since trains only go in straight lines, they don't get anybody to where the actually need to be (unless you sleep in train stations), and you have to GET to the train first as well. Meaning you need transportation to get to the transportation. Inefficient, cumbersome, expensive.

Since airplanes only go in straight lines, they don't get anybody to where the actually need to be (unless you sleep in airports), and you have to GET to the plane first as well. Meaning you need transportation to get to the transportation. Inefficient, cumbersome, expensive.

Alon Levy said...

DA: the reason for the Palmdale detour is geological. Tunneling under the Grapevine would be expensive and risky because of the fault line, whereas a Palmdale alignment would cross all faults at grade.

jim said...

The reason for the route and the stops is simple. It's to serve the largest markets. Why is that so hard for people to understand. The most populous areas california - the states largest cities - san francisco san jose sacramento, fresno, bakersfield, los angeles, orange county, riverside county, and san diego county. These places are either the largest and or the fastest growing regions of the state. It would not make sense to bypass the places where all the people live. Nor would it make sense to bypass the places that need it most - the places where air travel is either non existant or very expensive. HSR will allow a trip frrom fresno to riverside. you can not fly from fresno to riverside. All the city pairs involved with the exception of sf-la and sj-la will be helped by this. If it were just a matter of serving the bay -la market, then there would be no need for the train. I understand now why the rest of the state gets so fed up with people from the bay area and LA because they live in such a self involved bubble as if they are the only people who matter.

jim said...

millions of californians travel by rail between these smaller city pairs and they do it without a car and they do it everyday already - in spite of the painfully slow service. You've got to quit thinking in terms of the only people who matter in this state being la and sf.

jim said...

and if you live in La or SF and you are bothered by the route that hsr takes you still have the option to fly in a straight line for 59 bucks if its that important to you. YOU have the option, millions of other californians do NOT have that option and that is why this is being built.

jim said...

Rail is also an affordable way way for families to travel as rail offers much better fare plans for and specials for families and kids. Not to mention its much more comfortable and much less complicated to get a family of 5 off and on a train trip than it is to get them through an airport. The train on board experience is also much more family friendly than that of a plane. There's no limit, on a train, to the number and style of ammenities that can be incorporated to serve various markets. Do you know that currently some of our long distance trains have movie cars and kids playroom cars to keep kids occupied - you ever sen that on a plane? also you know you can get many amusement park admissions at a discount ticketed right along with your rail ticket. during the summer there are often kids ride free specials to help families with their budgets, and so and and on. There are millions of regualr working class folks and their families living up and down the central valley and the inland empire, and that will continue to be the case. These folks are the trains bread and butter. They are loyal customers and they will be the bread and butter of HSR when it opens. I know them, They are excited about it. They tend to be much more grateful for these services and much less critical than the never-satisfied-with-anything urbanista clientele. You'll see. i know what I'm talking about. All the armchair quarterbacks here don't get it. you'll see.

lyqwyd said...

I think most rational people have come to the understanding that cheap gas is over. To me the real question is how are we as society going to deal with it? Unfortunately for the US we are in just about the worst position of any country to handle high gas prices.

The three most viable solutions I see are:

1) electric cars, which will probably take decades to reach a large market penetration.

2) Public transit, (all forms, bus, light rail, heavy rail, HSR). We know how to do it, but it cannot support all needs (rural and suburban communities don't work so well with public transit).

3) Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), which merges a lot of the best of both car & rail, and a little bit of the bad. The biggest issue I see with PRT is that it's in it's infancy today. The first real PRT project is projected to open at Heathrow airport, so hopefully that will be a successful project that can serve as a proof of concept. Since the Oakland BART connector has been approved I hope they will use the same system as Heathrow, it can be built for about $10-$20 million per mile and will be way cheaper than the alternatives they are currently looking at.

jim said...

all those options can developed as they become feasible but think of hsr as the future "workhorse" of californians transportation system. The spine or backbone that can move an unlimited number of people up and down the state with nearly limitless expansion possibilities. HSR will be a core system for the state in the way that BART is core system for the bay area. It can be built upon, supplemented, enhanced, and adjusted as needed. Once established, it will be invaluable.

lyqwyd said...

@jim

agreed, I believe HSR is the most obvious and necessary addition to transportation to combat the effects of rising gas prices on the US. economy, followed by expansion and improvement of commuter rail.

We have all the technology and know-how to to do rail, and it serves the biggest gas consumming activities: commuting to and from work, and inter-regional transit.

Alon Levy said...

lyqwyd: the problem with PRT is that it's never been able to support the headways that its proponents claim it can support. Proponents say that with computer-based control vehicles can run at headways of half a second on mainline track, for 7,200 per track per hour, but in practice the lower limit seems to be four seconds, which is worse than for cars on a highway. This makes the capacity too low to be of much use in urban areas.

HS-R Not Us said...

major flaw in logic there is that families are (or will be) choosing between flying and train between SF and LA. wrong! Families drive. Why? Because they're lugging car seats, 10 bags, strollers, toys, videos, they are probably renting cars on one or both ends (they are certainly NOT taking some sort of public transit on either end), they are not willing to get stuck in airports or ON planes, etc etc etc. Families are driving, and HSR isn't going to change any of what makes them need to drive. The REAL question is, IS an HSR trip more compelling to a family than a car trip. Absolutely not.

jim said...

It will also help in that it will give local agencies and planners something to plan around. cIties can gear their growth, development, and transportation policy around centrally located hsr stations. it will make it possible to increase densities in the medium size cities and distribute population growth more evenly throughout the state.

jim said...

Dear hsr not us- that would be news to me and all the families I sell tickets to everyday. I'll let them know when I get to work today, that they won't be taking the train after all because according to hsr not us, they prefer to drive. and all those strollers and car seats that I check everyday at baggage check in- well I guess I won't have to work so hard. You don't know what you are talking about.

jim said...

i know what Im talking about and you don't

Alon Levy said...

The primary market for HSR is business travelers anyway. HSR is built to compete with planes more than cars and buses.

Ben said...

@hsr not us

I believe your logic is flawed: if families always wanted to drive then there wouldn't be families flying between LA and SF. All of the points that you brought up also affect air travel as well, and families are flying.

timote said...

Ya, there is no market for this train. Nobody travels between SF and LA by plane.

(sarcasm)

Spokker said...

The CHSRA seems to have removed restrictions disallowing their official site from being archived at the Internet Archive. This allows us to take a look at what the CHSRA was presenting to the public up to a decade ago.

The first version of the web site archived is from 1999. There are no pictures but the CHSRA's Solutions section clearly implies that the train would go all the way to San Francisco.

"Imagine waking up in San Francisco, then riding a sleek new high-speed train for breakfast in Los Angeles."

Imagine waking up in San Francisco and then transfering to Caltrain to San Jose and then riding a sleek new high-speed train for breakfast in... sounds so sexy.

Links to materials and stuff like that are broken.

Here’s a version of the site from 2000. The route map clearly portrays the train as going up the Peninsula. "We didn’t know..." tends to fall on deaf ears because you had nearly nine years to go to the web site and take a look at it, if you cared. Going down the Pacific Coast in Southern California was also considered.

If you look at the pages for Advisors or Board Members Diridon and Kopp are nowhere to be found. Just to clarify, when did Diridon and Kopp get involved in this project and when did they hijack the project for Bay Area and San Jose interests?

The site didn’t change much until 2004. Diridon shows up and the route map changes to the patchwork pattern between the Bay Area and the Central Valley that we loved so much. Kopp isn't included as a board member yet.

The site doesn't change much after that. The archive doesn't include any material from the current redesign. Anyway, click around here if you want to see what the web site looked like in the past and see what you can find.

Spokker said...

Here is a document from the CHSRA from 2003.

"San Jose — San Francisco —
Oakland
Direct service from San Jose to Fourth and
Townsend streets in San Francisco along the San
Francisco Peninsula produces higher ridership and
revenue than an alternative from San Jose to
Oakland. The Peninsula alignment utilizes the
Caltrain right-of-way and would also permit a direct
connection to the region’s hub airport at SFO.
Therefore, this alignment, with stations at Redwood
City and SFO, has been selected for the funding
scenario."

More on page 5.

Subgo said...

PRT at Heathrow is a replacement for parking lot shuttles to ONE parking lot. Success there will show what?

As PRT goes, the Heathrow project is the most interesting application yet, as most of the technology resides within the vehicle, not the track. Still....

Spokker said...

Okay, so I don't expect the average citizen to seek this stuff out (though there had to have been news reports on TV about this thing. There had to be some people who looked at the web site. Did Bay Area news ever report on where it would go?), but the leaders in these cities have no excuse for not knowing the Caltrain ROW was a distinct contender to carry high speed trains.

arcady said...

Alon: it's quite true that the Tehachapi alignment allows for a crossing of the fault line at grade, if they use a maximum gradient of 3.5%. However, the same thing is true of the Grapevine alignemnt! This is from HSRA documents, I'm not sure where, but they did compare the two and settled on Palmdale. I think they're significantly underestimating the difficulty of going via Palmdale, especially the segment from Palmdale to Sylmar which not at all straight or level on the current line. I also think they need to take into consideration that the Antelope Valley is no longer a growing area and is fast becoming an economic dead zone. This is largely a good thing, because it's so undesirable in so many ways to have people living in the High Desert, at least to everyone other than land speculators.

Anonymous said...

@spoker

Nice of you to bring up the pre Kopp Diridon takeover of the project.

San Jose said if this was the chosen route, we oppose the whole project.

Some of us have this material stored away on local computers.

Spokker said...

Why not put those documents up somewhere for everyone to see?

Did Diridon and Kopp take over before they were board members? Was it like, mobster style where they roughed up Morshed and threw him in the back of their trunk? The movie version of this saga is going to be great when all is said and done.

Spokker said...

Here's what I read. Kopp and Diridon is forcing HSR through Pacheco and up the Peninsula so that BART to San Jose happens unobstructed. How did they do that, anyway? Did they do anything illegal? Did they rough people up? Did they bribe anyone? Consultants? Board members?

But that might not be against the will of the people since the measure to extend BART to San Jose passed. It needed 2/3rds vote to pass right? It sounds to me like the wants of the general public don't align with transit advocates such as those who align themselves with organizations like TRANSDEF, and the elitist advocates just can't stand that.

Spokker said...

Oh wait, Measure B passed because of ballot stuffing. They are disappointed they couldn't find any mischief but are convinced "something" happened.

TRANSDEF is like that nerdy kid from your youth that when things didn't go his way he would tell on everyone. I knew a kid who, when other kids busted his balls like friends do, would yell at us to "get off his property." It was hilarious.

jim said...

HSR is not, repeat not, designed primarily for business travelers. hsr is not designed primarily for business travelers. Its designed for the people of california. all teh people, the tourists, the families, the commuters, the seniors, the disabled, a group of friends who get bored and want to go somewhere. If it were being designed for business travelers then it would be all express and limited and all first class and business class.. HSR IS NOT being designed primarily for BUSINESS travelers. good lord. the millions of californians who voted for this are not business travelers. They are regualr folks who want another travel option. Yes there will be some express trains ad there will be first and business class available, and likely some business and first class lounges available at some stations but its not in any way "primarily" for business travelers. its for all californians. Including soccer moms, grannies, university students, german tourists, and teh fat girl in a tube top with three kids and no daddy carrying her stuff to frenso in a hefty bag. Business travelers will be in the first car so they don't have to sit next to her kids.

Fred Martin said...

Timote's link to the list of busiest air routes in revealing, but one should actually compare the air passenger numbers to the CHSRA's crazy ridership claims.

From the link, the air passenger market between SF and LA is less than 1.4 million annual passengers each way. I've seen other studies that confirm the total SF-LA market at 2.8 million annual passengers. Cambridge Systematics was predicting 117 million annual riders for CHSRA!! 117 million >>> 2.8 million. California is growing, but it is clearly not growing exponentially. Even if HSR completely displaces the SF-LA air market (still a very big 'if'), where is HSR going to get the other 114 million annual riders??? If the main competition is car traffic on I-5, then why the preoccupation with 220mph as opposed to 100mph? A 100mph system would be much cheaper to build.

2.8 million annual air passengers equates to less than 8,000 daily passengers. Many bus routes carry many more daily riders than this. Do you realize that this premium long-distance market could all be accommodated on just eight scheduled HSR trains? So much for TBT capacity concerns! Hmmm,,, something doesn't add up. CHSRA's ridership studies aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

Of course, the real market for rail is the intra-regional trips rather than inter-regional trips. Regional commuters are actually far more numerous than the long-distance passengers. This is why the Altamont Pass route is so much better than the Pacheco Pass route. If built, the Pacheco Pass route will be a ridership disaster (just look at the basic passenger market numbers!), in addition to its more complicated and costly engineering.

The flawed idea that the long-distance ridership is more important than the regional ridership is based on a gross misunderstanding of the travel markets involved.

jim said...

and the train is going via the high desert not the grapevine. that argument is long closed. As for development in the palmdale lancaster area served by HSR. Once the next cali boom comes around and real estate is hot again. the high desert with HSR will be THE next affordable options for housing that's LA adjacent. The developers, who have been waiting, will eventually do their thing. It will be modified from the old ways to fit the new ways, but it will happen none the less. The zone is sleeping, like shasta, but its far from dead. Youll see. Just watch.

jim said...

FRed Martin, you can't begin to grasp the numbers. The predictions of HSR and the potnetial numbers for hsr are actually very realistic.

Spokker said...

Fred, your analysis would make sense if San Francisco and Los Angeles were the only stations on the system.

I am weary about the 117 million figure that is bandied about so often, but I would be happy if the high speed rail system carried 30-50 million riders per year.

Spokker said...

"The flawed idea that the long-distance ridership is more important than the regional ridership is based on a gross misunderstanding of the travel markets involved."

Or maybe it's simply TRANSDEF throwing a tantrum and suing every time something doesn't go their way.

Spokker said...

If you care about Altamont so fucking much it might be more productive to throw your support behind this.

Otherwise continue complaining and suing and doing whatever it is what you do.

jim said...

god don't make me do the math again. even the 100 million number is realistic at some point as even reaching that high number only means about 300 ooo riders per day in a system that serves an area of 40 million potential customers, BART serves 300 000 a day in an area of 7 million potential customers. So its not as outrageous as one might thing. getting 300k a day from a pool of 40 million versus getting 300k a day from a pool of 7 million. Thats just for starters. If you break down the current numbers susing the 2030 predictions, its a piece of cake.

Spokker said...

"not the grapevine. that argument is long closed."

Even the great Richard "Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better" Mlynarik believes that the diversion to Palmdale is the right way to go. Unless he's under the spell of Palmdale developers or drinking the Kool-Aid...

jim said...

martin , what is your travel market expertise?

jim said...

HSR hasn't missed the mark on the regional and local markets either as their annual valley travel numbers are just below their annual sf-la numbers which mean they are very much taking into account the intermediate markets. and rightly so.

Fred Martin said...

Spokker, I am sorry that you suffer from the condition that PT Barnum so aptly described, but just look at the Phase I route plan: this has always been billed as a SF-LA connection. Don't even start talking about Gilroy, Fresno, Visalia, and Palmdale being important markets. Any future stage expansion to Sacramento or San Diego is supposed to be based on "profits" from the SF-LA route. Simply not going to happen with current plans.

Even with 30 million annual HSR riders, the numbers still don't mesh: 30 million >>> 2.8 million.

If you actually cared about an effective HSR system, you would care that the numbers actually made some sense. They simply don't with this flawed system design.

jim said...

Martin the numbers do make sense. HSR is basing revenue prediction on the 2030 numbers of 22 million annual riders. 7 million annual BAY AREA to LA area riders plus the valley and other city pairs of a built out system. 22 million is more than achievable. and growth over time from 22 million on up is inevitable YOu are trying to compare todays air numbers with train numbers in 2030.

Spokker said...

"Any future stage expansion to Sacramento or San Diego is supposed to be based on "profits" from the SF-LA route. Simply not going to happen with current plans."

So Phase 2 is doomed because commuters from Livermoore couldn't ride a high speed train to SF or San Jose? Is Livermoore the huge market that was going to put HSR over the top and on its way to prosperity?

jim said...

The growth in total travel in the next couple of decades will be offset towards rail. As the airports are at capacity, and travel demand continues to grow, hsr absorbs and increasing share of not only initial passenger share gains, but future gains. HSR is designed to be better for these short markets and at the same time designed to bring good service to areas that have no air service. This is a two-fer deal hsr kills two birds with one stone as they say.

jim said...

regional upgrades to altamont, capital corridor, bart, metrolink and san joquin services are going to coincide with the implementation of HSR. There is no sinister plan to leave livermore out in the cold.

jim said...

This is all so god damned simple I swear arguing with these people makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

Spokker said...

If the numbers are so fucked up for Pacheco, wouldn't the numbers be fucked up and wrong for Altamont too? If you think the numbers for Pacheco are messed up, why would you suddenly be for the project if Altamont was chosen?

Alon Levy said...

Fred, the numbers projected for California are in line with HSR ridership figures around the world. Because HSR is more convenient than air travel, it easily gets many times the air market ridership. For instance, in Spain, Madrid-Barcelona air traffic peaked at 4.6 million; on Madrid-Sevilla, a city pair with less demand, the AVE surpassed that in 1998, and has been growing ever since. And has any air corridor ever gotten even one tenth of the 150 million passengers the Shinkansen transports every year between Tokyo and Osaka?

Spokker said...

It's far easier to get to the average train station than the average airport whether you are driving or taking mass transit. Hell, if they had a bicycle car on the high speed train, it would be far easier to get to HSR on a bicycle. Does anyone ride their bike to the airport? Can you put your bike on the plane?

Mass transit does not serve airports very well in Southern California anyway.

Anonymous said...

Fred, do those numbers include SFO/OAK/SJC - ONT/BUR/SNA/LGB/LAX?

Those numbers seem to be leaving out at least a couple LA area airports and at least one Bay Area airport. Using all airports from both regions, the number usually bandied about is 4.5 million, just below the old Madrid-Barcelona air numbers.

Fred Martin said...

To keep this short, HSR will get the bulk of its riders from travel WITHIN the NorCal urban conglomeration and WITHIN the SoCal conglomeration. The travel between the two super-regions is actually less important (almost 400 miles separates them after all), and air travel already serves this more limited long-distance market well. The reason why Altamont matters is that it serves the extremely important Bay Area-Sacramento travel market. This is a key source of regional traffic congestion, and the Pacheco route simply doesn't address it.

How important is the Bay Area-Sacramento connection? It's even more important than the SF-LA travel connection. More travel activity happens between the Bay Area and the Sacramento/Upper Central Valley area than between Northern and Southern California. As further comparison, LA-San Diego is a more important and busier travel corridor than SF-LA. People simply don't move between SF and LA in vast numbers, certainly not compared to the much bigger intra-regional flows.

I am all for dramatically improving ACE, the Capitol Corridor and Caltrain in NorCal and Metrolink in SoCal to the standard of 125mph HSR. The more expansive the rail system the better, especially across the urban regions. This is why CHSRA's monomaniacal focus on the SF-LA connection is flawed. SF-LA just isn't that important as a high-density travel corridor. "It's the regional markets, stupid." An Altamont Pass routing for HSR doesn't solve everything by any means, but at least it doesn't screw up the regional connections the way an enormous investment in Pacheco Pass would. Keep in mind the realities of limited public transportation funding: the more money CHSRA absorbs for itself, the less will be available for local transit and regional rail.

And Alon, the environmentalists aren't going to like your argument that HSR greatly induces travel demand that wasn't there previously.

Alon Levy said...

HSR will get the bulk of its riders from travel WITHIN the NorCal urban conglomeration and WITHIN the SoCal conglomeration.

Why? This hasn't been observed with any intercity rail. Most Tokaido Shinkansen traffic is between Tokyo and Osaka, not Tokyo and Yokohama; the TGV has very good ridership numbers even though each line only makes one stop per metro area, making intra-regional trips impossible.

Alon, the environmentalists aren't going to like your argument that HSR greatly induces travel demand that wasn't there previously.

They're familiar with the argument, but don't object. Because HSR also displaces some auto and plane trips, it represents a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and a large reduction in emissions per unit of GDP. On the London-Paris route, Eurostar emits one tenth as much CO2 per passenger as flying. HSR is also friendlier to urban rail - in California, it's tied to Caltrain improvements, and everywhere it generates anchors for transit-oriented development - which reduces emissions even further.

Aaron said...

Alon, the environmentalists aren't going to like your argument that HSR greatly induces travel demand that wasn't there previously.

Except for those on the fringe, most environmentalists, myself included, want development and economic growth - just sustainable development and economic growth. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

TomW said...

@ Subgo and PRT and Heathrow:
Yes, currently the route goes from terminal five to various parking lots. However, if the technology proves successful, then the plan is to expand it so ti connects all the terminals, parking and porbably the central bus station as well. The airprot operator is delibretly going for an incremental approach.
The expanded system will tell a lot about how well PRT works.
I have personally am uncertain about PRT, precsiely because of teh lack fo systems out there, so I want to see evidence form Heathrow before making any conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

They are based the $1 billion in net operating revenue on 54.6 million passengers for phase 1, as per page 18 of the 2008 Business Plan, at a fare of $68 each way between LA and SF

This $1 billion is BEFORE paying off the revenue bonds that they are planning to issue.

After paying off revenue bonds, they will make $200 million.

Breakeven, according to their numbers is around, 45 million passengers for just the SF - LA/Anaheim section.

Anything less they are in big trouble.

Clem said...

the air passenger market between SF and LA is less than 1.4 million annual passengers each way. I've seen other studies that confirm the total SF-LA market at 2.8 million annual passengers ...

@Fred Martin: including all the airports in the Bay Area (SFO/OAK/SJC), and all the airports in the LA basin (LAX/ONT/BUR/SNA/LGB), the number of seats flown is closer to 10 million / year each way (20 million total). That's today; not in 2030.

As you can easily look up, Southwest Airlines alone flies about 100 flights per day, each way, between the Bay Area and LA Basin. That alone handily exceeds your figure. Then toss in American, United, etc.

Nikki said...

From a planning and environmental perspective, I couldn't agree more with Aaron. HSR would help eliminate the need for commuter flights that heavily pollute our atmosphere while simultaneously keep our airline companies from running a smarter business.

In the debate over the efficiency of various routes in California, I still wonder if we wouldn't get a better bang for our buck if the federal government considered advanced rail technology on a national scale.

I have been reading up on ALT and I think they have something. They call for advanced rail technology combined with smart grid infrastructure to be placed along the interstate, hitting key cities that have already been developed.

A plan like ALT's would make use of multiple federal funding sources, maximize innovation, and sets a precedent for the future of greener mass transit. The rail technology question is up in the air but should be answered by what would market the best for maximum ridership and pay back. As for a smart idea with regards to initial infrastructure and placement, I think its a great idea.

Devil's Advocate said...

@Jim: You're right, HSR may not be designed exclusively for business travelers. But the reality is that when I go to Europe I don't see all these families you say I'll see in California. It's primarily SOLO travelers (or at most 2 travelling together) who are on those trains (and in 1st class primarily business travellers). I rarely see families with kids. Most Europeans drive when it's 3 people or more travelling together especially on vacation, since they rarely have to get there in record time. The only families I see on trains are American tourists who don't have their own car there and take the train because renting a car in Europe is much more expensive than here (177 Euro/day, all inclusive, for a compact last month for me in Barcelona) and therefore the train makes sense also economically. The fact is that if a family of 4 wants to go from Fresno or BFL to LA or Disneyland, they'll probably drive their own car because it will be substantially cheaper than taking a train and then renting a car once they get to LA. The HSR trains will not be cheap. You can't compare it with today's Amtrak train or Metrolink. Said this I don't question the motives for taking the CA-99 route. FNO and BFL are two large markets and it makes sense to pass through those. I simply question the wisdom of stops in Gilroy, Tulare, etc. And, above all, I question the wisdom to go through Mojave/Palmdale adding an extra nearly 50 miles to the trip. Somebody said that the choice is geological. I don't buy that. They're building an HSR through the Alps as we speak between Turin and Lyon. Another line has just been finished through the Apennines between Florence and Bologna. Italy is probably the most seismic country in Europe and there are fault lines everywhere. They even had a major quake just two months ago. Is somebody saying here that the Grapevine route is more challenging than the earthquake prone Alps or Apennines? I don't think so. I think that the Palmdale route was chosen for political reasons because they think that area is growing and potentially a market for the train. I disagree. A metrolink would have sufficed for linking those towns to LA and BFL.

Anonymous said...

The last real projections I've seen are CHSRA's from 2000. These are on page 1-7 of the Bay Area Program EIR in table 1.2-2.

(I will note there are at least 5 errors in the table - not the least of which is the failure to add 2 numbers together correctly)

According to these - there wer 5.7 million trips in each direction.

Of these a little less than 50% were intra-state trips, the rest were connecting flights out of state or country. This is the market that Cambridge Analytics (the official forecasters of HSRA) think is the correct one.

I don't think air passenger traffic is up a lot since 2000. As a fairly frequent traveler, 2000 was insane with dot com bubble inspired travel.

The long and short of it - the right number is about 5.5 million total for today. Assume whatever growth rate you want.

It should be mentioned that the CHSRA's models seem to pull most of their traffic from cars, not planes.
So the relevant tra

lyqwyd said...

@Alon Levy said:

the problem with PRT is that it's never been able to support the headways that its proponents claim it can support. Proponents say... [PRT] can run at headways of half a second on mainline track, for 7,200 per track per hour, but in practice the lower limit seems to be four seconds, which is worse than for cars on a highway. This makes the capacity too low to be of much use in urban areas.

Alon, there have been no completed PRT projects (I do not count Morgantown), so any numbers that are out today are merely hypothetical. Only recently has the technology become feasible to achieve the goals stated (half second headways). Of course there are still hurdles to be achieved, and in my opinion some of the PRT proposals out there are destined to fail (most likely any project that requieres switches in the track).

I have every confidence that the headway problem will be solved, take BART for example, early on the headways through the transbay tube were somewhere around 5-10 minutes, but they've brought them down to about 2.5 minutes, and still see some room for improvement (not a whole lot since I believe the legal minimum headway is just about 2 minutes). It was purely a technical problem that was solved with improvements in technology, I believe PRT will experience the same improvements over time. The greatest thing is that with some PRT systems these improvements can be done purely in software, as it's really the control system that can't handle the precision, no need for modifications in the track or vehicles.

The advantages I see in PRT are:

1) Much cheaper to build than rail, it's around $10-$20 million per mile vs. $50-$500 million per mile for rail. I talked to the guys at Ultra and they estimated for the same money BART is planning for ~3miles of rail and 2 Stations they could get about 24 stations covering the entire neighborhood. link

2) No waiting, since there are many cars usually there is no wait, and rarely more than 1 minute.

3) almost door to door once a full network is built out. Since PRT is designed to operate in a grid, it will usually be only a few blocks at most for every rider to walk to the nearest station.

4) Private, since the cars are small you can ride alone, or share the ride with a small group (perfect for families) at the same ride fare.

5) Non-stop

6) No transfers (within system)

There are many other benefits, but that's good for now. PRT isn't a solution for every transit problem, but it's a unique solution for a currently insufficiently solved problem (it's perfect as a feeder to higher throughput systems, like heavy rail and flight)

Anonymous said...

"I don't think air passenger traffic is up a lot since 2000. As a fairly frequent traveler, 2000 was insane with dot com bubble inspired travel."

You're "thinking" wrong then. Air travel between the five LA airports and the three Bay Area airports is up significantly, as Southwest alone has more than doubled flights from 2000.

You can't really get a "feel" for air travel based on crowds in airports, especially since several of the airports have had massive upgrades since then to increase capacity significantly. Oakland "feels" less crowded now, because the airport isn't a giant piece of crap anymore. Oakland is actually much more crowded now than it was in 2000.

jim said...

Palmdale Lancaster will be a growth region and should and will be part of the system. Of course it's political. YOu can't just leave out an entire growth region.
Families will use the train. One, it's not always about pure economics. Two- the train is the most family friendly form of transport, far more comfortable than a car, three, I checked fares for families traveling within california and it is economical and I won't get into all the fare plans etc but trust me it does make sense for them to take the train from fresno to disneyland. I haven't had enough coffee yet to go through all the minutiae. four - I'm not comparing anything to europe - this isn't europe and we aren't europeans. I'm basing my observations on 30 years in the hospitality, travel and transportation industries, including the last 8 years with the railroad. That's why when others look at the design of this system and have so many problems with the design I am baffled because from my perspective, when I saw the design based on my experience both as a lifelong californian and someone who is very familiar with the travel and transport, my first thought was " they did a great job! this makes perfect sense, and I can't believe they got it right, i'll be able to perform travel planning miracles with this thing." Now I know I'm right about this. Most objections to the design of this system are coming from either deniers, who have an ulterior motive or people who have a particular self interest in making sure the the part they will use gets the most focus. From where I stand looking at the big picture of serving all californians in the largest capacity to met the greatest need, and future growth. they could not have designed a better system. As a person who spends 40-50 hours a week on the front lines with the monumental task of moving every imaginable type and class of person around this state with time and money constraints, and an unbelievable variety of passenger needs. I can say that this system as designed is a spectacular godsend. i can't freakin wait to get this thing up and running. My ability to get anyone from point A to point B in this state which I happen to be exceptionally good at even with the current third world statewide system of transport we have today, is hard to match. If there's a way to get you there, I will find it. So lets stop fighting over the details and get this built. This system as designed IS HSR DONE RIGHT.

Alon Levy said...

DA: yes, the Italians are tunneling through the Alps. That's part of why the TAV is so expensive.

Lyqwyd: BART is a bad example. Subways have been able to run 30 tph from day one - in fact, in New York, they used to be able to run 35 tph when trains were shorter. I also question the stated costs. The infrastructure you need for PRT is exactly the same as for mass rail transit with automatic train operation: an elevated or subterranean double-track guideway, together with stations, a signaling system, and computers capable of operating the trains. It requires the same maintenance, and the total cost of the vehicles should be about the same as for mass transit.

In fact, if anything PRT requires more advanced infrastructure than heavy rail. Half-second headways are less than a safe stopping distance, which at PRT/automobile speeds is about 2 seconds; this requires very advanced computer control, to ensure vehicles never fail. What I've read from other PRT advocates is that the vehicles will be combined into one train, so that headways can be essentially zero. There is no technology for that yet, nor any indication of how such a thing might even be possible.

jim said...

using these numbers on page 7 of the document using the "77% of airfare pricing" the phase 1 2030 annual ridership numbers are 22 million - combined rider ship -all markets -phase one.

Phase one includes 13 stations.

22 million divided by 365 days = 60,274 riders per day phase one system wide.

60,274 divided by 13 stations = 4,636 pax per day per station (averaged)

Figuring low - say one train- in each direction every 30 minutes. = 48 trains per day each direction or 96 total trains per day per station. (24 hour period.)

4636 total pax per station daily divided by trains= 96 pax per station per train. ( 48 each way) = 48 passengers per train per station. This is a very realistic.number - and keep in mind these are numbers for the year 2030.

Now, a base fare for LA SF of say 68 dollars in 2030, some fares in intermediate markets will be less, and some fares based on availability will be higher, ( maybe 225 for first class, 150 for business, last minute purchases, etc.) say you use an AVERAGE one way for for all riders of 100 dollars in 2030 dollars...( 77 percent of 2030 one way airfares averaged for trip length and classes of service) thats revenue of 2.2 billion per year.

jim said...

(they use a lower fare and get 1.8 billion revenue. I think the -average- fare will come out higher than that.)

Anonymous said...

Jim

The Phase 1 ridership for 77% fare structure ($104 each way) is 39 million riders.

The chart is a little confusing. The origin/destination is NOT are not the train stops but where the people are from/going to eventually. This is why they have San Diego ridership for phase 1.

There is NO political support at this point for a $104 one way fare structure.

jim said...

hwere are you getting 39 million riders? its says 31.6 million riders at 50 percent of airfare and 22 million at 77 percent of airfare

LA Basin – Bay Area, with intermediate markets 31.6 $1,679 (50%) 22.6 $1,842 (77%)

jim said...

and again when they quote a fare of 68 dollars for instance, that is a base fare. that isn't the fare everyone will pay. any more than everyone pays 59 dollars to fly to LA. I have a base fare of 52 dollars on the train now, from sf to la but not everyone gets that fare. fares are based on availability, restrictions, various fare plans, and classes of service. this brings the average up. Todays base fare of 52 bucks, and with inflation for 20 years, to suggest a base fare of say 75 bucks in 2030 is very reasonable, add to that the fare buckets/ availability / and classes of service and its very easy to get the AVERAGE one way fare aup around 100 bucks ( with some pax paying less and some pax paying more) why does this continue to escape everyone? I know that people often say " but the paper said it was 59 dollars" and I know they never read the fine print, but know everyone here surely all know that an advertised fare doesn't mean that is the only fare. come on now.

jim said...

ok I see at the bottom where the totals are. 39 million annual pax including sac and san. ok well that makes the numbers even more realistic. The point Im making is that the numbers are not "overblown" but in fact very realistic. and in 2030 the average fare will indeed be around 100 bucks in 2030 dollars. letme rework my numbers...

jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jim said...

using the lower fare you wind up with 62 pax per train per station on average. still very realistic and the lower fare still brings in 2.2 billion per year revenue.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

two things

1) On that chart, even if it says sacramento it means SF or merced (final destination, not boarding point) because it only assumes the phase 1 stations

2) WIth 3% inflation, the cost for 39 million riders would be $200 in 2030.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon Levy:

"BART is a bad example. Subways have been able to run 30 tph from day one"

Don't like BART? How about planes: first they said it couldn't be done, then the wright brothers proved them wrong. Planes were originally very slow, now they are fast, then people thought the sound barrier couldn't be broken, it was. Trains no good how about cars: have been getting faster for a long time, said they couldn't be made in a way the average person could afford, Ford changed that, braking distance has gotten better. How about trains? people thought trains would never achieve speeds that are now seen in HSR.

Almost every prediction that something could not be technically achieved has been proven wrong.

"The infrastructure you need for PRT is exactly the same as for mass rail transit with automatic train operation: an elevated or subterranean double-track guideway, together with stations, a signaling system, and computers capable of operating the trains."

Just because you need an elevated guideway for PRT does not mean it's the same scale as with rail. Since the vehicles are much smaller and lighter the guideways are correspondingly lighter and smaller. ULTRa for example has a guideway less than 7' wide and 1.5' tall (including the curbs, the trackbed is about half a foot tall, of course this does not include support posts, which vary in height). Since the track is so much smaller and lighter weight any support posts are correspondingly thinner and lighter. This leads to huge cost reductions compared to elevated rail. Other PRT systems have significantly smaller and lighter weight guideways, skytran lest time I checked was about 1' x 1', and skyweb express is about 2' x 2'. But ULTRa is the only project I'm aware of that is currently being constructed.

Stations are also correspondingly smaller, the minimum size of a station is the size of the vehicle plus a small area for the few people that will be waiting. Some may be larger in busier areas, but that is optional.

Computers to operate the network have existed at affordable prices for a decade or so. The control systems have been extensively modeled, and ULTRa has already gone through extensive testing, and is scheduled to go live with real usage by the end of the year last I heard.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon Levy:

"It requires the same maintenance, and the total cost of the vehicles should be about the same as for mass transit."

I have no idea where you get this from, sure it requires maintenance, but far less than rail since the vehicle weights and guide way weights are so much lower there is less wear and tear.

Each individual vehicle is far less expensive, but yes, you will need to buy more of them overall, I still personally believe the total cost of vehicles will be lower since you can use them much more efficiently. trips are much shorter since there are no stops, so the vehicle can be used for multiple trips in the same time a bus or rail vehicle would take. Also, bus or rail has to go from the beginning of the run and back much of which the vehicle is largely empty, whereas with PRT the vehicle goes only as far as the individual rider needs to go.

"In fact, if anything PRT requires more advanced infrastructure than heavy rail."

Do you have anything to back up that statement? PRT vehicles are fairly simple, and some of them can use off the shelf automotive parts. As I've shown above, the guideways are much simpler than rail guideways (some projects suggest switching in the guideway, but I'm fairly sure those will never see the light of day, there's really no reason to have switching in the guide way, if there's no switch in the guide way then it's actually simpler than rail). The software required to manage the PRT network is certainly more complicated than other transit systems, but completely doable with affordable computers today.

"Half-second headways are less than a safe stopping distance, which at PRT/automobile speeds is about 2 seconds; this requires very advanced computer control, to ensure vehicles never fail."

Cars drive at far less than half-second headways every day all over the world fairly safely. Most PRT systems I'm aware of target 25-35mph vehicle speed. At 25mph average stopping distance is 32 feet, which would take just about 1 second. At 35mph it would take about 1.5 seconds (assuming braking performance equivalent to an average automobile, some PRT vehicles can do much better with emergency braking). Emergency braking could be initiated by either the vehicle itself or the network, leading to greater safety. Even if the worst happened and there was a complete failure of the braking system the vehicle would only ever crash at the stated speed of 25-35mph (no chance for head on collision since different directions are completely separated, there is also no chance of a crash from the side), so the chance of a fatality in an accident is fairly low (at those speeds fatalities are significantly lower than at higher speeds). There is absolutely no support to the claim that the system needs to be perfect. And yet the system has much lower likelihood of accident since it is completely grade separated.

"What I've read from other PRT advocates is that the vehicles will be combined into one train, so that headways can be essentially zero. There is no technology for that yet, nor any indication of how such a thing might even be possible."

I've heard that from a few people, mostly people who don't really understand PRT and are still thinking in a rail frame of mind. There's no reason or need to chain vehicles, and many reasons no to do it.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that if a family of 4 wants to go from Fresno or BFL to LA or Disneyland, they'll probably drive their own car because it will be substantially cheaper than taking a train and then renting a car once they get to LA.

There is a station near Disneyland with a shuttle - a shuttle that is at least as convenient as the Disneyland parking lot with ITS shuttle. There's no need to rent a car if you're going to Disneyland.

When gas is over $3 a gallon, for the gas alone it was cheaper for me and my daughter to travel Amtrak California - and we got to play together besides. It was fun instead of wearing. At $4 it would be about the same for a family of 3 or a family of 4 with young kids. If you count the cost of driving as the IRS value of 55 cents a mile, the payback is substantially sooner.

If I can travel while also maintaining my data connection to the world, it's an enormous advantage. On a train, you can do that. We could take the train to Disneyland: I could work on the train; we could spend the weekend, and be home with none of my coworkers even noticing I was gone.

I love taking the train with my daughter, and have learned that the public transportation connections on the end are actually usable in many cases. And this is just poky Amtrak California with its annoying bus bridge.

elfling

Anonymous said...

by the way, as far as fares go, not only do you add $14 or so for the airport fees on each end, but don't forget parking and airport shuttles. For me to fly between the Bay Area to LA and arrive at my destination on the other end is running nearly $70 each way, doorstep to doorstep, for parking and transport between where I can park and where I get on the plane.

Because it happens that train stations are close to my regular endpoints, it's actually cheaper for me to take the train than it is to fly Southwest on a free ticket.

elfling

Fred Martin said...

Clem, I believe the 2.8 million annual air passengers figure from above refers to the travel demand between LAX and SFO, OAK, and SJC. It doesn't figure in the other SoCal airports, but even if you do consider the other SoCal airports, the figure is still dwarfed by the crazy 90-117 million annual passenger figures CHSRA is promoting.

Southwest dominates the NorCal-SoCal passenger trade, so if they are only running 100 737s each way, that's about 12-16 full trainsets each way (assuming HSR takes away all this trade -- highly unlikely). Of course, Southwest has demonstrated that they can fill their planes with good load factors. This remains to be seen with CA HSR, and HSR with a low load factor makes full aircraft the 'greener' alternative. Are they going to shut down the electrical power grid on the Central Valley portion to save power when trains aren't running due to low demand??? If you are going to build big, you had better be sure that the demand is there to justify the energy being pumped into the system.

With regards to Japan, the Shinkansen ridership is a very small proportion on the enormous regional transit ridership on the extensive transit systems in Tokyo and Osaka. California has nothing even remotely close to Tokyo's and Osaka's transit systems, and that includes buses too. Remember buses, the true workhorses of urban transit?? The Shinkansen works because the local and regional transit is well-established and supportive of HSR; in California, we're spending enormous shares of transportation funds on a super-fancy inter-regional transit system (yes, it's still a form of transit) while lacking decent local and regional transit systems. A recipe for disaster.

lyqwyd said...

re PRT

Oh, one more thing I guess I should say: I am not suggesting that PRT is a replacement for rail in every situation. There are certainly times when rail is a better solution, but there are also times when PRT is the better solution.

Highly travelled corridors that would have tens of thousands of riders per hour are probably not appropriate for PRT, but when you have less than about 20,000 riders per hour, PRT is a better solution than light rail, and almost always better than bus.

Anonymous said...

On the Disneyland trip, right now we just don't go because it's logistically impossible: it takes a solid day for travel each way. HSR would make it possible for us to decide to go to Disneyland tomorrow, and if it were easy like that, we'd probably go once a year.

elfling

Fred Martin said...

Below are the most recent (2008) daily market numbers than I can find from faremeasure.com. The site seems to actively track the airline markets, so their numbers seem reliable. The numbers are better than the junk put out by CHSRA's "professional" contractors.

LAX-SFO: 4519 daily passengers
LAX-OAK: 2195 daily passengers
LAX-SJC: 1767 daily passengers

LAX-SFO is easily the biggest and most competitive air route in California. LAX is clearly the most important airport in California, so the 2.8 million annual passengers between LAX and SFO/OAK/SJC is a reasonable figure for comparison with HSR's inter-regional travel demand. As airlines seek to add capacity in the future, they will be flying 747s and A380s between SFO and LAX in due time.

BUR-SFO: 240 daily passengers
BUR-OAK: 2400 daily passengers
BUR-SJC: 1247 daily passengers

I am surprised the BUR-SFO market is so weak -- United feeder SkyWest has 100% of this tiny market pair-- yet these are the two airports that HSR will most directly connect... It would only free up a couple of landing slots at SFO. Southwest completely dominates the Burbank airport. Southwest has 100% of both the BUR-OAK and BUR-SJC markets. BUR-OAK seems to be a tempting market for HSR, but HSR isn't going to the East Bay! Southwest has no reason to worry or put up a fight.

LGB-SFO: no service
LGB-OAK: 1029 daily passengers
LGB-SJC: 186 daily passengers

JetBlue has 100% of the Long Beach market to northern California.

ONT-SFO: 102 daily passengers
ONT-OAK: 1593 daily passengers
ONT-SJC: 951 daily passengers

Similar to Burbank, Southwest Airlines dominates at Ontario airport. United Airlines has three daily roundtrip flights on small feeder/commuter planes to SFO with low load factors and premium fares. Southwest has 100% of the rest of the market to both OAK and SJC. HSR isn't going to the East Bay, or the Inland Empire for some while, so Southwest's lack of opposition to CHSRA is understandable.

SNA-SFO: 473 daily passengers
SNA-OAK: 1945 daily passengers
SNA-SJC: 1891 daily passengers

Southwest has some competition in Orange County, but it still dominates the market. Southwest has 90% of the SNA-OAK market and 68% of the SNA-SJC market. The SNA-SFO average fare is twice that of flights to/from OAK and SJC, so the low SNA-SFO ridership is not surprising.

Fred Martin said...

Let's think about this air market analysis:

One trend noted: SFO-LAX (4519 daily passengers) is far more important than any other SFO connection with a SoCal airport (SFO to BUR/LGB/ONT/SNA airports combines to only 815 daily passengers, less than a fifth of the SFO-LAX load!! SFO has already shed its flights to the 'minor' airports of SoCal, so the idea that HSR will relieve SFO of the flights to minor California airports is belated and anachronistic. Southwest has already caused this shift. No wonder the airlines aren't worried about HSR competition. HSR will be feeding their airports with local/regional traffic as opposed to providing direct competition. Southwest fought bitterly to kill Texas HSR in the early 1990s. Southwest now also dominates the California inter-regional air markets, so why aren't they worried about their dominant market share???

Another trend noted: OAK has considerably more travel demand to southern California than either SFO and SJC, yet the East Bay is being left out of HSR Phase I. Why? OAK has 9162 daily air passengers to southern California, and SFO and SJC only have 5334 and 6042 daily air passengers respectively!

The total number of daily air passengers between SFO/OAK/SJC and LAX/BUR/LGB/ONT/SNA comes to 20,538. AC Transit's 1/1R line still carries more daily passengers than the whole damn NorCal-SoCal air market! This roughly calculates to 7.5 million annual air passengers. 7.5 million is still a lot less than 117 million and even 30 million. And this is the TOTAL air market in which HSR will only get a share of some of the routes!

Keep in mind that the Phase I of the CHSRA only goes from SF-SJ-LA-Anaheim, so the idea that HSR will shift demand from OAK, SNA, and ONT airports is highly unlikely with the first phase (and likely last as it stands). Then, remember that HSR is not going to completely displace air travel in these markets. A 50-60% mode shift is the most optimistic scenario, so HSR can only expect 4 million annual riders from the current NorCal-SoCal air market???

Alon Levy said...

Almost every prediction that something could not be technically achieved has been proven wrong.

This is not true. We only remember the predictions that have gone wrong. We conveniently forget the predictions that are over-optimistic or right on the money. In the 1920s, urbanists thought there would multi-level streets, highways would seamlessly integrate into the urban landscape, and every major street would have a subway underneath. 1950s science fiction took it for granted that there would be permanent moon bases by 2000, and that the future would consist of supersonic planes and vactrains. I have a pop space tech book from the 1990s saying that by 2020, hypersonic planes would enable you to travel from Sydney to Washington in an hour.

Carl Sagan said it best: "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

Also, bus or rail has to go from the beginning of the run and back much of which the vehicle is largely empty, whereas with PRT the vehicle goes only as far as the individual rider needs to go.

Alright, so you're assuming there's going to be massive storage space in the CBD. This is how it works with commuter rail with 19th century-era railyards, and with buses that feed into gigantic stations like TBT or Port Authority. However, it massively increases costs.

I have no idea where you get this from, sure it requires maintenance, but far less than rail since the vehicle weights and guide way weights are so much lower there is less wear and tear.

PRT vehicles should cost as much as cars, which means $15,000, or 1% the cost of a subway car. In principle a PRT vehicle can transport 4-6 people, just like a car; in practice it's going to transport 1, just like a car, which is 1% of what a subway train transports.

The lighter weight doesn't mean less maintenance. Cars don't have lower maintenance costs than buses, nor do dedicated busways require more maintenance than regular street lanes. The problem in all cases is that the weight per person is actually higher for personal transportation. A single PRT vehicle should weigh about 1 ton, and transport 1 person at a time. A subway train weighs 40 tons, and transports 100 at rush hour.

With monorail, you can reduce the weight and the width required even further - monorail els are slender, with the train protruding over the edge. The only reason monorail doesn't catch is lack of backward compatibility, just like with maglev technology for HSR.

Cars drive at far less than half-second headways every day all over the world fairly safely.

No, they don't. The lowest freeway headways in the world are in California, at 5/3 seconds. That gives the road no slack to recover from sudden slowdowns. 2-second headways are more common. On local streets, headways are far longer. See this chart, due to Vukan Vuchic.

Alon Levy said...

The basic problem of PRT is that its capacity is limited to this of a highway. This makes it inappropriate in high-demand areas. In low-demand areas, it costs too much, because it's more high-tech than roads. Unlike highways, it can't funnel traffic onto local streets at the CBD end of the trip, requiring further construction at the CBD, often with many tracks in order to accommodate travelers from multiple directions.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon Levy:

I said: "Almost every prediction that something could not be technically achieved has been proven wrong" the Alon said:

"We only remember the predictions that have gone wrong. We conveniently forget the predictions that are over-optimistic or right on the money. ... urbanists thought there would multi-level streets, ... every major street would have a subway underneath. 1950s science fiction took it for granted that there would be permanent moon bases..."

This has nothing to do with my statement, you give examples of things that we could do technically, but have chosen not to do for cost or social reasons. I'm talking about your statement that 1/2 second headways was probably not feasible (which you provide no support for) and gave numerous examples of similar predictions have been proven wrong. I could list so many more examples if you like. You made a prediction and I made a prediction, neither of us know what will be true, but I have much more evidence supporting mine. The fact is we don't know if 1/2 second headways are possible, but another fact is that they are not necessary for succesful PRT.

"Alright, so you're assuming there's going to be massive storage space in the CBD. This is how it works with commuter rail with 19th century-era railyards, and with buses that feed into gigantic stations like TBT or Port Authority. However, it massively increases costs."

No, I'm not assuming that at all. PRT vehicles are stored at the stations or on the track, with a few in a maintenance repair area. In fact, since PRT is driverless it operates 24 hours a day, so there is very little need to store vehicles.

"PRT vehicles should cost as much as cars, which means $15,000, or 1% the cost of a subway car. In principle a PRT vehicle can transport 4-6 people, just like a car; in practice it's going to transport 1, just like a car, which is 1% of what a subway train transports."

Another prediction of yours, without any supporting evidence. PRT vehicles, when mass produced should cost significantly less than a car, you give a retail value for a car, but even that is high, there are cars that cost significantly less than that, less than $10,000 retail, and much less to actually manufacture. But PRT vehicles can go even cheaper because they operate in a well defined environment. They don't need a radio, they don't need a complex suspension system since the guideway surface will be very well defined and there's no need to worry about potholes (no trucks on the guideway). There's no chance of a side impact so there's no need to add weight for side impact safety. The windows don't need an opening mechanism since there's no need to open the window. There's only 1 door needed since passengers would only get on from 1 side. Every single vehicle is identical so there's no need to allow for customization, there's no glove compartment... I could go on and on. Also, any vehicle that carries more than 4 people is not PRT, even 4 is a stretch in my opinion. PRT stands for "Personal Rapid Transit". If there's more than 4 seats it's designed to be shared by a group, which is not personal. bigger vehicles mean more weight, expense and less convenience. I personally prefer 2 seet vehicles, max 3 seets.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon Levy:

"The lighter weight doesn't mean less maintenance. Cars don't have lower maintenance costs than buses, nor do dedicated busways require more maintenance than regular street lanes. The problem in all cases is that the weight per person is actually higher for personal transportation. A single PRT vehicle should weigh about 1 ton, and transport 1 person at a time. A subway train weighs 40 tons, and transports 100 at rush hour."

Lighter weight does mean less maintenance. Lighter weight means less wear on the suspension and the guideway (have you ever noticed there's more potholes in road lanes that trucks drive on?), resulting in significantly lower maintenance. Also, since the vehicles have far fewer components than a car, there is less maintenance there. There are also PRT systems that have no suspension because they ride on a perfectly flat track, that would mean fewer and simpler components, again resulting in lower maintenance.

"With monorail, you can reduce the weight and the width required even further - monorail els are slender, with the train protruding over the edge. The only reason monorail doesn't catch is lack of backward compatibility, just like with maglev technology for HSR."

Any elevated rail guideway is significantly larger and heavier than any legitemate PRT system. The size of the guideway is largely determined by the weight of the vehicle it will need to support. Monorail may be narrower than ULTRa's guidway, but it is far more massive, and has a larger cross section, plus, the other guideways I mentioned, skytran and skyweb: they are hollow, the entire suspension & traction system for the vehicle is encased in the guideway. The support poles of a monorail are much more massive than of a PRT system, since they have to support a more massive track and a much more massive vehicle.

I said: "Cars drive at far less than half-second headways every day all over the world fairly safely." then Alon said:
"No, they don't. The lowest freeway headways in the world are in California, at 5/3 seconds. That gives the road no slack to recover from sudden slowdowns. 2-second headways are more common. On local streets, headways are far longer. See this chart, due to Vukan Vuchic."

Yes they do. At 65mph a vehicle is moving ~95 feet/second, which is about 6 car length (stopping distance is ~350 ft including reaction time, about 20 car lengths). Most people one a full, but not overcrowded freeway in a California urban area are travelling 1-2 carlength of separation some with even less, but very few with more. This is from my observations of years of driving freeways in LA & the bay area every day. Sure when there is less traffic people drive with more separation. I'm not sure how your link supports your argument, it's just the amount of area needed for a particular transit system to transport a certain number of poeple per hour, nothing about headways. And finally since perhaps you missed my point, I was not saying that all cars always drive at less than half second headways, just that many do and the world hasn't come to an end. Ultimately the exact headway is irrelevant for PRT, as long as a reasonable headway is achieved, 1/2 second? great! 1 second? still great! 2 seconds? still great! 4 seconds? not so great, but still perfectly acceptable.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon

"The basic problem of PRT is that its capacity is limited to this of a highway. This makes it inappropriate in high-demand areas. In low-demand areas, it costs too much, because it's more high-tech than roads. Unlike highways, it can't funnel traffic onto local streets at the CBD end of the trip, requiring further construction at the CBD, often with many tracks in order to accommodate travelers from multiple directions."

I'm not sure how that's a problem, PRT can be completely successfull at the same throughput of a single highway lane, there's no need to funnel traffic anywhere since unlike a freeway/rail/bus it can get you within 2 blocks or less to your destination. In the CBD your would be within a block, or even 1/2 block of your destination.

I've been following PRT for years, and have heard almost every imaginable objection, and have refuted almost every one. Some of the few objections I give much credence to are that people won't want elevated guideways in their neighborhood, which while true, I believe will be overcome by the other many advantages of PRT, but that's certainly up in the air. The other is that people just won't use it, which while I don't agree, It can't really be argued until PRT is implemented.

As I said, PRT is not the be all & end all of transit. It would not be able to handle NY Subway level capacities, it's not a replacement for commuter rail, or heavily subway, or HSR. But It's probably a lot better than light rail, buses and automobiles.

Now I have a few questions for you: why are you so opposed to PRT? It's an interesting concept that could have great benefits. It's also near a real world implementation so why argue so vehemently against it? In a few years we'll know for sure whether there's potential or not. Do you disagree with the basic principles/advantages? Have you done much investigation of the subject or are you just going off what you've heard from others?

Bianca said...

Fred Martin said:

the idea that HSR will shift demand from OAK, SNA, and ONT airports is highly unlikely with the first phase (and likely last as it stands)

You did dig up a lot of statistics about how many people fly into and out of which airport. But you cannot say that people who currently use OAK will never take HSR from San Francisco. I lived in San Francisco for 10 years before moving to the 'burbs and frequently flew to LA out of OAK instead of SFO, for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it was cheaper fares, sometimes it was better schedule, but absolutely if HSR had been an option, I'd have taken that instead of BART to the shuttle to OAK. And again, when I lived in Berkeley I still sometimes flew out of SFO, even if I could have gotten to my destination from OAK. The distances are not such that people are wedded to only one airport, and HSR absolutely will compete with SFO, OAK and SJC for service to the LA basin.

If you live in the East Bay and work in the city, a stroll from your office downtown to the Transbay Terminal is still just as attractive to you as it is to the folks who don't commute in over the bridge.

jim said...

anon - Im not even sure what your point is at this point. The ridership numbers are reasonable. they just are.40 million, 50 million, even 20 million, at an average fare of 100 bucks one way in 2030 dollars still gives you over 2 billion a year in revenue. Are you saying that by 2030 that a completed system won't see 20 million riders a year? I mean thats a piece of cake.

jim said...

Bart went from running empty trains to carrying over 300k pax per day. with steady gains occuring for the last 30 years. 300k in a market of less than 7 million people.

Muni carries over 700k pax a day in a market of just over 700k - always has - that 100 percent.

so its is very conceivable that hsr will carry its share of a market of 40-50 million potential pax. Ima the doctors office so i dn't have a calculator - but again my point is that the numbers work. and the numbers are realistic.

Fred Martin said...

Again, the point is the "ridership" on aircraft between the Bay Area and southern California just isn't that much. Even if HSR is super-duper attractive with 220mph trains on 5 minute headways (!) and $55 fares (!) with all these expensive grade-separated enhancements, the market it hopes to capture from airlines just isn't that much. It could be a vast waste of electricity running all these mostly empty trains through the Central Valley. Caltrain carries as many commuters (even assuming that each Caltrain commuter is making two daily trips) as the total air passengers between SFO/OAK/SJC and LAX/BUR/LGB/ONT/SNA, so the notion that CHSRA's ridership claims justify their own set of tracks on the Peninsula is absurd and wasteful. Caltrain is always going to be the main passenger carrier on the Peninsula, not CHSRA. Why does CHSRA get four tracks in the TBT, and Caltrain only gets two? CHSRA is all glitz and hype, but where's the beef?!? The inter-regional ridership ain't gonna cut it.

The inter-regional market just isn't that important when compared to the intra-regional travel market, and it's the grand folly of CHSRA's system design.

Just for giggles, let's look at the air markets for Sacramento and San Diego, which will have to wait well over a decade for any HSR service (if ever) in the current plan.

Market Pair--Daily Passengers--% Southwest
SAN-SFO 2545 45%
SAN-OAK 2189 99%
SAN-SJC 1913 86%

The premium (ie, fast) inter-regional market between San Diego and the Bay Area is the hardest market for HSR to compete with air travel, since even CHSRA officially claims the San Francisco-San Diego HSR trip will be almost four hours. Aircraft can do much better than that, even with check-ins and access delays. Then again, the connections between San Diego and the rest of SoCal are the most important and far more numerous, but CHSRA isn't recognizing this basic fact.

Sacramento Airport (SMF):
Market Pair--Daily Passengers--% Southwest
SMF-LAX 1574 90%
SMF-BUR 1541 99%
SMF-LGB 418 0% (100% JetBlue)
SMF-ONT 1895 99%
SMF-SNA 1503 98%

Southwest is king in Sacramento, with JetBlue taking the Long Beach market. Again, Southwest has no reason to worry about CHSRA encroaching on their strong market position, and this should cause HSR supporters to worry. Southwest has expanded to add more long-distance services, but this doesn't undermine the fact that they dominate California's premium inter-regional travel markets. If CHSRA was a serious inter-regional competitor, Southwest should be deeply concerned. But they are not...

Anonymous said...

Fred - I travel to Southern California at least once a month. I live in San Francisco. I haven't flown out of SFO for a SoCal-bound flight in years. Why? SFO sucks compared to OAK when you have the choice. Fewer delays, better in-airport services, more choice in flights (I fly Southwest to SoCal) to each of the airports down there. I can guarantee you that there are hundreds of people a day doing the same thing (I've been on BART and AirBART enough times to see the number of people going in and coming out of SF for OAK. From most places in SF and the North Bay, it's roughly the same amount of time to get to OAK as it is SFO.

Alon Levy said...

PRT vehicles are stored at the stations or on the track, with a few in a maintenance repair area. In fact, since PRT is driverless it operates 24 hours a day, so there is very little need to store vehicles.

I think it's going to create a crunch at rush hour... for instance, you might need vehicles to accommodate 15,000 people per hour at rush hour, but then you'd need to keep them from clogging further vehicles. With cars, the problem of finding parking downtown is familiar. PRT could shuttle back and forth, like taxis or mass transit, but then it would run empty.

Also, any vehicle that carries more than 4 people is not PRT, even 4 is a stretch in my opinion. PRT stands for "Personal Rapid Transit". If there's more than 4 seats it's designed to be shared by a group, which is not personal. bigger vehicles mean more weight, expense and less convenience. I personally prefer 2 seet vehicles, max 3 seets.

4 is what I've seen in proposals on the net. It kind of makes sense, in an analogy to taxis. The features of PRT - point-to-point travel and low capacity - are such that it will compete mostly with cars and taxis, which gain significantly from the fact that they can accommodate groups of people (that's why two seaters are a niche market). If I can't talk to the people I'm with in transit, then I'm less likely to make the trip.

Designing the vehicle for one person will make it lighter, but not by much. The main way to reduce weight is to make the vehicle a motorcycle. When you have car-like enclosure, you're probably not going to lose much weight out of size reduction. For instance, the two-seater Smart weighs 730 kg, not much less than a five-seat Civic, which comes in at just under 1,000 kg.

I've been following PRT for years, and have heard almost every imaginable objection, and have refuted almost every one.

If all your other refutations are "I've eyeballed half-second headways, so all those planners and authorities that say headways are actually two seconds are wrong," then PRT has very little going for it.

Car lengths are a really bad way of eyeballing things. In Israel, they teach people to keep a safe stopping distance by measuring the time between when the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, such as a tree or a sign, and when you pass the landmark. If it's under 2 seconds, you're too close. This is much easier to reliably eyeball than counting car lengths while in motion.

Now I have a few questions for you: why are you so opposed to PRT? It's an interesting concept that could have great benefits. It's also near a real world implementation so why argue so vehemently against it?

I'm not against PRT per se. I just think the arguments you're giving for it are bad. The "near a real world implementation" part is especially egregious, at least when compared to the other transportation gadget, maglev. Maglev passed its first implementation in Shanghai in terms of technical performance, and every maglev supporter will be able to explain precisely why it commercially flopped and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. With PRT, the existing implementations have failed to live up to expectations.

Politically, the main problem with gadgetbahn boosterism is that it deprecates established solutions, like urban rail and buses. Thomas Friedman-style awe at every new technology that might be green just serves as a distraction from the fact that there is green technology right here and now, powering most major developed cities outside the US.

timote said...

With PRT, the existing implementations have failed to live up to expectations.

What existing implementations? There are none. There is Morgantown, which is clearly not PRT despite its name and there is a yet-to-carry-a-paying-customer Heathrow.

We do not know what to expect from PRT - it doesn't exist yet. It will be very interesting to see what happens at Heathrow, personally I see there to be a definite future to PRT, but it is unclear if it will be in the iteration and design as proposed. I just don't see the car continuing forever in its heavy, human-driven configuration, and PRT or something like it could be the convergence of where the automobile and where automation is heading. It will be interesting...

BTW this whole conversation is completely OT. I love the back-and-forth but we should probably try to keep the conversation on topic...

jim said...

I have to say that I prefer SFO over Oakland anyday. I'm a san franciscan, I don't really go to the eastbay for anything unless I absolutely have to. ( zachary's pizza) SFO is a much nicer airport. Oakland is tacky and I hate that bus bus ride. For me, I get on bart literally at my front door, civic center station, I mean its a 3 minute walk from my apartment the to train door. and bart delivers me right into the terminal. If I'm going to PV, I stroll down the beautiful new terminal to my alaska air nonstop flight. If Im going to vegas or LA I still use the international terminal for jet blue or or my favorite, virgin america. then when I get home, i stroll to the bart and it delivers me back to the front door of my apt. no fuss no muss. Oakland Schmoakland. forgeddaboutit.

jim said...

and even with that extreme amount of convenience to fly south. I'd still prefer walking the 6 blocks to tbt and taking the HSR to LA instead once i have the chance. Why? because given the choice, like many others, I'd rather not risk my life unless I absolutely have to.

Alon Levy said...

Timote: wasn't there a PRT implementation in Virginia, in which the system didn't even achieve 4-second headways?

arcady said...

On the topic of ridership: to get a huge ridership shift from highways you need to have Japan's level of tolls. 40 cents per mile, $150 LA-SF. Then a $65 or even $100 for an HSR ticket starts looking attractive if you have only one or two people travelling. The other real impediment to ridership shift from highways is not having good transit on either end, so you need a car. Suppose I'm taking a trip to LA for the long weekend. Or to the Bay Area, staying with friends in Cupertino. I certainly can take the hypothetical HSR, or even the quite real Amtrak California and get there in a reasonable amount of time. But then I'd have to deal with the LACMTA or VTA, not just for getting from the HSR station to where I'm staying, but also for access to wherever it is I want to go while I'm there. And that's a potentially serious inconvenience: in LA, the rule is that the bus takes 3 times longer. A 45 minute drive to the beach turns into a two and a half hour trek with three transfers. A trip from Cupertino to SF is even more difficult: Google shows the best route as going via Fremont and taking almost 3 hours, versus a bit under an hour to drive. Local transit needs get better if HSR is to compete with cars, because cars provide a decent end to end solution, whereas HSR only provides a good solution to the station, after which you're left at the mercy of the local transit systems.

jim said...

Depends on your needs at you destination. I would expect HSR stations to have a rental car counter. Or at least one nearby. In SF of course there's no need for a car, but in most places there are unless you are doing a family visit where family or friends will be picking you up. For most it's no different that flying in that respect. And for many others, on the lower income scale, you are talking about people who have always relied on local public transit anyway. I think hsr getting cars off the road is the least important part of the concept. The most important parts are speed, access to regions, and the absorbtion of future growth of transportation needs.

Alon Levy said...

Arcady, Los Angeles and San Francisco both have more subway route kilometers than Fukuoka, Lyon, and Marseille, which have no trouble attracting HSR riders.

People can and do take taxis if their destination isn't within walking distance of the station. Although it's inconvenient for visiting family, the two largest markets, business travelers and tourists, usually have downtown destinations.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon

The project you are referring to is the Morgantown West Virginia project. While it is called PRT and was originally intended to be PRT, it is actually a people mover, or group rapid transit (GRT) as it can skip stations, but does not always do so. The project failed to achieve it's goals as a PRT system in at least part because it was built by Boeing who had no interest in PRT, and mainly just wanted to get as much money out of the government as possible. The cars have 8 seats plus standing room for 12.

I do not consider morgantown a good example of PRT because it's not PRT.
The project is actually a success from a transit standpoint as it's been operating for over 30 years, has higher than average fare recovery on very low fares, and they now plan to refurbish the vehicles and expand the system by 3 miles/5 stations.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon:

Read this link it refutes most your arguments much better than I can.

"I think it's going to create a crunch at rush hour... for instance, you might need vehicles to accommodate 15,000 people per hour at rush hour, but then you'd need to keep them from clogging further vehicles. With cars, the problem of finding parking downtown is familiar. PRT could shuttle back and forth, like taxis or mass transit, but then it would run empty."

Read the first two paragraphs under the "Practical" section, here is a picture of a proposed station and storage.

"4 is what I've seen in proposals on the net. It kind of makes sense, in an analogy to taxis. The features of PRT - point-to-point travel and low capacity - are such that it will compete mostly with cars and taxis, which gain significantly from the fact that they can accommodate groups of people (that's why two seaters are a niche market). If I can't talk to the people I'm with in transit, then I'm less likely to make the trip."

1,2,3,4 passengers doesn't really matter, they all have their individual advantages and disadvantes. 2-3 is the best in my opinion because while the large majority of trips are solo, there are groups, and as you say there are social issues involved when you have to break up a group traveling together, so my opinion is that a 4 seat vehicle would be better than a 1 seater. A 2 seater is ideal considering the cost savings (vehicle weight, track structure weight, energy use are all lower), whereas 3 people is ideal considering social issues: A group larger than 3 can also be broken up so that nobody needs to be alone, and there is sufficient room for a wheelchair. The only advantage a 4 seater has over a 3 seater is being able to carry a group of 4, any bigger group needs to be broken up just the same. I prefer 3 over 4 because it is the minimum size that can solve the potential problem of group dynamics.

"Designing the vehicle for one person will make it lighter, but not by much. The main way to reduce weight is to make the vehicle a motorcycle. When you have car-like enclosure, you're probably not going to lose much weight out of size reduction. For instance, the two-seater Smart weighs 730 kg, not much less than a five-seat Civic, which comes in at just under 1,000 kg."

A nearly 30% weight savings is significant. That results in a 22% cost savings between base smart car & base civic. Which is also significant. 30% weight reduction also would result in a corresponding significant reduction in the amount of material required by the track and support structure resulting in significant cost savings there. Again, that's why an elevated PRT track costs so much less than rail.

"If all your other refutations are "I've eyeballed half-second headways, so all those planners and authorities that say headways are actually two seconds are wrong," then PRT has very little going for it."

If all your arguments against PRT have no basis in fact, nor any supporting evidence, then I'm not too worried for PRTs success. Who are these mysterious planners and authorities that know so much about achievable headways and their impact on PRT? You have no support for your argument saying the headways can't be achieved, nor for your argument that a headway of 1/2 second is required for success in PRT. You are simply making argument by assertion. Not a valid method.

Fred Martin said...

Arcady, you hit the nail on the head. Without good local transit, HSR just won't be attractive in getting people out of cars. HSR is the "top-of-the-pyramid" form of transit that relies on the base layers of local and regional transit to work. In addition to transit, you also need good pedestrian and bicycling environments. An ecology of transit is required, as opposed to building a shiny, pretty HSR system without the proper local groundwork.

As some have foolishly argued that HSR doesn't need good local transit, yes, you could operate HSR as a sort of ground airport system where most users park their car at their origin HSR station and rent a car at their destination HSR station. That might be attractive to air passengers, but as I have tried to demonstrate, this market just isn't that big. The ridership would be rather pathetic, and the numbers of trains would be limited by the ability to actually fill them.

Alon, you are fixated on subway route miles. Where in the Good Transit Guidebook does it mandate that a good transit system requires a subway? Subways work for very large cities or for very dense linear corridors or crossings, but most small and medium sized cities rely on bus transit with maybe a little rail mixed in for the heavy routes. Even the big cities still rely on bus transit.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon:

"I'm not against PRT per se. I just think the arguments you're giving for it are bad. The "near a real world implementation" part is especially egregious, at least when compared to the other transportation gadget, maglev. Maglev passed its first implementation in Shanghai in terms of technical performance, and every maglev supporter will be able to explain precisely why it commercially flopped and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. With PRT, the existing implementations have failed to live up to expectations."

Really, your not against it per se? That's interesting, because this whole discussion started by me making a brief statement that along electric vehicles and all existing forms of public transit, PRT would be good to investigate. You then respond saying PRT cannot be done because they can't achieve 1/2 second headways & 7200 vehicle per hour headways. I then pointed out that there are no existing systems and everything is in development, but that headways will likely come down, just like other technologies have improved over time, and gave an example. You didn't accept that (but still haven't shown any proof or even evidence why your opinions about headways have any validity) so I gave you some more examples, you then changed the argument to headways of cars, and then implied that my use of anecdotal evidence completely invalidated my entire argument, even though you have failed to provide any evidence whatsoever to support any of your arguments. You also ignored all the advanteges of PRT that I listed. Your actions are not those of a person with an open mind.

As far as Maglev goes, I would love to see a viable maglev system. I followed the Shanghai project for years and would have loved to see it be more succesful. I think the shanghai maglev met it's goals, but unfortunately maglev is still just too expensive. But after decades of research and tens of billions of dollars spent only 1 system has been built, and it's expansion has been suspended. Of the 10,000km of HSR planned in China not 1 km is Maglev, I think that shows how the Chinese feel about their maglev project. Furthermore, there is a PRT project that plans to use maglev: skytran. They use passive levitation, it's the same technology that General Atomics is researching as a launch system for NASA. It's amazing you would bring out maglev, which is far more technically difficult than PRT, and has way further to go to reach viability due to extraordinary costs. Lastly, PRT and maglev trains would not be competing, Maglev would compete with steel wheel HSR, which I've already said would not be appropriately handled by PRT. PRT is great for intra-city travel, not for long distance inter-region travel

The Heathrow PRT project is exactly where the Shanghai maglev was back in late 2003, almost done, in testing and about to go into real world use for the first time.

lyqwyd said...

@Alon:



"[stuff about maglev]... Politically, the main problem with gadgetbahn boosterism is that it deprecates established solutions, like urban rail and buses."

Wow! You actually dropped a reference to maglev followed by a snide comment about gadgetbahn. Maglev is the definition of gadgetbahn. But in fact, unlike maglev, PRT can be realized in the private domain and does not need government. The Heathrow project is privately financed. PRT is also a great solution for a large corporate campus as well as theme parks. It doesn't have to be done on a huge scale. Sure it can work in a public financed environment, but it's not needed.

"Thomas Friedman-style awe at every new technology that might be green just serves as a distraction from the fact that there is green technology right here and now, powering most major developed cities outside the US."

Luddite fear of the new is no better... anyways, your comment is still not a valid argument against PRT, it's merely a statement about society... and not a new one I might add, nor one that I would disagree with.

I didn't even mention the green benefit of PRT when I listed it's merits, thanks for pointing it out!

Alon Levy said...

Fred, most cities the size of Lyon and Marseille use cars. They have some light rail or subway, but very little.

Alon Levy said...

Lyqwyd: the problem with your proposed headway is that it leaves absolutely no slack. This is wrong, and likely to lead to accidents. If you apply this analysis to heavy rail, you get nonsensical minimum headways. With 180-meter trains decelerating at 1 m/s^2 from a cruise speed of 68 km/h - in short, typical subway trains - the stopping distance is one train length, which translates to a safe headway of 360 meters, or 19 seconds. This assumes no stations or slowdowns on the track. With stations, the minimum safe distance increases to 70 seconds. Now, in practice, no urban train system has run at headways lower than 90 seconds, and very few can go under 120 - even on track that doesn't have stations, such as the Penn Station access tunnels.

jim said...

Fred Martin said...
Arcady, you hit the nail on the head. Without good local transit, HSR just won't be attractive in getting people out of cars--

What on earth are all the people who are already taking trains in california doing? What about all the local and regional transit improvements that will take place between now and 2030? HSR give them something upon which they can focus policy

lyqwyd said...

@Alon

I didn't bring up or propose anything about headways, you did. You said that PRT couldn't work because a headway of 1/2 second hasn't been achieved. I pointed out that most times people have claimed something couldn't be done they were proven wrong, I also stated that PRT does not require 1/2 second headways (I've stated this several times now).

Now you are talking about subway headways, how is that relevant?

If you stand by your statement that PRT requires 1/2 second headways show some proof or evidence of this.

I'll restate my statements about PRT so there's no confusion:

1) Significantly cheaper than rail
2) No (or very short, less than 1 minute) waiting.
3) almost door to door
4) Private, cars are not shared
5) Non-stop
6) No transfers (within system)

I also stated that PRT is not appropriate for every situation, I'll go ahead and state where I think PRT is appropriate. I believe PRT will prove highly competitive against the private auto, the bus, in many situations light rail, and some commuter rail.

I believe it is not competative in situations where a heavy rail solution would be required, such as urban subway, commuter rail that is using about 50% of the entire rail corridor's capacity, or HSR, or flight.

Adirondacker said...

1) Significantly cheaper than rail

Everything is supposed to be cheaper than rail. It doesn't work out that way very often. I'll believe "cheaper than rail" after the third or fourth system is up and running.


2) No (or very short, less than 1 minute) waiting.

Except at 5:00 downtown... Or when the game is over at the stadium. Or when a train arrives at the intermodal.

3) almost door to door

If it's almost door to door it's not going to be cheap, there's a lot of doors out there.

4) Private, cars are not shared

In theory works out well. Don't know how well that will work out during rush hour. Would you rather be on a bus with someone who wears a tin foil hat at home or in a nice private PRT?

5) Non-stop

Until the car ahead of you breaks down. Are the dual tracked ones setup so that stalled cars can be bypassed?

6) No transfers (within system)

Which either means a very limited system or grade crossings and switches.

Sounds like a very good idea on paper. It's either not going to have enough capacity or in places where it has enough capacity it's not going to justify it's expense.

lyqwyd said...

@Adirondacker, how about some proof or evidence for your assertions?

"Everything is supposed to be cheaper than rail. It doesn't work out that way very often. I'll believe "cheaper than rail" after the third or fourth system is up and running."

the ULTRa Heathrow project is almost done, and they are claiming less the $15 million a mile, if that's true, that sets the upper limit on cost, if another system is more expensive there's no reason to do it. There will probably be cheaper systems developed if ULTRa proves workable.

"Except at 5:00 downtown... Or when the game is over at the stadium. Or when a train arrives at the intermodal."

Easily solved, you have 10-50 stations in downtown or at a stadium with a 10 car waiting capacity, have cars there before rush hour, or the game exits. Stations are far far cheaper than rail/subway, one implementation claims less than $50K for a single station, it depends on the implementation. A station only needs to be big enough to hold a single car and some room for people to stand while boarding exiting.

"If it's almost door to door it's not going to be cheap, there's a lot of doors out there."

Since constructions costs are cheaper you can build much more routes, it's built in a grid, with a station no more than 4 blocks away from 90% of the cities residents.

"In theory works out well. Don't know how well that will work out during rush hour. Would you rather be on a bus with someone who wears a tin foil hat at home or in a nice private PRT?"

easy: PRT

"Until the car ahead of you breaks down. Are the dual tracked ones setup so that stalled cars can be bypassed?"

The cars all use electric motors which are much more reliable than gasoline. They also have far fewer components so likelihood of breakdown is lower. Even in the very unlikely event of a breakdown your car just backs up to the nearest merge point, and then since the system is a grid you just re-route around the blockage with only a couple minutes added to your trip. Worst case 1 station is rendered unusable until the blockage is remedied. Ever been on a train when the one in front of you breaks down? I have, you wait for hours until it's fixed. PRT is way better on that.

6) No transfers (within system)

"Which either means a very limited system or grade crossings and switches."

Completely false. There are no grade crossings, there are switches. PRT is built in grid or network with offline stations (meaning when you go to a station it does not block anybody else's ability to pass through the station. basically the station is on a side track. There are no grade crossings, the entire system is elevated.

"Sounds like a very good idea on paper. It's either not going to have enough capacity or in places where it has enough capacity it's not going to justify it's expense."

Any proof or evidence to support this statement? since PRT is so much cheaper than rail, for the same amount of rail miles you could make 5-50 times as many parallel lines of PRT, so even with low headway you could easily match the throughput of LRT on a dollar for dollar basis, while improving the average trip time (since waiting is so low).