Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Private Sector Still Interested in HSR

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

by Robert Cruickshank

Although some still seem to believe that the recession and state budget problems make HSR undesirable, that view isn't held by some of the most important figures - Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (who at least in his public statements has turned out to be WAY better than I ever imagined) and the companies that would build and operate high speed rail in the US. The recession is bad, is likely to persist for some time, and runs a very real risk of taking another downward lurch. But as this Reuters article makes clear, there is still demand and capacity out there to build HSR:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking to policy experts and reporters, said rail would be a strong opportunity for outside participation with the Obama administration taking early steps financially and politically to advance new train corridors to compete with short-haul air and highway travel.

"Companies involved in (overseas) high speed rail are in the U.S. right now," LaHood said, noting that several states are vying for a piece of an $8 billion downpayment in federal rail funding from February's economic stimulus package.

"I think you'll see private investment in high speed rail -- from Europe and Asia, not just the U.S.," he said.

LaHood also said broadband expansion would be a good bet for private interests but was less optimistic about attracting near-term investment from outside government in U.S. road projects due to recession.

This is quite significant - not only because it suggests that HSR demand is robust, but that there is more interest in funding it than in funding roads. The fact that Ray LaHood is picking up on this suggests that the Obama Administration is aware of this and might be willing to plan its transportation priorities accordingly (although first they'll need to resolve the battle over the Transportation Bill, subject of tomorrow's post).

LaHood is joined by industry leaders such as Alstom and SNCF in this assessment:

Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are leading train manufacturers.

Leading global players also include Canada's Bombardier, Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom....

Alstom's U.S. president, Pierre Gauthier, told Reuters in an interview the company concentrates on providing trains and signal systems but would not preclude other forms of investment in U.S. rail if a market develops.

"When you have this and good service, I think Europe has shown that people use this a lot," Gauthier said.

One of the key questions being asked right now as we look at the wreckage of the global economy is what will drive growth that can get us out of this crisis? Mass transit, including high speed rail, is obviously part of the answer. Neither California nor the US can afford to fall behind yet again. We wasted the prosperity of the 1980s and 1990s on more freeways and kicked high speed rail down the road. Now that we are in an economic crisis brought on partly by that failure to embrace sustainable transportation, we would be fools to miss a chance to use HSR to both rebuild our economy and put it on a much more sustainable and prosperous long-term footing.

88 comments:

luis d. said...

Again

The Japanese are "Watching Us" by the looks of this Video of one of the Shinkansen's new E5 series Models. Although I don't know what they are saying. I'm sure they are planning and targeting our system.

Other country's will invest in HSR if No U.S companies will. Someone out their in the world who already has HSR might want to. So I doubt we should worry about that money materializing.

We got the bond money on standby, The Fed's will eventually cough up all $16B+ (from popularity), Private investment will be fine (as described in this article), and all we need is local funding wich is probably the smallest funding. I don't know about that one yet. Might be the toughest to get!

luis d. said...

Listen to what this woman says after she see's the Shinkansen pass the station, "Let's pay whatever fare they want and get on the F'n Train".

I agree with her and I think most people in the U.S will too!

Spokker said...

luis d., I think she's drunk and also a Japanofreak or something.

Rafael said...

@ luis d -

the Japanese are planning our system? And targeting it? With what, frickin' laser beams? Sounds ominous. How about just saying that they see it as a potential export opportunity. The hardware is impressive enough, but pink and turquoise? Really?

---

As for counties and cities chipping in, I'm not really worried about that. HSR stations are prestige objects and local pols love nothing more than prestige. See "Grand Central of the West" for details.

It's the same the world over. For example, here's an animation of the new Guillemins TGV station district in Liege, Belgium (pop. 190,000 - smaller than Bakersfield) and a video of the interior of the already operational but not quite finished building. Real estate values in its vicinity are no doubt sharply up already.

luis d. said...

@ Spokker

Haha, maybe. But doesn't Congress and our Govm't make drunk decisions all the time like pouring Billions of tax dollars for Road and Airline subsidies? Isn't that a drunk decision? Maybe they've been drunk for a long time? When something doesn't work, you change it so it does and fix it. Something hasn't been working in our country with transportation.

luis d. said...

@ Rafael

You know what I meant! I don't really look over what I typed!

Spokker said...

The Japanese are sneaky. Once we let them run our trains they will take over the entire government.

K.T. said...

It seems like Japan is getting pretty serious on exporting their Shinkansen technology to US. Their main target is California and North east corridor (not in this video, but it was mentioned in the video that this one responded to. They claim NY-DC travel time would be 1hr and 10 minutes with the N700)

The news also said that JR East, JR Tokai, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism of Japan, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan are teaming up for the advertisement/campaign, so that Shinkansen technology will be used in the US High Speed rail system.

Sounds interesting. Maybe an action from French and Germans pretty soon?

Rafael said...

@ K.T. -

"They claim NY-DC travel time would be 1hr and 10 minutes with the N700)"

That's a misleading statement, since the existing tracks in the NEC could not support the speeds needed to achieve that line haul time. With brand-new tracks, there are plenty of trains designs that could meet the challenge. The N700 is a really nice one, though, even if the bulbous nose isn't the prettiest thing ever conceived.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Japanese designs is that they can accommodate five seats abreast in economy class. California also features track spacing generous enough to support widebody trains.

Unfortunately, the folks who "designed" the throat of the train box of the new Transbay Terminal in San Francisco picked a curve radius that's too small for Japanese shinkansen trains to negotiate.

Even European HSR designs (except Talgo) will squeal horribly unless they figure out some way to lubricate the tracks. Otherwise, waiting for a train in that building will be anything but enjoyable.

political_incorrectness said...

I would not look to doing a 2x3 configuration but rather a 2x2 for comfort level sakes but that's just my view. I see the Japanese design better in the acceleration at 2.7 km/h/s for the N700, making a short acceleration back up to full speed. Sure there will have to be a brand new line, but it is a necessity for the busy NEC. It would convince alot more people to ditch the car and free up some track space on the NEC.

jim said...

BAck in the 80s, when japan was booming, and exporting all the new tech toys over here, there were a lot news stories about japan's idea to not quite buy california outright - but to create a sort independent japanese-california economic trade zone using yen and dollars. People freaked out. on the other hand, I kinda though it would be a good way to get the US off our back and to quit holding us back. The US is a big pain in the ass for california. Its like having a stalker.

jim said...

the japanese trains are butt ugly as sin. French please.

jim said...

sexy train you'll need a ciggy after.

swing hanger said...

@Jim
The Japanese trains are designed with a philosphy of form follwing function. The nose of the N700 type was the first ever to be designed using aviation technology, rather than by some fashion designer. Anyway, they will changed in shape should they be sold to US operators, as the Taiwan 700T types were. As for French HSR types, the AGV is no looker- I prefer the German Velaro myself.

jim said...

I can't let go of my fondness for the french. I have no attraction to anything japanese. Don't we have enough asian stuff coming in already?

I like that double deck agv too. and the french just have style. I can't explain it.

jim said...

the velaro looks nice but I don't trust the germans. The french have a better safety record and they do it with style. too.

Spokker said...

I would fuck the shit out of a Nozomi.

jim said...

for real check this out and they even have a song
you can't not love this.

Alon Levy said...

Sure there will have to be a brand new line, but it is a necessity for the busy NEC. It would convince alot more people to ditch the car and free up some track space on the NEC.

There's no room for brand new track. However, between NY and DC the track is straight, and only needs a couple of easements and new catenary (and, preferably, a new tunnel in Baltimore). The real problem is between NY and New Haven, where the only way to upgrade the track to high speed is to have multiple easements and bypasses switching back and forth between the current ROW, I-95, US 1, and new tunnels.

Spokker said...

You know, I pretend to support California High Speed Rail and all, even though I know the final product is going to be shitty. But it's these Japanese trains I really like. I'm sure their whole shinkansen program is really corrupt too, but we just don't know it because we don't know the language or fully understand the politics of the country (if you think America is bad, try Japan's cronyism). I'm sure a lot of that has seeped into their bullet train program.

But I'll be goddamned if they don't look good doing it.

K.T. said...

Aside from the "Big 3," Koreans might be also joining the bidding process to the California HSR.

KTX:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSR-350x

jim said...

I don't think it will be shitty. I think we will get a very good transportation backbone with unlimited future potential and it will provide a great deal of faster mobility for a great number of californians.

Spokker said...

"I don't think it will be shitty. I think we will get a very good transportation backbone with unlimited future potential and it will provide a great deal of faster mobility for a great number of californians."

B-b-b-but Quentin Kopp! Diridon! And BART to SFO! And San Jose light rail!

Maybe Pringle can clean up the CHSRA and bring with him his vast knowledge of mass transit from Orange County, a county with mass transit projects such as _______, ________ and _________, to the high speed rail project.

jim said...

Well bart to sfo - I love. kopp and the other guy - I have no opinion on, and besides the plan is done. some one just has to build it. we just need someone who can watch the video on the cahsr website and copy it on the ground. building a railroad isn't rocket science. ties, rails, spikes and a trainset. lets get on with it people.

all this dilly dallying. I have to blame my own norcal on this - you guys had your santa monica freeway up and running like a couple months after northridge, we are still waiting for a bridge 20 years after loma prieta.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Japanese designs is that they can accommodate five seats abreast in economy class.

They are wide compared to trolleycars, Japanese trains and some in Europe. They aren't all that much wider than a typical North American carriage. If I remember correctly within few inches or so of each other.... 3160 mm for Acela and 3360 mm for an N700.

I've sat on my share of 5 across seats on NJ Transit and the LIRR. No thanks, not for a two or three hour trip. Rumor on the NJ Transit boards is that the new bilevels are two by two because the aisle wouldn't be wide enough in two by three for contemporary ADA regulations and for life/safety issues.

Sure there will have to be a brand new line, but it is a necessity for the busy NEC.

It's solid suburb from Boston to Providence, New Haven to Wilmington and from Baltimore to Washington, the rest of it is pretty well developed. A few hundred miles of tunnel would be very very expensive.

switching back and forth between the current ROW, I-95, US 1, and new tunnels.

Great big chunks of the Conn. Turnpike are elevated. Many parts of it carry 120% of capacity during rush hour, some parts of it carry 180% of capacity during rush hour. There's no way you are going to close lanes on the Turnpike so you can build things over it. Or tear parts of it down so a train can run above the elevated sections.

They proposed widening Route 1 to three lanes beginning in the 20s. It never happened because of NIMBYs, they ain't gonna let a El be built over Ye Olde Strip Mall much less over the historic districts.

The best they will be able to do is constant tension catenary, straightening some curves and putting in 6 tracks back in, in select places. . . and maybe a flyover/under at Shell interlocking where the Hell's Gate line merges in.

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

Nozomi just means express train in Japanese, i.e. one that doesn't stop very often. It doesn't refer to a particular train design, like the sexy but extremely expensive 500 series.

@ jim -

afaik, SNCF would like an AGV Duplex but Alstom hasn't yet figured out how to keep the axle load below 17 metric tons. Those distributed electric motors do weigh quite a bit.

Alstom does have the TGV Duplex, with a power car at either end. Top speed is 186mph and SNCF loves to run 16-car consists with 1090 seats on the line to Lyon and Marseille.

The only other double-decker high speed train is the E4Max shinkansen, which seats 817 per 8-car trainset. Top speed is just 145mph, though.

The Talgo22 (products -> rolling stock -> regional lines -> Talgo 22 EMU) is also a duplex commuter trains with power cars at either end. The wheelsets the company is known for permit level aisles all through the train on both levels, easing internal circulation and reducing dwell times.

To keep the axle load under the limit, the car length was reduced to just 8m (~27ft). That permits wider car bodies (5 abreast option) and the negotiation of tight corners. Top speed is just 125mph and max. length per trainset 100m (330ft) for up to 450 seats, but then this was designed for regional rather than long distance applications. It's not immediately clear if multi-trainset configurations or higher top speeds would be technically possible.

More details in this PDF (in German, could not find an English version anywhere).

Alon Levy said...

There's no way you are going to close lanes on the Turnpike so you can build things over it. Or tear parts of it down so a train can run above the elevated sections.

Apparently, they manage to close tracks on the NEC for repairs once in a while. You can see extenders on the platforms. If they can do that without commuters in Greenwich staging an armed revolt, they can build els on top of I-95.

A few hundred miles of tunnel would be very very expensive.

The worst case scenario, in which it's impossible to use any ROW other than the existing one west of New Haven, is one that requires about 14 miles of tunnel - 2 in Port Chester, 8 between Stamford and Norwalk, and 4 between Bridgeport and Stratford. At normal world tunneling costs, that's about $6 billion. Even at Manhattan costs, it's $20-30 billion, less than the cost of CAHSR.

Morris Brown said...

@rAFAEL

A bit back you wante dot see the break down of the funding requests by California for Federal stimulus funding.

At

LINK

I have posted a zip file with the funding request and the cover letter sent to the FRA.

Andrew said...

@Rafael:

Nozomi means "hope," actually. Hikari means "light" and kodama means "echo." It just happens that those are what they named the Shinkansen services from fastest to slowest.

Express train is "kyuukou" or "tokkyuu" in Japanese.

:P

Other than that you're right, there's nothing special about the trainsets used on the Nozomi service.

mike said...

Morris's link is interesting. Turns out that CA HSR only requested $17 billion...the rest is for separate Amtrak California upgrades. The vast majority of the request is for near complete funding of the SF-SJ, LA-Anaheim, and BFD-Merced segments (i.e., everything except the challenging mountain passes, the SJ-Gilroy segment, and the easy approach from Sylmar to LAUS).

Of course only a fraction of it will get funded in this round, and CA knows that. But they have to goose up the request to make sure that they aren't shortchanged when every other states gooses up its request too. It's just how the game is played.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

thanks for the docs.

The request for the express HSR system as such is $17.4 billion, higher than the upper end of $16b that CHSRA had previously telegraphed it would seek from Washington. However, it's not as wildly out of whack as it first appeared. Apparently, CHSRA shares Robert Cruickshank's optimism about the prospects for private investment in the express HSR starter line.

The other ~$5 billion of the ~$22.4 total is actually for HSR feeders. In particular, there's a request for ~$2.7 billion to upgrade Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. A total of ~$1.2 billion was requested for feeders other than Amtrak California.

Considering that the total request is being made in the context of stimulus funding for high speed rail, this is significant. HR 2095(2008, aka PRIIA) redefined high speed rail as a service that could reasonably be expected to reach a top speed of at least 110mph and made $1.5 billion available for that.

Page 82 PDF of the Joint Explanatory Statement Division A for HR 1(2009, aka ARRA aka the stimulus bill) implies that the additional $8 billion in stimulus were to be invested in HSR infrastrucuture as defined in PRIIA, i.e. minimum top speed 110 rather than 90 mph. However, the wording is somewhat ambiguous on this point.

So, is there now a master plan to upgrade various legacy passenger railroads in California to "emerging HSR" level, in addition to constructing an all-new express HSR network? If so, Caltrans' Division of Rail hasn't made any hay about it to date.

That said, Pacific Surfliner in particular seems like a good candidate (earlier post), as LA-San Diego is a major passenger rail market but not due to be served by express HSR trains until the late 2020s. Also, at least one section of the coast corridor already has a legacy automated train control system in place.

Speeding up the popular Amtrak Capitol Corridor between Sacramento and Benicia also makes sense IMHO, since the preference for Pacheco means the express HSR network will never provide attractive line haul times for Sacramento-San Francisco.

However, in practice, the scale of the California request relative to the total amount available suggests that Caltrans is really just using the ARRA applications process to telegraph its long-term federal funding requirements to both USDOT and other states clearly and early.

One possible scenario is that USDOT will be a little stingy with regard to the express HSR network, because only a fraction of that will be ready to actually break ground by the ARRA deadline of Sep 30, 2012. The balance could then come after the next surface transportation bill is signed, including the proposed $50 billion rail infrastructure bank.

I'm pretty sure Obama does want that and that he wants California's congressional delegation to expend political capital to make it happen, but only after health care and energy are done. In case GOP support should be needed after the 2010 midterms, recent history suggests it will be much easier to obtain for passenger rail.

In theory, this scenario would leave more room for near-term upgrades to Pacific Surfliner, perhaps others. Neither PRIIA nor ARRA spell out that emerging HSR trains are supposed to run at or above 110mph for extended distances, so most of the money could be spent on double tracking in rural areas, signaling upgrades, EPA quiet zones and new rolling stock (incl. EPA Tier 3/4 engine retrofits or new locomotives).

These measures would attract little if any environmental opposition and would put people to work on the railroads sooner. They would also help alleviate the impact of the severe budget cuts the state legislature now has to make in the middle of a deep recession (aka the worst possible time to make them).

Rafael said...

@ Andrew -

thx for clarifying that. I was talking about "nozomi" in the narrow context of JR operations, at least I wasn't completely wrong :-)

jim said...

5 seats across - no way Im sitting that close to the general public. Not without wrapping myself head to toe in saran wrap.

The legacy railroad upgrades - There is so much that can be done with that money as rafeal points out - to improve servce, even if actual speeds aren't increased. Decreasing delays and maintaining maximum speeds with multiple tracking, upgraded dispatch and signal tech, would do a lot for reliability and on these region/commute runs, reliability is the biggest thing. You just can't make people late for work or they will stop riding.
There has been a lot of new double tracking and eventually everyting wil be double tracked, plus sidings and more crossovers. I read that amtrak is going to implement a new system for tracking where trains are so we can tell "where the train is" not just "where it was last"

YOu know that there are still places across this country where passenger and freight are in the dark and you can't tell where they are until they show up in the next town. You know, like the 1800s. That stimulus money can be put to very good use, doing the upgrades rafael mentioned.

I wonder if surfliner and cap corridor would be good candidates for eventual electrification? or whether it would be worth the cost?

Rafael said...

@ jim -

five abreast probably won't happen in the California - even for commuter trains - due to the obesity epidemic and ADA rules. The extra car body width can be used for comfier seats and wider aisles instead.

CHSRA did study the coast corridor for the electric express HSR system early on and ran into massive opposition to overhead catenaries from beachfront property owners in places like San Clemente and Del Mar. The Authority refocused its efforts in the area on the alternative route via Riverside, noting that the coast corridor would be a good candidate for diesel service at 110mph.

I imagine there would would be some opposition to electrification of the Capitol Corridor route as well, since it would imply the installation of OCS equipment in the legacy Newark-Alviso segment that runs through the DENWR. Birds and 25kV AC might not mix very well.

We've got no money for toys! said...

You still haven't told me with what money California is going to pay for this! Where is California going to find $40+ billion to build this? We can't even find much less than that to close the State budget!
If you can convince the private sector to shell out the money and invest in it, fine with me! But otherwise don't expect Californians to be too happy to pay more taxes for your toys while everything else in the state is falling apart.

And don't call me a 'troll'! Can't you deal with criticism kids? Go back and keep dreaming about your train. Maybe Arnold will buy you a model that will fit in a play room, so that all of you can play together.

Jack said...

I don't quite understand why we are looking to import foreign technology. If this is about job creation, why is the US (or more specifically CA) not manufacturing the equipment?

Jack said...

@money for toys

It's not that your a troll, it is that you do not make any sense, and you post in a rant like style that is offensive.

You may want to try writing specific points with facts to back up your statements.

For example your previous post shows an ignorance about how selling bonds works. CHSRA has not asked for an increase in any taxes to fund the system. Yes the bond will be paid back by using the existing tax pool. What the voters said when passing the proposition was "We want this train, now find a way to pay for it out of existing funds."

I knew that much when I cast my yes vote.

We've got no money for toys! said...

@Jack: "CHSRA has not asked for an increase in any taxes to fund the system. Yes the bond will be paid back by using the existing tax pool."

The "existing" tax pool still needs to be raised from the taxpayers. It's not money coming from private investors.

You can slice it however you like, but it's still taxpayers money that is going to build this system. If tax money is used for this train it means that it won't be available for other things.

If you decide to buy a boat to go fishing, it means that you must allocate a portion of your salary to that purchase, even though you may not need to look for a second job to buy that boat. And if you use that portion of your salary to buy the boat, it means that it has to come out of some other item of your family budget, maybe a vacation in Europe, or a new car, or a home remodel.

Don't tell me that I don't make any sense. You may be an excellent engineer, or doctor, or whatever you are, but you definitely lack basic economic knowledge. This project would NOT be tax funded only in the event that private investors decided to entirely fund it and build it. Since this is not the case, it means that tax payers are funding it and building it, like they do with many other public projects.

By telling people what you just said in your comment you make it sound as if tax payers are not going to pay any extra money for it. That is not true really, because it means that they're money that could be used for other worthy projects will be diverted to this project.

If people really knew this (but many don't) and people could really decide how to prioritize how the state of California spends its money, do you think Californians would put the train at the top of their list? Above schools, and healthcare, and safety, and income security, etc.? I doubt it very much!

Eric M said...

What's funny about people liking the Japanese trains more, i.e. the 500, is that the Germans were the ones leading the development of that series. LOL. My vote is for the Siemens Velaro. Us Germans build things better. hehehe

jim said...

@eric the germans built the train with the bad wheels that caused the accident. I only trust the french.

@toys-- what you fil to realize is that the tax pie is not limited to existing revenues. When you stimulate economic growth by investing in infrastructure the resulting long term benefit to the state in the form of increased productivity and development is greater than the cost of the investment. Thats why its called "investment" and results in "return on investment" and it to do with much much more than the simpleton thought approach of " it will or won't make a profit" making an operating profit is the least relevant aspect and only serves as an initial draw to secure an operator. The real benefits to the state treasury are immeasurable.

Frank said...

Back to the original post...

This doesn't make sense. LaHood is talking about various international HSR companies who are interested in getting a slice of the pie. Then he talks about private investment. Can someboedy please clarify where the private investment is coming from? Just because you have HSR companies interested doesn't mean the HSR comapanies are going to pony up money - they are the ones that are intersted in getting money. ???

Jack said...

@toys

You missed my point by a mile. What I am stating is that CA voters have chosen the train over other projects. This was done by the overwhelming "yes" votes on the proposition, and given even more credence when none of the other requests were passed in that election.

What can be interpreted from the vote is that Californians want the train more than other "more worthy" projects.

Just because you fail to see the train as a "worthy" project, doesn't mean the rest of the state shares your opinion. I think with the way the vote went, you can see pretty clearly the will and intent of the voters.

Being from the central valley, I see what this train is going to do for us. There is no other single investment on the books right now that can reverse and improve the economic situation that is going on down here.

jim said...

@jack-
the central valley will see the biggest gain from this project. You guys are the most neglected part of the state and will go from being californians disrespected stepchildren to being the biggest transportation beneficiary. Good for you its about time.

and not only did voters approve this project with a solid victory - but they did it in an economic downturn - prior to that it had an even higher approval rating in the 70s percent.

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal: "Neither PRIIA nor ARRA spell out that emerging HSR trains are supposed to run at or above 110mph for extended distances, so most of the money could be spent on double tracking in rural areas, signaling upgrades, EPA quiet zones and new rolling stock (incl. EPA Tier 3/4 engine retrofits or new locomotives)."

Build the "double tracking in rural area, signaling upgrades and new rolling stock" for 60mph freight traffic and add level crossings that support 110mph crossing and you are supporting 110mph for extended stretches.

NONIMBYS said...

Goneon66???is that your right wing brain from the Mccain rail fan web site???Sure sounds like it

Rafael said...

@ jim -

"the germans built the train with the bad wheels that caused the accident."

Ze chermannz? A little more nuance please.

The ICE 1 vendor delivered the trains with perfectly safe monoblock wheels. It was the operator, Deutsche Bahn, that decided to retrofit a flawed wheel design of its own, hoping to improve passenger comfort. In addition, both a passenger and the conductor involved in the Eschede disaster failed to activate the emergency brake when they saw a piece of metal sticking out of the floor.

Between that and the unrealistic maintenance intervals DB insisted on for the ICE3, I wouldn't spend any money on operations consulting from that particular railroad.

However, it's not really fair to tarnish HSR vendors for the mistakes of their customers. For example, the Velaro 3 in service in Spain and China looks identical to the ICE 3 from the outside, but there's a huge difference: it's a Siemens-only product, not the bastard child of a trans-national consortium created at DB's misguided insistence.

Rafael said...

@ Frank -

HSR vendors can and sometimes do invest in kind, i.e. they make equipment available at little or no up-front cost in return for a cut of profits.

Examples: Bombardier in Acela Express, Alstom in Argentina's Tren Bala project.

James Fujita said...

now, maybe it's because I'm half-Japanese and therefore I have a horse in this race (or is that half a horse? LOL)

But I'm fairly certainly I'm not the only person here annoyed by Jim's obsession with French design. We get it, Jim. You love French trains. Let's move on.

Personally, I would love to see a proverbial smackdown between the Japanese, French and German train manufacturers (and Americans, assuming there are any), with the winner getting the right to build California's HSR trains.

Let's see who can build a fast, reliable, safe and comfortable train with a reasonable price tag.

I'd be willing to bet that the Japanese would be able to hold their own in a fair fight.

(And by fair fight, I mean the Japanese aren't handicapped by anti-Asian sentiment, the way that Sumitomo was when they wanted to build light rail trains for the Metro Green Line.)

Devil's Advocate said...

@Jim: "When you stimulate economic growth by investing in infrastructure the resulting long term benefit to the state in the form of increased productivity and development is greater than the cost of the investment."
True, however one might debate whether HSR is the most appropriate infrastructure which will effect that return on investment. Some people might argue that investing in soft infrastructure (R&D, Education, Knowledge) might bring greater returns to productivity than the HSR.

"(..)making an operating profit is the least relevant aspect and only serves as an initial draw to secure an operator."

The prospect of making an operating profit is more than relevant, it is essential to securing private funding. A private investor will not invest in an enterprise that won't have a positive return. If profitability is not a factor to be considered or unimportant, then the only funding will have to come from the treasury (State/Federal or a combination of both).

"The real benefits to the state treasury are immeasurable."

This is questionable as it assumes a profitable enterprise and/or increased tax revenue originating from the higher productivity caused by the presence of the HSR. This latter factor is also extremely hard to measure, let alone predict.

Alon Levy said...

If this is about job creation, why is the US (or more specifically CA) not manufacturing the equipment?

Because the equipment would have to be extensively tested, and would likely have undiscovered faults when it's launched. This would raise both upfront and maintenance costs far above those of off the shelf trains.

Devil's Advocate said...

@Jack: "Being from the central valley, I see what this train is going to do for us. There is no other single investment on the books right now that can reverse and improve the economic situation that is going on down here."

I can agree that the CV will be the biggest beneficiary of this project since it's the area along the route that has fewer transportation alternatives. Both the SFBay and Greater LA area can count on plenty of air travel choices and transit (although the latter is not really at the same level of EU or JPN). However on the beneficial effects of the HSR on the economy I have more reservations. It will certainly bring some additional construction jobs. Also better transportation links may mean more direct investiments by companies which might deem that Fresno is no longer so much in the boonies and therefore might be worthy of opening some operations there. But will the presence of this faster train be sufficient for many companies to relocate their operations to the Central Valley? Or will it spur increased tourism to the area (people are dying to visit Visalia)? Maybe, but I don't know if one should expect a miracle from this train.

looking on said...

If anyone really believes at all the rosy/optimistic profits this project is supposed to produce, why in the world do you think the Authority keeps stalling on producing a legit business plan.

I'll tell you why. Because it is all nonsense.

The HSR system will produce deficit after deficit for 50 years to come -- the future generations will be saddled with not only draining the general fund to cover these deficits, but with repaying the bonds, which may extend out for 40 years under Prop 1a.

And those in Sacramento and San Diego, who expect to get service from extension of the line through the non-existing profits, will never see any service.

If we can ever get a legit peer review of the business plan, that surely will someday be produced, that will all become obvious.

As an aside, did you all notice that still another cost increase to finish up the Bay Bridge. When this project goes over $100 billion, maybe you will wonder how California could have been so stupid.

Anonymous said...

This would raise both upfront and maintenance costs far above those of off the shelf trains.

So what?

Even when off-the-shelf foreign products exist, a thick smoke screen of regulations will be used to conclude that the only feasible option is to develop a custom Made-in-U.S.A. solution.

And yeah Jim, with union jobs!

Devil's Advocate said...

@Jim and James: Do the trains have to be "all" French or "All" Japanese? How about an equal number of Japanese, French, German, Italian etc. etc. sets.

Muni line F in San Francisco features several trolleys from different epochs and countries. Why not do the same for the HSR.

Give jobs to everybody. If the Europeans and Japanese also benefit from this and make some money, maybe they'll buy American products where Americans excel. Like cars and banking services!

We do excel in cars and banking, don't we?

Jack said...

@everyone

Why are we considering Japanese,German, French trains.

Can't American's build and design their own? Think of the jobs created by an entirely new manufacturing industry??

political_incorrectness said...

@jack

Sure, but we need to use proven technology first and learn how to do it from the other countries. Then we can get some off the shelf in our own. Otherwise, designing and building custom rolling stock will be very expensive.

Alon Levy said...

Do the trains have to be "all" French or "All" Japanese? How about an equal number of Japanese, French, German, Italian etc. etc. sets.

To simplify maintenance, it's best to have a consistent technology. The technology may be a mixture of several companies' infrastructure, as is the case in Taiwan, with its French signals and Japanese rolling stock, but it shouldn't have to accommodate multiple incompatible standards.

It's also important to maintain competition in order to keep costs low and quality high. The point of buying off the shelf trains is not to reward Kawasaki and Alstom, but to best serve the needs of Californian travelers.

Anonymous said...

Earlier someone kindly posted:

A bit back you wante dot see the break down of the funding requests by California for Federal stimulus funding.

At

LINK

I have posted a zip file with the funding request and the cover letter sent to the FRA.

------------

Sounds very interesting. Unfortunately the link only produces this now:

Error

This file is neither allocated to a Premium Account, or a Collector's Account, and can therefore only be downloaded 10 times.

This limit is reached.

To download this file, the uploader either needs to transfer this file into his/her Collector's Account, or upload the file again. The file can later be moved to a Collector's Account. The uploader just needs to click the delete link of the file to get further information.



(BTW, I'm a pro-HSR anon, not a Peninsula NIMBY anon. Some of 'em are giving us anons a bad name...)

mike said...

Can't American's build and design their own?

Clearly not. See: GM, Chrysler, Ford.

The quality gap between a Japanese/European HST and an American HST would be much larger than the quality gap between Japanese cars and American cars. Americans at least have experience in building cars...we have zero experience in building HSTs. As consumers, most of us don't even want to buy American cars. Why would we want to buy a totally unproven American HST as taxpayers?

It would be monumental folly to try to build our own HST rather than buying an off-the-shelf one (see Acela Express). That's probably the only way that the HSR-critics' "this thing will have operating deficits for years and years" prediction would come true. Maybe in a few decades we can get into that market, but not in just a few years.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 7:34pm -

"(BTW, I'm a pro-HSR anon, not a Peninsula NIMBY anon. Some of 'em are giving us anons a bad name...)"

ROFL, welcome to the great anon bitchfest of 2009! Welcome to the blog, now how about getting yourself a Google account?

I suspect NAPNA ("not a peninsula NIMBY anon") isn't taken yet ;^) Afaik, you don't need to give a real email address, it just has to be syntactically valid.

Morris Brown said...

Sorry! about the link expiring to download the funding requests by California for Federal stimulus funding.

Here is a new

LINK



Posted is a zip file with the funding request and the cover letter sent to the FRA.

mike said...

Can't American's build and design their own?

I should probably add: regardless of which company we buy the HSTs from, there is a good chance that the trainsets themselves would be manufactured in the US (just as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. all have US factories that manufacture their cars). It just makes no sense for the US to try to design it's own "special" (i.e., messed up) trainset.

Rafael said...

@ jack -

what's with this obsession with getting a completely homegrown HSR train? How is it any different from driving around in a BMW or using memory chips from Taiwan in your missile guidance systems?

Just get whichever HSR vendor(s) you select to set up a final assembly and maintenance shop in the US, preferably in California. Siemens already has a light rail shop in Sacramento, AnsaldoBreda has one in Pittsburg (Contra Costa county) with a second one planned in LA county. Talgo has one up in Washington state and Bombardier has several elsewhere. Alstom, Kawasaki and others would surely consider following suit if that were a condition for getting a large enough order.

If you want the US to own a piece of the HSR technology market, let it be reliable and affordable terrestrial broadband internet access at express HSR speeds.

K.T. said...

Rafael,

Do you think there is a chance of converting NUMMI facility as a manufacturing site of CAHSR train set, if Toyota closes their Factory and no other automobile manufacturer is interested in using the facility?

Rafael said...

@ K.T. -

I'm not sure where this NUMMI facility is located, but any HSR vendor that sets up shop in the US will do so wherever it makes sense for them. They'll need floor space, a spur to an existing freight rail line, possibly a nearby cargo airport (for special parts) and of course, craftsmen with experience in welding aluminum, constructing composites, running wiring, systems testing etc.

Come to think of it, HSR train assembly probably has more in common with aircraft manufacturing than with mass-producing passenger cars.

swing hanger said...

@K.T.
You pose a common question, that so far I have not seen answered satisfactorily. I have doubts about this whole "convert auto plants to rail plants" rhetoric. HSR railcar production is highly specialized (and in some ways an "art"), requiring overhead cranes, drop pits, transverser tables, space for fabricating large train shells, etc. Whether existing auto plant structures can accomodate these equipments is a big question.

swing hanger said...

@Jim
I think the Germans have learned their lesson- they have decided to buy their ICE wheelsets from the best makers- Sumitomo of Japan ;-)

http://steelguru.com/news/index/2009/06/29/MTAwMjcx/Sumitomo_Metals_and_Sumitomo_Corp_inks_railway_wheels_deal.html

Anonymous said...

With the attitude of "just buy the foreign made equipment", maybe Boeing should close shop and thus further increase the balance of payments deficits as well as throw many tens of thousand of workers onto the streets.

One of the least admirable features of this project is, as advocated by the rail zealots here, "get rid of the airlines" along with get "rid of the auto."

Actually we made the decision years and years ago, and it was a good decision to "get rid of passenger trains service", at least inter city passenger service.

The public made its decision, and the private RR closed up their shops. Airlines and auto trips prevailed.

While California desperately needs other infra structure, notably water, we won't be able to afford much more needed project, as this crazy mess sucks up billion and billions.

Tony D. said...

It's interesting to note that at the end of the Reuters article re: Private Sector and HSR they mention that US freight railroads could also play a key role in facilitating HSR. (cough UPRR cough!)

Adirondacker12800 said...

Kawasaki has a plant in the US where they manufacture railroad passenger cars. In Yonkers, NY, just outside of New York City. Nice and close to their market.... NYC subway cars, PATH cars, Metro North cars...

Alstom is in Hornell, NY, in the old Erie shops. Bombardier is an international company but their corporate headquarters in in Montreal. I forget which of them is in Plattsburgh.

EMD and GE are world leaders in building locomotives. Both of them manufacture locomotives in the US.

The industry already exists in the US.

Clem said...

Taiwan, with its French signals

Non, non, pas du tout! Digital ATC by Hitachi.

K.T. said...

Rafael,

NUMMI is located off 880 north of Mission Blvd/262 interchange, and it is also adjacent to UP track which BART is proposing the extension to San Jose.

Adirondacker12800

Thank you for the information. Well it that case, "Made in US" HSR Train Set would not be an issue.

luis d. said...

Don't forget about Hitachi and their impressive lineup.

jim said...

ok well Im for the french cuz I like the french. I like their attitude and they have a much better fashion sense and the best food.The asians trains have these tiny little airline windows, what gives? the agvs have nice big picture windows. I don't want to have to squish down and peer out some tiny porthole to see the most spectacular state in the union pass by. I wasn to lounge in stylish interiors and have a touch of europe here since I can't afford to go there. if its any consolation, asian food is good Ill give you that. and the ICE trains just look a little cheap or chincy, I don't know what it is but they are missing something. The french trains look more powerful and have a more regal presence.

jim said...

windows are important - look at these and look at these

see.

jim said...

and most importantly - a you can clearly see, the japanese trains are too small for americans.

jim said...

holy cow - talk about a rail system - i just found these pics - amazing of the moscow subway. were they on some good drugs or what? how on earth did these people lose to us?

Spokker said...

"One of the least admirable features of this project is, as advocated by the rail zealots here, "get rid of the airlines" along with get "rid of the auto.""

It was never about that. It's about using the right tool for the job. Cars are great. Airplanes are great. But they are being over-relied on while rail is ignored. It's about choice, most often the only choice people have is the personal automobile. They go into debt for them. They work for them. They live for them.

"The public made its decision, and the private RR closed up their shops. Airlines and auto trips prevailed."

The public made no such decision. The decision was made for them. The most influential factor when it comes to transportation is public policy. It's a simple matter of the government favoring one mode of transport over another, such as they have with cars and airlines. If railroads were invested in on a level proportional to cars and airlines, they would have already been successful in medium distance corridors.

Andrew said...

@luis d:

I'm fairly sure that most of those trainsets are built by a consortium with Kawasaki as the senior partner.

Regarding HSR manufacturing by US companies: GE could be up to the task, given some time. As has been said here before, they could leverage the aforementioned Hitachi, with whom they already partner to make nuclear reactors.

Jack said...

@all

I didn't realize the trains would be built here which was my main concern. (It would take a hell of a boat to carry the cars when you think about it.)

mike said...

HSR train assembly probably has more in common with aircraft manufacturing

Oh no. Please don't mention the thought of aircraft manufacturers producing trains. Do we not remember the Boeing Vertols?

mike said...

I should also mention that the Boeing Vertol LRVs were a direct result of a "Buy America" program that forced SF MUNI & Boston MBTA to buy an American LRV instead of an off-the-shelf European LRV. The idea was to convert some of the defense factories that were shutting down at the end of the Vietnam War to produce an American LRV (sound familiar to some of the proposals here?).

For those that don't want to bother reading the link, the short story is that the Boeing Vertol LRVs were so unreliable that MBTA started cannibalizing its most recently delivered LRVs for spare parts just to keep the LRVs that were delivered a couple years earlier running. So many cannibalized LRVs were piling up that it would be a PR nightmare, so MBTA started towing the cannibalized LRVs to an abandoned tunnel in the middle of the night so that the public would not realize how bad the cars were. Eventually the newspapers figured out what was going on, there was public outcry, and MBTA successfully sued Boeing Vertol for damages and the right to refuse the last batch of cars (which, of course, then ended up in SF).

Is this what we really want? Perhaps a few of the "deniers" want this, simply so that they can say "I told you so," but I don't think anyone else does.

luis d. said...

I think that Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are like GE and EMD here in the U.S. More like competition. I don't know of them working together.

Alon Levy said...

With the attitude of "just buy the foreign made equipment", maybe Boeing should close shop and thus further increase the balance of payments deficits as well as throw many tens of thousand of workers onto the streets.

There are such things as free trade and competition. GM and Ford failed miserably at that, which is why they need protectionism and government bailouts to survive. So did the US rolling stock industry, which made faulty equipment and ended up going under after losing lawsuits over it. The US aircraft industry is in a better position.

luis d. said...

@ Jack

Here's an example to ease your fear. Wisconsin is buyig two trains from Talgo and they are going to be assembled in WI, creating 80 Jobs. Coincidently just released this morning!

Link

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800, K.T. -

"The industry already exists in the US."

There's a very big difference between knowing how to build freight locomotives and unpowered FRA-compliant passenger cars and, knowing how to build lightweight, high tech HSR trainsets.

It's entirely possible - likely even - that US politicians will try to insist that federal (even state) dollars be spent on buying American-made rolling stock because their want to bring jobs to their districts. However, there are currently zero US companies that have any expertise with bullet train technology. The Japanese, French and others needed decades to acquire their knowledge.

The bitter truth is that when it comes to railroad technology, the US is so far behind, it's practically a third world country. The only way to catch up is to heat some humble pie, i.e. to attract inward investment and/or insist on a joint venture with technology transfer.

HSR needs to be treated first and foremost as a transportation service, not as a jobs program. The whole point of picking steel wheels over maglev was that there are multiple vendors and operators for the former, so there's someone to learn from.

Adirondacker12800 said...

There's a very big difference between knowing how to build freight locomotives and unpowered FRA-compliant passenger cars and, knowing how to build lightweight, high tech HSR trainsets.

There is?

There's at least three plants producing cars for the NYC subway, Metro North, LIRR, PATH, SEPTA and I think Metra, that are MUs.

What's the difference between producing an M8 for Metro North or an R142 for the NYC subway and a car for California's HSR? R142a trailer cars weigh 67,800 pounds unloaded. . . The NYC subway doesn't run individual cars with the newer trains, they run car sets, so there's cab cars and trailer cars. Lightweight MUs. The R142s were built by Bombardier, the R142a's by Kawasaki. They used parts from Alstom...

Railroad cars are built in small batches - when compared to things like automobiles or computers. The skills and equipment needed to build a PATH car aren't all that much different from the skills and equipment needed to build an HSR car.

One of the global providers is going to win the contract for California's HSR. Very probably they'll consider their options and opt to assemble the cars here. It's much cheaper to ship parts to a plant in North America, assemble the cars and then ship - by rail! - to the HSR system.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...

"@ anon @ 7:34pm

"(BTW, I'm a pro-HSR anon, not a Peninsula NIMBY anon. Some of 'em are giving us anons a bad name...)"

ROFL, welcome to the great anon bitchfest of 2009! Welcome to the blog, now how about getting yourself a Google account?

I suspect NAPNA ("not a peninsula NIMBY anon") isn't taken yet ;^) Afaik, you don't need to give a real email address, it just has to be syntactically valid.
"

You don't even need to do that ... simply decide on a nickname and use it, under the Name/URL option.