Friday, September 4, 2009

All Trains Considered

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

This afternoon I can be heard on your local NPR affiliate, or right now at this link, interviewed on All Things Considered as part of their series on high speed rail. I was preceded by a story about the Chicago Hub HSR plan, and I talked about comparisons between HSR plans in the US and those in Europe and China.

I've done my share of TV and radio and have learned to live with the fact that they usually never give you enough time to discuss the issues in any real depth. And this was no exception. We didn't really get into the details of why the US is proposing the kind of patchwork plans we are, how we've neglected HSR and passenger rail for decades, etc. We did discuss how we sink billions into roads and freeways and how that cost is higher than the cost of building an HSR network, but that was cut from the final broadcast.

Would have loved to give my "Spain's success shows CA HSR will work" spiel, but no time for that either.

Still, I thought it went well, and I was pleased to have had the opportunity.

So feel free to praise or bury me in the comments. And enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

60 comments:

jim said...

Lol Robert. Its just funny to put a voice to the blogger. You are very well spoken and have a clear concise speaking voice. Did you take broadcasting?


but the guy kept calling you and "enthusiast" lol for some reason its just funny.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Yeah, "enthusiast" was a bit annoying. Oh well. "Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign" would have been better.

I've never taken any formal broadcasting training. I have been doing a weekly morning radio show here in Monterey on KRXA 540 AM every Thursday at 8, so that definitely helps. And I've done about 5 or 6 TV appearances on local news over the last 9-12 months.

What helped the most, though, was 7 years in front of a college classroom. When you're up there lecturing to students, taking questions, you learn to 1) think fast on your feet 2) how to convey important and complex information clearly and in a way people who have less of a background in the subject can understand and 3) how to feel comfortable in front of a big audience.

But then I've always been a bit of a ham.

Spokker said...

They also did an interview with an HSR opponent Eric Morris.

Cruickshank indeed sounds good on the air.

Rafael said...

Congrats on your performance. Funny how surprised the interviewer was that there would even be such a thing as a blog on California HSR. Imagine that, the general public actually wanting to discuss the issues on the series of tubes! I guess TV and radio types are still having trouble adjusting to 21st century technology.

How come you didn't give the URL of the blog?

Spokker said...

By the way, the host really did screw you by calling you an enthusiast. You will not be taken seriously by anybody not already interested in HSR.

jim said...

@robert well three cheers for clear and concise. The inability to speak clearly and pay attention is a major pet peeve of mine and if you taught college god help you, you know what I mean.

Rafael said...

Btw, while our friends at Midwest HSR are pushing for express HSR at 220mph between Chicago and St. Louis by 2016, the agreement Illinois DOT and UPRR reached in May is actually based on a top speed of 110mph.

Calling that "true" HSR may be a bit misleading, but at least it shows that UPRR isn't implacably opposed to increasing the top speed of intercity passenger trains, up to a point.

As long as there's room and their own freight trains are allowed to run on new tracks that get built on their ROW in off-design conditions, UPRR seem willing to play ball. Unfortunately, that's simply not an option for express HSR networks such as the one planned for California. FRA-compliant behemoths running at 220mph? Fuggedaboudit, the maintenance overheads for the track geometry would be astronomical.

It's worth pointing out that no railway anywhere has managed to turn even an operating (as opposed to total) profit on intercity rail at 110mph. It's a useful public service, but simply too slow to be self-sustaining beyond the public investment in the capital cost of the infrastructure of the starter line.

Saving money up front means state-level operating subsidies down the road, essentially forever. That's ok, passenger rail is a public service and its benefits accrue to the general public. It's just that the funding model for "emerging HSR" will be more akin to local transit.

jim said...

What is the feeling about having some sort of barrier between the hst's and the freight. workable?

Adirondacker12800 said...

It's worth pointing out that no railway anywhere has managed to turn even an operating (as opposed to total) profit on intercity rail at 110mph.

The New York Central and the Pennsylvania did it for decades...

Alon Levy said...

Rafael, look at Amtrak's financial statements from last year. Chicago-St. Louis service turned a small operating profit in FY 2008, and has turned a small operating loss in FY 2009.

jim said...

I suspect that some current lines started making small profits during the time when gas was 4-5 bucks a gallon as there was no new staff or infrastructure but a huge increase in ridership.

So what it will take is a future where the cost of driving is at that level or above. which is likely to become the case all the time by the time the hsr is done.

Will said...

Robert--I've been reading your blog for some time and it was great to hear your voice. Even though you had some problems with the interview, I thought it went well. It is too bad the piece didn't give you time to compare California's proposal to systems running in Europe. You are a great advocate for showing how California and the U.S. needs to move to a more sustainable energy policy. Keep up the great work.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

erecting a barrier wall (PDF p41) is a passive safety ("pour more concrete") approach to a problem that ought to be addressed with active safety measures.

The purpose of such a wall would be to contain a derailment on a legacy freight/passenger track adjacent to the HSR tracks. In combination with a generous centerline between those adjacent tracks, it is supposed to prevent debris or spilt cargo from fouling the HSR tracks.

The problem is that the kinetic energy of any train moving at a decent clip (e.g. above 30mph) would overwhelm any barrier just a few feet thick. Even if the heavy chassis and bogies of a derailed FRA-compliant behemoth could be contained, bits of concrete and disintegrated superstructure could still easily foul the HSR tracks.

Therefore, the answer really lies in doing everything possible to prevent derailments and cargo spills from happening in the first place, using ROW surveillance to detect when they do anyhow and integrating that detection system with automatic train control systems fitted on every train using the ROW.

In other words: a combination of mechanical engineering, computer science, control systems integration and plain old investment in maintaining track geometry and rolling stock.

Active safety concepts and systems are the first line of defense for railroads all over Europe, Japan and elsewhere. This applies across the board, not just to HSR. In the US, freight rail operators have long resisted them because they cut into the bottom line.

Passive safety is a useful second line of defense, but no more.

---

Btw: derailments of HSR trains are exceedingly rare and typically without loss of life - though there's always an element of luck involved.

The only one with fatalities ever, anywhere, was at Eschede, Germany in 1998. Over 100 people died when a first-generation high speed train traveling at 125mph derailed and crashed into a secondary road overpass, knocking it down.

The root cause of the problem was that Deutsche Bahn had retrofitted the train's monoblock wheels with a special design featuring a core, a rubber ring and an outer rim to improve passenger comfort. While that works ok for commuter rail, one of the rims failed at high speed and penetrated a passenger car. A little old lady noticed but failed to pull the emergency brake. Instead, she went looking for the conductor who also failed to do so. Only after that did the train actually derail.

No other operator has ever been foolish enough to mess with the wheels of their high speed trains. Everyone, including DB, now uses safe monoblock wheels on all high speed rolling stock.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

"The New York Central and the Pennsylvania did it for decades..."

I was talking about today, not the period before mass motorization and jet aircraft.

jim said...

@rafael (that's why I don't the german's trains) and
speaking of surveillance, suppose we do this...
actively monitored cameras along the entire row. Monitored live by folks in the control rooms. If one camera can see say, 1 mile of row, in HD, then we can monitor the whole line with 400 cameras.

200 hundred monitors in a socal control center and 200 up north as well as on board (cab) monitors that can "see" ahead of where the operator can see, live,

jim said...

if an operator can see a mile ahead from his cab, and another mile or two miles ahead on two in cab monitors, he has plenty of time to stop a 220p train.

That still leaves on problem though, the possibility of a freight derailing as it is actively passing by an hst. then we're still doomed. and the whole thing seems to be about liability for UP. They want to be off the hook.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael:

You write


The only one with fatalities ever, anywhere, was at Eschede, Germany in 1998.


In what class do you put the crash in China?

http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/?jp=mhojsnqlaukf&rss=rss2

in April 2008 --- described as:



China: 70 killed in high speed train crash


The crash happened when a train traveling from Beijing to Qingdao – site of the sailing competition during the Olympics in August – derailed and hit a second passenger train.

jim said...

National highway fatalities were at their highest in 1972, with more than 54,000 deaths. Data collected this year through October showed a total of 31,110 deaths, down from 34,502 at the same point in 2007.

“I’m thrilled about these numbers,” NHTSA Administrator David Kelly told the Associated Press.

jim said...

wait, how many people were on the train again....

Spokker said...

There will likely be a large catastrophe on the California system that kills 50-100 people. Hell, I might even be among those who are killed. No reason to not build it. After all, over 40,000 per year die on American roads.

Spokker said...

I'm pretty sure the recession, which decreases the amount of miles traveled in cars, has much to do with the "low" amount of people killed in auto accidents in 2008 and 2009.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

ROW surveillance usually involves a combination of cameras, microphones and other sensors coupled with computers and software that identify change events and bring them to operators' attention.

This includes trains passing by but also livestock, wildlife and unauthorized persons getting onto the tracks in spite of fences.

Software might be able to classify some events with a high degree of confidence, e.g. a derailed bogie. That would obviously become operators' top priority. After confirming their computers' assessment, they would then use the train control system to force all trains - high speed, freight, commuter - approaching the location to hit their brakes at once.

To do that, they have to have the means and the authority to take that action. In California, that's severely complicated by the patchwork of public and private operators and the fact that they have not yet adopted interoperable technical standards for implementing positive train control.

ACSES would be one option, it's conceptually very similar to ETCS level 1. However, freight rail operators want to avoid investing in wireline systems and go straight to wireless implementations like ETCS level 2.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

that crash in China involved a conventional train consist traveling at 81 mph on China's legacy network at a location with a substantially lower speed limit. Neither the tracks nor the train were equipped with positive train control technology that would have prevented the driver from speeding.

The incident had nothing whatsoever to do with China's separate high speed rail lines.

jim said...

suppose they raise the hsr tracks on and earthern berm in the row alongside the frieght tracks... not too high, but just high enough 10 feet, so that if a boxcar or container were to fall over, it would lean against the berm but not be able to fall on the higher hsr tracks.

jim said...

by the way - on the transbay topic - Im watching planning commish, and you know there is another large twin tower condo project closing in on the tail track area, at the foot of the tail track, that will block any future thru tracking if they don't get together on this.

Anonymous said...

jim, thru tracking to where? That condo project has been a part of the Rincon Hill/Transbay Plan for at least five years. The tail tracks don't go under it or anything.

jim said...

ok well Im just sayin, of they wanted to eventually continue out the pier. for a new bay tube. of course thats 50 years away.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

wherever the HSR track are laid, they will have to be fully grade separated against vehicular traffic.

See CHSRA's Google Map of the route for details of which grade separation works they penciled in for their cost estimates.

Note that "at grade" and "cut/fill" are different shades of green. The map shows cut/fill for most of the way, but evidently someone picked the wrong shade of green. Excellent quality control by CHRSA!

Authoritative information on what the cost estimates were based in the San Jose - Los Banos section is here (document dated 5/4/07)

It shows trains running at grade south of Almaden Expressway, which implies tall overpasses or deep underpasses for all the cross roads. Considering Monterey Hwy is a frontage road everywhere except Morgan Hill, that does not compute. Aerial structures (viaducts) are penciled in through Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

Between SJ Diridon and Metcalf Rd, there are five remaining grade crossings: Auzerais Ave, West Virginia St, Skyway Dr, Branham Ln and Chynoweth Ave/Roeder Rd.

Constructing tall overpasses or deep underpasses while maintaining the connections between them and Monterey Hwy would be a lot more difficult than flying over them with an aerial, even though introduces visual/noise blight issues.

The Blossom Hill Rd intersection means dealing with an existing off-ramp that narrows the available space for laying any new tracks. However, there is enough space for moving it to the available median of the Monterey Hwy.

Cutting across to 101 median between Metcalf Rd and the next remaining grade crossing, Blanchard Rd, would avoid a lot of grade separation works further south. The UPRR central coast corridor is lightly used and not in dire need of full grade separation all the way to Gilroy.

It would be helpful if CHSRA provided some detailed maps of exactly who owns which piece of land in the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor. In particular, who owns the land in-between the tracks and the road?

Cliff Gagliardo said...

Loved hearing the interview this afternoon, and agree with the general sentiment that it was condescending of the NPR host (was it Steve Inskeep?) to call you merely an "enthusiast." I, too, would love to see high speed rail in California .

I have seen "rails to trails" programs in Bloomington, IN (where I went to IU) and also here in El Dorado County, CA. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on paths for walkers and bicyclists getting to work?

http://www.coffeesee.com/2009/09/04/while-you-were-driving/

jim said...

@rafael - south of san jose, I seriously think that using 101 is a superior option. its completely away from housing, and everything else, there is room, noise isn't an issue and there are not grade crossings.

the up row runs right through more back yards and millions of grade crossings. Unlike the 101 further north, this southern portion has ample room both in the middle and or on the sides.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

at this point, those tail tracks are really nothing more than an ultra-expensive way to give Caltrain somewhere to park a few trains overnight. Surely there's room at 4th & King for that, e.g. between 6th and 7th along Townsend. In fact, I'd argue that Caltrain shouldn't be allowed to park any trains at all at the TTC.

As for a future transbay tube, keep in mind that it can't easily cross the alignment of the existing one. Since the TTC is south of Market, tracks are underground there and the best place to connect to the UPRR tracks Oakland is a wye at Engineer Rd, that implies bored tunnels or else an underwater rail overpass (!) In addition, there's the whole FRA/UPRR mixed traffic malarkey, though positive train control could make that easier.

Even so, there's just no ROW for new passenger-only tracks north to Sacramento or even south to San Jose along the East Bay (at least not north of 47th Ave). No-one's going to build a second transbay tube just to run a couple of slow Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains per hour through it.

Ergo, if a second transbay tube is ever built, it will likely be for BART only. To provide greater earthquake resilience, it could run down Franklin St in Oakland, under the Oakland Inner Harbor Channel to Point Alameda and across to a tunnel under Mission St. on the SF side.

However, I don't see that happening anytime soon. It just makes a lot more sense to encourage employers to set up shop in the East Bay, e.g. in CoCo county, if only for back office operations. There's available transit capacity in two directions, leverage that first.

jim said...

look how much of it looks like this

jim said...

as for the next tube... bart has already made its plan for 2050 which is a 4 bore tube for hsr and bart that will run from alameda south of the existing tube.

jim said...

and there is this perfect spot near gilroy - at the airport/101 for an hsr station and business park development.

Rafael said...

@ Cliff Gagliardo -

rails to trails has been used extensively in Marin, Sonoma and Contra Costa counties. If nothing else, it's an excellent way to preserve railroad ROWs for future use. Fremont wants to use it for the portion of the WPML through Niles that BART won't be using.

As for using bicycles to get to train stations, I'm all for it but providing bike lanes/paths for it is the business of city-level transportation planners. Anyone who wants to take his bike along on an HSR train should look into compact folding and folding electric bikes, because there will be very limited scope for accommodating full-sized models. Efficient two-level parking for full-sized bikes can be provided at train stations, but only makes sense for passengers who have some way to reach their final destination at the other end.

From a transportation planning perspective, bikes have the distinct disadvantage that they're very unpopular in anything but fair weather. Too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy and it's back to driving or transit.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

got a link to BART's 4-track mega-tube plans? I'd quite like to know how they intend to connect both sets of tracks on either side.

Note: it is possible to lay down three or even four weight-bearing rails in a single track, in addition to third rail plus OCS electrification. With appropriate signaling, that would permit a much cheaper two-track tube to be shared by BART and Caltrain/HSR, at least into downtown Oakland. Assuming tracks would run under Franklin St. in Oakland, tail tracks under that and Broadway would allow the standard gauge trains to turn around. A bigger issue is sharing stations unless all three services use the same platform height.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

relax, not everyone's as keen on development as SF. No HSR stop is planned in the metropolis that is San Martin.

Switching to the 101 median somewhere south of SJ Diridon does make a lot of sense. The Caltrain extension to Salinas, if it ever happens, will provide just a handful of trains per day. All other connecting transportation into the Gilroy HSR station will be based on buses (an hour) and private cars (45 min) anyhow.

jim said...

rafael here is one of several articles... Im looking for the one I found before that actually had a drawing of the four track tube....

jim said...

ahh here is the quote anyway..."The BART of the future also should offer express trains from destinations like Concord and Walnut Creek that would skip some stations en route to San Francisco, cutting several minutes from the trip. To offer that service, BART would need to install additional stretches of track that would allow trains to pass each other.

But the biggest -- and costliest -- improvement would be the addition of a second Transbay Tube. By 2030, the current tube will be at capacity, unable to handle additional trains, said Tom Matoff, a transportation planner working on the regional rail plan.

"Realistically, putting in a new bay tube is going to take 20 to 30 years,'' he said, " so this is the time to start thinking about it."

Building a new tube also would give BART the opportunity to expand service in San Francisco and the East Bay. A new tube, Matoff suggested, could be part of a line that serves Alameda before going beneath the bay and emerging at the Transbay Terminal, where it could connect with high-speed rail and a downtown Caltrain extension. The new tube would have four bores, he said, two for BART and two for high-speed or other trains.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

"south of san jose, I seriously think that using 101 is a superior option"

The question is if that isn't true of the section in south San Jose as well. There's no available median north of the UPRR Milpitas line overpass (near 10th Street), though. That's why I suggested making SJ Diridon an underground station and digging on to the 280 median to get to 101. Tunneling is very expensive, but CHSRA's plans already call for one between San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara and Julian St. in San Jose.

jim said...

and here again... Future

As BART celebrated the 50th anniversary of its creation in 2007, it announced its plans for the next 50 years. Its vision includes adding a four-bore transbay tube beneath San Francisco Bay that would run parallel and south of the existing tunnel and emerge at the Transbay Transit Terminal to provide connecting service to Caltrain and the planned California High Speed Rail system. The four-bore tunnel would provide two tunnels for BART and two tunnels for conventional/high-speed rail. In the terminal there would be 6 tubes: 4 for HSR and 2 for Caltrain.[1

jim said...

I like my 87/85/101 idea. use an elevated in the center of the vta row with the the Y columns between the vta tracks. there is room.

looking on said...

When the populations in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and those communities along the SJ to Gilroy route, finally wake up and realize that the plan is to go roaring though their communities at 200 MPH and what the noise levels will be, they are going to be like Palo Alto, finally wake up and really start to get the opposition going.

Expect to see more lawsuits.

looking on said...

I just looked quickly at the financial workshop slides from the board's meeting on Thursday.

Who are they kidding. They don't have the money. They won't have the money. Hopefully Lowenthal will get the brakes put on all of this.

The audio for the workshop is supposed to be posted this next week. I understand that Kathleen Brown was involved --- she is now at Goldman Sachs.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

this is a long-term project. Scraping together the money will not be easy, but it will be there eventually.

Wrt to fresh lawsuits, let's see if CHSRA actually sticks with the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor first. Afaik, there is no intention to run at 200mph between San Jose and Gilroy but plans may have changed.

Anonymous said...

They were planning on 180 mph for SJ to Gilroy stretch. The travel time for a train from leaving SJ to LEAVING Gilroy is only 15 minutes, a la the schedule presented in last month's workshop. With dwell times, this is about a 13 minute travel time, consistent with going really fast for much of the 35ish mile stretch.

Whether or not 180mph would have truly flown once the neighbors started to comprehend how fast this is....I cannot say.

101 is actually quite curvy, which dramatically lowers the speed the train can go. This is why it wasn't chosen in the first place.

They have only 2 minutes to spare in the entire system. 101 will put them over their official time limit and they will have to find time elsewhere.

You asked who owns the land between the MH and the ROW. There are maps out there that are publicly available that I have seen that show the ownership. The problem is that they are not superimposed on a satellite image so it is difficult to know where one man's land starts and the other ends. Assume that UP owns 60 feet. Whatever is left over is owned by the state or the cities.

If you are ambitious, you can call Caltrain and ask them for ROW maps. It is possible they have them.

You can also call HSRA. Presumably they have them for their planning purposes and they should be public documents.

Bianca said...

They misspelled your name on the website, though, Robert. D'oh!

The "enthusiast" thing made it sound like you have a model high speed train in your basement or something.

Otherwise, sounded great.

Adirondacker12800 said...

freight rail operators want to avoid investing in wireline systems and go straight to wireless implementations like ETCS level 2.

And what connects all those base stations every 4 or 5 kilometers apart into a network that feeds information back into the control center? The base stations don't run on good intentions there's going to have to be commercial power supplied to most of them. Even with nominally wireless system there's going to be lots and lots of cable draped all over the ROW.

PTC is the mission critical application. They aren't going to be depending on a long string of wireless routers to maintain network connectivity. There's going to lots and lots of cable strung.

Alon Levy said...

Cliff, Rafael, rails to trails is strictly a one-way ticket. The trails are never converted back to active rail lines; whenever anyone proposes such a conversion, people revolt because they don't want their new linear park taken away from them.

Cliff said...

@Alon Levy and @Rafael:

I remember how excited I was to get a bike in the fall, only to feel let down when the snow and ice hit. So, in that case, I reverted to walking. And in the spring, I found that putting on rain gear and/or holding an umbrella during showers was impractical, so I again reverted to walking. I was lucky enough to live within a 10 minute walk to school. My concern, however, are the people who, because of financial circumstances, can't afford anything that close. Sure, the local transit could be better, but do you think that there should be a pedestrian friendly way of getting to the centers of communities?
When Bloomington opened it's B-Line trail, I was initially miffed. I had heard so much griping about a rail service being needed to connect to Indianapolis (Greyhound stopped operating there years ago), but then was distressed to see a trail paved over. I like the city's intent to connect the community and provide green alternatives, but it seems to, literally, seal off an existing infrastructure for high speed rail services. Maybe, Robert, is it that the existing rails aren't suitable? What are your thoughts on rails to trails programs in general?

coffeesee.com

Spokker said...

I hate rails to trails. I like the idea of rails *and* trails though.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Cliff, Rafael, rails to trails is strictly a one-way ticket.

Come now, there's been hundreds and hundreds of feet of it converted back to rail use. :-)

A lot of it wasn't terribly well planned when it was railroad. It won't be terribly good for rail in the future. The good railroad corridors were never abandoned in the first place.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

I'd prefer a wireline PTC implementation as well, but the PRIIA mandated was unfunded and failed to specify any particular technical standard. Freight rail operators will seek the cheapest possible solution that meets the mandate, not the most reliable.

Cutting corners on safety is a really bad idea, but without public money or an explicit mandate to implement a particular wireline standard (ACSES? ETCS level 1?), that's exactly what's going to happen.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

legally, rails-to-trails is supposed to preserve railroad ROW just in case. In practical terms, you're generally correct.

One notable exception is in Marin and Sonoma counties. They had purchased what's left of the old ROW from Sausalito to Ignacio (just south of Novato) from NWP when rail service along that line was terminated in the late eighties.

The land was used as a bike trail, though I'm not sure if that was officially under the rails to trails program. Now, half of it will be used for a single SMART track, the other for an official bike trail. If there were ever sufficient rail traffic to justify double-tracking, the trail would be sacrificed. I doubt that will be the case any time soon, though.

Rafael said...

@ Adirondacker12800 -

btw, I forgot to mention this: any wireless PTC implementation in the US would probably rely on direct communication via satellites (cp. Iridium phones), at least in sections that don't already have reliable cell phone coverage on someone else's nickel.

There are vast stretches of virtually empty land in the West, stringing thousands of miles of cables and maintaining them would cost someone a fair chunk of change. If freight rail operators really considered PTC critical to their mission, they'd have implemented it by now. It's because of renewed interest in/attention to passenger rail that PTC has now been mandated.

This is a good thing IMHO, but make no mistake: one way or another, taxpayers at federal, state and/or county level are going to end up funding the bulk of the PTC implementation.

Alon Levy said...

Cliff: in normal cities, people walk to places on sidewalks.

Adirondacker: the High Line was a good railroad ROW. Now it's one of several deserted linear parks of the city, together with Broadway.

Cliff said...

@Alon:
I suppose "normal city" is an important qualification in this discussion. But, is it feasible to try and connect more rural communities with their Main Street type centers through easily accessible pedestrian walkways?

Alon Levy said...

If those communities are even semi-urban, let alone truly rural, then road shoulders are fine. I've walked on sidewalk-less roads in Central Jersey without having safety issues, and Central Jersey is denser and has more automobile traffic than most areas.

Adirondacker12800 said...

the High Line was a good railroad ROW.

Meh. It never lived up to it's expectations. If the expectation was to get freight trains out of the center of Eleventh Ave. it was a wild success. It never carried the amount of freight they thought it would, it never carried passengers. It made a lot of sense in 1929, less and less as time wore on. Carried it's last freight decades ago. There aren't any freight customers any more, Manhattan real estate is too expensive to be doing things that need rail freight.

It used to go all the way down to Spring Street. If that was still there, it might make a good trolley car corridor. 14th Street-ish to 30 St. not so much. And I'm sure all the condo owners that have been using it as a really big balcony would get really really pissed if trolley cars started running ten feet from their window.

Freight rail operators will seek the cheapest possible solution that meets the mandate, not the most reliable...

Once it's installed it's the railroad's mission critical application. Without it the trains stop running.

I forgot to mention this: any wireless PTC implementation in the US would probably rely on direct communication via satellites (cp. Iridium phones), at least in sections that don't already have reliable cell phone coverage on someone else's nickel

Mission critical applications don't use public networks.

The whole point of these advanced signaling system is to keep track of the trains. Lose contact with the network and the the train stops. How many seconds can a train be disconnected from the network before the PTC decides to stop the train?

Existing systems don't rely on public cell phone networks and I doubt any railroad would want to.

First thing that comes to mind is network congestion. Everyone decides they want to call home to say "dya feel the earthquake?" and trains stop because they lose their connection. Even when the earthquake is well below the threshold for earthquakes that slow or stop the train.

Satellite systems have congestion problems and line of sight problems. They'd have to have all the remote railroad lines in line of site of the geosynchronous satellites or hope that the low orbit satellites stay in sight as the train moves through the remote valley. Cutting down trees on the south side of the tracks gets expensive if it has to be done on a large scale. Kinda hard to move the train 40 feet up the side of a valley so it can "see" the next satellite coming into view. Railroads don't like their trains stopping for no apparent reason. They aren't going to be using public cell phone networks or satellite phone networks for connectivity. Redundancy maybe, so the engineer can telephone the control center and check why the network is down, but not for the primary means of communication.

TomW said...

It's worth pointing out that no railway anywhere has managed to turn even an operating (as opposed to total) profit on intercity rail at 110mph.

I disagree. In the UK, the Midland Main line (London-Sheffield) has a max speed of 110mph, and the current operator will be payign a premium to the government to operator services on that line (and other, slower, less profitable lines). That wouldn't happen if it didn't turn an operating profit.

110mph allows tran travel to be definately quicker than a car, even with multiple stops along the way. Given that, it's certainly possible to turn a profit.