Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Comparing Fares for Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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

Over at The Transport Politic Yonah Freemark has offered two insightful posts this week on the question of HSR fares as compared to those for air and automobile travel (including buses). The first, Getting the Price Right: How Much Should High-Speed Fares Cost? argued that Amtrak has set fares on the Acela too high, though faster speeds and higher-capacity trainsets would enable the operating costs and thus the fares to drop. Freemark compared the Acela to European and Asian HSR systems and found that those systems not only offer better fares than the Acela - they also offer better fares than airline flights on the same route. However, Freemark's analysis suggests that California HSR is poised to replicate the European experience, and not that of Amtrak and the Acela (at least in terms of fares):

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is planning the nation’s most ambitious new rail project, has considered the effect of pricing on ridership. It predicts strikingly varying ridership outcomes depending on the cost of its future services; in 2030, with the full system operating, the agency estimates 93.1 million yearly trips if fares are set at 50% of air travel levels and 74 million if fares are set at 77% of air travel levels. Though final fares have not yet been established, one thing is for certain: California will not copy Amtrak and charge customers exorbitant rates to ride the train....

If American high-speed services offered similar prices for time traveled as Amtrak does today — at $45 per hour of running time for standard fares and $15 at reduced prices — on faster trains, U.S. commuters would switch to rail in droves. The San Francisco-Los Angeles route being planned by the State of California, with a travel time of 2h40, would cost $40 for reduced-price tickets and $120 for standard fares; those costs seem perfectly acceptable for just about everyone. A renewed Northeast Corridor, offering travel between New York and Washington in 1h40 (at an average of 220 km/h), would cost $25 for customers buying reduced-price fares. People currently driving their own cars or riding buses between the cities would take a second look at those prices.

Previous statements from the CHSRA have indicated that the fares would be around $55. I have repeatedly said we should not get attached to that number, and Freemark's conclusion that the fares will range from $40 to $120 is much more sensible.

Of course, anytime we have this discussion, you get people arguing that airfares are already cheap, nobody would pick a train over a $49 fare on Southwest or JetBlue. So some remedial discussion of this matter is valuable before plowing ahead.

Those fares are advance purchase and are almost never available on the eve of travel. And Freemark's suggestion is that CA HSR fares will work pretty much the same way. $40 or so for advance purchase, higher once you get closer to the travel date or for a "regular fare." In exchange you get a smoother boarding and deboarding experience, no TSA to deal with, a comfortable ride, and most crucially of all, city center to city center travel. The proposed HSR stations are all in much more centralized locations than the airports in the metro areas they'll serve.

More crucially, the ability of airlines to continue to offer those low fares is very much in jeopardy. Airlines received massive bailouts in 2001, but just a few years later began implementing fees for baggage and other previously standard, complimentary services. That's the mark of an industry in trouble, of an airline crisis that threatens the future not of air travel but of cheap air travel.

Southwest Airlines, which is frequently pointed to as evidence that we don't need HSR (including by someone at the Menlo Park Town Hall), has avoided this fate only through the use of complex fuel hedges. They locked in their price at $51/bbl several years ago. We're at $72/bbl, and virtually every observer expects that price to rise, if not soar, once global economic recovery finally happens. Southwest's fuel hedges expire between 2010 and 2013. There's no way they'll be able to lock in those rates again. And either LUV is going to have to raise fares or cut services.

Freemark's second post on the topic, Reframing the Fare Debate, focuses on what he sees as a more pressing topic: "attracting people away from cars and buses."

There are two ways to encourage people currently relying on road-based transportation to travel by trains: one, lower ticket prices; two, increase speeds. Both actions would provide a substantial motivation for highway users to reconsider their options. The first would put train travel back into the sphere of the economical. Plenty of bus companies market service at less than $20 between New York and Washington. At $2/gallon, a 26 mpg car could be driven between the cities for less than $20 in gas. That number doesn’t account for maintenance and ownership costs, but drivers rarely consider those factors when making decisions about how to get from one place to the next.

By increasing speeds, train travel’s time benefit multiplies significantly. While buses get into traffic, they can still make the trip from the capital to Gotham in five hours — versus the three hours required by rail. This is an advantage for train users, but increasing speeds to allow for a 1h40 trip would make it nearly impossible to justify riding the bus or driving, even at a lower cost.

Freemark's analysis is based on the Acela, but it applies even more strongly to California. Whereas buses play an important role on the Northeast Corridor, they play hardly any role in the SF-LA corridor, especially since Megabus dropped its experiment to provide their cheap service on that route last year. (Intercity buses do play a bigger role on other corridors in California, particularly Central Valley-SoCal-Mexico.)

So we're looking primarily at driving. And a lot of Californians drive from the Bay Area to LA, or from either of those regions to the Central Valley. This is especially true at the holiday season, as I discovered on one 10-hour trip back to Berkeley on I-5 around New Year's 2001.

Let's assume a trip from SF Transbay Terminal to LA Union Station in a relatively fuel efficient non-hybrid car: my 2007 Honda Fit. By car that's a 381 mile trip. I usually get about 300 miles to the tank on the open road, or about 36-39 mpg depending on conditions. That means two fillups - one at the trip's outset, another somewhere along I-5. The first fillup is going to be at least $3/gal, likely around $24 if I'm nearly empty (usually 8 gallons). The second will be about the same. So that's $42 for a one-way trip, and another fillup somewhere on the way back, depending on how much driving I do in SoCal, is going to bring the total in gas to at least $66.

True, that's for the car. I can add several passengers at essentially no extra cost, whereas they'd have to pay their own tickets on an HSR train. Even when you add in wear and tear, which on a newish Honda vehicle isn't all that much, driving is likely going to be cheaper, at least until oil prices rise dramatically again.

But when you add in time, the train becomes a compelling alternative. Google Maps gives a driving time of 5 hours, 51 minutes from SF Transbay to LAUS. If you hit no traffic at all and have lead foot you could do 5:30, maybe even 5:15. But for most people it's at least a 6-hour drive.

Whereas the train is going to take 2 hours 40 minutes. That's about half the time of driving. A lot of Californians will pay a bit extra to take the train in order to get the time savings - that's what "competitive" means. For people looking at a weekend trip, that 6 hours saved is a huge deal - the difference between a Friday evening and a Saturday midday arrival, extra time at the grandparents' or at the beach or at the ballgame.

For others it may not be enough of a compelling alternative. They may want the flexibility the car offers them, or they may have lots of stuff to carry that can't be easily checked onto a train, or they may have other reasons to prefer to take a specific trip in the car. That's fine. HSR isn't about forcing people out of cars.

It's about providing options and choices. Expanding transportation capacity in a sustainable, environmentally and climate-friendly method, giving our freeways and airports a chance to breathe. Giving people a fast way to get between cities without the higher fares or inconveniences of air travel, without the long travel times and other uncomfortable aspects of sitting in a car on I-5.

HSR isn't meant to put the airlines out of business or to eliminate vehicle traffic on I-5. It's intended to give Californians the choice of traveling at a fast speed for a reasonable price, thus fueling economic growth in the 21st century in a way that fossil-fuel based methods of travel are already proving incapable of providing. Californians instinctively understand this - it's why Prop 1A passed last fall.

I'll close this post by letting Freemark explain the reasons why this matters:

There are significant advantages to lowering ticket prices to the lowest level possible while keeping operational finances in the black. California predicts a higher revenue stream for its rail system if it charges customers fares that are at 77% of airline levels: $4.3 billion annually versus $3.6 billion with tickets at 50%, even though the latter would attract 25% more riders. But opening services to a greater percentage of the population has a number of benefits beyond those affecting the bottom line, and American policy should be to encourage low-cost rail travel. It reduces carbon emissions as people choose to drive fewer cars. It encourages the sense that trains are an engine for universal mobility, rather than a limousine on tracks for the rich. It will, most importantly, smash the conception that Americans won’t take advantage of rail services, and encourage the creation of a train-riding society.

And that's why California's HSR matters - as well as why it will be a financial success.

124 comments:

Clem said...

The basic question is do you maximize ridership or revenue?

I suspect the end result (with a private operating concession) will be a maximization of revenue, with a yield-managed fare structure exactly like Southwest's or JetBlue's, with the occasional $55 special.

In fact, there's often been talk of financing Sacramento and San Diego extensions through revenue bonds, presumably financed through concession fees. That would strongly argue for maximizing fare revenue.

One thing's for sure, you can't have it both ways (maximum revenue and maximum ridership).

jim said...

the 49/59 fares aren't really that cheap, after you add the taxes, facility charges, fees etc and now the baggage fees. A roundtrip advance purchase still winds up costing close to 200 dollars.

Anonymous said...

Clem is of course right. However, the Authority seems to think they can not only build the extensions, but pay off the private equity interests with the same, hopeful operating profits.

That won't work. As was pointed out by comments made at the end of the financial workshop, by Elizabeth Alexis, they have a major funding gap, they don't seem to want to own up to.

BTW, the audio of the workshop is now posted on the Authority's website. (Sept 3rd board meeting attachemtns)

jim said...

Demographics play a part in the fare structures. A 2 hour trip from sf to stockton is 10 dollars. A 2 hour trip from from sf to sacramento is 26 dollars because the people we serve in stockton can't pay 26 and the people in sacramento can. They two entirely different demographic groups.

Anonymous said...

Taking Jim's statement, I'm beginning to wonder if HSR is another welfare program

Andre Peretti said...

I don't understand why HSR fares should be lower than airfares. The opposite is true.
Take Paris-Marseille, 470 miles, 3 hours by train. TGV fares start at €19 and average €60. RyanAir starts at €9.95 and averages €35. Yet, in spite of its lower fares it only manages to fly one daily B737 to Paris while the SNCF runs 16 double-decker TGV trains with 77% occupied seats.
I doubt Americans are so different from Europeans that they are ready to pay more just for the pleasure of waiting in line, taking off their shoes and emptying their pockets in public. Unless CHSR ends up having so many local speed limitations that it will be, at best, the Californian version of Acela.

Andrew said...

Even $100 for a ticket Between LA and SF seems reasonable to me, with some weekend specials here and there. A trip from Tokyo to Osaka on the Nozomi is ¥14,050 (about $145), and last time I rode the Shinkansen it was between Hiroshima and Himeji for around ¥7000. Damn thing was STANDING ROOM ONLY the entire way too, but that was during the Obon holiday.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Great question, Clem. I fully agree that we are likely to see maximization of revenue. CHSRA and whoever operates the trains will be under enormous pressure to produce operating surpluses, even early in the process, and even at the expense of drawing some riders.

Still, we do have 10 years in which to shift the media's way of framing government projects and programs, away from a focus on their cost and toward a focus on their usefulness and effectiveness.

Example: if the news reports in 2020 criticized CHSRA for half-full trains and not for how much revenue the system brings in, then we'd see a push for more riders, and ultimately we'd be seeing HSR fulfilling its broader role in the overall transportation universe.

This is where DoDo's Puente AVE post is so very important. He makes two related points - first, ridership will take several years to reach projected levels, but it WILL reach those levels. Second, fares need to be structured with this in mind - short-term revenues should NOT be the primary consideration, and higher initial fares will only cause problems.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I hate driving long distances. I am sure I am not alone in that regard.

I also am sure I am not alone when I admit that I sometimes forego in-state long-distance trips because of the hassles of driving. The same applies to flying.

Fortunately right now, expensive is not an issue for me right now.

When people like me choose to travel on a new mode, or when new capacity is provided... we're an example of what is called, "latent demand."

Latent demand is also an explanation why roadway/fereeway expansions often result in congested conditions returning to pre-expansion congestion levels within 4-5 years after opening.

People... there is a lot of Latent Demand out there waiting to hop on trains.

Extrapolating existing demand to represent future conditions... fails to account how people respond to new capacity.

Anonymous said...

What is the assumed schedule for next steps in the Atherton Lawsuit? When are plaintiffs due back with their report, when is judge expected to return his decision on the remediation?

Will there be additional court dates set for hearings/arguments on the plaintiffs proposal prior to the judges ruling?

looking on said...

One of the supposedly selling points of the train is congestion relief both on highways and airports. I think that is all nuts, but that's beside this point.

If you use the maximum revenue model, then less passengers, use the train, but at a higher fare. That means less relief for the airports and highways. You can't have it both ways.

Another selling point of the train is it is so "green". Well as a simple model if you take the train going 200 MPH vs 100 MPH you will use 4 times the energy to accomplish the same task at the higher rate of speed as at the lower. That's just plain physics. You lose a lot of "green" when you want to go fast.

if you go slow, you certainly have no chance of competing with the airlines.

looking on said...

@Anonymous 7:29AM

The Authority was given what the plaintiffs want last week. Apparently they don't agree to those demands --- hardly surprising. The court will be given that information very shortly.

The judge has much discretion on when and how to rule. He can have a haring, or he can just make his ruling.

An answer could come very soon, or it might be quite a while, since the court is backed up up through the end of this year, and a hearing might have to wait quite a while to be held. That's what I know.

Joe Sez said...

My gripe with air travel is wasted time, to/from airport,security, delays and cramped conditions.

Last night I took a 5+ hr red eye on Virgin America from Dulles (DC) to SFO.

The flight had gogo wireless for $13 and seat enough room (and empty enough) for me to work and browse - in coach.

Travel with connectivity and room to work and stretch will be successful. HSR needs to accommodate traveler's need to use their time to work and relax.

I HSR done right will demonstrate how poorly configured legacy air planes are compared to what is possible.

Joe Sez said...

" I'm beginning to wonder if HSR is another welfare program"

Of course it is.

But not the "lazy people getting my money' kind of welfare, it's for the greater good.

AndyDuncan said...

Well as a simple model if you take the train going 200 MPH vs 100 MPH you will use 4 times the energy to accomplish the same task at the higher rate of speed as at the lower.

It's not nearly that simple, since once at speed you only need to cover aerodynamic drag (which does go up exponentially, but isn't as big a deal on a train with a very small cross section relative to passenger count) and friction/drivetrain losses.

Even if your statement were true, how much more energy would be required to accomplish the same task at the 520mph cruising speed of an average plane?

High Speed Trains are more efficient than flying at the speeds required to be time competitive with them over short trips.

Running those trains at half speed would be more efficient, but not time competitive.

Not going anywhere would be the most efficient, but people want to get places.

jim said...

Brandon in san diego is right - there are a lot of people, myself included, who don't make trips at all now that we would make if we had hsr.

If I had hsr available, I'd be visiting friends all over the state all the time.
but for now. I either can't get there by air, don't have the time to get there by conventional rail, and I don't drive.

As for fares, I'm know Ive explained it a million times. but the fares will be based on a combination of market served and demand. to maximize both revenue and ridership.

fare buckets fare buckets fare buckets.

in addition to promos, seasonal fares,
APRs, multi ride tickets, monthly passes, and other rail passes. and various classes of service.

Its how all carriers do it around the world. ships, planes, trains, buses, its standard industry practice and there is no mystery to it.

looking on said...

AndyDuncan:

The energy use calculation is correct.

Your analogy to air flight is bogus, since modern airplanes fly very high, where the air is much less dense and the aerodynamic friction gets quite low. Also, the jet engines are primed to be most efficient at those altitudes.

A jetliner flying at 500 MPH at 2000 feet would consume enormous quantities of fuel; the military does it all the time, but to them its a matter of performance at any cost.

Anonymous said...

The hsr will require public subsidy and even then the fares will not be cheap. BART provides a rough model from which to extrapolate.

The dumbing down of the hsr, epititomized by the Tehachapis detour, into a sort of uber-Amtrak will just make the fiscal picture worse. For the hsr concept to work somewhat the route must be as direct as possible. Dump Palmdale.

Mega-project planning in California is linked to the assumption of virtually unlimited economic and population growth. A contrarian view would envision an extended period of economic stagnation. If the rustbelt syndrome were to take root in California depopulation such as has been seen for decades in other regions of the US could occur. The CV, traditionally one of the poorest parts of California, would be first to shrink.

AndyDuncan said...

Your analogy to air flight is bogus, since modern airplanes fly very high, where the air is much less dense and the aerodynamic friction gets quite low.

That's correct, which is one of the additional factors that your simplistic statement doesn't address.

Show me one piece of data that says HSR is less energy efficient than planes.

Even the most pessimistic studies show that HSR is equivalent in KWHs required. The numbers only get better when you look at where you get those KWHs from. In CA our electrical consumption is currently only 50% provided by fossil fuels, and that's going down.

KWH/Passenger/Mile also ignores the efficiency of the generation capacity. Gas turbine engines like those used in planes, while very efficient, aren't as efficient as the ground-based turbines we use as peakers, which themselves aren't as efficient as the boiler-style gas turbine engines used in our power plants.

So while KWH/Passenger/mile will tell you how much energy it takes to move people, you need to compare the generation efficiency of that power to get to fuel consumption.

There's plenty of documentation out there that show the energy breakdowns of HSR, google yourself nuts.

Anonymous said...

BART provides a rough model from which to extrapolate.

So rough as to be useless. You can't compare an urban rail network deliberately operated at a loss to maximize ridership, to an intercity rail network that is operated to maximize yield.

Anonymous said...

You can't maximize yield with a circuitous route. Why repeat the BART to SFO debacle?

jim said...

anonIf the rustbelt syndrome were to take root in California depopulation such as has been seen for decades in other regions of the US could occur. The CV, traditionally one of the poorest parts of California, would be first to shrink.

As much as I'd like that to be true, it isn't goping to happen in California. The US population continues to grow and Coastal states and sunbelt states are the most popular.

The recession is temporary as all recessions have been temporary. To suggest the end of growth and economic power in in California is to suggest the world is done playing the economic game.

Regardless of any criticisms, california remains a popular, desirable place first and foremost for its basic location, climate and geography which remains constant and second, for its forward thinking innovative social climate. Much of the world likes california very much even though its own residents tend to piss and moan and be ungrateful. No matter how many native or transplanted spoiled, cranky disloyal bitteristas pack up and leave in a big huff, there will be an even longer line of other people waiting to get in to make the most of the place. That's just the way it works...and.... those people are going to living more and more in the very locations that hsr will be serving, the high desert, the central valley, and the inland empire.

Don't believe me? Just watch and see. I know how it works. Just watch. I will be right. You'll see.
(those who don't like it should leave now while housing in the rest of the country is still super affordable)

Andre Peretti said...

If HSR wants to maximise profits it will have to use "yield management", a system invented by American low-cost airlines and eagerly adopted by the SNCF for its TGV trains. It's highly impopular with local politicians, so it is unlikely to be adopted in California.
Yield management begins with route planning. For instance, if the SNCF were to plan your route, Palmdale would be a non-starter. The only French airport with a real TGV terminal is Paris CDG because it is World N°2 (after London Heathrow) for international traffic and allows the TGV to code-share with foreign airlines. Paris Orly, in spite of its 26 million passengers/year, has no SNCF link of any kind because it mostly serves French destinations. The only other airport with a station is Lyon. In fact, the SNCF's basic principles are very simple: 1): straighter is better. 2): international airlines are partners, short-haul airlines are competitors and making it easier for them is out of the question.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the cost of renting a car (usually at least 35-40/day after taxes) at your destination if you take HSR.

We need to fix local transit first or this is a railroad track to nowhere, especially in the Southland.

Anonymous said...

Latent demand? There's plenty of capacity right now between SFO/SJC/OAK and LAX/SNA/BUR. If more people wanted to travel between Northern and Southern California, it's very easy for, say, WN, VX or UX to add more capacity.

Sorry -- I'm not buying this latent demand nonsense.

jim said...

anon the latent demand isn't between sf and la or bur its int he areas that don't have affordable air service. There is also a big difference between a quick spur of the moment train trip and and a flight.

Im not going to wake up and say, "gee I think Ill call my friend in Hollywood and see if he wants to meet for lunch and go to that rock walk induction this afternoon" if it means buying a last minute plane ticket at full fare and doing the whole schlepp to SFO, the security thing, the flight to BUR, with the metro link to laus, and the red line to Highland.

But I would walk down the street and hop on the next hsr to laus and the red line to highland with no fuss no muss. and still be home in time for dinner.

jim said...

and in the same way, I'm not gonna go through the rigamarole to to see my favorite group who is doing a show at the orange county fair if I have to fly to lax and have someone pick me up ( from what is always the wrong direction for traffic on the 405 no matter which way you are going and it has to be lax to get the 59 dollar fare) but I will again, walk down the street and hop the hsr at 3pm and be in orange county by 6 pm where I can grab a cab or event shuttle to the venue. and again... be home in bed by midnight.

lyqwyd said...

Anon @ 11:48 AM, latent demand is about people who choose not to travel based on the available options, currently drive, fly, or super slow rail.

HSR adds a fourth option that some will take for a trip that they would not have otherwise taken without HSR.

I'm one of those latent demand people, there are trips that I currently do not take because I do not find the existing options acceptable, but would take those trips on HSR.

That is latent demand. What you talked about it surplus capacity, an entirely different concept.

jim said...

more latent demand:
"Southwest Tells Passenger He Is Too Large To Fly"

not a problem on the train.
Not only that but disabled people of all kinds, especially mobility impaired travelers are already very fond of the comfort and ease that train travel provides compared to the airplane experience.
You would also be amazed at how many people refuse to fly or are afraid to fly. Its not an insignificant number and its getting to be more and more like that. People just don't want to fly.

Anonymous said...

Plus you have to take off your shoes. What is UP with THAT?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Peretti;

Neither a private entrepreneur, nor the SNCF apparently, would opt for the Tehachapis alignment - too meandering. Pray for a rethink at the CHSRA-Bechtel fuhrerbunker.

Bianca said...

looking on said: Your analogy to air flight is bogus, since modern airplanes fly very high, where the air is much less dense and the aerodynamic friction gets quite low.

Yes, modern airplanes fly very high, and they expend a lot of fuel to get up to cruising altitude. If you've ever flown between the Bay Area and the LA basin, you'll recall that the cabin crew barely have enough time to get everyone a glass of soda and a packet of peanuts before they scramble to collect it all again as the plane is beginning its descent.

Expending the fuel it takes to get a 737 five or six miles up in the air, only to land again 250 or 300 miles later, is enormously inefficient.

jim said...

not to mention the waiting, the taxiing, the approaches, etc.

The last time I flew to LA I swear we there via a Tijuana approach.

Anonymous said...

Oh right - you're going to pay a $200 round trip train ride fare to see a concert. Oh sure, there's a whole bunch of latent demand for that. PuLeeze. Get Real. If THAT's the market audience for HSR then you're reinforcing stereotype. In which case you better take all your ridership forecasts (those who are going to wholesale switch off driving) and chope those numbers down for anyone who travels in a FAMILY. Families won't be taking the brittanyspears train to rock concerts. They also won't be taking it to Disneyland (can you imagine - $1000 round trip for a family of 5 - that is absolutely not reality. California tax payers don't need to decimating their neighborhoods, schoolyards, backyards, farmland, wetlands for the likes of the luxury train/fast toys for the wealthy class. We need green and efficient transportation that circles through town, to get people to work. Period. HSR - monument to the 90210/midlifecrisis male. Disgusting.

jim said...

anon. I won't be paying 200. Ill be riding for free on my pass.

jim said...

by the way families fly and take the train already. Thats why there are kids ride free fares and group discounts, discounts for seniors ( so gramma can come too) I don't know what world you live in where a family wants 5 people in car for a 400 mile drive.
Judging by the number of times Ive been on flights with screaming kids running around I can assure you they most certainly are paying to 1000s to fly to disney.

lyqwyd said...

I agree that going to a concert or lunch from SF to LA is a bad example, but try using your imagination Anon. I (living in the Bay Area) would take a quick weekend trip, planned a few days to weeks in advance to take advantage of low fares to visit my family (Living in LA). $100 round trip, easy in, easy out. I would not do the same on a plane, it's too unpleasant. I'm sure there are other uses.

As far as families go, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see family packages designed to take advantage of the off-peak travel times. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Disneyland offer a package deal with train & hotel together for a family since the stop is going to be extremely close to Disneyland

But a Disneyland trip isn't going to be part of latent demand, since the majority of the cost is the actual being there, not the getting there.

Any large family excursion are not likely to be factor for latent demand, it's the individual, or small group of people going for a quick day or weekend trip where the hassle of driving are flying do not make the trip worthwhile. There will probably be lots of latent demand between CV & LA/SF.

jim said...

you'd be surprised at how many Hanford housewives of a "certain age" make weekend shopping and show jaunts to the city for fun on the train now. How about all the kids of divorced couples who shuttle the kids back on forth on the train already. It will make their lives easier too. all the people who come to sf for veterans admin/ uc med and so forth. and the family members who visit them at the hospital. These are people - demographics if you will, that I see everyday already and making the trip even faster can't have any other affect than increasing ridership.

jim said...

In fact access for seniors and disabled from rural areas to services- especially medical services in urban areas will be very positive aside to this plan.

looking on said...

Andyduncan:

I never said that HSR was less efficient than air. What I said was HSR at 200 is 4 times less efficient than it would be if it were going at 100. You promote HSR as being wonderfully "green". Well it could be a whole lot "greener" if it was slower.

You promote it as being a whole lot "greener" than driving and driving in the future is going to become prohibitively expensive and that we are going to run out of fossil fuels.

Yes, we will run out of fossil fuels, but for the last 100 years and on into the future, what you see today is a 40 year proven supply of the stuff, and they just seem to keep finding more. Autos are now definitely on the way to becoming much more fuel efficient; nobody wants to put that into the equation.

Robert keeps preaching we need this for the future, yet we can't even to begin to solve the transportation issues that exist today in the urban areas.

The priorities are all mucked up.

Then I read why Jim is such an advocate; he doesn't drive. Are we to build this, the most expensive infrastructure in the country, because Jim and others won't drive?

lyqwyd said...

It would not be "greener" by lowering the speed, since far fewer people would use it, therefore there would be less reduction in CO2.

It would only be more energy efficient by moving slower.

Your argument that the train is only being designed for Jim is ridiculous.

Andre Peretti said...

Latent demand: that is something the SNCF didn't take into account when it launched the first TGV line and, according to its CEO, it was a big and costly mistake. The ridership calculations were made by adding the number of riders that would be taken off the airlines to those taken off the highways. The SNCF's excuse is that its previsions, conservative as they may seem now, were judged grossly overstated by most experts, just as they are for CHSR. In fact, a multitude of riders seemed to come from nowhere. People who neither drove nor took planes and were thus absent from statistics.
Latent demand is very difficult to evaluate but one thing is sure: ignoring it and planning too small can cause a big loss of business in the future. The SNCF's original mistake should be avoided by CHSR.

Alon Levy said...

Andy: just a nitpick - you're using the term "exponential growth" wrong. Energy consumption grows quadratically with speed, not exponentially.

Looking on: you should think of energy consumption as a whole system. A train that goes at 350 km/h consumes four times the energy of a train that does 175. However, it also draws more people away from the airlines and from driving, resulting in lower energy consumption. On the third hand, it also induces more demand, resulting in higher energy consumption. On the fourth hand, no-build means the construction money could be spent on activities that damage the environment more per dollar of GDP they create than HSR... you can see where this is going.

Andre: SNCF isn't the only profitable railroad in the world. In East Asia, HSR lines don't involve any yield management. In Japan and Korea, there are tables where you look up the stations where you get on and off and your train class, and read off the fare. In Taiwan, where HSR is run by a private company, fares are constant as well, except that early morning and late night trains are somewhat cheaper.

In general, the practices of CHSRA imitate East Asia more than Europe. Lines take detours to serve major intermediate cities. Stations are in center city locations. Trains make multiple stops in each major metro area. Lines maximize frequency and capacity instead of direct service, and minimize branching. This is exactly how things work in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, if not in France.

Anonymous said...

All it will take is one train bomb to make boarding HSR just as time-consuming and onerous as going through security in airports.

Alon Levy said...

Anon: the Tokyo subway's already had said bomb. So has the London Underground. Neither requires you to go through security to board trains; in neither country does the national government mandate security screenings even for intercity trains.

Anonymous said...

Looking On - interesting info. Thanks. Do you have any idea what the plaintiffs gave the authority (what it is that the authority is objecting to?) Or when we'll be able to see the plaintiff's proposal? Public record?

Since RR (Raf and Rob) keep avoiding the subject, I have a nagging suspicion they know very well what's in that document, and don't like it one bit. One can only imagine how much closed door finagling is going on now to get that molded (negotiated?) to their liking.

mike said...

Another selling point of the train is it is so "green". Well as a simple model if you take the train going 200 MPH vs 100 MPH you will use 4 times the energy to accomplish the same task at the higher rate of speed as at the lower. That's just plain physics.

Um, no! You need to go back to Physics 101. The task at hand is getting from SF to LA. You are assuming that the force to be overcome, drag, is proportional to the square of speed. This assumption is correct. But your calculation is wrong. To recap:

Force = Mass*Acceleration
Power = Force*Distance
Energy = Distance*Time

Do you see where your calculations are wrong? Hint: for one the variables, you are incorrectly assuming that it is the same for the 100 mph train and the 200 mph train. It clearly is not.

AndyDuncan: The energy use calculation is correct.

Saying it twice in a row doesn't make it correct!

Come on, I'm an economist, and I haven't taken physics since junior year of high school, but even I know it's not right!

Your argument is wrong from an economic perspective too, though. Reducing speed reduces ridership (as you correctly note). A significant number of the lost riders will instead fly or drive. Flying and driving are much more polluting than HSTs. Limiting speed thus does not reduce emissions unless you fail to account for people's reactions.

Latent demand? There's plenty of capacity right now between SFO/SJC/OAK and LAX/SNA/BUR.

You're not understanding what latent demand is.

mike said...

I don't understand why HSR fares should be lower than airfares.

One of the biggest differences vis a vis France is that SNCF counts on TGV to cross-subsidize many of its money-losing conventional regional/commuter services. Hence they have little choice but to go for revenue maximization.

The equivalent scenario in the US would be if CHSRA were expected to cover part of Amtrak's losses (which, in fact, is what Acela is expected to do). Fortunately there is no expectation of that. So CHSRA will have more leeway in maximizing ridership over revenue (although not so much in the early stages, if they want to fund system expansion to SD/Sacto).

Adirondacker12800 said...

All it will take is one train bomb to make boarding HSR just as time-consuming and onerous as going through security in airports.

There already have been attacks on trains. Madrid and London with bombs, Toyko with Sarin, a "nerve gas" chemical-weapon. There was a complex plot to blow up what's now known as the Northeast Corridor during World War II. Don't need a bomb, there are very effective ways to make a train derail. It's not a pretty sight at 100 MPH and even worse at 220 MPH.

What a boondoggle said...

I won't be paying 200. Ill be riding for free on my pass.
One more reason to hate HSR - you'll be subsidizing Jim's fare.

Alon Levy said...

Mike: the Shinkansen doesn't have to subsidize anything. JR-East, JR-Central, and JR-West all make money on their commuter rail operations. And yet, Shinkansen fares are considerably higher than TGV fares.

Andre Peretti said...

@Mike
You're quite right. The SNCF's total annual ridership is more than1 billion, with 500 million for the Paris region loss-making trains. The TGV represents only 11% of the total ridership. If I were to paraphrase Winston Churchill I'd say: never have so many been subsidized by so few.

trainsintokyo said...

the Shinkansen doesn't have to subsidize anything. JR-East, JR-Central, and JR-West all make money on their commuter rail operations. And yet, Shinkansen fares are considerably higher than TGV fares.

It's a little more complicated than that. JR East, West, and Central use excess revenue from their shinkansen and urban rail lines to subsidize unprofitable rural lines (the ratio is something like 80/20, but JR Central is closer to 90/10); demand is also quite high on most Shinkansen lines, so from the perspective of the railway companies there is no need to lower fares.

Naturally this doesn't take into account each company's differing track length -- JR East has a much larger network than JR Central, and its Shinkansen lines are not as profitable. On the other hand, JR Central is moving a huge amount of money into their Chuo Shinkansen project.

looking on said...

Sorry Mike --- it is you that needs, to go back and do physics 101, not me.

See: (as an example)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_(physics)

under Power.

This item has been discussed before here --- no sense in going over it again.

Clem and Rafael both confirmed what I wrote.

Eric M said...

Anyone notice recently that if you do a Google search for "California high speed rail" or "California bullet train", the Siemans advertisment comes up at the top of the page. GO VELARO!!

Anonymous said...

Business plan comments -

http://www.scribd.com/doc/19630832/Short-Version-Comments-High-Speed-Rail-Business-Plan

Also, the reason Santa Fe Springs is opposing high speed rail:

1) Large unanticipated takes of buildings constructed in last 5 years (i.e. since program EIR came out)
2) Aesthetic
3) Proposed station will be 1/2 mile from Metrolink

There may be a version of the PCC forming in that area to push for substantial changes in the plans.

Robert Cruickshank said...

So what I find so interesting about all this "omg Palmdale is horrible" comments is that people seem to think that I-5 between Wheeler Ridge and, oh, Sylmar or so is flat.

It's not.

If we had a bottomless well of money we could do all the tunneling through the mountains along the I-5 corridor that would be required to make that route feasible.

We don't. The Palmdale route is actually much flatter, and therefore more affordable to construct. The difficult parts come along the CA-58 corridor west of Tehachapi, and on the CA-14 corridor between Acton and Sylmar. But that is much less onerous and mountainous that following I-5.

People whining about Palmdale are nitpicking. It's an acceptable alternative given the lower construction costs of following that route. Nor does it add a significant amount of time to the overall trip.

Anonymous said...

Palmdale might be lower per mile cost but it is a lot more miles. Even the incredibly biased studies done showed the two routes comparable in cost.

Anonymous said...

10-12 minutes. Its enough that the model predicted higher overall ridership, even excluding the stop in Palmdale.

Alon Levy said...

Anon at 9:00, the issue isn't expected cost - the two routes are about the same there. It's unexpected costs: the Grapevine option has more geologic risk since there is only one possible route that crosses faults at grade, which means more contingency (i.e. budget padding) is needed. The Tehachapis option has hundreds of possible routes, requiring less contingency.

In addition, the HSRA believes Palmdale will generate a lot of ridership, consisting of high-speed commuters to Los Angeles, which should more than balance the lost revenue due to slightly longer LA-SF run times.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58 - nice post on the business plan comments. Where did those comments go? What was the purpose of that comment letter?

Anonymous said...

Comments went to Board and to legislative people.

Bottom line -

They are about $20 bn short - will require another bond and guarantees on revenue bonds.

There is no money (from profits or otherwise) available for San Diego or Sacramento.

Spokker said...

"Also, the reason Santa Fe Springs is opposing high speed rail:"

They didn't say they were opposing it. They said that they would oppose it if these issues weren't considered.

"1) Large unanticipated takes of buildings constructed in last 5 years (i.e. since program EIR came out)"

The Alternatives Analysis for the Anaheim-LA segment says that they would have to take two industrial buildings and a large number of storage space and parking spots.

The other station option that was eliminated from consideration would have taken eight industrial buildings and a large number of parking spaces and storage areas.

"2) Aesthetic"

The land next to the ROW in Santa Fe Springs is mostly industrial. There is very little concern about aesthetics here. The HSR would be a step up.

"3) Proposed station will be 1/2 mile from Metrolink"

The current station is on a curve and they want to avoid that. Also, situating the station north of the current station results in less eminent domain.

Spokker said...

"There is no money (from profits or otherwise) available for San Diego or Sacramento."

Well, money was available.

Two economists, Stiglitz and Bilmes, estimated that the Iraq war cost 3 trillion dollars.

You'd think some of that could have been spent on some infrastructure back home, eh?

K.T. said...

Alon, trainsintokyo,

JR was not required to pay off all of the debts (caused by construction of bullet train lines, union issues, lost customers due to union strikes, politicians demanding to maintain local lines that create huge revenue loss, etc) when they were still run by government. In my knowledge, it would be impossible to prove or disprove that Shinkansen payed off its construction cost. The available numbers are too chaotic.

Also, when you look at the financial summary of JR, they are making a lot of money from the merchandise sales, tenant fee, etc at the shopping malls inside/on top/next to the major train station. It's like having Stanford Shopping Center and Gilroy outlet mall within 1 min. from the HSR station.

Anonymous said...

@Spoker

would you supply a link to the info you report on Sante Fe springs.

I note opposition growing over the planned route down south as reported in:

http://www.wavenewspapers.com/news/local/lynwood-press/58563802.html

Anonymous said...

looking on - did you even read what mike wrote? You're forgetting about time. You're correct on your energy usage comparisons for 200 mph as opposed to 100 mph for each minute, but a 100 mph train has to operate for twice as long.

Alon Levy said...

K.T., in New Departures, Anthony Perl writes that the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen paid off their debts before the privatization of JNR. With the Tokaido Shinkansen we can actually verify this because it was funded by a World Bank loan, which was repaid a few years after the line opened.

The Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen are the ones that are harder to check - on the one hand, the Japanese government wiped their debt, so strictly speaking they didn't pay down their debts; on the other hand, the Tohoku Shinkansen has a higher ridership than the Sanyo Shinkansen, and is almost certainly profitable even after depreciation and (hypothetical) interest.

Spokker said...

"would you supply a link to the info you report on Sante Fe springs."

It's seemed easy enough to find but here you go.

Page 18 demonstrates that the vast majority of this segment is industrial. The Pacific Surfliner is known for its scenic views, but NOT between Los Angeles and Anaheim. I don't understand how aesthetics could be a concern.

The Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs stuff starts on page 69.

Page 94 has the recommended vertical profile of the segment.

Spokker said...

Personally, if Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs become so opposed to HSR I would not build a station there. They've failed to connect the Metrolink station to the Green Line anyway. I don't see much potential for that station.

If they simply go with no station there would be no traffic impacts and they'll be happy.

jim said...

@lyqwyd Your argument that the train is only being designed for Jim is ridiculous.


you mean it isn't? :-(

Anonymous said...

In other news, LAN Engineering just resigned as PB's overseer. They were just bought by Aecom and there would have been a conflict. There goes another couple million down the drain.

Spokker said...

From the concept level fesibility study.

"Optimal maximum speed for the HST is 125 mph between LAUS and Anaheim. A
maximum speed of 150 mph was examined and determined to be unachievable and the
difference in overall trip time between 150 mph and 125 mph is only five seconds. The
difference between 125 mph and 110 mph is twenty-six seconds."

Gun to my head, I would not build the Anaheim-LA segment at all. I think the LOSSAN corridor can do 110 with some relatively inexpensive improvements (compared to HSR, anyway) based on people in the know that I have talked to and Metrolink wouldn't benefit from electrification like Caltrain would.

It's already sort of locked in with Pringle in charge now.

jim said...

Eric M said...
Anyone notice recently that if you do a Google search for "California high speed rail" or "California bullet train", the Siemans advertisment comes up at the top of the page. GO VELARO!!

no no a thousand times no! just hold on a minute.

jim said...

Gun to my head, I would not build the Anaheim-LA segment at all. I think the LOSSAN corridor can do 110 with some relatively inexpensive improvements (compared to HSR, anyway) based on people in the know that I have talked to and Metrolink wouldn't benefit from electrification like Caltrain would.

still, the convenience of the one seat ride from norcal to orange county... especially when the airlines charge more to fly behind the orange curtain than they do for LAX and BUR.

K.T. said...

Alon Levy,

"Tokaido Shinkansen we can actually verify this because it was funded by a World Bank loan, which was repaid a few years after the line opened."

Yes, Japanese National Railway have finished paying back the debt to World Bank in 1981. However, the investment they received from world bank is $80 million ($1=360 yen back then), while the total construction cost for Tokaido Line was 380 billion yen ($1.05 billion). Remaining portion of the cost is what I can't find a official document that they payed off the debt.

TomW said...

1) The reason why Acela's fares are too high is because the service is too popular! If Amtrak set fares to maximise revenue, they would be a lot lower - but they would have *far* more people travelling than they would carry is their avilable rolling stock. In effect, Amtrak are setting fares to price peple off their high-speed service(!).
Ideally, Amtrak woudl purchase more trains, but they can't.

2) HSR is at three hours be much better than driving for six hours... a three hour trip you can do after work on a Friday, and return Sunday after an evening meal. Six hours means eitehr leaving work early, or wasting half the Saturday travelling.

3) People also look at airlines headline fares quoted in adverts, which are (a) only available far in advance and (b) exlude all taxes and fees. Personally, I think is simply deceitful to exclude unavoidable taxes and fees from adverts. Maybe HSR should have adverts saying "All tickets $1!", and then you have to pay a $50 'booking fee'...

4) If HSR is quicker, more convinent and more comfortable than travelign by air, then standard economics says that many customers will be willing to pay more than air. However, that doesn't mean the revenue-maximising fare is more than the air fare.

5) The trouble with latent demand (aka induced demand - those trips that only happen because a new mdoe of travel is available) is that is simply unpredictable. The amoutn of induced demand on otehr HSR projects has varied enormously.

6) The fare which maximises the numebr of passengers is $0! Anything more than that will bring you fewer passengers. I suspect that the fares CHSRA ofetn quoets are those it believs will maximise revenue. As such, there would be no point charging higher fares becauase you'd have fewer passengers *and* less money. However, lowering fares would lead to more passengers if desired.

7) Well as a simple model if you take the train going 200 MPH vs 100 MPH you will use 4 times the energy to accomplish the same task at the higher rate of speed as at the lower. That's not quite right... you end using four times the *power* (energy per second) - but you get there in half the time. So, doubling the speed (very roughly) doubles the total energy required. However, the energy needed to take a train from SF to LA with 500 people at 200mph will be less that the energy required to move teh same number of people on a plane at 500mph.

8) Yield management... I would be surprised if HSR has a simple flat fare arranagement, that appleis regardelss of when you travel or how far in adavance you book. I suspect they will have a headline turn-up-and-buy ticket, valid on any train that day; plus cheaper tickets only availabel in advance limiting you to certain trains (or even one specific train).

Bit of an essay there...

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

Nowadays there are revenue management programs that track demand and adjust fare buckets/availability automatically to maximize revenue. The higher the demand the higher the price, lower demand, lower price to fill seats. That, in conjunction with a good marketing department and you can both fill seats and maximize revenue.

Once people get the hang of this train it is going to be very popular. Even if you just look at the air market, all other things being equal ( price, car rental or shuttle service upon arrival etc) hsr provides a far superior travel experience. First Class on a 737 to LAX can't begin to match a coach seat on hsr in comfort and available amenities.

Being on a plane, for any amount of time, is a miserable experience.

mike said...

You're forgetting about time.

Unfortunately anon is actually correct in this case, even if s/he does not understand why.

The error in the formulas that I gave is that it is work, not power, than equals force*distance. Power = work/time, and thus energy = power/time = work*time/time = work =force*distance.

Of course, the larger point still stands, but I apologize for posting an incorrect relationship!

mike said...

demand is also quite high on most Shinkansen lines

In particularly, the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which carries almost 40% of all Shinkansen passengers, runs at maximum capacity much of the time (basically the only HSR line in the world that has exceeded capacity, though the French are claiming that the LGV Sud Est is approaching capacity, at least with their current rolling stock). There is thus little or no trade off in trying to "maximize ridership" vs "maximize revenue" - ridership may be maximized even at very high fair levels.

Anonymous said...

Comparing France's situation when TGV was rolled out is completely different than California today. Back then, there were no Ryanairs or other LCCs flying between cities (or even to smaller towns). So yes, there was latent demand because the only alternative was either bus or car.

The fact of the matter is that we do have VX, B6, WN and UX flying around. Yes, even UX flies to that backwater of Monterey. Cal HSR as it currently is proposed doesn't even go there!

There is no latent demand. You guys really like smoking that HSR crack.

mike said...

So here is the bottom-line for CO2 emissions re: Looking On's proposal to run through the Central Valley at 100 mph instead of 200 mph.

Power increases at the cube of speed (see Wiki cite above).

TGV @ 357 mph requires 18,600 kW.

TGV @ 200 mph requires 3,270 kW (i.e., 18,600*(200/357)^3).

Time to cross Central Valley at 200 mph = 1 hr. Total energy used = 3,270 kWh.

California electricity sources are: 36% natural gas, 20% hydro, 20% renewable, 19% nuclear, 3% oil, 2% coal/other.

Natural gas produces 385g CO2/kWh, oil produces 740g CO2/kWh, and 970g CO2/kWh (source).

CO2 produced per kWh = 180 grams (.36*385 +.03*740 + .02*970).

Total CO2 = 0.180 kg/kWh * 3,270 kWh = 588.6 kg.

CO2 per passenger to travel 200 miles (at 350 passengers/train) = 1.7 kg.

CO2 per gallon of gasoline burned = 8.8 kg.

Bottom line: TGV at 200 mph in California gets the equivalent of 1,035 mpg (200*(8.8/1.7)), or 0.1 gallons/100 miles. In contrast, an efficient automobile gets 3.3 gallons/100 miles (30 mpg) at highway speeds.

Yes, it could theoretically get under 0.03 gallons/100 miles running at 100 mph. But the CO2 savings would be minimal, and the low speed would shift ridership towards car/air, greatly increasing CO2 emissions. Remember, a single person car is 35 times less efficient than the HST!

As always, I welcome corrections for any mistakes I may have made in the calculations.

jim said...

anon - the flight from lax to monterey takes an hour and a half and costs 373.00 rt plus baggage while
hsr from gilroy to downtown LA will take 1:57 and cost 1/3 that or less rt.
LAx to fresno takes 1:06 and costs 407.00 rt plus baggage and hsr takes 1:24 for 1/4 the cost or less.

todays ticket on the next flight out from sfo to lax on virgin america is 154 one way plus tax and baggage and 231 plus tax and baggage for first class.

hsr will be 1/2 that or less.

adn the next flight out on southwest is 136 plus tax one way to lax. and again, hsr will be half that for a last minute coach ticket

and add to that that there is no way that the southwest travel experience from the cattle call to the lack of on board services can compare with the hsr on board experience. at any price.

Anonymous said...

jim, you really need to break out of your amtrak world and understand demand management. For what dates are those flights? Your data means nothing right now.

The bottom line is that we have had LCCs for quite some time. France at the dawn of the TGV did not. This is quite different.

If you're counting on latent demand to meet HSR projections, we all in California are in for a world of hurt.

jim said...

and a rt from sac to fresno is 526.00 and takes an hour and half.

hsr 59 minutes and 1/8 th the cost.

jim said...

and you need to break out of your denial and realize that the speed comfort and convenience of high speed rail service not only between major cities but between countless secondary city pairs in california has unlimited potential for growth for the price whereas airport and highway growth for just as much money is more limited, more damaging, slower, and certainly less pleasant.

mike said...

There is no latent demand.

Please. Even vehemently anti-HSR folks like Wendell Cox and Joe Vranich think there is substantial latent demand. They forecast 23.4 million Intercity riders per year, which is much higher than the total number of LA Area-SF Bay Area air passengers. The majority of those passengers are either being pulled from cars (which Cox and Vranich imply is not the case, since they claim that virtually no cars will be pulled off the adjacent roads) or are induced demand.

There is literally no one prominent on either side of the debate that agrees with you here.

jim said...

will everyone take th train? no.
will lots of new people use the train who don't currently travel much, yes.
will seniors and disabled prefer the train?
absolutely.
will commuters use the train for shorter trips, yes it will be cheaper and more productive.
will the train grab a good portion of the existing air travel. It has in every market around the world where it has been implemented. Including the NEC where cheap shuttle flights were the norm and yet even the slow acela too 40 percent of their market and kept it.

will people who currently take the train use hsr
of course,
will those who don't like to drive or fly take the train?
yes.

will the train be able to grab a market share from underserved areas in the central valley? yes because a) few fly on those high fares, there is little service, and even if taking the hsr means renting a car at the other end, the trip itself is much faster and more comfortable than driving.
You can not drive 220 mph.

There is potential all over the map from which hsr can and will draw ridership. and with the right fares, frequency, amenities and marketing will become a major transport player.

jim said...

will families on vacation take the train. Yes, the kids adore the trains and with special weekend getaway and family fares, and kids ride free promotions, not to mention the entertainment options on board including play space for the tykes, and the ability of the older ones to roam while mom and dad enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine. ( compared to a four hour drive from fresno to anaheim while stuffed in the SUV with all the bags, the arguing, the stopping to pee, etc.
When I was a kid we traveled all over the nation by car and don't remember any of it being particularly pleasant or comfy. It was mainly a big chore until we finally reached yellowstone.

will retired ladies from bakersfield make shopping and lunch trips to beverly center for the day. yes they love that. ( or from fresno to sf they love that too)

will Irma and Jose from merced take the kids to Magic mountain on the train. yes.

will UC/CSU students use the train to get to and from school and home the way the already do take the train to get from school and home with their student advantage discount cards? yes.

will lawyers and businessmen take the train, in business class where they have room to conference, and plug in and have use of cell phones and other electronic devices for the entire duration of the trip, and access to a full bar, where they can flirt with other passengers? yes of course.

seems the only one who wont be on the train, anon, is you. but if you change your mind let me know and Ill save you a seat.

jim said...

in fact it sounds to me like "the train" ( that's what they should call it) will be THE place to be. The meeting place the new "it" for californians.
a place were surfers and seniors and hipsters and thrashers and gamers and flamers all go to meet, mix and mingle. It will be high speed rail but with a distinctly california twist. taking "the train" will be "a trip" as we say.

hmm wow this is gonna be more fun than I realized!

people will get married on the train. and some day they may even get gay married on the train.

people will meet and fall in love on the train. and they'll do that whole thing like in the movies where they run alongside the train as it pulls away with their loved one... only they'll have to run really really fast...

mike said...

Your analogy to air flight is bogus, since modern airplanes fly very high, where the air is much less dense and the aerodynamic friction gets quite low.

Come on, be serious here.

Yes, air pressure at 35,000 feet is about 25% of sea level air pressure. But that is totally dominated by other considerations:

(1) At 530 mph, the required power to overcome drag is, by your own admission, almost 19 times greater than at 200 mph.

(2) What matters is not air pressure, but air density. Absolute temperature falls by 30% from Central Valley ground level to 35,000 feet. This means that air density is only 2.8 times higher at ground level than at 35,000 feet.

(3) 300 mile flights don't spend most of their time at 35,000 feet, do they? And it takes a lot of fuel to get up to 35,000 feet.

(4) The aerodynamic cross section (and resulting drag) of a 350-500 passenger plane (i.e., A380 or 747) is huge compared to the cross section of an HST. For example, a Siemens Velaro (aka ICE3) is 11 ft wide and 13 ft high. This gives it a cross section that is similar to just a single engine on the A380. The A380 fuselage is 23 ft wide and 36 ft high, giving it a cross section that's 5-6 times more area than the HST body! And that is before even adding on the engines, wings, and tail.

(5) Aircraft gas turbines, while more efficient than piston engines, are much less efficient than power plant gas turbines. Modern gas power plants are combined cycle (i.e., waste exhaust from the first turbine powers a second turbine) and cogeneration (additional waste heat/exhaust is used for heating). Aircraft turbines are neither.

(6) Only 40% of California electricity is generated from fossil fuel sources (and almost all of that is natural gas, which is by far the most efficient fossil fuel source). 60% comes from nuclear, hydro, and renewable.

Bottom line: aircraft are much, much less efficient than an HST, particularly for short-distance flights.

jim said...

how much photovoltaic panel would be needed in the high desert to power the system?

Anonymous said...

They specifically tweak the ridership model to make sure it accounts for induced demand.

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

even if it doesn't meet projected ridership at first, eventually it will.

Alon Levy said...

The bottom line is that we have had LCCs for quite some time. France at the dawn of the TGV did not. This is quite different.

France had LCCs at the dawn of the LGV Mediterranee, on which it has a 70% share of the air/rail market. It had even more LCCs at the dawn of the LGV Est, on which its market share is in the 60s.

Anonymous said...

"They forecast 23.4 million Intercity riders per year, which is much higher than the total number of LA Area-SF Bay Area air passengers."

Love how people leave out certain pieces of information. Are you comparing 2030 HSR vs. 2008 air passengers? And those 23.4 million riders include people who opt for HSR over cars or buses too.

So, please, your comparisons are hardly apples-to-apples.

and, as for this one:

"even if it doesn't meet projected ridership at first, eventually it will."

Projections are based on time periods because of costs. It doesn't meet projections if it doesn't make the volume *in the time period specified.* Your statement doesn't make sense at all.

You guys are overestimating latent demand. Keep smoking.

Anonymous said...

You guys are overestimating latent demand.

Fair enough opinion. However, you're completely denying that any latent demand exists, which is completely mind-boggling. What are you smoking, my friend?

Anonymous said...

Repeat after me:

Latent demand is specifically included in official ridership numbers.

mike said...

Are you comparing 2030 HSR vs. 2008 air passengers?

Cox and Vranich claim that the 2030 air market will not be so much larger than the 2008 air market, though they ultimately waffle without making an exact forecast. But overall they clearly believe that air diversions will be negligible. To quote:

If [high speed rail] were built, diversion of traffic from the highways and airports would be imperceptible...the diversion factor from air is overestimated. The CHSRA assumes that airlines will cancel a large share of the flights within California because passengers will have switched to HSR...This is not the experience even on the premier Japanese and French systems, which shows that strong air markets remain after HSR corridors are in operation.

To summarize, Cox and Vranich argue:

(1) Predicted Intercity ridership: 23.4-31.1 million
(2) Number of diverted air passengers: low (less than 1/3 of air market that is today around 13 million).
(3) Number of diverted car passengers: negligible (e.g., only half as many diverted car passengers as air passengers).
(4) Main source of ridership: induced demand.

Even the most vehemently anti-HSR folks disagree with you. You're all alone in your belief of no induced demand, and the entire rest of the world, both pro-HSR and anti-HSR, is crazy. It must be lonely there.

mike said...

The funny thing about Cox and Vranich is, despite their vehement opposition to and dislike of HSR, their ultimate ridership projections aren't much different than CHSRA's.

They forecast 23.4-31.1 million Intercity pax and decline to give a forecast of commuter ridership. They like to invoke the NEC experience, however, and on the NEC commuter ridership is 6 times Intercity ridership.

Thus, if HSR achieves a ratio that is half as good as the NEC, then C & V project total ridership of 94-124.4 million, which is substantially higher than most of the CHSRA projections (generally 80-90 million)! If HSR achieves a ratio that only 33% as good as the NEC, then C & V project total ridership of 70-93 million, which is right in line with most of the CHSRA projections.

mike said...

On the topic of ridership, the CHSRA commuter ridership estimates are questionably low in some cases.

Take, for example, commuter ridership from San Jose to Downtown SF. It is projected at 3,150 boardings/day. This is only 50% higher than BART's Lafayette boardings, which are 2,200 boardings/day.

But compare Lafayette vs San Jose:

(1) Population: SJ = 1.01 million, Lafayette = 0.02 million. Advantage: SJ by 40x

(2) Travel Time to SF: SJ = 31 minutes, Lafayette = 31 minutes. Advantage: tie

(3) Train Frequencies: SJ = 4-8 tph, Lafayette = 3-10 tph. Advantage: tie

(4) Travel Time to Downtown SF if Driving: SJ = 52-80 minutes (or 70-105 minutes on Caltrain), Lafayette = 24-55 minutes. Advantage: SJ by 1.5x-2x

(5) Out-of-pocket cost of driving (RT): SJ = $23.20, Lafayette = $19.20 (assume gas at $3.30/gal, vehicle gets 25 mpg, and daily parking is $10). Advantage: SJ by 1.2x

(6) Transit access to station: SJ = VTA light rail Mtn View-Winchester line, VTA bus 22, 63, 64, 65, 68, 168, 180, 181, 522, Lafayette = County Connection bus 6, 25. Advantage: SJ by more than 10x

The only way that SJ will have remotely similar commuter ridership to Lafayette BART is if they make fares ridiculously high (i.e., over $20/one-way ride) or if they engage in semantic exercises and declare all limited/express high speed commuter riders to be "Caltrain" riders instead of "high speed" riders. But if anything, you'd think they'd do the opposite of that.

mike said...

Sorry, I should be clear: the 2,200 Lafayette boardings are boardings from Lafayette to downtown SF. Total Lafayette boardings are 3,400/day.

Anonymous said...

Anon @2:39, perhaps you're not the same anon from 10:21, who said this:

There is no latent demand. You guys really like smoking that HSR crack.

That's who I was responding to. No need for me to repeat anything after you.

Anonymous said...

Mike, with your Lafayette numbers you forgot the $4 bridge toll.

jim said...

oh for god's sake who cares. The fact is that if you build a train that gets lots of people to lots of places and does it really fast and is clean, comfortable and affordable, then people will ride, a lot. Its not rocket science.

These arguments that trains are a bad idea were used when trains were new technology.
People made the same arguments about air travel.
And there was just as much drama with the building of the interstate system.

If you oppose this because you don't like spending then just say so and if you oppose it because you are afraid it will get too close to your back yard then say so and be done with it.

The arguments are meaningless ploys to try to make points that don't need to be made.

build the train and people will ride the train, eventually to the point where the trains are packed to capacity.

Morris Brown said...

mike said...

The funny thing about Cox and Vranich is, despite their vehement opposition to and dislike of HSR, their ultimate ridership projections aren't much different than CHSRA's


Knowing Joe Vranich, your characterization of him is wrong. He is not at all against HSR; he has written books on the subject and he is considered an expert in the area.

The Vranich, Cox report was an analysis of the California High Speed Rail project, which he found was the worst managed HSR project he had ever encountered.

You can see his testimony before the State Senate Transportation and Housing committee by going to:

youtube.com and searching under

derailhsr high speed rail (3 parts)

Andre Peretti said...

Cox says:
"This is not the experience even on the premier Japanese and French systems, which shows that strong air markets remain after HSR corridors are in operation."
What Cox (intentionally?)forgets to say is that the French air market is only strong on routes with no HSR corridor. When there is no direct link, people take the plane because they have no other choice. When a new TGV link opens, the majority quit flying.
I've used Marseille airport a lot. Before the TGV Med opened, every other departure was "destination Paris". Now, Paris has almost completely disappeared from the departures displays.
Paris-Brussels is no longer served by any airline. You can still buy an Air France Paris-Brussels ticket, but your flight will be on rails. In fact, many Belgians treat Brussels TGV station as a Paris CDG terminal.
By the way, Cox's sentence shows how you can tell a big lie without saying anything untrue by just forgetting to mention a detail...

mike said...

Mike, with your Lafayette numbers you forgot the $4 bridge toll.

No, I did not. I thought that assumption was obvious and did not need stating. It now has been stated.

mike said...

he has written books on the subject

I know. I read one of them (written many years ago). Obviously his views have changed since then.

W. Cox, OTOH, has been completely unwavering in his hatred for anything involving passenger rail or public transport in general. I've even seen him try to debate academic colleagues of mine in a literature he's not even qualified to evaluate (needless to say, he fails). It borders on a pathology.

mike said...

Incidentally, flying LUV to SoCal this weekend. Wow, what a nightmare this airline is. Just the boarding process alone is aggrevating enough and haven't even pushed back yet. Can't wait for HSR to be built.

Alon Levy said...

Cox, OTOH, has been completely unwavering in his hatred for anything involving passenger rail or public transport in general.

Yes. He's a lobbyist for highway construction. Of course he's going to hate public transportation.

AndyDuncan said...

The Vranich, Cox report was an analysis of the California High Speed Rail project, which he found was the worst managed HSR project he had ever encountered.

The Vranich, Cox report was laughably labelled as "due dilligence". They basically spent 200 pages cherry picking examples that fit their predetermined conclusion (for example: pointing to Amtrak cost/mile operational numbers instead of HSR operation costs) while ignoring, and often blatantly lying/misrepresenting/showcasing their own ignorance about HSR in other places. For instance they break the huge story that CAHSR is lying when claiming that trains exist to carry 1600 passengers, and they claim the highest capacity train in the world is the 700 series Shinkansen at 1200, when the E4 had been out for ten years at the time of their report, and seats over 1,600 passengers in revenue service. I mean, you don't have Google? Further, they claim that CAHSR will have to run FRA-compliant trainsets, and they give run-time numbers without any explanation or information as to how they came up with those times.

Pretty much every paragraph of that document is filled with misleading chartjunk and self-referencial bullshit. They actually use their own numbers to justify their own numbers. One of my favorite charts is where they list the various ridership estimates that have been conducted over the last 15 years, to point out that, *gasp* those numbers are different from each other. Then they put their numbers at the bottom, calling them "Due Diligence Base/High Projection" and, I swear I'm not kidding, they put a little note by it that says that these ones are the "Ridership projection considered most likely by this report." No shit? your numbers are the ones you recommend? That's one hell of an endorsement.


Throughout the whole thing they never actually attempt to offer a real estimate of anything, they just say "CAHSRs numbers can't be right because we can find unrepresentative examples as to why they're not" But they never actually explain why the CAHSR numbers aren't right, or attempt to show any detailed analysis of CAHSR's ridership or cost projections.

It's like 200 pages of "Well that doesn't look right to us". Accompanied by Mlynarik-level vitriol and and more axe grinding than a lumberjack party.

There's plenty to bitch about in the CAHSR docs. I wish Reason would ask harder questions like (as we've discussed on this board), why the ridership estimates for Anaheim are so high but commuter travel between SJ and SF is so low?

Instead, it's as if they read the summary of the CAHSR docs, immediately labelled them as bullshit, and then googled some irrelevant comparisons without bothering to figure out whether they were even remotely applicable.

And I'm sorry, but writing one fanboi book about how HSR is TEH GREATEST doesn't give you any more credibility when you change your mind than it did when you came out with it.

Andre Peretti said...

What I don't understand is why Cox and others are so respectfully quoted in lots of serious media, as if they were undisputable authorities.
Are fact-checking journalists an extinct species?

Brandon in San Diego said...

I like what AndyDuncan just wrote. Andy, have any articles been printed that speak to the low quality and misleading figures in that due diligence report?

I scanned it at one point, but from what I saw, which was consistent with your observations, I decided that it was not worth my time to read. It was garbage.

Alon Levy said...

Andre: I'm not sure. I haven't seen too many media references to Cox and O'Toole one way or another. Usually when people quote them, it's in support of some anti-rail editorial, rather than in a regular article.

Adirondacker12800 said...

...commuter travel between SJ and SF is so low?

Why would there be any commuter traffic between SJ and SF on HSR trains at all?

I used to commute to Manhattan through Penn. Station in Newark, NJ. When I first started to do it the PATH fare was 30 cents and a ticket to Penn Station in NY was a dollar. The ticket was good for any train that was going to or from NY except for the all parlor car trains.
Amtrak's website is down right now. I vaguely remember that the fare on a regional is 12 dollars, Acela is 53 or something like that. These are the NJ Transit fares for a ride that takes the same amount of time. I'm sure the leather seats on Acela are very nice but they ain't worth 2 bucks a minute...
Adult One Way $4.00
Child/Senior/Disabled $1.75
Adult Off-Peak Round $7.00
Child Off-Peak Round $3.25
Ten Trip $40.00
Weekly $34.00
Monthly $111.00
Student Monthly $83.00

Acela fares are outrageously high. Regional fares are a bit much too. But you could buy a monthly ticket on NJ Transit or one round trip on Acela give or take a few dollars.

PATH fare is still $1.75. Takes a lot longer to get to Herald Square and you have to change trains in Jersey City.

There aren't going to be a whole lot of HSR commuters between SJ and SF, it will be too expensive.

Alon Levy said...

But they're assuming that there will be a lot of commuters from Palmdale to LA. So are they going to price SF-SJ trains out of commuters' ranges while keeping fares affordable for Palmdale-LA?

jim said...

One thing about LA though is people aren't so much going into downtown LA proper the same way they go into Manhattan or Downtown San Francisco. I''m thinking that getting around from Palmdale to Burbank/Anaheim/Riverside/Irvine and so forth, the HSR can get them so quickly from point A to B compared to driving or anything else, that it will more than make up for the time spent on a local bus at the destination. I mean you just can't get around the LA basin quickly right now no matter how you do it.

I mean Palmdale to Norwalk in 37 minutes has probably never been done by anyone, ever in the history of Los Angeles. It' not possible. except with hsr.

Adirondacker12800 said...

But they're assuming that there will be a lot of commuters from Palmdale to LA. So are they going to price SF-SJ trains out of commuters' ranges while keeping fares affordable for Palmdale-LA?

They could. Wouldn't make any more sense to me than HSR between SJ and SF but they could. One would hope Caltrain will end up with fast EMUs that can run at 125 MPH. Metrolink will be using diesels for a long time.

In 2004 three of the top ten busiest stations in the Amtrak system were in NJ. Newark in 5th place, Trenton in 7th place and Princeton Junction in 9th place. . . Princeton Junction?...

It was the Clockers, Amtrak trains that ran between Philadelphia and New York. NJ Transit paid Amtrak to cross honor monthly tickets on the Clockers.

NJ Transit decided that the subsidy to have Amtrak cross honor NJ Transit monthly tickets on the Clockers was too expensive. They began to run express trains themselves duplicating the service between Trenton and New York. Philadelphians were not pleased. People in Hamilton were ecstatic, because Amtrak doesn't stop in Hamilton, NJ Transit does.

In 2004 Amtrak carried 3,855,311 passengers to/from stations in New Jersey. Hiding in there were people taking the Clockers from Trenton and Princeton Junction to Newark and New York. NJ Transit took over the service, north of Trenton, after October 31, 2005. In 2005 Amtrak carried 3.4 million passengers to/from stations in NJ. In 2006 that dropped to 1,577,540. Newark dropped from Amtrak's 5th busiest station to 13th, from 1,377,054 passengers in 2004 to 609,184 in 2006. In 2004 Princeton Junction had 932,261 Amtrak passengers , 65,679 in 2006. Amtrak ridership in Penn Station NY went from 8,724,232 in 2004 to 7,546,208 in 2006. It all depends on who wants to subsidize what and what kind of equipment they have.

mike said...

There aren't going to be a whole lot of HSR commuters between SJ and SF, it will be too expensive.

Why are you assuming that they will exactly replicate whatever agreements exist between Amtrak and NJT?

I'm not sure what the relevance of Path is? SF-SJ is comparable to Trenton-NYP or Pct Jct-NYP, not Newark-NYP.

One would hope Caltrain will end up with fast EMUs that can run at 125 MPH.

Operationally, the difference between the CHSR and the NEC is that CHSR will have some additional capacity from SJ to SF (i.e., a significant minority of NB passengers will be alighting at SJ), whereas Amtrak has no additional capacity between Trenton and NYP (i.e., to a first approximation, no NB passengers alight at Trenton).

Regardless, whether the commuters are served by HSTs or 125 mph EMUs is irrelevant from a project level perspective. Either way, it's a benefit of the project. From a local perspective, it may matter in terms of which agency gets what percentage of whatever pot of money. That's something to be hammered out down the line. But from a project level benefit-cost perspective, it does not matter: new passengers are new passengers.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Why are you assuming that they will exactly replicate whatever agreements exist between Amtrak and NJT?

I'm not. One could infer that. I'm just relating my experiences using the Northeast Corridor. The arrangements between Amtrak and the commuter railroads change all the time. There was a radical shift in Amtrak's and NJ Transit's arrangement in 2005.

I'm not sure what the relevance of Path is? SF-SJ is comparable to Trenton-NYP or Pct Jct-NYP, not Newark-NYP.

Newark is analogous to Millbrae or where ever they decide to put the SFO station on HSR. Or Millbrae is analogous to Jamaica. Or Oak Park or New Carrollton or Woodlawn or....

Operationally, the difference between the CHSR and the NEC is that CHSR will have some additional capacity from SJ to SF (i.e., a significant minority of NB passengers will be alighting at SJ), whereas Amtrak has no additional capacity between Trenton and NYP (i.e., to a first approximation, no NB passengers alight at Trenton)

Both of them have will have more passengers hoping to snag a nice cushy ride on the long distance train as opposed to the commuter train across the platform, than there are seats. The people getting off in San Jose from points south are going to be less than the amount who will want to get those nice cushy seats on a fast ride to San Francisco. HSR is going to do something to make it less attractive to do that or they are going to have lots of pissed off passengers who spend the San Jose to San Francisco leg of the trip staring at standing commuters or even more irate passengers who bought a ticket for SF to a point south of San Jose and had to spend it standing because someone who is getting off in San Jose was sitting in the nice cushy seat. Or run lots and lots of empty seats between San Jose and points south.

Anonymous said...

How is it "fare" to compare a private industry, like the airline industry, with a public industry like high speed rail in CA? One uses competition and supply/demand principles, the other uses taxpayer money. Sure the airlines received a boost from the federal govt in '01 but it wasn't taken over by the federal govt. It's like the health care debate - how can the private sector be expected to compete with the government? The government can print fiat money and isn't concerned about making a profit.

Now if we had different operators running different trains, on different rails, competing against each other, that would be a more compelling competitive argument to me. But to compare flying or driving with hsr is comparing apples to oranges. Government should never be in business to push private industry out of business. That's how you end up with a totalitarian, socialist state. Passenger train service and Amtrak are just government-run industries. If they had to compete on the same principles, they would lose 100% of the time.