Thursday, October 15, 2009

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

USPIRG, along with several state-based HSR organizations, have launched an online organizing effort to get the US Senate to preserve the $4 billion in HSR spending that the US House approved earlier this year. From the petition language:

Right now, Congress is finalizing next year's transportation appropriations bill, which could include an historic investment in high-speed passenger rail.

Last month, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that included $4 billion for high-speed rail. The Senate cut the allocation down to $1.2 billion in their version, which passed last week. The two bills will now move to a conference committee, where they will decide the final amount of investment.

The conference committee will be meeting soon in hopes of finalizing the bill by the end of the month. We'd like to send them a roster of support by the end of the week, so we need sign-ons quickly.

Please help us achieve our goal! Get started by entering your zip code below.

Thank you for your support.

If you want to contact Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein directly, here you go:

Senator Boxer:

DC: (202) 224-3553
Fresno: (559) 497-5109
LA: (213) 894-5000
SD: (619) 239-3884
SF: (415) 403-0100

Senator Feinstein:

DC: (202) 224-3841
Fresno: (559) 485-7430
LA: (310) 914-7300
SD: (619) 231-9712
SF: (415) 393-0707

To send an email:

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Sen. Dianne Feinstein


bossyman15 said...

i signed it

dave said...

Signed it

Rafael said...

Just in case you're under the impression that HSR has become a partisan issue, consider that the ranking Republican members of the relevant House committees remain completely committed to not just incremental upgrades but true bullet trains:

- Rep. Mica (R-FL)

- Rep. Shuster (R-PA)

Asking Congress to allocate $4 billion in capital investment dollars in the budget of each of the next five years is not pie in the sky. It is eminently doable, simply by growing the DoD budget at a marginally slower rate.

If anything, $4 billion is actually setting the bar way too low if HSR is to be developed in the eleven federally designated corridors before the next ice age.

Rafael said...

O/T: Deutsche Bahn, Siemens and Bombardier have agreed on plan to replace 1200 axles on the ICE3 train fleet. The parties have agreed not to disclose who will be picking up the tab, rumored to be on the order of tens of millions of Euros.

In 2008, an axle broke on an ICE3 train as it was pulling out of Cologne station, causing a derailment at very low speed. Fortunately, no-one was hurt. Nevertheless, Germany's federal rail safety office had forced DB to drastically reduce the maintenance intervals for the entire fleet. Non-destructive ultrasound tests permit the early detection of surface defects and hairline cracks in safety critical components such as wheels and axles.

In an effort to minimize operating overheads, DB insisted on exceptionally long maintenance intervals on the original ICE3 contract, which was awarded to a consortium of companies. DB's decision to use ballast-free slab track for new HSR lines plus their use for freight service at night may have led to higher dynamic loads than engineers anticipated in their designs of ICE3 bogies.

The ICE-T tilt train fleet used on legacy track in e.g. eastern Germany also needs new axles but those trains were manufactured by Alstom. Negotiations between DB and this French company are ongoing.

Note that the Velaro trains that have been exported to Spain, China and Russia look very similar to the ICE3 but are pure Siemens products and subject to more conservative maintenance intervals and track parameters than those DB insisted on. Yet another reason why you can't judge a train by its nose alone.

Peter said...

DB doesn't really have a good track record lately. The Berlin S-Bahn debacle, axles breaking, etc.

You'd think they would have learned from the Eschede accident. You can't skimp on maintenance intervals and proper testing of components both in design and in maintenance.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

IMHO, it can all be traced back to engineering hubris and management/political pressure to partially privatize DB via an IPO.

Alon Levy said...

Rafael: yes, and this can partly be traced to the fact that unlike SNCF, DB never managed to become financially independent.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

True, but once you've deployed the equipment, you STILL have to maintain it to a safe standard, engineering hubris and political pressure aside.

Andre Peretti said...

I think one of the differences is that the SNCF is still run by engineers and the bean counters have not yet managed to get the upper hand, although they are trying to, and might one day succeed.
At DB, the engineers are under constant pressure to find ways to cut spending. I can't imagine an engineer voluntarily skimping on maintenance.

YESONHSR said...

I hoping for the new AGV for CAHSR!!..and signed the form

dave said...

Me too, I hope the Alstom's AGV is at the top for CA HSR.

Joey said...

Bomberdier's Zefiro 380 can go even faster. However, there's really no point in choosing a specific train at this point, as it's likely more options will become available when the time comes.

Alon Levy said...

Top speed is not the most important metric. High average speed depends also on performance on curves, performance on grades, and acceleration rate. California will avoid the curve problem by building curves with almost twice the radius of existing HSR curves around the world, but it will have plenty of steep grades near mountain crossings and slow zones in urban areas. A train that can run at 320 km/h even through Pacheco and Tehachapi Passes should be able to have a higher average speed than a train that can do 360 or 380 but has to slow to 220 near those passes.

Anonymous said...

YESONHSR said...
I hoping for the new AGV for CAHSR!"

Yay me too! AGV AGV AGV!

no broken german trains please.

Anonymous said...


dave said...

Wow, This is a very good Program on High Speed rail by NOVA, aired in 1982.

It's amazing how the U.S has wasted so much time NOT building any HSR lines after at least 27 years (1982).

The info, while old and outdated seems like it mirrors what's happening today with HSR. Almost like were walking in circles with no progress.

And who do you think they chose as a candidate for HSR in America? California!

It's long, but good!

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 1

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 2

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 3

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 4

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 5

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 6

Anonymous said...

here's a nice video that shows hsr and emu's and freight all getting along sharing tracks. it could be just like caltrain row

Anonymous said...

dave there once was a (short lived) tv series called "supertrain" lol anyone lese remember that? it was a sort of Love Boat type series. The "supertrain" went from LA to NYC and they used fairly cheesy model train effects and sets and spacious interior shots where all manor of melodrama took place and got resolved in each episode.

Anonymous said...

LOL here it is wow its bad. and talk about not using standard gauge...

Anonymous said...

for real you all have GOT to see this... pleeeease tell me that riding ca hsr will be just like this.... including the music and that dance floor.

Anonymous said...

wait one more - supertrain epsiode 1 express to terror with special guest vicki lawrence.

lol all the train attendants look like vegas showgirls.
this is hysterical.

無名 - wu ming said...

that show is hilarious

Rafael said...

@ jim -

there are discos on HSR trains in France.

Owen E said...

I'm hoping for Shinkansen technology in California. If the braindead throat design at TBT doesn't preclude that outright.

I have been on that and KTX (built to French specs) and the Shinkansen feels spacious while the AGV feels cramped. The Shinkansen is about 11' wide whereas the French trains are between 9'2" and 9'6" wide. The extra 1'6" to 1'10" makes a HUGE difference.

BruceMcF said...

@jim, they thought it was "future standard gauge" - you try explaining to a TV producer of the time (70's? 80's?) why going metric does not mean converting from 4.7083 ft to 4.7083 meters.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

even Isembard Kingdom Brunel never implemented tracks wider than the 7'1/4" (2140mm) of Great Western Railway. With rigid axles, it's hard to get trains with a gauge that wide around corners, i.e. you need large curve radii.

The key advantages of a very broad gauge are stability and interior capacity - figure eight seats abreast for one aisle. In addition, Brunel wanted to deploy large diameter wheels to either side of the cars.

BruceMcF said...

@Rafeal, have you seen the clips that jim linked to? Its silly to treat it as if the show producers first worked out a realistic scenario.

Indeed, far more likely they said, "we want the interior sets this big, make the model look kind of like these interiors will fit".

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

notice its two levels high and basically two trains wide. so its the capacity of four standard trains. thats what they did. that, and they kind of made it look like an AMC Gremlin.

I miss the 70s.

Anonymous said...

rafael that website is awesome. those people do everything so well.

Anonymous said...

Notice how Supertrain has a very BART-like appearance. BART would have been very "mod" at the time, especially in California, so it's no coincidence. With the wide-gauge-means-the-future approach, the trapezoidal profile, and similar windows, Supertrain looks like a double-decker BART train.

Even as a kid in 1979, I don't ever remember Supertrain. I don't think it lasted much longer than a few episodes. I remember the movie Silver Streak.

Anonymous said...

the same era gave us this notice a theme of what future design looks like.

are we there yet? ou know in those days we didn't know it was gonna take this long. we are about 20 years behind the hollywood producers' grand visions.

Anonymous said...

ok one more - no really you have to see this lol. I'm trying to remember if life in Sf was like this in 1999. maybe a little...

oh yeah ko on topic four billion... etc.

Daniel Krause said...

@ Owen
"I have been on that and KTX (built to French specs) and the Shinkansen feels spacious while the AGV feels cramped. The Shinkansen is about 11' wide whereas the French trains are between 9'2" and 9'6" wide. The extra 1'6" to 1'10" makes a HUGE difference."

I agree with Owen. When I took a tour of French and Japanese systems in 2005, I felt the same way. I first went to Japan, and the spaciousness was great. Then when I rode the TGV, it felt very cramped. In fact, the aisles were so small that the seats were protruding in front of the doorways to the next train car. Given then girth of many Americans, the width of train cars is a very important issue. Not sure if it needs to be as wide as Shinkansen, but should definitely be wider than the TGV train cars. The actual experience of the rider is often forgotten by transit planners, but it is essential for a successful, high-ridership system.

Anonymous said...

wow, the selfishness expressed on this blog, by authors and posters alike, is eye opening.
Dance floors? Wide bodies luxury.. 4B (because 1.5B isn't enough) in times when employed Americans are standing in lines to get their children seen by doctors in tents.

There was an inspiring piece on KQED last night about 'save the bay' which fought big business developers who in the 60's were basically raping the SF Bay - SF bay was being filled in at the rate of 2000 acres a day. A small grass roots effort stopped it. The idea that we need to not only cater to, but to accelerate vast development and densified population growth in the bay area is absolutely false. It was successfully fought in the 60s/70s and will be fought and won again. High speed rail to instigate the vast movement of people into the the bay area is environmentally wrong, uncessary, and the developers who push TOD, densification, are only using the environmental movements buzz words to further their business agendas. It wrong, its selfish, All so that Jim and Rafael can disco all the way to LA. Sickos.

Peter said...

@ Anon

I think you were taking the posters a liiittle bit too seriously. I don't think they actually were advocating discos on CAHSR. They were laughing at a 70s series about an extremely unrealistic train.

Get a grip on reality.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:46pm -

IFF you're going to build a high speed train, it makes sense to build it such that it will attract as many riders as possible. So yes, wide car bodies and a variety of on-board services do make sense.

Comparing HSR to project to fill the Bay in order to construct new subdivisions, build new cities in Marin county etc. are totally wide of the mark. No-one is ever going to live on any high speed train.

The notion that HSR shouldn't be built because private citizens are temporarily pressed for cash makes no sense, either. In a severe recession, the government has to act as the spender/investor of last resort. Putting public bonds toward a project that a majority of Californians considers a good investment is actually a good way to get people back to work.

This is true even if you personally wouldn't be seen dead on any train. Without HSR, you would either have to suffer ever-increasing congestion on freeways and at airports or else, be asked to spend even more on expanding the capacity of those.

Anonymous said...

Given then girth of many Americans, the width of train cars is a very important issue.

Granted, but the Shinkansen / TGV comparison may not be relevant. Each system is built to whatever width is available within their respective loading gauge. US clearances are a bit wider than TGV, although not quite as wide as Shinkansen. Building California HSR to something wider than common AAR loading gauges would preclude a lot of flexibility during manufacturing / maintenance / overhaul etc.

Peter said...

Are ADA requirements going to force a wide body on CAHSR? I'm thinking in terms of accessible restrooms etc.

Bianca said...

Anonymous @12:46 pm said:

High speed rail to instigate the vast movement of people into the the bay area is environmentally wrong,

You got a cite for that, or are you pulling that assertion out of your ear?

you seem to think that density is a bad thing. From an environmental perspective, density is a lot greener than sprawl. Density allows for more effective mass transit, makes walkable neighborhoods feasible, frees people from dependence on cars.

If you want to keep the density of the Bay Area frozen at 1970's level, you are necessarily also advocating for one of two additional things:

1) enormous amounts of suburban, auto-dependent, sprawl development, furthering our dependence on cars and oil, and leading to the loss of open spaces and farmland, and a reduction in air quality; or

2) zero population growth.

Neither one of those alternatives is appealing to me. Well-planned density is not a bad thing. Lots of people who live here have families, and when their kids grow up, are you suggesting that they should have to leave? A lot of them have to leave now, as it is, because they can't afford to live where they grew up.

Maintaining land policies that keep real estate prices artificially inflated, and insisting that it be kept that way, seems pretty selfish to me.

There are going to be another 15 or 20 million people living in California in 2035. Where do you think they should live, if you oppose higher density in the areas that are already developed?

Anonymous said...

11' wide trains means 5 seats across, so that feeling of spaciousness disappears as soon as you sit down. No one wants to ride in the middle seat, adding such just foolishly throws away another advantage of rail over air. Amusement Parks have the "You must be this tall to ride" thingee, I'd LOL to see a "You must be this narrow to ride" contraption at HSR ticket kiosks.

Peter said...

Yes, like the carry-on box at airports. That would be hilarious.

Anyhoo, if the train is as wide as a DB Intercity car, that would be enough IMHO.

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

Helllllooooo Train Huggers! My socialist friends, I know you'd like to have those fancy French toys, but unfortunately you live in California, and California has no money. But I contacted Santa Claus and he said that he'd be willing to give you a nice AGV commensurate to California's financial resources. It's actually better than the toys you're looking at, because this one doesn't even need fancy high speed rails, as a matter of fact it doesn't need rails at all.
Happy playing (I hope the link works):
AGV for California courtesy of Santa Claus (a.k.a. Toys)

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

In case the link doesn't work, you can cut and paste from here:

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:46pm -

while wide-body shinkansen and other HSR trains in Asia do feature five seats abreast in Economy class, that goes down to 4 in First and just 3 in Luxury class.

In California, Economy class ought to be four abreast simply because the average California resident is both taller and wider than the average person in East Asian.

There is no law that says a rail car 11' wide must have five seats abreast.

Spokker said...

Has this been posted yet? Better quality video of Peninsula options from NC3D. Features footage I haven't seen before.

NONIMBYS said...

NO anno..the KQED program showed how SELFISH suburan ..IE PaloAlto
typy thinking is!! DID you not notice that ALL of those propsed fills were for your "small town" single family sprall that you "enjoy" so much..and stop being so silly about people talking about discos ect on the trains..there just joking around!!

Anonymous said...

Peter said...
@ Anon

I think you were taking the posters a liiittle bit too seriously. I don't think they actually were advocating discos on CAHSR. They were laughing at a 70s series about an extremely unrealistic train.

Get a grip on reality.

No, I want the disco.

anon, as far as your phony concerns, keep in mind that the trains run in two directions so just as many people can leave the bar area as arrive.

The fact that people are standing in line for stuff is isn't related to high speed rail.. Americans are simply getting what they asked for. Americans voted for the policies and politicians of the past couple decades and now they are reaping what they sowed. Maybe next time they'll think twice.

Anonymous said...

I'm not letting americans off the hook for their responsibility.

Americans thought the cars were better than public transit
Americans believed that you could make easy money in the stock martket instead of working for and saving it.
AMericans thought they could get rich buying houses without reading fine print.
Americans elected George Bush twice.
Americans were gun ho to go to war.
Americans sat back and charged themselves into a financial black hole.
Americans have acted in a irresponsible, greedy, financially unsound, manner for the past 30 years.
Americans have traded buying new infrastructure for ipods and video games and endless walmart shopping sprees.

There has been a complete lack of accountability and responsibility - not by politicians but by the very american people who would rather play and shop than take the time to really face the tough issues at hand.

The whole country is guilty so I am not shedding any tears for people who's fault it is that we are in this mess to begin with.
This started in the 80s, with a new me me me attitude, and demise of working towards a common good. ( with is now referred with much disdain as "socialism)
You wanted reaganomics and a free market and you got it so don't bitch. How's it working out?

Bet you wish you had a good secure american union job with health care now huh?

I knew this was coming when I was in my 20s back in the 80s. and I'ved waited two decades to say it...

I told you so.

Good luck.

Alon Levy said...

the average California resident is both taller and wider than the average person in East Asian.

Americans are pretty fat, but they're not tall - they don't eat well enough for that. Nowadays the average Japanese is shorter than the average American by about 1.5" and the average Korean by about 0.5", and the gaps are shrinking. The average European is taller, especially in Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia.

In Russia, Siemens has successfully marketed the five-abreast Velaro to a population that is on average almost as tall as the US population, and in urban areas is much taller. In France, a population that's taller than the US population rides the cramped TGVs. In Germany, where the population is 2" taller than in the US and almost as fat, DB has bought Velaros as well.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

the Velaro RUS features Russian gauge (1520mm) bogies, which in turn permitted wider car bodies. That plus the wider loading gauge permitted five abreast seating.

Average height factors into row spacing, perhaps that doesn't need to be much more generous than in Asia. Four abreast should be the target, though, even if relatively wide car bodies prove possible.

Andre Peretti said...

Seating arrangements are chosen by the buyer, for trains as for planes. Before the TGV, trains in France were the same width as today but had a lot more free space and privacy.
When I travelled on the TGV for the first time, I did appreciate the speed and smoothness of the ride but I felt like being in a plane, not in a train, which for me is a negative point.
The interior arrangement of the TGV may be due to its history. In the early eighties people still liked flying. So, the SNCF gave them a plane on wheels, just a little bit more comfortable than the ones in the air.
I hope next-generation TGVs will do away with this plane-on-wheels image and feel more like trains.

YESonHSR said...

The Roman empire..rose from nothing ruled the world then got fat and lazy and arrogant and its citizens became spoiled and only wanted Games and gore and yelled they paid to much in taxes ..sound the us?

Joey said...


the Velaro RUS features Russian gauge (1520mm) bogies, which in turn permitted wider car bodies. That plus the wider loading gauge permitted five abreast seating.

Not sure there's a link between gauge and car body width since AFAIK the chinese Velaro uses wide body cars as well but runs on standard gauge. The new Zefiro 380 for China is again wide body but on standard gauge tracks.

Alon Levy said...

Russia has the same loading gauge as the US; so does China. The Velaro is 3.265 meters wide, whereas existing US passenger railcars are 3.2 m wide. Shinkansen cars are 3.38 m wide.

Alon Levy said...

Actually, I just checked, and the Velaro RUS has 2+2 seating. It's the Velaro CN that has 2+3. Mind you, the areas of China that have HSR are rich by Chinese standards and have average heights only about 1.5" lower than in the US...

YESonHSR said...

Right on Jim! every word is really true!

AndyDuncan said...

Last I checked the Shinkansens actually had rather generous legroom, with a seat pitch looser than that of the TGV, but with seats only about as wide as a 737's (some of the narrowest seats in the sky).

The TGV has seats in coach that are about the same seat pitch as United's expanded-legroom "Economy Plus" seating, with seats wider than the widest coach airline seats but slightly skinnier than a typical business class seat.

It's not clear if you would be able to fit TGV-width seats into a 2+3 configuration on a shinkansen without making the isles too skinny. I'm also not sure why the Japanese put up with skinnier seats but prefer quite generous legroom, by american domestic airline standards.

Anonymous said...

@yes onhsr - maybe we will learn this time.

Anonymous said...

I think we have all already agreed that this is the superior product and that is the one we will use here in california.

We did all agree on that right? I mean really, watch the video again. I mean they have the best ads.

flowmotion said...

@ Spooker - thanks for the link, great animation

Alon Levy said...

I think we have all already agreed that this is the superior product and that is the one we will use here in california.

No, you agreed that it's a superior product. The rest of us haven't.

Anonymous said...

In that PA video I actually think I like the elevated structure better than the retained fill.

Anonymous said...

its only a matter of time. you'll come around.

swing hanger said...

re Shinkansen seat legroom

I think the extra space is both for aesthetic reasons and practical- after all, a train allows you to leave your seat at will, and the extra space alleviates elaborate contortions required when passing your neighbor. Width is not emphasized in standard class to maximize capacity (even then, some trains are standing room only in the peak holiday periods), and frankly, people's behinds here are smaller than the average (present-day) 'merican. Also, Japanese are used to smaller spaces and likely have smaller personal "zones of comfort". Anyway, most of the time you're riding a train you're either looking forward, down at your book or notebook PC, or out the window, not at the stranger sitting next to you.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Are ADA requirements going to force a wide body on CAHSR? I'm thinking in terms of accessible restrooms etc.

Amtrak cars are 10'6", the newer cars have ADA compliant restrooms. "Wide body" Shinkansen are 11' wide.

There is no law that says a rail car 11' wide must have five seats abreast.

Commuter cars in the US, 10'6" wide, have them. Rumor has it the new cars with two by two have two by two because ADA reguires the aisle has to be wider and 5 seats no longer fit. If that's true there will never be 5 across seating in the US until someone builds something much wider than the current 10'6".

Alon Levy said...

US loading gauge permits 10'8".

The ADA-compliant bathrooms are not a problem for non-tilting trains.

YESonHSR said...

Maby our HSR will help show the "way" out of the dark tunnel..We "Cails" will show what the United States was..An advanced nation.

stupid toy trucks said...

@Toys..does the wheels on your house go round and round!!??

Joey said...

We did all agree on that right? I mean really, watch the video again. I mean they have the best ads.

Because judging a product based on its ads is always the best way to shop...

Anonymous said...

older amtrak passenger equip had bathrooms that, had these little sort of garbage disposal blades that operated when you flushed and processed everything directly to the tracks below. lol my co worker even has one of the old bathroom signs that says"do not flush while in station"

I could also tell you a story about a very fat lady and the suction toilet that resulted in needing several employees - but I won't.

Anonymous said...

joey you only have to look at it to see its the best one.

Joey said...

If you say so...