Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Open Thread

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

A few updates:

  • I'll be in San Carlos today for a joint RailPAC-NARP meeting to discuss several passenger rail projects around the state, including high speed rail. I'll also be talking with several folks about ramping up HSR advocacy efforts. This blog was founded to fill a vacuum in early 2008, since there wasn't any place putting out frequent information on the project, and some of the other pro-HSR sites had gone dormant. The blog was never meant to be a stand-in for a full-scale pro-HSR effort, though we have often worked with others backing HSR, from CALPIRG to NARP, in support of HSR. Now it's time to step it up and get this thing built, especially now when the various process issues threaten to undermine the project. So be on the lookout for more robust grassroots HSR advocacy work.


  • Speaking of the blog, I know we've discussed this for a while now, but we really are going to move this to a unique URL and to a WordPress platform, and soon. Not only will it offer a cleaner look, WordPress offers greater functionality in the comments - from requiring people to pick a username to threaded comments (where you can actually reply to a specific comment, and thereby follow a discussion thread). The new place is already set up, but we need to do some customization work before we throw the doors open. If anyone reading this has experience customizing WordPress themes, or wants to offer any other technical assistance, send an email to my last name at gmail and we can get going.


  • Wired Magazine thinks NIMBYs won't be a problem in getting HSR built. I certainly hope they are right, and that the political backing behind the project, its self-evident benefits, and broad public support are enough to overcome the very, very small group of people who think their own personal version of urban aesthetics trumps all other social, economic, and environmental needs.

29 comments:

Brandon in San Diego said...

Understood that this site will go to a new location and format... and looking forward to it.

Now, I and perhaps others, must consider our invested effort at this location.

Clem said...

That's a great question: how will you migrate all the archived material and the huge amount of comments? It would be a shame to leave all that behind.

Alon Levy said...

Does NARP support any kind of HSR? They've always seemed like an organization for preserving the rail service their grandfathers considered good enough.

Robert Cruickshank said...

All the posts and comments - all 561 posts, all 19,679 comments - have been transferred over, and I'll keep updating that until we make the switch. This blog will remain as an archive.

As a historian married to an archivist, I'd never do
anything that would lose all the work we've done here. We'll continue on as before, just in a slightly different form.

Brandon in San Diego said...

cool

amandainsjc said...

Reading the comments for the Wired article was a little frustrating, since it was obvious many people had no idea what they were talking about.

OTOH don't a lot of NIMBY types from PA. MP and Atherton visit this site as well?
Information apparently doesn't trump affluence and class level.

Spokker said...

You mean our flame wars will be archived? Awesome.

jim said...

when is the big move?

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

cool new pics from the One Rincon designer showcase including views of TBT development area. ( no I dont know who all the people are I didnt take the pics)

Adirondacker12800 said...

They've always seemed like an organization for preserving the rail service their grandfathers considered good enough.

their grandfathers wouldn't have put up with the service we get. The only thing that has gotten better since the 50s is on the NEC or connects with the NEC. Even the NEC has lost ground. Fastest Metroliners made it between NY and DC ten minutes faster than Acela does now. . . back in the 60s they were promising 2:00 between NY and DC...

PCC Attendee said...

FYI - On Friday November 6th the Peninsula Rail Program will be presenting at the PCC meeting (8:45 AM at 501 Primrose in Burlingame).

PRP will be discussing how Context Sensitive Solutions will be used on the Peninsula portion of the project. Hal Kassof (well respected CSS expert) will be there to explain what CSS is and how it will likely be used going forward.

CSS was recommended early on by the PCC.

There has been some confusion between CSS and CSD (Context Sensitive Design) - this meeting will clarify that they will employ CSS - which means they will use stakeholder involvement to come to a consensus on decisions.

Come to the meeting and see for your self what they plan to do!

Alon Levy said...

The only thing that has gotten better since the 50s is on the NEC or connects with the NEC. Even the NEC has lost ground. Fastest Metroliners made it between NY and DC ten minutes faster than Acela does now.

What are you talking about? The Metroliner did NY-DC in 2:57. The Acela does it in 2:49.

And no, my complaint with NARP isn't that it points out that corridor and long-distance services have gotten worse. It's that it believes in restoring 1950s-era rail service, of the kind that cars and airlines wiped out. Your grandfather didn't put up with the service he got in the 1950s, either, so he started driving and flying instead.

It has this really annoying position paper calling the Empire Builder a "multi-tasking mobility machine" trying to argue that it actually has better finances than the NEC (in reality, its total operating subsidy is among the highest in the system, trailing only 2-3 other LD trains). Responding to the argument that the NEC actually makes money, the paper says the NEC only makes money because it has LD services as feeders...

jim said...

The europeans love our long distance trains though. They don't like their own trains. They say ours are a lot nicer and more comfortable. They really say that. All the time. I say "really?" with skepticism and they confirm it. "speed isn't everything", they say. Go figure.

jim said...

They also complain that their train travel is way too expensive and can't believe what a good deal ours is.

i hear that all the time too. really, all the time.

Adirondacker12800 said...

The Metroliner did NY-DC in 2:57. The Acela does it in 2:49.

When it stopped running. There was a big ad campaign when the made it down to 2:30, late 1969 if I remember correctly. Didn't last long. Can't find the confirming link, it's buried somewhere on http://www.prrths.com. All sorts of interesting tidbits like the newly formed MTA promising service to a station deep under Grand Central and service to somewhere in the vicinity of Broad Street. Something about connecting Suburban and Reading terminal too I seem to remember.

Alon Levy said...

The europeans love our long distance trains though.

Yeah, those trains are like experiencing 1937 all over again. Tourists love that, especially when it's as heavily subsidized as the Zephyr and Empire Builder are. The problem is that the much larger market of locals who just want to get from city A to city B does care about speed.

Alon Levy said...

Adirondacker: I Googled a bit, and it turns out that the Metroliner achieved 2:35 run times only when running nonstop or almost nonstop. Amtrak ran a few Acela trains with similar stopping patterns, but they didn't have the ridership to justify skipping stops like Newark, Wilmington, and Baltimore.

The relevant links are,
Train speeds (the same link shows the Metroliner take 2:55 with stopping patterns similar to those of today's Acela)
Speed is relative (claims the Metroliner did NY-DC nonstop in 2:35)
Metroliner schedules over the years (claims aggressive schedules like 2:30 lasted only a few months, suggesting the trains couldn't adhere to them)

BruceMcF said...

Sunday Train this week is some thoughts on leveraging the middle tier Emerging HSR for conventional rail services, Sunday Train: Leveraging Pittsburgh / Cleveland for Canton/Akron

Adirondacker12800 said...

I Googled a bit, and it turns out that the Metroliner achieved 2:35 run times only when running nonstop or almost nonstop. . .aggressive schedules like 2:30 lasted only a few months, suggesting the trains couldn't adhere to them

Which doesn't change that the only thing better than in the 50s is the NEC and it's branches or that things on the NEC aren't as good as they ever were. Run a train with the best Turboliner schedule and the best Metroliner schedule and I could get to NY, DC and points in between the two faster than I can today.

Andre Peretti said...

I can understand Jim. In pre-TGV years I used to do Marseille-Paris (500 miles) in 8 hours and I enjoyed it. The good old trains were comfortable with plenty of spare space everywhere. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. You met people, you had drinks at the bar. You watched the countryside slowly changing from northern to mediterranean.

With the TGV, it takes 3 hours. No time to get to know anybody. The countryside is like a DVD in fast-forward. Too fast to take it in. When you arrive, you don't even feel you have really travelled.
The TGV has killed railway romance.

YESonHSR said...

No Airbus/Boeing killed romantic rail..in the US 1959/Europe 1981
there is no Broadway Limited any more nore TEE so this is what works now..Hell we will take 1981 HSR here at this point

jim said...

welll what we will have is both.

We will have a small handful of full high speed, in places like california, texas, etc. in the 500 mile corridors.

Then we will have a whole bunch of 110 mph corridors.

and we'll have the national long distance network
each will fill a need.

While true hsr trains should be up and running in california within the next 20 years.

Any other states that decide to pursue true hsr versus 110-125 won't see trains running anytime before 2040 as they haven't even started the EIR processes and will face long drawn out planning just as cali has spent 20+ years planning.

ca hsr will be the only game in town for a very long time.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

"Any other states that decide to pursue true hsr versus 110-125 won't see trains running anytime before 2040 as they haven't even started the EIR processes and will face long drawn out planning just as cali has spent 20+ years planning."

EIR refers to CEQA, which only applies to California. Other states only have to comply with the weaker NEPA legislations via the EIS process.

By the time it was shelved, the EIS process for the first leg of the Florida HSR project was already further along than California's is today. However, Tampa-Orlando Airport is also a much smaller and arguably much simpler project.

What's missing is a state-level commitment to put some skin in the game, something lawmakers in the Sunshine State are hoping to avoid by getting the federal government to pay for 100% of it via the stimulus bill.

DesertXpress' EIS/EIR from Las Vegas to Victorville is also far along in the planning process. This private consortium says all it would need to start turning dirt in 2010 - and putting the three-legged maglev dog out of its misery - is some federal loan guarantees, which USDOT has the authority to grant outside of the stimulus process.

jim said...

Ill believe it when I see it. OTher states simply don't have the political will to do what cali is doing. ( full hsr) Ill give you DX though. That could happen.

Leaving california is like going to another world. People don't think or live like we do here. (its actually quite disconcerting to spend any time in the other states) I even doubt the ability of most states to complete a real 110mph network even though the feds and amtrak on totally on board with it because the problem is, it takes time and there are mid term elections coming up and unfortunately the dems are going to lose their majority and funding and focus on such projects will die. That's why america stays behind the rest of the world in everything but corruption.
politics and profits drive this country's direction rather than common sense and long term planning.
after the midterms, we are going to see a scale back as the right is chomping at the bit. and if obama doesn't get a second term. forget it. everything will come to a grinding halt.

YESonHSR said...

Well I sure hope not Jim..thou I dont think the Majority will lost and I think Obama will get a second term,heck we reelected bush!! What we really need is that trasportation 2009 bill to pass and start funding these projects.And HSR does seem to have a general bipartisian support thou there are cato/reason types that think its a waste there not really a majority

BruceMcF said...

The other side of the question is how rapidly the 110mph Emerging HSR corridor network. Where the 110mph corridors are financially viable as isolated corridors, that implies that they will reach operating surpluses to fund state matches for system expansions and improvements.

And while there may be a tendency at first to focus on building out the network, at some point pressure will build to improve the strongest of the corridors to full fledged Regional HSR corridors, electrified, primarily on dedicated track.

If you move from a 110mph system that requires 17% schedule slack for schedule reliability to a 125mph system that is designed to allow a schedule slack of 5%, that increases the effective speed from 60mph~80mph to 100mph+

And of course, at the same time you have a system that a 220mph tilt-train can run onto from a 220mph Express HSR corridor. So not only is there the prospect for Express HSR corridors share the central urban rail access already developed for the 110mph corridors - but there is the prospect of running directly from the 220mph corridor to the 125mph corridor, which means that a single Express HSR corridor can host multiple services that run substantial distances on the 125mph corridors.

So, certainly Chicago-NYC is quite a stretch. But an Express HSR from NYC through northern PA into Ohio along a general I-80 alignment to east of Youngstown and the Pittsburgh/Cleveland Medium-High Speed Rail corridor would give NYC/Pittsburgh and NYC/Youngstown-Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit.

Then Canton to the Triple-C corridor would give NYC/Pittsburgh,NYC/Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati-Indianapolis.

And of course, a 220mph corridor Chicago / Fort Wayne gives Express HSR Chicago/Toledo-Detroit, Chicago/Toledo-Cleveland. Extend it to Findlay, Chicago/Columbus. And of course, connect the junction with the Columbus/Detroit corridor and the junction with the Triple-C, and its a single Express HSR corridor Chicago/NYC - even if the majority of trains on the corridor never make the full trip.

Alon Levy said...

And while there may be a tendency at first to focus on building out the network, at some point pressure will build to improve the strongest of the corridors to full fledged Regional HSR corridors, electrified, primarily on dedicated track.

Why? So far the pressure on Amtrak has been in the other direction, i.e. to cut costs rather than electrify.

BruceMcF said...

Alon Levy said...
""And while there may be a tendency at first to focus on building out the network, at some point pressure will build to improve the strongest of the corridors to full fledged Regional HSR corridors, electrified, primarily on dedicated track."

Why? So far the pressure on Amtrak has been in the other direction, i.e. to cut costs rather than electrify.
"

Amtrak requires operating subsidies, except for the Acela, which is already electrified. Systems that can deliver operating surpluses have a different dynamic on operating-cost saving capital investments, because they do not have to go begging for the state match for capital upgrades. Indeed, a system with an operating surplus can generate a shelf of planning improvements