Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Open Thread

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

Some items as I get things squared away for the holiday weekend:

Further evidence that there is a greater demand for HSR than the federal government has been able to satisfy so far. Given the need for further jobs stimulus, it would make sense for the White House and Congress to consider fully funding all $50 billion in HSR stimulus applications as a method of growing jobs in the near-term.


AndyDuncan said...

Does anyone have job-density maps for the peninsula?

In LA we had some studies done to assess commute patterns and the like, they came up with maps that were pretty informative.

For all the talk that SF, for example, "only" has 800k residents, what is the daytime population of SF?

Manhattan, for instance, has a far higher population during the day than at night, and a far larger number of people who are in the city on a tuesday than would show up on a census form.

SF seems similar, if less extreme. One of the things that is popular on this board is to look at populations and population density, but one of the things we know from the studies in LA is that job density and population density aren't always correlated. The peninsula (like santa monica), is home to more jobs than people, I would be interested in seeing how much more

calieconomist said...

A nice graph showing the large subsidies roads get:


HSRforCali said...

Now, which one makes more sense?

$4.7 billion for a 110 mph through a low-density state,


$4.7 billion for a 220 mph system in a densly populated state?

Seriously, not even Florida (who's far ahead of NY state in planning an HSR system) is asking for close to as much, yet they can build a 150mph system with the money they're asking for. If NY state wants $4.7 billion, they're system should be able to reach AT LEAST 180 mph.

無名 - wu ming said...

strongly agreed on funding everything. unlike roads, building rail upgrades and HSR would not only give us jobs in the short term, it would insulate any eventual recovery from the oil price spikes that any real recovery would create, as well as significant lessen the oil import portion of our structural trade deficit, which will only hurt more as the dollar drops.

rail, like renewable energy or energy efficiency programs, is stimulus, recovery and reform in one package.

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing the thread on South Bend.

South Bend has never recovered really from the demise of the Studebaker corporation, in the early 60's although its demise was pre-destined much earlier. The corporation dominated the local economy there after the end of WWII, and until the Big Three auto makers were able to gear up with their efficiencies, it managed to compete. However, the unions were too aggressive and the management of Studebaker was willing to allow higher than competitors workers wages which worked only while demand for their products remanined artifically high. Anyway, the company folded, South Bend as a vibrant community, essentially did likewise.

Now, not sure how many here are aware, but there is a rail line between downtown Chicago and South Bend, called the South Shore. It takes less then 2 hours to make the 80 -90 mile trip. I don't know if it is economically successful; I left the area many years ago. So did many other young people, looking for "greener pastures" Back then, California looked wonderful and was. Right now, not so wonderful.

Alon Levy said...

HSRforCali, you're forgetting that in New York, everything costs 2-4 times as much as anywhere else. For example, New York's proposing to spend $1 billion on Moynihan Station, which is a modification of Penn Station that would add no transportation benefits, but restore some of the grandeur of old Penn Station. When I criticized the idea of spending so much money on an art project, I got called a philistine. Because clearly, the best use of stimulus money right now is public works for unemployed architects.

小愛日記 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
All ABOARD! said...

^^what did that have to do with high speed rail?

All ABOARD! said...

i read an interesting blurb today on the amount of homeland security funding the nation's transit get compared to the amount the airline industry gets. Its way out of whack.
The Us has spent 1.5 billion total for nationwide rail security since sep 11, compared to30 billion on aviation which translates to less than 4 cents on the dollar for rail verus aviation.

All ABOARD! said...

the mbta serves 224 million passengers per year whereas Logan serves just 26 million.

again think about it

rail 1 billion
air 30 billion

per example in boston:

rail 224 million pax
air 26 million pax

whats wrong this picture.

Rafael said...

@ HSRforCali -

"$4.7 billion for a 110 mph through a low-density state,


$4.7 billion for a 220 mph system in a densly populated state?"

New York is not a low-density state, though population density is of course much lower upstate than it is in NYC.

Also, $4.7b is what they say they need to complete the upgrade to 110mph. However, the Empire corridor would also be a crucial link in any future network in the north-eastern part of the continent, e.g. Chicago-Boston or Toronto-New York so it's worth asking if upstate NY politicians are being too timid for that reason. On the other hand, sleeper trains at 110mph (slower in built-up areas) might be a popular option.

As for the California system, the $4.7b that was requested represents no more than a down payment on the hoped-for federal share of the project as a whole. You're comparing apples and oranges.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

just because there's a recession and many states could use a second stimulus doesn't mean all HSR applications are created equal or, that all HSR applications should be given priority over other civilian infrastructure investments.

Blindly funding all $57 billion in HSR requests, regardless of how well conceived the individual projects are, doesn't make sense. for one thing, the US rail construction industry is so tiny it couldn't even absorb a sudden influx of money on that scale. Bringing in foreigner contractors for the superstructure (tracks, signaling, OCS) would deliver the transportation value but at least partially defeat the purpose of the stimulus.

Moreover, even the federal government's pockets are not infinitely deep. At some point, there will need to be trade-offs. There are plenty of entrenched interests in Congress, so if HSR were to suddenly receive $50+ billion, lobbyists for every other industry would furiously attempt to prevent any additional money going to that industry. That could cause serious problems for the California HSR system, which will need a lot more than just the initial $4.7b in federal funding.

In conclusion, I'd love to see multiple worthwhile HSR projects around the nation get funding - but not necessarily every single one.

Anonymous said...

Robert, as a historian who should know, but doesn't, believes as was written quite some time ago, that the country recovered from the Great Depression of the 30's by infrastructure spending. The facts are, the recovery only took place when the country went to war.

Thus he believes, just spend away on all projects; regardless of their value.

California can't begin to afford this project without much greater support from the Federal government. Will that be forthcoming? Who knows, but right now the way the funding is projected, the system will never get built.

China may well be able to build their HSR systems. I suspect they can build at 1/10 the cost of doing it here, but who wants to live their life style?

I'm still awaiting to hear anything but bashing of the airlines and the aircraft industry. Going nuts on rail is not an improvement over what we have today. Autos will become more efficient as they electrify, and hopefully the domestic auto industry will again become competitive with new technology.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:04 AM -

"I'm still awaiting to hear anything but bashing of the airlines and the aircraft industry."

In that case, you have been listening selectively. This blog has long supported the strategic goal of HSR stations at those commercial airports in California at which that is possible.

Aircraft remain the most cost-effective means of transportation at long distances, i.e. those well over 500 miles. The objective is to eliminate a lot of short-hop flights, including connecting flights, within California to free up slots for long-distance flights. Adding another runway to LAX or SFO has proven impossible, so plan B is to decongest them by giving travelers improved ground transportation and also, by making better use of existing secondary airports like Ontario.

The cherry on top is that electric trains don't consume any oil-based fuel nor generate any tailpipe emissions. In other parts of the country and world, they consume electricity generated from grid mixes that are based primarily on coal, natural gas and nuclear power. In California, they will run on renewable electricity.


As for electric cars, even the fanciest batteries deliver substantially less range at substantially higher capital cost than gasoline-based internal combustion engines. Swapping out entire battery packs, pony-express style, is an idea that is going to flop in the marketplace IMHO.

Rapid recharge strategies are becoming possible but massive investments in network of brand-new recharge centers would be needed to exploit them. It would be dangerous to offer a 380V 100A+ circuit at a gas station, besides oil companies aren't in the business of generating or distributing electricity.

That leaves trickle-charging at night, which is only viable for people with a garage or at least a designated parking spot equipped with an outdoor outlet that only delivers juice to authorized customers. Unless you drive like a grandmother, you'll be very lucky to get more than 40 miles of range on a single charge in an affordable electric car capable of highway speeds. Sports cars costing $100k+ are playthings for the rich, not a strategic alternative for the mass market.

With all the hype surrounding electric cars, it's important to remember a sobering fact: in the late 19th/early 20th century, the then-awful internal combustion engine won out against electric traction purely because it offered much greater range. Even lithium, the optimal electrode material in terms of specific energy capacity, is hundreds of times worse than gasoline.

Note that there's only enough easily mined primary lithium in the world for roughly a million all-electric cars - about the number of new cars sold in the US alone in a single month. Unlike LiCo-based commodity cells, the new automotive-grade Li-ion chemistries could at least be recycled at room temperature without risking a fire. However, even if that infrastructure were already in place, which it isn't, that would only permit keeping the electric car share of the total market at a few percent. It wouldn't allow the majority of consumers to make the switch.

In other words, it would be irresponsible to bet the farm on electric cars. In the 21st century, fast electric passenger trains have to be an integral component of the transportation mix.

Bianca said...

Anonymous @6:04 am, in addition to all the excellent points that Rafael made, simply switching our cars from combustion engines to electric ones doesn't address the issue of capacity and congestion on our roads. Califoria's population is going to grow by another 15 or 20 million people by 2030. How are we going to manage all that extra traffic?

I'm not as pessimistic as Rafael about battery-switching as a business model, but it will take a very long time before there's enough coverage across the state to make owning only an electric car a viable option. Even so, they still take up just as much space on the freeway as a conventional car.

PeakVT said...

RE: Upstate New York - cities on the Buffalo-NYC line rank 47, 51, 81, 156, 57, 77, and #1 on a list of American MSAs. It is actually a good candidate for HSR. A map is here.

PeakVT said...

"The facts are, the recovery only took place when the country went to war."

Which, of course, isn't exactly true. The economy was recovering quite nicely until 1938, when the spending cuts and tax increases in the 1937 budget sent the economy back down. In fact, the top three years for economic growth outside of the WWII years were 1934, 1935, and 1936.

Plus, your statement doesn't mean what you think it means. What juiced the economy during WWII was massive deficit spending - far in excess of the deficit spending during the depth of the great depression - not the war itself. Much of the borrowing went towards stuff that was blown up, but a lot of new technologies were created that helped to grow the economy once the war was over. Some infrastructure was left behind as well - new airfields, factory buildings that were converted to peacetime uses, aluminum smelters, pre-Interstate defense highways, and more.

Smart deficit spending at this time on items that will increase future productivity directly or that will spark innovation - and infrastructure projects can do both - would be an excellent way to address the current economic problems. Unfortunately, California is lockked into neo-Hooverist policies by it's extraordinarily stupid constitution.

looking on said...


your statement

"Adding another runway to LAX or SFO has proven impossible, so plan B is to decongest them by giving travelers improved ground transportation and also, by making better use of existing secondary airports like Ontario. "

Why is it impossible to add a runway at SFO? I certainly don't favor that, but plans were well under way before 9/11 to do just that. It is not impossible -- it is not needed now, or even in the 20 year time frame.

As for your comments on electric cars, you are talking about current day technology. There will be major advances in battery storage capacity in the not too distant future. Certainly recharging at night when the power grid has ample capacity will be the way to go.

Your comment about stations near airports, is hardly to advance the case for air travel, but rather to advance the case for more passengers abandoning airlines to boost HSR passenger ridership.

Finally, you like so many others, keep trying to extend the length of where HSR makes sense over air. A few years ago, the HSR proponents were talking 250 - 300 miles as the outer range. Now you and others are saying 500 miles; obviously nothing more than a ploy to expand the market for HSR.

Finally as an open thread, I still don't understand why security checks will not be needed on HSR, thus introducing the same kind of delays air passengers face.

Thus far all I have heard is HSR runs today without security. The airlines ran without security before 9/11 also. Won't just one terrorist attack on a HSR train, bring about security before boarding for HSR also?

Anonymous said...

Finally as an open thread, I still don't understand why security checks will not be needed on HSR, thus introducing the same kind of delays air passengers face.

Because 100 grams of semtex don't have the same effect on a train as they do on a fuel-laden pressure vessel suspended at 35000 feet.

Jay said...

Another point about Electric cars,
There are people like me that are car dorks, and Electric cars for the price can't touch the same performance of IC motors.

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

yes, road congestion is a major issue as well. This actually becomes worse with increasing density, unless local public transportation and/or bicycle infrastructure is developed in parallel.

You can electrify dozens of bicycles with the batteries required to electrify a single car. For trips of just 2-3 miles, pedelecs are actually faster door-to-door once you include the time needed to find curbside parking and/or walk from a parking lot/multi-story car park.

Well-designed folding pedelecs could be taken along in trains and stowed either overhead or more likely, under adjacent seats. No need for a park-and-ride lot, no need for connecting transit at the destination. If you work in an office, park it under your desk during the day and let the battery recharge. Admittedly, the strategy would only work in fair weather.

Peter said...

@ looking on

Most terrorists these days seem to go for the spectacular effect. Hence, the hijackings of planes and crashing them into prominent buildings. I don't see how you can hijack a train and crash it into a building...

Anyway, while the body count may be high, it's not as impressive to blow up a train as it is an airplane.

Rafael said...

@ PeakVT -

your point is well taken, though the case for the Empire corridor would be that much stronger if there were a major MSA at both ends.

Chicago would fit the bill, but it's even further from Buffalo than NYC. Toronto would be much closer, but so far the Canadian federal government is resisting public opinion to build an HSR line between Toronto and Montreal - never mind Toronto and Niagara Falls or Toronto-Windsor (a single-track rail tunnel to Detroit exists). In addition, cross-border trains would present customs and immigration issues, though Eurostar shows how those could be addressed.

The New York-Albany leg is also a bit awkward. There aren't any large MSAs between NYC and Albany nor between Albany and Montreal. NYC-Boston via Albany would be a massive detour.

AndyDuncan said...

@looking on Finally, you like so many others, keep trying to extend the length of where HSR makes sense over air. A few years ago, the HSR proponents were talking 250 - 300 miles as the outer range. Now you and others are saying 500 miles; obviously nothing more than a ploy to expand the market for HSR.

The number keeps going up because it's a reflection of what's happening around the world. Train trips are getting faster and plane and car trips are getting slower. The combination of those two has pushed the range of competitiveness for HSR out from what used to be around 300 miles to more like 4-500 miles.

Ari had a quick post on the issue over at his blog, where he identifies routes in the 4-500 mile range that have greater than 50% mode share.

PeakVT said...

@Rafael - Well, Poughkeepsie is #77, so the Albany-NYC portion isn't empty. And there is already high rail demand in the Albany-NYC corridor. Plus, Albany is the state capital and so traffic to/from it will be a little bit higher than the population numbers would suggest.

Note that I am not saying that the BUF-NYC corridor should be the first to be built, just that in the long run in built-out network that it is appropriate for "real" HSR. I actually don't think that spending $4.7B on upgrades to merely 110MPH is a particularly good idea. The state should go directly to 220mph dedicated lines.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

(a) plans to add runways to LAX and SFO stalled due of environmental opposition from nearby residents and others. Your claim that they were far advanced ignores this fact.

There is no need for those runways right this minute because of the recession, but airport expansion projects take a decade or more to complete. Both LAWA and SFO management strongly support HSR because they've tried to expand and could not.

(b) Automotive battery technology has already made huge strides in recent years, primarily due to development of new lithium-ion chemistries, manufacturing techniques and packaging strategies that prevent thermal runaway in the event of a cell being crushed or perforated, e.g. during a collision. The price for crash safety and recyclability is roughly a factor 2 in both specific capacity and specific power relative to commodity Li-Co cells, though some trade-offs between those two are possible.

However, your blind faith that this rate of improvement can be sustained much further ignores fundamental limitations of electrochemistry. There is no better material than lithium for batteries.

(c) Paris-Marseille is 750km (480mi) and HSR enjoys almost 75% modal share against flights for that city pair. However, the French have had 25 years to get used to hopping on TGV trains and SNCF offers a lot of deeply discounted advance purchase tickets to maximize yield.

In Japan, the Tohoku shinkansen line between Tokyo and Hachinohe is currently 593km (370mi) long. However, the 80km (50mi) Shin-Aomori extension is due to enter service in late 2010, with the additional 149km (93mi) extension to Hakodate scheduled to go live in 2015. It will use the existing Seikan tunnel. Ultimately, the line will be extended to Sapporo, at which point its total length will be 1035km (650mi). The proposed journey time from Tokyo will then be a little over 4 hours.

For trips below 300 miles, express HSR dominates modal share, but evidently it is still high at much larger distances. Expanding the market for HSR isn't a ploy for these operators, it's a business strategy.

(d) Carlos the Jackal did plant a bomb on board a TGV train in 1983. Five people died and 50 were injured, but to this day SNCF operates its TGV network without airport-style security (except Eurostar, at the insistence of the UK government).

There have been no other bombings of HSR trains, though there have been unsuccessful attempts to sabotage the tracks in both France and Germany. In 1995, an Amtrak train derailed in Palo Verde (Arizona) due to track sabotage that the FBI has assessed as a failed robbery attempt disguised as domestic terrorism.

Ergo, intercity passenger rail does face a terrorist/criminal threat, but it is different from that against commercial aircraft and therefore requires a different set of security strategies that don't inconvenience passengers nearly as much. Some of these are secret, but the visible ones (sturdy fences/sound walls and CCTV surveillance of the right of way) are part of the California HSR plan and also serve other purposes.

More recently, there have been bombings of crowded commuter trains and subways, which have suffered terrorist attacks in e.g. the UK, Spain and Japan. These forms of mass transit are much more difficult to protect, as airport-style security checks would render them essentially useless.

Depots, stations and airport terminal buildings of all types are also both potential terrorist targets and have been attacked in the past.

At the end of the day, though, life is risk. The only effective defense against terrorists is a combination of aggressive police (not military) action and political dialogue with organizations that address the same grievances through non-violent means.

PeakVT said...

Forgot to add: But since NY doesn't have plans for dedicated lines ready, it should get minimal funds from this round.

Rafael said...

@ PeakVT -

the Poughkeepsie two-county MSA has almost 700,000 people but the town itself is home to just 30,000.

It's conveniently located along the route and should therefore get a station if an HSR line is built, but I wouldn't expect a massive increase in ridership as a result.

Rafael said...

@ PeakVT -

dedicated tracks were not a requirement for ARRA funding. Indeed, the vast majority of projects is based on tracks and rights of ways that are upgraded but still shared with freight trains at speeds of no more than 110mph.

Between 110 and 125mph, the requirements for grade crossings become onerous. Above 125mph, full grade separation is mandatory. That's when you have to spend the really big bucks, something that can only be justified if there is sufficient ridership to support multiple trains per hour, all day long, every day of the year.

I do agree that projects that expect federal taxpayers to foot 100% of the bill should not be evaluated on the same footing as those for which non-federal funding is already committed. ARRA may be a stimulus bill, but the HSR portion is really the core of its "re-investment" aspect. States need to put their own money where their mouth is. Afaik, New York state has not yet done so.

Btw, the amount NY state requested for HSR was apparently $11.6 billion, exceeding the total amount available.

All ABOARD! said...

If you want electric cars you have to be willing to accept 1) the environmental side effects of battery disposal and b) you have to accept the switch to nuclear power.

Otherwise you are not only doing nothing towards congestion relief but continuing to burn fossil fuels, plus adding battery toxins to the land fills.

And before you say anything about renewables, keep in mind that solar and wind, can not and will never be able to produce enough electricity to power today's needs, let alone, the needs of an all electric future.

There are only two ways to do that, nuclear and fossil.

So choose your poison carefully.

Meanwhile, trains, both freight and passenger, are the most energy efficient way to move the largest volume of people and goods the furthest number of miles with the least amount of fuel, of any kind.

Adirondacker12800 said...

There is no better material than lithium for batteries.

Sure there is, aluminum for one. Unfortunately aluminum batteries convert themselves into electrical insulators quite fast. Zinc may be promising too, pump used electrolyte out and fresh electrolyte in. Convert it back to fresh electrolyte when the grid has excess capacity.

but I wouldn't expect a massive increase in ridership as a result.

Probably not Poughkeepsie to NYC because most of those people are on Metro North already. Syracuse to Poughkeepsie. Or Poughkeepsie to Philadelphia. Or Syracuse to Philadelphia. Upgrade Boston to Albany and the line serves Rochester to Boston as well as Rochester to NY and Rochester to Toronto and Rochester to Cleveland. Or Utica to Baltimore or Saratoga Springs to Washington or... There's a lot of city pairs buried in upstate New York along with the 800 pound gorilla that is Manhattan and it's suburbs.

All ABOARD! said...

@looking on

As a 40 year resident of the bay area, I can tell you, there will not be another runway built on sf bay. The bay area combination of pro transit sentiment, environmental activism, and staunch nimbyism will prohibit it.

The solution for the bay area is a simple one.
remove intra-california travel from the 3 airports and put it on high speed rail. This frees up a huge amount of capacity divided between the three airports, then properly and actively manage that remaining national and international travel between the three airports.

I would:

1) ban intra-california flights - all air travel within the state would be moved to hsr.
2) use LAX and SFO for international flights only
3 use the secondary airports in oakland, san jose, ontario, burbank etc, for interstate flights.

this would allow for segregation of security levels as well. With LAX and SFO being hardened to the highest standards, while speeding things up at the secondary airports.

Rafael said...

@ All Aboard -

"If you want electric cars you have to be willing to accept 1) the environmental side effects of battery disposal and b) you have to accept the switch to nuclear power."

Except for low-volume fringe players like Tesla Motors, the automotive industry is already subject to recycling laws in all developed nations. Even if it wanted to, it would not be permitted to adopt battery technology that did not lend itself to recycling.

Specifically, automotive-grade Li-ion batteries can be mechanically shredded at room temperature without risk of a fire. By contrast, commodity LiCo-ion cells of the type used in laptops and cell phones can only be shredded after chilling them down with liquid nitrogen. This is not cost-effective, so it is not done. Instead, such cells are deliberately burnt in incinerators to avoid the fire risk and only the cobalt is recovered. The rest goes into landfills.

More here (English) and here (in German).


As for electricity generation, it would in fact be possible to satisfy total US demand with renewables alone, but only after massive investments in generating capacity, distribution and grid management. Pres. Obama's smart grid initiative would create the foundation for that.

The existing generating infrastructure in the US (mostly coal, natural gas, nuclear and a bit of hydro) would be sufficient for trickle-charging tens of million of electric cars at night, when many other electricity consumers are off-line.

In other words: recharge only at night, drive the first 30-40 miles of the day on grid electricity and then let the range extender engine kick in. Most people actually drive less than 30 miles on most days.

Presto, no new nuclear power plants needed. Spend the money on HSR instead ;^)

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

"There is no better material than lithium for batteries."

To clarify: I was referring to both capacity and power per unit of weight and per unit volume. Those metrics are very important in automotive applications and lithium beats all other electrode metals in that regard.

Aluminium-air and zinc-chloride batteries do exist, but they are poorly suited to general-purpose automobiles.

looking on said...


I don't know the situation at LAX, but at SFO, plans were well advanced to add another runway in the middle of the bay. Yes, there was to be opposition, but the plan was on a fast track, and if need be, CEQA concerns were to be brushed aside by legislative action. If not for 9/11 right now there would be another runway at SFO.

Making my position clear, I was flabbergasted by what was going on behind the scenes, but someday, it will all come out, and maybe for all I know, since I haven't searched, it is known today.

You statement that Lithium is the best material for batteries, is current day technology; other materials will appear; battery technology has a long way to improve.

Today the range of where HSR competes is extended because of security measures imposed on passengers and the time delay involved. However, it is a sure fire cinch that if HSR every gets built, airlines like Southwest will streamline that process and make boarding times similar to that for just boarding a train.

The airlines are happy to give you the Fresno to LA or SF trip, but not the LA to SF trip; the trip that is supposed to be so profitable for HSR. The numbers given that 8 million passengers per year (2007) are involved in those trips, will not be given up easily by the air carriers. Yes, if you live in SF, you probably will prefer the train, since local transit is available. But on the peninsula, you still need to drive to a station. Down in LA, I don't see much advantage at all to the starting or ending a trip via train vs. air; you still need ground transportation

All ABOARD! said...

powering this country on renewables is a century away. In the meantime, nuclear could be up and running in no time. It is the fault of paranoid and misguided environmentalists of the 70s, that we now have global warming as the shut down of nuclear power forced us to burn coal instead. And burning coal is not only filthy, but releases more radioactivity into the air than all the nuclear plants in the world combined. (this is thanks to the same people who have burned down our forests) Its criminal really.

Rafael said...

@ All Aboard -

"2) use LAX and SFO for international flights only
3 use the secondary airports in oakland, san jose, ontario, burbank etc, for interstate flights."

That wouldn't work at all for international passengers that hail from or are destined for a final destination in another state.

Also, the notion that a domestic-only airport would need less stringent security than one serving international customers strikes me as hopelessly optimistic. Not only are there domestic terrorists, it would also be relatively easy for a foreign terrorist to enter the US and then target a strictly domestic flight at a later date (cp. 9/11/2001).

Domestic terminals don't need customs and immigration, but security requirements are identical. Ontario airport in particular will need not just an HSR station plus people mover but probably also a new international terminal located in-between #2 and #4 before it can become LAX East.

All ABOARD! said...

If theyre going to another state from an international flight, then they wouldn't be in cali anyway. Unless they were laying over as part of a multi leg trip. in which case arriving at sfo and departing from oak wouldn' matter.
Now say quantas sydney to kansas city flight includes a change of planes at sfo, which I guess is what you're talking about, well, if thats the case then those airlines will have to adjust their flights accordingly.

Or we could close all the airports in cali and re use the real esate. then build one ginormous super -airport (the SupAirPort) in the middle of the state or in the high desert where there are never weather delays and where everything from the lighting to the people movement would be state of the art, and then link our population to that airport via hsr. If you consider that such an airport would be within 90 minutes via hsr from 2/3 of the states pop, thats pretty good considering most people have to drive 90 minutes in traffic to get to their nearest airport anyway.

Actually I propose we simply purchase nevada, ( its worthless right now) build 10 super nucllear power plants, cover the state with solar panels, and build the SupAirPort there, move all the state prisons there, and dispose of all our garbage there, close all our prisons, landfills and airports and re use the real estate for TOD and parks and rec.
We can sell the excess energy to neighboring states at a premium, and use the profits to re beautify california and ue any leftover to pay californians a stipend a la alaska. If nevadans resist we'll bribe them.
I believe god made nevada so california would have a place to do this.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

regarding SFO: "CEQA concerns were to be brushed aside by legislative action."

Ha, I don't think SF peninsula residents would accept that lying down. Expanding capacity isn't a safety issue.

"You statement that Lithium is the best material for batteries, is current day technology; other materials will appear; battery technology has a long way to improve."

I'm not aware of any open slots at the bottom of the periodic table. Blind faith won't change the laws of nature. Even if an additional factor 2 improvement were possible by increasing electrode surface area and reducing packaging overheads, fully charged batteries would still be massively inferior to gasoline in terms of energy content per unit of weight and in terms of cost per unit of power and range. That's a huge issue for automotive applications, all the benefits of electric drive notwithstanding.

"airlines like Southwest will streamline that process and make boarding times similar to that for just boarding a train"

Since when can Southwest instruct TSA to cease its security checks of checked bags, carry-on bags and passengers?

"The airlines are happy to give you the Fresno to LA or SF trip, but not the LA to SF trip"

Afaik, the customer is still king. Airlines will fight a rear guard action to keep their LA-SF business and they will lose most of it. Just look at the London-Paris and the Madrid-Barcelona air markets. Whenever fares are competitive, the majority of consumers prefer spacious high speed trains to flying in economy class.

As for ground transportation in LA, there are already plenty of rail and bus lines serving Union Station today, with more in the pipeline. For example, the purple line subway is being extended out to UCLA and will ultimately run to Santa Monica, which will also be served by the Expo light rail line.

Of course, you can also rent a car at LA Union Station if you want to. Budget and Hertz are just across the street.

Rafael said...

@ All Aboard -

"If they're going to another state from an international flight, then they wouldn't be in cali anyway."

That depends on the trip origin and destination. There are plenty of trans-pacific carriers that fly into LAX and/or SFO but not into e.g. Phoenix, Las Vegas etc. They usually rely on US-based partner airlines to deliver those connections via code-sharing. Case in point: Qantas

In some cases, there may be a direct flight but an itinerary involving a transfer in California is cheaper. The long-distance aviation market is currently dominated by the hub-and-spoke model based on 747s and A380s for the long haul legs. However, the upcoming 7E7 and the A350 aircraft may change that dynamic.

Spokker said...

re: Great Depression

At the end of the day, World War II was a massive public works project, and it would have had the same effect economically as building all those ships and weapons and dumping them into the ocean.

The New Deal didn't go far enough. Also, unemployment was still high partly because those who took public jobs weren't counted in the employment rolls because it was temporary employment.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

I'm not sure what you meant when you said that "expanding capacity is not a safety issue". Safety is the precise reason why SFO as it is today has capacity problems in poor weather conditions.

The runways are so close together that there are only so many flights you can squeeze in per hour in poor visual conditions. Runways further apart would permit much closer spacing, hence more capacity.

@ All Aboard

Nuclear power unfortunately requires huge amounts of cool, fresh water. Precisely the water that the rest of the state so desperately needs. That is the main economic impediment to nuclear power these days (ignoring the excessive fear factor the population has about nuclear power).

Spokker said...

Here's a bit from a book I'm reading about the Interstate Highway System.

"MacDonald created the Highway Education Board and the Highway Research Board, which were intended to look like independent education and research group, respectively. He used them for disseminating highway-booster propaganda and for providing seemingly impartial expert testimony at legislative hearings. The Education Board sponsored essay contests, with a college scholarship as prize (funded by tire maker Harvey Firestone), on such topics as "How Good Roads Help the Religious Life of My Community."

Robert, your next post should be, How HSR Helps the Religious Life of My Community.

Damn, highway propaganda was hardcore. The CHSRA should learn from these guys.

All ABOARD! said...

The new deal should have gone further, but regardless of the economic benefits, what we have today is a lasting and cherished legacy of american craftsmanship, ambition, talent and infrastructure without which, modern america would not be recognizable.
The new deal employed american artists and craftsmen and laborers and gave us the great bridges, dams, and other public works that we have since failed to duplicate. Those men took great pride in their work.
compare those times to today's america, where greed, corruption, and general nastiness in the business world under the guise of the "free market" is the M.O.

Kind of shameful really. And in those days, unlike now, any one who did an honest days work for an honest days pay was respected.

All ABOARD! said...

peter, nuclear power doens't need any more water that coal power. they both use he same amount of water to generate steam. YOu need only convert existing coal plants to nuclear. I spoke with an engineer from lawrence livermore once, asking this same question and the idea that nuke plants have to have some special source of water is false.

You can put a nuclear plant anywhere you have a coal plant.

Peter said...

I wasn't able to find the exact numbers, but Wikipedia stated that cooling of power plants is the single largest use of water in the U.S.

Compare that to photovoltaic and wind turbine systems, which use no water, and you can see that we could save a lot of water.

Interestingly, did you guys know that you get a greater exposure to radioactivity from around coal powerplants than nuclear ones? That's assuming there's no catastropic meltdown, of course.

All ABOARD! said...

yes I knew that, but most people don't know it. thats part of the prob. so much fear and misinformation.

Peter said...

I didn't know it, but I'm not surprised by it.

Apparently, the entire country's energy needs could be met by photovoltaic systems covering a total area the size of Connecticut. That does not mean it would all need to be one big solar plant, of course.

Rafael said...

@ Peter, All Aboard -

it would be possible to use treated waste water rather than fresh water as the ambient heat sink for caloric power plants. The primary energy source is irrelevant in this context.

Another strategy is to use brackish or salt water to wick off the excess heat, but in that case highly corrosion-resistant metals must be used for the heat exchanger between the closed coolant circuit and the open one. This is how marine diesel engines are cooled.

Normally, the design doesn't allow the salt water to boil because that would reduce the thermodynamic efficiency of the electricity generation process. There's also the issue of salt buildup on the heat exchange surfaces, this acts as a thermal insulator and has to be washed off periodically. However, if there's the additional objective of producing a non-trivial amount of fresh water by condensing the steam via a second heat exchanger, it might still be worth it.

Btw, concentrated photovoltaics and solar thermal power plants usually involve a coolant water cycle as well. Since the primary energy is free in these cases and washing can happen at night, co-generation of fresh water is especially attractive.

Andre Peretti said...

The airline/hsr threshold has been increased to 500 miles just because experience has proved it valid.
Paris-Marseille has a 186mph speed limit and it still beats Ryanair, the cheapest low-cost airline in the world. The TGV is more expensive than Ryanair but most people prefer to pay a few more euros and relax.
With 255mph becoming the standard commercial speed, the 500-mile limit may even seem too modest.

By the way, I heard an interview of an Emirates' executive who said that next generation Airbus and Boeing will be able to do Dubai-SFO (but not LAX) non-stop. As Dubai is on the way to becoming one of the world's biggest hubs, it is bound to increase SFO's position as an international hub, making it the Paris CDG of California. That would strengthen the case for an HSR terminal at the airport.

Rafael said...

@ All Aboard -

coal may be cheap, but it has all kinds of trace contaminants, including some radioactive material. Hansen Cement in Cupertino was forced to switch to natural gas when it was discovered it was emitting too much mercury.

Actually, only a small fraction of the heavy metals contained in the fuel became airborne. Most of them ended up in the ash, which was presumably carted off somewhere. The location of coal ash ponds has been declared a national secret because of concerns regarding environmental terrorism following the spill in Tennessee. At the same time, the coal lobby is also marketing the stuff as a green material. I'm not making this up.

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

"With 255mph becoming the standard commercial speed, the 500-mile limit may even seem too modest."

(a) who is running their steel wheels trains at 410km/h in regular commercial service? Even the Chinese don't have any plans to go above 380km/h in the foreseeable future.

(b) there is no formal distance limit for HSR routes. Rather, modal share against commercial flights declines gradually with distance. Somewhere along the curve, the HSR is no longer high enough to justify the capital investment and operating overheads.

However, that decision is heavily influenced by many factors including regional equity politics, road capacity, road tolls, on-road fuel taxes, airport capacity, airport links to downtown, winter weather conditions at airports, the anticipated price of kerosene vs. electricity, sunk costs in underutilized rail tunnels etc.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

"Safety is the precise reason why SFO as it is today has capacity problems in poor weather conditions."

In that case, what you need is system that can reliably control aircraft position to a tighter tolerance even when there's fog. You don't need to build a third runway in a place that's prone to fog to begin with.

This is an example of safety being cited to hide the real intent of expanding air traffic when the weather is fair. If you want to be facetious, Oakland airport is the third runway, it's just not used that way because the two facilities are owned by competing entities and there's no ferry between them.

Andre Peretti said...

Wrong key. I meant 225mph (360km/h) which is the commercial speed of the future. Alstom and Bombardier claim their new trains don't consume more power at that speed than the TGV at 186mph.

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

ah, ok, a typo. You're right, a number of recently completed lines were designed to support commercial operations at 350-360km/h, the biggest issue is getting the signaling ironed out. Only some of the trains between Beijing and Tianjin currently reach those speeds and then only briefly, since the line is fairly short.

Regarding the energy efficiency claims at 360-380km/h relative to the TGV at 300km/h, could you provide some links? Considering wind resistance increases with the square of velocity (all other things being equal), I'd like to know how they pull that off.

HSRforCali said...

@ Rafael

"Who is running their steel wheels trains at 410km/h in regular commercial service? Even the Chinese don't have any plans to go above 380km/h in the foreseeable future."

Why not? I'm sure everyone thought 220 mph was way out of reach when the TGV was first developed.

Bombardier and Talgo are both working on trains that can run at speeds of up to 236 mph. And South Korea is developing a train called the HEMU-400X that can run at speeds of up to 250 mph. This is due to enter service by 2012.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

I'm confused about your point. Are you saying the airlines and airports are trying to hide the fact that they want to maximize good weather capacity?

The airlines do schedule more flights than some airports or airspace systems have the capacity for. Why do you think they just limited the amounts of flights at JFK (I think it was JFK)?

"In that case, what you need is system that can reliably control aircraft position to a tighter tolerance even when there's fog."

I think you're a little overly optimistic at the ability of technology to help out SFO's poor weather capacity. Currently, Simultaneous Close Parallel ILS PRM operations at SFO require a ceiling of 2100' and 4 statute mile visibility.

That's using runway 28L's ILS, and an LDA (a much less precise approach procedure than an ILS) for 28R.

An ILS is currently the most reliable and precise navigational equipment for instrument approaches in operation.

If the FAA and the airlines ever get around to implementing LAAS, then that may change.

However, I do not see the FAA's requirements for parallel approaches changing anytime soon. If they implement LAAS, which would essentially enable autoland at any airport that is covered by LAAS, they would still have to be flying aircraft in very close proximity to each other in poor weather conditions.

The FAA requires 2500' separation between runway centerlines for Dependent Parallel ILS Approaches, where the aircraft arrive staggered, with at least 1.5 miles radar separation diagonally between them.

For runways operating Simultaneous Parallel ILS Approaches, where the aircraft can approach side-by-side, you need at least 4300' separation between the runway centerlines.

You can have simultaneous close parallel approaches with runways closer than 4300', like those at SFO, but the approach minimums need to be higher (you need better weather), and the pilots need to be specially trained.

Given that at SFO the runway centerlines are spaced 750' apart, I don't see any sort of technological improvements increasing poor weather capacity.

Anonymous said...


Its good to see someone with real knowledge of the Air Traffic system chime in here. Rafael is a fish out of water here in this discussion; I just decided to not comment further.

The old arguments that airports need to expand has been going on for decades. Better timetable management, better technology and the advent of larger aircraft have continually pushed back many airport expansions.

One item I learned the other day was that Southwest is no longer opposing the Texas HSR plan --- I have no information, most likely Rafael does, but my understanding is they now approve of a Texas system. This is a complete 180 flip on their previous position.

They virtually defeated a previous HSR project there by themselves.

Finally I reject his assertion about battery technology being near the end of its possible improvements.

What should really be discussed here is why this country should be climbing on the bandwagon of technology that is so old and developed mostly elsewhere, rather than doing innovation and creating new technology. Oh Well...

Bianca said...

What should really be discussed here is why this country should be climbing on the bandwagon of technology that is so old and developed mostly elsewhere, rather than doing innovation and creating new technology.

Wow, it really must grate you every time you have to ride on something with wheels on it. Such old technology.

Peter said...

@ Anon @ 6:23

I have to agree with Bianca that for right now, we should go with tried-and-true technology for HSR. That is the cheapest way to implement the system.

Of course, we should not rest on our laurels and we should invest in developing new technologies, like maglev. They just are not ready and too expensive for large-scale commercial application.

Andre Peretti said...

Here's an Alstom document with
a TGV/AGV comparison .
Other documents cite:
better eficiency and weight and size reduction of motors due to permanent rare-earth magnets.
70 tonnes weight reduction by use of composites.
Improved aerodynamics: nose profile, air deflectors on bogies, better surface continuity between cars.
Improved regenerative braking, up to 9Mw sent back to the grid.

I found no detailed document for Bombardier. As they also use permanent magnets and know a thing or two about aerodynamics and light alloys, I suppose the Zefiro must be equivalent to the AGV.

Joey said...

Given that the TGV world speed record achieved greater than 350mph in its record run, and no one is even talking about more than 250 these days, I'd say that steel-wheel-on-steel-rail electrified trains have a long way to go before reaching the end of their useful, or even developmental, life yet. Sure, maglev and eventually VacTrain will probably dominate future transport (teleportation nonwithstanding ;), the latter even rendering air travel more or less obsolete. But in the mean time, conventional HSR is far from dead, and we can still invest on improving its energy efficiency and speed (probably continuing to study ways in which to make maglev feasible in the mean time too).

Brandi said...

I still can't believe they only gave $8 Billion for HSR, that doesn't even cover the cost of one train tunnel under the Hudson River. Well time to give thanks for what we got.

Alon Levy said...

Spokker, what's the name of the book about the Interstate system that you're reading? I sounds intriguing and I may want to add it to my reading list backlog.

Alon Levy said...

Brandi, the cost of a tunnel under the Hudson isn't $8 billion. The actual tunnel is budgeted at $2.4 billion; the rest of the cost is improvements on both sides of the tunnel, mainly building a new deep-level Penn Station.

Spokker said...

Alon, it's called 20th-Century Sprawl by Owen D. Gutfreund. Not necessarily an anti-highway, anti-car book, but he's definitely against the way the United States designed, constructed and financed its highway system. He doesn't seem to have any problem with the way Eurpeans have done things, haha.

Alon Levy said...

Thanks, Spokker. I tried to download it from Columbia's website - it's free for Columbia people - but it won't let me login. I'll try again next time I'm on campus.

Alon Levy said...

Okay, now I'm reading it, and the writing style is meh. Gutfreund's insistence of scare-quoting the word "expert" whenever he refers to an automobile engineer is really polemical.

Alon Levy said...

I finished the book, and it only gets more polemical toward the end - the author can't resist reminding people every page that the highways were subsidized. It's grating.

Also, I read the original dissertation rather than the book it was adapted to, and it has a lot of annoying errors - spelling errors, Freudian slips (proscribe instead of prescribe), and factual errors (e.g. it fudges the distances from Smyrna, TN to other cities downward). It's well-researched, but not well-written or even well-argued.