Tuesday, April 15, 2008

HSR Success Stories Keep on Coming

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

Last year Eurostar opened a new high speed line connecting the Channel Tunnel to St. Pancras station in London - a faster, more central connection linking London to Paris than had previously existed. As a result ridership has soared by 21% - and as the Wired Autopia post notes, Eurostar's ontime record of 93% easily beat that of low-cost air carrier easyJet. Eurostar connects London to Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes - about 15 minutes less than the projected SF-LA trip.

In Taiwan, 23 million people have traveled on the country's HSR service in the first 15 months of operation. A China Airlines subsidiary, Mandarin Airlines, had to terminate its service between Taichung and Taipei because it failed to compete with the HSR system.

Here in the USA, the quasi-HSR Acela service has now taken 41% of the market share on the Northeast Corridor. And ridership on Amtrak California's intercity lines continues to soar. Meanwhile rising fuel costs are driving up airline fares, causing four airlines to go bankrupt in the last two weeks, and forcing Delta and Northwest to merge to cut costs.

Of course, HSR's opponents would have us believe that somehow California is unique - that HSR's global success won't happen here, that air travel's national struggles won't affect "cheap fares" here. Unless these critics have some secret method to cure peak oil and reverse rising fuel costs, Californians should not take them seriously.


Anonymous said...

In addition to high fuel prices, the current rail renaissance in other countries is due in no small part to the fact that they have connecting services that get you from to and from the train station.

It would be interesting to see a report card grading the feeder infrastructure for each of the 30 or so proposed HSR stations in California. The report should distinguish between services already available today and new ones planned to go live before HSR does.

Since California is mostly sunny for many months in the year and urban sprawl works against the cost-effective provision of public transport, perhaps particular emphasis should be on electric folding bicycles. These can be taken onto the train and recharged in transit. Passenger can avoid working up a sweat before their train journey.

At the moment, such bicycles are very much niche products and therefore expensive. Here are some examples intended to illustrate the principle, rather than endorse any particular product:

Brompton Nano

Folding electric bicycle with NiMH battery

Suitcase folding bike - good design integration, but not yet electrified

For longer distances, a faster foldable scooter might be preferable. The following clip focuses on using one in combination with a light aircraft and a pleasure boat, but it could just as easily be a train. Now that modern Li-ion batteries are available, a future iteration could be electrically powered.

Folding moped Di Blasi R7

Anonymous said...

Since lots more people currently have non-folding, non-electric bikes, I hope HSR provides on-board bike access. Comparable to what the Capitol Corridor currently has, for example.

I believe most bikes-on-transit programs allow electric bikes, but I can't remember ever seeing one.

Anonymous said...

I've created a DRAFT report card for the HSR feeder infrastructure for the California system + Desert Xpress. It's an Excel spreadsheet, I don't have a web server. Any way I add the doc to this blog?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Uh...you can e-mail it to me, my last name at gmail.com, and I can reformat it and post it as an entry. Or I can host the excel file and have folks download it. Whatever you prefer.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The HSR cars will definitely have to have some accommodation for bikes, the bike advocates will see to that. Caltrain is widely hailed as a leader in this and hopefully the CHSRA is taking good notes.

I think folks underestimate the quality of transit connections at LA Union Station. It's already the hub of a transit network far superior to anything San Jose or Oakland have, and not that far behind SF. Downtown San Diego isn't that bad off either with the trolley, the Coaster, and the Pacific Surfliners.

It's the other stations that have more work to do - Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno.