Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Venture Beat Loves HSR

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

Venture Beat, a Silicon Valley blog, has an excellent overview of the high speed rail project and its benefits for Silicon Valley. I especially liked this part:

It’s hard to calculate the value that a project like this would have in the long run, in the same sense that it was hard to calculate the value of some of the first railroads, highways and major bridges in this state.

High speed rail really does need to be assessed in those kinds of terms. It would be a transformative project for this state, catalyzing economic development in ways that are difficult to quantify. HSR would play a central role in 21st century prosperity in California as the aqueducts did in the 20th century and the railroads did in the 19th century.

The train would help Silicon Valley to become more accessible to lower-income and middle-income workers who can no longer afford to live here, people who instead live in Central Valley cities like Stockton or Modesto and spend hours driving back and forth to work in the Bay each day. The planned network includes a series of stops in Central Valley towns.

For some this sets off "sprawl" alarm bells - but I don't see the cause for concern. Sprawl is a product of cheap oil, cheap credit, and favorable land use rules. We're losing the first two. Stockton and Modesto, in fact, bear the highest foreclosure rates anywhere in the *world* right now. As gas prices continue to soar there will be even less appetite for sprawl - but a lot MORE appetite for high-density development in close proximity to an HSR station. I'm all in favor of tightening the land use rules against sprawl too, but HSR alone isn't going to destroy the Valley. In fact it is likely to be its salvation.

The blog post goes on to mention environmental benefits, jobs, and convenience as reasons to get behind the HSR plan. Plus they link to the Facebook group and to this blog - but that's just icing on an excellent argument for HSR.


Anonymous said...

I just came upon this if you are interested. Don't worry, its just a bunch of meaningless conjecture.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I saw that too! And guess who's in that group? Mr. Martin Engel, the same guy who floods negative stuff about HSR on blogs and threads everywhere including this one! I don't think we should be worried though, they will not succeed with their silly, false statements. People are not as stupid to beleive this group of people. Although we should be aware of them! Keep up the good work Robert!

Anonymous said...

The derailhsr is a wee bit silly. It looks like it is just four guys in Menlo Park, (i.e. rich guys who bought houses next to a railroad and are now pissed that they are ACTUALLY going to use the railroad) I wonder what people in East Palo Alto would think about 12 lanes of 101, or East Oakland would think about another runway or two at Oakland International. Oh, right no one cares what poor people think. Right?

They actually bring up a good point in one of their articles:

"With realistic rider numbers (not their grossly inflated ones), the per passenger costs become enormous. Every individual in California will each owe — and pay through taxes — the State close to $3,000 to build this train."

This $3000 spread out between now and 2020, the earliest HSR might start service actually breaks down to about $20 a month...Ok, I guess I'll cancel my netflix. I MEAN SERIOUSLY TWENTY BUCKS A MONTH!

Call me crazy but that beats the hell out of their alternative:

"The cars and planes of ten years hence will be very, very different in their fuel consumption and pollution output. We are seeing that trend already (mostly driven by foreign manufacturers). Indeed, along with alternative-energy powered vehicles, I see a trend toward what we might call 'personal mobility units' (PMUs), including SMART cars."

OH, of course! Brilliant guys...who knew the answer to California's future is really a $25,000 reincarnation of the Fiat 500's and BMW Isetta 300's of the fifties that no one in North America bought the first time around.

So what would you choose? Twenty bucks a month for the next twelve years to build a rail line that will last well into the 22nd century or start saving now for your 20K+ Mercedes built SMART car.

And they say that we are supporting an obsolete technology with no cost benefit.

Jack Duluoz said...

From Derail:

"I see a trend toward what we might call “personal mobility units” (PMUs), including SMART those who support the high-speed train, where were you thirty years ago? That’s when building this train might have been affordable. Now, it’s too late. Costs have outrun the cost-benefits of such a train. Ditto for BART, which should have been built on the Peninsula thirty years ago. Now, it’s too late for that as well. The historic and economic windows have closed for both of those efforts."


My 1972 BMW gets 30 mpg, the governments requirement for fuel standards in 2020 is set at what? 35mpg? How about that for 48 years of market driven capitalism in the automotive industry!?

Its the auto manufacturers that blew it 30 years ago.

I just saw the Derail site...I'd prefer to bring this argument to their door but they don't take comments on their site (how very web 1.0)

Anonymous said...

HSR enthousiast from Europe here, thx for the site & hope California gets its own service. It's sad to see a small number of NIMBYs are trying to torpedo the effort.

For reference, even Morocco is now embarking on the construction of an HSR line from Tangiers to Agadir (~1000 miles), with service to Casablanca by 2013 and to Marrakesh by 2015. A second line would connect Casablanca to Oujda on the Algerian border, in the hope of one day extending service all the way to Tripoli in Libya.

Moreover, Morocco and Spain are in the early stages of a serious joint project to dig an HSR rail tunnel (2 tracks + service) for freight and passengers under the Straits of Gibraltar, a seismically active area.

The lowest point would be under at least 120m of overburden, some of it porous, with 300m of ocean above that. They expect the biggest problem will be pumping out water seeping through the rocks fast enough to prevent flooding. The first tube isn't expected to enter service until 2025 at the earliest, the second a decade after that.

No-one is certain this fixed link will prove technically feasible, not even Swiss tunneling ace Giovanni Lombardi. However, it's a fairly safe bet that the current estimate of EUR 5 billion will be prove wildly optimistic. Indeed, the combination of HSR projects could potentially bankrupt Morocco, but its (unelected) government has a vision for the long term and it is not afraid to pursue it.

Brandon in California said...

^^^ Perhaps we're entering an era similar to that experienced in the airline industry 20-30 years ago whereas just about every country began flying national airlines. Now, that can-do attitude reflected in setting up and flying planes has been reincarnated as constructing and operating HS systems.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The fact that does not have comments is a hilarious sign of their total lack of confidence in their arguments, their unwillingness to defend their positions.


Thanks for that info on Morocco, anonymous. I think hurdler is right that there's a kind of "HSR space race" (to borrow a phrase from the Overhead Wire) going on globally with HSR. But it's also a sign of far-sighted governments that realize the consequences of peak oil. A country like Morocco is going to be crippled when the oil runs out or becomes too costly.

What most Californians don't yet realize is, so will we.

Anonymous said...

Alright Robert we're on to you...we know that you are really a covert agent on the payroll of the "big high speed rail" lobbyists. Or so the boys at derail would have us think.

"There are many web sites on the Internet that encourage the creation of the California High Speed Rail (CHSR) project. We believe that some of these web sites are sponsored and supported with funds from HSR advocates."

Wow! They must be talking about you Robert. Let me know when you get your check and I'll tell you when I get mine.

I'd tell these guys that blogs are free but they all have Ph.D after their names, and I'd hate to be pedantic.

Wow! Got paranoia derail?

Robert Cruickshank said...

If there are any checks being thrown around, none have come my way. But then I'm not surprised they have to resort to making stuff up to criticize the growing public support for HSR.

Desperate times, desperate people, desperate measures...

Anonymous said...

Let me comment here regarding our website,

We indeed are a small group, but we have been following this proposed project for years. I have lived in my present home 39 years. In point of fact I have lived almost my whole life within a few blocks of rail. That is not at all why I oppose this project.

Our site is not taking comments, there are plenty of sites, like this one that do.

We are interested in presenting what other sites apparently are not. What we want viewers to do is simply visit, the site and look at the materials there. In the press section is a collection of articles which are very informative.

Read the history on the founders of CHSRA. Read about the economics.

California is headed down the wrong road on this project. It will never make money; it will forever, just like rail projects all over the world be a project that has rosy forecasts and dismal performance. Look at the history as an example on San Jose Light Rail -- put forward years ago by none other then Rod Diridon.

Every voter should make their own decision. Every voter needs to look at all the facts.

Morris Brown