Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Zombie Lies

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

I had hoped we'd dealt with this when it popped up at Daily Kos yesterday - the commenters there gave it a thorough smackdown - but unfortunately it's appeared across the blogosphere today, helped by the credulous and fundamentally uninformed Kevin Drum (I still don't understand why Mother Jones would hire a moderate to blog for them) who reproduced "it" on his site today.

"It" is an email being peddled by the daughter of James Mills offering criticism of Prop 1A. Mills is another one of these "rail supporters" who are offering truthiness and outright lies to try and convince people Prop 1A is a bad idea. To the uninformed masses - which unfortunately include some bloggers - anyone who claims to have rail credentials apparently is given the benefit of the doubt when we who actually understand rail policy know that James Mills, Richard Tolmach, Wendell Cox, and Joseph Vranich are fundamentally anti-rail.

Mills and Tolmach co-authored an HSR denier op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month. I gave it the usual thorough deconstruction here on the blog when it appeared, although I focused my fire on Tolmach, since I'd never heard of James Mills. Now Mills' daughter is circulating Mills' own arguments to the bloggers, and some of the more gullible bloggers, like Kevin Drum, have taken the bait. As a result Ezra Klein and now Atrios are discussing its contents.

So, time to try and kill the Zombie Lies.

The email starts like this:

I am passing on an analysis of California's Prop 1A ballot initiative from one of the leading experts and advocates of mass transit in the state of California, James Mills.

Mills' daughter writes:

I'd like to suggest you vote "No" on Proposition 1A, the "Safe Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act," on the basis of the following insider, expert information: my dad says it's a bad idea.

My father, James Mills, spent his entire career in the California state legislature (1961-1983) working to promote public transportation in the state. He was President pro Tem of the Senate for a decade. He was chairman of the Amtrak board under president Carter. Since retiring he has worked as a consultant on transit issues, and in the 1990's he served on the High Speed Rail Commission for the State of California . My dad is hard-core in favor of rail. If he says a proposal to fund a rail project is no good, then that proposal has to be a real turkey.

Notice the sleight of hand here. James Mills is not a well-known figure even in California political circles. His specific policy positions are completely unknown. But just like the notoriously anti-transit Wendell Cox, and the equally anti-rail Joseph Vranich, Mills trades on a 30-year old association with Amtrak to try and gain credibility when he passes on flawed HSR denials. The last sentence is designed to solidify the assumed expertise of Mills, but to me it just sets off alarm bells.

Which are justified when we read the specific objections:

1. Prop 1A raises about ten billion dollars in a bond issue. This is a down-payment on a project which was estimated in 2006 to cost 45 billion dollars but will probably cost more if it is ever built. Remaining funding will be sought from the federal government (10-15 billion) and private investors (15-20 billion).

Notice that, as always, no specific reason is given as to "probably cost more". It is blind speculation. No specific figure of cost overruns is given either. Lacking those details or underlying explanations this claim lacks credibility. Rail projects around the country, including LA's Metro Gold Line extension, have been delivered on time and on budget in recent years.

Further, and this is ironic, that $45 billion is the figure for the ENTIRE system - which in point #5 Mills claims is unplanned.

2. The federal government has never invested any amount even close to $10 billlion in a transit project.

The federal government had never spent $700 billion on a bank bailout either. Before 1971 they'd never operated passenger trains. Before 1956 they'd never spent hundreds of billions on freeways. Shall we go on?

But we have better evidence. John Kerry and Johnny Isakson are working on a bill to provide about $10 billion for HSR projects around the nation. Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden are strong supporters of HSR and want to fund it.

3. If private investment were found, the bill says that investors would make money NOT from a the profit of the transit system, but from a percentage of ticket sales. In other words, the profit of investors is guaranteed, regardless of the operating costs of the system. The Legislative Analyst estimates that the OPERATING AND MAINTENANCE COSTS of the system will be one billion per year -- the State of California will cover any deficit not covered by ticket sales. It is rare for a public transit system to run in the black: normally, not all costs of the system will be covered from the fare box.

This is a bit misleading. As I understand it from what Rod Diridon explained today, those same investors also have to satisfy their own bond to the state/CHSRA and a "franchise fee" to the same. That's quite a bit different than saying "their profit is guaranteed" - a misleading statement designed to imply that California is going to be left holding the bag while private investors light cigars with our money.

This claim also misleads Californians on the Legislative Analyst's estimate - she has said the $1 billion figure is a worst-case scenario.

And of course, it is not rare for high speed rail systems to run in the black. In fact, they ALL run in the black. Every last one. In France the TGVs are so profitable they subsidize other slower rail services. SNCF had so much money they actually gave some to the French treasury earlier this year.

4. Premises on projected ridership are false. The only high-speed rail system in the US is Amtrak's "Acela" service between NY-Washington and NY-Boston. This system is well established and serves large population centers with excellent public transportation tie-ins to feed it such as subways, and they carry 3 million riders a year. The French have the best high-speed rail system in the world, and their busiest line is Paris to Lyon, again large cities with major subway systems, and it carries perhaps 15 million riders a year. In contrast, proponents of Prop 1A rely on a projection of 100 million riders per year between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a figure provided by a paid consultant that happened to be Lehman Brothers. This projection of patronage is a fantasy.

This paragraph is full of outright lies. Yes, lies.

First, Acela is not true HSR and is much slower than our system will be. Anyone trying to compare the Acela to CA HSR either does not understand Acela or is deliberately misleading readers. It does not speak very well of James Mills' vaunted "rail knowledge."

Second, these arguments about ridership come directly from the oil company funded Reason Foundation. It is a libertarian lies being passed off as fact. Those ridership claims - specifically about Paris-Lyon - are complete nonsense. We thoroughly debunked the "not enough riders" claim last month. The key portion of our mythbusting:

Cox-Vranich's [the Reason Foundation study] ridership figures are wildly inaccurate. Using C-V's preferred measure, JR Central reported 2007 ridership of 80 million passenger km per Shinkansen route km (44.5 billion passenger km / 552 km route). In the "high" scenario, CA HSRA is forecasting roughly 27 million passenger km per HSR route km (30 billion passenger km / 1,120 km route). So C-V's claim that CA HSRA is using numbers higher than those achieved on any other system in the world is absurdly false - in fact, CA HSRA's numbers are only 1/3rd of what has been previously achieved.

JR Central's Shinkansen is the densest ridership in the world. A more informative comparison would be the TGV or the new Taiwan HSR (THSR). We don't have passenger-km ridership for those lines, but we can compute passengers per route-km. The TGV Paris Southeast (PSE) line gets 45k passengers per route-km (20 million pax / 448 route-km) while the THSR gets 101k passengers per route-km (34 million pax / 335 route-km). CA HSR is forecasting a high of 80k passengers per route-km in 2030, or around 56k passengers per route-km at today's populations. This is slightly above TGV PSE but well below THSR. It does not seem unreasonable since the LA Metro Area is larger than Paris Metro Area or the Taipei Metro Area. And more importantly, the SF Bay Area is twice as large as the Kaoshiung Metro Area and four times as large as the Lyon Metro Area.

On to the fifth and final lie, which is the most ridiculous of them all:

5. Promises of future extension to Sacramento, Orange County and San Diego are empty in that no concrete plan of any kind is offered other than the unrealistic plan for a Los Angeles-San Francisco line.

Mills is just showing off his ignorance here. Prop 1A would fund a line from SF to Anaheim - which, last time I checked, was still in Orange County. SD and Sacramento plans are in existence in full detail and can be found at the California High Speed Rail Authority website.

It's worth closing by reminding people of the big picture here. High speed rail will create badly needed green jobs and economic stimulus while providing Californians with sustainable transportation that reduces dependence on oil and cuts carbon emissions. It is supported by virtually the entire California progressive community.

It is being opposed by the Howard Jarvis Association and the Reason Foundation. The former are the keepers of the right-wing flame here in California. The latter are a group of rabid anti-government nuts who are funded by oil companies and other leading right-wing foundations. They have been using an ignorant and pliant media to push out their "omg boondoggle not enough riders" nonsense over the last six weeks or so.

It would be a shame for folks in the blogosphere - folks who usually know better - than to repeat the high speed rail version of the "Obama is a Muslim" email.


Brandon in California said...

Actually, James Mills is well known... at least for two major transportation related things here in California.

One, he's often referred to as the father of light-rail; bringing it here to San Diego. Two, he was an author of the Transportation Development Act (TDA), which created a 1/4-cent sales tax to fund public transportation in the state.

I've briefly spoken with him on two or three occaissions and had one brief exchange concerning high speed rail.

Yes, I really did.

As I recall, because it was about a year ago, it was not that he disliked or did not approve of HSR, it was that he felt more emphasis should be placed on local or regional improvements. The exchange I had revealed that the lack of support for HSR was one of priorities.

Rafael said...

I'd like to know where that figure of 15 million passengers per year on the TGV South-East route came from.

In its annual report for 2007 (page 16), SNCF recorded a total of 366(!) million passengers for its France Europe business unit, which handles everything except commuter traffic in the Paris region. Full disclosure: the number for France Europe covers the TGV plus standard-speed Corail and regional rail in the provinces.

However, the TGV is the backbone of France Europe and, the south-east route (Paris-Lyon-Marseille) is the backbone of the TGV network. Note that Ile-de-France, i.e. Paris and its suburbs, is roughly comparable to LA county in terms of total population. By contrast, Lyon only has ~1.8 million inhabitants and Marseille ~1.6 million vs. a total of 7 million for the SF Bay Area.

According to this paper published in 2005, the entire TGV network carried 90 million passengers on 600 daily trains, roughly 250,000 passengers per day. Since then, traffic has increased to 900 daily trains.

Unknown said...

Quick question: I took Kevin Drum's main point to be that California's terrain makes the goal of a 200+ MPH HSR system unfeasible. Thus, because all of the projections were based on the "High-Speed" portion of the HSR, were inaccurate (and it follows from the Daniel Davies principle that if it needs lies to sell it, we should be skeptical of the idea). So, here is my question: how feasible is the average speed being touted to sell the HSR?


Brandon in California said...

You're right. Naysayer’s and deniers are painting a picture of skepticism in the minds undecided voters... by claiming the data is filled with lies and officials have ulterior motives.

These are the same people that claim the CHSRA has spent too much money on studies and not laid a single section of track.

Well, I ask rhetorically, if the CHSRA was not doing legitimate and credible work through their consultants, then what were they doing?

Well, that question is really for the fence sitting voter that is not well informed and is already skeptical of governmental actions and/or are whacked-out conspiracy theorists. Only these folks would be persuaded to think so much money was spent to 'spin' something and produce nothing.

What the deniers are doing is looking at work through a multi-sided prism and looking for information that tells a story they want to say. They are cherry picking, that is all.

And as a result, or one result, supporters of a new way of thinking... people looking to a better future, are put in a position of defending against unmerited criticisms.

I think energy would be better spent to highlight the future, one that includes HSR.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Kevin Drum doesn't know the first thing about high speed train engineering. The CHSRA studies have indicated that 220 mph will be the top speed achieved in the most favorable terrain. Same as in other countries.

Robert Cruickshank said...

That's one thing for Mills to say there are other priorities. But he's spreading misinformation about HSR in the process, which is neither legitimate nor defensible.

The Eagle of Evanston said...

Kevin Drum doesn't know the first thing about high speed train engineering. The CHSRA studies have indicated that 220 mph will be the top speed achieved in the most favorable terrain. Same as in other countries.


Could you provide some clarification on this? I don't think that anybody doubts that it can achieve top speed, but that the route chosen will make that difficult, and will be lacking in said "favorable terrain."

My take, from looking at the proposed route, is that good portions are fairly flat, which I think is a prime requirement for high speed. So this doesn't sound like an issue, but your above response is actually quite dismissive to this concern of how much of the route is on favorable terrain.

Anonymous said...

You've got bigger media problems, Cruickshank -- Bill Handel at KFI-AM in Los Angeles told his million+ listeners this morning NO on 1A -- smack in the middle of morning drive time.

BruceMcF said...

LA/SF line of sight is 342 miles, so 220mph the whole way on an unattainably efficient alignment would be 1:33, not two and a half hours.

I don't have the average trip speed and alignment-distance ... but the HSR authority does, since it is proceeding on the basis of a chosen alignment.

Oh, and clearly, Mills does not have the average trip speed and alignment distance either, since he refers to how fast the trip can be done with current trackage.

The argument Mills advances that it would be impossible to do it in two and a half hours using existing trackage is a pure red herring ... that is not the plan. Indeed, the fact that new alignments and new, fully grade separated line in existing alignments are required are why the thing cost the money it does.

However, "as Mills points out", doing it with existing track, would attract far less ridership, so it would not save anywhere like the $100b+ in roadworks and airport infrastructure that the HSR project would do.

Spokker said...

The Central Valley is flat, but it'll have to get over Tehachapi first.

I'm guessing the Valley is where they are hoping to make up all that time. But I've read hopeful things about high speed rail being able to deal with relatively steeper grades that convention rail just can't handle.

Anonymous said...

Speeds, pev CHSRA website:


Anonymous said...

This speeds map link works.

The Eagle of Evanston said...

Thanks anon, that PDF is quite useful. If you want to get an idea of what the proposed speeds are, it has the goods.

Anonymous said...

Setting the French TGV as a model that can't be surpassed is wrong, at least on 2 key points.
Fares: the Sarkozy administration has decided to stop subsidizing the SNCF's social obligations (free rides for job-seekers, 75% reductions for families and students, etc...). This burden has been shifted onto the TGV, which is the only profitable branch of the SNCF. It is a yearly drain of about 8bn euros. Without it, TGV fares could be significantly lower.
Will CHSR have to subsidize all the other transit operations in California? NO? Then the comparison with the TGV is irrelevant.
Speed: the TGV uses 2nd generation trains designed for a top commercial speed of 186mph. Besides, most of the tracks, laid 27 years ago, don't allow trains to cross each other at higher speeds because the tracks are not spaced far enough.
Now, we can logically suppose that CHSR will have tracks compatible with higher speeds and will run recent trains like the AVG, designed for a 225mph commercial speed. So the announced speeds for SF-LA are more than plausible and will probably be beaten in trial runs.
I propose a variant for the Mills' story:
My daddy has been working on Piper Cubs all his life and he knows a thing or two about airplanes. So, if he says the B787 can't fly, you have to believe him.

Anonymous said...

"Millions of listners" ugh? its just another right wing blabe station!! most people that listen to that crap are voting no anyway..

Brandon in California said...

^^^ LA just might have the highest proportion of voters saying yes to 1A; after San Franisco that is.

Tony D. said...

anon 9:50,
"Million+" listeners for KFI-AM in LA? Give is a damn break you right-wing obstructionist! Where's your proof anyway for that many listeners?

Rafael said...

@ preetam s -

due to the chosen route, the trip from SF to LA is about 450 miles long. To achieve that distance in 2h38m implies an average speed of 171mph.

This is aggressive but should be doable:

a) the western section of Pacheco Pass, all of the Central Valley and most of the Antelope Valley section permit sustained speeds in excess of 200mph IFF the HSR stations there feature bypass tracks for express trains. According to CHSRA, some 75% of all trains will be semi-express, semi-local or local trains that stop at some or all of the stations in-between the end points.

It's not yet clear how that will be achieved in Fresno, where city officials want to somehow shoehorn UPRR, BNSF, Amtrak and HSR into a single corridor that is just 100' wide.

Note that for relative speeds as high as 440mph, HSR tracks need to be spaced further apart than usual to avoid blowing out windows as trains pass one another.

b) modern HSR trainsets feature electric traction motors on nearly every axle, an arrangement known as "electric multiple unit" or EMU. Examples capable of ~220mph in commercial service: Alstom AGV, Siemens Velaro and Kawasaki/Hitachi 700T (in service in Taiwan). The Talgo 350 uses traditional tractor cars at either end.

In general, EMU configurations enable more seats and also higher aggregate traction power thanks to the larger number of friction interfaces. In addition, advances in materials science and design philosophies mean that each generation of trains is lighter than its predecessor. The combination means that power-to-mass ratios on the order of 20kW/t are now available.

This means modern designs can accelerate more quickly and climb grades up to 3.5% with relative ease. Also, a greater proportion of the kinetic energy can be recuperated and fed back into the electric grid. This saves wear and tear on the wheels. It also saves electricity IFF the grid is configured to deal with sudden variations in aggregate load on a given segment.

c) High speed trains are operating at maximum sustained speeds of 210-220mph in China, Taiwan, Germany and Spain today.

Aaron said...

California's terrain would prevent such an alignment along the old coastal mountain routes that track Highways 1 and 101. But by taking the inland Central Valleys routes, it's flatter than flat through the majority of the trip. The descent down into LA will require some slowdown once it picks up the Metrolink ROW, as well as, I presume, the final approach into SF, since the Bay Area is so mountainous. But the intervening areas are so flat that you could probably roll a bowling ball between San José and Palmdale. Just from considering the map, I imagine that down out of Palmdale will probably slow it down to Acela speeds, or lower in the huge freight mess in the last mile before Union Station. But Metrolink to Palmdale is presently painfully slow, so that alone will give it some good speed improvements.

James Wimberley said...

preetran, Chris: The Madrid-Malaga line passes through two low mountain ranges. Californian terrain is more like Taiwanese, Italian or Spanish than French. It's pure myth that you need flat terrain.

Some readers don't seem to get the point that while 19th-century rail tracks were horizontally polarized - no hills but lot of bends - HSR tracks are vertically polarized: the powerful, lightweight trainsets can go up hills but not round bends at high speed. The tunnel through the Pyrenees under construction had to be built lower than would be necessary for high-speed passenger trains because it is designed also to take slower freight traffic.

Anonymous said...


Take a look at this report on speeds throughout the system. You will need to go to page 25 & 26. I know there is another map around illustrating the same thing with only the final alignment present, but I haven't gotten around to locating it yet. Here you go:

Go to page 25 & 26 in this document

It's a good example of what to look for in variation of speeds

bossyman15 said...

anybody got the email from CALPIRG?
about telling Kevin Bacon to vote yes on prop 1a? I already forwarded the email to some of my friends

Spokker said...

KFI is tied for the 4th most popular radio station among 12+ listeners in Los Angeles behind KIIS FM and two Spanish stations according to Arbitron. I don't know how many listeners Bill Handel has but it's more than a million.

It's a conservative station and anyone listening to that shit in the first place was voting no anyway. It's not a huge deal.

I can't stand his morning show but Handel's legal advice show on Saturday mornings is fun.

Spokker said...

The Kevin Bacon thing is retarded. It makes all us supporters look like a bunch of stupid kids.

If this Bacon campaign gets really popular it might even make me vote no.

Anonymous said...


you write:

But the intervening areas are so flat that you could probably roll a bowling ball between San José and Palmdale

You don't seen to know much about California topography.

San Jose elevation 87 feet
Fresno elevation 376 feet
Palmdate elevation 2600 feet

Much higher country along the Pacheco pass --- if they tunnel that might be mitigated.

Same is true between Bakersfield and Palmdale.

dday said...

The funniest part is that K-Drum has a chart up today about the best use of a stimulus package, and says (apparently without irony) that a stimulus package should fund:

"infrastructure, because the recession is likely to be long and infrastructure projects take a while to get up and running,"

But not infrastructure projects like Prop. 1A, because (among other things) it would take too long.

Brandon in California said...

I am not a fan of the CALPIRG effort; too juvenile.

I think it is a turn-off for some and may turn away some possible voters. What would be better, imo, is a rational and professional approach.

bossyman15 said...

mmmm you know... the more I think about it the more... yeah maybe the CALPIRG effort aren't really a good idea. because sending emails to everyone looks like spamming. yeah.
and everyone hates spammers.

Anonymous said...

FFS, the fantasy HSR map .pdf cited by Anon is nonsense. For the most part it seems to assume that the rails will follow the "direct 5" routing... an engineering nightmare of 40+ miles of tunneling across the San Andres from the LA basin to the Central Valley. No current HSR operates at anything close to 200 MPH on the 2-3 percent sustained grades that crossing Soledad, Tahachipi, & Pacheco passes would require.

And the notion that HSR elsewhere is "in the black" can only be claimed if you are willing to exclude the cost of the infrastructure. The French TGV is "profitable" only because it pays an artificially low amount for the use of the tracks and wire...an amount that does not even pay for its ongoing maintenance...let alone pay down its cost of construction.

Moreover, with the current assumption that HSR will share even limited right-of-ways with conventional heavy rail comes a funimental problem... The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will not approve the use of ANY of the current EU or Japanese HSR technology to share rails with US heavy equiptment...since it *all* lacks the strength to survive an accident. In point of fact, the FRA does not even have standards for track, signaling, or vehicles to operate over 200 MPH...and no current equipment has been approved for operation over 150 MPH.

The current CA HSR proposal is a political boondoggle. If they wanted to build HSR that made sense, it would start with two much more limited sections: San Jose to Sacramento, and Ontario to Palmdale/Lancaster (via LA Union Sation). Both pick dense on-route populations with real transportation needs, connect to lots of feeder transportation systems, and have the ability to grow to serve additional areas.

Rafael said...

@ rail realist -

please look at page 26 for the southern portion of the map, which dates back several years.

The I-5 alignment was ultimately rejected because a computer aided preliminary design session yielded only a single viable alignment that crossed both the Garlock and the San Andreas fault at grade. Unfortunately, it ran very close to a wildlife preserve near Lake Castaic.

Tehachapi yielded multiple viable alignment, based on what is currently known about the complex geology there. The detour added 10 minutes to the SF-LA express line haul time, but it did provide direct access to Palmdale airport.

For me, the main take-away is that trains will only slow down to 125-150mph in the mountain passes, where the gradients will reach 3.5%. Note that the chosen route does require a total of about 80 miles of tunnels, i.e. 40 miles x 2 tubes. However, no single tunnel will exceed 6 miles in length. That means no service/escape tunnels will be required.

As for FRA rules, bear in mind that no country has introduced HSR without some new rulemaking. HR 2095 finally requires active safety measures like positive train control. Adding buff strength to passenger trains effectively turns them into freight trains, the freight being people. As the Metrolink accident in Chatsworth underscored, no amount of passive safety can protect passengers in a crash involving two trains traveling at a relative speed of 60mph - never mind HSR speeds.

Modern signaling and communications equipment have made HSR extremely safe in other countries, the US is simply 50-100 years behind the curve.

Wrt your suggestions on phase 1, I would have preferred two starter lines: Anaheim-LA-SanDiego via Riverside plus SF-Santa Clara/SJC-Sacramento via Altamont Pass. Aggregate ridership might have been lower but all of the state's major population centers would have been included in phase 1, increasing political support for prop 1A. The two starter lines would have been linked in phase 2, with the golden spike at Tehachapi.

CHSRA argues that it needs a substantial section in the Central Valley to test operations at 220mph. In addition, SF peninsula interests got the Pacheco Pass alignment they preferred because it passes through SJ Diridon and avoids real estate conflicts with the planned BART extension from Fremont to Santa Clara. So, SF to Anaheim is the chosen starter line, which is ok by me if prop 1A passes. Robert Cruickshank has strongly endorsed CHSRA's preference.

Anonymous said...

Rafael writes
"CHSRA argues that it needs a substantial section in the Central Valley to test operations at 220mph. In addition, SF peninsula interests got the Pacheco Pass alignment they preferred because it passes through SJ Diridon and avoids real estate conflicts with the planned BART extension from Fremont to Santa Clara. So, SF to Anaheim is the chosen starter line, which is ok by me if prop 1A passes. Robert Cruickshank has strongly endorsed CHSRA's preference."

It was not peninsula interests, but San Jose interests that got the Pacheco routing.

Now that routing has brought forth major opposition from rail groups and with the UPRR not willing to allow the use of its corridor, the inevitable court decision that the EIR will be declared invalid.

Again as we keep saying, this project being promoted as a people mover between the north and south of California, in reality is not that at all. It is a project that will promote growth in the central valley, with major benefits to San Jose and San Francisco as well. the overall theme is "welfare for the Central Valley on steroids"

Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego are major losers.

The leadership of the project has proven itself to be incompetent. Judge Kopp goes before the Senate T&H committee and insults the whole legislature, the very body that the Authority needs to approve expenditures for this project.

Rafael a question.

Does the rule that no tunnel exceeding 6 miles in length needs service / escape route, really mean that passengers might have to walk 3 miles in some kind of emergency to get back to civilization?

Gamecoug said...

Further, and this is ironic, that $45 billion is the figure for the ENTIRE system - which in point #5 Mills claims is unplanned.

2. The federal government has never invested any amount even close to $10 billlion in a transit project.

The federal government had never spent $700 billion on a bank bailout either. Before 1971 they'd never operated passenger trains. Before 1956 they'd never spent hundreds of billions on freeways. Shall we go on?

I agree with you, but your post misses the point. High Speed Rail is NOT PUBLIC TRANSIT. We need to stop referring to it as such. High Speed Rail is High Speed Intercity Transportation, akin to airline travel. HSR MAKES MONEY Everywhere. Public Transit LOSES MONEY (almost) Everywhere.

While we're at it, can we stop referring to ACELA as High Speed Rail? ACELA gets up to semi-high speeds for a small portion of its track, but it doesn't average better than 75 mph for any major trip. That's not high speed rail. Comparing ACELA to HSR is like comparing an F1 Race car to a Ford Escort. Both have 4 wheels, both have an engine, but you wouldn't claim that an F1 wouldn't be able to make 200 MPH because the Escort can't, would you? They ain't the same thing. Not nearly.

Rafael said...

@ morris brown -

"Does the rule that no tunnel exceeding 6 miles in length needs service / escape route, really mean that passengers might have to walk 3 miles in some kind of emergency to get back to civilization?"

In the worst-case scenario of a train having to stop exactly in the middle of a tunnel, passengers could conceivably face a long walk out. I'm not sure who decided that tunnels longer than six miles require a parallel service tunnel, presumably it's a federal law or regulation.

For reference: back in April a first-gen ICE train in Germany ran into - of all things - a flock of sheep that had wandered into a tunnel. In a bizarre turn of events, the train actually derailed at 125mph. Fortunately, the tunnel walls prevented its cars from toppling over. Authorities said that was the main reason why there were no casualties, just a few minor injuries. Some passengers had to walk about a kilometer past the mangled remains of the sheep to reach daylight.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that this was an extremely unusual accident. Normally, a collision with wildlife or livestock may cause some superficial damage to a train, but not a derailment. Besides, animals rarely wander into tunnels.

Still, sturdy fences and video surveillance are wise precautions and standard on purpose-built HSR lines such as those proposed for California. In combination with in-cab signaling and positive train control, they can help avoid collisions with animals.

Brandon in California said...

Yes, the CHSRA completed a Tunnel Feasibility report.... hosting a gaggle of experts from across the world to discuss all tunnel aspects; length of tunnels, grades, pros and cons of tunnel placement, terrain, faults. Also discussed was what triggers teh necessity of providing a parallel tunnel for emergency access... just like what teh swiss provide... for tunnels exceeding a certain length. I thought it was 3 miles. I am sure the report is online somewherer, that's where I got mine almost 2 years ago.

Anonymous said...

@ rafael

Ok, I didn't consider the value of having a large proving stretch in the center valley. Your points are all true, I take back what I said.

Anonymous said...

(The one who posted the lenghty comment and thinks handle-hijackers like October 29, 2008 10:00 AM are a blight)

-10 minutes difference between direct-5 and Tehachapi is a fantasy ...since it adds over 60 miles, at least half of which would be mountain grades. Plus the idea that any "Express" would not stop in the Antelope Valley (Palmdale Airport being the only logical answer to extreme LAX congestion) is fooling one's self.

-If you think that passing a CA HSR proposal is suddenly going to make the FRA set aside 50 years of rule-making and throw out buff-strength requirements...for equipment which shares freight trackage... Good luck. Tell me, how many years did it take for the *last* wholesale revision of rail safety rules?

-The safety of HSR in other countries is based largely on not sharing trackage with freight and heavy rail vehicles... since freight in EU and Japan largely moves by road and water. Current CA HSR proposals all insist on sharing right-of-way and even trackage w/ freight...since it's the freight railroads which largely own the practical routes.

-Your preferred options are more political blather... Instead of asking, "where will HSR be supported by ridership?" you start from "what can be politically sold?"

-I proposed the Southern routing that I did because it would connect the Antelope Valley & Inland Empire's airports (PMD & ONT) w/ downtown LA....taking the extreme pressure off of LAX and the overcrowded freeways. Add a feeder TO LAX (along the old Harbor Sub, now rail-banked) and you have the makings of a regional rail network with tens of thousands of trips a day.

-Morris Brown is right: the politics of the current HSR proposal is more aimed at Bay Area and Central Valley land speculators than the practicalities of a system that will profitably serve the people of CA.

Spokker said...

"(The one who posted the lenghty comment and thinks handle-hijackers like October 29, 2008 10:00 AM are a blight)"

Register a name then. It's not that hard.

Rafael said...

@ real rail realist -

I agree, using someone else's handle is not kosher.

Wrt your point about HSR overseas: in France, Germany, Spain and other European countries, high speed trains actually share legacy tracks with standard speed traffic - both passenger and freight - in densely populated areas. It's out in the countryside that they switch to dedicated HSR lines. (Note that European freight trains tend to be shorter than those in the US and, they are limited to one container per car.)

By contrast, CHSRA is proposing to construct almost 800 miles of all-new dedicated and fully grade separated dual HSR tracks (incl. the spurs to Sacramento and San Diego). That's why the total price tag is estimated at $45 billion. The network will support up to 96 trains a day in each direction, of which 25% would be express trains between SF and LA.

If a network is 100% dedicated (cp. BART), FRA doesn't need to worry about mixed traffic. However, in the SF peninsula and the LOSSAN corridors the HSR tracks will be shared with selected existing passenger - but not freight - railroads. This is why CHSRA will ask for a "rule of special applicability". The agency already did some work on that in the context of an aborted HSR project in Florida project but it was discontinued.

Considering that HR 2095, which the President recently signed, makes interoperable positive train control mandatory in busy rail corridors by 2015, I'm confident that FRA will want to avoid a repeat of the Acela Express experience.

Note that FRA has welcomed recent work by Caltrain on computer simulations of standardized crash test involving a passenger train and a car or 18-wheeler at a grade crossing. The results showed that the passive safety performance of the off-the-shelf European EMU rolling stock Caltrain wants is actually at least as good as that of the much heavier FRA-compliant alternative. The notion that more steel is always safer no longer holds true.

Brandon in California said...

Post #40 in this thread...

@ Rafael,
Where along the LOSSAN corridor would passenger trains and HSR share track? LA or Orange County?

Spokker said...

The computer simulations released by NC3D show Metrolink trains and HSR trains operating on the same tracks and in the same stations in their Anaheim renderings.

I don't know whether or not Metrolink/Amtrak and HSR will share track North of Los Angeles.

This video shows some renderings I haven't seen before. They include an updated look at the station in Anaheim (2:36) and HSR running in a trench next to what looks like the LA River (:53).

Also, check out 2:00. It shows Metrolink operating on tracks under the HSR platforms in Los Angeles. Interesting... of course, this is all conceptual and not necessarily indicative of the final product.

Brandon in California said...

^^ That is a demo reel... I beluieve.

But, if NC3D vids are used to come to a conclusion that HSR will share tracks with passenger trains... I am not so sure that that is accurate.

I too did see a fraction of a clip having a passenger train and HSR train use the same track (like 0.2 of a second); however, it was not presented to 'tell something' about the project... and I think could have been a mistake. What I saw was not in the link you provided, but another one I saw ... I believe focusing in on the Anaheim area and showing a grade crossing with slow tanker cars blocking a street with a before and after.

Regardless, I just noticed that NC3D has additional vids up; which I suspect I'll look at more closely tonight.

Spokker said...

Oh, the Authority's web site has documents explaining that they will indeed be sharing trackage with conventional passenger trains in the North and South. I was just highlighting the videos because it's more visual.

KISSWeb said...

In the bigger picture, what is the alternative for the future? The highways are jammed now, there's little more airspace possible (or runways), but populations and the need for travel are growing. The idea that LA-SF is too far for HSR to be useful seems absurd. Because it's potentially 2.5 - 3 hours, it's almost the perfect test case. Paris to Avignon is farther and it's 2.5 hours. Madrid to Barcelona about 2.5, similar distance. It's the 1000+ miles where air competitiveness overtakes HSR.