Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekend Open Thread

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

On the Coast Starlight #14 yesterday one of the old California Zephyr Dome Cars from the 1950s was attached at the back of the consist. On board were a bunch of Cal alumni headed up to the Bay Area for the 111th Big Game this afternoon. (Go Bears!) There are a bunch of Cal alums living down in Southern California, many of whom like to travel up to watch the annual Big Game whether it's in Berkeley or Palo Alto.

In addition, there are plenty of sports fans that often travel between north and south following their teams - Dodgers fans going to SF for a game, Raider fans going to San Diego, Trojan and Bruin fans going to the Bay Area, Kings and Ducks fans going to the Shark Tank, and of course the intense rivalry between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings (and I'm sure Warriors fans travel too).

Those trips are all made much, much easier with high speed rail. Most of the stadiums for these teams are very easily reached by transit, and many are close to proposed HSR stations. The Shark Tank is literally across the street from Diridon Station. Just as BART gets heavy ridership on game days, I am sure that California sports fans will find HSR to be a godsend. Leave work an hour early in LA and be in SF to watch the Giants and Dodgers that night. How awesome will that be?

Anyhow, this is an open thread. A few items that might be of interest:

  • Campus Progress published a much better HSR article, by Eliza Krigman of the Center for Responsive Politics' blog Capital Eye. Unfortunately the American Prospect's TAPPED blog linked approvingly to that moronic Ben Adler piece. Dana Goldstein of TAPPED mislabeled HSR as "California's Light Rail line." The blind leading the blind...

  • BART to San José looks to have passed for good - will that make Diridon Station the Grand Central Station of the West? Or does the Transbay Terminal deserve that accolade? Let's not forget LA Union Station, which on the four times I used it over the last few days was packed to the rafters as usual. Still, with the ACE trains, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, VTA, BART, and HSR, Diridon Station is poised to become one of the great nodes of passenger rail travel on the West Coast, if not the nation.

And did I mention, Go Bears?!


Anonymous said...

Jealous of the dome car...

Years back, I got one of those Amtrak passes good for a month's travel. I went from SF down to LA for the Cal-U$C game, then to visit an old roommate in San Diego, then up to Seattle for Cal-Huskies and home again.

High speed rail will allow people to easily catch a Fresno Grizzlies game at lunch then get up to San Francisco to see the Giants that evening. Weekend trips between SF and LA will increase greatly. Friends who once lived in London would take the Eurostar to Paris for the weekend on the spur of the moment. Significant improvements in the motorcoach service to Yosemite should be ready to run when HSR makes it to Fresno.

Looking forward to all of it.

Finally, as a San Franciscan, I must say the Grand Central of California is Union Station Los Angeles and will probably remain so even after TTT opens.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to talk about the possibilities of a transbay SF-Oakland conventional/HSR tunnel. I know its been mentioned before as part of a 2nd BART tunnel.

Instead of a HSR branch to Oakland via Hayward, could have the main HSR line just continue across the bay from SF and have Oakland be the terminus.

Plus you could have local conventional service operated by Caltrain continue across and serve Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond and even all the way up to Sacramento. A second local conventional line could head south serving the east bay stations such as Jack London Square, Coliseum, Hayward, Fremont, San Jose.

Essentially just merging Amtrak Capitols/ACE/Caltrain all into one and providing frequent feeder service for HSR. But the Transbay link is key.

Rafael said...

@ Michael -

why is Grand Central Station the gold standard to which cities in the West should aspire? It's a 19th century terminal, not a modern through station designed to meet the needs of the 21st.

The architecture is beautiful to be sure, as is true of many old railway stations (e.g. the much smaller station in Groningen in the Netherlands).

However, shouldn't the architecture of brand-new HSR stations in California reflect our time rather than yesteryear? Here are some examples from around the world:

Avignon, Lisbon, Lyons Airport, Shanghai Maglev, Kyoto, ...

As for ridership, I say let's aim high and set our sights on dethroning Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Ok, that may be a little ambitious...

How about the new central station in Berlin instead?

Anonymous said...

I dont think anyone is thinking that the new stations will be Beaux-Arts. By being like GCT is probably meant to be more about being a busy crossroads hub for transit than having corinthian columns.

Not that GCT isn't something to aspire to...
GCT is the grandest and most memorable train station in the country, functions superbly, accommidates hundreds of trains a day as well as 500,000 people a day pass through the doors, is incredibly easy to navigate, and was/is a very progressive station... pioneered the use of air rights, grade seperation for both vehicles over the station and 2 levels of tracks under, ramps for circulation within the station, and electric lights with its "electroleers". GCT contains 4 office buildings within the station (on the corners) connected by glass bridges running through the windows. As far as I'm concerned, if only the new HSR stations could be half as good as GCT.

Rafael said...

@ jon -

one of the reasons the DTX tunnel approach is from the west is that this preserves the option of making the TTC a through station if a second transbay tube is ever built. Right now, it is not planned because improvements to pedestrian flow capacity in the downtown SF BART stations plus the new TTC bus terminal are supposed to provide enough capacity for the foreseeable future. That, and there's no money for a second tube.

CHSRA ultimately mapped the HSR spur between SJ and Oakland into the HST/commuter overlay thingie, in part because they decided a standard gauge downtown station near 12th & Broadway would be too difficult/expensive to reach and construct. Instead, they envisaged an aerial alignment along 7th Street to West Oakland BART. Again, the intent was to create the option of a second transbay tube in the future. However, its unclear if turnoffs to Emeryville could be implemented - such a tunnel should surely be shared with regional rail services such as Amtrak Capital Corridor, even if they would have to invest in two-mode locomotives for the purpose.

An alternative would be to exit the TTC in a tunnel under Main Street and head 3 miles across to Point Alameda. A station there would be very deep underground but appropriate if the former NAS is ever developed or turned into a recreation area/waterfront park. Alameda currently has no rail service to Oakland at all.

The line would then burrow under Oakland Harbor to reach the median of Nelson Mandela Parkway. A station there would be intermodal with West Oakland BART as well, but permit easier pedestrian access to buses headed for other parts of Oakland. The alignment would join back up with the existing one just south of Emeryville.

Between Alameda Point and Nelson Mandela Park, there would also be turnoffs toward San Jose.

Anonymous said...

No the new Transbay terminal will be the new Penn Station of the west!! sorry had to! And that new Berlin station is one beautiful thing

Unknown said...

Aspiring to be "Grand" is ... grand ...

On the other hand I do agree with Rafael that we do not want to emulate something else with our rail stations. On the other hand though; i personally don't like the stainless steel and green/blue tinted glass that is the current style.

I like the transbay designs i have seen, but it reminds me of the modern architecture of airport terminals that you find everywhere. You can't tell that much about what the final product will look like from the diagrams, i just hope that it's not generic and modern instead of unique and modern.

Rafael said...

@ Ben -

this video shows some - admittedly moderate quality - renderings of the interior of what I think is the winning design.

Unknown said...

I have actually seen that video, and it does give me hope. But it is a single step between an icon and something that is generic.

If i am not mistaken, a lot of the funding for the terminal is from private sources. How does the real-estate crash affect this project? The business plans must have been created assuming that over inflated properties would stay over inflated. As 1a said, it could be penn station instead of grand central.

JDD said...

Not just fans -- the Giants and Dodgers teams should take the train, too. Putting baseball teams back on the train would mark the return of a once-great american tradition. The HSRA should start negotiating a travel deal with the teams right away...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if President Obama's new jobs bill will include any money for our train?

Rafael said...

@ Ben -

the TTC won't be finished until 2019, though I believe that refers to the rail tunnel. Let's hope the tower won't suffer the fate that befell the Empire State Building.

@ John David, yeson1a -

a little premature, don't you think?

Unknown said...

according to their website the TTC should start demolition/construction of both the terminal and the tower by 2010 and it should be completed 4 years later, with the rail completed by 2019.

i see those dates as close enough to be affected by the current insanity.

njh said...

Yeah, let's make the station look like an airport! That will make people excited to travel.

Then they can make funky youtube videos with everything sped up, because normal speed is dull.

Announcements can be made loud, echoy and unintelligible.

When people are on the train they can sit in cramped seats, have a recording of jet noise blasted in their ears and have the seat in front of them fold onto their knees. Then they can get served a reheated meal in a little plastic tray.

No, make stations which appeal to humans, rather than to 3d computer fly throughs. Examples of these are St. Pancras, Flinders Street or Centraal station. Melbourne made the mistake of building a modernist heap of crap in Spencer street station

We should be learning from New Urbanism, not Modernist garbage. Giant open spaces do not make a place welcoming, and huge expanses of glass just make the heating and cooling bills higher. Don't think that old designs are bad, and new designs are better. That thinking is what got america in the mess in the first place.

(I particularly like St Pancras because it combines the good features of malls (easy to clean, well lit) with a human scale environment. Running the trains on the upper desk was a very elegant design.)

Anonymous said...

I live near Diridon and the entire area is vastly underdeveloped. SJ is the largest city in Northern California but most of that is due to physical size not density. 2 blocks from this station there are corrugated aluminum sheds with low density light industry.

Hopefully, the city will realize the potential and set a decent 10 year plan in motion. Turn the acres of parking lots around there into mixed use low rises with a true neighborhood feel.

Spokker said...

Let's attach that dome car to the back of the high speed train and hold on for dear life.

Anonymous said...

Its never to early for money..if thats what your talking about?(Grin)I want as much up front before the winds of change..change

Rafael said...

@ David S -

I think mixed-use neighborhoods are great but low-rises next to a major transit hub are not. You want quite a few high-rises there, some for offices, others for condos. In-between you can have some low-rises and plenty of urban green space, bike paths, pedestrian zones with al fresco cafes etc. Do build some (underground) parking garages but focus on making the whole area accessible by walking, biking or taking transit. Encourage membership in car-share schemes like Zipcar. The objective of HSR is not just to offer another transportation option but rather, to offer a different lifestyle wrt to transportation - one that permits sharply reducing gasoline consumption by switching to electricity.

A city that already consistently scores high on quality of life indices is Vancouver, BC. Its relatively small downtown is bordered by water on three sides, which limits road access capacity. Many people who work downtown also want to live there, so their commutes are short enough not to bother with driving. The area is served by buses.

Result: a mix of residential and office high-rises and low-rises. Vancouverites especially cherish and fiercely protect their large Stanley Park at the western edge of downtown, as well as their urban beaches and marinas.

The area around SJ Diridon does not have natural barriers on three sides but it would be possible to create a district based on the Vancouver downtown model. Parkscapes and artificial water features always raise the value of nearby residential property, as do measures to reduce vehicle speeds and divert through traffic elsewhere.

Low-rise buildings could be required to feature green roofs supported by the same recycled water used for the landscaping. Shade provided by plants is cooler than architectural shade because plants evaporate water.

High-rises could cut their A/C requirements with small windows facing south and west, self-shading architectural features plus plants on balconies. In addition to drinking water, such buildings should also be constructed to supply all units with non-potable recycled water, for use in toilets and watering plants.

Note that high-rise living also promotes ownership of folding electric bicycles over regular types because you can easily take them into elevators and store/recharge them in your apartment. I know they're still expensive today, but they'll get cheaper and anyhow, they cost far less than owning a car - especially a second or third one.

Finally, high-rise buildings with 8 or more stories and steel skeletons tend to perform quite well in earthquakes, because their fundamental natural frequencies in bending are below the fundamental excitation frequency of ~1Hz. Lead extrusion dampers in the foundation can be used to reduce sway amplitude.

Anonymous said...

@ Rafael

I definitely misspoke when I incorrectly used the term lowrise - your comments exactly match what I had in mind. I was thinking more about the FAA height limits, which in retrospect don't impede the kind of high rise structures you talked about.

SantaTeresaHills said...

This San Jose Redevelopment plan was done in 2003. You can tell that the video and picture of San Jose with High Speed Rail was based off of what San Jose has in this plan.

San Jose currently has a RFP for a company to make the environment impact reportfor the new station. It looks like this EIR is also based off of the 2003 plan.

Tony D. said...

As a citizen of Gilroy who's an extremely proud San Jose native, I'd say that Diridon Station will be the "Berlin Central Station" of the west (great video Rafael). The heck with Grand Central. I believe the FAA height limit at Diridon/Arena is 200 ft.; 20-story residential or 15-story office. They really need to consider relocating SJC to Gilroy/Hollister (another story for another blog). Hey, don't forget about the A's and Angels! I could get from Gilroy to Diridon in 15 minutes, and be a quick 5 BART stations away from the A's Cisco Field/Warm Springs Fremont. Or travel a little over 2 hours to watch an A's road game in Anaheim.

Anonymous said...

I'd be pretty happy with most of the conceptual station designs as seen in the NC3D videos being the actual designs. Do I love them? No, but they could be much much worse. Definitely agree with the calls for human scaled stations. They need to be grand, civic and feel like a gateway to the city. All I say is keep the starchitects away.

While I like many airport designs, these need to look like and function like train stations. Trains need to be like trains and need to stop imitating airplanes with their plastic interiors and little windows.

Spokker said...

So is anyone else excited to see this train destroy these white bread peninsula cities? I can't wait!

Spokker said...

These people are shaking in their boots. With all the commotion they're making you'd think a black family was moving into the neighborhood.

Unknown said...

Woah Robert, let's calm down the pro-Cal propaganda there, shall we? :)

Yeah, even this Stanford student will admit that that Big Game was pretty pathetic on our part.

Anonymous said...

Took them long enough, but the 2008 Business Plan Source Documents are now up on the official site's library.


Rafael said...

@ Tony D -

a new airport in Gilroy/Hollister would be very close to the San Andreas fault. I think it would make more sense to leverage Castle Airport (formerly Castle AFB) in Atwater by building a terminal there and running the HSR spur to Sacramento right through it. There's already talk of siting the HSR maintenance facility there anyhow.

Atwater is literally a cow town out in the boonies geographically but that's a good thing: noise ordinances are what keeps airports like SJC and FAT (Fresno) from operating at night.

HSR will get you there in ~20 minutes from Gilroy. Castle Airport would also serve the Central Valley and allow it to become more of a destination as its population grows - the runway was built for B-52s, so it should be able to handle 747s and A380s as well.

@ jon -

I'm not sure what you have in mind with "human scale". SJ Diridon will be serving 100,000+ passengers a day by 2025 or so. Quite possibly 2-3 times that around 2040, it depends on how viable oil-based alternatives still are at that time.

High speed trainsets are typically around 2 football fields long, full trains are composed of two such trainsets. Between Paris and Lyons, SNCF deploys full TGV Duplex trains of bi-level cars for a total of over 1000 seats. That's three 747s or two A380s! And SNCF probably runs one of those every 15 minutes or so during certain times of day.

If modern central trains stations are beginning to look akin to airports, that's because they're handling high pedestrian flows. A quaint little single-level structure in a neo-Gold Rush style won't cut it.

Anonymous said...

@spokker ..looking at it the anti-HST seems to be coming from just one hysterical poster.More pro comments...wait till Caltrain starts with inprovments

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Rod Diridon will be happy to hear that due to his successful campaigns for BART and HSR, his very own Rod Diridon Station will become the "Grand Central of the West". Seriously, guys, do none of you see anything wrong here?

Rafael said...

@ SantaTeresaHills -

just did a diagonal read of that SJ Diridon area development plan from 2003. It did not factor in HSR at all, so its assumptions regarding passenger throughput and connecting traffic as well as the conclusions drawn will need to be revisited. It's time to think bigger and greener. For example, there's no reason why the structure over the tracks could not support a public green roof park (~1300' x 200') using recycled water for drip irrigation. Electric trains don't generate air quality problems.

I'd also argue that with HSR, the area immediately west of SJ Diridon (to Sunol St., perhaps as far as Race St.) should be included in long-term development plans. This does not imply tearing down a lot of existing buildings but rather, striving for increased residential density, urban green space, water features, bicycle paths etc. over a 30-year period. Again, any new development should include plumbing for getting bot potable and non-potable recycled water into every residence.

Separately, with Santa Clara station so well served by Caltrain and BART, it would make sense to gradually develop moderately high-rise commercial property next to it, as market conditions permit over the next 30 years. The area I have in mind would be bordered by De La Cruz, Martin, Aviation, Coleman, I-880 and The Alameda. It's perfectly possible to sell the air rights above the large future rail storage yard, most passenger trains serving the area will be electric anyhow. A new secondary access road would be needed between Brokaw and Newhall.

An overpass between Benton and Brokaw could be integrated into the concourse level of the station straddling the rails. Taxis, buses etc. could also have wait areas at that level to provide last-mile transportation for business travelers and commuters. In particular, it would be straightforward to provide shuttle bus service to the SJC terminals via Coleman or Ewert.

Perhaps the SJC employee and long-term parking lots could be consolidated in a multi-story car park to enlarge the development area and/or create additional parking for the new business district I'm proposing.

Not that there's also Santa Clara university right next to that station.

Anonymous said...

So what is not nice about looking forward to a beautiful station and having great trasportation? I sure think its better than everything we have now.Because someone does cares and tries to advance transit does not make them bad..I bet Diridon is not payed millions like an oil company exc

Spokker said...

"Seriously, guys, do none of you see anything wrong here?"

I don't care what the station is called and I certainly don't care about Diridon. But to see HSR, Bart, Caltrain, Amtrak and VTA connect to that station in San Jose would be beautiful.

James said...

The CHSR Blog probably knows about the PBS KQED Quest YouTube video. I had not heard the technology of HSR described before. The wheel to rail contact at high speed. The acceleration and braking technology. Can you recommend some articles that describe HSR technology. To fully appreciate HSR I have to understand the engineering behind it. It would help to also be able to explain the technology in layman's terms to promote public support of HSR.

YouTube title:
California's High Speed Rail - KQED QUEST

Anonymous said...

James: there's a higher quality version of the program on KQED's website.


Anonymous said...

There also is a history channel show Extreme Trains: High Speed Train that is in repeats on TV right now. Only problem is their definition of "High Speed" is the Acela, not really HSR lines overseas.


Rafael said...

@ James -

I'll try to give you a brief overview of HSR technology. The best way to think of it is as conventional rail, only much more so. With decades of experience in other countries, the vast majority of engineering problems were solved long ago.

However, vendors only recently mastered the speed increase from 300kph (186mph) to 350kph (217mph in commercial service). Operators are no beginning to take advantage of this on new lines constructed to the even more exacting standards this speed increase entails. The world speed record for steel wheel HSR currently stands at 357mph.

- track is always a continuous welded ribbon, not sectional. There are never any gaps at the stub ends of two rails, nor any plates to hold them together. Special attention must be given to ambient temperature at the time of welding to avoid any risk of local buckling of the track in another season, which would invite disaster.

- sleepers are concrete not wood

- track geometry tolerances are very tight, which means the trackbed must be well constructed to ensure tolerances are maintained over many years of commercial service.

- as-built track geometry data is frequently measured using specially equipped trainsets like the sinkansen 923 "Dr. Yellow" in Japan and recorded in a database to establish geometry creep rates and schedule preventive track maintenance

- axle loads are strictly limited to minimize geometry creep and avoid excessive wear and tear on the rails

- the rail and wheel profiles are manufactured to exacting tolerances to ensure trains do not seek, i.e. sway laterally, at high speeds. If they did, wheel wear rates would reach unacceptable levels and/or operational safety would be compromised.

- alignments are chosen to be as straight as possible

- curve radii are very large (over 4000ft) where high speeds must be maintained to avoid flying off the rails. Also, because both wheels on an axle rotate at the same speed (exception: Talgo trains), they both slip a little against the rail in cornering. The resulting friction forces create a moment about the vertical axis of the truck, causing it to rotate until the flanges of the front outside and the rear inside wheel ride against the rails and set up a reaction moment. At high vehicle speeds, the associated wheel wear is acceptable only if the slip velocity is kept small enough by using large curve radii.

- in curves, the outside track is elevated, i.e. the track is banked, to completely compensate centripetal forces at a certain target vehicle speed. Lower speeds result in lateral forces against the inside of the inside track, increasing wear rates on wheel flanges and rails.

- higher speeds would result in residual lateral forces that press the train against the inside flank of the outside rail. This is acceptable only up to a point and is expressed in terms of superelevation, i.e. the number of additional centimeters (or inches) the track would have to be raised to completely compensate lateral forces at this higher speed. In other words, operators that want to run trains at 350kph on track designed for 300kph need to conduct extensive tests to establish the implications for track and wheel maintenance cost to maintain safety. Increasing elevation on an existing track is prohibitively disruptive and expensive.

- max. gradient is 3-4% depending on vendor. The California system will use 3.5% in mountain sections. This is much higher than possible with conventional trains for two reasons: high speed trains have higher momentum at the foot of the hill and, they have much higher power/weight ratios. It's not uncommon for a high speed train to pass the top of a hill at well over 100mph, whereas a heavy freight train might slow to bicycle speed long before then.

- high gradients mean fewer and shorter tunnels are needed to cut straight through mountain ranges. High speed trains require curve radii of at least 600 feet even at low speeds, i.e. near stations. The tight switchbacks and loops used in some US freight alignments are incompatible with HSR train technology.

- high gradients, restricted axle loads and high track elevations mean HSR track cannot be used for anything but passenger and light cargo transport. Heavy freight trains would suffer unacceptable wheel wear in corners and cause unacceptable rail wear as well as geometry creep, resulting in astronomical track maintenance costs.

- top speeds in excess of 150mph require electric traction

- overhead catenaries provide single-phase current at 25kV AC

- catenary wires are strung in zig-zag patterns to distribute friction heating and wear on the pantographs

- modern power semiconductors (e.g. IGBT) are used to convert the feed power to three-phase AC at the frequency commensurate with vehicle speed

- motors are typically synchronous designs, though some early models did use asynchronous machines. Recent designs use permanent magnets made from new highly ferromagnetic rare earth alloys.

- trains feature lightweight construction with a low center of gravity to minimize electricity consumption during acceleration, rolling resistance in cruising, elevation requirements in curves and geometry creep of the track bed. This is possible because international crash safety rules assume full grade separation, advanced train control features and assiduous track and train maintenance to avoid crashes.

- by contrast, FRA rules in the US assume low-speed collisions will happen and focus on surviving them. This implies buff strengths that can only be achieved by adding a lot of steel, i.e. weight, to a design.

- CHSRA will petition FRA to draft a "rule of special applicability" so it can operate off-the-shelf Japanese or European products with proven safety and manageable maintenance overheads. Anything else would essentially kill the entire project.

- the California system will feature grade separated, dedicated, all-new dual track throughout, with the exception of some track sharing with guaranteed time separation in the Caltrain and LOSSAN corridors.

- increasingly, distributed traction (i.e. motor/generators on most cars, not just the ones at the end) is used to enable higher top speed, higher acceleration/deceleration rates, higher speeds in hill climbs and lower axle loads. Such designs are known as electric multiple unit (EMU).

- Alstom and Talgo train designs use shorter cars with trucks located in-between them, a configuration known as Jacobs trucks. There are also frame structures above the trucks that limit the horizontal and vertical angles cars can have relative to one another. Known as frame articulation, this concept is credited with keeping the cars of a French train that derailed at 182mph (!) in a freak accident in 1993 from toppling over and jackknifing. There was only slight injury.

- high speed trains are organized into trainsets consisting of 4-6 cars plus two end cars, each equipped with a full driver cab. This allows trainsets to reverse direction without having to change the train configuration.

- the end cars feature carefully designed aerodynamic shapes to minimize energy consumption and sway resulting from crosswinds and the bow waves of other trains passing at very high relative speeds.

- in day-to-day operations, trainset length, i.e. the number of cars, is never reconfigured. However, two trainsets may be combined to increase seat count and throughput on busy routes.

- headways of around 3 minutes can be operated safely wrt emergency braking distance, though 5 is about as low as any operator would actually go.

- in normal operation, trains slow by switching their motors to generator mode and feeding the current back into the grid. to avoid an overvoltage condition, the substation serving the track segment responds by throttling the flow of electricity. There are usually several trains on a segment at any given time, so the recuperated current is used to help them maintain there speed. If that isn't possible, the electricity can be routed to non-rail consumers or in some cases, even back to the trunk grid.

- worst case, the substation has to dissipate the excess electricity in snubber circuits, which you can think of as giant resistors. For reference, a fully equipped modern Alstom AGV trainset with 14 cars is rated at 12000kW (~16000hp) in motor and 8000kW (~10700hp) in generator mode. Reducing speed from 220mph to zero takes several minutes. Ergo, operators and utilities strive to avoid snubbing if at all possible.

- eddy current/mechanical brakes are only used in emergency situations. However, their performance is critical for design certification. Vendors jealously guard their intellectual property in this area, as it is used to determine minimum safe headways and hence, the capacity of busy routes.

- bi-level HSR trainsets are currently in active service in Japan and France to increase seat count per trainset to over 500, SNCF often combines two per train. Eurostar uses extremely long single-level trainsets that offer 770 seats.

- high platforms for level boarding are used to minimize dwell times at stations. In Japan, where trains usually feature five narrow seats per row, markings on the platform instruct passengers where to wait. Automatic train control systems are used to bring trains to a full stop to within a few inches of a target location. Most operators require seat reservations to ensure passengers are distributed evenly across the available access doors. The practice also ensures no-one is required to stand for several hours.

- passengers are free to move around the train at any time, seat belts are not needed. There are always cafe cars. Eurostar trains also have full kitchens and serve hot meals to customers in seated in one of the premium classes. These are reportedly very good, much better than airline fare.

- passengers handle their own baggage, there are racks for suitcases, folding bicycles etc. near the exits of each car.

- some operators have a limited number of spaces for regular bicycles on selected high speed trains. These can be reserved. If none are available, bicycles can be consigned for a small fee and will be professionally packaged and delivered to the destination within 24 hours. Large items like surfboards can also be consigned.

- electronic devices may be used at any time, many trains feature courtesy outlets for battery chargers. SNCF is now offering uninterrupted reliable broadband internet access on Thalys and TGV Est trains and, is rolling the service out on the rest of its network as well. Connectivity is based on WiFi and web/proxy servers inside the trains plus a combination of geostationary satellite links in open terrain and terrestrial UMTS inside tunnels and stations.

- most operators allow passengers to take along pets, subject to certain restrictions related to hygiene and zero objections from passengers in nearby seats. Leashes and muzzles must be used or taken along (varies by operator). Large dogs generally require a half price ticket.

- trains have to undergo preventive maintenance at intervals prescribed by the manufacturer, typically 200,000 miles or more. The modifications FRA forced on the Amtrak Acela Express added so much weight the intervals had to be cut to just 20,000 miles, dramatically increasing maintenance overheads in addition to the extra electricity consumed.

- Deutsche Bahn's efforts to push the envelope resulted in the discovery of unacceptably deep hairline cracks in one axle on each of two trains earlier this year. It now has to perform a program of unplanned non-destructive ultrasound checks for hairline fractures in all axles and all wheels of its entire fleet of ICE3 and ICE-T trainsets. It will then have to establish a new safe maintenance interval.

- trainsets with Jacobs trucks require special liftgates at their maintenance facilities. These permit the superstructure of the entire trainset to be lifted off all of the trucks at the same time, permitting the repair or exchange of individual trucks. While it is possible to replace damaged cars and to change trainset length, this requires special apparatus and is almost never done.

Anonymous said...

Being the "GCT of the West" is an odd thing to aspire to given that GCT only serves two modes of transportation: commuter rail and rapid transit (subway). The TTT aspires to connect high speed intercity rail, commuter rail, regional bus, intercity bus, municipal bus, rapid transit and light rail (the last two if there is a connection to Montgomery St). Likewise, LAUS would serve high speed intercity rail, conventional intercity rail, commuter rail, regional/municipal bus, rapid transit, and light rail. Penn Station is a better thing to aspire to in terms of intermodal connections, albeit not in terms of architecture.

James said...


Excellent summary. This post would be good to link as part of a CHSR FAQ to which additional info can be added.

While looking around for HSR technology I came across this article which discusses, as you mentioned, the locomotive power at the ends vs. power along each car and how that affects dynamic stability. The electric multiple unit seems to be the better arrangement.

Is France's Energy-Guzzling TGV Prototype the Right Answer?
By Christian Wüst,1518,475641,00.html

The article also discusses the aerodynamic pressure wave as the train moves into and out of a tunnel. This reminds me of the air control in the Cascade tunnel. Maybe a more high tech version can help the HSR in the tunnels.

At a 3.5% grade the Tehachapi pass should be no problem compared to the 2.2% freight line.

Rafael said...

@ James -

yeah, a multiple unit configuration is preferable because it distributes axle load and permits traction power to scale along with train length. It is more difficult to control, though.

The Spiegel article appeared at a time when Alstom had just taken the speed record crown from Siemens. The idea was to give customers the sense that Alstom's AGV is not just a little faster (= sexier) in commercial service than its German competitor, the Velaro, but that the AGV can cruise at 217mph very safely because SNCF and Alstom have the technical know-how to go much, much faster. It's just not economical to do.

The AGV actually consumes less energy per passenger-mile than the Velaro, features Alstom's usual frame articulation and a higher power-to-weight ratio. The Velaro is a little wider and its interior more luxuriously appointed.

Fwiw, I think the arrival of reliable broadband internet access will reduce passenger demand for even higher speeds. Operators might offer it anyhow if it increases throughput capacity, but I don't think it does.

Wrt tunnel noise, that's an issue of particular interest in Japan. Not only is their culture famously averse to noise, there are also a lot of HSR tunnels near built-up areas because there is so little flat land in that country. The ungainly bulbous schnoz on the N700 shinkansen was shaped that way in part to reduce tunnel boom.

Note that HSR trains in Japan are generally slower than those in France because the original shinkansen tracks were designed for lower speeds. That's why the N700 needs active tilt technology and the TGV doesn't. Also, the shinkansen lines are extremely busy, especially in the JR Central region, so line throughput is even more important than top speed.

This video gives you an idea of how the Siemens Velaro fares in that regard. Note the angled and beveled entrance to the tunnel.

Rob Dawg said...

- overhead catenaries provide single-phase current at 25kV AC

Excellent. I was unaware that the voltage had been set.