Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Open Thread

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

by Rafael

  • Shortly before USDOT is due to decide how to allocate the $9.5 billion Congress has already approved for HSR nationwide in two separate bills, a new America2050 study analyzes and ranks 27,000 city pairs to determine Where HSR Works Best. Its recommendation: priority should be given to upgrading speeds in the NEC, upgrading the Chicago-Minneapolis/St. Louis/Detroit routes and, to building the first "express HSR" route in the country between SF and LA/Anaheim. Note that the study did not factor in cost, it only looked at transportation benefits.

  • The Transport Politic discusses SNCF's 1000-page response to USDOT's RFEI on HSR projects nationwide. The state-owned French railway zeroes in on opportunities for express HSR at up to 220mph in California, Florida, Texas and the Midwest. It refers to these as "HST 220". Note the complete absence of the NEC in SNCF's response and, the subtle differences relative to the phasing map America2050 has produced.

    UPDATE: the California HST 220 document is now online (24.5MB, h/t to commenter Alon Levy)

  • CA State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-SF) and Speaker Karen Bass are lobbying for ARRA funds for California. In her meeting with Joel Szabat, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Transportation, he hinted that the state might get as much as $4 billion for its HSR starter line. The decision will ultimately be up to his boss, Secr. Ray LaHood.

  • Las Vegas-Anaheim maglev project to get $45 million for environmental studies on the Nevada section after all. Supporters cite lack of commitment to onward connection from Victorville in DesertXPress proposal.

  • USDOT credit council recommends granting a $171 million TIFIA loan to help build the SF Transbay Terminal Center. This will cover 14% of the phase I capital investment. Estimates for total cost including the DTX tunnel and train box are now at $4 billion.

HEADS UP: CHSRA is hosting three Alternatives Analysis Open House meetings for SF peninsula.

San Carlos, Wed Sep 30, 6:00-8:00 pm
SamTrans Auditorium
1250 San Carlos Avenue

Sunnyvale, Fri Oct 9, 6:00‐8:00 pm
Sunnyvale Recreation Center (Ballroom)
550 E. Remington Drive

San Francisco, Tue Oct 13, 6:00‐8:00 pm
Milton Marks Conference Center
455 Golden Gate Avenue – Lower Level
San Diego A/B/C Rooms


Anonymous said...

Nobody seems to know anything about Judge Kopp's statement that the developer for the Trans Bay Terminal has withdrawn from the project, due to market conditions.

No news about this. It this project right now even viable?

swinghanger said...

Re. SNCF's lack of interest in the NEC- they are likely interested in operating new HSR lines without the inherent limitations a legacy system like the NEC is saddled with.

Unknown said...

The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that the FRA is denying that they have funded the maglev program:

"The Federal Railroad Administration has made neither an award nor an announcement with regard to funding for maglev development in Nevada," said spokesman Mark Paustenbach.

Anonymous said...

on 1A, I understand that the state can only issue and spend bonds in the amount that has matching funds? So does that mean if we got 4 billion from the feds, we can issue 4 billion in bonds, and have a total of 8 billion to get started?

Anonymous said...

can't wait to duplicate this here.

Anonymous said...

Caltrain to return whistles to underneath trains

Amid sustained complaints from residents since Caltrain moved its train whistles to the tops of its engines, the rail agency says it has begun work on a project to return the whistles to their original location beneath the engines.

Caltrain has ordered the necessary equipment and hired a contractor to do the work, according to Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn. She said she didn't know when the project would be completed, but that the whistles have already been moved on some trains.

Anonymous said...

"...a new America2050 study..."

They hurt their argument by starting off with a Fig. 1 map of Richard Florida's silly, inconsistent, arbitrary, oversimplified, and forced megaregions concept. Too many of these groups just cut-n-paste templates from the same advocacy coloring books. I'm surprised they left out the 'Polar bear on ice' picture ("Build HSR here or we kill this bear!")

Would be interested in their specific rationale as to why Wichita-Oklahoma City is a potential corridor but not the similar length in-state Wichita-Topeka-Lawrence-Kansas City. Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta won't work but the twice as long and half as populated Albuquerque-Denver will? I could go on, but once again it seems like some of these academics/advocates get caught up in the parameters of their handful of variables and fail to adequately refine with pragmatic common sense. In times of fiscal stress, mega-projects like HSR (however defined) require solid, well-honed arguments, not Utopian fluff.

Andre Peretti said...

"SNCF's lack of interest in the NEC":
It is certainly not lack of interest for the most desirable corridor in the US. They just consider the NEC is Amtrak's kingdom and they have no business interfering with that.
Hence the blank on the map.

Rafael said...

@ AndyDuncan -

afaik, the $45 million for the Nevada maglev study is an old Harry Reid earmark in a general budget bill so the money would be coming from the federal government but not FRA.

Sen. Reid has since expressed a strong preference for his chum Sig Rogich's DesertXPress, which in engineering terms could fairly easily be connected to the California network. Afaik, he sought to quash the earmark but Washington moves in mysterious ways. It's possible that someone somewhere somehow managed to revive its dead corpse without Harry Reid even noticing. Members of Congress don't actually read the bills they vote on, their staffers do. Some of the time.

IMHO, Nevada is shooting itself in the foot by pursuing an incompatible technology instead of a steel wheels connector to the starter line of the California network.

However, in the great scheme of waste in D.C., $45 million is chump change. Exhibit A: the P-791 superblimp, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. As long as that kind of R&D gets funded (directly or indirectly), the federal government most definitely does have money for all kinds of toys.

Anonymous said...


can't get this to work... any way my goal with this map is to get coast to coast coverage faster while still getting the corridors done.

i wanted to show phase three but already forgot how to get a different color line.

Anonymous said...

someone's got money fortoys

Anonymous said...

wow which part of chsr is gonna be like this.... loop

Alon Levy said...

Here you can download and read the report - just sort them in reverse chronological order, and the SNCF reports will appear on top. The California report is 243 pages long and weighs 24.5 MB.

Right now I'm reading the executive summary. The most important quotes so far: "SNCF endorses the alignment proposed by the CHSRA project"; "the Tehachapi pass alignment will be of particular difficulty concerning optimization of the longitudinal profile while endorsing both maximum grade value and length and minimizing tunnel length."

Alon Levy said...

Okay, SNCF's Phase 1 ridership estimates come from adding together the total metro populations of the areas served. The trouble is, its Bay Area numbers break down as, SF Bay Area 7.2 million, San Jose 1.8 million, Gilroy 500,000. This despite the fact that the definition of the Bay Area that has 7.2 million people includes San Jose and Gilroy, and San Jose's metro area includes Gilroy as well. SNCF adds those numbers together to say that Phase 1 will serve a current population of 29.7 million, but in reality it's only 27.4.

Conversely, SNCF's assumption about driving seems wrong. It says, "Future auto driving costs were based on a gasoline price of $2.93 per gallon (compared to the current price of about USD 2.79 in August 2009), average auto occupancy of 1.4 persons and miles per gallon of 21.9. They also include minor maintenance and are assumed to remain constant through 2030, resulting in a cost of USD 0.22 per auto traveler-mile." In fact, gas prices are likely to significantly increase, probably faster than mpg ratings; I don't see Americans switch to driving Renaults anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

The organization's latest reports show that Northern California gas prices are up 11 cents from last month's Aug. 11 survey, and residents are paying an average of $3.12 per gallon at the pump. In the Bay Area, that average jumps to $3.19 per gallon, 6 cents more than August prices.
The current national average gas price is $2.58 per gallon. Gas prices actually decreased nationally by 6 cents, according to AAA. However, gas prices across Northern California all increased since last month.
AAA spokesman Matt Skryja also noted that at this time last year, a gallon of gas in California cost an average of $3.86.
The traditional increase in travel over Labor Day weekend helped drive the price increases, Skryja said. The fluctuations in recent months will end only when the nation sees "a steady stream of solid and positive economic data," he said in a statement.
Northern California's cheapest gas can be found in Marysville at $3.04 per gallon. In the Bay Area, gas prices range from $3.21 in San Mateo to $3.08 in Fremont.

Anonymous said...

"NEC is Amtrak's kingdom and they have no business interfering with that."

The NEC is a basket case because of FRA regulation and the backwards, non-cooperating, 19th century attitudes and operations and equipment of the commuter railroad agencies. Wise people would rather bite their own legs off than try to deal with the likes of SEPTA or NJT and friends. Not to mention Amtrak.

Modern construction and modern equipment and modern operating and timely project delivery are just not on the table anywhere in the north-east, or anywhere else under the dead hands of the FRA and "commuter railroading". (Is there any chance for California? Maybe, but it's a small one. Good luck!)

Plus local work practices and contracting arrangements resulted in the most expensive and least useful electrification and signaling "modernization" programs anywhere in the world. NECIP non-delivery and over-cost makes the UK WCML, which is otherwise the global poster child for rail disaster, smell like roses. Who'd want to touch that with a barge pole? Failure is guaranteed.

You'd have to be an idiot to want to get involved in a cesspool of stupidity like that. SNCF, run away!

Unknown said...

yet 500 trains and a million move through the nec without incident everyday. terrible job.

Anonymous said...

Just read the SNSF proposal.

1) They lift the existing ridership and revenue numbers straight out of HSRA documents. THis is not surprising considering that SYSTRA, their consulting arm, helped generate these numbers and it would have been ugly if they did not.

2) They appear to use a gravity model to estimate other years. There are a lot of reasons why you can't really do this - including the fact that HSR would truly be a new mode of travel here. In places where rail has a high mode share, you can use simplistic measures like this to see what happens if you make rail faster.

3) They lift the HSR's assumptions on auto costs, except that they use a much higher cost for businesses. THey assume that business travellers will make decisions at 50 cents a mile!

4) ALl in all its a little weird. What exactly do they want?

2) Why do they think so much more rolling stock will be necessary?

Anonymous said...

"4) ALl in all its a little weird. What exactly do they want?"


Rafael said...

@ anon @ 2:55pm -

"4) ALl in all its a little weird. What exactly do they want?"

They want to consult on the infrastructure and operations planning of any new express HSR project in the US. Since California is the only one actually being proposed right now, that's the one they're really after.

They also want to get in early on to increase the chance of successful future bids for the operations and maintenance contracts.

SNCF actually does have a lot of relevant practical experience to offer, even if it doesn't all translate perfectly to the US situation. Since they're a state-owned company and French, expect them to recommend Alstom rolling stock.

BruceMcF said...

Jim, click on the saved map and when it comes up, "Edit" to edit the map. Click on the line you want to change to bring it up with its name and description box. Right click on the graphic of the line at the top right corner and pick color to set the color, you can also change the amount of see through and the width.

Robert Cruickshank said...


I believe they are counting Santa Cruz, Monterey/Salinas, and Hollister as the population numbers for the Gilroy station.

As to the assumptions about driving, SNCF is being VERY conservative with its estimates. This is true with its overall ridership numbers as well.

As regards Tehachapi, let's all keep in mind that it is much less of an engineering challenge than the FAR more mountainous I-5 alignment. I often wonder if the "just build it along I-5" crowd has ever actually driven I-5 between Wheeler Ridge and Sylmar.

Alon Levy said...

Santa Cruz County is part of the 11-county Bay Area, which is the only way SF gets 7.2 million. Monterey County is not, but together with Santa Cruz County is has 650,000 people, more than the 500,000 quoted for the study - and besides, it's way too far away to be well-served by HSR, unless you're trying to go to Los Angeles.

lyqwyd said...

According to Census population estimates for 2008, the Bay Area Counties have these populations:
Alameda: 1,474,368
Contra Costa: 1,029,703
Marin: 248,794
Mendocino: 86,221
Napa: 133,433
San Francisco: 808,976
San Mateo: 712,690
Santa Clara: 1,764,499
Solano: 407,515
Sonoma: 466,741

Total: 7.1 million

I assume that's where the numbers are coming from.

mike said...

3) They lift the HSR's assumptions on auto costs, except that they use a much higher cost for businesses. THey assume that business travellers will make decisions at 50 cents a mile!

I don't understand - are you implying that this is too small or too high? It appears very reasonable.

When I use my personal car for business travel, my employer reimburses me at 55 cents/mile. In other words, driving costs my business 55 cents/mile. This is quite typical as it is the IRS standard mileage rate for business miles driven.

Alternatively, a business might maintain its own fleet of vehicles for employees to use. This entails substantial overhead costs, but it still could be worth it in some cases. In that case, costs could look as follows:

$3,000/yr for the car itself
$1,000/yr for insurance
$1,000/yr for vehicle storage/parking
$0.13/mi for gas and $0.05/mi for maintenance

Suppose they get 18,000 miles/yr from the vehicle. Then total costs work out to: $0.46/mile.

So reasonable estimates of business vehicle costs range from 46 to 55 cents/mile. Which, guess what, is right around 50 cents/mile.

Anonymous said...

My experience is that anyone being reimbursed 50 cents buys a prius and always volunteers to drive.

Alon Levy said...

Lyqwyd: yes, the numbers for the Bay Area are credible. The problem is that SNCF is double-counting San Jose and triple-counting Gilroy.

lyqwyd said...

@alon, oops, I guess I misunderstood.

Eric M said...

With regards to SNCF recomending more trainsets, don't forget they don't believe in filling the TGV trainsets more than 75% full, which inturn adds more trains during peak times

Anonymous said...

The Grapevine is what tunnels are for. I would like to hear what Herr Herrennecht & Co. would have to say about how to go about mining it.

mike said...

My experience is that anyone being reimbursed 50 cents buys a prius and always volunteers to drive.

My experience is that, even at 50 cents/mile, almost everyone in my workplace chooses to have the employer purchase an air ticket down to SoCal rather than choosing to drive their personal vehicle down to SoCal and get reimbursed at 50 cents/mile.

But at the end of the day it's pretty much irrelevant. The fact is that the IRS rate is quite common and is over 50 cents/mile, so that is the auto mileage cost that many businesses incur.

Alon Levy said...

Eric M, think of it in terms of capacity. Maximum capacity from LA to Fresno is about 12 tph. Most trains on SNCF's schedule are going to take about 2:30-3 hours one way. That means the system will need at most 3*2*12 = 72 trainsets, at which point it will reach capacity. Even if CAHSR decides to couple pairs of 200-meter trains together instead of building 400-meter trains, which would be cheaper, this means 144 trainsets. SNCF estimates California will need 239 trainsets.

Clem said...

they don't believe in filling the TGV trainsets more than 75% full

No. They believe in maximizing yield. If you run trains 100% full, you're not doing that. This is no different than an airline.

Anonymous said...

BruceMcF said...
Jim, click on the saved map and when it comes up, "Edit" to edit the map

go it thanks..

updated three phases

Samsonian said...

They believe in maximizing yield. If you run trains 100% full, you're not doing that. This is no different than an airline.

Just to clarify for anyone, maximizing yield is where both ridership and revenue are maximized.

I remember doing problems like that in Finite Mathematics.

As Clem said, airlines do this too, and they typically have 75-85% of seats filled on average. So this is quite the norm.

Also, like airlines, railroads have high fixed costs. Reducing the number of flights or runs, is actually more likely to reduce revenue faster than costs.

You have to actually build up ridership, or you'll be trapped in a downward spiral.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:41pm -

if you have not yet done so, please look at CHSRA's Tunneling Issues Report to understand why they chose the longer route via the Tehachapis.

It involves fewer miles tunneled, the longest tunnels are shorter and there are plenty of meter-scale variations that all permit both the Garlock and the San Andreas fault to be crossed at grade.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

SNCF's estimate of the required fleet size probably includes the phase 2 spurs and some number of trains undergoing maintenance or held in reserve. Plus, I expect their chums at Alstom would love to sell California more equipment than is absolutely necessary.

Note that the SNCF report states that headways as short as 3.5-4 minutes are realistically achievable on a dedicated dual track high-speed line. This corresponds to about 15 trains per hour each way.

It would take decades for demand to reach those levels even in the network core (Chowchilla-Redondo Junction), but railway engineers have to take a very long view because it's incredibly difficult to add tracks to an existing line even if the right of way for doing is (mostly) secured at the outset - cp. the Caltrain ROW.

SNCF's assessment of ultimate line capacity may also prove a useful data point for deciding how best to connect DesertXPress to the California network.

Rafael said...

@ Samsonian -

actually, if you look at supporting doc 5 of the 2008 Business Plan, you can see there's a trade-off between ridership and revenue based on fare prices.

For example, p15 PDF forecasts the following ridership and revenue levels for the fully built-out network in 2030, assuming auto/air trip costs increase by 8% over and above general inflation, relative to the 2005/6 baseline.

50% of air fare: 93.1m pax, $3617m revenue

77% of air fare: 74.0m pax, $4279m revenue

As a strict business proposition, therefore, fares closer to air fares are preferable. However, HSR is going to be built with public money with the intent of avoiding the construction of additional airport runways and thousands of additional lane-miles of freeways.

If higher fares mean fewer passengers, the hoped-for relief from political/commercial pressure to expand the modal alternatives will be that much lower.

In France, SNCF is a state-owned railway so a strategy that boosts ridership at the expense of some revenue is preferred. Low fares are also popular with the voters who are paying for the TGV infrastructure.

In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger has insisted that CHSRA secure about 1/3 of total infrastructure funding for the starter line from the private sector. The phase 2 spurs are to be built without any additional investment by the state of California at all. Private investors will want the HSR operator to maximize profits and not care one whit about whether or not the state meets its larger goal of avoiding the construction of oodles of new runways and freeway lane-miles.

BruceMcF said...

@jim, is that assuming no Regional HSR corridors? In the Northeast to Midwest part of the map, if the Empire, Keystone, Ohio Hub and Midwest Hub are overlayed, it seems that you are duplicating what will already exist rather than leveraging what will already exist and build upon it.

For instance, with the Keystone Corridor and Ohio Hub, an Express HSR corridor from NYC to Harrisburg PA through Northern PA to Akron/Canton and Toledo to Chicago gives, with three junctions (between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Berea and Columbus, and at Toledo):
* NYC/Cleveland/Toledo/Detroit
* NYC/Columbus/Dayton/Cincinnati
* Pittsburgh/Chicago
* Cleveland/Chicago
* Detroit/Toledo/Chicago
* Columbus/Chicago

Don't see much scope for that elsewhere, unless the Express HSR corridors in the Northeast were a cross from NYC to Quebec and Boston to Toronto crossing at Albany. There's scope for a network of Regional HSR corridors in the inland SE, but unlike the inland NE, nowhere that seems a likely place for an Express HSR to run through ... after all, taking the Shenandoah Valley down and across the mountains into Tennessee puts you on the wrong side of the mountains from Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

maximizing yield is where both ridership and revenue are maximized.

Actually, neither. Maximizing yield is where the difference between revenue and cost is maximized. Maximum revenue occurs at an unfavorable cost point, and maximum ridership occurs at an unfavorable revenue point.

Anonymous said...

It the Trans Bay Terminal in San Francisco a joke? Is this just vaporware?

Despite grand and glorious plans, and all the hype about this 4.5 billion project, they don't have the money. Where is the money to come from?

There is a deathly silence about a developer having pulled out. Kopp said this was the case at the Sept. board meeting. Where is the news on this item?

Right now commercial office projects are in very deep trouble -- bankruptcies on the horizon.

It all looks like a dream to me, and this HSR project is supposed to terminate in this dream?

Anonymous said...

BruceMcF said...
@jim, is that assuming no Regional HSR corridors? In the Northeast to Midwest part of the map, if the Empire, Keystone, Ohio Hub and Midwest Hub are overlayed, it seems that you are duplicating what will already exist rather than leveraging what will already exist and build upon i

Well actually I didn't look that closely at that part of the map. ( when you zoom out, the highlighted cities that remain are not always the ones you'd think they'd be) And I'm only very vaguely familiar with that part of the country so I made my choices based on an upstate-west new york line city-albany-rochester-buffalo and another one north to montreal.

and the cleveland -columbus -cincinati ( isn't this the three C corridor I keep getting endless news clips about)

and then a PA, philly-pittsburgh-cle to connect them at mid point on the nec (philly)

looking closer what Id do next is the missing spot between toledo and cle
I just wanted to hit the biggest cities with as few lines as possible and keep moving west.

The way I see it too, is that america's growth will continue to be mainly in the sunbelt areas. which is why there is a lot more in texas and why the only full coast to coast connections run through the southwest.

The only people who are moving to montana and idaho are the people for whom high speed rail would mean the beginning of communism. so they don't get anything.

i have three lines converging in New orleans which should revitilize it nicely,

and lots of service in texas, across the south and the rockies/southwest because I want as many new people as possible to have access to live
in places other than california in hopes of encouraging growth anywhere but here.

( really texas can have them all)

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

From the funding app, stating what's included in the LAUS-Anaheim Arctic section (my bolding):

Right-of-way acquisition, grade-separations, utility relocation, environmental mitigation, earthwork, guideway structures, tunneling, and trackwork. It does not include a maintenance facility.

f*ck. I really hope they just put that in there to cover their asses and haven't made the decision to tunnel from Fullerton to Anaheim. They really need to grade separate those freight/amtrak/metrolink tracks there. Tunneling means that's never going to happen.

Alon Levy said...

Rafael: the 12 tph figure I quoted is for the central trunk line, Redondo-Chowchilla; SF-Pacheco-Sac traffic is going to be negligible. This includes any spurs to Las Vegas and Phoenix, unless there are plans to extend to four tracks between Redondo and Palmdale.

SNCF is planning to run some local trains that don't use the entire line, such as LA-Fresno or SF-Fresno. However, those trains have much shorter runtimes than 3 hours, which means you need fewer of them for a given frequency.

Jim: your map misses some low-hanging fruit, which come from the fact that the Great Lakes region is almost as flat as the Central Valley. Between Buffalo and Toronto, between Buffalo and Cleveland, and between Cleveland and Chicago, the tracks are almost perfectly straight, and the ROW has enough room for four tracks. The Water Level Route from New York to Chicago via Buffalo is not the shortest possible, but it's by far the cheapest to convert to 220 mph.

James said...

@ Anon
"and maximum ridership occurs at an unfavorable revenue point"

Interesting trade-off.
Sounds like BART when the Bay Bridge is closed or on special events.

Morris Brown said...

The ARRA funding application that Morshed will present to the Authority's board this Wednesday, includes a request fo 1.28 billion for the peninsula section.

ARRA Funding Request

It will be quite interesting to see if the Board approves this part of the request, since the time deadlines for starting construction cannot possibly be met in view of the de-certification of the EIR for this section, that is expeceted shortly by the court.

Anonymous said...

They have only requested the items for the Peninsula that are covered by some other, already completed, environmental review or that don't need environmental review like grade crossings.

They are NOT asking for money to anything that resembles HSR on the peninsula

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"and the cleveland -columbus -cincinati ( isn't this the three C corridor I keep getting endless news clips about)"

Yes, its the trunk line of the Ohio Hub, and so is the most likely part of the three Ohio Hub corridors to be already up and running before design of an Express HSR connecting NYC to the Great Lakes and Midwest would even actually start.

The present staging proposal is at The Ohio Hub Site (pdf). In terms of project requirements, a Phase can be completed per year given funding.

The initial step is Cleveland/Columbus/Dayton/Cincinnati, Amtrak speed line. The operating subsidies that an Amtrak speed route on that corridor are already included - the capital cost of that is $250m, and forms the bulk of the $400m Ohio request for HSR Stimulus funds.

Then Berea/Columbus to 110mph, to get the operating ratio of the line up to break even.

The Columbus/Dayton/Cincinnati to 110mph to get to an operating surplus. That completes Phase 1. If the funding for 110mph up front had been there, it would have been done 2010, now they are talking 2011, but since the service starts before the phase is complete, that cuts down the delay in building the patronage.

So for below, I figure 2014 ready to start rolling out the rest of the Hub if they have to rely on operating surpluses alone. Obviously if the state ponies up additional funding from somewhere, that is accelerated.

Phase 2 (2014), provided the Midwest Hub Chicago to Detroit has been completed to 110mph, Cleveland / Toledo / Detroit at 110mph, continuing on the Michigan line to Chicago.

Phase 3 (2015) completes the connections to Chicago with the Cincinnati/Indianapolis/CHI segment of the Midwest Hub, the Toledo/Fort Wayne/Chicago segment of the Midwest Hub, as well as the Columbus/Fort Wayne segment in the Ohio Hub. The ORDC also assumes that the Michigan lines in the Midwest Hub are finished by this phase.

Phase 4 (2016) completes the Pittsburgh / (Youngstown) / Cleveland line. That completes that corridor, Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Toledo/Ft. Wayne/Chicago.

Phase 5 (2017) fills in a gap to complete the Columbus/Toledo/Detroit route and completes the Pittsburgh/Columbus line, completing the Pittsburgh/Columbus/Ft. Wayne/Chicago corridor and the supplementary Zanesville-Newark/Columbus/Toledo/Detroit corridor.

Phase 6 (2018) completes Cleveland/Erie/Buffalo/Niagara/Toronto, completing the Toronto/Buffalo/Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati corridor.

Subtract three years from Stages 2-6 if the state comes up with sufficient capital subsidies.

Peter said...

@ Morris Brown

We don't know what Judge Kenny will decide.

Decertifying the EIR would be a nuclear option that a judge is unlikely to take.

Much more likely would be a moratorium on further environmental work until a supplemental EIR is circulated.

In most similar EIR cases, the parties settle right after the judge freezes the environmental process. Things then continue as before. (This per my environmental law professor with over thirty years in the field.)

Once again, you cannot KILL a project under CEQA or NEPA, you can just DELAY it. Parties thinking that they will be able to kill a project like CAHSR with lawsuits are delusional.

Anonymous said...


BruceMcF said...
jim said...
"and the cleveland -columbus -cincinati ( isn't this the three C corridor I keep getting endless news clips abo/low hanging fruit--

Heres a new one from scratch I took a different approach pudhin even more linear individiual longer lines rathe than hub and spoke - more like the LA freeway style than the East coast freeway style.

newmap click on lines for the names

Anonymous said...

and if you wonder why the pac line goes all the way to Cabo its cuz once cali recovers economically, I want us to buy the whole of baja and turn into affordable retirement living.

Anonymous said...


do you think amtrak would use acela train sets for the 110mph lines or standard equipment?

Anonymous said...

and then heres the grand grid plan as another approach

Samsonian said...

@ Anon 8:48 AM

Maximize was probably a poor choice of words. "Optimize" is a better way to describe what we're talking about, which is optimizing multiple variables.

@ Rafael

I realize that, and I've read the earlier post on fares. But, this has been something that's bothered me for a while now, because we still don't have a lot of answers.

Do we maximize ridership (with the constraint of operating in the black), so as to perform a vital public service? An admirable goal, which would eliminate construction/expansion of airports and highways, as well as kill off short haul flights in the state.

Or do we try to get as much revenue as possible, to pay down the significant debt incurred to build it, and fund the expansion of the system to Sac and SD? Also very important.

And how does this play into the fact that we need a significant amount of money from the private sector for the starter line, not to mention full build out? There shouldn't be some giveaway (i.e. monopoly) to 1 or 2 private companies.

This is pretty aggravating that we have to deal with these huge challenges all by ourselves. The airport/aviation system and road system never dealt with these kinds of funding and political constraints. Hell, the Federal government paid for ~80% of the construction cost of interstate highways, and still pays for 80% of their maintenance costs.

Why can't they lead like that on high speed rail and other rail transit?

Rafael said...

@ Samsonian -

last year's PRIIA act actually established the principle that Congress will fund up to 80% of capital investments in transit projects, putting it on a level footing with road projects. Previously, the maximum level for transit was 50%.

As for maintenance, afaik USDOT only pays for that on roads it owns, e.g. the interstate network. There are plenty of freeways and highways that received capital investment dollars from Congress but that state DOTs (Caltrans in California) are responsible for maintaining.

This is less glamorous than getting a freeway named after you, so state politicians are less inclined to fund it properly. Hence the large number of potholes, rusting bridges etc. around the country. California actually does a better job than most, if only because so much seismic retrofit work has become necessary. In that context, thorough inspections and a fresh lick of paint cost peanuts.

As for the fare policy that will be pursued by the state, you and I don't have to figure that out. It'll be a subject of no doubt tough negotiations between the state and potential private investors.

Samsonian said...

@ Rafael

Re Federal Transit Funding:

It's good that the federal government has changed its transit funding principles, but it's the follow-through that counts. Actually funding good transit projects by that amount will make a world of a difference.

Re Interstates:

USDoT doesn't actually own any highways, State DoTs own and maintain them. The Interstate Highway System is a Federal-State partnership, where the Federal government has committed to funding 80% of the maintenance costs of the Interstate highways. The State DoTs do the work, send the bill to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) within USDoT, and they distribute money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund (which is funded by excise taxes on gasoline and diesel).

That fund is broke, has enormous budget shortfalls, and has already required ~$15 Billion in transfers from the U.S. Treasury to stabilize it.

Re Fares and Private Investors:

My main concern is that the state gives away a monopoly to private investors, and they charge us stupid high fares.

Ideally, we end up with something closer to airports and roads. Where the public owns the infrastructure, and allows competition on top of it from private operators, who pay access/trackage fees to the government entity to maintain it and pay down debt. This is what Europe is moving to next year, but it remains to be seen whether it'll work in practice.

Even if it doesn't, a publicly operated system would work just fine, like every other HSR system does. But a privately owned operator with a government granted monopoly is bad news, especially when the public paid for the bulk of the system.

Rafael said...

@ Samsonian -

thx for the correction on how freeway maintenance is funded. Just for reference, the DoD got a $23 billion increase in its budget this year just to compensate for inflation.

Wrt the operations contracts that will be put out to tender: running the infrastructure will be a natural local monopoly with long-term contracts. The first batch could be part and parcel of deals on right of way, design-build contracts etc. or, it could be sold in an auction with pre-qualified bidders. The second time the contracts are awarded, sometime in the 2040s, an auction is more likely unless the early experience is negative. Different regions may have different operators, but there will still need to be a state regulator to curb price gouging.

Licenses to operate and maintain trains will be tendered separately. It's not yet clear if CHSRA will split the wholesale technical end of this from the retail business of putting bums in seats. For example, airlines have sophisticated sales, marketing and customer relationship systems for passenger travel but most wouldn't know a bogie from a pantograph (Virgin Group is an exception, AirFrance will soon follow suit).

Anonymous said...

Knowing how to fill trains is not much different than knowing how to fill planes. Same business principles.

Spence's point is well-taken that this megaproject should not be about building incredibly expensive public infrastructure to then only allow a private monopolist to reap all the profits from operation. So far, private firms have shown no interest in sharing construction risk. Even PB and HNTB are not held accountable if their designs turn sour.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...
"last year's PRIIA act actually established the principle that Congress will fund up to 80% of capital investments in transit projects, putting it on a level footing with road projects. Previously, the maximum level for transit was 50%."

No, the maximum level was 80%, its just that no project ever got funded near the maximum, because the funding was squeezed year on year and only projects that scaled back their request to the 40%-50% range were able to get funded.

Maximum Interstate Highway federal:state match is 90:10, except for some safety improvements that can be 100% federally funded.

BruceMcF said...

Samsonian said...
"My main concern is that the state gives away a monopoly to private investors, and they charge us stupid high fares."

The state will not be giving away the monopoly, they'll be leasing it out, otherwise there's no money to build after Stage 1. Whether the investors charge profit maximizing fares or patronage maximizing fares will depend on what limits the state is willing to put on the franchise in exchange for less money per year to build the later stages.