Wednesday, October 28, 2009

China HSR Grabs Significant Market Share From Airlines

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

China, which is engaged in a massive high speed rail expansion project as part of both its economic stimulus and energy independence efforts, is witnessing a major shift of riders from planes to trains. As a result, airlines like China Southern are planning to focus on the international market, as short-haul trips are increasingly taken on high speed trains and not airplanes:

China Southern’s traffic on flights between Beijing and Taiyuan in Shanxi province fell about 60 percent after a high- speed rail link began operations, Si said. There was a 30 percent decline on Shanghai-Wuhan trips, he said....

China Southern Airlines Co., the nation’s biggest domestic carrier, will expand overseas flights in anticipation of a high-speed rail network causing traffic to decline on about a quarter of its internal routes.

Traffic may fall by more than half on 518 of the carrier’s weekly flights, Chairman Si Xianmin said today at a conference in Beijing. Of the airline’s about 160 domestic routes, 38 will compete directly with high-speed railway lines, he said.

“This will force us to expand overseas routes, on which we still have some competitive edge,” he said. “It will eventually cause an impact on the global aviation industry.”

The new rail network, due to be completed by 2020, will offer a cheaper alternative on routes covering about 80 percent of China’s domestic aviation market, Si said. That will force the carrier to challenge Air China Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. on international services to offset dropping domestic demand.

“For short haul, passengers definitely won’t want to use the airlines,” said Jay Ryu Je-Hyun, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co. in Hong Kong.

Some of the reasons for the shift:

High-speed train tickets will be about 40 percent cheaper than current air tickets, according to Si’s estimations. A five- hour rail trip from Shanghai to Beijing, for instance, will likely be about 700 yuan ($103), or about 60 percent of the price asked for the two-hour flight.

Train services may also be more convenient as stations are generally located downtown, while airports are on city outskirts. There are also fewer security procedures, which quickens boarding.

“Airlines will lose all their current competitiveness, like saving time,” said Si. “What’s more, the high-speed trains haven’t reported any fatal accident in the past more than four decades. That’s definitely a plus for passengers considering a trip by air or rail.”

Much of this is directly comparable to what will happen here in California. Although one can find some decent fares for a roundtrip flight tomorrow from SFO to LAX (around $100 on Virgin America), it's very unclear whether that will be sustained in a future where oil prices are certain to rise significantly. HSR, powered by renewable electricity, will not have that problem.

And while there will still be those travelers who choose Virgin America or Southwest over the high speed train, the Chinese experience, along with that of Spain and on the USA's own Northeast Corridor shows that many travelers will also pick HSR. HSR's job isn't to kill the airlines, but to enable them and the airports they serve to survive. Without HSR, we're either going to see people priced out of air travel entirely, or if the expected oil price increases fail to materialize, there won't be enough capacity to handle the passenger load. Either way, HSR is a necessary complement to maintain intercity connectivity in 21st century California, and to maintain California's global competitiveness.


dave said...

Off Topic- New NC3D Video

California High Speed Trains: Business Plan

Peter said...

Hey Robert, on the topic of airlines competing with HSR, how about a post about the subsidies that airlines get from Congress and other sources to fly non-profitable routes into certain cities on certain routes. The airlines basically get paid to provide service to cities that otherwise wouldn't be worth flying into. The airlines then turn around and charge EXORBITANT rates for flights, since (a) their expenses are already paid for, and (b) there is no competition on those routes.

In CA at least, most of those subsidies would go bye-byes once HSR is up and running, I would think. I'm curious how much money is being invested by Congress in paying for such services.

Just an idea for a topic.

bossyman15 said...

well NIMBYs there's your business plan you wanted! HAR HAR HAR.

Peter said...

Examples of such routes are Monterey-San Francisco, Modesto-San Francisco.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

the airport subsidies will not be eliminated, just re-allocated to states where HSR doesn't make sense but whose senators' votes are needed to secure HSR funding.

But back to China: while the US is still talking about weaning itself off oil and switching to zero tailpipe emissions vehicles, they are actually doing it in a big way.

Rafael said...

O/T: the Infrastructurist blog has kicked off a series called "Meet the Train Makers", starting with Alstom. Worth a look.

Peter said...

It would be an appropriate thread on how expecting all rail services to pay for themselves "because all other services do" is bogus.

And the airport subsidies don't have to be eliminated altogether, of course. Not even in CA. I don't see HSR heading all the way to Redding for a long time. So they would still be necessary.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

I agree, there are some places in California that won't be on the HSR network and will therefore need commercial air service. You mentioned Redding and Monterey, but Eureka, Chico, Santa Rosa, South Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs/Indio, El Centro etc. also come to mind.

It's worth asking if subsidizing jets is the right way to go, the distances are generally so short plain old propeller planes with turbocharged aero diesel engines would be a lot cheaper to operate - especially because they can use short General Aviation runways.

At 250mph cruise speed, it would only take an hour to get from e.g. Eureka to a secondary airport in the Bay Area, e.g. Concord, Oakland or Hayward. The idea would be to stay out of the congested airspace around SFO. In SoCal, Van Nuys and San Bernardino might be good places to land if you don't need to catch a connecting flight and Ontario if you do.

Someone would have to actually install aero diesel engines in something bigger than a Cessna first, of course.

lyqwyd said...

That's a cool video. I'm not sure why they call it "Business Plan", it looks like a PR piece to me, but still a cool video.

back on topic, how long have the Chinese had HSR? It sounds like they've had it for a few decades on some corridors, I had no idea.

Alon Levy said...

Off-topic: I'm planning to fly into San Francisco for a conference from January 12th to January 17th. If I land at SFO at 10 pm, will I be able to catch BART? By a similar token, if I take off from SFO at 8 am on Sunday the 17th, will I be able to take BART to the airport?

lyqwyd said...


You are definitely fine going from SFO anywhere around 10pm... but I'm not sure about getting there at 8am on Sunday...

BART service hours

Weekdays (4:00 am - Midnight)
Saturday (6:00 am - Midnight)
Sunday (8:00 am - Midnight)

In many cases, service extends past midnight.

you can check the specific schedule you need here

Alon Levy said...

Lyqwyd: I'm not sure when China first had first-generation HSR, i.e. 200 km/h. It has EMUs capable of those speeds on legacy lines, but the one I've been on, from Jiaxing to Shanghai, topped at 170 due to track conditions.

The first new HSR line, Beijing-Tianjin, opened in 2008, and is capable of 330 km/h. In China, they sometimes give the threshold for HSR as 350, but they also have a lines that run at 250.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

The biggest regional airline offering service in CA, Skywest, actually flies many of the routes you mentioned in turboprops.

Turboprops are in fact a lot more fuel efficient than jets. No reason why we need to fly planes with diesels when turboprops are readily available.

There is a LOT of R&D to still be completed before diesel engines become powerful enough to power even "small" airliners like the Brasilia. I think the most powerful TD engine for aircraft use is 180 hp. I could be wrong.

Also, the routes are mainly used as feeder routes to the hub airports. Obviously, there is a problem with the hub-and-spoke system, but those smaller airports aren't good for much else airline-wise.

Anonymous said...

And the nice thing is, China can put any kind of blight and god forsaken misery in any part of town, neighborhood, or suburb it pleases. They can also put children to work in dumps burning apart e-waste to extract metals for salvage and other fun things like that.

Anonymous said...

who called that a business plan? I'd LOVE to see them submit that as their business plan to the legislature, that has already disqualified the crappy piece of junk they already tried to pull off as a legitimate business plan. Sorry, folks words like "hundreds of thousands" don't fly in a real business plan.

The only thing that infomercial provides in the way of financials is the word 'financial' spoken exactly once.

Its nice to see how the high speed rail authority is spending your money though.

Nice cartoon.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

you do realize that a turboprop is a gas turbine, i.e. it's still really expensive to operate compared to a piston engine?

You're right on the rated power issue. However, it's not a fundamental problem, just a commercial one: there's currently no market for aero diesels for anything larger than a Cessna and ~200hp is sufficient for that.

Anonymous said...

"your" money..why is someone from out of state care what we do??TROLL

Alon Levy said...

China may be trying to build sustainable transportation, but its emissions-to-GDP ratio is twice that of the US, and ranks among the highest in the world.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

Yes, I am aware that a turboprop is a turbine engine. Compared with a piston engine, yes, they are more expensive to operate.

HOWEVER, there are turbine engines and turbine engines. Compared with a straight jet engine, be it a turbofan or turbojet engine, a turboprop will beat a jet any day in terms of operating costs.

There is a reason why when jet fuel was cheap, just prior to the gas price peak of last year, production of the turboprop airliner ATR 72 to be discontinued. Passengers only wanted to fly on jets because propeller planes are "old." Then the price spiked, and suddenly EVERYONE wanted in on the turboprop market. They're much more versatile (require shorter runways) and for shorter distances, much more efficient.

Peter said...

And I would disagree with the issue of diesels being purely a commercial problem.

Turbine engines are by far much more reliable than any piston aircraft engine.

To a large extent it's a matter of number of moving parts. Having a single spinning assembly, like in a jet engine (and yes, I know that the compressor blades are not completely fixed) reduces the number of possible points of failure by a LOT. Compare that with a piston engine, where there are a LOT of moving parts, you have a ticking bomb, where SOMETHING is going to go wrong sooner or later. I've heard of and seen a lot more impressive engine failure modes on pistons than I have on jets.

Andre Peretti said...

The efficiency of a jet engine is structurally low due to a simple law of physics: the maximum efficiency is reached when the speed of the vehicle is equal to the speed of the gases that are ejected. This is only approached by rockets in outer space.
The efficiency has been improved by adding a low-pressure cell at the back of the engine, but at low speed and low altitude the efficiency is still very bad.
So, using jets for short-haul trips is insane since you don't stay very long at the proper altitude.
The problem is that propellers produce vibrations, and many people (in France, I don't know for the US) will choose a company that flies jets when they have the choice.

Peter said...

I've heard a lot of people complaining to me about the "old" propeller plane they flew in. This despite the fact that they may have flown in a new design straight off the production line.

I think that here in the U.S. the main problem is that jets are "new," even if they were designed in the 60's and built 25 years ago.

looking on said...


Actually Rafael, as you again venture into the world of the Airlines and their efficiency, you again show don't know what you are talking about.

Fuel efficiency is only element of operating economy; and turbo props are not all that bad, on the short trips we are talking about here.

They are much less expensive to maintain, and that is why the airlines use them. You must think think the airlines are nuts. Well they certainly are not. The compete with each other and they are very efficient.

As you before exhibited ignorance when claiming that planes when coming down pick up the loss in fuel consumption they lose when climbing, this again shows you lack of knowledge in this area.

I wouldn't normally comment like this, but you certainly know more about rail operations than anyone on this blog and readers expect that kind of expertise to extend elsewhere. No so in this case.

You might again endorse to others on the subject of energy efficiency, that a train going twice as fast (say 220 MPH as opposed to 110 MPH, will consume 4 times the energy for the distance traveled --- how's that for energy efficiency. Put that together with trains that will be only partially filled (say at 25%) and you are below efficiency of current auto travel, and way below what auto traffic will be in the future, with more efficient auto coming on line.

I am tired of reading what a wonderful country China and others are because they have or want HSR.

Anonymous said...

I wanna be like Japan, where they fly 747s between cities.

Anonymous said...

AS is now evident by the serious failure on the Bay Bridge, this project now at 7.1 billions rather than the original 1.2 billion is a model on how this project will probably play out.

Having grown now, by their own admission to 40 billions from 32 billions last year, and facing many local challenges to the methods that were planned to be used to drill through local neighborhoods, the Authority will have to go to the more expensive alternate methods.

ROW acquisition will be much more expensive that first planned. I note the CalTrain is already looking for real estate appraisers, even though they have promised that eminent domain would be used only as a last resort, and that they currently had no plans for any eminent domain.

Being able to cover a 5 - 6 billion short fall in final costs on the Bay Bridge (and I suspect now that is likely to get even larger) is a different order of magnitude problem, from lacking 30 billion and more to finally complete this project.

Peter said...

Yes, I'd rather be like Japan than China.

looking on said...

Riled Over California's High-Speed Rail

This will make Robert's day I am sure.

From the article:

“We’re in the honeymoon period,” chuckled one rep. “No one’s mad at us.”

That may be true in the outskirts of L.A. County, but in downtown L.A. and surrounding areas, the honeymoon between residents and the still-obscure board members who control the California High Speed Rail Authority is over.

“They need to work in partnership with us rather than shoving stuff down our throats,” says environmentalist Melanie Winter.

I'm sure the Authority with its about to be approved 9 million PR contract, will do its best to cover up such opposition.

Joey said...

All I can say is this:

CHSRA better choose the recipient of the PR contract carefully, because it'll take a lot of work to debunk the fears and misconceptions surrounding HSR, which appear to be statewide.

Peter said...

@ Anon 9:02

Well, given that that entire article was made up of conspiracy theories, and rehashed arguments for an I-5 alignment by an NRDC attorney, claiming no adequate study was done before the route was dismissed (he's an attorney for them, what do you expect him to say), I don't really see anything new coming out of this article.

Why couldn't they have bolstered their credibility by including the name of the "rep" who allegedly said the comment re the honeymoon period?

Oh, right, because they're not a serious newspaper...

Look up LA Weekly on Wikipedia. They recently got rid of most of their senior staff, INCLUDING THEIR ENTIRE FACT-CHECKING DEPARTMENT!! Cute.

Aaron said...

I might add - those subsidized air services don't do much good if they fly into a general aviation airfield. It's not so much that people need to get from Redding to SF (although I'm sure they do) as it is that they need to connect in SF to Chicago or New York or Hong Kong. So landing at a general aviation field somewhere in the Bay Area is not helpful. Those flights need to land at SFO or OAK so enable nationwide and international connections.

Peter said...

@ Aaron

Concur. That's why all those flights link with the hubs.

NONIMBYS said...

Get used to HSR 'looking" cause its come to beautiful Nimbyland

Unknown said...


Do these employment numbers for heavy maintenance make sense to you?

AndyDuncan said...

@anon: so we should build roads instead of trains because the bay bridge road project is over budget?

missiondweller said...

Dave, thanks for the link.

Its a little depressing that the bulk of construction won't start until 2012, we could really use those jobs now.

Anonymous said...

Won't it be funny to watch China use our money to take the worlds most populous nation from the stone age to 21st century faster than we were able to use our money to no be able to get out of the 20th century. How many american bridges are down this week anyway?

Anonymous said...

Looking on,
Know one cares about a few folks getting riled up or a third-rate publication reporting opposition.
The vast majority of CA residents want HSR and it's coming.
Do yourself a big favor and get some reality into your thick noggin.

無名 - wu ming said...

far as i know, china went straight from amtrak-speed trains to 2nd gen HSR just in the past decade, skipping the 1st gen HSR entirely. the shanghai-hangzhou train is more like the medium-speed northern shinkansen to sendai/morioka than the bullet trains between hiroshima-osaka-tokyo, slower than HSR but faster than the old trains, but it's totally brand spanking new. a decade ago, everything looked a *lot* older.

for all the talk american journalists have about the number of new cars in china, most of the big projects you see in china these days are rail, both HSR as well as subways and improved interurban. their pattern of development will look a lot more like japan or korea or taiwan than the US, in the end.

the real problem with oil/carbon emissions in that country isn't transportation (as is the case in the US), but rather industry. if they could get their electricity/heating off of coal and into renewables, and rebuilt their factories with european levels of efficiency, their emissions would plummet.

Anonymous said...

why isnt china using nuclear instead of coal.. if they switched to nuclear half the global warming prob would probably vanish

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

yes, running at 220mph instead of 110mph requires roughly 4x the energy and roughly 8x the power. Flying at 500mph consumes even more energy and requires even more power. What's your point?

Also, where did you get that 25% seat capacity utilization number for HSR trains from?

In 2007, SNCF achieved an average occupation rate of 75%.

In the summer of 2008, SNCF achieved occupation rates of 90% with its new TGV Prem's Week-End fares.

Spain's RENFE achieved seat capacity utilization rates of 60-65% across all of its long-distance trains (standard as well as high speed) in 2006 and 2007 (p18 PDF). By contrast, regional trains were only 36-38% full.

The whole point of HSR is that large numbers of people will choose medium-distance trains over short-hop flights IFF the trains are fast enough and the fares low enough. A service operating at 110mph top speed will always require subsidies, whereas trains cruising at 186-200mph can and do achieve fare box returns well in excess of 100%, so they can cross-subsidize connecting regional services. Why did you think so many countries are building high speed rail lines these days?

It might be a good idea not to blithely assert that others don't know what they're talking about when you yourself pull number out of you-know-where in the very next paragraph.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

China happens to have a lot of domestic coal, so they burn a lot of the stuff. So does the US.

However, China is also investing very heavily in renewables, especially solar panels, in the country's rural interior.

Large hydro and nuclear come on top of that. The country just signed a deal with Russia to build a gas pipeline, don't be surprised if one day there will be one for gas from Iran and the various 'stans as well.

China has more people than the entire "industrialized world" put together. Getting them up to something approaching western living standards requires gigantic investments in energy and other infrastructure.

looking on said...


Anyone who objectively looks at the project doesn't compare this project to those in other countries.

As it has been pointed out in numerous posts, the density of the cities (especially the LA sprawl) doesn't lend itself to the un-believable ridership predictions the Authority is using.

Look at the first year estimate they are now using for ridership; where did they pull that number?

In this country we have really no passenger rail operations to speak of; regional transit doesn't for the most part exist on the west coast, whereas in Europe and elsewhere, other train services exist along with other regional transit. They have not put their emphasis into highways such as we have in California and our air service is excellent.

So blow all you want about other places, ignore failures like the Eurostar, which only 20 years later is getting to what was supposed to be first year passenger levels and continue to promote this non-sense.

In the final chapter, the project will never get completed -- already 31 billion short and I certainly don't see Obama, the promoted senator from Illinois, gifting California with that kind of money.

AS I have written before, PB will laugh all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

31 billion short? How do you figure? The timetable for gaining financing seems to be ahead of schedule, not behind.

Anonymous said...

looking on-- The Southern California region has some of highest residential densities in the entire nation. As a region, Los Angeles County is denser the the NY/NJ/CT metropolitan region ( The recent legislation that requires counties in CA to consider the emissions impact of their comprehensive plans will only encourage greater density in the state.

Second, regarding your suggestion that regional transit doesn't exist on the West Cost, where have you been the past few years? LA County voters passed Measure R last November. This will raise the sales tax 1/2 cents to pay for a huge expansion of local heavy and light rail projects, including the extension of the subway to the Westside, the extension of the Gold Line, and bringing the Green Line to LAX. I encourage you to look at the following map to see the plans MTA has for transit in LA County: . BART is also the third or fourth busiest heavy rail system in the U.S. Furthermore, the Capitol Corridor from Sacto to the Bay Area has seen record ridership in the past few years, as has Metrolink in Los Angeles. Additionally, LA County has the nation's most extensive bus system.

Anonymous said...

looking on--

"So blow all you want about other places, ignore failures like the Eurostar, which only 20 years later is getting to what was supposed to be first year passenger levels and continue to promote this non-sense."

Looking on, I see that you conveniently failed to mention the $1.1B bailout requested for the San Joquin Hills Toll Road last year or the previous line of credit from the federal government for $240M for this boondoggle. Given this performance, it is difficult to see how these toll roads remain the darlings of hacks such as Robert Poole at the Reason Foundation ( I also don't see any mention of the $8B shift from the general fund to the highway trust fund last year because it ran out of money.

BruceMcF said...

@wu ming,

When looking at the Tōhoku Shinkansen, it looks like the "Hayate" is the one that is faster than Regional HSR speed, with the Yamabiko / Max Yamabiko, Tsubasa and Nasuno / Max Nasuno operating at trip speeds in the range of 100mph to 70mph.

But of course a lot of the details are available in Japanese, so its unclear to me what is the mix of different rolling stock, stopping patterns and corridor traversed that accounts for the speed differences in the different types of Tōhoku Shinkansen.

BruceMcF said...

looking on said...
"Anyone who objectively looks at the project doesn't compare this project to those in other countries.

As it has been pointed out in numerous posts, the density of the cities (especially the LA sprawl) doesn't lend itself to the un-believable ridership predictions the Authority is using.

And further, Americans have far more mobility than Europeans, which bodes very poorly for the potential success of an intercity HSR corridor ... oh, wait, it bodes well. Better not mention it, then.

Unknown said...


What's your source that air service to Monterrey is subsidized? I'm fairly sure that route is commercially viable.

According to Wikipedia, the California cities receiving "Essential Air Service" are:
Crescent City
El Centro

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

"Anyone who objectively looks at the project doesn't compare this project to those in other countries."

Really? Anyone? Spain is actually a very valid model IMHO, given that California HSR won't extend north of Sacramento or east of Riverside.

Also, public transportation isn't as well developed as you think everywhere in Europe. Lyon, for example, didn't get its first streetcar service until 2000 yet Paris-Lyon is the busiest TGV line in France.

In Spain, the Madrid-Seville starter line was opened in 1992. Seville has long been served by local buses and regional trains, but it only just got its first subway line in April of 2009.

Contrary to your preconceived notions, HSR actually works fairly well even if extensive connecting rail transit or stations under airport terminal don't yet exist. It just works even better if they do.

For Eurostar, ridership long remained below what had been forecast because the UK government dragged its feet on building the high speed line into London and a station to match. Also, on a per-mile basis, trackage fees on HS1 are 10x those in France. Eurotunnel also charges high fees.

That means London-Paris fares are high relative to the distance covered, yet 59% of London-Brussels and 66% of London-Paris trips are now by Eurostar.

But of course, since you are too stuck up/stuck in your ways to be seen dead on anything that doesn't burn fossil fuels, no-one in California will be. Because Californians is sooooo different from Europeans. Right.

Rafael said...

Correction: the 59/66% modal share numbers were from 2004.

For 2009, Eurostar actually has 75% modal share on its routes. Since 1994, more than 100 million passengers have used Eurostar.

However, due to the recession, total travel volume across the English Channel was down across all modes this year.

Anonymous said...

We are using our money to build slums of the future in Palmdale.

BruceMcF said...

@Peter, recall that when Congress appropriates more aviation spending than can be funded by the aviation trust fund, it makes up the difference from the general fund. All aviation receives an operating subsidy when that happens - on average 20% of the aviation budget is from the general fund.

And of course, the ticket tax only started in the 70's - Federal capital subsidy before that time was entirely from the general fund.

Peter said...

@ BruceMcF

I'll concede that. I was just commenting on the specific subsidy to get airlines to offer flights to airports that wouldn't have service, otherwise. Aviation is heavily subsidized, of course. Like railroads though, you can place a pricetag per passenger or freight mile on it. This makes both railroad and aviation subsidies more transparent than highways, which means they're more easily targeted by conservatives as "not paying their way."

Rafael said...

O/T geek alert:

Clem Tillier has published an excellent post on options for implementing positive train control (PTC) in the SF peninsula over on his Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog.

In an ideal world, Congress would give FRA the authority and some funding to mandate a single signaling technology framework for the whole country. Safety is not improved by a patchwork of incompatible grow-your-own "solutions".

Rafael said...

O/T Heads Up:

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and UIC are teaming up to present regional seminars on high speed rail in 2010:

February 8-9 in Washington, DC; February 9-11 in Chicago, IL; and February 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA

Today's press release was just a pre-announcement so people can mark their calendars. Details on the program, registration etc. aren't available yet, please contact

Mantill Williams


Virginia Miller

Anonymous said...

@looking on

In this country we have really no passenger rail operations to speak of; regional transit doesn't for the most part exist on the west coast,

whats all this about then? "
"California’s three intercity passenger rail lines are the second (Pacific Surfliner), third (Capitol Corridor) and sixth (San Joaquins) busiest in the nation. Caltrans partners with Amtrak to provide service on three intercity rail corridors in California, which carry over four million passengers annually to over 200 destinations.

Anonymous said...

Metrolink's ridership got a shot of adrenaline yesterday as ridership jumped to an all time high of 50,232 passengers -- a 15.6% increase since Tuesday for the regional commuter train service.

Metro Rail has jumped 6% since last month (especially the gold line) and freeway traffic has dipped 1.5% since last year ("91.7 million miles traveled in March to 91.4 million in May"), reports the LA Times.

Anonymous said...

The success of passenger rail in car-crazy California--two of the three most successful Amtrak routes are the state's Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner--should encourage every alternative transportation activist in the U.S. And bicycling passengers are a significant factor in that success.

Anonymous said...

hello? Looking On, looking at this?

for demographic reasons, the Pacific Surfliner corridor remains the busiest and fastest-growing of Amtrak California’s three routes. Its most recent victory has come from a marketing innovation known as “Rail 2 Rail” that premiered in the Los Angeles metro area in September. Under Rail 2 Rail, commuters who use monthly passes to ride L.A.’s Metrolink suburban trains can use the same passes on the Amtrak California Surfliners

Rafael said...


Ogilvy to be recommended for the $9 million CHSRA PR contract.

lyqwyd said...

"Metrolink's ridership got a shot of adrenaline yesterday as ridership jumped to an all time high of 50,232 passengers"

Wow, the Bay Bridge being closed is really having some wide-spread effects ;)

But seriously, BART ridership blew the previous high out of the water, and all indications that today will break yesterday's record.

Anonymous said...

Yet even BART's record ridership with the Bridge closure is still less than half the typical daily ridership of the Washington Metro subway, its sister system. The BART trains themselves aren't that crowded, but the parking lots are completely full, demonstrating the failure of BART's park-and-ride philosophy.

Peter said...

Which is why local public transportation has to be improved to integrate and feed into BART.

Rafael said...

@ lyqwyd -

the real test will come when the Bay Bridge reopens. How many motorists will prefer to stick with BART rather than trust the quality of Caltrans' repair of the repair.

Makes you wonder why the new east span still isn't finished. Other countries manage to get much more difficult structures built, e.g. Akashi-Kaikyo suspension bridge, Millau viaduct.

Unknown said...

Progressive Railroading is reporting that Amtrak is taking over Metrolink operations:

Amtrak to assume all commuter-train operations for Metrolink

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

"Which is why local public transportation has to be improved to integrate and feed into BART."

But then bureaucrats would have to actually talk to one another, perhaps even set up a single Bay Area Transit Authority (BATA) with a charter to create intermodal stations, integrated timetables, zone-based fare structures etc.

No, this must not be! Pull up the drawbridges, man the battlements, the fiefdoms must be defended at all costs! Passengers must suffer!

Peter said...

Maybe we could fight for such reorganization when the constitutional convention meets.

Anonymous said...

While transit consolidation is a good idea in theory, MTC has a history of screwing things up. In the past, transit consolidation efforts have been raw attempts to aggrandize BART-uber-alles.

Have a read of Guy Span's 8-piece series on MTC:

Rafael said...

@ AndyDuncan -

Metrolink's current operators, Connex LLC, took over from Amtrak in 2005. Their five-year contract was up for renegotiation. After the Chatsworth disaster, they didn't get a renewal.

In addition, SCRRA probably wanted to simplify the process of getting PTC implemented in SoCal by the 2015 deadline set by H.R. 2095(110th) a.k.a. PRIIA.

@ anon @ 3:21pm -

who said anything about putting MTC in charge?

Peter said...

Hey jim, do you know whether they've double-tracked Davis-Sacramento? I see on Google Earth that they've set a lot of the stretch prepared for it.

trainsintokyo said...

But of course a lot of the details are available in Japanese, so its unclear to me what is the mix of different rolling stock, stopping patterns and corridor traversed that accounts for the speed differences in the different types of Tōhoku Shinkansen.

Due to noise issues, all trains are limited to 110 kph between Tokyo and the suburban stop of Omiya. North of Omiya, though, trains travel at a minimum of 240 kph (150 mph) and make it up to 275 kph (170 mph) between Utsunomiya and Morioka, the main portion of the route. North of Omiya the speed limits are primarily due to equipment limitations and capacity issues; by spring 2011 the slowest section between Omiya and Utsunomiya will allow for 275 kph operation, and by 2012 trains will go as fast as 320 kph (200 mph) between Utsunomiya and Morioka.

This table is in Japanese, but you can see the stopping patterns. Nasuno trains in green, Yamabiko/Tsubasa trains are in blue, and Hayate/Komachi trains are in pink. There are exceptions, but you can think of Nasuno trains as locals, Yamabiko/Tsubasa trains as expresses, and Hayate/Komachi trains as limited expresses, similar to the Kodama/Hikari/Nozomi divisions on the Tokaido Shinkansen.

Anonymous said...

@peter davis double tracking was completed I believe and the current projects have to do with adding more crossovers along the route for all the obvious reasons. Focus willalso be on increasing service on the san jose portion. with rail to reno and redding still on the list.

Anonymous said...


lyqwyd said...


"the real test will come when the Bay Bridge reopens. How many motorists will prefer to stick with BART rather than trust the quality of Caltrans' repair of the repair"

Totally right, I'm sure some people will keep riding BART, and I definitely think some of that reason will be fear of this happening again, either from a safety perspective (getting crushed by falling metal) or a convenience perspective (not having to scramble last minute).

One other statistic I found was that BART's daily ridership is about 75,000 higher than Bay Bridge's daily drivers...

There is a lot of (pretty easy) stuff BART can do to increase ridership and/or revenue:

Add infill stations
Improve flow in Embarcadero & Montgomery
Build TOD (residential & retail) over existing parking lots.
Build skip-stop rails at some stations allowing for semi-express.
Offer discount fares at off-peak times.

These are not all cheap, but I doubt any one of them will cost more than the OAC, which will not increase ridership at all, and will probably contribute to fare increases.

Anonymous said...

With the underground WYE in oakland and the bottleneck at the tube, bart's ability to speed up service is non existant. They are focused however on increasing capacity, by figuring out way to get more bodies into each train. Tokyo subway anyone?

Anonymous said...

jim: why isnt china using nuclear instead of coal.. if they switched to nuclear half the global warming prob would probably vanish.

Well, China is developing nuclear energy like crazy ...

China Plans to Build Advanced Nuclear-Power Plant

lyqwyd said...


I don't think the wye is the bottleneck right now, it's station capacity in Embarcadero & Montgomery station. The could run a few more trains an hour through the transbay tube if they were able move passengers on and off more quickly.

If I remember correctly they are running 24 trains an hour through the tube at peak, but the current signaling system can support 30 tph.

I think once you go beyond 30tph then the wye becomes the bottleneck.

Anonymous said...

Re subsidized air service:

I know for certain that Sonoma County is paying a subsidy for the Santa Rosa commercial service (via Horizon Air) that is running one flight a day to each of Portland, Seattle, LA, and Las Vegas.


Anonymous said...

Here's the reference for the Sonoma subsidy:

Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 2:28 a.m.

Horizon Air is moving closer to a deal with Sonoma County to offer scheduled flights from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles and Seattle, an airline official said Monday.

But significant hurdles remain and Horizon hasn't committed to the service, said Patrick Zachwieja, the airline's vice president of marketing and planning.

Unresolved issues include the amount of public subsidy for the airline and Sonoma County's role in marketing the flights.

"We think Sonoma County is a good opportunity for us, but we're still having discussions," Zachwieja said.
The two sides still need to work out terms of the deal, including the level of Sonoma County's subsidy for the airline. The county has a $635,000 federal grant to support commercial flights, but it's unclear how much of that money will go to Horizon.

So, there are government subsidy deals other than the official Essential Air Service program.


Anonymous said...

lyqwyd said...

I don't think the wye is the bottleneck right now, it's station capacity in Embarcadero & Montgomery station. They could run a few more trains an hour through the transbay tube if they were able move passengers on and off more quickly"

Ha. easy. Cattle prods hello?

無名 - wu ming said...

@bruce, @TinT -

apologies, my analogy was based off my recollection of a week of JR pass wanderings in '96. they must have sped the tohoku line up.

lyqwyd said...



yeah, we should do it japanese style, get some guys with white gloves who will just shove people in until they can't fit anymore.

BruceMcF said...

@lyqwyd, the more civilized way to speed up access/egress is 6 doors per car, and then when that maxes out, gauntlet platforms, so all doors have a platform.

And as an added bonus, gauntlet platforms would cost an arm and a leg, so it would fit right into what is claimed by some to be the BART philosophy.

Anonymous said...

OR.... people could learn to act like civilized human beings. how much would that cost?