Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Open Thread

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

by Rafael

a mixed bag of HSR-related news today, some new, some that fell through the cracks over the past week or two.

  • The Trade Commission of Spain in Chicago is hosting free webinar on HSR on Tuesday November 10 at 2pm Eastern. Note that Patentes Talgo S.A. recently inked a deal to set up a train assembly plant in Wisconsin.

    UPDATE: A similar event will be hosted on Monday, Oct 26 from 8:30am to 2pm at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles. One of the panel sessions will be on high speed rail. (h/t to commenter Susana)

  • Gov. Quinn of Illinois supports the state's grant application for a Chicago-St.Louis HSR line at 110mph, but the speaker of the state's House has introduced legislation to block the use of state funds for the preferred route past his apartment on 3rd Street in Springfield.

  • Secr. of Transportation Ray LaHood warns Florida state legislators to commit to funding the Tri-Rail and SunRail regional/commuter services or he'll reject the $2.5 billion grant application for Florida HSR. Note that Yonah Freemark over at the Transport Politic considers its route to be fatally flawed.

  • Meet the Texas Mini-Triangle, a hybrid of the triangle and T-bone concepts.

  • Trains4America has video highlights from rail planning consultancy Steer Davies Gleave’s High-Speed Rail Summit 09. It was held in the context of HS2, which will connect London, the north of England and eventually, Scotland with true bullet trains. Variations on this theme are now espoused by all of the major political parties in the UK. Speakers included executives from railways that already operate HSR trains today.

  • The prime ministers of Russia and China have just signed a $3.5 billion security and trade deal that includes oil and gas exports as well as new high/very high speed rail lines in Russia's Far East based on Chinese technology. Russia is looking to establish a national HSR network with nearly 11,000km of tracks by 2030.

  • Meanwhile, Thomas Downs (chairman of the North American Board of Veolia Transportation and a former president of Amtrak) argues that various levels of government in the US continue to subsidize car-centric mobility to the tune of $100 billion a year out of their general funds, over-and-above income from fuel taxes. Add to that an eye-popping $200 billion in health care costs related to road traffic accidents.


Peter said...

Re Russian and Chinese HSR

It helps when you can just build straight through essentially untouched wilderness without having to deal with CEQA or NEPA. Makes things a lot cheaper. And makes the environmental value very doubtful.

Unknown said...

That might not be good, imagine hitting a moose at 200 mph

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

places like Vladivostok, Irkutsk and Novosibirsk are untouched wilderness?

Also, you might want to take a more nuanced approach to environmental assessments. How much oil is burnt on California roads and in its sky while the HSR project goes through the tortuous CEQA process?

My educated guess is the primary high speed rail investment in Russia will be getting light/medium freight train speeds up to 100mph in the existing Trans-Siberian Railroad corridor. That should permit passenger service at up to 125mph.

Chinese technology could be used for upgrading e.g. the Ussuri railway from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk. The symbolic significance is that this river valley was the site of a Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Whoa, there, Rafael.

I was simply trying to point out that it is cheaper and easier to build rail lines when you aren't subject to CEQA or NEPA.

I haven't looked at those cities on google earth or anything, but I'm assuming, maybe incorrectly, that most of the distance between those cities is unpopulated.

And yes, most of Siberia IS untouched wilderness. I think there are three (?) rail lines, and a few roads that go through there. Toss in a few settlements, towns and cities, and given the vastness of Siberia, that makes it pretty much untouched.

If the new/upgraded tracks are in the same corridors, then my point is of less importance.

Eric M said...

and don't forget, the Chinese basically stole the designs from Siemems with no regard to the trade agreement.

Anonymous said...

From previous thread: on October 12th, Governor S. signs Ashburn bill requiring CHSR o supply a new business plan every two years (with public input). Is this a non-event?

So far, they haven't even published ONE valide business plan, which the legislative analysis on this bill explained. (The one they were originally required to public before the election, came out after the election, and the GAO found it to be inadequate and is requiring a new one that addresses those issues. So, basically we haven't yet seen one yet. Thanksfully every two years at least the CHSRA will be required to bring a new and updated business plan to the legislature, before they get any bond funds approved, with all new and updated information (for ridership assumptions, for costs, for investors, for financing plans etc) and will continue to have to build in an assumption for ZERO local, state, or federal operating subsidy.

This sounds like a pretty good accountability measure, and may be just enough to send CHSR over the abyss, considering what a ridiculous plan they have underway. I can't wait til Dec 15th it will be like early Christmas.

Frogger said...

I really like the mini texas triangle!

Peter said...

@ Anon

Is this the newest obsession of NIMBYs? First, the Atherton lawsuit failed. Now, the business plan is supposed to down the system? Gimme a break.

Rafael said...

@ Avery -

there's wildlife in Pacheco Pass, the Tehachapis and Soledad Canyon as well. That's one reason why there will be sturdy fences and CCTV surveillance of the right of way.

When a massive, relatively slow freight train hits e.g. a herd of cows (warning: graphic footage!), the train wins hands down.

However, a much lighter passenger train traveling at 140mph did derail in Germany after colliding with a herd of sheep that had entered a tunnel after climbing down an embankment that wasn't fenced off. The kinetic energy of a train is proportional to its mass but also to the square of its velocity.

Even so, this was a freak accident. Fortunately the tunnel walls kept the cars from toppling over. There were no human casualties, but passengers did have to walk out of the tunnel past what was left of the sheep.

Anonymous said...

That might not be good, imagine hitting a moose at 200 mph

A many, many ton train hitting a moose would be like you hitting a fly in your car. You wouldn't hardly even notice and the moose would be turned to jello instantly.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

there are no major cities in Siberia outside of the corridor of the Trans-Siberian railway. There's no reason to build HSR tracks anywhere else.

@ Eric M -

"the Chinese basically stole the designs from Siemems with no regard to the trade agreement."

Please provide a supporting reference for your assertion.

Afaik, Siemens has a joint venture in China that will producing the second and future batches of Hexian (modified Velaro) trainsets under license. The first batch was built in Germany.

Peter said...

Re the Siberian tracks
Ok, then my point is moot.

Re Chinese technology
Maybe Eric M. was referring to the reference, on wikipedia, if I recall correctly, that Chinese engineers were told to "learn" from the foreign technologies they were implementing in China, specifically with regards to HSR technologies.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Third attempt's the charm

@ Rafael

The news report says that the ICE was travelling 200 km/h, not 140 mph, which would be around 225 km/h.

Alon Levy said...

places like Vladivostok, Irkutsk and Novosibirsk are untouched wilderness?

Novosibirsk has a population of 1.4 million. Irkutsk and Vladivostok have just under 600,000 people each. And in Russia city boundaries generally coincide with metro area boundaries - it's not like in LA or SF. So, given the distances involved, this really is wilderness. Even if Russia wanted to, it couldn't build HSR there, unless the rest of the world remained addicted to its oil.

Anonymous said...

'sturdy fences' and survellience does not protect wildlife habitate, feeding migration breeding pattersn, etc, - but since you're a real prince of protecting the environment, a real friggin hero, you'll already know how destructive that would be. Great ideas though - I hope CHSRA DOES come to the table showing FENCES through open space wildlife habitat - They'll get mowed down by environmental protection agencies faster than a speeding bullet train hitting a moose.

And lets please continue to NOT talk about the requirements that CHSRA has to come up with a viable and up to date business plan every two years - because of course, that will be impossible.

Anonymous said...

^There are certainly ways to have fences and still allow wildlife through (currently done in thousands of places in the US and other countries). What do you think happens on interstates through Montana or Idaho where they pass through hundreds of miles of remote land with dozens of migrating species?

This ain't rocket science.

Observer said...

Isn't there supposed to be some kind of ruling from the judge in the Atherton lawsuit, about what the required remidiations need to be on th program eir? When is that supposed to come out?

Eciesses said...

Labor here is more than 10x than in China. If you can pay $2/hour for construction labor, then... well, you do the math.

Anonymous said...

That might not be good, imagine hitting a moose at 200 mph

Fine, kill all the moose then build it. Nasty sister-biters...

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 2:06pm -

yeah, let's build more freeways through the wilderness instead. Those don't bisect wildlife habitat at all. You really thought that argument through, didn't you?

The HSR alignment will require a lot of tunnel sections. Wildlife habitat above those will remain connected. Same for aerial sections, though noise is a significant factor there.

There is no such thing as human development without any impact on wildlife at all. Does that mean we should all go back to wearing loin cloths and hunting our dinner with a spear? Didn't think so.

Joey said...

'sturdy fences' and survellience does not protect wildlife habitate, feeding migration breeding pattersn, etc, - but since you're a real prince of protecting the environment, a real friggin hero, you'll already know how destructive that would be. Great ideas though - I hope CHSRA DOES come to the table showing FENCES through open space wildlife habitat - They'll get mowed down by environmental protection agencies faster than a speeding bullet train hitting a moose.

A large portion of the wilderness routes would need to be tunneled anyway, just because of the geography. Also note that CHSRA is taking measures to minimize environmental impact in the regions it travels through, for instance an elevated structure in the wetlands east of the Pacheco Pass so that, well, stuff can pass underneath.

Anonymous said...

And how many Deer and other wildlife are killed on the interstates..Anno ? AND your worried about HSR and a fence.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Rafael - the choice is not limited to build HSR through open wilderness OR to build Freeways through open wilderness. The freeways are already built - its moot. HSR plans however, puts HSR where no freeways exist today. Minimize impact - in which case the only 2 answers are to put HSR along side existing freeways, which already have the impact - and therefore you are not compounding it - OR put HSR underground.

didn't your mommy ever tell you? - Two wrongs don't make a right - However, this has been one of CHSRA's basic operating tenets so far: (two wrongs DO make a right) and you can hear Robert and Rafael and their fellow train blatherers repeat it often and with conviction on this blog.

Peter said...

Nice try, Anon!

Yes, through the Grasslands area to the east of Pacheco the preferred alignment will not be going along an already existing freeway. However, it will be going alongside an already existing road, namely Henry Miller Road. They are not carving out a new corridor. Additionally, the alignment will be elevated to allow wildlife to pass through. Outside of the protected area, the route will in fact not be following a road all the way to the wye at Chowchilla, but it will be crossing farmland.

Alon Levy said...

Anon, in Siberia, there's only rail - there are no freeways. The Trans-Siberian is important as a freight link, because it's the main alternative to shipping near the Horn of Africa and risking pirate attacks.

Anonymous said...

It looks to me that the freeway builders and the hsr builders are pretty much the same development mongers

Andre Peretti said...

Chinese technology:
In response to Alstom's accusations the People's Daily said that European and Japanese firms knew what they were doing when they accepted technology transfers to win big contracts. It said this technology has been paid for and there are no legal limitations to its use.
The contracts typically transfer 25% of the technology. But if you choose which 25% you take from Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom and Kawasaki, you end up with 100% covering all you want to know. Alstom realized how astutely the Chinese played this game.
It had sold 1500 locomotives to China which also awarded contracts to Bombardier and Siemens. Now, China builds a new "100% Chinese" model, blending technologies from the three of them, at an unbeatable price. Eastern European countries are very interested, and so is England.
Thus, in a few years and at no cost, China has acquired state-of-the-art technologies that took Western firms decades (and lots of money) to develop. This may be unethical by western standards, but it is the result of the frantic competition between firms ready to shoot themselves in the foot to win contracts.
So, maybe California's high-speed trains will be 100% Chinese...

YesonHSR said...

I was wondering if the the DOT can
apply that1 Billion a year to this Stimilus for an extra 5Billion and that 1.5 billion for Amtrak to use for HSR? outside of our project all routes are Amtraks anyway

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

Helllllllllloooooo Train huggers? I haven't checked you out for a while? Still going at the pipe dream that will never happen in California? So how much money do you have now? Enough to build two tracks from Palmdale to Lancaster? Or from Mojave to Tehachapi? I think that would be already a major achievement. That way you can all go there and play all together with your choo choo toy. Hey guys. Christmas is coming up! Have you started writing to Santa? Maybe he can help you! Because, you know, the State of California certainly can't! Happy dreaming guys! And don't sell your cars just yet!

dave said...

anon 2:06

The only viable HSR business plan that you would like to see is one with low ridership, high costs and anything else that is negative toward the project. Even if it's very false and very innacurate in lowball estimates. So, your not getting one so forget it! Quit bringing it up.

Peter said...

@ Andre Peretti

Definitely troubling process.

I'm curious if China uses similar technology transfer programs to advance their military technology.

Peter said...

Toys! Long time no see! How is it in your personal alternate reality?

You really need to check in more often, all the other NIMBYs in need of meds are chicken, and always post as "Anonymous".

Andre Peretti said...

TGV and wildlife:
Contrary to what environmentalists had predicted, the TGV's impact on wildlife has been more than modest, and really negligible compared to a highway.
There are many "game passages" which the animals are very quick to recognize. There have been problems with predators which used the passages for ambush. The passages also have to be watered, otherwise worms don't cross them.
The noise is no problem. Contrary to humans, animals ignore a noise not associated with a danger. When they realize the beast sticks to its territory and never chases them, they just ignore it. A passing train is a non-event.
I know Texas farmers were made to believe cows would quit grazing and hens would quit laying. Well, France still has an overproduction of milk and eggs and the TGV has done nothing to reduce it.

Andre Peretti said...

They can at least copy French uniforms. The French army has outsourced all its uniforms to China for budgetary reasons.

Peter said...

@ Andre

Do you have a link to that information regarding the game crossings?

How about placing such game crossings at locations known to be on existing game trails? I think this would be an excellent way to mitigate the effects of fencing in order to secure the ROW.

If there are some studies to that effect, they would be very valuable in the EIR process to show you can relatively easily mitigate that issue.

Anonymous said...

@Peter 7:40.

Yes, they do. Or at least they did a year ago when I was in that business.

Peter said...

@ Anon

(Assuming you're referring to China and defense technologies)

I'm not surprised. It's definitely a smart strategy. Good way to quickly get ahead technologically on the cheap.

Matthew Fedder said...

Was there any news from the San Diego public meeting today? I would have gone, if I didn't work until 7.

Andre Peretti said...

Game crossings.
I'll try to find a link in English, if it exists.
I know that the SNCF plans routes in collaboration with farmers for cattle and tractor crossings, with wildlife specialists and hunting societies (powerful lobby in France) for game crossings.
I remember hearing on the radio about hunters complaining that foxes ambushed pheasants in game passages. I don't know if any remedy was found.

Alon Levy said...

Andre, do you have a link in French?

Spokker said...

"There have been problems with predators which used the passages for ambush."

At least we've got the apex predator vote.


And DONT sell your truck..Im sure its cost more than your house..Now is there nothing to do in DRY..HOT AZ...??? Why dont you life DUMM DUMM

Anonymous said...

Baby JEBUESSS will brings us our money..on a PaloAlot semi Kosher whinner yuppie sliegh with NADI/SUSAN/TOM as Ruldolph the red nose whinner!!! 4.5 billion soon!!!

Anonymous said...

The mini t is an excellent solution..

Anonymous said...

How many moose are estimated to be roaming the greater pacheco area anyway, 3? 4 maybe?

Anonymous said...

you can see here its going to be a problem

Unknown said...

The Trade Commission of Spain is also organizing a conference on passenger rail/HSR in Los Angeles on October 26. This event is open to industry profesionals and complimentary when you register here:

Travis ND said...

Anybody hear about how Arizona is going to start lobbying for a spur out to Phoenix? For a supposedly "stupid" idea a lot of places sure are trying to get in on the HSR bandwagon.

We'Ve Got No Money for Toys said...

Of course I'm not selling my truck! Do you think I'm so foolish to believe that in the near future I can rely on your train fantasy? I know it hurts to hear this, but you're high speed rail is nothing but a dream. It happened in Europe because people there are more willing to subsidize government projects, and it makes more sense there anyway, since their cities are densely packed and everybody lives within minutes from the central station. But here in America we are not a bunch of French or Spanish socialists. People don't like to be taxed for anything in America, let alone for a train that only few Californians along the route (mostly liberal route I might add) will get to use. There is no money for your toy my friends!
PS: I'm not in AZ, but you're right that my truck is worth more than my house once you calculate the equity in it. But at least I can move my mobile home anywhere, if I want to. And yes, maybe I'll move to Arizona after you socialists have transformed this State into a People's Republic.

john said...

Hope you like eating your words comrade Toys. I'll bring the hot sauce.

Eric M said...

No Money For Toys said:

"It happened in Europe because people there are more willing to subsidize government projects"

They are here too! Use your head and think about the interstae freeway system. So before you continue to flame others about the rail system, think about what you are driving on!!

Anonymous said...

american made railcarshsr

Anonymous said...

I think an LAx-PHX route makes a lot of sense but it has to stop in the Coachella Valley.

Andre Peretti said...

LGV, game passages
Sorry, I don't know how to insert the url, so you'll have to copy/paste.

There are photos and not too much text.
The photos were taken on LGV EST before tracklaying. RFF engineers use the document in public meetings for the future Bordeaux-Toulouse line to show how respectful of the environment they are.
To save you using a dictionary I'll sum up some of the info.

The preservation work must be terminated before the public works phase begins. The preserved zones are then fenced and clearly marked off limits for bulldozers and men. New ponds are created and receive animals captured in the ponds affected by the works.
The photos show two examples of animal passages: an underpass for all animals, including amphibians and an overpass for large fauna (deer, stag, etc...). It is 12m wide in its narrowest part.
In a previous post I said the animals use the passages naturally. In fact, passages have to be scented with odors captured by trace traps (pièges à traces). If left odorless, the animals stay away from them.
About ponds, I read in another document that when there are too many of them RFF prefers to build a viaduct.
It is also clear that the most disturbing period for the animals is the public works phase: bulldozers, teams of workers, etc... I suppose when trains start running it must be quite a relief for the poor little beasts.

Peter said...

Yeah, wildlife get pretty damn confused and stressed when things around them change.

I assume they just have to add scent to the passages in the beginning? It's not a continuous thing, right?

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -


<a href="">LGV Est environmental study (in French)</a>

yields the active hyperlink

LGV Est environmental study (in French)

Unknown said...

@Jim it does, especially considering the most expensive portions of it will be getting the train into phoenix and into LA, the latter of which will already be taken care of by the LA-SD line going through ontario.

There's not much population along the route to drive ridership, meaning you'd have to justify the route with mostly end-to-end traffic, but the low cost of dragging lines across the desert might make it worthwhile.

Andre Peretti said...

Thanks for your help. I didn't realize I could insert HTML in my post.
I have no other detail than given in the document. Their trace trap seems to be made of fine gravel spread on the ground. I suppose when they have enough footprints (and other bodily things), they just scatter it over the passage.
You're right. What animals fear is change. Maybe they would be stressed if trains stopped running.

Peter said...

Just based on no empirical evidence whatsoever, I don't think the animals would even notice if the trains stopped running.

Anonymous said...

You're right. What animals fear is change.

Hmmm... not just animals, it would seem

Peter said...

Are you implying that NIMBYs are not animals? Which would imply they are not human...


Alon Levy said...

Jim, Andy: I think one stop in the Coachella valley is enough - it's not that big a population center. You can even drop the stop at Blythe; it's a small town, and due to the water issue you don't want to encourage development there. Think of it this way: the more development there is on the lower Colorado, the less water LA gets from the river, which means the more water LA has to get from NorCal.

In the Phoenix area, stops at Phoenix and Tempe should be enough - the western suburbs don't have a big enough anchor.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

IF Phoenix is added to the definition of the federal "California" corridor as Las Vegas recently was, it's not a given the tracks would follow I-10. Residents of Imperial county and the city of Yuma might well want the route to more or less follow the existing railroad corridor.

In any event, count on both San Bernardino and Riverside counties to demand stations on any such line.

As for water rights, LA has those regardless of what happens in Blythe. That said, the latter town might actually get by on less water if it were to grow its population at the expense of agriculture.

Adirondacker12800 said...

but the low cost of dragging lines across the desert might make it worthwhile.

Upgrading lines across the desert, it made sense to build nice straight railroad with low gradients in 1880 if you could. They did.

Alon Levy said...

The existing line through Yuma is straight by the standards of 100 mph steam trains, but not by those of 220 mph electric trains. It has bad curves due to hilly terrain near Yuma, where even I-8 isn't straight enough for tunnel-free construction. On I-10 there are two mountain crossings, but curve radii are large enough for high-speed operation; eyeballing with Google Maps, the worst curve on I-10 looks 3 km to me, whereas the worst following the Sunset Line looks 1-1.5 km after easement.

It's a big detour and a lot of construction headaches for a city region of 200,000 people.

James Fujita said...

LAX to PHX might work. What about Palm Springs?

Joey said...

Palm springs is along the LA-Phoenix corridor; it would be stupid to not put a stop somewhere in that general vicinity.

dave said...

Both the AGV and the Zefiro 380 are good competition for the CA HSR system, that video of the AGV tested it at an operating speed of 360km/h (224mph).

The Zefiro 380's top operating speed is supposedly 380km/h (236mph).

Anonymous said...

Isnt sand easy to move around?

anyway, since I plan to keep my rent controlled apt in sf and have a little retirement condo in PSP, Ill need some hsr to get from here to there so Ill have to support a phx line.

...on the other hand.... one of the great things about psp is that its so cut off and tucked away like an oasis behind that mountain.... and if we let too many people have too much access itll wind up looking like west covina.

so maybe not.

dave said...

Wow, This is a very good Program on High Speed rail by NOVA, aired in 1982.

It's amazing how the U.S has wasted so much time NOT building any HSR lines after at least 27 years (1982).

The info, while old and outdated seems like it mirrors what's happening today with HSR. Almost like were walking in circles with no progress.

And who do you think they chose as a candidate for HSR in America? California!

It's long, but good!

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 1

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 2

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 3

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 4

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 5

NOVA - Tracking the Supertrain Part 6

Anonymous said...

great series