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Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:15 PM

Why the United States will never have high-speed rail

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/13/why-united-states-will-never-have-high-speed-rail/?utm_term=.25a2d4a47a77

California likes to think of itself as the state where the future happens, and in 2008, its voters decided the future was high-speed rail. In November of that year, they approved a $9 billion bond issue to begin one of the most ambitious government infrastructure projects in U.S. history: a bullet train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, at a cost of $33 billion.

For years, the optimists have spun starry visions of millions of Californians traveling quickly, comfortably and environmentally consciously between the state’s two major population centers. The pessimists, meanwhile, have grimly watched the projected costs mount. At last count, the estimates had traveled northward of $75 billion, and for all anyone could tell, were still climbing.

On Tuesday, during his first State of the State speech, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called for the state to scale back the project to a less costly leg that would run through the Central Valley — much simpler to build in large part because there are relatively few people there who might want to raise objections to the project, or, say, ride a high-speed train. California voters can stop clutching their wallets. But voters elsewhere should pay close attention, because what happened in California illustrates the perils that face any U.S. rail project, or for that matter, any project at all that tries to meaningfully reshape U.S. infrastructure.

Almost anyone who travels abroad comes back wondering why every other country in the world seems to have cheap, speedy rail travel while Americans can barely go out for a cup of coffee without enduring either the tedium of an endless road-trip or the indignities of the TSA. Sadly, there is no one reason; rather, there are many reasons, all of them hard-to-impossible to fix, all of them conspiring to deprive us of the (gee-whiz!) trains that many of us would like to ride.


This is a very sobering opinion piece for those of us who like to dream of high speed rail. The uniquely American cost and legal environment is pretty shitty.

High speed rail might be better used in metro areas to start, from an airport to downtown, for example. Shanghai has maglev from their airport to downtown.

We'll see. Elon Musk has made a career of doing things that people have said he can't do.

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Reply Why the United States will never have high-speed rail (Original post)
IronLionZion Feb 13 OP
mitch96 Feb 13 #1
IronLionZion Feb 13 #3
JustABozoOnThisBus Feb 13 #44
Cetacea Feb 14 #71
mitch96 Feb 14 #99
Cetacea Feb 14 #105
mitch96 Feb 15 #106
Mr. Quackers Feb 14 #100
mitch96 Feb 14 #101
JustABozoOnThisBus Feb 15 #107
mitch96 Feb 15 #108
MicaelS Feb 14 #97
MineralMan Feb 13 #2
SunSeeker Feb 13 #7
dumbcat Feb 13 #12
meadowlander Feb 13 #15
A HERETIC I AM Feb 13 #18
gldstwmn Feb 14 #87
frazzled Feb 14 #98
SunSeeker Feb 13 #19
xmas74 Feb 13 #41
PoindexterOglethorpe Feb 13 #55
melm00se Feb 14 #67
SunSeeker Feb 13 #21
dumbcat Feb 13 #37
pangaia Feb 14 #102
mitch96 Feb 13 #39
MineralMan Feb 13 #53
crazycatlady Feb 14 #61
MineralMan Feb 14 #62
crazycatlady Feb 14 #64
MineralMan Feb 14 #65
crazycatlady Feb 14 #68
theboss Feb 14 #79
X_Digger Feb 13 #4
hunter Feb 13 #5
A HERETIC I AM Feb 13 #6
Initech Feb 13 #8
PufPuf23 Feb 13 #11
SunSeeker Feb 13 #9
IronLionZion Feb 13 #13
SunSeeker Feb 13 #14
IronLionZion Feb 13 #16
SunSeeker Feb 13 #17
IronLionZion Feb 13 #20
SunSeeker Feb 13 #22
LanternWaste Feb 14 #82
IronLionZion Feb 14 #83
Cetacea Feb 14 #72
DFW Feb 13 #10
Initech Feb 13 #28
DFW Feb 13 #31
Initech Feb 13 #32
DFW Feb 13 #36
theboss Feb 13 #45
DFW Feb 13 #52
moondust Feb 13 #23
Initech Feb 13 #34
moondust Feb 13 #38
EX500rider Feb 13 #56
marlakay Feb 13 #24
DFW Feb 13 #26
marlakay Feb 13 #30
DFW Feb 13 #35
Brother Buzz Feb 13 #42
NewJeffCT Feb 14 #75
DFW Feb 14 #81
brooklynite Feb 13 #27
theboss Feb 13 #46
brooklynite Feb 13 #49
theboss Feb 14 #60
brooklynite Feb 13 #25
vlyons Feb 13 #29
theboss Feb 13 #48
ansible Feb 13 #57
mainer Feb 13 #58
ripcord Feb 13 #33
miyazaki Feb 13 #40
brooklynite Feb 13 #50
xmas74 Feb 13 #43
theboss Feb 13 #47
xmas74 Feb 13 #51
grantcart Feb 13 #54
theboss Feb 14 #59
IronLionZion Feb 14 #70
theboss Feb 14 #73
NewJeffCT Feb 14 #76
Baclava Feb 14 #63
IronLionZion Feb 14 #69
grantcart Feb 14 #74
NewJeffCT Feb 14 #80
grantcart Feb 14 #89
NewJeffCT Feb 14 #95
grantcart Feb 14 #103
theboss Feb 14 #78
MineralMan Feb 14 #66
SunSeeker Feb 14 #84
LongtimeAZDem Feb 14 #88
SunSeeker Feb 14 #90
LongtimeAZDem Feb 14 #91
SunSeeker Feb 14 #92
LongtimeAZDem Feb 14 #94
SunSeeker Feb 14 #96
MineralMan Feb 14 #93
onecaliberal Feb 14 #77
Xolodno Feb 14 #85
gldstwmn Feb 14 #86
dlk Feb 14 #104

Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:24 PM

1. I think it's the transportation lobby efforts..

Airlines and trucking would take a hit.. They run on tight margins so it would hurt them dearly. Here in Fla we passed bills for rapid trains from Miami to Orlando to Tampa..
The Fla legislator just does nothing but "feasibility studies"...
I think it would be neat for people to come to Miami, get their fill of So Fla or go on a cruise (watch for the neurovirus!).. .Get on a high speed train and go to Disney world Maybe Tampa and then back to Miami for the flight home. Good for Tourism...
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:38 PM

3. Short flights make no sense, like Miami to Orlando to Tampa

High speed rail would be great for tourism and leisure travel in those areas. One would think the trucking industry would appreciate less traffic on the highways.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:25 PM

44. High-speed rail, Miami to Orlando to Tampa would be expensive to build,

with environmental issues, eminent domain issues, and ongoing maintenance and security along the rail. They'd be targets for vandals, etc.

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #44)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 12:04 PM

71. Florida already has High-speed rails. And it's doing quite well and has merged with Virgin

At the moment, it only goes from Miami to West Palm Beach, but they will be extending the route to include Orlando and Tampa.

Granted, it is not a government project.

https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/brightline-high-speed-rail-project-florida/

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Response to Cetacea (Reply #71)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 06:14 PM

99. I live between Miami and Palm Beach....

You could have fooled me about the HSR.. These are very old commercial tracks and I don't see how they would go high speed. I do not see any new high speed rail lines being constructed as stated in the article..
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #99)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 08:51 PM

105. The Cocoa Beach to Orlando tracks will be new and faster. Not Maglev though

"This segment of the proposed line will operate at speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h) and will meet the United States Code's definition of High-speed rail, which includes rail services that are "reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour".[60] The Congressional Research Service uses the term "higher" speed rail for top speeds up to 150 mph"

Interesting...

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Response to Cetacea (Reply #105)

Fri Feb 15, 2019, 11:52 AM

106. "Cocoa Beach to Orlando tracks will be new and faster"

My take is how many people will use the line from Orlando to Cocoa? I'm thinking of the ROI. In my simple mind plotting a route that would be used a lot would make more sense.. Unless they are just trying this route out as an "does it really work for us" type of thing..
I hope it comes to pass..
m

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #44)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 06:18 PM

100. I'm sure people said the same thing about the Federal Interstate Highway System

 

but those folks were probably born in the 19th century or early 20th century.

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #44)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 06:19 PM

101. Yes agreed to all you stated.

I think in this economic environment any HSR would be expensive.. Look at the Big Dig in Boston, etc.. Many late and over budget..
"They'd be targets for vandals, etc. " Vandals?? I don't get it. That would be true of any rail line...
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #101)

Fri Feb 15, 2019, 03:11 PM

107. "Vandals"

Derailment at 50mph is probably not the same as derailment at 160mph.

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #107)

Fri Feb 15, 2019, 06:57 PM

108. How many HSR derailments have we heard about?

Regular tracks, yes but I for one have never heard of one.. wait...... google....
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 04:48 PM

97. I worked for 17 years as a freight brakeman / conductor

The RRs do not want passenger trains on their tracks. They only take Amtrak because of the payments for trackage rights. Dodging Amtrak was a daily PITA

New track costs anywhere from one million to one billion a mile, depending on the location. Plus the NIMBY affect, which Americans are world-class at.

Local rail is great. High speed trains for distances 100-400 miles? OK, if you can find the money and override NIMBY. Cross country? Forget it.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:29 PM

2. Part of it is the distances involved, along with the relatively high cost of

rail tickets. It takes only about an hour in the air between LA and SF. Of course there's other time involved, but only about an hour in a cramped seat. How long with the high speed train take between the two cities? I don't know, and it will depend on the actual speed of the train.

And how much will that train ride cost? That's a big killer for Amtrak on long routes. In some cases, it's cheaper to fly, and you're not sitting on a train for a couple of days. LA to NYC is about 5 hours by air. It's four days by train, assuming the train's are on time, which is not usually the case.

Now, a nice relaxing train trip is worth something, but that's only for tourists. Business travelers don't have the luxury of having that much time.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:05 PM

7. HSR is just as fast. It's 1.5 hrs to fly from LA to SF, plus 1 hr in the airport for security.

So that's 2 hours 30 minutes to fly between LA and SF...on a good day...if you're not checking luggage and not dealing with airport parking.

High speed rail promises a cheap two-hour-and-40-minute ride between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and LA’s Union Station. https://sf.curbed.com/2017/9/19/16331308/high-speed-rail-california

So the two are basically the same in terms of travel time. Air travel destroys the environment. HSR helps our economy.

We can't keep doing what we're doing just because change is hard.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:46 PM

12. Cheap?

"High speed rail promises a cheap two-hour-and-40-minute ride between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and LA’s Union Station. https://sf.curbed.com/2017/9/19/16331308/high-speed-rail-california "


How cheap? What is the projected price of the ticket from SF to LA? I couldn't find it in your cited article (or anywhere else.)

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Response to dumbcat (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:27 PM

15. Plus you'd still need to check in an go through security to get on the train.

So that becomes a three and a half hour trip.

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Response to meadowlander (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:46 PM

18. Why?

The only reason there is security at airports in the first place is to prevent planes from being hijacked, and that only became a thing beginning in the late 60's.


A pilot can be forced to fly a plane anywhere the hijacker wants.

Try hijacking a train and see how far you get.

At the very most there would be metal detectors, and even that is doubtful.

You're probably aware that we already have a (somewhat) high speed train in this country (The Acela) and to my knowledge, there is no security or check in procedures at any of the stations along the route.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #18)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:41 PM

87. Exactly. I pity the fool

that tried to hijack a train. They'd probably wind up tied to the front of it.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #18)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 05:13 PM

98. Hijacking on trains is not the issue: bombs are

Don't you remember Madrid in 2004? 193 people were killed and 2,000 injured.

But this is not even an issue: Gov. Gavin Newsom has just pulled the plug on California high-speed train transportation project, except in the Central Valley. There will be no LA to SF train for the foreseeable future. There should be in theory, but in practice, it's all but kaput for the time being.

I have ridden the Acela train (not so high speed) from Boston to NY when I lived there. And I much prefer train travel between major cities (in fact, I loath air travel). I've traveled many places in Europe on train. But now, from my perch in the Midwest, I can't see much of anywhere I would travel train: it's just too far to either coast (well, I might consider it to NYC, but definitely not to LA).

Shorter routes between large cities — New York to DC, LA to SF, Tokyo to Osaka — make sense. An entire network that encompasses the entire, vast US is probably never going to happen.

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Response to meadowlander (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:48 PM

19. Oh come on, check in at trains is nothing like going through security at SFO or LAX.

It takes 15 minutes max for trains, if that. It has never taken more than 5 minutes for me to check in for trains in CA. I don't know where you get your 1 hour figures. LAX, on the other hand, recommends you check in 90 minutes before a flight to SF, so 1 hour is an optimistic estimate.

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Response to meadowlander (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:03 PM

41. We have a commuter train that comes in from St Louis

and ends in Kansas City. My town in one of the stops. Getting on the train has practically no security. There is a guard around watching for anything suspicious and that's about it. Nothing else happens-they check your ticket, tell you where to store your luggage and if the snack car is open. That's it.

It's really peaceful. No real fuss, I can bring my own coffee and read a newspaper. I just wish the times were more convenient.

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Response to meadowlander (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 07:31 PM

55. So far there's no security nonsense on trains.

At least not on the ones I've taken recently.

Plus, train seats are much bigger, with better leg room than airplane seats. Walking around the the train is encouraged. Unlike on an airplane. And if you're taking an overnight train you can buy a roomette or bedroom, which in my personal opinion is well worth it.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #55)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:51 AM

67. I took the EuroStar from London to Brussels

and it was just like going thru airport security

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Response to dumbcat (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:51 PM

21. Is $86 SF-LA cheap enough for you, dumbcat?

According to a study by the Los Angeles Times, the most current projected fare for the train, $86 a ride, would still be one of the most inexpensive high-speed rail trips on a per-mile basis.
 https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/fare-cost-ride-california-bullet-train

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #21)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 04:19 PM

37. Thanks! That sounds reasonable

though I hope you will pardon me if I am a little skeptical, not knowing how it was derived.

That was a projection almost four years ago, for a fare in 2028. Having worked on long term govt projects and their costing, I'm afraid I'll have to assign a rather low confidence level to that projection.

Still, I thank you for that link. I was looking for something like that and wasn't having much success.

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Response to dumbcat (Reply #12)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 07:10 PM

102. Just for what it is worth,

the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Tokyo Station cost around $130, give or take, depending on which speed train you take- Nozomi, Hikari or Kodama. Nozomi, the fastest, takes about 2 1/2 hours... flying distance-227 miles, Of course you can't fly from Kyoto to Tokyo. :>))

Gotta first go to Osaka Itami...


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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 05:41 PM

39. " it will depend on the actual speed of the train. "

My aunt did not fly so we took a long painful ride from SoFla to NYC... Since AMTRAK did not own the tracks we were always #2 to the paying freight lines... We spent many hours, HOURS
just sitting on a siding waiting and waiting.. When we did move it was slow and even slower when going thru towns..
I think dedicated HS rail would do better like in Europe and Japan.. I'm thinking Bullet fast.
I always thought a elevated bullet train in the median between the highways would be neat. Oh BTW there was no check in games. Just give the porter the bags, he gives you a baggage ticket and you board.

m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #39)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 07:02 PM

53. TSA is the Transportation Safety Administation.

They'll get involved. I guarantee it.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:24 AM

61. I go from NJ to DC from time to time

To take the train, it would be $80 each way and I'd have to drive an hour (or take the train north to go south) to get to the train.

It is just much easier for me to just drive the additional 3 hours and get to DC.

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Response to crazycatlady (Reply #61)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:29 AM

62. Yes! I never fly if the drive is four hours or less.

Often, I drive, even if the time it takes is up to eight hours. That way, I avoid the cost of the ticket and a rental car at the destination. I don't mind driving, really. But any drive that takes me longer than that sends me to the airport.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #62)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:42 AM

64. I wouldn't even think of flying

In the case of the event I'm going to next month, it will be a day trip (there's a happy hour the night before related to this event, but I have decided that a happy hour is not worth the cost of a hotel room).

I have flown very short routes (White Plains, NY to Philly) but those were as a part of a longer route to make a connection.

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Response to crazycatlady (Reply #64)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:46 AM

65. Yes, that can be a day trip.

I used to make a day trip out of a drive that was six hours each way. It was business. I had a source of products for my business who lived a 6-hour drive from my home. I'd leave at 4 AM, meet my supplier and spend about two hours choosing and loading the items, and then drive back. It was a long day, but eminently doable.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #65)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:55 AM

68. Yeah this event is 9-6

And I'm leaving at about 4:00 AM and plan on drinking a lot of coffee that day. It is a political staffer conference and we are used to being powered by coffee.

I used to have family in the area that would let me crash, but sadly he passed suddenly in 2016.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:05 PM

79. DC to New York is the longest conceivable Amtrak trip I can handle.

Take a nap, read for an hour, eat bad pizza in the club car. By the time we reach Newark, I'm so ready to get off the train.

After a blizzard once, I couldn't get a plane ticket from Pittsburgh to Newark so I took an Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Trenton. Because the lines had been closed for a few days, their were freight trains galore. We had to stop every 20 minutes, it seemed, to let a freight train pass us. I think the entire trip took ten hours. I may have been able to hitchhike it faster.

I was bouncing off the walls by the end.

I couldn't imagine going cross-country on a train.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:44 PM

4. Because whole countries can fit in many of our states..

And a bunch of us don't live in a metro area.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:46 PM

5. High speed rail doesn't need oil.

That's all.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 12:59 PM

6. They are spending millions in Fresno building an elevated portion of the corridor

Last edited Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:32 PM - Edit history (1)

Driving up CA 99 through the central valley, the portion under construction in Fresno is the most obvious. Many miles of right-of-way preparation are away from the freeway, and not as visible.







This structure is where an existing railroad right-of-way will cross under the HS Rail line



This and the pic just above are north of Fresno, where 99 and the line cross the San Joaquin River. You can see the clearing of land for the line as it stretches north and curves off to the east.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:08 PM

8. I think a huge part of it is we can't trust giant corporations to build it.

The company that was, was cutting corners and screwing the state in the process. That deal in California was bogus and it was pretty easy to see why. But if there were a way to privatize the rail service, guaranteed it would get built faster than you could blink. Maybe Elon Musk could provide us with some way to do it.

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Response to Initech (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:37 PM

11. Perhaps HSR could be built by a dedicated WPA type federal or state agency?

But that would be socialism.

But the WPA built massive infrastructure projects on schedule and at low relative cost. Think Golden Gate Bridge.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:22 PM

9. Unrec. The article basically says we can't build any major infrastructure projects. Bullshit.

Where there's a will, there's a way. We need leadership, not retreat.

If we had this dumbass defeatist thinking decades ago, we'd never have built the transcontinental railrod, the interstate highway system, Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, you name it.

Pathetic, vacuous article. Pisses me off that we just accept this "no we can't" attitude.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:03 PM

13. Cost and legal challenges are defeating Trump's wall

Here are some big infrastructure projects in progress: https://www.curbed.com/2018/1/18/16898246/transportation-construction-projects-biggest-us-2018

Nothing recent is on the size and scale of a dedicated cross country railroad. Amtrak shares rails with many local rail systems and freight rail systems, which slows down passenger travel as the other trains have right of way.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:25 PM

14. People don't want Trump's wall. That's what's defeating the wall right now.

And for good reason. It would hurt the environment, cut off large swaths of private property from the rest of the U.S., and makes no sense where existing natural barriers (canyons, mountains) already exist. Plus, just the horrible political (racist) signal a southern border wall sends is reason enough not to build it. Unlike actual infrastructure projects, the wall would hurt, not help our economy.

Unlike Trump's wall, people do want--and need--high speed rail.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:34 PM

16. I want high speed rail, lots of others don't

Most urban liberals want HSR and most rural conservatives don't. Even if Dems had the votes and funding, enough rural folks can block it at the local level by controlling the land needed for construction.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #16)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:40 PM

17. No, the rural section of CA's HSR (Merced to Bakersfield) is exactly what IS going forward.

It's the connecting legs to the LA and SF "liberal urban" centers that Newsom abandoned.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:50 PM

20. How many people would travel from Merced to Bakersfield

vs how many would travel from LA to SF? Urban liberals are the ones who would use it.

The land problems mostly are in the suburban sprawl around the big cities, where people don't want to give up their land.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:53 PM

22. Well of course. That is why they should complete the full length of it, LA to SF. nt

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:13 PM

82. Polls consistently show a majority in favor of HSR in TX.

Polls consistently show a majority in favor of HSR in TX along the I-35 corridor (DFW-Austin-San Antonio-Houston), that despite the vast numbers of rural and conservative Texans being polled.

The only real challenge for high-speed rail is that it's never existed in the states. Every river is unswimmable until someone swims it. Every mountain unclimable until someone climbs it.

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Response to LanternWaste (Reply #82)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:17 PM

83. Are Texans willing to pay for it and give up their land to build it?

And I'm sure the oil industry in Texas has some strong opinions.

It takes a massive amount of support to get something built. It only takes a few people to block it.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #9)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 12:25 PM

72. +10000

The timing of the article...it's another jab at the Green New Deal

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:28 PM

10. It would cost many years and untold billions to build. We should do it anyway.

This is a good article spoiled by a few glaring inaccuracies.

No, we do NOT endure the TSA for a cup of coffee. I don't know anyone that flies to Seattle for a cup of coffee, and neither does the author of the article. Such hyperbole belongs edited out of a discussion of so serious a subject. Hi-speed rail travel here in Europe is (for the most part) at least as expensive as flying, and often more so. Building those tracks and new trains was unbelievably expensive. Plus, due to a few attempted terrorist attacks on trains, there are now TSA-like security checks at the entrances to tracks for some hi-speed trains here (notably la Gare du Nord in Paris and Atocha station in Madrid, sporadic checks at the Gare du Midi/Zuidstation in Brussels).

With the ability of these trains to travel comfortably at 200 KPH (120 MPH) and faster (often 50% faster), they (when on time) are far more time-efficient than planes for many short-haul and some mid-range routes. The fact that trains here in Europe are now (FINALLY) all non-smoking helps a lot, too, although there is always still the rare trip from hell when the person sitting next you has puffed away for half an hour before boarding the train, and their clothes, hair and breath still reek of tobacco smoke. It is like sitting next to a toxic waste dump, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Environmental considerations will force us to build these trains sooner or later. It will be nearly impossible in the densely populated BOSWASH corridor, but existing track can and MUST be vastly improved so the Acela trains can run at capacity speed. NYC to DC used to take four hours. Now it's 3. It should be 2.

Chicago to Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Indianapolis would make sense. Maybe even Kansas City to Denver. Phoenix to Albuquerque, NYC to Albany (and points west), Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and onward to major cities in Ohio, Atlanta to Charlotte, Little Rock to Memphis and on to Nashville and even up to D.C.

The routes will run at a serious deficit, and will have to be subsidized, as the expense of starting now will be crushing. The Republicans will go berserk about this, even though they seemed to have no problem with Trump adding a trillion to the deficit on their watch. To hell with them. My humble opinion is that this would be a necessary investment--not in the short term, but in the long term. This will HAVE to happen sooner or later. The longer we wait, the more it will cost, which, in turn, gives the Republicans an ever stronger argument as to why we shouldn't do it. Granted, almost no one will opt for a coast-to-coast rail trip, even at high speed, unless, like Gene Wilder's character in "The Silver Streak," you just "want to be bored." But there are many routes in the USA where air travel could be replaced (or at least supplemented) by hi-speed rail travel, and should be.

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Response to DFW (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:10 PM

28. But unlike the wall, this will pay for itself and prove to be useful!

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Response to Initech (Reply #28)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:12 PM

31. It won't pay for itself for decades, we shouldn't fool ourselves.

But long-term, it's vital that we do this. And it will be more than just useful. It will end up adding centuries to the life of our environment.

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Response to DFW (Reply #31)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:13 PM

32. OK yeah maybe it won't pay for itself.

But what I'm getting at is that this would be a much wiser use of our money than Trump's stupid, useless wall will.

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Response to Initech (Reply #32)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:16 PM

36. No argument there.

Spending money on something that will benefit the people of the USA--how revolutionary a concept, eh?

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Response to DFW (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:26 PM

45. Have you ever traveled by Amtrak through Pennsylvania?

I have. And this is what you encounter:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_Curve_(Pennsylvania)

I can't even being to imagine the cost of running a bullet train line through PA, considering how straight it would have to be, and the number of suburbs you would encounter west of Pittsburgh and east of Philly.

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Response to theboss (Reply #45)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 07:00 PM

52. I have only traveled through PA by car and air

Most of the suburbs east of Philly when I lived there were in New Jersey.

The cost would be incredible, no question. Here in Germany, the built a hi-speed line through the hills and mountains between Köln and Frankfurt to shorten the trip from 2.5 hours to just under one. It took untold billions and over ten years to build, but they did it anyway, and about 40 million Germans (plus me!) are glad they did. Before that, the trip went down along the Rhein valley. It was scenic, curvy, and often flooded. Now it is not scenic, with 50% of the trip through tunnels. But it is FAST, and has made airplane travel along the route as good as obsolete.

Now you can travel from the Frankfurt airport to the Köln airport by train almost as fast as you can fly it, and over half the commuter flights from Köln and Düsseldorf have been canceled. Lufthansa has even reserved cars on some trains on this route for their passengers, as it is cheaper than flying them down to connect to their long haul flights out of Frankfurt. The "flight" is on their schedule, but the actual transport is the train.

I am not disputing that the cost would be astronomical. I'm just saying it would be worth it in the long term.

I have been on some of the other routes mentioned in the Wikipedia article. You can't compare something like the Myrdal-Flåm railway. That is practically a tourist route, stopping halfway down so the passengers can get off and photograph a waterfall.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:54 PM

23. The oligarchs don't need it.

They have their Mercedes and Lamborghinis.

End of story.

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Response to moondust (Reply #23)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:15 PM

34. The oligarchs would drive Mercedes?

They would have at least a Rolls or two and maybe a Bugatti. Also they have private jets. They got theirs.

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Response to Initech (Reply #34)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 04:33 PM

38. Rolls indeed.

The most expensive cars in the world (12/18)

At a glance

Rolls-Royce Sweptail $13 million
Mercedes-Benz Maybach Exelero $8 million
Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita $4.8 million
Lamborghini Veneno $4.5 million
W Motors Lykan Hypersport $3.4 million
Limited Edition Bugatti Veyron by Mansory Vivere $3.4 million
Ferrari Pininfarina Sergio $3 million
Bugatti Chiron $2.9 million
Laferrari FXX K $2.7 million
Aston Martin Valkyrie $2.6 million
Pagani Huayra BC $2.6 million
Mercedes-AMG One $2.5 million
Ferrari F60 America $2.6 million
Aston Martin Vulcan $2.3 million
Milan Red $2.3 million
McLaren Speedtail $2.2 million

Oh yes, and private helicopters.

(Um, what's a "Koenigsegg"? A "King's egg"? )

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Response to moondust (Reply #38)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 07:59 PM

56. "Um, what's a "Koenigsegg"?" Swedish Supercar maker:



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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 02:57 PM

24. My husband drove Bart (subway in SF)

For 30 yrs and we have had many talks about how they were supposed to go to San Jose and other areas but from the time it was first built till now building is so expensive the cities and state can’t afford it and they have already raised prices many times on the people who use it.

So it all boils down to money. If America had done it back when it was affordable we would have been ok but the oil companies wanted us to drive cars. The politicians got paid off by them.

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Response to marlakay (Reply #24)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:03 PM

26. This is also the reason for the 8 lane highways and the horrendous traffic jams west of NYC

Northeastern New Jersey west of New York City should logically have been a thick network of commuter rail lines. But since the Rockefellers owned Standard Oil, and cars run on refined oil products, well you know, priorities have to be set and all............

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Response to DFW (Reply #26)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:11 PM

30. My husband has a old tape

About rail lines, regular trains that worked well and went all over CA north and south were torn up by the car and tire people even before oil got big.


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Response to marlakay (Reply #30)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:15 PM

35. Standard Oil Of California

Now Chevron. Same deal as New Jersey, just a different cast of characters.

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Response to DFW (Reply #35)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:06 PM

42. One could make the argument General Motors and Firestone were equally culpable

They were the three major shareholders in National City Lines, the company that purchased Los Angeles Railway in 1945.

In the film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, General Motors was the main culprit.

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Response to DFW (Reply #26)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:53 PM

75. There is a pretty good network in northeastern NJ now

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Response to NewJeffCT (Reply #75)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:10 PM

81. Yes, but there are lots of areas still without coverage

That part of NJ is extremely thickly settled. My sister and brother-in-law are still condemned to commuting into Manhattan by car, as there is no rail service anywhere near where they live.

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Response to marlakay (Reply #24)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:04 PM

27. No, they didn't

(nb - in addition to being a Transportation Planner, I teach a grad class in transportation and land use).

SF peninsula politicians didn't get paid off by big oil; they represented the values of their suburban constituents who, in the 60s and 70s, didn't WANT to pay for public transportation. They had and liked cars (San Mateo) and/or didn't want transit increasing population density (Marin).

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #27)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:30 PM

46. Part of that plays into the idea that public transportation can bring the public to you.

If you lived in all white suburb in the 60s, you really didn't want a direct, cheap connection to the city, because that also meant a direct, cheap connection to your suburb from the city.

I've read everything I can get my hands in about Daley and Chicago, and that guy used highway projects to enforce de force segregation in dozens of different ways. Robert Moses in New York was a little more creative, but followed the same general plan.

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Response to theboss (Reply #46)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:38 PM

49. Moses didn't use infrastructure to force segregation...

He just built when he felt the greater (white/middle class) population needed, and if that plowed through a local (non-white/working class) neighborhood, too bad.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #49)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:21 AM

60. He wasn't as specific as Daley who literally used highways as barricades.

I guess the point I'm making is that he didn't see white flight as an issue and built infrastructure to accommodate it.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:00 PM

25. The Shanghai maglev is a showpiece item that has little practical value

The biggest problem you'd have with HSR in an urban setting is that it's next to impossible to get the ROW that is absolutely essential to build the banked track and structures to support proper high-speed rolling stock.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:11 PM

29. Republicans don't want to invest in any public services

They'll invest in private, or semi-private projects, like a new ball park, or a toll road. But screw schools, rails, roads, bridges, airports, parks, hospitals, low-income housing, etc. How long has this Republican congress balked at doing an infrastructure bill?

We can't have nice things for the general welfare, because that "socialism."

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Response to vlyons (Reply #29)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:33 PM

48. Is that really the issue in California?

Unless you are suggesting this should be a federal project - which I'm frankly not certain I agree with. I have my own transportation wishlist for Texas.

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Response to theboss (Reply #48)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 08:05 PM

57. It's not, excessive regulations in California killed the high speed railway project

The endless, neverending nightmare of bureaucratic red tape in trying to just get land to build the railway was enough to destroy it.

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Response to ansible (Reply #57)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 08:10 PM

58. Exactly.

We are not a dictatorship. And high speed rail requires the unAmerican exercise of eminent domain.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 03:14 PM

33. Widespread use of eminent domain proceedings has taken its toll

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 05:46 PM

40. Well there's always this

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Response to miyazaki (Reply #40)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:39 PM

50. TRAINZ is a better product

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:21 PM

43. There has been talk of running an experimental hyperloop between St Louis and KC

The reason is because they can run it mostly along I 70 from one side of the state to the other, alongside mostly rural areas. This could make construction issues easier and still connect two metro areas that are about 4 hours or so apart.

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Response to xmas74 (Reply #43)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:31 PM

47. This makes the most sense logistically in the MidWest

Unfortunately, it makes the least sense from a usage standpoint in the Midwest.

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Response to theboss (Reply #47)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 06:40 PM

51. They also looked at it from an employment angle.

Most of the jobs are in KC and St Louis, leaving a number of rural areas with low paying jobs. This could allow for those who live on one side of the state to take a job on the other side of the state and still not be forced to move, uprooting family and community.

An example would be I live in Johnson County, MO. With a hyperloop I could accept a job in the St Louis area and only have to worry about commuting to Kansas City to catch the loop. KC can be reached easily under an hour while St Louis is over 3 hours-too far for a commute. It wouldn't help everyone but within an hour of the hubs it could be helpful. It could also prove helpful for medical care and even for education.

It also opens up easier branches. St Louis could open up branches leading to Chicago, Nashville, etc. Kansas City could open up to Denver, OKC, even into Texas. That is one of the biggest selling points I've heard about locating a hyperloop here-how easy it would be to open up shoots off of those cities compared to most.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 07:12 PM

54. Lol the issue is simple, not enough population density to support tens of billions in investment


There are a few corridors that have the millions of daily passengers that are required for viability.

Japan, China, India, Coastal European.

East Coast US is possible but California never had the concentrated commute traffic in a single corridor to make it viable. Vested companies and unions fudged the numbers to get it passed.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #54)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:18 AM

59. I guess the issue with the East Coast is who exactly are you seeking to serve?

When I lived in DC, the idea of walking to Union Station, hopping a train, and being in NYC in an hour would certainly serve a fantasy. And there is obviously some daily traffic from DC to NYC. But isn't the real need Long Island/Connecticut/New Jersey to New York? And how would high speed rail really service that when you still need to stop every few miles?

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Response to theboss (Reply #59)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 12:04 PM

70. high speed doesn't stop every few miles

high speed is when there is some distance to justify it. You're thinking of metro or commuter rail.

I've taken the train from DC to NYC and back. I like it better than flying or driving. It would be nice to have true high speed rail service on dedicated tracks/tunnels/bridges not shared with other trains.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #70)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:15 PM

73. I agree completely.

But you are basically building historically expensive transportation that will only serve journalists, politicians and lobbyists.

It just seems like the wrong demographic to serve with a $100 billion dollar project.

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Response to theboss (Reply #59)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:54 PM

76. The rail lines in Connecticut to Grand Central in NYC are slower now

than they were 40 years ago in the mid to late 1970s. The rail lines are so old that it's not safe to run at higher speeds now

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Response to grantcart (Reply #54)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:36 AM

63. Meanwhile, in China






There has to be full government backing, like when we built the interstate highway system, and we aren't seeing it, and probably won't for a long time, the U.S. is still a car culture.

The chinese went from bicycles to bullet trains overnight it seems

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Response to Baclava (Reply #63)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:59 AM

69. China's massive population size is unbelievable

They have horrifying traffic jams and air pollution. They need to build trains out of necessity and they have a strong central government who could care less about taking people's land to build stuff.

They don't have the eminent domain issues the US has. Plus the US has Republicans, who are a tremendous obstacle.

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Response to Baclava (Reply #63)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:44 PM

74. Funny how something that makes sense in China doesn't make sense in California.

1) The issue of high speed rail boils down to a single factor: population density. It only works when there are tens of millions of riders going from distant commuting cities and movement from high density cities that already have established high volume traffic. Yes China is much more densely populated than the US

In putting Proposition 1A onto the ballot the proponents and the legislature stated that the system had to be self supporting, but it was clear from the beginning that it would never get close to that. Instead of $ 9 billion in state funds it will cost more than $ 100 billion.

Now which is more progressive: spending $ 100 billion on mass transit for inner cities and municipal hubs or $ 100 billion on connecting two cities that are far apart and can be reached with a 45 minute plane ride?

Proposition 1a required that at each stage independent peer review assess the projections that the budget is based on and each independent peer review concluded that the ridership figures were grossly inflated, somewhere around 300% of what can be expected.



In May 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article by critics on the estimated operational revenue of the system in "Doing the math on California's bullet train fares".[74] The article raised a number of doubts that the system could be self-supporting, as required by Prop 1A, and ended by quoting Louis Thompson (chairman of an unnamed state-created review panel) who said "We will not know until late in the game how everything will turn out."[75]

The Due Diligence Report (2008) projected fewer riders by 2030 than officially estimated: 23.4 to 31.1 million intercity riders a year instead of the 65.5 to 96.5 million forecast by the Authority and later confirmed by an independent peer review.[76]



To put those numbers in perspective: California projects about 31 million riders a year while China achieved 1.5 billion riders a year.

http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/1110/c90000-9291147.html

2) China

Yes bullet trains make sense in SOME parts of China.

Take two provinces next to each other: Shanghai and Guangdong. These two provinces have a combined population of about 150 million or about half of the United States.

Population density:

Shanghai 9,900 people per square mile
Guangdung 1,600 people per square mile
California 240 people per square mile

Do you see a trend?

3) Central Planning in China

The great fear of even those that supported 1a when it was passed was that it would end up diverting limited California state revenue from doing something concrete for the people in the cities, especially to the working class to a white elephant that would have big contracts but ultimately need subsidies to keep going. They wisely required regular assessments from independent peer review specialists to confirm the data and Newsome, much to his credit, took the appropriate action when the data no longer supported the project.

In China where central planning over rides the market senior officials profit from putting the bullet train and other government development projects where they are not sustainable in order to personally profit from the contracts.

So while some of the bullet train lines are sustainable and worthwhile others are not.

In fact the Chinese government is putting up dozens of ghost cities where in fact no one actually lives.




The issue of mass transit funds in California comes down to a very simple question: Are you going to waste them on a system that clearly doesn't meet the geography/density of California or are you going to invest in projects (like the LA tunnel) that are going to reduce congestion and assist the working poor. You cannot have both.

A network that would link Chicago/midwest and the North/South East Coast corridor would be much more likely to fit the density required to make a high speed viable (linking about 125 million) but the CA project was always just eye candy and never approached the ridership to make it possible.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #74)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:06 PM

80. You're comparing cities to a state

Shanghai is not a province - it's an independent city without a province

Los Angeles is 4 million people for 500 square miles, or 8,000/sq mile

San Francisco is 900,000 people and 47 square miles of land, or 19,000 people/sq mile

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Response to NewJeffCT (Reply #80)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:00 PM

89. Sigh


You are making my point.

SF, a highly compact small city (I lived in neighborhoods in Bangkok that had more than a million) should invest in inner city mass transit they should NOT invest a $ 100 billion in long range mass transit.

High speed rail goes 220 mph and the first stop is typically an hour a away if you draw a semi circle from Shanghai 220 miles out you encounter a population of about 200 million. The same arc outside of SF would only be a few million and none of it concentrated.

Californians are not going to spend twice as much to travel by train between SF and LA in mass on a train trip that is going to take more than 2 hours when they can go for less on a plane that is going to take a little more than an hour.

To be viable high speed rail requires a corridor between the two cities that would generate millions of riders a month and those population centers don't exist in CA. They do exist on the east coast and mid west, but not in CA.

It's interesting to note how folks who deride Republicans for not accepting peer review analysis on climate change don't bother to read peer review scholarship on their pet projects.

All of the peer review studies have shown that high speed rail will not meet the self sustaining metrics required by proposition 1a.

That means that building high speed rail will require subsidies to maintain it and divert money from high density inner cities (like SF and parts of LA). Limited resources should be spent on the areas that are densely populated,as you point out.

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Response to grantcart (Reply #89)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:37 PM

95. train stations

are typically in the center of the city - airports are typically on the outskirts or outside the city and require more time & effort to get to for commuters. And, airports also have a much longer wait for security than trains because of stricter security requirements.



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Response to NewJeffCT (Reply #95)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 07:19 PM

103. Lol typically? Really? Except none of what you refer to applies to SoCal where the airports are base

In urban areas.

There are 5 airports that serve the LA metropolitan area;

LAX
Burbank
Ontario
Long Beach
Van Nuys

For the 70% of the population in LA Metro area that live in places like San Bernardino, Santa Ana or Long Beach they would likely arrive in SFO IN LESS TIME by going to a nearby airport than they would travelling on congested freeways JUST TO GET TO THE TRAIN STATION IN LA ( and then take the train to SFO).

For those travellers the trip would likely take 5-6 hours from home to SFO rather than the 2-3 hours it would take from their home to SFO by using regional airports.

To be viable a bullet train needs 2-3 million passengers a week. The highest projections from peer review experts is between 400k to 600k.

The money is better spent help in the poor with their daily commute.

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Response to Baclava (Reply #63)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:59 PM

78. China doesn't have to worry about private property rights nor environmental impact

Nor profitability of the project frankly.

When the government has the power to tell hundreds of thousands of people to just move, anything is possible.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 11:50 AM

66. Driving time between Los Angeles and San Francisco is about 6 hours.

It can be a bit less than that if one pushes the speed limit a bit, and almost everyone does.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #66)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:27 PM

84. When was the last time you made it from downtown LA to downtown SF in 6 hours?

Even if you timed it just right so you avoided peak traffic and could get there in 6 hours, you'd still have to stop to fuel up, pee and eat. I've never been able to get to SF from LA in under 7. But then, I'm not a masochist.

High speed rail would be a two hour and 40 minute ride between LA’s Union Station and San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. https://sf.curbed.com/2017/9/19/16331308/high-speed-rail-california

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #84)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:52 PM

88. When was the last time you made it from downtown LA to Irvine in 6 hours?

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Response to LongtimeAZDem (Reply #88)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:01 PM

90. What are you talking about?

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #90)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:04 PM

91. Joking. I've been in LA traffic.

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Response to LongtimeAZDem (Reply #91)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:12 PM

92. LOL. Yeah, LA traffic is bad, but not THAT bad. nt


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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #92)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:17 PM

94. It took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to get from the La Brea Tar Pits to Anaheim one Friday evening

so, yeah, I exaggerated, but it is really bad.

I kept asking myself, "how can people live like this?"

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Response to LongtimeAZDem (Reply #94)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:43 PM

96. People have no choice. It's a terrible situation with no alternatives for most folks.

Yes, once it took me about that long to get home here in Seal Beach (just south of Long Beach) from downtown LA - a distance of only 32 miles. If it's raining and/or there's a Sigalert (accident causing freeway lane closures), traffic just grinds to a halt.

Sitting in traffic like that is damaging to your health, on top of the wasted time.

What's so tragic is we used to have a great trolly in LA, the "Red Car. " It went all over from downtown LA. It even went all the way to Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. But it was abandoned by the early 1960s, the tracks paved over. Seal Beach kept one of the Red Cars and turned it into a little museum.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #84)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 03:12 PM

93. It all depends on time of day, really.

I don't see a HSR being built for that route anytime soon. Do you?

That's the problem, really. The cost to build the infrastructure for it is so high that it's unlikely to happen. It will require all new track, but where? The current rail system can't support HSR. Not a chance.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 01:59 PM

77. Republicans did everything to run up cost and delay which also ran up cost. We are the 5th

Biggest economy in the world. Cutting it short is epic stupid. Especially since they havent bothered to fix the very congested freeways and the crumbling bridges.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:36 PM

85. Stopping the project at Bakersfield is just stupid.

It should continue up to Palmdale. At least one could jump on a commuter train from LA then jump on the HSR.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 02:39 PM

86. We need to figure it out.

Building this would create many, many jobs and be a boon for our economy.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 08:09 PM

104. Perhaps Starting Small With a Short Distance Might Get the Ball Rolling

It might jumpstart competition.

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