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View Poll Results: Should the US build or improve it's HSR network?
Yes 249 89.57%
No 29 10.43%
Voters: 278. You may not vote on this poll

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Old December 3rd, 2007, 09:45 PM   #281
miamicanes
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It's better than the 79 mph that we have now (Why is it 79 mph? Why not a round 80?)
79mph is the fastest a passenger train is allowed to run unless it -- and any freight trains also running on the track -- are equipped with in-cab signaling. 99.999% of passenger trains are, but freight trains almost NEVER are unless the passenger service pays the cost of equipping the freight trains as well.

110mph is the fastest a passenger train is allowed to run along track with grade crossings.

"True HSR" is nice, but in most parts of the US, it wouldn't make sense to build it at this moment in time.

Transforming an existing single-track freight railroad into a corridor suitable for 110mph passenger trains costs about $3-5 million per mile, since you're basically just throwing down one or two new tracks and leaving everything else "as-is". To increase speeds to 125mph, you have to eliminate the grade crossings at ~$10 million a pop. To go faster, you have to either use ultra-heavy & expensive Acela-like trains, or segregate passenger trains from freight trains completely. At that point, you've just increased the cost beyond anything most state legislatures would EVER approve.

There's no grand conspiracy from the auto industry. Even if every railfan's wet dreams about HSR passenger service were to come true in America, it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to the number of cars sold per year. It wouldn't even make much of a difference to the airline industry, since HSR would compete mainly with small and regional airlines serving routes that American, Delta, Continental, Northwest, United, and USAir don't even bother with directly (they're flown by small airlines who've franchised the name of a major airline). Southwest Airlines (famous for its opposition to Texas passenger rail) is purely a regional player. Just about anywhere else in the country, their lobbyists would get a yawn or two from the representative's receptionist.

The opposition comes from "true HSR's" unholy up-front capital costs relative to relatively few users. $15 billion buried Boston's main freeway, doubled its capacity, and directly benefits about a million people every day. That same $15 billion would have been enough to build roughly 300 miles of "True HSR" track at ~$50 million/mile. I don't think even the TGV has that many passengers per day. And this is a comparison of the most expensive road improvement project in America with the busiest HSR network in the world. A more "normal" road project (like rebuilding and widening 10-20 miles of a major urban freeway somewhere in America) would normally be about $500 million to $2 billion... enough for a whopping 10-40 miles of "True HSR" track. The freeway will typically have at least 200,000 users every day. How many daily riders will 10-40 miles of "True HSR" track generate above and beyond the number who would have used the train anyway if it were 110mph?

Rather than belittle North Carolina for having "only" 110mph, HSR supporters should be cheering it on, and encouraging their OWN states to do the same thing. Eventually, the 110mph trains will have enough riders to make elected officials view its reconstruction into a true HSR line as a worthwhile expenditure, rather than a financial black hole that will get them slaughtered at re-election time.

110mph isn't perfect... but it's good. And it's a hell of a lot better than what exists there now, and what's likely to exist there 10 years from now if the rail line's supporters get swept up into the "True HSR" quagmire like Florida did. If it hadn't been for the damn HSR proposal in Florida, we would have had 110mph trains from Miami to Orlando and Tampa at least 5 years ago, and would probably have service extended from Orlando to Jacksonville, and along the entire east coast (from Jacksonville to Miami) by now. Instead, we have Amtrak, with two trains per day leaving Miami at the crack of dawn & arriving at Tampa and Orlando 5-7 hours later, because the HSR fans who wrote the original law mandating it took the same "zero-tolerance" attitude towards anything that wasn't perfect, and produced a monster so awful, even rail SUPPORTERS had to vote against it.

Last edited by miamicanes; December 3rd, 2007 at 09:55 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 10:09 PM   #282
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
79mph is the fastest a passenger train is allowed to run unless it -- and any freight trains also running on the track -- are equipped with in-cab signaling. 99.999% of passenger trains are, but freight trains almost NEVER are unless the passenger service pays the cost of equipping the freight trains as well.

110mph is the fastest a passenger train is allowed to run along track with grade crossings.

"True HSR" is nice, but in most parts of the US, it wouldn't make sense to build it at this moment in time.

Transforming an existing single-track freight railroad into a corridor suitable for 110mph passenger trains costs about $3-5 million per mile, since you're basically just throwing down one or two new tracks and leaving everything else "as-is". To increase speeds to 125mph, you have to eliminate the grade crossings at ~$10 million a pop. To go faster, you have to either use ultra-heavy & expensive Acela-like trains, or segregate passenger trains from freight trains completely. At that point, you've just increased the cost beyond anything most state legislatures would EVER approve.

There's no grand conspiracy from the auto industry. Even if every railfan's wet dreams about HSR passenger service were to come true in America, it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to the number of cars sold per year. It wouldn't even make much of a difference to the airline industry, since HSR would compete mainly with small and regional airlines serving routes that American, Delta, Continental, Northwest, United, and USAir don't even bother with directly (they're flown by small airlines who've franchised the name of a major airline). Southwest Airlines (famous for its opposition to Texas passenger rail) is purely a regional player. Just about anywhere else in the country, their lobbyists would get a yawn or two from the representative's receptionist.

The opposition comes from "true HSR's" unholy up-front capital costs relative to relatively few users. $15 billion buried Boston's main freeway, doubled its capacity, and directly benefits about a million people every day. That same $15 billion would have been enough to build roughly 300 miles of "True HSR" track at ~$50 million/mile. I don't think even the TGV has that many passengers per day. And this is a comparison of the most expensive road improvement project in America with the busiest HSR network in the world. A more "normal" road project (like rebuilding and widening 10-20 miles of a major urban freeway somewhere in America) would normally be about $500 million to $2 billion... enough for a whopping 10-40 miles of "True HSR" track. The freeway will typically have at least 200,000 users every day. How many daily riders will 10-40 miles of "True HSR" track generate above and beyond the number who would have used the train anyway if it were 110mph?

Rather than belittle North Carolina for having "only" 110mph, HSR supporters should be cheering it on, and encouraging their OWN states to do the same thing. Eventually, the 110mph trains will have enough riders to make elected officials view its reconstruction into a true HSR line as a worthwhile expenditure, rather than a financial black hole that will get them slaughtered at re-election time.

110mph isn't perfect... but it's good. And it's a hell of a lot better than what exists there now, and what's likely to exist there 10 years from now if the rail line's supporters get swept up into the "True HSR" quagmire like Florida did. If it hadn't been for the damn HSR proposal in Florida, we would have had 110mph trains from Miami to Orlando and Tampa at least 5 years ago, and would probably have service extended from Orlando to Jacksonville, and along the entire east coast (from Jacksonville to Miami) by now. Instead, we have Amtrak, with two trains per day leaving Miami at the crack of dawn & arriving at Tampa and Orlando 5-7 hours later, because the HSR fans who wrote the original law mandating it took the same "zero-tolerance" attitude towards anything that wasn't perfect, and produced a monster so awful, even rail SUPPORTERS had to vote against it.
Thanks, but my question was why it's 79 mph and not 80 mph. Seems like it wouldn't make that much of a difference.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 10:16 PM   #283
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Basically we drive everywhere you can get to in a couple hours, and fly everywhere else. Just the way it's done here....rail is a hard sell.

Most people I know fly everywhere. in 2005 the stats for the USA were:

Passengers flown: 745,700,000

Total flights: 11,000,000

The average distance flown by passengers in 2005 was a little less than 1,700 KM.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 11:07 PM   #284
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exactly, which is why the above comments on 110mph being sufficient will produce a system that falls short of the mark.

The US already had >110mph rail in the form of Metroliner and that hasn't exactly opened up the market for faster services (timings in 1969 were 5 minutes better than the fastest Acela service today). It wasn't and isn't fast enought to seriously compete with the airlines. It will take a step change in speed like the California proposal to show what can actually be done.

As for the capital cost - both the Texas and Florida systems could have been paid for with just a couple of year's tax cuts implemented by the incoming governors subsequent to their cancellation.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 11:09 PM   #285
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
we would have had 110mph trains from Miami to Orlando and Tampa at least 5 years ago... Instead, we have Amtrak...
Huh? Contrasting something with itself? If it's intercity rail it's probably Amtrak no matter what speed. In Detroit there are plans to make the extant 95mph line 110mph.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 11:11 PM   #286
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Originally Posted by ADCS View Post
Thanks, but my question was why it's 79 mph and not 80 mph. Seems like it wouldn't make that much of a difference.
It's supposed to be a "technicality" in the law, or so I read from Wikipedia. That usually means about 80mph in any case. There are regions here in SoCal where the commuter and Amtraks coast at about 92-93mph even though the speed limit is 90mph.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 11:40 PM   #287
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well, if California votes yes, it will get trains that can go 220 mph. So don't be so negative - things often don't move in a linear way, leaps can occur.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 02:12 AM   #288
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Quote:
Thanks, but my question was why it's 79 mph and not 80 mph. Seems like it wouldn't make that much of a difference.
It's an arbitrary regulatory limit imposed by the government. Specifically, the FRA. Amtrak routinely exceeds it, but someone could cause them a lot of headaches if they decided to actually stand in the path of an oncoming Amtrak train with a radar gun and clock it.

Quote:
The US already had >110mph rail in the form of Metroliner and that hasn't exactly opened up the market for faster services (timings in 1969 were 5 minutes better than the fastest Acela service today). It wasn't and isn't fast enought to seriously compete with the airlines.
The competitive position of rail has changed dramatically since the 1960s. 40 years ago, flying was a pleasant experience, and trains were full of smelly poor people who couldn't afford to fly. Now, thanks to BinLadenCo, it takes an hour to get through security at lots of big-city airports, and flying is about as pleasant as having bamboo slivers pushed under your fingernails. People back in the 1960s couldn't boot up a laptop, stick in a Sprint wireless card, and watch streaming pr0n in the privacy of their roomette (or other things computer + internet related), so not having to drive wasn't as big of a perk as it is now.

Rail doesn't have to be faster than driving or flying to be competitive, as long as it's more convenient and enjoyable. Flying is a miserable experience, and driving 3-5 hours sucks. Provide internet access, food on the train, upscale ambiance, and have people on board to do the rental car paperwork before arrival (so you can literally be driving away within 10 minutes of arriving at the station), and passenger rail will compete quite well with both for 200-300 mile trips.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 05:13 AM   #289
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Its quite obvious who is holding the country back - the right wing, pro-oil/highway people who are generally republicans. Its a shameful travesty to hear grown educated men speak of rail being something for, a) communists (because every man should be free with his own private transport), b) a massive waste of money when highways must be expanded to alleviate congestion (ha!), c) sucking up to big business, i.e, OIL and Airlines. Basically, that party = fear, the past, and status quo. The USA will never prosper or compete without a change in leadership and unfortunatley, many people just don't have the intellegence to grasp the benefits of HSR in this country. I don't see how people interested in living a 21st century, cutting edge existance would consider remaining in this stone-age country! I foresee this country declining and wasting away in a sea of congestion if someting major isn't done to help us regain a foothold again. This country should stop going it alone and look at other countries as examples. I wish we had some presidential candidates who would see this and talk about how important it is for out future economic prosperity.

P,S -- i don't accept this crap about 110mph being a good step. It is a complete shameful embarassment in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world, and soon countries like morroco, turkey, argentina will be ahead of us and more advanced. Yet we're happy to go slowly while the rest of the world is completley trouncing us. I wish this country wasn't a superpower, then it wouldn't be resting on its laurels. Also, we are happy to allow our flagshp stations become ratholes. And we're not even building amazing highways or airports - so basically, we're now behind in everything. Our airports are now ugly - there is no decent designs compared to europe/asia. We should be bowing our head to europe and japan. There is no innovation left in this country --> instead we are content to police the world wasting billions/month on wars while we have 400 people being killed on the streets of philly a year!!! WAKE UP USA, WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES???? IN THE TOILET, THATS WHERE THEY ARE

Last edited by aquablue; December 4th, 2007 at 05:26 AM.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 05:37 AM   #290
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It's purely a matter of cost vs benefit. In this case, the benefit (to politicians) is votes from people who are happy because they see their tax dollars spent on things that are of direct, personal daily benefit to them. Nobody bitches about roads being "subsidized", because the vast majority of taxpayers use them multiple times every single day. $10 billion spent on a HSR line used by a few hundred thousand passengers per day is $10 billion likely NOT spent on a dozen road projects that would have been used by several million taxpayers every day. In elected-official-economics, roads are "profitable" (vote-getting). HSR isn't.

It's not strictly zero-sum, nor does one have to overwhelmingly defeat the other... but at the end of the day, a rail proposal whose cost per daily voter is at worst double that of competing proposals for limited transportation funds is going to be a lot more likely to make it into reality than one that will cost ten or twenty times as much (per daily taxpaying user) as competing proposals. 110mph is cheap enough to squeeze by and get past elected officials. In most places, 150+ mph isn't, and will be stopped dead in its tracks before it sees the light of day outside of a committee meeting.

That's the harsh reality of rail in America. Elected officials, and voters, could give a flying f**k whether or not it's "competitive" with other countries. They want to see dollar figures and ridership projections, so they can figure out how many votes each allocated transportation dollar is going to buy them on election day. Ask them to choose between a futuristic, environmentally-responsible alternative that will make a few hundred thousand voters happy every day, or a collection of freeway projects that will make ten million voters happy every day, and the freeway projects will win, hands down every time. In a democracy, votes are the only currency elected officials care about, and every decision they make is going to be driven by which alternative will win them the most new votes and lose them the fewest existing ones.

Before HSR will ever exist in the US, it has to have a large, visible constituency of voters who'll use it, use it often, and who bend over backwards to make it known to the elected officials in charge of spending money. Right now, that constituency doesn't exist. 110mph trains now are the seed that will someday grow into it.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 06:00 AM   #291
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The United States ******* sucks when it comes to passenger rail.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 06:37 AM   #292
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
It's purely a matter of cost vs benefit. In this case, the benefit (to politicians) is votes from people who are happy because they see their tax dollars spent on things that are of direct, personal daily benefit to them. Nobody bitches about roads being "subsidized", because the vast majority of taxpayers use them multiple times every single day. $10 billion spent on a HSR line used by a few hundred thousand passengers per day is $10 billion likely NOT spent on a dozen road projects that would have been used by several million taxpayers every day. In elected-official-economics, roads are "profitable" (vote-getting). HSR isn't.

It's not strictly zero-sum, nor does one have to overwhelmingly defeat the other... but at the end of the day, a rail proposal whose cost per daily voter is at worst double that of competing proposals for limited transportation funds is going to be a lot more likely to make it into reality than one that will cost ten or twenty times as much (per daily taxpaying user) as competing proposals. 110mph is cheap enough to squeeze by and get past elected officials. In most places, 150+ mph isn't, and will be stopped dead in its tracks before it sees the light of day outside of a committee meeting.

That's the harsh reality of rail in America. Elected officials, and voters, could give a flying f**k whether or not it's "competitive" with other countries. They want to see dollar figures and ridership projections, so they can figure out how many votes each allocated transportation dollar is going to buy them on election day. Ask them to choose between a futuristic, environmentally-responsible alternative that will make a few hundred thousand voters happy every day, or a collection of freeway projects that will make ten million voters happy every day, and the freeway projects will win, hands down every time. In a democracy, votes are the only currency elected officials care about, and every decision they make is going to be driven by which alternative will win them the most new votes and lose them the fewest existing ones.
Well reading today's newspaper concerning the present conference held in Bali to curve carbon emissions, US may have to curve her ferocious appetite
for personal transportation since it looks as if PRC will also be signing in to the Post Kyoto Protocol carbon emission deduction program.

With world pressure and a face to save it's going to be difficult to say no again.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 07:35 AM   #293
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You know what you're talking about, very sad indeed..... most people couldn't give a flying "fk", but maybe that will change when congestion on the hwys/airports gets worse in places like JFK, LAX. If the economy goes south and america begins to loose its status as a world power something drastic will have to be done to regain foreign investment and to compete with new asian powers who are all investing in high speed transport solutions.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 09:16 AM   #294
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
In a democracy, votes are the only currency elected officials care about, and every decision they make is going to be driven by which alternative will win them the most new votes and lose them the fewest existing ones.
Not so sure about this one. Seems that the freight rail industry and auto industry seem to be able to use that other currency really well...
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Old December 4th, 2007, 09:48 AM   #295
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicagoago View Post
Basically we drive everywhere you can get to in a couple hours, and fly everywhere else. Just the way it's done here....rail is a hard sell.

Most people I know fly everywhere. in 2005 the stats for the USA were:

Passengers flown: 745,700,000

Total flights: 11,000,000

The average distance flown by passengers in 2005 was a little less than 1,700 KM.
EU flights per year is also >700M, although that's not as much per capita. Rail is >350 billion passenger-kms.

Air
Rail
(2005)

I think conditions in Europe are much more in favour of HSR than they are in the US. Europe simply needs to have all the different modes of transport. If we had done it the American way, we would have had to pave half the continent with motorways and airports. Yes, a bit of an exaggeration, but not that far from the truth.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 09:51 AM   #296
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ADCS View Post
Not so sure about this one. Seems that the freight rail industry and auto industry seem to be able to use that other currency really well...
And you can always tell the voters you'll do one thing and then go do the exact opposite when they elect you Just remember to repeat the lies when it's election time again..
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Old December 4th, 2007, 08:54 PM   #297
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Oh, I was thinking about the super-fast ACELA... LOL
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Old December 4th, 2007, 09:03 PM   #298
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LOL. The Acela is not High-speed.

As for the Southeast HSR whatever, hey...it's easier to walk gradually instead of rushing. If the demand for faster speeds comes, then it would be easier to incorporate it later. It's a step in the right direction.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 11:55 PM   #299
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when California does high speed rail then the rest of the country will follow suit with it
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Old December 5th, 2007, 12:26 AM   #300
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That all depends on whether or not California does it. Remember, the state is $10 billion in debt. It will be a very tough sell unless the state stops resting on its laurels and gets the budget fixed. The system is expected to pay for itself. How is it in other countries. Does it operate at a loss? If so, how much per year?
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