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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%
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 02:51 PM   #3481
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The problem with your reasoning is two-fold:

(1) US is far less densely populated than Poland. It is one of the LEAST populated countries on Earth, indeed.

(2) Even if you paid nothing for your annual transportation card, that would obviously not cover the costs of the service, which would then have to be paid by taxes collected on all people. Somebody is paying taxes to fund your heavy use of the transportation system if it is "so cheap".

Finally, I severely dispute the assertion that public transport is convenient to go anywhere. I bet more than 70% of the land area of your country (you know, a country is not only limited to cities) is inaccessible in a fast manner by transit. Covering even 20% of US land area with convenient and fast transit is yet a more absurd proposition (light rail Anchorage-Fairbanks-Prudhoe Bay anyone?).
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 03:43 PM   #3482
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But we've all been over this many times before. Yes, the U.S. as a whole is not at all densely populated. However, if you exclude the portion of the country between the Mississippi River and the west coast (and Alaska) it's about as densely populated as western Europe, where the high speed rail system thrives. And just like western Europe, even within that area, there are regions in which most of the population lives that are perfectly suited to HSR, like the NEC, Piedmont corridor, Chicago Hub, the area from Portland, OR to Seattle to Vancouver, the state of California as a whole, etc. If you're going to complain about the manner in which public transportation is paid for even by those who don't use it, ask anyone in New York City how they feel about the NY State Thruway system and the costs it imposes on the state's transportatio budget.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 04:18 PM   #3483
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Swordsman View Post
The faster the speed, the more changes it will require. Most of Amtrak's high speed projects (sponsored by state governments) simply consist of replacing wooden ties with concrete sleepers, improving gate crossings, and increase superelevation. These (moderate) improvements bring operational speeds up to 100mph, and has proved to be effective.

However, if they are going for true HSR (150+mph), current infrastructure simply isn't up to par. You just have to build a completely new system (or at most have a blended approach near cities like CA's).

It's slowly happening already. A few years back, Amtrak's share in the NEC competition with air traffic was 46%. This year, thanks to the TSA and price hikes, the train now has 75%. The NEC is the only line in the USA that works because 1. Trains are fast enough to compete with airlines. 2. They are substantially cheaper. 3. They are way more comfortable and convenient.
I guess that's my issue. I feel as if they're jumping the gun...I get that HSR will require new infrastructure, but I just believe it makes more sense to improve (and in many cases) restore links to the rest of the network as a short term goal (to increase ridership and give people a "stake" in rail services) while focusing the first HSR upgrades in the NEC. The rest of the country isn't as dense as the NE, true, but I think the real point is the frequency of intercity travel in that area. For instance,

I live
144mi (3 hour drive) from New Orleans
258mi (4 hour drive) from Birmingham
329mi (5 hour drive) from Atlanta
400mi (7 hour drive) from Memphis
446mi (7 hour drive) from Nashville
468mi (8 hour drive) from Houston * comparable to 448mi (8 hour drive) from Boston-D.C.

680mi (11 hour drive) from St Louis
733mi (12 hour drive) from Indianapolis
900mi (15 hour drive) from Chicago

However, I rarely go to Chicago or St. Louis...Actually, I've never gone (the long drive/airfare is probably why). Maybe the only city I frequent is Atlanta. You could halve ALL of those travel times, with ticket fares half of what it would be to fly, yet I would still only ever visit Chicago once in a while for tourism.

This is why I think Amtrack should focus, at the very least, on profitable inter-city corridors. For example, my city is about 250,000 people (about 500,000 total in the MSA), yet a reasonable connection to Houston via New Orleans and Atlanta via Birmingham would be profitable. In other words, enough people would travel between the cities in question.

To be honest, I think there are very few inter-regional corridors where a HSR line would be highly profitable (revenue exceeds maintenance) and those areas are places, based only on what I have observed, like the NEC and the Midwest (Great Lakes region). I don't necessarily need to be able to travel to Atlanta at 200mi per hour. Though, I think 100mph is the bare minimum, which is pushing (I'm certain it's probably beyond) the limits of the current stock.

a 100mph train would get me to Atlanta in 3h30min + wait times and other stops (so I guess we could say 4h)

In the long term, trains around 150mph would get me to Atlanta in 2h (2h 30min with the wait times factored in). A 220mph high speed train from Atlanta to Chicago would take 3h30min (again, let's just assume 4h). In other words, my city to Chicago via Atlanta in 6h30min. That's less than half the time via car. And though it's longer than it would take by plane (4h30min), it would inevitably be cheaper (round trip airfare of about $430-500).

From what I can muster, the best strategy is to facilitate inter-region travel into regional hubs and have HSR play the role of intra-regional travel via these hubs - possibly through other large cities along the path


(i.e. take advantage of existing travel patterns and exploit them)

I guess my overall point is that there are parts of Amtracks network that can't be made profitable at this point in time, but there are large segments of it (which I believe to be the greater majority) that could, at the very least, not run at a deficit. I think an approach in which they did these things in the short term while simultaneously focusing on HSR improvements in the NEC and a long term goal of connecting these improved corridors would make more sense.

I just think the talk of HSR leaves out the role of "fast" [slower] trains...both are an essential part of a functioning network.

*Then again, I keep coming up against the role that the freight companies play in this...I've been searching for a map comparing the nationally owned rail vs. the privately owned rail...Until I see this, it's all just an exercise in critical thinking really.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 04:18 PM   #3484
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The argument seskelemat was making is that the intercontinental Amtrak routes are a good thing that should be expanded to provide national access. It is a mentality that dominates many people in regard of rail transport in North America: having some service, any service, at 500 stations (no matter how slow, crap, costly, unreliable and/or useless) is more important than investing money where high-speed rail can be more efficiently deployed and abandoning this leisure rides through the Rockies or along the Pacific Coast.

A handful of isolated systems such as CAHSR, the NEC, the Texas Triangle/Y and the Chicago hub could be indeed good propositions. Some of them (Texas and Chicago hub) even have favorable terrain and lots of farmland to be built over.

However, there is this vision that if you can't take a high speed in Bangor, Maine and arrive in San Diego, California, then US high-speed rail infrastructure would still be "inadequate".

Using existing infrastructure has a major hurdle: freight railways. It is not exactly a hurdle but an unintended consequence of their success: they have their lines busy and optimized for freight traffic (which is slower, usually not timetabled and allows for a downgrade of track quality to drastically reduce maintenance costs). The fees freight railways are demanding in tentative studies for low-speed traditional trains (up to 79 mph) are becoming extremely high or, in some cases, the railways don't have spare capacity anymore.

Two examples: CSX wanted US$ 680 millions from Amtrak to allow it restore service on the New Orleans-Jacksonville sector (Sunset Limited), as the 2005 hurricanes damaged the tracks and CSX opted for repairing them on the cheap for low speed freight (which is perfectly legal in US given its complete ownership and control of tracks). A committee that was drawing studies for a Salt Lake City - Denver and some extension Denver - Casper got a hefty estimation from UP on the order of US$ 400 million for upgrades, new passing loops and other structures, as the route is busy with West Coast - central US freight trains.

Even in sectors where some rail tracks are seldom used for freight, there are liability issues. That affected some plans for one of the "improved" lines out of Chicago, I don't remember exactly all. Fact is: a single major passenger train crash happening as a result of a collision with a nearby freight train on a separate track within the same ROW can easily bring up a billion-magnitude lawsuit, and freight railway's CFO should be rightfully aware of that and demand insurance policies.

It is not exactly high-speed rail, but hefty insurance policies of US$ 800 million is what essentially killed the rebirth of Ski Train in Colorado, for instance, even when the business case for the rest of the project was sound. Insurers demanded high premiums and the Ski Train couldn't possibly pay them.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 04:41 PM   #3485
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
The argument seskelemat was making is that the intercontinental Amtrak routes are a good thing that should be expanded to provide national access. It is a mentality that dominates many people in regard of rail transport in North America: having some service, any service, at 500 stations (no matter how slow, crap, costly, unreliable and/or useless) is more important than investing money where high-speed rail can be more efficiently deployed and abandoning this leisure rides through the Rockies or along the Pacific Coast.
I hope you are not serious that the mere 1 billion per year in help for Amtrak could build a high-speed rail in the USA =D This just goes beyond ridiculous.

From wikipedia: In the last year of 2010, China committed investment of CN¥709.1 billion (US$107.9 billion) in railway construction.

So the operational help is less then 1% of the chinese railway building.

Please ... the tiny operational help for Amtrak is not at all the cause for lack of High Speed investment. You mixing completely unrelated things. I simply defended that the national rail is important, I didn't say that investing in High Speed Rail is not important. The USA should do both at the same time. Just like Spain, France, England, China, Russia, Germany, Italy, Turkey, etc, invest in *both* a national rail network and also in High Speed Rail. The High Speed Rail investment necessary for the USA should be at least 10 billions per year. And the tiny fraction of operational help for Amtrak hardly makes a difference here.

My whole point was solely: The government should not take money from Amtrak operation help. If money is necessary for high-speed rail, it can be obtained elsewhere and what is at the moment for Amtrak help is peanuts in comparison to the needed funds for HSR.
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Last edited by sekelsenmat; August 22nd, 2012 at 04:49 PM.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 04:52 PM   #3486
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The US does fund rail and high speed rail on a huge scale...in China! /flippant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
The problem with your reasoning is two-fold:

(1) US is far less densely populated than Poland. It is one of the LEAST populated countries on Earth, indeed.

(2) Even if you paid nothing for your annual transportation card, that would obviously not cover the costs of the service, which would then have to be paid by taxes collected on all people. Somebody is paying taxes to fund your heavy use of the transportation system if it is "so cheap".
(2) Again there's the argument of socialised funding of the highway network in the US, but I agree public transport funding is part of the reason why it is so cheap for Poland. But, I'd venture that if we created a hypothetical cost for public transport in Poland that matched the cost of providing the service, it would still be cheaper than buying a car and driving it about. For example, a year's unlimited travel around my city is about £300 - and that is a private bus company operating with no subsidies (and making a phat profit - best bus company in the UK btw, they even nabbed the buses.co.uk domain name long ago which shows some nous)

(1) The density argument I always feel is a little over-simplified with the US. Yes its very low density, but a high proportion of the population live in urban areas - which are dense. Perhaps not as dense as European cities, but they are laid out better with faster and more efficient roads, so I imagine if the general populace got their heads around it a $300 all year pass for unlimited travel on frequent bus services would be plausible, and without subsidy. I'd say there are other factors that will get in the way of this, its not down to density. Then there's travel between cities, and this again is not so different than in Europe, apart from there's less use in stopping in between, which frankly is only a good thing for most of the passengers. So whilst the US is more rarified, I don't think the density argument is a sufficient one. I think that other factors are important, such as the resistance to walking (culture, road/sidewalk design, etc) which is a necessary part of public transport.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 06:21 PM   #3487
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Quote:
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(2) Even if you paid nothing for your annual transportation card, that would obviously not cover the costs of the service, which would then have to be paid by taxes collected on all people. Somebody is paying taxes to fund your heavy use of the transportation system if it is "so cheap".
I could not find the raw data for Wroclaw.... but, I found good data from a city relatively similar in size and public transport: Poznan. And guess what? It has a decent operational profit in public transportation!

http://www.mpk.poznan.pl/images/stor...oczny-2011.pdf

MPK Poznan has 19 lines of light rail, and +/-40 of buses and it had an income of 370 million zl in 2011 which generated a profit of 16 million zl. It even had to pay 3,7 million zl in income tax because of the profits! So it had a final profit of 12 million zl in 2011.

It is true that this ignores 275 million zl in investments (Actually Poland only pays half of this sum, EU pays the other half) made as lost funds by the government to buy new trams, new buses and build new right of way and do modernization works, but nevertheless we can't ignore that MPK Poznan has operational profit =)

And when it comes to passenger long distance rail, PKP Intercity was also profitable in 2011, although it does not do regional rail, only long distance (stops are every 50km aprox.). So no, passenger rail is not necessarely a sinonim to deficit. I think that Amtrak has deficits in the USA because most people are living in suburbs as opposed to central/more dense locations. This mean that less people live conveniently close to the rail stations and dimishes the efficiency.

Again, of course this ignores the 5 billion in investments made in the railway infra-structure as a whole (includes both rail line modernization and station rebuilding). Of those 5 billion, the EU pays 2,5 billion, the government pays 1,8 billions and the PLK (Railway lines company) pays 0,7 billions.

So the total cost for city rail investments (140 million zl) + general railway investment (but this covers cargo too!!) 1,8 billion zl total aprox + operational deficit for regional rail of the region (aprox. 100 million zl, varies per region) = 2 billion zl (0,6 billion dollars). If we imagine that 20 million people are working from a total population of 37 millions (excluding children, unemployed, redired people, etc), the cost per tax payer is 100 zl per year = 30 dollars per year.

Oh, yes, we are destroying the wallets of car owners because we are taking from them 30 dollars per year =D
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 06:25 PM   #3488
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The problem with current Amtrak subsidies is also two-fold.

It essentially milks the NEC to pay for the "leisure routes" (some regional operations in OK and CA are a joint-venture with the states).

The routes with the lowest farebox recover ratio are, what a shocker, the transcontinental ones.

It is estimated each equivalent-trip Chicago-Los Angeles gets US$ 260 in direct subsidies from the federal government. That should be unacceptable, since none of the cities serves are isolated or without good, at least, road connections if not an Interstate and maybe complemented by a nearby airport.

So, even at current stage, it would be better if Amtrak stopped operating these long-distance routes altogether and used the money to improve the NEC. Without the long-distance routes and having shelled out the non-recovered costs of regional routes like the San Joaquin services to states concerned, Amtrak would be profitable and could issue bons to accelerate even more its investments on NEC. Even a one-time US$ 20 billion bond issue (against future revenue) would do wonders to improve the situation on the NEC.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 06:30 PM   #3489
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sekelsenmat View Post
And when it comes to passenger long distance rail, PKP Intercity was also profitable in 2011. So no, passenger rail is not necessarely a sinonim to deficit. I think that Amtrak has deficits in the USA because most people are living in suburbs as opposed to central/more dense locations. This mean that less people live conveniently close to the rail stations and dimishes the efficiency.
Trains in US are SLOW outside the NEC. Slower than driving. And Poland, which is off topic here, is only now catching up with highway construction though it has been impressive on that front.

Seriously, take a look at Amtrak schedules and look how long does train takes between cities.

Also, 1-per-day services are not a good proposition for shorter distances (and longer distances are best traveled flying).
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 07:53 PM   #3490
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Quote:
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we can't ignore that MPK Poznan has operational profit =)
You're kidding, right?
MPK Poznań is only a carrier company. The service is paid for by the city of Poznań, in part by ticket revenues. The city (it's department called ZTM) issues tickets, which are an income of the city, like taxes. ZTM pays to MPK for providing certain level of service, defined in a long-term agreement. The MPK's profit can't tell you anything about ticket sales an profitabilty of the whole thing.

Quote:
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And when it comes to passenger long distance rail, PKP Intercity was also profitable in 2011
This is another model. PKP Intercity (the carrier company) issues tickets. But the ticket revenue does not cover the operational costs. There's an agreement with the state, that each year the company will get 240 million zł subsidy. Knowing that, the company must plan its operations (within boundaries of minimal service requirements defined by this agreement) to turn a profit.

On the other hand, railways pay the access fees for using the tracks - I suppose Amtrak also does. The difference is that tracks in Poland are state-owned, while Amtrak pays to CSX, BNSF and other private companies. Well, at least in case of Poland, the state has means to force the track quality suitable for passenger operations at 75 to 100 mph...


Yes. it all seems totally offtopic - sorry. But it's to say that public transportation of decent quality requires subsidies. The subsidies are not that much, considering that part (if not all) of that subsidy goes to maintaining the infrastracture (railways pay for using the track, while private cars don't pay for using the road) - but that's another issue. debated in this thread many times.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 07:57 PM   #3491
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Amtrak owns most of the NEC.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 08:10 PM   #3492
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Sure, but:
1) It doesn't own other thousands of miles it operates on. I assume Amtrak pays for using them then.
2) Owning the track means maintaining it. And paying for that.
So it doesn't really matter. They pay for the infrastructure either way.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 09:43 PM   #3493
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Any under construction?
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 09:56 PM   #3494
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Quote:
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You're kidding, right?
MPK Poznań is only a carrier company. The service is paid for by the city of Poznań, in part by ticket revenues. The city (it's department called ZTM) issues tickets, which are an income of the city, like taxes. ZTM pays to MPK for providing certain level of service, defined in a long-term agreement. The MPK's profit can't tell you anything about ticket sales an profitabilty of the whole thing.
You are wrong. Read the Raport Roczny. It clearly states the amount of money from tickets and that is not income to the city, it is income to the company. Read the city budget and you will not find that amount there. I have never heard of a system like that in which tickets would go directly to the city budget. Please make sure you read the related budgets before saying that I am kidding. And yes, the income of tickets+financial income (no idea what they ment, looks like they have some cash in the bank giving interrest) *does* cover the operational costs.

And about PKP Intercity, it was profitable up to now this year. Maybe you are not updated, or maybe this money is help to buy trains. But all articles I can find claim it is profitable in 2012.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 10:03 PM   #3495
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Any under construction?
HSR in the USA? No. Nothing is being constructed at the moment. That's why we talk so much about other stuff =D
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 10:13 PM   #3496
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Sure, but:
1) It doesn't own other thousands of miles it operates on. I assume Amtrak pays for using them then.
2) Owning the track means maintaining it. And paying for that.
So it doesn't really matter. They pay for the infrastructure either way.
It depends.

Freight railways optimize their tracks for freight, which renders them less suitable for passenger service, whereas many European infrastructure operatores are not cargo-friendly and thus don't allow common things in US like 1.5 mile-long trains, ultra-heavy coal trains etc.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 10:30 PM   #3497
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Read the Raport Roczny. It clearly states the amount of money from tickets
Where? "net revenues from sales and equivalent" is supposed to be ticket sales iyo? Bzzzz.... wrong.

EOT. If you want to continue this offtopic -> PM.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 11:11 PM   #3498
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Here's another good read. The info-graphics are especially useful.
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 11:36 PM   #3499
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Old August 27th, 2012, 10:34 PM   #3500
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