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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 21st, 2009, 08:46 AM   #981
mattec
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Here's a good article:

http://newsroanoke.com/?p=3191

Passenger Rail for Roanoke is Too Costly, Used by Too Few

Earlier this month, a representative from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation was in Roanoke to discuss the possibility of passenger rail for the Roanoke Valley. I know lots of well-intentioned people like the idea of rail service connecting the valley to other Virginia cities and Washington (I was one of them once), but a look at the facts shows it’s not necessarily a good idea. Ample research shows that rail is entirely too expensive for taxpayers to shuttle around the few who would use it, and rail is not the panacea for traffic congestion, high gas prices, and “greenhouse gas” emissions.


Using data published by the U.S. departments of Transportation, Energy, and Commerce, the American Dream Coalition (ADC) – along with renowned transportation expert Randal O’Toole – has debunked many of the overstated claims we are hearing about passenger rail.

We are often told that rail is a more affordable alternative to cars. But in fact, to make rail ticket prices at all competitive with driving, we taxpayers must heavily subsidize them. According to the ADC study, in per passenger mile comparisons, taking all costs – including taxpayer subsidies – in to consideration, auto travel costs about 23 cents per mile, while Amtrak is 56 cents per mile, and bus is 85 cents!

The cost for linking Roanoke to Lynchburg is estimated to be $117 million by the time it may happen in 2015. As with any other construction project – especially a government project which will be fraught with typical governmental delays and estimating errors – add at least 50% to that number (bringing it to $175 million). Add to that an annual operational subsidy from taxpayers in the millions, because the revenue generated from ticket sales won’t ever cover the cost of fuel and maintenance of the trains and tracks (the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation acknowledges this).

While we often think of rail as convenient and affordable, the reality is that many people can’t use it. This is because the train schedules don’t fit their schedules, the trains don’t go to the destinations they want, or the people need cars when they get to their destinations, and the cost of a train ticket plus rental car is higher than the cost and convenience of driving. So, in the end, a very small percentage of the population actually uses rail where it is available. All taxpayers end up subsidizing rail travel for a few.

It would be cheaper just to buy a fleet of limousines and pay chauffeurs to drive those rail travelers to their destinations. If taxpayers wouldn’t approve of paying to shuttle people around in limos, then why on earth should they approve of the more expensive option of rail?

What about energy savings? Per passenger mile, rail uses only slightly less energy than cars. So the conservation with rail is minimal; and if you’re driving a hybrid car, you’ve got rail beat.

Can passenger rail cut greenhouse gas emissions? I don’t even like this question, because in my previous columns, I pointed to research which shows that “greenhouse gases” emitted by human activity have a negligible effect on the environment (remember that it’s the cycles of the sun which have the greatest effect on our global temperature changes). But, I’ll answer the question anyway. Most public transit emits as much carbon dioxide per passenger mile as driving cars, especially when you include the gases emitted during the construction of the transit system. However, again, no mode produces less CO2 than hybrid cars.

Won’t rail cut traffic congestion? The ADC report shows that people tend to choose cars over other forms of transportation, even when gas prices were as high as four dollars a gallon. This is again because most transit systems, except in the largest cities, “cannot take people where they want to go, when they want to go there.” Even in Europe, where we think mass transit is used significantly more, Europeans drive for about 79% of their travel (compared to Americans 85%).

So, if studies are showing that passenger rail isn’t more efficient, isn’t more earth-friendly, doesn’t really slow congestion, AND will cost you and me hundreds of millions of dollars, why would we think that it’s a good investment for the valley?

By Brian Gottstein
[email protected]
You can see the full report, “Rails Won’t Save America,” on the ADC website at www.AmericanDreamCoalition.org.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:15 AM   #982
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^ Errr, what's your point of bringing up that up, it just reiterates the usual weak talking points that don't hold much water in reality. "It's expensive", "we live in a big country", yeah...is he even a transportation expert or does he know about the massive subsidization that the highways get? I noticed that the author is a libertarian, btw, obviously he wouldn't support anything like this anyway because they hate anything that deals with government.

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Originally Posted by Onn View Post
Well that's great, but how much of the interstate highway system is really made up of bridges? They are mostly in rural areas where no one lives and the amount stress that would take to crack them doesn't come close. We could certainly afford HSR, Obama had an opportunity to do that. He didn't, so it leads me to believe he thinks we don't need it. And I back his point of view. I think you guys are a little crazy, the system still got plenty of juice left. I don’t know about Cali, but in Texas there has been a lot of expanding of highways and the like.
We're crazy...? I hope you know that congestion and questions about the future highway system are some of the most talked about subjects in the transportation field. This is not a fringe topic by any means...I did my college thesis on the subject actually.

Bridges are an integral part of the highway system regardless. It doesn't matter how much of a percentage that they are of the entire network. Even in Texas, officials are pondering about improving rail and putting HSR while doing those highway plans.

Quote:
Same EXACT thing in China! Expect we don't have as many people...yet. I agree rail travel in many places is needed, by I'm not set on high-speed. And I don't necessarily think the federal government has to play as big of a role of in doing it as you seem to suggest. All of California’s mass transit that has been built recently (subways, computer rails, and HSR) have all been funded by the state. Now I get that that state's bankrupt, but that just means they took off more than they could chew too quickly.
I never suggested that the federal government has to play the biggest role, but they have the biggest resources so they will ultimately play an influential role regardless of the circumstances. If the state and even private companies can do the job, good.

Quote:
I don't know, I think if you went back in time you would have found it was the same back then. The major established metro areas around the country have been established for a long time now, it's not like traffic jams are something new to the country. Yes, there probably is a better way of doing it, for some. I can't say rail travel would be good for everyone, it depends where you live. Trains aren't going to go rolling through massive sub divisions, which are very common here in the Midwest.
I was speaking from a Northeastern perspective. We already have the infrastructure, it needs updating, but it exists. If you guys in the Midwest want to stick to cars and highways, go ahead, at least there the congestion is not as bad. In Connecticut and other East Coast states, they are not as lucky to just dismiss it, they have no choice.


Quote:
But I think you would find it the same 30 years ago, I'm not sure anything has changed. I'm not sure how worse it's gotten. Yes the Northeast has a big problem, I've heard Washington DC is a huge mess now because it wasn't built to handle as many people as it has today.
The same problems have existed back then and all the government did was twiddle their thumbs and now it's worse. There are millions more people and millions more cars on the road, and it will continue to be like that. If you can't see that as a problem, I don't know what to say.


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Originally Posted by Onn View Post
The future is air travel, not ground travel. People don't get it. Diversified transportation is nothing more than a fad of the beginning of the 21st century. There's a reason street cars were rejected the first time around. People want something that works. The problem is the technology is not their yet, at least not outside the furthest reaches of the military and NASA. The advantage of air travel is that air is free, it doesn’t cost anything to maintain. And as long as oil continues to be cheaper than high-speed rail, I see no reason to change. We should milk it for all its worth while we can, and I'd say another 40 years is not out of the question for much of the US. Eventually the baton will be passed to something else however, and it will almost certainly originate in the US, not the tight confines of Asian and European cities. There could be easier ways to go from state to state without planes or high-speed rail.
Air travel is not feasible for the East Coast cities which are close enough that going to the airport and dealing with checkout/security actually adds time to travel. Most people don't go on a plane between New York to Boston. They either drive, go on Acela, or take the many bus options out there.

Either way, that is more of a long-distance thing you are referring to. For commutes and smaller distance traveling between cities, ground transportation that is a mix of private and public transportation is the key, with the infrastructure that can adequately support it. The plane's evolution never was in opposition to ground transport, although it ruined cross country rail services.

Last edited by Xusein; December 21st, 2009 at 09:20 AM.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 02:56 PM   #983
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I think the cost issue of HSR will be smaller in the future because gas/oil prices cannot stay it the low level that they are now. The economies of China and India are still growing and there demand for oil is still going up. If we add to this that the rest of the developed world will also demand more oil as there economies recover it is clear that cheap gas is a thing of the past. HSR can bring relief on those medium distance routes where it is more viable than airplanes.

Also on the matter of government involvement, I have never understood why Americans are so allergic to any form of government involvement in rail travel for example. you don't ask airlines to build there own infrastructure and you don't ask greyhound companies to build there own highways so why rail.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 03:41 PM   #984
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Originally Posted by Ranor View Post
Also on the matter of government involvement, I have never understood why Americans are so allergic to any form of government involvement in rail travel for example. you don't ask airlines to build there own infrastructure and you don't ask greyhound companies to build there own highways so why rail.
UGH, one last time. We who are "allergic" are allergic because they screw up everything they touch. Libertarians like myself and the guy who wrote that edictorial shown above do not want this Government to spend money it does not have. It has nothing to do with rail specifically, it has to do with the fact that our beloved Government (BOTH PARTIES) is bankrupting this great nation and it seems that very few of us care. We don't hate the Government, but we also don't trust it to do the right thing. Right now the US Government is destroying this nation. Not Wall Street, not terrorists, not any of the usual suspects, the US Government.

You Euros do not have the same view of strong central government that we do. Who is right? Who knows? The point is that our Government is spending something on the order of 1.4 TRILLION dollars more than it is taking in. I'll bet you folks in France can't say that. It is criminal but no one cares as long as they get some (see Sens Ben Nelson and Mary Landreau and their yes votes on the health care issue). How long can that be sustained? Every President since Reagan has said we need to stop spending money we don't have, but no one ever does. We have a terrific infrastructure here that is in the middle stages of crumbling. If we have the money to spend on infrastructure we need to spend it on rehabilitating what we have, not on starting over again.

The left will say, raise taxes. Oh they don't want thier taxes raised, just on the evil rich. Fine, but that is counterproductive. You raise revenues on the short term but you take the economy down the toilet by taking money out of the system. The right says lower taxes. That actually works better since every time it has been tried tax revenues actually went up after two years or so. But that only helps the big picture if Congress can stop its spending spree and they can't.

HSR rail is an awesome concerpt, but don't confuse opposition of it to be opposition of passenger rail. Most of the opposition is based on the fact that we just can't afford it and that this Government will screw it up.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:30 PM   #985
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Wow , you certain don't want this , I do. Traffic is a Nitemare in the Northeastern , and Airports are overcrowded. ONN you don't live here , you probably live somewhere Rural. During this recent Snowstorm the only thing that was moving slightly was Amtrak , The Airliners & Roads were clogged & Shut down. The Northeast ins't building anymore HSR lines but were building like i said High Speed Commuter Lines. Lackawanna Cutoff Restoration , Connect NYC-Scranton PA , expected to be used by 30-50,000 people daily , it will be electric , top speed 130 on straight sections. CT is building a Central Corridor to relive traffic on I-91 : New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line, for now its a diesel start up , with Electrification a few years after. about 20-40,000 expected to use this line. Electrification of the Downeaster : Boston-Portland,ME. bringing speeds up to 110 aswell and adding a commuter service , as an alt to Amtrak. 10-20,000 expected to use this. Theres also plans and funding to restore some old SEPTA lines , Norristown-Reading to re leave Traffic on US 422 & Dolyestown-Bethlehem to provide a safer and less Congestion trip to the New Casinos and Retail space. 12,000 expected to use this daily. ONN you see we like Transit in the Northeast. Next year a projects will open, further reliving stress on the Road. Need i say more , and Harrisburg is adding Passenger Service along the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg-Lancaster. The other Day when we got hit by that Snowstorm some of the Domestic Airliners allowed passengers to exchange there tickets for Amtrak. So ONN get you facts straight and come here to see how things work in a more Transit Friendly environment. Did i mention that close to 2.4 million New Jerseyites use Transit Each Day.

Here's some Videos

Amtrak's pass a NJT Train at Edison Station along the Northeast Corridor



Amtrak Acela's at Kingston,RI





Hamilton,NJ NJT / Amtrak




Princeton JCT,NJ NJT/ Amtrak





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Old December 21st, 2009, 08:32 PM   #986
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Originally Posted by Onn View Post
The future is air travel, not ground travel. People don't get it. Diversified transportation is nothing more than a fad of the beginning of the 21st century. There's a reason street cars were rejected the first time around. People want something that works. The problem is the technology is not their yet, at least not outside the furthest reaches of the military and NASA. The advantage of air travel is that air is free, it doesn’t cost anything to maintain.
A pretty naive view of the world.

First of all, while air is for free, airports are not. In aviation the infrastructure costs are simply more concentrated in one area rather than spread along a track. The rest of the difference is easily made up by higher energy consumption, as the planes have to climb several km each time they fly and have to be kept in the air as well and then the turbines used today are not the most efficient thing on earth either. But most importantly, capacity of air travel is quite limited.

Every wondered why HSR shows to be highly competitive on distances of around or below 1000 km? London-Paris, only masochists still fly between both capitals. Paris-Lyon-Marseilles? Whats the most likely choice of transportation? Madrid-Barcelona or Madrid-Malaga? What would you take?

On the route Paris-Lyon they even have to use double decker TGVs on a regular basis with 1100 seats per double traction. 4 Trains are running per hour on this connection. ... and now show me how airports would have to look like to cope with such capacities and not as total capacity, thats just the capacity of one route departing from Paris.


Having that said, aviation makes perfectly sense, for distances larger than lets say 1500 km, airports will struggle to cope with the capacities needed for that alone, its pretty stupid to clog them with shorter routes.

Quote:
And as long as oil continues to be cheaper than high-speed rail, I see no reason to change.
That sentence makes absolutely no sense. You compare the price of a resource with the costs of a service. The costs of aviation are a bit more than just fuel as well.


PS: There is a reason street cars got rejected? Continuing your logic I simply claim, there is a reason why light rail is on the rise.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:26 PM   #987
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Originally Posted by Xusein View Post
We're crazy...? I hope you know that congestion and questions about the future highway system are some of the most talked about subjects in the transportation field. This is not a fringe topic by any means...I did my college thesis on the subject actually.

Bridges are an integral part of the highway system regardless. It doesn't matter how much of a percentage that they are of the entire network. Even in Texas, officials are pondering about improving rail and putting HSR while doing those highway plans.
I think it's very much a fringe topic here, the only people talking about the kind of projects you are here is the governor herself. And frankly we don't need it. Again, it depends where you are. You seem to think most people in the country live somewhere like you do. That's not true. Maybe in the Northeast rail is heavily needed, but the majority of the country is not the Northeast. There's plenty of space in much of the country for freeway construction, and the ONLY place that is even remotely experiences traffic jams is the inner most city. I live in one of the largest metro areas in the country, and I can tell you all these different kinds of transportation are not needed here. The freeways are generally empty at it is. No way in heck trains would profitable outside the metro area.

If bridges are out in the middle of nowhere where few cars use them, how can that be considered "integral" to the system?? Most of interstate highways don't get much traffic at all. Maybe you need to travel the country a little more. Most interstate highway bridges are not in large cities, they're in the middle of nowhere.

I can see where you’re coming from if your solely talking about the Northeast, I'm sure there are major issues in that region. But the most progressive cities today are not in the northeast, neither is the new money. You’re complaining about how bad things are, but the rest of America is not necessarily that way. Oil still works here, there's no reason to change right now. And at the current pace it will still be that way decades from now.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:36 PM   #988
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A pretty naive view of the world.

First of all, while air is for free, airports are not. In aviation the infrastructure costs are simply more concentrated in one area rather than spread along a track. The rest of the difference is easily made up by higher energy consumption, as the planes have to climb several km each time they fly and have to be kept in the air as well and then the turbines used today are not the most efficient thing on earth either. But most importantly, capacity of air travel is quite limited.
I'm not talking about planes sir, I said the technology is not on the market yet.

Quote:
Every wondered why HSR shows to be highly competitive on distances of around or below 1000 km? London-Paris, only masochists still fly between both capitals. Paris-Lyon-Marseilles? Whats the most likely choice of transportation? Madrid-Barcelona or Madrid-Malaga? What would you take?
But what if you could fly between those cites in a third of the time it takes HSR?

Quote:
On the route Paris-Lyon they even have to use double decker TGVs on a regular basis with 1100 seats per double traction. 4 Trains are running per hour on this connection. ... and now show me how airports would have to look like to cope with such capacities and not as total capacity, thats just the capacity of one route departing from Paris.
I never said anything about an airport, again. And the trains may be full, but most "large" cities here are not as large as their European counterparts, and they are spread out over larger distances.

Quote:
Having that said, aviation makes perfectly sense, for distances larger than lets say 1500 km, airports will struggle to cope with the capacities needed for that alone, its pretty stupid to clog them with shorter routes.
I'm not talking about PLANES....

Quote:
PS: There is a reason street cars got rejected? Continuing your logic I simply claim, there is a reason why light rail is on the rise.
Many large America cities had street cars in the early 20th century, and they were all taken out. Now cities are putting them back in again!
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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:37 PM   #989
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I am not getting into the mix; however, I did want to point out that at least down here in Florida there are a LOT of bridges that are a part of the interstate and highway system. These are in the city and outside of it and they range from a span of a few feet to a few miles. With that said, we also must remember that bridges and overpasses also span other roadways, not just water.

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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:40 PM   #990
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Many American cities had street cars in the early twienth century, and there were all taken out. Now there putting them back in again. I don't get it.
It is a rather well known fact that most street car networks were not removed because of in-efficiencies or that buses/roads were favored over rail. In most major cities the removal was because of the system being bought and removed in favor of buses - bought by conglomerations of tire and automotive industry heavyweights.

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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:51 PM   #991
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I think it's very much a fringe topic here, the only people talking about the kind of projects you are here is the governor herself. And frankly we don't need it. Again, it depends where you are. You seem to think most people in the country live somewhere like you do. That's not true. Maybe in the Northeast rail is heavily needed, but the majority of the country is not the Northeast. There's plenty of space in much of the country for freeway construction, and the ONLY place that is even remotely experiences traffic jams is the inner most city. I live in one of the largest metro areas in the country, and I can tell you all these different kinds of transportation are not needed here. The freeways are generally empty at it is. No way in heck trains would profitable outside the metro area.

If bridges are out in the middle of nowhere where few cars use them, how can that be considered "integral" to the system?? Most of interstate highways don't get much traffic at all. Maybe you need to travel the country a little more. Most interstate highway bridges are not in large cities, they're in the middle of nowhere.

I can see where you’re coming from if your solely talking about the Northeast, I'm sure there are major issues in that region. But the most progressive cities today are not in the northeast, neither is the new money. You’re complaining about how bad things are, but the rest of America is not necessarily that way. Oil still works here, there's no reason to change right now. And at the current pace it will still be that way decades from now.
Well, okay then. I really don't think I can really add much to what you are saying because I don't think you understand the situation really. There is an entire field devoted to these situations. I will tell you this though, it definitely is no fringe topic for the people "in the know".
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Old December 21st, 2009, 10:52 PM   #992
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Onn how old are you? I'm just wondering, Oil ins't going to be around for ever. We might as well start rebuilding our Rail service now, becuz when it goes up again , next year with the economy your going to be screaming wheres my other options. Streetcars and Light Rail are Alt to construction Metros and they are cheaper , they also attract New Development and rise property Prices , you seem to be lost in an old generation. The Midwest is = to the Northeast , many of there cities are building or have a Railway system. Maybe you research things before you , point out old facts about High Speed Rail vs. Plane. High Speed Rail is needed in the Midwest , Northwest , and Texas....with California later. Since they have to build a Earthquake safe system. Onn how many cities have you actually been to , with a Great Transit Network, those cities are usually nicer , then the major cities without. Portland,Or has one the nicest modern Systems , you should go there and check it out. So does St. Louis , Dallas , Minneapolis , and many other cities out side the NE. So go visit them and try to understand our view on life. Also check Real estate developments. along the routes & in surrounding neighborhood, they always flock to the areas with Rail & Metro routes the most. Crime is also lower in many areas where Transit cuts through , at least thats the case in the NE.

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Old December 22nd, 2009, 01:30 PM   #993
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Use ethanol from efficient sources, there is plenty of potential for very efficient ethanol-crops like palm tree or sugar cane in Africa and South America.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 07:07 PM   #994
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Onn how old are you? I'm just wondering, Oil ins't going to be around for ever. We might as well start rebuilding our Rail service now, becuz when it goes up again , next year with the economy your going to be screaming wheres my other options. Streetcars and Light Rail are Alt to construction Metros and they are cheaper , they also attract New Development and rise property Prices , you seem to be lost in an old generation. The Midwest is = to the Northeast , many of there cities are building or have a Railway system. Maybe you research things before you , point out old facts about High Speed Rail vs. Plane. High Speed Rail is needed in the Midwest , Northwest , and Texas....with California later. Since they have to build a Earthquake safe system. Onn how many cities have you actually been to , with a Great Transit Network, those cities are usually nicer , then the major cities without. Portland,Or has one the nicest modern Systems , you should go there and check it out. So does St. Louis , Dallas , Minneapolis , and many other cities out side the NE. So go visit them and try to understand our view on life. Also check Real estate developments. along the routes & in surrounding neighborhood, they always flock to the areas with Rail & Metro routes the most. Crime is also lower in many areas where Transit cuts through , at least thats the case in the NE.
I live here sir, I think I know what's needed and not.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 07:53 PM   #995
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Use ethanol from efficient sources, there is plenty of potential for very efficient ethanol-crops like palm tree or sugar cane in Africa and South America.
For what? How does this comment fit what's being discussed here?
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 10:33 PM   #996
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To undermine the argument that HSR would be a "necessity" because the "oil age" would be "over".
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 10:55 PM   #997
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"Necessities for future high speed rolling stock"
http://www.vialibre-ffe.com/PDF/4620_Naoto2009.pdf
contains a table with all high speed trains in the world.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 11:12 PM   #998
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Whereas ethanol can be produced to replace gasoline as car fuel, it's not a long-lasting solution. For starters, ethanol-powered vehicles are about 30% less fuel-efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles. If your car gets 30 mpg hwy running on gas, it'd get only 21 mpg hwy on ethanol.

It's not worth it to fuel your car with ethanol in the US because it's just a little cheaper and much less efficient. Besides, it doesn't help to cut emissions to reduce air pollution. There's a whole lot of arguments saying that ethanol is just a temporary solution for several reasons.

I see intercity rail travel as a necessity much more due to the lack of an alternative for travelers who don't want to drive, take the greyhound or hop in an airplane and also to help reduce emissions.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 05:41 AM   #999
dl3000
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Switch grass is the most productive ethanol maker. If they could break down cellulose then youd have an efficient biofuel because all plant waste could be fuel. Making ethanol takes too much water and land.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 05:58 AM   #1000
zaphod
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Use ethanol from efficient sources, there is plenty of potential for very efficient ethanol-crops like palm tree or sugar cane in Africa and South America.
Ethanol is silly for all the energy it takes to manufacture and transport it, and the distortions it introduces into the ag commodities market.

With electric, I could plug in my car at home, not go to the ethanol station. And where I live at least in the US with deregulated utilities, I can choose who to buy power from at the lowest rate if not generate some of it in my backyard from a personal solar panel or windmills. Maybe bio and organic products will be useful for processing into new kinds of plastics and fertilizer-that will be an important step in phasing out oil.

Since this thread is about trains though-this brings up an interesing scenario. To continue to compete railroad companies will need to electrify eventually, a switch as big as the move from steam to diesel. Short lines and spurs could use battery or fuel cell locomotives but the trunk lines will need wires. It will also be a time of reckoning for the ones that rely on bulk coal, assuming that's a sunset industry.

Last edited by zaphod; December 23rd, 2009 at 06:16 AM.
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