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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 23rd, 2009, 10:36 AM   #1001
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Quote:
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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.
There is a you tube vud somewhere about an american scientist who has developed a strain of mushroom that digests the cellulose, then the mushroom can be turned into ethanol using the processes already in place. Its "6 ways mushrooms can save the planet" I think.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 12:15 PM   #1002
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To make it clear: I think HSR are cool things to have, like stack interchanges or big, long urban tunneled freeways. However, I do no agree with governments subsidizing not only the tracks and stations (which we could compare to support government give to airports and higways) but also rolling stock and daily operations. In other words, I hate the idea of government stepping in and deciding timetables, prices, fares etc. At most, govt. should build the tracks, then charge for traffic over them (if there is more demand at a given line/time, then right to traffic there should be put on bid).
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 01:07 PM   #1003
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Which is most likely to be choosed by the US; european high-speed or japanese?

I'd prefer the japanese since it's more reliable and goes faster.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 02:04 PM   #1004
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Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
To make it clear: I think HSR are cool things to have, like stack interchanges or big, long urban tunneled freeways. However, I do no agree with governments subsidizing not only the tracks and stations (which we could compare to support government give to airports and higways) but also rolling stock and daily operations. In other words, I hate the idea of government stepping in and deciding timetables, prices, fares etc. At most, govt. should build the tracks, then charge for traffic over them (if there is more demand at a given line/time, then right to traffic there should be put on bid).
First of all, they have Amtrak to decide on schedules, fares, services and products, as well as operations, so "the government" as you say wouldn't decide this kind of details. Amtrak is supported by the federal government, but it has its own management and they don't have to call "the government" each time they want to change schedules, lower or raise fares.

As you said yourself, highways and freeways receive money from government support. There are not that many tolled roads in the US, so most of the network is subsidized and nobody has to pay a penny to drive on free roads, unlike Amtrak passengers, who have to pay a fare to ride. Other than that, a company like Amtrak should favor only its costumers (or what they call "guests" now), not shareholders, because its services are of best interest of the population. The main HSR systems in Europe are government-owned or jointly-operated by two or more countries' government in the case of Thalys and Eurostar. South Korea's Korail is government-owned and Japan's JR Group is of mixed-ownership. I don't think private companies have ever started successful passenger rail services, although I could be wrong.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 03:40 PM   #1005
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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.
South America is already exploiting valuable land for ethanol production on an enormous scale. The technological state of the art as of yet means that only sugar cane is a feasible ethanol source. Having to transport it around half the globe severely limits that feasibility again however.

Fact is that energy from ethanol is in direct competition to food production. Its doubtable that one can afford to expand it even further beyond status quo.

But even if this should turn out to be no problem at all, its perfectly possible to run Rail and also high speed rail on Ethanol (ethanol power plants or directly run by ethanol, I think the former option makes more sense for a busy rail line)
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 03:46 PM   #1006
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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 interesting scenario. To continue to compete rail road 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.
While I am sceptical of ethanol or other biofuels as well, where does your neat electricity come from? From the power plug?

Electric cars are great for what they are, they are however not an energy source. The big, actually the gigantic problem ahead of us is how the hell we are going to produce the energy needed in the future. Should car traffic switch to electricity only by half, this would create a huge new additional electricity demand. Where to take it from? Build another few dozen nuclear power plants? countless wind turbines, hundreds of solar thermal power plants ...?

While the transition to electricity is intermediate form of energy makes sense, also for cars, not just for trains, it is this question of the nature of the primary energy source that will be the key problem of the future.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 04:02 PM   #1007
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I think in Calgary, AB they have an LRT line completely powered by wind (I'm not sure whether they use solar power as well or not). It could be an alternative for long distance rail travel as well, but I don't think it would be feasible to power cars (even if we're talke about half of the country's fleet), given the huge demand for electricity that would be needed to power all those cars.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 09:19 PM   #1008
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It hardly is solely powered by wind alone, as this source is far too volatile, but wind power can of course make a considerable contribution.

Otherwise I fully agree with you.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 11:34 PM   #1009
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Calgary's C-Train is powered by wind electricity generated by TransAlta in southern Alberta. It claims to have become the first emissions free LRT system in Canada.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 12:58 AM   #1010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
To make it clear: I think HSR are cool things to have, like stack interchanges or big, long urban tunneled freeways. However, I do no agree with governments subsidizing not only the tracks and stations (which we could compare to support government give to airports and higways) but also rolling stock and daily operations. In other words, I hate the idea of government stepping in and deciding timetables, prices, fares etc. At most, govt. should build the tracks, then charge for traffic over them (if there is more demand at a given line/time, then right to traffic there should be put on bid).
I agree with you on this, but with some qualifications.

I think the government should have the right to require certain service requirements. One would be last train time - often it becomes easy for a company to stop the last service and force everyone to use an earlier one. More economic perhaps but hardly for the greater good. I think things like this could be fleshed out in the detail, but a company is far better at organising the most profitable, and therefore efficient, way of doing something. But, I think it is OK for the government to specify certain things that have a wider value, such as late trains, but causes marginal effect on the bottom line. Far easier said than done of course. Here we have council-supported bus routes for unprofitable routes. They cost about the same to use, but they are unprofitable, but without them grannies can't get to the doctor and things like that. Its probably cheaper than paying for callouts by doctors and various other socially relevant stuff, and the area gets a bus service, albeit usually quite irregular. But I survived on one in my teens, pre driving licence.

Things like that I think can be worked in, and I would hope any sensible govt would keep interference to less than 5% of total operation.

Ultimately the way I see it is that rail, high speed rail, or even a drain, is just infrastructure. If it is designed by someone sensible then it will be functional and not redundent, and therefore useable. If a society cannot make this work within its normal operational boundaries, then it is a failing of the society, not the infrastructure. Build it and they will come. Surely this is the American dream? After all the railway revolution in Britain was privately funded. So was every transport revolution come to think of it until the car.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 09:10 AM   #1011
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I think a major factor in alleviating electricity demands on power plants is to decentralize its production. Advances in solar panels and the like for consumer level use will decrease the demands on the power grid on that level and permit what is saved to be used for plug in hybrids, transit, industry, etc.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 04:56 PM   #1012
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The fact remains that electricity *can* be produced in a green way and doesn't require any expenses if the source of energy is to be changed because electricity remains electricity, no matter how it was produced.

Just for that reason alone, I feel that electricity is the way to go. It's the most flexible solution of them all. Hydrogen cars would also be acceptable, but only if the hydrogen was generated using green electricity.

But I think we're getting slightly off-topic here...

Greetings,
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Old December 24th, 2009, 08:13 PM   #1013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glodenox View Post
The fact remains that electricity *can* be produced in a green way and doesn't require any expenses if the source of energy is to be changed because electricity remains electricity, no matter how it was produced.

Just for that reason alone, I feel that electricity is the way to go. It's the most flexible solution of them all. Hydrogen cars would also be acceptable, but only if the hydrogen was generated using green electricity.

But I think we're getting slightly off-topic here...

Greetings,
Glodenox
They've been producing 'green', 100% renewable electricity here in Appleton, WI since the early 1*8*80s, it is called 'hydro-electric'. OTOH, most of the places on the planet where hydro-electric power plants (AKA 'dams') can be reasonably set up have already been taken.

Mike
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Old December 25th, 2009, 07:24 AM   #1014
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I don't think private companies have ever started successful passenger rail services, although I could be wrong.
Taiwan's high speed rail was started by a private company, but wasn't able to pull through successfully, so it was taken over by the government.
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Old December 25th, 2009, 01:51 PM   #1015
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But in Taiwan, the whole project was put uner a finance project scheme: land purchase, tracks, stations, trainsets etc. And the company was on the hook for all bonds.

I envision a system like air transportation: government or public-private entities build tracks and stations. Private companies operate services. If the market is wide enough, I bet some leasing compains would appear soon, like in the air industry. Therefore, if you wanto to run a train operation, you don't need to actually buy the engines and the cars, you can just lease them.

As for late trains, weekend service etc., I still think government should not interfere as it doesn't interfere with flight schedules. Because trains have far more capilarity than air transport, and because it is relatively cheaper to build an station over an existing line instead of a new airport, government interference would open a pandora box of local constituences demands. I can barely imagine in California, for instance, a city in San Joaquin Valley demanding that the first LA - SF trais MUST stop at its station so its population wouldn't be at disvantage when looking for job opportunities in both metros and so on.

Last edited by andrelot; December 25th, 2009 at 06:09 PM.
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Old December 25th, 2009, 03:11 PM   #1016
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I don't think private companies have ever started successful passenger rail services, although I could be wrong.
Think again, Meitetsu for long distance and countless commuters rail companies in Japan are all successful, some close to being hundred years old.
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Old December 25th, 2009, 03:32 PM   #1017
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
I envision a system like air transportation: government or public-private entities build tracks and stations. Private companies operate services. If the market is wide enough, I bet some leasing compains would appear soon, like in the air industry. Therefore, if you wanto to run a train operation, you don't need to actually buy the engines and the cars, you can just lease them.
I see that you want to, but there's no way you can compare the operation of an airline with that of a passenger rail company. First of all, you have to build all the rail tracks where the trains would be running, while airplanes just fly in the air, which doesn't require additional infrastructure construction and is totally free. The only thing they have to build is airports, but rail stations are built for the same propose as airports. One may say that building an airport is very expensive and complicated, and therefore building an air system could be much more expensive than building a rail system.

However, due to the nature of each operation, building up an air system doesn't cost as much for the government or, at least, has a shorter payback period. First of all, everyone pays fees at the airport: boarding passengers pay airport fees, car rentals pay concession fees, landing aircraft pay landing fees, airlines pay fees to have access to the gates as well as rent to use their check in counters and airport retail pays rent to the airport owner, not to mention additional specific fees that do not apply to the general rule, but can apply to certain cases.

Passenger railroad companies have to subsidize most of their stations because in many cases they don't even charge a boarding fee and in most cases they don't make nearly as much money from rents and concession fees. Additionally, if they own the station and their own trains operate from there, it doesn't make any sense to charge themselves a fee each time one of their trains stops at a given station.
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Last edited by StreetView; December 25th, 2009 at 09:18 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old December 25th, 2009, 03:39 PM   #1018
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Think again, Meitetsu for long distance and countless commuters rail companies in Japan are all successful, some close to being hundred years old.
You know, when I first thought of a successful passenger railroad model, I thought of Japan. However, I did some research and have learned that they use a mixed-ownership model in Japan. Apparently some branches are state-owned and other branches are privately owned. I didn't find much about how it works in terms of revenue, profit and expenses -- how they share it all if it's actually one system, the JNR.

If you have this sort of info, please post here. I'm eager to learn about it.
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Old December 25th, 2009, 04:28 PM   #1019
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Originally Posted by StreetView View Post
You know, when I first thought of a successful passenger railroad model, I thought of Japan. However, I did some research and have learned that they use a mixed-ownership model in Japan. Apparently some branches are state-owned and other branches are privately owned. I didn't find much about how it works in terms of revenue, profit and expenses -- how they share it all if it's actually one system, the JNR.

If you have this sort of info, please post here. I'm eager to learn about it.
JR had been privatized more than 10 years ago, as for revenue, profit and expenses of Japanese rail companies, I believe there was a thread within this forum that covers that information somewhere.
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Old December 25th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #1020
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JR had been privatized more than 10 years ago, as for revenue, profit and expenses of Japanese rail companies, I believe there was a thread within this forum that covers that information somewhere.
I have read about the JR Group on wikipedia, which is not the most accurate source, but it's not all that bad. According to their article on Japan Railways Group, the branches of Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu as well as the freight division belong to the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, a government agency.

Here it is:
Quote:
In 1987, the government of Japan took steps to divide and privatize JNR. While division of operations began in April of that year, privatization was not immediate: initially, the government retained ownership of the companies. Privatization of some of the companies began in the early 1990s. By 2006, all of the shares of JR East, JR Central and JR West had been offered to the market and they are now publicly traded. On the other hand, all of the shares of JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu and JR Freight are still owned by Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an independent administrative institution of the state.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Railways_Group

If you can find that thread that discusses revenue and expenses on the JR Group, please let me know. Merry Christmas, by the way.
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