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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 January 28th, 2010, 11:21 PM   #1181
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So... what is, now, the fundamental objection to the Federal Governemtn underwriting an undertaking to invest in public transport just because the money is not there?
The money is there, the US credit rating is still very high. But it would go down if we did do all this stuff, in addition to healthcare and all the rest. And that's more important than high-speed rail. I don't think W had intended for the crash at the end of his administration. Things will rebound, but I'm sorry to say Obama may be out of this game. Some one else is going to have to come along and come up with a soultion to the debt problem.
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Old January 28th, 2010, 11:42 PM   #1182
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Congrats then, by 2020 you will have some lines (almost) as fast as Britains rails in 1920!

A new line has to be 140mph to be considered HS rail, or an old one upgraded to 125mph.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 12:24 AM   #1183
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Yeah, but... sorry FlyFish conservative America cannot have it both ways. Either budgetary prudence is an absolute value or it is not. Please consider this: in every war since Mr. Madison governments have raised taxes to pay for the whole thing. This applies to the Civil War, WW2, Korea, Vietnam...

There is one recent exception. When G.W.Bush declared War on Terror and sent troops into, first, Afganistan and, second, Iraq he actually cut taxes. No... I mean, really, no... don't argue with me. The President of the United States went to war and, at the same time, slashed the Treasury's income. To me (I'm a political economist) this is incredibly daring. But, apparently, middle America approved wholeheartedly.

So... what is, now, the fundamental objection to the Federal Governemtn underwriting an undertaking to invest in public transport just because the money is not there?
You are correct, no tax increase was done, thankfully. It would have killed a booming economy at the time.

But the income was not slashed, it actually went up in the longer term. Tax rate changes have consequences. Raise the rates and three years later watch the receipts go down. Did you know that from I think 2004 or 2005 until 2008 the receipts to the US Treasury were at record levels? The result of lower tax rates was higher productivity, less unemployment and in the end MORE tax revenues to the Gov't. Why do you think they are hesitant to raise taxes right now in this economic environment? Because they know that in the longer term it won't generate any significant additional revenue to the Govenrnment and it will kill what's left of the economy by taking that money out of the private sector.

You are correct though that Conservatives can not have it both ways. We know that, but Mr. Bush did not turn out to be much of a Conservative did he? The only real economically conservative move he made was the original tax cuts. After that he never vetoed a spending bill and thus tacitly approved of the drunken sailor spending habits of the United States Congress..no matter which brand of crooks is in the majority.

But we digress to a horse that was beaten to death about 25 pages back, lol. This has always been a fundimental objection to this type of thing, going back to the 90's when the ideas first started actually percolating.

We now have facts, there will be money for specific endeavors, whether any ideological group likes it or not. So let's turn this conversation to watching the plans for the money and seeing what comes of it.

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Old January 29th, 2010, 01:12 AM   #1184
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I don't think it is fear as much as ambivalence. HSR is not on the radar of very many people here. Even in Florida where it may actually happen I would bet that a big segment will hear of it and say... "why do we need that. If I am in Tampa and want to get to Orlando I just jump on the interstate and in 90 minutes I am there. Why drive to a train station, park my car, take the train, and then worry about transportation to wherever I am going once I get there"...

In the end, on that route, from point to point it isn't faster than driving no matter how fast the train goes, unless you live within three or so miles of the station and are going somewhere within walking distance of the station on the other end.


I really fear we will spend billions of dollars and end up with really fast, really pretty and really empty trains. I hope this works, I really do. I am a train buff but I just don't think it will work here in the short term.


Health care? A whole different animal and discussion. And one where, with respect, no opinion outside the US is valid. You folks don't know our Government well enough to even know what those of us who are scared are actually scared of.
I don't think the locals will use this at all, but remember that Orlando and Tampa do get a lot of tourist that are already used to riding these High Speed trains...I see them riding it while visiting the parks there, not just Disney World, but all parks, including Busch Gardens in Tampa.

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Old January 29th, 2010, 01:46 AM   #1185
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I don't think the locals will use this at all, but remember that Orlando and Tampa do get a lot of tourist that are already used to riding these High Speed trains...I see them riding it while visiting the parks there, not just Disney World, but all parks, including Busch Gardens in Tampa.
Agreed. As I said I lived in North Tampa and cannot think of a reason I'd take the train to Orlando over driving. Driving would always be cheaper, faster, and more convenient. By the time I'd fight my way downtown to catch the train I'd be halfway to Orlando already.

They should get ridership from the tourists. The proposed site of the Tampa end is curious for tourists though, being essentially downtown. I'm sure they've already got plans to get the folks from the Tampa station to Busch Gardens, Clearwater Beach and other attractions. They've been planning this forever so I am sure they've got that sort of stuff worked out already.

The Orlando end plans were to stop it at the airport, not downtown. Disney has land set aside for a station there. Not to have a Disney stop would be insane.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 10:00 PM   #1186
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Hmm, the one place you could argue that we actually need the damn thing and the one place we KNOW it will be ridden enough to cash flow, the North East Corridor, doesn't get any money to build it.
To create a real HSR for the NEC, it would cost more than the numbers that were posted because of density, high cost of land, and small ROWs. Plus, the NEC goes through several states and many have different priorities so it would be different than the other plans posted which are mostly intrastate or between only two states. NEC goes through DC and eight states. General ownership of the lines also varies, Amtrak only owns a portion.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 10:06 PM   #1187
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To create a real HSR for the NEC, it would cost more than the numbers that were posted because of density, high cost of land, and small ROWs. Plus, the NEC goes through several states and many have different priorities so it would be different than the other plans posted which are mostly intrastate or between only two states. NEC goes through DC and eight states. General ownership of the lines also varies, Amtrak only owns a portion.
All true, my point is that it is also the only passenger rail corridor in the US where EVERYONE agrees that HSR would be profitable and fully utilized. It will also be very expensive to build because of all the reasons you mention.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 10:40 PM   #1188
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All true, my point is that it is also the only passenger rail corridor in the US where EVERYONE agrees that HSR would be profitable and fully utilized.
Well, I do wholeheartedly agree that HSR would work in the NEC more than anywhere else because unlike most of the country, there is already a history and ridership among the rail line, and the density supports it, but I can't say I understand the profitability argument.

Technically, almost all forms of transport are unprofitable, at least in the US. Auto, Airplane, and Rail transport all depend on massive subsides to operate upon the budgets that are made for maintainable by the state-owned departments and agencies that are in charge of them, fares dependent on ridership only plays a partial role in operating revenue for them, as well as tolls on highways with them. If anything, rail transport in the country is perhaps THE most potentially profitable because the vast majority of the network is run by private freight companies with the government only taking care of the passenger function and only controlling a fraction of the trackage nationwide.

Additionally, this isn't the aim of creating a efficient infrastructural network, the aim is to transport people and goods as fast as possible with as many modes needed to achieve this aim. Our rail network is woefully underutilized and filled with massive potential, moreso than our air and highway networks. Of course money is important, but that doesn't mean we should cut corners.

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Old January 29th, 2010, 10:49 PM   #1189
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Rail expenditures pay for themselves in many ways other than tickets and drinks.

Sometimes better rail can let a few airports can reduce their planned expansions.

For many people it can mean having one less car. Or reducing wear and tear on their car.

Or fewer freeway widenings, which can be astronomically expensive depending on land cost and topography.

Rail is cheap as hell when you view it more broadly. Even if we spend $100 billion over a decade in the US, that would be about $1,200 per household...it sounds like a lot, but it would be a drop in the bucket compared to most households' transportation budgets. And $100 billion would provide enough rail service to noticably influence the demand for freeway and airport infrastructure, in addition to giving a lot of people the opportunity to dramatically reduce their overall transportation expenses.

I'd love to see a number like $10-20 billion a year go to intercity rail, with a focus on regional rail including HSR. Build it over a generation.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 10:53 PM   #1190
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Agreed. As I said I lived in North Tampa and cannot think of a reason I'd take the train to Orlando over driving. Driving would always be cheaper, faster, and more convenient. By the time I'd fight my way downtown to catch the train I'd be halfway to Orlando already.
Alas, this is the same type of myopia that's lead the US to this point, where the options for transportation alternatives are slim and none... and either way is very costly.

We must think long term. Without this level of investment now then there might never be a viable rail option of any kind, and then when the density is more conducive to mass transit and/or the costs for oil and gas have skyrocketed, we'll all be stuck once more the fools. This has been proven time and again with every metropolis in the US, if not across the globe.

The reality is that this line was most likely chosen for one principal reason - The relatively short distance and real opportunity to build a line that can then be touted as a model for other places similarly devoid of rail. A template for bringing rail to new frontiers. Miami to Orlando would be the best option overall but couldn't be done with this amount of federal contribution, so they picked the one that could the be up and running ASAP. It should prove an interesting factor in the growth of these urban areas, since they're inevitably to become one large metropolitan morass. Done right, this investment might be the catalyst to better maximize that growth and development.

Sooner or later the US will need to break down and spend the $50B necessary to get 2-3 true HSR corridors going, but at least this investment will keep the hope alive today. At least the glass remains half-full.
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Old January 29th, 2010, 11:02 PM   #1191
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Rail expenditures pay for themselves in many ways other than tickets and drinks....

Rail is cheap as hell when you view it more broadly.
The problem is such macro scale thinking is abused or aborted because there are so many players involved. People tend to want to see more direct returns from their investments, and in this case the cost savings may be coming from people that don't want to lose that money, such as airport interests and road contractors.

Ultimately rail will prove more valuable as an investment as the costs for land rise, provided the initial investments are made to lay the foundation for a viable network, much as we now see in the northeast, Europe, Japan, etc. If the density is there, the public investment is better spent on a 50' strip of land than 300' of freeway.

- - - - -

Re: The lack of funding for the northeast

The same line of thinking we're using to suggest this region should have HSR is also the exact reason why they're spending this money elsewhere - They already have a near viable system in operation. The powers that be said they'd be better off spending $4B to bring new/improved rail access to new parts of the country, and thereby increase the number of overall rail supporters, rather then invest that same amount to improve the efficiency of the Boston to DC ride by a mere 30 minutes.* They're widening their appeal, which may be the best investment in a vast nation of auto-dependent voters.

* = From a NADO press release on the topic: "Point one - The Northeast Corridor only receives $112 million of the $7.9 billion announced last night. Last year, the President of Amtrak testified before Congress that making the Acela service between DC and NYC 15 minutes faster (while maintaining the same number of stops) would require about $600 million in capital improvements, and making the train 30 minutes faster would require about $5 billion in capital improvements. The grant announcement said that the $112 million will go towards a series of projects including preliminary design work on replacing the Baltimore tunnel and upgrading the station at BWI airport."

Bottom line, the same density levels that makes this corridor so attractive for rail also mean the costs for the minor tweaks needed to increase speed are very high. Not so much higher by construction type, but higher because there are so many more features that must be altered to create longer, straighter stretches for all the trains. Tunnels, bridges, little bends, etc.
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Old January 30th, 2010, 02:13 AM   #1192
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Re: The lack of funding for the northeast

The same line of thinking we're using to suggest this region should have HSR is also the exact reason why they're spending this money elsewhere - They already have a near viable system in operation. The powers that be said they'd be better off spending $4B to bring new/improved rail access to new parts of the country, and thereby increase the number of overall rail supporters, rather then invest that same amount to improve the efficiency of the Boston to DC ride by a mere 30 minutes.* They're widening their appeal, which may be the best investment in a vast nation of auto-dependent voters.

* = From a NADO press release on the topic: "Point one - The Northeast Corridor only receives $112 million of the $7.9 billion announced last night. Last year, the President of Amtrak testified before Congress that making the Acela service between DC and NYC 15 minutes faster (while maintaining the same number of stops) would require about $600 million in capital improvements, and making the train 30 minutes faster would require about $5 billion in capital improvements. The grant announcement said that the $112 million will go towards a series of projects including preliminary design work on replacing the Baltimore tunnel and upgrading the station at BWI airport."

Bottom line, the same density levels that makes this corridor so attractive for rail also mean the costs for the minor tweaks needed to increase speed are very high. Not so much higher by construction type, but higher because there are so many more features that must be altered to create longer, straighter stretches for all the trains. Tunnels, bridges, little bends, etc.
That's all well and good but I still think this might be more about votes in Florida....
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Old January 30th, 2010, 02:22 AM   #1193
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I agree that most of the new moneys ought to be diverted away from the NEC. One of the ways that the nation transformed what had been hitherto a patchwork network of occasionally-tolled "parkways" and turnpikes (concentrated, unsurprisingly, in the Northeast) into the cohesive national network now known as the Interstates was by farming out the money elsewhere in the country. As a defense highway, the Interstate planners were lucky enough to loot the DoD's coffers--a luxury our current HSR network does not have (however, it makes up for it in other ways, such as the potential to use extant urban infrastructure--particularly intercity stations and their approaches--as well as the use of monies not available to the Interstate planners, particularly the 50/50 Fed/state split and the efficacy of PPPs elsewhere in the world in infrastructure buildout).

Yet I feel this plan fails in the sense that it is not ambitious enough. Take a tour around all the routes that are shown--everything from CAHSR to Phoenix-Tucson to Louisville-Chattanooga-Atlanta to the 3C Corridor is derived from some sort of state effort preceding that of the Feds, and as such they are disconnected, with obvious routes not being studied and some routes that are being abysmally circuitous (without the Montréal link, who's going to use HSR to St. Albans, anyway? And wouldn't it be better--and cheaper--to run HSR Montréal-Albany-Boston rather than the Upper New England network previously identified?)

As a start, it's extremely good, but that's all it is--a start.
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Old January 30th, 2010, 11:38 PM   #1194
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That's all well and good but I still think this might be more about votes in Florida....
The general plans and demands for such in Florida lead me to disagree. The State has explored this since the mid-90's and once held a vote on their own plan. Miami desperately wants greater connectivity to the state and region, especially to Tallahassee. Plus it's a comparably easier build given the mild terrain. Bottom line, Fla was going to get something.

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Yet I feel this plan fails in the sense that it is not ambitious...

As a start, it's extremely good, but that's all it is--a start.
You got a spare $50B, I'm sure they'd be willing to follow through for you.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 01:40 AM   #1195
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You got a spare $50B, I'm sure they'd be willing to follow through for you.
If you've read the cursory articles on HSR startup plans elsewhere in the nation--like Denver--you'll know that frequently commenters tend to resort to the it's only been done in the Northeast so it can't be done here! argument. This argument isn't just disingenuous and contrarian, but borders on the utterly moronic. Spreading the seed money around is, all in all, a good thing, because by putting more emerging HSR systems on the ground in more places more people are going to see that true HSR is more viable in more places in North America than anybody's ever thought of--and thus this can lead to our voters willingly funding the enormous infrastructure expenditures necessary to create a national "HSR 220" network.

Also note: even in its limited state, the Acela is actually making a profit for Amtrak. This also demonstrates that, beyond a certain speed, a well-run HSR line is inherently profitable, not just in terms of corridors but also in terms of axes. The NEC could just as easily been called the BosWash Axis since it functions similarly to how a European HSR axis does--it's two point-to-point corridors stacked end-to-end! (This is a simple Paul Revere network, by the way.) SEHSR is not a singular corridor either, but rather a pair of axes joined by a small corridor. The first implementations along this line will of course be in its northern portions, but in the course of time, you'll see that the western axis is another Paul Revere network: D.C. to the Research Triangle and the Research Triangle to Atlanta. The eastern portion is, similarly, two corridors in this manner: Research Triangle to Savannah and Savannah to Jacksonville; the Atlanta (Macon) to Savannah route is a true corridor, however, since it is much more a simple point-to-point network rather than a point-to-point-to-point-to-point Paul Revere network (aka an axis) than the other two major segments of the the system. It is because SEHSR connects the polycentric part of the Southeast this way that it has been suggested that it may well be the most profitable of all of the HSR "corridors" that have already been intensively studied.

And the irony with HSR is, the faster it can go--the more money you sink into the infrastructure--the more profitable it can be. By the looks of it, in the US, ~120 mph is the break-even mark; the 110 mph Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg Keystone Corridor doesn't quite cover expenses; the 150 mph Boston-New Haven portion of the NEC makes a slim profit (density south of New York leading to the increased profitability there, despite the infrastructure and maintenance issues Nexis has already mentioned, if not here, then on SSP.)
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Old January 31st, 2010, 02:20 AM   #1196
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http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel...0,316129.story

High-speed rail is about more than trains, track
Architects could help America think differently about train travel

By Blair Kamin Architecture critic

January 31, 2010

Chicago, 2020: A lawyer in Willis Tower gets an urgent call from his top client in St. Louis at 8 a.m. requesting a face-to-face meeting. The lawyer makes the short walk to a dramatically refurbished Union Station and boards a high-speed, Japanese-made bullet train at 9 a.m. He arrives in St. Louis two hours later, has his meeting and is so certain of making a quick return trip that he doesn't even need to call his wife and tell her he'll be home for dinner.

That vision of the future may be at least decade away, but the $8 billion in state grants for high-speed rail that President Barack Obama announced Thursday is by far the most important infrastructure initiative in the $787 billion federal stimulus package. This isn't just fixing crumbling roads and bridges. It could revolutionize the way we move and live.

But if a new order is to replace the old one, much more needs to be done than speeding up the trains. The entire passenger experience has to be thought through, from curbside to train shed. If you doubt that, take a look at the mess in Union Station, the likely hub of Midwest high-speed rail.

Envisioned by Daniel Burnham in his 1909 Plan of Chicago and completed in 1925 to the design of his successor firm, Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, Union Station once stirred the soul with spaces of Roman grandeur. Not now. Not by a long shot.

Today, the station, which serves Metra commuter rail trains as well as Amtrak trains, is (or should be) a civic embarrassment. The traveling public must endure a maze of corridors, packed waiting rooms and the stench of train fumes. The grandly scaled waiting room, with its sky-lit, barrel-vaulted ceiling, is empty most of the time — an ironic state of affairs, given the congestion elsewhere in the station. The room's most effective use these days is as a movie set or a camera-ready backdrop for local politicians, who held a news conference on high-speed rail there Friday.

A 1991 renovation by Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange upgraded ticket counters, along with Amtrak waiting areas and baggage-handling systems. But Amtrak, which owns the station through a subsidiary, runs far more short-haul trains now than it did then, so its facilities are overwhelmed. Even Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the situation is unacceptable. And well it should be. How do you get people to take the train instead of the plane if you're going to treat them with such disrespect?

Compress distances with superfast trains, and it doesn't make life easier just for business travelers. It becomes a breeze for families in St. Louis and Detroit to travel to Chicago to sample city treasures such as Millennium Park. The improbably handsome commuter rail station beneath the park, with its shimmering, wave-shaped ceilings, tells us something else: Architects have a significant role to play in this game, and not only at Union Station.

In Illinois alone, as part of Obama's high-speed rail initiative, there are plans to build stations to upgrade service from Alton, near St. Louis, and Dwight, about 75 miles southwest of Chicago. The stations could be symbols of the high-speed rail "brand," not to mention proud gateways for their communities. Or they could be eyesores.

Following the example of the U.S. General Services Administration's Design Excellence program, which has brought in top architects such as New York's Richard Meier and Chicago's Thomas Beeby to design everything from federal courthouses to border stations, the stations should be shaped by the best and the brightest architects, not politically connected hacks.

For their part, urban planners will have to wrestle with the explosive issue of which Chicago suburbs get to be secondary rail hubs — a status that could increase land values and drive the development of new offices and apartments once the present real estate bust eases.

"Is Lisle just going to sit there, or are they going to say, 'Wait a minute! Why is that going to Naperville?'" said W. Robert Moore, a principal at Quandel Consultants of Chicago, which is advising Midwestern states on high-speed rail. "Is the downtown community of Naperville going to say, 'Yes, we want to develop this way,' or are they going to push it off to Route 59, where there is far greater land available?"

But it is a long way from here to there, and not simply because Obama's plan would limit Amtrak train speeds to 110 m.p.h. in the Midwest — better than current cruising speeds, but hardly up to the 150 m.p.h. mark that represents true high speed, according to experts such as Richard Harnish, executive director of the nonprofit Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

There are the usual studies to be done, such as the one city transportation officials will conduct of the proposed $2 billion West Loop Transportation Center under Clinton Street, which would connect Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center with CTA buses and rail lines, Pace buses and high-speed rail. But the real task is for Amtrak and Chicago's planners to come to terms with the changes that have made the once-grand Union Station a sad relic — and then come up with a vision to transform it.

..
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Old February 1st, 2010, 07:01 PM   #1197
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On the "spreading it around" issue...

In some regions such as my own (Seattle), there's already viable and popular slow-train service on a small scale. The new money will make an incremental speed improvement plus add 50% more service (going from four to six per day) on our busiest route segment, Seattle-Portland. This will continue to be a bit slower than driving, but it'll fill up anyway, due to a fair number of us that prefer the train over driving.

That's a significant improvement to regional quality of life.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 09:41 PM   #1198
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A train that is slower than driving even when you account for expected dealys at metropolitan congetion lanes is a failure in US, in Japan, in Europe, in Australia and in Mozambique.

If a medium or long-distance train cannot beat average reasonable driving speeds, it is not worth keeping. After all, public transportaiton is about providing faster services at expense of privacy and comfort. That's why most people will take a flight from Miami to - say - Denver and not drive for 2 days in their state-of-the-art SUV, hybrid or whatever vehicle! That's what people, except for the poorest ones, ride subways in places like New York or Chicago instead of driving Dowtown.

A slower-than-driving service will never get a seriour market share of travel (and at least on freeway planning and managing politicians don't buy the "lower the speed to make that creepy XYZ system competitive". Same reasoning applies to Europe, Japan etc. That is, for instance, one of the reason of decadence of a lot of older spur lines in Italy, for instance. Even with the limited road insfrastructure, trains that don't beat the car speed in mountainous and rugged terrain usually don't have sufficient ridership to justify running them. They will have a small market share, but will never make a significant dent like Eurostar, TGV, TAV, AVE or other services did on air and road travel in their regions, which evetually shut down or drastically reduced a lot of air shuttle services competing with them.

For engineering rationality sake, if a system cannot yield 60mph/96kph comercial speeds (to offset travel time from house/office trips to departure station and from arrival station), it is better to be shut down for good and left for freight trains only.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 10:37 PM   #1199
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Location: Seattle
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Trains (and local PT) are also for people who don't have cars, prefer not to use their cars, prefer to work while traveling, want to sleep, etc. That's why trains get probably 30% of the people traveling between my firm's Seattle and Portland offices (despite the speed), which are a mile from the stations at each end.

A city and a nation will function well only if it allows a variety of people to be successful. Further, it's in everyone's interest to reduce pollution and the use of materials of all kinds, whether steel or oil, for ethical reasons, and for our own future...for example, countries that spend too much of their wealth on basic functionality (like making everyone drag 3,000 lbs to and from work every day) will find themselves losing competitive advantage over countries where wealth can go to innovation and productivity.

I'm glad you're not running the world suburbanist!
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Old February 1st, 2010, 10:41 PM   #1200
HunanChina
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Changsha
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awesome plan.
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