Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:08 am
From the media reports I have read, they will follow the Caltrain tracks along the peninsula. Maybe we will now get flyovers or underpasses on our crossings and high fences along the line to keep pedestrians out. Good job too.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:16 am
WE will never get underpasses at the railroad crossings in PA--the neighborhood groups nearby will oppose it because they will claim that it will cause faster traffic and/or the old PA standby "too much traffic".
We know how vocal neighborhood groups get what they want from our city council--look at Alma Plaza
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:18 am
Resident: Will the current trains and the high speed trains use the same tracks. Will the high speed trains go at the same speed as the current trains from S.J. to S.F.? There will probably be only a very few high speed trains per day. ??
It's hard to believe additional tracks would be placed alongside the current tracks, whether above,elevated or below ground. The water table is high along the current tracks. i.e. Oregon underpass has to be pumped 24/7.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:15 pm
After thinking about this issue, where the track would go, I conclude the only feasable place is the baylands.
It can't go above the freeways because of the overpasses.
It can't go along the present train track route because of the high density developments close to those tracks and the affect it would have on the nearby development. Also no very large parking places like the airports have.
The airport(s) are in or near the baylands so why not the highspeed rail.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 22, 2007 at 8:00 am
It has already be stated that the bullet train will go down tracks next to the Caltrains tracks because they have the right of way. It has already been suggested that they will widen the area, and take over land on either side by eminent domain.
There will be grade separation at all intersections. I don't think neighborhood groups in PA will be able to stop a process approved by the voters of California.
I am surprised they are considering the Petcheco Pass route over the Altamont Pass. If the train is to run at 250 miles an hour and reach LA in 2.1/2 hours, they will not be making any stops along the way because that will slow the train down!!
If the train ends up making stops along the way it will be quicker and cheaper to fly to LA. I'm voting against this bond measure, it will be far more expensive than they are budgeting for.
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm
I can't imagine enough people would patronize this system to pay for it. Sure the number of round trip flights daily from SF to LA are multiplied by the number of users to get an estimate. But no one knows how many of these fliers would switch. The BART extension to SFO is losing money in spite of all the learned analysis.
The cost estimate of $40 to $50 Billion should be multiplied by at least two to four. Witness the cost of the Bay Bridge rebuild.
California voters have one chance to defeat this pie-in-the-sky idea - vote NO on any bond issue. There are too many ifs and serious down sides to try this one.
France and Britain heavily subsidize their bullet trains and had to ground the Concorde because of the heavy subsidy drain. We should learn from their experience.
Posted by Mr. BBQ, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 12:37 pm Mr. BBQ is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
By the time this project is completed we will all be six feet under. I'm more worried if I can afford my ultilities bill this year than were they will put the rails! We will all be dead! Not in our life times! We will have a national health care program before this happens.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 12:52 pm
As much as I would like to see a high speed rail solution to connect the LA and Bay Areas, I have a difficult time justifying the investment.
The basic assumption on this whole matter is that the starting and ending points of this rail line have a sufficient concentration of passengers that it is worthwhile to build a rail connection for them, in place of an air or auto trips.
I spent a number of years in the air express industry, and whether it is people or packages, the same equation prevails--most origin and destination points are not close to the arrival and departure points of the "corridor" facility, be it LAX and SFO, or downtown Los Angeles and downtown San Francisco. When there is sufficient volume between two points, a flight or rail corridor can be added--the economics justify it. When there is not sufficient volume between the points, unless those points are in turn being fed and feeding the ultimate origin and destination clusters, it makes no sense. That's why FEDEX, DHL and UPS have huge hubs, not a bunch a planes that fly between city pairs.
The implication here is that there would have to be signficant capacity of roadways, busses, light rail, parking lots etc. at either end of this thing to draw a critical mass of passengers, and those folks in turn must be convinced that getting to the departing station and leaving the arrival station provides this type of support for someone making a portion of the trip by rail.
In Europe and on the US East coast, where there are greater concentrations of activities in the areas immediately adjoining key rail terminals, along with well integrated feeder systems connected to them. While such characteristics are found in the Bay Area to some extent, it is by no means as "dense" and such is even less the case in Southern California. This concept could have had some "legs" before both places became as built out as there are today, but I think the window of opportunity may be past to add the secondary support systems that must be part of this concept organically.
The advent of regional airports has led to many people who might have flown between SFO and LAX, renting a car on one end or the other and driving a considerable distance to their final destination is now increasingly displaced by more point to point air travel between San Jose and Orange County, for example. It may be that intoducing a better cluster of regional airports for the same investment dollars should be investigated to see how the economics, environmental impacts, and benefits to personal time and expense compare.
I am really concerned that if it is built "they" won't come. Whether it cuts through Pacheco or the Altamont. Regional airports to feed people between major urban areas and more investment to provide people means to get around locally instead of driving may be a better use of funds of this magnitude.
Posted by Sean, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 1:32 pm
"Regional airports to feed people between major urban areas and more investment to provide people means to get around locally instead of driving may be a better use of funds of this magnitude."
I agree, to a point. I think regional airports are a good idea, and I think we should keep and expand our own regional/local airports (Moffett, Palo Alto, San Carlos)). I think there are possibilities of integrating rail, air, suface travel. The probem with rail is the expense vs. the expanse. Rail is not flexible, although it provides a different experience, and has less security problems. Until your questions about long-haul ridership can be solved, though, it is probably a bad investment, relative to regional/local air travel.
A far out possbility, though, is that people get invested enough in the global warming thing, that they ban air travel. Then, of course, trains are the way to go.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 4:00 pm
Your thoughts are indeed well thought out and you do raise some good points.
The first item is that although the high rail connection will be from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it should not be for those two ports of call alone. There are many stops along the way that will make it a good corridor, not least San Jose. The fact that there will be some non-stop trains and others that stop at various locations en route, will entail that we can have two tier services, with of course a premium charge for the non-stop being an option. The feeder systems should of course be put in place and to some extent these are available here with BART and Caltrain, but need to be improved upon. Connections to SFO, SJO, LAX and wherever at the Southern end (sorry, my LA geography is not good) and possibly even down to San Diego, but only as the feeder route are of course ideal.
The other idea to be worked on of course is that the stations at each end should be more in line with what is expected at airports. Car Rental, shuttle facilities, long and short term parking, hotels, shower facilities, and the like, should be factored in.
To make this work, it has to be a service that attracts different demographics. It should attract the business customer with day returns for meetings, day tripping tourists (as well as longer stay tourists), students getting to and from colleges, those flying from SFO or LAX to international destinations, and their different needs to be catered for.
This means that the stations do not necessarily have to be in the center of the cities, rather a transport hub in the suburbs could work. What is necessitated is that we think of this as a new form of transport and not a rehash of an old system being modernized.
There is time to view this in its entirety rather than piecemeal. Let us hope that the powers that be are doing so.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 8:33 pm
The initial cost of this project is currently unknown. Numbers in the low $20Bs have been floated around (which means the cost of the construction and bond interest could easily be in the $40-$50B area). There has never been any meaningful estimate about the operational costs of these trains. Moreover, the capacity of a train is about 550 people. They must keep at least a 15 minute interval between themselves for a safety margin. This means that at best, a single track can only move 2000 people per hour on a point-to-point trip, even if the trains were full. A fifteen hour day only gets 30,000 people from SF to LA (one direction). Train tracks are not very useful for anything but a train, so they sit idle when not actually holding up a train.
Assuming that 60,000 a day used this train, and the target construction/bond costs are $40B, the "capital costs" per seat per ride is $100 before any operational costs are considered. It is not possible to guess at this point how much the operational costs will be, or how much additional "capital costs" will be needed as repairs/refurbishments are needed. However, it would seem that a "true cost" ticket would be at least $150 one way. Perhaps this is competitive with the airlines, perhaps not. But no matter what, there will be a lot of "state" involvement with little/no accountability--which is an "ill wind that bodes no one good".
Note -- all of these numbers are "up for grabs" because no one has provided any numbers are are realistic yet. It will be a long time before these people are willing to tell the truth about this unnecessary foray into more California governmental mismanagement.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 23, 2007 at 9:17 pm
Thanks for putting some numbers up. It is important to understand how many people/day travel the corridor now, and what that implies for "traveler share of market" needed just to cover the fixed costs cited above.
Adding transportation capabilities no longer creates new trips the way it did in the past. I don't think it is realistic to expect that the primary demand for travel between the two metro areas would be affected significantly if this train were introduced, so it becomes a matter of how many people, and what proportion of the total travelers they represent.
The poster above only cites the capital costs of building the rail line itself, along with the rolling stock (I assume.) The adjoining infrastructure to which I alluded would be above and beyond that, and since it likely will be on real estate already developed and in use, that is no cheap meal ticket, on top of the rail line itself.
I make these observations with a bit of sadness, as there are some very compelling (to me at least) qualitative reasons for something of this sort. But, I am reminded of the high speed train that runs between the airport and central city in Shanghai. It is awesome to see, an experience to ride, but it has got to be costing the Chinese government an arm and two legs at least to operate it. I just cannot imagine it is covering its costs, which are considerably less than what we would incur in the part of the world for something that is actually less ambitious in concept from a train design standpoint.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2007 at 12:46 am
Costs, costs, costs...the "one way mantra" of Palo Alto...
Why not consider the metrics associated with benefits; that, and the opportunity costs involved in NOT doing the train? I don't have time to do this one, but surely there must be metrics associated with add-on state revenue from businesses that serve the train; business efficiencies that result from less time traveling; Co2 level reduction from airplane pollution; health benefits from less stress; etc. etc. This doesn't even begin to take into account the price *reductions* that might be forced on airlines, and other transport services.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2007 at 7:41 am
You are not offering very much in the way of tangible thoughts, the things you bring up are fine conceptually, but drop off pretty quickly when drilling down.
I for one take exception to your sweeping statement about a "cost mantra." I am trying to examine this one on its merits, as I do with other issues, and this one does not appear to pass muster. My thoughts are based not on the costs, per se, but my perception that the ridership and other metrics that contribute to making this initiative successful are not there. The societal return on investment here is what I call into question, including the financial portion of that equation, but not exclusively.
The multiplier effect to which you allude is fine to include in the analysis, but it still comes down to what the best uses are for a pool of money. Short of doing nothing, there will be a multiplier effect to any program that is instituted, the rail program does not have a "monopoly" on that aspect of things. There has to be some well done economic analysis to compare and contrast the multiplier effects of this idea compared to others. It should be a factor in evaluating this, but it is not the only factor.
It does appeal to me personally that this form of transportation may be greener than air or auto travel, but there still is the other multiplier effect of the environmental impacts of people getting to and from the train depots. It may be, for example, that that building out of support facilities and secondary transportation arteries to connect to the rail station offsets the "green" benefits of the rail portion of the trip. I don't know that for a fact, but it is an example of the sorts of things that must be accounted for when evaluating this thing in its entirety.
I could go on, but I tend to be a bit to "loquacious" on these postings in general, so as a holiday gift to anyone who might read this, I will stop now.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2007 at 11:00 am
"It does appeal to me personally that this form of transportation may be greener than air or auto travel, but there still is the other multiplier effect of the environmental impacts of people getting to and from the train depots."
I can buy that, but let's not assume that we can't generate the political will to make sure that people get to those train stations with more environmentally friendly means than we assume they will use, at present.
That said, we'd better start focusing on this sort of thing, and looking HARD at creating a mass transit *revolution* in this state - or we're going to be very sorry in 20-30 years - this region, especially. Do we really think that the rest of the world will continue to bow down to Silicon Valley at THE happening place? It's time for a little more paranoia, and a little less difference on projects to the nth degree.
I only wish we could do opportunity cost studies on the mindless churning of funds into our highway systems, where nobody seems to want to question those investments - in fact, where policy makers take *creddit* for the construction of the latest "280 interchange", or "Highway 85 exit ramp". Pathetic!
Last, your loquaciousness is always welcome to this reader. At least you make good arguments.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2007 at 12:12 pm
When considering the costs for a project like this, it is worth also considering the costs of not doing it now. Of course we have no idea what will be happening 50, 75 or even 100 years from now, but this project can affect the future that far ahead. Without some form of high speed rail link even in the short term (20 years being short term) what will populations, traffic, air travel, etc. are all unknown, but the costs of having to cope with them without the high speed rail link is something unquantifiable but should still be given some thought to.
Posted by Eric, a resident of Menlo Park, on Dec 24, 2007 at 1:55 pm
I'm in line with the thinking of Mike and others who talk about how we need to focus on the future and the benefits/impacts relative to cars.
As several people have noted, we subsidize the road system massively, yet still people complain when there is a proposal to build a train saying it is subsidized, that it costs too much, etc. The costs for road building and repair are staggering.
Thinking about the future is a key consideration. The fact that population densities are not yet great enough is sort a "so what" fact to me. Clearly population density is going up and will continue to do so over time. By time this project gets built it will be that much more so.
Another consideration -- we aren't getting any younger. As the population ages, there is a huge incentive for living in denser housing closer to public transportation. In 30 years from now when the senior population is double what it is now and gasoline and jet fuel are who knows how many times more costly, we aren't going to have every one (or even a majority) of those 80-somethings able to drive long distances (or at all).
Also, you had better bet the rest of us will find a high speed train far more attractive in terms of time, effort, and cost when 10's of millions more people live in California. You've got to think ahead on multiple levels. A train won't solve all our problems, but neither will any single solution. As several people have pointed out, we aren't Europe -- and that's fine -- but we definitely can learn something from them as well.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 24, 2007 at 11:10 pm
From a couple of different postings:
> we'd better start focusing on this sort of thing, and looking
> HARD at creating a mass transit *revolution* in this state -
> or we're going to be very sorry in 20-30 years -
> this region, especially.
Or we're going to be "sorry". That is the best insight into the future that you have?
> Of course we have no idea what will be
> happening 50, 75 or even 100 years from now,
No, we don't .. and there have few "government programs" that have ever been so well thought out that they have lasted very long. One clear exception, however, will be the history of the "National Defense Highway System" which was initiated in the early 1950s. This system has grown from non-existent until it now links the county together in ways that no other national system. Yes, it has been heavily subsidized by the Federal Government -- which means "we the people" who have paid our taxes, gas taxes .. and then some more taxes. But this system has been able to provide a national highway system connects all of us together, bringing the goods that we need to feed and clothe by regionalizing the manufacturing and agricultural capabilities of our nation. It provides individuals, companies and government access to any point in the US. People can drive freely when they see fit, without having to show "papers", or wait until a government employee says: "all aboard". The "National Defense Highway System" has probably been the most successful government program of this century—and it didn’t involve trains! There is simply no reason to want replace this extremely functional system with something that can not work even remotely as effectively.
The idea that this nation can continue to provide a significant quality of life and freedom by forcing people into government run "mass transit" is just another Bolshevik dream.
The general availability of broadband is a competing technology that could reduce the need for business traveling. The idea has been around for a while, but it has not even been acceptable to the business community. However, with ever higher bandwidths available, reasonable conferencing software and collaboration software--it's quite possible that many kinds of collaboration that have often required people to be in the same room might be conducted remotely in the not-too-distant future.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 25, 2007 at 6:33 am
Let's not confuse local mass transit with a rail corridor line connecting two major urban areas. They are not the same.
It would be instructive to understand a couple of theoretical uses of the funds that will be required, at a minimum, to connect Socal and Norcal by high speed rail. As a straw man for contrast, let's consider aggressively extending light rail systems, such as exist with SF Muni, VTA and LA Metro as an alternative use of the same funds.
I don't have any numbers, but here are some questions I would like to see asked:
--how many daily riders would each alternative serve
--how many cars and airplanes could be displaced with the rail alternative?
--what are the environmental impacts of constructing each system?
--what are the environmental impacts of operating each system?
The list can go on from there.
Rail can have a place in our transportation equation. Freight that is low value and heavy/bulky move by rail, as do ocean containers which never get opened from the time they are filled in an overseas factory until they arrive at a major distribution center and are broken down and sent by truck to their final destinations.
If we think about people and their trips in the appropriate fashion, we likely will find that for the most part, they are not moving in groups (heavy bulk freight) nor are they going great distances without disruption (containers.) To that end, transportation offerings that work more toward multiple individual needs and are more locally focused could make more sense for rail passenger services.
IN this day and age, worldwide, local rail transit systems are the most heavily used and succssful deployments of rail. Long haul rail for passnegers is effective in only a handful of cases. Adding local rail is not easy--look at the BART struggle--but I suspect that local rail transit actually could do more than one high speed rail line to solve the "future" problems that are pointed out in other postings above.
Posted by Sean, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm
Once people get from point A (Los Angeles) to point B (San Francisco) via the high spped electric train, won't they still need to hop into cars (electic, non-polluting, ideally) to get to their destination? Why would it be any different, compared to today's airports?
Also, has anyone really looked at the CO2 savings? An electric train (local or long distance)runs on...well, electricity. And all those clean electic cars and buses, of the future, will do the same thing. If the electricity is generated by coal or natural gas, how does that improve the CO2 situation? Wouldn't we need to build alternative generating capacity, in California, like nuclear and solar?
Considering all the CO2 generated in construction costs and maintenance and operating of rail lines, would it be any better than air travel?
I suppose what I am saying is that all this talk about electic trains doesn't, necessarily, compute in my mind. I would need to see the numbers.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm
> Freight that is low value and heavy/bulky move by rail
This is traditional wisdom, but it's quite possible that it is not really true. Rail cars are limited in the amount of freight they haul--and the freight has to get to the train by vehicle. In a world of Just-in-Time manufacturing, waiting for transit on a train may well cause the "JIT" to be not nearly as effective to the manufacturer/consumer as the idea suggest. A big-rig can go a long way in a day or two, picking up the cargo at the point-of-origin and delivering at the point-of-destination. Trains really can't do that, unless the origin point and the destination point is on a spur connected to the main track.
There probably always will be a need for a coast-to-coast rail line, but it is likely that trains will be seen as effective freight carriers in the boonies in the future.
Getting the item from the point-of-manufacture to the point-of-use/delivery is one of these things that manufacturers need to think about before building something that can't be moved easily.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 25, 2007 at 3:21 pm
Trains Are Expensive--
I am not sure I understand your point. Bulk commodities such as grain, minerals, paper and some petrochemicals are low in value, in some cases hazardous, and seldom are originating in densely populated areas, let along hauled on vehicles that occupy roadways. They typically are getting sent to plants or the like to be used in the production of something else, where the value is added.
High value rail cargo consists largely of automobiles and containerized cargo that has origniated outside North America. Both are easily consolidated at auto assembly plants or at coast seaports, and are transported usually inland, where they are broken down from their rail cars and taken to their next point, typically some sort of re-seller, retailer, automobile dealer, etc. Seldom does such cargo complete its journey via rail.
People can and do move easily, and consequently, long haul rail carriage of people no longer is a value add proposition. Even with the high speed rail concept, I am not sure that the improved transit time of this portion of the journey, realtive only to existing rail options, is enough to attract the traveler over alternatives. presently offered. It may be the case in other geographic areas, but I don't think it does for this particular opportunity.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 10:46 am
Thanks RS for the web link - I didn't realize there is a govt bureaucracy in place proceeding with this project. It makes it sound like it really IS happening. I will read more in that link. I noticed people can submit comments.
I had a recent experience riding trains on the East coast and it was pretty good. I certainly didn't want to rent a car and drive where I was (Boston heading north). No, I am not elderly. I saw tons of students on the trains.
Just to pick one "little issue:"
Someone mentioned an idea about running a rail line for this project through the Baylands -- that's doubtful, what about environmental issues after all this effort has been taken restoring baylands regions, what about the strong base supports that the line would need owing to the soft ground/marsh/liquefaction factor?! Going along the Caltrain line looks much more likely to me.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 11:51 am
"Once people get from point A (Los Angeles) to point B (San Francisco) via the high spped electric train, won't they still need to hop into cars (electic, non-polluting, ideally) to get to their destination? Why would it be any different, compared to today's airports?"
High speed rail is just one part of a *comprehensive* change in mass transit availability. We need to create webs of mass and local transit that are coordinated, and get people where they want to go, when they want to go, at prices that are affordable.
"Adding local rail is not easy--look at the BART struggle"
Right, and that's going to have to change. It's absurd that we let local municipalities - via their policy makers, in combination with slow-moving state bureaucrats - lay back on making profound changes to our mass transit system.
This is not Europe, but that's no excuse to avoid innovating mass transit solutions that work just as well here as they do in Europe. It's time to get to work.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 12:35 pm
I agree that local transit governance is a broken model. There are many things, this being close to the top of this list, that cries for regional solutions.
That said, I am still not sure that this particular high speed rail concept is needed to galvanize change to local mass transit. I agree with what you describe above, and it can and ought to happen with or without this particular component high speed rail being part of it. What you describe as needed for local transitapplies equally to existing airports and other major transportation, business and community hubs already in place.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm
"Right, and that's going to have to change. It's absurd that we let local municipalities - via their policy makers, in combination with slow-moving state bureaucrats - lay back on making profound changes to our mass transit system."
The reason local municipalities and state bureaucrats and politicians aren't making "profound" changes in our mass transit system isn't because "we let them lay back". It's because there is no consensus that we can/should make the changes suggested at a price "we" are willing to pay.
This isn't a matter of convincing recalcitrant bureaucrats. It's a matter of generating public support. Good luck with that.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 4:16 pm
> Bulk commodities such as grain, minerals, paper and some
> petrochemicals are low in value, in some cases hazardous, and
> seldom are originating in densely populated areas, let along hauled
> on vehicles that occupy roadways
My point is that these commodities are no only moved by rail. It would take a lot of research to determine how much of each commodity is moved solely by each transportation type. To make matters more interesting, shippers have realized that handling costs are transfer points (train-to-truck/truck-to-train) is so expensive that they are loading truck trails at the point-of-origin, trucking them to a train transfer point, loading the truck's trailer and moving the trailer and cargo to the remote destination, where the process is reversed.
So, my point is that hybrid/tandem transport is being used these days.
> I had a recent experience riding trains on the East coast and it was
> pretty good. I certainly didn't want to rent a car and drive where
> I was (Boston heading north). No, I am not elderly. I saw tons of
> students on the trains.
There are perhaps 60-65M people living in the Baltimore-Boston transportation corridor. Trains make a lot of sense in this part of the country.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 6:11 pm
Few commodities move exclusively via one means only, it is a matter of what the predominant mode is, and understanding the factors behind the preferred method. Multi-modal transportation, of which intermodal is one example that you appear to be citing, is indeed how most cargo and most people move, particularly when going longer distances.
I remember taking a class in college and the instructor made the assertion that rail was the most efficient mode of transportation. That can be true, depending on the metrics and factors that are brought to bear in the analysis. Just in Time (JIT) logisitcs have largely not been kind to rail, which has the two disadvantages of being relatively unreliable compared to truck and air transportation, and likewise more time consuming in moving things along.
The higher the value of the commodity--laptop computers or presciption drugs, for example, the lower the chances they will be shipped by rail--the time value of money (i.e. the value of the product in question) comes into play. It turns out to be less costly to ship a faster way for a bit more money than to tie up inventory in the train supply chain. (This is illustrative, obviously there is a great deal more to it than what I describe here.)
Similarly, the reliability of rail meeting schedules has been lower than alternatives. In fairness, it has improved greatly, but plant managers don't like shutting down because something they need for production has not arrived on time. Again, a bit simplistic, but it contributed a great deal to modal shifts out of rail after the interstate highway system provided the capacity to carry heavy cargo a different way than by rail.
The high speed rail idea addresses the time value aspect of things. It remains to be seen if it can operate reliably, but most passenger rail operates fairly well these days. But, it comes across as at best achieving parity with air and auto trips, not offering a unique advantage.
The "inter-modality" question remains a wide open one to this writer, and that could affect all three of these other factors, since most high speed rail rides are but a component of a traveler's total trip. The stuff on either end of the rail line may turn out to be the biggest factor in a traveler's choice. This is easy to research, I suspect it has been done, or will be done if this project continues to be investigated.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 26, 2007 at 10:19 pm
> But, it comes across as at best achieving parity with air and
> auto trips, not offering a unique advantage.
This depends. For instance, on the East Coast there are a lot more towns on the West Coast. If it takes an hour (or more) to get a an airport, and and hour (or more) to get to where you are going (and one shells out up to $100 for a cab/rental car) and the flight is an hour or less (maybe 200 to 300 miles) then it really doesn't pay to fly. It would be cheaper (time and money wise) to drive. Once the trip distance is over 250-300 miles, then the time/value-of-your-time begins to kick in and flying becomes more attractive. The same will be true of a "bullet train", except that it won't be able to move as fast as an airplane can fly--and it will likely have to make more stops.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 9:54 am
This is a great discussion. It's been nine years since I worked on the first consultant team and I want to look at the latest technical work before making too many comments.
One point raised above is surely still true from a decade ago. The HSR region to region bullet trains depend heavily on intraqregional infrastructures to get people to their final destination in a competitve time. Rarely do travelers want to go near the train stations. Plus there is the whole infrastructure of parking, luggage handling, rental cars and shuttles that accompany airport travel. How can we handle that at multiple train stations?
In our region, better have a great BART plus system in place before the HSR starts.
In the original work a lot of the revenue depended on substituting for air travel. It sounded good but no one ever talked to United or southwest. Maybe that is in the new analysis.
It IS a lot of money and Paul's point of asking what else we could do with that money in transit seemed like a good question both ten years aqo and now.
And for a Happy New Year's tease for the anti-ABAG folks, the ridership depends on the ABAG/SCAG job and household projections and to some extent on the idea that the main origin/destination regions would densify to make more destinations available to riders in competitve times.
There was no global warming concern in the original work. I have no idea whether that is an important added plus for HSR. This is one of those cases where the details do matter.
I know most of the HSR folks and am impressed. On the other hand transit studies have a long history of disappointments with higher costs and lower ridership than expected.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:03 am
"On the other hand transit studies have a long history of disappointments with higher costs and lower ridership than expected."
Is that any surprise, given the money spent by auto and oil interests to neutralize the mass transit effect?
We know what's coming:
1) Substantial increases in population.
2) Migration of most of that population to already-existing urban infrastructure *where jobs exist*.
3) Some net negative effect on the environment (from moderate, to very severe) due to increases in Co2 emissions.
4) A continuing increase in the price of oil.
Housing near jobs, and ways to get workers to those jobs - including inventive-based programs (for business and residents) to use mass transport.
We need to MAKE this happen; there is no room for lengthly debate, political diversion, appeals to municipal autonomy, or any of the many other myriad excuses that come along to justify more of the same.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:18 am
"there is no room for lengthly debate, political diversion, appeals to municipal autonomy, or any of the many other myriad excuses..."
Gosh, I guess we may as well declare marshal law, have the troops come in and enforce the building of the ABAG apartments, and round up the able-bodied among us to act as 21st century coolies for the building of the rail lines.
(There are a lot of kookie ideas on this board...)
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:32 am
"'On the other hand transit studies have a long history of disappointments with higher costs and lower ridership than expected.'
Is that any surprise, given the monomaniacal public transit proponents' propensity to overstate the positive impacts of the projects, understate the economic and environmental costs, overestimate likely ridership, overestimate value and convenience to riders, overestimate government's ability to manage projects and operations? And they think they can shift an economy from free to centralized in order to make public transit work!
Public transit officials need to use public transit once in a while, and get a grip on their responsibilities to the communities they serve. It's not to blow as much smoke as possible surrounding their pet project or their ideologically or politically aligned movement's pet projects or vision.
Their responsibility is to help the communities they serve.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:59 am
> Is that any surprise, given the money spent by auto
> and oil interests to neutralize the mass transit effect?
Spoken by someone who believes, it would seem, that building cars is evil, and should be illegal! This industry has made America the great land that it is -- you want to ride a bicyle or train .. why not try living in Cuba, Vietnam or one of the former Soviet client states?
> Substantial increases in population.
Based primarily on illegal immigration. Most "studies" have failed to consider needs based on natural population growth, rather than simply sanction this massive assault on our country and culture by those who enter outside the bounds of the law.
> Some net negative effect on the environment (from moderate,
> to very severe) due to increases in Co2 emissions.
Totally irrational! Just more witch hunting.
> We need to MAKE this happen; there is no room for lengthly debate
In other words, the cult of the individual, the flawed concept of private property ownership and freedom is over. Those of us who understand this -- those of us committed to a "New World Order" need to MAKE this happen.
This is the same dream of Lenin .. which morphed in the world of Stalin ..
The world has tried this solution many times -- and it is so very clear -- IT DOESN'T WORK!
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 11:31 am
Trains-are-Expensive, Looks like I hit a nerve. btw, aren't you a little overboard on the "Comrade" rants. Nobody is suggesting forced vacancy of the highways in favor of mass transit.
Yours is a perfect "pot calling kettle black" story. Here's how...
Speaking of forced subservience, how many Los Angelinos know about the fact that GM and other auto companies bought intra-urban rail right-of-way back in the 30's, and ripped up rail structure to force people into their cars? THis happened in many other cities, and was supported by the powers-that-were. Talk about social engineering.
How about the hundreds of millions spent to keep people in their cars, commuting for hours, and having to work harder to support greed. What's the psychological and physical health cost of that choice?
It's always easy to point to mass transit systems that don't work well, and condemn then for that, rather than look into *why* mass transit is so lame in America. The reason for that is clear. The auto and oil companies have colluded with government to have their way, at great cost to our environment, and our health.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 11:49 am
I think it makes more sense to puzzle this out as flying versus trains for SF/LA trips. The idea of taking the train versus driving leaves few possible competitive cases where the train wins.
Driving allows multiple people to travel for the price of one and also handles luggage better.
Now the trains versus flying has huge POTENTIAL benefits but I am not sure how the math works. Trains MIGHT reduce airport constrcution needs (also $billions) and airport congestion.
I don't see the auto lobby caring much wshether CA builds HSR or not. More likley Southwest and United would be interested although they might be supportive as well.
I always wonder why Lenin and Stalin get into the picture here since we are talking about freely made travel choices and what mix of investment (highways, trains, airports) bests meets travel demands and other relevant criteria.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 12:11 pm
"I always wonder why Lenin and Stalin get into the picture here since we are talking about freely made travel choices and what mix of investment (highways, trains, airports) bests meets travel demands and other relevant criteria."
Some of the rhetoric on both sides has got a little out of hand here, but Steve Levy is glossing over an important point and muddying the issues by referring to the "mix of investments (highways, trains, airports)". I would quibble that government spending constitutes "investments" in the usual sense of the word. But the real flaw of placing highways, trains and airports on the same plane is that intercity trains are always subsidy consumers - no matter how you do the accounting - after taking into account the huge capital costs. While one might reasonably argue about what's proper to include on the cost side for highways and airports, there is a reasonable case to be made that they generate some positive returns for the government that builds them - or at least that far more of their cost is covered by associated revenue streams.
This is why so much of the discussion of the merits of HSR centers around environmental benefits, which are real to be sure, but which aren't easily measured in hard terms.
If HSR is funded by increased gasoline taxes (as I believe is part of the discussion), resulting in higher, perhaps unaffordable, auto travel costs and corresponding lower subsidized rail travel costs, then Levy's "freely made travel choices" phrasing takes on an Orwellian tinge.
It's interesting that across the country, many entrepreneurs have proposed private tollways, on which they claim to be able to make a profit, but none have ever suggested that passenger rail can be operated with positive returns.
"In 1925, with the acquisition of the Yellow Coach company, the General Motors Corporation undertook a systematic campaign to put streetcar lines out of business all over America. GM erected a byzantine network of subsidiaries and holding companies to carry out its mission, using its financial muscle to buy up streetcar lines, scrap the tracks, and convert the routes for buses [which it produced]... In 1936, a combination of GM part suppliers, Standard Oil of California, and Firestone Tire & Rubber formed a company called National City Lines. Two years later, National City Lines... proceeded to buy and dismantle streetcar systems in San Jose, Stockton, and Fresno, CA. In 1943, another NCL affiliate, American City Lines, converted trolleys to buses in nineteen more cities."
there is a lot more. Now my tax dollars are subsidizing loser companies like GM, Comrade. Looks like you're the socialist here, with your clients the major corporations of America, subsidized for roads, cars, communications, finance, etc. etc.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm
> "I always wonder why Lenin and Stalin get into the picture here
> since we are talking about freely made travel choices and what
> mix of investment (highways, trains, airports) bests meets travel
> demands and other relevant criteria."
Why indeed? Let's look around: last year Socialist Legislator Sally Lieber (Mountain View) wanted to make it against the law to spank your child. A little over-intrusive on her part, and the part of California State Government? Luckily most people in the California said so--and their legislators listened. But what would have happened if most people hadn't have become agitated about this to contact their legislators and talk shows? Would it have sailed through the legislature? And then not long after, another bill was before the Legislature requiring people to spay their pets! Obtrusive? Certainly to a large number of cat and dog owners! And just where does the Legislature get the right to tell people what to do with their pets? Is such a right found explicitly in the State Constitution? No!
In Massachusetts, a State-mandated health care program will start in January that will fine people who do not by State sanctioned health insurance. Is this what Paul Revere went on a "midnight ride" for? Nope! And soon, there well could be a similar program here in California that requires people to do what the Legislature tells them to do about health insurance--including the subsidizing of illegal aliens.
When it comes to large transportation issue, the state is the obvious source of funding and direction. If the same people can take away your rights to own a dog that is not spayed, or not to spank an unruly child without becoming a criminal--how long before these same people decide that you can not own a car?
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 1:51 pm
> I think it makes more sense to puzzle this out as flying versus trains for SF/LA trips
> The idea of taking the train versus driving leaves few possible
> competitive cases where the train wins. Driving allows multiple
> people to travel for the price of one and also handles luggage better.
> Now the trains versus flying has huge POTENTIAL benefits
> but I am not sure how the math works.
It becomes a capacity issue. The track becomes a "channel" and all traffic is restricted to this "channel" (ie -- channelized). The number of people that can travel per day is restricted to the number of trains that can safely use the channel. (According to a Siemens representative in Sacramento, Siemens cars hold only 550 people. Further [as stated above], there is a fifteen minute safety margin required between trains. So, from the point-of-origin [on a non-stop, end-to-end run] about 2200 people [maximum] can enter the channel per hour. The number of people using the channel becomes the number of people per hour times the number of hours the channel is used.
What about highways? Highways also become "channels" -- with the same capacity issues. However, people use highways differently, and there is no easy way for the State to measure the number of point-to-point trips at the current time. (It might be possible, but none of us would like to see that happen.)
Before any of this discussion makes any sense (SF/LA), these numbers (or a decent estimate) would need to be procured. And the there is the follow-on project-- what does it cost to increase the capacity of each system when it has reached capacity needs to also be answered.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm
I don't have all the information to do the analysis, but the 2200 passengers/hour of theoretical ridership on an HSR is a good start.
Assume 10 hours a day of operations at full capacity. That would mean 22,000/day, each direction, or 44,000/day.
The two obvious questions, using that hypothetical number (or another of the same sort):
1. Given the investment required and the operating expenses of this system, what will the average cost per passenger be if it is operating at this capacity? What does that imply for what a rider is charged for riding the HSR train?
2. What share of the travelers by auto and air does 44,000 travelers represent of the total? Is it feasible and realistic to achieve such a market share?
If Steve Levy or someone else can help provide some data around that 2200/hour number that speaks to the questions I tee up, I think it would take a great deal of abstraction out of this thread.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm
It might take a while to dreg up some of these numbers, so a data point worth noting is that of the NJ Turnpike-- the number of "revenue vehicles" is: 681,209,995.
While it probably pays to focus on SF/LA at the moment, this same argument (and methodology) works on the East Coast. In other words, how many trains (and train infrastructure) would it take to provide for the almost 700M car trips on that short piece of very important highway?
Somewhere the CHP or CA Highway people probably have a similar number for each of the important North/South roads.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 28, 2007 at 9:33 pm
Orbitz reports about 125 flights on December 31st from SFO, SJC and OAK to LAX. Estimating 200 seats average per flight (mix of narrowbody jets and RJs)is 25,000 person daily capacity in each direction in the air corridor.
Average Daily Boardings: 3054 (about 1527 unique people)
Average Hourly Boardings: 169
While this data does not provide a sufficult granularity to compare so-called "apples to apples", it should give those not blinded by the "vision of the future" some insight into the scope of the issues being discussed.
While the traffic counts are very useful, there is no way to determine the SF/LA traffic. Given the popularity of flying, the SF/LA "numbers" would need to be obtained from airline sources.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:22 am
There are two threads going on this now, and I hope somehow the Weekly editors can consolidate the two, as they are dealing with different aspects of the same question. Becky-- a favor to your old Parks and Rec contact, SVP?
That request aside, I saw in the "other" paper this Saturday morning that the CalTrain ridership currently is just south of 40,000 riders/day. Also we now have some numbers about daily air travelers between various southern Cal points and the three Bay Area airports (above) of 25,000 total.
Clearly, the number of potential travelers on the high speed rail between LA and SF will be something less than either of these numbers. Let's take a very aggressive market share for this system, and assume that 40% of air travelers (10,000) would switch to rail. I don't think is a realistic number, it is way too high, but it is fine for purposes of discussion.
I recall the estimated cost of builing this HSR artery, not any of the local transit and other ancillary systems needed to support it, was put at around $25 billion. Amortize over 25 years, that is, without interest, $1 billion/year. If the systems carries 10,000 travelers/day 365 days a year, that means the annualized cost per passenger is $1 billion divided by 3.65 million travelers, or roughly $275/trip in costs of the capital project. Not even taking operating costs into account here, which adds considerably more to the cost.
I am OK if some people question any of these assumptions, and the analysis is very basic. A true economic analysis would require a great deal more behind it that my little seat of the pants estimate. I nevertheless stand by my point from above, that this idea just does not make economic sense, and is not a wise investment of such a large pool of money. What alternatives could the funds be put toward that would provide a greater benefit to more people and also help with some of the stated objectives of this concept, namely to reduce car usage and improve envirnmental quality through lower emissions?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2007 at 3:49 pm
"Clearly, the number of potential travelers on the high speed rail between LA and SF will be something less than either of these numbers."
Why that assumption? Many years ago, Buckminster Fuller pointed out that there was a demonstrated inverse correlation between the speed one could trtavel, and the distances that one chose to travel - and that enabling speed in travel, stimulates use of same.
Thus, why are we only extrapolating current auto and air travel share as potential ridership numbers for high speed rail?
Also, my plea to include benefits in a line-item penciling has gone south.
We simply cannot afford linear analysis anymore. We have to be more pattern-based in our thinking, and out policy-making. There are many variables involved in altering transport systems in a way that lead to true efficiency - far too many to be making cost/benefit analysis based on ridership/amortization/infrastructure build formulas.
The people who want to build the high speed train need to be talking to municipalities about speeding ingress and egress of passengers; that means better inter- and intra-urban mass transit. the same goes for proponents of inter- and intra-urban mass transit (as they strategize with the high speed rail proponents).
What we need is a transportation czar who can get things done, and who has the power to force efficiencies in the various agencies, as well as penalize municipalities that won't play ball - all in an effort to get people out of their cars.
Someone in a post above was talking about ROI on alternative fuels in a way that saves $.20 per gallon in 20 years. That's fine, but it's a drop in the bucket re: getting to where we need to be if this state is going to remain competitive in the future.
As far as the high speed train goes, I would hope we can stop analyzing only on the basis of narrow costs and benefits, and look at the multipliers involved. Add that to some rreal vision, and we have a transportation revolution on our hands. That's something to get excited about.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2007 at 4:22 pm
If you are asking people to pony up money, there had better be some decent numbers to back up an idea.
I will assert without reservation that this high speed rail will not result in any significant net increase in total trips between Northern and Southern California. If there is reason to believe otherwise, I would like to understand what the basis for such an assumption is. Bucky Fuller was a great man, but there is no material increase in speed being offered here, merely an alternate way to go fast.
But, even if you are right, and the total net trips increases, what number of those do you think will utilize the rail system. 10,000? 20,000? 40,000? Then add in what I have not--interest on the bond money to pay for this thing, and the operating costs, which I did not include either. Then compare and contrast those costs with the projected alternative costs of auto and air, which will be market driven. I still am very skeptical that this particular artery is something the voters can be convinced is a good use of their money.
Don't get me wrong, I am a strong believer in rail, properly deployed, and I am of the opninion that there is a great deal that needs to be done with local rail to help with auto trips and emission control, inter alia. This HSR reminds me of a project that never got off the ground in this country 30 some years ago--the SST, Supersonic Transport, airplane. And look what happened with the Concorde--I see many similarities here.
Posted by Frank Fatwa, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Dec 31, 2007 at 9:30 pm
Ahha, what a clever idea - California land is very costly - now enters a government agency with a dog and pony show claiming environment and grid lock as the working buzz words so they can grab california land for their self enriching public scam. VOTE NO I TELL YOU for this renewed old scam.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 5:10 pm
"Engineer" make a comment in the other thread about how much electricity this system would require. It would seem that that might be covered in some of the operational estimates, and EIR. If not, then this is a huge hole in the vision of this "thing" that needs to be plugged.
Eight hundred (plus) miles of track to electrify will likely require a lot of electricity. This power will have to come from the existing supply, or a new source will be needed. Either way, the "carbon footprint" of the electricity generation of system needs to be demonstrated.
Certainly this is one of those times that talk of "going nuclear" should be on the table. Either way .. anybody have any idea how much power this thing will consume?
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:01 pm
Please go to the web link posted above by RS. The forecast estimates 2.5 million passengers per day by 2030 for the entire system. With a projected population of 60 million, that means about 5% of the people would be using the trains each day - man, woman, and child. I find this extremely far-fetched.
A lot of business is now done by the internet which means the business traveler will be making fewer daily trips. Soon face to face teleconferencing will mean even fewer trips.
I enjoy Paul Losch's comments and reasoning and thank him for trying to keep the discussion focused on real questions/problems which must be answered. I wonder if the proposed $10 Billion for studying will answer them? I fear not.
Posted by I want my train!!, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:49 pm
"The forecast estimates 2.5 million passengers per day by 2030 for the entire system. With a projected population of 60 million, that means about 5% of the people would be using the trains each day - man, woman, and child. I find this extremely far-fetched."
Then let's see your forecast.
One thing that grates; everyone want to show how smart they are with line items, but then they leave out the big ones. We don't need bean counters. We need visionaries.
In sum, penciling in estimates based on current transport behavior is not something that will get us anywhere. The world is changing; new fuel constraints are appearing. If we can make people want to buy corn flakes, we can make them want to use HSR. It's about marketing, vision, and economic models that are not constrained by conventional business case study thinking.
Nationally, Amtrak carried 25 million customers in 2006.
Given Japan's geography, and pre-existing rail system, their high speed rail seems to have made since when it was built in the late 1960s. America's geography does not come close to the limitations of Japan, and Korea (which also has a bullet train).
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm
The HSR ridership study for the LA-SF corridor says
1) 2.5 million total trips are projected for 2030 in the corridor but that includes auto, air and train. By far most are done by auto.
2) for the HSR line approx 250,000 trips a day are projected
While I think vision is important "counting the beans" to see if we are in the ball park makes sense.
As Paul Losch has pointed out several times, we could buy a lot of local transit improvements for the HSR $billions.
The main elements of the cost benefit analysis should be
a) how much savings are expected in air or highway capacity that does not have to be built. The proejcted travel rises from 1.5 miilion trips a day in 2000 to 2.5 million in 2030. So what will happen in the "no HSR" alternative
b) Is the local intraregional transit distribution system up to the task of handling what happens after you get into the region? Someone above has the sensible idea of using Caltrain bullet trains as the SJ-Sf link. That would allow the train to go from sJ to Oakland and improve service?
c) Are there environmental benefits and how much?
So far I am skeptical that the benefits fairly counted are close enough to the costs to make this a best use of transit $billions. Or that the intraregional transit systems will be up to the job if ridership is as projected.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm
Steve, you make some good points (as does Paul) but would you not agree that making a projection about what's possible for HSR based on *today's* HSR technology might result in a necessarily stunted conclusion, relative to fuel costs, infrastructure costs, operating costs, etc. etc.
Also, I'm puzzled about why we don't see more small, private jitney-like transport options in local communities. It seems that with the proper incentives in place (re: licensing fees, etc. etc) that there would be demand for this. If something like this became sufficiently embedded into community, there's a business waiting to start, for someone with scheduling distribution chops.
Last, in our cost analysis, why is is that we don;t see more of the FULL cost of the auto realized in the line items. Maybe it borders on the too political to ask for a full accounting of those costs, including the money we spend to insure a steady supply of fuel for our already overcrowded highway systems.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 10:51 am
This issue of electricity needed for this sort of conveyance is not one that has gotten a lot of visibility. A couple of web sites do have some insights in the issues of energy consumption at high speed, and the source of electrical energy in a couple of the countries that have HSRs:
Then there's the question of where the electricity comes from. When a high speed train runs above 300 km/h (about 200 mph), it uses as much energy per person as a plane (or so its claimed in this article, which is in Spanish). Where does this electricity come from? France's source is obvious: nuclear energy, which is also exported to Germany and Spain, a country where also most of the electric power comes from gas, coal and oil plants.
More than 300 per hour, a Ave consumes as much energy per passenger kilometre travelled and transported as an airplane, the electric train or not emit CO2 polluter, but somewhere we must produce electricity, for example in thermal or nuclear weapons.
(Translated from the Spanish.)
It is quite likely that nuclear power is used to provide power for HSRs in most of the countries running HSRs (directly or indirectly).
Posted by Get Real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 11:42 am
Transportation of any kind is going to be very dependent on fuel. Whether we are talking about electricity, oil (gas and aircraft fuel,) or even ethanol. Unless all of us decide never to travel for business, pleasure or anything else, the fuel consumption for transportation will continue to rise as long as the population is rising.
The amount of electricity used for turning corn into ethanol and the amount of farmland used for producing it instead of other crops are both never discussed.
As it is, I hear of alcohol (beer) prices and bread (wheat) prices all increasing because farmers are now turning to corn for ethanol rather than their traditional crops.
Transportation costs will continue to be a factor regardless of the type of transportation. The type of transportation that can increase or decrease the number of consumers with very little difference in the amount of fuel consumed will be a factor in the future. A plane can only take so many passengers without needing a bigger plane which increases the amount of fuel used. A car will use the same amount of fuel regardless of how many passengers, but for private vehicles 8 passengers is generally the limit before two cars are required for the group of people, and less if comfort is taken into account. A train can easily contain a varied number of cars without much difference in the amount of fuel used. Therefore, it is much more "green" to use electric trains, particularly if the electricity can be generated by means of something other than fossil fuels. Nuclear, wind, solar and wave power are all suitable alternatives.
The dependency of fossil fuels that the 20th century became noted for will diminish as this century continues will come about. The technology for non fossil fuels electricity will become a major influence of the political and scientific economies. The infrastructure that is already in place to use them will be among the first to benefit.
This rail link makes sense and anyone who can't see this is just looking no further than the end of their nose.
Posted by Engineer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 1:39 pm
Get Real, you say, " A train can easily contain a varied number of cars without much difference in the amount of fuel used."
That is pure fiction. I have posted several times on the other HST thread. I don't want to repeat all of that stuff. Let me just say that your nonsensical statement if the equivalent of a free energy lunch, something that does not exist. Each new car and passenger adds weight, and that weight requires additional fuel to push it. End of story.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 1:48 pm
I am no engineer and figures scream at me. However, putting an additional car on a train for say a big game or a holiday weekend must be much less than running two short trains. One long train must use less fuel than two short ones. For a holiday weekend the roads are clogged with traffic. Making each train longer will do very little to rail congestion so more passengers can be moved.
Common sense tells me that it is at peak travel times when traffic on roads or airports is horrendous will be the first opportunity for rail alternatives to show their prowess.
Posted by Engineer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 2:05 pm
Get Real, standard diesel-electric locomotives can only pull so many cars, then another locomotive needs to be added. However, just consider the passenger trains of the future where each car has its own electric motors (self powered). Each additional car will require proportionally more fuel (as a first approximation).
Your notions about reducing traffic make sense in highly congested local areas, for example, BART. However, the subject is HST over long distances, and that is a completely differenct beast. I have argued (other thread) that automobiles make more sense than HST for the SF to LA run. Just build more lanes on the current highway system.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 2:35 pm
> and cars are limited to?
You know the answer. But the question is: how many people can be carried in the channel. The whole issue revolves around the channel capacities of each of the competing schemes. HSR is just too limited in its capacities to be cost effective.
Posted by Engineer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 3:05 pm
Trains, you say "But the question is: how many people can be carried in the channel. The whole issue revolves around the channel capacities of each of the competing schemes. HSR is just too limited in its capacities to be cost effective."
It is even worse than is apparent from your post. Some pro-HST people are likely to say something like, " We can just add more cars or more trains, to keep the tracks full". Of course, they would be ignoring the increased demands on on the trunk lines to feed that electricity, with its ohmic losses, not to mention peak demand issues. Ridership issues and logistics, under such a regime, I will leave to others...but it is a big issue.
There is a certain amount of fantasy going on here. I am willing to accept that milk comes from cows, not cartons. But this view is held in deep suspicion by some on this issue.
'If passed, the ballot measure would provide $9 billion for the construction of the core segment between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim and an additional $950 million for improvements on local railroad systems, which would serve as feeder systems for high-speed rail mainline."
I wasn't aware that 10% of this money would go for improvements on current rail systems. That's important.
In all, I think we need to make this commitment, so that we can begin to prepare our state for the challenges of far increased stress on our already overburdened highways.
If we don't move toward HSR, as well as other kinds of local public transport, our state will suffer more environmental degradation, and end up farther behind the curve than other places on earth that know how to move people around far more efficiently than we do.
In 2050, the $30B we take to build this thing will look like chicken feed.
All that said, financing *anything* in this state is a difficult proposition - we have a crazy-quilt budgeting system that itself needs some big changes.
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm
When are you, finally, going to come around to supporting nuclear power? Electric trains require electricity. Where will this come from? You have always been part of the camp that says "conserve!". Are you still willing to say that we should become luddites, Mike, in order to promote HSR? Should we give up our computers, in order to save the electricity so that a small proportion of us can travel from SF to LA on electic trains? What happens when that is not enough? Turn off the lights, and go to candles?
The answer, Mike, as I am confident that you know, but won't admit, is that nuclear power needs to be built as fast as possible in California.
Posted by Long Time Palo Alto Resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 7:08 pm
Greg, why was the nuclear power plant mothballed in Washington State?
The Bay Area has too many faults and other issues for nuclear power.
The temperature of the effluent from the cooling the rods is higher than the normal temperature of the water that it will be discharged into. There are 100 more reasons that I could add for not going nuclear.
I would risk candles made from natural beeswax over nuclear anyday.
You are just as obsessed with nuclear as "Mike and Steve" are with ABAG housing.
Thankfully, there is help available though for all three of you.
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 4, 2008 at 7:21 pm
"I would risk candles made from natural beeswax over nuclear anyday."
Easy to say, Long Time, but you need to walk the talk. Of course, you will never do so, because you would be among the first to complain when the electrons shut down. So really Palo Alto of you. Talk is cheap.
If you want to make your point about nuclear power electric generation, please be specific...then be prepared to defend your stance. Wanna walk the talk?
Posted by Arthur Keller, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 5, 2008 at 12:09 am
1. I am on the record of being in favor of having a High Speed Rail station in Palo Alto as part of the Palo Alto Multimodal Transit Center if High Speed Rail is built. As part of that station, I believe there should be a hotel and retail component, as well as more parking, rental cars and Zip Cars, and better connections to transit. Palo Alto (University Avenue) Station is the second busiest station on Caltrain, second only to the San Francisco terminus at Fourth and King.
2. I am also on record of suggesting we start considering how to do grade separations if High Speed Rail is built. Menlo Park and Atherton are considering putting their section underground, and Palo Alto may wish to participate. The land over the rail line could have many potential alternative uses, such as bicycle trains, schools, or parkland.
3. Rail produces far fewer greenhouse gases than cars or airplanes. While airplanes are the most effective transportation use of oil (because there not yet alternative jet fuels, unlike most other transportation methods), they generate more greenhouse gases than any other transport method, even per passenger mile.
4. Air travel is highly subsidized. So are the roads for cars and trucks. Why all the complaints about subsidies for public transit and few complaints about subsidies for air and roadway travel? Think about the portion of our military budget that is to protect our oil supply for the cars and trucks we drive and the airplanes we fly.
Posted by Engineer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 5, 2008 at 3:06 pm
Arthur, your notion about tunneling makes sense to me, becasue it solves a number of issues (grade separation from auto traffic, improved traffic flow, increased available land for parks, etc.). There are engineering issues (ground water, for example), but they can be handled, probably. It would come down to cost and political will. However, your statement that "Rail produces far fewer greenhouse gases than cars" is just not true. You can read my previous posts to understand why, if you care to.
It occurs to me that one way to subsidize electric trains is to use the fuel model (gas tax) that is used with autos. Put a tax on electrical useage for transportation users. It would get passed through to the user via the price of the ticket. In a similar vein, as more electric autos come on line, they will need to pay for the roads that they use, therefore electrical rate taxes will need to be metered, with cutoffs for general electrical users (households). Put simply, a certain amound of electricity will not be additionally taxed, but it will be taxed beyond that point, becasue the assumption will be made that people are charging up their car batteries at home.
Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 5, 2008 at 3:12 pm
> as part of the Palo Alto Multimodal Transit Center if High
> Speed Rail is built
A $250M boondoggle pushed through the city council by Stanford, certain downtown architects and some downtown insiders. To date, the behomoth has no funding source. The current train traffic is about 3,500 passengers (about 1750 unique people), so spending $250M to glorify Stanford, or to improve these people's trip to work makes no sense at all. If there is some increase in the daily use of the station that is predicted, then this increase will most likely involve a lot of auto traffic. Downtown is the last place that needs more vehicular traffic. There is a not-too well-kept secret that some want to build a new road from the Bayshore highway into downtown Palo Alto. One could only wonder which neighborhoods such a road would go through?
Let us pray that this thing is never built, as it will most likely destroy what is left of the original downtown.
> Rail produces far fewer greenhouse gases than cars or airplanes.
So what? Rail can't move the people and goods that cars/vehicles do. It's a trade-off that reasonable people understand and want to make.
> Air travel is highly subsidized. So are the roads for cars
> and trucks.
Subsidized by whom? The answer is the American people -- who use these means of transportation quite heavily--enough so that America has a $15T GDP, which is the largest in the world. Remove the airplanes and the cars .. and you have another third world country.
> Why all the complaints about subsidies for public
> transit and few complaints about subsidies for air and roadway travel?
State-owned and public subsidized trains are clearly a monopoly that benefits only the people who use the conveyances directly, but ultimately are paid for by the public at large. Massive state boondoogles like this one will ultimately be run by unions, accountable to no one. There will be no "NO-Strike" laws passed, and these clowns will be able to cripple the system any time they want. Unions generally won't put themselves in the middle of a highway to protest something, so the publicly-subsidized (and heavily used) roads and highways then truly belong to the public --- not a union/special interest group. (Remember the BART shutdowns (and/or threats) because of Unions over the years?)
While most airlines are union, there has never been an industry-wide shutdown by the unions, so while this possility exists, it hasn't happened yet. When a union goes on strike, people bypass that airline and go to another. If there is a huge state-owned train line--there will be no political will on the part of the legislature to control these people, and the public will suffer in ways that they do not with the highway and airline system.
Lastly -- failed (or non-existent) train systems do not have a RIGHT to public subsidy. .
> Think about the portion of our military budget that is to
> protect our oil supply for the cars and trucks we drive and
> the airplanes we fly.
And your point is? Great nations have defense costs--end of story.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of another community, on Jan 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm
"State-owned and public subsidized trains are clearly a monopoly that benefits only the people who use the conveyances directly, but ultimately are paid for by the public at large."
Like this isn't true of the highway system?
the transit revolution has just begun; there is *enormous* pressure mounting to fund mass transit, and some of it is coming from old mid-Western "iron" entities that want to retool their transport manufacturing infrastructures.
We're on our way. No one is going to stop this train.
Posted by interesting read...., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm
A just-released study, The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report by transportation experts Wendell Cox and Joseph Vranich, documents the actual costs of the project, which are greatly at odds with the estimates put out by promoters of Proposition 1A. The study, jointly sponsored by the Reason Foundation, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and Citizens Against Government Waste, can be viewed here: