Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

HSR LA to Las Vegas

by BruceMcF Sun Dec 28th, 2008 at 08:29:10 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I've been following with interest the discussion of California to Las Vegas HSR at the California HSR blog.

To catch up with the state of play, before the passage of CA-Prop 1A, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Confusion), who hails from Nevada, supports a maglev line from Las Vegas to Anaheim, and there was an article in the Las Vegas Sun indicating that Gov. Schwarzenegger and Gov. Gibbons had talked up the maglev:

Near the bottom of a news release detailing Gov. Jim Gibbons' meeting last month with President-elect Barack Obama was the announcement that Gibbons and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had agreed to move ahead with the high-speed train project.

"Arnold and I agreed to jointly work together on the project," said Gibbons, who is planning to travel to Sacramento to talk with Schwarzenegger about it.

Also before the passage of CA-Prop 1A was the DesertXpress proposal to build a private Rapid Passenger Rail system to capture part of the stream of cars heading up the I-15 from LA to Las Vegas. The proposed system starts at Victorville.

Victorville? Why Victorville? If you'd care to follow along, and consider how CA-Prop 1A changes the whole picture, join me after the fold.



Victorville? Why Victorville?

From the DesertXpress site:

Of course it would be great if DesertXpress could be extended to downtown Los Angeles, Anaheim and Ontario, and someday it might. But for this initial project, it is critical for the station to serve the Southern California market and be financeable without public tax dollars.

Victorville makes a lot of sense because it is the first major population center northeast of the Cajon Pass through the San Bernardino mountain range separating the High Desert from the Los Angeles basin. Victorville is within only a 30- to 45-minute drive for roughly 5 million people who live in the Inland Empire, Antelope Valley, and the eastern portions of Los Angeles County, and only a one to two hour's drive for most of the rest of the Southland's 21 million residents--many of whom routinely drive at least an hour to and from work each weekday.


The CAHSR Option
However, now that CA-Prop 1A has passed, the wise heads at the California HSR blog (CAHSR blog)) have pointed to an alternate solution that would provide downtown LA and Anaheim service, as well as downtown San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, and Sacramento service. First, note the proximity of the propsed Victorville station to the closest station on the main trunk CAHSR route between LA and the Bay.

Now, as it turns out, there is an existing rail alignment between Mojave and Barstow, and Rafeal at the California HSR blog has already sketched out a map of a line from the proposed CAHSR system to Las Vegas (google maps), from which I have clipped the following image.

In the post about this issue on the CAHSR blog, there was much discussion of the relative priority of this route. However, the DesertXpress proposal is set forward as a private venture ... they obviously need approval to construct the line in the I-15 alignment, but (unless the financial crisis has changed their view on this) what they require is permission, not funding.

Which points out one possible path ahead. Give the DesertXpress the go-ahead, dependent on electrified rail (but see The STRACNET electrification series for a proposal that reduces the commercial obstacles to electric rail infrastructure on private rail lines), maintaining compatibility with the CAHSR system, permitting a junction at Barstow for the CA-HSR, and guaranteeing fair access to their line by common carriers operating between Las Vegas and the CAHSR system. They can proceed on their planned basis, and when the main trunk of the CA-HSR has been completed, a connecting line between Mojave and Barlow is all that is required to open up the Victorville-Las Vegas line to Anaheim, Las Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, and when the extension is completed, Sacramento.


A Show Pony or a Work Horse?

Of course, a maglev system is an expensive show-piece project with impressive top speed. However, for anyone living in a transit oriented urban or suburban village, who would have to catch local transit to the HSR station, then the HSR to the maglev transfer station, then the maglev to Vegas ... getting into the Las Vegas bound HSR service at the closest HSR station is a more appealing prospect.

And by the same token, for those who are taking a short hop flight to Vegas, pressing the capacity of the airport in Las Vegas, the ability to go to drive to a closer HSR station and catch a direct HSR service should be more appealing to many than an HSR service to a maglev transfer station. After all, once you have settled in with your laptop or the movie on your portable DVD player, an uninterrupted trip with no uncertainties about a transfer is a more pleasant way to travel ...

... lost in dreaming, while blazing through the desert ...

Display:
... crossposts at Docudharma and ProgressiveBlue are two clicks away, via the link to the original Burning the Midnight Oil post.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 28th, 2008 at 08:30:25 PM EST
The dominance of maglev talk for HSR in California is really depressing . . . almost as if the backers are deliberately trying to fail.

Still, the LA-LV route is one that many friends of mine have been wanting for a long time.  Young people love taking weekend trips to Vegas, but the drive there and back is always a bummer.  Getting on a train, and thus not having to worry about drunk driving laws, would be far preferable.

If you're looking to build public support for a line, this one is a no-brainer.

by Zwackus on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 02:45:20 AM EST
HSR in California is dominated by steel on steel, because that's what was passed in the $9b in bonding in Prop 1A. But until the powerful Senator from Nevada catches up with reality, the "gee whiz" factor for the line to Las Vegas is strong.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 09:27:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's zero chance of maglev being used for the SF-LA route which voters approved on November 4. The California High Speed Rail Authority ruled it out years ago as too expensive and an unproven technology.

The issue here is that Senator Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada and the Senate Majority Leader, supports maglev from Anaheim (LA suburb) to Vegas and secured $45 million to study it. That money would have been MUCH better spent on studying the best way to tie the Desert Xpress conventional HSR system into the CAHSR plan - whether a Barstow-Mojave or Victorville-Palmdale alignment is best.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 06:24:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can only wonder if Reid, Gibbons and Schwartzo have all become aquainted with the same maglev consultant and political donor.  That could explain all of the hoopla around maglev: a train wreck between technical and political realities.  Perhaps some of the sites that track political donations would provide some evidence in a few months.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 30th, 2008 at 03:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... for the Governator, it seems just as likely that its a "forward looking" thing to be heard saying without requiring any immediate expenditure of political capital.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Dec 30th, 2008 at 10:20:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
any immediate expenditure of political capital.
Arnold has been courting the "green" faction in California politics.  Perhaps some of them could convince him otherwise.  But I also seem to recall some multi-million dollar "mag-lev" studies being proposed and/or performed in California.  My observation is that, for many in this process, getting a commission to perform an analysis, even on something that is a foregone conclusion, is still a very worth while goal and worthy of donations, etc. I doubt that Bechtel would decline to study such a proposal in great detail unless it conflicted with something else that they found more profitable.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 31st, 2008 at 03:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... all that has to be done is to get a CA-HSR compatible option added to the terms of reference.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Dec 31st, 2008 at 05:24:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I presume the attraction of maglev is higher maximum speeds.

However, infrastructure wise, it's a bit inflexible, you can't run services onto other branch lines, etc.

How big is the proposed speed difference? ML -> HSR ?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 04:27:26 AM EST
Let's see...

  • Desert Xpress + CAHSR: LA-Palmdale (58mi) will be 27 minutes on CAHSR. Desert Xpress want to do Victorville-Las Vegas (190mi) in 1h45m at a top speed of 125mph (200km/h). A Palmdale-Victorville extension would be around 50mi, or 80km, and could be covered in half an hour. So, altogether, 2h40m-2h45m.

  • HSR: Palmdale-Mojave (~30mi) + Rafael's Mojave-Las Vegas spur (216mi) adds another ~250mi or ~400km. With a top speed of 220mph (350km/h), that should be possible in 1h20m, so adding LA-Palmdale, 1h40m-1h45m in total.

  • Maglev: top speed would be 310mph (500km/h), trip tine to Anaheim 1h26m.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 09:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Better acceleration and steeper maximum slope as well, but saving about 12 minutes on a system requiring a transfer is no saving at all.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 09:38:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No joke. That's insanity.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 01:22:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

   Trains? Great. Maglev? Do we really have the need for speed? Competing with air? Not when it's about to get bulldozed by peak oil. And people are only going to be leaving Las Vegas once as the combination of water supply and economy bowl them over.

   Things that move on rails are cool and they're doubleplus cool when their motive force is electric. Definitely hook San Diego to San Francisco but Las Vegas? Couldn't a well run spur line up from Kingman do this job?

by SacredCowTipper (sct@strandedwind.org) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 04:50:58 AM EST
In terms of priorities, San Diego and Sacramento would come before Las Vegas and Phoenix, because of proximity. Which is, after all, how things stand ... San Diego and Sacramento are included as stages of CAHSR after the main trunk line from the Bay to Anaheim is finished, while LV and Phoenix are speculative extensions.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 09:36:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I quite agree. One reason it makes sense to establish the HSR and Rapid Rail lines now where they are competitive with air at 110mph and 220mph under current conditions is that as peak oil bites, the competitive advantage will widen, and they can serve as the foundation for extending the system.

Better trains running at 110mph between Cleveland and Columbus than a coast to coast maglev network on paper that will likely never be built.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 10:40:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As long as there is California, there will be escapees from California.  Thus Phoenix and Vegas.  And there's always our seemingly-endless supply of old Yankees, most of whom now can't afford Florida thanks to Armageddon in the stock market.  Sure, the Wild West days of $900/square foot in Scottsdale are over, but stupidity is a renewable resource.  There will be a market once more.

And they'll pump the water in.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Dec 30th, 2008 at 11:32:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, Bruce.

First, a nitpick - it's Barstow, not Barlow. Barstow is a popular waystation for travelers going to and from Vegas, and is a major rail hub in its own right (BNSF has a huge yard there and UP has one just east at Daggett).

Second, I just traveled in this region yesterday, on a drive back to Monterey from Arizona. I'm more convinced now by Rafael's Mojave-Barstow alignment, paralleling Highway 58 and the existing tracks. That alignment is almost literally empty - flat desert land with hardly anything in its path. The Victorville-Palmdale route along Highway 18 is not exactly built up, but has more obstacles human and natural than the other alignment. The main problem with the Mojave-Barstow plan is the existing tracks are within the northern boundary of Edwards Air Force Base, which for you Europeans is one of NASA's main sites and was for a long time, perhaps still is, a key development and test site for secret Air Force technology (just a bit less secretive than Area 51 but not by much).

This is why Reid's $45 million appropriation to study maglev is so stupid. That money should go to help fund the CHSRA and if Reid wants to work on a Vegas extension, then study which alignment (Barstow-Mojave or Victorville-Palmdale) is best for steel wheel conventional HSR.

One might find that Victorville-Palmdale would bring more riders and income without sacrificing a whole lot of time, given the sizable exurban population in the Victorville area. Or that Mojave-Barstow is the better move given what are likely to be dirt-cheap construction costs.

And by tying Vegas-LA HSR to the existing SF-LA HSR project, we bring Harry Reid on board, as well as Barack Obama, who will want to keep the 5+ electoral votes he won by flipping Nevada to the Dems for the first time since the 1990s.

(Note that it's "5+" since Nevada is highly likely to gain additional seats in Congress after the 2010 census)

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 06:32:20 PM EST
... Coronation Street, then?

Thanks, I'll fix it.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 08:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see no big loss and lots to gain in using the Mojave/Barstow (honest, I ewes a spell Czech) alignment to connect the HSR system to an HSR compatible line with a Victorville terminus for the original I-15 escape hatch. It allows the line to get up and running, and then the LA/LV and SF-SJ/LV routes are one connecting line away.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Dec 29th, 2008 at 08:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries