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Trains to the rescue

by Jerome a Paris Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:09:15 AM EST

Given how European Tribune enjoys Train Blogging, and our friendly links with the California High Speed Train blog I thought this was worth flagging, as unexpected good news, given how things had looked like until the last minute:

Obama plots huge railroad expansion

Railroads made Chicago, and now a Chicago-rich White House wants to return the favor: remaking rail with a huge new federal investment in high-speed passenger trains.

The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Its a sum that far surpasses anything before attempted in the United States and more is coming. Administration officials told Politico that when Obama outlines his 2010 budget next week, it will ask for $1 billion more for high-speed rail in each of the next five years.

Now that would be major, major progress.


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This would be so great.  This is exactly the direction we need to go in.  It seems like Obama sets his sights and then moves ever steadily toward the goal.  I hope it is true.  I hope he keeps going toward a sane policy of energy independence.  The efficiency of reliable, safe and speedy mass transportation is a huge step in the right direction.  He should know that the vast majority of us have his back.  Go Obama.
by jjellin on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:24:58 AM EST
You don't necessarily need to spend the $8bn on railways. You need much less to make an investment on a concessionary basis by private consortia profitable - so on each bit of line you just need to define the requirements for the line and open bids to contractors on the subsidy they need to make it work.

You can leverage quite a bit more of private investment that way. And, if necessary, help provide loans to such consortia by making them eligible to Fed purchase or providing guarantees.

The important thing is to keep control of the overall design, and use the private sector as a contractor for defined tasks.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:29:48 AM EST
DoDo had some interesting projections for costs recently.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... institutional arrangements where the Federal government provides heavy capital subsidy for new interstate transport works and little or no subsidy for operating expenses of anything except airlines (obviously the airlines cannot survive on their own, poor dears, they keep going bankrupt even with heavy operating subsidies).

Note that "HSR" here is the Congressional legislative language, which lumps true HSR together with Rapid Rail. And while we can get all techno-dweeb about the differences between the two, they do have one thing in common ... when connecting city pairs of sufficient population sufficiently close together in terms of travel time, they can generate surpluses of passenger revenues over operating costs.

So the Federal government paying all (Stimulus Bill) or 50%-80% (regular HSR funding formula) of the capital cost of an HSR line can set up a scenario where there is no need to fight for ongoing operating subsidies against the constant efforts of the Conservative Movement to sabotage the US economy.

The entire Ohio Hub for instance (blue, below), a 110mph Rapid Rail network that quite effectively expands the route matrix of the Midwest Hub, New York Empire Corridor, and Pennsylvania Keystone Corridor, would cost $5b in 2002$, so certainly under $10b in current dollars.

And for the Ohio Hub, the financial hurdle is the 110mph tier of operating speeds ... the Ohio Rail Development Commission's analysis showed operating recovery of 80% to 90% when a 79mph Ohio Hub is added to the 110mph Midwest Hub, and 120% and better operating recovery when a 110mph Ohio Hub is added.

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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 10:31:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the Chicago to Carbondale route justified because there is existing alignment, because of possible future extension down the Mississippi to New Orleans or what?  It seems anomalous considering that an extension from St. Louis, of the same length, could extend through Memphis to Little Rock or through Memphis to Vicksberg.  Who represents Carbondale?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 05:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Chi-Carbondale rte. is sep from the Chi-St. Louis rte.  It is a rte. that serves both University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University, so, yeah, there is a justification for its existence.

by poemless on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 05:38:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 05:43:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are all on existing rail corridors, sometimes corridors in use, sometimes corridors not in use (or not in much use) but not yet formally abandoned.

Remember that these are 110mph Rapid Rail routes, not bullet train routes ... the capital cost is much lower, so the travel market required to justify them is not the same size.

But with respect to the question, that is in general the route of the current City of New Orleans, Chicago/Memphis/NOLA, so the Carbondale leg of the Midwest Hub would also provide a substantial improvement in reliability of performance for that part of the current skeleton of a national route matrix.


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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 07:44:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And of course it is Obama himself who represented Carbondale, as its former Senator.  As one who grew up and lived his life in the west I do not expect the density of mid-sized towns along these three routes.  Will there be service for all?  I can certainly see how tying Chicago to Urbana to Carbondale with rapid rail could facilitate sharing of human resources amongst Illinois universities, although I don't know how many daily passenger miles that would generate.  Density certainly favors mass transit.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 08:48:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They certainly are not rival routes ... they don't really need density of population along the route that mass transit would require, they just need adequate population centers and transport hubs ...

... and, indeed, 180kph (110mph) trains can operate successfully at population densities that 130kph (80mph) trains simply cannot, because the intervening distance between population centers makes for slower trips at 130kph.

More than sharing human resource among Universities, Carbondale and Urbana will have a steady stream of trips to Chicago, for business travel as well as student and staff.

And the establishment of a Rapid Rail path also means that it is much easier to put in place a regional stopping train which will leave one main station after one Rapid and arrive at another main station in advance of the next Rapid ... that is the most normal way of putting the smaller towns on the route matrix.

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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:46:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]

From the Federal Railways Administration

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:42:46 AM EST
... rather those corridors that have achieved Federal designation as HSR corridors.

So, for example, the Front Range corridor centers on Denver and Colorado Springs is still in preliminary planning, the alignment between Houston and the San Antonio / Dallas corridor is up in the air, and Sen. Reid's beloved Maglev from Las Vegas to Anaheim is only one of a variety of possible approaches, so none of those are Federally Designated Corridors.

Similarly, comparing the map to the Ohio Hub map, you can see that both the Midwest Hub and the Ohio Hub have only sought designation for stage 1 of their systems, since in each case, there's no point pushing for designation of a later stage until funding is secured to start construction of Stage 1.


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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 10:36:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was wondering about the Houston thing when I first saw that map the other week. I would have thought that connecting up Houston, Dallas/FW, Austin, and San Antonio would be a natural idea, more important than some of the other stuff up there, including Houston NOLa.
by MarekNYC on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 06:00:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The original alignment, which AFAIU was killed when someone called "Bush" was Governor, was a triangular network. The cheapest alignment is probably to build Rapid Rail track in the corridor used by the existing Amtrak train from Houston to San Antonio, but then the biggest transport market on the system, Houston/Dallas, is the longest trip on the system.

The most recent plan is the so-called "T-Bone", with a single alignment with a junction on the San Antonio/Dallas corridor, with some services from Houston running up to Dallas and others running south to San Antonio ... it looks like it goes out of the way compared to the triangular route, but when the trains start getting up to a reasonable speed, the trip times seem to work out OK.

But they need to settle on a general alignment to get designation.


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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 07:26:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The most recent plan is the so-called "T-Bone","
So it's "T" for Texas,.....aaahh ha!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:04:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... also for what the route vaguely looks like on the map.

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 Feb 17th, 2009 at 09:47:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a cool start. Too bad there's nothing between Sacramento and Eugene.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 05:14:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... would be tremendously expensive for a relatively small transport market. But if an alignment was developed for Rapid Freight Rail from the Pacific Northwest to SoCal, that would become a genuinely attractive sleeper route, with evening departures from the Pacific Northwest and early morning arrivals in California.

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 Feb 18th, 2009 at 07:02:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From page 2 of the article:

In fact, there's little evidence that Reid had a decisive role, although he was happy to see his name mentioned for the sake of voters at home.

No truer a word has been written.

by Magnifico on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 12:57:04 PM EST
As I pointed out in the Salon the other day, it's actually more than that, because the $28bn highway portion allows those funds to be spent on rail, too.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 01:45:41 PM EST
Actually, no:

California High Speed Rail Blog

the original House bill contained $30b for highways, $2b for fixed guideways and $1b at the discretion of the Secr. of Transportation, subject to a competitive bidding process. The Nadler amendment increased that latter number to $2.5b. The Senate's version allocated the $2b to a specific type of fixed guideway, namely HSR. It also moved $3b out of the highway budget and into the discretionary pot, increasing it to $5.5b. At the President's request, this potential slush fund was also allocated to a specific type of transportation spending, namely HSR. The remaining $500 million came from shifting funding for brand-new local transit services to HSR and Amtrak. If you add it all together, aggregate transportation spending was actually reduced to help make room for the AMT patch that the three GOP senators demanded. Math is hard.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 03:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that wasn't pointed out in the Politico article, which made it sound like this money was merely the product of Rahm Emanuel's backroom dealing and Obama's desire for a "signature issue" project, is that HSR was one of the highest rated policy proposals on Change.gov's Citizens Briefing Book, one of the few that actually elicited a response from the transition team.

So Obama has merely done the people's bidding here.

$8 billion is really a drop in the bucket, but this does show a strong pro-HSR consensus in Washington DC. And that is long overdue.

(Thanks for the link to my CA HSR blog, btw!)

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 02:59:16 PM EST
$8 billion is really a drop in the bucket

Yep, maybe the budget for a corridor in a larger state.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 03:13:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... train, or several Rapid Rail corridors. The Triple-C corridor, which is the trunk of the Ohio Hub, was costed at $1.1b in infrastructure in 2002$, so accounting for inflation and 20% to 40% system establishment costs, that's under $2b.

But as Stimulus spending that has to be spent by 2012, its better seen as a downpayment to allow projects to get jump started now, when states would struggle mightily to come up with the normal state match.


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 Feb 18th, 2009 at 07:04:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahhh, Europe



"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 17th, 2009 at 07:28:19 PM EST
Is this photo visible?  (I see it fine.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 05:09:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had to manually open http://lh3.ggpht.com/_wunn6JIzGDU/SZtMYxFYTkI/AAAAAAAAARI/J1WhWnfqDJ8/s912/p12.jpg in its own window and now I can see it...

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 05:12:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And now it's a 404.
by Gag Halfrunt on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 05:35:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, that was my experience with the other invisible photos embedded by Crazy Horse.

Question to him: how/where did you upload these? Could it be that the upload site (I take some Google thing) is under bandwidth or embedding restrictions?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 09:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or perhaps they're just temporary cache files.
by Gag Halfrunt on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 01:37:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah. They disappeared and re-appeared for me.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 18th, 2009 at 02:01:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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