High Speed Rail for California and the Country - A good idea?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by earllogjam, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. earllogjam

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    #1 earllogjam, Jul 22, 2008
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008
  2. SpeedoGuy

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    Even with the rising cost of fuel I suspect Americans will be reluctant to give up private automobile travel.
     
  3. earllogjam

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    I'm not sure Speedo. Would you pay $200 in gas to get to LA from San Francisco?

    I'd take the high speed rail from my office in Downtown San Francisco to downtown LA if I could get here in 2.5 hours. It would beat a 6 hour drive and LA traffic or a 4 hour airport/plane/airport trip. I wonder if the ticket prices would be astronomical and if in the end like all government ventures turn into one big Amtrac money losing fiasco.

    They already are making high speed rail from LA to Las Vegas of all places subsidized by the Federal Government thanks to some Harry Reed ear mark pork barreling. Another frivolous expense taxpayers eat - a gambler's express to feed the Senate Majority leader's city.

    The California system all does seem like pie in the sky but I think its a good idea to have this infrastructure planning in place before it becomes totally out of reach financially. Just think what Bay Area traffic would be if they hadn't started planning for BART in the early 1960's

    The virtual reality videos of the train system are sexy tho huh?
     
  4. SpeedoGuy

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    I agree that raw cost might the only force that could eventually motivate consumers to reduce or abandon private auto travel in favor of mass transit. Nothing else has worked to reduce private auto miles driven. Appeals to reduce air pollution didn't suffice. Appeals to reduce traffic congestion sure didn't work. Poor road maintenance, high insurance rates, collapsing bridges, and drunk drivers sure haven't scared motorists out of their cars. Only brute economic force will probably do the trick.

    Remember: Americans love their cars as much more than just as modes of transportation, costs be damned. Cars represent independence and status, neither of which will be given up without a fight to the bitter end.

    I think its a very good idea to plan for contingencies as well. I do it in my personal life frequently. But, to be quite blunt, I don't think our political system is capable of serious planning for paradigm shifts even when clear evidence exists that such shifts are imminent. Our politics are far too fractious and confrontational to get any serious planning work done. Further, voters don't seem capable of facing ugly truths anyway. So, of course, out of sheer self-preservation instinct, our political leaders do little beyond pandering to that mindset.

    I think the best we can hope for is that our political system is capable of reacting well after whatever inevitable debacle occurs. High speed rail probably will be built but only after economic necessity forces it and not beforehand.
     
  5. mista geechee

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    I've been wishing we would do something like this or maglev for awhile. But aside from teh facts stated, everybody is part of a fucking labor union now. If we use trains that can be controlled from a computer and eliminate the need for a on-board operator, no one would have a union to bitch to.

    And those things don't have hemis
     
  6. TurkeyWithaSunburn

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    America is wayyyyyyyy behind the curve on this one the Europeans and Japanese love their highspeed trains. You can go from city center to city center instead of airport to airport. Last time I checked most all airports were quite a while away from the city center. It's a $50 one way cabfare going locally airport to downtown. Where do you most likely want to go if you're travelling for business?

    The NorthEast corridor Washington D.C.-NYC-Boston is an area ripe for HSR. Maybe even as far as the midwest could be connected economically. Chicago-Milwaukee area. In California a SF-LA and extension to LasVegas, NV is another area that could be done. There was a proposal in the mid90's in TX connecting 3 of their major metro areas.

    Steel wheel on steel rails or Magnetic levitation either way is better and FASTER than a car. The TGV (Train a grande vitesse -train at high speed :smile:) in France has been highly successful and the Shinkansen (bullet trains) of Japan are legendary. Shanghai, China has a maglev system for their airport to citycenter (?) route.
     
  7. mista geechee

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    Yea that too. But the US is to cocky and dogmatic to change. Unfortunately. Like the Hebrews say " Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall ".
     
  8. D_Portelay Porquesword

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    We have been in need of this for quite sometime now.

    The traffic from Orange County into Riverside is at best tragic. A high speed rail system like this opens up many possibilities for the state's economy.

    I am very happy to hear about this. I think over all it is a good thing. We have been way behind on this for far too long.

    Yaaaay for us!:veryhappy:
     
  9. Guy-jin

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    I've been waiting for this for a very long time. After living in Japan and being able to go so easily from one place to another by rail and bullet train, I have been hoping for something like this even more. We need it, and I'll use it.

    Having vast tracks of farm-land between our huge metropolitan areas, it's kind of surprising we don't have this already. But better late than never. :smile:

    One thing I will say is that in LA, at least, our abysmal public transit will need to be bolstered as well to make this a real boon. High speed trains are great, but if it's hard to get to the station because public transit in the city is so bad, it definitely makes it less appealing.
     
    #9 Guy-jin, Jul 22, 2008
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008
  10. MARCOPOLO4

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    i've been hearing about these trains since i was a little boy i am now an old man and i'm still hearing about them i doubt i'll see them in my life time.
     
  11. earllogjam

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    Most big public infrastructure projects in the US were due to reactionary governing. All the WPA projects from the depression, the interstate highway system from the cold war era, the race to the moon also from the cold war era. So maybe Speedo is right. Our government cannot plan long range infrastructure like High Speed Rail beneficial to our environment or standard of living if it is not in some scheme of a special interest pushing it thru Washington. These projects just seem too cost prohibitive. What about the TVA Speedo? That was a government planned successful infrastructure project.

    The irony is that the bill for 2 months of war in Iraq could pay for this High Speed Rail throughout California with some spare change left.

    There is a $9 billion bond initiative on the California Nov. ballot for this rail system. It needs a simple majority vote to pass.
     
  12. SpeedoGuy

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    I'm not familiar enough with how TVA projects came into being but I suspect they may well have been reactions to the great depression rather than enlightened forethought by Congress. There may well be some exceptions to my pessimistic outlook, to be sure.

    On the other hand, there were plenty of bipartisan studies prior to 9/11/2001 that pointed out serious flaws in the US's aviation security system. No one paid much attention, though, because Congress was much more interested in spending oodles of dollars to investigate and publicize Bill Clinton's sex practices.

    Despite the formidable threat posed by the Axis powers, prior to Dec 7 1941 the USA's standing army was smaller and less well equipped than those of some South American nations. Congress only grudgingly funded improvements in military readiness because it wasn't seen as being important.

    We had 30 years warning since the Arab oil embargos in the 1970s to improve fuel efficiency. Did we pay attention? No, we just built ever larger cars.

    I could go on and on but I'd probably bring myself to despair. Sigh.
     
    #12 SpeedoGuy, Jul 23, 2008
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2008
  13. sdbg

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    earllogjam: Thanks for the video. I live in SD and would welcome the high speed train.

    Oh! How right your are! I'm an accountant (no - not a rich one!), and I could honestly no longer justify the expense for a car when I don't really need one. I sold my Mustang GT convertible 2 months ago, and do not plan to buy another motor vehicle. For the past 3 years, I've been using my bicycle and public transportation to commute to work. I ride 7 miles on my bike, take my bike on the trolley for 15 mile, and then ride a mile on the bike to work. I like traveling by train, and they are bike friendly. Being able to take my bike on a high speed train on Saturday morning to SF for a weekend, bike all around SF, then go back to SD on Sunday afternoon. It sounds like a blast. Sign me up!
     
  14. mista geechee

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    Asshole. I have to sit in shitty traffic with bad drivers in early morning rush hour and wait twice as long to go half teh distance you described.
     
  15. jason_els

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    The US could do wonders with high real high speed rail. The Acela is a joke. Between Washington, DC and New York, it only saves 45 minutes off the regular train, yet charges $91 more. Flights take only an hour and a half. Acela takes two hours and 45 minutes. Many parts of track on Acela are even now, not yet fully high speed. The distance from Union Station in Washington to Grand Central Station in New York is 228 miles. If all that track were high speed and the latest trains were used, then the train could reasonably take only an hour and a half. If they could offer that service for the same or even very slightly more than flying, then it would work.

    What I would love to see are high speed lines between major national cities with a high speed spoke system to other regional cities outside the major hubs. The cost of renovating all that track though, would be enormous. The single biggest factor in this situation is Amtrak itself, a government-run entity. The train system of the US has to get out of the hands of the government for anything to happen. So long as it is, rail will be a disaster. That's not because the government is incapable of doing anything, but because airlines do not want competitive rail systems and they tell congress as much.

    Flying in the US these days is disasterous. It's a horrible experience for everyone involved. Yet even then, I don't think the economies of scale warrant high speed rail. Just-In-Time commercial systems are based upon the speed and convenience of a truck going from specific point to specific point, and Just-In-Time is essential for many businesses to stay competitive. Americans also don't have the time for travel. Our vacations are much shorter than Europeans, and major destinations are frequently so far away that entire days spent traveling would essentially be wasted vacation time. Business travelers need convenience as well. This would limit high speed rail to the busiest regional routes where times are relatively short. Most people do not want, or simply cannot, to spend more than half a day traveling.

    Look at what Ryanair has done to rail travel in Europe where flying is generally easier. Ryanair costs less than high speed rail systems, and gets people to where they want to go faster than high speed rail even when travel to and from airports is considered. Without subsidies, most high speed rail systems in Europe aren't practical and they're not even profitable. Too, the demographics of Europe are different. European cities are compact and existing rail systems were in great shape when high speed rail began development. Mass transit by rail and other systems was already excellent. Here in the US, many Americans have to drive to get to mass transit. Our suburbs, where Americans live, were designed for cars. Europe has not adopted the suburb to nearly the extent we have. Mass transit is usually within walking distance for them. The further west you go in the US, the younger the cities are, and therefore, the more designed for cars they are. Some major cities have mass transit systems which amount to little more than lip service. High speed commuter trains are impractical because the frequent stops would mean entire trips would be spent rapidly accelerating and decelerating, making passengers ill.

    I've said this here before, but I really think for high speed rail to become practical and profitable, the US would need a major demographic overhaul. That means largely abandoning suburbs, rebuilding cities for higher, denser, populations, and privatizing the entire national rail system. We would also have to abandon Just-In-Time delivery systems, sacrificing convenience for energy savings, and focus on regional destinations for leisure travel. If you have any idea what travel was back in the first half of the 20th century when trains ruled and airplanes were the province of the wealthy and the executive who needed to fly, then you may have an idea of what will be required to not only make high speed rail practical, but also what it would take to truly lessen our dependence on oil. Say sayonara to year-round perishable foods, FedEx style deliveries, national destination travel, RVing, and cheap prices. Stores will once again need to carry inventory, small internet retailers won't be able to ship or price competitively, and UPS deliveries will resemble the occasion of the Wells Fargo Wagon arriving in town.

    For a country so dependent on the combustion engine, our future is going to look like a return to the past.
     
  16. exwhyzee

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    Last month I had to go to Washington DC for a conference. The distance from my house to Dupont Circle is 320 miles, from door to door. I could have paid around $300 for a one hour plane ride (airport is 10 minutes from my house to National Airport), I could have driven for a tank of gas $40 and 3 nights overnight parking for $90 (interstates 85 and 95 all the way), or I could take the train for $112 rt (train station 3 miles from my house to Union Station).

    I chose the train. The upside is that it was easy to get on the train, no security checks, interesting scenery, and less stress. The downside was that the train was 15 minutes late to my station, and over an hour late getting into Washington. The whole trip took almost 8 hours to complete. The return trip took a half-hour longer.

    Last week, when I had to return to DC for another meeting, I drove. The trip took 5 hours, it was on my own time-schedule, and I got reimbursed on mileage.

    If there were high speed trains in place (they are planned for extension south of DC to Charlotte within a few years) I would rely on them more frequently. Eight hours is a long time to spend on a train. It would be hard to beat a trip by high speed train under 5 hours. I would chose that in a heartbeat.

    I will say the trains from North Carolina to points north are fully booked on a regular basis, and the state is adding another train this fall to accomodate the increasing demand. Train ridership in this state has skyrocketed in the past year, as has all public transportation. If gas prices remain where they are or rise, substantial changes will continue in the way Americans look at train travel.
     
  17. D_Geffarde Phartsmeller

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    Earl, you need to meet my dad. He's been pushing for mass transit in MI (and the US) for over 30 years. It's a bit obscene and for the longest time seemed like it'd be fruitless but now, with the gas prices, it's becoming a possibility. While I was in Japan, I got a chance to checkout there high-speed rail and it's pretty nice. The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is 3ish hours with the train but takes nearly 10 hours by bus! That's a huge difference. The cost, however, can be prohibitive. I want to say a roundtrip ticket is $150 but I don't remember exactly. It's near that price. The other problem is convenience. With a car, I go by my schedule. With a train, I'm at the mercy of it's schedule. And if I miss the train, I'm waiting 15min for the next one. Those are my main to quips. I've always been in favor of high-speed rail.
     
  18. EagleCowboy

    EagleCowboy Well-Known Member

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    I already see a serious safety issue with this. Only complete idiots would entrust their lives to something with a Windows OS, not to mention not having an on-board operator for when something goes wrong. And something will.
     
  19. Deno

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    They replace the old wooden ties here locally with concrete ones and replace the tracks with continuous ones and now there very quite and go up to 90 miles and hour. I don't see why new technology is necessary. Thats only 25 minute commute to phila which is 58 miles away.
     
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