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  • Keystoneaholic
    replied
    One thing you will find in the UK is that on each main passenger route out of London, many of the long distance trains make a stop about 30 miles from their starting point and business at these locations is brisk. It allows people to use local trains or buses to connect, without having to backtrack. It can also allow for a park and ride element. As Steve has just suggested, you need a network to make it more viable. The network doesn't have to be under common ownership, Switzerland and Denmark have been demonstrating that for years, but all the parties need to work together.

    One thing that has occured to me is that improvements could be made even on long distance services without high speed rail. If Amtrak ran a train from Chicago to Los Angeles every 8 hours, a journey would become possible between any two stops without the need to arrive or depart during the night hours. It also potentially makes connections closer. I realise that, in this instance, BNSF probably would be less than happy with the concept on the grounds of track capacity, but the idea still holds.

    Rob.

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  • mestevet
    replied
    Originally posted by CottonBelter View Post
    Surely expanding roadways to accommodate today's traffic will help, but I don't think this is a long term solution. The population will continually rise and even the largest of roadways will have to keep getting bigger. Even if our roadways will be able to accommodate traffic within the next 10 - 30 years, ...
    I share the same basic opinion with you and Joe, but I would argue that the situation is such that in some places in particular, expanding roadways really won't even provide a short term traffic solution.

    Having been a resident of the greater Los Angeles area, I can definitely say that the freeway system, right now, does not work effectively. In some places on certain major freeways, there are 6 lanes in each direction (perhaps more with merge & HOV lanes). I spoke with a CalTrans highway engineer I met once, and he said that adding additional lanes to the 405 might be possible, but even to add two lanes, the costs were tremendous (I couldn't tell you the $ figure), and even at that, the extra lanes really wouldn't be enough to solve the traffic bottleneck that happens daily between 6am and 9pm (anyone who has lived in So. Cal. will tell you that's "rush hour," all day). He said that even 20 lanes wouldn't stop severe traffic congestion.

    His point was that there is an "if you build it, they will come" mentality to building more lanes or even more freeways (the 105 Freeway from the 605 to the Airport/405 was a newly built freeway in this time frame). The additional capacity seems to get used up almost instantly, without reducing overall congestion. Whether it's new traffic trips, or it's people who diverted from "slower" roads (such as city streets), the additional capacity seems inadequate even before it's opened. He mentioned that it's a bit like "peeing in the ocean" - the demand for transportation is so huge between areas that a single lane of highway meets only a small fraction of the need.

    Certainly the issues in Los Angeles aren't true everywhere but my observation of cities where I've driven in normal conditions, across the country, seem to face similar problems.

    The point that I recall this CalTrans engineer making was that the only solution to the transportation problem was an overall "network" which includes public and private transportation. His point was that you need not just trunks (like a freeway, or in trains, a "Mainline") but viable alternative routes, as well as feeder routes to make a transportation system a universal system. It's not about just looking at the trunk, it's about looking at the network as a whole.

    I think that's a point about High Speed Trains in the US where I feel many people "in charge" miss the boat. Building a very expensive trunk line between large cities is great, I won't argue, but if you want to create a truly effective transportation system, you need alternate routes, and viable feeder routes as well, whether it's a highway system or a rail system. So great, connect Chicago and St. Louis with HSR, but if you're not feeding from cities off the trunk, it's not an effective solution. The trunk is only going to draw ridership from a limited radius around each station (probably based on criteria like the distance to travel to the station vs. other methods of transportation to the final destination). Another factor is going to be available public transportation options to the destination doorstep.

    My point is that just plopping down HSR on a dedicated ROW between cities doesn't create a true solution unless you consider the other, non-HSR parts of the transportation network that are needed to make it a viable transportation alternative.

    Steve

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  • CottonBelter
    replied
    Originally posted by jtr1962 View Post
    Interesting topic. I wrote the following on another forum a few years back but it's even more relevant today I think:

    I believe part of the lack of support for HSR stems from the unwillingness of most people to accept that a chain of events are now in motion which inevitably will lead to the demise of the private automobile as well as the aeroplane. We're already starting to see airlines fold despite billions poured into them by the government. Sooner or later we're going to have to accept that any remaining air travel will be priced beyond the means of most people since the government could not afford to subsidize it to such an extent that air fares will remain as they are. Besides that, air travel is becoming increasingly invasive and inconvenient due to new security measures. Two-hour pre-arrival time requirements take away much of the speed advantage.

    The private auto will be in a similar quandary even if we move wholesale to EVs. The reason here is simple-a car is not the most energy efficient means to move passengers regardless of source of power. Also, much of the Interstate system is in very poor shape. The bill for repair will come due very soon. The cost to fix it might very well rival what building a national HSR system will cost. We'll probably conclude that since we're practically starting from scratch anyway, we may as well build a system which uses less energy and moves people much faster. This will be especially true once air travel is no longer affordable. Without HSR the average person will simply have no inexpensive means of traveling long distances, and no means at all of doing so at a decent average speed. In our future then autos will be relegated to running errands and shuttling to train stations. The days of traveling from state to state by car will be over. Even long commutes to work via auto will probably be a thing of the past unless the origin and destination lie near HSR stations.


    To add to this a bit-it's not a question of if we should build HSR, but rather how quickly we can get a decent system up and running. Unfortunately, we have about 25 to 30 years of catching up to do comparing to the rest of the world. I'm also surprised nobody mentioned that such as system could move priority freight, especially at night when passenger travel is lighter. This could add a great deal of revenue, perhaps even offer new services such as same-day delivery between cities a few hundred miles apart.

    Additionally, trends occurring after I wrote that piece, such as the real estate crisis, along with the gradual infrastructure deterioration, has caused some suburbs to be ghost towns. More will follow, undoubtedly. As the suburbs go, the primary reason for auto ownership (i.e. commuting to work/running errands) largely disappears. The aging population will also decrease the numbers of people physically able to drive and/or afford a car even if they can. With that decline in auto ownership will come a need to have a decent medium and long distance public transport system to supplement local public transport systems. And it goes without saying that local public transport is an integral part of any planned HSR network. Without some means of getting the passenger the last miles from the HSR station, HSR is pointless. But we sorely need more local public transit anyway, probably even more than we need HSR, with the new push to reduce pollution and make inner cities more liveable. After 50 years we've seen that the auto and individual transport aren't the panacea they were once thought to be.
    I agree with this post. Surely expanding roadways to accommodate today's traffic will help, but I don't think this is a long term solution. The population will continually rise and even the largest of roadways will have to keep getting bigger. Even if our roadways will be able to accommodate traffic within the next 10 - 30 years, the road surfaces will still have to be resurfaced and renovated multiple times. If we search for more permanent solutions that are faster, more efficient, reliable, safer, and economically viable, then we should go that route.

    Our gas and diesel powered vehicles won't be around forever. However, we aren't going to use one form of transportation for every purpose. Would you drive a car from Texas to Alaska?
    - Road Travel is probably best locally.
    - High speed rail is probably best for intercity travel when driving a car would take longer.
    - Air Travel is probably best for cross country flight.

    But on the topic of high speed rail, what is the most efficient way of doing so. Is high speed rail better than other options? Why would people want to use train travel over their own personal transportation?

    Careful consideration would have to be taken to make high speed rail work. Which I think it can in some cases, but high speed rail is not the solution for every situation.
    Last edited by CottonBelter; 01-14-2010, 10:52 PM.

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  • jtr1962
    replied
    Originally posted by kmanc21 View Post
    Where I differ is in the fact that the interstate system will not be allowed to deteriorate to the point that it will cease to exist. I believe the resolve is there to spend the dollars to repair and maintain the system and that resolve does not translate to HSR even if the cost of building a HSR system would be less or equal to the cost of interstate repair.
    The questions here are who pays, and why spend MORE money on a solution which is clearly inferior? I'll vote any politician out of office who wants to spend my tax dollars to continue to subsidize long distance auto travel when we clearly have superior alternatives ( and that's not a railfan perspective-state-of-the-art trains are better for long distance travel by any metric-comfort, speed, energy consumption, pollution ). What does a car and Interstate highway system get you in terms of average speeds? Perhaps 50 mph once you count gas and rest stops? The same way people have shown they're willing to drive to an airport to save time, they would be willing to drive ( or take public transit if it exists ) to an HSR station. Even once you count waiting time, HSR can offer far better average speeds than driving, and at lower cost. Not to mention if we were to repair the Interstate highway system, it would be fair to have the users pay. That would likely mean heavy tolls. So essentially you end up with a means of transportation which is both slower and much more expensive than HSR.

    I know for the present Americans are addicted to their automobiles. However, this is frequently more due to a lack of viable alternatives than because of the superiority of automobile travel. Right now we're in the midst of a resurgence in local public transit precisely because people are starting to become disenchanted with the automobile. People want alternatives to driving. This is especially true of the under 20 generation who has only known the bad side of the automobile-namely traffic jams, high gas prices, plus bad air days. It's taking a while for politicians and public planners to catch on to this fact, but it's finally happening. Once the sub-20 crowd reaches voting age, we'll see the beginning of the end of automobile culture, at least in regards to the whole "Interstate cruiser" concept. I don't doubt people will still own cars for local errands, but they would be cars more suited to that task of 10 minute trips-smaller, all electric, without all the bells and whistles.

    An additional fact is that the largest percentage of Americans live outside of the 10 largest population areas making implentation of public transit outside of those major population areas problematical in terms of cost. While the real estate problems have slowed the growth of suburbia it has not stopped and there is not a wholesale migration back to the city centers. One reason is that the cost of housing in cities is substantially higher than most suburbs and the current job market both in terms of job losses along with wage stagnation puts such a move out of the question financially for many.
    By any measure the growth of suburbia hasn't slowed-it's completely stopped and has started going in the other direction. While the relative costs of housing in cities versus suburbs is mostly true for the present, you also need to take into account the costs of vehicle ownership. If you don't need a car, that's a couple of hundred more a month you can put towards housing. Another point to make is that cheaper suburban housing isn't a given. Remember that the infrastructure in suburbs was built in many cases 40, 50, or 60 years ago, with cheaper labor, and with government subsidies/incentives following WWII. Now this infrastructure is in dire need of repair. However, because of the lower population density, per capita costs of a mile or road or sewers or electrical lines are much higher. Translation-ever increasing real estate taxes, to the point that living in suburbia costs more than living in cities, and/or forcing cities to subsidize suburbs. We've already seen this trend in the Northeast. Total cost of ownership of a house in the NYC suburbs is higher than in the city once you count real estate taxes and car expenses. We're not seeing a mass migration back to cities YET because suburban housing still remains affordable to the middle class. Give it another decade, however. More on this trend. Not mentioned in that link is the continuing decrease in arable farmland. We might actually need to abandon suburbs built in good growing zones to reconvert them to the food production use they had prior to being converted to housing tracts.

    IMO, we might see a new type of development-big cities along with smaller towns where everyone lives within walking or biking distance of a commuter rail or HSR station. Basically, areas near train stations will grow, while those in between will wither and die. This is actually not all that different from what existed 100 years ago, before the automobile. Fewer people then than now lived in large cities, and yet almost everyone used trains or walking to get around, so it isn't always a question of population density. Rather, it's settlement patterns. Towns grew up around their railway stations, rather than sprawling every which way as they have in the last 50 years.

    HSR needs to be developed further in the NEC and on the West Coast but to try to make an economic argument for a Chicago - St Louis or Houston - Dallas just won't work.
    Actually, HSR will work fine between reasonable large cities such as you mentioned. France has already proven this-HSR works there despite the relatively low population density and lack of very large cities. Even Paris isn't a large city by world standards ( its population is less than the boroughs of either Brooklyn or Queens ). Where HSR won't work at all are sparsely populated states with mostly small towns. There just aren't enough trips to make HSR worthwhile there. On that we can definitely agree. There won't be HSR through Wyoming or Nebraska or Alaska any time in our lives. Nevertheless, if enough of these 500 to 800 mile regional HSR corridors are developed, they can be linked together. So it may one day be possible to go cross county via HSR in under 15 hours, even though that isn't the primary goal here.

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  • kmanc21
    replied
    Responding to jtr1962

    I will concede that a few points are relative. First and foremost is that air travel demand will likely continue a slow decline as prices have no direction to continue other than upward and the security screening issue will continue to add time to the front end of a flight. The next point concerning the condition of the interstate system is correct. Where I differ is in the fact that the interstate system will not be allowed to deteriorate to the point that it will cease to exist. I believe the resolve is there to spend the dollars to repair and maintain the system and that resolve does not translate to HSR even if the cost of building a HSR system would be less or equal to the cost of interstate repair. Why? Because the American public is accustomed to hopping in their vehicle when it is convinient and driving somewhere, even if that is to the airport. For most leisure travel the convenience of getting into ones vehicle and driving somewhere anytime a person desires is a strong pull that would be very difficult to break. An additional fact is that the largest percentage of Americans live outside of the 10 largest population areas making implentation of public transit outside of those major population areas problematical in terms of cost. While the real estate problems have slowed the growth of suburbia it has not stopped and there is not a wholesale migration back to the city centers. One reason is that the cost of housing in cities is substantially higher than most suburbs and the current job market both in terms of job losses along with wage stagnation puts such a move out of the question financially for many. HSR needs to be developed further in the NEC and on the West Coast but to try to make an economic argument for a Chicago - St Louis or Houston - Dallas just won't work.

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  • jtr1962
    replied
    Interesting topic. I wrote the following on another forum a few years back but it's even more relevant today I think:

    I believe part of the lack of support for HSR stems from the unwillingness of most people to accept that a chain of events are now in motion which inevitably will lead to the demise of the private automobile as well as the aeroplane. We're already starting to see airlines fold despite billions poured into them by the government. Sooner or later we're going to have to accept that any remaining air travel will be priced beyond the means of most people since the government could not afford to subsidize it to such an extent that air fares will remain as they are. Besides that, air travel is becoming increasingly invasive and inconvenient due to new security measures. Two-hour pre-arrival time requirements take away much of the speed advantage.

    The private auto will be in a similar quandary even if we move wholesale to EVs. The reason here is simple-a car is not the most energy efficient means to move passengers regardless of source of power. Also, much of the Interstate system is in very poor shape. The bill for repair will come due very soon. The cost to fix it might very well rival what building a national HSR system will cost. We'll probably conclude that since we're practically starting from scratch anyway, we may as well build a system which uses less energy and moves people much faster. This will be especially true once air travel is no longer affordable. Without HSR the average person will simply have no inexpensive means of traveling long distances, and no means at all of doing so at a decent average speed. In our future then autos will be relegated to running errands and shuttling to train stations. The days of traveling from state to state by car will be over. Even long commutes to work via auto will probably be a thing of the past unless the origin and destination lie near HSR stations.


    To add to this a bit-it's not a question of if we should build HSR, but rather how quickly we can get a decent system up and running. Unfortunately, we have about 25 to 30 years of catching up to do comparing to the rest of the world. I'm also surprised nobody mentioned that such as system could move priority freight, especially at night when passenger travel is lighter. This could add a great deal of revenue, perhaps even offer new services such as same-day delivery between cities a few hundred miles apart.

    Additionally, trends occurring after I wrote that piece, such as the real estate crisis, along with the gradual infrastructure deterioration, has caused some suburbs to be ghost towns. More will follow, undoubtedly. As the suburbs go, the primary reason for auto ownership (i.e. commuting to work/running errands) largely disappears. The aging population will also decrease the numbers of people physically able to drive and/or afford a car even if they can. With that decline in auto ownership will come a need to have a decent medium and long distance public transport system to supplement local public transport systems. And it goes without saying that local public transport is an integral part of any planned HSR network. Without some means of getting the passenger the last miles from the HSR station, HSR is pointless. But we sorely need more local public transit anyway, probably even more than we need HSR, with the new push to reduce pollution and make inner cities more liveable. After 50 years we've seen that the auto and individual transport aren't the panacea they were once thought to be.

    Leave a comment:


  • henry3
    replied
    Hi Lukas!

    Originally posted by Swissie View Post
    Dear collegues,

    May I dare adding a few thoughts and observations that I have - so far - either overlooked or not seen mentioned.
    Thanks for the insightful dissertation from someone who lives in a passenger train rich environment. You've definitely given me food for thought.

    Take care,

    Henry

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  • styckx
    replied
    I just hope the new NEC single levels are dubbed Amfleet III's and keep the same basic bare aluminum look. NEC won't look the same any other way.

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  • BNSFfan
    replied
    I read about the new diesels. But I remember that someone posted renderings of possibly Amtrak's new GE diesel locomotive. It had a vertical headlight and a very streamlined nose, it was supposed to be an Evolution series locomotive, yet I have issues locating said article with the renderings.

    Leave a comment:


  • styckx
    replied
    Not sure if anyone here saw, but Amtrak is actually laying the ground work for nearly an entire fleet replacement. Saw this from another site.

    http://transportation.house.gov/Medi...%20Summary.pdf

    Amtrak’s equipment is aging; it is a major factor in delays. Some of Amtrak’s vehicles are more than 50 years old. The average life of a passenger rail car, depending on its usage, is 25 to 30 years. The lifespan of a locomotive is 20 to 25 years.

    Currently, Amtrak has 92 Heritage cars in service (which are 53 to 61 years old), 17 Metroliners (which are 42 years old), 412 Amfleet I cars (which are 32 to 35 years old), 122 Amfleet II cars (which are 28 to 29 years old), 249 Superliner I cars (which are 28 to 30 years old); 184 Superliner II cars (which are 13 to 15 years old), 97 Horizon cars (which are 19 to 20 years old), 50 Viewliners (which are 13 to 14 years old), 29 Talgo cars (which are 10 years old), 120 Acela cars (which are nine to 10 years old), and 41 Surfliners (which are seven to nine years old).

    With respect to locomotives, Amtrak has 49 AEM-7 locomotives (which are 21 to 29 years old), 18 P32’s (which are 18 years old), 18 P32DM’s (which are 11 to 14 years old), 21 F59PHI’s (which are 11 years old), 15 HHP-8’s (which are eight to 10 years old), and 207 P42’s (which are eight to 13 years old).


    Over the next five years and given adequate resources, Amtrak plans to purchase 396 new single-level vehicles for corridor service, which will replace about 95 percent of the Amfleet I vehicles; purchase 275 new single-level vehicles for long-haul service in an effort to remove all of the Heritage single-level cars and about 95 percent of the Amfleet II vehicles from service; purchase 160 new bi-level vehicles to replace 65 percent of the Superliner I cars; and purchase 100 new electric locomotives to replace the entire electric locomotive fleet.

    Amtrak also plans to acquire 54 new diesel locomotives, replacing 20 percent of its diesel fleet; and purchase five additional Acela trainsets and 41 new switch engines to replace the entire switcher fleet. Amtrak estimates that the effort requires capital funding of approximately $4.57 billion.
    ^ This is another consideration. Amtrak is luckily getting Government funds. Is a new HSR fully prepared to be self sufficient enough to be able to fully replace their entire fleet in 20-30 years? If the NEC(Amtrak) has a hard time turning a dollar, how does anyone else expect to on their own? Amtrak is lucky some of that ancient equipment lasted as long as it has.
    Last edited by styckx; 12-26-2009, 08:32 PM.

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  • beltontigers
    replied
    A proposed HSR was brought up in the state of Texas not long ago. It was a part of a nasty little proposal called the Trans-Texas Corridor. Two of the BIGGEST opponents of the proposal were two companies by the name of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

    The BNSF and the UPRR are now fighting another proposed HSR that would allow these passenger trains trackage on their rails.

    As long as Class I's keep throwing money at lawyers and politicians (and believe me, they have plenty of it), a HSR will not happen in our lifetime.

    Now local light rail and commuter trains will find a home in your larger urban areas such as D/FW, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, etc.

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  • mestevet
    replied
    Originally posted by muskokaandtahoe View Post
    That's not hard at all. Terminal costs for rail is cheaper than a new airport because it requires a lot less land. But buying the land for a dedicated right of way between any two urban districts will take far longer and obviously cost far more than that the zero cost of acquiring access to the right of way passenger jets use. And once open airports can immediately offer more routes.

    You know, if high speed rail really made sense you'd see any number of companies trying to get established in that opportunity. But there aren't any at all. That alone should tell you something. OTOH, there are new airlines created every couple of years.
    Dave, I agree with your points here, but I'd like to point out something: use of airspace isn't free. True, you don't have to build a roadway or rails like a highway or railroad, however there are tremendous costs associated with establishing safe air space for use. Among various "infrastructure costs" are Air traffic control facilities of many different flavors (there are High and Low ATC Centers, "Approach" control centers, and terminal control facilities -airport "towers"). Each of those comes with a pretty hefty price tag in computer and radar equipment that typically has to have redundancy. Then there are navigational aids, there are still many ground based VORs (VHF Omni-range), maybe a few lingering NDBs - radio based beacons for navigation that must be calibrated and maintained, not to mention the cost of one in the first place. Even if you tout the GPS system, there is a HUGE cost on taxpayers backs for the satellites and ground controls required to keep that constellation operating, plus satellites have useful lifespans measured in maybe a dozen years, and must be replaced. Then there are costs associated with gathering, analyzing, and disseminating weather data, which is CRUCIAL to the safe operation of airspace. Certainly there are civilian uses that would share the cost, but there are many types of data that are only practically useful to aviation (like wind/temperature data at various altitudes). Then there are administrative costs in developing plans and air routes for dealing with all kinds of air traffic - things that have to be known before hand or the system would swamp with the first major thunderstorm or high denisty travel day, plus coordination with military uses, civilian uses (ever see a NOTAM (notice to airmen) about various fireworks displays across the country during the summer?).

    Right now, all those things are provided courtesy of you and I, the taxpayers, for the airlines, or any private individual with the opportunity (and rating) to fly in the US.

    ------------ ----------

    There have been many cogent points made here. I think it's clear even to those of us who agree with HSR (even government funded HSR) that it's NOT a good fit in all cases. Certainly, trans-continental service isn't a good idea (at least at the level of service we're talking about). Regional service in areas of high population density may make sense, but of course, land acquisition for a dedicated right of way in high density areas becomes much more costly (even in eminent domain situations).

    What's clear to me is that using aircraft for shorter trips (<300 miles in particular) really isn't a good use of the advantages of air travel (which is most efficient for long trips when an aircraft can fly high and straight, and minimize the fraction of time spent in "terminal operations" - flight near and on the ground of an airport). Likewise, using cars and trucks universally for longer trips (like 100 to 300 miles and above) is also a poor relative use of those vehicles, which are highly inefficient users of transportation resources (dollars and gas). Even if you don't choose to buy in to the "green" viewpoints, I don't think anyone can sensibly argue that traffic congestion isn't a huge problem even near medium sized cities in the US, and it's pretty clear to me that simply building more highway lanes isn't a great solution to that problem.

    So what IS the best solution? Status quo? I'd say no. I agree that no private venture would touch this (I think I stated that in an earlier post to this thread), but I'd argue that it's more because of the HUGE initial costs (who has those deep pockets?) and the high risk in taking on the task to build a dedicated right of way. That leaves the government, like it or not.

    I would also disagree with the implication that because no private industry would take on the task of building a dedicated HSR line in the US that it means it's the wrong thing to do/won't work. What private industry took on building interstate highways? None - it was the government, because there was a belief in the advantages for our nation (certainly military was a driving force, initially, but the benefit to interstate commerce was clearly also taken into account). Some projects, because of their benefit to the public, should be taken on even in the face of traditional "market economics". Look at state/local funded, maintained, and operated commuter rail (NJT and SEPTA are the ones I'm most familiar with). I'd argue those operations are a huge public benefit where they are available despite operating losses. Pure traditional economics would say they're not profitable, so they're a failure, but the overall public benefit outweighs the narrow sighted economic loss.

    HSR, at least in certain areas, I believe, may have the same situation, and offer the same type of benefits. It seems like California agrees:


    Steve
    Last edited by mestevet; 12-26-2009, 07:14 PM.

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  • styckx
    replied
    That whole "Book a train last minute and not get hit with a big fare" is completely wrong as far as Amtrak is concerned.

    I'll book a trip right now for Monday from Philly To Washington D.C. I'll pick a nice normal non rush hour time.

    1:10PM Departure From Philly on a Northeast Regional: $85.00

    Next train: @ 2:13PM $85.00

    Now.. Let's try NEXT Monday and book that same trip, same time, just a week out.

    1:10PM Departure From Philly on a Northeast Regional: $63.00

    Next train: @ 2:13PM: $44.00

    By next weekend that $63 and $44 ticket will be at $85.

    Amtrak is so stupidly unpredictable with how much they are charging you for the same regional train depending on the time you book, and the departure time of the train. These prices have nothing to do with holiday weekends at all. I've seen these same prices and random variances in the middle of spring, summer, winter, or fall. You book your train around their cheapest price, not by your convenience.
    Last edited by styckx; 12-26-2009, 06:40 PM.

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  • krausyao
    replied
    One of the barriers to increased usage of passenger and freight trains is competition from roads which receive huge tax subsidies and thus are able to underprice the trains. If the gas tax was raised to pay the full cost then road traffic would decline and rail traffic would increase.

    Where I live in Dane county we may be getting commuter rail between Middleton, Madison and Sun Prairie. The major opposition point is the use of tax money to build and operate the train which ignores all the taxes that are paid for the roads.

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  • Swissie
    replied
    Dear collegues,

    thanks for sharing your different views and also pointing out the various factors crucial for the viablility of HSR (anywhere, not only in the States).

    May I dare adding a few thoughts and observations that I have - so far - either overlooked or not seen mentioned.

    a) I personally think it is not so much the ditsances in European countries compared to the US, than the actual structure of the cities and suburbs that make an important difference. I personally think that one reason why public transport and/or long distance High Speed Rail has a much harder stand in the US might be the fact that transit hubs and mainline depots that are the natural candidates to be served by HSR are usually located in the inner cities, both in Europen and American metropoles.

    However, there is some important difference of where potential customers of HSR live. Most inner cities in Europe still have a very traditional mix of working, living and entertainment (usually with the rule that the closer to the city center, the more upscale and pricy a condo, house or apartment becomes). As a result of this, a lot of business people and frequent travellers of the "time is money" type tend to live a short cab ride or even walk from the Central railway station. If however, the wealthier people tend to live in a suburb which is up to 50 miles or more from downtown, the motivation to catch a train is severly hampered by the fact that the time to drive downtown and park the car for an extended period is little appealing.

    b) Distance does of course count as well. A transcontinental HSR service from New York City to LA would still involve overnite travel, something which is diametrally opposed to current HSR train service in Asia or Europe. HSR trains mostly tend to be relatively high-density vehicles (it might be cleverly disguised by the use of more expensive materials and decorations in the interior, but basically a TGV, ICE, Shinkansen or ETR610 is nothing else than a fast, fancy, 21st century commuter train offering seating for several hundred to (in MU) almost 1000 passengers. A high speed train with sleeper interiors and just 20 pax per coach would economically not be viable.

    c) As a rule of thumb, when HSR was introduced in Europe, travel analysts, airline staff and rail operators basically agreed that trains will be faster and more economic, thus appealing to the majority of travellers, on legs of up to 500 kilometres. With the advantage of calling downtown, close to the premium customers (i.e. the "time is money" people), and the hassle of long lines at airport check-in and security, the initial treshold might well be upped to 800 to 1000 kilometres (roughly 650 miles). Right now, with HSR lines even starting to conquer the Alps, frequent daytime HSR trips have basically killed all the traditional, overnight sleeper trains from Germany, Austria or Switzerland to Italy, and also the airlines feel the effect (as far as I'm told, especially some no frills airlines that serve remote regional airports instead of the expensive hubs near the metropoles).

    d) Don't forget user friendlyness as a key element to success. As stated by someone else above, trains are appealing to business people if they offer frequent services, that can be booked and boarded at short notice without a penalty on the fare, that offer an alternate within an hour should one miss the previous service due to that meeting that wouldn't end in time, that offer reliable and regular connections and feeder services in a "one stop" philosophy (one ticket from beginning to end of trip, fixed intervall service on the HSR service and all feeder services connecting with it, transparent fares, maybe even frequent traveller discounts or weekly/monthly/annual ride-at-will passes or discount passes). Especially business travellers want to use a train service like an air shuttle or urban commuter run. No need to pre-book seats, no expensive last-minute full fare penalty, no costly and time consuming overnight stays because of missing the one and only service of the day).

    e) Many European railways show that freight services and HSR can share the same track, if all the players are willing to cooperate. Freight providers can also benefit from a newly built HSR line if it opens up an opportunity for faster, more direct runs. Trailerracks, perishables, commodities etc. need to be moved just in time as well. The challenge of course lies in the different track speeds of conventional freight trains and HSR. Although: On a gently sloped, well maintained HSR line, your freight train will easily keep moving at a relatively high speed as well (I'd guess 79mph in the US). Clever and strictly enforced scheduling, and stretches of "passing tracks" where the hourly high speed train would take over a slower freight "on the fly" might be an answer for sharing the line. See e.g. the Loetschberg HSR tunnel (100mph track speed for conventional trains, 135mph for dedicated HSR trains such as the ETR610 and ICE 1). Although the tunnel is partly single track, it still allows for 6 clearly defined, hourly slots that are shared by 3-4 conventional or high speed passenger trains and 2-3 conventional freight trains, with a 3 minute "allowance" each hour for delays. It works surprisingly well, since any train exceeding this delay will be rerouted via the paralleling, conventional rail line that takes roughly 40 minutes longer than the tunnel.

    f) Systems of train control (speed monitoring, signal triggered brake curve adhearance etc.) have been developed and improved over the years, often on the national level making the transition of any train, whether a high speed trainset or a conventional freight motor, from one country to the next a regulatory nightmare. Harmonisation by law on the EC level now starts to show positive effects, and new, common standards e.g. for in-cab signalling on HSR *should* have been implemented by now (buzzword: ECTS level 2, a common European Train Signalling system), but unfortunately some national authorities still throw sticks and stones in its way...

    The US would be in a very advantegous situation here, since there is no need to harmonise often diametrically opposed national safety rules: If the DoT (or whoever has the say) issued standards for new, state of the art safety measures to be implemented, then all operators will have to comply, nationwide. Maybe it's just a matter of when, not if, such measures will come

    (Please excuse me this remark: I still feel a bit uneasy when in the year 2010, a train anywhere in the world (not only LA) can run a red light on a mainline without all the bells & whistles going off in the cab instantly, and all the air being dumped within seconds. On my relatively frequent trips on the rails here in Europe (ca. 2-3 rail commutes a week, and return) in the past 20 years or so, I've been 2 or 3 times aboard a train that didn't slow down in time for an upcoming red, and passed it. Even at the remaining speed of maybe 30, 40mph, the effect of a red-light enforced full brake application is impressive (and it was only topped once, when I was on an early morning train that suffered a coupler break with subsequent brake line rupture at full track speed of 140kph). You need quick reflexes if you want to grab the cutlery and tableware in the dining car before it leaves the table. Yet, I'm glad the feature exists, since there is a reason for a red light... Mashed potatos and gravy on your shirt is still better than being crushed in a head-on... And the fact that any such event will be logged with all consequences is fair for me as well: It does teach you the hard way that you do not type dozens of text messages on your cell phone while operating any kind of vehicle, before a tragedy will do so. End remark).

    Sorry, I strayed a bit off-topic here, but I hope one or the other statements make sense? Cheers,
    Last edited by Swissie; 12-26-2009, 05:56 PM.

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