Japanese Maglev Test Reaches 500 km/h

Nov 20th, 2014 | Posted by

Japan has built a 27-mile long maglev test track in Yamanashi Prefecture, and last week began running a series of new tests with passengers. These trains achieved speeds of 500 km/h, or just above 300 miles per hour. The BBC sent a camera crew to record one of the journeys, which included winners of a contest to ride the test train:

My invitation must have been lost in the mail.

Before people start whining about how California should be doing this instead of its current HSR plan, Japan already has built out a national high speed rail network. California should do that first before considering anything like maglev.

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Jim Costa Likely Wins Re-election

Nov 19th, 2014 | Posted by

After trailing on election night, Congressman Jim Costa – a key figure in the development of the California high speed rail project – appears to have finally won re-election:

For the second time in the past three elections, Fresno Democrat Jim Costa has rallied from an election night vote deficit to win reelection to Congress.

Costa, 62, has a lead of more than 800 votes, and all that awaits is a final report later Wednesday from Fresno County, his strongest part of the 16th Congressional District.

For Costa’s opponent, Johnny Tacherra, to have a chance of winning, the unheralded Republican dairyman from rural Fresno County needed an overwhelming victory margin in the remaining votes from Merced and Madera counties — which to date had been his strongest parts of the district. Both counties finished their vote counts, and Tacherra, 39, actually lost ground to Costa. To have even had a chance of catching Costa, Tacherra would have had to win more than 80% of those votes.

In other words, this election battle is over and Costa has again narrowly prevailed.

The question is what happens from here. 2016 is likely to be a much better year for Costa. But what about 2018? I’m purely speculating here, but Costa may come under pressure from Democrats to retire before 2016 and open up the seat for a Democratic candidate to win it then and be in a better position to hold it in 2018. Costa, of course, could respond by saying that he’s now survived two tough re-election battles (2010 and 2014) and is the more reliable pick to hold the seat.

This is good news for the California high speed rail project. A Costa defeat would not have meaningfully hurt the project, but having Costa in Congress, with his knowledge of the project and his seniority, is a big plus for HSR. Democrats will take the Congress back sooner or later, hopefully in 2016, and when that occurs Costa will be in an excellent position to help guide further development of high speed rail.

Another Central Valley Democrat and strong HSR supporter, John Garamendi, had been considering a bid for the ranking member position on the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That would have put him in line to chair the committee when Democrats retake the House majority. But Garamendi ultimately decided to defer to Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, who had more seniority than Garamendi.

Finally, Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo lost her bid to be the ranking member on the House Energy Committee to New Jersey’s Frank Pallone. It’s not clear what impact this has on HSR exactly, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Nancy Pelosi remains the Minority Leader and, should Democrats retake the House in 2016, she would again become Speaker. We can only hope such a glorious day arrives soon.

Saturday Open Thread

Nov 15th, 2014 | Posted by

Been in New Orleans for the last week and just returned. Probably should have put more open threads and scheduled posts up. Oh well! More HSR posts coming tomorrow.

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Governor Brown Isn’t Worried About Lack of New Federal HSR Funding

Nov 7th, 2014 | Posted by

KCAL 9 caught up with Governor Jerry Brown yesterday in Southern California and asked him if the election results – specifically the Republican capture of the US Senate – meant that the high speed rail project was in trouble:

“Look, we have the ingredients to get this thing launched,” Brown told reporters on his way into an Anti-Defamation League lunch at a Beverly Hills hotel….

“We have the amount of federal money we’re going to get, at least over the next few years,” said Brown, who won a historic fourth term Tuesday. “And we have funds from the state.”…

Brown said Chinese and Japanese investors were “very bullish” on investing in the project. The Japanese ambassador to the United States recently flew to California just to urge him to consider a Japanese rail company, Brown said.

While some in Washington “may be small-minded,” he added, they will come around when heavy construction starts.

“Maybe even some of the Republican congressmen will have to see the wisdom of high-speed rail,” Brown said.

Well, let’s not get carried away here Governor, Republicans will never see its wisdom. But as he pointed out, California doesn’t need them right now. With every passing year, it becomes clearer that the state will have to raise the rest of the money to build HSR on its own.

And that’s fine. California continues to diverge from the rest of the country, refusing to slip into the oblivion of oil dependence and a warming climate. Governor Brown wants a better future for California and will continue to fight for one, especially on high speed rail.

Republicans can hem and haw all they like, but they can’t stop California from building this project. I’m sure they’ll keep trying, and I’m sure Governor Brown will keep fighting to save high speed rail.