Caltrain’s Crisis Is Real

Apr 24th, 2010 | Posted by

Yesterday’s post deserves a follow-up, as the Caltrain issue is real – and unfortunately, so too is the disbelieving reaction. Mike Rosenberg again provides an excellent article on the topic, quoting Californians For High Speed Rail Executive Director Brian Stanke:

“There is perhaps greater awareness now that despite different points of view or concerns about high-speed rail, people really need to work together so that Caltrain doesn’t go into this catastrophic death spiral,” Stanke said.

Stanke is right on both points (and I say that not just because I’m the Chair of CA4HSR). There have already been some preliminary discussions among some of the pro- and anti-HSR groups about exploring joint efforts to save Caltrain. It’s my intention to see those efforts succeed, because of Stanke’s second point: Caltrain is very much facing a death spiral.

Here’s how it works. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been attacking public transit funds for at least three years now. In February 2009 the governor proposed and won a 100% reduction – total elimination – of the State Transit Assistance (STA) fund. A whopping $3.5 billion in state funding has been cut over the last three years. As a result, the agencies that fund Caltrain have been financially devastated: Muni has faced a deficit of over $100 million, SamTrans nearly $30 million, VTA nearly $100 million. In order to save themselves, they’ve had to cut what they give to Caltrain.

That exacerbates an existing crisis at Caltrain. Lacking its own operating revenue source aside from farebox recovery, Caltrain is wholly at the mercy of these other agencies – and ultimately at the mercy of a state government that has turned its back on public transit. That situation has been exacerbated by the recession, which contributes to reduced ridership, and by the ongoing rise in oil prices which contributes to steadily increasing operating costs. Even if the short-term problems are solved, the long-term issue of rising costs and limitations on service frequency due to using slower diesel trains remains.

In yesterday’s post I laid out the three steps that are needed to fix Caltrain and fully address both the short-term and long-term problems:

1. Restore the state budget cuts to transit agencies, so Muni and SamTrans aren’t having to cut off Caltrain to save themselves.

2. Provide Caltrain with its own source of operating funds, perhaps as part of a region-wide gas tax increase to fund operations on all the major systems.

3. Leverage high speed rail funds to help build the infrastructure that can be shared by an electrified Caltrain “regional rail” in order to satisfy the “independent utility” requirements of federal stimulus funding.

That last point is obviously the one that’s hard for some on the Peninsula to swallow, as Rosenberg’s article noted:

Some bullet-train detractors said Friday they think Caltrain may simply be trying to secure more money or to shift the public in favor of high-speed rail.

“I think it’s disingenuous to say, ‘If we don’t have high-speed rail come up through here, we’re not going to have Caltrain,’ ” said Menlo Park resident Russ Peterson, who has a pending lawsuit against the rail Authority. “That I find to be a little bit of fear-mongering, that you get both or none.”…

Some appear willing to stop both projects. The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, a Peninsula group of which Peterson is a member, and the Planning and Conservation League warned Caltrain earlier this month not to approve the electrification project, citing high-speed rail concerns. Caltrain called the letter from Gary Patton, the groups’ attorney, a “veiled threat of litigation,” and its board delayed the $1.3 billion project’s approval until May or June.

Gary Patton, you’ll recall, is the anti-passenger rail activist who boasted at the September 2009 Palo Alto teach-in that he helped kill a proposed train to link Santa Cruz and San José, a train that commuters on traffic-choked Highway 17 and Highway 1 desperately want.

Another view comes from CARRD:

“It’s easy (for Caltrain) to say ‘all or none’ and have this white knight come in and save you,” said Nadia Naik, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a Palo Alto-based group of bullet train critics. “We all need to come together as a community and figure out first and foremost what it will take to save our local commute service.”

Which I read as saying something fundamentally different from Peterson and Patton – that Naik doesn’t want to be leveraged into backing HSR as-is, but neither does she want to just abandon Caltrain. Peterson and Patton, however, seem perfectly happy to watch Caltrain die.

To circle back to Brian Stanke’s point, it seems to me that the real divide here isn’t about whether you’re pro- or anti-HSR. It’s about whether you’re pro- or anti-passenger rail. Supporters of passenger rail will be motivated to save Caltrain as well as build HSR right – in a cost-effective way that integrates well with the community while serving the needs of all Californians. As Brian Stanke pointed out, despite some key differences on how that vision gets implemented, there is a lot of agreement on that basic vision. And that does mean there’s a path forward to work together on the Peninsula.

I can understand that people don’t want to get leveraged into supporting HSR because it’s the only way to save Caltrain – but on the other hand, it’s difficult to see where the funds to complete Caltrain electrification can come from if HSR money isn’t included.

Electrification is the key to Caltrain’s long-term survival. And that’s not a new claim. Groups like the BayRail Alliance have been working on it for nearly 30 years. Caltrain has adopted electrification as part of its own long-range plan since 1999.

However, Caltrain doesn’t have the funding to pull off the $1.3 billion project on its own. But if they could piggyback on the HSR project, then they could get electrification paid for. Without HSR, electrification will still need to happen, but it will be far more difficult to fund the project.

Just as some of the Peninsula groups don’t want Caltrain’s crisis to be used to force acceptance of HSR, we don’t want HSR opposition to be used to force acceptance of Caltrain’s demise.

Clearly, the status quo is no longer viable, and the Caltrain corridor is going to have to change to survive. It seems that there’s wide agreement on that, and that HSR should be part of the solution, and that HSR should be built efficiently and integrate well into the community. That should be a solid basis for moving forward on saving Caltrain, both in the short-term and the long-term.

  1. Brandon of San Diego
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 09:33
    #1

    I certaily support HSR and public transportation, and in particular ‘rail public transportation.’

    I support these for a variety of reason, including the need to off-set the increasing financial, social and environmental impacts that auto transportation is affecting society and individuals. Plus, there is insufficient physical room to continually expand auto transportation (highways, roadways, parking, etc).

    That said, I can imagine an HSR system / network that is capable of providing different layers of service: statewide express, regional access, local commute. These are consistent with the CHSRA proposal, including the need for local jurisdictions to financially contribute for station infrstructure to enable local commute services (ie. Norwalk in SoCal and Palo Alto or Giroy in NorCal).

    But, for safety and effeciency purposes, management of a corridor and the services run along it needs to be conducted by ONE agency. How this possibly plays a role on the Peninsula is that CHSRA, or hired operator, runs all services. In this senario, the JPA responsible for operating Caltrain service would then contract with CHSRA to run those services. And, Caltrain operating management personnel would not be needed under the Caltran/Samtrans umbrella…. they’d likely transfer to CHSRA management.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    None of this would be happening if transit were given its true place in the funding line…instead of a “luxury” reading one the comments it say “there always empty”its that kind of mindset.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why does it need to be one agency?

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    for safety and effeciency

    One organization needs to control the corridor… if Caltrain and HSR services are to share tracks, including crossing over the others’ tracks… someone needs to be the policeman and control train movements.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    There’s a lot of value in having a single integrated Bay Area mass transit authority to pay for and operate buses and trains.

    That’s not likely to happen since local control counts for a lot, and people would be convinced everyone else would be willing to cut their services, so the lack of trust means this isn’t likely to happen.

    But some sort of regional funding solution is the minimally necessary move here.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    That is certainly NOT what I was writing about.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The problem with one agency is that it gives the unions too much leverage. Management caves into exorbitant demands at the mere threat of a strike. The public has to be willing to cope with strikes if there is to be any chance of keeping compensation packages at a rational level. See BART and Muni.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s a lot of value in having a single integrated Bay Area mass transit authority to pay for and operate buses and trains.

    Perhaps in foamer fantasy-land, where the bigger the organization the bigger and stupider the mega-project it can fund is, but in the real world it makes zero sense to have MTC’s Steve “Bay Bridge $6 billion budget blowout” Heminger deciding where and how often buses should run on Divisadero Street in San Francisco, to Mare Island in Vallejo, and to an outlet mall in Gilroy.

    The “value” we get from having the present Metropolitan “Planning” Organization is nearly completely negative, in reality: the unaccountable agency apparatchiks skim billions of dollars of funding off the top of regional allocations and divert them to the contractor-driven, kickback-ridden pet projects of the staff. BART to Millbrae. BART to San Jose. HSR to Los Banos, Bay Bridge East Span Replacement. TransLink(rm). FasTrak(sm). Central Subway. Caldecott Tunnel. etc.

    These things wouldn’t be funded on a local level, and we’d all be a thousand times better off if they hadn’t been rammed through on a super-regional level.

    So how exactly are we going to get better transit service anywhere in the Bay Area by taking a proven failed model controlled by a proven failed agency and giving it more power and even more money and the ability to remove all local control?

    Jesus.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Richard, sometime in 2453 they’d get their wish of BART to everywhere. Doesn’t matter that the frequency would be twice annually, they’d be able to take BART to Eureka.

    Peter Reply:

    Interestingly, I agree with Richard on this. A German-style Verkehrsbund doesn’t mean that all transit is provided by the same organization. It simply means that the fare system is integrated between the different transit organizations. We have taken a step in that direction with the implementation of Translink. The fare system is not integrated, but you only need one electronic ticket to transfer from system to the next.

    Maybe in 10 years when the economic situation has improved to the point where the different transit organizations are not quite as cut-throat for funding, then we can have the debate/battle for a single fare structure. With all agencies currently being on the defensive, I don’t see how we can have a productive debate on this issue. They would (rightly) be afraid that they would end up getting the short end of the stick on this.

    dejv Reply:

    Verkerhrsverbünde do have one central agency that does stuff like contracting actual operators, creating timetables and fare syste, clearing money, infrastructure planning etc.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s many places in the world that have multiple operators using the same track. It’s been done since the first railroad met the second railroad. You do need one dispatcher but that’s not the same as one operator. There are four different operators using Penn Station in New York. If Amtrak and the three commuter agencies can manage it there’s no reason why Caltrain and HSR can’t.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Call it the SF-SJ Verkehrsverbund.

  2. Brandon of San Diego
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 09:44
    #2

    ^^^ to clarify, Caltrain could be absorbed by CHSRA and Penisula powers contract with CHSRA to operate enhanced services – local commuter services.

    Of course, the timeline for this is in the distant future and there is a need today to bridge the gap. If HSR infrastructure improvements along the peninsula advanced, I can see Caltrain running the local commute services with HSR compatible trains… and do so until a day when statewide services are ready to begin. In my mind, it would be important for Caltrain and lcoal officials to pick train sets and station infrastructure that is compatible with HSR trains sets – same level platforms and same/similar train technologies.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Norwalk is the Menlo Park of SoCal and I doubt they would contribute to an HSR station. They have vowed to stop any Green Line extension to the Metrolink Station unless it is 100% tunnel. Sound familiar? This is why Measure R’s Green Line extension project is South Bay and not Norwalk.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Sorry, I meant my Norwalk comment as a reply to Brandon of San Diego’s comment.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    In the Norwalk situation… the local jurisdiction taking the lead would be LACMTA. In NorCal it would be MTC.

    By the way, after looking at the ridership model and seeing the frequency of HSR train service expected to go to Norwalk… well, there is simply not enough service to the Norwalk station to warrant a Green Line Extension. I am unsure Metrolink service would be sufficient either… given that the Green Line also does not really go anywhere, yet.

    Head-nod to planned extension to LAX… that would possibly be a game-changer.

    bixnix Reply:

    Norwalk is nothing like Menlo Park in any way. It’s over 100K people, moderate density, lower middle-class. It’s crossed by three freeway, at least two rail lines, and has bad traffic. It’s got a motto “City on the move” on it’s streetlights. Norwalk wants the green line tunneled because there’s no right of way at all between the green line terminus and the Metrolink station. At grade, it would be running through a residential neighborhood, a high-school, crossing busy boulevards, a freeway, and a LA County office complex. But the real reason that the extension isn’t being built has nothing to do with Norwalk – the reason is that the extension would serve OC Metrolink riders who transfer to LAX, and those out-of-county people aren’t a priority for the L.A. County MTA.

    W/ regards to contribution – if we make Norwalk contribute, what about the other folks who drive into Norwalk to use the station? Norwalk already has a Metrolink station that already services commuter rail – so we’d be asking them to build another station with their taxes that would be used in large part by folks in other cities.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    My preference would be that there is no HSR stop between Union Station and Anaheim.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    With HSR in place, the extension would primarily serve people in South LA, Long Beach, and Torrance getting an HSR ticket. The Metrorail serves LAX so poorly that Orange County to LAX traffic is likely to remain trivial.

    Light rail lines cross dense residential neighborhoods all the time – that’s how they serve them.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Hey LA people.

    Look at the catchment areas for the LA area. Do these look right to you?

    They are on page 43 (pdf) of the biz plan addendum
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/images/chsr/20100406140337_Agenda%20Item%208%20-%20Biz%20Plan%20Addendum%20ATTACHMENT%2003_31.pdf

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Seems eminently logical that people in and around Anaheim would choose to use the station in Anaheim versus the one in Palmdale and vice versa. Or that people close to LAUS probably wouldn’t choose to go to the station in Sylmar….

    Peter Reply:

    What do you think is wrong with them?

    Peter Reply:

    It’s actually on page 16 of 43.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, they do. There might be some quibbling about small pieces, like whether Malibu folks are more likely to go to Union Station or Burbank or Sylmar, or whether someone in Torrance is more likely to go to Union Station or Norwalk. But even those are perfectly credible and logical.

    Reality might play out differently, especially since we don’t quite know what’s going to happen over the next 10 years, but those catchment areas make a lot of sense.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have no idea whether they look right. For a start, it depends on how the connecting transit is done, and what the service pattern is.

  3. YesonHSR
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 10:44
    #3

    CHSRA needs to make sure any take over of commuter service will also come with local funding support..profits will be needed for the construction of the line to San Diego and with investors needed we dont want to have a drain on funds to support commuter service

  4. morris brown
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 10:48
    #4

    Here is a video clip

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALeW4ifElbQ

    from the April 19th, Assembly transportation committee with testimony debunking the myth that HSR systems around the world are profitable.

    Peter Reply:

    Who says they’re profitable? They cover their operating expenses. No one here has been arguing that they’re profitable.

    Jathnael Taylor Reply:

    JR Central,(Tokaido HSR)which I can find financial reports for in English does well.
    They had a net income of ¥126.0 billion…with a revenue of ¥1.570 trillion, how is that not profitable?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Tokyo Metro, JR East, and JR West are profitable, even though their core products are local trains, not the Shinkansen. Korail, which operates one high-speed line and a large commuter network, including a few subway lines, is also profitable. Toei lost money in 2005, the year for which it gives financial data on its English website, but Wikipedia says it made money in 2006 due to reduced depreciation. Hong Kong and Taipei’s subways make money, as do both of Singapore’s public transit companies.

    (Naturally, all the above data includes depreciation and interest, and could be found online after 10 minutes of Google and Wikipedia searches.)

    European transit is more subsidized than East Asian transit; the usual rule is that HSR makes money and helps cross-subsidize the commuter lines. Excluding locally funded commuter lines, SNCF was profitable until this year, when RFF raised track usage fees as a way of discouraging companies not owned by the French state from using its tracks. Nowadays it’s considered a bad thing that 1 TGV line in 5 loses money. Try to imagine a sentence like “1 Amtrak route in 5 loses money” without the word “only” at the front.

    Yas Reply:

    I suggest Caltrain to contract with JR East, West or Central. They know how to train business become profitable. They may reduce 5 car train to 2 cars and eliminate second conductor. They force short turnaround time. Peak commute train become 2~3 times of seating capacity.
    JR east, Tokyo metro trains are carrying 300 people per one 20m 4 door car. (60 seating, 240 standing) Weekend, midday, late night train are usually running more then seating capacity. This can be archived by toll highway, slow auto traffic, expensive parking and gasoline tax.

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    I think a distinction must also be made as to whether the cost of building the line has been made back or not. I would imagine that operators are able to profit from operations, but there is also the initial sunk cost of building the system. Also, isn’t the Authority already looking into lightweight freight being transported on the trains? Lastly, I am wondering if the “expert” was referring the Las Vegas ill-designed monorail instead of the “maglev” since the last time I checked, that city doesn’t have a maglev.

    Joey Reply:

    SNCF is a bad example because they also have regional lines which require heavy subsidies. As far as I know the TGV covers its operating expenses (with surplus revenue going to subsidize the regional lines), but as a whole, SNCF does operate at a loss, which is probably why they want to look for other funding sources like high-speed light freight (not that I’m opposed to the idea).

    Spokker Reply:

    That SNCF as a whole operates at a loss is not a bad thing. The transportation system confers such a public benefit that it’s very much worth it.

    Joey Reply:

    I never said it was. Just that the guy fails to acknowledge some basic facts about it.

    Spokker Reply:

    I wasn’t accusing you of anything.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    SNCF turned a €1.1 billion profit in 2007. I haven’t seen more recent numbers, but that does indicate they have been profitable in the past.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    SNCF started losing money either this year or last year, after RFF (which is highly profitable) hiked track access fees. I can dig up the link if you want, but it’s somewhere on The Transport Politic. The presumption is that as a state-owned company, RFF did it to make it harder for foreign competitors to make money on French railroads.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The guy in the video clip looks to be the transit-hating Joe Thompson from Hollister who doesn’t come across like anyone I’d rely on for trustworthy information about anything based on the many letters to the editor he’s written going back for years:

    Letter: Rider subsidy for HSR will be 10x higher than for Amtrak
    Letter: HSR EIR scoping hearing did not address funding
    Letter: Soviet-style Marxist-Leninist U.S. transit is damaging
    Letter: VTA critic Thompson blasts lack of intermodal rail
    Letter: Anti-transit, free-marketeer giddy over SCCo tax defeat
    Letter: Free market fairies will fix all transportation problems
    Letter: VTA wastes money on socialist Marxist-Leninist transit
    Letter: Karl Marx, grandchildren-killers behind transit schemes
    Letter: Socialist toll roads, bus & rail transit rape the motorist
    etc., etc., etc.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    What a wingnut…O our childrens future is being spent.. give me a break

    jimsf Reply:

    I’d be all for making transit riders pay the full costs as soon as auto users pay the full costs of car ownership including the cost to the economy, the cost of going to war to secure oil, the cost of the lives of the soldiers who have died fighting for our petroleum interests. The costs of cleaning up after oil spills for the last 100 years. The medical costs of treating people for asthma and other smog related diseases including al thepeople who have died from cancer from living near refineries over the last 100 years. The full and total cost of road construction including labor, materials, land purchase, with no money for any aspect of any of it supplied from the general fund.

    Add up those costs, and slap the full amount on a gas tax and or a toll road system. whatever it takes to get the full amount.

    djconnel Reply:

    Jim’s response is dead-on. Regional gas taxes are the way to go. The state tax on gasoline is 18 cents / gallon. Double that and it’s still too low, and mass transit’s problems would be over.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Agreed! Imagine a 10 cent/gallon gas tax for, say, the 9-county Bay Area…a whopping $1.50 extra for that 15 gallon fillup! In return you get world class transit and roads. But the tea-party wingnuts won’t have any of that…”Oh our childrens future!” You’re damn right it’s their future!

    Peter Reply:

    “Oh our childrens future”

    That’s what happens when you confuse current effects with future results.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    10 cents per gallon for the Bay Area = Bay Area drivers going to the Central Valley to buy gas.

    It has to be done nationally. Unfortunately, it means that some areas that are in attainment of air quality regulations will be taxed. This can be fixed with rebates: for example, institute a rule saying that the pollution tax collected in one region can only be spent within that region, or that attainment areas get the money refunded back to their local governments to be spent however they’d like.

    Taxes on carbon and military protection for oil are national or global in scope and have nothing to do with regions. Regardless of where you burn your gallon of gas, it causes the same amount of global warming damage and forces your government to spend the same amount of money (or political capital) on military invasions of oil sources.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    10 cents per gallon for the Bay Area = Bay Area drivers going to the Central Valley to buy gas.

    Which is why there are no gasoline stations in Manhattan. Everyone drives to the outer boroughs or New Jersey to buy gas.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    People who own cars and live in the suburbs west of the Hudson do drive down to Jersey. People who live east of the Hudson don’t bother because of tolls and difficult traffic. If all the crossings between the Bay Area and the Central Valley were tolled, a regional gas tax would work wonderfully.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are suburbs east of the Hudson and west of Manhattan?

    Cook County taxes motor fuels. DuPage county doesn’t. There are gasoline stations in western Cook County.

    People aren’t stupid. They understand that driving 40 miles to save 2 bucks on a tank of gas cost more than 2 bucks.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Rockland County? Orange County?

    Yes, those areas have gas stations. However, this completely punts on quantitative questions: how many gas stations do they have per capita? How many people drive across state or county lines to get cheaper gas, and how many drive less because of the higher taxes?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Average gas price in New Jersey 2.76 and the lowest price in Bergen County is is 2.61 at a station on Route 17 in Ramsey. Miles and miles away from people in Rockland. Average New York State price is 3.02 and the lowest price in Rockland county is 2.65. People in Rockland may not be sophisticated Manhattanites but they can figure out that driving to Ramsey to save 80 cents cost more in gas than it’s worth.

    How many gas stations, how many miles people drive, etc doesn’t mean they are stupid enough to drive long distances for the sole purpose of buying gasoline.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are you sure about this? gasbuddy.com‘s map says pump prices in Jersey are consistently in the $2.65-2.71 range whereas prices in New York State are in the $2.97-3.03 range.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes I’m sure that people aren’t stupid enough to burn 3 dollars worth of gas and an hour to save 2 dollars filling up the tank.

    jimsf Reply:

    No one in the bay area is going to drive to the valley to buy gas. Bay area people just pay. We always pay. We are so used to paying. We pay more than anyone. for everything. Because the people who sell stuff, no that we will. ITs a very strange quirk about bay area people. We just pay and consider it part of living here. We often pay more for stuff, due to a willingness to do the right thing, get the best quality, etc etc, whether its transit funding, organic and local products, just everything. Maybe bay area people are just pushovers. I don’t know. I mean in the city gas is ridiculous but I can promise you no one who lives in sf, leaves town to buy gas. It wouldn’t even be worth it.

    wu ming Reply:

    gas prices in the central valley are already way more than 10 cents lower than in the bay area, but noone in their right mind drives on 80 or 680 for the freaking gas. hell, if they did, i’d see a lot more of my bay area friends than i do.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s simply not going to happen, Alon. If you add 10 cents to the price of gas in the 9-county Bay Area region, that puts the nearest available gas that isn’t subject to that tax in one of the following places:

    Ukiah
    Santa Cruz
    Hollister
    Tracy
    Davis

    It’s totally unrealistic to expect most Bay Area drivers to go that far out of their way. They’ll just pay the extra 10 cents at their local station as always happens.

    I can usually find gas about 10-20 cents per gallon cheaper in Salinas than in Monterey, but I don’t drive over to Salinas for it. It’s not at all worth it.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Further, Bay Aea motorists will not notice the difference in price.

    For example… about 2 months ago, the gas station nearest me sold 87 octane at 3.02/gallon. Today, it’s near 3.13.

    I don’t notice the difference and it does not change my behavior.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The notion that transit is a socialist conspiracy is idiotic in line with its strength in Hong Kong and Singapore. Usually what happens is the opposite: the capitalists like their low-cost, high-efficiency trains, and various suburban and rural populist interests press the government to subsidize roads.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wingnuts don’t like it when you cloud the discussion with facts.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    You can add that also about social engineering of the notion that transit and transit-oriented development is social engineering. If they say that is social engineering, so are freeways and homebuyer taxcredits plus interest assumption on mortgages.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I’m staggered that in the US a man can be called to testify on something he knows nothing about. The SNCF’s deficit is due to slow unprofitable lines that its contract with the state obliges it to run. The TGV is profitable, and the Paris-Lyon line’s 25% profit has even been judged scandalous by oppostion politicians. If the TGV was unprofitable, why would private firms compete to have a share in it.
    Joe Thompson also talks about LaPoste and Fedex. There, too, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Fedex and LaPoste realized they were complementary. Fedex is strong worldwide and weak in Europe. It’s the opposite for LaPoste. So, they teamed up.
    France called Fedex to save the TGV from bankruptcy! This is really hilarious. In fact, Fedex and Laposte want to replace planes by special high-speed trains. This would solve the problem of airport curfews which delay final delivery. Trains can depart and arrive 24/24 whereas planes can’t take off or land during the night. So far, this venture hasn’t seduced DB which prefers Fedex to remain weak in Germany.
    I wonder how many Americans (apart from Morris Brown) are gullible enough to be taken in by this video staged as a tribunal with a clown posturing as an expert? By the way, I didn’t hear him swear to tell the truth…

    jimsf Reply:

    Unfortunately Andre, many, many, many Americans are that gullible. One only need mention something “european” and especially something “french” and americans go off the rails, clamoring to denigrate it.

    Victor Reply:

    Well I’m of French descent and I sure won’t denigrate anything French and I’m an American Citizen whose ancestors came to America from Ireland(via Canada) in 1850, My ancestors left France around 1690 and stayed in Ireland until 1770.

    Peter Reply:

    You can testify about anything if you get someone to call you in front of their committee so you can “testify” exactly what they want to get on the record.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Now wonder which committe member called this goon?

    Peter Reply:

    Lowenthal or Simitian?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    tuff call…strange as there bolth Democrates and I dare say this guy is a total rightwing case reading his rants

    HSRforCali Reply:

    Even the freakin Acela and Northeast Regional turn a profit that help cover other Amtrak operating expenses.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I saw that video. As other commenters have noted, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  5. Amanda in the South Bay
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 18:14
    #5

    I’m all in favor of a law that confiscates the cars of rich effing a**holes in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton who oppose public transportation. Have them get around without a car.

  6. Amanda in the South Bay
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 18:19
    #6

    “Gary Patton, you’ll recall, is the anti-passenger rail activist who boasted at the September 2009 Palo Alto teach-in that he helped kill a proposed train to link Santa Cruz and San José, a train that commuters on traffic-choked Highway 17 and Highway 1 desperately want.”

    Its people like him that make America among the worst of the world’s major countries.

    Peter Reply:

    I guess he doesn’t need to get around anywhere.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Gary Patton appears to be one of these people who believes that America of the 1970s was perfect, and that if we don’t do anything at all to encourage “growth” then “growth” will just magically go away.

    Traffic jams, unaffordable housing, and soaring fuel costs are the outcome of Gary Patton’s vision. His day is done.

    jimsf Reply:

    Traffic jams, unaffordable housing, and soaring fuel costs are the outcome of Gary Patton’s vision. His day is done. lol that made me think of this perhaps it should be the HSR theme…. oh, the optimism of youth.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Gary Patton was an “environmentalist” Santa Cruz Co. Supervisor at the time, and was the go-to-guy for all the “mountain folk” NIMBYs living in and themselves despoiling the Santa Cruz Mountains along the proposed (and historic) rail right-of-way linking Santa Cruz and Los Gatos. Sierra RR (now Sierra Northern) owner Mike Hart and another guy spent a lot of time and money doing feasibilty studies, business plans and detailed alternatives-analyses (with various trains types and alignment options), working with Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties and holding public meetings in both counties (which were promptly hijacked by a vociferously opposed and growing pack of “mountain folk” NIMBYs). Anyway, it’s a long story (and then Supervisor Rod Diridon was involved and supportive) … but Santa Cruz Co. Supes led by Gary Patton were said to have killed it. Mike Hart’s Sierra Northern is the new operator of the 32-mile Watsonville Jct.-to-Davenport UP line Santa Cruz Co. RTC is getting set to purchase from UP:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44975

    Joey Reply:

    Just out of interest, are these feasibility studies and AA documents available anywhere?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Contact Mike Hart at Sierra Northern. I can’t remember if I saved or recycled them and don’t feel like commencing an “archeological dig” for them at the moment. I never had (or knew of) electronic versions. The internets weren’t widely used for posting such things back in the mid-1990s.

    I just did a quick news archive search and located a few stories for purchase at $2.95 each in the SJMN archives … here are the free teasers:

    San Jose Mercury News – February 12, 1990 – 1B Local (940 words)

    WORKING ON THE RAILROAD
    GROUP HOPES TO RESTORE MOUNTAIN ROUTE

    There once was a time when trains called the Suntan Special zipped beachgoers over the mountains to Santa Cruz. Then 50 years ago this month, a violent winter storm rolled in from the Pacific and washed away stretches of track. Suddenly, the trains were gone. Now a group is trying to return trains to the mountains and has gone so far as to create a railroad company and to buy a rusting steam locomotive. If the wildest plans of the group came true, trains would snake along San…

    San Jose Mercury News – May 29, 1994 – 1D Business (1271 words)

    ALL ABOARD! START-UP VENTURE HOPES TO ONCE AGAIN LINK SAN JOSE AND SANTA CRUZ BY RAIL

    A START-UP railroad named for a defunct whistle-stop plans to drive a golden spike in a stubborn, anachronistic dream: resurrecting freight service through a portion of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Ultimately, the $60 million venture could relieve Highway 17 of truck congestion, precipitate the return of passenger service, and fulfill the dream of a Silicon Valley engineer turned railroad man. Although the quest is formidable, the Eccles &Eastern Railroad Co. is starting…

    San Jose Mercury News – December 22, 1994 – 1A Front (835 words)

    TOLL WOULD BE STEEP FOR OVER-THE-HILL RAIL STUDY SAYS LINE COULD BE REBUILT BY CHARGING MOTORISTS

    Fifty-four years after rail service died between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, a consultant says trains could roll over the mountains again — if Highway 17 drivers pay one of the highest tolls in the country to rebuild the rail line. In a report to a two-county task force, DeLeuw, Cather and Co. puts the cost of a Santa Cruz to Los Gatos line at between $371 million and $646 million. With existing transportation funds committed elsewhere, the consultant said the counties could…

    San Jose Mercury News – January 22, 1995 – 1B Local (512 words)

    CROWD DECRIES RAIL PLAN HWY. 17 ALTERNATIVE IS CALLED TOO COSTLY

    More than 250 people packed a hearing Saturday on the wisdom of starting commuter train service between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos, and most of them thought the idea stinks. What riled people the most was the cost — between $371 million and $646 million — for a rail service that would probably be used by a fraction of the 25,000 commuters that drive the tricky mountain turns along Highway 17 each day. As for the idea of charging drivers up to $8.20 per round trip to subsidize the rail…

    San Jose Mercury News – March 1, 1995 – 1B Local (444 words)

    HWY. 17 RAILROAD PROPOSAL FALTERS, UNREALISTIC: PROJECTIONS ARE FOR HIGH COST AND LOW RIDERSHIP.

    Highway 17 motorists probably wished they had the option of riding a commuter train Tuesday, when a series of nasty accidents involving two dozen cars threw the morning commute into a tizzy. But it’s unlikely to happen for a long, long time. At a special Friday night meeting, officials from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties are expected to drop plans to run passenger trains from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos. ”It doesn’t make…

    Joey Reply:

    Thanks for the info. Shame the project fell through, I guess, but the corridor doesn’t look like it makes a good business case for rail transit…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Notice the datelines – mid-1990s, when a gallon of gas went for $1.25.

    I know a few people who drive Highway 17 over the hill every day, and they would love a passenger rail option. So too would tourists. They can thank Gary Patton for making them sit in traffic without any other choices.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    On the other hand… and I can say this with a straight face as I am a supporter of rail public transportation…. the cost is too high for such low demand. And, certainly the cost has to build has increased in the past 15 years.

    Out of 25,000 average daily commuters… I would not expect more than 3-10% to switch to rail… depending on congestion levels and time savings, certainly no more than 2,500 riders would use the system. That is far less than what is necessary to make such a large investment have merit.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, they were also going to use it for freight service.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Given the specific nature of the Highway 17 corridor – narrow, winding, and traffic-choked – I can see a lot of people using these trains. The key will be how well they integrate with the VTA network, and how well the trains can get people to their workplaces in Silicon Valley.

    A lot has changed on that corridor in 15 years. New studies would be needed if that project were to ever be revived.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I think you’d need more than a Santa Cruz-Diridon Station line if it was to be successful. A lot of people use the Hwy 17 bus to travel north everyday, but a lot of those people are SFO fliers, SJSU students/faculty, and people who work downtown. If you work for generic tech company in Santa Clara/Mountain View/Sunnyvale, etc then you will need…probably something more than what the VTA has now to make it attractive.

    The Hwy 17 bus exhausts me taking it; its just perfect for downtown SJ from Santa Cruz, but trying to make Caltrain/VTA connections to the heart of Silicon Valley would exhaust me to no end.

    Samsonian Reply:

    Just out of interest, are these feasibility studies and AA documents available anywhere?

    Ask you shall receive:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/30629882/Santa-Cruz-Los-Gatos-Rail-Corridor-Study

    Note though, it has a lot of pages, and it’s about 15 years old.

    I think such a line would be a good thing. After all, a railroad thought it was a good idea 100+ years ago. There’s certainly some demand for such a rail line, given how bad the CA-17 corridor is, and how crowded the buses that run that route are. A new study would be needed, as Robert said.

    But the cost to rebuild would be high. Without a significant dedicated tax, or ideally congestion/toll pricing on CA-17, I don’t see how it’d be funded. Of course, that assumes there’s political will for this. This effort to rebuild the line petered out sometime after the study.

    jimsf Reply:

    I think if its done right and provides a simple direct frequent link from san jose to santacurz all the way to the beach…. it could be very successful as a combination commuter and tourist line. Lots of folks, me included, love to get down to santa cruz for a day at the beach but we don’t drive. I’m sure it would make it very easy for families and young people in the santa clara valley to get easily to and from the beach using the midday runs while commuters use the commuter runs and then throw in the tourists – I send a lot of them there already using the “highway 17 express” which is quite convenient. BAsically turn the highway 17 express service and skeds, into a rail line instead and ridership will increase. I think.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes outdated ..thou there are many branches if the “green” movement..PCL is a yuppie version..yes open spaces and the coast with as little people as possible..so we can drive our 2 ton SUV in airconditioned comfort and look out the window at the trees. kinda like all the auto maker ads that ‘act’
    green

    Peter Reply:

    Or like “Chevron – The Power of Human Energy”.

    jimsf Reply:

    Oh those Chevron ads make me feel all warm and cozy. You know, cuz when I think of wildlife, pristine babbling brooks, and fresh mountain air, I think of Chevron

  7. Robin
    Apr 24th, 2010 at 21:38
    #7

    Rockland County? Orange County?

    Yes, those areas have gas stations. However, this completely punts on quantitative questions: how many gas stations do they have per capita? How many people drive across state or county lines to get cheaper gas, and how many drive less because of the higher taxes?

  8. Peter
    Apr 25th, 2010 at 10:36
    #8

    Here’s Caltrain’s take on its own problems.

    http://www.caltrain.com/news_2010_04_23_budget_projections.html

  9. jimsf
    Apr 25th, 2010 at 11:30
    #9

    other news items:

    transportation reauthorization bill

    Siemens

    Transportation Security Administration

    Peter Reply:

    I’ll agree that use of an IED on a freight railroad would be the most effective (in terms of casualties) attack on railroads.

    CA’s HSR is already planning for attacks on the infrastructure, hence the security cameras of the entire ROW.

    There are many measure that can be implemented before airline-style security would ever become necessary.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    An IED on a railroad is likely to leave a blackened place on the side of cars and not much else. Need something a bit bigger.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYubpuIe3cw

    …. tornado hitting a train.

    Peter Reply:

    Are cars containing hazmat really so robust?

    However, a bomb that causes a high-speed derailment could be quite dangerous, just look at recent attack in Russia.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The big white thing that bounces off the back of the locomotive in the video is a tank car.

    Peter Reply:

    NICE

    jimsf Reply:

    That was awesome…. but it also shows why we have those heavy FRA regulations. Notice everything held together in the derailment, from the rail cars being dragged down the rocks, to the tank car that hit the loco and bumped aside. A euro train would have folded up and flown away like a paper plate.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    TGV trains derailed three times; the Shinkansen derailed once. In none of the cases did the train fold up or fly away; as a result, there were no deaths in any of those derailments. Even the ICE’s Eschede disaster killed people because of jackknifing, rather than because of crumpling. An American train, which due to heavier weight is even more likely to derail and jackknife, is potentially just as lethal.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The ICE train would have had far fewer deaths if the passengers who saw a piece of wheel come up through the floor had pulled an emergency brake. Or if the conductor the passengers went to find had pulled an emergency brake. Or if the bridge that collapsed onto the trains hadn’t collapsed onto to the trains. There is evidence that the train would not have jackknifed if the bridge collapsing onto the train hadn’t stopped the cars abruptly – they would have derailed but stayed in line and upright. They went back and redesigned a few bridges afterwards.

    jimsf Reply:

    perhaps but Im thinking in terms of a passenger train collision with a heavily laden freight train, rather than just a derailment. Its just like driving a small car and getting into an accident with an suv. the suv wins the ford fiesta loses.

    Peter Reply:

    But the people in the passenger train are going to lose anyway. There’s no one in the freight train other than the driver who’s going to lose. You can’t win against an opponent who has nothing to lose. You can just avoid it from happening. Which is why crumple zones are less important than positive train control.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Exactly. Unlike on the roads, you can actually force trains to obey the traffic signals using electromechanical devices. This is called “positive train control”. This means that trains *do not crash into each other* in places which have it installed. They may be hit by rubble falling from above, or derail, or crash into trespassing road vehicles, but they simply do not crash into each other when PTC is in place.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you design the passenger train well, the collision forces get distributed along the train and deflected from the passengers.

  10. jimsf
    Apr 25th, 2010 at 13:55
    #10

    All things being equal. which is more affordable the AGV or the Velaro?

    And while we know that clearly, the AGV is far more attractive. What are the differences if any, in performance.

    WE are going to get one or the other no doubt.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The LIRR just passed it’s 175th anniversary a few years ago. Some of the ROW carved out in 1834 is still in use. You don’t want to base your decisions on what is cheapest today. Not that what is cheapest today will be cheapest in 2016 or 17 when they are putting trains out to bid.

    Joey Reply:

    the AGV is far more attractive

    Please make an attempt to separate opinion from fact.

    Peter Reply:

    “Please make an attempt to separate opinion from fact.”

    Isn’t that too much to expect from an internet forum? Just ask synonorodent.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The main advantage of the AGV is safety. Alstom trains don’t jacknife, and stay in line in case of derailment. It’s not the case for Siemens trains.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s just because they use jacobs bogies, right?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. However, the cost of the Jacobs bogies is a much, much higher axle load.

    Joey Reply:

    How does the AGV’s axel load compare to the Velaro’s (which I’ve heard is quite high)?

    jimsf Reply:

    I think the decision should be based solely the fact that in my opinion the AGV is far more attractive. (See there’s some fact in there.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not sure. Alstom doesn’t specify axle loads; however, it specifies weight (510 tons for a 14-car, 250-meter train), from which we can deduce an axle load of exactly 17 tons/axle.

    Bear in mind, not all Velaros have the same axle load. The Velaro RUS has a higher axle load than the Velaro CN and the Velaro E; the winterization system weighs a lot.

    Clem Reply:

    17,000 kg/axle has always been the standard TGV spec, since the 1970s.

    jimsf Reply:

    What is the significance of axle load by the way? I mean clearly both trains sets work. Does it affect the ride? the safety? Just curious ( conductors and engineers know these things, ticket clerks do not)

    Peter Reply:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axle_load

    jimsf Reply:

    so the lighter the axle load the less expensive the steel rail, and less tore up it gets.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s what I gathered.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    On rail, as on roadways, a vehicle twice as heavy on the same number of contact points does far more than twice as much damage to the roadway/track as the lighter vehicle.

    Think of it this way: I can hit you with a feather 10,000 times and not do as much damage as a single punch to the face, even though the total force may be much higher.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Axle load matters in two ways. First, wear is proportional to the fourth power of axle load, on both railroad tracks and roads. Double the weight of a vehicle and the wear will go up by a factor of 16.

    And second, lighter trains can run at higher speeds on curves safely. For non-tilting trains, passenger comfort is the deciding factor and not train safety, but for tilting trains, at very low axle loads you could run a cant deficiency of 12.5″; one Pendolino model, with an axle load of 13 tons, gets to this limiting level. Heavier trains, for example the Acela, are limited to 7″; otherwise they destroy the outer rail, making it unsafe for other trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Then why not go with Talgo? Short cars, many axles, Jacobs bogies, low boarding… have they not got a fast enough design yet? Seems like the safest choice by *that* standard.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because Talgo doesn’t have that many axles per unit of train length. It’s really light, but its axle load is about 15. This means that its allowable cant deficiency is limited (which is fine since Talgo uses passive tilting) and that track wear is higher than it has to be.

    Peter Reply:

    Velaro E: 17 tons
    Velaro CN: 17.7 tons
    Velaro RUS: 1 System train 17 tons, 2 System train 18 tons
    Velaro D (future): 17 tons

    jimsf Reply:

    no where have I been able to find the alxe load for agv but i did read they may be planning an AGV Duplex! I’d bet lunch that california will go for a double decked train. They love the double decked trains. I don’t know why but they do.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The SNCF won’t buy the AGV unless it’s duplex. Alstom will probably have to use composites in order to meet the 17-ton axle load specification.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    If these figures are exact, then there is less track wear with the AGV which has fewer axles as each bogey is shared by two cars. 17 tons is the maximum admitted in Europe.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alstom trains don’t jacknife, and stay in line in case of derailment. It’s not the case for Siemens trains.

    And that’s purely uninformed just-so speculation and/or dodgy unethical Alstom sales pitching.

    None of is want to find out what happens when a TGV has a real accident, and it is good fortune that we haven’t had one so far.

    All modern trains designs have excellent passive dynamic behaviour designed in to mitigate damage and fatality following derailment, but the reality is that 3 GIGAjoules of energy has to do somewhere, that only very modest lateral forces can generate catastrophic outcomes, and that on the whole the industry and public have been very very lucky so far.

    There are excellent reasons for articulation — lower non-revenue weight due to fewer bogies, fewer wheels and axles and brakes per train to maintain, arguably superior passenger environment, less wasted non-revenue interior space — but clutching at straws with the “safety” card isn’t one of them.

    BTW it has always interested me that the Japanese, world leaders in weight reduction and in safety, do not design or build shared bogie (Jacobs, Talgo, etc) high speed trains. I don’t know whether this is due to historical engineering culture (“this is the way we do things and it works well enough”), extremely careful and detailed analysis that showed it to be inferior, careful analysis that showed it to be marginally superior but not worth associated changes (maintenance depots and practices, platform edges configured around existing door spacing, etc), or what. I can only speculate, and as such I can’t draw any conclusions.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes it would seem to me that at 220 mph, an accident is an accident and its gonna be a mess no matter the design. All the worlds hsr designs are probably equally safe and the biggest factor probably has more to do with proper maintenance and operations policies then the actual trainset itself.

    and in cali will we have a concrete row or ballast? I read somewhere that in france for instance, they use ballast for a better ride, but that they also spend a lot of time and money keeping that ballast in perfect condition. Some one in cali, perhaps a concrete seller, mentioned that in cali we have to use a concrete track bed. ( so he can sell more concrete) because its lower maintenance and labor cost.

    Seems to me regular ballast would make for a smoother quieter ride though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    One of the construction standards CHSRA published said that they’re going to go for ballast-free rails.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Concrete makes economic sense. The construction is more expensive but maintenance costs are low.
    Ballast is more costly to maintain. It has some advantages. It is less noisy and is softer on the wheels. So, more money is spent on track maintenance, less on rolling stock maintenance. That may, in part, explain SNCF’s preference for ballast: it owns the rolling stock, not the tracks.
    Ecologists prefer ballast because it is permeable to water and doesn’t perturb aquifers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ballast (with concrete sleepers, mind you) seems to be the standard for “open country” track. And it should be, for the very ecological reasons mentioned. Can you actually think of any examples of no-ballast running for long distances over empty country?

    However, practically nobody likes ballasted bridges/viaducts/tunnels/trenches any more, and I have to agree with them; the ecological benefit is close to nil given required concrete structure, and the maintenance is a lot higher. Given the sheer quantity of bridges, viaducts, trenches, and tunnels planned for CAHSR there aren’t many stretches which would qualify for consideration of ballasted track. Gilroy to Fresno, maybe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s no single standard for open-country track. Japan started with ballast and then switched to slab track; Germany just uses slab track; France, Spain, and Korea use ballast. I don’t know what Taiwan does.

    However, tunnels are almost universally done with slab track, because it’s shallower, which reduces the required tunnel cross-section.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    However, tunnels are almost universally done with slab track, because it’s shallower, which reduces the required tunnel cross-section.

    No, that’s pretty much irrelevant, as you can see form looking at any HS rail tunnel cross section. If a couple m^2 of area make that much of a construction cost difference you’re probably not looking at a large-section high speed tunnel.

    The reason is that it is very much more expensive/impossible to use continuous production track maintenance and renewal equipment in the confined space of tunnels, and that the track alignment requirements are much tighter.

    It’s the usual trade off of higher capital cost versus lower maintenance cost, but with the latter factor multiplied compared to open track or track on ballasted trough bridges.

    Joey Reply:

    Richard is right. CHSRA planning documents show tunnel diameters as large as 34 feet (for a single track!). With that much space, the little more required for ballasted track is inconsequential.

    dejv Reply:

    Wow, they’re planning to run double stack freight there? Swiss standard for single-track UIC-GC tunnel diameter is 8.3 m, German standard is 9.4 m. For 24 km long tunnel, Swiss standard comes at 85 % price of German standard, including quirks like more demanding catenary construction. OTOH, for shorter tunnels the savings aren’t that high, because cheaper narrow tunnel tube needs more expensive portals to mitigate tunnel boom. The same applies to ballast, it’s coarse so it damps noise, unlike slab track. Japan didn’t have real trouble with tunnel boom until they started to switch to slab track.

    Samsonian Reply:

    The tunnel bore diameter could just have to do with common TBMs on the market that meet their requirements, and nothing to do with freight.

    But 34 ft does seem really large for a single track. I know there are some large diameter TBMs (45 ft or larger), and those could accommodate 2 tracks, which does make sense.

    Joey Reply:

    @dejv, samsonian

    There are multiple bore diameters specified in the planning documents. The only reason for such large tunnels is to provide the aerodynamic clearances necessary for 250MPH operation. Also note that our modern fire safety rules more or less preclude a double track tunnel more than a kilometer in length.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … common TBMs on the market …

    There is no such thing.

    BTW 400kmh is a an utterly insane fantasy, from every point of view.
    The energy intensiveness of such travel cannot and SHOULD NOT be borne by the world, regardless of the pointy-nosed rushing into deep tunnels fantasies of train fans.

    In the medium to long term I doubt that > circa 320kmh commercial speed will be sustained. Technically feasible isn’t the same as desirable, after all. Where are my moon shuttle, personal helicopter and jet pack anyway?

    But of course from the contractor’s point of view, self-specifying and then being obliged to design and build to an out of this world 400kmh “requirement” has the immense advantage of increasing construction costs significantly. Just like their over-the-top stations, where maximizing construction budget and actively inhibiting efficient operations are the rules of their game. It’s not as if they care about operating an efficient modern rail network anyway — somebody else (one guess, hardy California taxpayers!) will be left holding that bag, as usual.

    “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department’, says Wernher von Braun.”

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    I don’t know what Taiwan does.

    The THSR line is all slab.

    dejv Reply:

    BTW 400kmh is a an utterly insane fantasy, from every point of view.
    The energy intensiveness of such travel cannot and SHOULD NOT be borne by the world, regardless of the pointy-nosed rushing into deep tunnels fantasies of train fans.

    Governments and companies don’t generally take care of arguments like “SHOULD NOT”. IMO, China will be the first to push that limit because they have long distances to convert such high speed to real travel time savings, hydropower to feed the trains and premium pricing of HS trains to pay the bills for energy.

    Peter Reply:

    “hydropower to feed the trains”

    IIRC, China mainly uses coal, and they are building 100 new nuclear power plants in the next 10 years.

    dejv Reply:

    Yes, they use mainly coal now, but they build dams at similar speed to HSR construction and filling all that reservoirs takes some time even when they block nearly all the water of mighty Himalaya rivers.

    dejv Reply:

    However, practically nobody likes ballasted bridges/viaducts/tunnels/trenches any more, and I have to agree with them; the ecological benefit is close to nil given required concrete structure, and the maintenance is a lot higher.

    Once again incorrect. Modern trend is to stick with the technology that surrounds bridges and other structures. Ballastless sections in the middle of ballasted ones are maintenance nightmares and limit safe cant deficiency.

    BTW ballasted track is actually the technology for steel bridges these days because weight and elasticity damp noise and vibrations very well.

    dejv Reply:

    Ballast is less noisy so it would make sense in urban areas, especialy low-speed ones (peninsula, LA basin).

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    BTW it has always interested me that the Japanese, world leaders in weight reduction and in safety, do not design or build shared bogie (Jacobs, Talgo, etc) high speed trains.

    IIRC, the STAR21 experimental train was built half-articulated, half regular, but for whatever reason JR East decided not to continue down that path when it came time to build production sets.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Today’s Japanese railroads focus on reducing maintenance costs. Using conventional bogies means lower axle loads; most trains in Japan weigh less than 10 tons per axle empty.

    What’s more interesting to me is that even the commuter EMUs are multiple marriages – in a 10-car E231 consist, only 3 trailers are interchangeable, and every other car has a specialized purpose. In such an environment, articulated bogies lose the advantage of making cars easier to separate.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “And that’s purely uninformed just-so speculation and/or dodgy unethical Alstom sales pitching”
    The TGV has derailed three times (land subsidence, landslide) at full speed. No-one was injured.
    When the ICE derailed at Eschede, it jacknifed and brought down a bridge. 101 people died and 200 were seriously injured.
    You seem to think you are the only informed and ethical person in the world.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What’s the plural of “anecdote” again?

    Peter Reply:

    Well, the ICE jackknifed because one of the derailing cars threw the switch it was passing over, throwing it sideways.

    Arguing that THAT couldn’t happen with articulated cars IS speculation.

    I’d think that ANY train would derail and jackknife if one of the middle cars is tossed violently to the side at high speed, articulation or not. There’s no guarantee that the couplings would hold when that much force is being applied them.

    Peter Reply:

    It didn’t help that a concrete bridge piling was then in the way of the derailed cars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The deck of the bridge was in the way. The unfortunate passengers that were under the bridge didn’t fare very well. At least it was quick.

    Samsonian Reply:

    That’s just irresponsible FUD.

    To take an extremely rare event, which is what train accidents are, and draw any sweeping conclusions about them is grossly irresponsible. You should know better.

    dejv Reply:

    Note the little detail that one of ICE cars was crushed by collapsing bridge, so the other cars were effectvely hitting rigid wall. If train didn’t jacknife in such situation, it would crush with about the same or worse survival rate.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let’s say there are conclusions to be drawn from this about ICE versus TGV safety. Why focus on the articulation and not on DB’s history of skimping on maintenance? Don’t forget: the rubber damping ring used was unsafe and had not been properly modeled before being put into service; DB had ignored warnings about the design being unsafe for years; company policy required conductors to investigate first and only pull the emergency brake afterward; the maintenance regime was unreliable and generated false positives, so DB ignored the fact that there had been multiple complaints about the defective wheel on the train that derailed.

    A good rule of thumb is to focus on the issues that separate the ICE from both the TGV and the Shinkansen.

  11. jimsf
    Apr 26th, 2010 at 11:58
    #11

    I’ve always heard that the disadvantage to articulated is that if there are repairs, the whole trainset has to go out of service instead of one car.

    dejv Reply:

    That’s case of any train with distributed traction that doesn’t have traction equipment separate for each car.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Pretty much every modern passenger train is maintained as a unit. The days of shunting lots of stuff around all the time, whether in stations, yards, or maintenance depots, are past. (At least in advanced industrialized first world democracies.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even on the NYC Subway. Most of the time the trains operate in sets. There isn’t a whole lot of cars being shuffled around as individual cars.

    jimsf Reply:

    well the california trains generally stay in their sets, but when a car does have to be taken out of service ( usually the maintenance can be done while the train is in the yard during its natural out of service time) then they can pull a car out and sub a different one for instance, when need be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The new trains stay in 4-car or 5-car sets, usually. The old ones were married pairs. I don’t think any is a 10-car unit the way JR East’s equipment is.

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