JetBlue Sees Benefits of HSR

Jul 13th, 2010 | Posted by

One of the more common arguments against HSR is that “nobody will take a train when they can get from SF to LA faster by flying on Southwest for $49.” There are numerous flaws with that argument, including the fact that you can rarely get a $49 fare on short notice, and the fact that the door-to-door travel time for HSR and a flight is very similar, at least for an SF-LA trip. Another flaw is the belief that fares will remain that low for much longer, as you have to pretend peak oil doesn’t exist to assume that Southwest will offer such cheap fares forever.

Alongside those flaws is another important detail: low-cost carriers aren’t very bullish on those routes. Consider JetBlue.

JetBlue is one of the nation’s leading low-cost airlines. I’ve flown them several times between San José and Long Beach, and enjoyed the service, the in-seat entertainment, and the low fares. Sure, I’d still prefer a high speed train – it’d still be easier for me than flying out of SJC, given that my destinations in SoCal tend to be closer to a future HSR station than to an airport.

JetBlue is also supportive of high speed rail. They don’t think that the shuttle routes, such as Bay Area-SoCal, are all that great. Here’s JetBlue CEO Dave Barger quoted in the SF Examiner yesterday (and by an actual Examiner reporter, not by one of their biased bloggers who gets to use the Examiner name):

Q: Do you see nationwide high-speed rail as a threat or complement to the airline industry?

A: It’s a complement. I don’t think we need hundreds of departures every day from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.

JetBlue has said this before with regard to other routes, such as NYC to Boston:

It was an event filled with charts and maps that drove home how overwhelmed and outdated current air traffic control technology is. One solution [JetBlue COO Rob] Maruster said was obvious is taking airline passengers off some routes, like New York to Boston. “It seems like there’s a mode that might work better for us in that regard. When we see things like high-speed rail going into South Florida, we say OK, that makes sense. But I think this region, with almost 25 million people in the Tri-State area, makes a lot more sense for those kind of things.” Maruster says he’d like to see New York City and federal transportation officials put out a 20 or 30-year vision that addresses how airplanes, trains and other modes of transportation can be put together. He hasn’t seen one yet.

None of this should be surprising if you’ve been paying attention, especially if you remember the summer of 2008. We spent a lot of time discussing the airline crisis here on the blog, as high gas prices drove the airlines to slash flights. Carriers cut flights on the SF-LA corridor in 2008 – airlines see better profit potential for medium and long haul flights, instead of on the shorter shuttle routes.

Southwest Airlines, which helped kill the Texas HSR project in the 1990s, has also come around on HSR, having not lifted a finger to block any of the HSR projects being proposed around the country. Perhaps Southwest, like JetBlue, understands that their future isn’t in the short-haul services that can be replaced by bullet trains – especially when the California system will bring travelers to airports such as SFO, SJC (Diridon is close enough), BUR, ONT, and perhaps SAN.

It’s further evidence of how HSR is an essential part of California’s future. HSR opponents and critics believe we don’t need it, but they aren’t looking closely at the reality of the present situation, including what the airlines themselves are saying. The status quo isn’t viable, and is going to change. HSR is how California will not only adapt, but thrive.

    Jul 13th, 2010 at 18:12

    What if an airline operated some HSR trains? Is that a feasible concept? Imagine that…flying Virgin America from IAD to SFO, then hopping on a Virgin America branded/operated train to BUR or ONT…frankly anywhere in between like LAUS or Fresno. All as part of one ticket/brand, naturally with a transfer. Perhaps a carrier such as JetBlue, with a significant operation between SFO and LAX, could replace their air shuttles directly with an HSR operation.

    Somewhat similarly, you can check in for a flight out of EWR on Continental directly in New York Penn Station. I’d imagine you should be able to check in for a long distance cross-country flight at any HSR station, then transfer at SFO or ONT to said flight.

    I believe Air France and SNCF collaborate through the CDG HSR station, correct?

    Peter Reply:

    DB used to operate a Lufthansa branded train. I’m not sure what came of that.

    Peter Reply:

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why wouldn’t these theoretical passengers just fly from IAD to LAX or ONT?

    EXCEAR Reply:

    Of course they can do that. I’m not saying they can’t, that will always be an option. But in present day when you search for flights between those city pairs you can choose between direct flights and flights with connections, a few which are through SFO. There are many air travelers who don’t care how long it takes to get from A to B (within limits of course) if the ticket with a connection is significantly cheaper than a direct flight, which especially in present day it frequently is. There are also travelers who prioritize time, and they would definitely not go IAD-SFO-LA via rail, preferring a direct flight instead no matter the cost.

    I am using IAD-LA as one example.

    To throw out another example, rather than flying direct from IAH-SAN, a traveler might choose IAH-ONT-San Diego if the ticket came out cheaper. Or IAD-San Jose…that traveler could go to SFO and then take HSR directly to San Jose.

    NCarlson Reply:

    You’ve also got some big anti trust issues in the US with airlines getting into ground transportation. I suspect that the economics and logistics of running a railroad would have more in common with low cost bus companies than airlines in any case.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    In fact, Air France has long been hostile to the TGV until they realised the battle couldn’t be won. If you can’t beat them, join them. Actually, the American airlines are the ones that benefit most from the TGV. They all codeshare with it and TGV “connecting flights” are counted double for frequent flyer miles. It allows them to sell tickets to French cities for which they have no slots, thus beating Air France on its own turf. That may, in part, explain Air France’s mixed feelings about the TGV. Note that TGV stations have IATA codes, like airports.

    Matthew Reply:

    German train stations have IATA codes as well. If you search for a flight with the correct IATA code on the Lufthansa website, they will give you a train/flight itinerary. You just use your airline ticket on the train. They have counters at the station, and will check your baggage through to your final destination. An alternative model is that one can get a train ticket from anywhere on the Deutsche Bahn network to a connecting airport under the “rail & fly” program. Prices vary depending on participating airline, but are somewhere in the vicinity of 50 EUR. You’re responsible for carrying your luggage on and off the train yourself. A google search for “rail & fly” yields many similar programs in various countries with rail stations located at passenger airports. I think it would fully make sense to assign IATA codes to train stations on the CAHSR network as well, in order to facilitate intermodal itineraries. At least LAUS, SF Transbay, San Jose, and Anaheim are candidates for IATA codes and airline check-in counters.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Train stations in the US have IATA codes and Amtrak codeshares with Continental. …

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Virgin has/had some kind of rail service in the UK

    Joey Reply:

    It’s not that hard. Of course, not everything under the Virgin megagroup is an airline.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Good because that sure looks nice!

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “Virgin has/had some kind of rail service in the UK”
    It has a fleet of 52 Alstom Pendolinos + 21 Bombardier Super-Voyagers (diesel-electric).
    The frequency from Euston Station is 9 tph, with some Pendolinos non-stop to Scotland.
    A current contract with Alstom will lengthen Pendolinos from 9 to 11 cars and add 4 new 11-car trainsets, eventually bringing Virgin’s Pendolino fleet to 56 11-car units by 2012.
    You can hardly call that “some kind of rail service”!

  2. Spokker
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 18:27

    “Maruster says he’d like to see New York City and federal transportation officials put out a 20 or 30-year vision that addresses how airplanes, trains and other modes of transportation can be put together.”

    All modes of transportation have their strengths and weaknesses and should be put to use where they are most appropriate. It would be very easy for this guy from Jet Blue to put his company ahead of getting our transportation priorities in order, but he said what needed to be said.

    Ben Reply:

    This is very good to see. Much of JetBlue’s enthusiasm for high speed rail is surely due to the fact that its hub is at JFK, and the three New York-area airports are consistently the nation’s three most delayed airports. A significant number of flights at JFK and LaGuardia are on regional jets ( and high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor will provide an alternative to these flights.

  3. Ben
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 19:14

    Although it appears that JetBlue is outright supportive of high speed rail and Southwest is neutral, some of the airlines have funded Robert Poole and the other hacks at Reason Foundation and James May at the Air Transport Association has been outright hostile to high speed rail in Congressional testimony and other forums.

    Spokker Reply:

    However, all it takes is for one smart company (maybe Jet Blue) to show that air travel and high speed rail can not only coexist, but complement each other. The nay-saying companies will soon join the bandwagon after they see one company be successful at it.

    I hope Jet Blue really takes high speed rail seriously in a positive way. I’ve already sent them a letter commending their COO and CEO for their forthright comments.

  4. Observer
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 20:07

    Jet Blue? Southwest’s market share is at least 3x Jet Blue nationwide, probably WAY more SF to So Cal market.

    Gee, wonder who has more to lose/more to gain from loss in air traffic in these routes. For Jet Blue SF to LA is probably nothing more than nuisance. Does that mean the same is true for the airline industry in general because that’s what Jet Blue says?

    But, while I was looking for the actual stats, I found this interesting link, from an HSR supporter..

    If the airline industry says that HSR will take 6 million passengers from the airline industry, my question is – where are the other Forty Four Million supposed to be coming from?

    Is this the stench wafting from the ridership numbers Lowenthal was talking about?

    Peter Reply:

    “If the airline industry says that HSR will take 6 million passengers from the airline industry, my question is – where are the other Forty Four Million supposed to be coming from?”

    Ummm, from drivers and induced demand?

    Despite Richard’s rantings that CA is building a Flight Level Zero airline, the main goal was not to compete with the airlines. HSR in CA will serve many more city pairings than the airlines do. This places it in competition with driving. But even between the city pairings currently served by airlines, it will be very competitive against the airlines.

    Eric M Reply:

    And not everyone will be going from SF to LA. Lots of short distance travelers are expected such as commuters. Its total trips each way that count toward the total number, so going somewhere round trip is calculated as two riders.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    NO its from MenloPark

    jimsf Reply:

    The bag advantage with hsr in a place as large and spread out as california, as it pertains to air travel is that our hsr as designed can better distribute arriving and departing air passengers, getting them close to their destination. What do people who live in stockton, modesto, riverside, bakersfield, merced, etc do now when they need to take a long domestic m or international flight. They drive t to the nearest major airport most of the time. They may drive to a regional airport but its usually more hassle and moor cost. If you live in fresno and you have hsr, and you want to go to hawaii on vacation you can check prices out of both LAX and SFO and take hsr in 90 minutes to get to them. YOu can’t drive there that fast, you cant super shuttle there that fast and while you may get a connecting flight from fresno, it won’t be a good or convenient connection, nor will have many choices, and you will pay a premium.

  5. political_incorrectness
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 20:08

    Well that is one group of opposition taken care of. Now can we change the language in transporation bills to make HSR considered a “steel highway”. That might allow state’s to raid the highway funds.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Cool lyrics, even if the slide show is New England instead of Donner Pass:

    Mainline mountain railroad, a hundred miles of granite paved with steel. . .”

    Joey Reply:

    Well it is a rail “road”…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


    Your comment reminds me that some early railroads used the seperate words, “Rail Road,” in their corporate titles. Two survivors that still have “Rail Road” in their charters are interesting for both their history and the disparity of their operations. They are the Long Island Rail Road (New York commuter line, very heavy traffic density), and the Strasburg Rail Road (steam powered heritage road in Pennsylvania that occasionally still handles freight behind coal-burning power, along with its tourist trains).

  6. anonymouse
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 20:15

    HSR will really hurt airports like SJC, BUR, and OAK. Those secondary airports are at least 50% corridor traffic, with the rest being taken up by a few connections to hubs, a couple transcon flights, and a few flights to Mexico. The real benefits for airlines would be in big hub airports like LAX and SFO, where HSR would replace regional airlines (which consume scarce slots) and provide connections to plentiful international and transcon flights (for which HSR can’t compete).

    Spokker Reply:

    Burbank Airport is fighting tooth and nail to get a station. Sounds like they believe it will be a complement too.

    Caelestor Reply:

    It could potentially divert traffic from LAX into Burbank and make it a viable alternative (capacity is underused, right?).

    StevieB Reply:

    BUR capacity is limited due to agreement not to fly between 10pm and 7am because of noise. The city of Burbank has blocked attempts to expand the airport for years.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    And also an acute lack of runways.

    Ontario is perfectly positioned on the line to become the new major airport in Southern California, it’s around an hour from San Diego on the line, it has room to expand to four long, parallel runways, the HSR/metrolink station would be nice and close and it already gets a decent amount of traffic. It’s a much better option than Palmdale, which would be completely reliant on connecting rail.

    Connections to ONT and SFO are about all you’ll need to make HSR act as the sort of “last leg” for long distance flights to the rest of California.

    I’d love to see a connection to LAX, but ONT is better for SD, which badly needs a new airport, and Metro looks like they’re going to drag light rail over the Harbor corridor, not heavy rail.

    thatbruce Reply:

    For international flights and SD, there are periodic murmurs about using TIJ as a joint Mexico/US airport, presumably with an extension of the SD trolley.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought that was just Rafael suggesting it.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    The benefit to ONT is that it wouldn’t have to just be an airport for SD and that it would have enough kiss-and-ride and slow-rail customers that it wouldn’t be reliant on the HSR connection, not to mention the thorny issues of a US airport on MX soil. LAX is quite crowded, and while HSR should take a large number of those passengers away (something like 40% of flights out of LAX are <400 miles, which means CA, Vegas and Phoenix), it will eventually reach capacity again. In addition, ONT (and SFO) would be immediately attractive to foreign airlines who want to code-share with HSR.

    I think the failure of the Palmdale idea is that it's entirely reliant on large numbers of foreign and domestic carriers all moving their operations there en mass, and everyone taking the train to get there. ONT doesn't have either of those issues since it already has a decent number of passengers and it isn't in BFE.

    With regard to TIJ, IIRC the proposal (from rafael or elsewhere) would be effectively that the US side of the airport wouldn't require passport control for US passengers, effectively making it a US airport, which is the only wait a major "san diego" airport at TIJ would work, but which is also ridiculously difficult when you think about things like ground crews. IMO There's a better chance of Miramar or North Island being converted to civilian use than a TIJ airport.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The proposal in the wikipedia page suggests that passengers showing up to USA-TIJ would go through checkin and US border controls before entering the airport proper in MEX-TIJ. Ie, another USA/MEX border crossing that happens to be immediately adjacent to and integrated with an airport, not a US airport using a MEX runway.

    Re Palmdale, I’m surprised no-one has yet brought up issues about its elevated and hot location when considering the departure of heavily-laden planes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That sounds very attractive, go through border controls to get to Chicago from San Diego. Or tokyo or London.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Special bonus: Mexican citizens travelling to their own country become eligible to make a fun multi year unscheduled stopover in Syria, Cuba or other undisclosed locations.

    Peter Reply:

    @ adirondacker

    I doubt they would use it for US domestic flights…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Airports like JFK, ORD, LAX, SFO, IAD etc have great big thundering herds of international travelers because they can then change to a puddle jumper to Podunk. Take that away and all you have left is the San Diego market. I’m sure they would be able to keep both gates busy.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Well of course. If HSR creates a link that connects Union Station with an airport station in Burbank, then it will become much more attractive for transcontinental routes, especially the flight is not a connection to an international flight. LAX will never get HSR and currently doesn’t even have light rail.

    In the end though, Burbank is making a mistake by coordinating it with the airport however. Once flights defect from LAX to Burbank because of HSR, then the City of LA will restart its plan to convert Palmdale to its Southern California hub and leave Burbank holding the bag.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If LAX doesn’t get HSR, it’s because of poor planning on Metrolink’s part. There is in fact a potential ROW that goes straight from Union Station to LAX. However, it passes through multiple neighborhoods on the way that would protest at not getting service. A regional rail line with both local and express trains, with a timed overtake at Vermont, Western, or Crenshaw, would work much better. Local trains would make all stops; express trains would only stop at LA Union Station, the timed overtake station, LAX, and maybe Long Beach Avenue.

    If Metrolink were interested in even half-assed, Caltrain-style modernization, it would be easier to connect LAX to the HSR network than any other airport. Burbank Airport is off the route, and is a poor substitute for downtown Burbank, which has good potential to be a transit-oriented secondary downtown. If CAHSR gets as much ridership as is projected, then Union Station will become congested, and Burbank will become necessary as a relief station, a Shinagawa to Union Station’s Tokyo.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Metro is considering (has decided?) Light rail for the former Harbor Sub due to interoperability with the existing Green Line and proposed Crenshaw line. While it would make sense for an express service between LAUS and LAX, it’s doubtful that it would happen.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    “If LAX doesn’t get HSR, it’s because of poor planning on Metrolink’s part.”

    And you think Richard goes apoplectic about caltrain’s “planning”…

    As Bruce mentioned, there was (and sort of still is) an option to run commuter rail to LAX (Metrolink or some sort of DMU service) along the harbor corridor, but Metro has made statements to the effect that they will be running LRT along there, to hook into the existing green line and planned Crenshaw lines.

    My dream of an electrified non-compliant connection from LAUS to LAX to Downtown Long Beach will likely remain as much for the foreseeable future.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Hey, I keep telling Richard that Caltrain are way more competent than Metrolink, LACMTA, and the other SoCal alphabet soups.

    The Harbor Corridor is going to be unused, mostly. The plan is for a Crenshaw LRT to take over the westernmost part. However, the part of the corridor to be taken for LRT is just there for airport service, and most people traveling to LAX would rather go to Union Station than to the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition. This means that even post-30/10 (and I’ve gone on record multiple times saying Crenshaw is a worse corridor for north-south rail service than Western and Vermont), it would be desirable for an LAX-LAUS line to take over, cutting the Crenshaw line to just the Crenshaw portion. It doesn’t matter whether it’s called commuter rail, LRT, or a bus with steel wheels; it needs to be electrified and lightweight, and adhere to a schedule so that it can have local and express trains on just two tracks.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    I think you could probably have an LAX light rail line using expo, crenshaw and then the LAX connector for a one stop shop from LAUS to LAX

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s probably doable. But then the line would make a zillion stops on the way. For airport express lines, the best first-world practice is exactly what American planners think all commuter rail riders want: one-seat rides to downtown with as few stops as possible.

    Spokker Reply:

    I’d rather the Harbor Subdivision serve local communities rather than the airport. LAX doesn’t need anymore passengers (in a good year) and we are better off working on the other airports in the area.

    Matthew Reply:

    Maybe LAX doesn’t need more passengers, but the ones it does get should get there efficiently. I think there is a very strong case for express LAUS to LAX service of some sort, or at least some kind of one seat rail service. That said, current HSR plans will provide for an airport connection at Ontario. There is a lot of extra capacity at that airport, and unlike Palmdale, there are already adequate passenger terminals, baggage systems, restaurants, etc., which are expensive and would take a long time to build from scratch. Also, unlike Palmdale, Ontario is in the middle of the Inland Empire with its 4 million residents.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, hence my call for both local and express service…

    The express trains should be thought of as connecting HSR service. One reason to run AAR loading gauge-compliant trains on the line is to allow HSR through-service. This makes transit more useeful, not less, and helps California avoid Japan’s HSR/airport compatibility pains.

    Andrew Reply:

    LAX is huge and not going to get any smaller. It’s ground traffic is such that it really deserves a high-quality rail link.

    I would love to see something similar to what the Koreans are doing with the AREX link to Incheon Airport on the Harbor Subdivision corridor.

    Peter Reply:

    Any chance of running both local and express trains along the Harbor Corridor between LAX nad LAUS? Is the ROW wide enough?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the best first-world practice is exactly what American planners think all commuter rail riders want: one-seat rides to downtown with as few stops as possible.

    Ah , that explains BART’s all stops all the time ride to SFO

    Joey Reply:

    The ROW is barely 30′ wide in some places (that’s wide enough for 2 tracks of light rail, but anything else will require property takes.

    Andrew Reply:

    @Peter: As Alon said, you don’t need more than two tracks on the line itself, just timed overtakes at certain stations (possibly with bypass tracks). As Joey said though, the ROW is too constrained for even two tracks in some places. Its also full of grade crossings, and a big flyover would be needed at Redondo Junction. So doing the route right would require a few property takes and a lot of elevated structures. California construction costs would make that a very expensive project, but I think it would be worth it considering the importance of LAX.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @andrew; light rail on Harbor would use the existing Blue line instead of continuing to Redondo Junction.
    A bit of street running along Alameda would then connect it to the Gold line and LAUS.

    Of course, done right rarely matches as done ;)

    Joey Reply:

    Yeah, the connection to LAUS is going to be either fully or partially tunneled through downtown LA

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The connection to LAUS could piggyback on the through-tracks project. There would have to be flying junctions at Redondo. At least there’s enough space between LAUS and Redondo that adding two extra tracks for passenger service could be done at-grade.

    One of the reasons I’m calling for local service, besides the fact that it’s good transit, is that it makes it more palatable to build an el or exercise eminent domain to widen the ROW. There would still need to be four tracks at one station. At Western or Crenshaw, it could be done with eminent domain only on parking lots. At Vermont it’s impossible at-grade but easy if elevated over Slauson.

    Joey Reply:

    Overtakes will probably require two passing stations (with four tracks in between) unless you want the local trains to be sitting in the station for upwards of two minutes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Local trains sit at stations for upwards of two minutes (even four minutes) when necessary. It’s standard practice in Japan, and is not a big deal. It’s also going to be standard practice in California, if CAHSR plans to run express trains.

    Joey Reply:

    Longer dwell times are fine (and make sense) for intercity trains. They might be a bit out of place for locals though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, long dwell times are annoying for local traffic, you’re right. But they’re sometimes unavoidable. On the Chuo Rapid Line, which does overtakes somewhat better than the Fukutoshin Line, the overtake adds about 3 minutes to the dwell time. At all other stations, dwell times would be short – in fact, as short as feasible, to reduce the local/express speed difference.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    t’s also going to be standard practice in California, if CAHSR plans to run express trains.

    They’ll be on the very very long siding. Either there’s lots of capacity to waste on allowing trains to slow down or accelerate on the main line or you need reallllllly realllllly long sidings so the the loacl can decelerate and accelerate off of the mainline.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the Shinkansen, the realllllly long sidings are barely longer than a platform length. Ditto on the Chuo Line or the Fukutoshin Line, except the platform length is shorter then.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s no free lunch: one pays in mainline capacity if deceleration and acceleration from stations stops has to be done on the main line. (And if a large part is not done on the main line, one pays for the extra parallel track and for higher speed turnouts.) The slower the diverging speed at the overtake turnout, the greater the required separation from the overtaking train, and likewise for the the restart acceleration and merge.

    See my comment here (can’t seem to get a URL anchor for it: search for “1600m”)

    And see here (broken link in my original comment) for a graphical illustration of how stopping trains eat up capacity both before and after overtaking nonstoppers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and how fast do the trains go through on the other side of the island platform? Or is this at stations where most or all of the trains stop. Maybe those YouTube videos of the express going through the local station at 300 KPH are just clever animations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Richard, I know that this is a problem for HSR. However, for local trains, it’s not the same. While a train takes longer to go past a station at 100 km/h than at 300 km/h, the stopping distance is also much smaller. At 1 m/s^2, it’s 400 meters, i.e. two platform lengths.

    If the overtake station is not also an express station, then the local train loses about 4 minutes on the Fukutoshin Line and 2 on the Chuo Rapid Line. This gives more flexibility about where the overtake is (and, if the line has to be elevated over Slauson, makes it feasible to build it anywhere you want). If the overtake station is also an express station, then add the amount of time it takes the express train to stop, which at this speed is 45-60 seconds, depending on how straight the track is. Chuo Rapid locals that get stuck waiting for express trains to pass them at Tachikawa end up about 3 minutes slower than locals that don’t.

    All this is easily checkable – go to Hyperdia, put in your favorite Japanese train line’s beginning and end station, and read the timetable.

    This isn’t the best for capacity. Best you could hope for is 10-minute local service and 10-minute express service, and even that would be strained; 15 minutes each would be easier. But the Harbor Line isn’t the Chuo Line. If traffic gets high enough to merit higher frequency, then it will also merit grade separations, which make it possible to add more four-track bypass segments.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Silly us, thinking you were speaking of fast trains when you used the acronym CAHSR or the word Shinkansen

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Um, no. I said that it’s standard practice in Japan, and that California, too, is going to use this for intercity trains. And then I mentioned both the Shinkansen and two local commuter lines (strictly speaking, a commuter line and a subway line).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You do realize that this stuff is written down and all one has to do is scroll up to read it?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    It might mean short term hurt for airports but it means more long haul capacity and international flights which benefit airlines.

  7. Bianca
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 23:16

    I don’t get why HSR has to hurt airlines at all. First, the airlines are going to be walloped by rising fuel prices regardless of whether HSR ever gets built or not. But also, Southwest and others will have plenty of markets to serve instead of running so many low-margin short-haul flights between the Bay Area and the LA basin. All those slots that now go to short-haul flights within California would be available for flights to (longer-haul, higher profit) destinations not served by HSR. Without HSR, airports will have to be expanded to keep pace with population growth, and that’s an expensive proposition, not to mention politically very challenging.

    Southwest already dominates OAK and SJC. After HSR is built, they still can. They just won’t be making 100 nonstops between the Bay Area and LA anymore.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Indeed — Southwest need not worry for their OAK hub. It is far more centrally located for the 2.5 million East Bay residents than either Diridon or Transbay terminals.

    mike Reply:

    Actually, for anyone living on the R-line or C-line, Transbay Terminal is closer by transit than OAK. It’s only those living on the A-line or L-line for whom OAK is clearly closer.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “I don’t get why HSR has to hurt airlines at all.”
    In France it didn’t, but it obliged them to abandon some routes and open new ones.
    Before the TGV, all air corridors converged on Paris, as do rail lines and freeways. The Paris air shuttles were so profitable that transversal links were not even studied. When the TGV killed those milk cows, the airlines started serving city pairs not connected by TGV. The result is that many provincial airports previously struggling to survive are now thriving. Of course, if you fly between small cities, don’t expect a B737 or A320. It will probably be a 40-seat noisy turbo-prop but it will enable you to do in one or two hours what used to take the best part of a day by car.
    This increase in airline ridership has been wrongly used by the Reason Foundation as evidence that the TGV had completely missed its target. In their simplistic logic: Airlines Not Killed=Mission Failed.
    I see it differently. People who had no other choice than driving long hours can now fly. It’s a social progress, and better for the environment. I call that a success.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Southwest is unique in that it makes profits on those short-hop flights. JetBlue might be, too, which is why it’s a big deal that it’s supportive of HSR in the Northeast. The legacy airlines have the opposite business model: they make their profits on trans-Atlantic flights and a few high-demand domestic routes, and treat nearly everything else as feeder routes. The low-cost business model tends to break down for very long flights, because short turnarounds don’t matter when the flight takes 6 hours as much as when it takes 50 minutes.

    On the other hand, I remember reading something from Southwest in 2008 or 2009 saying the company is neutral on Texas HSR, which it helped kill in the early 1990s. So maybe Southwest, too, is planning to switch to a French-style transverse network.

  8. HSRforCali
    Jul 13th, 2010 at 23:37

    OT, but China’s investing $10 billion in the Argentina HSR project:

    Tony D. Reply:

    If we could get $10 billion from China, and perhaps some further investment from CalPers and other private entity’s, in conjunction with Prop. 1A bonds, you’re talking perhaps $30 billion for the HSR starter line. Throw in some federal dollars, and we’re soo there people!

    Victor Reply:

    Problem with the Bonds is our dear State Treasurer Bill Lockyer won’t sell the $9.95B in Bonds, He’s saying Wall Street thinks the route between Frisco and LA is unworkable.

  9. rafael
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 00:01

    Virgin Trains is the division that runs diesel Pendolinos up and down the West Coast Main Line in the UK at 125mph. Their London terminal is Euston station, next to St. Pancras. The company cannot offer service to Heathrow at the moment, another company runs the shuttle trains out there.

    In the US, a few airlines will embrace HSR, some will be hostile to it and most will be indifferent. Connections would work best if the transfer between train station and air terminals were as short and convenient as possible. By that, I mean trains that dwell long enough to let customers with baggage board and alight, sufficient storage space for baggage on board plus a covered and air-conditioned pedestrian path (or people mover, if the distance is more than ~1/3 mile). For passengers with valid air and/or train tickets, this should be a courtesy service – no one is interested in having to queue up for e.g. a BART ticket for the short hop between Millbrae and SFO. If you buy a combo ticket, the price of that should already be included. With e-tickets now the norm for both flights and HSR, that will probably mean reading a globally unique bar code off a printed piece of paper. Right now, BART relies on magnetic strips.

    Walking distance or a courtesy connection is also a de facto requirement for letting the train station share an IATA code with the airport, such that such a combo shows up as a single rather than a double transfer. That in tuen might prompt HSR-friendly airlines like JetBlue to consider investing or formally partnering with in HSR in some form, increasing train ridership.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Pendolinos are electric, Super-Voyagers are diesel-electric. Virgin would like to run its Pendolinos at 140mph (their nominal speed) and reach Glasgow in under 4 hours but Network Rail considers the current signalling system doesn’t allow speeds over 125mph.

  10. political_incorrectness
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 00:13


    Time to do some cleanup again on what I think is a good idea but a few things need to be emphasized such as maintenance.

    Jon Reply:

    “Our railroads are the best in the world”

    …and with that sentence Joseph P. Thompson loses all credibility.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, that one cracked me up, too.

  11. TomW
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 06:44

    Airlines seem to operate short-haul shuttle flights as a loss-leader. For example, a few years ago I flew London (Heathrow)-Calgary-Lethbridge. The short (30 min) Calgary-Lethbridge added $70 onto a $1300 fare, but if you just do Calgary-Lethbridge, it’s about $250. The operator has a monopoly on the Calgary-Lethbridge portion, so it offers as a cheap add-on to enoucrage you to use their services on the fare more profitable long-haul segment.

    Jon Reply:

    Yup. Early this year I had reason to travel from San Francisco to Portland ME a few times, and found it was usually cheaper to buy a through ticket and change planes in New York or Washington than it was to fly direct to Boston and take a coach the rest of the way- even before you included the cost of the coach ticket.

    And yet it’s prohibitively expensive to make the short flight from Portland ME to New York if New York is your destination. These ‘too far to drive, too short to fly’ distances are crying out for HSR.

  12. Steve Van Beek
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 07:39

    Nice post. HSR and aviation can serve as complements, just go to Europe and see large networks for each. They are also integrated in many places which helps airport access, extension of catchment areas, and multimodal connecting traffic. As many have noted, we need to do a much better job of integrating HSR with airports to take full advantage of the two networks (for airports, it can extend the useful live of facilities). I do see a reduction of anti-aviation rhetoric among HSR advocates, which is very important for many reasons, especially politics. Glad to see jetBlue is being sophisticated about their analysis.

    Matthew Melzer Reply:

    Steve, glad to see you chiming in here. I was truly moved by your presentation to TRB in January in which you vividly illustrated the tragedy of modal planning silos. It’s amazing how air and rail have been placed at cross-purposes when they in fact have many natural complements and potential to open new markets for each other. Would you happen to have the .ppt and any relevant documentation from that presentation available online? I’m sure it would be of great interest to the blog readership.

  13. HSRforCali
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 11:52

    More concerns over financing:

    jimsf Reply:

    lol he’s been talking to people from wall street. because that’s where one goes for credible financial advice…

  14. morris brown
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 12:02

    Well at least some State officials are beginning to face reality.

    Now the State Treasurer weighs in on this boondoggle.

    U-T editorial: Lockyer’s straight talk

    State Treasurer: Investors doubt rail project’s viability; bonds tough sell

    [EDITED by Robert: please don’t post entire articles. A link and an excerpt is fine.]

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Tehachapi detour is a primary reason the LA-SF route “will never work economically”. Too circuitous, too many stops.

    thatbruce Reply:

    A frequent comment needs a answer. It also covers reasons on why the I-5 racetrack wasn’t chosen.

    As always, feel free to provide specifics on your alignment through Tejon.

    Peter Reply: is the actual link. You had a comma instead of a period.

    Peter Reply:

    The money quote:

    The alignment optimization system (Quantm) that was utilized to identify and evaluate approximately 12 million alignment options for each mountain crossing could only find one practicable alignment option through the Tehachapi Mountains for the I-5 Corridor.

    Point made.

    But I guess synonymouse will continue to make the assertion that more and longer tunnels through active fault lines are a good solution.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The likelihood of the hsr being attacked by terrorists, anarchists, jihaders, you name it or suffering a wreck due to inadequate maintenance or human error is greater than the chance of earthquake damage to Tejon tunnels. Meantime it is a manifestly superior route even for Bakersfield and Fresno and a station in the north LA basin will serve as many if not more passengers than Palmdale.

    Wakeup, hsr foamer dudes, Bill Lockyer is a liberal, Bay Area democrat, not some Teabagger-Reaganite fanatic. Time for an olive wreath to Richard Tolmach and to re-consolidate support for an hsr by considering alternatives, such as Altamont and Tejon.

    Peter Reply:

    Ok, if you’re worried about terrorists, then what advantage does Tejon offer over the Tehachapis?

    You can’t compare apples (earthquake risk) to oranges (terrorist threat) and come up with grapefruit (Tejon) without comparing the relative risks of apples toward I-5 and Tehachapis, and oranges toward I-5 and Tehachapis.

    Earthquake risk to Antelope Valley is lower than to I-5. As in, damage to be expected from earthquake is less.

    Terrorist threat is the same for both alignments. Although I would argue that longer tunnels mean greater risk exposure (greater distances to cover for rescue operations, etc.

    How does the risk of terrorist attack favor I-5 over Antelope Valley?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Though I agree (based on my limited technical understanding) with the conclusion to route via Soledad Canyon and Palmdale, there is no way that claiming to have run a piece of software and claiming it found the best of 12m options amounts to “point made“. Such software operates directly on a “garbage in, garbage out” principle, and relies almost entirely on competently specified input parameters. Paging Cambridge “what answer do you want?” Systematics…

    synonymouse Reply:

    What harm is there in looking at a “gung-ho” proposal for Tejon from an abviously biased and unobjective builder like Herrenknecht? You can use the scheme for target practice.

    I see the PB selection of the Loop route as equally “gung-ho” and politically compromised.

    Peter Reply:

    … HSR is not using the loop, for the umpteenth frackin time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    tube Loop?

    Peter Reply:


    Peter Reply:

    Sense. This post makes none.

    Caelestor Reply:

    You know there’s something right with the Palmdale alignment when even RM agrees with it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Think about it this way. Most real railroads are largely single track nowadays, so double track as with hsr really constitutes twice the overhead. So take a 30 route mile detour and multiple it by two. You have in effect 60 extra miles of track to construct and maintain. Sixty extra miles of wire to energize.

    I can relate to the nostaglia over the Loopy route, but what’s with the 19th century mindset?
    Honestly I expect y’all at any moment to break out into a chorus of “Jawn Henry was a steel driving man”! C’mon we are not going to tackle Tejon with picks, hand drills and black powder. It is the 21st century and the Tejon can be successfully mined with contemporary technology.

    In a counterintuitive way there could be wysiswg upside to the fact that the Garlock fault is active. It leaves a very clear trace and has been well studied unlike the stealth faults that lie in the Tehachapis. With the Garlock the action will be where the fault intersects the tunnels and galleries large enough to accomodate movement extremes can be constructed.

    The defeatist attitude betrayed by the default to the hoary Tehachapi alignment gives credence to the skeptics’ position that California geography and geology makes hsr a no-go.
    Dumbing down to the detour is the certain path to fail rail.

    jim Reply:

    Most real railroads are largely single track nowadays

    On what planet do you live? How did you get to Earth?

    Peter Reply:

    I am impressed by how you always manage to bring the Tehachapi Loop into your posts about the Antelope Valley. Repetition in some circumstances is persuasive. You also use very powerful persuasive words, like “defeatist” and “hoary”.

    Here, though, those tools just show that you’re trying to distract from the real issues. You still haven’t explained why you claim that a terrorist threat against HSR favors Tejon over Antelope Valley, for example.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Terrorists have nothing to do with Tejon, Tehachapi or the Antelope Valley. They have to do with the generalized worry that seems to plague the hsr-Bechtel faithful on this site. Quake damage to the Tejon tunnels is not something to lose sleep about. BART intrigues are something to worry about.

    The Tejon tunnels are a one-time cost whereas the 30 route miles of the detour are a 24-7 year-in, year-out drain on the hsr. Shorter is cheaper – that’s why the UP favors Donner over Feather River, even with the gradients that are more of a problem for freight than passenger. If you haven’t noticed there’s a paradigm shift on opinion about the CHSRA. It’s all about profitability and public subsidies. With the UP it is all about the money. Follow their example.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Jim

    Most railroads in the US are single track nowadays due to costs. Only the heaviest trunks, like the Santa Fe’s LA to Chicago line have the luxury of double track, and even now the Santa Fe is spending a bundle to double track Abo Canyon.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Quake damage to the Tejon tunnels is not something to lose sleep about.

    When they go out of service for a few months while they repair the earthquake damage how many weekends are you willing to lend you car to Hertz so that travelers have an alternate means to get around? Since the price of most thing will go up while I-5 and 99 are gridlocked with the traffic I’m sure the extra money will come in handy.

    Shorter is cheaper

    Really. What’s cheaper building road, either automobile road or rail road in tunnels or at grade
    The whole point of the railroad is passengers there aren’t a whole lot of passengers in the Tejon and not a lot of destinations that will draw them. There’s a few more people and destinations through Palmdale.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The North LA basin station on the Tejon line will be just as busy as Palmdale. There won’t be any damage to the Tejon tunnels because they will have been designed and built properly as with the BART tunnels in the East Bay.

    The initial cost of the Tejon tunnels is an acceptable and appropriate part of such a large civil engineering project as the California hsr. The shorter and faster route will be cheaper to operate and will attract more business. Palmdale is off route – LA needs to take care of its offspring not California.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I know this may be hard to believe but there are Californians living in Palmdale. And Califorinand who want to go to Palmdale. Far less in Tejon.

    There won’t be any damage to the Tejon tunnels

    Magical thinking won’t help in an earthquake. When responsible adults design and build things they tend to discount magical thinking in their plans. Elimination of magical thinking frequently results in radically different plans.

    Peter Reply:

    Have you learned nothing about passing off editorials as “facts”? These are written by the same sort of people that argue that because “24” was one of the most popular shows on television, a majority of Americans favor using torture on suspected terrorists.

    “I hear from the world of Wall Street investment bankers about what they think makes sense. And almost universally, they’re convinced that no one can finance the routes from L.A. to the Bay Area, that it just will never work economically, certainly in the foreseeable future.”

    There are already a number of investors who have been expressing interest in the project. I guess SNCF and JR-East (did I get the wrong JR?) do not count as legitimate investors in Lockyer’s eyes? Why, because they’re not Wall Street investment bankers?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Peter, it may well be true that the majority of Americans favor using torture. The really bad editorials are the ones that argue that torture works on 24 so it must work in real life. That’s what’s stupid.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Politicaly stupidity as per usual. Wasn’t it Wall Street we listened to for subprimes?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Lockyer is uncritically repeating nonsense he’s hearing from uninformed Wall Street folks. I’ll have a post on this later today.

    Peter Reply:

    Wall Street investment bankers have no interest in long-term investments. They’re all about making money fast NOW. So, no surprise that they’re not interested in investing in HSR.

  15. political_incorrectness
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 12:07

    Geez, maybe they should get their congressional delegation’s heads out of their asses and actually force the hands of the Transport Committee to send tens of billions to HSR for this project to get off the ground.

  16. Emma
    Jul 14th, 2010 at 12:43

    I remember, in Europe airlines would buy high-speed rail tickets only to sell them for a higher price later. I’m sure nearly everyone favors a train that runs on the ground over a plane. There is always the fear that the plane could crash while high-speed train crashes are very rare.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Airplane crashes are very rare also.

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