Russian HSR: High Ridership, Big Profits

Nov 28th, 2010 | Posted by

Another day, another high speed rail success story:

The Sapsan high-speed train launched by Russian rail monopoly Russian Railways (RZhD) less than twelve months ago has proved to be the monopoly’s sole profitable enterprise in the passenger transport sector, with its profit margin hitting 30 percent, RZhD President Vladimir Yakunin said on Tuesday….

Russian Railways currently has eight high-speed Sapsans produced by the German engineering group Siemens. They run between St Petersburg, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. The Sapsan occupancy rate is 84.5 percent, according to RzHD.

The company’s revenues from ticket sales may amount to 205 million euros annually at the current ticket price, while profits from the operation of these trains exceed 61 million euros.

So let’s get this straight: In operation in less than 12 months, and already the Sapsan trains are seeing high ridership and profitability. As the article from Ria Novosti explains, this is in contrast to other Russian trains, which like Amtrak operate at a loss (although Amtrak trains do experience heavy ridership).

This should come as no surprise. In two years of operation, the Madrid-Barcelona AVE has taken over half the market share from airplanes on what was one of the world’s busiest air routes. In a similar timeframe, the Taiwan HSR system has turned a profit after getting out from under a set of bad deals to finance the system’s construction.

Still, I’m sure American HSR deniers will come up with some silly arguments, using cherry-picked claims that ignore other facts, to argue that the world’s HSR success won’t translate to the US. Still, Moscow’s population of 10 million compares well to Southern California, and St. Petersburg’s population of 4 million compares well to the Bay Area – especially considering both cities have seen a trend of suburbanization over the last 20 years.

The evidence is clear: HSR will have high ridership and will have profitability. There is every reason to believe the same will happen here in California, as long as we get our chance to implement what the voters approved in 2008 and build our HSR system.

It wasn’t so long ago that seeing Russia and China build something would spur the United States into doing the same. Republicans in particular would have been shouting about a “bullet train gap” and demanding big public investments in HSR to ensure we keep up. Today, Congressional Republicans instead dismiss what the rest of the world is doing, convinced in their hubris that the US’ oil-based system is perfect and that anything else is un-American. It’s up to the rest of us to point out that this country – and certainly this state – cannot thrive in the 21st century without building high speed rail. If it works for Russia and China, if it works for Taiwan and Japan, if it works for Spain and France, it can work here.

  1. Elizabeth
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 12:51


    This is not the example you want to give. This is more or less the opposite type service of what people in California are expecting.

    The Russian service is a handful of trains a day in a market with high demand, able to pack trains and extract really high prices for a service that cuts an 8 hour trip in half.

    Everyone is having a conniption about $105 AVERAGE prices. Imagine how people in California would feel if the lowest price ticket starts at $150 and prices go up from there.

    Such a service could have high margins, but would do little to tackle the problems the project is supposed to address.

    There are serious questions about whether whether you can run 200+ trains a day, many of which will make multiple stops and cover not only your operating costs but also your revenue bond financing costs.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The point isn’t that the Sapsan and California HSR are exactly alike.

    The point is that it, like the other systems in Taiwan, Spain, and elsewhere, prove that HSR is profitable and popular. It is precisely the point that the HSR deniers refuse to accept.

    As to ticket prices, there can be no realistic discussion of HSR ticket prices outside the context of oil prices and airfares.

    Andy Reply:

    More sloppy thinking on your part Robert.

    If it’s only profitable after (as you say) “getting out from under a set of bad deals to finance the system’s construction” and it does so by restricting frequency to get load factors up and skim the inelastic segment of the market then it’s not really profitable at all – or popular.

    It’s not profitable because building a system with high fixed construction cost then reneging on the debts is not profitability by any realistic economic measure (just imagine saying you can afford an expensive house because you can pay the electric bill but you skip out on the mortgage).

    It’s not reasonable to call it popular if it’s only a few trains a day has has been previously pointed out.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    My comment wasn’t meant to avoid the question you raise. If the lowest ticket is $150, well, that all depends on what airfares are, and what the price of a gallon of gas is. It is not going to be lower than it is today, of course, and both airfares and gas prices will almost certainly be higher than they are today. So $150 could still be a bargain.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The point is that the Russian service is being operated as a small niche high end service. California is looking to do something very different. You cannot conclude anything from the Russian experience except that there is a demand from high end business travellers for trains. In California, the train will compete very well for that market. The problem is that that market is a small drop in the bucket that is required to operate anything close to the schedule that is currently being proposed.

    Peter Reply:

    “the Russian service is being operated as a small niche high end service.”

    Sounds a lot like Acela to me. If they had the trainsets and the capacity, they could run a lot more Acelas per day and STILL turn a profit.

    jimsf Reply:

    I think Ca Hsr should offer a few trains a day, at peak hours true express – that are all first and business class at a premium. And charge the going discount rate for the locals, mid day and late night.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    From the article:

    The demand for high-speed rail passenger carriage has proved to be so strong that the company is considering buying another eight Sapsan trains, Yakunin said, without specifying the terms of the expected deal.

    It sounds to me like Russian Railways launched the service a year ago as a starter to generate ridership, demand, and profit. 15 years from now, there could be very frequent service on that route.

    The schedule being discussed in California is for 2035 – not for 12 months after revenue service begins. That is a key point in the “schedule that is being proposed,” isn’t it?

    Of course, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the price of oil or airfares in 2035 won’t be anything like they are in 2010. What of that?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the contrary, Robert – 12 months after service opens, it’s critical to have a reasonable frequency, measured in trains per hour and not trains per day, in order to build up ridership. That is why Pacheco is even in the game; at full build-out, when the difference between Pacheco and Altamont is 6 tph versus 9, the frequency split is entirely irrelevant. And since the choice of Pacheco was based on the importance of frequency… you get where I’m going with this.

    Dan S. Reply:

    To use someone’s incontrovertible argumentative style, you cannot conclude anything from Elizabeth’s posts other than that she has a desire to paint this example of a profitable HSR system in Russia as one that demonstrates few applicable benefits of HSR to the CAHSR project. I guess I was not her intended audience, though, because *I* think it shows that HSR can succeed and post an operating profit in another large, vast, industrialized country that is also under-invested in infrastructure. And one that probably has an even bigger corruption problem than the much ballyhoo-ed “cement-industrial-complex” so reviled in these pages!

    Also good points above about how this 12-month-old project is predictably at a lower level of operation than the 15-year-plan for CAHSR.

    Good post, Robert. I like reading about HSR successes around the world, as well as the humorous contortions performed by project critics to twist them into not being relevant to California.

    dave Reply:

    @ Elizabeth

    Robert is right and that you need to consider that the CHSR projections should be noted as “Worst Case Scenario” when ridership is at a peak, Or should I say “Best Case Scenario” as a successfull System. Your not going to build a HSR system worth $50 Billion for TODAY’s ridership. You build the system for a “Worst Case” for capacity in this case 2035. Then the numbers might make more sense, but of course HSR opponents will not accept this.

    bleh Reply:

    You both have a point.

    Robert is right, this is yet another HSR system with an operating profit. The naysayers crap about how the taxpayers will have to fund the system till kingdom come or how it will rot unused and forgotten is just political bullshit (the difference between a lie and bullshit in politics is that with a lie you willfully state an untruth, with bullshit you just say what fits your ideology and don’t care if it’s true or not)

    Elizabeth is right that this isn’t a model for California. The Californian system will have to generate roughly ten times the revenues and profits to be called a success (~$3b in revenues, ~$1bn in profits and expenses of $50bn make for an ROI of about 2% which is great for infrastructure because the whole point of roads and rails is to generate economic activity elsewhere).

    AFAIK the Russians want to build a dedicated HSR line between Moscow and St. Petersburg anyway. So this whole thing is more like the Acela on the NEC and that $90bn plan for a dedicated line there.

    mike Reply:

    Everyone is having a conniption about $105 AVERAGE prices. Imagine how people in California would feel if the lowest price ticket starts at $150 and prices go up from there.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information from here. The lowest price ticket starts at $55 (1800 RUB), and the cheapest train on any given day never exceeds $70 (2300 RUB). See the Russian Railways site.

    In comparison, the cheapest Moscow-Saint Petersburg fare on S7 (Russia’s fastest growing airline) is $80 (2600 RUB).

  2. adirondacker12800
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 13:05

    Today, Congressional Republicans instead dismiss what the rest of the world is doing, convinced in their hubris that the US’ oil-based system is perfect and that anything else is un-American.

    It’s not hubris. It’s that underfunding rail pisses off libbbbrulls. Or bagel eaters. Or those San Francisco types. And it especially pisses off the dirty hippies.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Ross Douhat, one of the “conservative” columnists for the New York Times, has an interesting piece on partisanship today: The Partisan Mind.

    Following his thesis, if it was a Republican adminstration proposing HSR, all the so-called conservative Republicans would be behind it while many Democrats would be denouncing it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the hsr could be built and operated by private entrepreneurs, using their own money, and be profitable the right would have no problem with it whatsoever. But that is not the case – it is an exercise in big spending by government with the hope that something good will come out of it. The right considers the endeavor too risky since private interests shy away.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The problem is that private enterprise is too shortsighted (especially in their “quarterly” outlook) to invest in technologies that will eventually be profitable. For example, space technology. Only now, after how many countless billions of public investment, is private enterprise willing to invest in developing space technology. Do you really believe that they would be investing today if the government hadn’t laid the groundwork?

    No private company would ever invest in constructing HSR. The opportunity costs are too high; it’s simply too large of an amount with a too long time-frame of return for any private company to do so.

    But private companies will be willing to operate HSR once it is built since they realize that they can operate at a profit even including paying off the construction costs back to the state over time. And you must realize that society including private enterprise will be better off with HSR than without.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Of course, we did not denounce HSR when conservative governor Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly spoke out in support of it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It sucks when evidence kills a perfectly good theory.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You mean a New York Times op-ed writer is making things up?

  3. jimsf
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 13:15

    I told you. Its time to dump the US and go on our own. Otherwise they are gonna drag right down into third world status. We just don’t need them.

    MGimbel Reply:

    How much money exactly does California dump into the federal general fund?

    jimsf Reply:

    I dont know but whatever amount it is its too much. Especially when we are paying dearly for their lack of border control.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Amazing how quickly one can get results on the internet; Al Gore can be proud–ho, ho, ho, ho!

    jimsf Reply:

    Am I reading it correctly that we basically donate way more than anyone and pretty much wind up being the “most screwed” of all? Yeh. time to go.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I hate to say it, but it looks like that’s so.

    I wonder what the reaction would be if this were brought up in Washington. This brings up a story by a fellow named Alfred Runte that I’ve brought up before.

    Runte is a big rail supporter on environmental grounds, with an attitude or approach that might be summed up as “preserving America the beautiful;” he’s written a book or two on the subject, one titled “Trains of Discovery” (about how railroads helped build the National Park System), and a second book, “Allies of the Earth,” that addresses this subject more directly. An example to help illustrate my interpretation of him would be to imagine the Feather River if an interstate highway replaced the Western Pacific (UP today) railroad.

    Runte got to testify before a congressional committe or something some years back, and was getting some heat from a representative from Nevada, who thought Amtrak outside the corridor was irrelevent because “all it was for was tourists.” Runte replied that “In that case, the entire state of Nevada is irrelevent,” referring to Neveda relying so heavily on the entertainment business in Las Vegas, and other tourist attractions. Runte told me it got quite a laugh in DC.

    Like I said, I wonder what the reaction in DC would be to these numbers, and your question? Might be interesting!

    Matthew Reply:

    It’s interesting that in general there is a correlation between being a donor state and being very wealthy, and being a recipient state and being comparatively poor. The exceptions, of course, are DC, Virginia, and Maryland, which are very wealthy, receive lots of money, and are where senators and congressmen spend most of their time.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Another example, and in transportation to boot:

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 15:57

    Robert, out of curiousity, you were supposed to be going to some sort of meeting with Gov.-elect Brown a while back; can you tell us anything about that trip?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    No, that was a joke. I’ve not met with Gov.-elect Brown yet. Would like to though!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


  5. J. Wong
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 17:43

    The reality is that the conservatives are unwilling to see how change is necessary. The U.S.A. was #1 since WWII, and as far as conservatives are concerned nothing need change for that to continue. The reality is that if the U.S.A. doesn’t change, then it is doomed to become a 2nd class country sooner or later.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The Japanese in WW II were aware of the problems an outlook like that could cause; I’ve heard they called it “victory disease.”

    Dan S. Reply:

    Hmm, we’re already not top-tier status in the health of our citizens, nor in their education, nor when we consider the stability of our economic system. Definitely not top-tier in the amount of people living in poverty, nor in our upward-mobility. So how should one judge the “greatness” of one’s own country? Perhaps by the tightness with which you can wrap yourself in its flag?

    Tony L. Reply:

    The USA is still #1 in overall GDP, which is how many refer to the USA as “the richest country in the world” and “#1”.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ah, yes, and recall the comments I had, seconded by Bruce McF, that GDP/GNP just measures money running around, and doesn’t measure overall economic health, overall national well-being, overall economic or social stability. In many ways, it does not reflect reality. How else do you explain “leading economists,” i.e., the economists in Washington and on Wall Street (where Bruce isn’t, of course) claiming “the recession is over,” with a headline unemployment rate approaching 10%, and a more traditional gross unemployment rate approaching 20%?

    I have to wonder if employment in Washington and on Wall Street befogs and befuddles the people there.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    GDP measures population times wealth. The second highest GDP in the world is China’s; that doesn’t mean China is the second richest country in the world.

    Now, the US has the highest GDP per capita among large countries. The countries that have higher GDP per capita – Norway, Luxembourg, Qatar – are all quite small. And Americans usually don’t distinguish small countries – they think in terms of “Europe” or “the Middle East” or maybe some individual large countries such as Japan and Germany.

  6. John Burrows
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 17:51

    High speed rail also seems to be working for Turkey. I didn’t realize that they are running high speed trains part way between Istanbul and Ankara. Apparently Turkey is doing the first part on its own and has secured a loan of around 30 billion dollars from China to extend the system to other cities. Istanbul has a population of 13 million, Ankara about 4.5 million. The two cities are 330 miles apart. Just one more country on a growing list.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Turkey isn’t just building HSR. It’s also massively expanding local rail in Istanbul, centered on an undersea rail tunnel, Marmaray, linking Europe and Asia and passing under the center of the city. The project involves 13 km of tunnel, including 1.4 km of immersed earthquake-proof tube under 55 meters of water, nearly 50% deeper than the Transbay Tube. It’s incurred substantial cost escalations due to older than expected archeological remains, and is now expected to cost $3.5 billion.

  7. jimsf
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 19:30

    So i was looking for the freight trains/platforms on you tube – when I came across LIRR which I guess is long island railroad… and found out that its a third rail sort of bart like commuter train, I always assumed it was like caltrain. Hm, the things you learn around here.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ho, ho, ho–like BART? That would be interesting; the Long Island Rail Road (Rail Road is two words in this line’s name, like the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road, a once common convention among the early lines), dates to 1834! Was controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad for a number of years. Of course, it was powered by steam before electricity and diesels, and two of its steamers survive and are under overhaul for a hopeful return to operation.

    The road is apparently a semi-regular (if not always favorable) subject for the New York Times:

    More to explore;

    Have fun.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes Jim the Long Island Rail Road has been using that new fangled electricity to run trains with level boarding… for a century.

    jimsf Reply:

    well they way they named it…. long island rail road, just sounds like caltrain or something. Not subway or El type. do they still have multiple subway systems in new york is it all one now? there used to be all these different agencies or something, bmt irt path something like that.

    Joey Reply:

    Don’t be fooled. LIRR is much more commuter rail than metro. It may be 3rd rail driven with EMUs (though diesel driven trains are still used to serve the outer areas), but it’s fully FRA-compliant, shares some trackage with Amtrak and NJT (some freight runs on LIRR tracks too), and even has a few grade crossings left on the electrified segments. It uses conductors rather than the faregates found on the NYC Subway, and nearly everything operates toward a single multiplatform downtown terminus (Penn Station), though that will become two separate terminals when the East Side Access project is completed.

    As for divisions, the city bought the two privately owned systems in 1940 (the IND already belonging to the city). The BMT and IND systems were connected in places, and came to form division B of the NYC Subway, however the IRT remained separate due to slightly different technical standards (loading gauge among them) and forms division A today.

    J. Wong Reply:

    They still run short-line diesel freight on it, too.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Links on things like this are the easiest to find–oh, the wonders of the internet!

    PATH–Port Authority Trans-Hudson, formerly the Hudson & Manhatten Railroad, jointly operated with the State of New Jersey:

    Note that the PATH is technically a “railroad,” and is under FRA jurisdiction:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    New York City subway material:

    Lots of exploring to do here:


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A bit further to the south, serving Philadelphia and communities east of Camden, N.J., is the PATCO Speedline, sometimes also called the Lindenwold High Speed line. Partially built on a former transit line, partially on former steam road rights-fo-way, this line has an interesting mixture of technologies, including coded cab signals for automatic operation (PRR technology). This line had a reputation for returning an operating profit in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    The equipment may be “retro,” as the Wikipedia author suggests, but I think it’s pretty stylish for subway type rolling stock.


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They named that way in 1834. It was built to get people from New York to Boston in 8 hours. Ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn, train to the eastern end of Long Island, ferry across Long Island Sound and then a train to Boston.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Adirondacker’s comment about the long and continuing life of LI’s electric operations tickled my brain cells to go looking for some of the early electric equipment on this line–specifically, the DD-1 locomotives that were shared with then-parent road Pennsylvania:

    How would you like to see something like this running around?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    This is fun: steam passenger and freight trains on an electrified railroad with third-rail pickup. Gee, how well this works together!

    General home page to the above.

    Have fun!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And check out the photo of the Long Island’s “Cannonball,” with its open-platform observation car. I know, I know, you couldn’t use that at 200 mph, but for more conventional operation, isn’t a classic car like that from the 1920s as stylish as you can get?

  8. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 19:33

    Completely off topic…

    Is the wikileaks thing genuine? Complete bullshit? Or, a US government ploy to achieve a certain end?

    jimsf Reply:

    I think its real and I don’t know why the guy hasn’t been brought up on treason charges. Its totally treason what he is doing.

    Peter Reply:

    Umm, because Assange is Australian? Now, whoever has been supplying him with this stuff has pretty much committed treason.

    jimsf Reply:

    I saw it on the news just yesterday, the info was suppose to have been supplied by us military guy – not very high ranking – but with with access to the computers, and he downloaded all the docs. he’s young, like in his 20s and I think he’s only a private.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, that’s the beauty of modern technology.

    With a stroke of a key, entire long-term strategies to change troubled parts of the world can crumble, governments can collapse, and people (real, living, breathing people) can get killed for telling someone something that was supposed to stay secret.

    Lovely. Thank you, Julian Assange, for feeling that your 15 minutes of fame is worth the world. And by the way, being egocentric doesn’t give you permission to rape women.

    jimsf Reply:

    wow, so thats the guy who’s publishing the stuff under the pretense of freedom of information or something. He’s likely to suddenly vanish don’t you think?

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe under Nixon he would have. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, I don’t think he’s going to vanish. Now that the information is out, who knows where it’s been stored and who else has copies of it. You can’t be sure of destroying all copies of it.

    jimsf Reply:

    next up, hollywood’s big screen version no doubt.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m looking forward to him spending 20 years or so imprisoned in Sweden for the two rapes he’s accused of.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Man, it makes you feel proud of how enlightened a country the US is. In Malaysia, when they want to destroy the reputation of an inconvenient personality, they don’t get the person accused of rape, they get the person accused of sodomy.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s nice that people think that the two women (so far) are making up the story. Which is why rapist get away with their crimes so often.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah… the investigation was closed, and then reopened. He may be guilty, but the choice to repoen the investigation came from and only from his role in Wikileaks.

    Peter Reply:

    “but the choice to repoen the investigation came from and only from his role in Wikileaks”

    Based on what source?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Um, the fact that rape investigations don’t normally reopen after they’re closed?

    Peter Reply:

    “Um, the fact that rape investigations don’t normally reopen after they’re closed?”

    And that’s based on your vast experience in criminal prosecutions?

    Things get closed and reopened all the time on the basis of new information.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s based on my experience talking to people who do family/sexual assault law. They almost never open a case to begin with (not in the US, and not in Sweden or else its prisons would be overflowing), and when they do, they drop it if they think they’re going to lose.

    Peter Reply:

    Again, not because the rapists didn’t do it, but because it’s really hard to prove.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. So, basically, they couldn’t prove anything in August, but can prove things now.

    Or, they’re just trying to harass an inconvenient person, using lies if necessary. It’s nothing the civil rightists and anti-war whistleblowers didn’t have to deal with in the 1960s.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely. Either he’s guilty as sin, and new evidence came to light independently, or he’s innocent but new evidence that falsely implicated him came to light independently, or else he’s guilty and new evidence was ferreted out to prove it to harass him because he’s inconvenient, or else he’s innocent and new evidence was fabricated to harass him.

    The latter pair is more likely than the former pair, though it doesn’t tell us whether he’s innocent or guilty.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, you’re right, posting a video showing the US military shoot civilians in Iraq is totally treason. Americans don’t deserve to know what their military is doing; if they did, they might question the next invasion plans.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    A plot from Get Smart.

    Peter Reply:

    Wikileaks may have just met its match.

  9. jimsf
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 19:34

    and look at this – they run all kinds of crazy different trains on the same track close together one after another over here. Some have every car with power some have only lead cars with power, and all the equip is different. I don’t think we have anything like this anywhere west of chicago!

    James Fujita Reply:

    eh, there’s nothing really too crazy about that.

    What makes the difference is not the equipment — EMUs, commuter trains, high-speed engines, lead power cars, whatever. What makes the difference, engineering-wise, is the power source, the voltage used.
    Of course, the Acelas are undoubtedly capable of faster operation that the SEPTA trains, but the juice is apparently the same.

    Tokyo commuter trains and subways operate on the same tracks. The cut-off point is the Shinkansen, which is 1) a different track gauge, and 2) much faster than Acela, requiring a different grade of “juice”.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Sorry, minor goof. The Metro Blue Line is 750 V, the Yamanote Line is 1,500 V, Acela, NEC, Shinkansen are 25kV, although the Hz differs.

    Other factors, such as FRA-required weight, also contribute to the difference between 110, 150, 186 and 220 mph.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And let’s not forget the big one–the condition of the track, including curvature.

  10. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 20:00

    MOnday post… What does Wikileaks and info that the Arabian Penisula kingdoms want Iran toppled have to do with HSR?

    Hint: oil amd America’s new-found reliance on violence to protect our way of life

    jimsf Reply:

    yeh but you can’t go around saying that to americans lol. they’ll think you’re talking all crazy!

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I know. But, I don’t believe everything I read or am told. I am not sold on any of this…. and kinda wouldn’t be suprised that we (Americans and the World) are not being told the whole story. Or, even if the whole thing is a lie? I don’t know. Alll I know is that teh whole thing seems so obvious that there is something else going on.

    After-all, why hasn’t the US government shut the wikileaks site down over National security concerns? Or, arrested folks?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The site or the people have to be inside of the US to do anything about it.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Aren’t they inside the US?

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Or, the US controls the domain stuff o the internet?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No. The servers are in Sweden, and Assange lives in Iceland.

    Matthew Reply:

    Assange left Iceland and is currently on a 6 month tourist visa in the UK due to his being wanted for alleged rape in Sweden.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    We’ve already got people saying we’re crazy.

    The version I heard was of an American businessman in China, visiting a factory that made what the toy business calls “junk toys” (i.e., Cracker Jack prizes and other give-away items). The owner of the Chinese factory he was visiting showed him about, and was quite proud of the factory’s employee lounge, which had a color television. The American was visibly unimpressed.

    The Chinese factory owner noticed this, and asked the American, “Do you have color televison at home?”

    The American replied, “Oh, yes, I have four of them.”

    “Four color televisons?” said the Chinese owner. “Where do you have four televisions?”

    Said the American, “One is in the living room, another is in the kitchen, where my wife watches it. We also watch TV in our bedroom at night, and I have an old TV in the garage.”

    The Chinese man exclaimed, “Ah, Americans nuts! Yankees crazy! Car no watch television!”

    I hate to admit it, but that Chinese fellow may be right! And the guy who told me this said he would’t argue the point, either!

    Jerry Reply:

    And the French have said that the crazy Americans love their car so much that they bring it into the house and give it it’s own room.

    jimsf Reply:

    lol! never thought of that but its true! oh those wacky french and their observations.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “What does Wikileaks and info that the Arabian Penisula kingdoms want Iran toppled have to do with HSR?”
    That may be good for the Alstom-SNCF bid for the Saudi HSR.
    An off-the-record remark by king Abdullah leaked to the French press had caused him to cancel a trip to France. This was supposed to be a fatal blow to the French consortium. Now, Wikileaks may make him forget about the French leak.
    The remark leaked to the Figaro newspaper was: “countries like Iran and Israel should not exist”.

  11. peninsula
    Nov 28th, 2010 at 22:17

    some interesting population densities for top 125 largest cities:
    St. Petersburg #26 8550/sq Km (622 sq KM)
    Moscow #47 4900/sq Km (2150 sq Km)
    Nizhny Novgorod #82 2950/sq Km (505 sq Km)

    LA #90 2750/sq Km (across 4320 Sq Km !!)

    SF/Oakland (combined, and look at the area – this is some measure of the greater Bay area):
    #104 2350/sq Km (1365 sq Km – note SF alone is much denser @ 6684, spread over only 47 sq Km.

    SJ #107 2300/Sq km across 674 sq Km

    Wonder, how much less dense population cities in California, spread out across much wider areas, make use of their mass transit options, (how that compares to Russian systems) whether populations value mass transit similarly, whether their public transit options can achieve enough coverage, whether the public sector can afford complete enough coverage to make that public transit cost effective for the users, and how the transit systems in the top 50 most populated cities differs in practical terms from the lesser dense cities in California (I think we could look at the comparison between public transit usability in SF compared to SF to see this in practical terms.)

    btw population of city of Moscow appears to be about 10M+. Pop of San Jose, about 1M

    One of largest, most dense California cities (Oakland) isn’t even going to be served, instead we’re planning on serving MUCH lower density cities (like LA, SJ, Redwood City, Corcoran, etc.) Should our system actually be expected to model the Russian system? I think that would be a great start to a system that actually makes economic sense. I’m all for a system that can generate a profit. Isn’t this why the Republicans at the Federal level are actually going to be trying to require HSR funding go to state systems that actually make HSR sense in term of density and supporting public transit?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, that lack of density is why its not possible to establish a commercial air travel system in the US, since with the low density of US cities, since enough airports to cater to such a low density population would be infeasible.

    You’ve got actual mass transit and intercity rail confused … for intercity rail, what matters more is the population density of the catchment populations for the HSR stations, per transit hour. The faster the average transit speed, the greater the effective population density.

    thatbruce Reply:

    One of largest, most dense California cities (Oakland) isn’t even going to be served,

    Indeed. Lucky that Oakland has multiple rail mass transit lines heading in to SF, which is going to be served by CAHSR and has a higher population density @ 6684/sq KM.

    How should the CAHSR system directly serve both Oakland and SF, the two areas dense in population in the Bay area? Putting tunnels under the bay is really expensive, and poor planning has already nixed the option of using the Bay Bridge.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Density is not necessary for an HSR system to be successful. All you need is sufficient population, and California clearly has it.

    Al-Fakh Yugoudh Reply:

    Residents’ densities in the metro area don’t necessarily tell the whole story. The issue is how many people travel daily from/to two cities connected by HSR. That number depends also on the number of residents within a 30-45 min. radius from the station, but not only. Tourists and office workers in city centers do not reside necessarily in that city, yet they are potential users. Also one needs to consider the economic ties between two cities to determine if there would be lots of passengers traveling between the two pairs. For example, in spite of the large densities and relatively short distance (over 200 km), I doubt that there is a lot of business traffic traveling between Pyongyang (NorthKorea) and Seoul. I wouldn’t build a high speed rail between the two (at least not now).

    Dan S. Reply:

    I’m all for a system that can generate a profit.

    Sweet, peninsula is a CAHSR supporter now! Dang, this blog works wonders!

    BTW, I predict that my attempt at formatting my quote above will fail! Where can I find instructions for the right formatting tags for comments?

  12. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 04:35

    Whew, with all the war noise and political noise, how about something just interesting to railfans, in this case modern diesel freight locomotive construction?

    There are times I begin to understand why people take up drinking, for medicinal purposes. . .:-)

  13. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 04:38

    Hmm, didn’t have time to look those Amtrak reports over, but they may be of interest here.

  14. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 08:46

    Well Dan Walters really hits the nail on the head with this article:

    Valley may get train to nowhere

    As was pointed out to me, when you examine the Borden to Corcoran van Ark proposal, you find almost the whole section lies within Jim Costa’s congressional district. Amazing isn’t it?

    Then you can read what Wendell Cox has to say about the HSR outlook in the USA.

    Stuck in the Station: The High-Speed Rail “Low Ball Express”

    Robert, should have enough material for a whole week’s articles to refute all that is said in these two articles.

    Peter Reply:

    “As was pointed out to me, when you examine the Borden to Corcoran van Ark proposal, you find almost the whole section lies within Jim Costa’s congressional district. Amazing isn’t it?”

    Amazing, too, that the section to be built wasn’t selected until AFTER the election had passed, isn’t it?

    If the Obama Administration had truly intended for this to help Costa, you would think that they would have dictated it be built in his district, not that it be built somewhere in the Central Valley.

    Conspiracy theories are mostly just that.

    morris brown Reply:

    And just where is your evidence showing the section wasn’t selected until AFTER the election. What we know is $700 million got allocated to the Central Valley and with great fanfare announced to the public before the Nov 2sd election. That’s what we know. And we now know that Costa’s district has almost the full Central Valley segemt within it boundaries.

    We also know that the budget is completely out of hand. Look at the cost / mile for building this segment in what should be the least expensive area to build, and this is without electrification , signaling and other needed support systems.

    What do you know in addition to that?

    Peter Reply:

    Let me rephrase:

    WE, as in the public, didn’t know which section was to be selected. If this had been some grand scheme to get Costa reelected, the announcement that Fresno had been chosed would have been made prior to the election.

    I agree that the costs need to be clarified. You correct that electrification is not included, but I’m pretty sure that signaling IS included.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I grow weary of “conservative” fulmination about the CHSRA. They kvetch on and on but never make a call to arms, never push for collecting signatures for a re-vote on Prop 1A. You have to wonder if they are just another shit-disturbing entertainer whose contract calls for a column of so many words every so often.

    The reality is that decades after the Reaganites declared victory over the Soviet system, central planning flourishes as ever, even in the heart of triumphal free enterprise. Political machines, relying on traditional patronage plus modern advertising, pr flackery and spin doctoring, have achieved an effective one party system, without having to resort to a Stasi to enforce compliance.

    As with the real Mafia, the consultant-contractor-supplier-labor complex thrives no matter what regime, right or left, is in power at the moment. Policy decisions are made by ward healers, influence peddlers, campaign directors and then turned over to engineers in the bunker eager to test the limits of brutalism. All the mega-projects inexorably go big dig and “unstoppable”. They take on a bureaucratic inertia which which the foaming brain dead misinterpret as manifest destiny.

    So you end up with dysfunctional money pits. Have no clue as to how long this can go on.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Disfunctional money pits?” Sounds like Wall Street to me.

    In truth, a lot of the justifyably nasty things you describe seem to come with any sort of large organization, private or public. Lawrence Peter famously lampooned this with his books on “The Peter Principle.”

    For those who are not familiar with it, “the Peter Principle” states that people rise to their level of incompetency; in other words, they go one step too far up the ladder, and are in over their heads. This can be considerably compounded if the people involved are of nasty dispositions in the first place. You might say their real level of competence is the ability to stay in a position of power and (cough) “status;” even though their real status as seen by the people who work with them is, to put it politely, unprintable. . .

    datacruncher Reply:

    And Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin was in Washington DC in September, lobbying for grants for Fresno for local projects but also spending part of the time lobbying for additional federal funding of high speed rail. Amazing that Fresno was selected for the construction start isn’t it?

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    You make this sound nefarious, but this is their job. Who in their right mind as an elected official wouldn’t be calling in every favor to get more spending in the area that they are responsible for. This is why Merced is so up in arms about the entire thing. They called in all their favors, negotiated deals, and still lost.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Unfortunately for Merced, they did not have any leverage where it would have been most critical … getting UP to come to the table on agreeing to terms on the use of the UP alignment.

    I still suspect the stink is being raised to try to land the maintenance facility, making the rail link to Merced a required part of Phase 1 infrastructure. And since I personally favor striking south to LA-US first and north to SF after, I wouldn’t at all mind it if Merced was successful in that effort.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Maybe a resident of New Jersey?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The residents who felt themselves to be served by the ARC are not the ones that were being catered to when the governor did the money grab to keep the highway widening project going … it was the residents who felt themselves to be served by the highway widening project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those residents who’d be served by ARC lived in regions that voted Christie, though.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A lot of running a successful Republican campaign of divide and conquer is perceptions management, which is why its more critical whether people perceive themselves to be served by the project than whether they would in fact be among the beneficiaries of the project.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You do both realize that Christie won with a plurality not a majority? 49 % of the vote in nice round numbers…..

    Spokker Reply:

    And in other news Joe Blow in Anytown, USA was seen leveraging personal relationships with family members in order to secure employment.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Walters is strong on opinion but he couldn’t even get the distance from Madera to Corcoran right.

Comments are closed.