Saturday Open Thread

Feb 26th, 2011 | Posted by

Hope everyone is staying warm out there! Here are some stories for the weekend:

• Metro bought Union Station this week from Catellus, the development company founded by Southern Pacific, for $75 million. This will help clear the path to bring high speed rail to Union Station, and should give Metro more flexibility in how the historic station – and hub of the Southern California passenger rail network – is used.

• Great post from our friends at the Seattle Transit Blog on the conservative case for high speed rail. This is some solid stuff, and helps explain why many California Republicans – especially at the local level in the Central Valley – are very strongly supportive of the project.

• Speaking of conservatives and high speed rail, apparently the new Atlas Shrugged movie features a high speed train as one of the core projects of the story’s protagonist. I am highly unlikely to ever sit through that movie, but it’s interesting if it gets the right to be more comfortable with the concept of HSR. True, the book and presumably the film will also preach against government spending, and appeals to a very small audience, so I’m not going to expect much in terms of positive outcomes for HSR from the film.

• In the wake of last year’s legislative fight over getting SNCF to apologize for its role in the Holocaust during the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s, a similar effort is being mounted by an ex-POW against Japanese companies that had profited off of POW labor during World War II in Japan.

  1. Rene Sugar
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 15:22

    Some local opposition in California is related to tracks splitting neighborhoods making it difficult for pedestrians to cross tracks. This has already happened with the Caltrain.

    If they used the existing Caltrain line and added more underground crossings for pedestrians, there might be less opposition.

    The current California high-speed rail plan relies exclusively on passenger fares for revenue. Light cargo such as same-day and overnight letters for large delivery companies would increase revenue. High-speed rail could deliver this kind of cargo using less fuel than in-state air.

    Given the way they are trying to finance high-speed rail, the federal government isn’t implementing high-speed rail on a scale that will make a big difference. Implemented on a large scale, you could prevent billions of dollars per year from leaving the U.S. economy and create a lot of jobs doing it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Packages that actually get on airplanes go to Memphis or Louisville. They use trucks for overnight packages between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    Rene Sugar Reply:

    They could make several same-day deliveries between San Francisco and Los Angeles using high-speed rail.

    Jet fuel is expensive and large trucks don’t get good mileage. Why wouldn’t they use transportation that has lower costs?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much does it cost to unload it from the truck that carries it from their sorting center, onto the train, unload it from the train and put it back onto a truck to bring it to their sorting center at the other end? How much time does that take? You are going to save a few minutes. The market for same day deliveries is infinitesimally small. It’s already being served and those couriers will probably use HSR when appropriate.

    Rene Sugar Reply:

    It depends upon the design of the rail cars you use for light cargo.

    There is no room anywhere along the California high-speed rail line near San Francisco and Los Angeles for sorting centers?

    Alai Reply:

    Obviously, if you were to do this, the sorting center would have to sit next to a branch line, so the train would come right to it.

    Alai Reply:

    When you say “this has already happened with the Caltrain”, what are you referring to? Isn’t that line more than 100 years old? Have there been any recent closures?

    I’m under the impression that using the existing Caltrain line is the plan.

    It does seem like light cargo could work well on the route, but that can easily be added later– some trainsets, a spur to a distribution center, and some scheduling, and you’re in business.

    Rene Sugar Reply:

    I mean there are few places where a pedestrian can cross the Caltrain line if you leave a train on one side of the tracks and need to catch a bus on the other side of the tracks or just walk.

    For example, there is a pedestrian crossing near the California Avenue Caltrain station but it is not easy for someone who has never been there before to find it.

  2. Howard
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 15:35

    I would like to see some statistics comparing the subsidy per passenger mile for high speed rail, airplane and car, with capitol costs included.

    Joey Reply:

    The difficulty with including capital costs is that you’re trying to factor a fixed amount of money (initial investment) into one distributed over time (operating costs/revenue). Do you have a definitive number for the useful life of rail, road, or airport infrastructure?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The FTA provides a standard metric for computing the annualized capital cost. It is straightforward enough: compute the annual income that might be earned were the funds invested in a bond, or some other fixed instrument; i.e. the opportunity cost.

    The more controversial aspect of cost/benefit analysis is calculating the additional economic activity created as result of the new infrastructure. Proponents of megaprojects tend to make grandiose claims here.

    Joe Reply:

    And include the cost of operating a vehicle, a car, as part of the calculation. .50 per mile currently.

    Spokker Reply:

    Even Wendell Cox understands the importance of externalities.

    “It is estimated that use of the interstate highway system in 1994 saved 6,100 lives, compared to the fatalities that would have occurred if there had been no interstates. Over 40 years, an estimated 187,000 lives have been spared by use of the interstates — more people than live in either Dayton, Ohio or Salt Lake City.”

    His methodology.

    “NOTE: Methodology: Assumes that interstate traffic would be on the non-interstate highway portions of the federal aid-primary (FAP) system if there were no interstate highways”

    Do you think that *all* interstate traffic would be on the non-interstate highway portions if the interstates would not exist? Or do you think some of those trips would not happen if the interstates did not exist? There is such a thing as induced demand.

    And do you think that if some of those drivers took a train, even more lives would be spared? Probably not, because he goes on to say, “Urban interstate fatality rates are 65 percent lower than urban rail, while injury rates are 50 percent lower.”

    It’s quite a love letter to interstate highways.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes all those pedestrians killed in New York City are being run over by trains…..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Spokker, if you want to see just how many lives were saved by the Interstate system, look at a chart of US road fatalities. The numbers doubled in the years after the Interstate system was built; even per VMT they were stagnant, despite a general trend of decline in per-VMT road deaths.

    I leave it up to you to compute per-passenger-mile death rates on rail. If you look at very death-prone networks, like the US FRA-compliant mainline rail, they’re about 20-30 times safer than the US road network.

    Spokker Reply:

    It sounds to me like the guy is comparing the most dangerous light rail networks to the safest freeways. Shrug.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    He’s doing what has been a hobby of rail haters of late, going by a “rate per mile” or “cost per mile” basis, or in this case, fatalities per mile. This did go down, and Interstates do have a lower fatality rate per passenger mile, but at the same time vehicle miles traveled and passenger miles traveled by car went way, way up, so overall deaths and associated costs increased.

    Unit costs (and per-mile costs are one example) are a legitimate measuring stick, but they are not the only one, and not always the most important one. Cost recovery is also important. For instance, you can have an oil refinery with a low unit cost that looses money and eventually goes bust, while another company, making a product with a much higher unit cost, does very nicely charging exorbitant prices for perfume, which is often petroleum based as well.

    I think most business consultants would rather take a turn at a company with a fairly high rate of cost recovery than an enterprise with a lower unit cost and a very much lower recovery ratio.

    Another way to look at it would be to compare the costs of bulldozers and screwdrivers. Bulldozers cost way more in capital and operating expense than screwdrivers, but neither can do the job of the other, and you need both to build a house or commercial building. It’s a case of using the right tool for the job.

    Another comparison could be fresh, clean, new oats at a much higher rate per pound versus a much cheaper “second-hand oats” that have been fed to a horse. Both are actually useful, as any farmer could tell you in animal agriculture days, but nobody, farmer or anyone else, would attempt to economize by feeding his horse “second hand oats.”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More brain cell tickling going on. . .

    I seem to recall, very early in the Interstate program, that there was a stretch of road between California and Los Vegas that was a notorious death trap, had many accidents on it. One or both highway departments began work on the replacement 4-lane road, and they cleared up the accident-prone section–but then another section which hadn’t been rebuilt yet, and which had a comparatively low accident rate, suddenly had the accident rate jump almost to that of the original death-trap stretch.

    What turned out to be the key was driver fatigue. In both cases, the bulk of the wrecks were late on Friday nights or early Saturday mornings in a relatively narrow time band, and involved people who had worked all day and then put in several hours of driving to get to Los Vegas. They were falling asleep at the wheel at about the same time of day; the only difference was they had gotten further before sleep overcame them.

    Your rate per mile would go down in this case because you went further before you conked out, but you still had the same number of people breaking their necks at 2:00AM.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Still more remembering. . .

    I seem to also recall that this was a revelation for the highway engineers involved, yet at the same time it seems this should have been quite obvious when looking at where the drivers were from and when the accidents were occurring. Why wasn’t this seen sooner?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Computers took up a warehouse and were relatively rare. Caltrans was probably running on ledger books and slide rules well into the mid 60s. Sorting and collating all this information would have been too labor intensive.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Even with computers, you still have problems with perception.

    As an example, the accident analysis for a proposed highway in my area (this is the “dinosaur road” we eventually got instead of my proposed interurban) included a breakdown of accidents where people hit trees and other fixed objects, parked vehicles, and just generally ran off the road; each category was in the 10-15% range. An alternative view of this would recall that parked cars and trees aren’t normally in the middle of the road, so all of these “accident factors,” well over 30% of the total, were really due to people who couldn’t stay on the road!

    I’ve been complaining for years that our driver training and licensing procedures are grossly inadequate, and have suggested a better approach, or at least a different one, but does anybody listen to me? No. . .

    I am galled at the comments about some road being dangerous, too. Why is it dangerous? It isn’t malicious, it isn’t aggressive, it just lies on the ground like a rug! Now, it might be unforgiving of error, but that isn’t dangerous unless such life-threatening errors are too easy to make, and I don’t see too many roads that have that particular problem.

    Now, the problem of a road with 12 lanes that can have you in the wrong lane to get to a certain exit does cause you to have navigation errors, but that isn’t normally something that would kill you; all it would do is make you late as you run down to the next exit and come back.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cox could just be lying. He did so before: he said the Prius had lower per-passenger-mile emissions than New York City Transit, whereas in fact the opposite is true, by a comfortable margin.

    Joe Reply:

    Might be worth considering this unique study of HSR benefits in Germany.

    peninsula Reply:

    make sure you get that on per mile used basis.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    See notes above.

  3. Donk
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 16:18

    The Seattle blog post on the conservative case for rail is a start, but it does not go far enough. It does not go into any detail on highway and road subsidies (I think someone posted on this yesterday on this blog).

    I would love to see something like this published that that provides detailed numbers on subsidies for airlines, airports, airport security, airline bailouts, auto bailouts, highway/road subsidies not covered by user fees, and to include these numbers for Amtrak, commuter rail, public transit, shipping, ports, etc. Then to have a table that shows these numbers for Acela and all HSR systems worldwide. Really somewhere that has all of the facts in the same place…

  4. ant6n
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 17:13

    I’d like to know what happened to the Florida HSR money.

    Alai Reply:

    There were noises about the Florida legislature going around the governor to push it through. Probably nothing will happen until it’s resolved one way or the other.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Lahood gave them an extra week to “convince” Scott…which they wont…daddy koch has his chain

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    This Florida HSR delimma has me thinking that the institution of a Federal HSR Agency – one that would lead, plan and construct HSR in some location, while letting other states play a strong role – might be worth considering.

    I don’t think it would set a precedence.

    ant6n Reply:

    Well, I think all rail infrastructure should be folded into a public agency. Like the Highways.
    Then private railroads (e.g. freight) could buy slots, which could be used for maintenance and expansion.
    At least we wouldn’t have to deal with inflexible freight railroads, and we wouldn’t have to pay them to upgrade their infrastructure just so that we can pay them to run crippled passenger rail.
    And the freight rails would not be quasi-monopolies anymore.

    Alex M. Reply:

    While I agree, that will not go over well with most Americans.

    ant6n Reply:

    Which is ironic – it would foster better competition between the railroads, while at the same time stop corporate welfare of said railroads.

    Winston Reply:

    It’s hard to accuse the freight railroads of being recipients of corporate welfare. They don’t receive much in the way of direct subsidies and pay taxes on their land. Like agricultural users, they don’t pay tax on their diesel, but then again, they don’t use the roads. It’s a somewhat different situation than trucking where the infrastructure is untaxed and the user fees (weight fees, diesel excise taxes) are less than the cost of the roads they run on. If anything, California’s decision to directly subsidize the railroads (by paying for some track improvements on Donner pass and over the Tehachapi pass (as well as the Alameda corridor) serves to level the playing field.

    Victor Reply:

    Actually their vehicles do, BNSF and UPRR both use Pickup Trucks as part of the track maintenance & rail security departments and some of those can use the rails, While most can’t and have to use the roads We all use, All while paying nothing into the Gas Tax and the UP being Hostile to HSR.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Generally when those road/rail vehicles are on the road, they fuel up at the same non-rail gas stations that the rest of us use and thus pay gas tax for their use of the public roads.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And they remain a net contributor to local property taxes.

    ant6n Reply:

    I am not against subsidies for rail. I think they should be subsidized due to their lesser negative externalities compared to the highway. But subsidies should be fair and equal. Giving one company money to improve their assets which will only benefit them, and only marginally benefit passenger rail is corporate welfare in my book.
    If tracks were owned by the public and railroads would have to pay tolls to use the tracks, then one could subsidize the trains by charging less than the track construction and maintenance would require — and this subsidy would benefit all railroads equally. And we (the public) could keep control of whether we want to implement passenger service.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Obvious problem: what standards should the tracks be maintained to – optimized for low-cost freight transport, or for passenger transport?

    ant6n Reply:

    Well for the beginning, you just maintain at the current rate. But as you designate corridors for mixed passenger operation, you can improve the track standards. Naturally the freight railroads don’t care about having high track standards right now – but like this they could benefit from better tracks and maintenance, without having to pay from them. Of course they would have less control.

    So in the end there would be mixed standards. The more important a corridor is for passenger rail, the more upgraded it could be. And when things get really crowded, one could three-track corridors for two high quality passenger rails and cheap freight rail, or something like that.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are still issues to be resolved:

    1. What superelevation is appropriate for those tracks?
    2. When passenger and freight trains go at different speeds, which should be charged for multiple paths?
    3. What’s an appropriate axle load limit?

    ant6n Reply:

    You probably have better answers than I do ;-)
    Regarding #2 – it’s important to maintain profitability of freight railways. For corridors with little traffic this particular issue probably doesn’t matter. For corridors with more traffic, whoever needs more timeliness has to pay more – freight has to wait at sidings, but pays less. If there is a lot of passenger traffic, freight can operate at night.

    Freight and passenger rail work better together in some countries. Maybe it’s time to ‘lighten up’ American freight, anyway.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This is already well beyond the limits of my knowledge. All I know is that the industry best practice for mixing passenger and freight operations is in Russia and China. I have no idea what the axle loads there are like – probably high, since China has double-stacked freight, but I don’t know if as high as in the US. To say nothing of speeds, superelevation, etc.

    Victor Reply:

    Republicans in power chained to the Kochs would never allow this growth in Government. But then the Kochs want No Government or at the very least a government like the Confederate States of America had, Weak and unable to defend Itself from all and any enemies, Both Foreign and Domestic.

    Alex M. Reply:

    I can’t decide whether I want the money to come here (and leave Florida with no HSR) or to have Gov Scott change his mind and start the project over there in FL where it would most likely be finished before our HSR, and would show the country how well HSR works and how popular it is, making the case for our HSR even better.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Well, I wish Florida would change their mind. And, how about going further… A larger commitment to HSR development.

    Where is Texas in all this?

    Is Obama’s old chief of staff, Emmanuel Rupert, or something like that….. Now that he is the mayor of chicago land, will he commit that area to HSR development.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I bet it goes to Amtrak and Scott pits Amtrak against itself, other Florida politicians, and Obama, should the project have even the slightest hiccup.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 19:22

    Well, I took a look at the trailer and official site–can’t say I’m impressed. Or maybe I am, that one house interior that’s supposed to look so rich and opulent somehow manages to look cheesy. How do people get money out of Hollywood to make things like this?

    Maybe I would be more impressed if I’d read the whole book instead of maybe a dozen pages or so, but at 1,500 pages, I figured I didn’t have the time at the time.

    Based on the trailer, I personally think the movie is out of date. There is a scene in the trailer in which Rearden is saying his main ambition is to make money. The anachronism is that he wants to make money by building something. Today, you become insanely rich by moving money around and not worrying too much if it actually does anything productive, which means you have to be lucky enough, mean enough, and perhaps crooked enough to be on Wall Street, or to be in some similar position.

    On to the rail stuff, which I do know a little about:

    The “conventional” railroad that has all that derailment trouble looks a lot like the Union Pacific (based on a couple of shots of yellow locomotives with red numbers), with a Norfolk Southern leased unit (black and white paint) in one consist. Some comments in the trailer suggest much of the trouble comes from problems with the steel in the track, and “Rearden Steel” supposedly has a new metal that is superior. The “John Galt” line’s high speed “locomotive” looks like an Acela power car, but there are no overhead wires visible, so it has some other power source. Track looks pretty conventional for modern practice (concrete ties with a variation of Pandrol clips), other than that the rails and other Rearden Steel products look more like aluminum than steel in color. The movie’s digital model makers would have done better if they had consulted a bridge engineer or two, most notably for an older bridge that is apparently to be replaced. Its trusses are based on a Southern Pacific design, but the movie people have it combined with a supporting arch over a great canyon; a large trestle, a cantilever, or a steel arch without the trusses would be much more typical and believable to me.

    How can a house look so cheesy?

    What look like aluminum rails:

    Should have contacted real bridge engineers or rail historians on this one:

    Acela influence; structure design reminiscent of some stations on the UP in Wyoming:

    New bridge–and a high speed freight train (notice no windows)?

    Power truck–for once something that looks like the real thing:

    New bridge again:–JUNCTION-BRIDGE

    OK, has anybody here properly read the book and can correct any comments I have, which mostly stand on visuals and would certainly be classed as nit-picking?

    Winston Reply:

    From my dim memories of reading the book in Junior High (it really should be considered young adult fiction) the one of the main plot points of the book was that the protagonist who was the head of a failing railroad decides to buy a new metal from the brilliant industrialist Hank Reardon instead of the state controlled steel company. This new metal allows her to operate faster and better trains and save the company, but then the evil government takes over and all the brilliant industrialists who do all the productive work for society decide to quit working and sulk in Colorado. When they quit, the government collapses and they are free to create a new utopia.

    Nathanael Reply:

    A rather ludicrous book. Industrialists who do productive work? I know some, our government intermittently tries to support them, and our *BIG BUSINESSMEN* — finance men would be a better name — who are interested only in pushing paper around, try to destroy them.

    ant6n Reply:

    Weird how school kids read Ayn Rand…

    PeakVT Reply:

    Time for the classic Kung Fu Monkey quip:

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

    Spokker Reply:

    Which is worse, the kid who connects with Atlas Shrugged or the one who connects with Holden Caulfield? I can’t decide.

    I hated most of the books on the high school reading list. There was one book they made us read in high school that prominently featured child rape. I finished my reading homework as quickly as possible so I could get back to reading books by George Carlin and Howard Stern and wonky books about astronomy and space travel.

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 20:07

    For Yes On–Haven’t had a steam train link up for a while, and thought you might like this one–“Flight of the Century,” New York Central’s 20th Century Limited promotional film, from before the streamlining of 1938. Much of it leaves a bit to be desired, but I like the waltz in the soundtrack at just past 7:00 and the contrast it provides to bouncing locomotive cabs and also complements the luxury in the train. Favorite single sequence is at 8:59, in which the engineer looks at his watch, and then stands up to use both hands on an apparently stiff throttle–excursion engineers on steam do that today. And at 10:00, the music is changed to “Dance of the Hours,” which was given lyrics to become the novelty tune, “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.”\

    Have fun.

  7. Andre Peretti
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 20:39

    Judging the profitability of a public service as if it were an ordinary business makes no sense and the French government is beginning to realize that. President Sarkozy wanted the SNCF to be profitable, and it is. In 2010, it made €694 million profit after paying RFF (ie: the state) €3.4 billion toll.
    So, everything is OK? Not quite. Profitability was acquired at the expense of necessary investments. The SNCF has exactly the number of trains for exactly the number of passengers it has calculated. If more riders turn up, it’s chaos. Since the beginning of 2010 trains have been overcrowded and peak-time punctuality fell to 70% with some trains up to 20 minutes late, which means many arrived late at work. What’s more, thousands of disgusted users reverted to driving, which is exactly what rail is meant to avoid.
    Once more, the SNCF’s habit of underestimating ridership for fear of losing money has proved ill-inspired. End-of-year financial results shouldn’t be the preoccupation of a public service. What counts is profitability for the public, taking everything into account: less pollution, fewer road accidents, less stress, etc… meaning less spending on healthcare. Maybe also less military spending and fewer people killed for Middle-East oil. Of course, just looking at financial results is much easier and that’s what most people (like president Sarkozy) stop at.

    ant6n Reply:

    SNCF ain’t a public service anymore, just like DB. They are businesses. And the theory is, that with better competition, these problems go away eventually…

    Nathanael Reply:

    That bullshit theory of “competition fixes everything” was debunked back when the Theory of The Firm was developed in economics back in the 1970s….

    In some situtations central planning works better. You have to look at things one case at a time. I, of course, prefer that central planning is under the control of an *elected*, *representative*, *democratic* government rather than unaccountable superrich thieves.

    ant6n Reply:

    But honestly, I rather have private passenger railroads on one public rail system rather than one public railroad an a bunch of private rail owners.

  8. Useless
    Feb 27th, 2011 at 11:47

    Some disturbing news from China

    China’s Railway Minister has been sacked and is under investigation for corruption charges. Apparently, Chinese HSR tracks were built cheaply below spec so they cannot sustain their current operating speed level for more than a few years.

    China’s “Cheat while your bosses not looking and pay him off if he finds out” cultural custom is at work even in something like national HSR system, so it is safe to say we must exclude Chinese railway builders from bidding on CAHSR project, in addition to already disqualified Chinese bullet train set builders whose product is not legal under the US IPR laws.

    Victor Reply:

    Clearly this bodes ill for the Chinese, But good for Others, Like Japan and South Korea.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The Japanese HSR companies have been talking about this for months.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I mentioned the Chinese railway executive scandal a while back with the observation that he might face the firing squad.

    They should hire the Chinese to erect PB’s stilts so that even a temblor will not be required to bring them down. Then the whole thing will have to be rebuilt – mo’ money, ‘mo jobs, ‘mo payola. After all influence peddling and fixes are what the CHSRA is all about. At least in the East they are more in your face with the graft unlike brain-dead California pollyana politix.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I think what’s holding up a deal with the Japanese is probably that they want to assemble the train over there, whereas the Chinese were game with doing it at NUMMI. If FLHSR is eliminated, however, then I think Japan blinks.

    Victor Reply:

    That would answer why Japan hasn’t gotten an agreement yet or It’s simply too early for that.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Barker once made a veiled comment about not buying rolling stock yet. And if you think about it, by 2015 when they want to, I’m sure the unions will want it built here. In 2012 in Florida, they would accept it because it would get it done quickly and raise the profile of the technology.

    Peter Reply:

    Doesn’t Nippon Sharyo already build railcars in Illinois?

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, it doesn’t look like their Rochelle factory is open yet.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    When I meant “here”, I meant California. There’s no way any labor oriented politician wants to be associated with something that will enhance Illinois and a cost to California.

    Useless Reply:

    CAHSR authority may have no choice on this.

    Since California HSR system depends on at least $20 billion of foreign sovereign loan to be constructed, CAHSR authority has to give into the foreign loan provider’s demand.

    Beside, most of job created will be railway construction and maintenance, not bullet train assembly.
    Recall that Rotem assembled its new Metrolink train kit at the existing Metrolink maintenance shop instead of having a new factory in California, so a new factory is not even needed, a maintenance depot is all that is needed.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Whatever company, regardless of national origin, that wins the contract, will build/assemble the trainsets in the U.S. KHI has a plant in Lincoln, NE that is curently being expanded, Siemens has one in Sacto, Hyundai Rotem in Philly, I think Alstom has one in New York state somewhere, etc.

    Useless Reply:

    Some update on Japan’s bidding plans for US HSR projects.;at=DGXZZO0195165008122009000000 (Japanese) (English, but shorter)

    California :

    Bidders are JR East consortium(JR East, Kawasaki, Hitachi, Sumimoto, and Mitsibishi). Base model is Mini Shinkansen E6, although it would be modified to comply with US regulation on fire resistance and dependability. Nothing on crashworthiness.

    Texas :

    Bidders are JR Central consortium(JR Central, JBIC, Mitsubishi, Fluor, and Balfour Beatty. Base model is N700i that was offered to Florida HSR project. Otherwise very similar to Florida project in terms of offering.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … to comply with US regulation on fire resistance and dependability …

    So they have to make them break down and catch fire more often to conform with local cultural norms?

    swing hanger Reply:

    There is no mention of those “regulations” in the Japanese article, unless it’s in the portion behind the subscription wall. The English article is actually more informative.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Swing hanger

    Well, the rest of stuff is available with logon.

    But there is second English source of said Nikkei article.

    The Nikkei reports that East Japan Railway Co. will team up with other Japanese firms, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Sumitomo Corp., Nippon Sharyo Ltd., Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. in bidding for a high-speed railway project in California.

    The group will inform the California state government of its intention to participate in the project by March 16. California’s plan involves mixing existing rail lines and those for high-speed trains, so JR East will apply the technology of the so-called mini-bullet train that can run on both regular and high-speed rail lines. The technology is in use on the company’s Yamagata bullet train line.

    Central Japan Railway Co., meanwhile, has formed a basic agreement with US construction engineering firm Fluor Corp. and the US arm of major UK builder Balfour Beatty Plc in a high-speed railway project in Texas. Eleven Japanese firms, including Mitsubishi Corp., Toshiba Corp. and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, have decided to cooperate with JR Tokai.

    quashlo Reply:

    I suspect you cannot read Japanese.

    The Nikkei article uses 耐久性, which would mean strength / durability. No doubt this is about crashworthiness. There is nothing about “dependability.”

    Useless Reply:


    > No doubt this is about crashworthiness.

    No, the exact meaning of 耐久性 is durability(Not strength). I thought dependability fit the context better.

    quashlo Reply:

    Again, I don’t think you really understand Japanese…

    It’s durability / strength. (i.e., crashworthiness). JR East is planning to bring their mini-Shinkansen up to American standards (hence the mention of the fire resistance, etc.). This no doubt includes crashworthiness. The article already talks about “mixed” running between HSR and non-HSR trains. The intention of the language is pretty clear.

    Useless Reply:

    @ quashlo

    耐久性 means durability, it implies nothing of strength. You know this too well.

    > This no doubt includes crashworthiness.

    Which will make E6 heavier and make it hard to test in Japan since there is no Shinkansen track in Japan able to support higher axle load, they will have to test it in Taiwan.

    > The article already talks about “mixed” running between HSR and non-HSR trains.

    Yes, Japanese do understand that trains are required to run in mixed traffic condition and are promoting E6 accordingly. However, stock E6 still doesn’t meet UIC crashworthiness standard.

    > The intention of the language is pretty clear.

    And there was no mention of crashworthiness/body strength in the article.

    quashlo Reply:

    I’m not interested in drawing this out… The context of the article is clear. They will upgrade the mini-Shinkansen technology to better meet American standards. Whether that means meeting fully (100%) or only partially is a different story, but 耐久性 is a direct reference to the crashworthiness standards… 耐久性 can mean durability, strength, resistance, etc. depending on the context and accepted terminology in the respective field, but “dependability” is a poor translation in any context, and in this context, an obvious attempt to hide what is actually being said (surprise, surprise). For reference, I translate regularly from Japanese to English under the same HN on skyscrapercity.

    Of course, we all know you tend to twist the facts to support whatever conclusions you wish to make.

    Useless Reply:

    @ quashlo

    > 耐久性 is a direct reference to the crashworthiness standards…


    > 耐久性 can mean durability


    > strength


    > resistance

    It’s a toss up. “耐-久-性” means “Resist-Long Period-Property”, meaning the property of how long something can resist wear and tear. 耐久性 under no circumstance implies crashworthiness.

    quashlo Reply:

    I give up.

    You may have some basic understanding of hanja (as evidenced by your character-by-character breakdown) but there are nuances in the Japanese counterparts which you clearly do not understand. Seriously, do your own Google searches if you don’t believe me:


    Even with your basic understanding of hanja, you should be able to understand that 耐久性 is being used in reference to crashworthiness in this article. There are plenty others, but I have no interest in posting all of them. And you still have not explained how “dependabilty” is a better translation.

    The gist of the Nikkei article is that JR East will improve the performance of their mini-Shinkansen technology to better meet U.S. standards for crashworthiness. End of story.

    thatbruce Reply:

    However, stock E6 still doesn’t meet UIC crashworthiness standard.

    We’ve covered this before. No HSR operation in the US will be using exact replicas of any existing HST models, unless someone gets a lobotomy and decides on running the current generation of Acelas, along with the requisite changes in structure loading etc etc.

    The HST models that will be used for the CAHSR operation will be variations on existing models for the (currently ill-defined) US/CA HSR standards. Saying that an unmodified model XYZ is unable to be used because of your current preferred reason of the week is both (occasionally) correct and misleading, because, as we all know, the selected manufacturer will make whatever modifications are necessary to achieve compliance with whatever standard is arrived at for the CAHSR HSTs.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Another problem might be the E6 is too small for what CAHSR will actually need. The 800 series by JR Kyushu seems to be a better fit, IMHO.

    Useless Reply:


    > The 800 series by JR Kyushu seems to be a better fit, IMHO.

    Since it is JR East that’s bidding on California HSR project, it has to be one of JR East models.

    You just cannot run a regular Shinkansen model on a legacy track even if crashworthiness was non-issue because its bogies are not built for tight curvature of legacy tracks. Running on legacy tracks require reinforced bogies with a shorter wheel base to handle curves better.

    quashlo Reply:

    Well, it’s not as if they’re selling the E6 exactly as it will run in Japan. They will obviously redesign a bit to better fit the CAHSR loading gauge, etc. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they get Mitooka Eiji or the rest of the design team from the 800 series involved in the future, as I think JR Kyūshū’s aesthetic sensibilities, at least in terms of interior design, would do a better job of appealing to a foreign audience.

    Useless Reply:

    @ quashlo

    E6 has a similar loading guage to all other contenders(TGV, Velaro, Zefiro V, KTX-II, etc), so no widening is needed.

    quashlo Reply:

    But it’s smaller than regular Shinkansen.
    It ultimately depends on what the Authority wants.

    Clem Reply:

    The authority is keeping its options wide open. Everything is designed around a composite loading gauge that envelopes all the existing HSR types including Shinkansen bilevels. Full gory detail at Technical Memo 1.1.10, brought to you by CARRD.

    Useless Reply:

    Sacked railway minister took $125 million in bribes.

    Obviously, he wasn’t the only one taking bribes. With so many hands out for bribes, little money is actually spent on constructing the railway.

    Useless Reply:

    China’s HSR corruption scandal is spreading; the chief railway system engineer charged with corruption this time. The charged official’s brother was also charged with corruption and received a suspended death panelty.

    There were many hands put into the HSR pie in China, and little was spent on actual construction. China may have in fact built a 10,000 km network of lemon tracks already falling apart.

  9. swing hanger
    Feb 27th, 2011 at 16:22

    George Will does a hatchet job on HSR. Nothing new, includes the usual referencing of Randal The Tool and then at the end pure BS about how progressives use trains to encourage collectivism. But notice how these commentators never mention rising oil prices and peak oil…

    Jerry Reply:

    An interesting quote from the Will article: “The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Makes me wonder if Mr. Will drives to NY when he needs to be there, flys or takes the train…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I have been told that Mr. Will is married to an auto industry lobbyist, and has been for years. He is also 69 (will turn 70 this May), and would fit into what I have called the “difficult, in between age” generation that thinks cars are the future and trains are from the horse-and-buggy days.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Who he’s married to, or how old he is, doesn’t change that the fastest way to get from your Georgetown residence to the meeting in Manhattan is to take the train.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Wow, that article makes me rage so much.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To put things in perspective for you, this is the same guy who goes on political talk shows and argues that global warming is not happening.

    J. Wong Reply:

    George Will’s basic argument is that “American’s don’t ride trains”. The Right really can’t see that the American of the 1950’s is long gone and nothing they can do will bring it back. So you either live in the future or die in the past.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Paul Krugman’s responses to Will’s opinion piece: Dagny Taggart Wept (the title is a reference to “Atlas Shrugged”) and Trains and Freedom.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 27th, 2011 at 22:18

    In other news, other comments on Florida and sundry subjects from Jim Repass’ “Destination Freedom” (National Corridors Initiative newsletter):

  11. The Rail Enthusiast
    Feb 27th, 2011 at 23:46

    First of all, Jim Jordan’s “Why should we subsidize an industry that will directly compete with the automobile industry, which is so critical to our area?’’ quote is a reflection of the inherent conflict of what competition should look like. Since he has openly admitted that he is a highway/oil lobby hack, he only supports competition as long as it only involves types of automobiles. This approach to limited competition has irked me for the longest time. Instead of endlessly defining competition as something that happens among different entities within one mode, it needs to be applicable as something that happens among all competing modes.

    Second, in regards to Virgin’s interest in operating a route between L.A. and Vegas, here’s what Sir Richard Branson should do: a) Build a parallel line that follows the Southwest Chief’s route between L.A. and Barstow, b) build special HSR train stations next to existing Amtrak stations outside of the endpoints, c) build up local and limited stop trains because that will then set an example on how to build an Express HSR system for anyone else that wants it. It could also be possible that Virgin might also want to route his trains via Palmdale, and if he does, then forget about the DesertXpress being built or staying in business.

    Third, the Union Station deal allows not only connectivity but coordination as well. If LAUS ends up with up to six different operators–Amtrak, X Train, Z Train, DesertXpress, Desert Lightning, Virgin, and the HSR operator (not anyone previously listed)–in 15 years, [i]somebody[/i] will need to keep all of those trains AND Metrolink in line. Otherwise, someone may end up building a new station in Los Angeles, defeating the purpose of the recent deal.

    Finally, I can’t say I’m surprised about the POW story because once the SNCF-Holocaust stories began rolling out, I had the feeling that it would trickle down to anyone from a country that actively fought on behalf of the Axis Powers. And given the negative press about China’s HSR system, the Golden State may see the number of bidders openly competiting for the 800-mile route whittle down to the point where an unexpected bidder could walk away with the contract to operate.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Can you identify where the Virgin group has already built infrastructure akin to what you are suggesting?

    The Rail Enthusiast Reply:

    The infrastructure location was merely MY idea. Besides, if they are to produce an Express route between L.A. and Las Vegas, it will have to eventually build a separate ROW

  12. Andre Peretti
    Feb 28th, 2011 at 08:31

    In France, the US anti-SNCF campaign has been largely ignored, except by prominent members of the Jewish community who expressed shock and disbelief. Many view it as a ploy to eliminate a competitor. The man who immediately rose to defend the SNCF was Arno Klarsfeld, son of Serge Klarsfeld, a famous nazi-hunter and holocaust memorialist.
    France has the largest Jewish community (after Israel and the US) but has no “Jewish vote”, because Jews are spread over the whole political spectrum. The most popular French politician is center-left D. Strauss-Kahn (known as DSK), but his harshest opponent, also jewish, is J-F Coppé, head of the governing right-wing majority.
    SNCF’s #1 executive (after its president) is David Azema, a member of an old and illustrious French Jewish family. He is in charge of Groupe SNCF’s strategy in France and abroad.

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