Massively Unpopular House Republicans Reject HSR Funding

Nov 17th, 2011 | Posted by

In a move that should surprise nobody, Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted to kill high speed rail funding. According to some reporters, this should be seen as a permanent problem for the California high speed rail project. Here’s Carolyn Lochhead in the San Francisco Chronicle:

No surprise: the House has just passed a spending bill that kills high speed rail funding for fiscal year 2012. The Senate is expected to follow suit. That means California should not expect the billions of dollars in federal aid on which its futuristic plan for bullet trains depends.

It isn’t a surprise – but that final sentence isn’t true. All this vote means is that between now and January 2013 we should not expect more federal HSR funding. Few if any HSR supporters had any such delusions. We know that Congressional Republicans have an irrational, ideological hatred of passenger rail, driven in part by big donors like the Koch Brothers.

This would only be a lasting problem for California HSR if we had reason to believe that Republicans would be in control of one or both houses of Congress for some time to come. But there is plenty of reason to believe they won’t be.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has a great chart given to him by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) showing how unpopular Congress is right now:

Ouch. Less popular than the US going communist, barely more popular than Fidel Castro.

The likely result of this unpopularity is a return to power of Democrats in the House, judging by the polls. If that happened, San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi would become Speaker of the House again. And here’s what her office had to say on the subject, as quoted in the Chronicle article:

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who envisions the city’s TransBay Terminal as the “Grand Central of the West,” said the updated plan by the rail authority “clearly explained the cost of inaction is far greater than the price to build a 21st century high-speed rail system. While it is regrettable that Republicans continue their attacks against high-speed rail funding, Leader Pelosi stands firm with President Obama in our steadfast commitment to achieving modern high-speed rail for California and the nation.”

In other words, if Pelosi becomes Speaker again in 2013, then federal HSR funding becomes likely again. Given the polls, that’s a pretty good possibility.

So it’s premature at best to claim that today’s House GOP vote is a death knell for federal funding for the California HSR project. It doesn’t help, but it is probably best seen as a temper tantrum of a group of radical extremists who temporarily seized control of the House in the 2010 elections and who will be promptly shown the door one year from now.

Of course, Democrats have to maintain their hold on the Senate and the White House. President Obama’s re-election will be a difficult battle indeed. But if he is re-elected, and Democrats have majorities in both houses of Congress as seems likely, then votes like these will be seen as nuisances, and not as portents of doom.

It would be nice if the media reported that every once in a while.

  1. Alon Levy
    Nov 17th, 2011 at 21:54
    #1

    Despite Congress’s massive unpopularity, the Democrats have a very small lead in the generic ballot polls.

    On the other hand, the Democrats can expect a slight boost from the Presidential election. Obama is well ahead of all Republican candidates except Romney, who he’s ahead of by a tiny amount. In contrast, he trailed the generic Republican until a few days ago, and is still ahead by even less than he’s ahead of Romney. In other words: Obama is going to overperform the generic ballot, and this will sweep some coattails into Congress, even if by a tiny amount.

    Basically, it boils down to whether the Republicans will do the smart thing and nominate Romney, or nominate someone else and concede the election months in advance.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed, the group of clowns running for president on the Republican side aren’t going to generate any passion from Republican voters. The only guy with a pulse is Mitt Romney, and half of the Republican voters won’t even show up at the polls for the November election if he is nominated since they are mostly religious bigots. The fact that Romney is still below 20% is pretty amazing. How can 80% of Republicans still think that one of these clowns is still a better candidate than Romney? The Republicans have no chance in 2012. This is far, far worse than the sorry field of Democrats that ran against Bush in 2004.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Hell, how can nearly 50% of the country think that one of these clowns, like Perry (R-TX) or Cain (R-GA), is better than President Romney (R-IL)?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Not so sure its that so much as it is which one isn’t Obama?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Meh. President Romney’s clone, former Massachusetts Governor Romney, is the one doing the best in the polls.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Something that puzzles foreigners like me: the US is the richest country, with the best universities in the world. It has efficient and uncensored communication. Candidates are selected through a lengthy process meant to ensure the best men emerge. And what came out of it in 2001? G.W. Bush.
    So, I wouldn’t be surprised if, again, the mountain begets a mouse.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just keep in mind that Al Gore supposedly won the popular vote.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Gore did win the popular vote. He also supposedly won Florida, but in reality it was basically a tie – it depends on what counts as a vote, and at any case the margin was lower than the voting machines’ error margin.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I remember the comments by an African politician. Suppose, he said, an election in Senegal is tied. Then, there is a re-count in a province whose prefect is one of the candidates’ brother, and his brother wins. People will say: “of course, this is Africa, what did you expect?”

    John Burrows Reply:

    But Bush won the Supreme Court vote by a margin of 5 to 4—And in the end that was all that mattered.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    And every re-count conducted after that ruling by multiple news agencies.

    Move on.

    Ben Reply:

    Romney won’t be as strong of a candidate as some people now think he is. When voters find out that he made hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating jobs and sending many jobs to China and that he now pays lower tax rates than his domestic servants, voters won’t be so enthusiastic about him. This and then constantly reminding voters that Gordon Gekko/Mitt Romney thought US auto companies should go out of business, the answer for housing is ‘to let it hit the bottom’ and let speculators buy the foreclosed homes, and that he thinks ‘corporations are people, my friends.’ None of these will sit well with voters.

    Mitt Romney has also said some pretty virulent things about immigrants in the debates against Rick Perry. This will hurt him in FL and the mountain-West swing states.

    Finally, it might not be a big deal to you or me, but Romney’s religion will also be an issue with the caveman RepuB(P)lican crowd.

    Ben Reply:

    If Romney is the nominee, don’t be surprised at all if there is a third-party teabagger candidate.

    Ben Reply:

    Control of the Senate is going to be absolutely crucial as well. Diane Feinstein should be safely re-elected but Nevada will have an important race. I predicted the party interested in investing in modern infrastructure, good schools and universities, health care, and a clean environment will most likely have 51-52 seats after next November.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/us/politics/feuding-hurts-republicans-hopes-to-win-senate.html

    Pecos Reply:

    Michelle Bachman is the Teabagger candidate. Fortunately.

    Donk Reply:

    Maybe. The problem with that scenario for Democrats is that if there is a 3rd party candidate, it will influence many more Republicans to go to the polls to choose between Romney and Tea-Party person. Obama would win in a landslide, but this would be huge boost to the GOP in congress, due to the higher turnout.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Romney will be paired with a very conservative vp candidate and he will receive the entire GOP vote.

    It might be different if Barack had not moved so far to the left and allied with Pelosi, who is loathed by the conservatives and who will be galvanized by any talk of Pelosi returning to power.

    VBobier Reply:

    Only if the pointy eared Romneylan is nominated, but then we’ll all see which of the Nutters get the nomination.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    @Ben – Your credibilty goes down the toilet as soon as you drop the term “Tea Bagger”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re a really boring person.

    Jonathan Reply:

    That’s a credible null hypothesis.
    Alternative othesis: Sobering Reality is a Tea Partier, and is too thin-skinned to handle the term “tea-bagger”.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Fine, then you’re an asshole.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Romney is already the sitting President.

    joe Reply:

    Dems’ executive leadership have defined themselves as the party that’s “less shitty” than the GOP.

    Maybe if DC Dems they can compromise and do something big, like cut Medicare. That initative will show the American public they are capable of being bipartisan. Oh, and then have the GOP run against them for cutting Medicare.

  2. James Leno
    Nov 17th, 2011 at 22:14
    #2

    Wow, 9%? That’s an embarrassment. They’re down to paid staffers, blood relatives, and people who they gave insider stock tips to.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Both the House and Senate are at 13% approval.

    9% shock polls spoon fed by a Democrat are useless crap.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Worthless polls?

    You mean, like push-polls asking South Carolina voters whether they’d approve John McCain if he head fatnered an illegetimate child on a black woman? When McCain was campaigning with an adopted, er, Bangladeshi? daughter?

    Assuming the numbers are correct, the only thing that stands out about the Washington Post chart is placing Congress AFTER Hugo Chavez. And, duh, both have lower approval ratings than than “US going Communist” in the 2011 Rasmussen poll.

  3. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 17th, 2011 at 23:00
    #3

    I bet that if people were polled on the use of drugs, that that too would be more popular than Republicans.

    Donk Reply:

    I bet if they were polled on showering with boys in college football locker rooms, it would also be higher.

  4. StevieB
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 04:25
    #4

    Some Republicans are disparaging of this new GOP idology as quoted in the Rolling Stone article How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich.

    The GOP campaign to aid the wealthy has left America unable to raise the money needed to pay its bills. “The Republican Party went on a tax-cutting rampage and a spending spree,” says Rhode Island governor and former GOP senator Lincoln Chafee, pointing to two deficit-financed wars and an unpaid-for prescription-drug entitlement. “It tanked the economy.” Tax receipts as a percent of the total economy have fallen to levels not seen since before the Korean War – nearly 20 percent below the historical average. “Taxes are ridiculously low!” says Bruce Bartlett, an architect of Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. “And yet the mantra of the Republican Party is ‘Tax cuts raise growth.’ So – where’s the fucking growth?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Yet Obama blocks a pipeline out of North Dakota so BNSF and Warren Buffet can make billions with his rail monopoly. You do understand that BNSF now controls the flow of oil that would have been on that pipeline right?

    Wake up man.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Dude! Go back to Drudge already, will yah! No one wants to hear your crap!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Where you trying to be funny?

    If so, Fail.

    VBobier Reply:

    In between Michell Bachmanns delusional ears?

  5. Andy M.
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 04:44
    #5

    In view of the clownish antics of people like Herman Cain, I wouldn’t be too despondent about Obama’s chances of reelection. Set the two up in a face to face debate and the race will be pretty much one-sided from then on. Unless Obama does something very stupid between now and then. But let’s trust that he’s smart enough to be careful.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Herman Cain won’t make it out of Iowa.

  6. Peter Baldo
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 04:57
    #6

    Does that include the Northeast Corridor?

  7. morris brown
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 04:58
    #7

    The title of Robert’s article

    Massively Unpopular House Republicans Reject HSR Funding is grossly miss-leading.

    The vote on the measure :

    The funding was eliminated in a deal with Democrats on a spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies. The measure cleared the House by 298-121 and the Senate by 70-30 on its way to Obama’s desk.

    So as anyone can see, a huge number of Democrats joined with the Republicans to pass this measure.

    The conclusion is pretty obvious and that is support for HSR in no longer a priority for many Democrats as well as Republicans. That is the bottom line, and hopefully that is the bottom line here in the California legislature as well. This project should die and its time to stop it now

    And this leads to what will happen in the future and that is funding for HSR in future funding bills will not include HSR funding either. The program at least for the next decade is dead.

    As for who will control after the Nov 2012 elections, the control of the Senate is very much in play. Look at the numbers:


    Winning the Senate is tantalizingly within reach for Republicans, who have just 10 seats up for re-election, compared with the 23 that Democrats will defend next year, many of them in states where Democrats barely won in strong years for their party. Powerful national political trends continue to favor Republicans, especially in a weak economy.

    People vote with their pocketbooks as the #1 motivator; if the economy doesn’t pick up and the jobless rate decline significantly, both houses will be in control of the Republicans.

    Finally, Robert, you really don’t believe that the low popularity by the voters of congress is because of HSR, do you? HSR is a minor issue on the national scene and certainly isn’t what is driving these numbers.

    Peter Reply:

    How is it misleading? The Republicans would never pass anything that included funding for HSR, so the Democrats, actually wanting to get something done, compromised.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Peter

    The compromise completely sold out support for HSR. You don’t sell out your position if you really feel strongly about it. HSR for the Demos is definitely not a high priority item in Washington. And thats is why future funding won’t appear either..

    joe Reply:

    Actually you can let your opponents block popular initiates in an election year and then run against them. The right does it all the time.

    So listen to the 2012 campaign. If candidates don’t talk about HSR, you’re right. If they do, you’re in big trouble.

  8. Sobering Reality
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 07:16
    #8

    Ignorance is bliss right Robert?

    People don’t hate congress because they cut funding to boondoggles, they hate Congress because the spend money on boondoggles.

    This project is now dead. Amen and pass the potatoes. It’s time for Thanksgiving.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Big negative! People hate the REPUBLICAN congress because they’re trying to destroy our country in order to save rich folks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Some observations:

    Professional pols whether they be Demo or Repub are simply sneakier and more devious Blagos. Ergo they are on the take. You want consideration you pay up. See Pelosi and VISA.

    Open city comes at a price. Hugo-world is mired in a crime wave and provides a glimpse where our ascendant patronage machine is taking California.

    Cutting off federal funding is necessary because incompetence and corruption has taken over. It can be restored. Start by roasting the bodacious boondoggle that is the Muni Central Subway. And Pelosi wants to throw more money at this piece of dreck.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    @ Tony d. – You know that Congress includes the Senate right? Who controls that house?

    Tony d. Reply:

    Can you say @#$%& filibuster?!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    They went 70/30 on this vote.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is that why Scott, Kasich, and Walker have among them about 100% approval rate, total?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A thought–suppose Robert’s right, suppose the Republicans manage to make such idiots of themselves that they not only get Obama back in, but they lose big in both houses of Congress.

    I see this as a great opportunity, but it’s not without risks. The obvious one is that what is left of the Republican backing looks stranger and stranger–more and more extreme–all the time. This bunch is earning the names such as “wingnuts” being sent to them. Yet, what would their reaction be to losing big? I think they would be extremely angry, possibly even rebellious. That could be a problem; hell, some are delusional enough to think auto rack rail cars are really meant to haul political prisoners!

    Another risk–and possibly this is the greater one–is that the Democrats will, again, waste their time and not get things done when they have a chance. As a number of others here have stated, once things get started, once the construction starts, the pressure may be on to finish the project.

    Even if that didn’t work, we may have an advantage in time, as the strong pro-car, anti-rail generation ages and passes away. But can we afford to wait that long? Can we afford the status quo, which includes paying out a huge amount for gasoline, an amount that dwarfs what we would spend on a national HSR system, would dwarf that and its connecting services, too?

  9. Sobering Reality
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 07:20
    #9

    Democrat majorities in the House and Senate?

    ROLMFAO!

    Look, Obama might win again, but the term Lame Duck will be appropriate.

  10. J. Wong
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 07:51
    #10

    Just a point here, this was for further funding. It doesn’t affect the money already targeted to the ICS from the ARRA funds. We’ll see how things start to look once construction starts. Acting as if once a law is passed, it’s never going to be repealed, is short-sighted. As it is, the Republicans are again worrying about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and suddenly, Democrats have the upper-hand.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    When a project is $80 billion short, it matters.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Using 2030′s figure and subtracting today’s funding values..brilliant!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    So the connector to San Diego and Sacramento are going to be free?

    Gimmie a break man.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Who allowed this foamer into the forum anyway? He’s making Morris and Syno look rather tame in comparison.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    What’s wrong? Don’t like it when your flawed arguments implode in front of you?

    Peter Reply:

    Using a strawman argument doesn’t lead someone else’s argument to implode.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I wonder how conservative the business plan is? It might come in lower than the estimate. We’ll see how much they actually spend on the ICS.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    LOL… Fantasyland is at Disneyland man.

    Eric M Reply:

    Apparently you don’t know anything about construction contracts right now

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Apparently you don’t know what I do for a living.

  11. J. Wong
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 07:58
    #11

    It’s confusing to me why everyone acts as if a law is in effect if only one half of Congress has passed it. It has to get pass the other half (the Senate in this case) and the President has to sign it before it’s the law. For example, the House passed a law to rescind the Obama health care law but of course it has no meaning since neither the Senate nor Obama will sign off on it. This budget must get resolved in negotiations with the Senate, and they just might restore HSR funding there. Who knows?

    morris brown Reply:

    @J.Wong:

    The bill was passed by both the House and Senate yesterday. It is headed to the president, who has said he will sign.

    From my posting above

    The funding was eliminated in a deal with Democrats on a spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies. The measure cleared the House by 298-121 and the Senate by 70-30 on its way to Obama’s desk

    Jack Reply:

    You realize this isn’t going to stop construction right. Returning federal funds that would provide much needed jobs would be political suicide in California.

    Once construction starts the political winds will change fast. A half finished project is an embarrassment, and with a solid, vetted business plan in place, the CAHSR has regained some much needed credibility.

    Morris you lost when prop-1A passed. All you can do now is shout into the wind.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary Borden to Corcoran is the defining scandal the Reason Foundation folks need to flog the whole concept of government funding of passenger rail. And don’t think they are not hip to the need to keep the funding just enough for Borden to Corcoran, no more. How could PB-CHSRA have been so stupid to fall for this? It is never too late for the pols to change the rules to redirect the money to Bako to LA via Tejon. Exit the embarrassment.

    Eric M Reply:

    Not very bright are you? Do you realize how much more the Bakersfield to LA is going to cost than Bakersfield to Fresno and how far behind that section of the EIR is? Think a bit before you post.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course Bako to LA is a pricey segment – the primary reason it doesn’t exist currently. But it is essential and has intrinsic resale value, unlike the redundant Borden to Corcoran. Both the class ones would be interested in it. A major transport acquisition for California.

    **** the EIR and delays – how many decades have they stretched this thing out now? PB-CHSRA needs to put all its eggs in one basket. This project is very high profile, practically in LA, and should bring out the big players in tunneling. Full steam ahead on Tejon – inflation could soon be in the cards

    Jonathan Reply:

    @synonymouse:
    Huh?? You’re saying public funds, voted for high-speed rail under Prop 1A, should be redirected to building infrastructure based on “resale value” to rail companies whose support of paseegner rail is less than non-existent?

    Do you understand the difference between high-speed passenger rail, and the bulk, low-value, high-latency (time-insensitive) loads which US freight rail does well at?

    Or are you mad? Or do you perhaps think the sole reason for public expenditure is for private enterprise to buy it at firesale prices, and then profit off it??

    synonymouse Reply:

    My point is that the Tejon link has inherent value demonstrated by resale potential on the open market. The only interested buyer in Borden to Corcoran orphan trackage would be the scrapper.

    Yes, indeed, if the Golden State were to go into a 3rd world downward spiral and have to auction off(aka “privatize”)assets it would be at a “firesale price” The lesson is don’t waste money on a boondoggle.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    I will bet that any Tejon alignment will have grades upwards of 3% or more. Not seriously usable for big, heavy 10,000 ton freights. They go to great lengths to not go over 1% for freight alignments hence your reuse argument rings hollow.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Gravity is much less of a problem on his planet allowing the freight trains to climb grade that steep.

    Jonathan Reply:

    The only value Synonymouse appears to see is “resale potential on the open market”.
    A market where the only buyers are railroads running 10,000 ton drag freight.
    Grades too steep for their 10,000 ton trains, or tunnels not suitable for diesels, arent’ problem sin Synonymous’ world.

    Let’s gang together and send Synonymouse to New Zelaand, where he can ride the Trans Galicer express through the Otira tunnel. *outside*, on the observation deck. The Otira tunnel was originally electrified. Now trains are hauled through by multiple diesels, with a bloody great garage-door arrangement on one end of the tunnel, with blowers. You can’t breathe on the observation deck going through the tunnel, due to all the particulates.

    Is Synonmouse a deliberate troll, or just a fool?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You don’t need to go all the way to New Zealand, Jonathan. The Cascade Tunnel on the Northern Transcon is in exactly the same situation. It was originally electrified, so the 1.565% grade was not considered a problem. Then in the 1950s the introduction of diesels and ventilation made the Great Northern think that removing the electrification could work; instead, the tunnel now requires a garage door and blowers, crews carry respirators just in case the ventilation fails, and there ave been lawsuits by employees against the railroad for health problems.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Alon: I go to New Zealand fairly often. I was born and raised there.
    Hence my comments on Clem’s blog, comparing certain costs to Auckland electrification.

    Thanks for the tip about the Cascade Tunnel. Do they have passenger trains where Synymouse could ride through the tunnel on the outside of the train? ;)
    It might be educational. I’m not cruel, he can carry a respirator.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry if my comment came off as assuming you’re American.

    Amtrak’s Empire Builder trains go through the Cascade Tunnel every day. I don’t think they have outdoor observation cars, though.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I haven’t heard or read anything about the Cascade Tunnel, but I understand the Moffatt Tunnel on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western has problems with diesel fumes getting into Superliner cars on the California Zephyr. Moffatt is somewhat shorter than Cascade, and was never electrified, but it’s still lengthy–about six miles, I think (working from memory here). Supposedly had a huge reinforcing ring built into it, too–I’ve read somewhere that it was supposed to be insurance against a fault line!

    Can anyone confirm or correct that?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=13328&start=45

    It’s weird that the Moffat has ventilation problems, since the ruling grade is 0.9% within the tunnel, less arduous than the Cascade. It might still be too much for a diesel.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Alon, I took a look at the link you have, and one thing that stands out is that the Cascade Tunnel has a grade that runs steadily from one end to the other, but Moffatt has two grades that lead to a peak in the middle of the tunnel. The Moffatt thus could almost self-ventilate, or at least would help its blowers ventilate, with the exhaust naturally rising uphill, like a chimney. In Moffatt, however, the exhaust would rise to a trap at the peak–might be harder to ventilate in a situation like that.

    The Northern Pacific had a tunnel with a peak in it, much like that that of Moffatt. It was nowhere near as long–maybe only a mile or so–but it was much steeper, and was a notorious smoke-hole in steam days. I’m not certain, but I think it was Stampede Tunnel, also called “Stampede Hell” by the engine crews that ran through it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    !!!@#$%&!!! No edit function!! It’s Cascade that can partially self-ventilate.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some more brain-cell tickling going on–I believe Cascade may have a much larger (taller) cross section. I seem to recall seeing a photo of a GN electric going into the tunnel, and the pantograph is at near full height, and this was on one of GN’s very tall later electrics. No business of having the pan drop down to only about 2 inches above lock-down position as it had to do on a GG-1 in the tunnels under the Hudson!

    Now, if I can find that photo, to confirm or correct that memory. . .

    J. Wong Reply:

    Except it wouldn’t be built to freight standards. Are you sure the tunnels would be usable by a diesel-powered freight train? Electrical HSR doesn’t require as much ventilation (if any) while diesel would.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe the Loop is 2.2% so far from ideal. Tejon would be theoretically steeper but shorter. The very interesting question is how big a cross-section PB would be contemplating for the Tejon bores.

    Joey Reply:

    High-speed tunnels typically have a very large cross section (for aerodynamic reasons). That doesn’t solve the problem of ventilation though.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    There is a very big difference when talking about 10,000 ton freights between 2.2% and 3+ %. You are probably talking doubling to tripling the required number of locomotives and also talking about distributed traction. (ie locos cut into the middle of the train) to minimize strain on couplers and improve train handling. Railroads will go scores of miles out of their way to avoid such situations. Notice Tennessee Pass, Saluda Grade etc. are no longer used. Why do you think that is the case? Even Raton Pass is only being kept alive thanks to the Southwest Chief and New Mexico’s interest in keeping that route open. BNSF would rather just use the main Transcon line through Amarillo I can confidently predict that the freight companies will ignore any new alignment with a grade above above 2%. That’s just not done any longer. Now, if they do a base tunnel (and all the complex fault line issues) that may entail along with requisite ventilation requirements, they may be interested.

    Clem Reply:

    I think the interest in a 3.5% tunnel from freight railroads will be pretty much zero. Then again, to play devil’s advocate, distributed traction technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. It would be technically feasible to operate heavy trains up and down 3.5% grades, but the question boils down to whether it is economical. You can’t get around the requirement for more locomotives (the number scales linearly with grade) and the requirement for mid-train locomotives (spaced apart by a distance inversely proportional to grade). Both of those factors are expensive, the first as a capital cost and the second as an operational cost of breaking and re-forming trains.

    synonymouse Reply:

    http://www.trainnews.org/

    I dunno if this link will work but it relates to a disastrous UP wreck on Cima Hill in 1980 in which a freight attained 118mph, which I didn’t think was possible.

    So you would have match up 2.2% and lots of curves against 3% and pretty straight. Question is would those tunnels be high enough for double stack?

    Jonathan Reply:

    @joey: High-speed tunnels have an adequate cross-section for the trains going through them. Curretnly-offered high-speed trainsets are built to a UIC-505 loading gauge which is _small_ compared to US freight railroad loading gauges.

    (Okay, the ICE-3 derived Velaro D, built for Russia, has a larger loading gauge, but not much larger.)

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is train news #121 This Day in Railroading History

    synonymouse Reply:

    Remember there is no way to really fix the Loop so a class one is dealing with a pretty poor hand no matter how you look at it. It could mean running shorter trains up to Bako but then you still only have only 1-2 personnel on the train versus a driver on every single big rig.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And, as bizarre as it might sound at first, the Tejon tunnels are big enough to accommodate trucks and automobiles. Point being the tunnels have considerable independent value and utility, whereas stilts in Corcoran zilch value on the open market.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Synon: Class Is are not particularly concerned with curves nowadays; they’re far more concerned with grades. On grades, the main problem of curves is that they make the effective grade higher, since the grade is calculated on the arc whereas the important number for each railcar is the grade on the chord; the terminology for this is “compensated grade,” i.e. a 1% compensated grade is a grade that’s 1% on tangent track and a little bit less on curvy track. But otherwise, it’s not really a problem. On the contrary, on grades the trains travel so slowly that it doesn’t really matter what speed limit the curves impose.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Syn. It is not just about keeping control on the downgrade. It is about the sheer tractive effort required to lift a train several hundred vertical feet within a minimal horizontal segment (steeper grade). Please read about adhesion as it pertains to steel wheel on steel rail traction. Operationally, you will need way more locomotives just to climb the required gradient. Above 2%, the need for additional locomotives rises considerably. That is why the CP reengineered Kicking Horse Pass with the Spiral Tunnels to get to a manageable 2%, down from the original 4% of the “Big Hill” as it was called. That is why the new Swiss Base Tunnels which are also planned for freight have gradients that do not exceed 1%. Freight companies will not willingly sign up for such high operational cost alignments. If the alignment has 3.5% grades, heavy freight will not be on it. Simple really. If they splurge and do a true base tunnel which allows for a grade no more than 2% then there will be interest.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    There is no real need for tunnel ventilation in electrified tunnels. However, some emergency ventilation may become necessary in very long tunnels, as part of the fire-managing system. The traditionally very long tunnels (Simplon, Gotthard, Lötschberg) don’t have any ventilation.

    StevieB Reply:

    Gotthard tunnel ventilation system

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I was not talking about the base tunnels, which, as that article states, have ventilation systems built in. The article mentiones states also that the ventilation is used for emergencies, but not needed for regular operation.

    So, it might have been better if I worded it as “The old very long tunnels…”

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    New tunnels are designed for piggy-back traffic and a fire starting on a transported truck has to be considered. It happened twice on the Eurotunnel shuttle.
    When the Gotthard base tunnel is operational trucks will have to be transported by rail.
    The Swiss don’t want big trucks on their roads. Because of their pollution and noise and also because they cost millions in road maintenance. They intend to make tolls for trucks so expensive that piggy-back will be the cheapest option.

    Joey Reply:

    Going through Palmdale would make more sense as an initial segment, regardless of what would be better in the long run.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are you sure? I mean, the cost overruns have been more between Palmdale and LA (because of the Soledad Canyon alignment issue) than between Palmdale and Bakersfield, but even so, Palmdale-LA is a much longer trip on legacy rail than Santa Clarita-LA. Back when Bakersfield-Sylmar looked like a matter of $4-5 billion in federal money plus matching 1A funds, I kept arguing for Tejon precisely on the grounds that going through Santa Clarita works better than through Palmdale if the rest of the way has to be done on Metrolink.

    Joey Reply:

    I was more saying that LA-Palmdale-Bakersfield would probably get more ridership than just LA-Bakersfield. I suppose I didn’t consider Santa Clarita though…

    egk Reply:

    But how about (Bakersfield/LA)-Palmdale-Barstow-Las Vegas? If DX get funded the Palmdale alignment would serve the fourth largest intercity market in the region (and the largest for-pleasure market) by adding just 50 miles of additional track. Or do you Tejon advocates have a plan for CV-Las Vegas and LA-Las Vegas service that won’t end up costing more?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t have a plan. I don’t think the other Tejon advocates do, either. I agree that Vegas is an argument for Palmdale, but with DX struggling to obtain funding, it’s not as important a connection as it seemed in 2009. Then, DX thought it could line up full funding and break ground by now and open for service in (I think) 2012. But now, when chances are the ICS will be completed before DX, the Vegas connection is not that strong an argument.

    With Tejon, the connection to Vegas should be done via Cajon, and would require expensive tunneling. It would offer much better service to Vegas from the Inland Empire and San Diego, be a wash from LAUS, and offer worse service from NorCal. The extra cost is probably not as high as the amount of money that would be saved by Tejon, now that it’s become clear that Tehachapi requires a lot more tunneling between Palmdale and Sylmar than previously thought to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sin City’s glory days are over as all the states are getting into casinos and the revenue they generate. Plus Nevada is in a desert, a real problem if the Southwest is really entering into a long period of drought.

    I suggest the problems for freight at Tejon aren’t so great in relation to Loop’s irremediable shortcomings and congestion. Electric locomotives, shorter trains and the hazmat via the Loop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are a lot of attractions in Las Vegas besides gambling, the local Indian bingo hall is never goinkg to compete.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe the little ones in quonset huts, etc., say in Lake County, but the big ones like Thunder Valley are competitive with locals casinos in Reno or Vegas. Stations runs Thunder Valley for the tribe.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The quality of entertainment, whatever that form of entertainment might take, available in Las Vegas is available only in a few places in the world. People don’t go to Las Vegas just for the gambling. They come from all over the world to partake in it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did you just use “Las Vegas” and “quality of entertainment” in the same sentence?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Things can be excruciatingly tasteless yet still be exquisitely done. Think Jerry Lewis movies. May not be to your tastes but the range of quality and the quantity and variety available in Las Vegas is unmatched.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Speaking of entertainment and movies, the complete version of “Broadway Limited” is currently on YouTube. This is a movie for you if you are a Pennsy fan, featuring steam and GG-1 electrics.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP2uXjlewxY&feature=feedu

    morris brown Reply:

    @jack:

    Spending $6 billion building un-needed and what will be orphaned track is a much bigger embarrassment and many heads will roll if this indeed takes place.

    “solid,vetted business plan” oh really. Have you read it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Public opinion will agree with Morris on this. PB-CHSRA needs to re-prioritize posthaste in view of the end of funding from DC and the ongoing state funding crisis.

    Jack Reply:

    I’ve read what my small mind can understand. The silence from the critics (lowenthal et al.) means to me that they can’t find anything of consequence to complain about, or they just don’t care anymore. I haven’t read a peep out of any politician objecting to the price tag like most of us did on this blog. Where is Liz @ CAARD with her spreadsheets about how we are being lied too? That tells me the business plan isn’t the political poison I thought it to be.

    You stand against the same problem. Once shovels are in the ground Americans tends to finish it’s projects. (How many mega-projects in California are abandoned mid-build?). The argument will be we have spent 12B, we can’t waste that investment.

    I have never been so glad to be so wrong about the political reactions to the business plan. This project will be built and will change this country for the better.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    They don’t care anymore and they know it’s dead. That’s why you don’t hear anything. Everyone is far too busy laughing.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well now, I wouldn’t say that. . .

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    It must really suck to watch demographics and reality force change against one’s entrenched positions. Electric rail MUST be built (both passenger and freight by the way) if the US does not want to bleed away all her earnings to foreign oil entities, assuming they even have the oil to sell. This is inevitable and the opponents will be dragged kicking and screaming into this new reality. It’s just a matter of time and patience.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    So with no nuke plants what kind of power generation are you planning on? Oil? Coal?

    I’ll put my money on Aviation biofuels and a nextgen aircraft engine circa 2025 that will burn half the fuel that current aircraft do.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Biofuels? Hah!! That’s LAUGHABLE!!! Solar PV, as bad as it is would do better from an efficiency and land use perspective. Biofuels have a solar conversion efficiency of at best 2% and will not scale to more than about 20% of the needs of modern society.

    Aircraft engine that burns half the fuel of current engines? Did you study thermodynamics in school? If you did you will know about the Carnot efficiency limit of heat engines. There is no way, even theoretically to get an aircraft engine to burn half the fuel of existing engines that are about 40% today. Google Carnot limit if you need education on the matter.

    The fact of the matter is that given the hand we have, electricity provision will be easier, can be done from a greater variety of sources and will be cheaper and less environmentally destructive than any alternative liquid fuel option whether it be biofuels, Fischer-Tropsch kerosene etc. etc.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Biofuels are really popular in Iowa, though. I suspect that if the first caucuses were held in New York or Massachusetts, nobody would give a crap about finding more creative ways to subsidize corn.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    @HSTSheldon: Aviation accounts for about 5% of the world’s fuel consumption globally, so Biofuels on that scale are completely doable. Aviation fuel is the least refined fuel reducing the complexity. Second, the best engines today net about 40% of potential energy from the fuel, but that engine was developed 5 years ago. In 2017, the first generation geared turbofan will enter the market netting about 55% efficiency. By 2025 that will reach 70%, mostly through the use of ceramics and geared mechanics and it will come with completely new airframes from Boeing and Airbus. That will net about all we can get out of the Brayton Cycle before we have to move on to other technologies. By all means, hang your ignorance hat on your choo choo, but while you’re doing it you should consider that aircraft engine manufacturers have never stood still on improved fuel efficiency.

    @LevyL: It won’t be corn for Aviation.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You should also know Sheldon (or just pay attention), that a 50% improvement over todays engines is the target for both Boeing and Airbus for the mid 2020′s. They have both launched narrowbody products with new engines that net a 15% improvement by 2017, and that’s a new engine on an old airframe that has less than optimal aerodynamic efficiency.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    @Sheldon: Almost missed this one. Carnot Limit? LOL.

    joe Reply:

    Sobering,

    What magical process will the airlines use to demonstrate these awesome fuel saving technologies are safe, reliable and flight worthy, then field them in commercial products?

    In short, I am skeptical about them being able to field all these radically novel technologies.

    If you look at the billions Boeing’s 787 is costing, and IMHO they don’t claim it will pay for itself in 2020 do they? So they are going to pour more money and deliver a new airframe with ceramics and new engines in 2025?

    joe Reply:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2016310102_boeing25.html

    A conservative estimate by The Seattle Times puts Boeing’s total investment on the program so far at more than $32 billion.

    That massive sum, half spent on development costs and half on manufacturing the jets already built, means profitability for the plane won’t come before well into the 2020s — if ever.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    And it will smell like french fries. Particularly when it flies into a flock of potatoes.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Joe, you must be kidding?

    The 15-20% step efficiency in the narrowbody market (where most fuel is burned) is here in 2017. The engines have been on test beds for several months, one engine for over a year. Between the three plane types, there are already over 2,000 orders. So much for “radically novel technologies”.

    Look up A320NEO, 737Max and Bombardier C-Series

    The next step requires a larger fan, and in turn a new airframe. That comes in the mid-2020′s.

    So yeah, I guess you misjudged the ability to invest at Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, CFM, GE, Pratt and Whitney and Rolls-Royce.

    Break even at $32 billion sunk on the 787 is 1,100 deliveries with 821 orders in hand. Nevermind the experience gained that will now trickle to the rest of the industry. The gas it saves is another story. The 767 it replaces burned between 2,200 and 2,400 gallons an hour depending on the capacity variant, the 787 is less than 1,800 and the larger variant comes in under 2,000. That’s worth every penny sunk into the 787.

    Pecos Reply:

    @ Jack I agree. The sooner construction gets underway the less funding becomes an issue. That and CA voters would be a bit annoyed that we’ve spent so much money and time on this to just see it die. America might take forever to get projects like this started but will be inclined to finish it once it is.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, I see they’re blowing their $6bil on an orphaned section of track in the boonies and the gangbangers going down there at nite from Fresno and stealing all the copper.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Stealing copper that is energized at 25kV tends to discourage it after the first one or two.

    Jonathan Reply:

    that might be too sophisticated a viewpoint for Synonymouse.

    I wonder, what does it take to short out the power for long enough to make the substations give up, so the catenary can be stolen? Wow, that’d be some *big* arcs….

    synonymouse Reply:

    Your basic Darwinian natural selection in action but there are some who get fried every year doing same.

    But that means you would have to energize wire to protect it from being ripped out even if the track wasn’t being used or the electrification being used. No matter what you are looking at some intensive and expensive security. And who is going to want to pay for the maintenance of orphan trackage. Where is Amtrak going to get the money?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Really? How many people get fried per year trying to steal copper wire from the NEC?

    J. Wong Reply:

    I don’t think the catenary is copper. Not strong enough (too ductile). Maybe aluminum.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Copper. From the Wikipedia article on TGV speed records:

    The catenary was standard TGV style, without any modifications. The only changes were in the tuning. TGV catenary is strung in 1200 m (4000 ft) sections, mechanically tensioned by a system of pulleys and counterweights. Support masts are spaced at 54 m (175 ft) intervals. The catenary (supporting) wire is made of bronze, with a circular cross-section of 65 mm2. The contact wire is made of copper, and has a cross-section of 150 mm2. The cross-section of the contact wire is circular with a flat section on the contact side

    Reality Check Reply:

    Interesting paper about copper catenary/contact wire and the challenges (and speed limits) imposed by the “Catenary Barrier”:


    Copper in the transport systems of the future
    THE EXAMPLE OF THE HIGH-SPEED TRAIN

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I believe to remember reading about aluminium catenary experiments. Considering the reduced conductivity and the tendence to oxidize of aluminium, they were simply failures. Contact wires are copper, and even more, very specific copper alloys to keep the tensile strength sufficiently high.

    Even the Furrer&Frey contact rails use a copper wire clipped into the aluminium profile.

    Jerry Reply:

    @ Pecos
    Any idea or suggestions as to where the groundbreaking for the construction should be?
    I’d like to be there when it takes place.

    nslander Reply:

    @ Jack. Also agree. Reflexive opposition to this project is like the furniture. So is that opposition’s inability to apply the same degree of scrutiny to our other transportation priorities. Fortunately, that is increasingly being perceived for what it is: noise.

  12. Howard
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 09:15
    #12

    KQED radio has a program on this right now.

    Walter Reply:

    Any chance there’s a link?

    Reality Check Reply:

    The audio should be posted sometime soon here on the KQED Forum Audio Archives website. Meanwhile, you can read and/or add to the comments section …

    Reality Check Reply:

    Ok, the audio is up now on this morning’s KQED Radio Forum show:

    High-speed Rail Setback
    Fri, Nov 18, 2011 — 9:00 AM

    Download audio (MP3)

    The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a spending bill that kills high-speed rail funding for fiscal year 2012. What will the vote mean for California’s proposed bullet train?

    Host: Dave Iverson

    Guests:

    * Cathleen Galgiani, California assemblymember (D) representing the 17th District and author of Prop. 1A, the California high-speed rail bond measure which passed in 2008

    * Dan Richard, board member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

    * Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design

    * Jerry Hill, California assemblymember (D) representing the 19th District

    Tony d. Reply:

    They need to change the name of Alexis’ organization to Californians Trying To Kill Responsible Rail.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Californians for Republican Rail Decisions…

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    People for responsible fiscal policy.

  13. Reedman
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 09:26
    #13

    Washington DC political analysts are saying the (Democratic-controlled) Senate will vote to kill HSR funding. The conclusion you have to draw from that (assuming it happens) is that even if the Dems retain the White House and Senate, and get the House in the next election, HSR’s costs have given it an electric rail that can’t be touched.

  14. Mike Brennan
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 11:08
    #14

    “President Obama’s re-election will be a difficult battle indeed.” Are you serious? Have you seen the clowns the GOP is running? None of them have a chance. Sorry.

  15. Peter Baldo
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 17:01
    #15

    This is another disgraceful performance by California’s congressional delegation. California has 53 Representatives in the House. When the voters approve a project, such as the high speed rail project, I would expect the delegation to work together to get as much federal funding as possible. 53 Reps should be able to get some respect – that’s over 10% of the House! Instead it appears that the Representatives are quarreling amongst themselves on the national stage, and getting nothing for California.

    California pays a lot more in taxes than it receives in federal spending. I believe the discrepancy is almost $50 Billion/yr. Other states which are split between the two parties, like Illinois, also do poorly. States, and groups of states, which are more homogeneous receive much more than they pay – presumably because their congressional delegations work together for the benefit of the state.

    If California weren’t in such terrible straits, none of this would matter. But unemployment is at crisis levels, and the state is nearly broke. For a torrent of money to be leaving the state because of political squabbling is a disgrace.

    StevieB Reply:

    Under the Republican administration of George W Bush we cut taxes and increased military spending because the policy was deficits don’t matter. Now 98% of House Republicans have signed Grover Norquist pledge to not raise any taxes and to use any savings from closing loopholes to cut more taxes. At the same time they passed a bill increasing military spending by $17 billion this year. In order to pay for the largess toward the rich domestic spending has been slashed. Getting federal money back into California is not in alignment with Republican ideology.

  16. AC
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 17:50
    #16

    In the end all of this depends on how and when the European financial crisis is resolved (as well as the American supercommittee coming to a solution). If there are massive negative global ramifications, Obama won’t be re-elected and HSR won’t be built for many years. If it looks like the crisis is well behind us be the end of next summer then Obama will be re-elected and HSR will be built sooner than later.

    I am in touch with people in global capital markets on a regular basis, and no one, NO ONE, knows how this will play out. Anyone who thinks they know at this point is kidding themselves. $600 trillion in global derivatives is enough to massively determine the course of the next 10 or 20 years.

  17. Jonathan
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 18:14
    #17

    @StevieB: i recall seeing, on PBS, an interview of Karl Rove where he said, and I quote:

    “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”

    oh, how times have changed now the Republicans are not in power ;)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That was Cheney, not Rove.

    Jonathan Reply:

    The one I saw was Karl Rove. Could it be they both said it?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s possible.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I did a web-search. Cheney said it to Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in 2002.

    I was recalling Karl Rove saying it in an interview in Georg W. Bush’ second term.
    (which if anything is even _more_ culpable, imho)

    StevieB Reply:

    Vice President Cheney said deficits don’t matter as he pushed through a tax cut where 53% of the cuts went to the top 1%. Those making $10 million or more pocketed an average of $1 million a year. Cheney cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, Deficits don’t Matter….

    Deficits don’t matter when Republicans are in power
    ….No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets … Four legs good, two legs better…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And no animal shall kill another animal without cause.

    StevieB Reply:

    Karl Rove to Andrew Sullivan said, “Deficits don’t matter”. He explained it this way, “What I mean is that people don’t vote on deficits. That’s why they don’t matter.” Cheney used the argument, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”, to push tax cuts that were paid for by deficit spending.

  18. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 18:53
    #18

    A perspective on this from AP and NPR, originally linked from the Infrastucturist:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=142435528

    The original Infrastructurist link, of interest for a particularly childish disparaging comment by a troll there–and for two interesting responses, partially because they seem to be new names there:

    http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/11/18/the-daily-dig-death-to-high-speed-rail-maybe/

    I particularly like the second comment, by a Miles Bader:

    “Ah, Republicans, living forever in the ’50s. . .”

  19. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 20:17
    #19

    Off topic as anything, but might be of interest to some traditionalists here–Union Pacific 844 (large, late-model steam locomotive) is supposed to be running tomorrow in the Yermo area.

    http://www.up.com/aboutup/special_trains/steam/details.shtml

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150372748698506&set=a.10150355056518506.348067.74957963505&type=3&theater

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150355057278506&set=a.10150355056518506.348067.74957963505&type=3&theater

  20. Reality Check
    Nov 18th, 2011 at 21:48
    #20

    1) Is there a physical limit to the speed that a train travelling on rails can reach?

    “Several parameters limit the speed of a train. The most unexpected of these concerns the delicate problem of capturing the current. Because of the train’s movement, the catenary is subject to vertical vibratory motion. In order for the catenary to deliver the electrical current, the train’s speed must not exceed the speed of the waves that displace the catenary. The speed of propagation of vibration waves would act as a speed limit, a “catenary barrier”, similar to the sound barrier. Usually, the speed of propagation of these mechanical waves is close to 500 kph, which sets a maximum speed limit for high-speed trains at some 470 kph. In practice, the TGV may not exceed a speed of 70% of the speed of wave propagation throughout the length of the catenary.”

    2) What happens when approaching the “catenary barrier”?

    “The magnitude of displacement increases with speed and becomes greater as the train approaches the
    speed of wave propagation. The catenary’s upward displacement can exceed 30 – 35cm in places. This
    phenomenon erodes energy capture, which could result in disconnection of the traction units, damage to the equipment or even bring the train to a complete halt.”

    3) How can this type of risk be avoided?

    “Breaking a rail speed record means pushing back the catenary barrier, which means increasing the speed of the waves that are propagated at that point. The simplest solution would be to increase the catenary’s mechanical tension, taking care not to break it, naturally.”

    Siemens’ Valero (ICE) and copper use:

    The amount of copper used in conventional electric trains is 1 to 2 tonnes with 2 to 3 tonnes used in TGVs. ICE 3 / Velaro however requires 3 to 4 tonnes of copper, in particular because of its traction system based on the impressive number of motors: no fewer than 16. In addition, each kilometre of catenary system contains 2.5 tonnes of copper on average, which is a total of 10 tonnes per km. A catenary consists of an upper and lower wire and runs above the track on both sides.

    The secret of Velaro’s speed: high tech copper-magnesium catenaries

    The catenaries installed over ICE 3’s and Velaro’s route are made from a copper-magnesium alloy. The alloy’s mechanical tensile strength makes it possible to achieve speeds of up to 400 kph (compared to 160 kph for conventional catenaries). The service life of this type of wire is 4 times longer than that of former types. Siemens’s research and development teams are already working on developing new catenaries using copper-chrome-zirconium alloys, which promise to provide even better tensile strength and service life.

  21. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 19th, 2011 at 10:53
    #21

    Current NARP newsletter–interesting item is that supposedly the Amtrak-air market share between New York and Washington has grown to 73% Amtrak, 27% air:

    http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/hotline/more/hotline_733/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m really not surprised. Amtrak may be assholes, but when you ride trains, nobody is giving you an enhanced patdown.

    (It’s not relevant to NY-DC, but Amtrak is also often the only convenient option for minor city pairs. On NY-Providence, there’s no Bolt, and Megabus is too infrequent to have been useful for me when I needed it. On New Haven-Providence, there’s no Bolt or Megabus. The great advantage of trains over planes and buses is that the high traffic of a major city pair can shore up frequency on minor city pairs, providing extra service at a very small stop penalty.)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “The great advantage of trains over planes and buses is that the high traffic of a major city pair can shore up frequency on minor city pairs, providing extra service at a very small stop penalty.”–Alon Levy

    A fellow named John Stilgoe made just that point in one of his books, “Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape.” I can’t say he always has his history right, (he has the main railroad serving Lynchburg, Va. as the Chesapeake & Ohio, with a classic train on that line being the Cavalier–the main railroad there and the route of the train were both the Norfolk & Western, C&O was a relatively minor carrier there), but he has a number of other interesting points to make about the revival of rail travel–and one of them is the point you have. Best of all, he illustrates that this was just what we used to have with an account of a Burlington Zephyr making up time at 100 mph–even as it also connects all those small towns on the plains with big cities at the ends.

    http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~stilgoe/01frame_greetings.html

  22. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 19th, 2011 at 13:07
    #22

    Americans driving less–and the money problems it brings:

    http://www.economist.com/node/21538771

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Big increase in bus service:

    http://las.depaul.edu/chaddick/docs/Docs/Intercity_Bus_2010_Update_Final.pdf

    Glancing at the report, some numbers look a little fishy to me, specifically the passenger-miles-per-gallon figure. Air and auto seem a bit high to me, at 42 and 44 pmpg respectively; I’m not sure they really are that efficient. Rail looks low at 66. The buses come out at 136 for conventional and 196 for “curbside” operators. Considering we are talking the same technology here, such a difference looks weird. How is the difference explainable? About the only thing I can think of is that the curbside operators really pack’em in, that they cancel trips if a full load isn’t available, and that they work only in places of really high demand, i.e., no marginal routes from legacy operations. Considering that one of the studied companies is named DC2NY should tell us something about where it goes–and where it doesn’t go. . .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Intercity cars average about 2 people (family travel), so they’re more efficient than commuter cars. They also do more highway driving and less city driving.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    The numbers are accurate DP. As Alon explains, long distance auto has a higher load factor which automatically means better mileage per passenger. Rail is low because it includes the long distance sleeper trains which are not as efficient as coach class service and the fact that Amtrak uses tanks as motive power and rolling stock . Intercity buses are also quite efficient. The curbside operators achieve higher load factors as they tend to skip the smaller towns that Greyhound et al. serves. Hence, the get better numbers.

    The problem for air is that it cannot get much higher. Load Factors are already high (better than 70%) so there is not much scope for improvement there and the technological limitations are starting to bite re jet engine efficiency, weight reductions etc. Look at all thre trouble Boeing and Airbus have had with the A380 and 787 respectively to get a clue as to how difficult it will be to improve the numbers.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, a fully-laden 747 can get 91 passenger-mpg. The issues with air travel are,

    1. A disproportionate amount of energy is consumed in takeoff and landing, so short-haul service is inherently less energy-efficient. (The same is true of very long-haul service because then the extra weight of the fuel increases energy consumption, but it’s not a problem at intra-US distances.)

    2. The current operating model for airlines, especially the low-cost ones, is to fly many smaller planes. Even very thick markets like New York-Miami, even on legacy carriers, get 757s and 767s. The really big planes are reserved for intercontinental flights.

    Both of these are serious problems for air travel, because its best niche in the short- and medium-haul market is thinner markets. Once a city has an airport, planes can go anywhere, and this is an advantage over rail, which needs a continuous line. The domestic markets that can support 747s, including LA-SF, are those on which rail’s much higher capacity and ability to serve intermediate markets can enable it to kill air travel. The exceptions are only for longer-haul markets, e.g. New York-Chicago, New York-Los Angeles, and New York-Miami.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Alon, no 747 except maybe the new 8 version gets anywhere near 90 passenger-mpg. They are closer to around 75 – 80 pmpg. The 90 + pmpg figure is A380 territory assuming a fully loaded all economy class config. I follow this issue very closely and have come to the conclusion that air is hopelessly screwed if/when efficiency becomes a critical priority. You simply cannot cheat the physical requirement of expending huge sums of energy to not only move very quickly but to keep 1,000,000 pounds of material aloft. Surface modes have no such limitation. To illustrate just how poorly air will fare, just consider that 2 persons in a Prius or in the diesel TDI Jetta that I drive will easily beat the fuel efficiency numbers of the latest, highest technology jet. (both are at least 4 passenger capacity vehicles) Agreed regarding the energy used for takeoff , less so for landing but there still is the need to keep the aircraft aloft. That alone requires almost as much energy as it takes to propel a vehicle along a roadway or worse, a rail vehicle along a rail line at modest speeds.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    But a long-haul plane travels most of the time in high-altitude thin air while a train is stuck at ground level.
    The record-breaking Alstom V150 consumed 24.8 Mw at 357mph and as soon as the pantograph was lowered it lost speed very quickly. At that speed, air drag acts like a brake and motors have to be kept at full power just to maintain the speed. And the V150 was a shortened train.
    A full-length duplex at 198mph can consume up to 12 Mw when accelerating but only a fraction of that is necessary once cruising speed is reached. And yet, the TGV is a power hog compared to slower trains.
    Duplex at 198mph: 83 watts per seat/km.
    TER at 95mph: 30 watts per seat/km.
    Speed does have a cost.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    If you mean 83 watt-hr/seat-km, that doesn’t sound so bad. It is 133 watt-hr/seat-mile. Electricity costs around 7.5 cents/kwh, giving around 1 cent/seat-mile. For a 500 mile trip, that’s $5.

    Even the power-hog train that used 25 Mwh to go 357 miles wasn’t doing too bad. That’s 70 kwh/mi, or $5.40/mile in electricity cost, for the whole train. That might be 2 or 3 cents/seat-mile.

    Or maybe I’m misinterpreting your message and/or doing bad arithmetic.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    83 Wh/seat-km looks really high to me. Think of it this way: an 8.8 MW TGV Duplex with 545 seats consumes 16.1 kW per seat while accelerating, and at 320 km/h it works out to 50.5 Wh/km. But this is only if the train’s full power is required to maintain its speed, which it of course isn’t.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The only data I can confirm are for 357mph. On the official video, an engineer announces: “31 kilovolts, 800 amps”. Then he announces “pantograph lowered” and you see the speed on the display fall very quickly.
    I got the other figures from the Eurogreens’ site. They publish them as proven, but given their position on HSR, they are probably worst case. For the Eurogreens, the TGV is part of the nuclear lobby and has to be phased out together with nuclear power plants. They say the TGV is only viable because the price of electricity in France is unrealistically low since it doesn’t include provisions for the nuclear catastrophes that are bound to happen.
    France’s electricity is 75% nuclear and 12-16% (depending on weather) hydroelectric. It is the cheapest in Europe and there has been no serious nuclear incident in 50 years.

    Peter Reply:

    Does this help?

    Peter Reply:

    They say the TGV is only viable because the price of electricity in France is unrealistically low since it doesn’t include provisions for the nuclear catastrophes that are bound to happen.

    So, in other words, that must mean that HSR is infeasible in all other European countries that rely less on nuclear? These guys annoy me.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    This article gives 86 watt hr/passenger mile.
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/how-big-are-the-environmental-benefits-of-high-speed-rail/
    The actual numbers can be anywhere from 50 to 150.
    Here’s one from Spain (also about 80 watt hr/passenger mile):
    http://www.uic.org/apps/presentation/garcia.pdf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I wonder what the AVE’s emissions per seat-km are. I know the TGV’s load factor (70%), but not the AVE’s. Can anyone help?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    LA to SF cannot support a 747. There isn’t enough demand. There are only 1.8 million pax a year in the market and half of those passengers are connecting to other flights where rail is at a disadvantage. Air travel isn’t just about capacity; it’s also about frequency and connective flow.

    When you connect on a flight, your fare is minimal compared with the person who bought a ticket from Fresno to San Francisco; the airline is paying that feeder airline cost plus about 30% – using a typical RJ that’s about $36 per passenger. Rest assured; it’s not the $84 each way pre-tax that the person traveling from FAT to SFO is paying and that HSR is basing their “70% of airfare” on. Anyone who thinks that is not true knows absolutely nothing about airline yield management. In fact, if you are going from Fresno to Japan and buy a rail ticket to SFO, you will pay more for the convenience of a non-stop than you would if you just bought a ticket from Fresno. Don’t buy it? Look it up. Spot check of fares this morning: FAT to NRT via SFO = $1597 (United), Non-Stop out of SFO – Same flight $1583 (United) and you still haven’t paid for your rail ticket. Instead of checking in at an uncongested Fresno Airport, you’re now checking in at busy SFO – you know, rail has that “benefit” of no security. Also, passengers from Fresno to San Francisco? 2,200 a year. Passengers from Fresno going to destinations beyond San Francisco? 35,781 a year.

    Your dim view of the airlines future is greatly misguided. You see, airlines aren’t a government agency, they are a deregulated private enterprise. This is often forgotten when comparing HSR benefits to other countries were their air service remains to this day heavily regulated.

    Peter Reply:

    No matter what the Authority may claim, Millbrae is never going to be a busy station. Especially not as long as BART continues to take a shit on connecting Millbrae to SFO.

    I doubt anyone is expecting hordes of passengers from Fresno or Bakersfield to flock to SFO in order to connect to JFK.

    That, of course, says nothing about the large number of passengers who WILL be travelling between the CV and the Bay Area or LA.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Large market load factors are approaching 90% in air travel right now.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    The argument for electric-powered trains is not so much fuel economy, as it is not being dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, that particular argument is pretty bad. Diesel-hauled trains are very efficient – see here for a computation for Class I freight. Electrification is helpful primarily for local service and high-speed service, and even then the advantage is more performance than efficiency.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    With all due respect, but diesel hauled trains are not efficient. They are usually underpowered, which means that they are slow. The reason for heavy train being hauled is that the locomotives are very heavy, which leads to a very high tractive force at low speeds. By looking at the v/t diagrams, it is not uncommon that the hyperbolic section of the curve starts already at 25 km/h (which means that the locomotive “runs out of steam”.

    The biggest advantage of electric systems (nowadays) is that braking energy can be fed back into the grid. There are actually operations where the helpers/pushers are more important going downhills than uphills, keeping the train stretched, and safely at a higher speed than it would be possible with mechanical braking (especially when that involves the sawtooth method).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh, I completely agree that diesel trains have mediocre performance and this makes them economically less efficient. My point is that they’re still very energy-efficient compared to highway travel.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    With that, I agree; diesel-hauled freight trains are definitely more energy efficient than trucks.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More on keeping an eye on the competition–in this case, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s ideas on getting off oil for transportation. Items of note–the level of improvements seem unrealistic to me (125 mpg cars?), and rail isn’t mentioned at all.

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/11/20/372196/a-five-step-program-for-ending-our-oil-addiction/

    And that 125 mpg car still won’t help you find a parking space. . .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You should read this article about green cities for an anecdote of how sprawltastic the Rocky Mountain Institute’s headquarters is.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You should get a clue if you think Amory Lovins, who has been on about energy efficiency consistently and mostly unerringly correctly since before you were born, is responsible for Colorado’s hellish exurban environments.

    PS the way “oil addiction” is going to end is with the collapse of “civilization” as we know it. Humans are simply too stupid to avoid this easily foreseeable and rapidly approaching outcome. Enjoy!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It does get stuck in traffic as easily as a 12 MPG Hummer.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More on the competition–in this case, a Dutch “Superbus” that is supposedly good to cruise at 250 km/hr (155 mph):

    http://www.superbusproject.com/

    Items of note–this thing is a straight electric, and quick charging is by battery change-out. However, the range is still only about 210 km (130 miles). That seems short.

    In addition to that, to utilize that speed requires a dedicated roadway, one that keeps the average idiot motorist away. The “aerials” and “berms” (bah, I prefer “bridges” and “embankments”) that you will need for this will cost just as much as for a rail system.

    At that, the vehicle has 4-point seat harnesses (suggesting you will be strapped in for the whole trip) and no room to walk around even if you weren’t so confined.

    Why bother?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Well, that looks more like a stretch limo. The 4-point safety belts are most likely needed for the short braking distance.

  23. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 19th, 2011 at 16:07
    #23

    Some people complain we rail enthusiasts are too nostalgic. I think we have good reason to be–crank up the speakers for this wonderfully evocative sound recording from the late O. Winston Link, recorded in the town of Rural Retreat, Va. in 1957:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbzAJoW34DM

    An interview with the musician in this piece from 2001:

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

    From on board the Cavalier, ca. 1955, between Keystone, W.Va. and North Fork:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YemLxH5Zks&feature=related

    Have fun, and an early Seasons Greetings. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just for fun for the Californians who are steam fans:

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=32421

    synonymouse Reply:

    http://www.altamontpress.com/discussion/read.php?1,66044,66044#msg-66044

    The 80″ drivers really stand out.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Glad you like the shots; those white tires make the drivers pop out.

    Some locomotives on some railroads–the Norfolk & Western comes immediately to mind–are just natural with black tires; the look becomes almost clownish under a J (streamlined 4-8-4), particularly with a J have relatively low 70-inch drivers. They would also be a bit much under a Southern Pacific Daylight 4-8-4; I can’t help but wonder if it would be too much contrast in addition to that red and orange paint. On other locomotives, though, the white or silver tires and running boards are as classy as you can get.

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=340148&nseq=14

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=318285&nseq=8

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=338342&nseq=81

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Wouldn’t you agree the Canadians have good taste?

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=164486&nseq=32

    Two of my personal favorites:

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=252028&nseq=46

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=292792&nseq=115

    synonymouse Reply:

    The NKP berkshires always were very well-proportioned locomotives with or without painted tires. I crawled over a few of them at Bellevue and Conneaut in 1958, just after steam operations ended on the NKP.

    Never did see the NYC Niagaras, which resembled the UP 800′s some. They were gone early; I understand they had high carbon steel boilers which cracked. Too bad, but I did see some of the early Mohawks, the last NYC steam at Cincinnati in 1958.

  24. Arthur Dent
    Nov 19th, 2011 at 17:54
    #24

    Great post, Robert. “We hate you. Can we have some more money?”

  25. synonymouse
    Nov 20th, 2011 at 13:18
    #25

    You have to wonder if LaHood’s $6bil for Borden to Corcoran might not get chopped:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/20/blame-game-erupts-as-hope-for-deficit-deal-fades/

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, no. Monies already allocated aren’t on the chopping board.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The broken clock is right twice a day. The bill does include a provision to prohibit any new project out of the existing authority for Rail Rehabilitation grants. That’s more problematic for the Authority than you think, but I doubt Harry Reid is going to let that portion of the bill survive….

    synonymouse Reply:

    It all depends on how close to a deal the parties are in actuality. If it comes to a free-for-all and everything is on the table, unemployment benefits way trump Borden to Corcoran. Besides the Geriatric one is such a sanctimonious guru he is crying out for the celebrated reality check.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, but why is this problematic for the Authority? They weren’t going after any RRIF funds, IIRC.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It’s my guess, as I will flesh out in a later blog post, that Desert Xpress and CHSRA are going to rely heavily on upgraded existing track to connect themselves to Metrolink and ACE. Even for this intermediate stage however, and for the existing plans for Fresno proper, the RR grants are an avenue the Administration already has authority to spend from earlier appropriations. Put another way, it may be impossible to upgrade ACE, Metrolink or the UP route adjacent to the ROW in Fresno without an RR type grant program.

    Trying to explain this nuance to members of Congress, as you might imagine, is a Herculean labor.

  26. Reality Check
    Nov 20th, 2011 at 17:33
    #26

    Plan for Santa Clara HSR station not on the radar

    Meanwhile, Leavitt said the rail authority remains committed to having trains run between the Central Valley and the Bay Area via the Pacheco Pass. But some San Jose city officials say rail authorities have mentioned an Altamont Pass route in recent discussions, meaning the trains would stop in Oakland and San Francisco but not San Jose.

    Is that a veiled warning from the authority that it will divert the route from Silicon Valley if San Jose city officials don’t agree to an elevated train passing through the downtown?

    Rail officials say that no such threat has been made.

    “If they had threatened me, I would have reacted negatively,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told IA.
    City Councilman Sam Liccardo put it another way: “For a project struggling to gather public support, the notion that a multibillion dollar project would travel to Northern California and miss the largest city in the region is a bit like launching a global naval strategy that ignores the Pacific Ocean.”

    Still, if the complaints from factions in San Jose and the Peninsula about high-speed rail ultimately push the project’s $98.5 billion cost further into the stratosphere, the route might have to change.
    In any case, all this discussion may be for naught. Last week, Congress derailed critical federal funding for high-speed rail. And coupled with the controversy over the proposed elevated tracks, it appears the reality of high-speed rail reaching San Jose anytime soon is quickly fading on the horizon.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    If the system is at all successful, it ought to be possible to run 1-2 direct trains per hour from LA to San Jose, then fill in the other gaps with SJ-Fremont shuttles or a synchronized SJ-Sacto train and cross-platform transfers to the through trains.

    Alternately the milk-run LA-SF trains could detour down to San Jose en route to San Francisco, and reverse direction to head up the Peninsula. Probably slightly awkward and out of the way…but the trains are basically bi-directional.

    Last summer in Italy, the Torino-Aosta trains all reversed direction at the junction where they join/leave the old Torino-Milano main line, and it works just fine. Just a local train, but it sure does boogie when it’s keeping time between the express trains on the main line. Not half as weird as backing up 110 miles from Denver to Cheyenne on the old California Zephyr, or a certain stretch of the Lakeshore Limited in the late 1970s).

    Joey Reply:

    Reversing isn’t a great idea when it can be avoided. Detouring through SJ would probably add 15 minutes to travel times to SF. Anyway, it’s not like we’re likely to see the Central Valley segment anywhere near capacity in the next 50 years.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And how does the train get from Fremont to San Jose and from San Jose to Redwood City? Commuters on ACE trains can transfer to BART in Fremont or to diesel Caltrain trains in Redwood City. So can the HSR passengers.

  27. Tony d.
    Nov 20th, 2011 at 18:35
    #27

    FWIW,
    I’ve officially given up on the project. I now view the line as planned as me winning the lotto: if it happens great..if not, my family and I will survive. I now put my railway dreams into an improved Caltrain, improved ACE and BART to San Jose. In fact, I’ll support an Altamont alignment for a future HSR connection to CV if the following could also happen:
    1) a branch line could be built from Fremont to San Jose OR BART to SJ is completed with intermodal HSR/BART in Fremont area.
    2) CALTRAIN could be completely upgraded/modernized from SF-SJ.
    3) improved Caltrain service from SJ to Gilroy, including 7 days a week all day (not just commute hours). Perhaps future DMU or full electrification could be considered in the future.

  28. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 20th, 2011 at 19:05
    #28

    Was looking for something else, and came across this–some videos of Swiss rail operations in electric territory. Interesting to note all the passenger trains, and how short the freights are–enjoy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0-LsMtvUTI&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdyfRBvJCUc&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtzELZR5WvQ&feature=related

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