Gas Prices Continue to Set Records

Feb 10th, 2012 | Posted by

January saw record prices at the pump:

January is typically a month of falling gasoline prices because fuel demand falters in the slower travel weeks that follow the year-end holidays.

Not so this year.

In January, retail gasoline prices averaged $3.37 a gallon, according to the Oil Price Information Service, a private fuel information service. That compared with the previous record average for the month of $3.095 a gallon, set last year. In 2010, January gasoline prices averaged just $2.71 a gallon.

And what’s the cause?

Increased demand for oil has helped increase crude prices, leaving the U.S. benchmark grade hovering around $100 a barrel in January, up $10 to $15 from year-earlier prices. At the same time, worldwide thirst for diesel, the fuel of industry, has caused U.S. refiners to export large amounts of diesel and therefore to produce less gasoline for U.S. motorists.

I’ve been saying this for years. Gas prices have never really become “affordable” again even after they retreated from the record highs of 2008. The fact that in California gas never fell below $3 a gallon even during the depths of the recession should have been a clue. Now that recovery seems to slowly be getting under way, demand is rising again and gas prices are rising with it.

The effect will be to throttle the economy as energy costs rise higher than people can afford, derailing the recovery. And the cycle will continue until eventually we either build alternatives or the price becomes too high for people to bear and they just stop driving. Without alternatives, that latter scenario is catastrophic for the economy.

Rising gas prices should be a sign that high speed rail is as good an idea as ever. Unfortunately, most HSR opponents refuse to believe that the era of cheap gas is over. They’re about to get a rude awakening.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 22:44
    #1

    Not just HSR, but all that goes with it, such as conventional intercity rail, light rail, interurbans, electrification, the whole lot. . .hope we have the time. . .

    joe Reply:

    Food! Our green revolution is predicated on cheap oil and energy intensive farming.

    According to Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow-in -”Residence at the Post Carbon Institute and author: “Over all -” including energy costs for farm machinery, transportation, and processing, and oil and natural gas used as feedstock’s for agricultural chemicals -” the modern food system consumes roughly ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food energy produced.” Currently, efficiency in food production is obscenely poor and foreshadows an escalation in prices and diminishing supplies.

    Quibble about the exact amounts and calculations – oil is everywhere.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Just build sufficiently large and efficient nuclear power plants and go crazy with chemistry off the excess energy. IFRs and thorium to deal with peak fuel issues there.

    joe Reply:

    Magic nuclear power. I prefer di-lithium anti-matter reactions.

    I’ll anchor my objection to NP on one pillar – we humans are genetically programmed to be optimistic and do not process risk logically nor are we unable to politically manage the long term risks inherent with nuclear waste.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    You recycle it or stick it in concrete drum and put it in a seismological ly inactive area. It really isn’t that terribly difficult to deal with. But hey, I’m sure your paranoid fears of contaminating Bumfuck, AZ ten thousand years from now totally override the pollution from coal plants.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    And Bumfuck, Arizona probably wants the employment that comes along with the nuclear waste disposal facility.

    Joe Reply:

    The real containers in Bumfuck WA desert are offically leaking and getting into the columbia river and out to the ocean. All in one human life time.

    But who cares? Foodweb, a Hippie concept. We all be dead! Problem solved.

    Nathanael Reply:

    We’ve already contaminated Tokyo with Fukushima, Washington state with Hanford, and so on and so on.

    Nuclear is stupid

    Solar is the future; the panels just get cheaper and more efficient, and there are NO problematic million-year toxins involved.

  2. adirondacker12800
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 23:07
    #2

    The record high, adjusted for inflation was in 1981.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Can you tell us what that would work out to for today?

    joe Reply:

    In 1981 $1.00 would be $2.47 today.

    In 2005 dollars the price for all grades per gallon in 1981, what I see as the peak, was $2.591

    In 2005 dollars the price for all grades in 2010 approaches that peak and is $2.563

    From sheet at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/gasprices/faq.shtml
    Table 5.24  Retail Motor Gasoline and On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices, 1949-2010
    WWII prices with rationing might have been much higher.

    VBobier Reply:

    Gas prices are now inching up, in SF their predicting an Average of $4.85 a gallon, in LA a slightly more affordable average of $4.70 a gallon, all this by Memorial Day supposedly, This I’d seen on KNBC 4 out of Los Angeles CA, of course the story said msnbc in the story, but then I can’t find this on the web, hopefully this won’t come to pass, It seems the market is nervous about Iran closing or at least attempting to close The Straights of Hormuz, If that happens then oil prices will go up and gas will follow, as then there won’t be enough supply to meet demand without using more expensive oil cracking methods by refineries.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    2007 beat it actually, but 1981 was close.

    joe Reply:

    Yep 2.68. I missed that blip.

  3. StevieB
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 01:04
    #3

    North American oil and gas production should increase in the next 10 years which will be good for our balance of trade deficit but will not decrease the cost of gasoline. Gasoline prices are based on what the world’s highest bidders are willing to pay for it. World demand for gasoline is increasing. There are long term benefits of increasing the tax on gasoline by $1 a gallon and investing in transportation alternatives to oil but the short term economic penalties are too harsh for pols to consider.

    Mac Reply:

    Given that US/US owned refineries like Hess/Hovensa are closing…and all future refining is going to be located overseas due to cap and trade legislation….gas prices will continue to skyrocket, even if we produce more oil.

    Mac Reply:

    Using cap and trade as a way to pay for HSR is only going to make it worse

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Refineries are closing because they aren’t economical to run anymore. And the California cap-and-trade floor is $10/ton and in New England they’re thinking of raising the floor to just under $2/ton (pretty sure those are both metric). At those prices you’re not going to see any effect.

    CComMack Reply:

    Refineries are closing along the Delaware River because they’re still mostly in mid-20th Century vintage configurations, which assume that the crude oil being delivered is light and sweet. Most crude oil produced today is heavy and sour, and much of the remaining light sweet crude is in places like Libya, which seems to be doing well since the revolution, but I wouldn’t base my business plan on its future stability. As oil production shifts to more and more marginal production fields (like the Alberta tar sands), this will only get worse. The refineries can be retrofitted, but it takes a lot of time and money, so Sunoco apparently decided about a decade ago that they would skip the retrofits and just use their Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries up, and sell them for whatever they’re worth. 50/50 says they’re destined for the scrappers.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    “and all future refining is going to be located overseas due to cap and trade legislation”

    That is an outrageously baseless statement, and sounds like something straight from the Koch Brothers PR firm. Not only are the two examples you give (Hess/ Hovensa) not closing because of cap and trade (after all, it’s not even fully in place yet), there is NO EVIDENCE that Cap and Trade will chase ANY jobs away, NONE – let alone any support for claiming “all future refining” is going to take place overseas. As noted in other comments below, the refinery industry is already changing due to outmoded plants, changing crude in oil, and so forth. Claims that cap and trade will move business overseas are a total scam, and everyone knows it; in 2010, the California public overwhelmingly rejected Prop 23, in which some polluting Texas refinery and gasoline companies and anti-government activists tried to overturn cap and trade in California. The rejection of Prop 23 was a humiliating defeat for its proponents, and for **all** who promote dishonest and irresponsible public policy.

    But while we are on the subject, tapping into the cap and trade funds from AB 32 is an excellent way to
    help pay for some of the HSR system.

    Peter Reply:

    The suggested cap-and-trade legislation that I read actually captures those types of “dodges”, IIRC.

    Mac Reply:

    This statement was an oversimplication without much explanation..I agree. Refineries like Hovensa aren’t closing because of cap and trade legislation not yet enacted…but the looming of cap and trade legislation does very little as incentive for US companies to go into the refining business or upgrade older facilities. Regulations are getting tighter and tighter, making it less and less profitable, as refineries continually must upgrade or retool (especially in California). Why build or retrofit, when the margins are small to begin with? It becomes cheaper to refine overseas than here. What about the pollution etc that is generated by shipping our cruide oil abroad and then having the refined product shipped back to the US? If we want to be “oil independent”, why is govt. imposing so many regulations etc. that is helping to make oil refining that much LESS profitable? Shooting ourselves in the foot, it seems

  4. VBobier
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 07:14
    #4

    Gas prices for Unleaded(87) range from $3.679 to $4.399, Mid/Plus(89) goes from $3.799 to $4.499, Premium(91) goes from $3.809 to $4.139 a gallon(not all stations have reported in on Premium), Diesel goes from $3.999 to $4.599 a gallon, Being the area is a major truck stop doesn’t hurt I guess. Now If only the area had more water…

  5. joe
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 08:46
    #5

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/02/10/air_travel_is_a_tough_business.html

    As we’ve seen before, airlines are constantly going bankrupt and cumulative earnings across the history of American passenger aviation are negative $33 billion.

    So the search for sustainable aviation business models goes on, with Southwest retaining its status as the only U.S. company to have ever really cracked the code.

    Peter Reply:

    But remember, airlines only need to fill around 40% of their seats to be profitable!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    @joe: At least it’s not $33 billion in taxpayer money. Unlike passnger rail which has lost as much, if not more over the same period.

    @Peter: You don’t know shit.

    Peter Reply:

    Strong rebuttal. I’m thoroughly put in my place.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Well, we can talk in circles for 8 hours or I can simply get to the point. I took the shorter route.

    Nathanael Reply:

    So you’re a big fan of the Chunnel, I take it?

    Like passenger airlines, that’s an example of “sucker financing”.

    Anyway, passenger airlines still get government subsidies on TOP of the sucker financing (Essential Air Service comes to mind).

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Only because I feel like being nice, and because it’s far too easy:

    The average trip cost for US carriers is $7201.14 as of last week (for a year). The average number of seats per departure is 102. That carries an average seat cost of $70.63 where the average yield is $162 (pre-tax), not including ancillary revenue. That means that pre-ancillary, the break-even point is 44%. You add in the ancillary fees, currently about $16.59 per passenger, and the breakeven point is at about 39.5%. Never mind your cargo revenue or revenue from onboard sales.

    I’m sure you’ll next say, “well a company like Southwest doesn’t have fees”. True, but their average stage is much shorter (665 miles), their average aircraft size is higher (136) and their yields are $135 with an average trip cost of $6,856.45. In case you can’t figure it out, that’s a break-even load of 37%.

    You done?

    Peter Reply:

    Then how is it these airlines aren’t making money hand over fist?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Probably non-direct costs such as depreciation and debt service. That isn’t borne out by a look through American’s 2010 financial report however.

    It should be noted that cargo and other revenue is a pitifully small amount of revenue for the airlines, cargo is about 3% of all operating revenue for AA for instance.

    Here is some data from 2000 on a variety of airliners. Since then fuel prices have increased by 350% and inflation 23% for other costs.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    1. My costs include IDOC.
    2. They are making money hand over fist. You get that AA filed for BK with $4 billion cash on hand right? A company losing money doesn’t have $4 billion in cash. Got it?
    3. While fuel costs have increased, not as much as you say, other costs decline over time.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    2. They are making money hand over fist. You get that AA filed for BK with $4 billion cash on hand right? A company losing money doesn’t have $4 billion in cash. Got it?

    Cash flow is rather more important than cash on hand.

    3. While fuel costs have increased, not as much as you say, other costs decline over time.

    Oh get stuffed.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    1. AA has plenty of cash flow, that’s not why they filed. They filed so they could dump the Union contracts and shed older aircraft that were stuck in unfavorable leases in favor of fleet renewal.
    2. You left out the all important fuel efficiency gaines as older less effiicent aircraft have been retired fom service reducing net fuel burn per pax.

    God some of you are simpletons.

    datacruncher Reply:

    How much of that cash is actually money diverted from pension plan payments they didn’t make? About $1 or $2 billion isn’t it? Yep cash that comes from dumping an obligation onto the PBGC.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    How about none. They have yet to prove it’s needed.

    Sorry charlie.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/article.aspx?articleid=20120203_45_E1_Americ171761

    You see, you can’t stop paying for something like that until a court says you can.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Privatize the profits socialize the costs.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    The government was the enabler of unsustainable benefit packages in the private sector, it shoul be their problem. I say F–k ‘em and the Unions they love so much.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So management was too stupid to see that it was unsustainable. So now they have driven the business into bankruptcy and they want to do Chapter 11. I say based on their performance Chapter 7 with clawbacks on behalf of the creditors is too good for them.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Let’s see, give into the unions backed by politicians and their $60k a year bag tossers or lose your company. Such a choice. Like I said, F the Unions. Unions are nothing more than legalized racketeering anyway.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I never said stopping payment. I was talking about getting Congress to change the laws and allow less to be paid to the pension plan.

    “One of those congressional measures, the Pension Protection Act of 2006, gave airlines the flexibility to cut pension contributions for two years and spread them out in later years. PBGC analysts estimate American Airlines was able to cut its contributions by $1.1 billion in 2006 and 2007, thanks to that legislation.”

    “In 2007, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, led a successful effort to tack new airline relief onto a defense appropriation for the Iraq war effort. It passed 80-14. The new bill allowed American, Continental Airlines and a few others to tweak their accounting, raising assumptions for how much money its pension funds would earn from investments to 8.25 percent a year, thus again reducing the amount the companies were required to put aside. As a result, the PBGC has calculated, American saved an additional $1 billion from 2008 through 2011.”
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2017449330.html

    Nathanael Reply:

    So, basically, airlines are “profitable” if they lie to workers about how much they’re being paid, by promising large pensions and then not supplying them? And also cheat the stockholders? Is that what SR is saying? Funny definition of profitable.

  6. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 09:52
    #6

    We need to convert to all of our electricity production to nuclear power.
    Use our abundant natural gas for cars.
    Then use oil only for those things that absolutely require oil.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Natural gas has the same environmental problems as oil. CNG buses are still a bit less polluting than late-model diesels, but the difference is pretty small. And the less said about the process used to extract it and what it’s done to Upstate New York, the better it looks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Upstate Pennsylvania. There isn’t much gas drilling going on in New York at the moment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s some, and gas interests want to massively expand drilling. New York’s politics isn’t really geared for the kind of environmentalism that small towns agitate for as a way of protecting themselves from big business; it’s barely even suited to the politics of urban environmentalism (i.e., more transit and less driving).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s penchant for gridlock might be a virtue in this case.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Because the DEC, with the aid of Cuomo, is trying to push through a fatally flawed EIS to allow fracking, localities are loading up on drilling bans of every sort we can manage (at least three different types are possible under the state home rule provisions). Unfortunately probably we won’t manage to get these passed in every locality, so it’s crucial to decertify the EIS.

    Nathanael Reply:

    NY is OK right now, largely because we *haven’t* allowed fracking. The neighboring sections of Pennsylvania have been completely WRECKED. We have got to keep fracking out of the Finger Lakes by any means necessary.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Forget oil—gas might be worse than coal as far as climate change is concerned.

    Joey Reply:

    I believe the main benefit of natural gas is not in reduced carbon dioxide emissions but rather eliminating all of the other crap that comes out when you burn coal.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, I’m not comparing natural gas to coal, but to oil, specifically CNG vs. gasoline and diesel as vehicle fuels. What New York City Transit found in the 1990s, as claimed in the Transit Museum, is that CNG is significantly less polluting but more carbon-intensive. But then the FTA did a more comprehensive study about different fuels, using information about buses in New York as well as Orange County, California, and found that CNG buses are a wash with late-model regular diesel buses, and hybrids do the best on both pollution and carbon emissions.

    Second, what the study you link to says is that burning coal releases other pollutants some of which promote global cooling, and this mitigates its climate impact. It doesn’t make coal better – the pollution is as bad, and cleaner-burning coal would have higher climate impact. Recall that the original impetus for CNG is not climate but air quality, which was still the more important issue in the 1990s.

    joe Reply:

    Solar and renewable. Nuclear power produces waste which right now is being collected and guarded and will continue need guards for several half-lives or a fuck of a long time. Once you factor waste disposal into the total cost, solar is less costly using today’s technology.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    No it isn’t. And I’ll raise your waste disposal with the massive environmental pollution caused by Chinese rare earth element mining for solar PV.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Or disposing of the solar panels once their useful lifespan’s ended. We should be thankful that Germany, one of the world’s most aggrerssive PV supporters, also has some of the world’s best toxic-waste disposal.

    joe Reply:

    Yeah – toxic solar panels with 250,000 year half life!! Let’s stop making electronics.

    You can’t intentionally write stuff sillier than this nuclear vs solar comparison.

    Hey, They have a recycling facility in Gilroy.

    http://metechrecycling.com/recycling.htm

    Finding a resource to responsibly recycle a wide range of electronics from standard business and consumer electronics to biotech and medical devices can be challenging. Metech Recycling invests in the labor-intensive process of disassembling and separating electronic devices into four distinct material streams: precious metals, other metals, plastics, and glass. Examples of the range of products we de-manufacture and recycle responsibly include consumer electronics, telecom equipment, data center equipment, medical equipment — virtually anything with a circuit board. Metech Recycling’s facilities efficiently process millions of pounds of electronic equipment while providing detailed tracking and reporting for clients.

    We can use HSR to ship toxic solar panel waste for recycling. I call dibs on the gold ingots. They do recover gold.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    The stuff in solar panels is toxic and needs to be carefully recycled at facilities like the one you listed—cadmium, telluride, selenium, arsenic and other nice e-waste goodies in your landfill’s leachate isn’t anything to sneeze at. Not everyone has the discipline to do so—that’s why we have to worry about stuff like this.

    You have to be careful in either case.

    Joe Reply:

    We treat a solar cell like a computer and charge a disposal fee and recycle panels. Pretty standard and the failure to recycle a panel is not going to produce radioactive groundwater or 60+ year quarentine zones.

    They recover gold and other raw materials from electronics. And future production should leverage photonic reactions with less costly and toxic materials.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed. Full cradle-to-grave handling of electronics is already in place in Europe and has been applied to solar panels. It’s not a problem.

    joe Reply:

    No?

    Q: Where pray tell is nuclear waste stored given there is no long term storage facility?

    A: It is in temporary facilities and it is guarded or are you tell us nuclear waste is not being guarded?

    Q: Which fraction of nuclear power’s cost at the meter pays for the waste and disposal and protection?

    A: 0%

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    There’s no long term storage facility because idiots like you flipped out over Yucca Mountain. As for cost at the meter, nuclear power is charged one mill (1/10 penny) per kilowatt hour in order to pay for waste disposal and protection.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes, idiots who refuse to pretent Yucca MT is impermeable, a core requirement for a containment site.

    The Cato Inst has data on the billions in cost over runs to “clean up” nuclear sites. Thank god we pay a mil for cost recovery.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    If you think Solar is the solution, you’re an idiot.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If you think solar ISN’T the solution, you’re an idiot. Luckily we already knew that you were an idiot– you’ve proved it repeatedly by what you’ve said in other areas.

    There’s enough energy in the sunlight striking the earth to power everything on the planet with a single solar farm in the Sahara Desert. (That wouldn’t be the most efficient way to do it, but it proves a point.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    You lose, Paulus. The damage caused by Fukushima alone is worse than the entire damage caused by every rare earth mine in China added together. Try again!

    StevieB Reply:

    Solar energy represents 0.1% of U.S. energy consumption. Currently natural gas is 24.7% and can produce power for around 6 cents per kilowatt-­hour which is half of the cost of solar. If solar prices can be brought down to competitive prices another disadvantage of solar power is that it produces electricity only during part of the day. Photovoltaic panels efficiently produce power for about five and half hours a day, when the sun is most directly overhead. Solar thermal systems can operate a bit longer, because the heated water can drive turbines later into the afternoon but is currently limited to about seven hours a day.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    If you use molten salts, you can run solar thermal 24/7 actually.

    StevieB Reply:

    Using molten salts instead of water to transport the heat from the central tower to the steam generator will enable a solar thermal facility to store the heat for much longer and produce electricity for up to 16 hours a day.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Molten salt, baby!

    StevieB Reply:

    Molten salts store heat longer but increase the price of production. Without government subsidies for new energy technology it will be decades before it can be made profitable.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In places that aren’t very cold – let’s call them “California” for simplicity – the needs of air conditioning vs. heating are such that peak demand occurs near peak insolation. Forget expensive power plant installations in ecologically sensitive areas; it’s perfectly fine to put solar panels on rooftops, and the main issue is how to keep reducing the cost of small-scale solar.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The problem is quite simply that solar panels are still relatively expensive. They’re getting cheaper very fast.

    More importantly, energy storage is getting much cheaper much quicker.

    I happen to be working with some people who have major breakthroughs in both. Manufacturable with existing equipment. It’ll be in production within 10 years even if their attempt to make money off it fails (if it fails, they plan to publish everything).

    jimsf Reply:

    The amount of nuclear so called “waste” produced per household is miniscule and can be stored safely. Rods can be recycled. the nuclear fear in this country is beyond hysteria and its unfounded

    Nuclear is much cleaner than oil and coal. Not that im worried about greenhouses gases, personally, but I do want us to produce more energy domestically and solar will never be able to meet our huge industrial demands.

    Joey Reply:

    It would be nice if we could find a political solution to fuel reprocessing…

    joe Reply:

    Why not a technical solution because there isn’t an ecologically & geologically stable, dry, inert area to dump the stuff. Yucca Mt is a political, not a technical solution.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Are you terminally ignorant of everything? Yucca Mountain was shut down for political not technical reasons, the same with the IFR and other recycling solutions.

    Joe Reply:

    No, I am not ill. Yucca Mt fails to meet the design cirteria – it is hydrologically active.

    I have done consulting for a nuclear site on how to use ecology to design long term barriers rather than construct impermeable surface barriers which would eventually crack and fail.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, but no. The Obama Administration came in and sandbagged Yucca Mountain. The fact that Harry Reid (from Nevada) is the Senate majority leader kind of contributed to this.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The GAO report clearly stated it was political reasoning not technical which killed Yucca Mountain.mTry again.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Not that im worried about greenhouses gases, personally, but …

    No fair Jim! You can’t use reality and real-world hands-on experience in these conversations! That’s cheating! How are all the armchair critics supposed to compete with real-world hands-on experience? …

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You’re going to hang your hat on the opnion of a guy that sells train tickets? Really? I mean, that’s where I would go for advice on market demand for sure.

    joe Reply:

    Jimsf,

    Clean is a imprecise term.

    Where can you safer store material with that long a half life? Who pays? If we produce electricity and have to guard the material for thousands of years then how do you factor that into the cost of production ?

    Consequences of failure are high.

    Any interest in buy some low cost farm land in Japan? That’s not the waste, that’s just the operational risk.

    Given the current accident rate and low fraction of power plants in use. if we increase nuclear power ten fold to substitute oil then let us extrapolate the two major 1986 and 2011 incidents in 25 years.

    That’s a major accident every 2-3 years. The land put out of comission for what ? 3-4 generations?

    No thank you.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Don’t be such a wuss.

  7. Tony d.
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 10:01
    #7

    You know, if you really think about it, rising gas prices actually support the argument that building at the bookends should take precedence over the ICS. I don’t know about you, but all of my gas is consumed commuting from Gilroy to SJ, not for the rare (maybe once a year at most) drive or flight to LA. But I digress; the revised of the “revised” business plan is to include BOTH the ICS AND urban bookends. We shall see..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are alternatives to driving for Gilroy-San Jose trips without building anything at all.

    joe Reply:

    If they upgrade the UP ROW to San Jose to two tracks, they could express from Gilroy to San Jose in ~30 minutes. No need to build at the bookends, just use some funds to create feeder lines to the HSR backbone.

    Joey Reply:

    The right-of-way and tracks are still UP-owned, meaning they are subject to the associated delays, still 100% FRA-dependent, and likely speed-limited.

    Jon Reply:

    Right now, south of Diridon station the ROW is UP owned but one track is UP and one track is PCJPB. After Tamien station the PCJPB track ends and Caltrain uses the single UP track for the rest of the journey to Gilroy. It would not surprise me if part of the “bookends” plan was to continue that PCJPB track all the way to Gilroy and install quad gates for a 110mph speed limit. That way connecting diesel service could be run from a temporary terminus Gilroy HSR station to SF. Electrification or an FRA waiver for SJ – Gilroy is unlikely.

    Jerry Reply:

    The Amtrak Coast Starlight also uses the ONE track.

    Joey Reply:

    Incorrect. The PCJPB owns the ROW almost as far as Capitol.

    Jon Reply:

    Okay, but that doesn’t change any of my argument.

    Peter Reply:

    And it’s two tracks south of Tamien until Coyote.

    Jon Reply:

    …which also doesn’t change any of my argument. What’s with all this pedantry?

    Nathanael Reply:

    People who like trains tend to be pedants. :-)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Install a track and quad gates so that three or four years later they can rip it all out and do the grade separations for HSR. Sounds like a plan.

    Jon Reply:

    Depends what route they select for Gilroy – SJ. I reckon a Hwy 101 alignment is most likely due to opposition from UP and the towns on the ROW.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So build another track, install quad gates and then abandon it 5 or 6 years later when the HSR line opens. Sounds equally good.

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    There would still be local traffic.

    Peter Reply:

    Even doubling the current number of trains between Gilroy and Tamien wouldn’t justify double-tracking.

    Tony d. Reply:

    At this point I’ll take simply increased service to Gilroy/MH for Caltrain: midday, evening and weekend service. Doesn’t need to be electrified, double-tracked, etc. Maybe once the primary SJ-SF line is upgraded, electrified they can use the current fleet for this purpose.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Tony d.,

    No doubt at all you’d take it!

    And in return I’ll take free BART from SF to Berkeley/Oakland and free Muni and AC Transit — per capita, per human, per resident, per rider that’s a lot cheaper than what you’re asking us for.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Serious question: what’s the cost of this? Put another way, what’s the cost of quad gates, depreciated over 5 years, and how does it compare to (say) the interest cost on front-loading a grade-separation by 5 years?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Quad gates are usually 1/10 the cost of grade separations. Does that answer your question?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Grade separations done on the cheap and not built well last 50 years. For instance, look at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Grade crossings done well last at least a century.
    What’s the market for slightly used quad gate crossings and how much does it cost to uninstall them, ship and install them someplace else?

    joe Reply:

    Same problem hold in SoCal. Same exact proposal to double UP tracks in So Cal. to feed HSR so it is doable.

    Is electrifying to Gilroy unlikely? It’s part of the current plan.

    1. If Caltrain wants to cut operational costs they’ll need to migrate to electric service.

    2. Politically, it’s easier to get a lump of cash to electrify than to find a steady stream of operational money to run both types of service.

    3. Electric reduces pollution and air quality standards in Santa Clara are tightening.

    4. Diesel means transferring at San Jose for electric Caltrain. That’s two transfers if you get off HSR in Gilroy and board diesel Caltrain.

    5. Without electrification, there isn’t any long term rail for the South county of Santa Clara expect that contribution to Caltrain will be cut.

    6. BART. Without South County the truncated Caltrain service parallels a Ring the Bay BART.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    1. If Caltrain wants to cut operational costs they’ll need to migrate to electric service.

    Caltrain, brilliantly, plans to increase its operating costs by electrifying.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    joe Reply:

    The switch to electric power will reduce harmful emissions up to 90 percent.
    Electric trains are cheaper to operate.
    Electric trains are significantly quieter, a plus for neighbors living and working near the corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    No, what Richard is saying is correct. CalTrain’s own numbers show an increase in operating costs after electrification. Not that this should be the case. Electrification, done competently, will reduce operating costs.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Out of curiosity, where is this increase in operating cost coming from? Is electricity itself more expensive there? Is Caltrain including the maintenance of the catenary as part of the operating cost? Is Caltrain looking at MU cars, which legally come under FRA jurisdiction as locomotives, with a more stringent inspection routine?

    And an important consideration: What are Caltrain’s estimates of changes in ridership that might come with the electrification? If you assume no change in ridership but add in the maintenance of the overhead system, you could have an overall increase in cost. However, there is some experience in the Eastern US that suggests the overall improvement in performance from electrification brings in more passengers and makes a rail operation more competitive. Was any of this looked at, and is there a possibility that the estimates might be too conservative?

    http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_lrt_2006-03a.htm

    http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_lrt_2006-05a.htm

    General links page, from which the two above came from, included for reference:

    http://www.lightrailnow.org/industry_issues.htm

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Out of curiosity, where is this increase in operating cost coming from? Is electricity itself more expensive there?

    Apparently electricity is more expensive. The EIR calculates some additional $5.69 million/year (relative to diesel) just to maintain the electrical system. However, the EIR also notes that electrification becomes more cost effective with greater number of trains (though you’d think 114 would be more than enough). The details starting on page 2-47 of the EIR.

    Personally, the calculations don’t make a lot of sense. Note that rolling-stock maintenance would increase by some $4 million per year — for brand new electric trainsets! The footnote explains this away by saying the new trains would be maintained to a “higher standard”, even though one would expect the reverse (old trains generally need more maintenance).

    Putting my tinfoil hat on, I would say the study has been sandbagged to make electrification look bad. Crazy, I know, but Caltrain electrification has never been politically popular.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thanks for the link to the EIR; I’ll want to take a look at that.

    “Putting my tinfoil hat on, I would say the study has been sandbagged to make electrification look bad. Crazy, I know, but Caltrain electrification has never been politically popular.”

    While EMU maintenance does have a “train of locomotives” aspect to it, at the same time you also have only the electric traction and rolling gear parts to maintain–no main prime mover, with its auxiliaries such as a cooling system, and no main generator (diesel-electric reference here). In locomotive practice at least, eliminating the prime mover and its auxiliaries cuts maintenance costs by about a third; pantographs and a main transformer don’t cost as much as that big engine.

    I’m not sure about the number of trains being “high enough;” I’ve got to look up what was running on the Pennsy and the New Haven when those two roads started their electrification programs. One aspect to consider is that the savings aren’t going to be as high going from diesel to electric as they were from steam to electric.

    The real puzzle you have is that bit about a sabotage or “sandbag” effort because the electrification isn’t “popular.” Granted, initial cost is something to deal with (and it’s never minor on something like this), but I would think the advantages of getting off oil, better performance, and quieter operation would be great selling points. Any speculation on this lack of “political” popularity? Perhaps this is something that just isn’t spectacularly “visible” to the public and the politicians?

    Clem Reply:

    @DE: maintenance standards are higher for locomotives. EMU = locomotive, as far as the FRA is concerned.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Silly me. I had just assumed Caltrain included this as part of their waiver.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, given the amount of time Caltrain has until electrification is completed, it could, if it wanted to, apply for an additional waiver. As well as apply for a CPUC waiver from the retardedly anachronistic GO-26D.

    Clem Reply:

    The “waiver” is extremely narrow, despite all the magic that people ascribe to it. It concerns a small handful of crashworthiness requirements. The rest of the phone book’s worth of FRA requirements, from the bell to the ‘F’ stencil, still apply. The specifications for these EMUs are going to be so complex that Caltrain had better hire some consultants to start working on them. The contract will no doubt include several technical volumes, and the whole notion of buying something European “off the shelf” is something that should be nipped in the bud right now.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The world class manufacturers have a broad portfolio of FRA compliant commuter equipment available at competitive prices, that cope well with 8 inch high “platforms”

    Jonathan Reply:

    @adirondacker: SMART found otherwise. And how many of these are high-acceleration double-deckers?

    Can CSHRA buy “off-the-shelf” HSR trainsets and run them on dedicated, freight-excluded lines?
    If so, why coudn’t Caltrain buy off-the-shelf UIC trainsets and run them on hypothetical 3rd and 4th tracks on the Corridor (at least while CAHSR has idle capacity)

    Clem, are you saying that the eventual operator will be stuck with Acela-like regulation?
    if so, we might as well all give up now.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    SMART wasn’t looking hard enough. They could have gone all the way to far off exotic San Diego to see an operator who runs off the shelf-ish trains that aren’t conventional commuter cars.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    SMART’s “requirements” were bought and controlled by LTK Engineering Services.

    LTK Engineering Services subsequently — surprise, surprise! — was awarded contracts to specify the unique trains that their unique “requirements” demanded.

    Oh, and Caltrain’s rolling stock consultant for Caltrain’s “unique” requirements? One guess.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals on the job.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals on the job.

    That’s more a problem with who hired them than what they did. I’d throw in a soupçon of California exceptionaablism too, how could some consulting firm from east of the Sierra Nevada possibly know anything at all about conditions in California…..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sprinter runs on a full waiver, with time-share, just like RIVERLine (or the O-Train, for a vastly better-executed example). Operations like this are considered light rail in North America, even if the operating practices are similar to regional rail in Germany.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The most important thing to understand about Caltrain’s waiver is that all of the downsides are entirely self-inflicted.

    Caltrain’s “Rail Transformation Director” Bob “CBOSS” Doty freely admitted to me in May 2008 that Caltrain had the contractual, legal, technical and political wherewithal to separate and withdraw Caltrain from the dead weight of FRA regulation, but that he decided instead that it would be a “fun project to work with freight.”

    A fun project.

    And that’s where we are. Fun.

    Jonathan Reply:

    really, Richard?
    In a saner world, an organlzation with the goals of CalTrain would have grounds to fire him. For cause.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Jonathan,

    You’re assuming that anybody at Caltrain or involved with (de)funding Caltrain has a problem with hundreds of millions of added cost or decades of delay.

    Bad assumption!

    Joey Reply:

    Where specifically are you talking about in SoCal?

    Peter Reply:

    “Diesel means transferring at San Jose for electric Caltrain. That’s two transfers if you get off HSR in Gilroy and board diesel Caltrain.”

    Not necessarily. The current plan is actually to maintain the newer diesels and the newer Bombardier cars for their Baby Bullet, Gilroy, and possibly future Dumbarton services. Hence the “need” to maintain low-floor cars and platforms.

    Jon Reply:

    Correct. You can run diesel trains on electrified track, at least as far as 4th and King

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They can, but shouldn’t, certainly if those are heavy-duty loco-hauled trains. As I keep saying, if Bob Doty moves to the MBTA, both the Bay Area and New England will see their average competence level improve.

    Clem Reply:

    The latest final EIR for the electrification project has descoped down to just SF – Tamien. There are no official plans to electrify Tamien to Gilroy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I have a feeling that when HSR comes through they might install some.

    Clem Reply:

    On the HSR alignment, sure.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Where, in between the HSR trains they could run a Caltrain local every now and then.

    Clem Reply:

    …that would stop at all the local stops along the HSR alignment, like Capitol, Morgan Hill, San Martin, and others on the list of 24 stations prescribed in Prop 1A. And the hefty track fees will no doubt be recovered through booming fare revenue, if current trends are any indication.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Remind us again how many stations there are on the Peninsula and how many of them are proposed HSR stops. I’m sure the same kind of thing is going to happen in metro Los Angeles. No reason why it can’t happen south of San Jose just like it will be happening north of San Jose.
    If the current booming trends are indicative they should go with buses as RM suggested.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s all good. I was just trying to out-snark the snark-master, and realized the futility of it all.

    egk Reply:

    Well, if HSR comes though to SJ from the North rather than the South, there might be reason to make the SJ-Gilroay track HSR-compatible to provide one-seat rides from the Gilroy/Monterey Bay metropolis to LA and Sacramento. And once SJ-Gilroy has electrified track, you might as well run cheap EMUs there and maybe there will be some ridership…

    My back of the envelope calculation is that the $100-$150 million or so it would cost to make SF-Gilroy HSR-compatible (electrify and have quad-gates) could be amortized over 15 years at a cost of under $5 a ticket, if the CAHSRs 7,000 daily Gilroy HSR trips is in the ballpark.

    Joe Reply:

    The EIR for electrification is for the current project. The south county electrification is part of the long term plan for Caltrain, no need to put that 2nd part in the EIR. I expect a second EIR.

    CA may decide to run local service on HSR line – or not. I personally think building to san jose is worth the early effort and would like to see that happen sooner and eliminate the need to add track to UP ROW.

    Electrifying to gilroy would let CA postpone the HSR segment connecting to san jose. The single transfer and electric service out of GIlroy would be temporary but I think one endorsed by every NIMBY in PAMPA as a permenant solution.

    rant Reply:

    Thinking…..if you spend the money on the bookends, it will suck up all the money and we will never see HSR. Build true HSR from Palmdale to San Jose and the public will demand the bookends be completed.

  8. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 15:25
    #8

    Last week was a hectic week for rail and transit advocates (along with organizations focused on smart growth, labor,
    environmental protection, domestic equipment manufacturing and supply, and so on and so forth), who have been fighting
    tooth-and-nail to oppose a House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee transportation reauthorization that would gut
    funding for public transportation and continue to starve the Intercity and High-Speed Rail program. Sometime this week, the
    U.S. House will vote on H.R. 7, the so-called “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.” A coalition of transportation allies
    —including Transportation for America and the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association (along with countless others)—in
    opposing the bill last Thursday. So many people called in that House lines were jammed, and servers briefly went down under
    the strain! Itʼs important that House members vote “no” on H.R. 7, opposing the drastic transit provisions, the California highspeed
    rail prohibition, the provision penalizing transit systems that operate rail lines and the privatizing of Amtrak food service
    pax rail news

  9. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 15:36
    #9

    Ot but perhaps of interest:

    The Michigan Department of Transportation joined with Amtrak last week to announce that they have received approval from
    the Federal Railroad Administration to increase maximum train speeds in western Michigan and northern Indiana to 110 mph.
    MDOT and Amtrak will reveal more details at an event held February 15th. The green-light was given following the successful
    implementation and testing of a type of Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system on Amtrak-owned track between
    Kalamazoo, Michigan and Porter, Indiana. The increase will be implemented on a corridor used by the Wolverine Service
    (Pontiac-Detroit-Ann Arbor-Chicago, with three daily round-trips) and the Blue Water (Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago,
    daily). “This is the first expansion of regional high speed rail outside the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor,” said Amtrak
    President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “With our partners in Michigan, we will extend this 110 mph service from Kalamazoo to
    the stateʼs central and eastern regions in the coming years.” Amtrak has been working to steadily raise speeds on the corridor
    since 2001, when the top operating speed was increased from 79 mph to 90 mph. The railroad—in conjunction with General
    Electric and the FRA—introduced Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) installed on the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line
    between Porter and Kalamazoo. “Our state put the world on wheels and continues to be a leading transportation innovator,”
    said MDOT State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle. “Recognizing changing demographics and a burgeoning interest in
    passenger rail travel, we are proud to be the first state outside the Northeast corridor to enable 110 mph service.” The next
    phase of the expansion plan involves extending ITCS to Dearborn, just eight miles west of Detroit. It is one of the major
    spokes of a higher-speed Midwestern rail hub that will extend out from Chicago. The State of Illinois is currently developing
    110 mph service between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri.

    Jonathan Reply:

    well, golly.

    Q. How may decades did this take?
    A: 1.7 (contract awarded 1995)

    Q: how many decades did it take them to get from 79mph to 110mph operation?
    A: 1.0 (10 years)

    Q: how many millions over initial budget did this run?
    A.: ..?

    Q. Why is Caltrain demanding a custom system based on ITCS technology?
    A: …?

    Q: What is the impact on CSHRA? HSR trains will now have to interoperate with *three* ATP systems: ETCS (native HSR territory), ETMS/V-ETMS (BNSF/UP), and .. Caltrain’s unique-in-the-world CBOSS. How many exra hundreds of millions will that integratoin of safety-critical systems cost?

    so perhaps not so OT after all.

  10. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 15:53
    #10

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:
    February 11th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
    Not that im worried about greenhouses gases, personally, but …

    No fair Jim! You can’t use reality and real-world hands-on experience in these conversations! That’s cheating! How are all the armchair critics supposed to compete with real-world hands-on experience? …

    Im not sure what you are implying. but I’m not a climate change denier or anything like that. I just personally don’t care one way or the other since I’ll be dead in 30 years or less. Climate change and greenhouse gases are like abortion, they have nothing to do with me. Same goes for the thousands of years or whatever for nuclear waste.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re right, but strictly speaking, starting a nuclear war on Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Vietnam doesn’t affect any of us, either.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Between this and your comments about people dying in the street, you’ve moved me with the depth of your affection for your fellow man.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Unless you happen to live near a coast (in the case of greenhouse gases), or near a nuclear reactor (in the case of nuclear waste), sure, this makes sense….

    …but wait, you live in California. Suggest rethinking this.

  11. brian
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 17:55
    #11

    totally off topic, but a sad tale of how tea partiers and libertarians view the world. the following article is about how a former chairman of the Reason Foundation (a major reason why FL did not go forward with HSR) is fighting the city of Tampa over a sidewalk that would improve pedestrian safety. This clueless old fart definitely has a ‘I got mine, screw the rest of you’ mentality! Too bad the older generation can’t let go of the reigns quick enough!

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/extend-bayshores-sidewalk-not-in-my-front-yard-says-a-lover-of-logic-and/1215100

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Whooee!! Actually, I have a certain amount–a limited amount–of sympathy (he did pay for the trees and things)–and he restored an old house, always a good thing in my book, but beyond that. . .well, most of the commentors thought the same thing as Jim and myself.

    A few samples:

    “Let it go until he passes. He won’t live forever and there is no overwhelming emergency.”

    “Well, his legacy is that when he does die people will remember him as being a mean-spirited, selfish man with boorish manners and an utter lack of concern for the well being of his neighbors and any other human who walks in that area.”

    “Typical stubborn old Tampa male. Surprised he worked for Coca Cola. I thought it would have been A.I.G.”

    “When someone dies in front of his home due to his selfishness, I hope this article and his quotes are used in a lawsuit to lighten his wallet a bit.”

    “No different than when another old coot, a Mrs. Lykes, I believe, accosted city crews to stop a sidewalk in front of her property a ltitle further along Bayshore in Ballast Point.

    “It should NOT be analyzed as a cost issue; rather as a safety issue. Is the safety of many other citizens not worth disturbing his precious landscaping?

    “He sounds like the type of engineer Ford Motors had who decided it was better to pay for people burned to death in Pinto crashes than to fix the safety problem. Love those engineers.”

    “Libertarian politics-that’s code for “I got mine-screw you”. Maybe a couple of gallons of herbicide applied at night will take care of the hedges.”

    VBobier Reply:

    I have a possible solution, Paint the curb RED as in “NO Parking” where people refuse to have sidewalks in front of their properties on the City Owned ROW and do this City wide, after he dies put a sidewalk in and sandblast the Curb back to bare concrete or paint the curb black if the curb is made of asphalt.

  12. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 18:51
    #12

    I have to agree with the guy. The landscaping is gorgeous. Its takes decades to grow that. If you can’t walk without getting run over, or don’t have brains enough to cross the street. ( hello how bout a simple crosswalk to the sidewalk on the other side) then you shouldn’t be out wandering about the planet to begin with.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If he wanted to own gorgeous landscaping he should have put it on his own property, not the city’s.

    Peter Reply:

    Where’s the “like” button in this thing?

    Maybe he thought he would own the property by adverse possession…

    jimsf Reply:

    The landscaping though, is a net asset to the neighborhood overall.

    Can a person manage to walk 100 feet without stepping into traffic? Or god forbid just cross the street. Or put a narrow sidewalk along side the landscaping

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dead people along the road aren’t a net asset to the neighborhood.

    Peter Reply:

    The lack of a sidewalk is a liability, though.

    My grandfather lived in a neighborhood with basically no sidewalks. There was also basically no traffic there, either. That road looks pretty busy. The article stated that a jogger has already bene killed on that block.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Where I live, they know how to work sidewalks around landscaping. This is easy; demolish his hedge (those grow fast) and run the sidewalk between his palm trees and his house. Perhaps it could run around that fountain/pond.

    What, he doesn’t like that idea either?…. I guess we see whether he actually gives a damn.

  13. jimsf
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 18:54
    #13

    when I lived in SF I didn’t care about gas prices. But out here where you have to drive, gas prices hit low and middle income people hard. When it hits 5 bucks, Ill start taking the train to sf instead of driving in for sure.

  14. Emma
    Feb 11th, 2012 at 23:10
    #14

    I know this is off-topic but it sounds very interesting.

    http://www.benefitcorp.net/

    Benefit Corporations are a new class of corporation that 1) creates a material positive impact on society and the environment; 2) expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and 3) reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.

    Once they sign up to the law, they are required to fulfill all the points to be considered a B corporation. Of course only very progressive states have passed such laws yet (including California) http://www.bcorporation.net/publicpolicy

    Wouldn’t it make sense to require contractors to pass as B corporations before we let them build our HSR system? After all it is supposed to benefit people and the environment while not screwing us over.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    YES

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Great. A new way to rape peoples wallets.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Nonsense, it’s obviously consensual knowledge of the wallet. And quite frankly, rather necessary given the explicitly sociopathic nature of modern capitalist corporations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Emma, the most beneficial thing that the HSRA can do to the environment is to complete the project on a reasonable budget, without excessive environmental impacts (e.g. gutting EIR requirements in order to force an above-ground alignment in ecologically sensitive areas). This means not requiring contractors to jump through hoops to qualify – the more contractors say “Screw it, I’m working for the private sector,” the fewer contractors would be left and the more likely they’d be to be the kind that can’t get private-sector work.

    joe Reply:

    Emma, the most beneficial thing that the HSRA can do to the environment is to complete the project on a reasonable budget, without excessive environmental impacts (e.g. gutting EIR requirements in order to force an above-ground alignment in ecologically sensitive areas).

    This high speed rail system was 100% over budget and is a good example of why it is so fucken important that this and this project alone be so heavily scrutinized and agonized.

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

    Initial cost estimates, however, had been deliberately understated and the actual figures were nearly double at about 400 billion yen. As the budget shortfall became clear in 1963, Sogo resigned to take responsibility.

    Imagine ho much better Japan would due if this HSR didn’t run 100% over budget.

    I sometimes cry thinking about the lost opportuinites – they might have built more and eventually constructed a world class system

    Alas. All we can do is not repute this horrible mistake.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Using the CPI conversion from measuringworth.com, the relative value of that ¥400 billion in 2009 was ¥1.72 trillion. Dividing by that by the April 2009 exchange rate (the most favorable one for the dollar) and the length of the Tokaido Shinkansen we get a relative value of around 2009 $33.75 million/km.

    What’s the cost/km of CAHSR again?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The cost per kilometer ( or mile or furlongs or knots ) depends on which estimate you think is reasonable. The naysayers divide a gazillion by 750 and come up with a three and half zillion per km.

    joe Reply:

    I think it is cheaper to build in a metropolitan area that was leveled by carpet bombing. HSR started less than 15 years after the entire area was pulverized into ash and dust.

    joe Reply:

    Search google images for post war tokyo.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Tokyo was quite built up by the mid-fifties- rapid economic growth and the boost from the Korean War helped. By the time shinkansen construction began in 1959, Tokyo had its present-day density and save for skyscrapers, its skyline (pics taken on the day the Tokaido Shinaknsen opened):
    http://mainichi.jp/showa/graph/20081120/11.jpg

    http://mainichi.jp/showa/graph/20081120/13.jpg

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Actually, the original Japanese system did come in under budget–the real one that Shinji Sogo used. He was the one who deliberately understated the cost of this railroad for fear that the politicians wouldn’t support the project. And if they didn’t support the project, it wouldn’t have been built at all.

    What would Japan have looked like in this alternate history? We’ll never really know, but there is a possibility–and Sogo may have been considering this–that Japan would have gone in for freeways, like America. and let the rail system wither. I think we can be glad he did this, even as we wish things had been different.

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

    It looks like Sogo’s house has been preserved as a museum to the “fourth President of JNR:”

    http://www.city.saijo.ehime.jp/kankou/tetsudo2.html

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Japan would have gone in for freeways, like America. and let the rail system wither.

    Japan imports almost all of it’s energy. It’s also densely populated, especially along the Tokaido corridor. They would have gone for trains….

    Andy M. Reply:

    >>Japan imports almost all of it’s energy.

    in contrast to California?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much oil was California importing in 1959 when Japan was deciding on the Shinkansen? How much does it import now?

    Emma Reply:

    I disagree. The ends don’t justify the means. You can’t build a HSR system by destroying everything else. It doesn’t work that way.

    On top of that, the authority is acting as the monopsony here. They set the cost of the segments. All contractors can do is provide their plan on how they will construct the network and how fast they will do that. Alternatively they can propose the same segment for a lower price. They are free to join or leave. There a plenty of contractors. The sooner we weed out the bad ones who are only interested in profit, the better!

    Let’s not get in the habit of the federal government by going with the highest bidder because those are the ones with the most lobbying money.

    Bulbous Reply:

    Not sure how the CHSRA is setting the cost for the segments? Here in Western Australia, the public companies (Main Roads WA, Watercorp, etc) will advise the budget for the works to be done, and then tendering happens for the works, which usually comes in well under the original budget. New freeway interchanges being budgeted at $125 million AUD being awarded at $92 million with no cost overruns (from traffic light four way intersection to full diamond interchange with loop in one quadrant). Another one had a budget of $55 million, winning tender was for $30 million, and they then used the left over budget to complete the next interchange along (both four way traffic lights to diamond interchanges) as a variation to the original works package.

    The contractor should not only be competing on the timeline for the works, and the construction methodolgy, but also on the price. If this is not happening in CA, you guys have some serious issues.

    Emma Reply:

    True. This is how it should be. However, in the United States, government and state-owned corporations don’t have the guts to actually use their monopsonistic powers to drive down prices because they fear that everybody will scream socialism. It’s ridiculous over here. That’s also the main reason why they are already projecting CHSR to cost $100 billion. They are already assuming that they can’t make any savings. From a European point of view, this authority and the governments are a bunch of wussies getting their asses handed to them by the big corporations.

    It’s a sorry state and if you ask me, if this continues for another decade, the US will soon join the third world countries.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “However, in the United States, government and state-owned corporations don’t have the guts to actually use their monopsonistic powers to drive down prices because they fear that everybody will scream socialism.”

    Absolutely correct. And creating this situation is what the rich executives who run the Republican Party have been up to for the last 50 years (at least).

    “It’s a sorry state and if you ask me, if this continues for another decade, the US will soon join the third world countries.”
    This is already a third world country, complete with election thefts and corrupt courts (2000) — the question is whether we will recover.

Comments are closed.