CHSRA and Amtrak to Collaborate on Train Orders

Jan 17th, 2013 | Posted by

The California High Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak today announced that they will work together to order trains for their high speed rail systems:

Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, will ask companies starting today for information on building as many as 60 trains, which will add units on the Northeast Corridor, replace Acela trains and provide equipment for California, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said.

New trains might cost $35 million to $55 million each, Boardman said in Washington, declining to estimate the value of a contract. Amtrak and California, which plans to begin fast- train rail operations in 2022, will seek bids from companies by September, Boardman said.

“If everyone’s out issuing their own orders, everyone’s subject to what the industry can provide,” said Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “We can drive the market in a way we can’t if we purchase separately.”

A joint purchase order could help lower the cost for both Amtrak and the CHSRA, and it could also help provide more operational and regulatory clarity across the country, especially in efforts to fix FRA rules regarding weight and crashworthiness so that off-the-shelf trainsets can be purchased. It would also make it easier to convince manufacturers to build the trains in the US if there’s a big order for them from both Amtrak and California.

On the other hand, it may be too early to tell if Amtrak and California are going to have the same operational needs. A trainset that makes sense for the Northeastern Corridor, where Amtrak operates the Acela high speed trains, may not make sense for California HSR, and vice-versa. California should retain some flexibility in which trainsets it decides to adopt and there may be good reasons not be tied to whatever Amtrak chooses.

Still, this joint approach definitely seems worth exploring. The potential benefits are significant and presumably there would be a national HSR standard in terms of operations and regulations, making it easier to build routes across the country and in turn to help manufacturers more easily know what to build for the American market.

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  1. BMF from San Diego
    Jan 17th, 2013 at 22:38

    Confirmed. California’s initial service will not be high-speed. But, it will be “fast”.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Yep, they will have a “fast” route between the major cities of Fresno and Palmdale, per their business plan. Obviously this will be a lucrative service that people will love to ride, even if it means a “low speed” journey into lovely downtown Burbank. Cha-ching!

    Essentially, this is the admission that’s going to be a long-ass time before anyone boards a train in SF and zips down to LA in four hours. Keep your fingers crossed for the next 20 years, friends.

    Joey Reply:

    How do they intend to put diesels through the numerous tunnels that will be part of the tehachapi route?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Tunnels cost money – PB prefers hollow core, easier for Tutor-Saliba – so we will have to see how many remain and how long after Value Engineering.

  2. MarkB
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 00:21

    According a report in (sorry, I’m not good at embedding links)

    And as reported in Railway Gazette ( )

    This should put to rest any tinfoil-hat notion that CA will be ordering 160mph trains.

    MarkB Reply:

    Sorry, the quotes didn’t come through

    Specifically, Amtrak is seeking a HSR train set able to operate at the current NEC maximum speed of 150 mph and can subsequently operate at up to 220 mph as the tracks and other infrastructure is improved to support the higher speeds. In addition, the preferred train set has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab car on each end that allows for passenger occupancy and has a seating capacity of 400 to 600 passengers.

    CHSRA is seeking a HSR train set able to operate up to 220 mph and has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab on each end that allows for passenger occupancy that has a seating capacity of 450 to 500 passengers per 656 feet train set.

    Railway Gazette:
    Amtrak is seeking a distributed-traction trainset capable of operation at up to 240 km/h on the existing line and 350 km/h on any subsequent new alignment.

    Similarly, CHSRA requires dedicated rolling stock to operate the 210 km Madera – Bakersfield first phase of its planned San Francisco – Los Angeles route. The authority is seeking a 200 m long trainset suitable for 350 km/h operation, seating between 450 and 500 passengers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Y’all are taking this offensive literally, at the hardware level. The real objective is an Amtrak(read Federal Government)takeover of the CHSRA and absorbing its operating deficit.

    They have finally grasped the danger of privatization and the resultant inevitable financial failure. Amtrakking will put an end to any talk of private operators, private investment, yada yada.

  3. TomW
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 06:44

    1) This should be a joint exercise by CAHSR and Amtrak, not the CAHSR agreeing to buy whatever Amtrak chooses.
    2) “It may be too early to tell if Amtrak and California are going to have the same operational needs”. I am struggling to think what about the trainsets would need to be so different for trains CA and the NE corridor. The interiors may be different, but that’s about as significant as the paint colour on the outside.

    Jim Reply:

    Clem in another thread said there’s a trade off between tilt and noise. Since California intends to send HSR trainsets through cities at 220 mph, low noise is essential. Since the NEC is curvy, tilt is useful. But you can’t have both.

    Joey Reply:

    There’s also a trade off between speed and tilt. As it is, I don’t think there are any trains that tilt more than a couple of degrees and has a top speed greater than 150ish mph.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Here is a really optimistic idea.

    Consider that the RFI will get back a bunch of statements from manufacturers about what they can do.

    Amtrak and the CHSRA can then take those statements back to the FRA and say, “Look, you HAVE TO CHANGE THE FOLLOWING RULES — no manufacturer can comply with these rules while meeting *either* of our needs.”

    The RFI may be a way of getting leverage on the FRA to get the worst rules changed. I can hope, right?

  4. Jo
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 08:38

    Seimen’s Velaro series is running trains in Germany, Spain, Russia, and China; I do not think they would have any trouble meeting the NEC and California’s requirements. (Also if selected, they would be built in California – Sacramento.) Seimen’s Velaro would also meet the cab car requirement, as would Alstom’s AGV. Would the cab car requirement knock some trainsets out of contention like Talgo?

    MarkB Reply:

    I would think adding a cab car to the other end would be a minor matter, especially if it means the difference between bidding and not bidding on a 60+ train contract.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Velaro is limited to about 100-130 mm of cant deficiency, which is less than the Acela has today.

    Also, what do you mean by “the cab car requirement”? Current FRA rules prohibit passengers in a leading cab car; in that sense the Talgo is more compliant than EMU designs like the Velaro. However, the FRA’s made noises in the direction of reforming those rules, and CAHSR’s design documents assume that trains will be EMUs, with an occupied leading cab car.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    However, from what became Velaro, there are tilting trains based on the same platform (German ICE-T(D) has many style and design components with the ICE-3).

    I would guess with some smart planning, more than 80 percent of the components could be shared between a 250 km/h tilting train and a 350 km/h high speed train.

    Jo Reply:

    Cab car requirement: it depends what CHSRA and Amtrak mean. Their joint memo dated 01-17-2013 sates “with a cab car on each end that allows for passenger occupancy”. Not every manufacture builds that way. It depends why they stated it like that; are they just trying to get the FRA to change their regulations or are they trying to narrow it down to just Seimens and Alstom? If read literally, it looks like only Seimens Velaro and Alstom AGV will meet the requirement. Both trains are very very good, but I would hate to see the Spanish, Japanese, and Korean manufacturers not being considered – they also have excellent offerings; and if opened up, you will get more choices and competition.

    Jo Reply:

    P.S. Siemens will build their high speed trains in Sacramento. I may just dreaming, but a high speed train touting a California design built here for California and export would mighty appealing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’re not just dreaming but completely delusional if you think a cost-added sheltered-workshop special-needs square-wheeled US product could possibly be exported.

    The only “market” is that of the consultancies and domestic shell corporations that profit only when competition is prohibited.

    joe Reply:

    Wages are hitting $15 a hour. Costs here are low relative to Europe and Japan and state givebacks to corporations for adding manufacturing are 100% certain.

    The expectation is with our opening market, the potential to sell large volume here combined with and low wages will entice profit seeking companies to build or expand manufacturing in the US.

    If “foreign” auto-companies, which have setup facilities here, ever export produce made in the US , it could happen with trains.

    Jo Reply:

    Indeed it can happen. When Sacramento first began its light rail system and bought light rail vehicles from Siemens, Seimens set up a manufacturing facility there. It now employs about 700 people, and also now builds light rail vehicles for export outside of California. It has bought adjacent land to build a facility to build high speed trains sets (if it gets selected) – this is fact. Other manufacturers may just do the same if selected. If Seimens gets selected to build the high speed trainsets, who is not to say that there will not be other contracts and more trains to build.

    Regardless of what happens to California’s HSR projects. Other states will pursue HSR. Texas is pursuing a privately funded project with Japanese interest. Also, once Florida gets a governor with a functioning brain, a high speed rail proposal may very well resurface there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But Siemens has trouble getting jobs in its own backyard. Insider politix trumps everything: BART with Bombardier; Muni with AnsaldoBreda.

    Jo Reply:

    Trouble getting jobs in their backyard? please explain. What has that got to do with Siemens plant and its fine 700 employees in Sacramento. CAHSRA is not BART or MUNI.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Everything about transit and transport in California is about politics and Siemens seems to have a hard time vending to the Bay Area and LA. San Diego was where they got started and seems to remain a stronghold for them.

    Overall the inner cities seem to be the more corrupt so that does segue to AnsaldoBreda, etc.

    Transit vehicles are not a great market in the US. You could divine that trend when GM left the bus business some years ago.

    “CAHSRA is not BART or MUNI.” No, the CHSRA gives every indication of being even more corrupt, heretofore thought impossible, certainly based on the atrocious, politically fixed, jaundiced, and twisted planning.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Obviously no trouble “getting jobs”.

    But what the hell are seven hundred people doing? Weaving baskets? Lobbying full-time for trade restrictions to exclude competition?

    Talk about US productivity and can-do US capitalism!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard: have you ever actually looked at a factory which does assembly? It involves a large number of people doing boring, menial, repetitive labor. Astounding amounts of this can’t be automated yet.

    Do you know *anything* about manufacturing?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bluntly, there are seven hundred people screwing in bolts and welding things and gluing fabric on things and putting tab “A” in slot “B”.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Jo

    What they are calling for is an EMU with a driver’s cabin at both ends. All high speed EMUs will comply with this requirement so it is not a problem.

  5. Reedman
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 09:38

    Will the Amtrak and CAHSR trains have the same floor height? Same platform height?

    Jo Reply:

    I think the NEC has what I call the old style high platforms; I always thought that California should have the low platforms with its HSR system. I hope this does not force California to go with higher platforms which I assume cost more to build. I also assume that lower profile trains have lower wind resistance and use less energy? I am not sure, but this is what I think. I do not know how significant this is?

    Jim Reply:

    California can decide what platform height to build after choosing a train floor height. If the high floor trains are cheaper with the same performance (or better performing for the same price) it can choose high floors and build high platforms. Or if low floor trains are preferable, build low platforms.

    The NEC is less locked in than it appears. Washington, Baltimore and Wilmington have existing low platforms. Philadelphia, New York and New Haven have enough platforms that one could be lowered and dedicated to high speed trains without too great an effect on the rest of the stations’ users. Providence has four tracks and could be reconstructed to a pair of high platforms and a pair of low; there isn’t that much traffic. Boston South is to be expanded and a low platform could be included. So only Newark, Stamford and Back Bay would present issues were offers of low floor trains to be clearly preferable.

    Alan F Reply:

    No, the NEC is locked into 48″ ATR (Above the Rails) high level platforms to the bone marrow. All of the Amtrak stations on the NEC, the Keystone East, the New Haven to Springfield corridor, most of the major stations on the Empire corridor, some stations south of DC either have 48″ ATR high level platforms or will be upgraded to such. No one would seriously suggest lowering the platform at Penn Station in NYC, 30th Street, or any other current high level platform on the NEC without building another one to replace it. Then there is LIRR, Metro-North, NJ Transit, SEPTA compatibility.

    The platform height is a critical one for the CA HSR to decide on. Whatever height is chosen, that will be the required height for the Xpress West system, any future HSR lines to Phoenix, and really the entire West for future HSR expansion. Is there a height specified in the CHSRA documents? The FRA should have a major role to play in this.

    Joey Reply:

    I have good reason to believe that the FRA having a major role in anything is a bad idea.

    Jim Reply:

    Clearance is likely to be a bigger problem.

    Suppose someone bids Richard’s ideal. There’s no problem for California. It hasn’t bored any tunnels yet. The specs on the tunnels get a bit wider, that’s all. But such a trainset won’t get through the existing New York or Baltimore tunnels.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When SF and Boston teamed up on the Boeing-Vertol, Boston imposed clearance restrictions not applicable to the City. All SF got was the elevator stairwell, as I recall.

    Joey Reply:

    More important than the specific platform height California chooses is that it is the same platform height CalTrain will use.

    thatbruce Reply:


    It needs to be the other way around. Caltrain has to commit to the same platform height as the CHSRA if we’re to have any hope of platform interoperability between the two. Metrolink needs to do the same but on a per-corridor basis (leaving them with a ‘low’ fleet and a ‘high’ fleet). The idea of Caltrain committing to the common sense option ( *cough*CBOSS*cough* ) is laughable.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There will be many times (10x) the number of regional rail users as fliers on the Flight Level Zero airline.

    The real needs of regional passengers (not the self-aggrandizement of incompetent insane agency fuckup employees and consultants and as-yet-unindicted criminals) should always trump those of the jet set, all other things being equal, which they are in this case.

    FL0 Surrogate Airline, with perhaps half a dozen shared stations, dictating the platform height and station configuration and ticketing arrangements and transfer convenience and capacity of around a hundred regional rail stations in both northern and southern California is bat shit insane — and is exactly what PBQD=CHSRA seeks to force on the state.

    Clem Reply:

    But that’s not how it works around here. Get over it already!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Caltrain will prevail over hsr on the Peninsula. It is inevitable. Many more patrons; a natural-born single-issue political lobby; they are likely to vote and of course locally; and in the case of the Peninsula they have money.

    Similarly the SF and PA tunnel schemes are clearly coming from the “downtown” crowd of truly deep pockets. These are the guys who tell Jerry, CEO Richard and PB-CHSRA what to do, not the other way around. 4-track tunnels are a rarity for obvious reasons, so I suggest the trend is moving strongly to more throttled capacity than heretofore.

    Consequently my advice to the PB-CHSRA cheerleaders is, as you’re in full retreat on the Peninsula, clear off your desks and get out those dusty old Altamont-Dumbarton plans from the archives.

    Clem Reply:

    Here’s where this might go: HSR Altamont + peninsula BART. Maximum concrete, poured artfully around and under the NIMBYs

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes, if and when the PB-CHSRA cheerleaders realize that by digging in their heels on Pacheco they may be condemning the hsr to a San Jose terminus.

    The primary reason that Altamont and Tejon are the default entrees into their respective regions is that they are centrally located and enable a variety of routes to be taken from there. They tried to lump that advantage onto Tehachapi, but it is a false positive as it only allows lateral displacement of a few miles on the same basic route between the same points. Altamont allows hsr to take off in numerous directions in the Bay Area and is much better for connecting to Sac.

    But man does BART suck. Plus Caltrain’s standard open source tech does permit connecting to the Capitol corridor via a new tube, more tracks permitting.

  6. Reality Check
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 10:17

    Palo Alto looks to underground Caltrain, HSR

    Front page story from today’s Palo Alto Daily Post:

    Burying train not so crazy
    Planner says people want underground train despite cost

    By Jeramy Gordon
    Daily Post Associate Editor

    While the probability of seeing Palo Alto’s railroad tracks put underground may be small, it’s not as crazy as once thought.

    With California’s High-Speed Rail project looming in the background, the Palo Alto City Council is poised on Monday to put its stamp of approval on a document that lays out the city’s plans for its more than four miles of train tracks, with an emphasis on going underground.

    And with billionaire developer John Arrillaga proposing to build four new office towers downtown on Stanford-owned land between El Camino Real and the train tracks, the odds of its happening, at least for that portion of the city, are increasing.

    Curtis Williams, the city’s planning director, said the underground option seems to be what the residents want, despite its high cost. “We certainly prefer to have a below
    grade option,” Williams told the Post yesterday.

    Palo Alto architect Tony Carrasco, who served on the citizen’s committee to develop a vision for the corridor, said the value of the land that would be created would more than exceed the cost of putting the train in a covered trench.

    “With rents in downtown Palo Alto as high as Manhattan,” Carrasco said, “the value of the land is enormous.”

    By Carrasco’s estimates, the cost of putting the tracks underground throughout Palo Alto could reach $1.7 billion in today’s money. But for the stretch of land that Arrillaga is attempting to develop, the price is a more reasonable $337 million, a cost easily recouped by the added land value, Carrasco said.

    With Palo Alto smack dab in the middle of the Silicon Valley and bordering Stanford, Carrasco said that the possibilities are endless with the land on top of the tracks, although he’d like to see it become parkland.

    Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene agreed.

    “Caltrain is really the lifeblood of the Silicon Valley,” Keene said. “The land above it would be incredibly valuable.”

    Expensive complex process

    In Palo Alto, where new developments are a hot commodity, landowners are typically forced to provide some sort of benefit to the city in order to get their project through. And while the plan’s forefathers have high hopes, the task is daunting.

    “Undergrounding Caltrain is a big-ticket item that we would have to have long-term discussions on,” Williams said. “It’s very, very difficult. It’s a major undertaking. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it’s an expensive and complex process.”

    Williams said that if the project were to occur, it would need to be done all at once, and there would many hurdles.

    “The train just can’t be popping up and down,” Williams said. “It takes miles to go from below grade to above grade. And we’d have to reconfigure intersections like Oregon Expressway and University where traffic goes under the tracks.”

    Going under the creek

    The city would also have to work with neighboring Menlo Park if the tracks were to go under San Francisquito Creek.

    Aside from leaving the tracks exactly as they are, Carrasco said, going under the creek is the only other option.

    “Because of the tree, El Palo Alto,” he said.

    And whatever happens to the tracks, both Williams and Keene said elevated rails are not a viable option.

    “An elevated alternative has a huge negative impact on the community,” Keene said.

    The Council initiated the study in July 2010, particularly in response to proposed improvements to Caltrain.

    The report — the outcome of the two-year process — analyzed those elements and their potential impacts from the range of possible rail improvements, including Caltrain upgrades, such as electrification, and options for the High-Speed Rail project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Underground means 2 tracks grosso modo. How long is it going to take them to exhume Dumbarton from the crypt?

    Alan Reply:

    Evidently these dim bulbs have forgotten about Union Pacific. How likely is it that UP would acquiesce to running freight trains through a tunnel, compared to the likelihood of UP taking the JPB to court to enforce the trackage rights agreement? Then there’s the little matter of maintaining the Dunbarton connection. Sure, the wye is in Redwood City, but to put the Palo Alto section in tunnel and maintain any kind of freight-compatible grade, they’ll have to start digging north of RWC.

    And I’m sure that the PA attitude is, CHSRA pays for the tunnel, and PA reaps the benefit. Not gonna happen.

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    Perhaps the cost of an electric freight loco or 2 can be included with the construction costs and recouped from whomever is expected. If the city wants underground and the corridor is electrified anyways, should be a win-win.


    synonymouse Reply:

    Just like the BART subway in Berkeley never happened. Maybe PA knows how to do “reach-out”, unlike a certain engineering consultant firm. Perhaps the UP has a price.

    Clem Reply:

    News flash: UPRR would like to abandon its loss-making service on the peninsula, but doesn’t because of expensive customer lawsuits that would ensue. Ergo UPRR doesn’t give two bits about its trackage rights here.

    Joey Reply:

    Have they considered the property takes that would be required for a below-grade alignment? For a covered trench you need space to move construction equipment as well as space for shoofly tracks. Both can be minimized in various ways but then cost goes up. For a bored tunnel you need TBM staging areas.

    Clem Reply:

    I’m amazed by the level of ignorance on display here. You would figure after 4 years Palo Alto would be smarter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, correct me, as they say, if Palo Alto and San Francisco do manage to finance a tunnel in the case of the former and a lot more tunnel in the case of the latter, would that not throttle capacity to the point you are looking at Caltrain by itself on the Peninsula into the City?

    Both of these venues have some considerable money and political clout so if they really pursue it they might succeed. Real estate issues and considerations seem to be taking center stage because a lot of money is involved. I remember you have been pulling for hsr all the way to the TBT for the obvious reason of massive employment center, validated by the jammed BART platforms at Montgomery and Embarcadero stations of late. But how much room is going to be left for hsr trains with a swinging loads Caltrain and miles of 2 track tunnel. Maybe the cheerleaders need to start drumming up an alternative entree, at least part of the way, such as Dumbarton direct to SFO?

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why do you assume it would be 2-tracks?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Cost, with some exceptions dictated by operational necessities.

    Otherwise you risk bringing back from the dead BART Ring the Bay, which would be automatically 2 track and obviate the expense of track north of SFO. Its cheapness would appeal to PA and has historically been touted by Kopp.

    But what’s interesting is that some long time controversies may be moving toward resolution:

    Could be actually “outtahere”:

    BART Ring the Bay
    Fourth and Townsend Station(Kopp’s favored solution)

    I wonder if Lee’s plans include capacity to wye off before the TBT tunnel towards the East Bay in a second tube and connect with the Capitol Corridor?

    Nathanael Reply:

    “You would figure after 4 years Palo Alto would be smarter.”

    Why? People don’t naturally get smarter. It requires work, acquisition of information, study, thought. Is this what you expect to see from NIMBYs? If so, I suggest you need to study the history of politics more seriously.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe Clem as indulging in some wry, almost in-group, humor, ribbing PA.

    PA’s so-called nimbys are bright and basically are the city fathers. The trite expression, “Money talks, bullshit walks” tells the story. Revenue trumps transport. People need to get places but they don’t like living around the facilities that move them around. They don’t want, unless compelled by circumstances, to live next to freeways, aerial hsr’s or airports.

    And when real estate becomes trendy the insiders are only too willing to junk an elevated freeway or a railroad yard to add huge value to property tax rolls. That is the motive behind Lee’s plan and the “nimbys” plan in PA. If the boom lasts these plans are likely to go ahead, even tho BART naturally is pissing on Lee’s scheme. I guess that is because their pet, BART, is not cut in on the deal.

    All that tunnel means even more reduced capacity for a joint Caltrain-hsr op and it is hsr that will get the boot. Better rethink Pacheco muy pronto.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sorry, meant to say MTC is dissing Lee’s idea. In a way that might be good, opening up Lee’s eyes to what a useless bunch of parasites is MTC.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Altamont doesn’t help with track capacity on Caltrain, you know — it still runs up the Peninsula.

    Running HSR via the Second Transbay Tube would help, but that’s dead for now.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Caltrain would run in the second tube towards Sac. Hsr via Altamont and Dumbarton would terminate at SFO.

    BART broad gauge would be put in perpetual detention.

  7. Useless
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 10:40

    Wow, they want an EMU, and the FRA is not complaining?

    2014 target contract date would mean just two proven bidders, Siemens Velaro and Alstom AGV.

    Three unproven bidders.

    Zefiro V300 : Revenue service in 2013. Revenue service speed is 300 km/hr, so it needs an upgrade.

    HEMU-430X : Entered testing in 2012, Will begin revenue service in 2015. Shinkansen-like axle load in a UIC train. 370 km/hr revenue service.

    Kawasaki efset : This one won’t make the schedule deadline, unfortunately.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And cut out Bombardier? They might as well try to blackball Tutor-Saliba.

    We have not heard the end of this. Or of the litigation.

    Maybe Amtrak really does need to take over from these guys. A new broom.

    Useless Reply:

    Bombardier doesn’t have much experience with high speed EMUs. Until the Zefiro, Bombardier has had experiences only in loco-pulled high speed trains. Since Bombardier’s behind others in high speed EMUs, they are going to be less competitive.

    The king of high speed EMUs are obviously Japanese, but Shinkansen is just too non-standard to be considered.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But the politix of this is quizzical and my guess this idea did not emanate from PB. The CHSRA is an entirely political phenomenon and the pet of the Pelosi patronage machine. The motto of a patronage machine is always take care of your friends. Bombardier – via PB-BART – is now in the league of friends of the regime.

    I see the hardware issue as cover story and might just go away once the real move is completed. Which is get Amtrak in on the CHSRA to the point it will share in the guilt for any failures and definitely shoulder operating deficits.

  8. Jo
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 11:11

    Will just two bidders really bring down the cost? Seems like there should be two sets of bids; one for Amtrak’s more immediate needs. Then another one for Amtrak’s and California’s future needs – that is put out the second request for bids when they are needed. If just two bidders are allowed, cost may not be really lower – as hoped; and we would be eliminating other very worthy contenders – needlessly.

    Useless Reply:

    Well, the AMTRAK+CAHSR could evaluate Rotem HEMU-430X and Bombardier Zefiro V300 bids on a condition that both would guarantee 220 mph revenue service speed with a performance bond. That would increase the competition to four bids. Zefiro V300 would enter revenue service in a year, so Bombardier needs to guarantee 220 mph revenue service speed which they aren’t capable of yet. The HEMU-430 would be in its 3rd year of testing in 2014 and be pretty close to the final production model for the evaluators riding the train.

    But if the authorities insist on operational trains at the time of 2014 bidding, then just two vendors.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What cant deficiency can the HEMU-430X do on legacy track in Korea?

    Useless Reply:

    HEMU-430X’s bogie is similar to KTX-II’s bogie so it will be equally terrible on legacy tracks as TGV-K and KTX-II were, and the TGV-Ks were running on legacy tracks with a radius as low as 600 m. However, those legacy tracks will be replaced with dedicated 370 km/hr revenue service rated high speed tracks by the time HEMU-430X enters service. These trains will still run on certain legacy corridors but these are newly built ones in the past 30 years good for 150 km/hr service, so the problem won’t be as bad as those 100-year old legacy tracks.

    Joey Reply:

    How does that answer Alon’s question? He asked specifically about the cant deficiency that can be attained on lower speed track, not the specifics of what types of low speed track it runs on.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The TGVs in France run on much curvier track than that between Marseille and Nice (and do 180 mm cant deficiency).

  9. William
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 11:21

    It is pointless to discuss specific train models and makers on the news Amtrak and CAHSRA are collaborating in buying trains. NEC and CAHSR requirements are too different to meet with just one model, so if any sharing would be taking place, it would most likely be at component level only.

    …Or the 150 mph trains are for Altamont Corridor only, as it is being planned as a 150 mph line…

    Useless Reply:

    No, they are proposing to acquire 220 mph train sets from the beginning, then start the service at 150 mph on Northeast Corridor.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    proposing to acquire 220 mph train sets from the beginning, then start the service at 150

    Amtrak: pissing away public money.
    Shove hundreds of millions in a pile, and set fire to it.

    Simply incredible.

    So a made-in-heaven match for PBQD=CHSRA.

    Partner A: Acquire 220mph trains that will never see 220mph track in their service lifetimes.
    Partner B: Acquire 220mph trains that may perhaps see a viable route in the last 5 years of their service lifetime, maybe.

    Death is too kind a fate for either partner.

    William Reply:

    …On the other hand, running 220 mph capable motors only at 150 mph would most likely extended their lifetime…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    On the other hand, if you bought a Bugatti Veyron and only used to only to drive to the corner store for milk think how much you’d save on fuel compared to driving to the corner in the Veyron at 300kmh!

    In fact, since you save so much, you, “William”, owe it to yourself to buy a fleet of several dozen Veyrons. The more you buy and the slower you drive, the more you save!

    William Reply:


    I don’t have to remind you the usage model, lifetime, and pattern of wear for internal combustion engine is different from electric motors, right?

    For example, if you only run a 60W bulb with 40W max, the bulb would most likely last longer than advertised.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, but if you’re not going to have a need for 60w until the end of the bulb’s lifetime, then why not just buy a 40w bulb to begin with?

    William Reply:

    well this go back to the question of exactly how different a 220 mph capable train is different from a 150 mph train. My guess was the traction motors would be more or less the same, with the main difference being the gearing.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    My speculation, as mentioned earlier, is that with some smart design, more than 80% of the components could be shared, which would, IMHO considerably provide sufficient savings.

    joe Reply:

    Common Max it’s like suggesting a car company could make a profitable luxury vehicle out of a Civic platform. That’s not even close to be ACURA-t.

    Useless Reply:

    @ William

    Differences between 150 mph train and 220 mph train

    1. Weight : 220 mph trains are lighter in order to reduce wear and tear on the track. Both AGV and HEMU-430X, true 220 mph trains, are significantly lighter. Extensive use of carbon fiber and composites.
    2. Longer bogie : Longer wheelbase bogie to provide extra stability.
    3. Aerodynamics : Aerodynamics is now in the aircraft territory
    4. Active suspension : At 220 mph, passive suspension is not good enough to guarantee good ride quality so active suspensions are introduced.
    5. More efficient motor : Permanent magnet motors.

    Useless Reply:

    @ joe

    Honda has been selling dressed-up Civics as Acuras for decades; never heard of Integra and ILX?

    Joey Reply:

    William: enough to cause a significant price difference.

    Max Wyss Reply:


    to 1) This is not really the case; at least in Europe, the maximum axle load for 350 km/h is 17 t, which is exactly the same for 250 km/h tilting trains. So, no difference. The AGV is absolutely lighter, but because of the Jacobs bogies, it is very close to the 17 t. In fact, they say that one of the reasons why Eurostar preferred the Velaro over the AGV is the axle load, which may have ended up too high.

    to 2) the wheelbase may not be that much different, and how well it behaves in curves (for example switches in statoins and yards) depends on the actual bogie design.

    to 3) agreed, aerodynamics becomes more important at the higher speed. However, if there is a joint order, using the already designed high speed front for the slower trains increases their price only marginally, if at all.

    to 4) I have not ridden ICE-3 at 330 km/h, only at 300 km/h, and they were running very smooth without active suspension. In fact, active suspension may have some reason to be with very light trains.

    to 5) there is not really any reason why the motors should be different in design (maybe in rating, but not even that; the difference would come through the gearbox)

    joe Reply:

    @Useless: Yes!!!
    I think there are many examples of corporations willingly sharing designs and frames and parts across product lines which is why the hand-wringing over this RFI and declarations of dooooom are, imho quite premature.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Richard Mlynarik

    The other option is to buy separately, which adds cost. They are trying to build the economy of scale here and set a US high speed train set standard.

    But once again, the decision to go EMU is bold, but would require that the FRA is convinced that the EMUs are safe.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Your argument is not even wrong.

    1. HS trains are typically manufactured and delivered in orders less than either the Amtrak (shudder) or PBQD=CHSRA order. Again, look at RENFE.

    2. Large orders with no alternate vendors result in the vendor controlling the purchaser. (The technical term is “a** rape”). Again, look at keep-them-all-hungry RENFE.

    3. NEITHER AMTRAK NOR CHSR=PBQD CAN POSSIBLY USE OR JUSTIFY THE PURCHASE OF ANY 250-350kmh CAPABLE TRAIN ANY TIME IN THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS. Even issuing an RFI indicates that the parties involved are BAT SHIT INSANE, are COMPLETELY ESTRANGED FROM REALITY, and seek solely to BURN OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY. Again, look at RENFE, and look at the equipment that operated on what would be the Madrid-Barcelona line before that line was completed.

    4. “Do everything” RFIs and tendering where one super-ultra-magic machine is supposed to serve all (conflicting) goals of all (incompetent) institutional purchases ALWAYS results in galactic-scale clusterfucks. Look at any “joint” military procurement. “Sure we can do that!” “Oh, turns out we couldn’t. But you have no alternative, and we’re too big to fail, so keep paying more money for fewer units than do less and less and whose schedule slips by years and years.”

    4. Amtrak(shudder)’s NEC legacy requirements are 100% at odds with California HSR.
    Why single deck?
    Why tilting?
    Why high platform?
    Why a 2013 design?

    5. If either Amtrak or PBQD are involved, you know you (the public) being raped.

    William Reply:

    Or we can go going things JR way to get around vendor lock: the railroad companies own the trainset designs, and spread the order to many manufacturer.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Problem is, Japanese railway companies actually have in-house R&D departments (and some actually own railcar builders i.e. Nippon Sharyo or J-TREC) and related decades of experience building and operating modern EMUs and HSR sets, OTOH Amtrak has relatively little of that and CAHSRA is a collection of pencil pushing bureaucrats and political appointees.

    Clem Reply:

    This requires a fundamentally different system of government than we have in the US. It must be powerful and highly centralized, everything that goes against our culture.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Amtrak owns the designs for the Viewliners. IIRC, the FRA owns the designs for the “Bilevel Corridor Cars” and ther the “Single Level Corridor Cars”.

    You can have competence even within a system where the top level (elections for the US Senate) is completely screwed up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Viewliners and the Bilevel and Single-Level Corridor Cars aren’t exactly cutting edge technology. The MTA-owned designs for the R142 and R143 are a better example, and even they are very conservative on matters like gangways. Note that in all of those cases, the agency buys a design that somebody else came up with, as opposed to having a large in-house staff doing designs itself.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    It may end up that the buyer requests a consortium to be set up, consisting of the leading manufacturers. This is not uncommon, as with (almost) any tilting train, no matter from whom, Alstom is involved (because they acquired the according patents and knowledge when they acquired Fiat (who has previously acquired SIG)). So, even if, for example, the Swiss ICN trains were built by Bombardier, Alstom was involved. Of course, it is best when there is a general contractor.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I think you are underestimating American corruption.

    I suggest BART is the template. PB will design the thing at considerable expense; they will go out bid and receive enough to count on one hand; and PB will select the one that has quietly funneled the most money to the party machine.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You’re wrong. You’re generalizing from San Franciscso (the “worst run big city in the US” — google it) to the rest of the US. This is simply erroneous.

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    I agree with you, Richard. Would AMTRAK be better off if it ordered 25 to 50 cars a year vs. 200 to 500 at a time, then never come back for 30 years?


    Max Wyss Reply:

    Most likely not, because the manufacturer has no guarantee for the “big” number, and therefore does the pricing based on the small numbers. In other words, the cars would be more expensive. In the rolling stock industry, it is very common, however, to have delivery schedule agreement going over several years.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Fun fact: PB wrote Amtrak’s $151 billion full-speed NEC HSR plan.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So PB will be designing the NEC-Moonbahnwagon.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s what we capitalists call economies of scale

    synonymouse Reply:

    I would not be too surprised if this proposal collapses of its own weight.

    Especially if the manufacturers start complaining.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, you utter, utter, imbecile, it costs very little to get faster top speed specs out of an electric motor. It’s a cheap piece of future-proofing. Do you understand electric technology at *all*? Higher acceleration is another matter, of course.

    This is not like specifying heavy track structure for heavy trains when you only plan to run light trains on them; that actually costs real money.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have a strong suspicion that the order will end up being for two different variants, one of which is missing the most expensive parts of “high speed” equipment.

    You know what I think the RFI really is? I think it is a way to get the FRA to relent on the “tank-like construction” rules for Amtrak. Since the tank-like construction will definitely not work for the CHSRA, attaching the Amtrak procurement to that will force the FRA to get rid of the tank-like construction for Amtrak too.

  10. Reality Check
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 12:52

    “It’s Like Costco”: Why CA HSR is Teaming Up with Amtrak

    Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority are teaming up to bulk buy rail cars for high-speed rail. “It’s like Costco,” Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority reports KPCC, “you get better prices.”

    Jo Reply:

    Well the Seimens Velaro, and Alstom AGV are two of the best. The Seimens Velaro seems to take Russian cold just fine, and seems to operate flawlessly in San Joaquin Valley like heat between Madrid and Barcelona. This would finally be spending very wisely on much needed infrastructure.

    XAN Reply:

    Well, Velaro for Russia costed something like 1,5 times more compared to ICE3 because of extended temperature range of Russian Centre and North-West.

    synonymouse Reply:

    These guys are in over their head. The trend became clear when they fired Van Ark.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Exactly backwards.

    Useless Reply:

    This is true. Only the AGV is currently able to run revenue service at 350 km/hr right now, but its jacobs boggie cannot handle the curves. Velaro can handle the curve better, but it is much heavier than the AGV and isn’t actually running 350 km/hr service anywhere. The HEMU-430X will do 370 km/hr revenue service from the start, but it won’t enter revenue service until 2015, so the CAHSR has to gamble on HEMU-430X working as advertised after riding prototype test trains in 2014.

    Joey Reply:

    “can’t handle the curves” … what’s the minimum curve radius for the AGV?

    Useless Reply:

    High speed = Longer bogie axle distance.
    Low speed = Shorter bogie axle distance.

    Bogies with longer axle distance have trouble turning in a small radius curve even at a low speed, and jacobs bogies tend to be longer than conventional bogies to support two train cars. So a jacobs bogie train will grind the rail when turning a tight radius.

    Clem Reply:

    No. The bogie still bears the load in the middle of the frame, and its wheelbase is completely irrelevant to trainset architecture, articulated or not. The TGV/AGV axle spacing is 3 meters, not significantly longer than any other high speed train you can name. Long wheelbase = better stability at speed.

    Useless Reply:

    Mini Shinkansen trains that are required to travel on legacy corridors have a shorter bogie(2.25 m axle distance) than a regular Shinkansen train does(2.5 m axle distance). That alone tells you that shorter bogie is better for tighter turns.

    Joey Reply:

    Okay, so what’s the minimum curve radius on the Mini Shinkansen lines?

    swing hanger Reply:

    For speeds above 110km/h (max speed is restricted to 130km/h due to grade crossings) it’s a 600m radius curve. Sharper curves can be traversed, of course, at lower speeds. Also, wear on track by wheels can be offset somewhat by adding slack to the gauge.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Not exact numbers, but we talk about 120 to 150 m minimal curve radius…

    Joey Reply:

    Well within the CHSRA’s design spec. I don’t think there’s anything sharper than that on the NEC either.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The most likely place for such radii are antiquated switches in yards and station areas.

    European references for curve radii: Gotthard line: 300 m; Semmering line 250 m. There are no known restrictions on the Gotthard line because of the curve radii (there are other restrictions because of the loading gauge, but that’s another topic). ETR 470 Pendolini and ICN take those curves with 95 to 100 km/h, whereas regular trais are limited to 80 km/h.

    Joey Reply:

    The sharpest curves are almost always in station throats. IIRC Köln HBF has curves that will be close to as sharp as those at Transbay (somewhere between 150m and 200m minimum radius).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not counting interlockings, the sharpest curves on the NEC are about 250 meters. The turn from South Station to Back Bay is about 250. Zoo Junction is 400. New Rochelle might also be this tight, but its problem is the S and the flat junction more than anything. The curve coming out of Providence Station to the north is also very sharp, but I don’t think it’s as bad as 250.

    Joey Reply:

    Well, such curves are not a good thing evidently, but that doesn’t exclude any trains as Useless seems to think.

    William Reply:

    As I said before, there is no reason to buy the exactly same train for both NEC and CAHSR. However, major components can be shared between the trains, and that’s where “economic of scale” comes from.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s not really true. The Northeast and California are physically far from each other, which means it’s impossible to share spares, maintenance yards, etc.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Maintenance yards, yeah, they are difficult to spare. But spare parts??? Small parts are shipped overnight, if needed, and heavier/bulkier can be distributed fast as well. And “helping each other out” is still faster than having (rare) components made on order.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I meant spare trains, not spare parts.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    OK… Well, if they can get to common components, it is already worthwile to team up. Helping out each other with whole train sets would only make sense if there were strong seasonal differences (meaning that instead of having the spare trains for a given season, it could be borrowed from the other operator… under the condition that the other operator is not in high season at the same time. But then, it would also mean that all trains have the same signalling systems built in etc.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The high seasons do coincide, unfortunately, because of the holiday travel peak.

    joe Reply:

    Sharing spares is easy – there are many examples in the auto industry.

    One might look at a window sticker of any car and see the souring for different components. My Vibe engine parts are mostly Japanese which is where they sourced the Vibe engines. They ship those parts from Japan to the US for distribution. It’s cheaper.

    CA Amtrak cars will be made IL which is where they will be sourcing for parts and where the spares will be manufactured, in the Midwest.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Or maybe it’s more like American buying out TWA.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That doesn’t make any sense.

  11. Alan F
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 13:09

    To inject some information into this conversation, here is the summary of the RFI request that can be found on the Amtrak Procurement Portal website under Non-Construction Opportunities:

    “Amtrak, in conjunction with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and others, is initiating activities designed to lead to acquisition of Next Generation High Speed Rail (Next Gen HSR) trainset to operate on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and in California’s proposed high-speed rail corridor, as well as other possible locations. The objective of this Request for Information (RFI) is to gain additional understanding of the latest in high-speed trainset technology innovations and to explore the extent to which high-speed trainsets currently being manufactured could be used for Amtrak’s existing NEC and proposed Next Gen HSR services and on California’s proposed high-speed rail corridor. Of primary interest for this RFI are the following areas: Tilting Technology; Curving Performance, Truck Design; High Speed Performance; Car Width; Floor Height; Passenger Capacity; and the ability to meet required Trip Times. Information regarding these areas and others are included in Amtrak’s Performance Specification No. 1005 Summary (Performance Spec). Amtrak’s Performance Specification 1005 Summary and other supporting documentation will be provided to eligible Car Builders responding to this request.

    For the purposes of this effort, Amtrak and the CHSRA consider eligible Car Builders to be those Car Builders who have successfully built trainsets in high speed (>250 km/hr) commercial operation for a minimum of two years. A series of questions has been prepared addressing areas of interest which eligible Car Builders will be asked to answer.”

    Useless Reply:

    >250 km/hr is pretty vague, because it requires a different set of technology to build commercially viable 300 km/hr train sets, and a different set of technology to build commercially viable 350 km/hr train sets. Only the AGV and the HEMU-430X were built for the expressive purpose of 360~370 km/hr revenue service, while the Velaro and Zefiro are upgraded 300 km/hr designs.

    Alan F Reply:

    This is a Request For Information, not a RFP. They are casting a wider net with the RFI to allow vendors to respond.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Can one say that an RFI is essentially the same as collecting catalogs and fliers? or visiting the next Innotrans?

    Jim Reply:

    A bit more focused. There’s a contextualizing document and a bunch of questions. The questions have to do with the degree of specification in the followon RFP. So the summary says there will be a floor height question. The intent is to discover if specifying a particular floor height will cause a substantial number of vendors to nobid. You can’t tell from a catalog, since the catalog won’t cover all the options that the engineers think they can create. Nor can you rely on what a salesman might tell you at a trade show. But you can rely on a company’s formal response to an RFI. So if all but a few vendors respond they can produce a high floor model, Amtrak will specify high floor in the RFP. If many vendors respond they can’t support high floor, Amtrak will specify that high floor is preferred but low floor will be considered.

    joe Reply:

    More focused and and in this case it should capture new and anticipated technologies and trends as well as commentary about product/designs that are inferior.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Similar, but it’s more like going and visiting each company, and asking them “So, what can you do for me?” I’ve done that for small home improvement projects; you get somewhat more information than just collecting flyers or talking to the marketers at fairs.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (“>250 km/hr”) is vague, isn’t it?

    What is the key feature of it? Well, it’s a speed at which you can’t afford the FRA weight and corner post rules….

  12. Jerry
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 13:38

    Finally the light bulbs are lighting up in Palo Alto heads.
    The PA Daily Post reports that the city planning director says the residents want the underground option despite the high cost.
    A Palo Alto architect says the value of the land created above the ground would exceed the approx. $1.7 billion cost of putting four miles underground through PA.
    Who knows – perhaps a mini high rise office/residential terminal over a CalTrain/HSR station in PA. (The iTower, the Steve Jobs Tower?)

    Nathanael Reply:

    A-ha. If Palo Alto figures out that they should use their own money to bury the tracks, and recover it by selling the land on top of them, THEN they would have something going!

  13. Reality Check
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 15:00

    Troubled Dutch-Belgian high-speed train suffers new setback

    To say the Fyra has not started well is an understatement. In its first week, malfunctions left passengers stranded at various stops along the route, forcing some to switch to buses.

    On Friday morning, inspectors checking the track between Antwerp and the Dutch border found a grille that had fallen off a train.

    The Fyra service, operated by SNCB and NS Hispeed, a subsidiary of Dutch Railways (NS), is supposed to link the Dutch and Belgian capitals in two hours – an hour less than the Benelux train, which has been withdrawn. The trains are made by AnsaldoBreda, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Older article, but another reason to stay away from AnsaldoBreda:

    *10 years late! That’s half the life cycle of a shinkansen trainset.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Breda has a genuinely bad rep as a train manufacturer.

    I’m told Ansaldo’s signalling systems are just fine.

    William Reply:

    MUNI’s AnsaldoBreda light rail trains seem to be doing okay. Did any problem occur during their first years of operation?

    Ted K. Reply:

    Let’s see – noisy, heavy, bitch to maintain, power hogs, etc. The Breda LRV’s are somewhat better that the Boeing units were but the high platform design of the Market Street Subway has put SFMuni in a nutcracker. Either they rebuild all of the high platforms to a low platform standard and get new LRV’s or they put up with a variable stair system that is a maintenance headache. Thank you, BART et al.

    Joey Reply:

    Is the moving stair system the only maintenance problem? I thought it went way beyond that.

    flowmotion Reply:

    As a regular rider, the number one cause of muni meltdowns either a door failing to close or the sensor switch not detecting the door is closed. #2 is the stairwells failing to go all the way up.

    The operators used to be able to manually override this and disable the door. Apparently this violated union rules or something, because now they park the car until a maintenance guy appears (or kick all the passengers off after a long delay).

    It would have been impossible to convert the system completely to high platforms because in many places there are no platforms (e.g. Cole Valley).

    Ted K. Reply:

    I’ve been on southbound J-Church’s in Dolores Park near 20th+Church. That hill gave the door motors fits for quite a while. The last few years I’ve not seen the problem happening but I’m not riding the J-Church all that often anymore.

    I’m one of those SFMuni riders that thinks ALL platforms for the Muni Metro should be low ones. It would open the way for lighter, simpler LRV’s and cheaper platforms.

    P.S. I wonder what a stretched, articulated version of a PCC would look like ? Perhaps like a 7000-series Stanga tram as seen in Rome, Italy in the 1950s and later.

    Joey Reply:

    They could also make an effort to convert the rest of the system to high platform, though I suppose this might be a bit problematic in the mixed traffic areas.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Ted K.

    If I remember Muni was under pressure to come up with a platform height spec because the tunnel \ construction was already under way. They had originally planned to scrap all the streetcar lines and go with an all high platform conventional subway to the general area of SF State along the M line ROW. That was defeated, fortunately, at the polls and thus was launched subway-surface.

    I believe the call was made between Jack Woods and Louis T. Klauder & Assoc. who designed a brand new streetcar but the bids came in way too high. If I remember correctly they needed federal money and that meant you could not just buy from overseas off the shelf. San Diego did exactly that because they had their own money. My take is Woods had to pick a likely compromise number for the platform height. Remember there were no modern low-floor cars at that time.

    Joey Reply:

    Early designs for the Market Street Subway show low platforms on the upper level. They also indicate a possible conversion of those tunnels to BART at some point in the future, though I can’t find any other references to that line of thinking.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I think it would matter what year those plans date to. I remember it was a matter of concern to the people at Muni planning and they had delayed the decision to the point BART was complaining.

    I think it might have been based on the platform height off the rail of a typical Duewag streetcar of the era, if it wasn’t something Klauder had used in his specs that went out to bid.

    I was at the SF PUC meeting in 1968 when they announced the bids came back much higher than anticipated.

    Joey Reply:

    These particular plans date from 1967. Example here.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Joe Alioto came in as mayor in the beginning of 1968 and brought along Jack Woods as Muni General Manager. Then came the Klauder and the Klauder failed initiative and finally the joint SF-Boston Boeing Vertol project.

    These plans came after the loss of the all subway high-platform ballot issue, I believe. Perhaps BART was defaulting to something along the lines of PCC cars.

    Woods traveled to Germany to consult with Duewag and presumably others. I remember he complained he got a nasty cold from hanging out on those cold train station platforms in Germany. Clearly he would have preferred to just buy a modified car straight from the factory for a negotiated price. By far the fastest and best deal as Duewag had a production line up and running and Koln, if not others, was already working on similar subway-surface schemes.

    Remember no dc chopper or pulse wide modulation or ac motors at that time. Klauder had specified a modified Westinghouse 1432 type tub controller in his failed bid spec. Duewag was using cam-controlled resistance switching.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember further that there were no low-floor trains, not even streetcars, at the time. High-floor == fast boarding in the 1960s. This is also why you have high platforms on the Cleveland Red Line, despite the gratuitous incompatibility it created. And in Pittsburgh. I could give more examples.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am referring to modern true low floor, where you there is no step up from your typical street operation concrete loading zone into the car. Germany did develop a “niederfluhr” car in the 30’s but I do not know what it looked like inside.

    To my knowledge there was nothing like that in 1970, when I rode on most of the streetcar operations in Europe. Step-up entry was what Jack Woods had to chose from. The Germans were way ahead in articulated streetcars at that time. The Duewag articulation unit had a good reputation for reliability, ditto for Siemens motors and controls.

    Buying off the shelf from Duewag would have allowed prototype testing pretty quickly, on the street. But that was not possible, as they wanted to try for US built. It had not been done in decades. But they did manage to install Bochums wheel on a PCC, the 1040. Pretty noisy – I think the PCC truck depended mostly on the sandwich wheel for its resiliency.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Bochum wheels

    Max Wyss Reply:

    There were very few partially low-floor streetcars in Europe (for example the “Bugatti” in Basel), but it took another good decade until the concept of the low-floor element added to single-articulated cars evolved.

    And, yeah, Düwag had a decent reputation at the time, although they had a tendency to be a bit underpowered, something which was not really an issue in the mostly flat cities in Germany.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I wish I knew how to put in the umlaut in Duwag without my keyboard going berserk.

    I thought the Duwag cars were a bit wimpy too, tho not too slow on the Rheinbahn to Krefeld. Was that due to the monomotor? I do remember some pretty nice hills in Freiburg-im-Breisgau but those cars were not from Duwag I would guess. They even sported stained wood interiors but were pretty modern.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    If I remember correctly, Freiburg had the same GT4 type as Stuttgart (which is essentially only hills), and they came from Esslingen and later Rastatt. The first Düwag vehicles in Freiburg were the 8-axle types where the bogies no longer were under the articulations, but under the middle section; they were delivered in the early 70s.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It was that real wood trim I remember about the cars in Freiburg, but they may not have been articulated. I think maybe I missed Stuttgart. It has been a while. The one streetcar that impressed me in 1970 that was not articulated was the Goteborg PCC. But of course San Francisco had to have articulated units.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    wondered why the Muni platforms where so long

    Joey Reply:

    Really? The last I heard they were only marginally better, maintenance wise, than the Boeing USSLRVs that preceded them.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In defense of the Boeing-Bertol lrv’s they date from the 70’s and the Bredas a couple decades later. That was a period of considerable R&D in articulated streetcars progressing from designed for primarily street operation to units with considerable subway operation intended. The Boeings had inside frame trucks whereas the Bredas feature outside frame that look to me to be Swiss-inspired(Stadler?). Definitely beefing up from and away from a PCC concept.

    Any brand-new complicated design made in the US with any future orders uncertain is risky. Boeing already trod that path.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    MUNI’s AnsaldoBreda light rail trains seem to be doing okay. Did any problem occur during their first years of operation?

    Did any problem not occur?

    “William”, your poilyannish insistence on accepting the worst of all possible outcomes and closing your eyes and ears to anything outside the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Greater Co-misery Sphere of unmitigated failure is nothing short of astonishing.

    San Francisco Muni (in the form of it and the SFCTA’s consultant mafias) “designed” and procured and “operates” and “maintains” some of the most unreliable and costly “light” rail vehicles anywhere in the world. And to make up for that, they’ were more than two decades years out of date (high floor!) when specified.


    William Reply:

    Well, I’ve rode the last days of Boeing and Bredas, the Bredas didn’t fail me when I ride them.

    If they have serious problems the news weren’t on the front page. High floor is fine, at least they stick to it. Mind you provide some source?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I rode the last days of the R44 and R46, and they’re perfectly fine now. They weren’t when they were produced.

    joe Reply:

    Same here – the service became more reliable as they retired problematic cars.

    I recall complaints that the Bredas made noise on the J route (where I used to live). That was fixed.

    … until 1996, when new Breda-manufactured cars were put into service. After suffering initial breakdowns[19] and despite facing complaints of noise and vibrations, the Bredas gradually replaced the Boeings, with the last Boeing car being scrapped in 2002.

    SFGATE ’97.

    Vibration and noise complaints clouded the January debut of Muni’s sleek new line of light-rail cars, which thus far have cost the agency $188 million. Municipal Railway officials have been looking for solutions ever since.

    “It appears we will be able to mitigate these vibrational issues,” said Elaine Cartwright, a Municipal Railway senior project manager.

    Complaints of vibrations in the vicinity of 22nd Street along the J-Church are a misnomer, the report concludes. Instead, the new, heavier Bredas thud as they hit an old track switch – and the report recommends replacing the mechanism.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Amsterdam-Brussels high-speed rail link is halted

    Technical problems dogged the sleek new trains — which can go 250 kph (155 mph) — almost since the day they came into service Dec. 9. That has repeatedly caused delays between the Dutch and Belgian capitals, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) apart, instead of slashing more than an hour off the regular service the Fyra trains replaced.

    On Monday, the Belgian state rail company NMBS suspended its €63 million ($84 million) contract for three trains and gave Italy’s AnsaldoBreda three months to fix the problems or face legal action for damages.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, so we’re looking at a company that’s so terrible the only worse thing is Boeing Vertol.

  14. Reality Check
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 15:11

    China hopes hopes to lay HSR tracks overseas

    China’s high-speed railway technologies are looking for increased export markets as Chinese companies acquire independent intellectual property.

    Earlier last year, California’s lower house approved financing for a new railway line that will link the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles at an estimated cost of $68 billion. China’s Ministry of Railways had announced that Chinese companies would form a group to enter the bidding.


    Also, earlier reports disclosed progress on China’s high-speed railway technical cooperation with other countries, including Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

    The ‘going-out’ strategy of China’s high-speed railway technologies is supported by growing efforts to protect intellectual property rights.

    “As far as I am concerned, there is not a single legal intellectual property rights dispute over China’s high-speed railway technologies,” said Tian Lipu, commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office.

    “Although we did buy technologies from Germany, France, Canada and Japan, our Chinese scientists ‘digested’ the technologies we bought legally, and developed our own technology,” Tian said.

    Currently the State Intellectual Property Office has granted more than 900 patents related to high-speed railway.

    “China’s high-speed railway technology should not be subjected to groundless accusations from abroad,” he said.

    China’s high-speed rail mileage tops world

    By the end of 2012, China’s high-speed railway mileage reached 9,356 kilometers [5,814 miles], ranking first in the world and its total railway mileage reached 98,000 kilometers [60,900 miles], ranking second in the world, according to the national railway conference held on Thursday.

    Sheng Guangzu, minister of railways disclosed the information during the conference held in Beijing. He also said the passenger and freight turnover also top the world.

    China’s railway carried 1.9 billion passengers in 2012, increasing by 4.8 percent compared to the year of 2011 and 3.9 billion tons of cargo, basically the same as the previous year.

    Useless Reply:

    Chinese bidders were banned in Russia and Brazil, and it is highly unlikely that the Chinese are allowed to bid in the US. Even if not banned, Kawasaki lawyers will ensure that the Chinese could not enter the US with the model they have.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    China exporting HSR technology to anyone that it’s not subsidizing for political reasons (see: Vietnam) is about as likely as the US exporting such technology.

    Nathanael Reply:

    China has political reasons to subsidize the US, and is doing its best to do so (as a mercantilist export-based project). Currently the decaying US Empire is too proud to admit this…. but it is true nonetheless.

    Andrew Reply:

    If CHSR pays for technology from a thief, CHSR itself becomes a thief, and any of us who rides it becomes an abettor of a thief. I ask Mr. Tian, have you ever had anything stolen from you?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are you boycotting American publishers? They all got their start by pirating British books in the 19th century. How about General Electric, which stole ideas from Tesla?

    Andrew Reply:

    Let me guess…You’re a graduate student at a second-tier institution, about 23 or 24 years old. In the still recent past, you outgrew a simplistic mindset that was too quick to criticize other societies’ institutions. Proud of your newly liberated mind, you now apply your new critical perspective across more and more domains. When you hear people passing judgments on another country, your deconstructing mindset shifts into overdrive, assuming the judger to be a naive ethnocentrist. You mind searches for self-preferential biases and simplistic assumptions, and in so doing gives itself a comforting sense of separation from the limited reality you recently inhabited (ie, the very one that is most threatening to you).

    The result of this deconstructive (but not yet reconstructive) mindset is to produce simplistically relativistic views that imply a moral equivalence between things that more complex minds have sufficient perspective to differentiate (such as buying books from publishers whose companies stole material 100 years ago and buying train technology being stolen right now). Your way of thinking – and obviously I’m saying this from having read many of your comments, not just the brief comment above – is complex analysis without integration, criticism without constructive solution, pointing out of contradictions without articulating a way to resolve them, knee-jerk rejection of cross-contextual criticism without the ability to put forward a principle from which reasonable cross-system criticism can emanate. You have mastered negation, which is critically important. The next step in your epistemological evolution is to master the negation of the negation.

    It’s not that you’re WRONG; it’s just that your framework of reasoning is inadequate to critically understand opinions generated within the more complex epistemic framework I’m talking about. If my comment above were produced by simple ethnocentrism, your reply would in fact be spot on.

    I have two suggestions. One, bear in mind the possibility that a comment you perceive as insufficiently critical (pre-deconstructive) MIGHT be coming out of a post-deconstructive mindset that you do not as yet possess (the content can in fact be exactly the same). Two, try to take your deconstructive pattern of reasoning as the object of your own critical attention. Think about what kinds of problems it cannot resolve, and why it’s important to find a way to resolve those.

    Sorry to be so harsh and didactic, but I think it’s a reasonable response when a naïve person uses a mocking tone toward people he thinks lack understanding. Those who are wiser than you are inclined to love you, as a person whose mind is evolving. But you must also love those who are less wise than you. The wise will not turn against you for being innocent, only for being arrogant.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Let me guess. You’re an anonymous internet troll.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cute. If I start getting cats, I’ll name one of them Andrew, on the same principle I want to name cats Megan (McArdle) and Ann (Althouse): almost as smart as a human being.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Alon has a PhD from a first tier institution, and has been providing valuable posts to this blog for several years. I don’t always agree with him, but he is generally a positive force on this blog. I think Andrew’s response is especially ridiculous given that Alon includes a link to his personal blog, which has a biographical post as one of the first entries. We have enough ad hominem attacks here. As for the rest of Andrew’s critique, it’s just pretentious and obsessive, but that’s not so out of place in these comments. Carry on.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Andrew: “intellectual property” is a dangerous and anti-enlightenment idea. It’s also a really solid way to destroy a country’s economy.

    I suggest you start doing some research on the topic. You’ll find that copying other people’s ideas is a GOOD thing for society. Stealing means taking something away from someone else. Now, using rohypnol to remove ideas from other people’s brains, that would be stealing. Copying other people’s ideas is known as “the progress of science” to use the term in the US Constitution.

  15. Reality Check
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 15:19

    HS2 will see journey times between Britain’s provincial cities slashed by half

    • Department for Transport (DfT) expected to confirm latest route within weeks
    • Journey times between major cities in the North will be slashed by half
    • DfT hopes service will transform the North, but critics believe many passengers may be priced out

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    this link does not work

  16. StevieB
    Jan 18th, 2013 at 19:15

    REQUEST FOR INFORMATION for AMTRAK’s Next Gen High-Speed Trainset Acquisition

    The objective of this Request for Information (RFI) is to gain additional understanding of the latest in high-speed trainset technology innovations and to explore the extent to which high-speed trainsets currently being manufactured could be used for Amtrak’s existing NEC and proposed Next Gen HSR services and on California’s proposed high-speed rail corridor. Of primary interest for this RFI are the following areas: Tilting Technology; Curving Performance, Truck Design; High Speed Performance; Car Width; Floor Height; Passenger Capacity; and the ability to meet required Trip Times.

  17. Derek
    Jan 19th, 2013 at 12:30

    Amtrak’s annual operating loss last year was lowest since 1975, a sign of progress, CEO says
    by Associated Press

    The $361 million loss for the year ending Sept. 30 was down 19 percent from the previous year. The last time Amtrak losses were less was 1975.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I haven’t had the chance to look up the actual numbers and run some calculations, but if Amtrak had an 85% total operating cost recovery ratio last year, then a 19% reduction in the 15% deficit means the subsidy has dropped to a bit over 12%, and the operating cost recovery ratio is up to almost 88%.

    Only another 12% to go to 100% operating cost recovery.

    What do you think would happen if Amtrak got there? And what do you think would happen in light of the highway trust fund requiring regular bail-outs of late, and of the road system overall dropping to under 50% cost recovery?

    Talk about a talking point!

    MarkB Reply:

    @ D.P.: Talk about a talking point!

    Ding! Ding! Ding! You win the coveted “Tautology of the Day” award! :-D

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ho, ho, ho, ho!! Had to look up “tautology!” Thanks for the chuckle and for providng more proof of the educational value of this site and its posters, with the unfortunate exception of some rather cynical posters. Sadly–and I say sadly because I might actually like one of them, who loves steam locomotives as, as do I–they have managed to make themselves look awfully silly of late, due to excessive cynicism and pessimism.

    MarkB Reply:

    I suspect that if CAHSRA issued a press release tomorrow saying the agency was in favor of motherhood, some commenters would instantly think motherhood was just a batshit insane concept for which death is too kind, while other commenters would establish that motherhood=Palmdale. How’s that? Mothers=women=Nancy Pelosi mind rays=patronage=Palmdale. QED.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe that press release would be viewed politically incorrect in certain circles.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I think the mainstream social concept of motherhood is oppressive independently of what CAHSR might or might not say, but that’s a separate discussion.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “What do you think would happen if Amtrak got there? And what do you think would happen in light of the highway trust fund requiring regular bail-outs of late, and of the road system overall dropping to under 50% cost recovery?”

    Right-wingers would rail against “overpriced socialist trains” (they don’t know what socialist means) and would complain that the trains were crowded. Then they would switch to complaining that we shouldn’t invest public money in railroad tracks. As for the unused road system, why, “That’s essential service, we need it”.

    Yeah, this makes no sense whatsoever, but the right wing in this country hasn’t made any sense for most of my lifetime.

    If we’re lucky, the sheer senselessness will help drive the right wing out of existence so the rest of us can argue about minor technical matters instead. :-)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    All depends on whether the GOP manages to resuscitate its reputation in the next year and a half. In the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling fights there were generic ballot polls putting it like 7 points down.

  18. Jo
    Jan 19th, 2013 at 19:59

    I just viewed the press conference that CAHSRA and Amtrak had Thursday to announce their joint purchase agreement. First, judging from the press conference, it appears that the FRA will very much be a part of the effort, which would be good. They were talking about – initially at least, about basically the same train, but with different trucks for the trains. For the NEC, one that could better take curves vs the one they would use for California (it would be nice if they would be able to handle different platform heights too). The results of the RFI in September which will better inform what the manufactures can offer will be of great interest – should really clarify things.

    swing hanger Reply:

    The impression I get by that description is that they are assuming by just merely swapping out bogies it will solve optimization problems, when in fact, especially in the case of the tilting bogie trainset, body shell shape is very important for loading gauge clearance as well as dynamics. Optimally, as CAHSR is a clean slate project, trainsets should be unfettered by the legacy requirements of the NEC. A “US Standard” HSR train will involve too many compromises, I’m afraid.

    Jo Reply:

    I want to remain optimistic about a US standard for high speed trains, but I share your concerns. They are talking about a US standard, but when you have to switch out bogies, that does not sound very “standard”.

    Earlier Alan F. mentioned that the NEC is locked into a 48″ high boarding platform. To me this seems ridiculously antiquated. Seems that they should also come up with a new standard height for boarding platforms – lower, to better accommodate modern trains. Rebuilding the NEC boarding platforms may cost money, but could make for a better “US standard for high speed trains.

    Also, it seems that Talgo is among the best for tilting technology. Technology like that would be able to handle both NEC and California needs without having to resort to this switching out bogies. Note that the Talgo Avril is being offered as both tilting and non-tilting. Other manufactures should be able to do this also.

    Useless Reply:

    Strange enough higher speed trains have bigger wheels, which translates into higher floor height. As for Talgo, they don’t have EMUs that the AMTRAK+CHSRA want so they are unlikely to win.

    Joey Reply:

    I see the benefit of EMUs overall, but it seems silly to actually specify that as your criteria, rather than looking at the performance specs of each train individually. How does the AVRIL perform compared to other HSTs?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Well, one could specify a certain power/weight ratio, and then (with the exception of the Talgo AVRIL, which is very lightweight), that requires distributed drives. And that means EMU.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The AVRIL has the highest power-to-weight ratio of every production or near-production HSR train – Ferropedia lists several numbers, of which the lowest is 28. The only other one that even comes close is the N700-I, at a little under 27.

    Joey Reply:

    Once you get above 200 km/h it seems like pretty much everything has more or less the same wheel diameter and minimum floor height above bogies (~1200mm)

    Max Wyss Reply:

    So far correct, as in the bi-level TGVs, you go from car to car in the upper level.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    In earlier discussions, there was kind of a common agreement that for single-level trains, a high-level platform is preferrable, because with that, one can avoid steps. Therefore, the platform height and the floor height should be about the same. For bi-level train, a low floor entrance is preferrable, because that would allow for at least some level boarding; of course, getting to the upper level would involve steps.

    Concerning the carbody cross section, there is nothing preventing you from using the same for the HSR as for the tilting trains. In fact, that could be crucial because that would allow using the same interior modules. And, yes, with a smart design, the adaptation for the HSR or tilting bogie would be relatively marginal.

    About Talgo: their tilting system is passive, which means that the angle is smaller than with active technology (as provided by Alstom (formerly Fiat, partially formerly SIG)). Active tilting technolgoy permits higher curve speeds.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Talgo AVRIL may well be optimal for the NEC, but for other reasons: it’s one of very few trains today that a) tilt, and b) are capable of 300+ km/h. It also has a ridiculously high power-to-weight ratio, approaching 30 kW/t, which is useful in any environment requiring rapid speed changes at medium speed.

    The problem: Talgos are low-floor. In general it’s easier to raise floor height than to lower it, but the Talgo tilting system might be the exception, and I hope the RFI raises this question.

    Joey Reply:

    Talgo had a concept for a bilevel train using it’s tilting wheels. Given that, I don’t think it would be impossible to simply raise the floor height.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Indeed, it should not cause serious problems, as the wheelsets are in a “portal”, which would then be a bit higher.In fact, the higher up you can get the suspension point, the more you can passively tilt.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Joe: the cost of lowering platforms on the NEC is not worth considering. For *starters* nearly very station on Metro-North LIRR, NJT, and SEPTA would have to be rebuilt, and Metro-North, LIRR, and SEPTA would have to get entirely new equipment. Not going to happen.

    4 foot platforms are just fine; as Joey says “Once you get above 200 km/h it seems like pretty much everything has more or less the same wheel diameter and minimum floor height above bogies (~1200mm)”. 1200 mm is close enough to 48 inches.

  19. Derek
    Jan 19th, 2013 at 22:54

    Need to Know: January 18, 2013
    On PBS, with host Jeff Greenfield


    Eric Reply:

    $2.2 billion is not that much. It’s only two years’ federal deficit :)

    Eric Reply:

    I meant trillion of course

  20. J. Wong
    Jan 19th, 2013 at 23:28

    State engineers question high-speed rail oversight

    Should we trust the contractor to hire an independent engineering firm to inspect the former’s work?

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you hired all State government engineers to plan hsr, could it get any worse than it is at the moment?

    Plus ou moins non.

  21. Ben
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 07:24

    Where is Devin Nunes and Jeff Denhem’s outrage about this? I suppose it is only investment in passenger rail that gets them worked up into a fit about eminent domain.

    City seeking OK to buy Westpark-area properties early

    “The city of Bakersfield could start buying up homes in the Westpark neighborhood in the potential pathway of the Centennial Corridor freeway as early as this spring, a year before the final decision is expected on the project’s route.”

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yep. Road warriors. The complaints about the railway are completely phony.

  22. synonymouse
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 10:05

    The anti-CHSRA protests are mostly going thru the motions, for the folks at home.

    The real purpose of insisting on BART elevateds thru almond fields along the 99 corridor is to “soften up” the region military style, like carpet bombing a target. Demoralize the hearts and minds. TehaVegaSkyRAil is just another freeway on rails. PB is pure highway lobby, just like Bechtel before it.

    There will be all sorts of freeways chopping up the Valley in time. California ag is not what it used to be. You’ll be getting your greens from Mexico. Sprawling is the next, new, and forever Bubble.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I hate to ruin your dystopian fantasy, but there’s not enough water to accomplish that. There are already two freeways that bisect the San Joaquin Valley, and you might notice neither has been particularly effective in generating sprawl.

    The biggest driver of population growth in the Valley was higher water prices, which in turn would cause farmers to sell their water rights to developers who would in turn find people trying to capitalize on higher land prices on the coast, either to retire or relocate.

    Now that spigot has been turned off, it’s impossible to achieve what you are talking about.

    synonymouse Reply:

    say what?

    Moonbeam’s Peripheral Tunnel opens the spigot.

    Eastside Sierra Foothills Freeway just a matter of time.

    sprawl it, Jerry! and Antonio

    datacruncher Reply:

    You are way behind in your history. The Eastside Freeway plan predates HSR by several decades.

    The Legislature first adopted the Eastside Freeway as a future highway route in 1959, designated as LRN249. Basically it would connect the 2 existing Highway 65 segments that end near Roseville and Exeter.

    These 1961 maps show the route along with the proposed-at-the-time Westside (I5) Freeway.

    The full Eastside Freeway pops back into discussion every few years such as this study from 2002.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Gas prices (and to a lesser extent car prices), combined with a lack of median income growth (there’s been no real income growth since 1980) are making sprawl unattractive. Only the 1% can really afford to sprawl now, and they are, as you may note, only 1% of the population.

    Also, even with the Peripheral Tunnel, the water supply is drying up.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s important to realize that the sprawl economy was built on several different struts, including massive government subsidies, but also including cheap oil (== cheap gas, cheap asphalt) and rising incomes for the poorer deciles (meaning that they could afford cars). The cheap oil is gone. Electric cars are expensive. And the money’s all in the hands of the 1% (mostly the 0.1%).

    These are not the social conditions which allow for sprawl, even *with* government subsidies for sprawl. I would like to reverse the last one and redistribute the wealth but there’s no progress on that.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Are you completely nuts, syn?

    Sorry I asked; we already know the answer to that question.

  23. joe
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 16:40

    Recall in 2012 HSR would Doooom Prop 30.

    In 2013 HSR will Dooooom Brown’s second term.

    Brown wants to build an underground canal to deliver Sacramento River water across the Delta to Southern California while dodging bullets between warring environmentalists and developers; lay the first tracks for the generally unpopular $69 billion high-speed rail project; and turn the school finance system on its head by jettisoning the complex funding formula and local mandates, while giving more money to schools with disadvantaged students. He also wants to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the decades-old law that requires environmental impact studies for building projects, over the objections of his own allies.

    Critics say trying to tackle any one of these major policy goals on their own would be foolhardy enough. But to pursue them together even as he hammers out a new budget, while handling other significant issues such as gun control and political reform, could be considered political suicide.

    “Especially with high-speed rail, which is hard to defend,” said Jack Pitney, a political-science professor at Claremont McKenna College. “It’s a massive project in search of a rationale. As the cost becomes more clear, that could undercut his political standing, and even more so if the economy sours.”

    But again, Brown triumphed. Proposition 30 passed by a stunning 10 percentage points.

    HSR is popular and passed with voter approval.

    HSR is a signature issue for the president, with Senate Leadership support and strong support from the House Minority Leader and even newbie Rep Alan Lowenthal.

    HSR has a clear rationale which was described in the Proposition voters approved and restate in the business plan.

    The economy already had soured. HSR is part of The President’s economic stimulus that will produce jobs and tax revenue in this under-performing economy with high unemployment and unused capacity.

    Brown’s still popular despite experts constantly telling him his political decisions from the Campaign against Meg to Prop 30 were all wrong.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Mercury News really seems to have an ax to grind against HSR for some unknown and insane reason. Who’s the publisher, who’s the editor?

  24. synonymouse
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 17:12

    Yes, the Democratic Party patronage machine now dominates California utterly, with a lock-on supermajority.

    Moonbeam can do whatever he wants. Sorta like Hugo Chavez, so long as he is still breathing.

    But “hsr has a clear rationale”? Yeah, sure, take money from the voters and give it to PB, Tutor-Saliba, Bombardier or proxy. Whoever bribes the most and the best. Thank you, Lance Armstrong, for helping to open up naive eyes. Rizzo and Noguez are rank amateurs and the tip of the iceberg.

    But at least the suspense is over about where they are going with the scheme. Amtrak it, baby.
    Amtrak operation(public serviced management model), federal operating subsidy, and Amtrak unions instead of Pelosi’s expensive house unions.

    But with miles of 2-track tunnel on the Peninsula the CHSRA will terminate at San Jose and all change to Caltrain. Insecure San Jose, forever in the shadow of the City, will relish its role of transfer center of the universe.

    joe Reply:

    But “hsr has a clear rationale”? Yeah, sure, take money from the voters and give it to PB, Tutor-Saliba, Bombardier or proxy. Whoever bribes the most and the best. Thank you, Lance Armstrong, for helping to open up naive eyes. Rizzo and Noguez are rank amateurs and the tip of the iceberg.

    The alternative is to make horribly useless things that enrich Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton, Raytheon et al with gravy for defense/security consultants.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Or to cut Mitt Romney’s taxes, because 14% isn’t low enough for a nobleman.

  25. joe
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 21:16

    Why is it so hard to accept that trains can be profitably manufactured in the US?
    Look at Toyota.

    In 2012, Toyota assembled slightly more than 70% of vehicles sold in the U.S. in North American factories.

    “Our intention is clearly to grow that 70% over time,” Fay said. “Short term, we are not going to build everything in North America, especially (when) you consider Lexus, which we are shifting more slowly.
    “Certainly there’s a movement to do more of that work where the customer is,” Fay said after the company revealed the Furia concept sedan at the Detroit auto show.
    The company’s new Avalon sedan was engineered largely at its Ann Arbor Technical Center. It’s assembled in Georgetown, Ky., along with the Camry.
    “Whether we ever totally get there, I don’t know,” Fay said. “That would be a ways down the road, but we’re certainly making a lot of progress in vehicles like Avalon, where that was really all done here in North America by our companies here.”
    Fay said that by the end of the year, 100% of Toyota Corollas sold in the U.S. will be built at its Cambridge, Ontario, and Blue Springs, Miss., plants.
    Toyota has also expanded design and engineering centers, such as the CALTY styling studio near Los Angeles and its technical center in Ann Arbor.
    Last year, Toyota added or announced 3,500 new jobs and investment of $1.6 billion in North America.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    How many of those cars are exported? Put another way, how many of those cars are bought by people who have a choice of buying things produced outside the US?

    Andy M Reply:

    The big auto manufacturers all operate plants all over the world. The cars for the African market are probably built in Africa, and those for the Indian market in India. It’s all about the IKEA principle. The founder of IKEA observed that you can maybe fit several dozen assembled book cases into a shipping container, but you can fit hundreds of not thosands of disassembled ones. Yet the cost of shipping that one container only increases marginally. The difference is profit. Car makers have come to understand the same principle, only cars are too compex for the customer to assemble at home so Toyota and Co run assembly plants close to you. Toyota won’t export significant volumes from the US (other than to nearby countries) any more than you can set up a business succesfully exporting assembled IKEA bookcases across the world.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Or it’s because of tariffs. Remember, the big Japanese manufacturers were exporting to the US until the US forced Japan to impose a “voluntary” export quota. (You know, the kind of thing that Americans think that when done by a poor country to the US is the end of times.)

    joe Reply:

    No. Not voluntary or tariffs. You’re in the 80s.
    They build here because of:
    Currency exchange rate volatility with the yen
    Labor cost differential. We’re less costly.
    Tax subsidies.
    Better adaption of goods and services to the US market. (see the above quoited article)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The quotas are still there; so is the implicit threat that if Japan repeals these quotas the US will impose tariffs. Just last decade Bush imposed steel tariffs on the EU – and the auto industry in the US is more politically powerful than the steel industry.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Interesting” theory.

    Reality is that trans-oceanic shipping is, to a first order approximation, free.

    Nathanael Reply:

    To a second-order approximation, however, shipping is very expensive.

    For large objects, domestic assembly from foreign parts is a cheap way to save some money on shipping while claiming to be “made in the US”. It also uses only low-skill labor.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    And look at how many Fords and Chevys are sold in Europe (a lot). Opel is a GM brand, etc. Of course, the cars are manufactured mostly in Europe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have not seen a single Chevy in France that I remember. I’ve seen lots of Fords, but those were mainly (if not only) the British-manufactured, European-sized Focus. The Ford Focus that’s sold in the US is larger.

    It’s similar to Bombardier, by the way. There’s no exporting of trains from North America to Europe (at least not in large quantities), but Bombardier bought AdTranz and so there are many European trains produced that are owned by a North American corporation.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, there are Chevrolet-branded cars in France. However, they are made by Daewoo, the GM factory in South Korea. Hmmm… there are actually a few “real” Chevrolets around on French roads… the few Corvettes you may occasionally see on the A6/A7/A9…

    It could also be that the Fords you see in France are built in Germany (C-Max, S-Max family).

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    Ford no longer make cars in the UK, although the Dagenham factory still makes engines. The current (third generation) Focus is made in Germany for EU markets, and also in Russia, Thailand, China and the United States. The North American model is the same except for engines (and different regulations for headlamps and bumpers).

    Ford also have factories in Germany, Belgium, Spain and Romania (all in the EU) and Turkey (which has a customs union with the EU).

    joe Reply:

    How many jobs will HSR manufacturing create in the US?

    Don’t forget multiple effects. A worker leaves unemployment, pays taxes, buys goods and services.

    Reedman Reply:

    Cars are a special case in product manufacturing in the US because of the “two fleet rule”. In order to get the UAW to support the expense of fuel economy regulations, Congress set the rules to require that a company’s imports and domestics each be counted separately when determining fleet-average CAFE regulatory compliance (a company has to meet the regulations twice — once with it’s domestic manufactured product, and once with it’s imported products).. This was put in place to make it illegal/uneconomical to have high volume (low cost, small car) manufacturing done mostly outside the US and have US plants left only building low volume products. One hiccup in the plan is that under NAFTA, manufacturing in Mexico and Canada counts as ‘domestic’. So, Fiat 500s built in Mexico allow Chrysler to sell more Jeeps here without exceeding it’s domestic fleet average requirements.

  26. Reedman
    Jan 20th, 2013 at 23:41

    I wouldn’t bet on CAHSR getting too insistent on local manufacturing.

    Gillig has it’s headquarters in Hayward, but AC Transit buys VanHool buses imported from Belgium. [the AC stands for Alameda County…]. P.S. One AC Transit board member has specifically mentioned that it would be troubling to buy NABI buses built in Alabama, because Alabama is a right-to-work state.

    VTA uses a large fleet of Prii for it’s paratransit needs. The Prius is only built in Japan.

    “Buy American” isn’t echoing down the halls of Northern California public transit providers.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’re completely wrong, sadly.

    AC Transit did buy Van Hool buses — by far the best transit vehicles that had ever been seen on any mode with any operator anywhere in the state. They were deigned for rapid ingress and egress and full accessibility and maintainability.

    But the Empire Struck Back.

    A relentless orchestrated astroturf campaign against “foreign” “inappropriate” “buses from hell” (and trains — see the “buy domestic” crap that was rammed through the BART board also) followed. Orders were cancelled. AC Transit now buys fifth-rate US-designed US-built crap exclusively.

    Because public transportation in the US is a welfare operation for fifth-rate uncompetitive politically juiced US do-nothing corporations and has nothing to do with providing attractive or useful service to the public.

    Why do you even bother typing when you’re so completely uninformed?

    Peter Reply:

    I had never heard about the “Van Hell” campaign. I had heard people complain about how expensive the Van Hool buses were, but never the claim about how dangerous they allegedly are. How is a “European” style bus more dangerous than a U.S. bus to people with mobility challenges? Do they think Europeans don’t have people in wheelchairs?

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Peter, see some archived Van Hool stories here.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I did a quick glance over some of the stories listed there, and to me, a lot of the problems appear to be caused by not doing elementary precautions by the passengers; in Europe you learn even before Kindergarten that you have to hold on to a rail or seat when standing up in a moving bus, for example. It is, however possible that the European adjustment of the suspension has some problems with the shape of USAn roads, giving the feeling of a rougher ride. And in my experience, low-floor buses ride a bit rougher than high-floor ones. Ah, yeah, among the most headscratching thing I read about the vanHools is that the drivers have problems operating a bus with a shorter wheelbase than they are used to…

    Marc Reply:

    I ride them on a daily basis. While they have low floors, nearly all of the fixed seats require a step up to raised floor areas, which combined with a long throw air suspension on Oakland’s hilly and beautifully maintained roads (not), makes moving around while the bus is in motion rather hazardous. I’ve more than once stumbled and nearly fallen trying to negotiate my way to the nearest door, and I’m hardly infirm. The driver problem isn’t so much the short wheelbase as it is the long rear overhang, I’ve seen Van Hool buses take out parked cars on the opposite side of the street while trying to make it around a sharp corner. The also seem to be a bit of maintenance nightmare, doors often don’t work, air suspension leaks are common, etc.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Buy American laws are completely absurd and counterproductive, but unfortunately, they’re federal, so they’re not going anywhere for the time being (since the federal government is a gridlocked mess, thanks to gerrymandering and the 60-vote rule in the Senate, among other things).

    In practice, the Buy American laws for trains are usually satisfied by:
    (1) Setting up a final assembly / bodyshell factory in the US (why not? It’s mostly low-skill work)
    (2) Getting air brakes from Wabtec (which is still the dominant supplier worldwide)
    (3) Getting exemptions for all the high-tech parts because they aren’t made in the US.

    I’m not sure why the same thing isn’t done for buses, but for some reason it isn’t.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “the 60-vote rule”? Nathaniel, you’ve fallen for the biased news media TrueSpeak term for “filibuster”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Buy American is popular with most Senators and their donors; the filibuster has nothing to do with that particular dysfunction.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Alon: I’m pointing out Nathaniel’s use of words, not agreeing or disagreeing with his statement:

    …. thanks to gerrymandering and the 60-vote rule in the Senate, among other things

    Nathaniel refers to (abuse of) the filibuster as a reason why Buy-American laws are not going to change for the time being. My comment is that Nathaniel has been suckered into the euphemism “60-vote rule”, rather than “abuse of the filibuster”. That observation is valid regardless of whether reform of Buy-American has support in the Senate, or not.

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