Alfred Twu’s US High Speed Rail Map Goes Viral

Feb 7th, 2013 | Posted by

I am amazed, and very pleased, to see that the ambitious yet sensible map that Alfred Twu and California Rail Map put together of a North American high speed rail network has gone viral.

I worked with Twu back in 2008 when he approached me and a few other people with an interest in putting together postcards that could be handed out across the state touting the California high speed rail project and Prop 1A. I gave a few suggestions, but Twu ran with it, producing these beautiful images that the National Association of Railroad Passengers paid to have printed for activists to distribute around the state. He has talent and vision, two things that help an idea spread like wildfire.

And that’s what his North American HSR map has done. It’s been covered in news outlets across the country and around the world. The map’s popularity led the Guardian, one of Britain’s main newspapers and an increasingly dominant global news site, to publish an op-ed by Twu about his vision. Titled “A US High Speed Rail Network Shouldn’t Be Just A Dream, it’s a great description of why HSR is a good idea not just for America’s cities, but for everyone living here, including folks in rural areas:

Instead of detailing construction phases and service speeds, I took a little artistic license and chose colors and linked lines to celebrate America’s many distinct but interwoven regional cultures.

The response to my map this week went above and beyond my wildest expectations, sparking vigorous political discussion between thousands of Americans ranging from off-color jokes about rival cities to poignant reflections on how this kind of rail network could change long-distance relationships and the lives of faraway family members.

Commenters from New York and Nebraska talked about “wanting to ride the red line”. Journalists from Chattanooga, Tennessee (population 167,000) asked to reprint the map because they were excited to be on the map. Hundreds more shouted “this should have been built yesterday”.

It’s clear that high speed rail is more than just a way to save energy or extend economic development to smaller cities.

More than mere steel wheels on tracks, high speed rail shrinks space and brings farflung families back together. It keeps couples in touch when distant career or educational opportunities beckon. It calls to adventure and travel. It is duct tape and string to reconnect politically divided regions. Its colorful threads weave new American Dreams.

Twu goes on to bust some common myths about high speed rail, and that’s worth reading too. But what I really love is this brilliant vision laid out above. That, more than just lines on a map, is why this map has gone viral. It speaks to the global desire for better connections, for modern transportation technology, and for a humanistic vision that embraces opportunities rather than making excuses for failure.

Congratulations to Alfred for getting the global recognition his work so rightly deserves.

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  1. Donk
    Feb 7th, 2013 at 23:01
    #1

    How did this rail map nerd get his map to go viral? This is the wet dream for all of the legions of rail map nerds who try to peddle their latest and greatest rail map.

    Donk Reply:

    …the wet dream, I mean, is that their map will be the one that goes viral on the internet, in case my post was not clear.

    PeakVT Reply:

    He made it look nice. The content isn’t so great, but as is often the case, the packaging matters more.

    swing hanger Reply:

    When’s the t-shirt coming out?

    VBobier Reply:

    When You or someone else gets the rights to print them I suppose….

    Alfred Reply:

    The shirt will be coming out this weekend.

    VBobier Reply:

    But not in a 6XL….

    Alfred Reply:

    Shirts and tote bags now available at http://skreened.com/californiarailmap/united-states-high-speed-rail-system

    Sizes up to 3XL available.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I’ll tell you, he’s lucky. He came out with, as noted, a good looking map, one that represents an ambitious vision that just might be doable, and go with that, he came out with it at the right time. A few years ago, even one year ago, nobody would have paid attention. Now, with things like the generational shift going on, the realization that the road system has serious financial trouble, the recognized continual pain of oil dependence, and the general decline of the driving experience, the idea doesn’t seem so crazy.

    Luck like that is, in my opinion, half the secret of success in business–the other half is all the work and vision and skill the business owner brings. Don’t discount that luck factor; I’m certain we’ve seen people, even known people, who started businesses, did everything right, worked like slaves, and the business failed anyway–while occasionally, someone else could be as dumb as dirt, but strikes it rich. Timing is a big part of that.

    In this case, maybe enough dinosaurs are finally dying off.

    Alfred Reply:

    Hi DP – I agree you’re right about the timing part. An earlier, very similar version I made in March 2009 didn’t get much interest. There are some technological factors as well: 1) The increase in Facebook usage and features since 2009 enabled the rapid sharing of the map this time around. 2) The image was first posted to a Facebook page for a map of current California rail and bus services that had been crowdfunded through Kickstarter – a company that didn’t exist in March 2009.

    Makes me wonder what are the complementary products for high speed rail, where once it exists in sufficient quantity in both the real world and the national imagination the demand for high speed rail really takes off. Car sharing?

    Thanks again Robert and everyone else for continuing the discussion on high speed rail!

    Alfred

    Nathanael Reply:

    First complementary product is pretty obvious: urban rail (metro). It’s well documented that people arriving in a city by rail like to take rail to get around the city. Boardings on intercity rail are always higher for cities with urban rail.

    Second complementary product, I would argue, is sidewalks — the “last 1000 feet” of every journey without a car.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Many journeys by car the last 1000 feet is across a sea of asphalt without a sidewalk to be found. Ever been to a suburban Walmart in late December?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yeah, and the last 200 feet from your car to the store entrance involves risking life and limb dodging errant drivers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And let me tell you, that’s no fun and there’s a reason people don’t like it.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    How about a HSR version of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Auto_TrainAutoracks_Front.jpg ?

    America is the RV Nation…so maybe by designing a HSR train car that can hold autos securely, they could get enough people to take the rails through the middle of the state. The same would hold for Desert Xpress funneling cars into Las Vegas, too.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    loading or unloading the automobiles takes hours.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s not necessarily far-fetched; it’s essentially the base Chunnel service. Might be something for that transcontinental line, if we ever get to that (note I did say “if”).

    http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6354487

    http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6354486

    http://chunnel.org.uk/

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

    Power for these trains isn’t what I would call lightweight:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurotunnel_Class_9

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Other photos:

    http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/1677453

    http://www.whatsonbulgaria.eu/uk2bulgaria/channeltunnelukfrance.html

    http://international.iteem.ec-lille.fr/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Eurotunnel209704.jpg

    Granted, this isn’t a true high speed operation, even though it shares tracks with high speed trains. One thing that might need changing for high speed service would be those auto cars–they sure are bulky, and much wider than the locomotives that pull them.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zLSRRJiKbxg/TB6D8tSE_lI/AAAAAAAADYI/WDMrVpJVdj8/s1600/eurotunnel.JPG

  2. John Burrows
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 01:18
    #2

    There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big but to ever make this dream or even parts of this dream a reality is going to take some serious financing.

    Just considering California alone, Anaheim to San Francisco with full implementation will be around $100 billion. Add to that the expansion from Los Angeles to Tijuana, the expansion from Merced to Sacramento, the line from San Francisco to Reno by way, I assume, of another trans-bay tube, and the California part of the Vancouver Line. We are talking about a lot of money (I wouldn’t even want to guess how much), and we have barely left California.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I forgot the segment that would connect with Las Vegas.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Soooo, you’re saying it would cost a lot less than a quarter of the YEARLY military budget for the US?

    Yeah. HSR is cheap, let’s build it.

    joe Reply:

    Pretend it is a FREEDOM HSR System and it will be built here and not CA.

    We poured over a trillion into this http://goo.gl/maps/fEC2X and barely blinked an eye.

    Jo Reply:

    Many of the same bozos who supported the Iraq war are the same bozos who are against HSR.

    Jo Reply:

    (I am talking about senators and congressmen of course.)

    Eric M Reply:

    Not necessarily

    Jo Reply:

    Ah yes. The media, led by fox.

    joe Reply:

    A useful generalization:

    Keynesian Economics applies only to military spending.
    Spending on Defense is stimulus and creates Jobs.
    Anything spent on the US and its citizens (HSR) is OMG DEFICT.

    Solution – repurpose the Military Industrial Complex Contractors towards US infrastructure.
    HSR => Ballistic Train Defense System. LMCo builds the locomotives and coats them in stealth paint.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    There sould be an Ad running comparing the cost of this system to the Iraq war and the long term value of each!

    Jerry Reply:

    Yes! That sad moral, economic, constitutional point cannot be emphasized enough.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In related news, China’s destroying its own neighborhoods to build expressways is better than the Great Leap Forward, so it must be okay.

    Emma Reply:

    There should have been. But CHSRA hired the WORST marketing firm in the universe. Any decent marketing would have done that on day 1 and probably convinced half of America to jump of the HSR bandwagon.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    We spent a Trillion dollars on Iraq oil freedom without bliking an eye..We have the means to to it and it would be a wonderful investment..alas we live in a country where we have groups/news media like the teaparty that think that pittly 8 Billion for HSR will bankrupt the country…

    Jerry Reply:

    Yes. Considering the money involved we could have BOTH Pacheco AND Altamont. Palmdale and Tejon.
    Yes. TeaParty is strangely silent on guns and butter and tax cut economic approach to Iraq.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The politics of the military and its budget are complicated and go way beyond the Tea Party. Recall the GOP of old was isolationist and and did not favor a big military.

    The entire political establishment does not wish to take the chance of being unprepared for a real war and losing it. Besides we are stuck with the job of world policeman for the time being. Neither the Chinese nor the Russians are interested in doing it so the responsibility is largely falling on us and France.

    Nick Reply:

    Maybe the Russians and Chinese have more sense then to do something that nobody in the world has asked them to do ie. worlds policeman. Guess I’d better watch out for drones now !

    joe Reply:

    “Recall the GOP of old was isolationist and did not favor a big military.”
    …and recall Lincoln and the Whigs!!

    Try sticking to the past 60 years – Any pre-Eisenhower is off-limits.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Do you think there’s any chance the GOP could go the way of the Whigs?

    joe Reply:

    Maybe – they could. Mitt won the same fraction of the white vote as Bush. He lost to Obama so that shows the Party’s demographics are against them.

    What helps the GOP is the evolving Senate and Gerrymandering.

    It’s still has a hard core of resentment and Fox News can make a fat profit being the news for the 30% of the tea party so that’s not changing.

    The party can obstruct and I see our politics moving to super majority in the Senate to maintain GOP political power. The Senate favors small states so again they have a core to maintain power.

    Splitting off Latinos from the Dems was Karl Rove’s plan for a 21st Century party under Bush but the GOP base they incited to win these elections in 2000 and 2004 didn’t go along. They can’t.

    So the brand may survive since they are expensive to create, easier to reinvent and carry some voting persistence. It will require an Eisenhower to reset the brand and put the crazy back in the closet.

  3. leroy
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 06:55
    #3

    experts report that the state faces a complicated legal process that is expected to drive up prices, according to the Los Angeles Times.

    As a result, the inflated value of the land will give farmers, businesses and homeowners leverage to delay the project by weeks or months.

    Jo Reply:

    Is Ralph Vartabedian the reporter?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    first word “experts” citatation needed

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, no, that’s not how eminent domain works. You don’t get the Fair Market Value at the time of the sale, you get the FMV from when the project was announced, both to protect the project from land speculators, and to protect the landowners from any decreases in property values as a result of the prospect of the project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the project takes many years from announcement to sale, do landowners not get compensated based on a normal baseline of appreciation?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t know when the clock starts ticking in California. In most states it’s fair market value at the time of the sale. Fair market value isn’t a number the state pulls out of their nether regions. It’s more or less the same thing a real estate agent does when he or she gives you a market valuation. Or the same thing the real estate appraiser does when they do an appraisal for a mortgage. If you think your three bedroom one and half bath is worth more than the other three bedroom one and half baths in you neighborhood you are probably gonna have to go to court and prove it. If you think your three bedroom one and half bath with the lovely view of the tracks is worth 3X what things two blocks away from the tracks are selling for you are going to have a very hard time convincing the courts you are correct. When the state takes something by eminent domain you also get reimbursed for actual costs, as long as they are reasonable, for things like moving and closing costs on the replacement house.

    StevieB Reply:

    Lexography posted an article on CAHSR eminent domain this week.

    Your Right to an Independent Appraisal of Your Property Interest: As a property owner or occupant of the property being acquired, you can expect the HSR to contact you and request access to the property in order to conduct an appraisal. The law allows you to hire your own independent appraiser to determine the value of your property interest, and the HSR is obligated to pay for the cost of that appraisal, up to $5,000.
    Your Right to Relocation Assistance: If you will have to move because your property is being taken, the HSR must offer relocation assistance. The HSR is required to pay the reasonable expenses of moving your business or your personal property. You may be entitled to up to $10,000 in reestablishment costs for setting up your business in a new location. These costs may include new phone lines, advertising, new cable or internet connections, and new signage.
    Your Rights Regarding Early Possession of Your Property: If you and the HSR do not reach agreement as to the value of your property interest, then the HSR may file an eminent domain lawsuit. Under certain circumstances, the HSR may obtain possession of your property before the lawsuit is finished. If the HSR is not scheduled to use your property within two years, the HSR must offer you a one year lease at fair market rent so you can continue to use your property in the interim.
    Your Right to Just Compensation and Damages: If the HSR files an eminent domain lawsuit seeking to take your property, you are entitled to compensation for the market value of the real and personal property taken. Also, businesses, including farms, may be entitled to compensation for any damage to goodwill of the business as a result of the take.
    Your Right to a Jury: You have the Constitutional right to have a jury determine the amount of compensation owed to you.

    Peter Reply:

    Wikipedia has a fairly good description of U.S. eminent domain law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain#Compensation

  4. John Burrows
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 08:48
    #4

    It wasn’t supposed to cost that much. Projected oil revenues were going to pay for Iraqi reconstruction. In the words of Paul Wolfowitz: “We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon”. 4,500 dead Americans and over a trillion dollars gone—An example of a Neocon business plan gone tragically awry.

    Jo Reply:

    Not to mention thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

    Emma Reply:

    *Correction: It’s over a Million by now.

    Eric Reply:

    Clinton’s sanctions on Iraq also killed hundreds of thousands, if reports are to be believed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those reports assumed an unrealistic baseline. They compared actual mortality with a trendline of linear decrease in child mortality extrapolated from the 1980s. The actual death toll of the sanctions was high but not that high.

    Jerry Reply:

    Again. Where is the outrage over all of that??

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The outrage over mass murder is in a different category from that over wasted money.

    flowmotion Reply:

    There is an enormous amount of outrage, but since all the major Democratic politicians supported it, you’re supposed to keep your head down and keep your partisan focus on your favorite niche interests (like HSR).

  5. Jo
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 09:20
    #5

    Something more positive now: how about a baseball cap with the ” United States High Speed Rail System” logo on it.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    No: gotta be ‘Freedom Rail’. Got to play the big fish…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How ’bout the Ronald Reagan National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Then you’d end up with all the conservatives/tea-baggers supporting HSR, and the libruls opposing it, and the universe would implode.

  6. Derek
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 09:38
    #6

    AMR Stands to Gain Vast Route Network, by Jack Nicas, Wall Street Journal

    The expected merger poses potential disadvantages for fliers. Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com, said less competition, both now and in the future, means an overall increase in airfares over the long term…

    There also are questions over whether the combined carrier could support eight hubs and, if not, which U.S. city might be on the chopping block… In the expected American tie-up, analysts point to Phoenix as the likely target…

    Maybe now Phoenix will get cracking on a high speed rail line that taps into California’s at Riverside.

    joe Reply:

    Derek

    Recent FAA report made the same conclusions: Consolidation will undercut competition and fares for domestic flights will rise at a higher rate than International routes.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    None of American’s hub’s are really that helpful to command a larger market presence because airlines tend to make decisions on labor laws, not effective system design. (Delta’s hub being Cincinnati because the airport is in Kentucky?!?!”)

    US Airways though, is way deeper in the hole though. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Phoenix are all cities that have seen better days, even if those better days were in 2005 as opposed to 1905. American can’t abandon it’s Dallas base, but is otherwise much more suited to the East Coast because of its strong presence in the Caribbean.

    The Arizona Department of Transportation already has a right of way to use for HSR that passes between Yuma and Phoenix, courtesy of the Viper Militia dynamiting the Sunset Limited in 1995. The only problem is that the California planners won’t run the rest of the track from San Diego to Phoenix instead of L.A. And the Legislature and political establishment are hostile to the idea 1) because it takes money away from sprawl-inducing roads 2) because they don’t want higher taxes to fund it and 3) Obama likes it, therefore it must be bad for society.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    US Air pulled out of Pittsburgh years ago leaving Pittsburgh with a white elephant of an airport.
    If Wikipedia is correct Charlotte is the 8th fastest growing metro area in the US.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Why do governments like Pittsburgh pour money into single-carrier hubs without at least getting some contractual obligation from that carrier to keep a certain minimum number of flights there…?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For the same reason they pour money into stadiums, arenas and convention centers.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I would doubt those contracts are enforceable in bankruptcy, something which each airline has been familiar with these days.

    Derek Reply:

    I wouldn’t build HSR between San Diego and Yuma because of the terrain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Interesting that Phoenix is the most in danger. I would’ve thought that Philly, which US uses as an international gateway where everyone else uses New York, would lose out more.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    US Airways has far more pricing power in Philadelphia than Phoenix: http://transtats.bts.gov/airports.asp?pn=1

    In Philly, USAir flies to lots of destinations where there’s no real competition either from Southwest or legacy carriers. In Phoenix, it’s the exact opposite, where they have to run low-margin flights to Las Vegas and LA against SWA.

    Charlotte, meanwhile, has most of its passengers going to nearby Atlanta, which could be picked off easily by rail or the Friendly Skies and major hubs of other carriers like Chicago and Dallas…

    Nathanael Reply:

    US Air in Philadelphia controls its regional (propjet flights) market. The alternative is driving.

    It’s actually ripe for passenger rail competition, not that anyone in power has been interested in building that.

    Jo Reply:

    Aside from the technical and political aspects, if HSR ever is built between Los Angeles and Phoenix, I would think that the economic dynamics would be tremendous. Five to six hours driving time and the hassle of flying between the two cities simply would never be able to beat a 2 or 2.5 hour high speed train trip. The economic benefits would be huge. Would not it improve and maintain the southwest’s competitiveness in North America and the world?

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Yeah at 4.2 mil Phoenix has become a darn big metro area with a lot of ties to LA/OC. Straight shot via Palm Springs (lots of visitor traffic) and the large Inland Empire, Ontario airport, etc. I think it will happen

    Jo Reply:

    This is what Alfred Twu’s wonderful map and HSR are all about. He gets it. It is too bad that our bizarro world politicians do not get it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Phoenix is toast.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    In the long run we’re all dead

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Lots of brain death before then, Neil.

    joe Reply:

    Wrote the man who bought a home in SF.
    CA also has experienced massive, long duration droughts (100+ years) and your city, which uses sierra runoff water, is vulnerable to rising sea levels.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v369/n6481/abs/369546a0.html

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s vulnerable, but unlike Phoenix, it’s not contributing as much to the problem.

    Eric Reply:

    Phoenix residents will have to pay somewhat more for desalinated water (like many Middle East countries do nowadays). Fruits and vegetables will be somewhat more expensive across the US as some California farmers will not be able to afford the water. Most Phoenix golf courses will close. Other than that, life will go on as normal. Why exactly shouldn’t we build HSR to Phoenix again?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You can play golf on courses without grass. Or they will spend the money to pipe recycled water to the golf courses.

    jimsf Reply:

    The reason for connecting phx and lvs to each other and la would be for economic reasons as the southwest becomes a united mega region.

    Meanwhile valley industries are mobilizing to make sure that caltrans includes daily rail service to psp-ido.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Indio is 125 miles from Los Angeles. To get to Los Angeles you pass through greater San Bernandino. Riverside-San Bernandino is almost as big as Phoenix. The ROW, whatever they eventually pick is relatively flat and relatively straight. Even buying up strip malls instead of vacant Federal land it’s going to be cheap to get from Los Angeles to Indio, Especially since they are going to be building the first 50 miles or so of that route for Los Angeles-San Diego.
    It’s almost 300 miles from Phoenix to Las Vegas. Through a whole lot of nothing. Mountainous whole lot of nothing. Until some time far far in the future if you want to take the train from Phoenix to Las Vegas change trains in San Bernardino for the San Diego-Las Vegas express that goes through the Cajon Pass.

    Derek Reply:

    The SR-93 is fairly mountainous between Wickenburg and Kingman, but you can bypass most of that if you divert to Alamo Lake and head up through the valley west of Kingman. Or instead of going through Kingman, head on over a little further west and take the SR-95 corridor which is pretty flat.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So two hundred miles between Las Vegas and the middle of nowhere where it could connect with the Phoenix-Los Angeles line.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @adirondacker12800:

    There’s also an existing short line between Phoenix and Cadiz which goes through a whole lot of not-so-mountainous nothing, and points in a straight line onwards to Victorville/Barstow to Palmdale and the Central Valley. If you wanted a way to get FRA high speed (ie, compatible with Xpress West and Las Vegas) without going through the environmental issues associated with creating a new line from scratch, this is worth a look.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Other than that, life will go on as normal.

    You completely fail to understand what is happening to your planet.

    It’s not about using recycled water for golf courses,

    It’s about whether much of the south-western US will be habitable .. by humans, or perhaps even by mammals.

    Start here (for why even the golf courses keep blooming): http://www.google.com/search?q=%22bird+on+fire%22+Phoenix
    Then: http://www.google.com/search?q=persistent+drought+North+America+paleoclimate

  7. jimsf
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 10:33
    #7

    speaking of high speed rail… it just occured to me while looking at the latest state rail plan map

    using the blended approach as shown, at the metrolink and caltrain ends…. also leaves the possibilty at san jose to electrify a portion of ccjpa track from oakland to san jose which would allow blended hsr service to serve both oakland and sf! lets do it!

    110 or 125 service from both sfc and okj to sjc then converging onto the full speed 220 line from san jose southward. so instead of bemoaning what we don’t like, we can make the best of the possibilities!

    Jo Reply:

    Makes sense. Should do it on the entire Capital Corridor to Sacramento.

    Joey Reply:

    Wrong. Oakland-Santa Clara is owned by UP so there’s no chance whatsoever of extending high speed service on those tracks. Not that you’d want to do it on the Alviso line even if you could.

    Jo Reply:

    I do not live in the east bay area, but I thought that the CCJPA has a long range plan to get their trains to 100MPH with PTC and what not?

    Joey Reply:

    Certainly not north of Oakland, since their agreement with UP limits speeds to 79 mph for the foreseeable future. South of Oakland I think higher speeds are possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that UP owns it and it is permanently slaved to FRA compliance (note that the Capitol Corridor uses compliant trains).

    Jo Reply:

    This is precisely why that we have the current passenger train service that we have. We should be able to do better. What kind of true HSR service is Sacramento then going to have to San Francisco? Is a separate dedicated ROW needed, more passing tracks, better PTC and other systems? Improvements like this are long overdue. Look at the success of the Cascade routes in Oregon and Washington in which the Talgos have an exemption from FRA compliance. I believe that they deal more with BNSF than UP, but once that the CAHSR system is operating, I think that there will be a push for improvements to connecting and for more blended routes. It may not seem so now, but I think that it will happen. As the great Californian Caesar Chavez said: Si se puede.

    Joey Reply:

    If you only want to increase speeds, UP might be willing to accept additional tracks for the entire length of segments you want to increase speeds in. If you actually want something more modernized, i.e. electrifying and getting rid of FRA regulations, you need an entirely new ROW. That’s not likely to change any time soon.

    Derek Reply:

    The Draft California State Rail Plan is now online.

    Eric M Reply:

    One problem with the map posted, it does not show HSR going all the way to San Francisco. It stops at San Jode

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe they know something about Ring-the-Bay we don’t.

    Peter Reply:

    I wouldn’t read too much into these maps.

    On page 247:

    Caltrain and the Authority are committed to advancing a Blended System. This local vision was developed with stakeholders interested in the Caltrain corridor. The Blended System will remain substantially within the existing Caltrain ROW and accommodate future HSR and modernized Caltrain service along the Peninsula corridor by primarily utilizing the existing track configuration on the Peninsula. The Blended System will be primarily a two-track system shared by Caltrain, HSR, and existing passenger and freight rail tenants.

    Eric M Reply:

    Yeah, you are right. No reason to make a mountain out of a mole hill

    Peter Reply:

    Isn’t that the whole point of the Internet, though?

    Clem Reply:

    Number of mentions of certain relevant topics:
    CPUC General Order 26D: zero
    Level boarding: zero

    Scary footnotes:
    112 “The diesel-hauled Coast Daylight service is expected to terminate at the Fourth and King Street Station, as the new Transbay Terminal will only be served by electric trains.”

    What a turd.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The wild card is the I-280 urban removal scheme. If the SF real estate boom continues this thing could have enough legs Caltrain could lose a lot or even all of its property. AFAIK it came out of nowhere so somebody with pull must have concocted it.

    SF has a long history of shamelessly selling off transit property without a care as to the future.

    swing hanger Reply:

    What’s your proposal for the Coast Daylight terminal location??

    Joey Reply:

    Most likely wherever it can go without interfering with modernized CalTrain (and later HSR) operations on the Peninsula. Which probably means San Jose or Emeryville. The lack of direct service to San Francisco is unfortunate, but this is the kind of train where you’re lucky if it arrives within an hour of when it’s scheduled to. And there’s simply no room for that on the peninsula, where even small timing mistakes could lead to cascading delays (particularly true when HSR comes around), where capacity is a precious resource since additional infrastructure is both expensive and politically difficult.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I can envision roughly four alternative scenarios:

    1. Lee’s urban removal proposal really takes off and Ring-the-Bay rises from the crypt. All the Caltrain property is expropriated by the City. Remember if Moonbeam bitches, Lee can simply reply you are the one who took away Redevelopment monies. and left the cities to fend for themselves – so don’t butt in.

    2. Nothing happens to the I-280 off-ramps and existing plans go ahead.

    3. Caltrain and the TBT Tunnel survive but with great loss of property and storage. Caltrain wins and hsr is tangential.

    4. The TBT Tunnel is dropped, a station at generally 4th & King is built but only under the street, and an extension to the East Bay is promised via a new tube that would permit thru running.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What’s your proposal for the Coast Daylight terminal location??

    Amtrak equipment makes fine artificial reefs and/or basic oxygen steelmaking furnace feedstock.

    PS What’s your proposal for Coast Daylight ridership and return on investment?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If you want to really rage, the draft plan implies bringing back the Spirit of California as well.

    Peter Reply:

    Spirit of California wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe CA could spring for a couple of Talgo sleeper trainsets.

    joe Reply:

    “What’s your proposal for Coast Daylight ridership and return on investment?”

    My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the IER, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

    EJ Reply:

    Considering that 4th & King would be a perfectly fine terminal for CAHSR (it’s no further from downtown SF than LAUS is from downtown LA) it hardly matters that the Daylight will terminate there.

  8. Derek
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 14:53
    #8

    Alfred’s map appears to have inspired a White House petition for a nationwide high speed rail system.

  9. nslander
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 17:09
    #9

    While we’re just putting stuff out there: a 2 ½ train ride to 90 degree ocean might be appealing weekend escape: http://www.sanfelipe.com.mx/about/climate.html

  10. JJJJ
    Feb 8th, 2013 at 21:01
    #10

    Interstate 5 over the Grapevine was closed Friday afternoon because of snow, the California Highway Patrol said.

    The Grapevine was shut down shortly after 4 p.m.

    The CHP did not know how long the section of I-5 connecting the Valley and Southern California would remain closed.

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/02/08/3166545/snow-closes-i-5-over-the-grapevine.html#storylink=cpy

    It’s not like the main-north side corridor being open is important or anything.

    Naturally, HSR would solve the problem of people being blocked from critical travel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Between tunnels and snow sheds the Tejon mountain crossing would be all-weather.

    Since the political corruption underlying the DeTour seems to be insurmountable perhaps the best interim approach is to spend the least on it. Maybe single-track.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You know I wonder why you don’t propose a combined road and rail tunnel to replace the Grapevine that could also support HSR? The honest truth is that there’s no point is pursuing Tejon in any format if there isn’t a modernization of the Grapevine as well.

    I also think that until the Peninsula is Cal-Train free (and probably four-tracked), there’s no point in trying to recover the cost of such an option when it’s likely that your “DeTour” will be compatible with Desert Xpress and enjoy revenue from that service while the rest of CAHSR is being expanded.

    Jonathan Reply:

    How do you tie HSR through Tejon, to modernizing road traffic over the Grapevine?

    let alone whatever-it-is you’re trying to tie to quad-tracking Caltrain? Are you arguing about saturating the route capacity, or what?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is indeed possible that Caltrans has some long range plans for upgrading I-5 over the Grapevine under the blotter so to speak.

    If it involved long tunnels the Bear Trap Canyon route would likely be on the table. You have to wonder what is going on in the collective mind of Team Tejon. A major freeway tunnel project would genuinely “blight” the upscale, exclusive rural resort retreat theme they are supposedly trying to deploy up there. They need not fear hsr – but maybe they feel they will be undercompensated by the State for the prime Bear Trap Canyon property.

    Perhaps it not so much “Team Tejon” that is the gatekeeper but “Team Santa Clarita”. You need to buy off Santa Clarita with some expensive tunneling.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    From the looks of the snow that halts traffic on I-5, the solution is salt trucks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Same reasons salting does not work on 80 over Donner.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Donner Pass gets snows that can bury trucks, the Tejon gets snow that buries their tire treads. Midwesteners and Northeasterners looks the videos of a closed I-5 and ask “what snow?” It wouldn’t even slow down Washington DC, which is notorious for turning into gridlock when three flakes fall. Salt trucks would cure it. Sanders along with the salters if the it’s ice instead of snow.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Going via Mohave and Palmdale solves it. Takes a little longer but the snow is usually gone in half a day. Why make the investment in equipment for 2 days a year?

    JBaloun Reply:

    But D.C. does not have -miles- of road at a 6% grade along with the snow.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A few inches of snow doesn’t affect trains.
    No DC doesn’t have 6% grades for miles. It doesn’t have palm trees either. It doesn’t have Pacific Coast line or Sierra Nevada Mountains. California is extra special and has to spend tens of billions of dollars to solve a problem the rest of the world solves with a few trucks and deicer.

    James in PA Reply:

    Whatever. Every place is different. Caltrans has snow operations at the mountain passes every winter and it does not cost billions. On the other hand a few trucks and deicer is not going to cut it when you have 10000 cars headed you way. Same old ‘we have it and you don’t’ crap.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    40 miles of highway needs one truck per lane per hour? So if they want to keep three lanes open and come through every half hour they would need a dozen trucks? drivers and wingwatchers? A few people back at the garage to keep them in salt and since they have to have a spare or two and a few for breaks lunch and time it takes to refill the salt bunker, two dozen? Million dollars a year to amortize the truck, maintain it, supply it and staff it? 20 miles per lane per hour comes out to 50 million a year. What’s the interest cost on the money they would borrow to build road tunnels across the Tejon?

    Steven H Reply:

    “No DC doesn’t have 6% grades for miles.”

    That, and we have a snow melter. So, problem solved.

    http://dcist.com/2010/02/snow_melter_seen_in_action.php

    JBaloun Reply:

    Caltrans has studied methods to reduce salt use and develop alternatives to salt.

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/snwicecontrol.pdf

    I like the way California uses less salt and I don’t have to worry so much about corrosion of my car. On the other hand, it is commonly known to beware of corrosion on a used car brought in from regions that use more salt. It must be hard on the local environment as well the extra salt that flushes into the watershed. I recall Tahoe basin does not allow salt?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Salt is not only corrosive to your car, it can have horrible effects on concrete, causing spalling and other problems.

    http://cretedefender.com/how-salt-damages-concrete/

    http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/experts/corrosion/show/517/

    http://www.stixnstones.com/blog/bid/72062/Does-Rock-Salt-Harm-Concrete

    Asphalt apparently weathers against salt better than concrete, but it has its own problems, including a reduction in quality over the years even as the cost has escalated:

    http://www.lambertpaving.com/articles.htm

    Railroads look better all the time. . .

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 9th, 2013 at 09:34
    #11

    Maybe we’ll see this big system, maybe we won’t. If we do see it, I think it will come this way.

    1. Amtrak builds out from the NEC with extended regional trains, as it has done so in Virginia. This is accompanied by the gradual extensions and speed-ups we’re seeing between Chicago and St. Louis and Chicago and Detroit.

    2. California starts on its project, perhaps accelerating it as gas prices become more dear and it’s realized we need an oil-free transport alternative.

    3. During all this, the highway system deteriorates further, and its cost recovery worsens even as maintenance expenditures are cut.

    4. California’s operation gets underway and is a HUGE success, despite the reservations about a route that some consider longer than it should be. Even with that “flaw,” it still draws enormous patronage and generates an operational profit; even with that “flaw,” it’s still an improvement over long, tedious drives and airplane hassles, not to mentioned increasing air fares and more expensive gasoline.

    5. Like a dam bursting, all of a sudden interest and construction explode for the rest of the system. Part of this will be people fed up with gas prices and airline problems, and part of it will be that enough of the anti-rail geezers will have passed on or be shown up as fools. In conjunction with this will come the revival of regional and local rail to fill in the gaps and provide the local connections that seem to scare some people from trains (although apparently it’s not a problem at an airport). The next-to-last segment of the system to open will be an extension to Denver; the last segment to open will be a rugged mountain crossing between Denver and Las Vegas.

    That initial explosion may prove interesting. Two somewhat negative things are likely to happen in that condition (if it comes about); one will be that railroad contractors will really bid up prices, and the other will be all sorts of ideas and proposals for other lines which really won’t make sense (and hopefully won’t actually be built). The most useful part will be the local and regional rail fill-ins that we are going to need eventually.

    See you in 20 years or so to see how this pans out.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    DP, there’s never gonna be HSR to or from Denver. It’s too far away from any place else.
    Using I-70 to i-15 Google maps says it’s 753 miles from Denver to Las Vegas. There’s no other major cities along the way. Denver to Salt Lake City is 518 miles. There are no other major cities along the way. Denver to Kansas City is 603 miles.. there’s no other major city along the way. The fantasy maps usually have a line running from Cheyenne to El Paso. The population of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico is 7,652,002. El Paso’s metro area is 800,647. It’s 737 miles between Cheyenne and El Paso. Fooling around with Google some more it’s 800 miles between Cleveland and Atlanta if you go off course a bit to go through cities. Cleveland. Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta.
    There’s never going to be HSR to Salt Lake City either, it’s too far away from everywhere else.

    Easterners don’t realize how empty the West is. The population density of West Virgina, something I’m sure you can relate to is 77.06 per square mile. The population density of Colorado is 49.33. Kansas is 35.09. Draw a line from Minneapolis to San Antonio and that’s as far west as the Eastern HSR network is going to go. There’s nothing past there.

    Keep this map in mind when you are drawing lines.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/USA-2000-population-density.gif

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I don’t know about never, but it would be great to expand our thinking outside of just the NEC to accept that there is huge potential in the eastern half of the US including Florida to Texas to the upper midwest.

    Then as folks here have pointed out, as higher speed routes are in place from Chicago to Kansas City and Omaha, the air travel subsidies to the medium size communities in Nebraska and Kansas may give way to HSR construction subsidies.

    Derek Reply:

    The Ft. Collins-Denver-Colorado Springs corridor is fairly populous, and flat. From Ft. Collins, it’s just another 40 or so miles to Cheyenne.

    PeakVT Reply:

    The greater Front Range area (Cheyenne-Pueblo) may have a regional high-speed rail line, but it is unlikely that it will ever be connected to the eastern network by a dedicated new-build high-speed line.

    Derek Reply:

    Someday, we may have no reasonable alternative to building nationwide high speed rail.

    I would connect Denver to SLC by way of Cheyenne and the I-80.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Well, a future world where airline flights are so expensive due to fuel prices that only the very wealthy can afford them is also probably a world where most legacy rail lines have been electrified, and building new HSR-grade rail lines is terribly expensive. Does a new 500-mile long Denver-Cheyenne-SLC HSR line get built in that world? I would guess not.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are other sources for jet fuel than boiling dead dinosaur juice. If half the fare is fuel, doubling the price of fuel makes the fare go up 50%. Tripling the price of fuel doubles the fare. At triple the price we’ll be grinding up coal to make jet fuel, sucking natural gas out of the shales under the Marcellus or separating the organics out of the garbage. Or all three.
    At 25 million a mile, which would be very very cheap, that’s 12.5 billion for 500 miles of track. Amortizing 12.5 billion to connect 6 or 7 million people doesn’t pencil out.

    Derek Reply:

    12.5 billion divided by 6 million people comes to about $2,000 per person. In a future where roads and airports are useless, a one-time charge of $2,000 is quite reasonable, considering that even today it costs over $8,000 per year to own a car, according to the AAA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    2000 a person is what Amtrak’s Vision Plan would cost.
    The population of Utah and Colorado at the 2010 Census was 7,880,187
    The population of New Jersey at the 2010 Census was 8,791,898.
    Colorado and Utah can have 13 billion dollars when New Jersey ( and the other 40 million people along the NEC ) get the ARC tunnel and station or some alternative.
    The Baltimore-Washington Combined Statistical Area is 8,924,087. When they get their 13 billion dollars Utah and Colorado can start asking questions about when they can get their 13 billion.
    The population of New York City is 8,175,133. I see a nice tunnel from Penn Station to New Rochelle cutting 20 minutes off the Boston-NY travel times. And 20 off Boston-Philadelphia. And Boston-Baltimore and Boston-Washington DC. And 20 off the Metro North New Haven expresses.
    The population of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts is 11,174,293. Where’s their 18 billion dollars?

    Jonathan Reply:

    New Jersey’s government decided they didn’t want ARC. So bugger off with making ARC a road-block for other projects elsewhere.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    New Jersey’s governor lied through his teeth about more than one thing and turned down the money. Nor reason why one idiot should make the 50 million people along the NEC pay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Apparently the residents of the Garden State are about to reelect The Bully by a huge margin. He lied; people believed it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s nothing new, the other Christie, Christie Whitman, lied through her teeth fairly regularly. Went on to do the same at the EPA.
    Don’t be so sure about them reelecting His Girthyness, The sheen of Sandy is going to wearing off by November. He’s had three years to be an asshole. I’m sure whoever gets nominated for the Democratic ticket is going to remind everyone that the Republicans stalled for months over the aid for Sandy. And other assholery.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @adirondacker: meet Democracy. Democracy: meet Adirondacker.

    The democratically-elected government of New Jersey cancelled ARC.
    ARC _does_ _not_ get to roadblock other developments. Grow up, get used to it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He supported it before the election.

    joe Reply:

    Building to Cheyenne WY will reach two additional US Senators.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, I did say “if,” and that little two-letter word can loom mighty large in the scheme of things.

    One thing I would keep in mind is that travel density and population density aren’t necessarily the same thing. I do understand there is a lot of travel between California and Las Vegas, and that much of that is through the desert, where not too many people live–but the traffic has to cross that desert. Same for the Interstates in the Dakotas and in other places (and which some have argued shouldn’t have been built, not really having the traffic to justify their construction).

    The big “if” is the air service question. Knock the airplanes out of the sky for whatever reason, and you may have a justification for some sort of service to Denver, perhaps even beyond. Maybe not full HSR, but certainly something better than what is there now.

    Will that happen? I wouldn’t say–and it is certainly the longest shot out there, and not just in route mileage–but as Neil points out above, we do want to keep an open mind on the subject.

    It would be interesting to contemplate just what would happen to a Las Vegas, a Salt Lake City, or a Denver if the air service were to go away (or at least be drastically curtailed)–and there would be no rail links.

    Nick Reply:

    They also said we would never get man to the moon ! If we can do that a us wide hsr doesn’t sound an improbable long term plan any more then was probably said about the interstate network at the time. Never say never

    PeakVT Reply:

    Here’s an interactive map of the 2010 data.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Very interesting. The most promising area for expanded rail service on this map… is from Mexico City to Toluca.

    Anyway, if Georgia and South Carolina weren’t regressive hellholes, the obvious next HSR corridor would be Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte.

    Cleveland-Akron-Canton and Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh also pop out as needing service.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Toluca and Cuidad de México are so close together (40 mi) that they could go directly to a maglev link, if Mexico suddenly wanted to jump ahead of the US on something.

    Anyway, I have map of what I think should be core North American HSR lines here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s only 60 miles between Springfield MA and New Haven CT. There’s 2 million people in greater greater Hartford. ( the northern suburbs of New Haven to the northern suburbs of Springfield ). No love for Springfield to New Haven? Doesn’t even need to be high speed, average speed of 90 and then connecting to high speed line in Springfield or New Haven makes a lot of sense.
    There’s roughly 2 million people in Las Vegas and 5 million in Phoenix. 5 million in Montreal and 2 million in Hartford. 5 million in Boston. It’s 300 miles from Phoenix to Las Vegas. No love for Boston to Montreal? Via Springfield and north through Vermont? But then there will be an HSR line from Boston to Buffalo and it’s only 200 miles from Albany to Montreal. Hmmm. Montreal to Albany connects to the 20 million people in metro New York. Get that fast enough and you connect to the 6 million in metro Philadelphia. Hmmm. Before we build Phoenix to Las Vegas we should be building Springfield to Montreal and Albany to Montreal.

    Ottawa to Philadelphia via Syracuse and Scranton is 450 miles. Not really worth it for Ottawa to Philadelphia. Means Toronto to Philadelphia is 500 miles instead 600 ( via Albany ) And cuts 100 miles off Rochester to Philadelphia. Or Rochester-Baltimore. Or Syracuse-DC …. there’s lots of stuff hiding in the Northeast or Midwest that makes as much sense as Las Vegas to Phoenix.. Nathaniel would be thrilled to get from Binghamton to DC in 3, Baltimore in 2.5 and Philadelphia in 1.5.

    PeakVT Reply:

    I wouldn’t consider Springfield-New Haven a core high-speed line. But you’ll find it elsewhere in my (now somewhat dated) plan.

    “No love for Boston to Montreal?”

    Absolutely not.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The two million people along the Connecticut River Valley are less important than the 1.6 million in metro Nashville? So metro Nashville, smaller than metro Hartford, gets service to Chattanooga, about half the size of metro Albany, but Hartford doesn’t get Albany. Hmm And neither of them get Montreal even though Montreal is along the way for people from New York or Boston. Hmmm. And nothing to Quebec City even though Montreal is much larger than Nashville and Quebec City is larger than Chattanooga? Hmmm.

    nick Reply:

    It is a shame that canadian hsr seems to have dropped off the radar along with electrification of any kind. quebec montreal ottawa toronto to windsor would be an excellent hsr route even at 125 mph or so. and this would connect into boston and new york at one end and detroit and chicago.

    even here in the uk electrification and high speed rail are now definitely on the menu and in fact underway (electrification) and being planned (hs2) despite years of them being on the back burner and despite high costs of electricity in the uk (but even higher diesel costs !). the canadian govt seems to have shelved any such plans if it ever had them and with the actions of canada on climate change and alberta tar sands seems to indicate withdrawal from the inernational scene.

    PeakVT Reply:

    “The two million people blah blah blah”

    How about you actually look at the maps before opening your yap?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I did look at the map and I spent ten minutes looking at the handy dandy metro area list Wikipedia has. Ya know they are passenger trains. Sorta makes sense to send them where there are passengers. I suggest that running 200 miles of HSR to connect Montreal with 50 million people is worth more than connecting Nashville to Chattanooga. And going to Hartford makes more sense than connecting Nashville to anywhere.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, GO Transit is planning on electrifying its entire system, and is currently designing electrification for the Kitchener and Lakeshore East corridors. This could be a first step towards extending electrification east towards Ottawa and Montreal. They’re even looking at electrifying the Air Rail Link they just ordered Nippon-Sharyo DMUs for.

    PeakVT Reply:

    “I did look at the map blah blah blah”

    Are you being willfully stupid for any particular reason? First, I said M-A-P-S. Second, there is a high-speed line running from Springfield to New Haven in both sets of M-A-P-S. Third, there is a high speed line from Albany to Montreal in both sets of M-A-P-S. At Albany the high speed line connects with other lines that run to NYC, Boston, and Buffalo. Everybody in the Northeast could go to Montreal on a high speed train riding on a high-speed line under my plan. They just wouldn’t be able to do it until the core lines were developed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You promulgated your bright shiny new map when you said “Anyway, I have map” not “maps” I looked at it, not them, and at that whiz bang list of metro areas on Wikipedia. I saw that you were busy evenly spreading dots over a map. Why is Nashville more important than Hartford? Unless that puts too many dots in New England for your tastes. Memphis to Little Rock, there’s a line that’s have great big thundering herds of people traveling along it compared to Buffalo and Cleveland.
    Go spread some more dots evenly.

    Jo Reply:

    Good map. I would Tijuana.

    Steve S. Reply:

    Bit late to the discussion, but a couple of comments about that map:
    1. Edmonton-Calgary is in the same category as Cheyenne-Albuquerque–marginal Tier I/high-grade Tier II. So either both should be on the map, or neither.
    2. Why no link from Cleveland to Buffalo? Not only is it obvious, it’s much more likely to be built (and built first) than the link across Pennsylvania, which is far rougher country than the flat Water Level Route.

    PeakVT Reply:

    1) Calgary-Edmonton is about 175 miles over flat terrain, whereas Denver-Albuquerque is about 450 miles with significant mountainous terrain. So I don’t really see the corridors as being similar. However, I am working on a revised map that upgrades the Denver-Albuquerque corridor (I had it as a long-distance route before, which I didn’t include in the maps above).
    2) There is a Cleveland-Buffalo line in my plan, but I don’t see it as a core line, so it is on a different Google map than the first one I linked to above. You can see it in the jpeg maps at the second link above.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Adirondacker, there’s enough demand to go from Denver to the Midwest (and east coast) that I can easily imagine HSR from Denver east.

    The thing is, it’s easy terrain: practically flat. Chicago to Kansas City and Chicago to Omaha are already under consideration for 110 mph, and could certainly be made faster. It’s not so hard to imagine an express line onwards to Denver. It would probably have no intermediate stops between Denver and the Missouri River.

    It’s crossing the Rockies where it stops making sense; that’s not simply devoid of population, but also very expensive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Denver is too far away unless you want to ban airplanes.

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, it isn’t. 1000 miles from Denver to Chicago.

    At 220 mph, people will take the 4.5 hour trip rather than the hour-and-a-half to get from Denver to its airport, hour to get from Chicago to its airport, hour going through security,….

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember, both these cities have extremely inconveniently located airports.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The average speed won’t be that high. 5 hours is a stretch; 5.5 is likelier.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Google says it’s 1004 miles from Chicago to Denver, via I-80 and I-76. Unless you think a route of 979 miles versus 1022 is going to make a significant difference it’s 1000 miles between Denver and Chicago.
    The Czar isn’t charge, no one is going to drawing a straight line and build a railroad along it. I-80 goes through Omaha. Google says it’s 534 from Omaha to Denver. With lots of nothing in between. Go through St. Louis, Kansas City and Topeka, it’s 1,140. Google says it’s 541 miles from Topeka to Denver. With a whole lot of nothing in between. YMMV because I didn’t bother to start at Union Station, go through Union Station and arrive at Union Station.

    O’hare is a PITA to get to. Unless you are starting out in Schamburg. Less of PITA to get to O’Hare than Union Station in that case. Probably easier to get to if you are in many of the western or northern suburbs. If you are in the southern suburbs there’s always Midway.

    1000 miles at an average speed of 250 miles an hour is 4 hours. At 200 it’s 5. An average speed of 200 miles an hour would be very hard to do. At an average speed of 167, which is very respectable, it would take 6. But they’d probably be able to do a bit better than that west of Omaha or Kansas City. No one else in the world has built 500 miles of HSR through the middle of nowhere so there aren’t any schedules to go look at. I’m sure some one who cares could figure out what the average speed could be between Omaha and Denver or Topeka and Denver. Average speed east of there probably won’t be as high. Those pesky stations with passengers who want to get on and off the trains slowing things down….

    Jonathan Reply:

    .. builld 800km of HSR through the middle of nowhere? Has China not done that? (I don’t know, I’m asking.)
    But that seems like 800km that’s ideal for running at sustained 350 km/hr; 400km/hr, if you wanted to pay the marginal power cost.

    Steve S. Reply:

    Yes, actually, they’re building an HSR line all the way out to Urumqi.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Off topic, but too cool not to share here–the preserved Nebraska Zephyr, complete with custom stainless steel EMD E-5 diesel, stepping along at 80 mph. Modern HSR is much faster, and much more efficient, but not quite as stylish, at least for traditionalists such as myself and Syn.

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

    slackfarmer Reply:

    Very cool.

    Peter Reply:

    I like the Jacobs bogies.

    JBaloun Reply:

    In addition to the benefits of Jacobs bogies mentioned on the brief wiki article, is the way the passenger pass-thru would be very steady at the pivot of a Jacobs bogie where on Amtrak it is a wonder more people don’t get injured trying to move between cars.

    Also found this interesting document. I have used SKF bearings in a few mechanical designs.

    http://www.skf.com/binary/12-62732/RTB-1-02-Bogie-designs.pdf

    JBaloun Reply:

    The rest of the document.

    http://www.skf.com/binary/12-96059/13085EN.pdf

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Nice to see that some people here like this stainless steel streamliner from the late 1930s, with a 1940 locomotive on the point. For them, some more clips:

    At Chicago:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r43B6In-1Sk

    Overall impressions of the trip; shaky camera work, but a good deal of interior shots. (Don’t you wish people dressed a little better today?)

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

    Have fun.

    P.S.: Thanks, J. Baloun, for the Timken brochure links.

    BrianR Reply:

    I’ve always been fascinated by those early streamlined zephyr’s. This is an incredibly beautiful train from the exterior to the interior as well. A very nice timepiece of early industrial design and so nice to see it as an intact operational consist. Other than the older shovel nosed zephyr that sits in the basement of a museum (which I assume to be non-operational) I had no idea there was another complete zephyr consist like this. I would love to see a single consist of the California Zephyr resurrected in a similar manner in the unlikely event that would even be remotely possible. It might of been the slowest zephyr but it was the most modern in the family. Budd really knew the art of designing and building beautiful passenger cars!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Brian, it’s amazing, but two other early Budd articulated streamliners still exist. Both are in need of a LOT of tender, loving care, but they’re still around to give the TLC to, provided you can scare up the money.

    One is the Mark Twain Zephyr:

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

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjern/sets/72157606826691997

    The other is a Pioneer Zephyr clone (or near copy), the Flying Yankee, which was jointly operated by the Boston & Maine and the Maine Central:

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

    http://www.flyingyankee.com/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muH7bSf5lo8

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJbZI1_G5VA

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Continuing on with more early Zephyr material–the Wikipedia page on the Nebraska Zephyr:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJbZI1_G5VA

    The Pioneer Zephyr, the first Zephyr and the train in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry:

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

    Zephyr related patents:

    http://www.prototrains.com/patents/patents.html

    General Zephyr page from the Burlington Route Historical Society:

    http://www.burlingtonroute.com/docs/route/wotz.html

    The California Zephyr (1949) may have been the best known Zephyr, but the most modern one was actually built five years later–for service to Denver! This was the second Denver Zephyr, built in 1956, and apparently the last complete custom streamlined train built in the United States for a private rail carrier.

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

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    http://streamlinermemories.info/?cat=127

    http://www.american-rails.com/denver-zephyr.html

    I don’t know if Brian has seen this, but here is a great site on the California Zephyr:

    http://calzephyr.railfan.net/

    A few years ago, there was a reenacted California Zephyr operation sponsored at least in part by the Western Pacific Railway Museum in Portola. I can’t find any material on it, but the train was lead by a WP F-unit, and included a long consist of California Zephyr cars for a trip down the Feather River.

    As for myself, I’ve long been an advocate that Amtrak might find operating a “heritage service” to be worthwhile. For me, that would even include steam operation with grand, standard steel cars painted Pullman green! Key requirement would be to pick a route that this would work for.

    As it is, we do have a recreated Pullman company operating today. Of interest–the company is reported to be looking at an additional operation from New York to Chicago, with branch service over a heritage railroad to Lake Placid, N.Y.!

    http://www.travelpullman.com/

    I think there’s room for all kinds of rail service today.

    BrianR Reply:

    thanks for the links DP. I will check them out. It’s funny because after I was thinking about how cool it would be to have a resurrected California Zephyr I was also thinking why not go further back in time and resurrect a heavyweight consist such as a pre-streamliner era Overland Limited? There is something about those heavyweight cars with their high ceilings and victorian architectural interiors that captures the imagination. To our modern senses they almost seem more like buildings on wheels. Makes you think it would be quite an experience to cross the country in one of those. For a resurrected service I think a steam engine might be nice but not a necessity over a diesel.

    For the hypothetical possibility of a “heritage service” in the future it would be important to learn from the mistakes of the American Orient Express. The service would need to be able to keep prices down and attract a younger demographic that isn’t exclusively retired. Run it on a quick point to point basis no slower than a regular Amtrak and maybe they could even attract the 20 to 30-something crowd looking for an interesting experience. It would be similar to the boutique hotel concept in major cities where there is a different level of service and expectations as to what you will get but price wise it should still be relatively competitive with conventional options.

    One other note on the zephyrs. I have a book on the zephyrs that I haven’t looked at in years but one thing I remember was a reproduction of an old advertisement highlighting the fact that blue fluorescent lighting was used at night time to kill germs and bacteria in the air. Not sure if that actually worked but thought that must of looked really cool at night. As a kid I noticed blue fluorescent lights in the hallways at hospitals. At the subway museum in Brooklyn I saw a Budd R11 subway car that also had the blue fluorescent lighting feature called “Precipitron” lamps. I always liked to think of the Budd R32 Brightliners as “honorary zephyr’s” but learned there was in fact a Budd built 5-car articulated “BMT Zephyr” but it’s a name Budd used on a non-official basis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Multi-section_car_(New_York_City_Subway_car)

    Jonathan Reply:

    I’d sooner see an SVT-137. Though the prototype “Flying Hamburger” is long gone, and the only one extant (that I know of) is a “Leipzig” three-car diesel-hydraulic set.

    Reedman Reply:

    Two demographic/population observations:

    CITIES

    CAHSR will make sense when it joins three of the ten largest cities in the country.
    LA, San Diego, and San Jose.

    STATES

    The four most populous states are California, Texas, New York, and Florida. By the 2020 census,
    Florida will overtake New York to be in third place. Assuming California and New York are taken care of, Texas and Florida should be the next hubs of rail development. Connecting Jacksonville to the Sunset Limited would connect Texas and Florida as a start.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, a lot of Northeastern states are tiny but fairly dense and with linear population distribution. Rhode Island and Connecticut both have much lower population than the average state, but they’re between New York and Boston, and they have reasonable intermediate cities to be served by HSR. For a lot of planning purposes, certainly for rail, the BosWash corridor or arguably even the entire Northeast should be thought of as a single state. Metro areas there are indifferent to state boundaries, distinct cities share suburbs, even state-controlled and -funded rail agencies cross state lines.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Lots of Northeastern cities, other than the big four, are tiny too. But have enormous suburbs. If Newark NJ had gobbled up it’s suburbs like San Jose did it would be a bigger city than San Jose

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, I expect Florida to start hurting due to the effects of sea level rise.

  12. Andrew
    Feb 11th, 2013 at 17:08
    #12

    High speed rail is never going to be economical for the long cross-country routes e.g. Los Angeles-Chicago which are simply too long to compete with air and prohibitively expensive to build. In the USA there will have to be an east coast HSR network and a west coast HSR network which are not connected to each other, unlike China where most of the population is concentrated in the east of the country.

    joe Reply:

    I grew up in Chicago and am amazed to learn that it is an east coast city. It isn’t. Nor is it out west y as the east coast sometimes claims.

    It’s a rail hub which means there are rail based cities west of Chicago that connected to that hub.
    St Louis to Kansas City. KC to Omaha and Souix city.

    Denver isn’t that isolated. There’s going to service along the rocky mountain front to Cheyenne.
    That can connect to Lincoln + Omaha or to KC

    Inter-mountain there is also SLC UTAH which can have a N/S system that connects to Las Vegas.

    Then we have Vegas to LA which gets to SJ/SF and SD.

    So the gap is between SLC and Cheyenne. Is that 450 miles? I bet we build that link or one from the SW to Texas.

    Joey Reply:

    450 miles through relatively rough terrain and almost no intermediate cities justifying stops. Is there precedent for that anywhere in the world?

    Andy M Reply:

    Chicago is not on the East Coast.

    It’s on the West Shore (of Lake Michigan).

    Or can you call a lake shore a coast?

    In which case it’s fair to say Chicago is on the West Coast.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Chicago’s coast points east, though. The terminology of east coast and west coast is about the coasts of a continent (or island, depending on the country), rather than the coasts of an ocean. Otherwise we’d say that New York is on the west coast of the Atlantic and Dublin is near the east coast.

  13. Andrew
    Feb 11th, 2013 at 19:16
    #13

    China is building a HSR line to Urumqi, which is in the far northwest of the country. It will use sleeper cars. I strongly suspect it will be by far the least successful of the Chinese HSR lines, as the demand is not all that high and most people will decide to fly. Building something similar in the United States would cost far too much money, particularly crossing the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, and is really, really hard to economically justify.

    China has also built a line from Beijing to Guangzhou, an 8 hour trip. This is ridiculously long for HSR, but there are significant intermediate cities (especially Wuhan). Not many people will ride the entire length of this line, most will fly, but trips to and from Wuhan will generate a lot of traffic.

    Joe, I mean “eastern United States”, not “east coast”, as in a network primarily east of the Mississippi. Sorry for the confusion.

  14. Jesse D.
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 02:17
    #14

    Is it twu what they say about Alfred Twu being a great visionary?

    It’s Twu! It’s Twu!

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