Congressional Republicans Try to Block Federal Loan for Vegas HSR

Mar 10th, 2013 | Posted by

XpressWest has been waiting to hear from the federal government about their $5.5 billion loan request to help construct the high speed rail project from Victorville to Las Vegas (eventually connecting to Los Angeles via Palmdale). If the lead Republican budget-writers have anything to say about it, however, that loan won’t ever be approved.

Last week Senator Jeff Sessions and Representative Paul Ryan wrote to Ray LaHood urging him to reject the XpressWest loan application. Sessions is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, and Ryan is the chair of the House Budget Committee and former vice-presidential nominee. Both are strongly supportive of austerity, despite its colossal failure around the globe, and both oppose high speed rail.

Their letter cites the work of the vehement rail hater Wendell Cox as reason to deny the application:

Yet the risks to the taxpayer from financing this project are untenable. The Reason Foundation recently issued a Taxpayer Risk Analysis [the Cox report linked above -RC] of the XpressWest project which identified several significant concerns….the analysis considered high speed rail projects from around the world and found those projects “plagued by overoptimistic ridership and revenue forecasts, financial losses, and capitol cost overruns.” With this international experience in mind, the Reason Foundation analysis suggests that “the very existence of much of the XpressWest market is speculative and the actual ridership could be a mere fraction of the forecast.” Other serious concerns addressed in their analysis include the exaggeration of market data, faulty capital cost estimates, and inadequate business plans. Accordingly, the Taxpayer Risk Analysis concluded that the XpressWest project “entails enormous risks for taxpayers” with “little or no prospect for [this] train to generate sufficient fares and commercial revenues to repay a federal loan of between $5.5 billion and $6.5 billion.

But these are just assertions by Cox and now Sessions and Ryan without much basis in fact. HSR systems around the world routinely meet their ridership projections, though it takes about five years to reach that level. HSR systems around the world also generate enough revenue to cover the cost of their operations, including the much slower Amtrak Acela. There is no HSR system in the world that has been a failure from the ridership or operating revenue perspective, and as anyone who has been stuck in the horrible Interstate 15 traffic to and from Vegas knows, there is very much a market for this train.

We do know from the example of Taiwan that HSR can get into trouble if revenues are expected to also pay back a loan on an aggressive repayment schedule. But that’s the beauty of the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan that XpressWest seeks. Its repayment terms are very generous. Repayment periods can last up to 35 years and interest rates can be the same as those the government gets – and right now those are still very low. Sessions and Ryan acknowledge this in their letter as a reason why XpressWest wants an RRIF loan, but they didn’t follow the logic to its conclusion. The international experience shows that this is precisely the type of loan that makes the most sense for an HSR project, and therefore that the risk to the taxpayer is quite low.

To Republicans, of course, the risk to the taxpayer isn’t based in fact but in ideology. They believe nobody rides passenger trains in America, so any such attempt to fund one is doomed from the start. They mention that government might have to subsidize its operating costs and even though the global experience suggests they don’t, they’re ignoring the fact that government massively subsidizes roads without any expectation that they’ll cover their costs.

Their letter appeals to failed right-wing economic philosophy as a basis for rejecting the request:

For these reasons, we are deeply troubled by the prospects of subsidizing another costly, wasteful, and risky high-speed rail project, particularly when our nation is facing a debt crisis that threatens the well-being of the current and future generations of Americans….We would urge the Administration to reject the XpressWest loan application and to direct its available RRIF funds to more worthy transportation infrastructure projects that could truly provide a reasonable rate of return to the taxpayers of this nation.

The irony here is that of all the possible transportation projects that could provide a reasonable rate of return, it’s a high speed rail system. As we know, the so-called “debt crisis” doesn’t threaten anything in reality, certainly not the well-being of any current or future generation. So that’s easily dispensed with as a justification for denying this loan.

Other right-wing organizations are weighing in supporting the Sessions-Ryan letter, including the Heritage Foundation:

High-speed rail is one of the more expensive and thus unviable forms of transportation. If it worked, the commercial financial sector wouldn’t have steered clear of it before costly federal subsidies came along.

The Administration is determined to pursue high-speed rail despite the tremendous risk to taxpayers. Sessions and Ryan are right to question this truly wasteful project, the XpressWest boondoogle.

Actually, the commercial financial sector today is extremely unwilling to lend money to anyone for anything – just ask people who have tried to buy a home or start a business in recent years. In the US it’s very unusual for the commercial financial sector to fund any kind of project at this cost, so it makes sense that XpressWest went to the government. And as we showed above, XpressWest gets a better deal from the government which in turn makes the project more viable, not less.

Ray LaHood should approve this loan without further delay. Let’s have two high speed rail projects under construction in California in 2014, not just one.

  1. joe
    Mar 10th, 2013 at 19:06
    #1

    The Heritage Foundation
    214 Massachusetts Ave NE
    Washington DC 20002-4999
    http://goo.gl/maps/aSGKn Located 0.3 miles from Union Station.

    That’s prime access to Taxpayer supported DC Metro, MARC and Amtrak are OK for Conservatives in the Belt Way. There are many car centric offices, probably less costly, in DC area to plop a car-loving anti-tax, anti-subsidy think tank.

    VBobier Reply:

    The Heritage Foundation and Reason, both a pair of Subversive Organizations…

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is ample justification and a robust market for mass transit in the DC conurbation. DesertedXprss is a joke. Let Adelson and Wynn come up with the loan.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I haven’t looked for or seen anything on the subject, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Wendell Cox, Reason, Randall O’Toole, Cato, and California’s own Randall Utt would all say the Metro system was a waste of money, even though it handles twice the passengers of the bus system at half the cost, and has a higher farebox recovery ratio, and does this despite having to pay for the maintenance of its own infrastructure, something the bus system doesn’t do.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Material by Utt; the second in particular reads, well, weird; part of it essentially says “Japan’s trying to take over Florida,” or is at least bribing Florida

    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/03/america-s-coming-high-speed-rail-financial-disaster

    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/02/time-to-end-obamas-costly-high-speed-rail-program

    Eric Reply:

    I friggin hate stupid PHD’s sometimes. I read the first article, the author says
    “It is believed that only two HSR lines in the world earn enough revenue to cover operating and capital costs: Paris-Lyon and Tokyo-Osaka”
    and gives a reference of the “Congressional Research Service Report for Congress” from 2009…wow sounds like a great source, right? must be true!
    well I learned in like 7th grade that you don’t reference something unless its an original source. The CRS report text that states this is a footnote reference #16
    “16 In a 2009 New York Times article, Inaki Barron de Angoiti, director of high speed rail at the International Railways Association, said it is estimated that only two high speed routes in the world have broken even (that is, covered both their construction and operating costs): the Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon routes. Victoria Burnett, “Europe’s High- Speed Trains Holds Lessons for U.S.,” New York Times , May 29, 2009. ”
    So…the reference in the heritage document should be the New York Times, not the CRS. And even then it just a quote, and not directly supported by hard data.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s the way the noise machine works – each thinktank (and thinktank-captive government pseudo-research arm) quotes another thinktank so it’s impossible to figure out the original source. This isn’t rigorous academic work; the easier it is to trace all the sources, the sooner everything collapses.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Let’s see what I can find.

    Some pieces will find agreement here (i.e., “buy America” provisions), others perhaps not:

    http://blog.heritage.org/2013/02/04/buy-american-path-to-an-economic-train-wreck/

    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/10/washington-metro-needs-reform-not-a-federal-bailout

    Cox speaks against the Metro (no surprise), but it’s interesting to note how old his material (at least what turned up readily) on the DC Metro system is. Has he dropped his opposition and commentary on the subject because it hauls twice as many passengers as the bus system for half the subsidy? Or is it something else?

    http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-wtncordon1999.htm

    http://www.publicpurpose.com/pp84-wmata.pdf

    http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-wtnnometro.htm

    This is a particularly notable example; Cox makes comparisons with 1970 and 2000, when the auto was still in ascendancy, and ignores what has happened in the 13 years since then.

    http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-wmatabyco.htm

    I’ll close with this one which has a wonderful ringer: “Busways and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes can be built for one-fifth the cost of rail systems. Operating subsidies are far lower. Car pools require no subsidy. Competitively operated bus services require little or no subsidy (such as in New Jersey and the Chicago area). Competitive express bus services are much more cost efficient than rail systems.” The last time I checked, moving rocks and dirt cost the same whether it was for a highway or a railroad; the last time I checked, the highway system as a whole requires a subsidy that amounts to 50 cents or better per gallon of gasoline.

    http://www.publicpurpose.com/pp-rail.htm

    And the last time I checked, Cox seems to be published only on right-wing websites these days; it looks like he doesn’t get much in regular newspapers anymore (although I could be wrong on that).

    Joe Reply:

    When did the METRO turn a profit? It is a subsidized system.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    True, but not as bad as the bus system, which costs twice as much to run while carrying only half the passengers–which is to say, operationally at least, the Metro is still a relative bargain, especially when you look at the roads that would have been built instead.

    http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=1913

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/6376/washingtons-unbuilt-highways/

    http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?p=4897441

    http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2010/11/arizona-avenue-bridge-to-chain-bridge.html

    Fun animated map on the history of Metro:

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/14214/evolution-of-metrorail-animation-now-with-rush-plus/

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Roads imply eventually getting to a destination. If they had built the roads all those people would have needed someplace to park their cars.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They could’ve built above-ground garages without violating the height limit. Probably.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Very very roughly a parking space = cubical, accounting for the restrooms, cafeteria, conference rooms etc. So half the land would have been parking garage. Well if half the land is parking garage you have half as many workers. Probably would have balanced out around third garages. If everyone who commutes into DC drove in instead, assuming enough highway and parking the local streets would gridlock.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Maybe it’s an over-conservative parking requirement, but I’ve noticed, in aerial photos of things like shopping malls and convenience stores in my area, that the ratio of area of the parking lot to that of the facility is more like 3 to 1, which is to say the parking lot is three times as big as the building it serves! And that doesn’t include the green space or settlement pond for the lot. . .

    Donk Reply:

    I agree with Synonymouse on this one.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    1.1 million passengers yearly between LAX to McCarran can’t be wrong; SFO to LAX levels are higher, but not by that much.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Planes are not going away. You are only going to get part of that traffic especially since it starts so far out of town

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    1,1 million pax available for conversion to rail?
    Subtract the frequent flyers who want their points.
    Subtract the connecting flyers who will not travel from LAX to Victorville to take a train.
    Subtract all those that live west of the 110 for the same reason.
    Subtract all those that are flying on to another place and not making a round trip.
    Etc. etc. There will not be much change left from 1.1 million.
    Xpress West is a classic bait and switch, just like “blended” HSR in CA. They know that Victorville cannot succeed as an end point and the whole idea is premised on connecting to CAHSR.
    Unfortunately CAHSR wants to build Palmdale to LAUS in 10 or 15 years, even later at the present rate of progress. Metrolink to Palmdale to connect to Xpress West or CAHSR? Altogether too silly.
    Only benefit, chance to get used to LV temps while waiting at Palmdale for your train!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    From all LA-area airports to Vegas there are 2 million passengers, excluding domestic connecting passengers.

    And frequent fliers aren’t masochists. How many of them insist on flying between New York and Washington just because they have points?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    3, they all live in Queens and are going to conference at the Dulles Marriott.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Penn station to DC Union Station is not equivalent to Victorville to somewhere (not quite determined) in Las Vegas. That was, I might venture, an east coast response. I live 10 minutes from BUR. Would I drive to Victorville? Actually for my once a year trip I take 2 passengers and drive. It takes about 3.5 hours on a Sunday morning (285 miles) and I have wheels when I get there. Now if I could take the train from Burbank (5 minutes from here) I’d consider it but still highly unlikely to be competitive on convenience or price. Even $10 gas would not change that. $20 maybe.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not going to be Victorville to Las Vegas forever.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon: I assume that means passenger from LA area to Vegas who don’t connect at *Vegas*?

    Or is that passengers who don’t connect at *either* LA *or* Vegas?

    If there are actually 2 million people flying from LA to Vegas (rather than using LA or Vegas as a connection point), then the rail service can easily attract 1 million.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s domestic O&D, i.e. people who don’t connect at either airport to another domestic flight.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, so it’s not clear whether they’re connecting to international flights. That’s actually a very important question to answer when figuring out how many people we’re looking at.

    If there were really 2 million travelling from LA to Las Vegas, there would be plenty of ridership for the train. People flying in from overseas, however, will find it easier to change planes and continue that way.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Metrolink to Palmdale to connect to Xpress West or CAHSR? ”

    Lots of people will take it. Yes, even with a change of train and a slow section.

    Ryan Reply:

    Planes aren’t going away? Give Spirit Airlines a try, you’ll swear off air transport the rest of your life.

    Alan F Reply:

    Being that close to DC Union station, the Heritage Foundation will also have the initial segment of the DC funded H St streetcar line running a couple of blocks north of them, if it stays close to schedule, in the next year. One end of the initial 8 stop H St segment is at the north side of the Union station parking garage. Wonder if a job requirement at the Heritage Foundation will be that staffers have to hiss at streetcars as they pass by. Are they allowed to take the DC Metro to commute to work or do they have to drive?

    I hope this letter is a sign that the FRA is about to approve the Xpress West RIFF application and Ryan & Sessions are just trying to get brownie points with the Tea party crowd by seeking to block the approval in advance.

  2. Brian_FL
    Mar 10th, 2013 at 20:16
    #2

    Lets see what the Repuglicans do when All Aboard Florida applies for their own RRIF loan. Seeing that Rep. John Mica has already blessed AAF as an example of what private investment in passenger rail should look like. It ought to be good! A good question to ask is how many highway projects would have been approved under the same requirements that the FRA makes railroads meet to obtain these loans? I can’t wait for 2014 to come soon enough in order to get rid of the Repuglicans control of one house of congress!

    VBobier Reply:

    Lets see that would be McKeon, Denham and McCarthy, hopefully there are no more Repugs in Congress from CA than that to defeat in 2014…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Speaking of a double standard–rail crashes come under the most intense scrutiny, but we have auto accidents that kill tens of thousands every year, and unless the accident has a particularly high toll, it doesn’t get any sort of national attention:

    http://news.yahoo.com/6-teens-killed-2-hurt-northeast-ohio-suv-211008509.html

    swing hanger Reply:

    Expect more of these types of accidents as older SUVs flood the used car market, to be snatched up by teenage drivers.

  3. joe
    Mar 10th, 2013 at 20:35
    #3

    Heritage Foundation sez:

    High-speed rail is one of the more expensive and thus unviable forms of transportation. If it worked, the commercial financial sector wouldn’t have steered clear of it before costly federal subsidies came along.

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-317

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Closed – Implemented

    Comments: In March 2009, GAO found that it was not likely that high speed rail projects would come to fruition without federal assistance. In particular, GAO found that given the complexity, high cost, and long development time for these projects it would be critical to first determine how high speed rail fits into the national transportation system and establish a strategic vision and goals for such systems. GAO recommended that to ensure the effective implementation of provisions in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 related to high speed rail that the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with Congress and other stakeholders, develop a written strategic vision for high speed rail, particularly in relation to the role high speed rail could play in the national transportation system. In April 2009, the Department of Transportation submitted a strategic plan for high speed rail to Congress.
    ….
    Subsequent to issuing this plan, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began implementing the high speed intercity passenger rail program with $8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
    ….
    GAO reviewed federal legislation; interviewed federal, state, local, and private sector officials, as well as U.S. project sponsors; and reviewed high speed rail development in France, Japan, and Spain.

    VBobier Reply:

    I wouldn’t trust anything from the Heritage Foundation, if conservatives/teabaggers are against it, You can bet it came from them or someplace like them…

    Jo Reply:

    The Heritage Foundation (like the Cato Institute) have become ridiculously predictable. The have become a big yawn.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 10th, 2013 at 21:01
    #4

    In other news, lots of “reforms” are apparently to be attempted in China, and one of the big ones is to be a shake-up of the railway ministry, or “Boss Rail:”

    http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-leaders-aim-railways-ministry-103233740–finance.html

  5. JJJ
    Mar 10th, 2013 at 22:22
    #5

    GOP: “Let the private sector do it!”
    *private sector applies to do it*
    GOP: “The private sector is wrooooong!”

    Also, trusting the Heritage foundation with ridership numbers is like trusting Comcast to give you a stable bill.

    Remember when the Expo Line opened in LA? Heritage proudly proclaimed that 13,000 riders was a disaster, and that the ridership increase predicted by metro (and everyone else) was bs because transit doesnt gain ridership with time. Their amazing logic was to compare it to a hollywood blockbuster (I wish it was a joke).

    In case you were wondering, the expo line has almost doubled their initial ridership (in less than a year) and is well ahead of metros projections.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    It’s not just transit, either; Amtrak’s new route to Lynchburg, Va. is profitable, and is supposedly running at 250% (!) of projections:

    http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/article_836bb9fc-845b-11e2-8c3b-001a4bcf6878.html

    Maybe there’s hope for the long distance trains yet (although the subject is actually a regional train):

    http://www.dailyyonder.com/passenger-trains-arent-just-cities/2012/09/20/4449

    Hey, what’s on that map, something about a TransDominion Express?

    http://www.tdxinfo.org/

    Whooee!! OK, maybe it’s not something the hard-core HSR people would find impressive, but considering where it is, and what the lack of service has been like for years, well, I’ll say I’m very glad someone is looking to fill in the railroad map again.

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

    Nathanael Reply:

    Having spent some time looking at how the long-distance trains’ cost structure operates, the reason it’s so difficult for them to make “above-the-rail”/”before-overhead” profits is basically the diner — which accounts for as much as half of the onboard service employees. (Recent Amtrak numbers indicate that the Silver Meteor may actually be making small before-overhead, above-the-rail profits, however.)

    The trouble is, if you’re running the train across two mealtimes, you need a diner to attract customers. Before diners, the trains actually *made meal stops*, but people generally don’t like the amount of delay that imposes (an hour per meal minimum).

    The way the numbers work means that a “long-distance” train which departs after dinner and arrives before breakfast is very likely to be a money-maker operationally. How much HSR is needed in order to make this possible? Well, if the Lake Shore Limited ran at 125 mph the whole distance, that would be certainly good enough for New York to Chicago — it might even suffice to make fewer improvements than that. I can construct several similar examples. My point being that faster trains would convert a number of the shorter “long-distance” routes into great successes.

    The double-overnight trains from Chicago to the West Coast may always require subsidies, but so does everything which runs through those states, and it’s the price we pay for the depopulated states having control of so many US Senators.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The wheat and the oil they send us are nice. The electricity one day, when farmers realize that windmills make more money than wheat and don’t need plowing, herbicides, insecticides, harvesting etc.

  6. John Nachtigall
    Mar 11th, 2013 at 07:26
    #6

    Ridership is not the measure of success, especially in this case. I know Robert does not believe trains should be expected to make money but in this case the government is making a loan, not building infastructure. They need to make sure they will be paid back.

    And while it may be arguable that ridership across the world has been successful, it is much easier to prove that most if not all systems don’t make enough to pay for operations and capital. In this case they need those plus a healthy profit because they are not going to run the system for nothing.

    If they make this loan it is virtually guarenteed it will be defaulted. They are not going to make enough to cover all those things, no HSR system does in the world and the location of this system (not being close to LA center) is less than ideal. Also a link to the CAHSR is still just a press release, not part of the plan.

    It is just unrealistic to expect they will pay it back

    trentbridge Reply:

    On the other hand, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is the Majority Leader in the Senate and the train is going to terminate in Nevada. Secondly, I don’t think this loan requires any congressional action. I have expressed considerable doubts about the political cost of gambling so much on a project with a very shaky premise – like expecting So Cal people to trundle up the Cajon Pass and then abandon their car in Victorville to ride the train to Vegas but if the Republicans are against it – I’m for it – on principle. Any party that proposes eliminating Obamacare in its US Budget is beneath contempt – it’s the law – upheld by the US Supreme Court – and this Ryan stupidity adds unnecessary political kryptonite to the budget talks. No wonder the Republican Party is a pathetic shadow of its former self.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Let me repeat that back to you so I make ire I understand.

    You support the train (even though you don’t think the project will succeed) because the republicans oppose Obamacare?

    I can’t argue with that logic…because there is no logic

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Republicans oppose the train because George Will said it would turn all of us into Communists living in tall apartment towers near the subway. Go check out Matthew 7:3

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Or maybe they oppose spending a ton of money on a transportation solution we don’t need that will always lose money and is less convincing than driving and slower than planes. Naw….you’re right, they oppose it because HDR turns people into communists.

    Joey Reply:

    less convincing than driving

    Highly subjective.

    slower than planes

    Depends on where you start and end. And it would sort of suggest that HSR wouldn’t ever be able to take market share from planes, which is simply not true.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    If Xpresswest ran from LA to Vegas I would say hey have a fighting chance, I really do. But they dont run from LA to Vegas, they run from Victorville to Vegas. And someday in 20 years maybe Palmdale to Vegas.

    This is a simple 0 sum game, there are only so many trips from LA to Vegas. Currently they are split between planes, buses, and cars. You are adding a 4th option. Generally the big levers are cost, time in transit, and “the experience”.

    Buses are going to be the cheapest. But planes are actually cheaper than the advertised fares. At $4 per gallon driving will be cheaper also so trains are somewhere between 3 and 4 in cost.

    Since you have to drive to Victorville planes are faster even with TSA. But trains will be faster than buses and cars so they area solid 2

    As for experience, they are advertising it as a party us on wheels so they have the advantage there. But some people will always drive because they want a car while they are in Vegas so they don’t have to pay for cabs, etc. they lose lots of points for having to drive to Victorville. I would say they are 2-3 on the list.

    So even if it was a great option, and I am not saying it is, it is still now splitting the same size pie 4 ways instead of 3. If they had a good chance of making money they would not need public money,Goldman Sachs would offer them whatever they would need. But private money won’t touch it because of the above argument, because no one really knows how many people will ride, because the risk is not worth the potential reward. As a public agency, the FRA should only consider if they are going to get paid back.

    HSR lines just can’t pay back the capital investment unless it is an ideal situation and this is not that situation. It’s not personal, it’s not the Republicans, it is just math.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    so they shouldn’t have built I-80 across Pennsylvania until I-80 across New Jersey was complete because going to Blairstown New Jersey from Cleveland wasn’t New York City. ( not that I-80 goes to New York City )

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That was a public works project not a loan to a private company. Question: Should the FRA approve the loan if they don’t think it will be paid back?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So we should just grant the money to them instead of lending it them?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Now who is thinking like a conservative? You want to privatize a public works project. That is tea party thinking…you might want to getting that looked at before it starts growing.

    But since it is a loan not a grant (for the moment) the FRA is under an obligation to expect to be paid back

    Joey Reply:

    Out of curiosity, do you oppose urban freeway expansions which do little other than promote long commutes by car? Or primary airport expansion when there’s plenty of capacity at secondary airports?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yes and yes

    Highways are the primary mode of transit in the US because 80+ percent of the trips are less than 20 miles and we already have invested in that infrastructure. HSR is a new investment which is just really expensive

    Investments in airports have very little comparative public money and generally support themselves. Plus airports can fly to any city, HSR investment goes to 1 city pair at a time.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    HSR in California, at full build out, will server 529 city pairs.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    There are only 26 stations at full build out. 529 is a little high. And you know only 5-6 of those really count

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    San Francisco to 25 stations is 25 city pairs. SFO to 24 stations is 24 city pairs. Whereever they decide to build something on the Peninsula to 23 stations is 23 city pairs. I redid the math and came up with 351 this time around.

    Nathanael Reply:

    With 26 stations, you get 325 city pairs. Not including connections to other rail services, obviously.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s called a “combination” in math. N=26 combination for 2 sample points is 325. There are online calculators.

    Now get real, there are still only5-6 cities that matter on that route.

    The are 19700 airports in the US. 503 are commercial. Add the international airports and it is not a good comparison for HSR

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Is it one city pair or is it 325? If only 5 or 6 of the California HSR pairs are important that’s more than one as you first said. If only 5 or 6 city pairs count on the HSR system, the flights from Eureka to Sacramento or Portland don’t really count either.

    Eric Reply:

    One of the HSR stops is SFO. So add in typical SFO destinations – like Seattle, Beijing, Honolulu, Dallas, etc. to the city pair calculation. People will take the train to SFO rather than a local flight, and continue on a long-distance flight. Hopefully, someday there will be a similar arrangement for LAX.

    Nathanael Reply:

    *eyeroll* John: if only 6 cities count, then that’s 15 city pairs. Which are you talking about?

    Air France just hands people train tickets instead of running connecting flights from Brussels to Paris. It’s widely expected that the same will happen with any HSR system, as Eric notes.

    jimsf Reply:

    we didn’t “need” airplanes to take people from la to vegas either but we did it anyway with no regard whatsoever for its drawbacks.

    People can do something.

    Then later, people can do something else.

    If I live in Fullerton, three hour hsr trip to vegas from teh nearest station is going to be faster than commuting to the nearest airport, parking, going through security, etc etc etc then flying to vegas.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Good for you, of course you could drive it in 4. The 1 hour 15 min drive to victorville then a 3 hour trip is actually longer than driving. But regardless we are talking about a 5.5 billion dollar loan, I think we need a better reason than serving Fullerton CA

    Alon Levy Reply:

    *1:40 hour trip, not 3 hour.

    And it’s not longer than driving unless you sandbag the time estimate to assume a lot of traffic if you’re driving to the train station and none if you’re driving direct to Vegas (the explicit assumptions used in the Cox fraud).

    flowmotion Reply:

    Plus transfer times…

    jimsf Reply:

    the key to hsr is that upon full build out, you have many more hsr stations near many more people, then the airports ever will be. If youre in socal, you will be more likely to live much closer to a simple convenient comfortable train ride, then you will be to the nearest joke of a flight experience.
    In fact, even if hsr took 30 minutes longer, people would choose it because its more convenient and more comfortable.

    Once people try train travel, even regular train travel, they become hooked. I see it every single day. They try it, they like it.

    joe Reply:

    Xpresswest clearly is more than LA to Vegas.
    Their network includes CA http://www.xpresswest.com/network.html

    It makes Vegas as a hub and gateway to So Cal and CV regardless of what is done up north. HSR from anywhere in the SouthWest or Texas, will run to and through Las Vegas.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Unless airplanes are banned there is never going to be HSR to Salt Lake City. It’s too far away from anyplace else and has too few people to be building hundreds of miles of railroad through the middle of nowhere. Going from Los Angeles to Phoenix or vice versa through Las Vegas is a 200 mile detour.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Salt Lake to Las Vegas as conventional rail makes more sense than I expected. The traffic flows from the SLC airport are first and foremost to Denver, but LA and LV are much closer. Mormons like to gamble, I guess?…

    Nathanael Reply:

    uh, “much closer in flight count than I expected”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or the non Mormons need to escape now and then.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Over the Rockies….paying both operating a costs and capital cost plus a profit. Never ever ever, that is a fantasy

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    “they oppose spending a ton of money on a transportation solution we don’t need that will always lose money”

    Like they oppose building and maintaining the Interstates and US Highways through the big empty places in the middle of the continent?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The gift that keeps on giving–George Will’s rant is as ludicrous as ever:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/02/27/high-speed-to-insolvency.html

    Oh, some others have had fun looking at how kooky the “conservatives” have become:

    http://jolagayle.blogspot.com/2011/03/high-speed-to-insolvency.html

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2011-03-17/george-will-driving-wedge

    http://www.highspeedrailworks.org/2011/03/goerie-com/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/02/george-will-is-confused-b_n_830541.html

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Do as I say not as I do

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/diminished-individualism-watch/

    synonymouse Reply:

    See Las Vegas Monorail. We have been done this road before, and not long ago.

    Casino gaming has become very competitive and and the monopoly Vegas enjoyed in the 20th century is history:

    http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2013/03/ohio_casinos_inflict_big_hits.html#incart_m-rpt-2

    synonymouse Reply:

    down for done

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    Express West will connect to CAHSR. At that point, it will make more than enough money to pay it’s bills at that time, or a year or two after. The key is one seat ride.

    If the monorail ever connects to transportation centers, like an Express West station and / or the airport, it, too will make plenty of money. For now, until the cabbies can be appeased, the monorail will not make enough money….

    Jim

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It will not connect to the CAHSR mostly because they are not even asking for that money and have no plan (other than a press release) to connect. And I doubt they can run in the red for he 10-20 years it will take for CAHSR to be built and make a 1 seat ride, not that I think it will be built because the Feds are not giving up the 60+ billion they need.

    This thing is a bigger dog than Solendra who at least had interesting different technology

    joe Reply:

    Bigger than Solendra? OMG that’s 10 times 0 which is … 0

    No worries here –
    The GAO (Investigative org of the US Congress) in 2009 reported the US needed HSR projects to connect to other systems and the GAO concluded the Gov’t has a important role in that coordination. Without federal help HSR will not happen.

    The GAO concluded that the FRA has complied with their recommendations to devise a plan to coordinate HSR projects. Whew.

    CAHSRA’s plan can be changed.
    That’s why they used paper and not stone tablets to write the plan.

    If the Vegas system gets a loan, the CAHSRA should replan and devise ways to connect CV service to the Vegas system.

    Peter Reply:

    This thing is a bigger dog than Solendra [sic]

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    You mean the Solyndra that was pushed through under Bushes watch, then collapsed because of cheap chinese solar panels flooding the market? At least China can’t flood us with cheap trains….yet.

    http://grist.org/solar-power/2011-09-13-bush-admin-pushed-solyndra-loan-guarantee-for-two-years/

    Jim

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    No I was speaking of the Solyndra that the Obama administration grated approval for the loan that was APPLIED for under the bush administration. And they failed because there technology was more expensive and efficient.

    PS. If the Chinese want to provide panels at a loss for the rest of the world I say let them

    joe Reply:

    PS. If the Chinese want to provide panels at a loss for the rest of the world I say let them

    ….because you don’t care about anti-competitive practices from America’s largest rival:

    Dumping, where a company sells a product in a competitive market at a loss. Though the company loses money for each sale, the company hopes to force other competitors out of the market, after which the company would be free to raise prices for a greater profit.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    China is our rival now live Japan was our rival in the 80s and Europe was the rival in the 90s and 00s. Everyone can look good coming out of the starting gate, but to be the King you have to withstand the hard times. China has not gone through a downturn yet, lets see how they do when they start to lose money and they can’t pay people to not care about their human rights.

    In the meantime we can continue to ship them the shitty jobs and buy the products at below cost. I would say we have the better end of that deal.

    Joe Reply:

    Shitty jobs?

    IT manufacturing is not a shitty job.
    Okay for you to say so. You probably prefer a conservative think tank job with book deal.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    shitty jobs = assembling little pieces of plastic into party favors/office supplies/knicknacks

    And if the IT manufacturing is so great…why do they have to lock them in and they keep committing suicide.

    Like I said, after China survives the first bubble burst (and that may not be long off) we will see. Are you old enough Joe to remember back in the 80s when japan was going to rule the world. Everyone was sure they were unbeatable, a couple of lost decades later and they have debt, deflation, and are treading water.

    joe Reply:

    IT jobs like making silicon and solar panels are not shitty jobs – a friend works in such a facility (silicon fab) and is highly skilled ~110-120/year.

    To be explicit – again – dumping drives out competitors so prices can be increase and it can establish a monopoly. China with a monopoly on Solar panels isn’t losing tedious and low paying work.

    As for Japan – compare them to the 80’s US – we lost ground in automobiles, electronics, computer hardware, chip fabrication and civilian aerospace … robotics … and giant monster killer robots.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    shitty jobs = assembling little pieces of plastic into party favors/office supplies/knicknacks

    Why are they shitty jobs? What’s wrong with making party favors for a living? Someone has to do it. Unless you want to start handcrafting your own pencils someone has to do that too. And just because you find the cheap knickknacks available in dollar stores, cheap, other people like them or the dollar stores wouldn’t be selling them.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Anti-competitive practices? Dumping? Sounds like what the US routinely does. Stop doing imperial pissing matches. It only benefits the egos of the local leaders, and it kills people worldwide.

    Nathanael Reply:

    John: there is a plan to connect XpressWest to CAHSR, and it’ll be pretty easy to finish. The logistical details of Victorville-Palmdale are being worked out in collaboration with LA County Metro. (That’s honestly a pretty easy piece of railway.)

    The issue is getting CAHSR to Palmdale.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    There is no plan. There is a press release. That falls very short of a plan.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s a plan. The key point is that LA County Metro is reserving space for the rail route from Victorville to Palmdale. That’s a plan. No, we haven’t seen the plan published.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People go to Las Vegas for reasons other than the gambling. Many people go to Las Vegas and don’t gamble at all. There are other attractions in Las Vegas. The croupiers and pit bosses, after work, lead conventional lives. They need doctors, dentists, automobile mechanics, grocery store clerks etc. Together there’s two million of them in Las Vegas. They need to have visits by pharmacy reps and tool vendors and someone somewhere is hoping to get the contract for toilet paper at the big casino. Those people don’t all live in Salt Lake City. And all those people in Las Vegas will get the urge to go visit Grandma in Bakersfield or the kids in Los Angeles.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They used to think Detroit was forever.

    Anaheim is much better situated and better prepared to be an in-state gambling and resort mecca. And the city fathers at Anaheim are much smarter – they ultimately went for light rail not dumbass gadgetbahn monorail.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In both Anaheim and Las Vegas, transportation means cars and the airport. Transit is there for show.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Disney and gambling? Noooo! Anaheim will never be a gambling mecca as long as Disneyland is open. However, Fullerton is an excellent origin for the Las Vegas Express (Party train) starting in 2014 because many foreign tourists would have Disneyland and Adult Disneyland on their itinerary and would use a train – even a slow one.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “never” is a long, long time. Only I was visualizing streetcars on Katella in 1970.

    By comparison to the productions from Walt’s time today’s Disney stuff is practically porno.

    You think gambling is a harder sell than medical marijuana, massage parlors, and all the rest of the Golden State’s various and sundry vices?

    The State needs the money. It is that simple.

    Sin City is the Motown of the day after tomorrow.

    Ryan Reply:

    With respect to the Monorail, it’s not quite a complete system yet. It needs to be extended to both UNLV and the airport to the south, and a revitalizing downtown to the north.

  7. StevieB
    Mar 11th, 2013 at 09:21
    #7

    The Fox Television News outlet in Los Angeles KTTV is broadcasting doubt about California High Speed Rail saying the 2013 start date is in question. They cite a court affidavit which states “construction in earnest will not start until very late 2013 or early 2014″. Fox further attempts to sew doubt about the project as it calls on Morris Brown who says he thinks they (the authority board) has a real problem on their hands because of Lynn Schenk voicing concerns at the last board meeting.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Haven’t you noticed how superficial are the investigative reports of the so-called critics of the CHSRA?

    For instance, from the LA Time or from Dan Walters, how come they ignore:

    1. Ring the Bay. The San Bruno and soon-to-be Santa Clara BART termini are ticking timebombs. Who knows exactly what is going at Imperial BART ghq but it remains hard to swallow that BART would gave gone to such lengths to enable Ring the Bay to abandon it now. Add to that PA and San Francisco desire to grab Caltrain property and gentrify this amounts to a wild card that would stop hsr at San Jose. PB may be quietly planning for this already – it would make the 2:40 issue much easier. Prop 1A is already pretty much neutered.

    2. The DogLeg. How the likes of Walters and the LA Times can ignore how such a major deviation came to be is strange. Especially when critics like Richard Tolmach have brought it to the fore in great detail. You would think this would be very enticing for an investigative reporter. The support for Palmdale is easy to grasp but the virulent opposition at Tejon is mysterious given that most municipalities and most developers are gung-ho for growth. My take is that the CHSRA has gone out of its way to alienate both Santa Clarita and the Tejon Ranch Co. Why this should be is mysterious as the DeTour is inimical to the project. Van Ark spotted this.

    3. Interface and interoperation with class ones and commute rr’s. This is a huge multifaceted issue which not only involves the “blend” in the north and Metrolink in the south but “Orphan ARRA” in the middle. Are they going to compromise with diesel Amtrak stock or default to forced transfers?

    The mainstream media critics are oblivious and need to to do their homework.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are slipping. No mention of Nancy Pelosi mind rays, black helicopters or how dead designers reach out from the grave and force today’s designers to build the same king of things.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Please indicate as to how and where PB has progressed from BART in Daly City?

    The quintessence of hollow-core()and building “the same king[sic] of things”) San Francisco is proposing to tear down in Dogpatch.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    http://www.pbworld.com/images/home/featured_projects/shanghai_tower.jpg

    Jonathan Reply:

    Please indicate as to how and where PB has progressed from BART in Daly City?

    Fact: PB’s Technical Memoranda for CHSRA specify world-standard Standard Gauge track.

    Fact: PB’s Technical Memoranda for CHSRA specify world-standard 25kV AC overhead electrification.

    Fact: PB’s Technical Memoranda for CHSRA specify a world-standard compatible HSR loading gauge, a loading gauge which can accomodate both European (TSI, ex-UIC) HSr; and Shinkansen.

    Fact: PB’s Technical Memoranda for CHSRA specify world-standard ETCS Level 2 signalling (the world standard for greenfield HSR).

    Fact: PB’s Technical Memoranda for CHSRA specify European (TSI, ex-UIC) track geometry and turnouts for high-speed regions. Though they still specify (for legacy, drain-bamage, “cost reduction” reasons) AREMA trac geometry and turnouts in non-high-speed and “yard” locations. Which is presumably why they’re too blinkered to even consider curved turnouts for the TBT throat.

    That strawman is dead and buried. Next, please. (Though I fully expect you to raise the exact same point for years to come.)

    Jonathan Reply:

    Synon,

    Re #2: can you try again, in English this time? “The DogLeg” is Synon-speak; try communicating with the rest of us for once. What do you mean?

    #3: Yet again, there IS NO INTEROPERATION between HSR and Class 2 low-value-drag-freight-shitty-US railroads. None. None at all. Class 1 freight railroads rely on axle-loadings which are totally and completely incompatible with HSR. Competent HSR designers design bridges for HSR axle-loads: ~17 tonnes. Run 33-tonne-axle-load, km-long freight trains over that bridge, and you’re in deep doo-doo. And even if there’s no bridge, run a single 33-tonne freight over HSR track, and you need to re-survey the track.

    The FRA-compatible track in the ICS is FRA-compatible so that if nothing else is built, that track, on its own, will be viable for Amtrak California trains. That’s to meet the ARRA “Independent Utility” requirement. Once HSR trains are running, there won’t be any FRA-compatible rolling stock on the ICS. Run *one* 33-tonne freight, and you have to resurvey that Class-7 track.

    This isn’t the first, or the third, or maybe even the fifth time these facts have been pointed out to you.
    I know you get a lot of flak here, but in all sincerity: please contact your physician, and tell them you’re having great difficulty getting new facts into long-term memory.

    synonymouse Reply:

    1. All of the technical parameters and specs you assign to PB’s iteration of hsr are SOP. PB would be laughed out of the profession if it settled for less.

    2. No freight on the Peninsula or Metrolink trackage?

    3. The DogLeg is sabotage, tantamount to BART Indian broad gauge.

    4. I have to confess I hate the modern world. I don’t like LA freeways nor Manhattan highrises. You fellas love the anthlll – we have profoundly differing worldviews. Hollow-core to the absolute minimum. PB, like Bechtel, lives for hollow-core. That has not changed.

    Michael Reply:

    “Construction in ernest”… what does that mean would be the question. Things like moving powerlines and other utilities which many people may not even notice take a lot of time before earthmovers come in and start pushing dirt or buildings start getting ripped down.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Utilility relocation and site surveys take a freaking long time. This is true on all construction projects.

    Andy M Reply:

    Yes, and also require the most interfacing with neighbors etc. Once you have a large. fenced off, defined and secured construction site you can bring on the big machinery and pretty much advance very quickly. It’s the small fiddly stuff such as utilities which you have to first locate and identify and then explain to neghbors what you’re doing that generally cost a lot of time and energy while achieving comparatively little.

    Andy M Reply:

    And this is precisely why building HSR through a desert where there are going to be hardly any utilities to contend with is going to be some much cheaper and easier than building through built-up areas.

Comments are closed.