Low Cost Airline Abandons Popular Route After HSR Opens

Jan 20th, 2014 | Posted by

Ryanair is one of Europe’s leading low-cost airlines, known for dirt cheap no-frills flights. It’s their version of Southwest except with even lower fares and less on-board services.

But they’ve just announced they are abandoning the Milan to Rome route – and the reason is high speed rail:

Ryanair will cease flying between Italy’s two most important cities with effect from the end of March, reports Swiss aviation website ch-aviation.ch.

It currently operates between Milan Orio al Serio and Rome Ciampino, but increasing pressure from two high-speed rail firms appears to have made the route commercially unviable.

Italy has seen significant improvement in high speed rail service since new tracks opened from Bologna to Florence in 2009, closing one of the main gaps on the peninsula and allowing fast service from Milan to Rome and points south.

This comes as no surprise at all to anyone who has seen HSR in practice around the world. Whether it’s Madrid-Barcelona, New York-DC, London-Paris, or any other popular pair of cities within about 400 miles of each other, high speed trains routinely grab a majority of the travel market from airlines. If you give people a choice on these short haul routes, they will choose HSR time and again.

And it will happen in California too, once service is up and running between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

  1. joe
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 16:27
    #1

    Mamma Mia

    Maybe CA’s HSR will put that new SurfAir out of business and stop those annoying flights out of San Carlos Airport. They’ve just started service and have been buzzing Atherton and Menlo Park residents. Hilarious that these NIMBY cities are seeing first hand how airline service will expand without HSR. It’s an airline targeting wealthier business executives.

    http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/12/surf-air-aims-to-disrupt-the-big-airlines-with-an-executive-membership-service/

    They started flying in June on the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, one of the most heavily trafficked in the world, with 9,500 daily passengers and a lot of competition. That competition has created congestion at the major airports, so there are plenty of people who want an easier experience, as the flight time is often less than the time spent waiting in lines getting to and from the airports.

    The result has been a big success. The service works for people like venture capitalists who are visiting their portfolio companies, or executives who have a loved one in another city.

    “We can’t buy planes fast enough,” Eyerly said. “We can’t meet the demand yet.”

    There are 6,000 people on a wait list.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_24551120/atherton-residents-rattled-by-noise-executive-planes-from

    Surf Air, a small upscale airline that launched in June with service between San Carlos and Southern California, has hit some turbulence over Atherton.

    Town residents and leaders who are directly under the flight path of the fledgling company’s fleet of single-engine, six-seat “executive aircraft” have been meeting with representatives of Surf Air and the Federal Aviation Administration in recent months to see what can be done to get rid of the thunderous noise that rattles their homes.

    And on Wednesday, their concerns will be discussed by the Atherton City Council, which may consider scheduling a public meeting on the issue that could include representatives from neighboring cities.

    “They are very loud planes,” said Atherton resident Anthony Waitz, who lives on Holbrook Lane. “They go straight over my house.”

    At 7:32 a.m. Oct. 9, town employees measured the noise of a Surf Air plane that flew approximately 1,500 feet above 20 Holbrook Lane at 68 to 72 decibels, according to a memo by City Manager George Rodericks. Atherton’s noise ordinance bans noise exceeding 60 decibels at that time of day but doesn’t apply to airplanes because they are federally regulated, he wrote.

    Too bad We don’t have HSR to get those venture capitalists to LA.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yeah, and with VCs on HSR, no need to worry about (the lack of) viable connecting transit at the end point- a limo will meet them at the station.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Ahahahaha. If only there was a much quieter alternative to flying between SF and LA…

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Complaining about a handful of single engine turboprop flights? How cute.

  2. Reedman
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 17:23
    #2

    I just looked up the distance between Rome and Milan — 358 miles.

    At the top of the Google search results was a RailEurope ad.
    It said that it was 2 hours 57 minutes by train, and cost $64.

    I can believe that CAHSR will be able to do San Jose to LA (340 miles) non-stop in 2 hours 57 minutes.
    I can’t believe CAHSR will be able to sell tickets for that route for $64 without a subsidy.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Note: the CA train route is about 450 miles

    Elizabeth Reply:

    san jose to la is 400

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Oh they can easily do that; the key thing is the number of seats and how many of them you can fill.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s way, way too early to tell with any accuracy what a ticket will cost for San Jose to LA on the CAHSR system. The tickets ought to be subsidized, but Prop 1A forbade it. A mistake, but whatever.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Remind me again why you support subsidizing the rich?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    CHOO CHOO!

    Mike Reply:

    LOL!

    StevieB Reply:

    Varoom! Varoom! Beep! Beep!

    joe Reply:

    In the Denham Chaired hearing, He and Kevin McCarthy called the HRS project another Amtrak that would cost 6 Billion dollars.

    CAHSR will not be subsidized while Amtrak is subsidized.

    The free-market hypocrites should be criticized for opposing this unsubsidised service while letting Amtrak run in their districts. They should explain if they’ll work to de-fund Amtrak service in their districts next?

    synonymouse Reply:

    “CAHSR will not be subsidized while Amtrak is subsidized.”

    And private interests are lining to buy up BART and run it at a profit.

    Jerry’s house unions will demand any “profits”, imaginary or otherwise, be deeded over to them as payroll and benefits. As it is some BART directors are apparently saying they should just cave to whatever are Amalgamated’s dictates in the future. Just roll over. 13 undocumented no-shows.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    joe you are not clever by half. Everyone sees through this plan of build at any cost while saying there is no subsidy. Then after it is built and it cant be run profitably, they will not shut it down, they will insist it be run with a subsidy to save the sunk money investment.

    The Wille Brown method of public capital investment.

    Joe Reply:

    If subsidies are bad then here’s the perscriptions for a cure to dependency.

    The current Amtrak service is subsidized. Replace it with HSR which cannot run a subsidy.
    If HSR is unable to operate without subsidy then terminate service.
    Sell the HSR track to the private sector.

    Allowing Amtrak subsidies while professing to oppose them is cowardice.
    Fearing the public would allow HSR to operate with a subsidy is cowardice.

    There’s a reason populist opinions in conservative circles are exhasperated and fed up with the conservative establishment.
    These inconsistencies between values and actions are very damaging. The grass roots are fed up.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i would gladly end Amtrak altogether, it is not the GOP and conservatives that continue to advocate funding them. Throw in the USPS also, a dead relic from a bygone era. The grass roots are fed up, hence the tea party. They would end subsidy of Amtrak quickly if given the chance. It serves too few people for too much money.

    I am not against all subsidies, but to subsidize something that brings little to no public good is crazy and counterproductive.

    TomA Reply:

    THe USPS serves little to no public good. Jeez – just providing a backstop to out-of-control price increases from the UPS/FedEx duopoly is enough in my book.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    John, the party as a whole may be anti-Amtrak, but many individual GOP politicians support Amtrak because it runs in their states or districts. For example, Trent Lott was highly pro-Amtrak.

    joe Reply:

    Why Jeff Denham R-CA is anti-Amtrak for long haul routes but leaves out his dislike for Amtrak subsidies in his district & he is pro-commuter rail too. ACE commuter is different than other rail lines – he’s at least professed to this difference at ACE town hall meetings.

    Every loon is pro-stuff the voters like and will vote against it in aggregate.

    Senator Mitch McConnell is running ads on how he’s help Kentucky voters get health care. He’s quite the humanitarian. He “Cares” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw9kW8Nw-eM

    Alon Levy Reply:

    PRIIA won’t let the federal government subsidize Amtrak California anyway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which ones specifically and what have they done?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe, another fatally flawed argument.
    Amtrak, ex NEC, receives operating subsidy.
    HSR will receive enormous capital subsidy to get it built. Whether it can then operate without subsidy remains to be seen and depends to some degree on track charges, if any. A subsidy is a subsidy.
    Question should be, where do we best invest our transportation dollars to provide the most benefit, i.e. useful transportation? You argue as afficionados of HSR desperate to find an application for it, rather than looking for practical, deliverable solutions to our needs.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Yes indeed. Capital subsidies are still subsidies. Based on ridership forecasts, each roundtrip for the first 30 years requires a $200 capital subsidy- assuming operating costs are covered.

    This is not meant to get into the roads vs highways vs planes thing AGAIN but merely to point out the distinction between capital and operating subsidy is an arbitrary one.

    joe Reply:

    No objection to public subsidies for public transportation on my part – I just count cars and want fewer. I want subsidized public transportation and it has to practical if it will at all happen.

    Capital and operating subsidies are okay. We’d have to add another traffic lane on 101 if the Caltrain and buses were not subsidized.

    The system is wired for cars and road expansion as you can see when 101 expansion finishes and encourages more driving on PAMPA side streets. The solution is Tesla.

    I have a plug in hybrid now and car pool access. I get to PAMPA faster at peak time and have a tax subsidy 1,500 from CA and some fraction of 7,500 from the Feds. Can’t wait for that free adde dlane on 101. So we are wired to subsidize cars.

    The Sierra Club is okay with us all driving in carbon neutral electric cars which means we’ll still have cars buzzing around and congested roads and our kids at risk but at least the air will be cleaner and we’ll have fewer ghg emissions.

    Your cities will be seeing public transit demand due to employer provided transit passes but no capacity for Caltrain to meet that added demand. It’s packed now. Wait until the approved expansions happen along El Camino. That soon to end SFO Express Bus was heavily used by Stanford students.

    So today we are subsiding electric cars, adding dedicated lanes for them on 101 while simultaneously working to end the HSR and Caltrain electrification project and cutting bus service.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much will it cost to provide an equal amount of capacity? No-build is not a viable alternative.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Robert – are there any major first world flagship HSR routes that have their operating costs subsidized?

    synonymouse Reply:

    According to France 2 one in three hsr lines in France is no longer “rentable”, ie. loses money.

    The PB-CHSRA scheme is idiotic. Richards needs to be replaced.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    I’ve heard this too. But Robert seems to want operating subsidies for the flagship LA-SF route, not the bottom third of California’s lines in 2070.

    Joe Reply:

    He’s argued that a subsidy would encourage ridership and get people out of ther cars. That’s quite controversial in some circles. There’s studies that show there are barriers to overcome for attracting riders to rail service.

    I know the pros who comment here can run a rail system profitably if put in charge.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s fake losses, at least in part. RFF’s jacking up the access charges to prevent DB and private operators from making any profit on the network.

  3. joe
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 17:40
    #3

    From the article:

    One operator is state-owned Trenitalia, the other is “open access” firm Italo. Together, both provide a frequent and reasonably priced train service throughout the day, taking just over three hours and 15 minutes between the two cities.

    I see $70 for a 3:40 trip. $140 for a 1:30 trip. Both one-way ticket, economy class ,departing 1/30/14. This is from the open access firm Italo which i assume is not a charity.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    May not be a charity but what do they pay for track charges?

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know. I’m just a guy with a browser.

    For CA HSR, is the subsidy verboten for the service or is it also required to pay maintenance and service?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe do you mean 1hr 30min? Is 358 miles correct? 238mph? An error has crept in somewhere.

    joe Reply:

    ahh, I grabbed the Florence to Rome time out of the schedule.

    The higher fared times are 2hr 55min $126 economy.
    Best time I can find for economy at lower end $70 is 3hr16min.

    (yes it is in dollars they use a $ on the website).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    More like 122mph. So do we really need 220mph to see off the airline competition?

    joe Reply:

    Yes, we should build a 220MPH capability.
    Wikipedia sez “Lines are designed for a top speed of over 300 km/h (190 mph). “

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes but perhaps not in California. 186 mph might be sufficient here.

    Joey Reply:

    The shortest scheduled trips are around 3 hours for both Trenitalia and Italio, depending on the exact origin and destination stations.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    One note: the flights that ryan air is stopping weren’t into either of the two main milan airports but some airport in the middle of nowhere.

    Just looking at flights vs kayak, they seem to be in drag down knock down fight with easyjet who flies into the normal Milan airports – roundtrip at $66!

    They may be saying hsr, but it looks more like easy jet. I would not be shocked to see easy jet exit some other highly competitive european market…

    Elizabeth Reply:

    also, just noticed that kayak flight search now has easy urls that allow you to skip right to the results

    http://www.kayak.com/flights/ROM-MIL/2014-02-26/2014-03-02

    or

    http://www.kayak.com/flights/SFO,nearby-MCI/2014-02-28/2014-03-04

    or

    http://www.kayak.com/flights/nyc-MCI/2014-02-28/2014-03-04

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    But that’s Ryanair’s whole business model – using lesser trafficked airports like Stansted.

    And of course, the HSR stations will be much more centrally located in both SF and LA than the airports.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    We don’t all live in central locations.
    Also Milano suffers from fog, they are probably pulling out of the market because of winter delays, cose la nebia..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even fewer of us live out by the airport.

    Donald Rober Reply:

    Especially Malpensa. 50km from the center city. You can take a train, but that is 30 minutes and another 11 euros.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    And where do you think RyanAir learned that trick, Elizabeth?

    Southwest Airlines pioneered the use of satellite airports in California during 1980s that were abandoned by defense contractors or the Air Force in places like Burbank and Long Beach. It served two purposes, lower landing fees and no ability of the bigger legacy carriers to manipulate gate availability.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, except Southwest started out using more central secondary airports (Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby), to be more competitive on short-haul flights with roads. Ryanair had no such airports in its initial core market of London-Dublin, so it went out into the boonies. Gatwick, Luton, and Stansted are all farther from Central London than Heathrow.

    And the use of airports in the boonies is why Ryanair can offer low fares. Nobody who has any other options will use Beauvais, and there are no intercontinental connections there, so landing fees are low. The American Ryanairs go farther and don’t even try serving the big cities – they fly out of places like Allentown, where the residents have no other option.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Allentown is a bad example. People can get to Newark or Philadelphia easily. Compare Allentown’s destinations to Albany’s. Or Allentown and Akron.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s a multi-hour drive on roads that aren’t the clearest. Anyway, yeah, Allegiant flies to a bunch of small cities – Allentown is one, but also Youngstown (not Akron), Scranton, Peoria, and Duluth.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would people in Easton care that Allegiant flies from Orlando to Peoria?

    Look at metro areas and passenger numbers, ABE is low. The people in the Lehigh Valley are going to Newark and Philadelphia. United’s “flight” to Newark is a bus. Scheduled for 90 minutes. Some of them are avoiding United and using independent operators.
    http://www.transbridgelines.com/
    …. though I can’t find buses running to PHL. They are scooting down I-78 right into EWR. And JFK.

    Andy M Reply:

    In Spain, there has been a massive reduction of flights between Alicante and Madrid since HSR service began. This is in contrast to Madrid – Barcelona where the airlines thought they could fight back with lots of discount fares and freebies and only retreated after a severe and higly visible public humiliation. On Madrid Alicante, flights were decimated starting from day one of HSR operations. One up side of this has been that Alicante now has so many unused landing slots that they are attracting low cost carriers from Russia and Norway which are bringing additional tourists into the region and the vacationing real estate market has seen a minor recovery on a local level.

    egk Reply:

    @elisabeth – ironically, the only thing that makes Malpensa (42 minutes by taxi) seem closer to Milan than Bergamo (44 minutes) is the direct rail connection (29 minutes).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I doubt that most people in LA are half an hour from an airport.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It is not actually obvious if the airports or the proposed hsr stations in LA are more accessible.

    Eric Reply:

    They are in Dallas, which is closer to the population of Milan.

  4. Travis D
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 17:55
    #4

    Does anyone know when the RFP will be issued for the next segment?

  5. Archie Leach
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 19:32
    #5

    Apparently in China the airlines slashed fares along high speed rail routes that China Railways opened that competed with the air routes and then they cut the number of flights as the high speed routes continuted to siphon off plane passengers despite the fare cuts. I’d have to check it out but I believe one airline did end up abandoning a route that lost too many passengers to HSR.

  6. missiondweller
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 21:22
    #6

    Another death by Caltrain.

    I’m so glad Peninsula NIMBYS won’t have to be bothered by “blight” though.

    Santa Clara: One killed, one hospitalized after being struck by Caltrain
    http://www.mercurynews.com/traffic/ci_24952952/santa-clara-one-killed-one-hospitalized-after-being

    Reality Check Reply:

    Like nearly all Caltrain deaths, this one will likely turn out to be suicide.

    2 guys seen on the platform somehow seem to have both got themselves in the path of an oncoming non-stopping northbound express. Could of been some sort of stupid foul play too, I suppose.

    Caltrain is said to be reviewing video from the train’s forward-looking camera …

    Reality Check Reply:

    BREAKING: Nvidia Marketing Manager Killed In Train Accident

    Reality Check Reply:

    Nvidia worker killed by Caltrain was trying to save man on tracks

    So the suicidal guy survived (so far, at least) while the good samaritan got killed.

    No good deed goes unpunished?

  7. joe
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 21:53
    #7

    From Chicago,

    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140116/BLOGS02/140119833/metra-ohare-win-high-speed-rail-loses-in-new-u-s-budget-bill#
    ON THE LOSER END: HIGH-SPEED RAIL

    One group that’s not happy: fans of Amtrak and high-speed rail.

    Fast trains were zeroed out in the budget compromise. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association said in a statement that amounts to “sabotaging the economic future of cities and towns all across the United States.”

  8. JJJJ
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 22:12
    #8

    Wont affect the valley.

    95% of the flights to Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno and Modesto are for connections.

    Its like $300 to fly from Fresno to LA (only). 350 to fly Fresno – LA – Newark.

    Only Allegient operates on a low cost model to Honolulu and Vegas

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …but people could use HSR to connect to SFO instead, no?

    Joey Reply:

    Sure, given a useful connection between the Millbrae station and the airport, which as it currently stands is worse than before BART, and there are no plans to fix it.

    swing hanger Reply:

    The old shuttle bus was alot better than the current setup. Perhaps that could be revived, running at ten minute intervals.

    Jon Reply:

    Yes, revive the shuttle buses as an interim measure.

    Once HSR begins stopping at Millbrae, BART should reinstate the SFO – Millbrae shuttle train during peak hours (i.e. whenever the red and yellow lines are both running). It’s a four minute journey with a three minute turnaround, so you could have 15 minute headways with one train, or 7.5 minute headways with two trains.

    Far cheaper solution than building new infrastructure. You could even use dedicated “SFO Shuttle” trains with fewer seats and lots of space for luggage, similar to the Airtrain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You don’t need to tell me. I am going to a conference in Palo Alto in March. It’s entirely possible that there is no flight that gets me to SFO in time to make the last Caltrain. Are there any shuttle buses that run late, like 11 pm late?

    Jon Reply:

    I’m guessing you miss the last Caltrain because you’re arriving on a Sunday? If so, you have two options, both involving a transfer: http://goo.gl/maps/cydLu

    Sorry. Welcome to California!

    joe Reply:

    The SAMTRANS KX Bus has the last run that leaves SFO at 11:04 that will go South to Caltrain Palo Alto/University and from that station you can look at options involving hotel shuttles (heck your hotel) which should service a 3 mile wide area.
    http://www.samtrans.com/schedulesandmaps/timetables/KX.html

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Alon,

    Unfortunately the KX is a victim of Samtrans various woes (see Bart to SFO) and “service optimization”. In another week, it stops going to Palo Alto.

    There are the usual super shuttles etc. Whatever you do, don’t take a taxi.

    joe Reply:

    Ahhh.
    http://www.samtrans.com/schedulesandmaps/UpcomingChanges.html

    I would guess the cut is because Palo Alto isn’t in San Mateo Co., and neither of San mateo Co’s southern most cities of Atherton or Menlo Park have established Transit Centers. rdwood City is th enext big transit hub.

    Jon Reply:

    Yeah, those service changes are also why you’d have to walk from Millbrae BART to El Camino Real to get the ECR bus if taking that option – previously it served BART directly. Because trains are for rich people and buses are for poor people and no-one would ever want to transfer between the two!

    Reality Check Reply:

    Actually, the SamTrans ECR bus map & schedule says it serves the Millbrae BART Transit Center — so no (short) walk to El Camino from BART/Caltrain is required. It says the last ECR to Palo Alto leaves the Millbrae BART Transit Center at 1:24 a.m on weekdays and 1:32 a.m. on weekends.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oops, damn you SamTrans! It turns out Jon was quite correct.

    The Jan. 26 service changes summary for the ECR route states:

    The route will travel along Sneath Lane into San Bruno BART. The route will no longer serve the transit center on the east side of Millbrae BART. Instead, buses will stop on El Camino Real/Linden (northbound) and El Camino Real/Victoria (southbound). Some minor alignment modifications will be made in the Top of the Hill (Daly City) area, with buses traveling on Flournoy Street (northbound) and Sickles Avenue (southbound). Trip times will be adjusted to improve on-time performance.

    joe Reply:

    Why is a transit center no longer a transit center?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Evidently SamTrans, in all its (cough) wisdom, decided the run-time penalty of looping the ECR off El Camino to reach San Bruno BART behind Tanforan mall was worth more than looping the ECR over into the Millbrae BART/Caltrain station “transit center”.

    Of course, the transit center at Millbrae should have been built on the Caltrain/El Camino side of the station so ECR buses could easily serve it without the time-penalty of slowly wading through heavy traffic and busy intersections over the Millbrae Ave. overpass to Rollins Rd., into the transit center loop on the BART side of the station and back — which is nearly a 1-mile detour off El Camino.

    Joe Reply:

    How about putting the south bound stop at a cross walk or maybe adding a cross walk to help riders wade across El Camino?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So, my actual destination (AIM) is about a spit’s distance from the Caltrain station, so I can walk. I can do BART-San Bruno-ECR, depending on the schedule of when I land relative to the half-hour takt (I’d rant at the half-hourly frequency, but honestly, it’s a suburban bus).

    Or take a taxi. Hooray for travel grants.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Take an earlier flight. It’s not like the Vancouver – San Francisco market only has one airline and two flights a day.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m in Boston during the weekend (and BOS-SFO is cheaper than YVR-SFO since international flights suck).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not like BOS-SFO suffers from two flights a day from one airline syndrome either. Or BOS-OAK or BOS-SJC. Or PVD to any of them.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not going to be in Providence, but in Boston, and the flights I found that mesh with my Sunday morning schedule are all in the afternoon or early evening.

    If BART to San Bruno to the ECR bus sucks too much, there are taxis.

    Andy M Reply:

    Will HSR actually serve SFO? It seems to me that the fixation with sharing the existing commuter line is preventing this.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Airport stations are nearly always complete turkeys.

    “The existing commuter line” is nearly always where the riders (actual humans) are, amazingly enough.

    Travellers travel to destinations, and airports generally are not destinations. And the air/rail transfer market is miniscule compared to CBD—CBD.

    That said, we had an good opportunity to build a loop off Caltrain under SFO and back in the early 1990s at comparatively (comparatively!) low cost, especially compared to the turkey BART extension eventually rammed through. That Caltrain option killed with maximum prejudice by the same PBQD/BART criminals who fucked up state-wide HSR in California. PBQD ridership “estimates” off by a factor of three … gee where could that be happening again? Anyway, such an in-airport station can’t be done today without many many billions of useless expense. It’s not even worth thinking about.

    In general if you’re prioritizing, or for that matter even thinking about, airport stations you’re just not thinking rationally.

    JJJJ Reply:

    Almost always.

    But SFO connections into the valley may the the exception. As I said, almost all valley air passengers are flying via SFO, LAX or Phoenix anyway. A connection is expected. A connection via HSR may be more comfortable, more convenient, and more reliable (aka, no fog issues).

    Newark has a good air connection, including codeshare into amtrak via United (which has existed since Continental). SFO could have the same.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    More likely you’ll see it with Burbank than with SFO, especially since it will have several years in which to build that traffic pattern and expectations before SFO is ever able to (assuming it does get a station of course).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Nope. The runway at Burbank isn’t long to support international planes. Big legacy carries aren’t going to connect there if that requirement isn’t met.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Oh nonsense. Travelers to and from the Central Valley will be predominately domestic, there’s no requirement that they go international to be profitable serving in that manner.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Not going to happen. United or American wants you to book a connection. Southwest won’t do it because outside the CV HSR threatens their business model. HSR can’t afford to subsidize the tickets low enough to match a codeshare price.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A connection is expected. A connection via HSR may be more comfortable, more convenient, and more reliable …

    All very “build it and they will come”.

    The problem is that they don’t.

    Airport stations certainly appeal to the governing class and to upper middle class voters (honey wouldn’t it be just wonderful to avoid the fog … the two whole times a year we’re utterly incensed about being delayed on our First World Problems air travel!) and to the construction mafiosi (cost control completely goes out the window, and cash comes streaming in from dedicated airport local political fiefdoms). But to meaningful numbers of fare-paying passengers? They barely register.

    JJJJ Reply:

    Two times a year? In a normal (non drought) year, fog in the valley is a daily thing. 6am flights tend not to depart until 9am, and many night flights get cancelled.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Ah yes, but all travelers are not created equal. If you look at the income level of the nation’s flight-erati and you will see per capita they generate more than enough primary and ancillary revenue to support a station. Why else would President propose to make air travel programs essentially self-sustaining through only user fees? Sure maybe you don’t need as big a station as in downtown SF or LA but it is still worth a stop.

    joe Reply:

    In ecology we call this concept “existence value”. We preserve the Farallones because they provide value to the public for their existence, not that they are frequently visited by people. People value the existence of the Islands and the option that they may someday visit them. http://www.farallones.org

    If that’s what bugs you about HSR airport stations, that they appeal to people but don’t provide that ROI, then so be it. I’m perfectly happy putting a station at an airport along the way so the upper middle class can ride it once a year and feel good about themselves. I am willing to compromise and spend the money so they can approve the system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Farallones have existence value because of biodiversity. Airport stations have existence value because of what exactly?

    If your claim is that they produce political support for transit, then I’ll argue that the airport lines built are often of very little transit usefulness. For examples of airport transit that I actually use a lot, take the Canada Line to the airport, and the JFK AirTrain. The Canada Line’s non-airport branch, serving downtown Richmond, is very useful, as is the core of the line, but I don’t think the airport was important in raising political support. Richmond’s power brokers were instrumental in supporting the line, and the line served the Olympic site and was timed to open in time for the Olympics. And the JFK AirTrain is purely an airport project, without any other use – to use it to get between the two transfer points to the subway you’d have to pay two premium fares, so $11 for one-way; in addition, the LIRR, the E, and A all have sufficient ridership that the effect of additional airport riders justifying higher off-peak frequency is tiny.

    joe Reply:

    “The Farallones have existence value because of biodiversity. ”

    No, the term existance value is defined and it has meaning. People value the existence of a national park. It’s a term used to measure one aspect of an ecosystem service.

    As for a HSR station at an airport – accepting Richard’s incorrect argument about their worth – even if it appeals to the elite and upper middle class voters — that itself is a value. If adding a SFO station means the system will have more support then add it and BUILD it.

    This is a common concept and a tangible value.

    Here’s a recent presentation on the value of a HSR Airport station from our Friends at the DC French Embassy.
    http://www.transportationsummit.com/images/presentations/2013/080613SGSAirportConnectivityJeremyMell.pdf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    People value the existence of a nature preserve that nobody visits because they value the environment. What is the reason for valuing the existence of an airport station? You’re talking about the hypothetical possibility that they add political support for the rest of the system – political loss-leaders, in other words – but at least within metro areas, this is not the case at all.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the Port Authority built the JFK and Newark Airtrains to get the buses out of the terminals. In other words it freed up space for the taxis and limos – building them generates support, no more hoi polloi at the curb in front of the terminal taking forever to get on the bus. They both have kiss-n-rides so that generates support in the upper middle class.

    The TF Green Parking Mahal made sense since the tracks were right there. BWI is Baltimore’s Metropark or RT128, there’s a humgous parking garage hovering next to the platforms, might as well run buses to the airport. SFO is right next to the tracks. In other parts of the world spending 50 million to build a station would make sense. It’s California and they are taking about a billion and half.

    Reedman Reply:

    I recently had to travel to both Cleveland and Dallas. At both airports, there is a rail connection to downtown (in the case of DFW, you can get to either Dallas or Fort Worth by train from DFW, with the Trinity airport train to Dallas going to Dallas Union Station/Amtrak. In Cleveland, the train continues through downtown and goes to Case Western and the Cleveland Clinic. )

    Andy M Reply:

    I agree about that. I was just repsonding to the suggestion that a significant number of passengers would use HSR to connect to flights at SFO. With every time you need to change, the attractivity of a service takes a dip. Plus, if the train doesn’t serve the airport directly, the airline is less likely to even consider such things as code sharing the trains and thus reducing or even abandoning parallel short-haul flights.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The AirTrain Newark system, which links NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor rail line to Newark Liberty International Airport, reported annual paid ridership of more than 2 million people for the first time since the system opened in 2002. In addition, more than 5.5 million paid riders used AirTrain JFK in 2011, the seventh consecutive ridership increase reported by the system, and a 5.4 percent increase over 2010. Millions of additional riders used both rail systems free of charge to connect between terminals, rental car areas and parking lots

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In English, this means that Port Authority spent $1.9 billion on 18,000 weekday riders at JFK and $770 million on just under 7,000 weekday riders at Newark. After adjusting for inflation, both are about $140,000 per rider, which is about six times as high as the cost of Second Avenue Subway Phase 1.

    Heckuva job.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they didn’t build them for the railroad passengers, they built them for the trips to the car rental lots, the long term parking and the inter-terminal trips. It got all of those buses out of the terminals. For Newark it’s the fiddly bit between the P4 stop and the train station. JFK it’s the fiddly bit between the the long term lots off Lefferts Blvd and the Howard Beach subway station and the less fiddly bit between Federal Circle and Jamaica.

  9. John Burrows
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 23:14
    #9

    Another pair of cities to keep your eye on—this time in Turkey. After a slight delay, Turkey is planning on beginning high speed rail service next month between Istanbul (population 14 million) and Ankara (population 4.5 million)

    Istanbul and Ankara are about 330 miles apart and the trip is expected to take 3 hours. The high speed trains are expected to boost rail travel between the 2 cities from a 10% market share to 78%.

    I admit to never having been to Turkey and I assume that there are not many similarities between Turkey and California. But the populations of Ankara and Istanbul compare roughly to The Bay Area and to LA. The 3 hour travel time is also similar to what we are likely to end up with. And if high speed trains do indeed decimate air travel between Istanbul and Ankara, we will have one more indication of what would happen if high speed trains were running between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    Eric Reply:

    Fundamentally I would expect Turkey’s route to be less successful than CA’s for several reasons.
    1) It only goes to the outskirts of Istanbul (not sure about Ankara) rather than downtown.
    2) The drive is 4 hours (according to Google Maps) rather than 5-6 in CA. So not much of a speed advantage.
    3) The populations are similar in number but poorer than in CA. This means less demand for any sort of high-cost travel (HSR, flight, private car) among which the mode split will take place. Many people will not travel much at all, or will take buses.

    However, if Turkey’s route has subsidized tickets, that could drastically change the picture.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is 1 really true? They just opened Marmaray, and intend to use the tunnel to get the trains from Gebze to a more interesting location.

    You’re also missing the fact that Turkey has astoundingly low construction costs. See here for how little it’s costing them to get from Ankara to Gebze. It’s basically the Spain of the developing world. The cost of Ankara-Gebze, in PPP terms, is somewhat less than that of Fresno-Bakersfield.

    Eric Reply:

    Apparently not, sorry.

    By the way, look at this map. Mother of all doglegs…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:High_Speed_Rail_Turkey.PNG

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Doesn’t look ideal (though I have no idea about the topography). Then again, Turkish construction costs appear to be below average, while American ones are wildly above average, so perhaps they can afford the inefficiency.

    Owen Reply:

    HSR trains from Ankara will terminate at Haydarpaşa which is definitely downtown. Marmaray also includes a third track meant exclusively for HSR although trains from Ankara won’t go through it.

    Eric Reply:

    OK, sorry. Earlier reports said otherwise.

    Andy M Reply:

    I believe HSR in Turkey is a lot of willy waving by a third world country trying to convince itself and others that its playing in a higher league. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what it looks like to me.

    Michael Reply:

    So what are your thoughts on Thai HSR?

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Aside from the fact that Turkey has as good claim to be first-world as any (it established its first-world credentials at the time of Constantine), it is really a measure of the importance of this for any country that wants to move people about as quickly and cheaply as possible, irrespective of ‘world standing’.

    Eric Reply:

    By the “some point in history” standard, Iraq and Egypt and Peru and Pakistan are first world too.

    I would guess Andy has in mind the Putinesque posturing of the current Turkish PM. But that doesn’t change the fact that HSR is likely justified based on Turkey’s demographic and economic position. Turkey is richer than China, and I haven’t called Chinese HSR called “willy waving”.

    Also, what they are building can barely be called HSR. 3 hours for a 331 mile route gives an average speed of 110mph. Not impressive.

    TomA Reply:

    Or it could be that at this point – 50 years after teh Japanese pioneered it, that HSR, is cheap and good enough that even middle income nations can afford to use it to connect their major cities.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Turkey today has a GDP per capita of PPP$18,300. When the Tokaido Shinkansen opened, Japan’s GDP per capita was $11,500.

    Reality Check Reply:

    At around $10 per gallon, Turkey has the most expensive gasoline prices in the world. The highways I drove were very good and, outside major cities, free flowing. Most intercity travel is by an extensive and super-inexpensive-to-ride network of private intercity bus companies in very nice “euro buses” (Mercedes, Setra, VanHool, Volvo, etc.). In-country airfares are surprisingly low too when booked sufficiently in advance. So with $10 gas, buses are always far cheaper than just the gas cost to drive … And even air can beat driving gas cost if booked far enough in advance.

  10. James McDonald
    Jan 21st, 2014 at 01:01
    #10

    I don’t think any of the airlines and airports from Los Angeles to San Francisco have anything to worry about. It is still along way off, perhaps 10 to 15 years before the California High Speed Rail System is running daily and frequently. High Speed rail has been nothing but delay..delay…delay. As of right now, I don’t think they actually have any funds to start and complete the Bakersfield to Palmdale route which would have met with the Metrolink Train system.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I don’t think SFO is really worried about HSR taking business from it, at all. In fact, they’d prefer to get rid of the commuter flights to LAX, etc. and replace them with international flights.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Exactly. HSR is a gift to big legacy airlines. It is a nightmare for those firms like Southwest and Federal express that have used increased service and point-to-point service as a way to lower labor costs.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    J.Wong: A landing fee is a landing fee, why worry about where the ‘plane came from or is going.
    James McDonald is right, even in their long term plans the airlines hardly worry about HSR.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The landing fee is the same for the same plane, but you can charge per passenger. And international travel is costlier, so those passengers spend more at the terminal, which is as important as the landing fee as far as the airport breaking even.

  11. Brian_FL
    Jan 21st, 2014 at 10:17
    #11

    Off Topic-

    The state budget crisis taskforce released their final report last week (state reports based on data from up to 2012)

    http://www.statebudgetcrisis.org/wpcms/

    Basically at the state and local level we as a country are screwed as far as long term debt and the ability (or willingness) to pay for it.

    Here is a good state to state comparison article from the Washington Post

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/01/21/is-your-state-solvent/

    Where I live, Florida as a state comes in pretty decent by comparison – in the top 10. CA fares poorly at #46. Some data from the CA report:

    In the CA final report from the state budget crisis taskforce organization they say that CA (local and state governments) has $372 billion in long term debt. And that the annual debt service on just the state portion will increase to more than $10 billion per year by 2020 (up from $7 billion in 2011).

    There is $470 billion in needed transportation (all modes) spending over the next 10 years yet only $242 billion in projected transportation funding revenue. A shortfall of $296 billion in CA alone over the next 10 years.

    I bring this up in this blog as many commenters here say CA (and the nation) can afford to spend hundreds of billions on HSR. From the numbers presented in this report, I really don’t see how. With current obligations, this does not even include public pensions (CA has funded 77% of its pension obligations), where will we as a country get enough additional tax money to pay for what we already owe?

    I realize the report did not cover the recent tax increase in CA and the resulting increased revenue seen in the past year. It appears from what I have read that CA will spend most all of the increased revenue without significantly improving their long term debt numbers.

    Far from austerity spending, we as a country are increasing debt too quickly. Perhaps not spending on the right things, but increasing government spending none the less. This is why it is so important for CHSRA to get their funding plan right – meaning real sources (meaning not more debt never to be paid) of money and funds identified. Without a big infusion (tens of billions) from the federal government, I do not see how CA HSR will ever be built in my lifetime with the present funding plan.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    So the guy who shills for the anti HSR, anti Amtrak, All Aboard Florida service points out a hit piece on public sector pensions. You know, now I get what your deal is. AAF is a business looking to make money as a government contractor that relies on scab labor. All your earlier comments, your promises about AAF, I get it now.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    The point of my comment was not at all about public sector pensions. I added that bit of information to let people know that the debt amounts did not include that. Actually CA is doing much better than most states when it comes to funding its public pension liabilities.

    I am just bringing up the question of how will this country fund HSR when the politicians refuse to even try to reduce current growth of debt, much less find ways to pay for new HSR projects requiring 100+ billion more in funds.

    You obviously did not read the report that I linked to. It is not a hit piece on public sector pensions. it is a report about the horrible state of public debt in this country. It is about how states have taken on more debt to pay for things they should have paid for with taxes.

    My question to you then is this: how will California pay for HSR? Sure they can sell bonds. But how will they pay the bonds off? By creating more debt to kick the can further down the road? After 5 years has the CHSRA come up with a believable financial plan? Reality about HSR funding at the federal level sucks in this country but must be faced. Blame the tea party, blame the republicans. Yet the democrat controlled CA state government cannot seem to find a way to commit state funding to HSR.

    And your comments on AAF just show me how uninformed you are. At least the stuff I post on here is factual as far as I know and not based on my personal beliefs or biases.

    For the record I support rail transportation where it is thoughtfully planned and implemented. In theory I support HSR. I have not seen much evidence so far that the CHSRA is a competent organization with a well thought out plan for funding it and constructing it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Nice non denial denial there. Feel free to dispute my assertion about AAF using non union labor or seeking a government contract. Second sovereign debt in the US isn’t bound the same rules as other countries. The municipal bond exemption from federal taxes artificially inflates the cost of borrowing because interest rates can be so low.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Denial of what? Again, my question is did you actually read anything from the report? We as a country have never been in this much debt and so ignorant of the consequences of it at the same time.

    Your opinion that AAF is anti-HSR and anti-Amtrak is false based upon all that I have read and heard. To the contrary they publicly said they support adding Amtrak service to the FEC route as well as Tri-Rail commuter service in South Florida. They realize that having more rail transit options only makes their service more valuable. Where do you get the idea they are anti-HSR?

    Of course they will very likely use non union labor. I have never denied that or actually even thought about it being an issue. This is Florida – a place where labor is not valued highly. Unions here are weak or non existent in many trades. They may hire some union contractors or they might not. As a private business I assume they do not have to use union labor. and your assertion that AAF is looking for a government contract is pretty bizarre. I have not heard of anything like that. What type of contract? Please let me know the details. I can’t deny what I don’t know.

    Do you disagree about the amount of debt this country has? I don’t care about the details of sovereign debt rules or tax exemptions. Debt is still debt and ultimately has to be paid back with interest. How are we going to pay what we owe? Whatever happened to the concept of actually paying for what we want and not creating more debt? Why not raise taxes if we decide that the country or a state needs something like HSR?

    It is my opinion that the democrat controlled CA government has so far not committed to funding CA HSR because the politicians do not want to make the tough choices of raising taxes, or increasing debt, or reducing other services and programs to pay for it. That is the puzzling thing about CA HSR over the past 5 years. Why has there not been the ability to obtain state supported funding for the project after all this time? Where has the leadership of the CHSRA been during this time?

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Even I will swing at these fat pitches.

    1. Do you disagree about the amount of debt this country has?

    — The thing to look at is not the total amount of debt, but the ratio of debt to GNP. The ratio is declining (since the spike in 2008-9), and it was higher as a consequence of other cataclysms — 1929, ww2.

    2. I don’t care about the details of sovereign debt rules or tax exemptions. Debt is still debt and ultimately has to be paid back with interest. How are we going to pay what we owe?

    — Never, of course. Governments are not all like human beings, in that they never die. That comparison is often made but it is fundamentally misleading. Again, the ratio of debt to GNP only has to be maintained at reasonable levels — and what is a reasonable level will vary, depending the overall health of the economy (good times, a lower level ie austerity; bad times, a higher level. ie stimulus).

    3. Whatever happened to the concept of actually paying for what we want and not creating more debt?

    — That has NEVER been the way, not even in the private sector, let alone the public (consider mortgages).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That has NEVER been the way
    We toyed with the concept back in the late 90s, when projections were that the debt would be paid off in 2012 or so, but instead we elected borrow and spend Republicans.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Yes of course you’re right – I interpreted his remark literally, and meant merely that governments don’t ‘save up’ and then make purchases. Clinton is an example of good times being the time to reduce debt.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Ok you make some points, however…
    1. Are you talking about only federal debt or all public debt? Data I see shows that for 45 years from 1960 to 2005 federal debt to GDP ratio averaged 50%. Current estimates are for the ratio to stay above 100% for another 10 years. This is unprecedented in our history to be that high for so long. Not even WWII.
    2. On the contrary. Governments do die. It’s called a revolution or war. and when our debt gets so extreme what exactly will we do?
    3. Yes it has happened before. How did the debt ratio go down in the 20 years after WWII then? I will argue that we are living in unusual and extraordinary times. What we are seeing now is not what this country has historically done with government spending and financing.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Edit to point 3. Debt ratio went from 120% in 1940 down to 30% throughout the 1970s. This implies that there was more to this decrease than just a stronger economy. I think that actual debt in the ’60s and ’70s was stable or decreasing slightly. Maybe politicians back then actually understood how to control debt? And that was during the Vietnam and Korean war periods as well!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The politicians back then had the balls to raise taxes during a war.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I appreciate your honesty.

    Although I can understand your perspective on it, you should read Neville’s concise rebuttal on his point.

    Then, you should realize that Amtrak’s workers ARE perhaps the only unionized ones left in Florida, and that it’s very convenient that AAF would start a service that seems to argue against HSR, yet would make it very difficult for both Tri-Rail and the Amtrak service lines. Given that both of these competitors will pay to preserve essential service, it is very easy to connect the dots.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    From my understanding, AAF is also about making money from development of real estate. The first and only route would be MIA to Orlando. There is no guarantee for quick expansion to Tampa or Jacksonville. From reading Amtrak ridership data, there is alot of Tampa to Miami ridership. Not as much from Orlando. True, AAF would most likely gut the Orlando to Miami Amtrak ridership. Not sure if that would affect Amtrak employment as they would most likely continue to run both trains through to Miami. If you are implying AAF would take over Amtrak operations in Florida? I don’t know. I think they are too focused now on their initial segment to worry about that. And from what I hear, AAF plans to hire an outside operator to run their trains anyway. As far as Tri Rail, my impression is that the work AAF is doing will make it easier (and alot cheaper) for Tri Rail to expand service on the FEC route. I see them working together, not as enemies.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    I look at AAF not as anti HSR but pro rail transit! Florida government is not capable of funding HSR. So I will take AAF over nothing getting built. My hope is that it starts a revolution in how Floridians think about transit and get them out of their cars. If the government ultimately takes over AAF that would be fine too.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That is poor strategy. Transit activists shouldn’t sound like they have spent time in a domestic violence shelter when talking about goals and priorities. I understand Something seems better than nothing. But the more I look at it, Orlando to Miami won’t support the project so they will have fall back on revenue from taking over commuter operations from Tri Rail and others. I am sure CSx is also in on it too.

    TomA Reply:

    I think you mean not willing. If they wanted to they could in fact impose enough taxes to fund HSR relatively easily.

    Joe Reply:

    2/3 majority required to pass any tax, not any easy threshold.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The requirements to place an initiative on the ballot are not easy either. 500,00+ is way too high a number. Only the unions and wealthy commercial interests can qualify a measure.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Whether AAF is anti-union, or is not “true HSR” is irrelevant- the point is does it provide rail service that is competitive_with_other_forms of transport and attracts customers (i.e. is it a customer-focused enterprise, not a social program or transfer of wealth to consultants and contractors). Its success, IMO, will help all forms of rail transport, in a country that desperately needs tangible examples of viable intercity rail service.

    John Burrows Reply:

    California was ranked #46 by a Koch Industries think tank, based upon the the 2012 fiscal year (ended June 30, 2012).

    John Burrows Reply:

    So Florida ranks #6 in the 2012 Koch Industries think tank (Mercatus Center) survey—Congratulations—Now lets take a look at the top 5. Alaska wins; followed in order by South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

    1. Alaska ranks #47 in population and 3rd in oil production.
    2. South Dakota ranks #46 in population.
    3. North Dakota ranks #48 in population and 2nd in oil production.
    4. Nebraska ranks #37 in population.
    5. Wyoming ranks dead last in population, but is a runaway winner in coal production with 40% of the US total.

    So while how a state is governed may be an important factor in how the state was ranked, it is pretty obvious that a sparse population combined with a location on top of a pool of oil or a mountain of coal also helps.

  12. StevieB
    Jan 21st, 2014 at 16:22
    #12

    U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) introduced legislation to suspend federal spending on California’s high-speed rail project. Denham says California could lose federal water and education funds if it cannot match high-speed rail funds.

    “This legislation is about priorities,” said Denham. “It’s about ensuring that federal dollars are being spent wisely and that the failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority to secure adequate state and private money does not put federal funds at risk for other critical state needs, such as infrastructure, water and education, from the state of California.”

    This is a misleading choice between water and education or high-speed rail as this would only potentially come after first withholding all federal rail funding, highway funds, and aviation funds.

    Observer Reply:

    A sham.

    joe Reply:

    ACE – it’s subsidized commuter rail and Jeff Denham wants more service and extensions of service for his district. How many kindergartens will he close to fund ACE?

    joe Reply:

    “Many ACE passengers are credited for work hours by their employers while they’re on the train,” Reeves said. “It’s a huge benefit to employers because their workers are more productive on a train than they ever could be while driving in a car.”

    In the West, the solution to traffic congestion is always: Build another freeway lane. That’s one of Jeff Denham’s arguments. He’s a huge fan of the ACE trains – has even held town hall meetings about them – but the Turlock Republican is leading the congressional fight against HSR, thinking the money is better spent on, among other things, asphalt.

    Given that Caltrans operates at two speeds, slow and stop, by the time that new lane gets finished it’s already obsolete because more people live in the region, bringing more cars to the road.

    Opposition to government-subsidized rail systems isn’t new, but what’s rarely acknowledged is that it’s dwarfed by comparison to our government-subsidized car culture.

    As Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman explained to Congress in late 2012, the Highway Trust Fund has gotten $53.3 billion in federal subsidies. In the past four years.

    Amtrak’s federal subsidy? Nearly $1 billion. In its 42-year existence.

    In the 1990s, Santa Cruz residents vigorously opposed extending commuter rail there from the South Bay. They worried it would bring too many people to their little hamlet.

    Guess what? People came anyway. Traffic became horrendous. Guess what happened? They just finished widening Highway 1. Guess what? Traffic is still horrendous. The “Nimbyists” were wrong.

    According to the Mineta Institute, which studies transportation systems worldwide, to meet the commuter needs of the 60 million people projected to be living in California by 2050, we’d need to:

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6087347/bruce-maiman-making-the-case-for.html#storylink=cpy

    Joey Reply:

    If your commute is as slow as ACE you better be doing something productive.

    joe Reply:

    Beats driving.

    Yes, you will live in a walkable neighborhood and not need a car. So too will the entire graduating class of 2014.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That article is in dire need of a fact check. Amtrak subsidies have exceeded a billion dollars over the past four years; exceeded a billion dollars each individual year if you want to include capital grants.

    joe Reply:

    Yeah, I don’t have confidence that the 54B is correct.

    I do agree with his take on jeff Denham and Santa Cruz.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Amtrak’s subsidy is north of a billion a year Joe. I keep catching you out in these arithmetical problems. I suppose it doesn’t matter if “ecology” is your bag.

Comments are closed.