Texas HSR Could Face Same Challenges as California HSR

Apr 8th, 2014 | Posted by

In recent days there’s been a spate of posts and articles touting the Texas high speed rail project as a better approach than the California project. Some of this is undoubtedly the California-Texas rivalry at work, but it’s also fueled by the routine misunderstanding in the media about the nature of California HSR’s problems. Those problems exist solely because opponents of California HSR found powerful allies in the Congressional Republicans, and have been able to block future funding and create a cascading set of problems that stem from that denial.

One of the reasons for Republicans’ hostility to high speed rail is their ideological opposition to government funding for trains and buses. And so the Texas HSR project gets touted for its reliance on private funding in outlets like the Dallas Morning News this week:

The United States has been touting high-speed rail for years. Texas even made a push in the early 1990s. Yet there’s still no bullet train in the country, at least nothing like what’s being proposed here.

That’s because the economics usually stink. Flying is cheaper, cars are more convenient and the U.S. population is too spread out. High-speed rail usually requires billions in subsidies, and we have better uses for that money.

That’s why the Texas Central Railway is quick to say: “This is not a government project.”

In fact, it’s a private play on infrastructure, targeted at the best corridor in the country.

But hey, guess what, even the Texas HSR project will need federal money:

While the Texas Central Railway has agreed to operate that leg with high-speed trains, it won’t pay for construction.

Some of that would fall to federal and local government, and local officials are leading the effort.

The pitch will go something like this: Let’s leverage the private investment with maybe a 20 percent match from the feds and build something even more special.

The Texas HSR project has been pegged at $10 to $12 billion to build. That number will rise. But 20% of that gets you $2 to $2.4 billion. California HSR has already gotten more than that. But Republicans in Congress were furious even with that amount, and have vowed no more money for HSR anywhere. Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida also had similar federal matches and rejected it. So already the Texas HSR proposal is basing its financing on a wish that federal funds would come through – when all the indications are that no such money will materialize as long as Republicans are in the majority.

In other words, the Texas HSR project suffers from the same problem as the California HSR project: gathering all the money it needs to complete the route. Even that hagiographic column in the Dallas Morning News had to acknowledge, though buried at the end, that federal money will be needed. Just as the XpressWest bullet train project from LA to Vegas needed a federal loan, it’s a sign that the private sector cannot actually finance and fund infrastructure of this scale.

But let’s play along with the Texans and assume the money comes through. Other defenders of the Texas project have argued that Texas has numerous advantages over California – all of which dissolve upon closer inspection.

Tom Jackson at Equipment World points to three factors that he thinks make Texas a better fit than California:

1. Both DFW and Houston have relatively compact downtown business areas. You can walk to a lot of the places you need to go, and both downtowns are well served by taxis. Los Angeles is a massive, metastasized sprawl. You can cab around but it’s going to cost you. San Francisco is less spread out, but because of the hills it’s no fun to walk, even short distances. (Houston sprawls with the best of them, but most of the business traffic goes straight downtown.)


This is just nuts. Both SF and LA are much denser than either Dallas or Houston, with better transit networks and connections – especially once the Metro Rail lines planned for LA are built. Houston is literally the poster child for massive, metastasized sprawl.

2. Interstate 45 in Texas is flat and low density. This would make construction and engineering less complicated and acquisition of land rights much less problematic.

3. Texas isn’t eaten up with environmental zealots. Trust me, as soon as they find an endangered mugwort, the California bullet train will come to a screeching halt while the state conducts 10 years of environmental studies.

This argument was also made in the Dallas Morning News column and by Tobias Buckell, that Texas has lower land costs and less environmental obstacles and so the problems caused by California NIMBYs won’t be an issue in Texas.

But if that were true, the Trans-Texas Corridor would have been built instead of killed. The TTC would have included high speed rails, along with new toll highways, pipelines, fiber, and more. It was planned for stretches of rural Texas and would have been financed mostly by private funds. In other words, it had all the positive attributes of the current Texas HSR project.

And yet it was killed by the Texas government after a massive uprising from residents in the TTC’s path and from those adamantly opposed to what was seen as a governmental power grab. Texas NIMBYs didn’t have the same judicial paths open to them that California NIMBYs have, yet they found other paths and killed the TTC anyway.

The truth of the matter is that while Texas is a great place to build high speed rail, any project there will encounter exactly the same obstacles as California high speed rail:

• Inability of the private sector to fund multibillion dollar infrastructure without government aid

• Ideological opposition among Republicans to any public funding for rail

• NIMBY opposition to whatever route is chosen, no matter what that route is

• Misguided environmentalism prioritizing open space over reducing CO2 emissions

• Lack of urgency, unwillingness to believe that high speed rail is a priority.

Those are the problems that have to be solved for high speed rail to be built anywhere in the United States. I wish Texas all the best and I hope they get HSR built. But until they solve those problems, not imaginary problems with government or with California, their efforts will inevitably stall.

  1. Joe
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 17:00

    A recent editorial criticism of the Texas project is quite interesting.

    TX lacks population centers between Dallas and Houston. This separates the high-speed rail system in Texas from the northeast Amtrak service which gains revenue from intermediate station trips. The NE Amtrak service is the model and justification for the Texas project.

    California had a decision. Go through the central valley and service intermediate cities, or follow the I5 straight to LA.

    The new CA HSR business plan showed a shift in revenue from the end to end trips to intermediate and short distance trips. The short and intermediate trips are possible because of the route through the central valley.

    Does California know more than Texas when it comes to ridership forecasts?

    the GAO found California’s ridership model to be the most advanced one available in the United States and it’s getting better. Texas investors don’t have magic insight.

    Developers also are learning that Fort Worth doesn’t want to be bypassed. Servicing both cities is going to cost more money and drive up the costs. Does That sound familiar ?

    Observer Reply:

    Keep in mind though that there is life in Texas outside of Dallas and Houston. Texas HSR rail will also serve Austin and San Antonio – with 5 or 6 cities in between them.

    joe Reply:

    Oh yes. BUT this is private investment>/b> which means they spend 12 B and have to pay for the construction, debt and operation and I suppose borrow more to build out to Austin and San Antonio.

    If they want US FRA loans then they’ll need to meet US content rules. Not easy.

    Now I can see the Japanese partner subsidizing their equipment for the initial project to get a foothold in the US market.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They have a foothold in the US market. Have for decades.

    Observer Reply:

    Just speculation here. But whoever wins the contract for the Amtrak/CAHSR trainsets would need to meet US content rules; thereby making it easier for any entity that uses those trainsets to more easily obtain an FRA loan. Could this change the equation for HSR in Texas, or for that matter for any other entity that decides to use the winning trainset?

    joe Reply:

    Siemens won the first contact for the hybrid train sets (IL bid the work) with trains built in CA (derived from a standard design modified for the US) and engines from IN based Cummings.

    Amtrak/HSR is looking for feasibility of a single architecture/design to accommodate both current and future HSR needs. It’s a forward looking request to the industry and not able to meet the current reqs of US content for there FRA loans needed now.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Specifically, the Siemens order is for 125mph high(er) speed diesel locomotives, they will be pulling Nippon Sharyo bilevels being built in Rochelle, Ill.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    A lot of interesting points raised here. Anyone have an estimate of average per mile construction cost for TX vs CA?
    Robert, you rejoice in the fact that L.A. has a relatively dense population with expanding transit options. Then why on earth doesn’t the CA project start its first service here? The IOS, with a terminus in the San Fernando Valley, is about as useful as the TX project being built only to the northern suburbs.

    Donk Reply:

    Paul, do you really want an answer to your obvious question that you already know the answer to? Ok:

    1. Because CAHSRA was forced to do so for political reasons to “create jobs” in the central valley
    2. Because the Bako-Palmdale-LA segment wasn’t ready for construction yet

    I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t agree that the LA and SJ mountain crossings should have been done first. The problem is that there was never really the choice to do so.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    DonK: After 6 years we can reliably say that none of it was “ready” for construction.

    joe Reply:

    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
    – John Lennon.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It remains “ready” for construction. The problems lie solely in Congress.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Robert, the environmental work for LA-Bako isn’t done yet, as I recall.

    Eric Reply:

    The Fresno-Madera winning bid was $985 million for 30 miles.

    The whole Dallas-Houston project is supposed to be about $11 billion for 240 miles.

    Those are pretty similar costs, Texas is actually a bit higher per mile, based on these figures.

    I assume that Central Valley and Texas costs should be similar since you are building across flat farmland. Of course California has much higher overall costs due to the mountain crossings. But also higher ridership due to the higher populations, higher density/transit use, and longer car travel between the cities. So it is not clear overall which is the more promising project. But Texas could be built much more quickly.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe: “hybrid train sets”? What are you talking about? Do you not know the difference between a locomotive and a train? You are about as informed as the average journalist.
    Forget Amtrak and HSR rolling stock. They are trying desperately to remain relevant. State after state is now looking for alternatives to Amtrak as a supplier of commuter and intercity services, even CT in Amtrak’s own back yard.

    joe Reply:


    Sorry if I don’t use the right jargon. You can revoke my membership.

    Interesting that Amtrak is desperate and losing relevance.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That article’s written by an idiot just FYI. There’s nothing hybrid about the locomotives.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    My thoughts exactly. There’s no excuse Joe, you’ve clearly taken some interest in the railroad industry, you should at least by now understand what a diesel-electric locomotive is, and what it is not. As for Amtrak, Joe Boardman has recently been bleating to his staff that they cannot compete for operating contracts. Cost plus contracts with commuter agencies and the states are what have been keeping Amtrak afloat (certainly not “profits” from Acela). They had a compliant Congress that passed PRIIA to further soak the states but that is coming home to roost. IN has started the ball rolling with an RFP for competitive operators, followed by CT. There’s a lot of people in CA would love to see the back of them.

    joe Reply:

    Language evolves. I take no interest in policing the language. That’s a job for guys with blogs.

    Given the Chevy volt is called a plug-in hybrid, the use of the word hybrid I think the term helps people understand how Trains work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt#Drivetrain

    Joe Boardman has recently been bleating

    Funny word. Why the contempt?

    IN has a popular subsidized service AMTRAK they dogmatically oppose. It’s no different than opposing Obamacare and liking the ACA. They have to try something else and even if it costs more they’ll try to avoid undermine a political talking point.

    Let’s see what they come up with because it’s going to cost them taxpayer money regardless of what they do.

    EJ Reply:

    joe, misusing a technical term has nothing to do with the “evolution” of the language. Especially since there are actual hybrid locomotives out there. Why don’t you learn something, instead of getting pissy and defensive?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe takes “no interest in policing the language”. Joe presumably wants to be taken seriously. Joe does not seem to understand that there is a world of difference between a Chevy Volt and a diesel electric locomotive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_locomotive#Diesel-electric
    Grow up Joe, you made a mistake quoting from an ignorant journalist.
    And on the other topic, IN leans Republican to be sure, but what about Connecticut? And the Hoosier is not very popular and exists mainly to ferry Amtrak cars to and from the Beech Grove shops. Since it is also an interstate train Indiana is a bit ticked off about having to pay for it.

    jonathan Reply:

    Why don’t you learn something, instead of getting pissy and defensive?

    EJ, meet Joe. Joe is *always* like this. When Joe uses a word, it means what he chooses it to mean; neither more nor less. He can’t admit error.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Interesting thought experiment:

    Who actually contracts with states if Amtrak doesn’t bid to operate? Veolia? BNSF? Princess Cruises?

    I think if open contracting comes up in California it will be a full-on-shitstorm as various local government entities vie for statewide contracts. And if the states themselves contract out to other states this gets real interesting.

    Does BART take over the Starlight? Does NCTD buy the Surfliner? And how do the Class I’s fit in? Aren’t they going to find a way to push more commuter and regional rail to publicly owned track? Not sure how you do that in some states.

    joe Reply:

    EJ you’re right. I should not have used Hybrid – electric diesel would be precise. Same for Paul and Paul..

    What’s missing is energy storage – a capacitor or battery to allow electric moter to operate without requiring the internal combustion engine.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ah, the light bulb goes on. Powered by fossil fuels probably. It’s “diesel-electric” by convention, diesel being the prime mover, electric being the transmission. As you may have read there have been variants of the transmission part of it, e.g. hydraulic and mechanical. Electric traction motors have proven themselves over the years, in the cruddy and challenging railroad environment. Now I happen to believe that a hybrid as you know it is possible, although Clem disagrees. The resident “mad scientist” among my acquaintance is planning on hooking up super capacitors by the thousand with an F59. So far he’s hooking them up by the dozen with a forklift truck and happy with the results. Time will tell.

    joe Reply:

    It should be possible given most of the components are there except the energy storage. Adding storage capacity may be weight prohibitive for the benefits.

    Mazda is adding capacitors to power systems like the A/C at a stop when the car shuts off the engine to save fuel.

    In a PLUG-IN HYBRID, it has a large battery, downhill breaking on a trip to Watsonville, 1100ft pass, produces about 3-4 miles of regenerative electric power for a Ford Fusion Energi.

    jonathan Reply:

    EJ you’re right. I should not have used Hybrid – electric diesel would be precise. Same for Paul and Paul..

    News Flash! Joe discovers that US diesel locomotives are in fact *diesel-electric* locomotives!
    (NB: prime mover, followed by transmission, not the other way around.) Joe still hasn’t grokked that in US English “diesel locomotive” means diesel-electric unless otherwise qualified — as no-one in the US has used diesel-hydraulics since , oh, Southern Pacific in the 1960s, and diesel-mechanical can’t handle the power.

    Joe proceeds to correct everyone who understands this, by telling them they should refer to “electric diesel” locomotives.

    You can’t make this stuff up. You just can’t.

    Of course, for pedants, there was also one diesel-pneumatic (very unsuccessful0 which used a diesel engine to compress air, which was then fed into steam-locomotive style cylinders. (DRG V 3201). That was even more of an odd-ball than the Swiss conversion of steam locomotives to electric power, by using electric heating to boil water. Note that these are referred to as *electric-steam*. Made sense for the Swiss during WWII.

    jonathan Reply:

    In Robert’s blog entry, CREW Files New Ethics Complaint Against Rep. David Valadao Over HSR’ (Feb 4t, 2014),
    >http://www.cahsrblog.com/2014/04/texas-hsr-could-face-same-challenges-as-california-hsr/, Paul Dyson wrote:

    Paul Dyson Reply:
    February 6th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    You are barking up the wrong tree. You just described the electric locos for the NEC. The EMD protest is about the Siemens/Cummins diesel electric for the state corridors.

    Joe replied to that message, with the words “diesel electric” in the *line immediately above”.
    So either Joe replies to material of which he has *no* understanding at all; or he’s a liar.

    synonymouse Reply:

    SMART’s doodlebugs apparently are diesel mechanical with the motors slung low. I dunno if they are mounted on the body of the car or can be accessed from inside the car. I believe the idea is to get the prime movers as independently sprung as possible.

    We’ll see how many of the smartbugs get hit in action and how they take the damage. I would have gone electric and ditched the freight.

    EJ Reply:

    Now I happen to believe that a hybrid as you know it is possible, although Clem disagrees.

    Hitachi’s been experimenting with hybrid locomotives for a while now: http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/hybrid-high-speed-train-unveiled.html

    No commercial version yet, but seems at least technically feasible. IIRC Clem’s objection was to a proposal to use hybrid DMUs on the Caltrain line, which don’t exist outside of a few railbus sized vehicles in Japan.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I should have said engines instead of motors.

    What happens when the “experts” turn on you:


    Similar fate in store for the orphan ARRA methinks. PB will consult in the scrapping.

    jonathan Reply:

    diesel-mechanical? With a clutch? Got a source for that?

    jonathan Reply:

    .. or with a fluid coupling and a gearbox with a gear stick? How many axles powered? Cardan shafts under the body?

    joe Reply:

    There are wikipedia examples of hybrids under experimentation. Why use a hybrid.

    Looking at autos…
    Capacitors in Mazda cars will allow them to shut down at stops and still run electronics A/C cost effectively. Not relevant for trains unless they use a buttload.

    In cars like the fusion,the hybrid ICE runs Atkinson cycle and is augmented by electric motor provide torque and low acceleration power. That’s not relevant for trains either

    Chevy Volt runs on plug in and then when exhausted it switch to ICE-electric which is what trains currently do with diesel. I don’t see that model working well either.

    A plug-in fusion has such a larger battery it can recharge with mild braking down long grades provided batteries are “large” enough. It can run off that charge for miles so if they do use hybrid I suspect it will require larger batteries and regeneratively charge off breaking and parasitically from the diesel engine.

    wdobner Reply:

    Syn and Jonathan:

    SMART’s Sumitomo DMUs are Diesel-Hydraulics, like the CRC DMUs in Portland and the old RDCs. The Siemens Desiros used on the NCTD Sprinter are described as being Diesel-Mechanical units, although this fact sheet says they have a torque converter. Some describe the RDC as a diesel mechanical DMU, so the line between DH and DM seems to be somewhat blurry. Certainly Diesel-Mechanical DMUs were much more common overseas.

    As for what the actually running gear will look like, and how many axles will be powered, the closest I’ve found is a rather poor image in Nippon-Sharyo’s “DMU Catalog“. It looks like they’ll have a cardan shaft from the Diesel+Torque Converter “Diesel Power Module” to the inboard axle. Whether or not the outboard axle is also powered is not clear, but it looks like it may be. I don’t see anything in SMART’s spec which indicates they specified whether or not all axles had to be powered.

    Interestingly, both SMART and Metrolinx inquired to Sumitomo/Nippon Sharyo about the possibility of converting their DMUs to EMUs in the future. This, after Metrolinx claimed in 2010 they could not electrify the Toronto Union Station to Pearson link by 2015, and after SMART very specifically ruled out electrification near the beginning of their design study.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No possibility of any electrification of SMART until numerous other issues are resolved, primarily the fate of freight ops.

    Overall public transit in the Northbay is not very healthy, ie. usage is low. The GGT commute to the City has been in slow decline for decades. And AFAIK still no Sonoma Co. Transit service to the Graton casino porte cochere – I guess the tribe considers the bus riders not their type of customer.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    NJTransit service to Atlantic City, from outside of metro Atlantic City, sucks. Hundreds if not thousands of buses go there everyday.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    DM vs DH: DM DMUs do actually have a gearbox, whereas DH does not. The DM power train is pretty much comparable with the one of a bus with an automatic gearbox, and I believe to remember reading that there are DMUs which have actually bus/truck components installed, lowering their cost. The DH power train has no gearbox, but some kind of “variator” to control the speed.

    About converting from DMU to EMU, the vehicle type calling for that is, of course, the Stadler GTW, with the power pack unit, which could be exchanged within hours in the workshop.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Don’t worry, as it has been said, the article is simply wrong. That writer (probably an intern or so) heard “diesel-electric”, and thought that would be like a Prius car…

    OTOH, depending on the architecture, it would be relatively easy to make a bi-mode locomotive from those models. If they are running under DC, it would be possible to directly feed the DC into the intermediate circuit (from which the converters create 3-phase AC for the traction motors). …and a little bit more electronics, and one would have true regenerative braking under wire…

    synonymouse Reply:

    No traction motors on the SMART doodlebugs. The insiders want to stay as fossil as possible and as close to freight style as possible to please Doug Bosco & co. On the other hand the move away from loco hauled was to please San Rafael, a local power center in its own mind. The whole thing’s a basket case but at least they are rebuilding the trackage south of Novato instead of paving it over for a blinking BRT, as GGT always wanted.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    This kind of drive train is absolutely legit, and has until recently been in use for the Bombardier Talent family (Talents are available as Diesel-mechanical, Diesel-electrical, and electrical units). In Germany, the DM variant is known as BR 634. This is also the variant which is used by the O-Train.

    In order to electrify the “SMART doodlebugs”, probably the easiest would be to remove the diesel engine and the gearbox, and mount a suitable electric motor instead. The electric motor would be smaller than the gearbox, and the power electronics would fit in the space of the diesel engine (that would be in the case of a DC electrification; for AC, a bit more work had to be done to accommodate the transformer.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Put the transformer where the fuel tank was….

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    “Forget Amtrak and HSR rolling stock”


    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Quote: “Amtrak/HSR is looking for feasibility of a single architecture/design to accommodate both current and future HSR needs. It’s a forward looking request to the industry and not able to meet the current reqs of US content for there FRA loans needed now.”

    Joe, what are you trying to say? I’m hard-pressed to make sense out of your comment above. What follows below is my best guess at what you probably wanted to say – I’ve put your CONFUSING WORDS in brackets to set them apart from the rest of your sentence, followed by my best guess at what you probably meant to say in parentheses ( )

    Here goes: “Amtrak/HSR is (looking into the?) feasibility of a single architecture/design to accommodate both current and future HSR needs. It’s a forward-looking request to the industry (which is?) not able to meet the current (requirements?) of US content for (their?) (the?) FRA loans needed now.”

    You really do need to review and proof-read your comments before posting them!

    joe Reply:

    Okay – I will.

    Here’s the RPF. It is seeking to identify if product exist.

    AMTRAK AND CALIFORNIA REQUEST BIDS FOR HIGH-SPEED TRAIN SETS New equipment to expand current NEC high-speed service, Meet long-term operational needs of both projects

    A goal of the procurement is to identify whether established high speed rail equipment manufacturers have service-proven designs that can meet both the short-term needs of Amtrak and the long-term operational needs of the Authority and Amtrak with little or no modification.
    It is also hoped that the joint procurement of equipment with a large degree of commonality will result in lower unit acquisition and life cycle costs for both Amtrak and the Authority, while helping expand the U.S. role in high-speed rail equipment manufacturing.

    Here’s the waiver request to buy any possible product for testing. If any exist, it will not be US made.


    Amtrak and the California authority jointly issued a request for bids in January for new “next generation” high-speed trains, specifying that the winning company must comply with requirements that the trains be American-made. That means that in addition to final assembly of the trains in the United States, most of the components also would have to be produced in the U.S.
    But as the two agencies await bids from manufacturers for dozens of sparkling new bullet trains for California and for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, they face a stark reality: There are no U.S. companies currently building such equipment on American soil.
    So in late February, the state rail agency and Amtrak each requested a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration, asking to be excused from the Buy America requirements. Each wants permission to purchase two prototype trains built overseas, but to American specifications, for testing purposes until the chosen manufacturer can build a production factory – or modify an existing plant –in the U.S. to build the trains.

    Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability, a grass-roots group of high-speed rail foes in Kings County, is crying foul. In a letter to the Railroad Administration, the group denounced the state rail authority’s waiver request as a possible end-run around the law. Buying trains from overseas, the group says, defeats one of the Obama administration’s most important rationales for backing high-speed rail – promoting the creation of American manufacturing jobs.

    California’s rail authority “decided to apply for a waiver in the event that the manufacturer that made the best offer wouldn’t have the ability to assemble a prototype in America that meets the authority’s and Amtrak’s strict schedules for procurement,” said Lisa Marie Alley, the authority’s press secretary.

    Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2014/04/08/3591741/state-seeks-buy-america-exemption.html#storylink=cpy

    HSR opponents are using every excuse to stop the project.

    joe Reply:

    “University of Massachusetts-Amherst economists estimate that Amtrak’s approach could incent manufacturing companies to create nearly 28,000 American jobs,” said Madeline Janis. “The Jobs to Move America coalition hopes to spark the beginning of a national resource center for public transit agencies and rolling stock manufacturers to connect with and develop workforce development programs, as we all work to create more good manufacturing jobs.”

    John Burrows Reply:

    A little Wikipedia research—

    “Greater Dallas” has a population of 6.8 million spread out over 9,300 sq. mi. “Greater Houston” has 6.2 million spread out over 10,000 sq. mi. The distance between is given as 240 miles which is supposed to be an ideal distance for high speed rail. “Greater” does not necessarily mean “urban”, and I assume that, as in California, it will be necessary to have more than one stop at each end to better match population distribution.

    As a point of reference the San Francisco Bay Area contains slightly over 7 million people spread out over just under 7,000 sq. mi. and Los Angeles comes in at 12.8 million living within 4,850 sq. mi. The distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles is twice the distance between Dallas and Houston, but there will be intermediate stops in medium sized cities located along the line.

    Both systems are likely to be successful. As far as the California-Texas rivalry goes—Lets build both and then see which state benefits the most.

    Eric Reply:

    Dallas and Houston have both grown more in the east-west than north-south directions. And the HSR line would be north-south. Which makes it hard for multiple stops to work. Maybe one downtown and one near the edge of the sprawl.

    The Texan cities have many fewer geographical obstacles, which makes driving to the station much easier.

    Andy M Reply:

    Houston’s George Bush airport is located to the north of the city, whereas Dallas’ DFW is located somewhere between Dallas and Fort Worth. Therefore a high speed line doing Dallas – Fort Worth – Houston should have no difficulty servinbg both airports without there being any need to build spur lines. The airports could also serve as second stations for both cities. Stops would thus be Dallas Union Station – DFW airport – Fort Worth downtown – Houston airport – Houston downtown, with maybe somne addition stops in between. Maybe Corsicana?

    Serving not one but two airports would mean the high speed train would double as an inter-airport shuttle.

    TomA Reply:

    Would probably make sense to do this

    Dallas – DFW – Fort Worth – Waco – College Station – Bush – Houston

    its less direct – 280 vs 260 for Forth Worth – DFW – Dallas-Bush – Houston

    But the extra city pairs are probably owrth the extra 20 miles of construction.

    Plus if you are going to build SA to Dallas eventually anyway – it would likely go through Waco.

    Eric Reply:

    1. Fort Worth-Dallas-Waco is better than Dallas-FW-Waco because Dallas is the bigger-ridership destination so its passengers should get the shorter ride.
    2. DFW is not really on the FW-Dallas rail line (unless you build a really long people mover) so maybe FW and DFW should be separate destinations (half of Dallas trains would end at each of them).
    3. DFW as a terminus is also good because it allows eventual extension north to Oklahoma City.
    4. Bush is a little hard to serve because it would seem to require a detour or tunneling.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Andy M: How many people shuttle each day between DFW (with flights to just about everywhere) and IAH (with flights to just about everywhere)?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Andy M: How many people shuttle each day between DFW (with flights to just about everywhere) and IAH (with flights to just about everywhere)?

    1,304 according to Transtats.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Those are probably people making connections so that they can use their carrier of choice. The wonder of frequent flyer programs. Unless the air carriers cease service in favor of HSR they will continue to fly.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Supercommuter study says 35,600 workers commute DFW to Houston, 51,900 make the reverse commute. Most of them not everyday. But if say 5% of them fly once week each way, that would average out to 1,250 per day.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    There seems to be a confusion with the word “commute”. Technically it means daily travel on a reduced rate pass of some sort. Seems like the ingoranti use it simply to mean travel of any kind.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    To add to my last comment, if the word commuter is used correctly, or should I say traditionally, it gives some perspective as to demand patterns and usage. The vast majority of commuters have travel patterns related to traditional 8/9 to 5/6 work hours Monday to Friday. I used to be a “Supercommuter”, living in Burbank and having an office in San Francisco. However, my BUR to SFO journeys were more or less random depending on meeting schedules and I usually traveled east from SFO in the afternoon and spent the week on the road. Who is to say what journeys these 86,000 Texans might actually make. But I’d bet a shilling or two that the great majority are in frequent flyer programs and will not take the train unless they earn “points”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They take the fastest mode. Rational people don’t fly from Philadelphia to New York or DC. Supposedly there are people who have monthly tickets for Philadelphia-NY on Amtrak. Rumor has it that first class on Acela is fairly lousy with people who use their points to upgrade because they travel so much they can splurge and use up points.

    I have the Census Bureau’s chart of where people who work in Manhattan supposedly live. There’s 1,027 of them that live in Los Angeles. Since it’s a 6 hour flight each way I doubt they are doing it every day. Or the 39 people who live in Salt Lake City. or the 120 that live in Dallas…. or the 107 people who supposedly live in Japan.. or the 28 in New Zealand…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Paul, yes, that is where the word commute comes from, but it’s not what it means today. Commutation ticket > person who travels on a train by commutation ticket > person who travels to work regularly. Same way that buck deer > buck horn token used to denote the dealer in poker > coin token used to denote the dealer in poker > one dollar. Perfectly fine to call a dollar a buck and someone who travels to work a commuter.

    Also, total air travel between Dallas and Houston is 2,852 people per day in both directions, of whom 2,172 travel between Love Field and Hobby. I sincerely doubt nearly half of them are commuting.

    Andy M Reply:

    We shouldn’t look at what is but what at could be. I’m sure there must be a lot of duplication with planes heading for the same destination leaving both airports at more or less the same time. A shuttle could create a “one airport” effect with a DFW terminal and a Bush terminal. This would permit the airlines to use bigger aircraft and at the same time free up landing slots. All things the airlines must like.

    joe Reply:

    I think TX can have a workable HSR system but that’s not a private 10-12 B system with single stations at the end points.

    What would work is a public financed system that has multiple stations in city centers and costs far more to build.

    First, TX isn’t proposing anything that can be analyzed aside from the two station system this private corporation proposed. They have a long ways to go before they can crow about costs.

    1. Profitable – the private TX system must cover construction costs and operating costs and produce profit. Sure they can have a public funded system and not recover construction costs but that ain’t th plan.

    2. Ridership. CA system is viable – according to the revenue ridership model – because of shorter trips between city pairs. This is a major difference in the newer model used for the 2014 business plan.

    TX’s points to the NE which is profitable but has intermediate city pair traffic – not reliant on NY to DC trips to cover costs.

    So TX’s system, as described, is different.

    Houston has two airports and I’ve had to navigate that city – I doubt a single HSR station is going to service greater Houston – these two stations will service a subset of their metro areas which is why the CA’s system isn’t a two station system. TX would lose the ridership to driving if they try a two station system.

    joe Reply:


    The Dallas to Houston bullet train proposal failed 25 years ago and it will fail again because the economics simply don’t work.

    True, the distance between Dallas and Houston is about the same as the distance between New York and Washington, D.C., where the high-speed Acela allegedly turns a profit — or at least covers its operating costs. But more than 40 million people live between New York and D.C., and the Acela service generates revenues by picking up and dropping off passengers in New York, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington.

    By contrast, no one lives between Dallas and Houston. What’s more, unlike East Coast cities, Dallas and Houston have multiple business centers, raising the issue of the potential demand for rail service between downtown Dallas and downtown Houston.

    Bernard Weinstein, North Dallas

    Eric Reply:

    East coast cities have multiple business centers too. Lower Manhattan, Highway 128, King of Prussia, Tysons Corner…

    joe Reply:

    I think you’re on a limb. I’ve been to DAL and HOU and they ain’t like NYC at all or BAL or DC. TX isn’t like the NE at then end points or the middle.

    The ridership model CA used – the most advanced in the US – now shows the system will carry more short trips and produce revenue with these trips. That’s what produces cash for the NE service.

    There’s no model or forecast behind the TX HSR concept – it’s in the PR stage. If the NE is the business model, then that’s a bad sign.

    Eric Reply:

    What exactly makes this model the most advanced? When so many other things associated with rail in CA are the least advanced?

    Intermediate stops are bad for revenue because they mean that the train is empty for part of its journey. (And you probably can’t get away with charging as much for those partial trips as for an end-to-end trip.)

    Travis D Reply:

    Trains also take on new passengers at intermediate stops.

    And what are you on about with “least advanced?” What have they done that is any way describable as that?

    Eric Reply:


    Eric Reply:

    Although, instead of a one-word answer, I should have waited until Richard showed up and answered for me.

    joe Reply:

    “Intermediate stops are bad for revenue because they mean that the train is empty for part of its journey. ”

    No. That’s a misconception. It’s not a problem in the NE.
    For CA the draft HSR schedule used to forecast ridership and revenue has both express trains and local trains.

    In fact the AM routes start trains in some of the intermediate cities.

    You have some neat ides but the HSR revenue and ridership is a model based estimate. It’s showing more than expected riders from the intermediate stations.

    Texas hasn’t done any forecasts for their end to end system – that’s proposed since it the cheapest to build and they ain’t figured out the reevenue part yet.

    Eric Reply:

    I’ll believe the model when I see what it’s based on. Otherwise, the model is just an appeal to authority, and given the political pressures, not necessarily a reliable authority.

    Joe Reply:

    I admire your standards.

    Travel times, station locations, departure times and fares are all specified in the California ridership and revenue model. There’s consistency between all these different, interrelante components and project design architecture and estimated cost. The model is peer reviewed and went under GAO review.

    The Texas system had its appeal and defenders. We don’t know there is a station downtown or at the edge of town. It’s all to be determined which is why people can imagine a system that will have ridership, generate revenue, be profitable and cost $10-12 billion.
    Nothing to add up yet.

    When they finally decide on a route, we can see if the performance matches cost.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just because someone sits in the seat between San Francisco and Fresno doesn’t mean some else cannot sit in it from Fresno to Los Angeles.

    Eric Reply:

    Of course, but it’s unlikely that exactly the same number of people will want to travel SF-Fresno as Fresno-LA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    or that the train is going to be precisely full every time it leaves San Francisco or Los Angeles.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes, not exactly the same unless they want it to be exactly the same.

    CA can and will control ticket sales. This is in a bus where riders get on and off as they choose.

    CA can control how many tickets are sold between intermediate points how many are sold for end point destinations per train. They can price tickets to socially engineer how people use the trains.

    They can have very specific control over who gets rides and when. it’s all very flexible very similar to how Airlines priced tickets very similar to how Spain is dynamically pricing itickets to increase ridership. and revenue.

    They can control whether they run intermediate service or whether they run express. It’s flexible and subject to demand and revenue.

    They can collect data and run trains to and from mid destinations.

    Flexibility is a strength not a weakness.

    EJ Reply:

    You’re assuming that every Fresno-SF or Fresno-LA passenger is displacing a SF-LA passenger, which is, to put it charitably, a somewhat strange assumption. On most rail systems, 70% seat occupancy is considered a pretty solid goal.

    In the unlikely event Fresno ever got to the point where it could fill trains all by itself, then nothing’s stopping the operator from running dedicated SF-Fresno and LA-Fresno trains, and having SF-LA trains skip Fresno. Since the NEC keeps coming up, that’s the reason there are some trains that just go from DC-NYC or Boston-NYC. Or in the UK, why no trains between London and Scotland stop at Birmingham, even though it’s pretty much on the way. I’m sure there are plenty of other similar examples on railways that I’m less familiar with.

    EJ Reply:

    You’re also, I think, assuming that there’s an exact linear relationship between the fare and the distance traveled, which is also highly suspect.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there aren’t any Boston-NY trains anymore. Or New York=Philadelphia trains anymore either. Or New Haven-Boston trains or Syracuse-Boston trains. Or Pittsburgh-Montauk. Or Washington-Montreal or…. Back in the day it was usual for trains from the west to skip Philadelphia and if they stopped at all, call at North Philadelphia.

    EJ Reply:

    OK, so evidently they figured that Bos-NYC trains fill up with enough southbound passengers at NY Penn to make up for all the Boston/PVD/New Haven/Whatever folks getting off in NYC.

    Which proves the point. Whoever operates CAHSR can adjust service patterns to use the equipment in the most profitable way. Just like every other railroad in the world. The idea that intermediate stops somehow hurt revenue is just ridiculous.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Too many intermediate stops can drive away end to end passengers, but they also present an opportunity to sell the same seat multiple times. It’s all a matter of balance and gaining experience from real world service. Plus of course you can selectively market individual segments of the route where you find your load factor to be wanting.
    On the NEC, average load factors I believe are in the 45% range, with the high points either side of NYC. Of course you’ll develop a different pattern where the largest traffic generators are at either end (CA and TX) rather than the middle.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Too many stops means it stands no longer as high speed rail but something demonstrably less. Call it what you want, TEE, AmBART. It is not hsr that the voters thought they approved. Hopefully the Judge will see it that way and rule Prop 1a has to go back to the ballot, specifically and legally dumbed down.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How far apart are HSR stops on your planet?

    EJ Reply:

    Call it what you want, TEE, AmBART. It is not hsr that the voters thought they approved.

    I’m not going to call it AmBART because I’m not f**king stupid. Nobody is proposing that all trains stop at every intermediate stop.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ adirondacker

    Stops at SF Hauptbahnhof(wherever that turns out to be), SFO, East Bay end of Dumbarton crossing, Livermore, Tracy, Sta Clarita, LAUS. More or less. approx. 3 hours at roughly top speed of 160mph.

    @ EJ

    You have better “f**king” believe ALL trains will stop at Palmdale and Mojave because the high desert real estate developers have got Moonbeam grasped firmly by the cojones. The entire raison d’etre of DoglegRail is to provide subsidized commute service for these worthies, apart from the perfunctory consultant, contractor, union welfare.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And why the hell not stop? You’ll need to find some warm bodies to fill all those empty seats and pay for the extra 50 miles of electrified trackage.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For the 927th time no one is building a station in Mojave.
    Really, have the orderly loosen the tin foil. They are gonna stop in Tracy but not in Fresno, Bakersfield or Burbank?

    synonymouse Reply:

    There will be a stop in Mojave – that is why they insist on going 50 miles out of their way to get there.

    Burbank – up to the the Angelenos. Livermore and Tracy also negotiable, but transfer points are important. Thus Sta. Clarita.

    Fresno and Bako on spurs. Modesto cannot keep a plane because everyone drives in the auto-centric San Joaquin Valley.

  2. John Nachtigall
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 17:05

    Republicans (and withholding federal funding) did not cause all of HSRs problems

    1. The GOP did not propose and pass prop1a that has chocking restrictions on funding, subsidies, having all the money beforehand, having all the EIRs beforehand.

    2. The GOP did not choose to ignore said law which allowed for court cases.

    3. The GOP did not choose to undersell the costs to the voters which necessitated “sticker shock” when the true costs came in.

    4. The GOP did not assume that 80% of the money would come from the feds with no assurances or laws from the federal government.

    5. The GOP did not suddenly decide (after the law was passed) that no private money can be found before the IOS is up and running.

    In short, the GOP is not responsible for the self-inflicted wounds that define CAHSR.

    Joe Reply:

    In short the GOP doesn’t do s**t. never anything nothing just nothing except vote 47+ times to repeal Obamacare. It’s not their fault HSR is not funded – don’t blame tbe GOP they don’t do s**t in California.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I’m not sure what obamacare has to do with HSR funding??

    And your right, it’s not the GOPs fault HSR is not funded because they never promised to support or fund the project. If no promise was made, how is it their fault?

    Alan Reply:

    Of course not, John. The GOP walks around Washington, a foot above the ground, wearing white robes and halos above their heads.

    You really need to get your head out of the sand.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Your halo head would be Warren Buffett, sainted BNSF hsr guru of the Cheerleaders. So different from the UP. yeah, sure.


    Alan Reply:

    In Syno’s world, 1+1= A. His comment bears no relation to what I wrote. At least he’s being consistent.

    Donk Reply:

    John, the Democrats totally screwed this up. But the GOP is a major obstacle as well. Just like with Obamacare, if they actually tried to help instead of trying to blow it up for the sake of scoring political points, we would have a better product. Don’t try to make the GOP sound blameless in this.

    Eric Reply:

    “Never ascribe to incompetence what can be ascribed to malice”. Well in this case, one side is incompetent and the other malicious.

    Donk Reply:

    I don’t know. When the Republicans are in charge, they are also incompetent.

    And when the Republicans were in charge, the Democrats were malicious. They killed thousands of Americans by making a public spectacle over the wars, Guantanamo, and Abu Graib. If they had kept their mouths shut, there would have been thousands fewer dead and trillions of fewer dollars wasted. They didn’t really give a crap that we went into Iraq, or held some terrorists in Cuba, or made some bad people drink a little water to provide information that might save thousands of American lives. They just wanted to score some political points.

    Democrats are not only incompetent, they are also completely insincere. That insincere smile on John Kerry’s face is the reason why he lost the election to Bush. Obama won because he is one of the few Democrats who actually comes off as being sincere.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The GOP has been honest, they have objected to the project from the beginning. There was no deception.

    They are under no obligation to help out a project they don’t support.

    Why do you think the GOP owes anything to HSR they have objected from the very beginning?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If you think most Republican politicians hate HSR as much as they claim, you are quite naive. Most people in politics understand compromise but the public is demanding a very partisan and vitriolic product these days because of how badly the GOP fucked up a decade ago when they controlled all three branches of government in DC.

    This reminds me more and more of Southern California in the 1990s where the GOP made a last stand, transit projects got blocked, education reform was put off…and now look…they are talking about mass transit over the Sepulveda Pass.

    joe Reply:

    “The GOP has been honest, they have objected to the project from the beginning. There was no deception.”

    Amnesia – HSR started under a Republican Governor and Prop1A has compromises for republican Votes.

    GOP opposed HSR when Obama support it. Just as the GOP invented ACA and their Presidential Candidate implement it in Mass. when he was Gov. Obama rolls it out for there US and they vote 47+ times to repeal it.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Apropos YouTube clip: It’s OK If You’re A Republican – IOKIYAR

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    HSR started under the current govenor, when he was called Moonbeam.

    Prop1a has compromises to get voter votes, because they knew if they raised a new tax or did not promise no subsidies it would have not passed.

    The ACA has nothing to do with HSR. I still dont know why you are brining it up.

    joe Reply:

    Arnold – he never existed or had any role in HSR aside from, you know, being the Gov and appointing board members and all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Schwarzenegger#Governor_of_California

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    CAHSR has been under study for 20+ years….it did not start under Arnold. Arnold did support it.

    you stated that it started under GOP…not true

    joe Reply:

    And you trolled that HSR has not yet started.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I said no such thing

    joe Reply:

    Ha ha ha. Amnesia.

    Donk Reply:

    Anatomy of an argument with joe:
    1. Argument begins with joe and somebody else on the blog
    2. joe loses argument
    3. joe calls the other person a troll

    joe Reply:

    Well Donk, I’ll try to catch when I fall into my chronic pattern…

    Still I am am pretty careful to distinguish between behaviour and personal attributes.
    John’s trolled here and so have I.

    That’s not calling a person a troll.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Don’t forget Pete Wilson and Executive Order W-48-93 that he issued pushing high speed rail forward.

    joe Reply:

    But they do forget.

    And it’s killing them.

    Although some California Republican leaders had seen the moderate, Neel Kashkari, as the GOP’s candidate of the future in a deep blue state, tea party favorite Tim Donnelly is pummeling him, according to a surprising new Field Poll.

    Thirty-four percent of likely Republican voters would pick Donnelly, R-Hesperia, while only 3 percent would vote for Kashkari.
    “This is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” said Larry Gerston, a political-science professor at San Jose State. “If Donnelly prevails, it indicates that the fiscal conservatives, the evangelical conservatives and the tea party conservatives control the party and leave Republicans with little opportunity to succeed in the long run. If Kashkari can break through, it would be a sea change, and for the first time in 30 years, the party would show that it has some control of the middle.”

    If the GOP would admit the GOP had a hand in HSR then maybe they could moderate their stance and offer constructive – market based solutions and win over voters.

    Donk Reply:

    John come on, there is absolutely a parallel between ACA and HSR.
    1. Both are big ideas that can make a difference in this country, if done right.
    2. Both used to have at least partial support from Republicans.
    3. Once they became “Obama’s idea”, every Republican was forced by the Koch Bros et al to completely renounce both
    4. Both are extremely complicated efforts and require bipartisanship to succeed
    5. The Democrats are a bunch of imbeciles and need help on both. If the GOP had cooperated on either, we would have a better product.
    6. Now we are going to be stuck with a shitty healthcare plan and a shitty HSR system.
    7. Thanks GOP. I used to vote for you guys. Go fuck yourselves.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    As soon as the Democrats decided to settle for the half-of-a-loaf of Romneycare repackaged as the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans decided is was a sign of the impending Apocalypse.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Everyone accuses the GOP of playing to its base with extreme statement, but the Dems are just as guilty. Obama has taken very opportunity to deride and degrade the republicans. Party of no. Extreme zealots. Holding the government hostage.

    How do you expect people to compromise when you can’t stop insulting them.

    The ACA was a disaster precisely because Obama refused to compromise. If they had passed the parts on pre-existing conditions, expanded Medicare, and stay on parents until 26 you would have gotten 80+ % of the benefit with 20% of the cost. You would have also gotten republican votes

    But instead they insisted on the exchanges, subsidies, etc which are just not working. It was a step too far at the federal level and forcing people just ruined the whole thing. Obama gets the blame for that because he is the one who forced it through over not just federal objections but a lot of states.

    Yes it is based on a GOP idea from the brooking a institute and Romneycare, but as we have found out details matter.

    So on a policy level, yes there are parallels, but the assertion that the GOP hates everything because they hate the ACA is absurd, Like everything in politics, you have to be willing to compromise, What compromise has been offered to the GOP to get HSR funded? More highways? Let XL pipeline get built?

    TE Dems expected something for nothing and insulted them to boot. Huge surprise it is now a problem. Neither party gets the concept of compromise because they are too busy trying to look tough

    joe Reply:

    ” What compromise has been offered to the GOP to get HSR funded? More highways? Let XL pipeline get built? ”


    Donk Reply:

    Sure the Democrats also play to their extreme base. But they are not forced to at gunpoint like the GOP is. Democrats are allowed to compromise. Republicans who compromise one inch are immediately targeted for the next primary and have no chance of reelection.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Actually, the ACA is working pretty well right now. Yes, large parts of it are unpopular, but they’re necessary to make the popular part work. If you ban discrimination based on preexisting conditions, you’re raising the premiums of all the young, healthy people; that’s mainly what’s been unpopular in the last few months, other than the now-solved website. Now, young, healthy people aren’t going to get health insurance with premiums geared for sick fifty-somethings: for example, when I travel to the US I don’t get travel insurance since I don’t think I will need it. So to avoid a cost spiral in which more and more healthy people drop out of the pool and leave in only the sickest people (raising their premiums in the meantime), there has to be a mandate, to keep the average premiums low. This is what the exchanges are for.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    There is a reason they moved back the mandate for employers 2-3 years. Look at all the trouble they had with just 10% of the market. When the ACA causes people to lose work coverage because businesses choose to pay the penalty instead it will make this year look like a rain squal vs a hurricane.

    If they thought the ACA was working they would not keep delaying the implementation. Look at the actions, not the hype.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    “The GOP has been honest, they have objected to the project from the beginning. There was no deception.”

    Seriously? If the Republicans had worked any harder for the oil industry, the IRS would want to see the W-2s.

    The GOP has inveighed against petrodictators and called for energy independence for years, but insist that only measures that meet their standards of political correctness are acceptable. They have bashed solar energy, with the result that China is a bigger supplier than if the GOP was sincere about energy security.

    I know what the free market economic theorists would have proposed for public transit if they weren’t in bed with big oil–it would look so much like school vouchers that one criticism would have the same name: skimming. Early in the Reagan Era, they have proposed many changes to provide market discipline to government functions. Some were good, some were bad but showed an active mind seeking new solutions.

    What they came up with for buses and commuter trains was “transit stamps.” Do they seriously think that with a name like that, they’d get middle class commuters to reconsider how much they need a car compared to society’s need to reduce congestion and pollution, insure against energy disruption, and provide access to the poor, elderly, and disabled?

    Now look at the Climate Change debate. Republicans approach it like the Four Color Map Theorem–they just need to come up with a blizzard in Washington and argue that it’s a map that needs 5 colors. (Similarly, many Establishment Democrats go around saying that a piece of evidence is a 4 color map, but that doesn’t prove that all maps can get by with 4 colors.) There are consequences no matter what we decide, and to the vast majority of scientists, the negatives if we don’t act now are a lot greater than if we do act and there was no warming.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So how does anything in your argument disprove that the GOP has been against funding HSR from the beginning, especially at the federal level?

    Are you are arguing is that it is because they are in the pockets of big oil and they are wrong.

    Why did the writers of prop1a assume the Feds would fund 80%? Because they thought the GOP would not win the house or senate and had no backup plan. The liberals here in CA fail to realize that outside of CA the GOP is a political force you can’t just ignore and make fun of.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    “1. The GOP did not propose and pass prop1a that has chocking restrictions on funding, subsidies, having all the money beforehand, having all the EIRs beforehand.”

    Actually, they did. Specifically, GOP State Senator Roy Ashburn, whose vote was needed to reach the 2/3 threshold to get Prop 1A on the November 2008 ballot.

  3. trentbridge
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 17:14

    “all hat and no cattle” – the motto of Texas HSR..

  4. Observer
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 17:25

    OT. The Fresno City council has a resolution on its April 10th agenda – expressing disapproval of the CHSRA acquiring land without having funding for the California HSR project in its entirety. Placed on the agenda by a tea artier of course.

    joe Reply:

    Well, construction starts in Fresno, maybe he can picket the site demanding all work stop until he sees full funding to build out to LA.

    By this summer, Laing added, “we should be building that structure and really initiating construction.”

    The first construction section runs from about Avenue 17, near the BNSF freight railroad tracks at the eastern edge of Madera, south to American Avenue at the southern fringe of Fresno. In addition to the viaduct, the section includes a bridge over the San Joaquin River, elevated tracks at the north and south ends of Fresno; a tunnel under Belmont Avenue and Highway 180, and a dozen street or road over- and underpasses.

    Other early portions of work will likely be in downtown Fresno, Laing said. Contractors are working with the city to plan relocation of utilities before construction can begin on new underpasses that will route Tulare and Ventura streets beneath the new high-speed rail tracks as well as the adjacent Union Pacific freight railroad tracks.

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/04/07/3865619/valley-high-speed-rail-construction.html#storylink=cpy

  5. Joe
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 17:26

    If the Northeast Corridor is the example of profitable HSR operations then why point to the sparse population in Texas as an advantage? Cheap to build but fewer people to use it. Full cost recovery and all construction and operation. And of course we’ll be allowed to carrier going on the train loaded concealed.


    The relatively flat, sparsely populated land between North Texas and Houston makes the project more doable than similar proposals in the Northeast or California, Eckels said.

    Eric Reply:

    The Northeast Corridor would be extremely difficult, not easy, to build nowadays. (Luckily it already exists.)

    It compares somewhat to Texas HSR in terms of the high populations involved – both would have relatively high ridership, judging by population. But it doesn’t compare in terms of building cost – Texas would be much cheaper.

    joe Reply:

    The route along the NE and Texas are very different. Name the major cities between Dallas and Houston.

    Eric Reply:

    Name the major cities between New York and Boston. (Or between LA and the Bay Area.)

    HSR doesn’t require major cities on the middle of the route.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hartford or Providence depending on which way you send the trains. Fairfield County Ct has more people in it than metro Bakersfield. So does New Haven County. Worcester County is almost as big.

    Eric Reply:

    Those aren’t major cities (and neither is Bakersfield).

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Metro Bakersfield has 840k (2010 census) which is a major city in most states. Fresno has 1.08m. Together that’s more people then 15 whole states.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Some states have to get lucky.

    Eric Reply:

    The US would be much better off if most of those 15 states merged with each other and the voter-senator ratio between states became somewhat more equal.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Secession would be more productive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Define major metro area then. Metro San Jose is 34th biggest in the US with 1,836,911 people in the 2010 Census. Metro Providence is 38th with 1,600,852.


    Which cities get HSR? The top 25? the top 50?

    joe Reply:

    “It compares somewhat to Texas HSR in terms of the high populations involved –”

    I think the lack of people in between DAL and HOU is a significant difference and why revenue and ridership will be less than the NE or in CA.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    From what I can tell, Acela has about half as many riders getting on in DC or Philly as NY. That’s an interesting curveball because Fresno is not as populous as Philly. If it holds to form, LA will have about double the riders as The Bay Area, which will have a little more than San Diego ( as a stand in for Boston).

    What I don’t know is what percentage of Acela passengers don’t stop in NY. I would bet it is a low percentage, maybe 5%.

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know details for the NE but the CA system has a model to produce ridership and revenue forecasts.

    Texas is all talk.

    These between-end-point trips help the system produce revenue for the Ne and in simulation, for CA. I suspect when in service, they’ll start to induce trips between Fresno and the Bay Area. HW 152 isn’t an easy drive.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I’m not in disagreement there, but do think Fresno is slightly less of a draw than Philadelphia.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People in Fresno, because it’s less of a draw than Philadelphia, have more reasons to go someplace else.

    joe Reply:

    Oh for sure.

    I do think the geographic differences favor riding HSR from Fresno. The CV is somewhat isolated and HSR will do more to connect the CV than Rail in the NE. I guess that shakes out as more rail trips per capita than the NE.

    I personally find the 152 route over pacheco pass interesting but a bit of a challenge to drive and the CV is tedious.

    Donk Reply:

    Well by 2050 when HSR is actually built, there will be so many goddamn people in CA that Fresno will probably turn into Bangladesh.

    EJ Reply:

    In what way are CA cities comparable to east coast cities, other than vague population figures? Development patterns, transit usage, geography, industries, etc. are totally different.

    So many people on this blog throw out these facile analogies that you get things like San Diego being compared to Boston. Just…. no. Throwing out these useless analogies is easy; actual transportation planning is hard.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even though it has city pairs that are nearly ideal for HSR. HSR isn’t going to work in California?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Actually, I think the analogy is apt. Generally population size is the best indicator of demand for services, be it education, health care, transportation…or perhaps it is more accurate to say any forecast is going to be a function of population size.

    If we look at the CAHSR plan, it mirrors the NEC in that it would serve three major metro areas and have a fourth one accessible by legacy track. Travel times for SF to LA and NYC to DC are roughly comparable.

    What surprises me again, is that DC’s demand as a center of power that exceeds Philadelphia and acts as NY’s peer, even with a built out subway system attracts no more riders than a city with a few corporate headquarters and bad sports teams. I think the implication is pretty striking: SF’s ridership projections won’t exceed 50% of LA’s.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I was told previously that there is no HSR operation in the northeast because CAHSR will be the 1st in the nation. When I brought that up I was told that Acela is not really HSR.

    Can we clear that up. Is Acela HSR or not?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Get everybody to decide on the same definition

    EJ Reply:

    AFAIK the EU and UIC define HSR as >250 km/h (~155 mph) on dedicated HSR track, and >200 km/h (~125 mph) on upgraded conventional track. According to that definition Acela definitely qualifies, as it’s got large sections of 135 mph running between New York and DC, as well as 150 mph in Rhode Island, and would be allowed to run up to 165 mph on dedicated HSR infrastructure, if it had any. In Europe, the UK HST and Pendolino trains, both of which max out at 125 mph, are considered High Speed, as is the Railjet in Austria and neighboring countries, which has a maximum of 230 km/h or 200 km/h, depending on the line.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I’d have to look up “high speed” definitions by the UIC. However, there are “magic numbers”, of rated speeds, where different sets of regulations for rolling stock apply. Examples are 200 km/h and 250 km/h. (New) rolling stock rated for 200 km/h to 249 km/h have to follow specific regulations, which are more strict than for below 200 km/h and less strict for 250 km/h and above (this is why the SBB specifed a rated maximum speed of 249 km/h for the next generation of train sets for international traffic (to be used among other through the Gotthard base tunnel).

    Otherwise, “High Speed” is kind of a marketing term.

    A rather inofficial categorizing for “high speed” is also whether a service makes it into the bi-annually world speed survey by Railway Gazette International.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I find it interesting the definition is for top speed not average speed. I would think in transportation, it only matters the average speed between 2 points (which controls the time). Who cares if you hit 200kph for 1 min if your average speed is low

    EJ Reply:

    I’m sure they’d like your input:

    16 rue Jean Rey
    75015 Paris
    Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 49 20 20
    Fax: +33 (0) 1 44 49 20 29

    Here’s the page with the relevant definitions:


    Max Wyss Reply:

    Thanks for the link to the UIC definitions. For those understanding the German terms, it would be “Neubaustrecken” for new lines, designed for 250 km/h and more, and “Ausbaustrecken” for existing lines upgraded to 200 km/h and more.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ya can’t get much more legacy than the NEC between New York and Philadelphia. Through trains to Jersey City began to run in 1837 if Wikipedia is correct. There’s been 125 MPH service on those tracks for decades.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Strictly speaking, the Acela is HSR, yes. So is the Regional. However, neither attains average speeds that are typical of HSR; they have the top speeds of the low end of HSR, but many more slow zones, so the average speed is much lower.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Unfortunately, I have no longer access to the Railway Gazette International, so I can not look things up easily. However, for “conventional lines”, the Acelas are pretty good, as far as I can remember.

  6. Alon Levy
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 18:07

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read the articles about the project recently, only ones from a few years ago.

    With this disclaimer, I remember reading that the project won’t get people from Dallas to Houston, but from Dallas to the edge of Houston. In such case, it might as well not be built. The specific issue with Houston’s CBD compactness is that it has a dominant CBD, surrounded by massive residential sprawl and a few edge cities (such as Uptown, soon to be served by light rail). This is a great advantage for HSR serving the CBD. If HSR doesn’t serve the CBD, it loses all advantage and it has all the attractiveness of an airport. An airport with twice as long travel time as DAL-HOU.

    joe Reply:

    I have the exact same recollection. I recall their profit comes from the train and income from owning and developing the land around their stations which are at the edge of each urban area.

    Currently, local interests are talking about using existing ROW to get into the urban core and also alter the route to service Ft Worth. The corporate is scrutinizing every inch of construction so this is a very lose idea getting attention for “beating” California’s project.

    What will not happen is private money sends HSR to existing, legacy development they don’t own. No way legacy property owners in downtown Dallas and Houston cash in on the private infrastructure investment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    God, they’re stupid. AAF is at least developing downtown Miami property, i.e. property in an existing hot location. If the idea is to connect people to the Houston outskirts and develop that area, the first question is, “who the fuck will want to get there?”. Yes, that new development would be connected to Dallas well, but it wouldn’t be connected to the rest of Houston any better than it is connected now. I can see HSR help the development of a preexisting secondary business district (Part-Dieu), or work in conjunction with local transportation to develop a business district from scratch (Shin-Osaka), but what the plan in Texas is just wouldn’t work.

    The efficient markets hypothesis is like communism: great idea, but doesn’t work in practice.


    Brian_FL Reply:

    In an article today, Don Robinson (president of AAF) made an interesting comment:

    TP: Do you see this project as a one-off project or a prototype that can be copied in other parts of the U.S.?
    DR: I believe we are a prototype because we have the opportunity to be the first of the kind here in the U.S. In the future we can look for other opportunities within that three-hour window of travel time that joins two cities together. A lot of our visitors in Florida are from Europe and they’re well acquainted with rail In Europe. The three-hour train trip is the ideal length for maximum train ridership. The Chunnel and the Eurostar have pushed airlines connecting Paris and London out of the market.

    He seems to be implying that AAF/FECI would be looking in the future for other city pairs to consider building similar rail passenger operations. Could this be the beginning of something new in the US?


    Ted Judah Reply:

    Except the flight demand is all from NY/ATL to Orlando or Miami. Orlando to Miami demand isn’t all that strong.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people who leave their cars in Atlanta or Chicago or New York or Boston or Philadelphia or Allentown or Syracuse or equally obscure airports all over the Northeast and Midwest rent cars in Orlando or Miami and drive to the other. Or as it was put in the article “About 50 million people travel between Central Florida (Orlando) and Southern Florida (Miami) per year, almost all of them driving.”

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Usually though, the car is rented because of mobility concerns once you get into town.

    AAF would need a lot more public transit options in Orlando or Miami to get most of those drivers off the road. 50 million is a big number by the way. That has to include foreign tourists who want to rent a car to explore the Everglades or other “wild” places not found in Europe or Asia. They also, might not make the switch.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are tours from the tourist destinations out to the Everglades.

    Tiny little airports all across the Northeast and Midwest have puddle jumper service to a hub and jet service to Florida. Small airports have regional jet service to a hub or two and service to two destinations in Florida. Medium sized airports have service to hubs and service to Orlando and two destinations in Florida. They aren’t afraid of trains. If they haven’t actually been on one they know people who have. The ones from bigger metro areas actually use trains often. So when they fly into Orlando to hit the resorts they won’t think very hard about getting on a train to go visit grandma in West Palm Beach. Or when they go to Miami to hang out on Calle Ocho hopping on the train to go see grandma in Kissimee.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Don’t know if this is part of a trend but Klamath Falls OR (pop about 21,000) is losing its air service. http://kobi5.com/news/item/united-express-service-leaving-klamath-falls-airport.html#.U0cbIVfwrEE

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s part of a trend.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Modesto is also losing its only airline service on June 4. United Express operated by Skywest is ending MOD-SFO. That is a much larger population area than Klamath Falls.

    Supposedly the Modesto area has put together pledges to buy $1.5 million in tickets to try to attract an airline to fly to LAX. Rumor says they are talking to American about starting flights in 2015 operated by its American Eagle regional.

    Jerry Reply:

    @ Ted Judah
    Interesting info on FL transportation options.
    Miami is ranked 8th in USA for walk ability. South Beach has popular pedestrian only Lincoln Road and pedestrian and bicycle only beach walks. The new Miami Airport Transportation Center will serve Amtrak, Tri-Rail, Metro Rail, and bus lines. Downtown Miami has 3 routes of free people movers.
    Orlando’s new commuter Sun Rail will have the state of FL pay for the FULL operations and maintenance costs for the first SEVEN years the system is in service.
    Amtrak senior citizen fare from Orlando to Tampa is $10.
    Options continue to grow and improve.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Presumably there’s also a large number of tourists in the Northeast (and elsewhere) who wish to travel to both Orlando and Miami. For them, both Orlando and Miami are destination, so most likely in Orlando they only care about Disney World (or the convention center, maybe) and in Miami they care about downtown and the beaches.

    EJ Reply:

    Is there though? Is there an example anywhere in the world where HSR is a significant connector between two major airports? Or between a major airport and another city that also has a major, well-served airport?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some tourists who visit both Orlando and Miami, just seems to me that if they’re gadding about that much they probably would rent a car anyway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Major well served airports serve obscure infrequently served airports at the other end. If the low cost local airport in the Midwest has service to Orlando and a hub chances are good that flying in or out of Miami isn’t a attractive choice. Or into Fort Lauderdale and only Fort Lauderdale and the nearby hub. Or Tampa and only Tampa and the nearby hub. People want to visit grandma in Boca Raton and then grandma in Kissimee.

    EJ Reply:

    I know that. But we’re talking specifically about the Miami/Orlando pair. Both are major airports with good connections to the rest of the country.

    For a California example I can definitely see that someone might fly to SF and take the train to Modesto. But they’re unlikely to fly to SF and take the train to LA, unless they plan to spend significant time in both cities (and also either don’t rent a car or rent one at both ends). Which of course a subset of travelers will do. I’m just questioning whether this is really that large of a market.

    Donk Reply:

    Haha – I’m sure that when people get dropped off on the outskirts of Houston, “the fattest city in America”, they will be more than willing to walk or cycle to to their destination in the sweltering heat.

  7. Donk
    Apr 8th, 2014 at 20:54

    Again, CA and TX are not rivals. CA is a rival to TX. TX is not a rival to CA. CA has bigger fish to fry, like the entire East Coast and other countries.

    Clem Reply:

    Your comment reminds me of this excellent Lewis Black video clip.

    morris brown Reply:


    Your link made my day…


    Eric Reply:

    Texas currently has about 70% of the population of California. Texas’ is increasing more quickly, and at current rates the two will be equal in 50 years. A high number of Californians are moving to Texas, but not the other way. That’s not a rival?

    Donk Reply:

    No. TX can have the people that couldn’t hack it in CA. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

    To me, TX is more of a release valve for the population growth in the US. They gotta go somewhere, and they’re not going to the Midwest and there isn’t much room left in CA.

    Eric Reply:

    Wow, you’re quite the tolerant one.

    nslander Reply:

    Doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

    Eric Reply:

    I don’t think a statement that certain people are “trash” can be judged to be right or wrong.

    Except in the moral sense.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Nearly all of Texas’s population growth from 2000 to 2010 was in non-whites, mostly Hispanics and Asians. So that’s who you’re calling “trash.”

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Oh I agree. CA is playing on a global stage. The rivalry is in TX’s head.

  8. Eric
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 00:10

    “But if that were true, the Trans-Texas Corridor would have been built instead of killed.”

    The Trans-Texas Corridor would have had 370-meter right of way. HSR right of way is what, 5 meters?

    The Trans-Texas Corridor would have cost over $145 billion. Texas HSR would have cost $10-$12 billion to build, with only $2-$3 billion of that public.

    We are talking about different orders of magnitude here. There is simply no comparison.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The TTC didn’t fail because the ROW was too wide. It failed because there were too many cooks in the soup and the strongest group pushing for it ran headlong into shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.

    As I mentioned a couple days ago too, Texas is heavily reliant on property tax and small counties between Houston and Dallas aren’t going to be supportive. If they were smart, they would combine HSR with a Keystone style pipeline project. That might actually get some takers.

    Novacek Reply:

    >>The TTC didn’t fail because the ROW was too wide.

    It was a _big_ part of the discussion here in Texas. You’re talking about swallowing up _entire_ family farms that have been owned for generations. And the most productive soil in texas as well. That’s an arguement that gets a lot of mind-share in the Texas populace.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Earlier I pointed out in small population counties, property tax concerns would likely make locals opposed to any big transportation project. The Width argument must have concealed something else. Maybe the implication of eliminating a lot of country roads that current bisect the route And would wall off one side from the other.

    Novacek Reply:

    What property tax concerns? The existing land, mostly used for agriculture, has Ag exemptions. The counties aren’t making a lot of money off of it. They’d make more money off the ancillary commercial development (gas stations, fast food, etc.) that would have accompanied the highway.

    TomA Reply:

    Sure there isn’t – but at te same time – the idea that its enviromentalists that hold up projects like this is simple misunderstanding.

    Sure NIMBYS use environmental regulations to block projects – but thats just a tool – does anyone really think that people in Chevy Chase, MD really care about tiny endangered shrimp – of course not – they simply want to stop the light rail from coming through.

    If it wasn’t environmental laws it would be zoning, or historic preservation, or noise, or whatever else it took. Thats going to be even more so for private projects, since absent eminent domain, they can’t even force people to sell.

    EJ Reply:

    The Sierra Club called the TTC project “evil.” The environmentalist objection to the TTC was real and sincerely motivated – as you’d expect for a project that planned to build thousands of miles of new highways and swallow up huge amounts of open space.

    The problem with the TTC was it managed to piss off just about everyone – environmentalists, property rights folks, people who didn’t want more toll roads, Amero conspiracy goofballs like Jerome Corsi, etc. In the end the state Democrat and Republican parties both officially opposed it.

    Novacek Reply:

    You’re assuming the Sierra Club has any power or sway in Texas.

    Eric Reply:

    In 2012, Obama got 41% of the votes in Texas. (And Romney got 37% in California.) The US is MUCH less polarized than you think.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The question is whether those 41% Obama supporters care about what the Sierra Club thinks. The composition of the Texas Democratic coalition is presumably very different from that of the California Democratic coalition.

    Eric Reply:

    Democratic candidates running in Texas-based districts have to move their policies rightward so as to appeal to over 50% of voters. Obama didn’t. He presented one set of policies to the entire country, and yet 41% of Texans preferred it to Romney’s set.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    There is very much a comparison here. Sure, the ROW is narrower, but we’ve seen in a conservative part of California (Kings County) people lose their shit over such a small ROW. They will do the same in Texas.

    EJ Reply:

    So you supported the TTC?

  9. Novacek
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 10:58

    “This argument was also made in the Dallas Morning News column and by Tobias Buckell, that Texas has lower land costs and less environmental obstacles and so the problems caused by California NIMBYs won’t be an issue in Texas.

    But if that were true, the Trans-Texas Corridor would have been built instead of killed. The TTC would have included high speed rails, along with new toll highways, pipelines, fiber, and more. It was planned for stretches of rural Texas and would have been financed mostly by private funds. In other words, it had all the positive attributes of the current Texas HSR project.

    And yet it was killed by the Texas government after a massive uprising from residents in the TTC’s path and from those adamantly opposed to what was seen as a governmental power grab.

    Please point to a environmental obstacle or land acquisition cost that killed the TTC?

    I’m still waiting.

    joe Reply:

    What killed the TTC?

    Here’s a reference to environmental and land acquistion objections – “government power grab” as Robert wrote.

  10. Keith Saggers
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 14:00
  11. Reality Check
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 16:58

    HSRA’s Dan Richard dukes it out with critics:
    The Facts About High-Speed Rail

    Once again, opponents of California’s plans for a modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly high-speed rail system seem to think they can get away with criticisms of the project that have no basis in fact. Tom Del Beccaro’s recent opinion piece is just that, opinion. And while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts. Allow me to set the record straight.


    synonymouse Reply:

    An innocuous article by the repub.

    The ritchie riches like PBHSR as it is strictly developer not environmental. That’s why the like of the Koch Bros. don’t come up with the chump change(for them)to pay for signature canvassers to place Prop 1a back on the ballot. They would prefer freeways but hsr will do even if they have to put up with contractor and union welfare.

    It is all one big bazillionaire establishment. Koch’s and Buffett-Gates love-in.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Richards – the biotch of the Tejon Ranch

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …have the orderly loosen your tin-foil, will ya?

    Donk Reply:

    I feel bad for Dan Richards. He was basically given a huge squeaking pig and his job is to apply lipstick to it every morning.

  12. trentbridge
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 17:27

    Well you can be sure of one thing – if Texas starts HSR as a private/public transportation project – it will never been aborted. If the Texas Legislature keeps it’s GOP majority – abortion will be a crime – again!

    Jos Callinet Reply:


    jonathan Reply:

    First corporations are people; now HSR projects have personhood, too…

    Reality Check Reply:

    It was a joke. If the GOP makes abortion a crime, then it will be illegal to “abort” Texas HSR.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Thank you.

  13. nslander
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 21:03
  14. Jos Callinet
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 21:39

    SOMETHING in this blog is frying our brains!

  15. OnTheRun
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 22:59

    The author needs to clean up this article.

    First off your argument of the Texas HSR project will need public funding is incorrect. The Texas Central Railway (TCR) is planning on privately funding the construction from Dallas to Houston. Which is why it gets praise. That construction is supposed to be around 10 Billion dollars of private funds any overruns should be covered by the TCR. This is what is going to be constructed first.

    The problem with this is that Fort Worth and Arlington want a direct connection to HSR. The spur to Fort Worth is expected to cost 2 Billion which local governments are hoping to raise with local taxes plus federal funds. TCR has said that it isn’t viable for them to construct because of costs, but they would be more than willing to operate if it were to get built. This is also what is holding up the start of the construction due to the arguing of where the station should be built if only one station should be constructed, should it be downtown Dallas or at DFW airport?

    “A rail spur between Fort Worth and Dallas, with a stop in Arlington, is being considered. While the Texas Central Railway has agreed to operate that leg with high-speed trains, it won’t pay for construction.” http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/mitchell-schnurman/20140405-in-texas-even-high-speed-rail-may-work.ece

    So in the end your conclusion of the “Texas HSR project will need federal money” is not true. The project can and should be built without public money. Fort Worth does not need the spur, they already have the TRE to connect the 2 cities. The system being profitable is an entirely different question though.

    joe Reply:

    Really, the TCR and investors haven’t given clue where the stations will be located.

    They can’t even commit if the stations are downtown, airport or city edge. That should be stated and part of the cost estimate. So 10B is bogus lowball estimate i suspect a city edge cost to build track.

    They clearly don’t have an informed clue if service will pay for itself if the station locations are undecided.

    The conclusion this system will be built with private money is not true. It’s a speculative proposal without specificity. It cannot be built with private money until they show some notional alignments with stations.

    jonathan Reply:

    Really, the TCR and investors haven’t given clue where the stations will be located.
    So 10B is bogus lowball estimate i suspect a city edge cost to build track.

    joe, please try again, in English. With punctuatoin to demarcate the dependent clauses.

    You really should stop posting comments whien .. incapacitated, or drunk, or whatever causes these not-so-momentary lapses of reason.

    joe Reply:

    Okay. I’ll work on improving grammar and punctuation.

    jonathan Reply:

    And reading comprehension?? Is that too much to ask for?

    Eric Reply:

    That’s nice and sensible and a breath of fresh air.

    But why on earth should an extension to Fort Worth cost $2 billion? Can’t they just add grade separations on the TRE and use that? (Which reminds me of CAHSR/Caltrain…)

  16. David M
    Apr 10th, 2014 at 09:53

    I’m not sure but this ruling could affect HSR.


    For the first time in 38 years, a court has declared part of California’s statutory eminent domain law unconstitutional. The ruling, if upheld, will create additional hurdles for public agencies and may have unintended consequences for those the lawsuit sought to protect – property owners.

    On March 13, 2014, the Third Appellate District Court of Appeal, in Property Reserve, Inc. v. Super. Ct. of San Joaquin County, found that the pre-condemnation entry statutes violate the takings provisions of article I, section 19 of the California Constitution. The Appellate Court ruled that any entity wishing to conduct statutory pre-condemnation studies must do so in a direct condemnation action.

  17. Keith Saggers
    Apr 10th, 2014 at 15:27
  18. morris brown
    Apr 10th, 2014 at 16:59

    A recurring subject in the blog, has been that of the Union Pacific Railroad and its cooperation with the Authority when its ROW is encroached, (or on other issues), by the route the HSR project is designed to take.

    Now the UPRR has just sent a very strong 7 page letter to the Authority as comments on the just (today 4/10/2014) approved 2014 business plan.

    You can read this letter at:


    Interesting to note the Authority as yet to even pay UPRR expenses due.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well, this letter certainly ends any notion of wire over the UP. Interestingly the UP does bring up its legacy rights on long distance passenger ops on the Peninsula.

    That could prove quite useful if the UP takes PBHSR to court. This letter seems to underscore their lawyers are ready to go to the mat. The UP gave Jerry a hotfoot; maybe he needs to be as afraid of them as the Tejon Ranch Co.

    joe Reply:

    “eminent domain”

    synonymouse Reply:

    To quote James Brown:

    “Please, please, please!”

    Please try eminent domain on the UP and bring everything they have got into court.

    EJ Reply:

    I thought Pelosi, Brown, and PB were all-powerful?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You ready to do “eminent domain” on the Tejon Ranch Co.?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Buffett bought his railroad for 26+ Billon. You think Jerry can just write a check?

    morris brown Reply:

    @ synonymouse

    On a scale of 1 -> 10 of who Governor Brown should be worried about, I would rate the
    Tejon Ranch about a 1 and the UPRR at the top or even over the scale of 10 max.

    The UPRR has told the Governor to shove it before, and they are obviously not about to bend to him now.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But the Tejon Ranch seems to exercise a Svengali like hold on the maximum leader. Who can explicate?

    jonathan Reply:

    Well, this letter certainly ends any notion of wire over the UP. Interestingly the UP does bring up its legacy rights on long distance passenger ops on the Peninsula.

    Well, that’s certainly an incentive for the PJPB to exercise the “incompatible-with-freight” clause in their purchase agreement, and kick UP off the ROW altogether. Electrify, with catenary at a height UP hates, and do a grade-separation or three with a 3% grade. That’d kick UP off, the Caltrain ROW.

    The incompatible service doesn’t _have_ to be BART; the contract didn’t stipulate BART.

    Mind you, that assumes that “CalMod” gets themselves a thinking-brain dog …..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It took the paralegal 40 seconds to change the date on the letter they sent in 2013 which took a paralegal 40 seconds to change the date on the letter they sent in 2012 which took 45 seconds to change the date on the letter they sent in 2011…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Did you read the letter? If there were anything carbon copy about it it was how much it resembled the nastygram BNSF sent to PBHSR.

    joe Reply:

    Reminds me of a kid that get really loud and cranky just before they fall to sleep.

  19. Stephen Smith
    Apr 11th, 2014 at 02:33

    Robert – the way you spliced those quotes is very misleading. When the columnist says that Texas Central “has agreed to operate that leg with high-speed trains, it won’t pay for construction,” he’s referring to this, not the whole $10+ billion project:

    Another environmental study has begun for a separate, related project. A rail spur between Fort Worth and Dallas, with a stop in Arlington, is being considered.

  20. Robert S. Allen
    Apr 11th, 2014 at 10:16

    I asked CHSRA yesterday to defer Peninsula service and truncate HSR for now at San Jose, with transfers there to Calttrain, Capitol Corridor, and the planned Silicon Valley BART.

    Grade crossings are hazardous at 79 mph (witness Bourbannais Train Accident), and much worse at higher speeds (110-125 mph+?). Unless Caltrain were completely grade separated, HSR there would be highly vulnerable to accidents, sabotage, and significant train delays; it would not be the “Safe, Reliable” HSR of 2008 Prop 1A.

    CHSRA should stop squandering HSR money on Caltrain for “Blended Rail” that HSR cannot safely use.

    EJ Reply:

    BARTbot 2000 strikes again!

    AlanF Reply:

    Honestly, that is rather ignorant. There are grade crossings on the NEC with 90 mph train speeds and many grade crossings that will have 110 mph trains in the coming years. While a full grade separation is strongly preferred, a quad gated grade crossing with detection sensors for vehicles blocking the tracks is an acceptable option.

    Writing as someone who lives in Virginia and uses the NEC on a regular basis, I find the proposals to truncate the HSR trains at San Jose as the permanent or long term interim arrangement to miss the point. The NEC would not get much business if Amtrak trains from DC or Philly ended at Trenton for transfer to NJ Transit trains to NY Penn station.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    All the grade crossings are in Connecticut near or at where the trains have to slow down for curves anyway or in the case of New London curves and a station and the bridge might have something to do with it too.

    ….The trains from New York to DC would terminate in Baltimore, or from New York to Boston in Providence.

  21. Robert S. Allen
    Apr 13th, 2014 at 21:52

    A locomotive will usually best a motor vehicle. It didn’t at Bourbonnais. Next time?

    Limit HSR to secure tracks – no grade crossings.

    2008 Prop 1A bonds were for “Safe, Reliable” HSR.

    Timed transfers at San Jose would work well.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not gonna ask any more. You want to spread FUD go right ahead. I’m gonna say you are spreading FUD. A Caltrain train isn’t any safer than an HSR train.

  22. Robert S. Allen
    Apr 14th, 2014 at 10:49

    In fact it can be less safe. MU or in push mode, crowded passenger cars would absorb the impact of a collision far more that a locomotive in pull mode. I strongly support better grade crossing protection, but elimination even more. Until Caltrain is totally grade separated, HSR should stop in San Jose, with transfers there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, or the planned SV BART. Even then, HSR on tracks by passenger platforms is hardly safe.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Railroads all over the world run MUs and run locomotive powered trains in push mode. Trains run past platforms at speed higher than those proposed for the Peninsula all over the world. “all over the world” includes places in the U.S.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:


    Scary ain’t it?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Credible citations or gtfo

    jonathan Reply:

    BART is hardly safe. BART workers get killed n BART, after penny-pinching BART management eliminated the position of (effectively) “supervisor of track workers).

    BART passengers can get killed if they jump on the tracks in front of an oncoming train: no different, no difference at all, from people who drive onto a Caltrain grade-crossing and stop.

    Would-be BART passengers, lying on their face, can be shot in the back by BART police. And the BART policeman gets a terrifying 2-year sentence.

    Mr. Allen, *why* are you destroying whatever reputation and credibility you have, in this strange fashion? With what amout to “drive-by” blog posts, where you never address the salient points raised by responders to your posts?

  23. Robert S. Allen
    Apr 14th, 2014 at 21:44

    Bourbonnais happened on 79 mph track – the same as Caltrain. It would be far worse at higher speeds. HSR needs secure track: no grade crossings, and protected public access. Caltrain as yet has neither. CHSRA squanders HSR money electrifying Caltrain for track it cannot safely use. The first phase of HSR to the Bay Area should end at San Jose, with transfers there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, and the planned SV BART. Better, safer, more reliable, and far less costly.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The problem with Bourbonnais was that the derailed cars slammed into freight cars parked on the adjacent track near the crossing. This is the leading, almost the sole, cause of passenger fatalities in grade crossing collisions. It is, quite notably, not an issue for high speed rail on the Peninsula since Union Pacific will not be allowed to simply park freight cars on the mainline there. Please piss off with your ignorant fear mongering.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Additional irrelevant issues with Bourbonnais: Heavy locomotives (around which a sleeping car, wherein were contained all the fatalities, was wrapped) and fires from said diesel locomotives (which killed at least five of the eleven fatalities).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the passengers are on a Caltrain train they are going to be less dead?

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