CHSRA and Amtrak Abandon Joint Bid Plan

Jun 20th, 2014 | Posted by

It was a nice idea, but in the end unworkable. That’s the conclusion that the California High Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak have reached in ending their plan to jointly bid for trainsets:

A joint bidding process that rail officials hoped would make it cheaper to buy new trains for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has been cancelled by the two agencies.

The cancellation comes because the specifications of the trains needed in each region were “just too different” for manufacturers to accommodate under a single contract, said Frank Vacca, chief program manager for the California rail agency….

Both Amtrak and California want streamlined, electric-powered trains for their high-speed passenger-rail corridors. But for manufacturers, the devil was in the differences.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants passenger trains capable of operating at 220 mph for its proposed statewide rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Amtrak is looking for trains with peak speeds of about 160 mph to operate in its Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C.

While California anticipates building hundreds of miles of new dedicated rail with a combination of long straightaways and wide-arced curves to accommodate higher speeds, Vacca said Amtrak is confined to a corridor largely designed and built in the late 19th century, “and to meet their trip times and optimize the corridor, they required a tilting train.”

That all makes sense to me. A joint procurement process works only if the two systems’ needs are truly similar. But the NEC and the California HSR corridor aren’t similar enough when it comes to speed or track design. So the agencies are right to go their separate ways.

This is another consequence of Republican opposition to high speed rail. If Congress backed a national HSR plan, with national track and platform standards, then it would be a lot easier to pursue joint bids like this. But we don’t have such plans, and so each project has to struggle forward on its own in the face of ideological opposition from Congressional Republicans.

Maybe once sanity returns to Congress, a national standard can be developed. For now, California is free to choose what works best for its own needs.

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  1. Lewellan
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 12:41
    #1

    EVENT!
    (could be like E-Vent?)
    Ya gotta be there OR
    B-SKWAYRE.
    be square?
    Mercury cover story must-read.
    “I ran from Iran”
    Willamette Week “Park Life”
    also read and keep, both.
    BERTHA is over.
    Bertha is NOT to be fixed, restarted.
    Drill-fill Sea-fence ‘arrangement’ is unacceptable
    as seawall replacement?
    BE THERE ORE BE SKWAYRE!

    (This message brought to you by
    Seattle Naked Painted Bike Ride)
    (PROOF – THEY ARE IDIOTS)

  2. Alan
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 13:04
    #2

    Is there a point to your bizarre, illiterate rants, or are you just going to spam every thread with the same nonsense?

    Lewellan Reply:

    No, sorry, I contribute rail perspectives in detail here often, but they’re so often disregarded
    I lead with humor on any posts. These do have civil engineering expertice as of course,
    was my intent to the regular posters here who aren’t idiots. 200mph is dumb.

    Lewellan Reply:

    And the Portland articles are what I call ‘keepers’ FWI,
    and the Seattle BikeRide does sound interesting. Fun.
    Engineering a bike ride? NOT possible in SEattle!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So, IOW, your answer is that you are going to continue to spam with this stuff, because it amuses you to do so.

    Lewellan Reply:

    No, I’m more likely to once in a while present a viewpoint that’s
    immediately disregarded as ‘inconsequential’ to those here
    who prefer their own assumptions go unchallenged,
    namely 200mph is dumb.
    Its national railway application is limited, high impact, fewer benefits, etc.
    I’m for HSR, just not the California gold-plated version.
    Talso XXI 5-hour trip cuts cost in half.
    Might also be incompatable.
    Works in the Cascades Corridor.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Ah, so its the fact that people here are not persuaded by your assertions of belief in lieu of argument that you find it amusing to spam the comments ~ I didn’t speculate as to why you found it amusing, but empirically, if you didn’t find it amusing, you wouldn’t continue doing it.

    I don’t see that cutting costs in half and ridership by 3/4 is a financial win, but it does seem that doing cost/benefit analysis with assumed constant benefits simplifies the analysis, since it allows always coming up with the same answer no matter what the actual situation on the ground.

    Lewellan Reply:

    I don’t agree with your bold estimation, that 125mph hybrid trainsets would cut ridership by 3/4.
    You just prefer that viewpoint, credible or not. Sorry about that first post. Totally off topic other than it’s another major construction project gone haywire under the guidance of psuedo-progressives who will not take criticism. But it didn’t dissuade regulars here from going over the same arguments again.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Because people will be picking the high speed train because it’s faster. If it’s not faster than driving why would people take the train?

    Lewellan Reply:

    I’ve been on the Acela 150mph stretch between NY & Boston. Yawn.
    I’ve been on the Cascades Talgo 40-some times, 80mph and never a dull moment.
    The wonder of train travel is the scenery, the station stops, the cafe car. No need for speed.
    The USA needs a standard passenger-rail system throughout rather than a few 200mph lines
    which like Acela will come with a premium ticket price.
    Don’t demand Express bypass lines while avoiding the subject of cost cutting.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The scenery would be a lot less interesting if you had to pay for what your ticket cost. People don’t get on fast trains for the scenery, the get on fast trains because it’s the cheapest fastest way to get there. you want to take land cruises there are plenty of tourist railroads around.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not a bold estimation, its general experience of market shares of 3 hr versus 6 hr rail services. Indeed, it seems likely to be a more empirically grounded estimate than your cost 50% saving … a lot of the cost of the HSR system is FOR 125mph corridors, so there’s no saving there in going from 220mph or 180mph to 125mph, and a lot of the most expensive higher speed segments involve tunneling, which I don’t believe saves even half of its costs because its for a 125mph train rather than a 180mph or 220mph train.

    It’d save a chunk for the through-Bakersfield alignment, but then I favor build a 125mph through-Bakersfield alignment and placing the Express HSR on a bypass around Bakersfield, either to the north or south … which would be part of the Bay to Basin segment, running the IOS on the Rapid Rail corridor through Bakersfield, beginning the HSR segment to Palmdale at the point that the Express HSR would junction with the through Bakersfield segment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    115 MPH through Bakersfield is the current plan if IIRC, something to do with a curve so they don’t encroach on a parking lot or something like that. It doesn’t save a whole lot of time to go 200 for ten miles versus going 100 for ten miles. Especially if almost all the trains are going to be stopping in Bakersfield until 2040 or 2050. They can build the bypass in 2045.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They are spending that much to hit 115mph? Lord almighty. I’ve got to go looking at that section again, I’ve been looking at the pre-HSR Northern stuff.

    I remember some of those parking lots next to the corridor from when I was following the AA a few years ago. But whether that’s for the two dedicated tracks or allowing the train to go on the express track past the platform at 115mph, there’s got to be substantial up-front cost savings available if they sort out an Express HSR bypass for the Bay to Basin and beyond segments.

    When the Bay to Basin is going to be under construction is not something I’d speculate on ~ if we keep dawdling, it’ll be quite a while, if we hit a period of pedal to the metal energy independent infrastructure construction, it could be substantially sooner.

    Paradoxically, in the upside down total costs they have to report, the sooner they assume the work is done, the higher the present value cost but the lower the reported nominal cost with assumed inflation.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Near the station. If the train is going slower than 115 because it’s going to stop how important is it for it be able to go 125? Or 200? Someday far far in the future when they want to run lots of express trains they can build a bypass.

    Clem Reply:

    Some day far far in the future when they want to run fast they can even build high-speed rail!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Someday far far in the future they can build high speed rail on the peninsula. 47 miles in 30 minutes is slower than 115. 84 MPH?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Near the station. If the train is going slower than 115 because it’s going to stop how important is it for it be able to go 125? Or 200? Someday far far in the future when they want to run lots of express trains they can build a bypass.”

    By which time the best bypass alignments might be built up because of the impact of the IOS on Bakersfield’s population. They should look to see now which is the best bypass route, reserve the alignment, and then the time through Bakersfield is off the downtown to LA to downtown SF schedule time. It looks like it would take about three miles or so, between the rail corridor and 99 and then widening Standard 7 on the outside to make room on the inside for a median alignment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and they may decide that spending all that money to save 5 minutes on the three times a day expresses isn’t worth it.

    EJ Reply:

    So how does raising the labor cost by 75% per passenger mile figure in your brilliant analysis? (slower trains mean more time on the clock for train crew for every journey).

    flowmotion Reply:

    Synonmouse doesn’t seem to be around, so someone has to stand-in.

    If you’re describing a service which can’t make ends meet and requires a subsidy, then you get the “TWU” along with it, with it’s hugely inflated public employee union costs.

    The almost explicit promise of HSR is that it would be 1) Profitable, and 2) Operated by a private company where employees would be paid market wages.

    jonathan Reply:

    iIt isn’t easy, being a markov chain model.

  3. Paul Druce
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 13:41
    #3

    This is another consequence of Republican opposition to high speed rail. If Congress backed a national HSR plan, with national track and platform standards, then it would be a lot easier to pursue joint bids like this. But we don’t have such plans, and so each project has to struggle forward on its own in the face of ideological opposition from Congressional Republicans.

    Would it kill you not to be an absolute idiot about rail and to stop blaming everything on the GOP? This has nothing to do with the Republicans and everything to do with the fact that CAHSR and the NEC are two very different corridors with very different train requirements as a result.

    Derek Reply:

    whoosh

    Ted Judah Reply:

    While that may be true, both CAHSR and the NEC are both under the jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board. No matter how much Harry Reid pushes, California is not going to be able to buy a bargain basement Chinese trainset and run it on their tracks.

    The joint bid was always a curious idea but with the consolidation rippling through the industrial sector it makes sense to issue a joint RFP with Amtrak AND a separate one that would not presume compatibility. Que sera sera.

    Joe Reply:

    CA explicitly stated in their waiver request the purpose was to buy train sets of established quality from a established factory consistently producing high quality product.
    Also to have CAHSR staff observing and learning how to inspect manufacturing process.

    China does not qualify.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Joe, read Paul Druce’s original comment.

    He emphasizes how different the NEC and CAHSR are, but sidesteps the fact that STB jurisdiction means the trainsets won’t very that much because of the safety requirements that will added.

    It’s nice to hope we can just buy something off the shelf, but I think the goal is to find something cheaper which can pass muster for STB. Hence the comment about China which builds them fast and light.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    He emphasizes how different the NEC and CAHSR are, but sidesteps the fact that STB jurisdiction means the trainsets won’t very that much because of the safety requirements that will added.

    That’s an utterly absurd idea which runs entirely counter to what was explicitly said: That the requirements differed so greatly (a >60mph service running speed difference and tilting capability) that a common design was not capable of meeting the goal.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Paul,

    The NEC is already built and a system full of contradictions and limitations. Whatever supplier it chose, it would need significant modifications from off the shelf. But CHSRA could, seeing the manufacturer and series of the Amtrak order, picked the off-the-shelf model and saved some cash.

    But, with the STB ruling, CAHSR has effectively become the NEC as far as specifications and safety/weight rules. So there’s no off-the-shelf option anymore. The Chinese are the only ones who can add more steel and not increase costs by a factor of three…but for political reasons they won’t get picked.

    Just waiting for Tesla to get in game with HSR batteries….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Unbolt the rub boards off the side of the platforms and Shinkansen could run from South Station Boston to just east of New Haven. Do some power supply modifications and they could run from South Station Boston to Harrisburg or Washington DC.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not quite. With trivial power supply modifications, and possibly an increase in distance between track centers, the Shinkansen trains could run to just east of the East River Tunnels. Going to Harrisburg and Washington requires transformers more than twice as heavy, to deal with the lower frequency. I can’t for the life of me figure out the mass of existing transformers, but cutting-edge ones under development in Switzerland, built to be as light as possible, are a few tons (4.5 if I remember correctly) for 16.7 Hz, providing about 1 MW, give or take.

    Links, with numbers that don’t have IIRC asterisks next to them, available on request, if anyone cares.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they’d be really slow.

    It’s more complex than this; volts times amps equals watts. HEP power can suck down a megawatt. You’d want to run them west of New Haven on cloudy days when the temperature is moderate. If you want to run regularly west of New Haven you’d want to redesign the power supply in the train. on the other hand you’d want to redesign the power supply in any other train too. If you want to run a lot of them, whatever they are, west of New Haven you’d probably want to redesign the sub stations too.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    How much time do they save with Acela and a few miles at 160 compared to adding to the order of Siemens locos and running at 125? And how much more does it cost?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think it’s actually true that the reduction in power is proportional to the reduction in voltage. There is a reduction in power involved, but it’s much smaller than the reduction in voltage. When TGVs run under 1.5 kV DC, they don’t lose 94% of their rated power.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Change the effing frequency south of New York. This is overdue. The only *technical* obstacle is the Safe Harbor Dam; all the other obstacles are bizarre political obstacles created by 25 Hz fetishists.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They have to replace the catenary, it’s over 75 years old in most places and there are some places where it’s over 100. Running at 160 for a few miles now means they can run at 160 in Maryland and Pennsylvania when they replace the catenary there. It’s more than a few minutes when they get all of that done. To run at 125 behind an ACS64 you need to order more ACS64s and more cars, the people using them for the slower services aren’t going to go away.

    Stuff that is designed for 1,500 volts is grossly oversized for 25kV. They weren’t designing for 25kV they were designing for 1.5. Something designed for 25kV only is going to have roughly half the capacity at 12.5kV.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    So how many miles total are they ever likely to run at 160 and what will be the net savings in time after acceleration and deceleration? What if you put that money into terminal approaches and increased some of the low speed sections? Has anyone studied that or are they, as is typical with politicians, obsessed with maximum speed and not with cost effective solutions?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are putting money into terminal approaches. The headliner in the 450 million dollars is upgrading New Brunswick to Trenton. The other parts are doing things like upgrading all the switches on the west side of Penn Station New York from 15MPH switches to 30MPH switches. Portal Bridge is being replaced. That isn’t part of the 450 million but it’s getting done. When Portal had a 90 MPH speed limit the schedule time was 15 minutes between New York and Newark. It’s now 20 minutes partly because the speed limit on Portal Bridge is 60. ( some trains are faster, back when it was 90 the slow trains used to be 15 minutes and usually ran ahead of schedule ). Hidden in replacing the catenary is replacing the signal system. The politicians don’t talk about stuff like replacing switches or signals because it isn’t sexy.
    … to reiterate they have to replace the catenary. Replacing it with catenary that will someday support speeds higher than 160 doesn’t cost a whole lot more than replacing it with catenary that can support 135 when the weather is right.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If you put that money into terminal approaches, you still need to update the catenary, you still need to the signaling, you still need to add the substations to support higher capacity usage. Putting the higher speed first and foremost is BECAUSE pollies and journos are top speed obsessed, but if the work on the catenary needs to be done to bring the corridor up to a state of good repair, it wouldn’t make much full cost and benefit economic sense installing catenary that acts as a binding constraint on train speed.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Not verified, but I think the TGVs have about 20% less power rating under 15 kV, 16.7 Hz than under 25 kV, 50 Hz, and with the ICE-3 multisystem, it is about 15%. The TGVs are more optimized for 25 kV, 50 Hz, whereas the ICE-3 is more optimized for 15 kV, 16.7 Hz.

    Clem Reply:

    FRA jurisdiction was always a given. The STB has nothing to do with it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And the FRA is busy making new rules.

    jonathan Reply:

    Are the new rules as irrielevant , uninformed, and pointless, as FRA’s track classes 7, 8 and 9?

    I think everyone on this blog who has a technical clue, was assuming that the FRA would eventually give carte-blanche to UIC standards. Provided you add USA He-Man grab-irons, and arbirtrarily pick one end of a trainset and paint a big “F” on it, so steam-engine-drivers know it’s the Front.

    (Adirondacker, just to be clear: no sarcasm to you; buckets to Szabo and the FRA.)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    AFAICT, if the new super-elevation rules are anything to go by, they’ll be a compromise between the status quo and UIC, rather than adoption of UIC.

    Nathanael Reply:

    How dumb. I guess we have to wait another generation to convince the FRA to adopt best practices, and in the meantime, the FRA will continue Making Our Trains Less Safe (TM).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That was the prior slogan. I guess the new one would be “Making Our Trains Less Safe, but Not So Much As Before (TM).”

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Yeah, Paul is right. This has nothing to do with the GOP.

  4. Reality Check
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 13:44
    #4

    California and Amtrak cancel joint bids for high-speed trains

    Vacca said he expects the California rail agency to re-issue its own request for proposals from manufacturers in October for an initial order of 15 train sets. Depending on ridership demand, the order could expand to as many as 70 trains over the next 15 years, he added.

    Because there are no high-speed rail manufacturers in the U.S., however, Vacca said the high-speed rail authority will seek a Federal Railroad Administration waiver from the Buy America rules for two prototype train sets to be assembled overseas to allow for testing while the winning bidder establishes a plant on American soil.

    Until bids come in, there’s no way of knowing how much the trains will cost, but the first prototypes from any initial order likely wouldn’t arrive until about 2018, when initial construction of the new rail line in the San Joaquin Valley is supposed to be completed.

    [...]

    Vacca said he doesn’t consider the cancellation of the joint bidding with Amtrak as a setback, and could actually become an advantage. Because of the two agencies’ different needs, California “had to make some compromises” in specifications on the project.

    “Now we’re going to have something much closer to off-the-shelf train sets from manufacturers,” he said. “There will be fewer modifications needed to the designs out there today that are operating at 220 mph. The more we can keep it off-the-shelf, the better it is for cost.”

    Lewellan Reply:

    Talgo XXI hybrid (or the type) could electrify Altamont and to Sacramento alongside Caltrans to form a 3rd HSR corridor. Altamont needs upgrades not 200mph. Sacramento-to-Stockton is long overdue.
    The line between Madera and Fresno to start is unproductive, comparatively, comprehensively, etc.
    If a better line can be constructed, that should be the goal; not pleasing unrealistic advocates
    promoting 200mph luxury train travel as the more effective solution compared to hybrid-types.

    EJ Reply:

    You know, if you stop referring to the Talgo XXI as a “hybrid” there’s a slight chance people might think you know what you’re talking about.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Thank you Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee for your excellent reporting

    “Now we’re going to have something much closer to off-the-shelf train sets from manufacturers, There will be fewer modifications needed to the designs out there today that are operating at 220 mph. The more we can keep it off-the-shelf, the better it is for cost.” Frank Vacca, program manager for the California rail program.

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/06/20/3987898/california-and-amtrak-cancel-joint.html#storylink=cpy

    Joe Reply:

    Part of the contingency for demonstrating travel time compliance is to run trains faster, capability to do this to show compliance, which means off the shelf units capable of 220-250 mph.

  5. Paul Dyson
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 14:53
    #5

    I suppose one could ask which of the parties believes it has just deserted the other’s sinking ship. The truth if the matter is of course that this was another bit of LaHood idiocy and as soon as the builders started to point out the reality the whole nonsense would unravel. Now AMtrak claims through their pretend accounting that the new Acela fleet will pay for itself. Actually it will be the PRIIA extorted fee increases from the states that will pay for them, but that’s a story for another day.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. For decades “conservatives” have been whining about how Amtrak costs so much money. Usually from the yokels in Red States. Well Red states got their wish. they have to pay for Amtrak service now. If they can sit around and whine about how much Amtrak costs they should SFTU when some other part of it starts to make money.
    The new electric locomotives they are buying cost almost half a billion. They will save them 300 million in electricity over their life. Who gets to keep the 300 billion?
    … and people along the NEC pay taxes just like the people out in the hinterlands. Lots and lots of taxes. Lots more than people out in the hinterlands. If the yokels want to whine about how much money those dastardly Northeasterners are spending on evil trains the dastardly Northeasterners get to ask rude questions about rural roads. Or water projects. Or REA/RUS electricity, telephone and cell phone service. And how much Medicare and Medicaid money pours into the county making it easy to find a job in the exciting medical office clerical field.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    With respect to the less than 750 mile routes Adi, it’s not the red states paying, for the most part, it’s everyone but the NEC. People along the NEC pay taxes and get a federally provided passenger train service. People in other states pay taxes and are asked to pay more (local or state) taxes to pay for their train service. What’s the difference between a train from Detroit to Chicago and one from Boston to DC? Both serve major cities and should be part of a national network.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though on the current calculus for what is the operating deficit that states should pay, there wouldn’t be an operating subsidy required for the NEC Amtrak services taken as a whole.

    So the main discrepancy is on the capital subsidy side, and on the capital subsidy side, its the rail capital funding other than Amtrak being zeroed out by the House majority that would seem to be responsible for the bulk of the discrepancy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak doesn’t own much railroad outside of the NEC, it’s difficult to make capital expenditures on things you don’t own.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Locomotives and cars are capital expenditures. How hard is that?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they are in Indiana too.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Did you read that as a criticism of Amtrak? It was more a criticism of the multiple ramshackle and often inconsistent approaches that Congress has to capital funding for passenger rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    whining that Amtrak doesn’t spend any money in Ohio or Wisconsin or Florida when the bat shit insane people you elect turned down money they were willing to spend just a few short years ago… is rich.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That’s why I asked the question, since you jumped from me noting the existence of the discrepancy in capital subsidy to you rejecting a complaint about Amtrak spending that hadn’t actually been made.

    After all, there’d be perfectly equal proportions if nobody got anything, and that wouldn’t do anybody any good. Given that the GOP Majority in the House are cutting whatever passenger rail spending they can, its better that Amtrak gets some money than for it all to be zeroed out.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are reinforcing the meme that stalwart Real Americans(tm) in the hinterlands subsidize the awful people in big cities. They don’t and never will.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Just stating the fact ~ people misrepresenting the implication of a fact or taking it out of context is no reason to let them bully us into running away from the facts of the matter.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People in the Northeast are one sixth of the population of the US and pay one quarter of the taxes the Federal government collect. The other five sixths of you don’t want to examine too closely how much taxes you pay and what kind of benefits you get.

    Nathanael Reply:

    FWIW, people in California are 12 percent of the US population (as compared to the roughly 16% in the Northeast) and pay about 12 percent of US taxes.

    The freeloaders are in the middle of the country.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yeah well if the Northeast, California and Illinois get together and start asking rude questions the rest of the country should SFTU about how much money gets spent in other states.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You’re going to confuse many people in the Northeast if you say the freeloaders are in the middle of the country without being more specific about where in the middle of the country … as they are often more than a little fuzzy as it is on the differences between different states in the middle of the country.

    Based on the Wikipedia machine entry, so take it with the requisite grain of salt, the non-coast 5%+ contributor states (in terms of surplus as a percentage of Gross State Product) are:

    13.6% Minnesota
    12.9% Nebraska
    10.9% Ohio
    10.6% Illinois
    8.8% Arkansas
    7.9% Kansas
    5.7% Colorado
    5.3% Wyoming

    While the coastal 5%+ contributor states are:

    22.1% Delaware
    12.7% New Jersey
    12.6% Maryland
    7.4% New York
    6.0% Rhode Island
    5.3% Massachusetts
    5.0% Georgia

    So thanks Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland (and for the latter two, I hope sending more Big Ten network TV money to your state universities is acceptable as a small token of our appreciation), and you’re welcome New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Georgia and California (just missing the arbitrary 5.0% cut at 4.9%).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The 4.9 percent California contributes per capita overwhelms anything Wyoming sends. Instead of being the Northeast, Illinois and California make it the Northeast, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and California. it just makes the questions a little ruder.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not on a per capita basis ~ and on services with proportional costs, providing a given service to Wyoming would be proportionally cheaper … but for things with economies of scale, California’s 4.9% could indeed buy more services per capita.

    Though its hard for us in Ohio to ask too many rude questions about where the rail capital subsidies at, when we got one and handed it back because the new Governor promised the road building lobby that he wouldn’t allow no damn regional rail corridor get established.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If measured by track mile, If you measure they by passenger mile there aren’t enough people in Wyoming to run trains. There aren’t enough people in Wyoming to maintain I-80, I-25 and I-90 much less build them. And that subsided air service, that nominally makes money, that lets very rich people use Wyoming as their legal residence instead of where they really live, is kinda nice.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What do you mean “if measured by track mile”? That’s all Federal tax revenues from a state minus all Federal spending in the state, the difference (positive for contributing states like New York & Wyoming, negative for recipient states) divided by Gross State Product. Its dollars divided by dollars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So Wyoming is going to use the money to build railroad and put trains on it that almost no one will use?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Some of those state numbers are distorted by taxes on extraction of fossil fuels on federal land, which *does not count* as a contribution of the state’s citizens to the federal tax base. I believe Wyoming’s numbers are vastly inflated due to this, and it’s actually a net recipient state.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @adirondacker12800 I find that highly unlikely. The list was with respect to the general “all the contributor states are on the coasts” whining that is commonplace.

    @Nathanael Equally the state numbers for states with global cities are distorted by the taxes paid by millionaire and billionaire who tend to gravitate to global cities, and the state numbers for states that are corporate charter domiciles can be distorted by the lingering amount of corporate income tax still collected (though give the “moderate” Dems and the GOP another decade and that last factor could well drop out entirely). Delaware could well ranks up there at the top of the list for reasons that have little to do with the taxes paid by the median Delaware resident.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there’s 582,658 people in Wyoming. If you want people to use something other than their car it has to be frequent. There aren’t enough people in Wyoming for it to be frequent. No one will use it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wyoming is a net recipient. Using census spending numbers per state, and IRS tax receipt data, here is the spending-to-tax ratio per state, as of 2010.

    The Wikipedia table is questionable; for one, it shows the overall ratio for the US as fluctuating, sometimes above 1 and sometimes below 1. This could indicate federal deficits and surpluses, but the federal budget is still in deficit, and yet the overall ratios are sometimes less than 1. (My table multiplies all ratios by a constant to make the overall figure 1; otherwise, nearly all states are net recipients.) Looking at the source, I see the total US spending is $2.86 trillion as of 2013 – but the federal budget in 2013 was $3.45 trillion. Net interest is excluded from the list, but accounts for less than half of the difference. Some of the numbers it contains look questionable for other reasons – for example, we know exactly how much federal spending there is in Maryland and Virginia, and it is basically impossible for Maryland to be a tax donor, let alone have the lowest spending-to-tax ratio in the US.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You really ought to multiply all ratios by a constant to make the overall figure the ratio of total Federal tax receipts to total Federal spending … when the Federal government deficit spends, especially in times of slack capacity like the current Depression, then the states in the aggregate ARE net receipients.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @adirondacker12800 ~ I’m not sure where your obsession with Wyoming comes from, but if there were two daily passenger services through Cheyenne connecting through to SLC, Reno and San Francisco, and to the Front Range including Denver, people would take them into and out of Wyoming. There’d be a couple of places along the northern route to SLC where it would make sense to have additional stations.

    But first we have to fix freight rail so its not relegated to the low margins per ton mile bulk freight and can win business away from our heavily subsidized diesel semi freight trucking, since dawdling along on coal and exploding oil tanker rail corridors inflates labor costs, inflates rolling stock requirement per service per day, and results in an abysmal QOS that stifles demand, and one or two services per day can’t carry sufficient corridor infrastructure cost overheads on their own.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Substitute North Dakota then, it’s just as uninhabited. There are ten times many people in Colorado. Colorado has one service going through it and the whole state got a whopping 205,942 passenger boardings and alightings in 2012. Passenger trains need passengers. If there ain’t nobody out there ain’t be anybody on the train either.

    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/COLORADO12.pdf

    Going from Denver to Omaha isn’t like going from Columbus to Cleveland. It’s like going from Cleveland to Boston. There ain’t a whole lot of people in Omaha. Going from Denver to Chicago is longer than going from Chicago to Boston. There ain’t gonna be a whole lot of people who use the train to get from Chicago to Boston even at an average speed of 150 and there would be a whole lot less if it went to Denver instead of Boston. There ain’t nothin’ out there.

    EJ Reply:

    Take social security taxes and payments out of the equation and this whole idea that blue states subsidize red states starts to fall apart.

    Somebody works all their life in NYC, paying taxes, then retires to Florida and collects social security… doesn’t mean Florida is “freeloading.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So the school district taxes, in Florida, for instance, doesn’t benefit Floridians? Or the sales taxes collected?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Oh come on other Paul. It’s an ~50% increase in Acela seat miles with faster speeds, not counting the additional frequencies that they want to run, plus a likely reduction in maintenance and energy costs. There is basically no way it won’t pay for itself. And stop believing the silly lies that Selden spouts off; they are ridiculous and easily refuted by looking at the documents he cites.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    just because the the new trains arrive doesn’t mean they have to scrap the old trains…..

    When the rebuilt cars arrived they added a few trains mid afternoon. They aren’t going to be able to add trains at 5:00 but they could add one at 5:45 and 6:15. wedge in one at 4:10.. though a 3:30 departure from DC wouldn’t be too popular and 5:10 and 5:20 would be getting to New York after rush hours…..

    It’s not unheard of for the 5:00 and 6:00 trains to sell out. Pity the new tunnels were canceled, they were scheduled to be open in 2017. Amtrak is looking at 2025 for their plan.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “There is basically no way it won’t pay for itself. ”

    Silly me and my interpretation of “pay for itself”. Amtrak accounting dumps all kinds of operating costs into the capital budget, then takes 95% of their annual capital grant to top up the NEC drag. With free federal money these new sets may improve operating performance but they won’t pay for themselves. When these are worn out Amtrak will be back cap in hand for another handout to replace them.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Silly me and my interpretation of “pay for itself”. Amtrak accounting dumps all kinds of operating costs into the capital budget,

    This is normal routine railroad practice done by all the other Class Is and dates back to pre-GAAP ICC accounting regulations.

    then takes 95% of their annual capital grant to top up the NEC drag.

    Because those grants are for the specific purpose of the NEC.

    With free federal money these new sets may improve operating performance but they won’t pay for themselves. When these are worn out Amtrak will be back cap in hand for another handout to replace them.

    As I recall Amtrak is looking at loans to pay for them, but if they need Federal funding to replace them in 2050 or so, it will be because the long distance routes remain such an incredible drain on Amtrak’s finances.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Other PD: Those grants are not specifically for the NEC but are for the capital needs of the national system.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    But the requests and eventual appropriation are for the NEC. Spin off the NEC and you are getting a vastly smaller capital appropriation for Amtrak.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely. Its a logroll, and a quite robust one to avoid being zeroed out given the current House leadership … and you pull the big stake that the Northeastern Senators have in the logroll, and it could well come undone completely.

    Nathanael Reply:

    More accurately, it will be because
    (a) Amtrak is not deploying economies of scale and runs too many one-a-day or less routes
    (b) the routes through the low-population prairies cannot attract enough business
    (c) the routes over the Rockies cannot go fast enough to compete on time with driving
    (d) the freight railroads often do not permit Amtrak to run on schedule

    The distinction between “long distance” and “corridor” is a misleading one, because the important distinctions are elsewhere. New York to Chicago and New York to Miami (“long distance”) are both better routes, financially, than Oklahoma City to Fort Worth (“corridor”).

    Of course, from a California perspective, all four trains which go into California from out of state are serious financial drains.

    But it’s quite different in the populated lands between Chicago and the East Coast or between the NEC and Florida. Out here the “long distance trains” are already pretty much breaking even on direct costs (i.e. it would hurt the bottom line to cancel them), and are quite capable of making contributions to the bottom line, if they can just get a few service improvements (like running on time, and more frequencies per day).

    The big financial drain is from infrequent trains running slowly through empty spaces.

    Michael Reply:

    I’ll be taking the Zephyr the whole way from Chicago to Emeryville this fall. I’ve been tracking the arrival time in Emeryville with the (Seriously) great Amtrak app. How are the long distance trains good for anything towards the ends if they loose many hours by the end of their run? Let’s say a family want to come to SF from Reno. They go to the station in Reno and are told the train is running four hours late. That’s the same amount of time it takes to drive. Lately, it’s been running 7+ hours late on some days.

    There are three Amtraks:
    1. The NEC and connecting lines, which are like an underfunded version of the Czech railways.
    2. The long-distance lines, land cruises that give a great view of the passing scenery from one’s private room or seat, and people needing to get from point A to point B in a somewhat more upscale environment than Greyhound.
    3. The state supported trains, that should drop the Amtrak branding all together if they’re majority-funded by the locals. The Cascades are the nicest trains in the US, but wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for Washington and Oregon. The frequencies of the Capitols, San Joaquins, and Surfliners are all due to California.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In that case, I reckon you don’t bring a family to SF from Reno on the Amtrak Zephyr, you drive (or, if you don’t have a car, take a bus). If you are going on your own and would rather having to kill four to seven hours at the station than take the bus, you could go by train. Or you are returning by train, so got to Reno at about the time you expected and know to come back the previous day if you need to be somewhere within 8 hours of a daily scheduled arrival.

    So it seems if the Amtrak-CA Capital Corridor extends to Reno, it would not just be an extra frequency, but a sufficient improvement in effective service quality that it would open up the route up to trips that the Zephyr is not open to.

    Michael Reply:

    Exactly. So it’s state funding that makes the new train happen, not “national” Amtrak.

    I support the land cruise Amtrak trains, but I don’t want their “leisurely” schedules to sour people looking for an actual alternative transportation choice.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of course. We’d need a freight rail network capable of moving freight to large numbers of distinct destinations with lower time than long haul by road and high reliability time of delivery service in order for a passenger service operating over that network to be able to beat time competitive with driving and offer reasonable schedule reliability.

    Until then, it takes spot investment to remove bottlenecks in specific corridors to achieve anything like useful quality of service for the majority of intercity transport tasks. Which is why Amtrak is often most important as part of the intercity transport options out in the middle of nowhere, where the legacy Amtrak service may well be the main alternative to driving a long distance for intercity transport, for whom having bad intercity passenger rail service is superior to having no alternative to driving at all.

    Running Amtrak on the national freight rail network is like trying to get video streaming from a niche video streaming site using most ISP’s ~ no matter how well the video streaming site operates on its end and no matter well its CDN functions, there’s still likely to be a lot of buffering of higher resolution video due to genuine capacity constraint as well as sabotage by the ISP’s and/or networks between the ISP and the CDN Point of Presence. Which in turn reduces the incentive of that streaming site to bust its butt doing the best job it can, when its going to be sabotaged by the ISP’s or intervening internet connection for over half of their customers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “How are the long distance trains good for anything towards the ends if they loose many hours by the end of their run? ”

    Trains need to run on time. Yes. This is a big problem.

    The Heartland Flyer and the Hoosier State and the Wolverines don’t run on time either, and they are “corridor” trains. The “long distance”/”corridor” distinction is unhelpful and meaningless.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And for reference, the Lake Shore Limited had a period where it was funded by Ohio and New York. So. Really, not a useful distinction.

    The important distinctions are:
    (1) who controls the tracks?
    (2) who pays for the trains to run?
    (3) is the service competitive with driving?

    The key problem Amtrak has is that the other Class I railroads have deliberately sabotaged it repeatedly, breaking many federal laws in order to sabotage Amtrak. They’re required to deliver their passenger trains on time, and all too often, they don’t even try.

    This year the prime offender in terms of not even trying is Canadian Pacific, ever since the criminal thug E Hunter Harrison became CEO. Prior to that, the prime offender was Canadian National… under CEO E Hunter Harrison.

    A little money to seize the tracks from the Class Is would go a long way. Wick Moorman of NS is actually in favor of this, and has talked positively about operating strictly as a tenant on a passenger-operator-owned railroad.

    Michael Reply:

    The Union Pacific is a great host for the Capitol Corridor. Best on-time of all of Amtrak.

    http://www.railpac.org/2014/06/10/capitol-corridor-monthly-report-may-2014/

    Elsewhere, different story. Why or what makes the Capitol Corridor different from other Amtrak routes using UP? I don’t know. How do other services replicate this performance?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Have the route serve the state capital with something other than land cruise services?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Nathaniel, the big financial drain, or at least one of them, is providing infrastructure to NJT commuters. Let them pay for the peak hour capacity that they require, not the national service provider. Another major drain is Amtrak HQ.
    The l/d trains may pass through some of the last open spaces in the USA, but they are not empty. On the contrary, it can be hard to get accommodation, especially at this time of year. The discussion is becoming moot. Amtrak has decided to drop all the l/d routes west of the Mississippi. They have announced (at the January RailPAC meeting and the May NARP Council meeting) that they are not buying any more cars to replace or augment the Superliners. So it is just a question of time before the trains are withdrawn.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Okay, where’s their 90 percent match for the ten lane, in each direction, highway through Manhattan so everybody can drive to work?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Even if the 90% federal match funds existed in the almost depleted Highway Trust Fund, neither New York City nor New York state could afford the extra maintenance costs that would go with that highway ~ the 90% Federal match on some new interstate highway spending is like a discount price for heroin given to a not-yet-addict by a pusher.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    New Jerseyans and Long Islanders to a certain extent are used to paying tolls. Off peak electronic discount toll to cross the Hudson is $9, $11 peak and $13 if you want to pay cash. The 125,000 parking spaces they’d need might be a problem but they could tear down half of Midtown for that. That’s assuming they didn’t get rid of PATH.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The l/d trains may pass through some of the last open spaces in the USA, but they are not empty. On the contrary, it can be hard to get accommodation, especially at this time of year.

    Hard to get accommodation only because there’s hardly any seats on those trains in the first place.

    Amtrak has decided to drop all the l/d routes west of the Mississippi. They have announced (at the January RailPAC meeting and the May NARP Council meeting) that they are not buying any more cars to replace or augment the Superliners.

    Exact words if you don’t mind please. Replacement Superliners are still on the fleet strategy plan, though possibly pushed back given Viewliner II issues and the fact that the Amfleet Is will be replaced first due to age. I’m quite doubtful Amtrak’s wise enough to get rid of the Western long distance trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Eh, I don’t think so. Let me run through the Amtrak rolling stock situation for you, Mr. Dyson:

    – Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and California are getting a huge number of coaches, cab cars, and cafe cars. These will replace not only the entire Horizon fleet but also a number of Amfleets… and quite a few Superliners.

    The Amfleets and Horizons will be plowed back into the east, but the important point for the west: There won’t be a shortage of Superliner coaches or cafes any more.

    Will there still be a shortage of dining cars, sleeping cars, and Sightseer Lounges? Yes, but… there were enough extras to add an extra trainset to the Empire Builder, so if that ever gets back to normal, that releases several. If the Sunset Limited alone gets cancelled, that releases several as well. This is more than enough to make up for the intermittent wrecks and keep the others trains going for another 5 or 10 years, by which time Amtrak will be able to think about ordering more Superliners.

    The Eastern trains need more cars much more urgently than the western ones. The Viewliner II order isn’t large enough, and the Amfleet replacement is going too slowly. The Horizons may be pressed into service to keep capacity up. Already, Amtrak frequently charges the same price from NY to Chicago as it does from Chicago to LA, which is odd considering the distances, and says a lot about the relative demand.

    I’ve gone through the “western long distance” trains in detail before. It’s interesting: there are some segments with a lot of potential, some with very little. Any restructuring plan, unfortunately, must face the recalcitrant and obstructive Class Is — though BNSF and UP have actually been relatively friendly lately, compared to CN, CP, and CSX.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Passenger trains need passengers. There aren’t a whole lot of them between the Mississippi and the West Coast.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Heck, there’s only 46mm or so in between Mississippi/Tennessee and California.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, but they don’t live along either the Empire Builder or the Southwest Chief. A few live along the California Zephyr, in cities so far away from all others that there’s no demand for day train travel. Nearly half live in Texas, whose rail travel needs are largely internal.

    (Explanation for the “nearly half” comment: the states west of the Minnesota-to-Louisiana line but east of the three Pacific states have 59.5 million people, of whom 26.5 million are in Texas. Another 9.5 million live in Arizona and Nevada, mostly in cities that can connect to California HSR, and don’t even have long-distance train service.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..there ain’t nothing out there.. .

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

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @Alon, are you you shifting adirondacker12800’s goal posts from west of the Mississippi to west of the first line of states west of the Mississippi?

    But in any event, yes, the majority of the people living “west of the Mississippi, east of the West Coast states” are found among the 46m between Mississippi/Tennessee and California.

    Its a bit arbitrary to say “and a majority of that is Texas and a majority of their travel demand is in-state” when it is, like California, an area that would have more than a BBall team’s worth of Senators if state borders were as common as on the East Coast.

    A large share of them live in the broader region traversed by the route of the mooted conversion of the Texas Eagle and Sunset Ltd to a daily corridor train Louisiana / Houston / San Antonio connecting with a daily long distance Chicago / DFW / LA train.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The reason I count the Louisiana-Minnesota states in the eastern basket is that they have strong corridors, i.e. Chicago-Minneapolis and Chicago-St. Louis(-Kansas City), and maybe Houston-New Orleans or even Atlanta-New Orleans. It doesn’t count if there are long-distance trains running on a route that should be hosting daytime HSR, such as the Lake Shore Limited.

    I bring up Texas because Texas, unlike Minneapolis and St. Louis, can only speculatively be connected eastward. But the Dallas-Houston-San Antonio triangle needs corridor service, ideally HSR, and this is far more important than a daily train to Chicago or Los Angeles (which is absurdly slow anyway).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hybrid between the Texas T and the Texas Delta. San Antonio-Austin-Houston gets Houston-Austin for 40 extra miles. Dallas-Austin-Houston is an extra 150.
    Working out from Minneapolis and San Antonio there’s another big city 200 miles away and 200 miles away from that one another one until you are at the beach looking at the waves roll in from the Atlantic. Going west.. there ain’t nothin’ out there.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No doubt Amtrak is under pressure by the Class I’s to abandon their trains west of the Mississippi because it would allow for more freight. BNSF’s coal trains would benefit immensely.

    Still I think the public reaction to closing routes that run through the West would be very unpopular politically. It could still happen but Amtrak would lose support in the East and possibly crumble. That’s bad news for the Class I’s because Amtrak pays 100% of the railroad pension system cost. The Class I’s would have to eat that cost and there would be another major realignment.

    Nathanael Reply:

    They’ll pay for themselves. Easily. So easily that Amtrak can get loans on commercial terms for them.

  6. wdobner
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 15:28
    #6

    When will those who take press releases as something promulgated from the mouth of god and written in stone ever learn? Attributing this inevitable parting of the proposed joint order to any failing on the part of the leadership for either organization or USDOT only shows how desperate some commenters are to find fault with those groups.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Fault finding on my part is “construction/operation impact” first, Rebuilding before building new/fast routes, Maximum number station towns/cities served with slower trains riders proudly patronize between Portland and Tacoma. Seattle woes no one south of the Columbia River understands.
    Talgo XXI – Sexy!

    Joe Reply:

    Find more insightful comments on Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. Available At your local Whole foods.

    jonathan Reply:

    “Taste the irony.”

  7. Clem
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 17:00
    #7

    Phew! I’m so glad that we’re unhitching our cart from the front of Amtrak’s horse.

    jonathan Reply:

    Don’t be glad. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. A smart sophomore who;d taken the right class could not only figure that out, but demonstrate it. In about half an hour, given the data so often posted here. How many months did it take Frank Vacca? More than 12?

    I don’t remember, and I sincerely don’t want to look up the answer. Whatever it is, it bodes very, very poorly for California HSR in our lifetimes.

  8. Brian_FL
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 17:02
    #8

    Off Topic but more evidence that HSR or HrSR can be profitable.

    http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2014/jun/20/exclusive-all-aboard-florida-document-has/

    Even private investors are getting involved:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/20/all-aboard-pik-fortress-invest-idUSL6N0P05SL20140620

    Maybe CA HSR should consider what All Aboard Florida is doing. Also recent reports show that TX HSR is moving ahead, both the Florida and Texas projects are being developed by private interests.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    My interpretation of the article on All Aboard Florida is that the company floated a bond using property it owned as collateral. The bond is also designed to be bought out by AAF once they secure a RRIF loan.

    CAHSRA doesn’t own any property (including legacy train track) to pull off this type of deal.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    I’ve read the bond was floated with any default resulting in the bond holders owning the track, developed property, as well as the right to operate the service. But you are correct that the RRIF loan will pay off this high interest rate bond. The US DOT would never allow bond holders first rights on property used as collateral for the RRIF loan. The bond is a vehicle to allow for upfront cash to start construction and buy train sets, etc…

    AAF only owns land around the Miami station. They have been quietly buying up alot of property around their Ft Lauderdale and WPB stations. My point is that CA HSR (as well as the TX HSR) should consider doing the same thing. Buy property around their stations and make money off of the development as well. Maybe because CA HSR is a government agency means they cannot do that. But then government is not in the business to make money either. And the property rights groups would be up in arms I am sure!

    Nathanael Reply:

    CAHSR — or any local government — can do that if the property owners agree; IIRC, the City of Fresno has been quietly buying up land near the future station for a while.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Fresno’s RDA Successor Agency is currently seeking proposals to purchase and develop several properties it owns located about 1 or 2 blocks from the HSR station site. Deadline to respond to the RFQ/RFP is July 2.
    http://www.fresnorda.com/cmsAdmin/uploads/RFQ-P_Stadium_Area_Development_4-3-14.pdf

    The Fresno HSR station site is diagonal across the intersection of Tulare and H Streets from the stadium, left center of this map showing the individual properties. Fresno’s Convention Center is 2 blocks east of Van Ness and these properties.
    http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kvpr/files/201404/southstadium.jpg

    A little research also uncovered that there is currently a 45 unit apartment building under construction just east of these properties (that site is center right on the above map at the intersection of Van Ness and Inyo). Photos of this construction at:
    http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/2014/06/construction-on-droge-building-well.html

    It will be interesting to see in coming months how many responses materialized from the RPQ/RFP. It could serve as an indicator of the level of interest in station area development in the Valley cities.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Actually there was a law passed last year that allows CHSRA to exercise eminent domain and sell off land adjacent to the track and station for profit.

    The difference between California and Florida, however, is the power and leverage cities have under the Constitution. Since cities already were supposed to chip in for some costs, the Authority is reluctant to start competing with them over land nearby. (I mean think of the political uproar if a city like Fresno with a weak tax base had to raise taxes just to pay for an HSR station…)

    Nevertheless, still got a feeling AAF ends up merging or sharing track with Tri Rail, Amtrak, and Sun Rail using “higher speed rail” equipment, i.e. G.E.’s locomotives that top out at 125mph….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    EMDs. GE whined that they don’t have any 125 mph locomotives when Amtrak went shopping for 125 MPH diesels.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    I was thinking more of CHSRA actually developing the property and making money from leases and rents – like AAF will be doing. I understand that they can sell land as you say. But are they allowed to become developers? Also, the RDA is a redevelopment agency – it owns land is looking for investors/developers to put something worthwhile on the land. AAF is doing that in Miami with the Overtown RDA equivalent. They are buying 2 acres for $4 million or so.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Brian, now you have hit the nail on the head. There is nothing explicitly preventing the State from playing landlord and developing the area around a station to make money. The problem is, california cities and counties 9 times out of 10 fill that role of service provider.

    People get all weird and bent out of shape here when you start propose statewide provision of services. Anything that could or would compete with the free market is done at the local level. This is why a project that actually connects the whole state is so controversial. Local control has always won out since the 1879 Constitution. Cities and counties always have had the upper hand.

    But now, with the state being severely economically segregated, with basically 3 million people pulling all the tax revenue for the other 35 million, suddenly a statewide approach looks apt.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I always found it a little odd that in New York the county runs the DMV. It means the DMV in Manhattan makes Communist Eastern European bureaucracy look efficient and helpful. Upstate on the other hand the DMV office is wonderful.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If you’re masochistic enough to want to drive in Manhattan, you’re masochistic enough to enjoy the DMV.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people who drive in Manhattan use the DMV offices out in the suburbs. Those are more Italian than East European. Especially when Governor Whitman decided that turning it back over to private operators would be a good idea and bribing the workers became popular again.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Whitman that was Governor of New York was in office before there was a DMV. The privatization of the DMV in New Jersey under the other Whitman wouldn’t affect drivers in Manhattan or Long Island.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Christie “the air was good at the World Trade Center, it was the stuff floating in it that was bad” Whitman. In her job at the EPA which she took after being Governor of New Jersey.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    She still was better than The Bully.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Some fair use excerpts from the article:

    While no passenger railroad in the world is profitable without a government subsidy, All Aboard Florida’s real estate development — some of which already has been unveiled — would contribute to its bottom line, generating $30 million in net operating income in its early phase and more than $80 million when it’s built out and leased, according to the document.

    The railroad already owns 21 acres in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and is trying to buy another 7 acres in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, according to the document.

    Ultimately, All Aboard Florida plans to develop about 3.5 million square feet of retail, office, commercial and residential space at or near its three new stations. Last month it unveiled plans for its Miami station, which includes three towers, 15-28 stories each, and an 80-story skyscraper.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    While no passenger railroad in the world is profitable without a government subsidy

    Sigh.

    Question to the Krugmanologists: is this line a zombie or a cockroach?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    More a Hydra…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I believe its a zombie. The final line below is how it comes back from the dead:

    “The first French TGV line was profitable.”

    “But SNCF as a whole is only profitable due to government subsidy.”

    “But that’s just because the government decides to provide operating subsidies to provide conventional rail services and capital subsidies for additional TGV lines that SNCF wouldn’t build on their own. If the government didn’t subsidize them, they’d only operate the profitable lines.”

    “I didn’t follow all of that but SNCF as a whole is only profitable due to government subsidy.”

    J. Wong Reply:

    As if the airlines are profitable: http://freakonomics.com/2011/06/24/why-do-airlines-always-lose-money-hint-its-not-due-to-taxes-or-fuel-costs/

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Or the auto industry as a whole if you include the full cost of roads and parking, or the freight trucking industry, and etc. Not all that many parts of the transport industry are expected to be profitable on a full cost basis other than freight rail.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    We will see what happens after the next round of consolidations. The airlines are getting closer to a true oligopoly, and airfares have risen accordingly.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s a difference between being profitable on a going concern basis and being profitable on a full-cost basis, when you are in an industry like the airlines that receive appreciable operating and complementary infrastructure subsidies.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ….Makes me wonder how much property tax Delta pays on the 1.4 billion terminal they just had built at JFK…. Most airports are owned by a non profit non-property tax paying quasi government agency. I know that New York City and Newark were finally able to squeeze payments in lieu of taxes from the Port Authority. Makes me wonder how much Port Newark and Elizabeth pay to Newark and Elizabeth too….

    joe Reply:

    Delta Air Lines (DAL) earned $2.7 billion last year but paid no income taxes because of the big losses it posted in 2008 and 2009, totaling nearly $2 billion, and that’s just a small chunk of the total past losses the company can use to defray future earnings. The third-largest U.S. airline is sitting on more than $15 billion in what are called net operating loss carry forwards, an accounting device that lets a company apply past financial losses to future tax bills. Under accounting rules, corporations are required to value their deferred tax assets based on the performance of their business and tax rates.
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-21/why-delta-with-huge-profits-wont-pay-taxes-for-years

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Obama Administration has done a good job of increasing flight taxes to diminish the industry dependence on subsidies.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Less heavily subsidized does not equal unsubsidized … and all too often nowadays means subsidized in some different way, such as being allowed to increase shifted third party costs by a compliant industry-captured regulator.

  9. jimsf
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 20:23
    #9

    Maybe once sanity returns to Congress, a national standard can be developed. For now, California is free to choose what works best for its own needs

    Wait. What?

    Maybe once sanity returns to Congress?

    Stop talkin all crazy.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    More precisely, ” … if the current flood tide insanity level in Congress ebbs back to historically normal levels of Congressional insanity …”

    With humans in the mix, we are always building our institutions with crooked timber.

  10. Emmanuel
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 20:24
    #10

    Off Topic as well. Looks like Alstom will be bought by the French government and GE in a 50-50 joint venture. I want to be optimistic. Well, at least those jobs are saved? On the other hand, let’s be real: This is a recipe for disaster. I expect little improvement. Alstom has been slow in catching up on the new realities.

    jonathan Reply:

    At least that’d mean Siemens doesn’t give Alstom its rail division, in exchange for Alstom’s (electrical) power division. That’d be a really, really bad thing for rail customers everywhere.
    Except Japan. And China, now that they’ve bought the technology and “reverse engineered” it.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Well, GE is mostly interested in the power plant divisions of Alstom (one able competitor less). In fact, some years ago, I had a stint at ABB Power Generations (which a few years later got sold to Alstom), and their (power plant) gas turbines were considered technically superior to the GE models.

    So, it would be most likely that GE would get rid of the transportation division pretty quickly (and most likely selling it to some investment sharks).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    GE Transportation makes great big gobs of money. Having Alstom’s products means they can offer the international customers who buy their freight products, passenger products.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Yeah, I forgot about the heavy haul business, where GE plays a role. But you can be assured that, for example BHP will have very limited passenger business…

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Max

    Do you think quietly Hollande has agreed to GE divesting Alstom rail? GE is not into transit, not since PCC days and Marmon Herrington trolley coaches.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, I just read in the news that the Board of Alstom agreed to the GE offer, but the French state will only agree if they have 20% of the shares of the resulting company. So, I may take back my previous statement, as exaggerated.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But GE may be counting on an UMP or FN government soon, more amenable to restructuring and divesting.

    Could be tho GE will regret this move in time. It is France and AFAIK SNCF CGT unions are still on strike.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is Alstom’s workforce even unionized? France has a really low union density, it’s just that the few industries that are unionized have a strike every five minutes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    My guess would be CGT, as one of their reps, apparently at Alstom, was interviewed on France2 and he was not so happy with the deal.

  11. jonathan
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 23:35
    #11

    There’s only a handful of meaningful questions about this annoucement.
    Questions I’m sure Richard M. could amplify, but like this:

    * Why did it take Frank Vacca more than 90 seconds to come to this conclusion?
    * Why isn’t he fired, for taking as long as he did?
    * How many millions of dollars worth of billable hours went to PB, to justify this decision?

    Richard, enjoy the straight lines.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It probably took him 20 seconds and then another 37 to decide that if they didn’t pursue it, Republicans coast to coast would rear up on their hind legs and sue over not doing it, as concerned citizens worried that cost saving measures hadn’t been pursued.

    Observer Reply:

    Correct. Even though it is obvious that the NEC and CAHSR requirements or different, at least they studied it, which is good. It prevents whining from critics who use every opportunity to criticize HSR.

    Observer Reply:

    Anyway, it will be very interesting what tilting train is picked for the NEC.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    If an active system, the choice of maker is pretty much clear: Alstom. They bought (over the time) the leading makers of tilting bogies (Fiat and SIG). Well, actually, not quite true, there is also a Japanese maker (probably Hitachi or Kawasaki) who have developed their own tilting mechanism.

    Observer Reply:

    Siemens uses titling technology in Germany. Of course there is Talgo, although I believe their trains may simply be too low for the NEC platforms. I would not count out the Japanese manufactures. CAF would be a darkhorse (their Oaris train).

    Michael Reply:

    The ICE-T in Germany doesn’t go all that fast. 230kph/143mph. It does ride really well, and is very comfortable. Its market is well-maintained, curving, electrified routes.

    http://www.bombardier.com/en/transportation/projects/project.icet-germany.html?f-region=all&show-by-page=50&page=1&f-country=fr&f-segment=all&f-type=Diesel-multiple-unit-DMU&f-name=all

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I have very fond memories of the ICE-T when it ran between Zürich and Stuttgart, and I had more or less regular business trips to München. They were maintained in München, and they were transferred from Stuttgart to München doing the last service in the evening. Even if it was unofficial, they made a direct connection from Zürich to München. I did like that connection because at the time they were more or less the only trains having power outlets at the seats (at least in first class). That gave me 5 hours of uninterrupted time to work.

    Another memory is that we ran about 15 minutes late in Rottweil heading for Stuttgart, and then the driver apparently got permission to run at line speed (instead of “comfort speed”, and whithin that hour we made up about 12 minutes, making all connections in Stuttgart; it was a little bit rough, and probably some people with tendency for motion sickness might have had a bit of a hard time. But it was impressive.

    Anyway, tilting trains running 250 km/h are the ETR 610, made by Alstom (Fiat). They are running at 250 km/h through the Lötschberg base tunnel.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The diesel version ICE-TD were a bit less of a success, and some issues with axles and slow speed derailments got them off the lines where tilting would have been of importance (Zürich – München, not via Stuttgart). They were also a bit of a victim of the diesel traction, running “out of steam” too quickly, and having a 500 kW diesel motor under the floor did not make them the most quiet vehicles on the network, not really ready for a premium service.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not terribly related, but why is the service from Zurich to Munich so bad? Service isn’t even hourly, the fastest trains average less than 80 km/h, and there’s no electrification. Munich is bigger than Swiss cities that get better than hourly service to Zurich. Why have they not upgraded the tracks to allow better service?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    A very good question… First, it is geography. When you draw a more or less straight line between Zürich and München, you hit a big obstacle: the Bodensee (Lake Constance in English, I think). So, you have to get around that lake. Also don’t forget that there is also a rather steep grade between St.Gallen and the Bodensee which limits the speed as well.

    Getting around the lake comes to the next issue, you will have to cross Austrian (ÖBB) territory. And the next issue comes immediately: the stub end station of Lindau.

    Actually, right now, Lindau is not too bad a point, as long as traction has to be changed. While uncoupling the incoming power, the outgoing power can be coupled on, and brake tests executed. They are not that bad, turning the train in 6 to 8 minutes.

    Fact is that the Swiss Government would essentially pay for the electrification between Lindau and Geltendorf (that’s the end point of the electrified S-Bahn line) via Memmingen (the faster, but less scenic route with the big disadvantage of being single-tracked).

    So, why don’t they proceed? For Germany and the Deutsche Bahn, this is an absolutely minor project, and therefore has no priority; following treaties is currently not a big thing when it comes to rail projects in Germany (not only Lindau-Geltendorf, but also the access line to the Gotthard base tunnel in the Rhine valley does not proceed as agreed; but that’s another story). There are not thaaat many nimbys, because the line does not go through densely populated areas, but the whole planning phase takes a lot of time as well.

    The Lindau situation could be handled with a station along the (existing) stub-end bypass, but there, the local politicians are very loud about it, and they are heavily lobbying against that.

    Another issue may be that there is rather limited traffic along the line, because of the low population density (and the desinvestment for local service, so typical for many German line).

    All together, with tilting trains, electrification, and the Lindau bypass, travelling times could be pushed close to 3 hours, which would make it attractive again, but…

    From what I gathered, the new batch of ETR 610 and the recently ordered trains for international services (aka Stadler FLIRT EC) will undergo the certification for Germany, and maybe, maybe, by the time those trains are running fine, the line may be ready for them to use.

    As I wrote before, back when I had regular business trips to München, I preferred the detour via Stuttgart (well, mainly because of the power outlets at the seats, but also, because I was travelling on an EuroDomino (RIP) pass for Germany, and I was too cheap to pay extra extra for the few kilometers in Austria).

    Michael Reply:

    I wish California could get a ICE-TD (I get very excited when I see them rotting on sidings around Germany) to move around California to show people what a high speed train actually looks like (on the inside). It’s a shame they were such a rushed mess of a product.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does the Oaris tilt?

    Observer Reply:

    CAF has tilt system titled SIBI active system.

    Observer Reply:

    Make that the Sibi active tilt system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ooh! If I understand this correctly, the system allows 8 degrees of tilt. (30% less time = 42% more speed = 100% more total equivalent cant, and if you assume they were thinking of 100 mm cant and 100 mm cant deficiency, then it’s 200 more mm.) Presumably, this wouldn’t allow 300 mm cant deficiency at 350 km/h, but the Talgo 350s and E5s are capable of running safely at 350-360 km/h* with 175-180 mm of cant deficiency.

    *Yes, I know the E5s are limited to 320, but that’s because of different issues; the Fastech 360s ran at 360.

    Observer Reply:

    The reason CAF came to mind as a dark horse candidate is that they have a manufacturing facility in Elmira, N.Y. with established american suppliers. They advertise that their Oaris train has “complete user accessibility from different platform levels”. Plus they already are an Amtrak supplier; they have a contract to supply sleeper/baggage/dining cars.

    joe Reply:

    Siemens has a CA facility which they could expand to build European class train-sets meet US content rules.
    http://www.dw.de/siemens-wins-us-high-speed-train-contract-outbids-rivals-caterpillar-ge/a-17503466

    Siemens will assemble the diesel locomotives at its plant in Sacramento, California, while Cummins will build the engines in Seymour, Indiana. Funding for the high-speed train project is partly coming from the 2009 federal stimulus program. The endeavor represents the first attempt in the United States at replicating similar high-speed train services in Europe and Asia.

    Talgo has the Milwaukee facility that Gov Walker helped close by engineered a scheme to back-out the contract to buy Talgo train sets.
    http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2014/05/29/talgo-trains-roll-out-of-milwaukee-ending-the.html

    The company soon will terminate its lease for a city-owned building that, in 2010, was envisioned to be the hub of Talgo’s U.S. train manufacturing and the anchor to draw more companies to the former Tower Automotive property on Milwaukee’s north side.

    2050 some GOP governor will hold a press conference about their advertisement in CA newspapers trying to attract CA’s Rail Manufacturing industry to their low tax haven state.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The endeavor represents the first attempt in the United States at replicating similar high-speed train services in Europe and Asia.

    http://mserinsroom.blogspot.com/2010/06/fast-trains-have-lights-they-move-and.html

    joe Reply:

    A dude wrote a book about awesome, super-smart people and their true worth http://www.amazon.com/The-Asshole-Rule-Civilized-Workplace/dp/0446698202

    It’s very popular.

    Eric Reply:

    I think I will actually recommend that activity to my friends who have little kids.

    But really, joe is right. You’re exactly the type of programmer who wouldn’t last at my company.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah, you run into the occasional guy whose response to anyone who questions his genius is sneering rage. No matter how proficient they are, they never really last. Partially because half the time they’re more concerned about being right than about being effective.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Talgo has a passive tilting system.

    Siemens used technology from Fiat for the ICE-T(D).

  12. Donk
    Jun 21st, 2014 at 00:22
    #12

    This just in: Jesus is now against CAHSR

    http://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/bakersfield-church-is-against-high-speed-rail-062014

    Zorro Reply:

    It’s just another misinformed and out of touch old fogie, nothing to see here, move along, move along.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The church is two blocks from the current BNSF tracks, is that the best Pacific Legal Foundation could do?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rRXn-Rr5go

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I got as far as seeing the shot of the oil trains. How much quieter is an oil train? Maybe they should ask the people of Lac Megantic what good neighbors oil trains are.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Pretty loud going through, and they take a lot longer to pass …

    … admittedly bits and pieces move at a fair clip when they explode, but then that gets even louder.

    joe Reply:

    1. the argument they’ll advance is:
    “As we’re arguing in court the state’s premature drive to get this massive amount of high-speed rail bonds approved by the courts and sold is impossible as a matter of law because the state is trying to speed past key checkpoints of accountability,” said Harold Johnson, an attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation.

    This was argued by Laurel & Hardy at the appellate court May 23rd. The judge referred to the state water project which was built with far fewer controls than HSR and turned out just fine – that is the arguments are hyperbole given the historical context of past projects.

    The 30 min hearing can be heard in it’s entirety at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twdcDrKBBVY&feature=youtu.be

    It’s pretty interesting.

    Link by way of http://calwatchdog.com/2014/05/29/appellate-court-seems-to-ok-high-speed-rail/#sthash.o5jf0FuF.dpuf

    Alan Reply:

    The church has bigger things to worry about, given that the church property is almost surrounded by auto junk yards. Those would seem to be a much bigger threat to the church’s desire to be a “safe place for children”. Clearing some of that blight for HSR would be doing the church a favor.

    It sounds like the PLF found a willing puppet to be a plaintiff. And from listening to the audio of ther appellate hearing, the church shouldn’t let its hopes get too high.

    Eric Reply:

    That’s nothing. Just wait until Mohammad starts getting angry at HSR.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Don’t given Al Qaeda any ideas. The last thing we need is to have Islamic fundamentalists support HSR to ensure that it never gets built and that we are stuck with jihad for another 100 years.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/alqaeda-claims-us-mass-transportation-infrastructu,21008/

    Donk Reply:

    That was great, thanks for posting it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s gonna interesting.

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

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Interesting in which way?

    The pilgrimages are a logistical nightmare, and the HSR is a very logical answer to these problems. However, the train may be restricted to the better off travellers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..there are very few Buddhists in the pilgrims…. Christians, Hindus, Jews, Taoists, Sikhs or Zoroastrians either…

    Eric Reply:

    It’s unclear to me why that route should be HSR not normal speed rail. But I guess if you have Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth on hand, then why not?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much cheaper would it be to build a conventional line across the desert versus building a high speed line? How many more trains do they have to buy, staff, maintain, air condition to carry the same number of people on a conventional line? How much more do they have to charge the passengers to take a five hour train ride versus a two hour train ride?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Building the line … marginally more expensive for HSR, because there is no legacy network.

    Stations etc. the same.

    Number of trains to maintain a given fixed interval schedule … Half the number with HSR compared to conventional.

    Operating cost … on-board jobs: half the number with HSR compared to conventional; station, maintenance and management about the same.

    Conclusion for ticket prices: they could be lower for HSR because of slightly lower operating cost and lower capital investment.

    Eric Reply:

    I would say building the line is much more expensive, because of the terrain around Mecca, assuming it will be going fast on those segments.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    According to the Wikipedia article quoted above, Mecca to Jiddah is supposed to take about an hour for roughly 80 km. That sounds like “normal”, a few stops and maximum speed of 200 km/h (my speculation). The high speed section is between Jiddah and Medina. Based on this, the line costs what it costs, no matter whether it is “HSR” or “conventional”, because it would be the same.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If walking was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for California.

  13. Trentbridge
    Jun 21st, 2014 at 10:02
    #13

    A church is not a building – a church is a community. If faith can move a mountain, then a church can move a few hundred yards. There are three “businesses” that are always the “victims” of development – schools, churches, and hospitals. If you’re not sick, learning, or praying then you are ripe for redevelopment. Nobody campaigns for the muffler shop, or the bar, or the warehouse but suggest that a school, hospital, or place of worship is affected, and the righteous indignation of the populace is called forth.

    Matthew 23:27

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    https://twitter.com/markov_bible

    Alan Reply:

    Looking at the maps in the EIR and comparing them with Google Maps, it doesn’t appear that there would be any impact to the church property other than, possibly, noise. At that point, the alignment runs down the south side of Edison Highway, and would displace some junk yards and derelict antique shops. Like I said above, clearing some of that blight would actually benefit the community. There wouldn’t seem to be any reason for the church to move. The best they could probably hope for is some kind of mitigation on the noise issue.

  14. Keith Saggers
    Jun 22nd, 2014 at 12:22
    #14
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