Once Again: Self Driving Cars Are No Substitute for HSR

Nov 30th, 2015 | Posted by

It feels like at least once every six months someone claims that technological innovations will make high speed rail obsolete or unnecessary, despite the fact that HSR continues to thrive all over the world. This time it’s UCSB economist Dick Startz, arguing in the LA Times that driverless cars make HSR unnecessary:

High-speed rail might be a good solution if we had a flat, unoccupied plot running from Los Angeles to San Francisco with no mountains, valleys and expensive land to purchase in the way. Obviously, we don’t.

Neither do France, Spain, or Japan, all of which have mountainous and expensive land – and very successful HSR systems.

And even an ideal landscape wouldn’t solve the “last mile” problem — getting to and from the central rail stations. With rail, if you live far from the railhead (which almost everyone does), you need to drive through traffic to the central station, find a place to park and arrange transportation at the other end.

The train stations are located at the centers of the urban area. What could possibly be more central than San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, mere blocks from four BART lines, or Los Angeles Union Station, at the hub of the rapidly expanding Southern California mass transit network? With outlying stations in Anaheim and Burbank, San José and somewhere on the mid-Peninsula, much of coastal California will be well connected to the HSR stations. If you want to drive to those stations, be my guest, but it will be more convenient and affordable to take a connecting train.

In theory, modern railways have a speed advantage over modern highways. Not only would the bullet train travel faster than existing autos, it would also travel faster than computer-driven cars along certain stretches, notably from Los Angeles to San Jose, with a promised top speed of 220 mph. Along other stretches, however, including San Francisco to San Jose and Anaheim to Los Angeles, the train’s anticipated speed will be 110 mph. We have regular cars that can beat that now. Granted, we don’t allow cars to reach their top speeds due to safety concerns. But on a high-tech highway, computer-driven cars would be able to achieve high speeds routinely and safely.

Wait, he actually believes that people will get in a self-driving car that goes 110 miles per hour? I am willing to believe self-driving cars will have some appeal in short distances, like for taxi services. But I have a much more difficult time believing anyone will get in a car driven by a computer at speeds of 110 miles an hour. That’s a recipe for serious injury in a crash – whereas HSR is very, very safe.

Of course, even at 110 miles per hour, that’s still 4 hours of sitting in a cramped car seat going from SF to LA, gazing wistfully at those of us sitting on the bullet train as we get up and walk to the cafe car to get another beer, stretching our legs, and enjoying the ride.

Slower auto speed, moreover, would largely be offset by the highway advantage of where-you-want/when-you-want access. Taking a regular road to connect to a high-tech highway would almost always be more convenient, and less time-consuming, than driving to one of a limited number of central train stations.

That’s probably true for someone living in Santa Barbara. But as California’s urban areas become more densely populated and better served with metro rail (especially LA), most potential HSR riders won’t actually have that much of a problem getting to a station.

The high-tech highway offers yet another plus that’s not often mentioned: Unlike rail, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution run by a monopoly. Once highway lanes are added and standards are established for just how smart a vehicle has to be, anyone can go into the smart highway transit business. There will be small-business opportunities for renting and “driving” smart autos, smart vans, smart limos and smart buses. How about a 120-mph luxury bus trip with no driver but with a steward serving drinks and snacks? The Dutch have already built a prototype 23-passenger, electric-powered limo with cruising speeds of 160 mph.

There’s quite a lot of handwaving here. “Once highway lanes are added” – yes, that’s a simple task, just ask the Legislature. And getting into the “smart highway transit business” will probably be much more difficult and expensive than he suggests.

It’ll also be unnecessary. That luxury bus trip with drinks and snacks sounds kind of like a slower and less efficient version of a high speed train.

The use of high-tech highways need not be limited to driverless vehicles. Current technology is very close to allowing high-speed cars and buses with just enough smarts (such as smart cruise control with lane-guidance technology) to “platoon” in reserved lanes. Packing vehicles tightly together as they travel would cut wind resistance enough to overcome energy efficiency issues, enabling at least some car models in current use to cruise at 120 mph.

In other words…a high speed train of cars? At this point what exactly is the difference between this and a bullet train, except higher infrastructure costs, slower speeds, less efficiency, and a less efficient overall system?

Driverless cars and related technologies will arrive well before high-speed rail. In the best-case scenario, if construction sticks to schedule, you won’t be able to ride nonstop from Los Angeles to San Francisco until 2028. The high-tech highway is today’s future-oriented solution.

It’s hard to see how that’s the case. With HSR being faster and cheaper, and more convenient for most urban Californians, most people will still do as they’ve done in other countries where HSR lines have been built: switch to the trains.

Driverless cars are coming, there’s no doubt of that. But when they do their costs, their electricity needs, their safety records, their top speeds, their range, and their overall utility and desirability are very much in doubt. HSR is a proven success. Driverless cars are basically Personal Rapid Transit. HSR has worked everywhere it’s been tried. PRT, not so much.

California’s future will likely include driverless cars. But its future transportation solution for getting people from the Bay Area to the Central Valley and Southern California will be the bullet train.

  1. Derek
    Nov 30th, 2015 at 22:19
    #1

    If driverless cars shuttled people to and from the HSR stations, we would get the best of both worlds.

    Joe Reply:

    Driverless cars are not coming. The cost to build and deploy reliable and safe software that is truly autonomous and is prohibitive even over millions of vehicles.

    The “AI” challenges for operating on public roads safely exceed capabilities and the research community is skeptical. Just look at their public comments.

    Airline autopilots are not automnous, they are Pilot aids and thus held to a lower certification standards and are still costly to build.

    Cars will have helpful driving aids but responsibility will always be with the operator.

    Stamford researchers show it can take ten seconds for a disengaged operator to undrstand the vehicle context whe taking over an autonomously operating system.

    Drivers will have to drive.

    Davey Reply:

    No doubt that driverless cars are overhyped, and that the technical hurdles are absolutely immense, but still, I think they are very much a possibility given the amount of innovation that is currently taking place and the sheer will to make them happen by so many very powerful forces. It almost saddens me that this much excitement is not replicated toward building sustainable rail instructure. With that said, I think the complimentarity of the two modes of transit would be very much in the cards, regardless of the challenges.

    EJ Reply:

    I kind of put them in the same mental category as mars colonies or interstellar space travel. It’ll probably eventually happen at some point, but the time frames are long enough that it’s not really something you can base public policy around. I don’t think cost is going to be the big issue. Even with what self-driving cars cost right now, the cost of owning and operating an automated taxi would probably be less than a car with a driver who has to make a living, so you could easily compete on fares.

    But the gap between software that can handle itself on the highway, say, 99% of the time (which is unacceptable because as pointed out, it takes too long for a distracted driver to take over in case of that 1 in 100 emergency), vs. a fail safe system that can just be told a destination and follow a route through city streets and highways while not running over unpredictable pedestrians and cyclists, as well as other wayward vehicles, is HUGE.

    Danny Reply:

    it’s the same with the Shweeb/Moller Skycar/ET3/PRT: it exists perpetually on the drawing board and that actually gives it strength, because advocates can pretend it’s been held back by sinister forces

    Aarond Reply:

    By “possibility” the most we’re likely to get is some sort of advanced cruise control on cars. Fully driverless cars is extremely unlikely in the next century if ever.

    The people most likely (at least on the surface) to consider lobbying for driverless vehicles (commercial companies) are also the ones that benefit that least from it, as we live in a post AB60 world. The cost of human labor is effectively below min wage now for truck drivers and all the liability is pushed onto the drivers themselves. The economics simply don’t work out in the existing free trade environment.

    Zorro Reply:

    State Laws need to be changed, ones dating from 1850 to the Present Day all assume that a Human will be driving, until then outside of testing, self driving cars or trucks is illegal in California…

    During testing, the passenger has to be a licensed driver from California, no exceptions.

  2. Edward
    Nov 30th, 2015 at 23:13
    #2

    One of the IEEE magazines asked researchers when we would have driverless cars. The replies varied from the enthusiastic optimists who said “Five years!!!” to the gentleman who when asked said, “You mean the blind guy gets in the car and says “Take me to work”?… At least fifty years.”

    As Yogi said, “It’s really hard predicting, especially about the future.”

    Sierrajeff Reply:

    Yup – driverless cars are not even yet approved for 25 m.p.h. city driving, yet we’re supposed to abandon HSR becomes of some vague hand-waving about how they’ll be going 110 m.p.h. on freeways? (Freeways which, BTW, are not *designed* for 110 m.p.h. travel, e.g. in terms of curve radii and banking.) So we’re looking at 10 years (best case) to 25 years (most likely) before there’s widespread adoption of driverless tech at freeway speeds.

    And not to mention that for these 110 m.p.h. driverless cars to, er, actually regularly go 110 m.p.h., then either *every* car has to be driverless (add 20 years for universal adoption and/or passage of “pry the keys from my cold dead hands” legislation to force people to make the switch…)

    Zorro Reply:

    State Laws need to be changed, ones dating from 1850 to the Present Day all assume that a Human will be driving, until then outside of testing, self driving cars or trucks is illegal in California…

    During testing, the passenger has to be a licensed driver from California, no exceptions.

  3. Jerry
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 00:04
    #3

    A perfect demonstration of driverless cars would be a NASCAR race. But boring without any crashes.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Wait isn’t boredom the whole point of NASCAR? Also, cars running in circles is not the huge challenge. It is them avoiding those squishy pesky humans…

  4. Reality Check
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 00:06
    #4

    Don’t confuse self-drive capable cars with driverless cars.

    The former is already here (Tesla Model S, etc.) and requires a sober, capable and licensed driver to be ready to take over control at all times.

    Driverless cars that autonomously drive themselves or people around without a driver inside are a long ways off.

    Keenplanner Reply:

    If anything, I believe that Autonomous Vehicles are getting closer to being a reality as time passes. The companies testing these are faster to respond to issues and develop new technologies than the public sector innovation pace that we’re used to.
    But will the transportation agencies be ready to accommodate AVs to get full value out of them (congestion relief, caravans, higher speeds, new ownership paradigms,) or will they move at the usual 10-20 year project pace, while AVs are forced to mix with less reliable self-driven vehicles? Who knows?

  5. synonymouse
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 00:33
    #5

    The substitution happening here is not driverless automobiles for HSR. Real HSR has been replaced by a backwoods commute op and an extravagantly expensive substitution at that.

    PBCAHSR, deviated and dumbed down, will have to compete with more advanced autos, buses and aircraft.

    Bugattis can do over 200mph; 110 is no big deal. Hell, cops do that on news at 10 chasing perps around town.

    synonymouse Reply:

    alleged perps

    Eric Reply:

    Driving at 200mph over the Grapevine should be interesting.

    synonymouse Reply:

    All they have to do is 100mph reasonably sustained.

    Roland Reply:

    Let’s raise the speed limit on I5 to 100MPH and we should be all set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiiGmji0bFk&feature#t=59

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Germany has Autobahns with an “advisory” speedlimit of 130 km/h. And there really are stretches where you are overtaken by someone going even faster if you do a hundred miles. businesspeople still take HSR for its speed…

    Reality Check Reply:

    That’s true. I’m not sure what (if any) speed limit was in effect at the time, but I’ve had to move out of the fast lane to let faster cars coming up on me pass while cruising along at 100 mph in both Germany and France.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I have heard that they actually use toll receipts to enforce the speed limit in France… If you take less than X amount of time between two toll stations, they automatically fine you. And the 130 km/h speed “limit” is only relevant if you have an accident. If you do get into an accident you get automatic partial liability unless you prove speed was not a factor…

    And some Germans literally have an expense account for speeding tickets (which are ridiculously cheap for rich people)

    EJ Reply:

    A few years ago when I had to drive from Stuttgart to Vienna everyone thought I was crazy for renting a car instead of just taking a train, especially since the train was considerably cheaper. But c’mon, I’m an American, of course if I get the chance to rent a fast BMW and take it out on the autobahn, I’m gonna do it. I did have to sign something saying I understood about the advisory speed limits. Also that I would be in big trouble if I took the car out on the Nurburgring….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    100 mph is too slow.

    Roland Reply:

    How about an autobahn (no speed limit) http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-11/27/roborace-autonomous-cars-formula-e

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    People in Germany still take the train. And the no speed limit thing is only true on certain stretches…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes, but the Germans don’t make HSR so attractive as to undermine their driving culture or auto manufacturing industries, and for that matter their much more federal structure than the rest of Europe.

    If we opt for the German model in California or the U.S., we will get a good outcome, just not a great one.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Part of the problem with German HSR is its political structure. Germany is smaller than California, yet it is divided into 16 states which have a lot of power if not in getting things done than in stopping things from happening. That gets you things like stops in Montabaur and Limburg (If you haven’t heard of those places, that proves my point) which are 20 km apart but in two separate states… However, many trains just barrel through both at 300 km/h. Another egregious example of political posturing first delaying and than worsening HSR projects is the new Munich-Berlin route, which has been routed via Erfurt, costing 30 minutes in trip time and unknown billions in additional tunneling and bridges. Now why was it routed via Erfurt? Well Erfurt is the capital of Thuringia and back in the early 1990s the governor of Thuringia was a political friend of chancellor Helmut Kohl… Oh and the project is only coming online now (2015) with a second phase scheduled to open in 2017… Still, 4 hours Berlin-Munich (basically the length of Germany North-South) on regular all stops runs is not that bad… Super-express runs at 3:30h have been announced as well…

    Roland Reply:

    HSR at 200 mph over the Grapevine should be even more interesting.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Why? What is there that makes it impossible? The Cologne-Frankfurt line does 300 km/h at 4% incline…

    Elizabeth Alexis Reply:

    Not on a sustained grade…

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Errrrm. Yes. (I miss the German word “doch” in the English language) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ln%E2%80%93Frankfurt_high-speed_rail_line The ICE 3 was specifically ordered to be able to go 4% steep grades at 300 km/h. In fact they even have a 10% “reserve” on top of that, which is required for passing tests…

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    But nobody goes at 110, roads aren’t designed for it, its polluting and wasteful, and very, very few people can buy a bugatti. Where did your idea of CAHSR being a statewide slow BART come from anyway? Its totally false.

    J. Wong Reply:

    He lives in a fantasy land California.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    By that, I assume you mean South OC

    J. Wong Reply:

    A fantasy land in his own mind not based on any actual reality. Physically, he lives in Northern California, Castro Valley, I believe.

  6. StevieB
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 05:38
    #6

    Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think

    Automated driving will at first be limited to relatively simple situations… and drivers will also almost certainly be expected to assume some sort of supervisory role, requiring them to be ready to retake control as soon as the system gets outside its comfort zone… An important challenge with a system that drives all by itself, but only some of the time, is that it must be able to predict when it may be about to fail, to give the driver enough time to take over. This ability is limited by the range of a car’s sensors and by the inherent difficulty of predicting the outcome of a complex situation.

    John ­Leonard, an MIT professor who works on robot navigation said, “I do not expect there to be taxis in Manhattan with no drivers in my lifetime”

    Sierrajeff Reply:

    Good point; one can imagine the hipster settling into the front left passenger seat, steaming hot pour-over coffee in one hand, iPad 8 in the other – not exactly a scenario where he can take over the second the car bleeps “Danger!”

    Keenplanner Reply:

    I think the “driverless taxi” scenario is closer than many people think. Just look at how quickly Uber and Lyft have transformed the taxi business already. Still, I think that HSR is a necessity, and AVs will compliment, rather than compete, with rail.

    Joe Brant Reply:

    Yeah but lyft and uber actually have human drivers.

    Andy M Reply:

    There are alread self driving vehicles, for example to deliver goods within warehouses. They are wholly situationally aware, can share their ROW with pedestrians and human driven vehicles and self navigate over quite impresive distances. They are extremely slow of course, but is that not a function of the capabilities of present day sensors, processing power and software?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Most of the vehicles in warehouses, especially those carrying heavy loads operate on – you guessed it – rails…

    EJ Reply:

    I’ve never seen one of these systems that runs on rails, at least not in the US. Not saying they don’t exist, but…

    Back in the late 1990s when I worked at the LA Times they had an automated forklift system to bring the giant rolls of newsprint, weighing several tons each, from the warehouse into the adjacent printing plant. I believe they followed lines of transponders in either the roof or the pavement, rather than navigating visually, though. The visual sensors were just there so they could stop in case their ROW was obstructed.

    Zorro Reply:

    State Laws need to be changed, ones dating from 1850 to the Present Day all assume that a Human will be driving, until then outside of testing, self driving cars or trucks is illegal in California…

    During testing, the passenger has to be a licensed driver from California, no exceptions.

  7. EJ
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 07:14
    #7

    Current technology is very close to allowing high-speed cars and buses with just enough smarts (such as smart cruise control with lane-guidance technology) to “platoon” in reserved lanes.

    “Platooning” of autonomous road vehicles will never happen, for the same reason it’s not allowed on automated railway lines. If something catastrophically fails in the vehicle in front of you, you need space to either brake or swerve out of the way. Automation may ultimately do a better job at navigating and reacting than a human, but it won’t trump physics.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You can physically connect the autos with couplers and guide them with extra lateral wheelsets like PRT’s, all of which will be built into these vehicles purpose designed for automated freeway services.

    There different ways and levels of automation. It will be sorted out.

    Point being HSR will have to contend with more sophisticated autos, buses and planes. To survive it needs to be optimal. Jerry’s TEE to Podunk won’t cut it; it will require sizeable subsidy and will suffer deferred maintenance and speed cutbacks to cut down expenses.

    agb5 Reply:

    A sizeable subsidy will be required to get people to buy vehicles with all these extra bits that add cost and weight and will increase fuel consumption during the 90% for the time that the vehicle is not being driven at high speed on a smart highway.

    Joe Reply:

    The cost will be thousands more but the weight of sensors and computing shouldn’t be an issue with fuel economy. It’s not an issue now with dynamic cruise control and lane departure sensors. Adding cameras and other sensors should be that much more weight.

    You’d have to buy the highest trim line to get the self driving features.

    And that self driving ng car will be going the 65/70 MPH speed limit on I-5.

    Roland Reply:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol3g7i64RAI

    J. Wong Reply:

    Eventually, yes, but you’ll also have to get all the manufacturers to agree on a standard. And people will have to buy those autos. As hard as it may be for you to believe, people are actually choosing not to buy automobiles anymore, and with the increased cost in the future, even more won’t.

    So you’re predicting no one will ride the train, but I think more people will ride than choose to drive today. Autos, buses, and airplanes will always compete with the train. Airplanes will always be faster, airport to airport, but not if you’re going somewhere else besides the airport, and more expensive to boot. Buses will be cheaper, but always slower than the train. Autos will also be slower, but more expensive up-front, and not really an option for those who decide not to even buy in the first place.

    So how is it that autos, buses, and airplanes will out-compete HSR?

    Andy M Reply:

    Eventually, yes, but you’ll also have to get all the manufacturers to agree on a standard. And people will have to buy those autos.

    You mean in the same way that different and competing computer manufacturers have somehow agreed on common file formats and communication stacks?

    J. Wong Reply:

    Of course, that’s what I said. And how long did it take for the computer manufacturers to do that? 20 or 30 years, and here they had the advantage of no more than 2 or 3 major systems in play (Windows, Mac, Linux). How many auto manufacturers are there and what common software systems exist today between them?

    EJ Reply:

    OBD-II has been required on all cars sold in the US for around 20 years, for one thing. Automotive software is surprisingly standardized.

    Keenplanner Reply:

    AVs won’t be connected in platoons, but since they are all being controlled by one central computer (think Borgs) they won’t be surprising other vehicles with unexpected moves. Platooning or Caravaning will allow the vehicles to drive much closer together at higher speeds, taking up much less space than unpredictable human-controlled cars. The issue will be that they will need designated lanes to do this. Non autonomous cars can’t be in the mix in a platooning lane.

    Andy M Reply:

    There are going to dedicated lanes, with some guidance mechanism (let’s call it rails) and they’re going to be powered electrically and coupled up together in long strings and they’re going to be doing 220mph.

    Remind me again why the people making these predictions don’t believe in HSR?

    synonymouse Reply:

    HSR is a fait accompli technologically. But JerryRail is not hsr but a TEE to Podunk.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    Does that translate to, “HSR is proven technology..”?
    I’m not sure why 200 mph isn’t HSR. Maybe you’re confused because it stops at stations, just like a streetcar.

    Eric Reply:

    They won’t be controlled by a central computer. If they were, every time they lost reception they could crash.

    EJ Reply:

    I’m gonna just couple my self-driving car behind a stranger’s car, when I’ve no idea if their vehicle is properly inspected or maintained? Not bloody likely.

    Sierrajeff Reply:

    Agreed. The problem with platooning is not speed of automated responses; it’s accidents such as a blown tire in a leading car. As noted above, basic laws of physics can’t be trumped – so a computer might be able to respond faster than a human if the car in front suddenly fishtails / brakes / etc., but there’s still a finite amount of time (and hence distance) required for that 2nd following car to brake safely, *after* it does react.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Nanny laws.

    Apparently in Japan they make you change out your perfectly good engine after a certain time period.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Nah, just have to have a periodic inspection of the vehicle every few years, with shorter intervals as the vehicle ages. Makes older cars costly to own, encouraging new vehicle purchases. Similiar system in Germany and other European nations.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_inspection

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    And California, which is why my Volvo was traded for a motor scooter.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I recently saw a vlogger who said: If you hear a loud noise in the US its either gunfire or a car backfiring. In Germany there are no backfiring cars (thanks to TÜV) an there are no guns (at least hardly any that people would openly carry and fire), so most of those loud noises are firecrackers… And that only happens in December..

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The more viable alternative, I think, is an HSR-auto train that takes the logistics out of platooning but offering the same service to both driverless and legacy cars with no wear and tear…

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Reply:

    A far more viable alternative than that would be to use HSR to transport actual human beings, who then pick up robo-taxis/human-driven taxis/public transportation/rental cars/etc. when they get to their destinations.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    The more viable alternative, I think, is an HSR-auto train that takes the logistics out of platooning but offering the same service to both driverless and legacy cars with no wear and tear…

    Auto trains are an awful idea in just about every way … super low capacity, low efficiency, massive extra infrastructure, crazy-high dwell times…

    So if they’re more viable… ><

    Danny Reply:

    if we’re coupling them and putting them on guideways, better make the vehicles a bit bigger, and maybe with steel wheels, which could make them go faster–up to 220 mph economically

    asphalt won’t be too good for this, and we’d have to build new roads that could take the curves anyway–most of the sharper turns are outside the Central Valley anyway; maybe something harder, like metal tracks

    and they can’t be gas-powered–maybe some sort of electrification system?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are the one who is talking up 220mph and maybe some auto companies seeking publicity.

    All you need is 100 mph automated freeways. There are differing technical approaches but the feasibility will be shortly established.

    It is rail systems that need uber-speed like 220mph to compete. And direct routes, not detours to accommodate real estate speculators.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The whole Interstate system would have to be rebuilt to get 100 MPH sustained speeds. Usual number quoted for a new lane is 25 million a mile. Two lanes in each direction comes up to 100 million a mile. How many miles have to be rebuilt?

    EJ Reply:

    In my misspent youth I may have considerably exceeded 100 mph on I-5 on several occasions. And if I did such a thing, it would have been in a 1980s-era Honda.

    Point is, in the several hundred miles between the Grapevine and the outskirts of Sacramento, it’s pretty straight, and what bends there are, are engineered for fairly high speeds.

    Danny Reply:

    so then it’s *not* something HSR will have to contend with

    synonymouse Reply:

    We’re just talking I-5.

    Danny Reply:

    followed by an easy turn onto your own guiderail’d lane on the 580 to your Bay Area destination! the future is now!

  8. agb5
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 07:43
    #8

    The road distance from LA to SF is 382 miles, so at 253mph, a Bugatti Veyron could theoretically do that in 1 hour 30 minutes, handily beating the train or plane.
    There are some issues:
    At max speed the 26 gallon tank will be empty in 12 minutes, so you would need to stop to refuel 8 times, for a total fuel consumption of about 180 gallons.
    At max speed, the tires last 15 minutes, so you would need to stop to change tires 6 times and they cost $30,000 a set.
    Assuming 100% occupancy (2 people) the ‘ticket’ price of this ‘smart’ Bugatti taxi would be $90,000 one way, not counting capital costs.

    john burrows Reply:

    Insurance wouldn’t be cheap either.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Forget about safety – you cannot even get cameras at stop lights.

    A-holes in my neighborhood just blow thru stop signs as if they are not even there. Automated cars are stupider than this?

    synonymouse Reply:

    3rd rail Bugatti.

    agb5 Reply:

    And the first two rails replace the rubber tires?
    Add some platooning and you have a train.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BARTgatti

    Andy M Reply:

    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autorail_Bugatti

    synonymouse Reply:

    Some of those extra engines from the Royales went to motorboats as well.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @agb5, another “major issue”: you’ll need to build a road to allow the Veyron to safely drive 253 mph.

    Zorro Reply:

    Of course all while watching the gas gauge head towards empty at a ferocious rate, 382 miles? I doubt a Bugatti Veyron could do that on 1 tank of high Octane Race Gasoline.

  9. agb5
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 08:00
    #9

    The article ridicules HSR for going only 110mph on the peninsula, then goes on to imply that a computer could drive a bus on the same route at 120mph.
    In reality the high speed bus would be thwarted by the same impediments as high speed rail: Corners that are too expensive to straighten, junctions that are too expensive to re-configure, noise abatement and security concerns.

    Travis D Reply:

    Also I seem to recall that the 101 has something on it called “traffic” every now and then.

    Zorro Reply:

    A bus at 120mph? Someone has been drinking Drano…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Rubber tire cannot go 120mph.? Then a gadgetbahn like monorail cannot go that fast as monorail is just a captive bus on a fixed guideway.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Wait, why on earth do you suddenly switch to talking about monorails, which nobody on this blog probably cares about…? Nobody is talking about making high-speed ALWEG-style monorails…

    [Still, it’s the very fact that they’re “captive” that gives them a number of advantages over a bus, e.g. they can have longer trains with more aggressive track geometry, with smaller rights of way and attractively minimal guideways…]

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are rubber tire. Apparently, and not that long ago, there was a monorail scheme to connect SoCal and Las Vegas, along the lines of current high speed rail proposals. The potential monorail operating speed would have had to be somewhat competitive, at least BART speed.

    The rubber tyred Paris Metro tech is also a kind of guided bus train. The crux is the rubber on concrete interface. The argument was being made you cannot go fast on rubber tire.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Steel wheel is far superior to rubber for high speeds. Rubber tires provided superior acceleration and better grade climbing ability than steel wheels (at that time), important on systems with short distances between stations, such as in Paris.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Synonymouse…

    You need to tone down the peyote again:

    The proposal was for MAGLEV between Anaheim and Las Vegas. Nobody but Lyle Lanley is going around as a huckster for monorails. Even Disney, which has the most recognizable system, isn’t proposing that technology for their Anaheim rapid transit project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe that prior to the maglev idea there was a monorail scheme as well.

    Rubber tire may not be limited to speed and weight but is quiet. Noise is a serious environmental problem for BART. How do you propose to reduce it?

    And how do you explain LV Monorail boosterism?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Many Las Vegas casinos built small monorails to connect their properties in the 1990s as a way to keep passengers in their respective enclaves. When former Mayor Goodman wanted to revitalize the downtown of the City himself, my guess is that he figured the monorail wouldn’t be seen as a big threat by the major players because of its cost to ride and because it’s limited capacity while drawing attention to Las Vegas in a positive way again.

    As for reducing the sound on BART, isn’t part of the problem that as Clem said “engineers wanted to make the wheels invisible to passengers” to make the system look more modern? Doesn’t that create sound compression which is amplified by the depth and size of the track bed at the stations? (Not that coming to a screeching halt after going 80mph on the Tube would be quiet…

    As one of the posters who has a Master degree in something other than engineering, I’d think part of the solution to the noise would be more and smaller wheels on the cars to distribute the weight of the car more precisely and reduce the amount of wheel not touching the rail at any given time. But I can understand if this isn’t right, because, well it’s not my specialty….

    EJ Reply:

    BART runs mostly on slab track, which is inherently noisier than ballasted track. There’s also BART’s goofball cylindrical wheels, which doesn’t help.

    snogglethorpe Reply:

    Rubber tires are quiet at very low speeds, but they are not quiet at higher speeds … tire noise becomes very significant pretty quickly.

    Useless Reply:

    snogglethope

    rubber tires got better tractions than steel wheels.

    EJ Reply:

    Rubber tired metros are a proven technology – Paris, Montreal, Mexico City, Sapporo, etc., etc. If you’ve ever been to any of these cities, they’re not a lot quieter than steel wheels on steel rail, since a lot of the noise comes from traction motors and the mechanical parts of the cars themselves. And tire noise is not insignificant. They do have the advantage of having a somewhat smoother ride, faster acceleration, and being more readily able to climb steep grades. And the tires need to be replaced a lot more frequently than the wheels do on a conventional rail system.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Runner tire rapid transit systems are noisier underground at all speeds than a modern steel wheel system using welded rail- I would know, as I ride them *everyday* where I live. Rubber tire systems are good for certain cases- such as on AGT systems with very sharp curves and steep grades, which is also why rubber tires are used on monorails.

    swing hanger Reply:

    *rubber* jeez…

    synonymouse Reply:

    But steel wheel tyres need to be trued from time to time on a wheel lathe.

    BART is so noisy they should have considered rubber tired. Ironically Bechtel loathed the idea of building a railroad, thus “supported duorail”. They wanted exotic but did not have the stones. Just as PB does not want exotic or bleeding edge hsr but would rather build BART with mass quantities of stilts. Remember BART does have a tunnel passing thru a fault. Slip gallery is used up too.

    BART engineering is so incredibly insulated from the world at large and so sluggish they will never make headway on the exterior noise issue. Wish them luck with scads of plug doors.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah, I’ve ridden them in a number of cities, they never seemed to be particularly quiet to me, nor is that really ever touted as a reason they’re superior to steel wheels in my experience.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Monorails are not high speed (and never will be), they tend to be restricted to commuter/metro train speeds (~80km/h), where they are effective solutions when the conditions are optimal for that type.

    swing hanger Reply:

    An example of “gadgetbahn”- the Tokyo Monorail Haneda Airport Line- just one line which has 295K daily passengers, or 5x Caltrain’s daily ridership, and 70% of the daily ridership of the *whole* BART system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I thought rubber tires could not handle the weight.

    swing hanger Reply:

    They can in most places in the world. I don’t know about the center of the universe that is the SF Bay Area…
    http://www.hitachi-rail.com/products/rolling_stock/monorail/feature01.html

    Reedman Reply:

    If you need rubber tyres, just call Michelin ….

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber-tyred_metro

    Roland Reply:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfkOOt_Sf68#t=150

  10. Lewellan
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 08:54
    #10

    There most certainly is doubt that driverless cars are possible outside of test routes and controlled situations. Furthermore, automobiles are a transportaton monopoly. The 4 basic modes of urban/suburban travel – cars/trucks, mass transit, walking and bicycling suffer an impediment to their basic function due to overwhelming and insensible automobile traffic. A recent study determined that driverless cars will result in an increase of VMT (vehicle miles travelled) of 1 Trillion miles (100 million cars driving 10,000 miles annually). In other words, unproven driverless technology is a complete ruse to mislead motorists into believing their fat ass lead foot habit is sustainable as promised by automobile-related business interests. The USA certainly needs a functioning passenger-rail system nationwide, one that need not achieve speeds faster than 135mph.

    Lewellan Reply:

    USA needs a world-class passenger-rail system that need not nor will not achieve speeds
    faster than 135mph on most routes and straightways where squeel-wheeling bullet trains
    seem to go nowhere fast, loudly leaving behind giant parking garage traffic exurbs.
    Just answer the questions: Who is not fixing Amtrak? and Why should this take decades?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For the 1153rd time 135 MPH isn’t fast enough to compete with airplanes.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Reply:

    75mph is fast enough to compete with airplanes.

    The door-to-door drive from my house in Santa Clara to my relatives in Valencia is 4 1/2 hours. I far prefer that to the plane journey, which involves four discrete steps (getting from my house to SJC, security/check-in, actually flying, getting to Valencia by either making my relatives drive down to pick me up or renting a car), all of which takes at least 3 1/2 hours if nothing goes wrong. The extra hassle and cost is not worth the hour of time savings, not to mention that when I drive I am in my own space, listing to my own music and can bring whatever I want along with me.

    Aarond Reply:

    >Who is not fixing Amtrak? and Why should this take decades?

    Look at the mess that is the California Zephyr’s line from Reno to Denver. Imagine how much money it would take to modernize UP’s Central Corridor (Reno-Denver). The biggest rail bottlenecks in the US (outside Chicago) require tunneling or earthmoving to straighten and widen mountain passes.

    The problem is that rural districts don’t have a large enough demand for better service (just that it exists), while urban ones have to convince other city people to fund improvements. The latter is extraordinary difficult these days.

    Though I’m optimistic. Eventually enough people will demand it where it will happen. And assuming the track is shared (let’s say 4 tracks on a 125 mph mainline) the Class 1s could get on board and provide private funding too. Public-private parterships make funding easier and more palatable to fiscal conservatives.

    The problem is that growth is slow. First you need commuter rail, then intra-state rail, then interstate rail. Caltrain and Metrolink are only 20 years old, things like UTA are barely 10. California has only leaned into it so hard because CAHSR was passed by ballot.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Remember that Amtrak originally was a bailout, not unlike the 2008 bailout of Wall Street. Rather than take the Class I’s into receivership and spin off the valuable assets, Congress effectively took over the unprofitable lines of business and left the railroads to do freight and consolidate as a way to collude on pricing.

    The FRA et. al, as a result treat the Class I’s as “too big to fail” when they should be encouraging more competition.

    The problem with Congress is that the federal government lost most of its leverage on national rail service by enacting PRIIA, which makes Amtrak basically a contract operator dependent on states to bring in most of its revenue. States naturally want to prioritize commuter operations which undercuts the other two lines of Amtrak’s business (long distance trains, and high speed rail).

    Aarond Reply:

    >The FRA et. al, as a result treat the Class I’s as “too big to fail” when they should be encouraging more competition.

    That’s the silver lining though. Package HSR with “multi-modal freight” upgrades. 60-125 mph lines are an improvement over 20 mph ones. Unorthodox, but it opens up Class 1 funding of projects that can benefit intercity rail. This was the logic behind the Grow America Act.

    I’m a practicalist though. I’ll admit that this is no final solution to obtaining reliable intercity rail and HSR.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …and yet…when the Administration offered this money to Union Pacific in Illinois…the railroad did everything they could to undermine the FRA.

    The federal government has a trump card though. The Amtrak bailout also includes Washington taking on their pension obligations. Congress could tie the Class I’s having to contribute to the fund to the expectation that these improvements would increase their productivity. The opposition would come from the Post Office and their union, however, worried about what precedent it would set.

    Either way, the railroads provide a good case study as to what will happen to the American economy of these sort of pseudo bailouts like the Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act continue to be the norm. And the results aren’t particularly pretty…

    Lewellan Reply:

    My intent was to spur this discussion appreciated I’m sure by more than a few
    and fairly assume influenced dacker more than myself. Nyah Adiron-Ducker.
    Anyways, overall hybrid dual/mode Talgo can, as I suggest,
    can and could serve more RR corridor passenger-rail nationwide.
    I’m NOT saying 200mph isn’t more ideal on some corridors.

    Amtrak ‘should’ aim for TWICE DAILY routes with overnight service.
    TWICE DAILY offers passengers ‘restovers’ then 12-hour later reboarding.
    Every station gets economic benefit of train travel tourism.
    Train Travel Tourism, TTT.

    Peter Reply:

    Twice-daily service should be the minimum, but simply to increase the reliability and accessibility of Amtrak service (who the hell likes waiting several hours for a delayed Amtrak train in the middle of the night).

    And while higher speed long-distance service would be very useful as well, but it shouldn’t take funding priority over corridors that have a greater need for frequent high speed service.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Agreed, HSR is useful and shouldn’t necessarily take priority over the greater need in corridors,
    ahem, for reliably frequent HSR (at 135mph) service, etc, while improving freight.
    And by freight, I mean, Berkshire Hathaway running BNSF into the ground,
    all COG fossil fuels, coal/oil/gas Pacific NW. The Columbia Crossing Question,
    “Can mile-long tankcar train crossings between Vancouver/Portland be conducted safely?
    The ANSWER is NO, they cannot, therefore, PORTLAND is more credible than SEATTLE.
    CRC Commission leader Wsdot, not ODOT, directed decisions that wasted years and millions.
    Seattle Port Dirctor Bill Bryant wishes to become GOVERNOR of Warshington StaYT.

    (After peer rejection of Wsdot CRC bridge design in 2011, Wsdot rejects ODOT Marine Drive design to favor Wsdot intersection rebuilds – no question about Marine Dr most in need of port access upgrades.
    Not a year later, Pembina Propane Corp takes over Terminal 6, value-added Oregon product export facilities. Billy Wyatt and Billy Bryant and a half dozen other Billy-like BOYS in POWER Pacific NW,
    have another thought coming.
    GO HSR. CALIFORNIANS ARE READY.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    135 mph is too slow.

    Lewellan Reply:

    200+mph is too fast, nyah.

    Zorro Reply:

    As adirondacker12800 said: 135 mph is too slow.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    Basic HSR (200kph, or 124 mph) would be a huge improvement over the current system and would make weekend travel practical on most of the long distance routes, particularly if there were two trains a day.
    125 mph is easily achieved by a modern DMU intercity train with no up front expense for electrification.
    Yeah, I’d ride that cross country.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    You can easily go well past 125 mph without electrification. The only problem is that most of those trains are fuel hogs. There is a reason SNCF did not go with the prototype gas turbine TGV. In the long run, electrification is inevitable

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are freight trains in the way.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Any idea that driverless cars can overcome traffic through packing together and being “smart” is just silly and deluded–traffic will always impedement the use of autos in rban areas, and no amount of construction and automation will EVER beat latent demand.

    Danny Reply:

    and then of course there’s the whole issue of detaching from the peloton, moving outward through the ranks of cars whose “stops” are coming up, and then leaving the guideways in the center of the freeway and working through all the non-automated “local” lanes to your offramp

    might as well just tear out the carpool lanes (which face the same accessibility issue) and stick in commuter rail

  11. john burrows
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 09:06
    #11

    A perceived weakness of high speed rail concerns how to get to and from the train station— that “last mile”. If and when truly driver less cars become a reality, getting to and from the station would become much easier, quicker, and cheaper; whether you used your own car, or called for one to come and pick you up.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    many places you can call and have a car pick you up.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah, and many times those taxi or uber or whatever trips at each end will cost you more than your train. It’s one thing if there’s decent public transportation and you’re taking a taxi by choice, but if there isn’t, the last mile is a real problem.

    Automated taxis, though, could be much more competitive on fares, since you’re just looking to cover the operating expenses (including insurance and maintenance) and amortize the cost of the vehicle. There’s no human driver who needs to make a living. The technology isn’t going to really be there for quite a while yet, though.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    The only difference between getting to and from the airport to catch a plane and getting to and from an hsr station to catch a train is that more people will be closer to more train stations than airports. Everything else is the same. Long term parking. Short Term parking. Taxis, Uber, supershuttles, Hotels’ free shuttles. family/friends drop off.

    I mean guess what… how to people get to the thousands of train stations in america today.

    People can not possibly be this stupid as fret over how they will accompish the last mile. They just can’t be.

    swing hanger Reply:

    JIPP, for the most part they’re not stupid, just ignorant of what they can’t see, and the anti-rail zealots exploit that. Once there is an HSR service up and running, there will be a sea change in attitudes.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    How is it that rail travel is such a giant mystery?

    Aarond Reply:

    I’m certain you know the answer. It fell out of favor for most people except those in rural areas or those in urban areas. The “middle America” that lived in suburbs in the 20th century drove cars. Their children (early millenials) were driven to school, only the poor kids had to take buses. Think about the areas trains serve. Elko, Reno, Truckee, downtown Sac, Fairfield, Richmond and Oakland. They don’t serve Los Altos Hills, Elk Grove, or Cupertino. Even on Caltrain’s route, historically people who lived east of the tracks (and thus had better station access) were seen as poor by those who lived above them on the west side. That’s only changed due to the huge amount of people moving in.

    Most middle class people haven’t ridden on a train in their entire lives. Trains are things they see in books, they’re plastic toys small kids play with. Only occasionally on a trip to Tahoe will they gaze to their left and see a Capital Corridor train passing them. Should they ever accidentally see a train in real life up close, it’s a giant metal diesel engine that’s loud and scary.

    Though, it’s changing. The era of the single family house is over, there’s just not enough space for it anymore.

    swing hanger Reply:

    You’re right, trains are just not part of the daily social fabric for most Americans, other than perhaps the occasional lumbering diesel freight train that blocks your commute to work on the other side of town. OTOH, where I live, the type of (private) electric passenger railway that runs through your neighborhood identifies the income level/cachet of your neighborhood, it’s that much a part of everyday life.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    To add to that, in many places in Japan, much of the entire physical structure of cities is defined by, and has grown around, railroad networks. When you tell somebody how to get somewhere, either a friend coming to your house or a store in an advertisement, the first bit of information you give is which rail station is closest….

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Trains *were* that important. The desire to reduce the power of urban areas and unions is what prompted the highway lobby to advocate a car in every driveway. But the vestiges of America’s rail-centric past are still there, dormant, waiting to be resurrected.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I doubt that the camp followers of the highway lobby thought it out that much. They just hated streetcar tracks in the way of their cars(the auto clubs)and the for profit companies wanted to cut their fixed plant. Easiest way to accomplish is just use the taxpayer supported highway network.

    Now the truly evil ones, like Alfred P. Sloan and Moses, they developed a deeply anti-rail ideology. That bias was picked up by corporate America and trickled down to the less militant but powerful in the at large culture, like Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney. Some of them may have remembered traveling on crowded troop trains and yearned for more comfort, room and putative “mobility”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Add Jesse Haugh to the evil cabal.

    EJ Reply:

    Please explain why cars are a good substitute for HSR, but buses are a poor substitute for trolleys.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Cars are very competitive with passenger rail in California – that is why we never had a TEE.

    I don’t care for that nor do I want a lot of more freeways, especially the devastating urban ones. But the public does and the politicians accommodate them. The Cheerleader position is clearly assuming tech roll-out is done for cars, buses and planes. Extremely unlikely and hsr will need a large subsidy and be subjected to deferred maintenance and cuts, just like Amtrak.

    Prop 1a promised bleeding edge hsr but is switching that out for commute ops. That’s sleaze and genuinely conspiratorial. The voters deserve a rematch.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Using adjectives like “commute ops” doesn’t make it so. Claiming a large subsidy will be required also doesn’t make it so. Saying it will be “just like” Amtrak also doesn’t make it so. Your conclusions teeter on the brink of collapse because of all your preconditions.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suggest we live teetering on the brink of collapse. Never know when those TARPers and Gnomes will show up at the Oval Office demanding the Treasury be opened.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The “commute ops” strategy has more to do with the lack of ongoing federal support than anything else. It’s why Quentin Kopp keeps whining that “this isn’t high speed rail”: it is technologically, just not operationally.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @synonymouse

    No one has the power you ascribe to them. Demanding the Treasury be opened (assuming they have any such power, which they don’t) would crash the economy meaning the Treasury would no longer be worth anything. Anyone with the ability to crash the economy ends up hurting themselves worse. Are you suggesting that the lords of finance are suicide bombers?

    @Ted Judah

    There is no “commute ops” strategy beyond the proposed initial San Jose-SF service (which is a stretch in any case). Kopp’s complaints are about the blend, not routing through the Central Valley or even Palmdale.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    J. Wong–

    Watch CAHSRA Northern California Regional Director Ben Tripousis’ speech at the US HSR Conference before you say “there’s no commute ops” strategy:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhFjiABn8II

    The discussion of the “blended system” happens right before the 8 minute mark…

    Danny Reply:

    I dunno, the postwar single-family houses were all built on the bones of the streetcars and are still full of rail lines (especially since they’re in flatlands) that have become commuter rail. They’re eminently rail-able. Where I’d look for mega-rises and arcologies is the exurbs–it’s the culmination of the process, with high-maintenance 4% mega-buildings ending up with megaplexes you never have to leave and with nothing near them but the 8-lane “parkway”

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    Around here in placer, sacramento, yolo, yuba, and el dorado counties, the era of the single family home is alive and well and growing. Each newly built subdivision tries to out do the last.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Alive, but not necessarily “well”.

    Folsom can’t get the water supply to start building south of the 50…El Dorado County tried to force out a Supervisor who opposed a master planned development in Shingle Springs….but compared to the Bay Area or San Diego…much healthier…

    EJ Reply:

    I have to agree that the last mile isn’t that big of a deal for HSR, especially since HSR primarily competes with air travel. It’s more of a deal for commuter rail, since few people are going to want to pay for a taxi to get to work from their train station every day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    PodunkdaleRail is not designed to compete with air.

    EJ Reply:

    What is it you imagine that you contribute to the discussion here?

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB propaganda needs to be countered.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Unfortunately, you counter what you perceive as Parsons-Brinkerhoff propaganda with your own propaganda. Propaganda is never good. Maybe just try some actual information based on supported evidence instead?

    synonymouse Reply:

    My “propaganda” does not have a gigantic government-corporate-labor apparatus blitzing it.

    Once again the Cheerleaders need to demand I-5 be removed to Palmdale to rescue the latter from a boring future.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Once again, an information free post.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    He’s contributing Tea Party propaganda written by the Koch political influence empire.
    They didn’t spend all that money creating things like Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Kato Institute to promote things that cut into their oil business.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    If I were an oil billionaire, I’d spend my money buying up all the solar and wind companies… And cheap land in sunny and/or windy places…

    EJ Reply:

    If you fly from San Diego to Vegas, you don’t go straight there by the shortest route. Because of restricted military airspace, you either take a long detour along the Mexican border, and then turn north, or fly up the coast toward LA, and turn east. According to your logic, since nobody will take a trip that goes even a few minutes away from the most direct route, no one will fly from San Diego to Vegas. Yet those flights are full. Could it be that as long as the overall trip is time-competitive, most travelers aren’t excessively bothered if a route between two points is not quite optimal?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Going up against the military is like going up against Bechtel. You are about as likely to straighten out the flight route as to get BART to abandon cylindrical wheel profiles.

    Even the Tejon route is not absolutely straight but vastly more direct than the Dogleg. Again by Cheerleader patented logic I-5 should be immediately rerouted to Tehachapi so that Palmdale can survive the future.

    Aircraft could also fly faster but reduce speed to save money. Same practice applies to hsr with profitability issues.

    J. Wong Reply:

    People won’t choose driving via Tejon versus HSR via Tehachapi as long as driving takes so much longer, which it does.

    Are you really so obtuse to believe that someone will choose 8 hours in a car versus 3 hours on a train simply because one is more “direct” per your evaluation?

    synonymouse Reply:

    100mph automated freeway lanes cut SF-LA travel time down to pull traffic from air as well as keep what is already there. And you have got your car at both ends.

    Advanced automotive tech is definitely a problem for a dumbed down iteration of hsr.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    100 mph is too slow. except for people afraid of traveling outside their automobile cocoon.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Supposing you can afford the car. So we should not build HSR but wait for the unspecified time that we’ll actually have such automated auto tech? You know they have a saying about “a bird in hand” and betting on automated auto tech is like “two in a bush”.

    EJ Reply:

    Going up against the military is like going up against Bechtel.

    Did you miss the point that badly or are you being willfully obtuse? Nobody’s gone up against the military to allow civilian overflights of their facilities because NOBODY REALLY CARES that their flights are a few minutes longer than they otherwise would be.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Actually the airlines do care if the flights are longer as it costs more and they aren’t getting as many trips out of their planes. The better flight patterns are all a question of who has more juice downtown.

    And you have totally missed my point that airlines slow speeds to save money. But if you have a more direct route you have the best of both worlds: cheaper slower speeds with the same flight time. In the case of hsr, which is at a critical disadvantage time wise with air, you keep the highest optimal speed that does not add on an energy and maintenance extra cost penalty and bring in the deep pockets business patrons away from air. Podunkdale Rail is indeed not competitive with air.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there aren’t any mountains, rivers, cliffs or other topographic features you might want to imagine at 30,000 feet. They fly the most direct route they can. There’s even a way to figure that out, with the right globe or website.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The discussion referred to politically generated no-fly zones.

    Sometimes they are pretty substantial. In January, 1977 we had to fly from Hong Kong all the way around Vietnam and Cambodia and back up to Khrungthep as the Khmer Rouge had banned overflights.

    You did not want to get caught by them as they would cut out your liver in vivo.

    EJ Reply:

    And the airlines pass the small additional cost onto us, and we pay it, because, again, it’s fucking trivial. If we were that strapped for cash and really needed to get to Vegas, we’d take greyhound.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @synonymouse: “PodunkdaleRail is not designed to compete with air.”

    Except it will. On the basis of your reasoning, even Tejon won’t compete with air since HSR can never beat the in flight time of SFO to LAX.

    The reality is that it will compete with air when the door-to-door time is in the same ballpark. So even at 3 hours, HSR to LA Union Station and anywhere to where you can take the subway beats air given LA’s abysmal traffic.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Dumbarton, Altamont, I-5, Tejon is significantly faster then PodunkdaleRail. Bay Area to Sta. Clarita via Tejon would be faster than air door to door.

    J. Wong Reply:

    And Santa Clarita is such a major destination. As for your proposed alignment, it would definitely require subsidy because there wouldn’t be enough people to ride it just between SF and LA. And those people in the Valley would’ve had to pay to build a train they couldn’t ride. You may not agree, but essentially you are a shill for the “Ritchie Riches”, the 1%.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Spurs to Bako and Fresno.

    Sta. Clarita much more important than Palmdale. Closer to LA, centrally sited, and a natural collection point. A catchment.

    Express route can break even.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    San Jose, Gilroy, Los Banos, I-5, Tejon, Sta. Clarita, Burbank.
    Catchments at San Jose and at Burbank.
    Spurs to Fresno, Bako, and Palmdale.
    Seamless transfers at San Jose to Caltrain, Capcor, BART, ACE, Amtrak, VTA Light Rail.
    Defer beyond San Jose until Caltrain is grade separated and fenced and has CPUC RCEB OK.
    Safer, better, shorter, and less costly.
    HSR needs to be grade separated and secured against intrusion.
    One-seat ride from San Jose to Burbank and later LA.
    Give sunk work to Amtrak or ACE.

    J. Wong Reply:

    But by your original reasoning your express customers won’t even tolerate stopping to pick up other passengers. So it won’t have enough fares to break even. Your express passengers won’t even tolerate “landing” in Sta. Clarita.

    The reality is that the people that want to fly will. Faster HSR won’t induce them to take the train. You’ll always be fighting a losing game in trying to compete for these express customers. Where you can get customers is from those who will make a choice not based on time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sta. Clarita the gateway to the LA basin. Transfer to buses to Ventura-Sta. Barbara and Podunkdale.

    In the north you will want a few stations as well. Eastbay and again where you connect to the I-5 Valley racetrack.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Santa Clarita doesn’t want HSR. San Fernando is fighting it too. Spurs to Fresno etc. would never be built. Try to understand that the program is what it is today, not what you would have wanted in 1A 7 years ago. It’s this or nothing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That kind of obsequious approach is how we got BART broad gauge.

    We’re better off with a delay until we come to our senses.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @synonymouse “Sta. Clarita the gateway to the LA basin. Transfer to buses to Ventura-Sta. Barbara and Podunkdale.”

    Thanks for providing information that you are a troll. As @Paul Dyson noted, the residents of Sta. Clarita seem to be very much against it being the gateway to the LA Basin. One has to wonder whether it has ever occurred to you that it is hardly ever that anyone agrees with your opinions?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Does not bother me at all?

    Can’t much see the cheap thrill in being a PB groupie.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I am not a “PB groupie” (nor a “Cheerleader”). Unlike you, I actually want HSR to be built, but it is pretty clear that you’d rather live in your fantasy rather than reality.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the early sixties if the public had really protested we might have forestalled the BART broad gauge fiasco. There were many who questioned it but Bechtel was all-powerful and totally compromised, even more so than PB today.

    You really think that multi-billion dollar quasi base tunnels thru the Angeles National Forest encountering a fault midway is a good use of transit funds? That money should be spent on projects with a vastly superior cost benefit ratio in the LA basin.

    But back to the topic of the post:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-china-idUSKBN0TP0IQ20151206#xM5xW6Cq5wO1sOFt.97

    Change is coming to the auto world which will sap the eco-phony argument for PodunkdaleRail. Once again this is not HSR but regional commute ops to benefit real estate speculators. That’s green? OMG Global Warming has been co-opted and scammed and spammed by sprawlers aligned to Jerry Brown.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You really think that multi-billion dollar quasi base tunnels thru the Angeles National Forest encountering a fault midway is a good use of transit funds? That money should be spent on projects with a vastly superior cost benefit ratio in the LA basin.

    You really think all the freeways built in Southern California were also a good use of transit funds?

    The toll roads in Orange County and San Diego are almost bankrupt. The stretch of the 210 near the tunnel portal is the most lightly used freeway in LA County…the 710 is permanently damaged because of the amount of truck traffic.

    No one would question building a north-south highway like the 5 today, but in it’s time…it had its detractors. Arizona, moreover, refused to complete the 10 freeway until the 1990s…right now the tunnel seems to be a big waste, but in time, I think it will be a wise, (if costly) decision.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    Route through large and growing population centers like the 99 corridor can turn a profit…if you aren’t trying to prevent it by avoiding 4 million potential passengers.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Change is always coming. The question is how soon? (Not soon enough unfortunately.) And fyi, electric autos aren’t the same thing as self-driving autos.

    Your problem @synonymouse is everything is binary. Will some real estate developers benefit because of HSR? Yes, but HSR itself is going to benefit beyond that. The only way you could have HSR that didn’t benefit real estate developers would be to have HSR that wasn’t very useful in the first place.

    Similarly, you seem to believe that the Bay Area would be better with no BART (nor any equivalent service). The world doesn’t work the way you imagine.

    Zorro Reply:

    Electric autos seem to have problems with colder temps than what coastal southern California provides, battery performance goes down. So electric autos may not be a perfect choice, getting stuck until temps warm up might take a while, so I hope someone has towing coverage under warranty and/or under ones car insurance.

    Chemistry 101: Why battery performance degrades in cold weather

    All batteries deliver their power via a chemical reaction inside the battery that releases electrons. When the temperature drops, the chemical reactions happen more slowly and the battery cannot produce the same current that it can at room temperature. A change of ten degrees can sap 50 percent of a battery’s output. In some situations, the chemical reactions will happen so slowly and give so little power that the battery will appear to be dead when, in fact, if it is warmed up, it will go right back to normal output.

    Johannsen concludes with this bit of advice:

    Cold has a negative impact on all aspects of battery operation. Keep this in mind if you’re planning an electric car purchase; we don’t want you finding out the range of your car has been halved when it’s five below zero and you’re fifteen miles from home.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Using a battery warms it up.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes. First cold means running a heater to defrost the car and warm the cabin. A compromise is to use seat warmers and forgo the use of battery power to warm air. In CA there’s also the need to cool the cabin.

    Toyota has a separate environmental control system to keep their batteries at optimal temperature. Ford drawns ambient air from the cabin.

    One can have the vehicle heat up while plugged in. It can be done on a timer like an programmable thermostats or remote start.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Stop suggesting Altamont…it skips San Jose which is AT LEAST (as much as I hate that depressing city) as important to serve as San Francisco.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Altamont doesn’t preclude San Jose being on the main line…but it does throw a wrench into BART to Silicon Valley and BART extending into Livermore and … Tracy.

    I agree it’s “depressing” but that’s a product of what people in San Jose wanted years ago….

    Joey Reply:

    but it does throw a wrench into BART to Silicon Valley

    Not really. At this point, all of the route that might be parallel already has BART under construction on it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And since they will have BART service there isn’t any need for HSR. One of the major reasons the powers in San Jose pushed for HSR to go through San Jose. Instead of a few stops away on BART or Caltrain.

    Joey Reply:

    I think the case can still be made for a branch, (1) because HSR and BART are serving different markets, (2) Because it wouldn’t be that expensive to build, and (3) Because it actually makes sense to build to San Jose first in the interest of getting useful service up and running as quickly as possible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it would be cheap to build why is BART to San Jose costing so much?

    Domayv Reply:

    @adirondacker: here hoping CHSR can make a branch from San Jose to Oakland and Caltrain expanding to serve places like the east bay and Salinas

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’ll have BART.

    Clem Reply:

    What’s wrong with BART? You would have to ride it anyway to get from anywhere that’s somewhere to San Jose’s peripherally located train station. Or do you think VTA light rail might be quicker?

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker: tunnels, mostly. Tunnels and the associated underground stations. Not the Beryessa segment isn’t on the expensive side too, but most of the cost is in phase 2.

    Domayv Reply:

    @Clem: There is nothing wrong with BART serving the east bay (if anything, I’m actually welcoming of BART extending their SF peninsula corridor down to San Jose, thus truly “ringing the bay”, and replacing the local Caltrain services, leaving only baby bullets to become the basic service). What I’m saying is that Caltrain can expand and serve more corners of the Bay Area aside from just the SF peninsula and San Jose. They can extend further south to serve Salinas, further north to serve Vacaville (between San Jose and Oakland, new tracks would have to be made since the existing tracks serving Amtrak and Altamont Corridor Ex[ress won’t cut it), “integrate” Altamont Corridor Express into their system, and build new tracks to serve the I-680 corridor. If you want more details, see this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zWLI5V544xAc.kps6PIgTbaaI

  12. Travis D
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 14:44
    #12

    This guy is an economist? Clearly he needs to stick to that because his infrastructure ideas are goofy. I mean how much money would it take to rebuild freeways all over the state? Way more than HSR will cost.

    I suspect this is just some concern trolling. He probably has some reason for not wanting HSR built and came up with this stupid idea as a wedge.

    EJ Reply:

    He seems more like the sort of ivory tower academic that treats engineering as a commodity. Doesn’t matter what the thing is, you want something badly enough, you just hire a bunch of smart engineers, throw enough money at it, and a few years later, they’ve done whatever nerd shit they do, and you have what you wanted.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    9 women will make that baby in a month!

    Sierrajeff Reply:

    Appreciative for the chuckles on this blah day. Particularly like EJ’s “a few years later, they’ve done whatever nerd shit they do” – one can just see the economist waving his hands around to vaguely acknowledge that there’s some kind of real-world work required.

  13. Keenplanner
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 15:46
    #13

    But converting a lane on existing freeways for exclusive AV use would be relatively inexpensive, but still no substitute for HSR.
    I’m imagining autonomous trucks and buses aren’t far away either, but probably not a good mix for a platoon of AVs.

    agb5 Reply:

    Inexpensive but inefficient, most of the I-5 is two lanes wide, so if it was divided one lane exclusively for AV and one for vehicles driven by carbon life forms, overtaking would not be possible, so both lanes would move as slowly as the slowest vehicle.
    Please explain how the access ramps at every junction would work.

    Roland Reply:

    That’s the beauty of cars (and trucks and anything else on rubber tires): they don’t need any “dedicated” infrastructure other than a flat surface.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    … of course, now we have massive amounts of money going into providing dedicated “flat surfaces” for cars… ><

    Roland Reply:

    Dry lakes are flat surfaces ><

    Zorro Reply:

    State Laws need to be changed, ones dating from 1850 to the Present Day all assume that a Human will be driving, until then outside of testing, self driving cars or trucks is illegal in California…

    During testing, the passenger has to be a licensed driver from California, no exceptions.

  14. Ted Judah
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 17:25
    #14

    This post is a bit of a straw man…

    It’s not driverless cars that threaten HSR; it’s electric cars in general. The Sierra Club, for example, considers plug in autos a much higher priority than a bullet train. It would be quite interesting to Robert’s solution that, as the divide corresponds to the “blue-green” alliance on the left.

    I haven’t been shy about suggesting ways to integrate electric cars and HSR in a way that builds synergy for both. An auto train that could recharge your vehicle en route would be a great one. Or even just using parking at HSR station as charging lots. And then there’s the potential to use battery technology to reduce capital costs through areas where catenary might be expensive.

    No matter the person who figures out how to combine these two technologies, politically and economically is going to hold quite some sway over California for a long time…

    EJ Reply:

    Well no, not really. Electric cars plausibly have some CO2 reduction benefit, assuming the electrical generation is clean. Which is still a big if in California. They’ve no benefit to reducing congestion, or trip time, or necessary road infrastructure.

    Clem Reply:

    Slow (stuck in traffic), uncomfortable (can’t get up and stretch or go to the bathroom), inefficient (3000 pounds of car carrying 200 pounds of payload) and low-capacity (1200 single occupant vehicles per hour per lane). What more could you ask for?

    Eric Reply:

    Trains are also “inefficient”. Amtrak trains are said to get about 70 passenger miles per gallon, which is worse than a car with a couple passengers.

    Bdawe Reply:

    Steam engines get poor fuel economy too. Amtrak is a lot of things that aren’t representative of what modern train travel is where it’s not boggled down with Americanisms.

    If American cars were built like American passenger trains must be, they would get much worse gas mileage and all weigh several tons. I’m going to imagine that your number is dragged down considerably by things like sleepers (which make up a chunk of overall car-miles) and long distance services which have poor load factors. There’s also a few trains on the road between Florida and Virginia that haul a score of autoracks full of people’s cars, along with a pile-up of sleepers. Do they count towards your fuel economy?

    Aarond Reply:

    See, most people would argue in favor of less efficient cars instead of more efficient trains though. Not that anyone makes that argument, but Americanisms is a double edged sword. If Amtrak were to go completely crazy and use outdated (and fuel inefficient by any modern standard) F-3s again people would notice and think positively about it because F-3s are undeniably sexy compared to a plastic EMU or a Genesis box. Americans like big, heavy things. It works for the auto industry.

    There’s a missed opportunity here.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    yep i think if amtrak california used old steam engines ridership would double.

    Aarond Reply:

    Even the F40PH manages to have memes around it now. Why not put a slightly more F-series style cab nose on a new F125 or Charger? Then again Talgo tried just that on their Cascades cab car and it’s probably one of the sloppiest things I’ve seen.

    I mean, I know people who traded in their Mustangs (while still making payments on them) for newer ones a few years ago because it was “retro styled”. I’m certain there’s a way rail mfgs could tap into that without affecting performance too much.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah the majority of the time when designers try to put together a self-consciously retro vehicle they end up with something more like the PT Cruiser.

    Or this goofy looking thing:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nankai_50000_series

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Badly done, trains can be inefficient; well done (i.e. not in the U.S.), they are far more efficient than cars….

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The goal here is to add another 10 million people to California but use less water and oil.

    You need green technology and penalties to reduce carbon. But you also need more housing and sprawl to replace water intense agriculture with much more efficient subdivisions. And sprawl is what requires cars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    100 million, many of them dirt poor.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Poor people can’t afford to live in California.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You mean like the thousands of homeless on the streets of the Golden State. And the ones packed into hovels.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You’re numerically illiterate. First you say 100 million than thousands. They are not equivalent, you know.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    @Ted: “you need more sprawl” to reduce carbon.
    Wait – what? You’re kidding, right…

    The US is the least energy efficient because of all our sprawl. My in-town condo is energy efficient because heated walls on most sides, and we can do many of our errands by walking, which saves energy and my health. I’m also blocks from the Caltrain station. Millenniels are right at home here — and so are boomers like me.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Neil,

    I said the purpose is twofold: you need electric-powered transportation options to reduce carbon. But you also need more sprawl/urban growth to replace water-intensive agriculture. That’s the paradox here.

    You make water and oil much scarcer in California, you make producers focus on exporting what’s left. That raises the state’s overall wealth, both by preserving renewables and by encouraging a more open system of energy trading.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You don’t need more sprawl to replace inefficient agricultural use of water, you just need more efficient agricultural use of water. Go for the simpler solution not the more indirect one.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You don’t need more sprawl to replace inefficient agricultural use of water, you just need more efficient agricultural use of water.

    Residential water users pay far more per acre foot of water than agricultural users do. The federal government subsidizes water at a very low price.

    California law protects those users who have the oldest title to the water, regardless of utility. Thus, if you have title, you will use every drop of water you have access to. Developing farmland reduces the ability of water bankers to strategically waste water that is subsidizes by the Feds. And because the price is higher, there is less need to tap the water supply.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Like I said, go for the more direct solution. Change the laws so that the farmers are rewarded for saving water and must pay when they waste.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Farmers don’t *waste* any water. They just don’t use it towards the highest value crops. The crop prices are set by the open market.

    You make water more expensive, the farmers just change what crops they grow and how much they resell to urban areas.

    Joey Reply:

    There are still a lot of sprinkler irrigation systems (that operate during the day!). Of course, switching to drip irrigation has a non-trivial cost, but it does save water.

    Darrell Reply:

    No, the Sierra Club supports both HSR and EVs, with no relative priorities assigned. California’s grid is clean enough that both have CO2 benefits now and will get better as more of our electricity is renewable.

    Sierrajeff Reply:

    The Sierra Club has a number of idiotic positions – such as repeatedly opposing dense infill developments in San Francisco. They lost my support years ago for those view.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    The Sierra Club has become The NIMBY rich white people who think putting up solar panels mitigates their choice to live in the suburbs, who want everything to remain the same so their property value doesn’t shrink (which wouldn’t happen anyway) and want to hypocritically preserve the land of the Sierras so they can drive there with their 15mpg SUVs and play wilderness club.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Would that be Zuckerberg?

    Hey, how come he does not donate his money to Jerry to build the Legacy? I don’t think rich people, even young ones, buy into PBthink.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Don’t forget Elon Musk.

  15. Michael
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 18:24
    #15

    It seems to boil down to “build me my own lane where I won’t have to pay attention to driving and my car will go over 100mph non-stop to my destination.”

    Realistic technically or financially?

    J. Wong Reply:

    Technically at some point probably more than 20 years out. Financially maybe never. Look at how much trouble they are having with financing HSR.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Basically HSR could be built by a private investor… The only problem is that you have to pony up money in the billions and it will be in the order of decades before you see significant amounts of money pouring in… A smart government would step in and give guaranteed low interest loans… Or eliminate the Middle Man and build it themselves…

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Chinese are willing to finance hsr in California. You just have to buy their stuff.

    Messes with the PB-Tutor gravy train.

    EJ Reply:

    The Chinese aren’t making anyone buy Chinese concrete. PB and Tutor don’t make trains or signaling systems.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Chinese would get wise to the padding and kickbacks. Risky for the insiders on the gravy train.

    EJ Reply:

    What does any of that specifically mean? Please attempt to communicate in English.

    Also, please state your evidence that “the Chinese” want to invest in CAHSR. Actual evidence, not just some random words strung together.

    J. Wong Reply:

    So you’re saying the Authority isn’t going to choose the Chinese because they won’t stand for any kickbacks to Parsons Brinkerhoff, but that’s exactly the way they are used to operating in China.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course. But PB-Tutor don’t want no outsiders.

    J. Wong Reply:

    As far as I can see, PB-Tutor does not have as much influence over the Authority that you seem to believe.

    Of course, if the Authority really did choose the Chinese, you’d come up with some fantasy about how that’s really to PB-Tutor’s benefit so that’s why it was allowed.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No, Chinese takeover of JerryRail is IMHO off the table. I would be astounded and at a loss for words.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    synonymouse really is rambling on and on about stuff (s)he him/herself does not understand…

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    My bet (and hope) is that XpressWest will end up being the exclusive owner and operater of CAHSR in return for providing through trains to Vegas and financing some section of construction (mabye chowchilla-gilroy)

    synonymouse Reply:

    That would entail Chinese financing. Who else would be willing to lose all that money even to sell some equipment. It has to be a geopolitical motive.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Seeing as HSR will be very prfitibl3, its a smart investment

    synonymouse Reply:

    not

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    What mystic hidden wisdom proves that CHSR will be the only HSR not to turn a profit?
    Except for the lack of a 20 mile tunnel under the ocean, CHSR looks like the Sanyo shinkansen. (JR West profits, half billion dollars, more than 40% from the shinkansen)

  16. Clem
    Dec 1st, 2015 at 18:45
    #16

    Self-driving cars (when they are perfected) will be the ultimate catalyst and enabler for HSR, since they resolve the perennial criticism that HSR will fail due to poor last-mile connectivity.

    It’s not enough to deny that they are a substitute for HSR: the argument needed to be about complimentarity.

    HSR combines speed, comfort, energy efficiency and sheer capacity in a way that no other mode (including self-driving cars and hyperloops) can possibly match.

    EJ Reply:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if, 15 minutes from my station, I could text a self-driving taxi service to pick me up when my train arrived, tell it what my destination was, and it would be waiting when I got there. But, look, you’re an engineer. You know there’s a huge gap between “works most of the time, pretty well,” and “fail safe system where I can just set it and forget it and it will work flawlessly all the time.”

    Which is what it will take to get self-driving cars approved. Not, “well statistically they’re much safer than human operated cars.” Nobody is going to accept the utilitarian point of view the first time a self-driving car unaccountably mows down a bunch of pedestrians or drives off a bridge. It’s gotta work, all the time, and that’s a long way away.

    Clem Reply:

    I agree, which is why I included the caveat (when they are perfected). I’m not holding my breath for the blind guy getting a ride in a car with no steering wheel.

    Eric Reply:

    People accept the utilitarian point of view all the time. They continue riding trains and airplanes even though they crash sometimes. If each person killed by a self-driving car is given a $20 million compensation payment on condition that their family shuts up, the criticism will evaporate very quickly. And very few $20 million payments will actually need to be made.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Or you know… You could invest the money in propaganda to blame someone else… Back in the early 1900s car companies were hated due to pedestrian deaths… Cue the invention of “jay-walking” (the act of using a street the way they had been used for millennia) a suddenly a person who gets killed by a car is perpetrator rather than victim…

    Aarond Reply:

    once again you bring up an excellent point Clem

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Why is “last-mile connectivity” such a big issue? Taxis, Uber and Lyft scratch that itch for the most part (not to mention BART, Muni, etc), and areas in which taxis are difficult or non-existent are generally areas which will tend to have enough parking at the stations.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Places without taxis are places with so few people they won’t have a station.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Reply:

    Unless they are Gilroy

    Joe Reply:

    .
    http://goldentaxicab.com
    Gilroy has a cab services and cabs wait at the Caltrain transit station for riders. It has local and express VTA bus, long haul private bus, Monterey county and San Benito Co bus service and private SV tech bus services.

    The city has a state DMV office, a hospital and state supported medical offices providing county services and social services.

    Gilroy sits at a geographic E-W and N-S crossroads. It is southern most Santa Clara county and has satellite offices of many state and county services

    Michael Reply:

    From my experience, San Leandro, Orinda, Walnut Creek, and Lafayette BART stations hove both tons of parking and taxis waiting for fares coming off trains. I have never had a problem getting straight into a cab at any of these suburban BART stations.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Self-Driving Cars: A Coming Congestion Disaster?

    Autonomous Vehicles and the VMT Problem

    synonymouse Reply:

    Computer controlled automated cars will not commit suicide, taking all the passengers with them, nor flout traffic laws like blowing red lights and stop signs or intentionally go the wrong way on one way streets. Unless you program them to.

    Jerry Reply:

    Recalculating. Recalculating.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Public transit is for getting to stations

  17. JJJJ
    Dec 2nd, 2015 at 07:31
    #17

    I think hyper-local driverless vehicles are close by. Stuff like the corporate parking lot van that does the exact same route every day. There are extremely limited variables for these kinds of trips, and the variables that do exist (someone walking in front) are easy for the robot to handle.

    But the world is too big and changes too frequently for true driverless to roam any time soon. People dont understand that current technology relies on following lane markers and/or the car in front. That means the current technology cant even handle a Walmart parking lot.

    The fact is, driverless bus transit will come first, assuming regulations allow it, because it is feasible to ensure the route is properly marked. Sadly, as is the case with DC and BART, we’re still going to be paying a driver to take a nap in the front seat.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Evidently not HART.

    EJ Reply:

    There are a number of medium and high capacity driverless rail lines. London DLR, Nuremburg U-Bahn, one line of the Paris Metro, Vancouver Skytrain, several systems in Asia…

    Reality Check Reply:

    São Paulo Metro Line 4 (Yellow) is fully driverless.

    Screened platforms ensure riders cannot jump, fall or be pushed onto the tracks.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oh, and it’s ultra high-capacity … it has already hit 745,000 boardings per day and isn’t even fully open. They’re predicting around 1 million/day when complete. Yes, that’s for a single fully-automated line (said to be the first in South America) of the São Paulo Metro system.

    Clem Reply:

    Amazing, that’s nearly double the ridership of the entire BART system!!

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    Speaking of which, the original trains for the São Paulo Metro’s first line, which opened in 1974, were based on BART trains.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Which was based on the NYC subway ca. 1900; just hold the 600vdc, standard gauge, doors one very car, etc.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Amazing that they’re carrying this ridership with a fleet of only fourteen 6-car trainsets. Quoting from the ViaQuatro (Line 4) FAQ (translation by Google):

    TRAINS

    Q: What are the dimensions of the trains, in addition to speed performance?

    The total length is 128.45 meters, a width of 2.80 meters and a maximum height of 4.78 meters. As for performance, the design top speed is 100 km/h. The commercial maximum speed is 80 km/h.

    Q: What is the year of manufacture of the trains, and the manufacturer and the number of cars?

    The trains were manufactured in 2009 by Siemens / Hyundai-Rotem consortium. Basic configuration is 6 cars per train.

    Q How many trains are in operation?

    Line 4-Yellow has 14 trains in operation with six cars each. Each train can carry 1,500 passengers in comfort. For the second stage, they are being manufactured plus 15 new trains.

    Q: What other differences can be highlighted?

    Another innovation is the free passage between the train cars, allowing more even distribution of passengers. End security equipment such as smoke detectors, closed circuit cameras, emergency front door and low noise are also part of the differentials of the ViaQuatro trains. In addition, digital air conditioning maintaining the internal temperature between 20° and 24° C.

    TECHNOLOGY

    Q: As communication is made between the user and the Operational Control Center in case of problems?

    Through the camera, the OCC is able to display 100% of what occurs inside the trains and still can communicate with the passengers from the speakers. Users, in turn, can also report any incident or emergency to the OCC, simply trigger the intercom button installed in each car. Tests show that this communication is maintained even in the event of power interruption.

    Q: This automated system that every train does not require the operator is safe?

    ViaQuatro is the first and so far only Brazilian metro rail operator to obtain a security certificate issued by an international certifying agency, in this case TÜV, Germany.

    The automated driverless system is considered extremely safe, adopted in many subway lines around the world, with the same technology and efficiency. Today’s trend worldwide. Paris and Nuremberg (Germany), systems with operator inside the train are being replaced by systems without operator. New lines as Dubai, Barcelona, ​​Singapore, and Copenhagen, for example, are all with driverless system. The 4-Yellow Line operates the same system — but more modern — as the line 14 in Paris, which has been in operation since 1998.

    Q: What exactly is the driverless system?

    The operation of trains is performed without the presence of a driver. The system is fully computerized, ie all train functions are operated and controlled directly from the Operational Control Center (OCC), where the drivers trace the route plans for each train and perform remote operations. With automatic operation of the train, the speeds are always kept within the permissible limits and regulated according to the status of the train.

    Q: What will ensure the user’s safety in case of failure?

    Trains have redundant systems and technology that can detect and treat preventively malfunction. How the tracks are not electrified (the power to the train comes to a rail installed on the roof of the tunnel, called rigid catenary) offer no risk to passengers, and you can easily detrain in an emergency. In addition to the emergency exits on the side doors, it is the first time a subway train is equipped with a door with emergency ramp in front. If necessary evacuate the train, the automatic system will take you safely to the nearest platform or the train will stop in complete safety in the tunnel, waiting for the presence of a concessionaire’s agent to operate it manually allow the arrival gate.

    Q: The advantages of a driverless system over conventional?

    The automatic control allows constant monitoring of speed, giving more safety and precision when cornering and junctions, for example. Starts and stops are automatic, ie the opening and closing of train doors are synchronized with the opening and closing of the station platform doors. The platform doors hamper access for users on track, avoid falls and other accidents. The 4-Yellow Line also includes constant monitoring by means of audio and video on the platforms and inside the trains, allowing a quick and efficient service in case of any need or emergency.

    Zorro Reply:

    State Laws need to be changed, ones dating from 1850 to the Present Day all assume that a Human will be driving, until then outside of testing, self driving cars or trucks is illegal in California…

    During testing, the passenger has to be a licensed driver from California, no exceptions.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Nuremberg Metro was the first in the world to mix driverless and driver operated trains on the same line. They had to iron out some quirks in the first couple of years, but now the system is up and running. However, a U-Bahn is essentially easy to automatize: There is one fixed guideway (i.e. the rails) and nothing can get on the tracks. I am looking forward to automated streetcars, though… They will make thousands of people unemployed, but then that’s what progress does…

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    I want a trained expert in touch with Central on board and controlling my train. Things happen.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Busses will be the first selfdriving road vehicles.

    Zorro Reply:

    And so far Driverless Vehicles are still not Legal, since all State Laws in California assume that a Human will be in charge and driving, not the car, and the laws for cars that assume this I’ve read go back to 1850, that could be a lot of changes for the State Legislature to tackle…

    Sure for testing that is suspended, for a bit, but that’s it and the testing still requires that a passenger have a valid CA Drivers License.

    The only currently legal driverless cars, are airport shuttles and they are limited to 12.5mph, sounds like something pulled by a horse…

  18. les
    Dec 2nd, 2015 at 11:25
    #18

    Even with cheap gas rail is an attractive option as Amtrak is testament to:

    “This year’s financial results show the resiliency of a company that faced a range of challenges and underscored the loyalty of our customers even during a period of low gas prices.”

    “With ridership of 11.7 million, the Northeast Corridor (NEC) had its highest ridership year ever in Fiscal Year 2015, up 0.5% from the prior year, led by Northeast Regional service that saw a 1.5% increase and set a new ridership record with more than 8.2 million trips.”

    http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/amtrak-ridership-ticket-revenue-steady-in-fy2015.html?channel=00

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    You really gotta read between the lines with those press releases… In essence this means that they failed to beat the overall ridership record, correct? I mean the development of Amtrak ridership since 2000 is still impressive, but they could at least be honest enough to say up front: “No record for you” and explain why… Deutsche Bahn has recently gotten into hot water because they underestimated the competition by buses (illegal prior to 2012). They have not sugarcoated anything and one of the things they are doing is promising new investment. But than again, Deutsche Bahn moves two Billion people a year (compared to Amtrak’s 30 Million) and they have some assets to put up as a security for a loan…

    les Reply:

    “beat the overall ridership record”. Who cares about comparing Amtrak’s money losing long distance and slower speed routes. NEC is the closest thing to HSR we got and the numbers show it is more than competitive with driving.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The Northeast Corridor is ridiculously expensive. The fact that they can still run trains at capacity over it shows just how big HSR demand in the US really is. Or rather, could be…

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    I would rather ride the train than drive, any day.

  19. J. Wong
    Dec 2nd, 2015 at 12:25
    #19

    A report on a couple of recent air crashes relevant to the discussion of automation: AirAsia Flight 8501 Crash Reveals the Dangers of Putting Machines in the Driver’s Seat

    This recurrence suggests that there’s a fundamental vulnerability in the way that humans interact with automatic systems in a crisis. In the normal course of things, we come to rely on the automation so much that our own abilities fade away. Then, when the automated system suddenly goes haywire and shuts itself off, we don’t have the skills to expertly handle the situation. To make matters worse, the sudden stress of a life-or-death crisis tends to shut down our capacity for reasoned thought and leaves us prone to mentally freeze up. In essence, in QZ8501 and AF447, the machines panicked, and then the human panicked.

    No doubt in the wake of this second crash, the global airline industry will take steps to prevent this specific sequence of events from happening a third time. Yet the underlying issue will remain, and indeed spread beyond aviation, as automation becomes an increasing part of daily life. Already, the first self-driving cars are operating on the road, and the problem of keeping unoccupied drivers alert has emerged as a major issue. Imagine you’re behind the wheel at night, reading a book on a winding, rain-swept road, when a deer suddenly jumps in front of the car and the autopilot turns off. You’re going 80, an alarm is blaring, you have no idea where you are, and you’ve got less than a second to react. For engineers tasked with designing the system, what happens in that moment — that critical instant of handover from machine to human control — will likely pose a serious problem for a long time to come.

    Eric Reply:

    1) Despite QZ8501, people continue to fly in planes.

    2) A car-autopilot would handle a deer much better than any human could.

    Joe Reply:

    1. The consequences of QZ8501 have yet to play out. For 447, all pilots received upset recovery maneuver training with an industry wide focus on preventing incident from reoccuimg. there is no practical solution for self driving cars because retraining all drivers is Impractical.

    2. Probably not handle deer well at all given the need to have low false negative, not brakin, while keeping a down false positives – emergency braking. These deer jump in front of the vehicle sonyounadd a process to identify the deer, model the behavior and predict a collision.

    Auto pilots are not collision avoidance systems.
    Separate safety systems would be needed such as a TCAS Traffic Cillision Avoidance System.

    agb5 Reply:

    A wise precaution would be to NOT give the human driver the ability to reboot the system while it is driving on automatic at 110mph.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    this is a 2nd order failure. The 1st question is does automation (with all its warts) have more accidents that manual control. The automation of the modern jet has decreased the failure rate to as low as it has ever been. A rate that makes car look dangerous (even though that rate is quite low in absolute terms).

    Would an automated car have possible issues, especially if the computer fails. Yes. But overall, much fewer issues than letting humans do the work.

    In fact, these incidents show it was humans who messed up. Turning off computers, not being good (or experienced) at their jobs. It is not a system problem, it is a human problem. Captain Scully had no problem landing a 737 on water less than a minute after takeoff with no speed and even less time to react. Why? because he was a trained professional, not a warm body to put in the seat.

    agb5 Reply:

    It was an Airbus 320, and the flight computer overruled the input of Scully to fly the plane very slowly on the edge of the flight envelope in a way that a human pilot could not have done manually.
    In similar circumstances, a 737, having no automatic stall protection, would have hit the water at a higher speed, possibly breaking the fuselage.

    Reality Check Reply:

    His name is Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

  20. JimInPollockPines
    Dec 2nd, 2015 at 15:00
    #20

    I want to know how someone can graduate with an economics degree from the UC system and still be a fuckin idiot.

    swing hanger Reply:

    There are not a few oddball academics plying their trade in the dismal science, I take this from real observation, being a graduate of an economics department of a major UC.

    Aarond Reply:

    I could go into a tirade about how stupid liberal academics are but that would be a disservice to all the smart liberal academics that do exist. I see it like this: colleges are run as businesses and the customer is always right. As a result, people continue to have a very narrow field of view instead of becoming more open minded (which, ideally, is the goal of any university). When everyone requires a degree to even get a job digging ditches, the value of said degree is lowered.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    I though the point of getting a college education was, in addition to aquiring a lot of knowledge about a lot of things, to learn how to use critical thinking skills in order to be able to figure stuff out.
    I currently work in a univeristy town and I can tell you its apparent that that is no longer the goal.

    Aarond Reply:

    I certainly feel you. I’m not too qualified to actually say “why” modern college students do the things they do, but I’m going to plug Neil Postman’s “The End of Education” “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and Alvin Toffler’s “Present Shock” (along with the modern sequel, “Present Shock” by Douglas Rushkoff) because that’s as close to an “answer” as I can get.

    Danny Reply:

    and Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep”

    EJ Reply:

    Young people are often immature. News at 11.

    Aarond Reply:

    Ever been into one of the Penninsula schools? The best ones (ie ones that score well) are heavily segregated between “good students” and “bad students”. The former get a good core education but don’t develop emotional skills as they’re always studying. This is a broad generalization to make, but I’ve seen it happen many times. The latter get a much more lackluster education, though they get more experience with social activities.

    The result is that emotionally stunted students filter into the college system where they can’t cope with life. This is how people like Elliot Rodgers come into existence. Remember, back in 2009 Hillsdale Highschool was bombed in a similar attempt. Most students don’t resort to violence though, but they instead sleepwalk through college gaining nothing from it and contributing nothing to the academic world (other than demands that they have their personal feelings legally protected).

    And on the flip side, the students with the “lower end” education are simply forgotten about. They were treated like second class people in school (because they were, as they couldn’t get the school as much money as a “good” student) and wind up either having to take more remedial classes in college, or forgo it altogether.

    There’s a cultural problem here, in that segregation is defacto coming back but not necessarily along racial lines (so many people aren’t quick to criticize it). But it’s equally damaging. A lot of it is outside the domain of the K12/college system too, suburban car-exclusive planning contributes greatly to these problems.

    As a result, colleges get to become the place where all the K12 problems have to be confronted. But what happens if colleges can’t confront them? The problems are then released into the wider world.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    College isn’t for everyone, the whole population can not spend their days manipulating symbols. Even in a world where many more things are automated, the machines doing the automation need someone with a wrench now and then. Or someone to install a replacement machine. The agent guiding the purchaser through the labyrinth of options, he or she doesn’t need a college degree either. Or the person who goes around and checks up on the cleaning robots. Or the one who unclogs your plumbing. Or…

    EJ Reply:

    There have been Advanced Placement courses in high schools since 1955. There have been college kids, and young people in general, with emotional issues since long before then. I’m not buying that there’s something new going on here.

    I’ve hired plenty of recent college graduates in the last few years and from my experience, the kids are all right.

  21. JimInPollockPines
    Dec 2nd, 2015 at 21:30
    #21

    What is the point of self driving cars? Driving isn’t a difficult task. I enjoy driving. I don’t want a car to drive itself. Its a recipe for a helpless society. Just as gps has created a generation of people who can’t read a map or differentiate from east and west, self driving cars will render americans even more helpless and dependent than they have already become.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I think we can (for once) reference Hollywood SF movies on how things will be in the far future- self-driving cars will mainly be things like taxis and other vehicles on more or less fixed routes, while most other vehicles will still be driver-controlled though heavily assisted with collision avoidance features.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    Id rather see smarter freeways and better traffic management

    Clem Reply:

    Driving is an astonishingly complex task, but you are an astonishingly sophisticated intelligent being. That’s what makes it seem easy.

    Joey Reply:

    *shrug* I don’t know a lot of people who rely entirely on GPS. A lot of people navigate by landmarks too (with or without GPS), which means that if anything, doing a route with GPS first is helping rather than hindering their navigation skills. But if you enjoy looking up street names by grid square, I guess that’s your choice :P

    EJ Reply:

    I suspect those people who rely entirely on GPS are the same people who were bad at reading maps and got lost that way before GPS came out. I mean, there’s a reason that the suburban dad getting lost and refusing to admit it and ask for directions was a comedy cliche.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    I don’t drive and don’t plan on it. Why would I go to the money and expense, especially when I can have a far more enjoyable journey via public transit.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    I don’t know what public transit you are riding. It may be a lot of things… cheap, easy, maybe even fast, but never ever enjoyable. Standing in the heat or rain waiting for a bus, being smashed into a crowded space with god knows who for any amount of time, and being forcibly exposed to the general public is never “enjoyable.”

    swing hanger Reply:

    Tad bit of misanthropy there, heh? Public transportation can be enjoyable, even liberating, when it’s “done right”, to borrow a term from our friends at CARRD. Maybe not in California then…

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I guess you have sucky transit, but it most certainly can be “enjoyable.”

    I like riding rail transit, it’s soothing, especially above-ground when the sun is up. When I feel a bit down, often I’ll just hop on the train and ride around, it makes me feel better… I like the gentle rhythm of the train, the landscape rushing past, the bustle of the stations.

    Yes at rush-hour peak crush-load it can be miserable, but then so is car traffic at such times; I time my travel to avoid peaks.

    One of my favorite views from the train: https://www.flickr.com/photos/snogglethorpe/10620995486

    If you’re a

    swing hanger Reply:

    Tama River, nice. I like the view from the down end of the Den-en Toshi Line platform at Futakotamagawa, sunset especially…

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    no

    Miles Bader Reply:

    “No” what?

    Danny Reply:

    he forgets that there’s “transit” other than “city bus that’s probably only crowded because bawling rich people block LRT for decades on end”

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    Muni improvement plan

    Ted K. Reply:

    Ha Ha.

    From the SFMTA website :
    “Muni Forward”

    I don’t care for the catchphrases that border on Newspeak, but they are trying to improve some of lines with newer equipment and better schedules.

  22. Bahnfreund
    Dec 3rd, 2015 at 12:06
    #22

    The whole self driving car fad is just people who poured trillions down the car drain not wanting all this money to be lost… At some point you just have to cut your losses and fold ’em…

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Its an easy solution for the baby boomer, suburban types who don’t see public transit as legitimate transit, and just don’t get all the numbersand facts supporting HSR and public transit, and opposing driverless cars.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Exactly. Self driving cars still won’t the very real capacity problems of roads. Or the fact that a city that has enough roads to move all people to the city by car becomes devoid of things to actually get to… The Dutch learned that in the 1970s and built one of the best bike infrastructures the world has ever seen. I went to highschool in a town (not Dutch but very Dutch in biking) where even the ex-mayor in his eighties rides a bike as his primary mode of transportation. And the current mayor does likewise…

  23. JimInPollockPines
    Dec 3rd, 2015 at 19:09
    #23

    Long story short. Self driving cars and high speed rail have nothing to do with each other.
    high speed trains take lots of people at once, long distances, very quickly to multiple cities along the route.
    Self driving cars (assuming we had them today) are subject all the same issues as people driven cars. You still sit in traffic. It still takes hours and hours to get across califorina. You still have ownership and operational costs.

    Its like saying you dont need a hammer because you have a screwdriver.

    I expect that kinds of reasoning from the average walmart shopper, but not from a UC graduate.

    I also have a feeling that in antoher 30 years, humans willl have reduced themselves to a state of mindlessness and will have given up the last of their personal autonomy. And they will have done it willingly in exchange for”convenience” and “security” and embracing technology for its own sake.
    I worry because even when I see attempts at resistance, such as any of the protesting that goes on today it seems incredlibly lame compared to the real revolution that took place in the 60s. I honestly think people have already passed the point of no return. I think the future is going to suck for young people today. ( but sadly they won’t be aware of how much its sucking because the latest dazzling crystal clear displays will insist otherwise)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Your grandparents read best sellers telling them how people would mindlessly give up their autonomy for security.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    but Farrrah Fawcett makes it seem a lot more believable

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    What good is freedom and democracy without stability and prosperity.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    This is a good point and exaclty the balance that free societies struggle with.

  24. keith saggers
    Dec 3rd, 2015 at 20:30
    #24

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/12/03/the-best-and-worst-of-the-new-5-year-transportation-bill/#more-326640

    keith saggers Reply:

    While the bill does far too little for truly making our system multimodal and making greater investments in more transportation options, it takes a positive step by bringing passenger rail into the larger surface transportation authorization for the first time ever. (This was typically passed as a standalone bill and Congress usually had little impetus for quick action.) Passenger rail will still have to go through the general appropriation process each year (getting started now for FY16, if you’ve been following along) to get their funding, but this positions it well for the long-term hope: including and funding passenger rail with guaranteed funds from a multimodal, 21st century transportation trust fund in the years ahead

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    you beat me to that.

    I do hope the extra money for trucking solutions is used to seperate trucks from traffic.

  25. J. Wong
    Dec 4th, 2015 at 10:19
    #25

    The comments are devolving into a bunch of “get off of my lawn” complaints by what as far as I can tell are a bunch of “boomers” (I’m one fyi, but don’t relate much to that cohort).

    Change is inevitable, folks. The younger generations will do just fine just as yours did before theirs.

  26. Jerry
    Dec 4th, 2015 at 12:58
    #26

    So the 5 year $305 billion ($61 billion a year?) US Transportation Bill will focus federal aid on increasing the capacity of highways designated as ‘major freight corridors’.
    Anyone know which highways they are in CA?
    Anyone know what amount of the money will go to rail?

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    I have been wondering the same thing.

  27. keith saggers
    Dec 4th, 2015 at 18:52
    #27
  28. synonymouse
    Dec 4th, 2015 at 19:01
    #28

    http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20151203/northeast-valley-residents-still-ballistic-over-bullet-train-routes

    They are going to need a whole lot of money to lawyer up. Sticking pins in a Jerry Brown voodoo doll would be about as effective as protesting to the local pols. Wherever they are going the Ranch is already there.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Whatever. You’d have to be crazy to live there anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale?

  29. StevieB
    Dec 4th, 2015 at 21:00
    #29

    High Speed Rail Authority Tests Rock for Tunnel
    The California High-Speed Rail Authority has received a special use permit to conduct boring samples in the Angeles National Forest where it proposes to put tunnels for its rail project between Palmdale and Burbank.

    The U.S. Forest Service notified the authority Dec. 1 that it can do an investigation in the forest in five preferred and three alternate spots to determine the subsurface composition and geologic and seismic makeup of the mountains.

  30. Neil Shea
    Dec 5th, 2015 at 13:03
    #30

    https://theconversation.com/going-down-the-same-old-road-driverless-cars-arent-a-fix-for-our-transport-woes-50912

    Joe Reply:

    Critical quote:

    “Roads are not isolated places, nor are they restricted to car use.”

  31. Jerry
    Dec 5th, 2015 at 15:05
    #31

    The new 5 year transportation bill sets up a pilot program that allows up to 3 of Amtrak’s long distance routes to be operated by private sector companies.
    The private sector company must demonstrate a 10% or more reduction in tax subsidies while matching Amtrak’s performance.
    An outside company could operate the route for up to 8 years.
    (Herzog, which operates CalTrain, is an example of an outside rail company.)
    Chances are a company would bid on the most lucrative routes.

    Jerry Reply:

    The same bill requires Amtrak’s operating surpluses from the NEC for major capital projects on that corridor only. No more NEC surpluses used to offset long distance loses.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    Does that include not adding NEC expenses to the national overhead anymore?
    If they start restricting NEC expenses to the NEC the long distance routes would have a lot better return. Most of them might turn a profit.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One sixth of the population lives along the NEC. And pays one quarter of the taxes the Federal government collects. The rest of the country doesn’t want people along the NEC asking questions about what money goes where.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Whether the l/d trains might turn a profit or not is of course almost impossible to determine given Amtrak’s non standard accounting procedures. One can draw conclusions from the past however. In 1980 5 l/d routes were eliminated because they “lost money”. The net result on Amtrak finances? Zero. Losses continued at the same rate. One thing that is quite certain; the NEC does not generate any operating surplus unless Amtrak deliberately does not include normal operating expenses such as track maintenance in the equation. If the NEC is so profitable why would any NEC supporter oppose its separation from the rest of the system and leave Amtrak as originally constituted? Let the Northeast keep their “profitable” NEC and we’ll see how well the rest of Amtrak performs without it.

    Domayv Reply:

    so let me guess, were gonna start seeing the likes of UPRR and BNSF operating some of Amtrak’s long distance trains, like what they did prior to 1971

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No. I don’t think it would be the railroads themselves who would bid. I could many non-traditional entities getting into the game (foreign firms, airlines, universities) because the subsidies would be so high.

    If I was Amtrak however, I wouldn’t allow the three to be the most lucrative (which right now are the Auto Train, the Zephyr, and Empire Builder). Instead, I’d mix it up with one that is profitable, one that is not, and one that breaks even, one that is in the West, on in the East…etc…

    Ultimately, the real goal here is to end any federal subsidy for those Amtrak services that a) benefit only one state or b) that is hopelessly losing money and giving indirect subsidies to the railroad it travels over by track improvements. I’m don’t think this will work by the way, but the GOP Congress will still consider it a success if it reduces the number of Democrat-voting federal employees, which it could be as lines wither away.

    The impact on California is huge though because of how extensive our passenger rail services are. If people actually familiarize themselves with this law and PRIIA, they will begin to understand the seemingly erratic choices the Authority has to make in the “brave new world” of passenger rail we are entering….

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    GOP has it wrong (surprise) because, one, amtrak employees are not federal emplyees and more important half the crafts vote mostly republican.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    ( keep in mind that outside the NEC, most of the of the crew members live in rural areas and most are also gun owners…. do they vote for anti transit republicans? yep. do they vote for anti union republics? yep. shocking but ever so true.) Itll serve em right when they wind up in the unemployment line.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman is actually a Republican….

    But the GOP Congress is more concerned with cutting the number of government employees, period. If they get rid of those that vote Democrat, that’s just a bonus.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The impact on California is huge though because of how extensive our passenger rail services are

    ….thanks, I haven’t giggled that much in months.

    Edward Reply:

    We have three of the five routes in the US carrying the most passengers and because they are within one state and under 500 miles long we have to pay their cost by the rules set by congress. We don’t get the subsidies of the NEC.

    Yes, compared to other countries it isn’t much, but we are talking about the US here. Rail in California is expanding on many fronts, SMART, BART, CAHSR and all the components of the Northern California Unified Rail Service.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … stop!… I can’t take it. I can’t catch my breath.

    EJ Reply:

    “LOL NYC thinks they have high rail ridership!”

    -Tokyo

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Adirondacker doesn’t live overseas…just New York State.

    He doesn’t seem to understand PRIIA enough to realize that California was paying a low rate to Amtrak until recently to operate their lines. That’s what enabled the Surfliner, San Joaquins, and Cap Corridor to flourish.

    By making those routes less of a good deal, California has even more motivation to replace them with something that will break even, which is HSR. The NCUS is a reflection of what can’t be absorbed by HSR or the regional transit services you mentioned.

    New York City, of course, and environs have just as layered a transit system as California. Difference being that Amtrak is only a factor there heading upstate outside of the NEC. The Long Island Railroad for example, is basically Metrolink with much higher ridership and better financials.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I look at numbers Amtrak reports.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_Amtrak_stations

    In nice round numbers twice as many people use Chicago as the busiest station in California. Last time I looked Chicago is not along the NEC. People in Chicago can use trains that aren’t run by Amtrak for local-ish trips.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_commuter_rail_systems_by_ridership

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I’m trying to understand your point.

    All Amtrak traffic in Illinois passes through Chicago. Most of the rail passengers in Chicago Union Station, though, aren’t using Amtrak… only around 10,000 per day to Metra’s 300,000. But compared to other cities where so many lines don’t converge, Chicago’s overall Amtrak ridership is pretty low.

    California has high ridership on lines and at stations that have relatively few routes.

    New York, like Illinois, is the opposite.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    California exceptionalism doesn’t explain the low ridership in California.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Nor does heavy utilization of one station explain it in New York or Illinois….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People using Union Station are going to or coming from someplace other than Union Station whether it’s in California or Illinois,. Though the ridership numbers in Illinois aren’t inflated by people taking local trips.

  32. Car(e)-free LA
    Dec 5th, 2015 at 16:46
    #32

    I dont see amtrak being a nationwide rail service for ver. It just doesn’t make sense. Nations like the UK (roughly the size of California) have dosens of services, wheras each nation of Europe (and when every single nation is combined you get something the size of the US) has their own train operator. I imagine the future of rail transit operations in the Us will look something like this(some ieas are fantasies) (the names of the companies are just random names I made up):

    XpressWest: CAHSR, Vegas Trains, a route from LA/SD to Tuscon from Murrietta via Indio and PHX, a route frm LV to PHX via prescott, meet previos line at Wickenburg. Mybye in the future a route from PHX/LV to SLC branching off LV PHX line near Williams that goes via Grand Canyon and Page (very rural route but great for tourists). Mabye eventually a branch off this to Denver via Moab, Grand Junction, ski areas, etc., as well as Ft. Collins to Pueblo HSR.

    Clipper Transit: Unified Caltrain/ACE/SMART/Capitol Corridor/San Joaquin. Eventually include DumbartonRail, Light railaround Monterey/Salinas/Santa Cruz/Gilroy, SMART to SF, and mabye Merced to Yosemite rail.

    Compass Transit: Metrolink, Coaster, Spriner, Surfliner, future Port Huneme to USCB commuter rail.

    TransCalifornia Express: A train operated as a partnership of Clipper and Compass–2 or 3x per day from LA or SD to SF via Coast Starlight route.

    Cascadia Transit: Amtrak Cascades, Sounder, WES (including extensions to McMinville and Salem), West Coast Express

    Shasta Starlight: Overnight train operated in partnership from Clipper and Cascadia from San Jose to Seattle or Vancouver.

    Amtrak: Long Distance routes from Chicago/New orleans to west coast

    ZipRail: Local, commuter, and highspeed rail for the Midwest

    Texas Central: self explanatory. Includes rous0tes to Austin/San Antonio

    All Aboard Florida, also self explanatory. Includes extensions to Tampa, Jacksonville, and mabye Atlanta.

    XRC (eXpress Railways Corperation): service for the southeast. Would include HSR from DC/BWI to Birmingham, Alabama, via Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Greensboro, Charlotte, etc. Also HSR spur tfrom this mainline to Nashville, and from there to Memphis. These HSR mainlines would be able to run intercity trains from them along regular lines to other destinations, such as Raleigh, Hampton roads, Roanoke, Knowville, Savannah, Western NC, etc. Would also include long distance trains from NEC to Florida.

    Acela: Current Acela and NexGen Services, Northeast Regional, Hudson Valley, Keystone trains, etc. Also sleeer trains from northeast to Chicago.

    NEXT (NorthEast eXpress Train/Transit: MBTA, LIRR, SEPTA, NJT, CTrail, new lines to better tie together system, as well as to new locations (reading, dover, amherst, hartford-new london, etc.)

    Mid-Atlantic Rail (MARC and VRE)

    A few other stand-alone systems (like new mexico rail runner, etc.)

    Sorry, I know I’m fantasizing again/ playing God, but I feel like in the future, amtrak will splinter and merge with various more local services to become more regionalized. Also, we can aready see the formation of nex, indepenednt intercity operators (all abord florida, CAHSR, texas central)

    Danny Reply:

    neat! my fantasy train lines are Buckeye, Cascades, Citrus, Empire (NY), Front Range (CO), Heartland (out to KS, MN, NE, or MI), Keystone, Lone Star, Peach (GA), Sou’easter (DC to FL), Sun Corridor (AZ), Tarheel (NC), and ViaFast (Detroit-Quebec City)

    it’d mean a lot of liveries and pretty little logos–bringing back the old “rainbow” of regional airlines

    Domayv Reply:

    @Car(e)-free LA: Here’s how my idea would be

    * California Pacific Railroad (CPR): Amtrak California services, Amtrak Cascades, Coast Starlight, CAHSR (it serves I-10 between Santa Monica and El Paso, US-101, CA-170, CA-60, CA-99, I-5 between Red Bluff and Portland, I-8, I-880, I-80 between San Francisco and Denver)
    * Western Railroad (WR): XpressWest, (it serves I-40 between Paso Robles and Oklahoma City, I-5 between San Diego and Red Bluff, I-15 between San Diego and Barstow, US 50/I-70 between Sacramento and Denver, I-90 between Seattle and Billings)
    * Texas Central (TCR): self-explanatory, as well as intercity routes operating across Texas
    * Northeastern (NER): All Amtrak routes operating only in the Northeast.
    * Chicago Hub Network (CHN): All routes operating only in the Midwest
    * Florida East Coast Railway (FECR)
    * Southern Railway (SRW)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The country as a whole is headed toward more consolidation of industries, not less. The airline industry, for example, is turning into a handful of firms. That’s not to say that Balkanization is precluded, but given the depth of the bailout Amtrak created, I wouldn’t say it’s a forgone conclusion that a parochial rail system would evolve.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    The airline industry is down to three large players, who will not consolodate further, as each represents a global alliance. Then there is southwest, which probably wont merge with anybody, and then a bunch of little guys. The only possible mergersare for those arelines (Alaska and Jet Blue, Virgin America and Hawaiian, etc). The problem with amtrak is a branding problem. The whole named long distance route thing needs to end, and service density is far to thin. In a real system, one would have trains lacing together the small (er) towns. Think Santa Cruz to Carme, Pacific Grove to Gilroy, etc. It makes more sense to me to brand things regionally, consolodating amtrak and commuter routes, and forget named lines. These proposed railway companies could be unified under one body that organizes schedules and fares, and can through-book. In a way, my company is just replacing named lines with named systems, and incorporating local service. Future bookings through an organization of railways would allow you to go from Suburban California to northern Minnesota on one ticket. An example might be:

    Fallbrook, Ca to Murrietta Central, CA Compass Local Line 7–Depart 2:30 PM, arrive 2:50 PM.
    Murrietta Central, CA to Sacremento, CA XpressWest Bullet Line 1–Depart 3:00 PM, arrive 5:20 PM
    Sacremento, CA to Portland, OR Cascadia Transportation-Shasta Starlight-Depart the 5:30 PM, arrive 8:00 AM
    Portland, OR to St. Paul, MN Amtrak Empire Builder–Depart 8:30 AM, arrive 4:45 PM (next day) (I shortened the schedule and retimed it to go overnight east of Glacier, east of MSP, it will us HSR to be in Chicago by

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    7:30.

    St. Paul, MN to Duluth, MN ZipRail Intercity Line 2–Depart 5:00 PM, arrive 8:00 PM

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There aren’t enough people between Las Vegas and Minneapolis to run trains.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Obviously, but thats just an example. Trains currently exist between the two cities anyway, via portland. They work because of all the intermediate stops.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dozens and dozens of people taking land cruises. Normal people will get on airplanes.

    Danny Reply:

    that’s why I got into fantasy HSR routes (that means whole spreadsheets of flight times and average late times. for fun)

    because Alfred Twu’s godawful map *offended* me on several levels

    Danny Reply:

    thinking of a nationwide transit authority that spins some of the HSR operating profits into upgrading the under-100 Amtrak lines and local transit systems?

    maybe the airlines can chip in for taking the always-delayed loss-leader puddle-jumpers off their hands

  33. Roland
    Dec 5th, 2015 at 18:41
    #33

    http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/hs2-alternative-high-speed-rail-network-could-be-20bn-cheaper-and-pay-for-itself-a6761946.html
    How about HSI5? Any takers?

    Steven H Reply:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much “look at the lines we drew on our fantasy map of England. We drew our lines cheaper than you drew yours.”

  34. Reedman
    Dec 5th, 2015 at 21:21
    #34

    How public transit development works, unfortunately ….

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/how-dc-spent-200-million-over-a-decade-on-a-streetcar-you-still-cant-ride/2015/12/05/3c8a51c6-8d48-11e5-acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_carbarn-1035pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

    Jerry Reply:

    Pshaw. That’s only $200 million.
    We spent $20 Billion on the Iraq electrical infrastructure, and it still doesn’t work right. And there is no one, no one, that does an audit on such things.

  35. Car(e)-free LA
    Dec 6th, 2015 at 08:08
    #35

    The really need to give that streetcar, like alll others, its kvn dedicated lane.

    Car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Own*

  36. J. Wong
    Dec 6th, 2015 at 10:49
    #36

    Parsons-Brinkerhoff recommends 40′-60′ aerials through Burlingame/San Mateo (for the supposed reason that residents don’t like the “Berlin Wall” of a berm). The Authority, however, provides a mockup that very clearly does not follow the Parsons recommendation: Burlingame Station Visualization. So it would appear that the Authority is not following the “PB line”. What does that do the argument that some here have made that Parsons-Brinkerhoff is in control of the project?

    synonymouse Reply:

    I hate to say it, as much as I find fault with BART, the Peninsula may be better off, from the point of view of real estate values, with Ring the Bay and reclaiming the SP ROW.

    Actually Lee is proposing a form of that argument right now in Dogpatch.

    With Caltrain dumbed down to BART ghetto, ie. no W.C’s and non-paying “luggage” taking the place of seats, there really is not so much of a difference any more.

    synonymouse Reply:

    real estate values and ensuing property tax revenue.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You seem to be arguing that BART would be better for those who ride Caltrain, but it is exactly the opposite. The reason? Because most riders want express service not local “commute ops”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Trains operating every 5 minutes make up for no expresses. SF to SJ is commute.

    Besides it is not the “riders” who make the decisions. It is real estate and corporate magnates in the City and San Jose.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Sorry Bart SOP is 15 minutes headway. No one is deciding to replace Caltrain with BART. That’s your fantasy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Every 15 minutes on Geary in New Manhattan?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No, that is the plan.

    Since half of CalTrain riders use the stations that HSR would also serve, you build BART to handle the local traffic and connections and then run HSR between various pairs to hoover up the more lucrative express passengers.

    Don’t worry, the CalTrain ROW will be kept very busy in the future.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Peninsula would want the ROW real estate, in other words BART subway in PAMPA and bye-bye Caltrain-hsr. The increased real estate values would be considerable.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    BART won’t be at grade. HSR would be…or closer to it. Both could coexist on the ROW…

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Ted: CPUC may (and should) say “NO” to HSR grade crossings. CPUC has safety oversight responsibility over railroad road crossings – at grade and separated.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Can you give an example of anywhere that a BART subway has sold off real estate rights above it? No, I didn’t think so. Claiming real estate values are a reason that PAMPA might want BART is a fantasy.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Mouse, you’re trolling again.
    1) Caltrain is bursting at the seams with riders, we cannot reduce capacity by switching to BART
    2) There is a lot of commute traffic, which will become unsustainable without expresses and forever limited to 80 mph
    3) PAMPA can’t even find $1B to tunnel half of Palo Alto, so they definitely cant find $10B to extend BART from either Millbrae or S. Clara to PAMPA — and certainly not $20B to ring the Bay (including real estate, fancy stations, buy-in to BART system, unfunded liabilities for new cars and maintenance, etc.)
    4) The core BART system in SF cannot handle any increase in usage
    5) Who is going to support eliminating the option of HSR to SF? Not SF, not the MTC, not the Bay Area Council of large companies, not S. Clara County, basically no one
    6) You can’t reclaim land above a train tunnel for residential of office use, real estate experts will tell you this — too much noise and vibration — especially with BART as you often note.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why do you think PAMPA wants at least a trench.

    How much do you think a BART aerial down the middle of Shattuck Ave. would depress Berkeley property values?

    Reedman Reply:

    Manhattan builds above subway and train tunnels quite well. It is a solved problem.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not very often. Real estate sells for 60, 70 million an acre in Manhattan. Prices are high on the Peninsula but not that high.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “How much do you think a BART aerial down the middle of Shattuck Ave. would depress Berkeley property values?”

    There already is a BART aerial down the middle of Shattuck Ave., at least, partially. Are you saying a BART aerial built today would depress property values? I don’t think so.

    On the Peninsula, no one is proposing aerials besides Parsons-Brinkerhoff, but the Authority is pretty clearly going to go with berms. Will berms depress the Peninsulas already high property values? I don’t think so.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Try a BART aerial down Geary.

    J. Wong Reply:

    There is no plan. No one is seriously looking at BART in the Caltrain ROW. BART is having enough trouble getting to San Jose from Fremont.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You are mixing up two *very* different things.

    “Silicon Valley BART” is having funding difficulties because VTA is in charge and relying on earmarks (thank you Congress) to pay for more of the construction.

    “Ring the Bay” would involve a massive ballot measure along the lines of what Los Angeles has done recently with dedicated sales tax revenue and bonds to expand BART beyond the Peninsula and into adding a second tube and express bypass tracks.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Like I said, there is no plan.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    There’s a plan. It might be from 1973, but if BART has environmental planning documents for a station in Patterson, I’m sure there’s one for ringing the Bay.

    J. Wong Reply:

    No EIR from 1973 would be valid today. So still no plan.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    J Wong: BART trans-Bay and on to Daly City runs 16 trains per hour – less than 5 min headway.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Sure, less than 5 min headway but each train is from a different destination. Each destination sends trains only every 15 minutes and when they share the ROW, you can get less than 5 min headway. But do you really think any line running down the Peninsula would be more frequent than 15 minutes given that no other BART line does so?

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Syno: BART beyond Berryessa would cost less in two phases:

    A: Over 101 on grade and line of former WP to Alum Rock joint BRT station (instead of under 101);

    B. Under San Fernando Street with an SJSU station near 10th St., instead of under Santa Clara St.

    Much less tunneling, and motorists on 101 would see that BART found the way to San Jose.

    EJ Reply:

    “Cost less” and “BART” never belong in the same sentence.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Never say never: most alternatives cost less than BART. Same sentence.

  37. Bahnfreund
    Dec 6th, 2015 at 14:41
    #37

    Basically HSR could be built by a private investor… The only problem is that you have to pony up money in the billions and it will be in the order of decades before you see significant amounts of money pouring in… A smart government would step in and give guaranteed low interest loans… Or eliminate the Middle Man and build it themselves…

    agb5 Reply:

    Money is not the only problem, a private investor would never be able to buy the land necessary to create a straight right of way. Some key land owners would refuse to sell at any price for ideological reasons.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Railroads can use eminent domain.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    In China there is no eminent domain in the Western sense of the term (leading to “needle houses” where one guy did not sell and they build the whole shebang around that one house) and they got by fine building HSR…. But eminent domain of course eases things a lot…

    Useless Reply:

    Bahnfreund

    Indeed, all lands belongs to state and persons may obtain 70 year use rights, which can be revoked at will.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    [citation needed]
    I am sorry I got confused (in German the terms for nail and needle are nagel and nadel respectively) this is what I meant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdout_%28real_estate%29)#Nail_house

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ agb5

    You mean like the Tejon Ranch Co.?

  38. Useless
    Dec 7th, 2015 at 12:26
    #38

    Japan is signing a Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shinkansen deal during Abe’s visit to India. Japan will loan 55% of construction cost under the condition of importing Shinkansen rolling stocks and equipment from Japan, no “Make it in India”. The 55% loan offer is less generous than anticipated, but Japan’s reeling from weak yen lately. Weak yen maybe the reason why the Texas Central HSR is struggling with funding nowadays. http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/India-opts-for-Japan-bullet-trains-for-Mumbai-Ahmedabad-line

    Useless Reply:

    Japanese are bringing incredibly attractive finance to the table. “They are offering 40-year loan where there is no payments for 10 years and after that only 0.3 per cent a year. So it is a highly concessional loan. Chinese are not offering anything close to that.

    http://www.financialexpress.com/article/economy/chinas-infra-loans-far-more-expensive-than-that-of-japan-niti-aayogs-arvind-panagariya/171994/

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Hopefully, the yen keeps falling just long enough for the TPP to pass and for California to get really awesome financing….

    Useless Reply:

    Ted Judah

    Unfortunately, the loan term applies on projects that imports Shinkansen rolling stock and associated equipment from Japan, and as you may know Shinkansen is banned in California.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I don’t think that’s a barrier.

    The Japanese want to seal up deals with other countries before they can offer us a better deal. The issue of importing existing rolling stock is a problem though, because of Buy America rules.

    William Reply:

    “Buy America” rule most likely won’t apply until Federal Government decided to fund California HSR, which is unlikely as long as the Congress is controlled by Republicans.

    Reedman Reply:

    The Bay Bridge used Chinese steel and Chinese subassembly. If California could prove that requiring Buy American rules for CAHSR would significantly delay the project, then the Buy American rules would likely be suspended, just like they were for the Bay Bridge.

    Useless Reply:

    Reedman

    The Bay Bridge used Chinese steel and Chinese subassembly.

    SAN FRANCISCO BAY BRIDGE IN DANGER OF COLLAPSING UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT

    The new eastern span of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge carries some 270,000 cars every day, but now that cracks are starting to be found in the structural rods, experts have begun to question the bridge’s stability.

    http://www.inquisitr.com/2198906/san-francisco-bay-bridge-in-danger-of-collapsing-under-its-own-weight/

    synonymouse Reply:

    PodunkdaleRail should be turned over to the Chinese. Makes too much sense, which is why it won’t go down that way. California exceptionalism morphs to deconstruction and dysfunction.

    Domayv Reply:

    @William: this is also a reason why Texas Central won’t be seeking federal funding. as Buy America would severely alter the Shinkansen trains they’ll be using to the point that they can’t even be called a Shinkansen (the most modifications Texas Central’s Shinkansens will receive are larger ACs). Also, the Shinkansen is fundamentally incompatible with even the UIC system (which is going to become the new rail standard for America once the FRA gets rid of their “crashworthiness laws”, which will only happen once PTC is installed throughout the American rail network), lest Hitachi steps in builds a new Shinkansen combining features taken from the ETR-1000 that they inherited from purchasing AnsaldoBreda (this would effectively make it a Japanese-Canadian-built train as Bombardier also makes that train)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It gets hot and humid in Japan too. As hot and humid as it does in Texas.

    Domayv Reply:

    actually Japan has higher humidity than Texas does: Tokyo has 1,528.8 of rain, Osaka has 1,279 mm of rain, Dallas has 954.3 mm of rain, and Houston has 1,264.2 mm of rain. Also, parts of Texas’s Humid Subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa) get influences of Semi-Arid (Köppen BSh and BSk) as you go inland.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they why does Texas need bigger air conditioners?

    Domayv Reply:

    @adirondacker: I honestly do not know but news sources concerning the Texas HSR line mention about the trains having larger ACs than a typical Shinkansen

    swing hanger Reply:

    I haven’t heard about a different spec for airconditioners, but it is possible, given the different levels of humidity as well as differing customer preferences- in Japan most prefer milder settings for aircon (some trains even have cars preset at low levels), while isn’t it turned on full blast in the South?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Air conditioning is a product of the heat index: humidity times temperature. The heat index in Texas is going to rise much further than Japan where I have never heard of a 100 degree day…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    105 hot enough for ya?

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201308120105

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    Buy America isn’t a problem for Japanese financing, since the coalition led by JR East includes manufacturers with factories in the US.
    They sell the technology and we produce the finished trains at a Kawasaki factory in California.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would Kawasaki build a plant for a tiny order when they have plants that are operating in other states?

    William Reply:

    No, weak Yen will benefit anything built in Japan, even if California HSR trainsets would not be exact copy of Japanese Shinkansen trainsets.

  39. EJ
    Dec 7th, 2015 at 18:54
    #39

    That’s probably true for someone living in Santa Barbara.

    Except, that’s not really even true. I grew up there. Now, it will be a long while before the Central Coast/Salinas Valley merits true HSR service, but the Coast Starlight takes about EIGHT HOURS to get from San Jose to SB. When it’s on time. This, for a drive that even with traffic, is never really more than 5 hours.

    There are parts that would be expensive to speed up; in a car you can hit the gas and stomp up the 6% Cuesta grade in a few minutes, while the train chugs along and meanders around at 2% and a bit. But a big part of the slowness of that line is down to UP’s lack of interest in upgrading it to even minimally modern standards. There are still sidings with manually thrown switches. Meaning, if a train is signalled to take that siding, it’s got to stop, the conductor gets down onto the railway, walks up to the switch, unlocks it, and manually switches it, then walks back to the train and reboards it, before it can take the siding. Pretty cool if you like retro, old-school railroading, but not so much if you’re trying to move passengers efficiently.

    These central coast cities aren’t huge so probably don’t merit a giant investment, but you upgrade the line so at least the train can compete with driving, it’ll get more popular. Even with the state the line is in, weekend Surfliner trains between LA and Santa Barbara are often packed. Right now there’s a decent amount of station parking at SB, SLO, etc., which is important, since public transportation in these cities just isn’t that great.

    TBQH, and I’ve said this before, I think the biggest missed opportunity in the California High Speed Rail program is that there’s no momentum to upgrade and possibly electrify the Surf Line between LAUS (or better, yet, Chatsworth) and San Diego. Not to full fledged 220 mph HSR, but to a standard of the typical 110/125 mph fast regional trains you find in practically any other first world country. Basically bring the Surf Line up to a Northeast Regional level of service. It’s only 120 miles, traffic on I-5 is god-awful, and journey times would actually be pretty comparable to the 87 minutes promised in CAHSR phase 2 or 3 in 2030 or whatever when we’re supposed to get a line that doglegs from LA to SD via the Inland Empire.

    EJ Reply:

    What is the timeline for CAHSR phase 2 now, anyway? 2040? 2050? Since at this point phase one is now projected to barely be done by 2028. Remember back in 2008 when we voted for a HSR line between SF and LA that would cost $40 billion and be built by 2018? Good times.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The only phase that counts is Palmdale. Just go for the cheapest route there and let the lawyers fight it out. Jerry will be outtahere soon.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    What’s great is when Gavin will have to reverse himself and support the project to win the primary.

    Zorro Reply:

    Tejon won’t allow HSR to support itself Cyno, no one sane supports Tejon, Tejon will never happen, you can’t make it happen, since you’d need an army and that ain’t happening…

    Reality Check Reply:

    I’m with Clem in supporting Tejon … so I guess I’m not sane.

    EJ Reply:

    I thought Clem’s post earlier this year made a pretty convincing case that Tejon + West Bakersfield was the superior alignment, & I don’t think I’m crazy. Not very much, anyway. I don’t think the project is DOOOOOOMED because of Palmdale, but Tejon is clearly the better alignment.

    Travis D Reply:

    “better” and “superior” are subjective.

    We might as well argue which Emma is hotter: Watson or Stone?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Better as defined by capital & operating cost and travel time. Not subjective.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Only if you think there is a vacuum between San Jose and Santa Clarita.

    EJ Reply:

    @adi – you’re confused. Tejon doesn’t imply I5 through the valley.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not confused. You are only considering travel between the two ends.

    Joe Reply:

    Emma or Watson Stone?

    Whomever you pick, it doesn’t matter. It’s a hypothetical. She ain’t available.

    Cut out Palmdale and HSR wouldn’t clear the Legislature. Superior aligenment can’t pass the Leglislature because “superior” is a subjective definition.

    So which actress and which alignment?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Legislature could not clear a table.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Looking at my trusty AAA map it looks like Bako is practically due north of Lebec and the distance from the crest of Tejon to a virtual Bako hauptbahnhof vs. the distance from the crest of Tehachapi(the Gypsy only knows which exact route)looks to be close to a dead heat.

    The 99 line is indeed separate from the issue of the mountain crossing. I am a hard liner in that I am holding out for the racetrack along I-5.

    Zorro Reply:

    @ Cyno, your “trusty AAA map”, eh? A paper map? How 1980’s…

    swing hanger Reply:

    speaking of paper maps, I loved the Thomas Bros. ones, with their grid system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Paper maps – retro

    Cops patting one down in the station – retro:

    http://www.francetvinfo.fr/faits-divers/terrorisme/attaques-du-13-novembre-a-paris/apres-les-attentats-plus-de-securite-dans-les-gares_1212985.html

    Zorro Reply:

    Phase 2 has no timeline and no budget, only Phase 1 has a budget.

    Domayv Reply:

    the Coast Line would probably be one of those lines that should be handed to Amtrak California so they could invest and upgrade the line since UPRR doesn’t bother to upgrade it to make it any better.

    Reality Check Reply:

    There’s a lot lower hanging fruit with better bang for the buck in the state than upgrading the UP-owned Coast Line.

    Domayv Reply:

    and which lower hanging fruits will they be aside from the obvious (i.e. Caltrain, ACE, LOSSAN, etc)

    EJ Reply:

    Well, yeah, those. Also the Cap Corridor.

    Domayv Reply:

    and in the case of the Cap Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento (particularly between San Jose and Oakland), build some new trackage following I-880 and I-80 because the existing alignent isnt any good for a modern intercity rail service

    Reality Check Reply:

    Almost any project you can name would beat, say, a base tunnel under Cuesta Grade to fix perhaps the biggest (albeit scenic) travel-time killer on the 2-Amtrak-trains-a-day Coast Route between SLO and the Bay Area.

    In addition to improving LOSSAN, I also like the long-deferred (to feed the insatiable BART SJ beast) Dumbarton Rail project — commuters in that transbay corridor are severely choking the mid-Peninsula/Silicon Valley part of Hwy 101 twice a day. Besides, Altamont/Dumbarton is still the best way for HSR to enter/exit the SF Peninsula’s Caltrain line to/from SFO and SF.

    Ben in SF Reply:

    Another angle on maintenance is (on a representative stretch of track near Bradley, off old 101 a year ago), we saw an amazing number of spikes risen up of the ties; the nose of the spike inches above the toe of the rail and loose enough to pull out. Not good for either passenger service or oil trains; pushing the margin of error.

  40. OC Insider
    Dec 8th, 2015 at 19:04
    #40

    Congress just shit on your train, Cruikshank

    synonymouse Reply:

    …meaning?

  41. Robert S. Allen
    Dec 9th, 2015 at 22:43
    #41

    It’s long, but what a beautiful and relaxing ride along the ocean!

    Reality Check Reply:

    I’m always disappointed by how little of the 11-hour SJ-LA Coast Starlight ride is “along the ocean” with views into/onto said ocean: only about 80 miles between Vandenberg AFB and Ventura (minus Goleta and most of Santa Barbara).

Comments are closed.