Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

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Jason
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Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Jason » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:48 am

The last conversation I had with my father was my frustration that the US did not have speed rail allowing me to visit him more often. I conjectured it was the Airline industry lobbying against it. Like most things, I was completely wrong.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions ... 5344c912e2

jacob
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by jacob » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:06 pm

Even "normal" speed trains would be an improvement. The average speed of all European [normal speed] trains is ~ the average speed of the fastest US train (Acela Express). In order to remedy this, a lot of existing rails need to be updated/replaced with better quality and the correct banking (or whatever the right curvature is called) for higher speeds.

The average speed of the Metra trains that serve Chicago from ~50 miles out is 30mph. THIRTY MILES PER HOUR! :o

However, even if all rails are replaced, the urban public transport system is often lacking comparatively. Trains aren't that useful if the first and last five miles are subject to the bus running late or not at all causing people to miss the train. Perhaps that could be "fixed" with Uber, etc. but we're really looking at a systemic problem.

Population density is the major obstacle. Same reason the best communications infrastructure (cell phone towers, fiber, ... ) is found in SEAS and the EU.

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by ZAFCorrection » Wed Feb 13, 2019 3:57 pm

The final proposal for the California high speed rail is beyond hilarious. I grew up in the section of California (central valley) where it is slated to be built, and from start to finish there is nothing but car-centric suburbia and (mostly) farmland. I can't speak to Bakersfield's public transit, but I have spent time on Merced county buses and their system is horrible. No one is going to ride that thing.

Sclass
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Sclass » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:33 pm

Maybe I’m cynical about this, but my feeling the entire thing was just a fraud to give away taxpayer money to friends of the government.

I recently sold off a piece of family property outside of LA that was supposed to be right in the path a soon to be built high speed rail. Haha...but it was told to my grandmother in the 1970s. That’s right, Californians have been told this story multiple times by different people. My grandmother was sold land that would greatly appreciate in value when the rail would be finished in 1976. :lol: This is not the first time a high speed rail system has been planned. Same old same old. No rail just a lot of talk and money spent on “pilot projects” and “feasibility studies”. So when the new proposal came through and the man started borrowing money CA doesn’t have to build another I just sighed and gave up. Ripoff alert.

Corruption. That’s the real answer...I think. I drive by the Anaheim high speed terminal built a few years ago that has tracks to nowhere. A joke. They light it up all pretty at night.

The corruption in CA isn’t like the corruption in Ghana. It isn’t in your face but the system is full of it. It probably started when one family decided to take over the water system of the tiny city of LA 100 years ago. Or maybe when the rail baron Huntington built his ranches in the valley. Another example of people being rewarded for doing the wrong thing.

Different time. Different people. Same motives.

Wow how do you ride this gravy train?

Salathor
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Salathor » Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:31 pm

Sclass wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:33 pm
I drive by the Anaheim high speed terminal built a few years ago that has tracks to nowhere. A joke. They light it up all pretty at night.
But it sure will look cool in the dystopian/fallout future.

Chris
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Chris » Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:57 pm

As far as intercity rail goes, Amtrak owns less than 800 miles of it (mostly in the northeast corridor). Compare that to the over 100k miles of track owned by the freight rail companies. The US is very effective at moving freight by rail. But that's partly due to freight trains getting priority over Amtrak trains. And for freight, fast isn't as important as cheap and durable.

So if there's going to be high-speed rail, it would be on trackage that Amtrak already owns, the NEC or Philly-Harrisburg line. Amtrak's estimate for getting the NEC up to SNCF-like speeds is around $150B.

Seppia
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Seppia » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:05 am

"Never" is strong wording, but in the current environment the chance of the USA spending big money on infrastructure is around zero: politicians are looking for quick wins that generate consensus over stuff that brings long term growth but has short term negative impacts (think the completely destructive tax cut VS a real infrastructure plan that would likely need to be paid by higher taxes).

Of course the only way to sustain long term success is to have good infrastructure in the broader sense (schools, hospitals, roads, rail, airports, ports), which is why, if there is no change of course, I believe asian countries will dominate the future, Europe will become something like Japan (overall doing fairly well, zero to low growth because of deomgraphics) and the USA are doomed to become like the UK (once a superpower, became much less relevant).

But the USA have this extraordinary ability to change course quickly, so overall I'm optimistic.

IlliniDave
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by IlliniDave » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:36 am

In a sense, high speed rail is a solution in search of a problem in the US. Even our currently most prominent green advocate shuns rail and public transit while arguably living/working in one of the most friendly places for it in the country (NY<->DC). I tend to dislike the overall experience of air travel so would be happy to have the option of train travel if it was at least competitive with the time it takes to drive the same route (for the most part it is simply impossible because none of my three primary destinations even have passenger rail service). Unfortunately, perhaps, rail would have to compete on its own merits strictly in the niche of transportation modes against auto and air travel, which it already lost to during the 20th century. In other words, even if you built it, it's uncertain (I would guess in general unlikely) whether they would come so long as other options exist.

Campitor
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Campitor » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:44 pm

I think new long distance mass transit opportunities will arise with self-driving vehicles. High speed (90 to 120 MPH) mass transit lanes can be built into existing highways or parallel to existing highways for tandem mass transit self-driving vehicles. It may not be as cost effective as a train but it could be cheaper than flying and would be more pervasive. Maine to NY is 774 miles. At 120 MPH, that is a 7 hr ride - not too bad. If technology could increase the speed to 150MPH, the trip is now a 5 hr ride. Imagine if the curved parts of the highway were designed to handle a tandem wheeled vehicle that could bank at 150MPH? That would be awesome but I imagine some passengers would be induced into a barf-bag-fest.

PS - a NY to California trip would be 24 hours at 120MPH and 19.5 hours at 150MPH.

Jason
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Jason » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:53 pm

Chris wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:57 pm
As far as intercity rail goes, Amtrak owns less than 800 miles of it (mostly in the northeast corridor). Compare that to the over 100k miles of track owned by the freight rail companies. The US is very effective at moving freight by rail. But that's partly due to freight trains getting priority over Amtrak trains. And for freight, fast isn't as important as cheap and durable.

So if there's going to be high-speed rail, it would be on trackage that Amtrak already owns, the NEC or Philly-Harrisburg line. Amtrak's estimate for getting the NEC up to SNCF-like speeds is around $150B.
My understanding is that during the down the years of freight service, when gas was cheap, due to overhead cost, Norfolk Southern and CSX were forced to sell most of their rail lines to Amtrak and then lease back. In my neck of the woods, NJ, Amtrak lines often double as freight lines, which in certain areas. limits the freight service to off-peak hours.

Chris
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Chris » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:47 pm

The Amtrak Corporate Profile has some detail about the infrastructure they own.

It's hard to beat rail for long distance freight (500 miles per gallon per ton). But for regional intermodal, the benefit diminishes vs. trucking. Amtrak definitely owns lines in the NEC, which includes NJ.

EdithKeeler
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by EdithKeeler » Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:11 am

Unfortunately, perhaps, rail would have to compete on its own merits strictly in the niche of transportation modes against auto and air travel, which it already lost to during the 20th century. In other words, even if you built it, it's uncertain (I would guess in general unlikely) whether they would come so long as other options exist.
I figure that’s why airline travel os getting so miserable, so that we’ll beg for any reasonable alternative to not having to suffer increasingly tiny seats and toilets.

Jason
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Re: Why The US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail

Post by Jason » Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:42 am

It's why I scratch my head at all this space travel stuff. It's not like its so easy getting around down here. How about you launch everyone to work and then worry about Mars.

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