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Old 03-26-07, 11:50 AM   #1
donrhummy
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Brainstorming: How could we bring high speed trains to the US?

OK, in the spirit of "Living Car Free" I'm looking for ideas on actual solutions here.

The problem is this:

Currently there are no high speed trains in the united states. There are numerous "hurdles" to bringing it here (e.g. for boston-nyc-d.c. travel), ranging from politicians, financing, etc.

So the question is: what things do you think could be done to actually make it happen?

Not looking for the usual, "this will never happen, we're too corrupt/screwed-up, etc." Just ideas for solutions. They can be anything. Creating a website, calling/writing congressmen, calling the news station, looking to VC help, whatever.
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Old 03-26-07, 12:32 PM   #2
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If any high speed rail happens outside of east coast urban routes (like Acela), it will be on rural routes that have heavy miserable mind numbing traffic from recreational use. And will will happen via privatization. That way people aren't taxed up the wazoo who aren't interested.

Provided a private company is monitored closely in regards to property rights and environmental compliance, I'd have no problem with a private company engaging in a high speed rail project. I don't think it will ever be funded via tax dollars.

LA/Vegas is a good example. I've driven this route many times Fridays and Sundays and it's hard to believe you're 200 miles in the desert miles from anywhere, yet bumper to bumper with thousand other cars.Here's an LA Times article from last week about the Anaheim /Vegas train that's been in planning for a few years.

Another less rural corridor is the Denver-Summit County route, which is constantly congested on weekends both winter and summer. Some want highway widening, others want rail. The freeway passes through narrow winding canyons with no room to expand without sheering off cliff walls. The town of Idaho Springs is ready to defend their narrow town against 15 years of bulldozers.

A train from downtown Denver with a stop in Lakewood and Golden, then shooting up over Loveland Pass to a station in Summit County with frequent shuttle connections to resorts is 20-30 years off, but I'd use it.

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Old 03-26-07, 01:51 PM   #3
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There's very little practical use for it. The biggest hurdle is our rediculous need to "save" the airline industry.

My feeling is that we just have too much land and the people are too dispersed.
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Old 03-26-07, 02:03 PM   #4
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I think James has it right, when he says it will happen via privatization. You can do all you want to make it happen, create a website, talk to politicians, find out how many people in your city are interested...

I think the main issue may be. Where is it gonna go. Trains need tracks, and that takes land. So it would be very hard to get into an urban center. You would also need to convince private land owners to allow it, and you would need to be able to pay a sizable amount of money to compensate them. There are many hurdles, and these are just a few.

Are there any high speed trains in countries that are not small? I live in Canada, and have been to Australia,China, and the U.S.A, and can't think of any. I do not think Russia has one. Land mass may be the biggest hurdle.
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Old 03-26-07, 02:47 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by JeffS
There's very little practical use for it. The biggest hurdle is our rediculous need to "save" the airline industry.

My feeling is that we just have too much land and the people are too dispersed.
I don't think people are too dispersed. If someone's dream is to own a house on a few acres in country with there's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone wants to live downtown in dense housing and commute on a train full of other city dwellers (like i prefer to). The whole point of the U.S. is that you can do either one, if it's your dream. But I think suburbia is mismanaged, which leads to hours spent in traffic, road rage, and bland housing. But then again, people WANT their tiny parcel of land with a yard, even if surrounded by thousands of other identical houses. (I'll take the rustic cabin on the lake before that).

Even out west where millions of people have moved to over the past 20 years (Phoenix, Vegas, Denver), I STILL don't believe there's enough population to support high speed rail between large cities in the west. Denver and SLC for example. The interstates work fine for that, and even a car-free person can rent a car for the trip, or use bus service (that's another topic).

But for city pairs in distances of 300 miles or less, where it's a pain to drive, a hassle to fly, rail would work perfect. Chicago-St Louis, Chicago-Detroit, Dallas-Houston, and point to point in between. That would HELP airlines free up airspace and airport space for more logical service, i.e. Denver-Chicago, where high speed rail still would be a 4-5 hour trip, and flying would be the same.

I live in a big city, (Denver), but geographically isolated being 600 miles from another large population center. Airports in the Rocky Mountains are modern, and easy, and airspace isn't congested. Flying makes sense and is easy. But it doesn't make sense to go to LAX two hours in advance for a one hour (delayed) flight to San Fransisco, turning a quick trip into 5-6 hours, same as driving. Rail would make perfect sense between those cities.

To be succinct? Rail in large city pairs. Privatize it. Let them airlines help and profit. When able connect it TO an airport, allowing seamless service between air and rail.

i.e FLY from Seattle to Chicago, hop on the express train up to Milwaukee or Grand Rapids. Can you picture that? Oh wait, just go to Europe.

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Old 03-26-07, 03:08 PM   #6
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they already exist- check out amtrak's boston-nyc-wash acela train.
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...Route&ssid=134

they aint as fast as the trains in yurop and such, but that is an infrastructure problem- the rails are antiquated and owned by the freight companies, not amtrak/acela/etc

and the bos-wash corridor is the most densly populated area in the us.. fitting for a highspeed train..don't know how viable it would be across other areas, like the midwest or west...

I could see a potential for a pacfic coast highspeed train..

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Old 03-26-07, 03:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by goldener
they already exist- check out amtrak's boston-nyc-wash acela train.
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...Route&ssid=134

they aint as fast as the trains in yurop and such, but that is an infrastructure problem- the rails are antiquated and owned by the freight companies, not amtrak/acela/etc

and the bos-wash corridor is the most densly populated area in the us.. fitting for a highspeed train..don't know how viable it would be across other areas, like the midwest or west...

I could see a potential for a pacfic coast highspeed train..
The Acela's not a high speed train. The whole thing was a farce. When they first proposed it, they claimed that it would go between boston and nyc in 2hrs 45 min. Of course, they're nowhere near that speed (and that speed would still be less than 1/2 the speed of french/japanese high speed trains). The top speed the acela can go is 142 mph and it does that on about 15-20% of the track between NYC/Boston. That's it. The Acela has nothing to do with what I'm talking about (except maybe as something to take over and do differently)
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Old 03-26-07, 03:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by goldener
the rails are antiquated and owned by the freight companies, not amtrak/acela/etc.
If this is true then you bring up a good point. I think part of the solution (whether through a private company or not) is that they need to make it worth it to the freight companies to allow delays for an overhaul of the system and for requiring diff. trains when it's done.
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Old 03-26-07, 03:49 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by donrhummy
The Acela's not a high speed train. The whole thing was a farce. When they first proposed it, they claimed that it would go between boston and nyc in 2hrs 45 min. Of course, they're nowhere near that speed (and that speed would still be less than 1/2 the speed of french/japanese high speed trains). The top speed the acela can go is 142 mph and it does that on about 15-20% of the track between NYC/Boston. That's it. The Acela has nothing to do with what I'm talking about (except maybe as something to take over and do differently)
the acela is a high speed train compared to the regular amtrak or commuter trains...

but you are right.. it is just chump change compared to the stuff they gots in yurop or over in the orient.. but that would require a whole new rail system/infrastucture- the freight compainies currently own the current rails, and have prioritoy over use... so unles you are cutting new rail right of ways through the most populated section of the county... ya gots to use what's there already... and so it goes.. we a re back to where we are today.

the acela train is also spensive- you can get a chinatown bus from boston- nyc for $15 each way, and probably $10-15 from nyc-philly.. amtrak acela is over $100 from nyc-boston.. if the price drops on acela or someother rail service to ~30 I could see demand going up..
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Old 03-26-07, 04:00 PM   #10
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but if all this peak oil and globo warming biznatch is legit [please no debates here]..then i see a real possiblilty for new, clean[er] mass transit (hi speed trains,etc) in the future.
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Old 03-26-07, 04:07 PM   #11
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From the article:

>>>>The plan, pitched by Thomas Stone of the Las Vegas-based DesertXpress Enterprises, calls for electric-diesel hybrid trains to make the 190-mile trip every 20 minutes. The construction wouldn't use federal or state funding; the hope is that investor funds, which have yet to be raised, will cover the estimated $3-billion cost. The train would top out at 125 mph, making the one-way trip in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.<<<<<

Construction won't use Federal or state funding? LOL.

The 3 billion dollar figure to construct this rail line is a low ball figure because a project of this nature will require tens of billions of dollars. It costs 1 billion dollars to build 10 miles of electrified lightrail in this country. A high speed rail line extending 190 miles will easily set you back 200 billion dollars since this is the most expensive form of rail construction. In addition, the cost of operating this rail line will be so astronomical, the fare box won't cover the cost thus each ticket will have to sell at a loss!. This will ensure private investment funds will never materalize. Even the Monorail in Vegas is in dire financial straits!

Don't get me wrong. I would love to see a high speed rail line in this nation but you're going to need federal funds or it won't happen. I don't know why people here believe rail lines need to operate without federal funds? Do our highways or airports operate without federal subsidization?

The reason you don't have a high speed rail line IS because you're waiting for private investment which is folly.

You want rail service from Los Angeles to Vegas? Support Amtrak.

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Old 03-26-07, 04:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by JeffS
My feeling is that we just have too much land and the people are too dispersed.
Agreed.

The motorcar dispersed millions of Americans all over the nation. They moved out of the cities and into states to live in affordable homes. Now they find themselves stuck with traffic jams.

Today, these dispersed Americans are looking for the same transit systems developed at the turn of the century in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago. Unfortunately, the cost of building such a rail system is in the tens billions of dollars (TAXES!) and requires high density populations which is exactly what they don't want.
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Old 03-26-07, 04:37 PM   #13
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From the article:

>>>>The plan, pitched by Thomas Stone of the Las Vegas-based DesertXpress Enterprises, calls for electric-diesel hybrid trains to make the 190-mile trip every 20 minutes. The construction wouldn't use federal or state funding; the hope is that investor funds, which have yet to be raised, will cover the estimated $3-billion cost. The train would top out at 125 mph, making the one-way trip in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.<<<<<

Construction won't use Federal or state funding? LOL.

The 3 billion dollar figure to construct this rail line is a low ball figure because a project of this nature will require tens of billions of dollars. It costs 1 billion dollars to build 10 miles of electrified lightrail in this country. A high speed rail line extending 190 miles will easily set you back 200 billion dollars since this is the most expensive form of rail construction. In addition, the cost of operating this rail line will be so astronomical, the fare box won't cover the cost thus each ticket will have to sell at a loss!. This will ensure private investment funds will never materalize. Even the Monorail in Vegas is in dire financial straits!

Don't get me wrong. I would love to see a high speed rail line in this nation but you're going to need federal funds or it won't happen. I don't know why people here believe rail lines need to operate without federal funds? Do our highways or airports operate without federal subsidization?

The reason you don't have a high speed rail line IS because you're waiting for private investment which is folly.

You want rail service from Los Angeles to Vegas? Support Amtrak.
What i don't understand is why all the proposed projects for this in the US always have sub-200 mph trains?! The trains in Europe are actually quite safe so that can't be the issue. Why is no one saying, "hey let's use the Japanese or French technology that's been working well for years?"
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Old 03-26-07, 04:43 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by goldener
they already exist- check out amtrak's boston-nyc-wash acela train.
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...Route&ssid=134

they aint as fast as the trains in yurop and such, but that is an infrastructure problem- the rails are antiquated and owned by the freight companies, not amtrak/acela/etc

and the bos-wash corridor is the most densly populated area in the us.. fitting for a highspeed train..don't know how viable it would be across other areas, like the midwest or west...

I could see a potential for a pacfic coast highspeed train..
My understanding is that Amtrak does own the (outdated) rails between Boston and DC, which is why their trains up/down that one line are the most consistently timely. Amtrak doesn't own the (outdated) rails in most of the rest of the country, but most especially on the west coast, so in addition to not being amenable to new trains, the amtrak trains have to wait for every freight train that missed it's coffee stop in wherever, and the N/S Pacific coast amtraks are the most consistently untimely (by a lot, run time increased by 50-100%). Rail ownership = supreme right of way in train land.

Anyway, updating the rails in the NE, where the trains actually are, seems like the most logical first step. In other areas, updating rails has to be worked out along w/ giving the fast trains right of way. That could be a massive issue, I assume the freight lines would happily hand over right of way if Amtrak were offering to buy out all the real estate and replace the rails. And put luxury boxes in all the train stations along the way... It seems likely they'd have to meet in the middle somewhere.
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Old 03-26-07, 04:48 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by goldener
but if all this peak oil and globo warming biznatch is legit [please no debates here]..then i see a real possiblilty for new, clean[er] mass transit (hi speed trains,etc) in the future.
Convert the interstates! In reality I don't believe that any of the train systems in the world are privately owned they are all quasi government agencies, and are funded thru various means. Including Amtrak. Until it becomes too expensive for the upper middle class to drive or fly you aren't going to see much in the line of changes to the status quo in this country.

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Old 03-26-07, 05:05 PM   #16
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It may have been stated already but I will state it again. It would cost billions of dollars for new track why? becuase freight trains chew up the track and make it unusable for high speeds. It would cost a lot of money to keep those tracks maintained properly. Furthermore that does not address that Amtrak leases the lines causing delay. What is needed is a concrete maglev track exclusive to Amtrak. Which would cost billions of dollar and people would be screaming about the enviroment is being torn up by track
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Old 03-26-07, 05:18 PM   #17
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So, people would complain about dropping 3 or 4 billion on a high speed train that would help eliminate long drives, and stupid airport delays when they travel, but they say nothing about the 800 billion spent in Iraq? A billion dollars just isn't that much money these days....
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Old 03-26-07, 05:33 PM   #18
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HSR is coming... slowly. At least here in Ohio. There is a lot of talk about the 3C corridor (Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland) and some talk about integrating with a regional rail network

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/OHIORAIL/...rdc/index.html
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Old 03-26-07, 05:58 PM   #19
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I think it would help to change the country's mindset to a more "free market" approach to transportation - public roads shouldn't be privatized, but cars and trucks should pay gas taxes that cover a "rent" cost for land use, plus road construction and maintenance costs, plus an amount to discourage cars' air pollution. Air passengers' tickets should also have to cover land use, airport costs, and an air pollution tax. If all of those cost burdens were put fully on the airline industry and the auto/auto-fuel industry, I suspect trains would become more popular by themselves.
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Old 03-26-07, 06:21 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
Agreed.

The motorcar dispersed millions of Americans all over the nation. They moved out of the cities and into states to live in affordable homes. Now they find themselves stuck with traffic jams.
Respectfully disagree. Lewis and Clark didn't have cars. Nor did young people riding the rails during the depression looking for work. Opportunity (like the gold rush), and innovation (like air conditioning in Phoenix) is what spurred and still spurs people to spread out.

I don't think the traffic issue became a problem until the 1970s. Before that our now inner ring suburbs only branched out from a managable circumference of downtown. Then the inner ring suburbs became dumpy with the advent of the far exurbs and the McMansion, and companies moved into sprawling suburban "campus" office parks, rather than the skycrapers downtown.

My opinion is that the armpit of America, and the most hellish place on earth is the never ending exurbs. Most downtowns are either dumps (like Detroit), or gentrified and extremely high priced (like Denver). Throw in that people will only send their kids to the most reputable schools, and some refuse to live in a 1,300 sq foot house with 1-2 baths (near the city), and insist on an enormous home in the exurbs accepting a two hour commute to another exurb for work. And the funny thing is their homes aren't even affordable. People are upside down in their mortgage paying for a 3 car garage filled with boats and jet skiis.

Anyway that's off topic for regional rail, and more a discussion for suburban design. But far flung American towns were created long before the auto age.
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Old 03-26-07, 06:33 PM   #21
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I think it would help to change the country's mindset to a more "free market" approach to transportation - public roads shouldn't be privatized, but cars and trucks should pay gas taxes that cover a "rent" cost for land use, plus road construction and maintenance costs, plus an amount to discourage cars' air pollution. Air passengers' tickets should also have to cover land use, airport costs, and an air pollution tax. If all of those cost burdens were put fully on the airline industry and the auto/auto-fuel industry, I suspect trains would become more popular by themselves.
It would help, but I doubt you will ever see it as long as the oil and automotive lobbies have Washington under their control. Then you would also get into the argument over who pays for which road and how much. There was a big stink a couple of years ago when some areas on the west coast were noticing a pinch in how much fuel tax revenue they were losing to the decrease in driven miles as well as the increased use of higher mileage vehicles. I don't recall the exact numbers but the per gallon fuel tax was not enough when too many people started driving hybrids and economy cars versus Hummers and pickups. They were trying to come up with a proposal to tax people on the number of miles driven. Last I heard it failed.

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Old 03-26-07, 06:49 PM   #22
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The Acela has nothing to do with what I'm talking about
So what ARE you talking about? Anything that's not found only in your science fiction magazines but maybe even tentatively related to economic reality for the US.
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Old 03-26-07, 06:51 PM   #23
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...And put luxury boxes in all the train stations along the way...
I am a big fan of light rail (although I would like to see servicable rail that services most people before throwing Billions as showcase lines); however, living here in China has shown me the problem with luxury boxes (By this I assume that you mean first class cars and waiting rooms). Having established seperate facilities for the people that matter, the conditions that the peasants endure no longer matter. So, it is a case of nice first class treatment contrasted to conditions that resemble cattle pens and cars that have not been updated since the 50's.

If there is a desire to encourage people to use rail instead of private cars then creating a condition that allows the facilities, that people use, to be less attractive is the oposite dirrection from where we need to go.
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Old 03-26-07, 07:01 PM   #24
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Why does everybody assume that rail is so great? Wouldn't a major switch to rail require not only the enormous investments already mentioned, but also a major disruption in our economy and infrastructure? Wouldn't millions of Americans lose jobs in manufacturing and energy? Wouldn't millions also lose equity in their investments in those sectors? And wouldn't we end up with a transit system that's less convenient and less efficient for the average person?

You're going to have to answer questions like that if you want to sway people to back high speed rail.
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Old 03-26-07, 07:56 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Roody
Why does everybody assume that rail is so great? Wouldn't a major switch to rail require not only the enormous investments already mentioned, but also a major disruption in our economy and infrastructure? Wouldn't millions of Americans lose jobs in manufacturing and energy? Wouldn't millions also lose equity in their investments in those sectors? And wouldn't we end up with a transit system that's less convenient and less efficient for the average person?

You're going to have to answer questions like that if you want to sway people to back high speed rail.
and such a switch to a huge rail infrastucture would require tons and tons of $$$ investment, lots of fossil fuel inputs, lots of displaced people, lots of "environemnt damage" if you are cutting new rail lines, etc.
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