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Expansion of US Highspeed Rail?

Discussion in 'Environmental Discussion' started by GrumpyCabbie, Oct 14, 2011.

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  1. GrumpyCabbie

    GrumpyCabbie Senior Member

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    Interesting article on the future of US high speed rail;

    BBC News - Could the US crack high-speed rail?


    Interesting that rail passenger numbers are on the increase in the US too. Perhaps rail has a future again? A high speed east/west rail connection would be interesting.
  2. cproaudio

    cproaudio Speedlock Overrider

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    I live on the edge of my city. There are talks of putting up a high speed rail station in my neighborhood. They didn't want the high speed rail to run through the city but around the city.
  3. xs650

    xs650 Senior Member

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    High speed rail for highly populated regions of the US would make sense. Cross country would be another problem. Assuming an average speed of 300km/hr (186 mph) for 3000 miles while moving, plus a 10 minute stop every 150 miles on average, that's a 19 hour trip.
  4. wick1ert

    wick1ert Senior Member

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    Wow, I never thought about it, but is it really roughly 150 miles between major cities on average? It very well may be, I never really paid that close of attention.

    I guess what would really have to happen, is you'd have major "hubs" that the minor ones would connect to. How that would all work out, I haven't got a clue, but I envision a smaller version of the airline "hub" networks. NYC - ATL - DAL - LAX, those sort of major metropolis hubs, connection to not quite as large of ones. It's a daunting task, but that's really the only way I can foresee long distance, high speed rail really moving people efficiently.
  5. xs650

    xs650 Senior Member

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    I based that guestimate on the Chunnel train which is 300 miles from London to Paris. It made one stop the time I took it.

    Even if it made no stops, which is probably not feasible, it would be 16 hours.
  6. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    I don't think anyone is suggesting that we will see NYC-LA serviced with high speed rail, but there is no reason that Chicago-MSP, or MKE, or Chicago-Boston or NYC or similar corridors can't compete with air, down town to down town.

    Even today Boston-NYC or NYC-DC is pretty close, with not very high speed accella trains.

    Icarus
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  7. cwerdna

    cwerdna Senior Member

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  8. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    Most likely the only route approaching that distance would be Boston-Seattle. If total travel time is an issue, it would make no sense for the express run to make a dozen stops between Chicago and Seattle. Minneapolis, Spokane, and two more in between should be plenty. That puts western stops 250 to 500 miles apart.

    San Diego to Jacksonville isn't much over 2000 miles, and can have the same sparse stops west of Dallas. The East and West coast corridors are shorter still.

    I believe the median travel time, weighted by actual route volumes, would be short enough to be quite reasonable.
  9. xs650

    xs650 Senior Member

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    If it happens, the route won't be a straight line and it will run between major and not so major population centers with political clout.
  10. chogan2

    chogan2 Senior Member

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    We already have (fairly) high-speed rail on the US Northeast corridor. The Amtrak Acela express makes the DC to NYC run in a 2 hours 45 minutes, with four stops. By car, that's nominally a 4.5 hour trip, but my brother tells me it routinely takes him 6. Top speed is advertised as 150 mph. The DC and NY train stations are both right in the middle of their respective cities, so it's not even clear to me that air travel would be faster, if you needed to be downtown. The one time I took it, I got off the train and walked to my destination in Manhattan.
    Its a nice ride -- spacious, 120V plugs at every seat, and you can get up and walk around during the trip. At 150 mph, I'm not so sure of the energy savings, but it's definitely a nice way to travel if you have business downtown.
  11. wick1ert

    wick1ert Senior Member

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    If your brother is indeed driving into downtown NYC, then I could easily believe 6 hours. The last time I went to NYC, I parked in Newark @ the train station and took the PATH train to the WTC site. It probably saved me 30 mins just doing that, and then there's parking to deal with once in NYC. I've driven into the city 2 or 3 times, and now that I know about that train, I'll be taking it anytime I need to get to the city (not often).
  12. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    The high-speed train between Seville and Madrid, in Spain, beats the plane in downtown to downtown time by a good hour at least, and is more comfortable, and always on time, consistently arriving a few minutes before its published arrival time. The airplane, by contrast, is unreliable. And that train (called the AVE -- the name is a pun in Spanish) only goes about 100 mph, IIRC.

    Amtrak makes it a pain in the ass to buy tickets, at least on the Empire Builder, which is my Amtrak experience. Fare structure is complicated, with different prices depending on how many seats have been sold for that departure, and a multi-leg trip can require hours to find the best fare. By contrast, RENFE, the Spanish rail company, has a single price for each route and class of travel, and you can buy or change a ticket at the last minute. You can arrive at the station minutes before your train leaves, you keep your luggage with you, and you step off the train, with your luggage, the instant the train stops.

    Cross-country U.S. the plane will be faster when it's on time, but it's never certain whether it will be, and if you check bags you never know for sure they'll make it. A sleeper cabin on the train, with an observation car and dining car available, makes a train trip FUN and enjoyable and you get to see the countryside.

    I agree that the sensible thing would be few stops, with separate lines for intermediate and radial destinations.
  13. GrumpyCabbie

    GrumpyCabbie Senior Member

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    Sounds an idea route. Improve the experience and reduce the hassle and people will come. As the service gets better more people will be 'converted'. I remember 20 years ago here in the UK taking the train was seen as the last choice for longer journeys but now it's actually getting much more popular since privatisation.

    Notice the following graph showing UK rail passenger numbers and how there was a massive increase once rail was privatised in the late 1990's;

    File:GBR rail passenegers by year.gif - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  14. chogan2

    chogan2 Senior Member

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    Well, privatization, yes, and more-than-doubling of the British government's subsidy for rail travel, and at some point, increased taxation of road travel. Per Wikipedia: [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privatisation_of_British_Rail"]Privatisation of British Rail - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

    "In 1994, the total government support received by BR was £1,627m,[10] (£2,168m in 2005 terms, adjusted by RPI[11]), while in 2005, government support from all sources totalled £4,593m.,[10] despite a lack of any particular increase in government investment in improving infrastructure."

    For Amtrak, the subsidy was US$1.6B in 2010. Or, at current exchange rates, about one-fifth of the British government's rail subsidy. (But that's only Federal, there also appear to be contracts with the states to run individual lines in states. So it's not clear that's comparable.)

    Per passenger-mile, Amtrak produced 6.4B passenger miles in 2010. So that's $0.23/mile Federal subsidy, close to the $0.22 figure I see cited elsewhere. That's a lot of money.

    British railways appear to provide somewhere between 25 and 30 billion passenger miles. At purchasing power parity, the £4,6B subsidy works out to between $0.25 and $0.29 per mile. Surprising that the subsidy levels are so similar in the US and UK.
  15. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    Remove all the government subsidies for car and air transportation and nobody would be able to drive or fly.
  16. GrumpyCabbie

    GrumpyCabbie Senior Member

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    What? And create a level playing field? :rolleyes:
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  17. chogan2

    chogan2 Senior Member

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    We may have different ideas as to what subsidy means. To me, a subsidy is a payment, the cost of which is not covered by those using the activity.

    So, fuel and vehicle taxes of all kinds cover about 60% of the cost of building and running the road network in the US. The bulk of that is gas taxes. Doubling the gas tax from the current level of roughly 50 cents per gallon (combined Federal and State) to $1 would more than cover the cost of building and running the roads. That would eliminate any subsidy for infrastructure. But it wouldn't stop everyone from driving.

    Do you mean some concept of subsidy for oil? Amtrak claims to use about 3000 BTU/passenger mile, which works out to 38 MPG. (Separately, Amtrak claims to be 38% more efficient than the average car, which is in the same ballpark). So Amtrak, on average, uses more fuel per passenger mile than a solo driver in a Prius.
    [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_efficiency_in_transportation]Fuel efficiency in transportation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

    (That's does not say that rail is inherently inefficient, that says that railroad efficiency is all about the economies of density -- driving as many full trains over as short set of rail lines as possible. I'd bet the trains in the US NE corridor get hundreds of passenger-miles per gallon. But that's offset by lightly traveled trains elsewhere. The DC Metro system, as a whole, gets about 110 miles per gallon. But that's a combination of several hundred miles per gallon on heavily loaded light rail, and a fleet of buses that runs lightly loaded most of the time.)
  18. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Most of the trains in the NE are electric, much of that power is from coas and nuke. Let's see a comparison on a btu per passenger mile, include inclusive of the the generating/mining/transport inputs. Then consider the net carbon foot print of different transport options. (all beyond my ability to collate info!)

    My guess is that rail wins hands down,, especially electrified rail.

    Icarus
  19. wjtracy

    wjtracy Senior Member

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    They just added a stop here, so we can go AMTRAK from Burke VA to NYC (not high speed) for $150. Prius will get you there <$15 gaso and lots of I95 traffic frustration.
  20. wick1ert

    wick1ert Senior Member

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    Don't forget all the tolls & parking once you get to NYC. Last I recall, you have: Tunnel @ Balt Harbor (I think), $5 bridge in MD, $2-3 for the DE "Turnpike" toll (Locals bypass this toll), $10 to go over the bridge/tunnel to NYC, and last time I parked in NYC, it was about $15-20/day. The tunnel, MD bridge, and NYC bridge might be one way. Although, I've heard the NY bridge tolls doubled, and might be up to $20 now. I can't remember the DE toll amount, but it is both ways.

    In the end, it's probably close price wise if all those come into play. I think I'd take AMTRAK if it were me at that point.
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