By on March 3, 2016

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announce "A Vision for High Speed Rail," April 16, 2009, Image: Chuck Kennedy/White House

The year is 2010. Hope and Change still lingers in the air. The water in Flint, Michigan is passably safe to drink. And Donald Trump doesn’t have a single pledged delegate to his name.

This year saw $8 billion from the $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) appropriated to dozens of so-called “high speed rail” projects across the country. The projects were said to be “shovel-ready” — and some were — but many are still ongoing, er, creating jobs today.

The high-speed train money went to projects big and small, ranging from a few thousand dollars to spruce up a local Amtrak station to over $2 billion towards a TGV-style line from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Some projects focused on top and average speeds, others on congestion mitigation to help trains adhere to existing schedules.

Some of these projects never got off the ground, killed by newly elected state governments. Some are complete, carrying passengers quicker and with fewer delays. Most are still ongoing or partly complete.

"A Vision for High Speed Rail" Map, Image: White House

Found on Rail Dead

Florida High Speed Corridor: On January 29, 2010, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, in a rare joint town hall, announced the administration’s national higher-speed rail grant program in Tampa, Florida. The Florida High Speed Corridor project would be dead just 13 months later.

At a total cost of $2.4 billion, the Florida High Speed Corridor — 84 miles of dedicated, high-speed rail line to be built from the ground up — was awarded $1.25 billion from the federal government to connect the cities of Tampa and Orlando. The high-speed rail project was slated to connect Orlando to South Florida, with the line terminating in Miami, in its second phase.

Florida High-Speed Rail Map

A little over a year later, then-newly elected Governor of Florida Rick Scott, would mark return to sender on the federal money bag and stop the project in its tracks.

“My concern with this is, you look at the ridership studies, and I don’t think there’s anyway anyone’s going to get a return,” Rick Scott told the Tampa Bay Tribune in 2011.

The federal funds were later reallocated to rail projects in other states. But Floridians still craving rail service are not without hope. A private-sector project called All Aboard Florida was proposed by Florida East Coast Railway in 2012. The service, called Brightline and owned by Florida East Coast Industries, is scheduled to begin operation in mid-2017 between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Madison to Milwaukee, Wisconsin: In January 2010, $823 million was awarded to build and launch 110 mile-per-hour service between Madison and Milwaukee, and to link it with existing the 79 mph, eight-times daily Milwaukee-Chicago service. The plan included use of tilting-train equipment from Spanish manufacturer Talgo, to be built and maintained at a facility in Milwaukee.

As early as February 2010, in the lead up to gubernatorial elections in the state, there were rumblings that Scott Walker, if elected, would kill the passenger rail project. Those rumblings turned into proclamations from the Walker camp during the campaign. In November, Walker was elected, and the train project suspended — permanently.

Wisconsin High-Speed Rail Map

“I mentioned this repeatedly during the campaign,” Walker said. “That if push came to shove, even if it went to another state it was preferable to the taxpayers of this state being fixed with a bill that far exceeded our ability to pay and would take money away from other projects in this state.”

Walker wanted the $823 million awarded by the Obama administration to go to road improvements in the state, but no dice. All of the federal fast train money was returned and awarded to other states.

Two trainsets were built for the project before the contract was cancelled by the Walker administration, which spawned a lawsuit by the manufacturer for payment. In August 2015, the state of Wisconsin settled the lawsuit with Talgo to pay $9.7 million on top of nearly $40 million the state already paid for the trains. However, Talgo would keep the trains to sell to another state, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Ohio 3-C Corridor: Ohio was allotted $400 million in January 2010 to build and launch conventional 79 mph service between Cleveland and Cincinnati by way of Columbus. The 258-mile 3-C Corridor, as it was called, was expected to be in operation by 2012. The route would have carried 478,000 passengers per year on three daily round trips, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The same source pegged an annual state subsidy for the line at $17 million, or about 1 percent of the state’s transportation budget at the time.

Ohio High-Speed Rail Map

Much like Wisconsin’s Walker, Ohio governor John Kasich campaigned with a promise to kill the train project. According to Politifact, Kasich claimed that while the service had a top speed of 79 mph, its average speed would only be 39 mph along the route. The slow average speed was based on an early plan drafted by the previous administration that saw the train slow down for a number of sharper turns. A later study and revision of that plan by the Ohio Department of Transportation, which took out some of those curves, quoted the average speed closer to 50 mph. Kasich continued to quote the 39 mph average speed during his campaign and, when he was elected, he kept his promise.

The 3-C Corridor project was cancelled in 2010.

As governor-elect, Kasich would send a letter to the Obama administration to request that rail funds be reallocated to infrastructure projects in the state. Instead, the money was allocated to rail projects in other states.

Vermont. Job Done.

Vermonter service improvement: Vermont is the home of the largest complete project to date. Federal funds contributed $52.7 million toward a modest $72 million project to speed service on the Amtrak route between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans, Vermont. The upgraded segment spans 181 miles between St. Albans and Battleboro, VT, and saw speeds increase to 79 mph along much of the segment. Travel time along the route was cut by 29 minutes, according to former transportation secretary Ray LaHood. The project was finished in 2012 and also enables freight trains along the route to haul heavier cargo.

Vermont High-Speed Rail Map

In fiscal year 2012, before the improvements, the line carried approximately 82,000 passengers, according to the Brookings Institution. By the end of fiscal year 2015 last October, ridership climbed to 92,699, according to page A-3.2 of Amtrak’s 2015 performance report.

Creating Jobs Since 2010

Cascade Corridor: Among the still ongoing projects, the Cascade Corridor between Seattle and Portland received $590 million in 2010 to improve on-time performance and increase average speed. Washington State received an additional $161 million after governors in Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio rejected fast train funds, according to the Seattle Times.

Among the upgrades was installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) equipment and software. PTC prevents trains from speeding or ignoring signals by stopping a train automatically if the engineer/driver doesn’t respond to a warning tone. Experts say PTC prevents accidents like the one that derailed Amtrak train No. 188 in Philadelphia. The engineer of that train entered a top-speed-restricted 50 mph curve at 106 mph, according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Federal regulations require PTC for passenger train speeds over 80 mph, which the Cascade Corridor may achieve in the future.

According to the Seattle Times, the 3 hour 25 minute trip from Seattle to Portland would be cut by 10 minutes after the upgrades. According to WS DOT, 10 of the 20 sub-projects in the program are complete, with the remainder expected to be done by 2017. Among the finished projects: a seismic retrofit of Seattle’s 110-year-old King Street Station and new trainsets from Spanish manufacturer Talgo that will allow increased speeds thru turns by tilting in corners.

California High Speed Rail Authority: The most ambitious high-speed train effort in the country seeks to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles with a 220 mph, dedicated, high-speed line that will cross deserts and mountains in an effort to better connect the country’s most populous state. The $68 billion project was awarded $2.25 billion in federal funds in January 2010. Other funding comes from $9.95 billion in bonds authorized in a voter referendum in 2008, and though 25 percent of state carbon cap-and-trade revenue. According to an update in the Fresno Bee, the initial segment from San Jose to Bakersfield, California, will be hauling passengers by 2025.

The California High Speed Rail Authority recently amended its earlier plans to start service in LA and head north, to a strategy that begins in the Bay Area and moves south, for reasons of cost. Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority, told the Sacramento Bee, “The southern segment is more costly, it’s longer, and tunnels just cost more.” Morales also cited long construction timetables in deciding not to lead off with the tunnel-heavy segment thru mountain ranges outside Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, voters in California are getting anxious. The project is exceeding earlier cost estimates and faces lawsuits from farmers and rural landowners, according to the Los Angeles Times. The project is also facing an effort by an organization representing farmers in the state’s Central Valley to redirect money from the state’s Proposal 1A fast train bonds to water storage projects that would feed more water to the state’s farming industry, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The effort is currently gathering petition signatures and may appear on the state’s November 2016 general election ballot.

Lincoln Service: In the midwest, the line from Chicago to St. Louis received $1.1 billion in federal funds to speed up existing 79 mph service to 110 mph, shaving 1 hour off the 5 hour and 38 minute trip in the process. The route carried 682,000 riders on four daily round trips in 2015, despite Amtrak occasionally substituting buses for trains in certain areas due to ongoing track work. In December 2012, the State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, quoted IDOT’s Brian Williamson, “We don’t have 110 mph projections to pass along at this time.” He added that work was ongoing to install the advanced signaling system required to allow faster speeds along the whole route.

According to railroad industry trade publication Progressive Railroading, the project faces potential delays as planners must convince individual communities to close or upgrade some of the route’s 300 road crossings. Federal regulations limit the frequency of level road crossings where passenger trains travel over 90 mph to protect both train passengers and road users. Between 2000-2014, Amtrak trains struck 376 vehicles, ranging from sedans to semis, according to the Washington Post. The same story attributed 210 deaths to vehicle strikes; 14 were caused by derailments, collisions, and other accidents within the study period.

Wolverine Service: The route between Pontiac/Detroit and Chicago received $244 million in federal funds to upgrade two segments, while a 90-mile stretch in the middle is already operating with 110-mph top speeds.

The segment between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, Michigan, received $150 million to upgrade a dilapidated and delay-prone segment to handle speeds up to 110 mph. Delays on the segment due to poorly maintained track ranged from 45 to 90 minutes, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

In 2011, the Michigan Department of Transportation used additional federal money made available from Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin’s rejections to acquire outright the 135-mile line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo from its owner, Norfolk Southern. As of this year, MDOT is bidding out contracts to perform track work along the line to replace rail and ties, much of it decades old, and regrade curves to allow for faster speeds. MDOT hopes to have the improvements complete to allow 110 mph service in three years, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer and industry publication Railway Age.

The segment from Porter, Indiana to Chicago received $71.4 million for eight separate congestion mitigation projects, mainly building bridges where trains entering Chicago from the south blocked those coming from the east. Most of these efforts are complete. Among the largest projects was the Englewood Flyover, where a bridge was built to allow 78 daily Metra Rock Island Line commuter trains to cross the line that carries 60 Norfolk Southern freight trains and 14 Amtrak trains every day without interference. The Englewood Flyover was completed in 2014.

Empire Corridor: In the east, the route from Buffalo to Albany and New York City received $151 million to increase speed. This objective has gone largely unrealized after negotiations between NYSDOT and track owner CSX Railroad broke down in 2011.

According to Politico, a lengthy environmental impact statement has been finalized and approved for the corridor outlining options ranging from status quo up to a $14.7 billion completely grade separated railroad with speeds up to 125 mph. Despite the grand plans, even the modest $1.66 billion plan stands little chance of becoming reality, according to Politico. Instead, plans to add a second main track between Albany and Schenectady are on schedule, with a completion target of December 2016, according to the Albany Times-Union. The second main track between those cities is expected to reduce delays caused by congestion in the area.

New York City, Pennsylvania Station: New York state received an additional $300 million rejected by Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin to reduce delays around Penn Station in New York City. The money went toward expanding underground walkways leading from Penn Station, under 8th Avenue, and newly expanded concourses under the James A. Farley Post Office building, according to the New York Times. The improvements will enable Amtrak to move its passengers out of the overcrowded Penn Station and into a facility within and under  the disused James A. Farley Post Office building, according to the real estate news site Curbed. The move will also free up space for Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuters in the existing Penn Station.

As of December, 2015, project’s second phase is in limbo as the developers tasked with filling office space in the post office building, to defray costs of the train station below, struggle to lure tenants to the building, according to the Times.

Piedmont Corridor Improvement Program: The largest project in the south stretches from Raleigh, to Charlotte, North Carolina. It received $520 million in federal funds to install 31 miles of double track, add two daily round trips for a total of five trains in each direction spaced every three hours, as well as re-banking and straightening curves to increase average speeds along the 173 mile line. The project will see 40 road crossings replaced with 12 bridges to improve safety for motorists and train travelers, according to the Charlotte Observer. The newspaper also said travel time along the route has fallen by an hour over the past two decades, to 3 hours 10 minutes, and top speeds increased from 59 to 79 mph. Additionally, train stations in Cary, High Point, Burlington, and Kannapolis, North Carolina, will be renovated as part of the program. The Piedmont carried 161,487 passengers in fiscal year 2015, according to Amtrak records.

[Image: Chuck Kennedy/White House]

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128 Comments on “Follow the High-speed Rail Money: $8 Billion and 6 Years Later...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “between Miami and West Palm Beach.” So 71 miles, that sounds fine. But where are they gonna put it when the whole thing is covered with hotels and nice homes? And the part that doesn’t have hotels and nice homes is swamp. NIMBY!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As a SFL resident I can confirm you are correct. The entire coastal area here is already fully built up (McMansions, golf courses, etc), right up to the limits of the protected Everglades. The concept of a Miami to Orlando and/or Tampa to Orlando high speed line would be great. Currently cruise lines BUS passengers to Mickey Land and back all the time. Its a 4 HOUR ride thru lots of low scrub land which most people would label “swamp”. The problem is you can’t build a level rail line thru the swamp because it would block the water flow (Everglades = river of grass), thus it would have to be elevated which sends the cost skyrocketing. Granted the view would be awesome if they could figure out how to fund it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They better decide where they’re going to put it if it opens next year, ha.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        this is a big big BIG fight going o right now. My community in Stuart is fighting like hell to stop this.
        At least the Palm Beach to Orlando portion.
        I understand it to run on the tracks there right now…with some improvements.
        The city is against it because it will not stop anywhere between Palm Beach and Orlando…causing absolutely no benefits to communities along the way but bringing loner waits and more trains.

        Not so sure about the debate south of Palm Beach to Miami.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I would say, build it right alongside of major highway

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      The right of way for this already exists – it’s the current Florida East Coast mainline. The project involves upgrading the existing track to handle multiple high speed passenger trains daily. The only new railroad right of way that must be established is between the current FEC lines in Cocoa and Orlando International Airport (MCO), where it will terminate. It is slated to run parallel to the 528 expressway, and last I heard, the negotiations with FDOT and the Mormon Church (who owns most of the land along the 528 as ranch land) was completed. I’m not sure where they are with Florida Power and Light, as I assume they will want to run alongside, if not use, the existing Stanton Coal Power Plant line for the final leg to MCO (it runs directly from 528 to the southern part of MCO property where the terminal will be making it an ideal right of way). From what I’ve heard, most of the objections have come from the bloody !@#$%^ NIMBYs in South Florida.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        No matter who you are, nobody wants a train track near where they sleep.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          @CoreyDL – true, but as with most NIMBY’s the train predates their residency. The only new track being laid, the Cocoa-MCO line, mostly runs though vacant ranch land (look on google maps at the 528 toll road between the 417 and I-95 and you’ll see what I mean). The rest of this is the existing Florida East Coast Railroad that has existed since the 1800s. If it wasn’t for the FEC and Henry Flagler (its builder), South Florida wouldn’t be what it is today. Flagler wanted to turn South Florida into a tourist destination and owned resorts down there. The FEC was, in part, his way of getting guests to his hotels.

          There is some speculation that AAF may follow a similar model. Florida East Coast Industries, FEC RR and AAF’s parent company, is also a real estate company, owning a lot of property along the tracks and around the proposed stations. It has been speculated that even if AAF loses $ itself, FECI may be able to make it up with their commercial real estate properties.

          Personally, I think that AAF (and GOAA, MCO’s owner/operator) should be trying to leverage its MCO connection by forming code share arrangements with airlines. MIA is a notoriously congested airport, with some pretty poor customs arrangements. At a minimum, Emirates Airlines, who doesn’t serve a South Florida airport, but does MCO, could offer its passengers connecting service directly to downtown Miami on AAF (where there station is). This sort of arrangement isn’t unheard of. United, Air France, Lufthansa, American, KLM, Austrian, Swiss, Emirates, and China Eastern all have dedicated service with the major rail providers in several of their destinations and hubs like Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Newark, Shanghai, Zurich, and Vienna.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            At least you’ve done your homework! Is their argument that they don’t want the rail upgrade because faster rail = more noise?

          • 0 avatar

            Most of the argument in FL surrounds bridges and grade crossing. The basic argument is more trains mean the gates and draw bridges stay closed more often impeding marine traffic and local road traffic. We have similar issues with this here in CT. I think the advantages of the trains out weigh this but there is some right to be concerned a little.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @CoreyDL – I believe it’s more the increase in frequency. I’m not sure how often FEC freights come through, but it’s not a super busy line (I’ve spent plenty of time around their right of way and never caught one of their trains). The current plan is for 16 Northbound and 16 Southbound trains daily, so a total of 32. The concern is the increase in noise from these trains as well as traffic congestion problems.

            While I appreciate the concerns over noise, again, I have minimal sympathy since the trains tracks were already there and FEC owns and built them, so they are theirs to make $ with. Also, any community concerned about noise can install quiet crossings so the train at least doesn’t have to sound its horn (some of these may be become quiet crossings anyway just as part of the FRA requirements for increasing the speed rating of the track).

            As far as traffic goes, AAF makes the point that at the speeds these trains will be going, they will only obstructing the crossing for very short periods. The crossings will also be safer as the gates necessary for higher track speeds will make be more obstructive and difficult (if not impossible) to drive around, lessening the number of train vs car collisions.

            I also think some of this is jealousy on the part of communities who are not getting a stop (the train will only serve MCO, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Miami). However, this is an express high speed train, and adding stops will unfortunately add to the total travel time, and AAF is still promising a (faster than driving) 3 hour trip from MCO to downtown Miami. Unfortunately, Amtrak has never run on the FEC, so these are communities that have been without passenger train service since the FEC stopped running its own passenger trains in 1968.

            I do need to correct myself on something. FEC RR is not owned by FECI. It was at one point, but they are separate entities. However, they do have the same parent company, Fortress Investments, so there is a corporate relationship. FEC RR should benefit from the AAF project because the upgrades for passenger trains will allow their freight trains to run faster, and as stated, the crossing upgrades should mea fewer train vs car collisions that would disrupt service. Also the project is receiving loans and loan guarantees from the Feds and I think from FDOT as well, so FEC RR isn’t having to pay for this soley as a private company.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @mopar4wd – yes the bridge closings have also been a concern. AAF , the Coast Guard, and the maritime industry have been working on making that as smooth as possible including a smartphone app, bridge tenders, and bridge upgrades. These will be scheduled passenger trains so the bridge closings will be on a very set, predictable schedule.

            http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-boat-show-all-aboard-train-20151106-story.html

            “The marine industry and the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger train are making peace over the New River bridge in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

            A test by the Coast Guard has proved successful in trimming the time the railroad bridge needs to be closed, allowing both boats and trains to share the river — at least for now, leaders said.

            Later, the marine industry would like to see an elevated bridge built over the river for the passenger trains to use instead, said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

            “Guess what? I think we’ve worked it out,” Purcell told a surprised audience at a boat show event attended by All Aboard Florida’s president Michael Reininger…

            …Since spring, the Coast Guard has been testing a plan that places a person, or “tende,r” at the bridge. Communication with the tender has cut the time needed to open and close the bridge.

            What’s more, the Coast Guard has set a standard that the bridge be closed for no more than 60 minutes in any two-hour period, a schedule that further allays concerns for boaters, Purcell said.

            While the bridge still is controlled from Jacksonville, the tender now can communicate with operators to slow down for a boat passing through or to quickly open the bridge after a train passes, leaders said.

            All Aboard also plans to develop a Web application and a mobile app offering train schedules and other information, among other tools to help boats and trains share the river, [AAF President] Reininger added.”

          • 0 avatar

            tjh,

            Correct I actually work in the marine industry (both commercial and recreational) so I have seen the press releases. We have the same issue in CT. Drawbridges east of New Haven are limited to 41 train crossings a day. Honestly I boat on the CT river and have never found it to be more then a minor annoyance. I think as long as all parties are involved in negotiations it works fine. Ideally they need to make all new bridges a little higher and they need fast turn around times. Boat traffic is difficult so you need the bridge to stay open in at least a 5-10 minute interval which can be an issue.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    interesting article, I guess they can say VT is the biggest winner, shaved 29 minutes off a181 mile trip and picked up 10, riders in a year, just seems like a boatload of money being tossed away. Well almost all agree we need to update our roads and trainlines and airports, it seems very little comes from our money. I have siad I am all for more of my tax money going towards these projects if I see results, based on this article I am not seeing results.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      The states have to pick up a ton of the cost of Amtrak. Federal government is really only paying for the infrastructure.

      Vermont has another line running from Albany that is heavily subsidized by the state as well.

    • 0 avatar
      phlipski

      10,000 annual rider increase for a one time payment of $50 million is not money thrown away in my opinion. You want to talk about money being through away take a look at the F-35 program…..

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m also curious about the stop mid-way between Cincinnati and Columbus. Not much there at all, unless cows need a ride.

  • avatar
    threeer

    And how much of that money will, in reality, flow to countries like China for production? It’d be nice if actual Americans would design and produce systems used in our own country…but I guess that’s a fantasy these days.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Threeer,
      I really have no idea if there are any US firms that do this work, I know most of the train and subway cars I see in metro NY are from Canada. I know GE made railroad engines in teh past but they may have sold that division, from teh article it seems European ( Spain) companies got a good share.

    • 0 avatar
      Andrew Justus

      Projects like this typically have “Buy American” requirements. And this particular grant did have that requirement. As a result:
      German manufacturer Siemens builds their rail cars and locomotives near Sacramento and employs 800 people. Japanese firm Nippon Sharyo has built commuter railcars in Illinois since 1982, and has engineering and marketing offices in the state as well. The firm employs about 600 people in Illinois. Spanish trainmaker Talgo builds their USDM equipment in Seattle, and CAF another Spanish firm makes commuter railcars and Amtrak equipment at its facility in Elmira, New York with 650 workers.

      So on the manufacturing side, much of the money is staying to employ Americans building USDM equipment, but much of the engineering takes place in the companies’ home countries.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        “much of the engineering takes place in the companies’ home countries”

        High speed/commuter rail is one area of technology where the US is behind. It’s no surprise that the big players are headquartered in other countries.

    • 0 avatar
      Von

      What do you mean these days? Chinamen were brought in to build the railroads in the US since the 1800s.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @threer – most of this is made here in the USA, or at least North America. Even Siemens, a German company, is building the Amtrak’s new electric locomotive here in the US despite the design coming from their European operations. Amtrak’s new Viewliner II cars, just entering service, are made in Elmira, NY. The Superliner II cars were built by Bombardier in Vermont. The Siemens Charger diesel locomotive used by Amtrak, All Aboard Florida, and others, is built in California, where AAF’s passenger cars will also be made.

  • avatar
    Onus

    The map for the Vermont project is not correct. The red area from the Boston area to Vermont is not an active rail line at least for passengers.

    The Vermont line to St. Albans runs from Springfield, MA on the grey area. The money was used to upgrade Vermont tracks.

    The Vermonter also moved from an inland line in Massachusetts to one that follows the river. The old route sucked because the train had to reverse in Palmer, MA which added tons of time. I think these funds were used for this as well.

    The train original ran on the River route by the owner of the track neglected the maintenance so Amtrak moved the train onto the inland NECR in MA.

    Highly recommend this train ride. Great sights especially through Western MA, and Vermont.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Vermont is just good at everything – from maple candies to trains and colorful leaves. Vermont is like Seattle, but the opposite side of the country.

      I’d live there if it weren’t even colder than Ohio, which is already too cold for my tastes.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        I totally agree. I love the place dearly.

        My family is original from Vermont. Going back to the 1700s. I’m the only one who hasn’t spent reasonable time there :(.

        Most people in the country don’t understand, or know how wonderful it is. It’s a secret for sure, unless you’re from New England than you already know.

        But, instead I ended up in North Carolina. It’s good for where I am at now. But, it’s no Vermont. Not even close.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I have no burning desire to ride a train anywhere…the riff raff I see at the airport is bad enough, I can’t even imagine what sort of people ride trains or Greyhound.

    In the case of the Ohio track proposal, even if it ran 50 MPH, I can average over 70 MPH in my car, AND have my own transportation when I get to Cleveland…

    Why anyone would voluntarily go to Cleveland is another matter altogether…

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Trains are fine. No security like the airport.

      Trains are also more expensive then buses. Cheap people don’t get on the train. It’s a relaxed environment. Nice ride. Check it out.

    • 0 avatar

      I ride amtrack from time to time in the northeast corridor. I would say it’s a step up from most airport crowds actually most people seem to be in suits headed to meetings in the city etc.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Do many people still do the thing up there where they live outside the city and take a long train ride to work every day?

        I saw that in Mad Men – I think Draper lived in “West Chester” wherever that is. Just made me think how sh!t of a commute it is to go car>train>walk-work-walk>train>car.

        The other day I happened to notice it was 4:20 when I pulled out of the parking garage at work. At 4:28 I was standing in my kitchen.

        • 0 avatar
          IwantmyEXP

          CoreyDL,
          I do the Westchester to Manhattan commute: car/truck>train>subway>walk sh!t commute. I catch a train around 5:30am from Northern Westchester County to Grand Central followed by a subway ride and quick walk to be at my desk at 7:00am. In 2015 278,200 others regularly did the same. It’s a long trip, but relatively civilized and allows me the opportunity to read a lot of TTAC articles. I would like some speed increases on the train, but that is unlikely given the recent accidents. I am extremely jealous of your 8 minute commute.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re a modern Donald Draper! Spending that much time getting to the place I have to spend all day at would drive me nuts. I suppose you get so used to it that you just zone out.

          • 0 avatar
            IwantmyEXP

            Option 1. Zone out Option 2. spiral into madness. Option 3. Dream of flushing it all away for a shack in Arizona with no fixed adobe and years supply of booze.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s not even a difficult choice.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            As long as it’s a year’s supply of Blue Sapphire.

        • 0 avatar
          Zackman

          Let’s see: I leave work at 3:30, arrive at home 4:30. That stinks, but I commute from West Chester to Hebron via west I-275!

          Only one more year…

        • 0 avatar

          Yes lots of commuters every day take the train to NYC. I live in CT but closer to Boston then NYC, most people in my area take the train for meetings and some even take it in to the city every week and have a crappy studio apartment in the city for the week then come back out to CT for the weekends or with tele commuting they go in once a week etc. But down in Fairfield county CT and even up in the Waterbury areas you have lots of daily commuters. We actually have multiple trains Amtrak runs trains plus we have Metro North and an extension of Metro north called Shoreline East. I have a friend who lives in Orange county NY and commutes 3-4 days a week to the City about and hour and 20 minutes each way by train.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Semenak

          As usual, Rock has the answer; for your listening pleasure, Taking Care of Business by Bachmann-Turner Overdrive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6DK3XRmhJI

  • avatar
    MBella

    Rail just doesn’t work well in the states. Everyone has a car, and for longer distances they fly. Even with how miserable flying has become, it’s still preferable to fly four hours from Detroit to Seattle than two and a half days on the train. High speed rail would probably cut it down to one and a half days. Not something worth the massive investment.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I don’t think that’s the focus – it’s for shorter trips, like 200 miles. For example, NYC to DC is best handled by rail.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      For the shorter trip the car you own works the best. NYC to DC might be an exception downtown to downtown, but a TGV on that route seems to be absent in the above projects.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Lots of shorter trips would be better on the train if it reached TGV speeds. That will get more and more true as parking gets more challenging in more cities. In my own part of the country I’d much rather use the train to go Seattle-Vancouver or Seattle-Portland, if only it weren’t so [email protected] slow.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          The price from Seattle to Portland now is $35 for a one way value ticket. That would only go up with a high speed line. Oryou can take your car and be there in about 2.5 hours from door to door on your schedule. Even with $3 per gallon gas, a car with at least 25 mpg would cost you less than $20. Add a companion or two and the numbers get even worse for the train.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Rail comparable to the corridors in Europe would beat either flying or driving handily for people traveling shorter distances between cities. Think DC-New York or Seattle-Portland in under two hours. Rail is not for people traveling NY-Miami or Chicago-LA. But there are still two problems:

      1) The areas that would benefit the most are under-represented in the Senate thanks to its small-state bias, making federal funding very hard to secure.

      2) We don’t already have adequate rail corridors to build high-speed track on. The ones we have are narrow and windy. We have to acquire land, which under our system is extremely expensive and difficult. That’s not to say we should make it easier to condemn private land — it’s just a real problem if you’re trying to double the width of a rail corridor or smooth out a sharp curve.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      We should be focusing instead on transporting more cargo by rail. That would actually be beneficial.

      Even in Europe, the ridership of the rails is going down while discount airlines are flying pretty full.

      • 0 avatar

        Some of this does upgrade freight service Amtrak leases freight rails so as mentioned in some cases upgraded track means faster and heavier freight as well. The issue was we really waited too long to do all this. I grew up a 1/4 mile from amtrak in CT I used to walk the rails as a kid. When I was a teenager they ripped out one set of tracks on what was a double tracked main. Now 20 years later they are putting it back in at great expense. As mentioned rail does not work everywhere but in high traffic areas like South FL , Chicago land, California, DC, and the Northeast where there is lot of relatively short intercity travel but traffic creates huge delays it really is worth investing in.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        I don’t think that rail and airlines are direct competitors in Europe. It’s not the days of the Orient Express.

        The real competition to trains in 200-600 km journeys is cars, either privately owned or rented.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        Keep in mind that lowcost airlines in Europe function only because of existing rail.

        Lowcost airlines often land 50-100 km outside of where you actually want to go (i.e. Paris, Barcelona) and you still have to make that last part via rail or bus.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @mbella – the US freight rail system is already the envy of the world.

        http://www.marketplace.org/2015/03/20/business/freight-rail-king-us
        “Railways carry more than 40 percent of the freight shipped between U.S. cities. The U.S. freight rail system is uniquely profitable, and it’s been attracting international attention. Europe, Russia, Brazil and Australia have all sent representatives here.

        “There have been dozens of delegations just over the last couple of years,” says Patricia Reilly, senior vice president for communications at the Association of American Railroads, a trade group for freight rail companies.

        Reilly has met with some of the international visitors. They want to know everything, down to what stone is used for rail beds.”

        https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/11/29/america-freight-trains-are-first-class/YVAziNmLeoBLOatqIu7nMN/story.html

        “THE UNITED STATES’ freight rail network is the finest and safest in the world, crisscrossing North America to connect the largest ports up and down the East and West coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. All at an unbeatable cost to taxpayers — nothing. The railroads own, maintain, and pay taxes on their infrastructure.

        This system, the envy of the world, moves everything from coal to corn to cars at incredible speeds and carries invaluable benefits to both commerce and the environment for the nation. ”

        @Onyxtape – that would also apply to major airlines and airports. Pretty much any traveler using Heathrow will have to be on a train to get to or from the airport. According to google maps, the quickest way from Frankfurt Airport to Downtown Frankfurt is by train. CDG is an over 40 minute drive from Paris but around 30 minutes or less by train.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Actually, rail works quite well in the US because we have fewer borders to complicate practical bureaucratic issues of gauges, weight capacities,and speed. There is however an aggressive airline industry that will pressure candidates and congresspeople to minimize HSR because it impacts their bottom line. Not so much in passengers for the international and larger cross-country flights are the money makers there, but in shifting mail and light freight away from them. Imagine if your amazon order was placed on an HSR rather than a commercial flight. That would kill their bottom lines so they fight tooth and nail for that benefit.

      It seems most of the HSR projects were attacked by anti-government hacks who just wanted to create failures for their own ideological ends. Pretty sad in all honesty as that’s counterintuitive to how a democracy is supposed to work in practical terms.

  • avatar
    bwell

    High-speed rail makes a lot of sense in the Boston-DC corridor. I have no problem investing tax dollars there. Elsewhere, not so much. The Cleveland-Cincinnati proposal, for example, was idiotic.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Well it’s complicated. I was one of the guys in D.C. with Amtrak back in 2010 who had responsibility for diving up the funds for what was known as the “High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail” program (HSIPR) to the railroads.

    With the exception of projects on Amtrak’s N.E. corridor, which is owned by Amtrak, the money went to the freight systems who host Amtrak. The idea was to eliminate delays to the Amtrak services being hosted and the freight systems would benefit from the capital investment.

    The problem is that Amtrak interceded and went to the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) and put strictures of their own around the disbursements which heavily penalized the freight carriers for missed Amtrak schedule goals. When the freight carriers realized what they would encounter, they balked at accepting the grant. This is not how FRA intended the project to go but Amtrak thought they knew better and bollocked it up.

    The Vermonter was the first project to accept the money. That is because the Vermonter runs over the New England Central Railroad that was owned by RailAmerica (RA). I knew the RA people and worked with them in a reasonable fashion and got them to agree to the program. The morning of the day that RA signed, I had an FRA administrator, who will remain unnamed, call me up panicked saying, “You have to get a railroad to accept this money”. I told that person to hold on to their shirt as the first victory was coming. You can see how dysfunctional this program became when you have to beg people to take the money!

    It was basically a well meaning program that would improve passenger rail but never accomplish true high speed rail. it was well intentioned but Amtrak gummed it up with its ridiculous strictures.

    True high speed rail in the U.S. will not be attainable in any real way.

    Firstly, most rail mileage in the U.S. is privately owned by one of seven major rail carriers – passenger service is anathema to them and is only conducted where the Rail Passenger Service Act, the act that created Amtrak in 1970, requires it.

    Secondly, Amtrak’s N.E. corridor was laid out in the 1860’s and there is not enough right of way (r-o-w) to take the sharpness out of the bends to accomplish true high speed rail. The only way to pull it off would be via huge eminent domain activity to grab more land for r-o-w enhancement.

    As for Florida, and I am a resident, there is a privately owned and operated high-speed rail line being constructed from Miami to Orlando, it will be called “All Aboard Florida” and it is being constructed by Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), using some of the r-o-w that is owned by Florida East Coast Railway (FECRWY). Both FECI and FECRWY are owned by New York private equity firm Fortress Investment Group. I know through professional business relationships that All Aboard Florida will exist, there is no turning back at this point and Fortress is very heavily invested in it already.

    It’s a new/old world, doing things privately that were originally done privately but have existed for decades in the domain of the federal government.

    Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, is wrong when he states that modern mass transportation projects can only be undertaken by a governmental authority. It’s a brave new world!

    • 0 avatar
      Andrew Justus

      I really can’t wait for the FEC project to be up and running. It will be interesting to see how successful their model is and if it can get other private operators interested in passenger haulage.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    My parents have taken the MegaBus from Cincy to Chicago for REALLY low fares and it was fairly quick too. That has to be a cheaper alternative than laying rail and buying expensive equipment.

    If you really need to get to Cleveland, take Ultimate Air Shuttle from Lunken Airport…roll up the little terminal, park the car, walk to the plane and be done with it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The roads down there at Lunken drive me nuts. The traffic circle around those houses, exits here and there, and the weird Beechmont Avenue/Highway thing.

      • 0 avatar
        CincyDavid

        Yeah, but lunch at the Sky Galley is always cool…as long as something interesting is flying in and out.

        Flamingo Air still offers their “Mile High Club” couples flights too…
        http://flamingoair.net/sightseeing-tours/

        from wikipedia…The airline was set up in 1991 by a group of friends who dared each other to get at least one couple to pay for sex during flight.[1]

        According to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, a couple once conceived a baby during one of Flamingo Air’s flights.[2]

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      MegaBus has to be taken to task for its lackadaisical maintenance and reported overloading of buses.

  • avatar
    soberD

    Purely anecdotal evidence…

    Our preferred bar after golf league on Tuesdays is on the IL-WI border. Along the west side of the parking lot is the Amtrak line running between Chicago and Milwaukee.

    Their tables out back are made of enormous logs about 4′ in diameter. As we stand around and pound our caps into the wood we watch the Hiawatha (as it’s called) go by at full speed at around 9-10pm.

    It’s easy to see that the train is almost completely empty every single time. I’m not in the position to know, but there is no way that train is even coming close to breaking even on that trip.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    It’s great to see some real progress here. It’s inevitable that grandstanding governors will derail some projects, and commendable that the Feds are simply reallocating funds from where they’re not wanted to where they are wanted, rather than indulging those shenanigans.

    I hope many of these projects are powered by overhead electrical wires, like the Northeast or Keystone corridor lines (and nearly all European passenger lines), instead of diesel. Electric locomotion is more powerful, more efficient, and much cleaner — nobody likes being stuck on a train sucking down lungloads of fumes. Done right, passenger rail is fast, comfortable, and free of local air pollution. If you ever get a chance, ride the French TGV and enjoy hurtling through the countryside in clean and serene comfort at 320 kph. It’s kind of magical.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    California’s HSR project is a puzzlement – it was sold to CA voters as a $40 billion project, but it’s real cost will be roughly $100b. Our governor can’t find any private entity to make an investment (HSR was supposed to be a public/private partnership) because the numbers don’t make sense. He even went to China, hat in hand, trying to convince them that CA HSR is a worthwhile investment but couldn’t hoodwink them into parting with their money.

    Cost estimates have more than doubled while the scope of the project has changed to not including HSR for the entire trip from LA to SF – regular rail speeds will be used on some parts of the trip. It seems that the pro-HSR camp is thinking that once construction starts, it won’t be able to be stopped, and they may be right. Doubling down on poor financial stewardship seems to be the goal of government.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      California’s problem is they were doing it in the middle of nowhere instead of starting at both the SF area and LA area for local commuters.

      Yes, they are trying to force people to buy into it because there is no going back, but it is not the best way to do it.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        I think there is a “going back” for the CA train. It will never be built.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        The allegedly environmental politicians are attempting to skirt environmental laws to get HSR to work… the same environmental laws the same politicians say they support and helped to pass. Building out in the sticks also means they can put off eminent domain entanglements they will undoubtedly encounter in LA and SF.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Obama voters don’t build stuff. They “study” how and why and what other people should build. And conduct legal circuses where one group of Obama voters argue with another. At $1000/hour. In taxpayer funded kangaroo courts. Or, more correctly, in bankster funded kangaroo courts. That next generation’s taxpayers are supposed to pay the banksters back with interest for. Lest they get dragged into those courts.

    The purpose is never to build trains, but simply to study them, bicker over them, and pay fees to have bonds issued on account of them. Until the money runs out. Lest some of the loot ended up in the pockets of someone who may vote the wrong way.

    And then, when it’s the other guys’ turn in the rotation, they get to hire their kind of voters, to prance around in paramilitary garb, and make sure the kids from above don’t shirk their responsibility to protect the banksters’ “property rights” by not paying them back. Otherwise, the big, scary “financial system” would “collapse.” Which is baaaad. Because, how could the bonds required to pay for all that paramilitary garb and it’s wearers’ 6 figure pensions, otherwise be issued?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Is stuki an actual human, or some kind of internet bot created by the Koch brothers to troll the internet with a stream of tea party/libertarian/batsh1t crazy propaganda?

      I have no clue what this rant even means.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I was just thinking how civil this discussion was and thinking Mark’s ban hammer might be responsible. Then this. Oh well.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Sorry about that. Probably unnecessarily confrontational and uncalled for.

        In general, though, things won’t seem nearly as confusing, if instead of trying to reconcile actual results and money flows of political programs with their sales pitches, you model them in terms of simple patronage, and as a formal mechanism for transferring wealth and influence from those who produce it, to those who are connected.

  • avatar
    LDeaton

    The funds mentioned above are in addition to the “regular” annual subsidies for Amtrak. Passenger train service is unprofitable, hence private companies only haul freight. I read an article twenty years ago or so that told about Amtrak’s most popular route, from the Northeast to Florida. It carries passengers and their personal vehicles. This well used line was only losing about $60 million a year.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    In case you’re wondering what a billion dollars gets you in road construction, you can add a lane to 10 miles of freeway:
    http://www.laweekly.com/news/11-billion-and-five-years-later-the-405-congestion-relief-project-is-a-fail-5415772

    I know engineers who were on that project and they all knew it wouldn’t help, but it would look good during construction (long enough to last a mayor’s term). Much of the cost is in the use of eminent domain to buy land, and that’s true for the California High Speed Rail project, too.

    Or, you get one-sixth of a bridge that won’t perform as well in an earthquake as it was supposed to. (The eastern span of the Oakland-SF Bay Bridge isn’t expected to fail catastrophically, but it might be “totalled” and need replacing again.)

    Point is, I’d rather try spending money on rail projets. They’ll have overruns too, sure. Everything will have overruns. But they might get more cars off the road and make the drive more enjoyable. And don’t tell me it’s just California that has too many cars. I’ve been in traffic jams in Salt Lake City and Dallas. Roads are hitting capacity all over the place.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>Point is, I’d rather try spending money on rail projets. <<

      Because earthquakes do not affect rail projects that tunnel through the worst earthquake prone faults in the US?

      There is no economic argument for the CA projects except that they provide so many opportunities for graft.

      Even the originator of the project now opposes the hopeless CA boondoggle.

      “Judge Kopp, former Chair and director of the Authority, as well as being labeled really the “father of California High Speed Rail”, issued a statement that puts this all into perspective:
      “This project is nonexistent,” said Quentin Kopp, a former Superior Court judge, state legislator and a past chair of the high-speed rail authority board. “There is no private investment. So what they are doing is just whistling Dixie and somehow hoping the public can be fooled. It is over except for the waste of taxpayer money.”
      Kopp said the project is a far different proposal today from what was called for in a successful 2008 ballot measure that provided more than $9 billion in bond funding for the project.
      “What they have done in effect is destroy my intentions and those of the voters of California,” he said.”
      https://gtipros.com/california-high-speed-rail-2016-business-plan-a-huge-fraud

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        It’s for two reasons. The biggest is that road construction isn’t really helping, because there are so many chokepoints and they can’t all be improved – there isn’t physical space to do so. The second is that I’ve come to think of the road-building sector as being at least as corrupt and wasteful as the rail sector. If they’re both going to be project management disasters, let’s at least go with the one that’ll help traffic more.

        Economically, our transportation infrastructure is imposing limits on growth within the Bay Area and it’s pushing Silicon Valley companies to open offices in other states. In theory, high speed rail would let workers from further out commute into SF. It’d expand the pool of potential employees and relieve housing costs here a little. Roads wouldn’t because traffic is too slow and parking too sparse.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    It’s really an issue that the Federal Government refuses to run Amtrak and instead treats it as a co-op project that amounts to a confusing number of regulators and administrators trying to figure out who’s got what. Rpol35 sounds about right for being an official in the administration (I don’t really agree with his personal views but that’s ok, I don’t have to). Instead, it’s abundantly clear that these projects need to make eminent domain an issue and resolve the needed RoW quickly. It’s sad because effective short rails, such as from airports to downtown locales become sinful due to NIMBY.

  • avatar
    shaker

    One can see by how messy and costly these rail improvements are that democracy is alive and well in America.

    The inevitable issues with rights-of-way, eminent domain, environmental impacts, etc, and state’s rights mean that after expensive studies, many of these projects can’t continue, or never get started in the first place. So, little of the money actually gets shovels into the dirt, and people ‘rail’ against government.

    Why not a partnership between government and industry to stagger work hours, provide flexible scheduling for workers, and more “work from home” options to reduce and spread out the load on our commuting infrastructure? (Unless there’s already an effort underway, but I’m not aware of it.)

    The longer rail proposals (>100 miles outside the NE corridor) are probably losers – the ridership will never recoup the costs.

    The safety improvements are welcome, and may actually increase ridership to folks who are on the fence due to the (few) accidents in the news.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Why do employers need the government to force them to change hours? If changing hours reduces commute time and increases employee engagement, won’t smart private sector employers do that on their own?

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I duuno – I think that private companies believe that their employees would take advantage of flexible scheduling (and they do, but not to as great an extent as feared), and time clocks give the bosses a reference to control/discipline employees.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Amtrak is a financial disaster. Over a billion dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies. Horribly managed, obviously.

    You should read the Manhattan Institute study:
    Amtrak’s largest expense is labor, salary, and benefits, which cost over $2 billion in 2014. Maintaining fully-staffed trains on infrequently-traveled routes has contributed to high labor costs, but the pay rate of Amtrak’s employees raise its costs substantially. The average onboard employee made $41.19 an hour on Amtrak in 2012, while railroads that contracted out services to private companies paid their employees $7.75 to $13.00 an hour.

    Base pay may already be substantial, but regulations and poor oversight allowed employees to pocket $185 million in overtime pay in 2013. The management allowed employee misconduct and wasteful business practices to thrive, even as at the same time it hindered plans to make train stations accessible to the disabled to comply with the Americans with Disability Program.

    Amtrak’s did not meet ADA’s goals due to lack of structure and a strategy, according to a 2014 IG report. Management activities took up 46% of the $100 million budget, $6.5 million was spent on unrelated projects, and an undetermined amount was shipped out of state on non-ADA projects.

    Very few people use a service subsidized by everyone else. Most of the subsidized riders, particularly in the northeast corridor, are not poor. It is just another brutally wasteful government welfare program for a politically powerful sliver of middle and upper middle class commuters.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Try again, thElaine, this time with a credible source, instead of a conservative propaganda machine.

      All transportation gets federal subsidies, including the oil industry, roads, electric cars and aircraft manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “…while railroads that contracted out services to private companies paid their employees $7.75 to $13.00 an hour.”

      I’m honestly curious where the $30.00 difference ends up – lower cost of service, or upwards into the strata where the wealthy live – maybe a little of both.

      Plenty of private interests bleed us of our tax dollars too.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Plenty of private interests bleed us of our tax dollars too.

        Agreed Shaker. Crony capitalism is an artifact of big government and those who bribe/influence those who control the tax money.

    • 0 avatar

      The North East corridor isn’t really subsidized it actually turns a profit many years. But not enough of a profit to support the rest of amtrak in any way shape or form. I’m OK with this as really roads are subsidized and to many extents air travel is subsidized in various ways. Does it make sense every where? no but it does in some places I can only imagine how bad I95 would be between New Haven and New Jersey with out it. Amtrak I belive runs close to 29,000 passengers a day thru the North east corridor. Metro north another 50,000 that’s 79,000 more people a day on roads and buses with out rail that would be a real problem.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      People also forget that the NYC subways were cheaper and better run when they were privately owned and operated.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        And that the reason they are no longer privately owned and operated is because they weren’t profitable but were too essential to the city’s economy to shut down.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “People also forget that the NYC subways were cheaper and better run when they were privately owned and operated.”
        _______________

        The BRT, despite its reputation as the more modern and safer of the two systems, fell into receivership on December 31, 1918…If financial woes drove the BRT to the brink, the Malbone Street Wreck helped push it over…

        …In 1932, the IRT slid into receivership.

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/technology/nyunderground/beyondirt.html
        _______________

        It’s hard to take right-wingers seriously when they are unable to grasp the most basic of facts.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Since what the country really needs is to replace more living-wage jobs with ones paying $7.75 an hour and shift the rest of that pay to the owner of a contracting company…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This week, yet another toll road filed for bankruptcy. This time, it was the tollway near San Antonio and Austin, which got its 15 minutes of fame for having an 85 mph limit. That was a $1.3 billion project: http://www.reuters.com/article/texas-highway-bankruptcy-idUSL2N16A2IJ

    Transportation is a money loser. Expecting to turn a profit on it is folly. When determining the value of moving people or goods, direct profit from the transportation itself is a completely bogus measure of success.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Toll roads that force cars to pull over and stop to drop $2 every 8 miles or so are a tremendous waste of fuel, tire rubber, brake pads, etc.

      The dumbest thing ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        These days, they have electronic toll collection. But that doesn’t make them profitable, either.

        There is a reason why toll roads and airlines have a habit of filing for bankruptcy. People just don’t want to pay that much for moving around, and they’ll avoid adding marginal costs to their budgets if they can.

        Drivers may claim that they would pay tolls to be able to drive on less congested roads. But in practice, many of them will opt to take the slower, busier road that they are griping about if that comes at no additional charge. We claim to place a high value on our time, but we really don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>Transportation is a money loser. Expecting to turn a profit on it is folly. When determining the value of moving people or goods, direct profit from the transportation itself is a completely bogus measure of success.<<

      Forget profit, the CA plan is toast because the law requires that the so-called high speed train operate w/ NO subsidy. NONE.

      "it will have to prove that if the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system is built, it can serve millions of passengers without an operating subsidy, as required by state law."
      http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-route-20160219-story.html

      That plus no willing private investors means the scheme is ultimately a waste.

      And dead.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        thornmark, don’t underestimate the desire for Brown to ensure his legacy is seen through. That means doing whatever is necessary to get HSR started regardless of the funny math and lies used to sell it. HSR proponents/pushers want the project started because they know it’s a lot harder to stop once tracks are being installed.

        Politically connected vendors and labor unions aren’t going to just walk away from the billions that could be filling their pockets.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Brown’s legacy may be his Dem L. Guv who is running w/ the opposition to the boondoggle.

          But you’re right, w/ so many opportunities for graft, the project, though in violation of the law, will be hugely expensive even when shut down.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            … and that may be the single best attribute of Newsom if he sticks with his revised opinion of HSR. I recall him being for it before the political winds changed.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    The High Speed Rail in California needs to be from Las Vegas to Orange County, built along Interstate 15. The politicians are just following the money until it fills their donation bags. We do not need a fast train to Fresno!
    When President Trump builds the wall along the Mexican border the only people needing quick rail transport from LA to the Central Valley will be the illegal farm workers on the work visa program.

  • avatar
    skor

    Not true high speed rail by Euro standards, but as good as it gets in the US and still pretty impressive.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d_xF23MmzE

  • avatar
    redav

    The Houston-New Orleans segment makes a lot of sense. It’s the Goldilocks distance–all day to drive or such a short flight that you spend more time in the airport than in the air. There’s also a ton of business travel between them.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      No, it doesn’t; the traffic is not there. There is only one major HQ in New Orleans that I am familiar with (Entergy); so the business traffic is not there, and I don’t think there would be enough tourist traffic to support it. The current Sunset Limited only runs once a week in each direction.

      Building the high speed railroad ROW over the Atchafalaya Basin would be major undertaking, as would crossing the Mississippi River unless they get trackage rights over the Huey P. Long bridge. But the stretch from Lafayette to New Orleans is too long, and would require too many crossing upgrades to mix high speed rail with regular freight traffic; the high speed train would leave so much of a wake ahead of and behind it that it would seriously impact traffic.

      Finally, the entire setup, especially if it is electric with catenary, would be vulnerable to the next Cat 5 hurricane that hits the coast. Makes more sense to try to link up Houston/Dallas/Austin/San Antonio; though Southwest Airlines will never let that happen.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @Redav and @Jhefner – geez thanks for getting my interest up. Now I just looked at the Sunset Limited Brochure and f*cking Amtrak still shows it coming to Orlando. I miss that train. Their refusal to resume service is bulls**t.

      Anyway, as far as the high speed segment goes, you both have points. On the one hand, it is in a hurricane prone area and I can’t comment on the business traffic side of it. OTOH, even with diesel power, it would be an interesting competitor to air service. It could compete with airplanes on total travel time. If the train averaged 100 mph (the fastest scheduled diesel passenger train ran at 125 mph), the around 350 mile trip would take 3.5 hours, whereas non stop flights are just over an hour, so (assuming this high speed line used existing Amtrak Stations) when you account for time at the airport and travel time to downtown (the airports are all further from town than the downtown train stations), the airplane ends up being slightly quicker. In the train’s favor for business travelers is how much of the airplane trip is spent unproductively, whereas that entire train trip is spent on the train where work can be done in a far more comfortable environment. Against the train is that business travelers like frequency, and it will be hard to match the over a dozen non stop flights each way from United and Southwest for scheduling flexibility (although All Aboard Florida is trying to do this here by offering 16 trains a day each way), as well the potential perks of Airline Frequent Flyer programs and status.

      For tourist traffic, a lot would depend on price. If you don’t mind taking your time (9 hour trip) and don’t mind the only 3 days a week service in each direction, Amtrak’s Sunset limited is offering some killer prices. It’s only $86 RT in Coach and $309 for a private room. Assuming the ticket price was competitive with the airlines, the question would be whether tourist traffic would view the HST as a good alternative to the air travel or a overpriced alternative to Amtrak and driving.

      As far as Texas high speed goes, I’d say it’s not just WN that would fight that, although that routing is certainly their bread and butter. AA and UA also have massive hubs at a city in that grouping, so it’s a valuable business to them as well. I also read a while ago that they were running into NIMBY problems with the route as well. Just as with the Houston – New Orleans route, you’ll have a hard time matching the frequencies and flexibilities as well as frequent traveler perks offered by the airlines on those routes with a train when competing for business travelers and would have to try to compete with added productivity on the train. You’d also need separate train lines to get Houston in. You could probably do DFW-AUS-SAT on one train, but would need 3 more lines from each of those three to HOU since it’s out of the way.

      Amtrak also already offers the Texas Eagle which easily hits everything except Houston in one day, and just as with the Sunset Limited, usually offers competitive prices. I spent a couple weeks in Texas visiting several different family members a few years ago, and had to get from Ft. Worth to Austin. I had no car and was in no big hurry. Taking the Texas Eagle was cheap (I think I paid less than $30 one way), convenient (left Ft Worth proper in the afternoon and arrived right in downtown Austin in the evening), and extremely comfortable and relaxing. I would do the trip that way every time, and since Amtrak wasn’t an unpleasant place to be, I wouldn’t be likely to spend extra $ to save a couple hours on a hypothetical HST.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Flint had no problem until 2014 when it switched from Detroit water supply to the Flint River which has highly corrosive water; since Flint chose not to add chemicals that would have reduced the corrosive nature in its water treatment, it was pound foolish and their choice of water supply caused the leaching of lead. This is a problem of stupidity of local officials and Detroit stopping selling water to Flint – you see Flint was going to do its own water thing and Detroit got wind of it. Chemical and Engineering news did a wonderful write up of this situation in February and it proves that the Democrats don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about in their debate on Sunday. The Governor had nothing to do with any of this – it was all local officials!

    • 0 avatar

      The way I understand it (just based on media reports) was the city emergency manager (appointed by state government) was the one who both decided to move the water supply away from Detroit and not to add the anti corrosive treatments. The way it’s been explained by those reporting Detroit raised their rates on the those outside the city which caused them to look elsewhere for water. Not sure if any of that’s right but that’s how almost every news outlet has reported it.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    They know exactly what they are talking about, they are just lying.


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