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  #41  
Old Posted Feb 20, 2010, 4:36 AM
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  #42  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2010, 12:32 AM
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Some fear California's high-speed rail won't deliver on early promises


February 28, 2010

By Rich Connell and Dan Weikel



Read More: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...,5686672.story

Quote:
Despite a new $2.25-billion infusion of federal economic stimulus funding, there are intensifying concerns -- even among some high-speed rail supporters -- that California's proposed bullet train may not deliver on the financial and ridership promises made to win voter backing in 2008.

Estimates of ticket prices between Los Angeles and San Francisco have nearly doubled in the project's latest business plan, pushing ridership projections down sharply and prompting new skepticism about data underpinning the entire project.

"This just smells funny," said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), a supporter of high-speed rail and chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

New inflation-adjusted construction figures show that outlays needed to build the first 520-mile phase of the system have climbed more than 25%, from $33.6 billion to $42.6 billion.

And some government watchdogs are concerned that a linchpin commitment to taxpayers in the bullet train's financing measure -- that no local, state or federal subsidies would be required to keep the trains operating -- may be giving way.

High-speed rail planners recently advised state lawmakers that attracting billions in crucial private financing will probably require government backing of future cash flow. "Without some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector, it is unlikely that private investment will occur at [the planned] level until demand for California high-speed rail is proven," project planners wrote in December.

That is feeding fears that a larger state commitment, beyond the $9 billion in construction bonds approved by voters, could be sought to complete the 800-mile project. "To now put in that we have to [give] some kind of revenue guarantee . . . is totally unacceptable," Lowenthal said. "That's not what we agreed to."

Financial risks and planning adjustments are inevitable in such a massive project, say officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. They insist that significant progress is being made, that there is cause for optimism and that they are keeping their commitments to voters. Opportunities for capturing more federal dollars are greater than ever, they say, because President Obama supports high-speed rail.


The city of Buena Park has learned that part of a transit-oriented residential project tied into its 3-year-old Metrolink station may have to be ripped out for the bullet train. Planners are reexamining the issue.

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  #43  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2010, 4:21 AM
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This is bad. If these questions and false estimates continue, it will most definitely be cancelled.
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  #44  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2010, 4:44 AM
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"Without some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector, it is unlikely that private investment will occur at [the planned] level until demand for California high-speed rail is proven," project planners wrote in December.
Sounds like the same old dilemma—need for proof of success, but success can't occur unless you build to impress.
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  #45  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2010, 4:14 PM
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The Sud Europe Atlantique HSR line in France will be built in a Private Public Partnership.

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/s...submitted.html

There could be lots of private interest in building the California line depending on the terms of the partnership.
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  #46  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2010, 5:15 PM
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By the way, all these attacks on the proposed high speed rail are not entirely consistent. Compare the LA Times ediitorial to this, previously posted in the US Major rail expansion on track with stimulus plan thread:
Quote:

Study: High-speed rail would drain passengers from Bay Area airports

By Mike Rosenberg
San Jose Mercury
2/25/2010

http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_14467088

California's high-speed trains — loaded with the potential for cheaper fares and peaceful trips — could steal about 6 million passengers each year from the three Bay Area airports combined, new estimates show.

San Jose would be hit hardest, according to consultants at SH&E, a Virginia-based aviation firm the Metropolitan Transportation Commission contracted to study the bullet train's impact on Bay Area airports.
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  #47  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 12:00 AM
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Never underestimate the political power and connections of irritating NIMBYs...
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  #48  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 12:47 AM
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What the NIMBY's want in this case is for the line to be buried at it goes through upscale suburban towns. As I was researching the Public Private Partnership, I found out that the first twelve miles of the Atlantique High Speed Rail line were built is in covered trench or tunnels, even through the right of way of an old railroad was used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGV_Atlantique




Picture courtesy Wikipedia commons.

Apparently, planners decided it was the best solution.

By the way, the railroad had been closed to make room for a freeway, which NIMBY's had blocked.

Last edited by nequidnimis; Mar 2, 2010 at 12:53 AM. Reason: PS
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  #49  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 12:51 AM
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It's hard to get excited about 110mph "high speed rail", which is what they're actually proposing.
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  #50  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 1:40 AM
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If Repubs stopped blocking everything remotely not road-or-air related, I'm certain several companies *coughSNCFcough* would be lining right up for public-private partnerships. I mean, study after study shows the profit potential's there--the initial expense is just really, really high.

*sigh*

Why do you have to be so moronic, GOP? Why do you have to keep spending barrelfuls of pork on bridges to nowhere and new Interstates and nickel and dime everything else? Why can't you see past the short-term and invest in the only mode of transportation proven to actually make money on a regular basis, even after construction and operations expenses? (The only reason why private airlines stay in business is because the FAA built and still operates the airports; if they had had to take on airport construction and operation expenses themselves, they certainly wouldn't still be around; air travel is a cutthroat enough business as it is.) And why is it when you say "we'll support this project" it's invariably pie-in-the-sky totally-unfeasible PRT or Maglev? Why do you hate trains???
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  #51  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 4:16 AM
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  #52  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 6:45 AM
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Private operators are probably waiting until the final Environmental Impact Report has been approved, all legal challenges to it have been exhausted, and some clear procedures for eminent domain have been approved. The last thing private operators want to do is commit to building a project that ends up very different from what they proposed to build, as happened to TML with the Chunnel Tunnel:
Quote:
In one instance, early in the project TML had asked for the IGC's approval to install standard 600-millimeter doors in the passenger car trains. The request became mired in red tape at the IGC, so TML went ahead and ordered the doors in an effort to keep up with its construction schedule. After the doors had been built, the IGC decided to mandate 700-millimeter doors. This change caused a nearly nine-month delay in the project and cost Eurotunnel a staggering US$70 million to rectify. Similarly, although the Chunnel was designed using seismic criteria used for nuclear power plants, the IGC decided midway through the construction process to increase the relevant design factor fourfold. Furthermore, the IGC decided in the final stages of the project to require the installation of an advanced electronic anti-terrorist system.
http://www.fundinguniverse.com/compa...y-History.html
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  #53  
Old Posted Mar 8, 2010, 2:32 AM
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Orlando Conference Identifies High-Speed Rail's Success Factors


March 4, 2010

By Tom Palmer



Read More: http://www.theledger.com/article/201...uccess-Factors

Quote:
High-speed rail's success in Florida and the rest of the United States lies in effectively promoting and selling it as a safe, convenient, environmentally friendly mode of transportation. That was the message about 250 consultants and vendors attending the High Speed Rail 2010 conference in Orlando were told Thursday.

But to do that, leaders have to communicate openly with the public and plan routes and station locations that will create jobs, revitalize communities and get people where they want to go efficiently. The two-day conference at the Hilton on International Drive was organized by US High Speed Rail Association of Washington, D.C., to promote high-speed rail projects across the United States.

Thursday's conference featured presentations by Florida public officials, high-speed rail company representatives and legal, financial, development, engineering and media experts. They discussed how Florida's project - and any other high-speed rail project - should be planned, promoted, built and used for economic development. Ed Turanchik, a longtime Tampa leader for improved transit, said the way Florida handles the project is crucial.
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  #54  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 6:16 PM
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LaHood to Airlines: Get Onboard the High-Speed Train (WSJ)

LaHood to Airlines: Get Onboard the High-Speed Train


By Scott McCartney
Wall Street Journal
3/9/2010

http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2010...h-speed-train/


The airline industry was left fuming last year when some $8 billion on federal stimulus money was appropriated for high-speed rail while air-traffic control modernization got no new funds.

Airlines see high-speed trains as competition that could further erode their customer bases, and they were left befuddled how rail projects decades away could be “shovel ready’’ when the next-generation air-traffic control system that airlines say will reduce delays and boost air-travel capacity didn’t get any action from the Obama Administration.

And so when Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood addressed the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual forecasting conference in Washington, D.C., the first question from the airline industry audience was about trains. Why so much for trains and not for planes?

Mr. LaHood gave a politician’s answer about how important the NextGen air-traffic control modernization effort is to the Administration. Then he paused and went off-script.

“Let me give you a little bit of political advice: Don’t be against high-speed rail,’’ Sec. LaHood said. “It’s coming to America. This is the president’s vision, this is the vice president’s vision, this is America’s vision…. We’re going to get into the high-speed rail business.’’

In two or three decades, Mr. LaHood said, U.S. cities will be connected by high-speed rail – whether airlines like it or not.

“People want alternatives,’’ he said pointedly. “People are still going to fly, but we need alternatives. So get with the program.’’
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  #55  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 6:35 PM
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Originally Posted by 202_Cyclist View Post
LaHood to Airlines: Get Onboard the High-Speed Train


By Scott McCartney
Wall Street Journal
3/9/2010

http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2010...h-speed-train/


The airline industry was left fuming last year when some $8 billion on federal stimulus money was appropriated for high-speed rail while air-traffic control modernization got no new funds.

Airlines see high-speed trains as competition that could further erode their customer bases, and they were left befuddled how rail projects decades away could be “shovel ready’’ when the next-generation air-traffic control system that airlines say will reduce delays and boost air-travel capacity didn’t get any action from the Obama Administration.

And so when Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood addressed the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual forecasting conference in Washington, D.C., the first question from the airline industry audience was about trains. Why so much for trains and not for planes?

Mr. LaHood gave a politician’s answer about how important the NextGen air-traffic control modernization effort is to the Administration. Then he paused and went off-script.

“Let me give you a little bit of political advice: Don’t be against high-speed rail,’’ Sec. LaHood said. “It’s coming to America. This is the president’s vision, this is the vice president’s vision, this is America’s vision…. We’re going to get into the high-speed rail business.’’

In two or three decades, Mr. LaHood said, U.S. cities will be connected by high-speed rail – whether airlines like it or not.

“People want alternatives,’’ he said pointedly. “People are still going to fly, but we need alternatives. So get with the program.’’
Airlines shouldn't see HSR as competition. HSR routes will serve shorter trips which many airlines don't turn a huge profit on any way. Airlines make their money on the long haul routes, which HSR will not draw many passengers from. If these airlines were smart they would reinvent themselves as "transportation" companies rather than just "airline" companies, and they would start looking for opportunities to invest in HSR themselves. Most if not all of the HSR lines in the works are looking for private investment money and they will probably need an operator... I see no reason why Amtrak should automatically have the right to operate new routes without competitive bids from other potential operators. Those are opportunities for airlines to use HSR to expand their business instead of just seeing it as competition.
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  #56  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 7:31 PM
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That's assuming they're smart, of course. Remember it was Southwest's lobby that sunk the Texas plans back in the mid-'90s. Most of the major airlines don't have that kind of capital right now, and Southwest (which does) seems reluctant to invest in anything not airline-based--which is a pity, because if Southwest were to operate Texas HSR, they would make even more money from those routes than what they currently do from puddle-jumps.
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  #57  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 7:36 PM
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Quote:
Airlines shouldn't see HSR as competition. HSR routes will serve shorter trips which many airlines don't turn a huge profit on any way. Airlines make their money on the long haul routes, which HSR will not draw many passengers from. If these airlines were smart they would reinvent themselves as "transportation" companies rather than just "airline" companies, and they would start looking for opportunities to invest in HSR themselves. Most if not all of the HSR lines in the works are looking for private investment money and they will probably need an operator... I see no reason why Amtrak should automatically have the right to operate new routes without competitive bids from other potential operators. Those are opportunities for airlines to use HSR to expand their business instead of just seeing it as competition.
I completely agree. There are reports all the time about how aviation delays cost carriers billions of dollars per year because of increased operating costs, unreliable schedules, and extra crew costs. You'd think that carriers would welcome something that offers the promise of reducing congestion at Newark, O'Hare, and LaGuardia.

Additionally, high speed rail has the possiblity of increasing the catchment area for airports, especially in the Bay Area. The Central Valley has very limited and expensive passenger air service. High speed rail will make it much easier for travelers to get from Fresno or Modesto for SFO or San Jose. This could encourage people to travel who otherwise would not have made these trips.
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  #58  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 7:43 PM
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That's assuming they're smart, of course. Remember it was Southwest's lobby that sunk the Texas plans back in the mid-'90s. Most of the major airlines don't have that kind of capital right now, and Southwest (which does) seems reluctant to invest in anything not airline-based--which is a pity, because if Southwest were to operate Texas HSR, they would make even more money from those routes than what they currently do from puddle-jumps.
I attended this conference yesterday that Secretary LaHood spoke at. Jim Crites, Executive Vice President at Dallas/Fort Worth (http://www.dfwairport.com/pressroom/...hp?ctnid=25815), was on one of the panels. Mr Crites was supportive of high speed rail but Southwest is flies out of Dallas Love Field and not DFW.
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  #59  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2010, 9:55 PM
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What California HSR needs is a thorough review by the state legislature and particularly the auditors. If that comes out with a clean bill of health, then public confidence could be restored. Otherwise, it will at least point out their strengths, weaknesses, potential over-runs and such in a relatively objective basis (Democrats hold a huge majority in the Ca. legislature). This can serve as a basis for modifying the existing plans.

I suspect that Southwest's main concern is the same as Sen. Lowenthal (D): that HSR will received heavy subsidies from the state and push them into losses.
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  #60  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2010, 8:28 PM
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From the NYTIMES.COM:

March 8, 2010

Op-Ed Contributor

Slug on the Tracks

By CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

President Obama has repeatedly insisted that there is no reason why Europe or China, rather than the United States, should have the world’s fastest trains, and since coming to office he has committed the country to developing a high-speed rail network of its own.

Yet the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail in his 2009 stimulus package, split among 31 states, includes only two genuine high-speed rail projects — in Florida and California. And even that money will do little more than kick-start the schemes. The rest of the package will go to upgrading various sections of the Amtrak network.

High-speed rail lines are expensive and can take years, even decades, to complete, particularly in a country as large as the United States. As a consequence, the president needs a quick success to show America what a genuine high-speed railway can offer. Fortunately, he has a great test case right on his doorstep: the Acela services along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which the stimulus package essentially ignored.

A high-speed rail service is not just a matter of a few sleek carriages running a couple of regional trips per day on lines already crowded with freight trains. High-speed rail services need dedicated lines. And they operate best between cities a few hundred miles apart — longer trips take too much time, making aviation attractive, while shorter trips are easier by car. That’s why the world’s first high-speed rail line was built between Tokyo and Osaka; likewise, across Europe city pairs, like Madrid-Barcelona and Paris-Lyon, have been linked by high-frequency services.

And that’s what makes the Acela lines from Washington to Boston the best opportunity to create a real high-speed, high-frequency service to compete with air travel along the Northeastern Seaboard.

But isn’t Acela already a high-speed service? Not at all. By European standards, it would be a regional express: It runs just once an hour, the track is too curvy for the trains to reach their potential speed of 150 miles per hour (except on one 35-mile section of the line), and because Acela is often held up by freight trains and road crossings, it averages barely half that speed for the entire journey.

The 450-mile trip from Boston to Washington takes almost seven hours and averages just 71 miles per hour, hardly faster than by car and uncompetitive with air, while the 225-mile journey from New York to Washington takes two hours and 45 minutes, longer than Penn Central’s Metroliner often took in the 1960s. Contrast that with the nearly 500 miles covered by Paris-Marseille trains in just three hours, an average of over 160 miles per hour.

While Amtrak claims that Acela has carved out a good share of the market — 49 percent of the rail-air passengers traveling between New York and Boston — there is the potential to do far better with improved speeds and frequency. More than 70 percent of travelers between London and Paris go by rail, while on routes like Paris-Lyon air travel has been virtually eliminated.

How can Acela be improved without building an entirely new system? Money is needed to improve the overhead electric wires, straighten out curves and upgrade the track. And more trains are needed to increase trip frequency, reduce overcrowding and offer flexibility.

It’s not just a matter of money, though. The government must do away with a host of state and federal regulations that reduce train speed and are far too restrictive.

America needs to be lured back to the railways that once dominated its transportation system. If we can show what can be done in one corridor, we can inspire the development of better train service in other parts of the country.

Who knows? Perhaps someday, like the Trains à Grande Vitesse in France or the Shinkansen in Japan, an Acela train speeding past the Statue of Liberty could be the defining image of a second great American railway age.

Christian Wolmar is the author of “Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World.”
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