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  #1  
Old Posted Dec 29, 2017, 2:24 PM
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US HSR open discussion

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The US's railroad network is made up of around 140,000 miles of track, but many of our trains are slow and outdated. Over the last couple of decades, countries like China, Japan, the UK, and France have made large investments in high-speed rail, and some groups in the US are urging that we do the same.

Here's what a high-speed rail network could look like in the US.
- Business Insider
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  #2  
Old Posted Dec 29, 2017, 9:19 PM
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Outside of a few core routes, I think HSR is a monstrous waste of money. Air travel is much faster and in the US it's bloody cheap. Just because people say they would take a HSR doesn't mean they will. Americans say they will take transit if it was good and fast but recent examples show that Americans are still loath to take it. Most major cities in the US that have invested in rail in the last decade have seen their ridership levels fall or stagnate and all but a few have deplorable ridership levels considering the money invested.

Also HSR only works with cities with a good local transit system especially in the US where downtown populations tend to be very low. Getting to downtown is one thing but getting home is quite another. As far as business travellers, why would they spend more time on a train when they are getting the trip paid for anyway?

Bos-Ny-Wash obviously and maybe Southern Florida, SoCal, but outside of that I don't think it's worth it and certainly not these long haul routes.
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  #3  
Old Posted Dec 29, 2017, 11:11 PM
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Omaha NE to Denver CO obviously not, but I suspect many would disagree with the rest of your opinion.
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  #4  
Old Posted Dec 30, 2017, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by ssiguy View Post
Outside of a few core routes, I think HSR is a monstrous waste of money. Air travel is much faster and in the US it's bloody cheap. Just because people say they would take a HSR doesn't mean they will. Americans say they will take transit if it was good and fast but recent examples show that Americans are still loath to take it. Most major cities in the US that have invested in rail in the last decade have seen their ridership levels fall or stagnate and all but a few have deplorable ridership levels considering the money invested.

Also HSR only works with cities with a good local transit system especially in the US where downtown populations tend to be very low. Getting to downtown is one thing but getting home is quite another. As far as business travellers, why would they spend more time on a train when they are getting the trip paid for anyway?

Bos-Ny-Wash obviously and maybe Southern Florida, SoCal, but outside of that I don't think it's worth it and certainly not these long haul routes.
Personally, I much prefer HSR to flying. I'll take the HSR anywhere it goes here in China (some routes are up to 9 hours long, such as Shanghai-Kunming or Beijing-Guangzhou). I travel a lot for business and I prefer the train because a) you can arrive at the station only 30 minutes prior to departure and have no trouble catching your train b) the train is almost always on time, which is more than can be said for many domestic flights c) the seats, even in second class, are much more spacious than an airline seat d) can use phone and have full access to internet for the entire journey.

Passenger loads on flights on almost every city pair in China connected by an HSR route that takes less than 5 hours from city to city have dropped dramatically because so many people prefer to take the train.
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  #5  
Old Posted Dec 30, 2017, 5:21 AM
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Personally, I much prefer HSR to flying. I'll take the HSR anywhere it goes here in China (some routes are up to 9 hours long, such as Shanghai-Kunming or Beijing-Guangzhou). I travel a lot for business and I prefer the train because a) you can arrive at the station only 30 minutes prior to departure and have no trouble catching your train b) the train is almost always on time, which is more than can be said for many domestic flights c) the seats, even in second class, are much more spacious than an airline seat d) can use phone and have full access to internet for the entire journey.

Passenger loads on flights on almost every city pair in China connected by an HSR route that takes less than 5 hours from city to city have dropped dramatically because so many people prefer to take the train.
Let's run just a little further with your 5 hour limitation. It's 789 miles following I-80 between New York City and Chicago, and 1285 miles following I-95 between New York City and Miami.
To reach Chicago in 5 hours, it would have to average 158 mph. To reach Miami in 5 hours, it would have to average 252 mph. So, off hand, Chicago looks doable while Miami certainly isn't.
Note, that's an average speed, not the maximum speed. Some simple math to bring that point home. In one hour a train running at a maximum speed off 200 mph travels 200 miles. 200 miles is a long way to go without stopping at intermediate stations. If the train loses 6 minutes (10%) at intermediate stations, it only travels 180 miles, if the train loses 12 minutes (20%) at intermediate stations, it only travels 160 miles. We're quickly approaching the average speed sweet spot of 158 mph. And it's impossible for the train to reach Chicago in 5 hours if the train loses 18 minutes (30%) every hour.
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  #6  
Old Posted Dec 30, 2017, 6:01 AM
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You can't really compare China to the US. China has more than 3X as many people and is a much poorer country with a much lower rate of car ownership. Also Chinese cities are very dense and have good transit unlike American ones with only a few exceptions so there are real options for city transport when you arrive at you destination unlike the US where you would still have to rent a car to traverse the city.
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  #7  
Old Posted Dec 30, 2017, 6:04 AM
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I would also like to bring up the idea of elitism. Let's face the wealthy are much more likely to travel than the poor so is this really just providing alternative travel options to those who already have the most? Urban transit is quite the opposite where it is the poor/working class who benefit from transit investment. Is it fair to spend tens of billions on investments that will primarily serve the wealthy or the same amount on the poor/working class?
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Old Posted Dec 30, 2017, 12:50 PM
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I would also like to bring up the idea of elitism. Let's face the wealthy are much more likely to travel than the poor so is this really just providing alternative travel options to those who already have the most? Urban transit is quite the opposite where it is the poor/working class who benefit from transit investment. Is it fair to spend tens of billions on investments that will primarily serve the wealthy or the same amount on the poor/working class?
Excellent point. Taking your point just a little further as for impact.
Amtrak reports around 30 million passengers per year. Over 365 days, that averages 82,191.78 passengers per day. DART's light rail system in Dallas gets higher ridership, over just 93 miles of track. And DART isn't considered the best transit system in the USA by most.
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  #9  
Old Posted Dec 31, 2017, 1:25 AM
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No High Speed Rail will ever be built in the US under the current regulations. Until a President comes along who is serious about cutting regulations (and not just talking about it) it will be completely impossible to get a HSR line built because the NIMBYs have far too much power to abuse the court system currently to drive the cost and schedule of any project through the roof.
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  #10  
Old Posted Dec 31, 2017, 2:25 AM
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What do never build anything anywhere squeaky wheel bitchin folks that manipulate they're elected officials to side with their anti causes have to do with some vague notion of "regulations" ?
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Old Posted Dec 31, 2017, 2:55 AM
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What do never build anything anywhere squeaky wheel bitchin folks that manipulate they're elected officials to side with their anti causes have to do with some vague notion of "regulations" ?
Because it's the sort of regulations that require years worth of absurd environmental reviews that ALLOW these sort of lawsuits to proceed.

Basically like this:
"We can't build X because the environmental study failed to consider <insert species nobody has ever heard of> so now we need to go back to square one and do 5 more years of environmental studies.

Also they seem to like claiming everything is always racist. Project X requires us to acquire property with eminent domain. A poor black person lives on one of those properties, therefore racism.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 3:14 AM
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What is phase 3 from Phoenix to Las Vegas? Is going to be high-speed rail? When they will start construction?
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  #13  
Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 3:15 PM
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The new Amtrak standard should be:

90 MPH - Long-distance routes
110 MPH - Regional routes
150 MPH - High Speed Corridors (only 1 of these now, maybe 2 or 3 additional possibilities)

However, with scarce federal funding for non-auto transportation, a good argument could be made that these funds would be better spent improving mass transit in major cities. The likes of New York and Chicago could certainly use some improvements and it would benefit more people than most HSR proposals.
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  #14  
Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 4:22 PM
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We are the richest country in the world. We can afford to build quality HSR (only on certain routes that make sense tho, I agree) and quality transit.

The problem is we get so little for the money we invest. We have to have the worst utility in the world per dollar invested. Europe and Asia build and operate high quality rail infrastructure for so much less. A lot of it has to do with unions in the US and terribly inflated personnel cost structures.
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Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 5:06 PM
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I am no expert but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume America's absurd land use, much lower average population per sq mi than most of the world, thoughtless and inefficient auto driven development patterns and the horrendous inefficiencies that are a result are much more relevant than the one time capital expense of employing skilled union labor to build it. For this comment though I am treating New York and other hyper dense heavy rail tunneling projects as exceptions to this general rule of thumb, for obvious reasons NYC is in a category of its own and suburban and decentralized land use does not apply.
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Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 5:23 PM
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Yeah, you'd be wrong tho.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/n...ion-costs.html

And it isn't even all unions (Europe is heavily unionized but gets better value) but for whatever reason the American transit unions have managed to extort disgusting amounts of money per worker, ridiculous rules (tons of unneeded workers, read the article) etc etc
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  #17  
Old Posted Jan 1, 2018, 6:15 PM
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Maybe better to have smaller planes and many more of them to act as flying greyhounds through dedicated skyway routes. Would need to all have vertical takeoff and landing though.
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  #18  
Old Posted Jan 2, 2018, 12:23 AM
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Maybe better to have smaller planes and many more of them to act as flying greyhounds through dedicated skyway routes. Would need to all have vertical takeoff and landing though.
Forget about Greyhounds. It's terrible! Don't take on Greyhounds bus. Too long for me. Just take a flight.
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  #19  
Old Posted Jan 2, 2018, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Kngkyle View Post
The new Amtrak standard should be:

90 MPH - Long-distance routes
110 MPH - Regional routes
150 MPH - High Speed Corridors (only 1 of these now, maybe 2 or 3 additional possibilities)

However, with scarce federal funding for non-auto transportation, a good argument could be made that these funds would be better spent improving mass transit in major cities. The likes of New York and Chicago could certainly use some improvements and it would benefit more people than most HSR proposals.
Amtrak is already 85mph most of its existence, but it averages nowhere near that. It needs its own dedicated track first. Track that it doesn’t share with freight.
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  #20  
Old Posted Jan 2, 2018, 3:03 AM
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HSR would be a complete waste of money, it would be better to use that money to develop local public transit systems. It would seem weird that we would invest in HSR when we don't even have the culture of using public transit at the local level in most cities. Maybe in 100 years when the US has a population of 450-500 million would this even be feasible.

USA doesn't have the population density to support HSR outside of the Northeast. Even in the EU where the population density is much higher, people still prefer air travel over taking the train. Japan and China have much higher population densities and in China's case they also have an additional 1 billion people compared to the US. Lets also not forget that these countries with HSR, they already owned the ROW, something the US doesn't have. Eminent Domain=you have to pay market price, it would cost tens of billions or maybe even near a hundred billion just to have all the land acquired for the ROW.

Also I find it kind of funny in that video that they show a trip between NYC and SF taking 20 hours, when a flight between the those 2 cities would take only 6-7 hours. I could fly from Honolulu to NYC in less time. Considering people are willing spend thousands extra every year just to save 10-15 min on their daily commute by driving over taking transit, I'd be have assume people would be willing to spend an extra $100 to save hours on their trip between cities.

A HSR project as depicted in the video would cost well over $1+ trillion and probably would only generate a slight increase in ridership. People can claim its the US land use regulations or government incompetence, but the most expensive costs would come from building out west where the terrain is mountainous. Planes don't have to acquire ROW, trains do. I'd rather all our major cities have 15+ metro lines as opposed to an expensive underused HSR system.

This is a perfect case of "putting the cart before the horse". Even if Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House you would never find enough votes to push a project of this magnitude through. In 100-200 years maybe its feasible, but we're a long way from HSR in the US.

Last edited by floor23; Jan 2, 2018 at 8:20 AM.
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