Skip to comments.High-Speed Fail ( trains )
Posted on 08/05/2010 10:30:03 PM PDT by george76
The truth is that high-speed rail doesnt work in Europe or Asia either. Japan and France have both spent about as much on high-speed rail as they have on their intercity freeway systems, yet the average residents of those countries travel by car 10 to 20 times as much as they travel by high-speed rail. They also fly domestically more than they take high-speed rail. While the highways and airlines pay for themselves out of gas taxes and other user fees, high-speed rail is heavily subsidized and serves only a tiny urban elite.
Obama uses the fact that France, Japan, and a few other countries are racing one another to have the fastest high-speed trains to argue that we need to join the race. Thats like saying we need to spend billions subsidizing buggy whip or horse collar manufacturers or some third-world country will beat us in those technologies. The fact is that high-speed trains will never be as fast as flying on long trips and never be as convenient as driving on short trips, and there is no medium-length trip in which high-speed rail can compete without heavy subsidies.
The rail advocates go ballistic whenever anyone questions their fantasies, mostly engaging in ad hominem attacks (you must be paid by the oil companies!) or accusing skeptics of lying about rail...
Building high-speed rail will be like standing in the chilly vestibule of an Amtrak train in mid-winter Chicago and burning million-dollar bills to keep warm. But thats what happens when you base your transportation policies on a slogan from a Kevin Costner movie rather than on real data.
(Excerpt) Read more at cato-at-liberty.org ...
Shhhhh. Willie Green will be here soon...
High speed rail is the Concorde of ground transportation.
I think I’ll trademark that phrase.
Boston to DC maybe.
There is a lite rail station in Weehawken, NJ right across from the Ferry. The geniuses in their infinite wisdom provided NO parking.
The entrance to the lite rail station is barely marked and easy to miss with no chance for a turnaround to get back to the station.
At issue is this nagging little thing liberals hate. It’s called “freedom”. In a car, you can drive practically anywhere there is a public road and you can stop whenever you wish for side trips, rest stops and meals.
With a train, even if it runs smoothly and on time, leaves you with a headache once you arrive. If your destination is not close enough to walk to, you must pay for a taxi or a subway or hope someone is meeting you with an automobile to take you the rest of the way.
But if you drive to your destination, you are the master of your own travel plans and pace. And if you need to run an errand or attend some local attraction, your chariot is right there with you, often parked at no additional charge to take you directly where you want to go when you want to go leave.
Unless you rent a car or borrow the car of your host, you have no such luxury when you take a train or fly.
Freedom. It’s a wonderful thing. That’s why liberals want to force you into having less of it.
Mr. O'Toole is wildly off if he thinks that 20 times as Japanese travel intercity via car than via rail. In fact, I would dare say that he has never traveled intercity in Japan. There are only 450 national non-expressway highways in a nation of 120+ million people (with nine more currently under construction). The average length of a national highway is only 81 miles.
Japan also has 5,400 miles of national expressways; however, these have been quite expensive to use --- toll charges are based on distances, and until recently, averaged about 40 cents per mile for a standard passenger car. (Tolls are coming down, both because some of the most important highways have already recouped their construction costs, and it is politically popular to lower these tolls especially since the excess moneys generated were going straight into the general revenue.)
Furthermore, in Hokkaido and other places in Japan that get heavy snowfall, train travel during the winter is far more convenient than trying to drive. Hokkaido alone makes up about 30% of Japan's land surface. (It is true that there are towns in Hokkaido that are accessible only by road, having no rail or airport, but winter travel among these towns is a vanishingly small percentage of all travel in Hokkaido. It is also true that driving all over Hokkaido is quite popular in the summer months with tourists.)
If you count traffic in the Kanto megalopolis as "intercity" when traveling between, say, Setagaya and Bunkyo, then you might be able to bloat the "intercity" travel figures for automobiles quite a bit. If there is a source for Mr. O'Toole's Japanese numbers (he doesn't cite one), then my guess is that it must include such bloat.
Going to Mr. O'Toole's point about air travel versus rail, in Japan, if the rail travel time between two Japanese cities is less than 3 hours, then as a strong general rule rail proves to be the winner. If rail travel time between two cities much exceeds 4 hours, then air travel between those cities does win hands-down.
Yes, our population density, unlike Japan's, is very unlikely be able to support "high-speed" rail as a profit-making enterprise. (I use the quotation marks since I believe that California's plans are to actually use what most of the world would call slow rail to implement their "high-speed" system.)
There's a very good report from Reason, CAGW, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association at The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report on the fundamental folly of the CHSRA proposal.
Probably the most cogent argument that they make is on a technical basis:
Travel Time, Speed and Train Design
Based upon international HSR experience, it appears that the CHSRA speed and travel time objectives cannot be met. As a result, HSR will be less attractive as an alternative to airline travel and is likely to attract fewer passengers than projected. Notably, the CHSRAs anticipated average speeds are not being achieved anywhere in the world, including on the most advanced systems.
Additionally, incomplete consideration has been given to Californias urban and terrain profiles where HSR trains must operate more slowly than circumstances allow in, for example, France.
This study, by assuming realistic speeds, estimates that a non-stop San FranciscoLos Angeles trip would take 3 hours and 41 minutes59 minutes longer than the statutory requirement of 2 hours, 42 minutes. In the future, the CHSRAs travel times may be further lengthened by train weight and safety issues and also by political demands to add stops to the system.
The proposed HSR system appears unlikely to provide travel time advantages for long-distance airline passengers. It is likely that HSR door-to-door travel times would be greater and there would be considerably less non-stop service than air service. Moreover, HSR would be unattractive to drivers in middle-distance automobile markets because little or no door-to-door time savings would be achieved and costly local connections would often be required (rental cars or taxicabs). Another convenience factor is that California urban areas lack the extensive local transit infrastructure that connects with HSR systems found in dense Asian and European urban areas. The HSR system will experience disadvantages and commercial challenges in competing with air and auto travel that have been understated in CHSRA documentation.
No existing European or Asian HSR train capable of meeting the speed and capacity goals of the CHSRA system can legally be used in the United States. The CHSRAs intention to share tracks with commuter and freight trains complicates designing a train to meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety and crashworthiness standards that are considered the toughest in the world. The necessary regulatory approvals of an overseas train are unlikely to be achieved without substantial changes in design and weight.
The CHSRA has yet to decide on basic design specifications for a train and has based studies on inconsistent seating capacities of 450-500, 650, 1,175, 1,200 and 1,600 per train. Also, a train redesigned for the U.S. will become much heavier and is thus unlikely to reach promised speeds. In short, the Authority does not have a usable train design and the eventually required modifications could substantially impair operating performance.
Because of the above circumstances it is fair to state that the CHSRAs train may become the worlds longest and heaviest HSR trainyet be expected to operate at the highest speed current technology permits. It is likely that a series of designs, tests, prototypes and safety reviews never before achieved anywhere in the world must succeed for the CHSRAs train to become a reality.
Any degradation in performance would negate the CHSRAs assumptions on which it has based travel times, ridership and revenues, energy requirements, GHG emissions, noise generation, capital and operating costs, and overall system financial performance.
The technical issues appear to make the current CHSRA proposal unconscionable folly.
International experience also shows that it is critical to keep HSR times under 3 hours; trips going over 4 hours guarantee that more people will fly rather than ride a train.
Highways in France absolutely do not “pay for themselves” as so casually posited by this Cato article, I’m amazed the CATO people let this slip in to the article, because it was from the CATO Institute I learned about the failures of the European highway and gas tax systems(back when Italy tried to forcefully require all commercial vehicles to use an EZPass equivalent).
So color me confused.
For what it is worth, Mr. O'Toole was correct about this with respect to Japan; in fact, the excess taxes and fees from the Japanese highway system were going into the general revenue. (These excesses may not continue as reductions are made in these assessments.)
Going to Mr. O’Toole’s point about air travel versus rail, in Japan, if the rail travel time between two Japanese cities is less than 3 hours, then as a strong general rule rail proves to be the winner. If rail travel time between two cities much exceeds 4 hours, then air travel between those cities does win hands-down.
Good analysis and all true.
But “rail time” never includes: getting to the station, carrying your own bags up and down and around the gd station, train dangers such as kids and drunks falling off the platform or even jumping off the platform,
taxi ride or long walk sluggin’ bags to the station, taxi on arrival, taxi after job is done to go for a bit of sight seeing or dinner, or back to station, parking fees at the station if needed, and reversing all of the above to return home.
In the USA and in Japan, even if gas is $5 or even $10 a gallon, it is nearly ALWAYS cheaper to go by car than train, and faster, and more convenient, and relaxing, when the above is include-— i.e. my car is parked outside my door, my train is not.
I cannot afford to go anywhere on the train with my 3 kids and would suffer a heart attack carrying the bags if I did.
Previous example offered was LA to San Diego, by car or train.
New World Order dudes like to pack us all into easily controlled high rises and on to easily watched over mass transit;
gimme my freedom and a car, or even a bicycle.
I remember driving on the freeway in LA (that’s right, California, free way), and looking over at some far off very long train going MUCH slower than me, 14 or 16 car length train —— and seeing about 6 riders total inside the whole thing,
and thinking, Jeeeez wonder how much that operation is losing ???
I was less politically savvy then that I am now.
ALL train scams incl Japan, California, and France, are political scams and lose money.
When it is not your money (ie government morons designing everything) then you will find such delights as no parking allotted, no bathrooms, dirty bathrooms, no porters (too degrading I guess) overcharging porters (can you say $10 PER bag to carry them 50 feet???) and on and on and on.
Truly, riding on most trains in the world is not a pleasant experience.
One might say he’s on the wrong track...
You forgot to mention that it MAY work in all of the above AND where your choices are forcibly limited by a large central government.
High Speed Rail gets close to break-even in high population density areas. The US, relative to Europe or Japan, is VERY low density. The math isn’t there, the number of passengers per mile run (and maintained) just aren’t there.