By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Transportation
The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board has voted to begin construction of the system that will eventually connect Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board voted last Thursday to begin construction of the system that will eventually connect Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The 65-mile segment, located in the heart of the state’s Central Valley, lays the foundation for expanding the track north and south. It was chosen because it makes best use of available funding and can be used whether or not the rest of the 800-mile system is built -- both federal requirements.
"We're in the business of connecting major metropolitan centers across our state," authority vice chair Tom Umberg said in a statement. "We won’t have a true high-speed rail system until we tie every part of this state together."
The decision has been met with some resistance, since the approved segment is virtually unusable by consumers without the rest of the system in place. (It can, however, be connected to an existing Amtrak freight line, the Associated Press reports.)
The new line would start north of Fresno near Madera and include the construction of two new stations: one in downtown Fresno, and the other east of Hanford. It will then continue to Corcoran, north of Bakersfield.
The initial segment will use about $4.15 billion of the available $4.3 billion.
The funds will be used:
- To build two new stations.
- Acquire rights of way.
- Construct viaducts.
- Prepare the site.
- Grade the land.
- Restore vegetation.
- Build rail bridges.
- Realign roadways.
- Relocate existing railways and utilities.
Another key point for the location: jobs. The project is a massive job creation engine, and the Central Valley -- with unemployment upwards of 40 percent -- is among the places hardest hit after the global economic downturn.
No construction can begin until the Authority completes its environmental reviews of the project, set for Sept. 2011. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and finish in 2017.
Here's a look at the project:
Tell me: given the future benefits and present risks, would you vote yes on this project?
Dec 8, 2010
The Interstate, national, state, county and city roadways are not profitable and have never been profitable. Try and get the same people who complain about rail not being profitable to accept an increase in the gas tax to pay for highways! There is no direct profit to be made in infrastructure. The benefit comes indirectly through improved commercial infrastructure, provides amenities that make an area more inviting to new businesses and their higher-paid employees and numerous other secondary benefits.
At barely 50 mile an LA to San Bernardino high-speed train would be a colossal waste of money on a fast train. The train would hardly get up to top speed and would need to begin slowing down to stop. Unless a small regional airline line serves the 2 cities, I do not see any direct flights from San Bernardino to San Francisco. So San Bernardino residents going to San Francisco have to drive direct or drive to LA to take a plane. Now an efficient light rail system from San Bernardino to LA would not only help daily commuters, but it would act as a feeder to a high-speed train running north from LA to San Francisco. The population density is there to support such a system if properly designed, laid out and operated in a timely manner. Running late all the time, like many transit systems in the US, will not cut it with commuters looking to avoid traffic. Of course that would be a comprehensive solution to some of Southern Californias traffic and pollution problems. Something I fear is beyond the grasp of many politicians.
If a high speed rail link from LA to Las Vegas was built that would get a WHOLE lot more use than what is proposed. Two weeks ago the Head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was quoted that eventually everything done at airports will be applied to rail traffic, ships and bus lines so a 3 hour rail trip goes up to 5. ""Appearing on the Charlie Rose show on November 22, Napolitano said, ?Terrorists are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through.? She added, ?I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there??" So forget any advantages that trains have now. The biggest way to make trains pay for themselves is for the Federal government assign rights to an Indian tribe so that while it is moving they can have casinos on board regardless of state laws - since all rail is paid for by Federal money it would trump any state laws. Then they would pay for themselves.
That tiny link in a sparsely populated part of central California for $4.15MMM will not serve much at all. What a waste of money. I think it would have been far more effective to go from LA east to Riverside/San Bernardino. The auto pollution reduced and population distribution would have been better served. All this will do is disperses people into the central valley increasing demand for scarce water and takes away more farmland.
If the high-speed rail alternative is competitively setup and properly run there is enough regional air travel between those cities to support additional competition. A quick search shows at least 7 major airlines are flying between the 2 cities with a combined 100 plus flights a day. That is deep in a recession when you would expect under performing flights would have been dropped by now. With over 50 flights a day departing each city air fares range from $50 to over $150. That is the target ticket price range for the train. 8 departures a day, 16 trips in total, would be some healthy competition in an already active market.
I would vote no on this project because: > It will never make financial sense, becoming a huge burden on the taxpayer. Even in the proposal that was voted on and approved by the voters it was stated that it would require public funds -even with full ridership - of over $1Bn/ year to maintain the track, equipment and operating expenses - beyond fares collected. > Amtrak. Government Rail has never been able to run this profitably, and their safety record is pretty bad, especially on the East Coast. Why will the same agency do any better with high speed rail? > The only places where rail projects work is where there are extremely high population densities requiring movement between large urban centers. LA and S.F. are large cities but how much movement is required between the two? Doubt there would be sufficient demand - at a realistic cost - to justify this. > Not competiive with air travel - both in terms of cost and time. Any train - even high speed rail - traveling between LA and S.F. has to make a number of stops in various cities. It could easily take 3 -5 times as long as a simple existing flight. And all infrastructure for air travel is already built, paid for and operational. > Plans do not include cost of higher security for both the H.S. rail stations and the entire line - which is very vulnerable to sabotage. TSA cannot wait to get their hands on this one. > Even the state's own budget office - which did a more thorough economic analysis within the last few months - blasted the high speed rail project, projecting it will cost far more than curently proposed. > Fare structure - any ticket prices that begin to cover the real cost of building and operating a High speed rail will have to be far higher than current air fares. So - why would anyone pay a lot more to travel on a high speed train that is vulnerable to terrorist attacks along it's entire route and takes hours longer than an existing air flight?
Just because there are stations, doesn't mean the train has to stop at each and every one of them. There can be local and express trains -- if done right, an express train that goes all the way from one end to the other can turn around and be a local train (or finish up as a local train and then turn around as an express) and still end servicing the "in-between" stations while shortening the overall trip time (or at least travel hassles). If people supposedly won't take HST beween SF and LA, why are there lots of Southwest and United flights between LAX and SFO throughtout the day? Trust me, there will be plenty of riders.
The difference between a high speed train in europe and a high speed train in the U.S. is that there is a lot more demand for trains in europe. Even if the high speed trains in europe made stops (and there are lines that do), people there will still use them. Lazy americans will not take to trains. They can rail about health, use less gas, be more green, be more responsible but when it comes down to it and you tell them to use mass transit....forget it. Its not happening. When people have to drive 2 blocks to get a gallon of ice cream, there is no chance a rail system will work unless air travel becomes so incredibly horrific that it drives people to rail. As of right now, there aren't enough disgruntle flyers to make up for train travel. People when given the choice will just drive. 2 major reasons why people won't give up their cars, 1. lazy (but they'll say its convience) 2. their car is their status symbol. The nicer the car the person owns, the less likely they will use the train. You can build the fastest train that makes no stops between SF and LA and it will barely make a difference to train travel demand.
They lacked the political will power to do things right in the Northeast Corridor. So we have the Acela capable of 150 mph running at an average speed of 80 mph because they refused to make the tough decisions in support of the grade crossings and other matters you speak of. So a train capable of running at 150 mph slows down to 30 mph several times a trip when crossing a street. This is straight off Amtraks web site for tonights trains from Boston to New York. What good is a billion dollar train that saves you 18 minutes over a regular train? Wed 5:20 pm Wed 8:59 pm Direct 3 hr, 39 min Acela Express 2193 Wed 6:48 pm Wed 10:45 pm Direct 3 hr, 57 min Northeast Regional 179
I agree with comment #1. When I was in Spain 4 yrs ago, my wife & I rode a high-speed train from Madrid to Seville in about 2.5 hrs, 536 km (335 mi.) non-stop. California's train would have to do that also, and since such trains are so fast, they cannot share tracks with freighters nor use standard grade crossings. Cross-links will either need to go over or under the high-speed link, which adds to the total cost of construction.
The distance, over 350 miles, makes these cities a good fit for a high-speed rail link if it is implemented correctly. A smart setup would use local transit means to feed people into and out of hub stations in each destination city. The high-speed train would then compete head on with regional air carriers operating flights between the cities. If they add stops between the two big cities they will kill the effectiveness of the high-speed train by making it constantly change speeds as it stops and starts. It would be a colossal waste of money on a train that can do over 150 mph, but would run at and average 80 mph because of stops. Can you say Acela Express? They will also mess it up if they run the high-speed train on the same rails as freight trains as they mention in the story. For high-speed rail, passenger or freight, to be effective it must have the exclusive use of express rails to maintain speed. Is that the Acela Express coming by again? My money is on them messing it up with multiple stops, sharing track or both. Wow that Acela Express keeps coming by as I am typing this. Is it a sign?