By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
U.S. vice president Joe Biden announced a $53 billion, six-year plan for a national high-speed rail network that will place HSR "on equal footing" with other surface transportation programs.
U.S. vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a $53 billion, six-year plan for a national high-speed rail network that will place HSR "on equal footing" with other surface transportation programs.
The plan, which dovetails president Barack Obama's goal to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, is intended to support continued construction of the intercity passenger rail network.
"Amtrak Joe" made the announcement with transportation secretary Ray LaHood from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station (which, incidentally, is a main node for Amtrak along its Northeast Corridor -- and high-speed Acela -- lines.)
“There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation -- one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that."
The plan, which begins with $8 billion set aside in the national budget for fiscal year 2011, will focus on three areas:
- Core Express. "The backbone of the national high-speed rail system." Electrified trains on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125 to 250 m.p.h. or higher.
- Regional. Corridors with train speeds of 90 to 125 m.p.h. Short-term benefit: increases in trips and reductions in travel times. Long-term: the foundation for future high-speed service.
- Emerging. Corridors with trains traveling at up to 90 m.p.h. where there may not have been sufficient (or any) service before. Offers basic access to the greater rail network.
Simply, the plan is to build out the high-speed network and raise the speeds of the rest. The plan will be implemented with partnerships among state governments, freight rail and private companies, Biden said.
Biden offered a local example to support his claims: track improvements raised speeds on Amtrak's Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006. The result: ridership in the corridor increased by 57 percent.
But the announcement is perhaps most important not for the funds but the federal reorganization it users in. The proposal also streamlines the Dept. of Transportation’s rail programs, which should make it simpler for states, cities and private companies to apply for grants and loans.
High speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts:
- A $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment.
- A $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, including bringing stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
That news, along with the federal government's emphasis on bringing private investment into the project, is key.
Here's a video of the announcement:
Photo: David Lienemann/White House
Feb 9, 2011
"We don't have the money now or in the near future! What part of that exactly don't the dreamers get?" "High speed rail has tons of potential in the US. If it is done right." "The government stepped in and started regulating it - and thus after 1900 pretty much all rail building ceased (excpet during WW II to airfields, plants and special needs)" " trains were doing pretty well on their own until the government got involved" "Granted that the U.S. debt may kill the U.S. well before then." It seems like, deep in the recesses of everyones' minds exicsts the understanding that our Federal Government has often come up with the wrong ideas at the wrong times. And when they "manage" just about anything, it really gets screwed up! If you "fill in the blank," the Federal Government's War on _________ has been a big, money sucking failure...for decades! It seems like, anytime the Feds decide to take the batton, it costs five times as much and is twice as slow as it should be. This country is already owned by China. The Federal Government, lead by people with poor vision like Biden has burried us in debt to the extent that they and we have damaged not only our children but, our grandchildren as well. Where is $117 Billion coming from? Our tax dollars?!!! I don't think so, Biden! This is as idiotic as ramming a "health care" package down the publics' throats! Wake Up, Americans! Your government has been hijacked by Big-Business Croanies!Vote'em all OUT and, with them, this type of mentality! What America needs is leaders with True Vision and not a bunch of day dreamers!
More spending of monies we don't have? What nut-house do these people escape from? Though it's a sweet idea, it just isn't in the cards, folks! Dream on...that's all the subject is worth. We don't have the money now or in the near future! What part of that exactly don't the dreamers get?
This is a complete waste of money. Trains are diametrically opposed to the modern way of American life. We already have the world's largest network of roads. How about eliminating speed limits in the left lanes of our major interstates instead? Enforce the same left-lane laws as they do in Germany. Today's cars are far safer and capable of higher speeds than when the current speed limits were implemented. Wouldn't you rather have an American Autobahn that everybody can use for free than a train that nobody wants to use for a costly fare?
Rick S_z I can pick from 4 airports in Mass, NH, and RI that are nearby and close to the city, not 30 minutes away. If I fly SW from Manchester to BWI, it is 1.5 hr in the air and and hour at the Manchester airport. No train is going to beat that. Choosing other airlines can double the air time, but why would I do that? As for the roads being publicly funded, we pay for them mainly with our gas and excise taxes and tolls; although some of that money is skimmed off for non-road work. The users of the road pay for it. I'm not anti-train, I'd just like to see it make economic sense, not be another money pit. I do take the train from where I live to Boston sometimes, if it can save me time and parking hassles in the city.
So in Austin, the local rail cost $1B and covers less than 5% of the metro area. It is operating at a 90% loss. $53B will not even cover the Eco studies. This is another way to add to the annual national debt, while looking like they (Politicians) are doing something helpful. Quit spending our Great Grand Childrens money. Cut Federal wages by 10% to 20% for all, including elected officials and excepting active military. Cut federal pension plans and make their employees do what we do. Save for our futures our selves!!
If high-speed rail becomes a major form of transport in the US, it will be interesting to see DHS's approach. I wouldn't be surprised to see TSA introduce security lines like in airports-- that is what they know how to do. A moment's reflection will reveal this to be completely pointless. Aircraft are easily brought down by small bombs in the cabin because the cabin is small and pressurized. It is easy to induce a catastrophic failure in the passenger cabin at 35,000 feet. On the other hand, inducing catastrophic failure in a high-speed rail line is most easily accomplished by disrupting the track. Why bring a bomb on board and kill yourself when you can put it on the tracks and walk away. Hell, who needs a bomb-- just put something big on the tracks. When the European resistance sought to disrupt Nazi rail traffic, they sure didn't use suicide bombers!
But I have a few counterpoints: Phil (#8) - You're forgetting that our big airports are well away from our downtowns, creating AT LEAST 30 minutes of extra travel time at each endpoint. And, because airplanes have only one point of ingress/egress, the loading/unloading process is slow (+10 minutes at each end). I'll assume that TSA checks and moving between the boarding point and the ticket counter is a tie. So I think that 'Hates-Idiots' has the right conclusion, although I'd widen his range of competitive distances: A train on which you can do work, or relax freely becomes VERY attractive for a person who would otherwise drive alone at 250 miles distance; and with that extra 80 minutes of delay which I described for on-the-ground delays in air travel, the train can go 120-200 miles while the air traveller is still mucking around on the ground. Thus, a train COULD be competitive to 500 miles- if, and only if, there were no intermediate stops. But Phil is 100% right about the locations. NE corridor, LA to Frisco, and (you forgot one) Miami-Orlando are the 3 places it makes good sense. Chicago would require a lot of track, and the trips would be too slow. And THAT creates more than one problem. You're all aware of the excessive time for passengers on the trip, and the high cost of building and maintaining the track -- but you should also remember that rolling stock would be also entangled in this lengthy trip. That rolling stock would probably be better used to provide more departures on the moderate-sized routes instead. But really, guys: High Speed is TOTALLY UNLIKE Amtrac, and almost TOTALLY UNLIKE the "best" commuter rail in the USA as well. I've done EU, and I've done JP, and... wow. In comparison with crawling through airports, I love 'em. Finally, don't forget: costs for auto fuel and JET-A will probably be astronomical in the time frame we're looking at. Trains are vastly more efficient.
Myth: High-speed trains are economically efficient. Fact: They are not necessarily so. Myth: High speed trains are "carbon efficient". Fact: They definitely are not. Low speed trains barely are, and only with extremely high passenger density, like in Japan where people are literally packed in like sardines. Myth: Rail will solve all our jobs/transit/economic problems. Fact: It will not, especially if they are built for political over practical reasons. Myth: Travel by train will not become a federal managed security cluster like air travel has become. Fact: That's simply an Insane assumption. Myth: It won't become Amtrack. Progressives love the idea of rail because it's centrally controlled and Europe & China does it, so we must do it too. This is simply silly. We are not Europe or China, nor do I think most people want us to be.
The US lead the rail revolution long before Europe - the first use of military trains was in the US Civil War - by the South. Rails went EVERYWHERE because it was cheaper to get goods to people - even small towns - than by wagon. The railway barons were that since they built the rails and locked down all the people to using just their system (especially out west, in the east there was LOTS of competition in the short hauls, but going any distance you had to use one of the top 15 rails and pay to move your goods.) The government stepped in and started regulating it - and thus after 1900 pretty much all rail building ceased (excpet during WW II to airfields, plants and special needs) Postwar, they started ripping them all out due to highway system (Federal built and maintained still) and airlines to move people. So rails were built with private money (plus land grants by the Federal to put in 1000 miles of rail over land to get to the other side) but roads and airlines were subsided by the Federal Government. The person above talked about going from London to the Med in less than a day 620 miles - so that is like going from Maine and JUST getting to Washington DC 709 miles - you are barely 1/2 the way to Miami 1709 miles (point to point distances). Let's build a high speed rail link from NYC to LA its only 2,400 MILES. A HS rail from London to Moscow is ONLY 1589 miles or so. People keep comparing the US to (Western) Europe and it a totally false comparison because of our size.
@bb_apptix "Competes with existing private enterprise (airplanes, automobiles, buses)" Are these the private enterprises that fly in airspace managed by the FAA after passengers clear security by TSA in airports operated by municipalities? How many of the automobiles and buses move over privately owned and operated interstate highways?
The trains were doing pretty well on their own until the government got involved in large scale road building. The interstate highway system killed rail. Even now it could work if the government got out of the way. If Amtrak had been allowed to do what it needed to do to improve the express tracks for Acela, something they were legally entitled to do as owners of a rail right of way, Acela would now be running at top speeds of 150 mph. Instead the polititians got involved and prevented the needed improvements. Now we have a billion dollar boon doggle that saves travelers a whopping 18 minutes over the standard train service. Let capitolism work and see what happens to trains.
39 MPH is that high speed ? Thats what the train will be running. How is am-trac doing? More wasted taxpayer that we don't have.
If they pick the right routes to develop and have the guts to make the hard decisions about reopening express rails and straightening curves the trains should not need subsidies. There are 300 to 400 mile routes flown by planes today that a good express train would be a solid competitor. San Francisco and LA have hundreds of commuter flights a day flying between them that a good express train linked into local transit grids, rental cars, etc, could be a viable travel alternative.
bb_apptix....just a thought--the completely screwed up rail system we have is the result of unfettered capitalism, a period fondly known as the robber barons. Trains tracks differ in size and aren't necessarily in the most logical (per population) places. High speed rail is not competing against cars, it would be competing against highways which are, that's right, publicly funded. What I don't understand is how we can have high speed rail when tracks cross streets, at street level, all over the place. How will trains be able to speed through intersections? I took a train ride to Springfield, from Chicago last summer. Seats weren't all that comfortable. Into the late 70s, electrically powered 'buses' ran on a few Chicago streets. I don't know how cost effective they were over regular gas-busses.
A solution looking for a problem. Train prices are already subsidizes by the taxpayer, can we afford another $53 billion dollar giveaway to an outfit that loses money on 41 out of 44 routes? Plane tickets are cheaper and get you there much faster (565 mph vs 90 -180 mph). The only places the train would make sense is the NE corridor, NY to Chicago maybe, and California. Otherwise, it's just another raid on the taxpayer.
is less than ten thousand million a year, well under 1 % of the total US military budget of over one million million (10^12) USD annually. Even if a figure like Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr is backing the idea, it still bears examining, and could easily be paid for by diverting a very minor part of that bloated military budget. Mheartwood might be interested to learn that ?Shinkansen? (???) literally means ?New Trunkline? ; I remember taking it from Tokyo to Kyoto shortly after the service was opened in the mid 60s. The trip was breathtaking ; nice to hear that the US is proposing to join the modern world some 50 years after the event.... Henri
The US is much much larger than Europe and requires a much larger expenditure to make the US like Europe. The same argument applies to NYC vs Houston. The costs are vastly greater as size increases, many more connections required and much longer distances. 53 billion would hardly be a start. Enough even to give Houston good city wide local rail? They are just not the same. Besides, in the current budget climate, can you see such a proposal making it through the House?
Ain't it wonderful. It just what we need and the seats will be full sized. Not like the sardine sized crap on the airlines.
Reopening closed express rails or restoring removed express rails within existing rights of way will be a major political hurdle that most politicians do not have the guts for. In New England we had thousands of stupid people over pay for houses located along train tracks in urban and suburban areas during the housing bubble. They file hundreds of noise complaints a year over the operation of existing commuter trains. Reopen express rails and tell people trains will be going by in excess of 50 mph and all of those Prius owning eco Nazis will scream like crazy, NIMBY, NIMBY. They ran into that when they bought Acela and bragged it was capable of 150 mph. Acela now beats the standard train service by just 18 minutes. All because they failed to reopen or rebuild express rails, failed to properly straighten curves and gave in to political pressure by placing restrictive speed limits on the few straight sections of track.
These are all well and good - EXCEPT - the examples are of successes before airlines. Europe has reported significant declines in high speed rail because regional jets are much faster, less expensive, and can easily change to meet demands. It would be great to have mass transit running on electricity - but we'll have green jets before these rail lines are built - AND none of this will pan out if it doesn't reach all the way down to regional areas - the same places where regional airports operate. And then our Presidents joke that you won't be "patted down" - Uh, any moron knows that as soon as you have a mass transit system that services people like airlines they will require the same security. $53 billion on road infrastructure, an electric car charging infrstructure, natural gas vehicle infrastructure, or even drilling our own massive oil reserves, would be money better spent.
@bb_apptix At the Globe and Mail, a commenter commented on how "Old" Eurpoe has high speed rail everywhere and asked why we weren't investing in electrified rail which is faster and cheaper. I gave him this reply: The "Old" countries are in the process of renewing. The "Young" countries are still too new to do this. Wait until the middle of the century when we're so far behind that we'll need to leap-frog our renewal or die. Granted that the U.S. debt may kill the U.S. well before then. The first high-speed rail was the Japanese Shinkansen (which actually means "Express service"). It was designed before WWII. Despite the enormous war debt, the first line was built after WWII. It use to take several days to travel north-south from one end of Japan to the other. The trip can now be accomplished in a single day. With more lines under construction, they plan to be able to cut it down to 4.5hours. The effect on the Japanese culture and economy as a result of the shinkansen has been tremendous. The country has effectively become smaller. It has had as much impact as the internet. In some ways, it is the internet for moving people instead of moving bits. Europe has seen the same benefits from high speed rail. It cost a lot of government money at first, but it has paid for itself over and over again. A trip from London to the Mediterranian coast can be accomplished in one morning. It's not goods that are moving by these means but people. People carry with them ideas, regional idiosyncracies, and usually a bit of cash. Ask any artist and inspiration usually comes from other artists, often in different artistic fields. The easy-flow of people, ideas, cultures, and cash, allow for increased inspiration and innovation, both necessities for the future. Bidden hopes that an investment in high speed rail now will pay off big enough in the future in the same way that it did for Japan, Europe, and now China, to make it worth adding to the debt. If history is any guide, this may be the most important investment that the U.S. needs to make to survive. The question is, can it do enough in time to outrun the U.S. debt? Only time will tell.
Oh, great. So, VP Biden wants the US government to increase the already way too high national debt by 53 BILLION DOLLARS of money borrowed from foreign powers to build a system run by the government that: 1> Competes with existing private enterprise (airplanes, automobiles, buses). 2> Create another government infrastructure that operates at a loss, thereby adding to the deficit even more, year after year. He must think we're economically ignorant morons. Oh, wait, we voted for him, so he's probably right.