A Response on “High Speed” Rail

A few weeks back, I posted a column on the fervor over “High Speed” Rail in Richmond and attempts to improve rail service between here and Washington. My opinion is that any improvement is a good idea, but I raised questions about what is “high speed” rail, really, and how much it might cost.

Daniel L. Plaugher, executive director of the non-profit group, Virginians for High Speed Rail, has written a response to a similar piece I wrote in Richmond’s Style Weekly. I think Mr. Plaugher raises some good points, so I am posting what he wrote in this week’s Style as a response to my piece:

Style Weekly’s July 15 cover story, “The Magic Bullet,” suggests that high-speed rail connecting Richmond to Washington and destinations on the Northeast Corridor is simply a dream, and that if it is not superfast high-speed rail, 150 miles per hour and faster, it’s not worth the effort.

I disagree.

High-speed rail is about more than simply going fast; it’s also about more frequent service and, importantly, more reliable service. These are the benefits that Virginia’s application for high-speed rail funds should bring, in effect upgrading the Washington-to-Richmond corridor from conventional rail to emerging high-speed rail that will result in the three 90s: a 90 mph top speed, a 90-minute trip between Washington and Richmond and a 90-percent on-time performance with increased service.

These improvements may not seem like a lot, but when compared with the current passenger rail service available to central Virginia, they are a large improvement. Present service offers a 79-mph top speed, but the reality is closer to between 40 and 50 mph. Reliability is even worse. Amtrak trains between Washington, Richmond and Newport News average an on-time performance of 56 percent. One of every two times Richmonders take trains they won’t arrive at their destination on time. That is unacceptable. Doesn’t our community deserve a true multimodal transportation system? Our trains should work with our airports, interstates and buses to deliver our citizens from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. Rational transportation and environmental policy must reach beyond pouring more asphalt for highways traveled by more internal combustion engines. That approach has only left us mired in time-wasting — and enormously costly — traffic jams.

Incremental change that can bring fast, frequent and reliable rail service is the sensible approach. When Amtrak’s president and chief executive, Joe Boardman, came to Richmond in May to speak at an event sponsored by Virginians for High Speed Rail and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, he said of the federal government’s investment in high-speed rail: “The best way to go fast is not to go slow.”

In order to achieve express high-speed rail, we must first fix the bottlenecks and issues that keep our passenger trains from being reliable and therefore an attractive option. That’s the idea behind the Federal Railroad Administration’s approach of having multitiered high-speed rail categories. Level one is emerging high-speed rail, which will achieve 90 mph on a mixed-use corridor (with freights and commuter rail); next is regional high-speed rail, which travels as fast as 110 mph on a partially dedicated corridor (meaning only passenger trains); and finally, express high-speed rail, which can achieve 150 mph and faster on a dedicated corridor. The dream of riding between Richmond, Washington and New York at 150 mph is not a dream, but it will take considerable time to achieve. The best approach is simply to begin by not going slow.

When the federal stimulus money of $8 billion for high-speed rail was first announced, there were many questions about where the federal government would invest it. Would it go to one 150 mph corridor, or would it go toward advancements on multiple corridors? The answer is the reasonable one: We will begin by building our passenger rail corridors to emerging high-speed rail status on a path toward express high-speed rail where it will prove worthwhile. But this will take years, just as it did for the European and Asian countries that operate express high-speed rail corridors.

It took decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build America’s interstate highways. The stimulus funding represents the first time the federal government has come forward with the resources necessary to truly invest in high-speed rail. For that $8 billion in federal high-speed rail funds, $102 billion worth of pre-application requests have been submitted. The demand for better, faster and more reliable passenger rail transportation is truly substantial. In Virginia, we’re very excited to have the bipartisan support of Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, Reps. Eric Cantor and Bobby Scott, former Sen. John Warner, Mayor Dwight Jones and our General Assembly members, in addition to the business and environmental communities. There aren’t many things our community agrees on so completely as the need to work together to have a world-class transportation system.

There’s much to be optimistic about. In addition to the $8 billion in stimulus money, President Obama sought an additional $1 billion per year for the next five years for high-speed rail, and on Thursday, July 23, the House of Representatives increased the president’s request to $4 billion for the first year. Additionally, the outline of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation, which is beginning to move through Congress, suggests $50 billion for high-speed rail. This is a small fraction of the money we’ve invested in our interstate system, but in the spirit of Neil Armstrong, this is one small step for America could ultimately be a giant leap for Richmond and Virginia.

Daniel L. Plaugher is executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail.

Post by: Peter Galuszka

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46 responses to “A Response on “High Speed” Rail”

  1. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "it’s also about more frequent service and, importantly, more reliable service."

    When we were working on our short-haul commuter airline idea we soon figured out that frequent and reliable service were key to making the operation work.

    Unfortunately, this means no new operation, rail or plane can expect to start up without subsidies until the public determines that the route is fast, frequent, and reliable.

    For trains that probably means forever.

    ———————————

    Our trains should work with our airports, interstates and buses to deliver our citizens from point A to point B quickly and efficiently.

    At least someones understands it is NOT about eliminating autos, but about achieving a working network, where each piece does what it does best and at least cost, and no piece depends on robiing revenue from another piece.

    Trains will probably go from point A to point B, at best, and cars will serve the rest of the alphabet.

    Our commuter flights would have gone from Richmond to Manassas or National on half hour schedules and take 40 minutes per trip, brakes off to full stop. Unfortunately, 9/11 put a top to that idea. Score one for the terrorists.

    I like trains, but we need to be realistic. The phased approach means we can do at least something relatively quickly, but it might not be enough to get the WOW factor trains need. A little bit better than terrible isn't going to hack it, and even a little above ho-hum won't generate the traffic needed to make th trains pay.

    RH

  2. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I too love trains. But how much are the annual operating costs expected to be? What would the fares need to be to recover those costs? What is the impact of those fare levels on expected demand? If subsidies are needed, who pays them? And what is the impact on other programs?

    I'm not arguing that this does or doesn't make sense. But let's try looking into the entire economic equation before we say "yea" or "nay."

    TMT

  3. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    My guess is that the 8 billion will be parceled out, a bunch of studies will be done, and that will be the end of it.

    Calif. estimated that 800 miles of HSR would cost 45 billion to build. Better to pick one project in a relatively uncongested corridor between two urban areas with transit friendly taxpayers and go from there. At least something is built and an evaluation can be done. Portland to Seattle would be a good bet.

  4. commoncents Avatar
    commoncents

    Great post! I really like your blog!!
    COMMON CENTS
    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange??

  5. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "For that $8 billion in federal high-speed rail funds, $102 billion worth of pre-application requests have been submitted. The demand for better, faster and more reliable passenger rail transportation is truly substantial."

    Naah. Let's understand what is going on here. The demand for the $8 billion is substantial. you have to llok at the rail ridership to see if the demand for actual rail service is there.

    This is like all those airport terminals that were competed for, and built, with "free" federal money. Most of them sit unused, underused or used for some other purpose. But, at least they made some jobs for the building maintenance people.

    If Peter is right, we should plan on a rail terminal at National or Dulles. Manassas already has rail service, but it is on the other side of the airport from the new (and mostly unused) airport terminal.

    RH

  6. Larry G Avatar

    we assume that short-haul airline service is cost-effective.. and more so than rail service.

    is that true?

    I think rail has a role.

    I note that some high-speed rail in Japan is private – and not subsidized (is it?).

    I think this whole thing is about different accountings ….

    where we hold rail ..to a different standard than we do airlines and autos…

    and we assume that airline and autos are not subsidized and rail is.

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Peter:

    Thank you for focusing on the HSR.

    Sorry that I have not had the time to pitch in.

    The one aspect that has not been discussed: The success of HSR – like all shared-vehicle systems – is dependent on what happens in the station-area – settlement pattern and other Mobility and Access systems.

    In the case of HSR, there must be a Critical Mass of Urban activity that will attract HSR trip-ends AND other shared-vehicle system stations for across-the-platform-transfers. You cannot feed HSR with Large, Private Vehicles any more that one can feed Heavy Rail.

    Also on the topic of shared-vehicle systems: Bashing Heavy Rail, Light Rail, PRT, BRT and HSR has been a favorite hobby of those who claim to be right of center. They seem to think that by attacking the whole idea of shared-vehicle systems, they are striking a blow at all non-Single Household Detached dwellings and scoring one for ‘freedom.’ (Freedom to be stuck in traffic, but never mind the details… )

    Now come two card carrying right-of-center types (the late Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind) with a book titled “Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation”) According to several reviews EMR has seen (his copy is ‘in the mail’) Weyrich and Lind take Reason, Cato, TPPI, the Autonomobile Lobby, et. al. head on – “a public beheading” of the anti-shared-vehicle types they call it.

    Sounds like a useful read. It is available from Reconnecting America, a TOD advocate group.

    EMR

  8. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    EMR – you suggest that the success of rail is dependent on appropriate density around the stations. My initial instinct is to agree, but what about all of the rail that takes commuters to and from New York City and other places, such as Philly and Boston? It's been my impression that rail is fairly successful, albeit heavily subsidized, in those markets, but most commuter rail stations are not heavily developed.

    What are your thoughts on this issue?

    TMT

  9. Larry G Avatar

    one thing to do here – is to recognize the major differences between commuter rail and HSR.

    Commuter rail is invariable peak-hour, one direction service without a schedule outside of commuting hours and without opposite peak direction service.

    Also – commuter rail stations invariably are huge satellite parking lots for the folks who ride it daily – twice a day and then return home to drive their auto the final miles of their commute.

    We ought to be clear about what the purpose and expectations of HSR are – in terms of functionality and service and not have one of these deals where each of us has a different part of the elephant and are essentially expecting different kinds of services.

    For instance – HSR between Richmond and Washington.

    Should it run all day long every one or two hours departures or should it focus on "rush hour"?

    Should it stop in Fredericksburg or not and if so.. one station or 4 (as VRE currently does)?

    the more stations you add to HSR – the slower, less reliable the service.

    the fewer stations you have – the few people ride it.

    Commuter rail does not have this quandary. they know what their market is and what is optimal service….also…

  10. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "we assume that short-haul airline service is cost-effective.. and more so than rail service.

    is that true?"

    Historically, commuter airlines were required to use twin engine aircraft for safety reasons. This meant that the airplanes where hugely overpowered since each engine had to be able to carry the weight of the other in case one failed. This caused huge fuel consumption which meant big fuel tanks and small payload.

    Those typical commuter planes weren't practical for really short trips, so they were only useful in the 300 to 600 mile range. But the top end of that got squeezed out by the new small jets. As a result, you can buy one of those commuters dirt cheap: you just can;t afford to operate it.

    You see where I get the idea that everything is a tradeoff.

    New immensely reliable engines and new engine wear monitorng technology allowed FAA to approve certain single engine aircraft to carry passngers. This amounted to a savings of not 50% but more like 85% in total operating costs.

    With a 60% load factor those airplanes could turn a profit at $0.50 cents per passenger mile in 1990, and they could operate profitably on flights as short as 100 miles.

    Our business plan was similar to the satellite parking shuttle at the airport: you would park at your local airport for free, clear security, and arrive inside the security zone at a major airport for around $120 R/T. There are thrity local regional airports within a one hour flight of the three major DC Airports. Richmond to DC on Amtrak is about $100, but it takes five hours.

    RH

  11. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "I note that some high-speed rail in Japan is private – and not subsidized (is it?)."

    I believe there are two HSR systems in Japan that are private. But the original companies failed, were bailed out and heavily subsidized by the government, and finally re-organized and re-privatized.

    Whatever the exct story, yes they are NOW private and profitable, but they could not have been without government help.

    We woud have needed initial government help for the airline plan, too. We figured it would be three to five years before it could operate sustainably. There is a long history ogf that in the airline business, many of the old commuter flights were subsidized before deregulation, which also meant many cities lost service after deregulation.

    RH

  12. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "Should it run all day long every one or two hours departures or should it focus on "rush hour"?"

    An hour isn;t eneough. We figured we need 30 to forty minute departures during rush hour, and we needed a couple of late flights in the evening so that people could be assured they could get home if their day ran long.

    We scheduled fewer flights at mid day and used that time for cleanup, maintenance, and refueling.

    RH

  13. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    the more stations you add to HSR – the slower, less reliable the service.

    Exactly.

    We planned it so each airplane would fly a triangular route. Two airplanes would service three airports, one major and two regionals, so there would be at most one stop. The airplanes would work in opposite directions around the triangle, so you might have Richmond, Charlottesville, Dulles on the hour and Richmond, Dulles, Charlottesvill on the half hour.

    With all the terminals in place and no tracks to move, (no freight trains to compete with) we could alter routes as needed: add trips to the beach in summer and the mountains in winter.

    We also assumed we would lose pilots to other airlines in a major way, since ours would have more take-off and landing experience than anybody's.

    Although we could fly with one pilot, we planned to always have two, so the less eperienced one would have good training before he moved to the left seat. We also planned to partner with a community college for pilot and maintenance training.

    RH

  14. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "…and we assume that airline and autos are not subsidized and rail is."

    It is a bad assumption and a value laden argument. The real issue is to look at the total net costs and benefits, and work from there: how do you get the most total value for the least total cost (public and/or private).

    If you had some hypothetical system in which the costs were all public but the benefits were ten times that of the competing private system for the same price, would we really be arguing about subsidies?

    No, of course not, and anyway the subsidies are as much to ourselves (the riders) as to the railroad (or airplane).

    We need an honest dispassionate accounting of all the costs. One cost would be that of developing high density housing and business near the rail stations, just to subsidize their operations.

    Airlines get all kinds of help from the government, of which traffic control is one, but autos also get traffic control from government, and roads as well. Airlines also have to work under close government scrutiny and inspection. they also pay hefty taxes and fees to help support the government efforts.

    We need to understand the math and get it right. We also need to understand the drivers so we know when we need to change our plans. We can't let this turn into a battle for dollars for "our favorite mode" no matter the expense to other modes.

    RH

  15. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "…dependent on what happens in the station-area – settlement pattern and other Mobility and Access systems."

    The key words here are "other…systems".

    Whatever you do you will need a lot of parking, so plan on it.

    RH

  16. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    So, Portland, Maine to Boston is about $50 round trip on Amtrak but Richopmd to DC is about $100.

    Both are 2.5 hours one way.

    Who is getting a subsidy?

    RH

  17. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    TMT said:

    "MR – you suggest that the success of rail is dependent on appropriate density around the stations. My initial instinct is to agree,.."

    THANK YOU

    "..but what about all of the rail that takes commuters to and from New York City and other places, such as Philly and Boston?"

    ONE STARTS WITH LARRY'S OBSERVATION THAT HSR AND COMM RAIL ARE DIFFERENT ANIMALS, BUT NOT THAT MUCH DIFFERENT.

    WHEN THE COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE STARTED THE STAION AREAS WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF COMMUNITIES WITH A RELITIVELY GOOD BALANCE OF J H S R A. ONLY A FEW WORKERS 'COMMUTED' THE REST WORKED WHERE THEY LIVED. AS THE STATION AREA BECAME MORE DIVERISFIED, REVERSE COMMUTTING STARTED.

    THAT RESULTED IN CLOSE TO BREAKEVEN IF THE COSTS WERE FAILY ALLOCATED.

    ENTER THE AUTONOMOBILE AND THE HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED EXPRESS WAY AND THE NUMBER OF RIDERS DWINDLED.

    AS YOU MAY RECALL SYNERGY AND OUR CLIENTS WERE IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF SUPPORT FOR AND GETTING VRE UP AND RUNNING.

    ONE OF THE THINGS WE SAID AT THE TIME IS THAT EVERY STATION AREA NEEDED TO BE IN THE ZENTRUM OF OF A BETA COMMUNITY.

    THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED, MUNICIPALITIES SURROUNDED THE STATIONS WITH PARKING LOTS.

    THAT WORKED TO FILL TRAINS AS LONG AS THERE WAS CHEAP GASOLINE (UNDER 5$). IN THE FUTURE THERE MUST BE STATION AREA DEVELOPMENT TO APPROACH VRE PAYING FOR ITSELF.

    HSR IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL, HERE MOST OF WHAT YOU HEAR IS CORRECT. FEW STOPS, LONG HAULS…

    SYNERGY WAS INVOLVED WITH MAG LEV TO DULLES. PROBLEM? THE TECHNOLOGY WOULD GO TO FAST FOR THE CURVES IN THE ACCESS ROAD AND THE TRIAN WOULD JUST GET UP TO SPEED AND HAVE TO START SLOWING DOWN — EVEN A STOP IN TYSONS WOULD NOT FLY.

    "It's been my impression that rail is fairly successful, albeit heavily subsidized,…"

    SEE ABOVE

    "in those markets, but most commuter rail stations are not heavily developed."

    SEE ABOVE

    HOPE THIS HELPS

    GOOD QUESTION

    BY THE BY, RH's NOTES ON THE AIR SHUTTLES ARE VERY GOOD, THIS IS SOMETHING HE KNOWS ABOUT AND DOES A NICE JOB.

    EMR

  18. Larry G Avatar

    comparing commuter rail to HSR.

    Some folks think that commuter rail is the rail equivalent of roads that promote sprawl.

    whereas … HSR… would not be "primarily" used for home-to-work-to-home commuting… with a clear scheduling/operational bias towards supporting rush hour commuters.

    I don't know. I'm a bit undecided but it's clear if you look at the load profile … for any rail… that commuting will have a different one that non-commuting…

    It's interesting that EMR does not see them as that different…

    I'm not saying this

    I'm not saying that HSR would not be used for home-to-work-to-home commuting… but that function would be but one of several and the schedule and operation would not favor commuting… per se….

    That's why I asked.. how many stops (and when) should HSR make between Richmond and Washington.

  19. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I think HSR and commuter rail are two different things.

    How many people in Japan or Europe actually commute daily on HSR?

    Its a frightening thing to think I might live so far away from my job that I have to go 150 mph to get there. It also sounds expensive.

    I think it HSR more like go to another city for a two day business meeting, or visit granma.

    RH

  20. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    AS THE STATION AREA BECAME MORE DIVERISFIED, REVERSE COMMUTTING STARTED.

    Huh? How do you reverse commute on VRE? I don't even think you can buy a ticket, and anyway the use mostly dedicated trains: they go in, and then sit.

    RH

  21. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "WHEN THE COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE STARTED THE STAION AREAS WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF COMMUNITIES WITH A RELITIVELY GOOD BALANCE OF J H S R A. ONLY A FEW WORKERS 'COMMUTED' THE REST WORKED WHERE THEY LIVED. AS THE STATION AREA BECAME MORE DIVERISFIED, REVERSE COMMUTTING STARTED.

    THAT RESULTED IN CLOSE TO BREAKEVEN IF THE COSTS WERE FAILY ALLOCATED."

    This is wishful thinking and revisionist history.

    RH

  22. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "IN THE FUTURE THERE MUST BE STATION AREA DEVELOPMENT TO APPROACH VRE PAYING FOR ITSELF."

    This is a self defeating prophesy.

    If you actually had such development you would have "more places" Instead of driving to the station to get on the train you could drive to the station area and go to work.

    Even if you lived there you would no longer need to get on the train.
    But you would likely complain about the parking and traffic from those driving in that did need to get on the train.

    And anyway, developing that kind of density is just another subsidy for the trains. Whatever happend to apying the full costs?

    If you get that kind of development you no longer NEED VRE and you would be better off to shut it down.

    RH

  23. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "AS YOU MAY RECALL SYNERGY AND OUR CLIENTS WERE IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF SUPPORT FOR AND GETTING VRE UP AND RUNNING."

    I notice your own county does not contribute to VRE. Warrenton ripped out its rail spur to make sure VRE never comes.

    RH

  24. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Larry G. and Anon RH seem so anxious to kick dirt in Dr. Risse’s face that they make fools of themselves.

    If one reads Larry Grow’s book (“On the 8:02: An Informal History of Commuting by Rail in America” 1979) those interested in facts rather than defamation will find what Risse said above is well supported by the evidence.

    Larry G. said “It's interesting that EMR does not see them as that different…”

    Risse started his post by saying they WERE different and then went on to outline some similarities between all shared-vehicle systems, including the necessity of supporting station-area development.

    Anon RH said

    “How many people in Japan or Europe actually commute daily on HSR?”

    Not many on a daily basis but who said they did?

    This is just a snide aside to discredit someone who Anon RH has never bothered to try to understand.

    Then Anon RH quoted Risse:

    “AS THE STATION AREA BECAME MORE DIVERSIFIED, REVERSE COMMUTING STARTED.

    And then Anon RH sagely commented:

    “Huh? How do you reverse commute on VRE? I don't even think you can buy a ticket, and anyway the use mostly dedicated trains: they go in, and then sit.”

    Commuter rail “started” in the 1870s and one can assume from the context that Dr. Risse meant the period from 1890 to 1920 in which case he is absolutely right. This statement has nothing to do with VRE.

    Then Anon RH again quotes Risse:

    "WHEN THE COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE STARTED THE STATION AREAS WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF COMMUNITIES WITH A RELATIVELY GOOD BALANCE OF J H S R A. ONLY A FEW WORKERS 'COMMUTED' THE REST WORKED WHERE THEY LIVED. AS THE STATION AREA BECAME MORE DIVERSIFIED, REVERSE COMMITTING STARTED.
    THAT RESULTED IN CLOSE TO BREAKEVEN IF THE COSTS WERE FAIRLY ALLOCATED."

    To which Anon RH replies:

    “This is wishful thinking and revisionist history.”

    No, it is fact.

    Next Anon RH quote Risse again:

    "IN THE FUTURE THERE MUST BE STATION AREA DEVELOPMENT TO APPROACH VRE PAYING FOR ITSELF."

    and then says: “This is a self defeating prophesy.”

    No, again this is fact.

    “If you actually had such development you would have "more places."

    If Anon RH means places with relative Balance in Dr. Risse’s Vocabulary then “ Instead of driving (No, walking or taking a shared vehicle) to the station to get on the train you could drive (No, walk or take a shared vehicle) to the station area and go to work.”

    But the residents would still use the train for the Households with two workers one of whom did not work in the station-area, etc. No one – especially Dr. Risse – ever said that EVERYONE has to live and work in the station area or in the same Community.

    “And anyway, developing that kind of density is just another subsidy for the trains.”

    As Anon RH must know by now, but his sponsors do not what him to admit, it is lower density that needs subsidy.

    “Whatever happened to applying the full costs?”

    One of Dr. Risse’s key principles that he never wavers from. Just more sophomoric dirt kicking.

    RLG

  25. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    OK one more thing:

    Anon RH again quotes Dr. Risse:

    "AS YOU MAY RECALL SYNERGY AND OUR CLIENTS WERE IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF SUPPORT FOR AND GETTING VRE UP AND RUNNING."

    Then Anon RH say: “I notice your own county does not contribute to VRE.”

    What does that have to do with Dr. Risse’s views? He has only lived in the Community for 6 years or so and does not hold public office. How is he accountable for this? Just more dirt kicking.

    I recall a lecture where Prof. Risse laid out in detail why VRE stretching out to Fauquier County – unless the station areas between King Street and Manassas were developed at or beyond Critical Mass and had Balance AND the County was committed to creating a station area with Critical Mass and Balance (and no parking) it would be a bad move for the County. So he might well support the County position of not supporting VRE since those conditions have not and will not be met.

    “Warrenton ripped out its rail spur to make sure VRE never comes.”

    It was a spur, a SPUR. Warrenton would have to have 75,000 residents for a rail connection to make sense that far form the Core of the SubRegion.

    Anon RH implies that Dr. Risse was out there with a pick and shovel digging up the tracks – give it up and stick to your hay.

    I have advised Dr. Risse that posting on this site is a waste of his time because of the hack responses he gets. He promises to make some changes soon and is always optimistic that at least some will understand what he is trying to get across and will continue to respond to reasonable questions such at TMT raised.

    RLG

  26. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "it is lower density that needs subsidy.
    "

    I don't have any sponsors.

    Lower density depends on how low, doesn't it?

    If you insist on having higher density in some places to "save money", wouldn't that mean loswer density in other places where youlose money?

    Isn't it true that at very low densities the farms and other undeveloped spots are paying twice as much in taxes as they get in services?

    Who, exactly is subsidizing whom? It is the Urban areas that never seem to have enough resources, and they already have the highest taxes, and highest costs: how do we save money by doing more of that?

    My position is ONLY that we should analyze all costs and all subsidies on an equal basis, in orer that we can find the lowest overall costs.

    That means we have to question equally all points of view, especially those that are supported by special interest groups supporting a single position.

    If it takes high density to support rail service as EMR claims, then some of the costs of supporting high density are subsidies to the train, and some of the costs of subsidizing the train (if it still cannot pay its way) are subsidies to the high density areas.

    There is nothing magic or nefarious about this that requires someone to pay me: this is simple common sense.

    Total Costs = Production Costs + External Costs + Government Costs

    So the total costs of running rail service is the direct costs, plus whatever else you have to do to support the train, plus whatever the government has to do to support it if it doesn't work. From that, you can subtract out the value of taking a couple of percent of car trips off the road and whatever other benefits you can dream up.

    But, whatever level of costs and benefits you dream up, the same level of fantasy in costs and benefits should be used for the competing systems.

    Then you put them all in order and do the cheapest ones first, until you run out of money.

    If it turns out that is trains znd TOD, that's fine with me: build a train station next to my house(s). I just don't think that is the case. Otherwise, TMT and Larry wouldn't be so hard over against more development that down;t bring a pile of money with it.

    RH

  27. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "“How many people in Japan or Europe actually commute daily on HSR?”

    Not many on a daily basis but who said they did? "

    OK, so we agree, what is your point?

    The two high speed rail services that are now private in Japan got that way through big subsidies and a government funded finacial restructuring, called a bailout in the U.S.

    RH

  28. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "Anon RH has never bothered to try to understand."

    I tried for a while.

    I don't waste a lot of time trying to understand obvious nonsense, and circular logic that goes nowhere.

    I oppose some of EMR's ideas because I am convinced that if anything remotely like them becomes general policy, that it is going to cost us (all of us, not just me) far more than we gain.

    I believe that HE is the one who receives or received payments from a well funded special interest organization.

    While I may be anonymous RH to some, I at least sign my own posts.

    RH

  29. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "I have advised Dr. Risse that posting on this site is a waste of his time …"

    I hope he takes your advice, I think it is a wast of time too.

    RH

  30. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "Anon RH implies that Dr. Risse was out there with a pick and shovel digging up the tracks – give it up and stick to your hay."

    I never said any such thing. All I said was that Fauquier is not part of the transportation plan that supports VRE, and Warrenton took out a track that leads righ to the middel of town in favor of a bike trail.

    Warrenton was not alone in that, it was all the rage for a while, but I don't recall any letters from the editors opposing the idea from EMR.

    I do know that at least one influential member of PEC said the reason he did not favor Fauquier support of VRE was that it would create more sprawl and more development in Fauquier.

    If you want to blame the automobile for the demise of rail service, it might be instructive to consider all the ways that autos provide superior service. Even if it turns out the cost is higher, it might be justified by the benefits.

    RH

  31. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "Ministers have pointed to the environmental benefits of replacing planes with 200mph trains, the first of which are at least a decade away.

    However, green campaigners said premium fares must not be levied on high-speed routes to maximise the shift to rail.

    Transport experts also warned that less than half of UK flights could be replaced by rail."

    That is the situation in England, which has a much better train environment than the U.S. Now, some plane routes have already been replaced by high speed rail, and for good economic reason. But there is no economic reason to support below cost rail travel beyond the point that the subsidy prevents other costs.

    RH

  32. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    For example, you would hate to make an argument for rail to replace short haul aviation based on the economics and environmental impact of the older, outmoded and obsolete commuter aircraft.

    RH

  33. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Demise of US rail system highlighted by DC-area bridge fault

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/nov2006/csx-n29.shtml

    Lets not kid ourselves about what we are up aginst.

    "Most of the existing railroad tunnels and bridges in North America were constructed in the period of enormous railroad expansion prior to World War I. Nearly a century later, they are carrying trains that are thousands of feet longer and a great deal heavier. The Anacostia River Bridge is among these—it was built as part of a bypass of the capital and was constructed because of increased traffic and demands for beautification of the city. "

    RH

  34. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "What does that have to do with Dr. Risse’s views? He has only lived in the Community for 6 years or so "

    He is the one who claimed his clients were responsible for helping to get VRE up and running. I'm not sure they did us any favors.

    ——————————

    "No, it is fact."

    Actually it isn't at all, EMR story is, as I said revisionist history. He is correct in saying commuter rail era was 1870 to 1920. By 1920 the railroads were abandong thousnds of miles of track, and this was far too early to blame the auto for much of the demise.

    The depression of the 1930's and heavy government regulation didn't help, either.

    Despite the massive government subsidies.

    ——————————

    "Warrenton would have to have 75,000 residents for a rail connection to make sense that far form the Core of the SubRegion."

    "Warrenton Branch
    Construction started in 1851 on the branch line from a connection with the O&A at Calverton (see the Civil War Railroad Map), to Warrenton (home of the Piedmont Railroaders) a distance of 8.9 miles. A small yard and wye track were constructed at Calverton to turn the locomotives. At the Warrenton end an air operated turntable was constructed to turn the locomotives using compressed air from the locomotive's air brake system. Both passenger and freight services were provided at a depot built at the west end of the line in Warrenton. Passenger service ended in 1941 and by the mid 1980s the line was shortened to 5 miles in length to Casanova and continues to serve a stone quarry that ships by rail as needed. "

    Norfolk Southern History.

    I guess that rail spur never made sense for almost a hundred years.

    "After several failed attempts by predecessor companies to raise financial support, the Alexandria, Loudon & Hampshire Railroad began construction in 1855. Starting in Alexandria with the intention of building westward to the town of Keyser on the Potomac River and a connection with the B&O RR, the line reached Leesburg in 1860 and ten years later was renamed the Washington & Ohio. Round Hill was reached in 1874. The company entered receivership in 1878 and was taken over by the Washington & Western RR. The line was renamed the Washington, Ohio & Western RR (WO&W RR) in 1883. A connection was established at the eastern end of the line in Alexandria with the Richmond & Danville RR (successor to the O&A RR) which in turn leased the line in 1886. Rails finally reached Snickersville (Bluemont) the furthest point westward reached by the line. "

    Yep, let's blame the auto for the demise of trains.

    Do you know what Bluemont looks like TODAY? What must it have looked like in 1886? And yet, places like The Plains and Delaplane had rail service at one time. What was so different then than now?

    Apparently, what we have learned is that you have to put a LOT of people in one place in order to find a few who are willing to ride the train.

    I call that a subsidy.

    All I'm saying is let's be realistic about this, and not sniff too much of what is coming from the good doctors Hookah.

    RH

  35. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "…consider a Prius-type hybrid that gets all of its energy from the fuel that goes into its tank. At 50 mpg, its emissions from gasoline amount to roughly 40 lb. of CO2 per 100 miles. For an EV getting 4 miles per kWh and recharged with wind power, they would be essentially zero. However, the same car recharging during mid-peak or peak electricity demand would trigger power plant emissions between 35 lb. ("peaker" turbine @ 12,000 BTU/kWh on natural gas) and 53 lb. (average US coal plant) for every 100 miles. In other words, while the hidden emissions from an EV would in the worst case still be lower than those of the average car in America today (around 80 lb. CO2/100 mi.), they could be substantially higher than from an ordinary hybrid that never plugs in. So if we want EVs to repay the substantial national investment we're making in them by reducing our fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, we will want them to recharge as little as possible during daylight hours,…."

    Everything, has its trade offs. All I'm suggesting is that we at least try to understand what they are.

    RH

  36. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    More trade offs.

    "….how much wind power—really—does Texas have?

    Less than one-tenth of its official tally of more than 8,000 megawatts, says Robert Bryce in the Energy Tribune. That’s because wind power is a lot more fickle than other power sources, such as natural gas, coal, or nuclear power.

    The Texas electricity authority, ERCOT, figures the state’s wind power capacity is only 8.7%. That means for every 100 megawatts installed in a wind farm, power authorities can only count on seeing 8.7 megawatts of electricity produced. That’s a lot less than the standard line that wind power in the U.S. produces at about 30% or 35% of its nominal capacity."

    Will we learn from our actual experience, or continue to make unrealistic projections?

    RH

  37. Larry G Avatar

    re: " REVERSE COMMUTTING STARTED."

    ya'll need to take a look at the locomotives that Commuter Rail uses guys.

    they are as different from night from day from HSR engines.

    Name me ONE Commuter Rail system that evolved into one doing reverse commutes…

    I think folks misunderstand the form and function of commuter rail.. and in their minds .. equivocate it to HSR and they are very different critters.

  38. Larry G Avatar

    re: "kicking dirt on ideas"

    nope.. but my standards are that apparent contradictions need to be explained in a satisfactory manner…

    that's the keep us all honest on our views…. and it's a safeguard against personal agendas.

    Those who say that Commuter Rail can function just like HSR or vise versa – at the least – need to understand why commuter rail does not use a HSR-type locomotive.

    this is not just VRE – this is wherever commuter rail is offered.

    No where that I know of – has commuter rail morphed into HSR or even tried to.

    they mission is very simple – to move commuters at rush hour – one direction in the morning and the opposite direction in the evening.

    I'm open-minded on this and I'll even claim a certain level of ignorance that could benefit from more explanation – but I also expect the same from others.

    show me an example of where commuter rail does the "reverse commute"…..

  39. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Larry:

    My wife wants to have dinner in F'burg and prowl some shops. Very strange for her: she is a homebody who hates shopping.

    Anyway, have a suggestion for dinner? I haven't been to F'burg for years.

    RH

  40. Larry G Avatar

    sorry to be tardy in response…

    where to eat depends on what you like (or not) in the way of food and ambiance.

    We have a ton of restaurants both in Downtown Fburg and out at the shopping center margins.

    If you want non-chain, unique – go to Downtown Fred…

    I could give a list if I knew more specifics.

  41. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    If you want to look at a successful rail model, look at Switzerland. The difference was they made the hubs primary and the lines secondary.

    What this means is the people at each hub were responsible for handing out the contracts to the line operators.

    The hub users know what they need, when, and also are most likely to toss out line operators who cannot run on time or meet other user expectations.

    However, in planning the future, also factor in technology changes and future energy sources. The invention of air conditioning did not make its inventors nearly so rich as the Florida land subdividers who had a marketable product after air conditioning was invented.

    When Telepresence means just like face-to-face meetings and the boss begins to accept that most of his white collar workers come to the office, and then do almost all their work on the phone or a computer (except for the meetings, which will go to Telepresence), the whole concept of commuting and business air travel may change.

    It would be short-sighted to spend billions on a system to move people, when the industry shifted to moving electrons.

  42. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "Light rail — useful from the gritty-aired 1970s to not so long ago, when cars drank gasoline like frat boys drink beer — is now obsolete, and a transportation option that our environment can no longer afford. That's right. Unless we change energy sources or greatly increase light-rail ridership, we should just drive our cars to work instead.

    Automobiles are becoming more fuel efficient at a much faster rate than light rail, which gets its power largely from carbon-spewing power plants. That regrettable, counter-intuitive fact is an unintended consequence of "the Prius Effect," as the rise of hybrids and increasingly fuel-efficient cars outstrips the environmental benefits of light rail."

    From Carpe Diem

  43. drphilster Avatar
    drphilster

    The real question avoided so far is whether we do one of the four options that are available. The first is the option of restoring rail service capability to 1920 to 1950 standards with speeds in the 90 mile range. Yes, we are going to restore service that was able to be done with steam locomotives and heavyweight cars. The second option is to go the second tier high speed of 110 to 150 miles per hour speed. This would require separate tracks with electrification. The third level is that using the level attained by the Japanese and French in their high speed systems with speeds exceeding 200 mph. The separate tracks in this option would need to be very straight and require the political will to bulldoze through 'nimby' opposition. The fourth option would be abandon the current technology and go with maglev. This is the future and could cut travel down to 30 minutes between Washington and Richmond.

    Movement as fast as Maglev changes the economics of moving people in a dramatic way. The area around the stations for Maglev would undergo significant economic redevelopment.

    The real question is whether some one will have the vision and the gumption to push through the 16 billion dollar demonstration project between two major cites. Richmond and Washington make a good pair since there could be real economic good linking the rest of the Northeast Corridor this way. Yes, it will take years but once the technology proves its worth the changes will come quickly as there will be communities clamoring for service much as in the 19th Century when every town wanted to be be linked by rail because it meant economic prosperity.

  44. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Robert Samuelson really, really doesn’t buy the promises of high-speed rail, such as travel that’s faster and cleaner: “The vision is a mirage. The costs of high-speed rail would be huge, and the public benefits meager.”

    From Environmental Capital

    RH

  45. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    "In a blog-posted analysis, Edward Glaeser made generous assumptions for trains ("Personally, I almost always prefer trains to driving") and still found that costs vastly outweigh benefits. Consider Obama's claim about removing the equivalent of 1 million cars. Even if it came true (doubtful), it would represent less than one-half of 1 percent of the 254 million registered vehicles in 2007. "

    I suppose that makes Ed glaeser a quack, too.

    RH

  46. drphilster Avatar
    drphilster

    One additional area that we don't discuss is Air travel and reduction in the need for airports. In France there is basically no air service left between Paris and Lyon due to the speed of rail. This would reduce to some extent the need for airport expansion and delays. This does not seem to be factored into the debate at this time.

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