Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘US High Speed Trains

Friday round up

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Three tabs are open in my browser right now. All about transport and relevant to this region. But none actually qualifying for the full blog post treatment since I have nothing much to say about any of them, other than my readers ought to be aware of them.

The Auditor General has released a report about the Evergreen Line

Moody Central Station, Evergreen Extension

In his audit, Doyle said that the business cases developed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, TransLink and Partnerships B.C. and reviewed by the Ministry of Finance omitted information needed to understand the costs, benefits and risks when comparing SkyTrain, light rail and bus rapid transit options; did not explain ridership forecasts were based on assumptions that placed them at the upper end of the estimated range; and did not describe the risks from changes in complementary and competing transit services.

Actually no-one is going to be very surprised by the report. The idea that Translink might actually consider different options for the technology based on actual data seems to be quite foreign to the way things are now done in BC. The line itself was part of the regional transportation plan for years, but the NDP decided to only build the Millennium – which served Burnaby – but not the long promised link to the TriCities. Of course, in places where they do these things rationally, the line would have been built before the area was opened up for massive population growth, so of course it has been, up to now, car oriented. And there have been significant expansions to the road system – including the expansion of Highway #1 and the replacement of the Pitt River bridge. The Evergreen Line was the highest priority for the region, but the province decided to build the Canada Line instead and tied that to the Olympics.

“Meaningful consultation with the private sector and significant due diligence is required and we are taking the time to get it right,” the province said.

Which seems to me to be an admission that it was not done right, and that consultation with anyone other than business is not important.

Crosscut takes a look at High Speed Trains between here and Seattle as result of Jay Inslee (the Washington state governor) announcing a budget request for a $1m study in response to pressure from the private sector.

Freccia Argento

This one happens to be Italian – they developed the Pendolino tilting trains after British Rail abandoned the Advanced Passenger Train after attacks by the press on the “vomit comet”. BR did build a very successful 125mph HST forty years ago which did not tilt and runs on conventional tracks unlike the French TGV or the Shinkansen which need purpose built rights of way – fewer curves but can cope with quite steep grades – to achieve higher speeds. Indeed the current Cascades Talgo sets could run faster, if they did not have to fit into slots between slow freight trains.

Unid GWR HST through Exeter St Thomas

And of course the cost of a new railway is going to be the biggest issue (“$20-$30 billion to build and equip the system”) but that does not mean that much better passenger train service is not entirely feasible at lower cost, and hopefully some kind of incremental strategy will be identified, rather than blowing the budget on the unachievable “best” when “good enough” is going to win plenty of people away from terrible traffic on I5 and appalling inconvenience and discomfort of short distance international air travel.

Needless to say, others think that self driving cars are going to be the answer, although realistically are probably further off into the future than self driving trucks  as this graphic piece makes clear.

As for the hyperloop, that seems like science fiction to me and even more claustrophobic than space travel. How do you get to your seat? Or use the bathroom?

HyperLoop 2

UPDATE Feb 21 The Seattle Transit blog has taken a long hard look at what a high speed rail line might look like – the link takes you to the first of four parts

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm

High-Speed Rail Drives Obama’s Transportation Agenda

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This article in Sunday’s Washington Post caught my eye mainly for the attached graphic

Possible High-Speed Rail Routes

Possible High-Speed Rail Routes

Yes you spotted it straight away too – up there in the top right hand corner. But Montreal could get a link to – to Boston, but Toronto (centre of the known universe) has been omitted.  And NYC is notable by its omission too, but that may be because it has “Acela” which is nearest Amtrak gets to High Speed at present.

Of course ours is the exact same route that is still trying to get a second, slow speed, daily passenger train.And equally predictably this is also one of those programs that the Republicans have decided to label “wasteful spending”. Of course shovelling trillions of dollars to banks who then paid it to their executives as bonuses was not “wasteful spending”. Nor were all the boondoggles that private sector contractors ran throughout Bush II’s Iraq adventure. Indeed, in the transportation business, it is common practice to speak about “investment in infrastructure” when talking about roads but “wasteful subsidies” when talking about rail or transit. (Because road spending benefits more corporate clients.)

What would make a lot of sense would be switching money into this program from federal support for air travel. Which is one of the worst culprits in terms of tons of CO2 released per passenger mile, and also one of the hardest to make more fuel efficient or switch to non-fossil fuel sources. For most of the city pairs illustrated here even conventional trains will be quicker and more convenient than dealing with the delays and hassles of overloaded air traffic control and mostly pointless “security” checks.

But one of the biggest issues is finding a way to do all of this while keeping the train operation separate from the existing railway corporations who are adamantly opposed to passenger trains – becuase they make so much more from running freight.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 10, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Railway

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