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    A high-speed rail dream unrealized

    America's vision of replicating Europe's flashy, high speed trains is quickly fading as many obstacles stand in the way.
    High speed rail train in Taiwan

    High speed rail train in Taiwan Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation

    Amtrak Cascades trains at rest in Seattle

    Amtrak Cascades trains at rest in Seattle Mark Danielson

    The federal high-speed rail (HSR) program lately championed by politicians and administrators in the other Washington is fading into history. In his remarks at the March 15 launch of a $22.7-million  seismic-upgrade project at Seattle's King Street Station, Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo spoke instead about "high-performance rail." The transportation funding bill currently in the Senate makes the same emendation in referring to the measure's meager appropriation, $100 million, for passenger rail enhancements. Some experts are meanwhile using the term "higher-speed rail," downgrading the once-regnant HSR by interposing a lowly r, giving us HrSR.

    It adds up to a recognition of some of the idea's flaws and, some would say, of its insurmountable obstacles. First of all, the program would cost lots of money. Here in the Eugene-to-Vancouver, B.C. Pacific Northwest HSR corridor, $1.5 million gets you the preliminary engineering for an overnight parking track — not the track itself, or even its final engineering — for an Amtrak train less than 800 feet long. On the opposite side of the country, planners are pricing an expansion of HSR access from New Jersey into Manhattan in the $10-15 billion range.

    Still, with what some might call chump change, some states are making their trains substantially faster. Washington and Oregon are not among them. Oregon spent $72 million on its 133 miles of passenger-rail track between 1994 — two years after the feds designated the mileage part of the HSR corridor — and 2008, with zero schedule improvement to show for it. Since Washington state's passenger rail program began in 1994, Olympia has devoted $98 million to capital investment in track and signaling systems between Portland and Seattle, but that sum has not improved running time, either. The only timetable improvement has been the 25 minutes saved by virtue of the trains' tilting mechanism, which allows for higher speed in curves. The trip still takes three and a half hours and the train never goes faster than 79 mph. Meanwhile, the discount BoltBus service launched in May is advertising Seattle-Portland travel times as little as three hours and 15 minutes.

    The $796 million in federal HSR money recently received by Washington state will underwrite some schedule improvement, but again at high cost. The $91 million going into the Point Defiance bypass project, for example, will trim only six minutes off travel time between the Emerald and Rose cities.

    Then there is HSR's "green problem." Rail is only green insofar as it is wholesale, rather than retail, transportation. A train carrying 130 passengers, as corridor trains do on average, is far from wholesale, however. The volume of fuel that a 3200-horsepower locomotive weighing 12 times its human payload uses to move one of those 130 passengers dwarfs what an intercity bus uses for the same result.

    At HSR's envisioned speeds, typically defined as a sustained 110 mph, the efficiency worsens with the additional mechanical effort needed to overcome greater air resistance. My own calculations, based on data for an actual Amtrak service, indicate that high-speed trains using today's diesel locomotives would not save any carbon emissions, and could in fact increase emissions by 15 percent or more. That's an optimistic calculation — a Danish researcher indicated the increase could be as high as 66 percent. Indeed, the most efficient speed for a train appears to be the same as a car: around 50 mph.

    Electric propulsion is an appealing alternative on the face, but in most parts of the United States electricity comes from fossil fuels. Washington enjoys the advantages of largely hydroelectric power generation, but that merely gets us to the next hurdle: the challenge of stringing hundreds of miles of catenary, the overhead wires that power trains, along the track. Most tracks Amtrak use are privately owned, and owners are less than excited about a massive transformation of the infrastructure. The alternative is to create new, publicly owned rights-of-way and put catenary on them. A great idea, until NIMBYs such as those in Lakewood, the San Francisco suburbs, or the Connecticut exurbs jump on it, maul it, and leave it dead on the political ground.

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    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 8:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    My Hall ignores the creation of China's high speed rail network within the last decade. That development points to the advantage the Chinese have in making command decisions without the need to create consensus. Not likely in the USA, but as Mr. Hall's op ed implies the USA appears to have reached a point where the need for consensus prevents rather than promotes concepts such as high speed rail. The comparison of diesel run high speed trains as a means of calculating cost benefits is pointless. Diesel high speed is a contradiction. Every system in the world uses catenary electricity. The comparison of Germany's high density population to the US low density population is invalid. High speed rail in the US is not envisioned as a national system. Corridors are where high speed rail can function. The Northeast, the the Austin-Dallas-Houston triangle in Texas, the California Coast, Portland to Vancouver BC, Cleveland to Chicago, even within Ohio, Cleveland down to Cincinnati. These viable options have been studied and in the Texas case private entrepreneurs had what they felt was a viable model. Automakers, tire makers and similar interested parties killed the project in the Texas Legislature. Freight and passenger are presented as an either-or choice. Once again, not so. Much of the Chinese high speed rail system is elevated Leave those private rails on the ground for the freight operators. Build an elevated system along the same rights of way. The ultimate irony may be in the further development of convoy automobile travel when your computer controlled car slips into a line of cars while you sit back and leave the driving to "Hal". Sounds a lot like a....train of cars.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 1:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    The ultimate irony may be in the further development of convoy automobile travel when your computer controlled car slips into a line of cars while you sit back and leave the driving to "Hal". Sounds a lot like a....train of cars.

    This makes infinitely more sense than spending hundreds of billions on new fixed rail.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    Excellent analysis right up to the end. There is another idea other than raising gas prices, however. It is that high-speed rail is not cost-efficient except in the dense Northeast corridor and that hugely inefficient projects, such as the proposed California and LA-Vegas projects, should just be abandoned. You are right on the money, by the way, in pointing out the differences between Europe and the U.S.
    You often hear the question: "Why can't we have high-speed trains like Europe?" You have answered it well.

    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 10:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Unfortunately Ted, he missed half of the analysis. I'll chalk it up to 'limited news space'.


    Posted Wed, Jul 4, 4 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr Hall's failing is that he didn't flesh out the whole argument, which is summed up in his comment "First of all, the program would cost lots of money. "

    It would,... but a truer argument would be adding the next part "Compared to what?" Widening I-5?

    Plus, I'm surprised at this:
    "The $91 million going into the Point Defiance bypass project, for example, will trim only six minutes off travel time between the Emerald and Rose cities."

    Mr. Hall of all people should know that the Point Defiance bypass project is how more capacity and better adherance to the schedule can be achieved, since the single track Nelson Bennett tunnel is the major constriction point. That part of the project is only partially a 'higher speed rail' project.

    Again, lots of rail data, but conclusions based on only a narrow dataset.

    If we included all the data, we might draw a completely different conclusion, but that would require an in depth article on how roads are built and funded.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 10:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    Ted, the "no density" argument is almost a tautology. We don't have density because we don't support density with top notch transit.

    "Why can't we have high-speed trains like Europe?" The answer is simple: we have massive auto/airline subsidies. The current gas taxes are paying only half of the costs of auto travel. Airports enjoy huge federal subsidies not covered by air fares.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 8:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    We don't have density because we don't support density with top notch transit.

    You obviously flunked geography. Have you ever even bothered to look at a map of the United States, or does the whole idea scare you too much? Once you get west of the Mississippi River, this country's population density drops off like crazy.

    Except for California and Texas, every state west of the Mississippi has a population density less than 70 per square mile. And if you look more closely, that density is in widely spaced clusters. On the West Coast, for example, there are only three metro areas above Los Angeles with appreciable population density (Bay Area, Portland, Seattle), and they are widely spaced.

    Go east from those places, especially Portland and Seattle, and you must travel hundreds of miles to hit cities of any great size. Passenger rail (high speed or otherwise), a 19th century technology, is unsuited for the West.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 10:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    You make an excellent argument against the Inerstate Highway System.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 11:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    How so?


    Posted Wed, Jul 4, 3:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    The population density of rural America, which equates to 'ridership' on any Interstate highway, and consequently how much gas they burn (contributing to Highway Trust Fund via the gas tax), doesn't even come close to paying for both the construction, and the upkeep. It's only by charging excess taxes in populated areas that rural highways, especially the Interstates, can be subsidized.

    Of course, the true cost would be known if highways were privately owned and operated, and users were charged a fee for access.


    Posted Fri, Jul 6, 8:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    The highway trust fund pays for the roads. Of course, it'd do better if 16% of the money wasn't siphoned off to mass transit. For some reason, car drivers are expected to pay for bus and train passengers. Why can't they pay their own way for a change?

    It's unfortunate that your knee-jerk hatred of cars extends to the Interstates, without which the delivery of many yuppie toys, not to mention food (including the "local" produce that "progressives" are always touting) would be far more difficult and expensive.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Airports are funded by taxes and fees on airlines and airline passengers -- they are not subsidized by non-flyers.

    Motorists pay a plethora of taxes, fees, and tolls, other than the gas tax which, in WA state, combine to generate more revenue than is spent on roads and highways.

    Trains are an anachronism. Passenger trains are nothing but a waste of money in the U.S. outside of the Northeast corridor. And those train systems are falling into disarray because of the enormous public subsidy it would take to return them to good condition.

    Meanwhile, oil and gas prices have fallen significantly in just the past few months and the short- and long-term prognosis for gasoline prices is for prices to keep falling as oil production just keeps increasing and the mpg of new cars just keeps increasing, as well.

    We can not afford the massive tax subsidies that our public transit systems require. Transit users are going to have to start paying the full cost of their trips, as motorists and flyers do, or transit systems in the U.S. are going to continue to deteriorate.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    This may have been true in the past, but increasingly the highway and airport trust funds are being bailed out by the general fund (income tax, to you and me). The percentage of bailout is rising every year as gas tax revenues decrease.

    Airlines had a massive bailout as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

    Also, most local roads are paid for with property tax, not user fees.

    None of this takes into consideration the defense of "our" oil supplies in the middle east.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    Lincoln, a simple search turns up some much needed facts:


    "The overall FAA budget in recent years has increasingly depended on general-fund support; as recently as 2007, the general fund provided less than 16% of the FAA budget, but in FY2011 that percentage has grown to over 31%. If and when Congress cuts way back on general-fund support, AIP would likely be the “least-bad” candidate for cutbacks (as opposed to air traffic controller payroll or NextGen ATC modernisation funding, which are the other two major budget categories)."


    Posted Sat, Jul 7, 4:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for the figures, Andy.

    It would seem that Congress has been influenced by the industries that formerly collected our nation's transportation taxes, such as the airlines for the Airport Improvement Program and the truckers (and general public) for gas taxes into the Highway Trust Fund.

    And, based on what I am reading locally about the Port of Seattle, it appears the Harbor Maintenance Tax will be the next funding source Congress -in its infinite wisdom- will shift into the General Fund.

    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    Is high speed rail cost effective? If one looks at the broader picture, one can more truely compare and amortize the costs of a high speed eugene-vancouver bc corridor. It's not just about fuel costs and assumptions of poor density to serve rail.

    What I'm getting at is the cost to build and maintain more freeway lanes. Also the cost of air travel between the points along this corridor. I don't know what these numbers are, but I think the discussion is meaningless without them.

    My feeling is that many people would much prefer to take a high speed train between seattle and portland if they had the choice. The current Cascade run is nice, but much too slow. Thus, it doesn't generate a good passenger density. I'm pretty certain that once the speed was over some threshold, the density would support the operations side. And, contrast that with the current frustration of 3.x hours driving in heavy traffic.

    Let's see the big picture costs.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 8:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    For a fraction of the cost of high speed rail, we could retrofit every vehicle with the cooperative cruise control and dramatically increase the carrying capacity of existing roads.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate


    "For a fraction of the cost of high speed rail, we could retrofit every vehicle with the cooperative cruise control and dramatically increase the carrying capacity of existing roads."

    Prove it.

    In fact, I challenge you to prove the existing highway system would pay for itself.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 11:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    Do your own research. Or are the "progressives" too lazy for that?


    Posted Wed, Jul 4, 4:08 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have all the data you need.
    Straight from the folks tasked to build your preffered transportation choice infrastructure. From this comment "Come on, kids. A 260-passenger top capacity is supposed to replace I-5? Where do you get your drugs, because I want some of those." I can tell you don't have a clue what the numbers are.


    Posted Fri, Jul 6, 8:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Jim, once again in true "progressive" fashion, you've substituted invective for research. Do you work, son. It's how responsible, self-supporting adults behave if they expect to succeed. No one will fund your high-speed choo choo fantasy if all you can do is whine and sputter at them.


    Posted Wed, Jul 11, 7:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    An adult would use his real name to post conflicting arguments. Given the tone of your responses, I will give your arguments all the gravity they deserve.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate


    "Let's see the big picture costs."

    Good point. That's what makes this article disappointing. I felt I was going to see a Mike Lindblom byline.

    Unfortunately, as I've found over the years, no decisions of any importance get the true, accurate, and unbiased press they need.


    Posted Fri, Jul 6, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    So when you don't get your way, you blame "the press."


    Posted Wed, Jul 11, 8:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Actually, that was the lament of the staff person on the I-405 Corridor Program who was the public relations liason.

    All the meetings of the Executive, Steering and Citizen committees were open to the public, and anyone could attend and get the same raw documentation that we were given. The press never attended, according to her.

    This wasn't a secret process, and yet I never saw any reporting on the workings of how the I-405 Corridor Program came to its decisions.

    See, the thing is.. .I have all the numbers to make a valid argument for a roads solution.

    What I don't understand is why the people who are adamant about having no other option won't put their argument forward in a clear concise... 'voter approval ready' package that would convince the public to vote YES.

    The argument after the first Prop 1, the 'Roads and Transit' Referendum, was what sunk it? The Roads half, or the Transit half?
    When Sound Transit came out with the second Prop 1, ST2 it passed.

    At the end of the I-405 program, when Kemper Freeman stated that he thought it was important that the full buildout of the freeway system be studied, I completely agreed with him (eliciting the response of the Transportation Choices representative looking at me as if I'd grown another head).

    The best place I suggest you start is Dr. Eager's current proposal
    End Gridlock Now (which went under the name "Reduce Congestion Now" when it was presented to us at one of the meetings).

    I wonder why that proposal isn't just put before the voters. The numbers aren't fanciful. They align pretty well with what we looked at, although they lack some of the detail.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 11:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    According to Amtrak, average number of Cascades riders daily is 2400. With 4 trainsets, 600 per train seems more accurate than CB's 130. Total seating capacity is something like 400, but 400 people do not board in Eugene and disembark in Vancouver BC.

    I'm no fan of 200mph HSR systems. What better way to kill HSR than to design them wildly expensive to construct and affordable only for the wealthy to ride. San Francisco peninsula communities opposed the removal of hundreds of trees for new guideway, not the overhead catenary which will be installed on existing track instead.

    I've taken the morning Acela from New York to Boston. Though this segment of track reaches higher speeds, I was not impressed. At higher speed, the blurring scenery made my stomach a little queezy. The Cascades Talgo is a smoother, more comfortable, quieter ride; more affordable to construct and which benefits freight rail operation.

    Our worst transportation problems aren't intra-city. They're more related to the daily metropolitan area traffic miasma that Wsdot, SDOT, Metro & Sound Transit have seemingly no clue how to address successfully.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 9:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Each Cascade trainset carries 260 passengers when full.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    At higher speed, the blurring scenery made my stomach a little queezy.

    Then you have a glass stomach. I used to live on the East Coast, and took the Acela train a bunch of times. It's not especially fast. You'd really hate the Japanese bullet trains, which I have also taken without endangering lunch.

    The issue with high speed rail in the Northwest is distance and cost. Planes, cars, and buses are cheaper, faster, more flexible, or more efficient, depending on which one you use. I chuckle at the rail buffs, who want to replace 20th century cars with 19th century trains. There are much better ways to move people than to indulge in yuppie Steampunk fantasies at great public expense.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 12:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    Just back from Korea where we took high-speed rail KTX (at a rather low speed) from Seoul to Yeosu and back (about the same distance as Seattle to Portland). All other considerations aside, from a passenger's standpoint the trip was terrific--a very smooth ride, great seats, and seamless wi-fi the whole way, on-time and unhindered progress. I was able to get work done in a way that is impossible of lurching Amtrak. Plus, scenery was beautiful and even the pre-packaged food wasn't too bad. Puts our routine rail service to shame.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 4:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    One of my favorite sounds is the popping of beers and bento box openings as the shinkansen starts the journey from Tokyo to Kyoto.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 2:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    What, you've never had a 24-ounce Bud, beef jerky, and Doritos while driving the pickup (GMC 3500 diesel dually, long bed) out I-90 on the way to the Ellensburg Rodeo? What are cup holders and center consoles for, fer chrissakes? It's a little tricky to eat, drink, drive, smoke a cigarette, give the dog a scratch on the ear and a spare Dorito, and talk on the phone all at once, especially when you're pulling a horse trailer and one of the kids in the back seat keeps trying to knock your cowboy hat off and the other three banditos take turns putting their hands over your eyes when you least expect it. But if you use your knees and the cruise control, and jerk the wheel every so often or maybe wave the "tire billy" (heh heh) to scare the kids, it works great.

    This is America. Keep them dang sushi fish in the water where they belong. Beef, it's what's for dinner. Always has been, always will be. You'll pry my steaks and my gun from my cold dead fingers at the barbecue, God damn it, but not before I exercise my second amendment rights if ya know what I mean.


    Posted Thu, Jun 28, 8:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    How refreshing to read an article by a rail advocate who understands basic physics and what it means for the economics of operating trains.

    I believe it takes something like twelve times as much energy to push a train at 200 mph compared to 100 mph. Talk of constructing ultra high speed rail in the U.S. just gets in the way of real solutions. Ultra fast trains lose their efficiency advantage over airplanes. Even in France they have backed off from the ultra high speed idea.

    But trains are still a very attractive and sensible way to go places if they can avoid stopping and just keep rolling. But sadly, they often don't. My admittedly limited experience with Amtrak is that the passenger trains wait for the freight trains, not the other way around. Passenger trains need their own dedicated rights of way. Hopefully someday before the very last of the oil gets too expensive, we will get past the NIMBYs and build some. Crowded Europe managed to figure out how to squeeze them in.

    I hope I am wrong, but it seems as though we will never get decent passenger rail in this country until it once again looks profitable to the RR companies. Someday it will, maybe even someday soonish. Trains are a great way to go, if they don't sit on sidings while coal trains pass. After all, no one ever made a TV series called "Great Bus Journeys."

    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 8:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    I believe the problem with the HSR program was (is) the attempt to hit the home run vs. going for what was possible, IMO the latter was (is) a series of regional HSR networks, e.g. the Northwest, the Northeast, California, the south, the Midwest, the mountain states. For instance, in the Northwest corridor, going for grade separation as fast as possible, e.g. the Marysville/Arlington area might have been the top priority in this corridor, most of the efforts and $ would have been focused there, which would benefit vehicular traffic and pollution levels considerably!


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    We already have the highway system, we already have the air traffic system. We don't need to begin over again as if we had a blank map, maybe we could just maintain and improve what we have (and travel a whole lot less). Incidentally, Wells, I don't think the ridership you imply is anywhere near accurate. When I go to total Cascade travel per year and divide that by 365 I get a number much closer to 130 than 600. Big passenger train usage would depend on a huge change in our entire economic model. Our model is flawed but it's what we got.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    Ridership on the Portland-to-Eugene segment is low, IMO, because a return trip is inconveniently timed. A 2nd daily run would probably increase patronage both per train and overall on this segment; not exactly a radical change in the economic model. This segment also has some delays caused by the conflict with freight trains. Track upgrades to resolve this problem are the more modest but still effective investment. The 130 ridership estimate may be per train, but the higher estimate of 400 is closer to the number of passengers overall. Cascades has a good record of ridership therefore Talgo implementation is more possible nationwide than Acela-type HSR.


    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 4:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Meanwhile, the discount BoltBus service launched in May is advertising Seattle-Portland travel times as little as three hours and 15 minutes."

    They can advertise whatever they want, but good luck actually getting from downtown Seattle to downtown Portland via I-5 in less than four hours on a regular basis, especially if you're heading down on a Friday afternoon.

    True HSR would be possible if it got the same subsidies that the airline and automotive businesses got in their infancy, and continue to get thanks to their strong lobbies in D.C. and Americans' addiction to the status quo.

    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    good luck actually getting from downtown Seattle to downtown Portland via I-5 in less than four hours on a regular basis, especially if you're heading down on a Friday afternoon

    I drive from Seattle to the Portland area once a month. The 190-mile trip (door to door) rarely takes more than 3-1/2 hours, including a rest stop. Leave Seattle after 9 a.m. and before 3 p.m. and you're fine, and that includes Friday afternoons. I can't say it's fun, but there are only three bottlenecks: the Tacoma Dome, the JBLM military base, and downtown Portland.

    I'm a long-time road tripper, and have always liked to keep track of mileage and average speed. My average driving speed over the entire route, including the local driving at each end, is 60-65 mph, plus a 15-minute rest stop, usually at the 100-mile point. I have no interest in taking the train. It takes much more time, is much more expensive, and is much less flexible because once you're in Portland you don't have a car. Not to mention that, as is often the case for me, if you're hauling anything, the train is impractical or impossible.

    Believe it or not, Portland's light rail is skeletal. Hardly anyone dares live there without a car, except for hipsters and the poor. The only way you'd get me out of the car is to prohibit it. And good luck on that, especially in the forthcoming McKenna administration. It's nice and quaint to see the choo-choo fetish rail buffs wax nostalgic and whine so much about how hardly anyone does it their way. Come on, kids. A 260-passenger top capacity is supposed to replace I-5? Where do you get your drugs, because I want some of those.

    p.s.: Today, Monday July 2, I entered U.S. 26 at Exit 69, four miles west of downtown Portland, at 3:15 p.m. Traffic was on the slow side out of Portland and through Vantucky, averaging 40 miles an hour. Took a 13-minute pit stop at a rest area along the way for myself and a walk for the dog.

    Ran into a 20-minute traffic jam at JBLM, averaging about 20 miles an hour or less. Short slowdowns through Olympia and Tacoma. Left I-5 at the Mercr/Seattle Center at exactly 6:30 p.m., and exactly 180 miles on the trip odometer. Wheels rolled for 3 hours and 2 minutes, i.e., averaged 60 mph through one traffic jam and a few slowdowns. All in all, it was maybe 20 minutes longer than my usual drive. I am not a blatant speeder; I set the cruise control at 5 mph over the limit.

    So much for "good luck getting from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle in less than four hours on a regular basis." I regularly do it in 2-1/2 to 3 hours, plus a brief rest stop. I give the gritty details in hopes that the choo-choo train fetishists will maybe once tell the truth about the alternatives.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    Any significant investment in rail passenger service has to be paid for by luring travelers from their automobiles and from airplanes. That fact cannot be avoided. Does rail travel have the appeal to do that? I doubt it. It is relatively slow, less accessible to our dispersed population than automobiles and is merely equal to bus transit. Maybe more accessible than airports but not dramatically so. The investment is a gamble. If there are energy savings to rail transportation they are miniscule (even with a full load of passengers a train is less energy efficient than my Prius). It might be easier to convince Americans to travel less than to take the train when they do. Surely worth a try.


    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    kieth, at least you're honest about the "progressive" agenda, which is to confine people. You get a silver star for honesty.


    Posted Mon, Jul 2, 5:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well, NotFan, I think you are honest too.


    Posted Sat, Nov 17, 2:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    The Texas statements above are incorrect.
    The impediment to the two European private companies in the 1990s who wanted to build a train was not the car industry, it was state legislature lobbying by a well-known airline, a line identified by the part of the country it originally served.
    Second, the triangle more fittingly entailed San Antonio as the original apex, Austin is close to San Antonio, but to exclude a 2 million major urban area was part of the reason the latter attempts at a Texas T-bone which connected service in the midpoint between San Antonio and Dallas failed.

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