Author Topic: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.  (Read 20408 times)

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Offline PraXis

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Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« on: November 02, 2011, 09:06:49 AM »
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/01/BAMK1LP9SQ.DTL

Planned cost: $43 BILLION
Actual cost: $98.1 BILLION

..to connect SF to LA!?  :rollin

Fail.

These rails are money pits. Thoughts?

Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2011, 09:47:26 AM »
They're not money pits.  It's just the cost of infrastructure. 

The system will make money.  Other types of infrastructure won't.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2011, 09:57:37 AM »
ITT: Somebody who's never experienced a high-speed rail system judges it through his dogmatic set of beliefs.

I've taken high-speed rails many times in Germanyt and Japan, and they are the backbones of personal transportation and thus commerce. The US is hell-bent for disaster with its car-driving culture that makes it suck  at the teets of foreign (read: OPEC) countries.

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Offline XJDenton

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2011, 10:24:30 AM »
Breaking news: large scale building project overuns and is over budget.
Thank god that never happens in the private sector.

Offline Cool Chris

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2011, 10:29:22 AM »
That isn't a sign of a money pit, that is a sign of poor budgeting and planning.

I've taken high-speed rails many times in Germanyt and Japan, and they are the backbones of personal transportation and thus commerce.

rumborak (and other people from Europe/Japan/etc...): would this include normal daily commuting, or what type(s) of travel would this high speed rail be used for?

The system will make money. 

 ???
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Offline rumborak

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 10:35:41 AM »
Yeah, they are predominantly used for work commuting. And the amount of people they can transport, plus the emissions per capita, are unmatched by anything else.
Obviously you need a certain population density for them to work.  But the coasts definitely have that.

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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2011, 10:44:04 AM »

The system will make money. 

 ???

High-speed rail is profitable throughout the world.  It's incredibly fast, easy, and comfortable, and it absolutely dominates the air market in terms of travel less than 500-600 km.  It attracts a rich clientele, and absolutely gobs of passengers.  To boot, it also minimizes personnel costs because quicker travel times means less time you're paying engineers and attendants.  Plus, factor in fuel savings due to electric power and regenerative braking.

Major national rail companies like SNCF and Deutschbahn frequently make enough money just off of their high-speed rail services to offset losses in all their other sectors, and post profits.  That's pretty much unheard of in any other public transit system.

EDIT: For example, SNCF, the French state-owned railway company that runs all the regional, inter-city, and TGV services (high-speed) in France, posted a revenue of 30.5 billion euros last year, with a gross profit of 2.2 billion euros.

Hell, even Amtrak's very slow by "high-speed" standards, the Acela, posts a profit.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 10:51:09 AM by GuineaPig »
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Offline Cool Chris

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2011, 10:53:38 AM »
rumborak/GP, thank you for clarifying and sharing your thoughts. It is an ongoing topic where I live so I was curious to know how it worked in other areas.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2011, 10:57:23 AM »
On top of all the above, there's something dignified about train travel that planes and cars just don't possess. I love seeing the scenery zoom by.

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Offline PraXis

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2011, 11:06:16 AM »
We have tolls, taxes, and fees to fund infrastructure. Where does the money go? As for OPEC... we get ~80% of our oil from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela...

If the citizens of that state want high speed rail, then they can support it, but it must not be forced... but the state is already broke from their collectivist model...hell look at BART. Most people prefer driving or flying anyway. I'll never give up my luxury SUV. :D

Offline Ħ

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2011, 11:21:09 AM »
This looks great.  Public transport is pretty weak in CA if you want to travel between cities (unless you have a lot of money).
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2011, 11:49:05 AM »
Fun fact: in terms of capacity, it's cheaper to build high-speed rail than it is to build a highway.
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Offline Fiery Winds

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2011, 12:48:05 PM »
We have tolls, taxes, and fees to fund infrastructure. Where does the money go? As for OPEC... we get ~80% of our oil from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela...

If the citizens of that state want high speed rail, then they can support it, but it must not be forced... but the state is already broke from their collectivist model...hell look at BART. Most people prefer driving or flying anyway. I'll never give up my luxury SUV. :D

The voters approved a $10 billion bond in '08 for the high speed rail.
This thread has been burned.

Offline PraXis

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2011, 01:01:55 PM »
$10 billion <<<< $43 billion <<<<<<<<< $98 billion!

Offline livehard

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2011, 01:12:42 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US. 

Offline Sigz

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2011, 01:15:08 PM »
nevermind.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 01:21:38 PM by Sigz »
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Offline kirksnosehair

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2011, 01:27:04 PM »
My personal experience with this particular issue is right-wingers don't like it and consistently line up against it and I'll tell you why - these points are a summary of this piece.

1. Big Infrastructure projects leave a BIG legacy and right-wingers want to refuse Obama any successful legislation.
2. Most of the work on these projects would be done by union labor.  Right-wingers hate unions.
3. Collectivism!  Socialism!  They have trains like this in Europe!
4. Urban vs. Rural - High speed rail will only really work efficiently on the densely populated coasts (read: liberal areas)
5. Conservatives, generally, don't like change, and high speed rail will, in fact, result in a fundamental change in how we use transportation.



Offline Fiery Winds

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2011, 01:28:01 PM »
$10 billion <<<< $43 billion <<<<<<<<< $98 billion!

The bond was never supposed to cover the entire cost.  Up to $7 billion would have been private investment, another $10 billion from local governments, and about $12-$16 billion from the federal government.  Once it was built, the plan was to use the profit to expand the line to Sacramento and San Diego.  The problem I see is that none of this additional funding was secured (and still isn't) prior to being approved by the voters. 
This thread has been burned.

Offline Scheavo

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2011, 01:57:35 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2011, 02:13:47 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

I also don't see how anyone can actually think this is a bad thing.  You're being small-minded and not embracing a change for good if you think this is detrimental.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2011, 02:24:45 PM »
My personal experience with this particular issue is right-wingers don't like it and consistently line up against it and I'll tell you why

I'm not writing off what you say, but I'll just chime in as a conservative who has a different opinion on the subject.  I'm not against projects like this per se.  However, this particular one seems to have drawbacks that lead me to oppose it.  My primary objections are:  (1) Our stupid government in this state is corrupt and inefficient.  And while I do not completely side with PraXis, he is right about it not being budgeted and planned properly, leading to massive cost overruns.  (2) I'm not sure the demand for high speed rail between S.F. and L.A. is significant enough to justify the cost.  Great idea to connect cities, but I'm just not sure this particular idea has a lot of utility.  But I'd love to be proven wrong on that point.

As to the five reasons in your post:


1. Big Infrastructure projects leave a BIG legacy and right-wingers want to refuse Obama any successful legislation.

I may think Obama is a lousy president, but if he has good ideas that will leave a positive legacy for him, that doesn't bother me one bit.  But that being said, this is entirely a state project, so I'm not sure how it would be attributed to him if it were successful.

2. Most of the work on these projects would be done by union labor.  Right-wingers hate unions.

Yes, I hate unions, and would prefer that this project be done by non-unionized labor if possible.  But if this is a good project that is justified by the cost, and costs could be kept under control, it wouldn't bother me that union labor works on it.  Honestly, I don't know anyone in my conservative circles who would be bothered by that.

3. Collectivism!  Socialism!  They have trains like this in Europe!

:lol  Not sure how to respond to this one.

4. Urban vs. Rural - High speed rail will only really work efficiently on the densely populated coasts (read: liberal areas)

Wait, what?  I don't understand this one.  It wouldn't make sense to connect rural areas by high speed rail because there isn't enough population to use it.  Of course it would be to connect urban areas that are more densely populated.  What's the problem with that?  I'm not following.  ???

5. Conservatives, generally, don't like change, and high speed rail will, in fact, result in a fundamental change in how we use transportation.

For me, it simply depends on the change at issue.  Some change is good.  Some isn't.  I don't see high speed rail as a per se negative.  If it ends up being useful and cost efficient, it sounds like a good thing to me.
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Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2011, 02:27:33 PM »
For No.4 he's saying that liberals want it because it will connect them, where as rurarl area's aka conservative areas, it wouldn't be effective to do this in the eyes of a republican political member.

Offline the Catfishman

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2011, 02:33:35 PM »
Yeah, they are predominantly used for work commuting. And the amount of people they can transport, plus the emissions per capita, are unmatched by anything else.
Obviously you need a certain population density for them to work.  But the coasts definitely have that.

rumborak

to add to this, here every student get's to use public transportation for free which means most people here don't get a car until they actually need one for work. I'm 25 and have never owned a car which is quite a normal thing for people my age... I use my bike to get around the city here and use the train/bus to go everywhere else... although with all this it helps that the Netherlands has a very high population density.

Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2011, 02:35:25 PM »
My personal experience with this particular issue is right-wingers don't like it and consistently line up against it and I'll tell you why

I'm not writing off what you say, but I'll just chime in as a conservative who has a different opinion on the subject.  I'm not against projects like this per se.  However, this particular one seems to have drawbacks that lead me to oppose it.  My primary objections are:  (1) Our stupid government in this state is corrupt and inefficient.  And while I do not completely side with PraXis, he is right about it not being budgeted and planned properly, leading to massive cost overruns.  (2) I'm not sure the demand for high speed rail between S.F. and L.A. is significant enough to justify the cost.  Great idea to connect cities, but I'm just not sure this particular idea has a lot of utility.  But I'd love to be proven wrong on that point.


Just as a measuring stick, the first (and immensely succesful) French LGV was between Paris and Lyon.  Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego... there's more than enough of a passenger base to make this viable.  It's shocking that it's taken this long.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2011, 02:43:25 PM »
Oh, I know there's a big enough population base to justify it.  I just don't know if enough of that population would use it. 
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2011, 02:47:03 PM »
People used rail before.  They used it when it was the most convenient mode of transportation.  People will again.

High-speed rail (between LA and SF, for example) would be faster, cheaper, and more easy than air travel.  It would be a lot faster and much less painful than driving.  There's no reason to think people wouldn't flock to it.  People have done so on the much slower Acela.  In Europe, rail travel was declining for longer trips before HSR was implemented. 

There are just so many advantages for it.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2011, 02:51:11 PM »
You might be right.  I'm just saying I don't know.  Not saying it's a bad idea--just that I'm hesitant. 
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Offline kirksnosehair

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2011, 02:56:00 PM »
Oh, I know there's a big enough population base to justify it.  I just don't know if enough of that population would use it.

I think if you make it convenient and cost effective for people to use, they will use it.  As to your comments about cost overruns, every large infrastructure project ever undertaken has had cost overruns.  That goes for public and private stuff.  Believe me, I am intimately involved -right now- in several massive infrastructure public works projects here in MA, and every single one of them is millions of dollars over budget.  That's just the nature of construction projects.

One place where I have a lot of overlapping agreement with conservatives, though, is on union labor.

A fucking broom operator should not cost $47.75 an hour - nor should I, as a network engineer, be required to have TWO union electricians (one Journeyman, one apprentice) accompany me all day on the job and do absolutely NO work at all.  Those are basically mafia tactics. 

Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2011, 02:57:50 PM »
It's worked on the East Coast.  And that's even where the actual speeds (~130 km/h south of New York, ~180 km/h north of New York) are far lower than your typical HSR systems (average speeds ~230-270 km/h).  Also, less congestion and overcrowded roads.

A faster train (max speed 350km/h) in California would just dominate the ridership share over 200-500 km distances.  Would completely marginalize local air travel.  Incredible environmental benefits, not to mention the economic benefits of less wasted time and more rapid business transportation.
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Offline yeshaberto

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2011, 03:02:31 PM »
been traveling this week on the metro in paris and it is great!  a little confusing because I don't know french, but other than that it is great.  LA would work so much better with something like this

Offline El Barto

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2011, 03:08:42 PM »
A few points.

I agree with Rumbo.  Train travel rocks.  So much more dignified than flying.  I'd love it here.

The fact that Cali's idea is over budget means precisely dick.  Hardly a reason to disapprove of HSR.

I agree with Bosk.  I don't see how the LA-SF route will be all that usful.  That seems longer than a commute to me.

I personally don't think Americans will us HSR.  For one thing,  flying will always be cheaper and that seems to be the biggest factor with Americans.  For another,  we'll fuck it all up.  The advantage Europeans have is that you can walk into a train depot and be sitting in your seat in 5 minutes.  TSA will stick it's filthy nose into the  whole thing and we'll be showing them our licenses, retinas and dicks just to get aboard.  There won't be any convenience.  You'll pay more,  get the same monumental amount of inconvenience,  and spend longer getting there than if you just flew SWA.
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2011, 03:10:43 PM »
I don't know why Rumbo said it's mostly used for commutes.  Unless I'm misinterpreting what he means by commuter rail, HSR is not used for that.  HSR intentionally limits the number of stations along it's route in order to allow for less stops, and more time spent at the highest possible speed. 

EDIT: Just as an example, the LGV Sud-Est and Toronto's GO Transit are similar lengths; 409 km and 391 km respectively.  The former has 4 stations; the latter 59.  They serve two very different purposes.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #32 on: November 02, 2011, 03:11:03 PM »
Oh, I know there's a big enough population base to justify it.  I just don't know if enough of that population would use it.

I think if you make it convenient and cost effective for people to use, they will use it. 

I'd like to think so.  It's just that the population here is odd about things like that.  That's my hesitation.  For example, we have a great capitol corridor lightrail system connecting S.F. to Sacramento.  But a significantly smaller segment of the population than projected actually use the thing.  It is cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than driving that same stretch, but people would still rather sit in their cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic than use it. 
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Offline El Barto

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #33 on: November 02, 2011, 03:46:39 PM »
I don't know why Rumbo said it's mostly used for commutes.  Unless I'm misinterpreting what he means by commuter rail, HSR is not used for that.  HSR intentionally limits the number of stations along it's route in order to allow for less stops, and more time spent at the highest possible speed. 

EDIT: Just as an example, the LGV Sud-Est and Toronto's GO Transit are similar lengths; 409 km and 391 km respectively.  The former has 4 stations; the latter 59.  They serve two very different purposes.
Commuting isn't just getting to and from work each day.  There are plenty of people who have to travel that sort of distance 2 or 3 times a week.  There are plenty of people who have to take the same flight multiple times a week, though not necessarily at 9 and 5.  Still,  I don't see enough of those people here to justify the infrastructure.  Part of Acela's success was reusing existing tracks and modifying the stock.


I'd like to think so.  It's just that the population here is odd about things like that.  That's my hesitation.  For example, we have a great capitol corridor lightrail system connecting S.F. to Sacramento.  But a significantly smaller segment of the population than projected actually use the thing.  It is cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than driving that same stretch, but people would still rather sit in their cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic than use it. 
Yeah,  that's another reason why it won't work well with Americans.  Urban sprawl makes centralized transportation a real PITA.  I might well be able to take a HSR from here to Houston in half the time,  but without my car it'd suck horrendously on both ends.  Trains are very enjoyable,  but DART buses are terrible,  and I don't have any reason to expect [whatever Houston's rapid transit system is called] is any better.  In Europe you're mostly dealing with small towns or larger ones with effective commuter train networks.  Big difference there. 
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Offline j

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2011, 03:58:13 PM »
Barto, you ever take the light rail to get around in Dallas?  Not that it's "high speed rail," just curious.

-J