High-Speed Rail’s Central Valley Segment is Already Connected to Bay Area

HSR trains can immediately through-run to Bay Area and Sacramento on existing tracks

Tracks in Oakland. One way or another, these tracks, and the rest of the national network, will connect to California's HSR system. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Tracks in Oakland. One way or another, these tracks, and the rest of the national network, will connect to California's HSR system. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

With all the confusion around High-Speed Rail, and the endless repetition of the tiresome and fallacious “train to nowhere” meme, it’s probably a good idea to reiterate that the high-speed train network California is designing and building uses the same wheel and track dimensions as the national rail network and California’s commuter railroads.

High-speed rail is not some kind of rare unicorn that can never leave its cage. During early phases of HSR projects in other parts of the world, it is common to run hybrid operations–with high-speed trains slowing and running on conventional tracks. Likewise, California’s HSR train, in one way or another, will leave the Central Valley, because they can run on existing tracks, pulled by existing Amtrak locomotives.

In fact, off-the-shelf HSR trains have already run to and from the Central Valley. Here’s a picture of a German Intercity Express (ICE) High speed train, which is capable of running at around 190 mph, tootling along outside of Sacramento during a demonstration run back in the 1990s.

A Siemens High-speed train touring behind a conventional diesel in California. This kind of operation could be used to greatly improve California rail services in interim phases. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Siemens High-speed train touring behind a conventional diesel in California. This kind of operation could be used to greatly improve California rail services in interim phases. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The two locomotives at the front are standard Amtrak diesel locomotives painted to match the rest of the train. The photo is from a publicity tour back when Amtrak was developing a higher-speed project between Boston and Washington (later branded ‘Acela’) that was to squeeze more speed out of existing tracks. Amtrak’s Cascade service between Oregon and Washington also uses lightweight, HSR passenger cars pulled by diesel locomotives, so there’s nothing unusual about running HSR rolling stock, in service, on Amtrak lines. New regulations from D.C. will make this kind of operation even simpler and more common in the future.

Now here’s the same type of train as in the above photo, but on a dedicated HSR line in Germany, where it goes nearly 200 mph.

A German HSR train ont he Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed railway. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A German HSR train ont he Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed railway. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

HSR is more about the tracks and infrastructure than the train. On a high-speed line there are electric wires overhead. A high speed train raises a pantograph, which is a collector that makes contact with a high-voltage wire, connecting the train directly to the grid.

On a true high-speed rail line, a "pantograph" as seen above, raises up and makes contact with a power line. Now the train is "plugged in" to the power grid and can zoom along at 200 mph +. Image: Wikimedia Commons
On a true high-speed rail line, a “pantograph” as seen above, raises up and makes contact with a power line. Now the train is “plugged in” to the power grid and can zoom along at 200+mph. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thus, the train is “plugged in” to 25,000 volts, which runs its incredibly powerful motors that, in conjunction with tracks that are built to a much higher standard, enable the train to go over 200 mph (and they’ve gone as fast as 357 mph in tests).

But that doesn’t mean they can’t also run at lower speeds on older, non-electrified lines, including the  existing tracks in California.

In fact, running HSR trains on a mix of dedicated lines and older lines is how almost all HSR systems were and are developed around the world. There were regular TGV services in France that continued onto non-electrified lines, towed by a diesel, to reach smaller towns. Spain has dual-mode HSR services that can run on electric or diesel power without changing locomotives. Even the Eurostar high-speed service, which runs between Paris and London, used to decelerate in England and spend about half of its run on slow, outdated infrastructure (running on third-rail power, in that somewhat unusual case). Every few years, as additional Eurostar HSR segments are completed, journey times are reduced, and ridership increases.

Here’s a map of Amtrak’s existing rail services between Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Merced and Bakersfield:

Amtrak_San_Joaquin.svgMerced, the city at the northern end of Newsom’s planned Central Valley HSR spine, is already connected to Sacramento and Oakland, via the tracks in the lead image.

Amtrak already carries over a million passengers annually on the lines pictured above. Interlining HSR with the Altamont Commuter Express, to connect up San Jose, will also be possible.

It would be better if California could build the whole HSR system at once. But that was never possible, even under the best scenarios. Since Newsom is planning to continue engineering work on the Los Angeles and San Francisco parts of the system, when the political winds shift again, construction of the next phases will continue, just as it did on the HSR lines overseas.

If HSR follows this pattern of incremental construction, Californians will eventually experience trains running on smooth tracks, with barely any cabin noise, at 220-250 mph, from Bakersfield to Merced. They’ll feel a slight bump during the Merced stop as a diesel locomotive is coupled to the front. And they’ll see the stark contrast as their train continues at “normal” speeds on the state’s current bumpy, slow and aged tracks to Sacramento, San Jose, and the Bay Area.

After that, the question they’ll ask is: when can we finish building true HSR all the way to San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Las Vegas and beyond?

  • Claude

    We have to double all taxes and fees to cover the highway deficits. Doubling taxes is now a “modest increase.”
    Also, you have the terms reverseded. Maglev uses proprietary technology. If TransRapid goes out of business the track becomes a large public sculpture. High speed rail uses normal track gauges and can be supplied through any vendor.
    Mechanically, a Japanese train can run on any standard gauge track, from Italy to Germany to Montana.It just need power.

  • Roger R.

    Fly to France, Germany, Japan, China, etc. Take a modern train. Not even necessarily an HSR. Compare.

  • Richard Bullington

    I don’t know about the ownership. The roadbed looks intact everywhere between “East Livermore” (the I-580 crossing) and the California Aqueduct bridges. That’s the part of the run where trains, especially freights, travel most slowly.

    I doubt that the SJ’s will move to the UP. It could certainly be done; there is a wye between BNSF and UP east (railroad “south”) of the Stockton station. And the UP track certainly hasn’t been downgraded, because there is no parallel WP south of Lathrop. But the old SP, which is often constrained by closely parallel SR99 is mostly single-track all the way to Bakersfield. There are frequent sidings of course, because it’s a busy railroad. But the State has invested a bunch of money into the parallel BNSF, a good part of which will be “stranded” once HSR takes the trains south of Madera then Merced. It will still benefit BNSF of course.

    So I would expect that some sort of shoo-fly will be provided to move trains between the HSR to the south and BNSF to the north at Merced, especially if further funding doesn’t materialize for the Bay Area extension.

    The industrial lead I mentioned above has a branch which leads through the industrial district across 16th Street to connect to the UP main south of the SR99 crossing of 16th. It currently connects on the BNSF side only toward the south, but there’s enough room to add a third leg to make a wye with a connection toward the north. There is a “through” track the entire distance through the industrial park; set-outs are made with facing point turnouts to spur sidings for locals from Fresno yard.

    Would this be a “kludge”? Most definitely and it would cost a couple of million dollars to build the third leg of the wye and signal-protect the trackage. But it’s less than a mile of low-speed running, the curves aren’t punishingly sharp and it’s only a half-mile north of the place where the old SP station stood, so it’s not like dropping down from 125 to 15 and bouncing back immediately. It would essentially add five or so minutes to the station stop but keep the SJ’s on the better trackway to the north of Merced.

    It’s 70 miles via SR99 between downtown Stockton and the Merced SP station; via Lathrop on the UP it’s probably 72 miles. Via the parallel BNSF it’s 65 miles according to the San Joaquin timetable. It’s 72 minutes timetable, or about 54 mph average speed including two stops. Those two stops (Modesto and Turlock) would certainly still be made on the UP, perhaps drawing more ridership because of the stations being downtown rather than out in the suburbs.

    But there would be more freight congestion on the busier and more constrained UP, especially with local freights serving the dense agricultural industries along the railroad. And though the UP is willing to host a couple of ACE trains each way during peak hours Monday through Friday, I doubt they’d be happy to have an additional fourteen Amtraks seven days a week almost around the clock. It would make life miserable for the “peddler freights”.

  • Richard Bullington

    They need #24 and above turnouts depending on the track speed if they “don’t even slow down while using them”. But yes, spend enough money of half-mile long turnouts, and you can have trains blow through them at 180.

  • Richard Bullington

    It can’t be double-tracked the entire distance. There are only relatively short sections between the east edge of Pleasanton and Fremont where double track would fit in, at least, not without cloning the tunnel and obliterating “downtown” Sunol.

  • Richard Bullington

    Of course the San Joaquin trackway isn’t HSR level, but that does not mean it’s “bumpy, slow and aged”. And yes, I have taken trains all over Europe, mostly not HSR and they have the occasional bump in the trackway. Since they have fewer and much lighter freight trains than we do in North America it’s easier to maintain shared trackage. But you sound like you think Amtrak runs on 40 mph feeder tracks.

  • Richard Bullington

    They all think public transportation is 2/3 empty. They never ride it and rarely see it except in the Lily-white enclaves of Suth’n Gentility.

  • Roger R.

    “But if one went that way with the San Joaquins, it would mean leaving out Stockton which is a pretty important station for them.:

    Why is this an either/or proposition? Do both to maximize ridership. I think you’re forgetting that the dedicated HSR spine is going to have WAY more capacity than the San Joaquin line. So you can pipe in trains from multiple branches onto our HSR spine.

  • Richard Bullington

    Sure, but they won’t be HSR trains. They’ll need locomotives with higher-grearing than they now probably have, which means that trains with hilly approaches will have to have two locomotives instead of one, especially if ACE trains run through to Fresno.

  • MonadnockMan

    Say what, HSR is proprietary? No it is not, it is another steel on steel transportation system.

    It will not service the CA route per the governors newest iteration. In other words, failure still exists except is now 170-miles long?

  • MonadnockMan

    As long as the current incompetency of leadership along with zero HSR knowledge on staff; then you add the political junk, the union relationships, and other back door obligations you now recognize the direct causation that the project is cost prohibited, non-functional, and in actual fact the project was dead 5-seconds after Proposition 1A passage.

    Furthermore, the debt obligations are unacceptable as it will be a serious generation debt obligation burden created for a train to nowhere from nowhere!

    The State Auditor dramatically demonstrated over and over the deficiencies, the link –


  • LazyReader

    The transcontinental rail road started in two destinations then met in the middle……………so did the Channel Tunnel. California is starting in the middle of nowhere and trying to branch out to two urban destinations. Even if SF and LA never connected by 2025, it would eventually at some point…….but have been able to serve Anaheim and Burbank thru LA and Fresno and San Jose via SF. Population centers! instead of hicktowns in the middle of farmland.

  • nti1094

    I keep making the mistake of totally discounting Stockton since I grew up in the Valley having been a frequent San Joaquin rider since I was 5, until I loved to New York. I remember it as a connecting point to Sacramento and as the place where you waited in fear for the train after getting off the bus and hoping the frackheads across the tracks in that park didn’t try to interact with you. Back then the overall trip was not bad… until
    you hit the Port Chicago connection and slowed and swayed and bumped your way along typical crappy SP trackage. I recently took the train from Oakland to Hanford and was shocked how must faster it was across the delta and at the number of people getting off in Stockton. Half of a crowded train emptied out! No one ever took the train between those points in the 80’s.

  • nti1094

    What about something like the ALP45DP? Although 125 under the wire is not that great, I’m sure they can improve that somewhat.

  • nti1094

    I would point out that riding behind the ALP45DP on the North Jersey Coast line express train, it is a seamless change and not even noticed by passengers at all.

  • nti1094

    One thing people are overlooking in the debate is who will operate these mixed trains. It feels like the discussion about CAHSR all these years took it as just a given that this would have nothing to do with Amtrak. Cal trans division of rail is competent and capable of figuring it out I’m sure, but if Amtrak is not involved you lose the statutory rights they have to access from the freight carriers. Something tells me that UP or BNSF would be happy to work with Caltrans on that, just look at how well they dispatch the Capitols, but they also can be resistant. The UP was not happy when Amtrak lost the contract to operate metrolink and did not want crews from these bargain basement lowest bidder companies out there on their lines. They don’t think of them as “real” railroaders. Then Chatsworth happened and…

  • nti1094

    There has been a lot of money pumped into the old Santa Fe line over these past years, upgrades, passing loops, double tracking and such, and this was on a line already in much much better shape that the typically awful SP. Although it always has and always will suffer from being just a little off the population centerline. The topic came up at times over the years, but the SP was notoriously awful about anything dealing with passenger trains and it was pretty much a given that it would never happen. (for that matter they were awful towards every customer)

  • nti1094

    This is false. It does not run 2/3 empty. Maybe the 4:45 am from Fresno, but twice this past year I was almost forced to stand it was so busy. This is especially true as they squeeze out the Calcars and run 3 coaches and a cafe car instead of 4 or 5.

    It is the 5th busiest amtrak line in the entire system you know.

    Also the core of the line sees 7 trips each way, not 5.

  • nti1094

    YOU NAILED IT. our so-called free market system is broken, not the idea of high speed rail! A mechanism for the 1% to loot the public treasury!

    Just look at the second avenue subway. Just the initial segment cost way more to build than the entire line 14 in Paris and its extensions!!

  • nti1094

    Where do I even begging on your incorrect data here. First of all (i’ll try and find the video) the New York Central pointed out in the 50’s that they were being taxed heavily and that it was being used to build competition for them and this was seen by them as unfair, not the free market, and would lead to their demise. That was all true.

    Also, building dedicated HSR lines significantly adds freight capacity by opening up capacity on existing freight lines. But that doesn’t mean it should not also carry freight. Le Post has a fleet of dedicated TGV sets (painted bright yellow… you see them
    late at night usually) which is a perfect example of a type of freight than can easily live by hsr. Also there is nothing stopping the shared use of tracks like the TGV/AVE line in Perpignan through the tunnel. At least for the Pyrannese portion it is fully shared and graded a little more flat.

    As for the cost. Yes, it is rediculous. It is veyond rediculous. But that is not because it is an inherently more expensive type of infrastructure. Look at the 16,000 miles of true high speed rail built in chine in 10 years.

    The fact is something has to be built. The eastern span of the bay bridge has proven that perhaps this isn’t even the most expensive mode in even our broken sytstem of funding infrastructure. This is by no means a “boondoggle.” Would you say the same for each cruise missle built? Or the JSF? The debt is big, no doubt about that, but there are some seriously disproportionate imbalances in our overall budget that needs work. We can’t just keep going like we have at the expense of building up our own country.

    Also this “nowhere” bullshit needs to stop. Fresno, almost 600,000 people (like Lyon, France), Visalia 150,000, Bakersfield, another 300 to 400 thousand… Not exactly nowhere or nobody.

    One last point, the combined (air/rail) market share of the Acela from New York to Washington is around 90% and that’s barely high speed by world standards. I can show you many market pairs around the world where HSR decimated the air share. the same argument could be said for the air versus road shares. Airplanes don’t put a dent in traffic either. Thats not really the point though.

  • nti1094

    I agree. But that does mean that the entirety of the red states will have to let go of the teat of California and New York (and about 5 other blue states) who put fat more into the federal government than they get out. And if it’s to be a truly free market, drivers will need to pay 100% of the cost. When you say “modest tolls” and fees, you seem to be cherry picking pieces of the network. You might say you have no intention of ever driving the bay bridge to SF, so you should not have to pay for that… But in a system that is even slightly more based on the free market, like the Oresund crossing, which the one time I drove across cost like $60, you get a network broken up and not functional as a whole. You end up with further fragmented society. Just like rich areas who have better funded schools and getting better and further separating and fragmenting our culture.

    You can’t rob our society of a decent transportation network, get your pieces built, then say we cannot afford to build it back the right way. If the I-5 over the grapevine was not there today, and we had to connect the state, the most efficient and cost effective choice would certainly mean your highway would never get built. I’d say that we just can’t afford to build your boondoggle over the grapevine.

    The choices made in the past were unsustainable and dug us into a very big hole that will take time and focus and resources to slowly fix.

    Also EAS does not cost 4 billion a year. The program is almost nothing compared to what it was. What tiny bit is left would be very much lived by you if you lived in places like Billings, MT. There is an argument here for another time, but I wanted to point out that it is much less expensive than that. If anything it is a continuation of the age old struggle to subsidies competition for the passenger railroads.

    As for “over the rail” cost, Amtrak has a farebox recovery ratio of nearly 95%. That is unheard of for national rail systems in this world. You need to find $20 billion in the budget, fine. The FAA.

    But the problem then is the fact that either air passengers or airlines would have to step in and pay. The entire airline industry doesn’t make that in profits! So there ends the airline industry I suppose.

    You see the problem there? You argue this as if there is really a free market, or as if we are talking about making an essential component of infrastructure run like a business. That’s not how a modern economy works.

  • nti1094

    It took me years to find any data on this, but in regards to Maglev… it’s now a fact that what should have been obvious all along with the Pudong Naglev. Energy cost are not meaningfully less than conventional rail and China saw no benefit as far as operations cost. That’s why the planned extensions were quietly dropped.

    Also, the last time I saw it, only one morning and one evening train ran at the full track speed each day. All the rest of them
    rannat 300 kph! Yup… the same exact speed as conventional rail.

  • Claude

    The line is too short to operate at the peak speeds. It’s a poor demonstration of the capacity of maglev. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Chuo Shinkansen.
    Side note: I’m rooting for Nara to get the station. Kyoto already has the Tokaido Shinkansen and regular mainline. They have plenty of connections. Nara is ba big enough destination that it should have a fast train to supplement the conventional service they have.
    Here in America, I don[t think we have any markets that are ready for the extra expense of a maglev. JR Central thinks the NEC would be a good market, but for now I would focus on building out a 200kph basic HSR system across the country with 300kph corridors where the traffic density merits it.

  • LazyReader

    IF Cali and NY are so rich why cant they pay for their own transit. The New York City Subway was built by New York CIty, For New York City and is entirely owned by the city of New York. There’s no reason the City shouldn’t pay for infrastructure entirely in it’s jurisdiction.
    The solution is to privatize the subway system, along with the MTA’s commuter trains and other transit services. Private operators would be more efficient, and quite possibly could turn a loss-making operating into an operationally profitable one without raising fares. In 2016, MTA spent $32 per vehicle mile running New York City transit buses. That’s twice the cost of the
    next-most-expensive operator in the New York area, and many spend as little as $4 to $6 per mile. If privatization could cut costs in half, the subways — which currently cover 60 percent of their operating costs would earn an operating profit, and some of that profit could be used
    to restore the system.
    Still, I doubt that the system could earn enough profits to pay the $37 billion maintenance backlog plus the $18 billion unfunded pension and health care obligations. So fares would have to increase, and increased fares would reduce ridership. Some employers might decide to
    move out of Manhattan, which would make New York City a less-congested, less-expensive place to live.

  • Richard Bullington

    Sure, dual mode would be great, but not cheap for a few years’ service. But my understanding is that they aren’t going to hang the catenary until the HSR trains are ordered.

  • Richard Bullington

    Indeed. The San Joaquins are the West Coast’s closest thing to Acela. The Cascades are limited to 90 and rarely hit it because of crossing-over every twenty miles for freight congestion and the Surfliners run on over-crowded (BNSF main) and/or very “curvaceous” trackage (everywhere else).

    I gotta say, though, that WashDOT has spent a BUNDLE on super-long cross-overs for the Cascades. The plants are nearly a half mile long to accommodate both directions of the double x-overs. That has helped schedule keeping a lot.

  • Richard Bullington

    I think you mean “serve”. “Service” when used as a verb is what the bull does to the cow.

  • nti1094

    The problem is that it is not owned or controlled by the city of New York and has been bled dry since 1969.

  • LazyReader

    Why do states at first brag about how much they contribute to GDP but beg for federal funding. It’s like saying you’re the worlds strongest man but skirt any request to lift something. The NYC Subway is owned entirely by the city of New York. However it’s leased to the MTA. If they leased it’s operations to an independent firm, they wouldn’t be in this mess or at least not as severe. Population and economic output aren’t among the criteria Congress established for federal funding of transit infrastructure. Instead, one of the most important criteria that the Department of Transportation is required to use is whether the project is “supported by an acceptable degree of local financial commitment”. In other words, can they pick up the slack after the fed pumps in “X” amount of dollars. California the same for HSR even though ridership projections has been vastly exaggerated. The point is New York and California are on the edge of fiscal oblivion anyway and they simply want the feds to cover the majority of the burden before they go belly up. Rather than cut taxes, adopt a more sound fiscal policy and use excess revenues to pay off their debt. THEY’RE SPENDING it.

  • nti1094

    The IND was built by the city, not the BMT. The IRT was built by August Belmont in sort of a Design, build, operate kind of way and run privately for profit (but heavily regulated tothe poor of noprofit).

    Since the MTA was created it is just a smaller scale version of the rest of our system where the center of population and business is bled and trickled down to the edges.

  • nti1094

    You do have sir interesting pouts. But, not tohate in New York too much, but I can assure you a private company here would be worse and would drain it dry.

    If you watched the Sopranos, remember the season with the whole “science of trucking museum,” or better yet the lawn chairs and fat slobs sunning themselves at a construction site.

    I get your point about the economy, but to be clear I should point out I did not mean GDP. I will try and dig up a source and post, but I meant aggregate cotribution like taxes and fees or even user trust funds like the federal portion of the gas tax.

  • nti1094

    Even worse, the Japanese maglev and the operating transrapid one in china are 100% different technologies.

    In Japan they use electrodynamic suspension which requires superconducting magnets. I am a little confused here about how this system will work in a financially feasible way.

    Without getting too technical, i’ll just sayits all about Ohm’s law. This grid thatmakes the SC part of SC Maglev has to create that massive magnetic field by a massive amount of current. But you have to do so with minimal to no resistance. You can ram current through a big giant piece of conductive material (otherwise like a thin wire that heats and pops) or make your coductive material more conductive. (or increase your voltage… thats why the higher the voltage, the smaller the wire) The colder your material get… the closer to absolute zero, the better.

    Obviously it works because you can ride the thing ona short test track now. But can that scale up? How does one economically cool hundreds of kilometers of this coil? I am skeptical about this and need to see more technical documentation (that isn’t marketing material fromu them.)

  • nti1094

    You are correct, I too am rooting for this. It doesn’t have to be 300kmh 100%, Even 150 to 200 with slower traffic seperated would dramatically increase capacity and reliability and tops large degree speed.

    If a trainis like a third faster than driving and most important reliable and consistent, it quickly becomes the preferred mode. There are no huge modal share gains beyond that.

  • nti1094

    Well (and this is a failure on our part) that 62 million I bet would easily go up by a multiple of 5 here. Also it does appear that operating cost are far greater than anyone realized. If they were lower, China would have built the extensions they had planed already. Instead they built them as regular HS Rail.

    Don’t get me wrong, maglev will play a big part of our future one day.

  • nti1094

    And the transcontinental railroad continued to operate as two separate systems from day one as well… in fact I believe after the ceremonies thetracks were pulled up a ways and connected to infrastructure like rail yards and terminal trackage. I mean they were still connected, but not as a ribbon of tangent track unbroken. In fact passengers got off their train and made their way to another station and another train from another company.

  • nti1094

    Well Maglev is also a train. Yes it is, I suppose you can say, simple. So too is electric traction. Really electricity and magnetism is both simple and the same thing.

    You are dealing with Ohm’s law in both neither is inherent more or less efficient. But with steel wheel and rail you are adding a certain amount of friction. Although in the grand scheme of it all its negligable because for every mode there is a far greater friction to deal with that is unavoidable.

  • nti1094

    The biggest mistake made was not fixing the ONE glaring issue and biggest challenge of all. By all measures, for whatthey are, the San Joaquins are a success. But there is a glaring hole in its route. If they put everythig into a direct line straight through the mountains under the Tejon connecting Bakersfield to LA and some incremental improvements north from there, that would have made them the second, or even the busiest line in the country. They could have taken a more incremental approach like aftet that a perfect copy of construction package one as it is now, Fresno has long dreamed of pullinng out the Sata Fe mainline.

  • nti1094

    It’s not too late actually to do exactly that now.

  • nti1094

    To be clear the Tejon tunnel should be designed for freight trains, perhaps even shuttle trains every 20 minutes for trucks. Ask any trucker, if they could roll onto a shuttle like the Eurotunnel Shuttles and not drive the grapevine, they would in a second. The capacity you gain for other drivers on the grapevine makes it a win-win.

  • nti1094

    I think the problem
    is on scaling up with these modes. What you describe is absolutely correct to a point. But when the scale reaches the Port Authority level, you need another solution. Trust me, if those busses were to go sidewalk style, it would be utter chaos. It really truly is a huge number of busses.

    As the population scales up, so too does your solution. It is ideal to plan for and build that into your planing for cities before rather than later. We should not be building more and less useful airports, but should have thought about future needs as planned airportsthstcoukdhabe scaled easily up to 50 million passengers a year. But that also requires thinking of the whole network and getting those extra millions from that to the next step. Efficiently.

    And that is exactly why we try at least to centralize planning and to an extent funding for transport.

  • nti1094

    I get this, but I have to say thatswappig a locomotive now days is like a 30 to 45 minute procedure for Amtrak. Even at New Haven they took 15 to 20, and that’s all they did.

  • nti1094

    I once rode a Danish train that split and went two different directions WITHOUT STOPPING! (I was in the front half, so I guess half didn’t stop)

  • nti1094

    Well the main reason the switch is done there is that they would have to change direction anyways, and have an engine house and the crew already. Certain trains used to skip 30th street and stopped (was it North Philly or Philly Zoo?) at another station on their way to Pittsburgh.

  • nti1094

    Also there is a good mile separating the stations and it’s not the best neighborhood in between.

  • LazyReader

    Regardless of economy, The fact is to Build a High speed rail system equivalent to Europe in Urban population centers would push the scale at 250 billion – 500 billion dollars and take several decades of work. Europe’s HSR network got most of it’s passengers from pre-existing normal speed rail and buses; it has not taken Europeans out of their cars, just out of cheaper buses. This is also true in Asia. Yet the US has virtually no low-speed train riders and few bus riders for high-speed trains to capture market wise.

    Megaprojects often always in this day and age, go over budget, underperform. The basic Golden rule for megaprojects is “Don’t do them”. Megaprojects aren’t a matter of cost they’re a matter of usefulness. The best way to justify a megaproject is to ratio it’s cost to person service. A hydroelectric dam is more useful to millions than a train to a few thousand. California’s high speed rail budget is greater than the GDP of Guatemala. The UK’s 2nd gen HSR project is equivalent to the entire GDP of Kenya. From 2004-2008 China spent more on infrastructure in real terms than the whole of the 20th century. And that’s gonna come back to bite them in the future given their tendany for bribery covering up shoddy worksmanship. A 2008 stimulus plan allotting $600 billion to infrastructure projects helped China maintain economic growth throughout the recession. But now it seems that not only might the construction have been a bit too shoddy, but national debt incurred by the projects has begun to weigh heavily on China’s shoulders. Like Japan who in the 80’s sank billions into large infrastructure projects with little net return, both nations serve as a reminder that a blank check for engineering firms is no
    solution to the nations infrastructure problem.

  • Claude

    You only need to cool the magnets on the trains. The magnets in the track are figure-8 coils of heavy conductors that are charged by magnetic induction from the passing train.

    Like all inductive maglevs it only works at high speeds, so it runs on rubber tires below about 90 mph.

    It uses about 3 times the energy per passenger-mile of conventional HSR, but about half the energy of commuter airlines.

  • LazyReader

    The problem is central planning.
    First, restoring obsolete transit is not the same as modernizing transit. Electric rail transit was developed in the 1880s and 1890s and was largely superseded by modern buses in the 1920s. Heavy-rail lines survived in four urban areas — New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia — largely; of the last three due to subsidies, not because heavy rail was somehow immune to obsolescence. Electric buses even ones powered by above cables or third rail can replace subways. Because rubber tires and concrete/asphalt surface is better and less damaging than steel wheels going clickity clack on steel rail.

    THE FACT is none of these things would have solved the real problem, which is that California simply doesn’t have the money to build the line. The $9 billion approved in 2008 was far less than a third of the projected cost at that time; it’s less than 12 percent of today’s more realistic (but
    still probably underestimated) cost of $77 billion and growing. Even with it’s current surplus, the state would be better off paying off it’s mounting debts.

  • Claude

    What can we do about a dead project that keeps being built, despite the fact that its dead and has been completely abandoned if you don’t count the fact that it continues to be built.
    I mean, it would be completely intolerable to accept the reality that it’s an ongoing project between two of the large cities, which are places you wouldn’t want to go and therefore become “nowhere” despite the millions of people who live there.
    With the existing rail connections the passengers will be able to travel by train from Bakersfield all the way to Sacramento and San Francisco, whether or not the HSR trains are towed to the bay. I guess that makes Sacramento and the Bay area also “nowhere” and the people who live there also become “unpeople” in your world.
    It must be nice to have god-like powers over millions of human lives.


California's HSR project, under construction, outside of Fresno. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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