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Thread: US high-speed trains on track again?

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    US high-speed trains on track again?

    Acela to Brightline: US' fastest trains, high-speed rail are coming
    For American high-speed rail, 2020 could be a turning point - CNN

    Starting with the opening of Japan's first high-speed line in 1964, several nations in eastern and western Eurasia have built thousands of kilometers / miles of high-speed trackage, and high-speed trains compete very well with short-distance airline service. High-speed service for trains is sometimes defined as at least 250 km/h (155 mph) on new lines or at least 200 km/h (124 mph) on existing ones. Many high-speed trains travel at 300 km/h (186 mph) or faster over much of their routes.

    Compared to China, Japan, France, Spain, Italy, and some other nations, the United States is very far behind. The only line fitting this definition of high-speed rail is Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line: Boston - Providence - New Haven - New York City - Trenton - Philadelphia - Wilmington - Baltimore - Washington DC.

    But numerous proposals for additional high-speed lines have been discussed over the years, with no action on them for a long time. Barack Obama's Presidency seemed like the beginning of an era of US high-speed rail, with projects in California, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin going ahead. But after Republican governors were elected in the latter three states in 2010, those governors soon shut down those projects, and California got the money intended for them. Californians have started building their system, starting with its Central Valley segment: Merced - Madera - Fresno - Bakersfield.

    But smaller-scale efforts have started in other states.

    In Florida, Florida East Coast Industries decided to start passenger service on some tracks that it owns in southeastern Florida, under the name All Aboard Florida. It improved its line for West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale - Miami service, changing its name to Brightline and opening in 2018. In 2019, Richard Branson's Virgin Group got involved, and the system is now Virgin Trains USA.

    Virgin Trains is now extending the existing 65-mi / 105-km line northward 170 mi / 270 km to Orlando, and that extension will open in 2022. The company plans to build a station in Boca Raton, a short extension to PortMiami, and another extension from Orlando to Tampa.

    Virgin Trains has acquired XpressWest, which is planning to build a 170-mi / 270-km line from Victorville, CA to Las Vegas. It should break ground late this year and start service in 2023. Its trains should travel at 200 mph / 320 km/h, taking 85 minutes instead of the 3 hours needed for driving. Victorville seems like a bad choice, since it is 84 mi / 135 km from Los Angeles, but getting closer requires crossing the San Gabriel Mountains north of LA.

    In Texas, Texas Central is hoping to build a 240-mi / 390 km line between Dallas and Houston. Construction may start later this year, and service should start in 2026.

    USA Today:
    Not to be outdone, Amtrak is replacing its flagship Acela trains, which have been running from Washington to New York and Boston since 2000, at a maximum speed of 150 mph. The new trains will be able to go slightly faster — 160 mph — but are limited by curves and aging bridges and tunnels in the Northeast.

    ...
    Amtrak, meanwhile, is upgrading track, bridges and stations in the Northeast Corridor in preparation for its new Acela trains, which will debut next year. But its long-term goals of more frequent and faster trains in the region are costly ones: In 2012, the railroad estimated all the necessary improvements would cost $151 billion by 2040. Amtrak receives about $1 billion a year in federal funding.
    There are several other possible high-speed corridors that could be developed: Chicago - St. Louis, Atlanta - Charlotte NC, Seattle - Portland OR, Dallas - Austin - San Antonio, Houston - Austin (the Texas Triangle is Houston - Dallas - Austin)

    CNN:
    Brian Kelly, CEO of California High Speed Rail Authority believes that private sector investment in projects like the Vegas-to-LA connection, portends good things for his own project. He expects a private sector partner to join once risks to the San Francisco-to-LA project are resolved, such as environmental approvals and land to build on.

    He added that the presidential election this fall will be significant as well for US high-speed rail development. The Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has said he'll push for a national high-speed rail network.

    "Somebody once said to me, 'building a mega-project is like surviving a series of near-death experiences,'" Kelly said. "It's true."

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    A Lawmaker Wants Fast Trains to Rev Up the US Economy | WIRED - "US representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts proposes spending $205 billion over 5 years to connect Chicago with Atlanta, Portland with Vancouver."
    Accuse Representative Seth Moulton of loving trains too much at your peril. Yes, the Massachusetts Democrat worked for a time on a high-speed-rail project in Texas, one that is now finally inching toward a groundbreaking ceremony. He’s pressed for a new rail tunnel in Boston. He’s a booster for commuter rail. But ask him why he loves trains, and he’ll correct you, firmly. “It's not that I just like trains so much,” he says. “We should have a transportation system that’s balanced and gives people options.”

    On Tuesday, Moulton unveiled an ambitious—and expensive—plan to do just that. In a bill and accompanying white paper, the congressman proposed the federal government spend $205 billion over five years on a national high-speed rail network. That money could, in turn, encourage another $243 billion in matching state, local, and private investments, Moulton says. The bill would create a unified, national vision of a rail network that could guide future investments and would iron out regulations to speed construction. It would encourage private companies to operate the new rail networks, instead of, say, Amtrak, which is projecting a $700 million loss this year. It cites firms like Virgin Trains USA, which runs and hopes to extend a rail line in Florida, and Texas Central Railway, Moulton’s former employer, which is working to build one in the Lone Star State, as models.
    After mentioning what nice rides that one can get -- no long drives and no waits at airports -- the article continued with:
    The expansive vision is sure to face stiff opposition and will test Washington’s appetite for a pricey, infrastructure-based stimulus package designed to counter the pandemic-induced economic downtown. In late March, President Trump signaled on Twitter that he was interested, hyping support for a “VERY BIG & BOLD” plan focusing on “rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our County!” (He meant “country.”) But in a statement last week, the president’s Office of Management and Budget listed its top stimulus priorities as payroll tax holidays, releasing companies from liability, and “permitting reform to facilitate infrastructure projects”—a far cry from a bold and wide-ranging infrastructure program. Congress-watchers say Republican enthusiasm for writing such a check is waning, and fast.
    Moulton Rolls Out National High-Speed Rail Plan | U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton - May 19, 2020
    The plan will help build a national high-speed rail system by:
    • Investing $41 billion annually in high-speed and higher-speed rail through grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration over 5 years, with incentives for $38 billion or more in nonfederal funding;
    • Expanding metrics used by states and cities for transportation planning to include wider economic benefits for more informed investments;
    • Creating funding flexibility and transit-oriented development incentives for non-federal partners, including state and local transportation agencies and private partners; and
    • Developing comprehensive, performance-based safety regulations and standards for high-speed rail to reduce project costs and expedite development.

    If Congress enacts Moulton’s plan, America could reap the following benefits:
    • Better connected economic megaregions along high-speed rail corridors to increase productivity and global competitiveness, with a return on investment that far outweighs the cost of capital investment;
    • A coordinated, national transportation strategy that creates competition and reduces strain on our highway and aviation networks as high-speed rail serves high-volume corridors up to 750 miles;
    • Clean, reliable, and safe transportation from city centers to city centers, with less time in security lines and waiting in terminals, fewer weather disruptions, and no rush-hour traffic;
    • Development of walkable communities and expanded access to housing in urban centers and intermediate communities;
    • Increased national security and exports through increased U.S. independence from imported fuels and competition with China’s use of high-speed rail in its Belt and Road Initiative; and
    • Creation of new American industries, such as manufacturing and high-grade steel production, even communities separated from new transportation corridors.

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    American High Speed Rail and Rebuilding the US Economy - 2.pdf
    Emerging from the global devastation of World War II, America built an economy that quickly became the envy of the world. It was built upon a foundation of new infrastructure, funded by Congress and the American taxpayer, that dramatically expanded jobs, transportation options, and access to markets for people and businesses across the country. America didn’t just rebuild 19th-century infrastructure; our nation built 20th-century systems to meet the demands and opportunities of a new economy.

    Today our infrastructure, much of it dating to those postwar years, is failing. And like that time, simply rebuilding the infrastructure of the last century will be insufficient to meet either the demands or the opportunities of an economy that is changing faster than ever before. As automation and artificial intelligence come to support every aspect of our lives; as a global pandemic sharpens our focus on ensuring domestic manufacturing capacity; and as a new generation of Americans demand next-generation transportation options, we cannot rely on the technologies of the past. In the 1950s, we didn’t just add lanes to our state highways or make dirt runways longer; we built interstates and international airports. Today, relying solely on highways while the rest of the world speeds past us in high-speed trains would be akin to investing billions in laying more copper telephone lines while the rest of the world installs fiber optics.

    Our global competitors recognize this: $46 billion is expected to be invested annually in high-speed rail and transit in China from 2020-2030, about 27% of their transportation budget. Even Morocco, with roughly half a percent of our GDP, invested $2.2 billion in Casablanca- Tangier high-speed rail as the first leg of a connection between its major cities and less developed communities in the Western Sahara Desert. Saudia Arabia, gushing with oil, just completed a 280-mile electrified high-speed line that headlines its new infrastructure push to link holy cities, like Mecca and Medina, and commercial centers, like Jeddah, with King Abdulaziz International Airport and communities along the Red Sea coast. These are just but a few examples. It’s time for America to catch up, or the world economy will leave us behind.
    The page has a list of HSR and rail-improvement projects, but no map of them.

    I've found maps on these pages, however:

    All of the routes are in regions of the contiguous United States, with no continent-spanning ones like New York City - Los Angeles.

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    I have assembled a long route from existing routes and various proposals. I call it the Atlantic Axis. It goes:

    Portland ME - Boston - Providence - New Haven - NYC - Newark NJ - Trenton - Philadelphia - Wilmington - Baltimore - DC - Richmond - Raleigh - Durham - Greensboro - Charlotte - Greenville - Atlanta - Jacksonville - Daytona Beach - Orlando - West Palm Beach - Miami

    It has several branches off of it:
    • Boston - Springfield MA - Albany
    • New Haven - Hartford - Springfield MA
    • NYC - Albany - Syracuse - Rochester - Buffalo - Niagara Falls
    • Philadelphia - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh
    • Richmond - Norfolk
    • Raleigh - Columbia SC - Savannah - Jacksonville
    • Orlando - Tampa


    Another big set of routes is what I call Greater Chicagoland. It is:
    • Chicago - Detroit
    • Chicago - Cleveland
    • Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland
    • Chicago - Indianapolis - Cincinnati
    • Indianapolis - Louisville
    • Chicago - Carbondale
    • Chicago - Springfield IL - St. Louis - Kansas City
    • Chicago - Iowa City - Omaha
    • Chicago - Milwaukee - Minneapolis / St. Paul


    Then what may be called the Texas Triangle:
    • Houston - Dallas
    • Dallas - Austin - San Antonio
    • Houston - Austin (filled in by me)


    California has a long line:

    San Francisco - San Jose - Gilroy - Madera - Fresno - Bakersfield - Palmdale - Burbank - Los Angeles - Anaheim

    with branches:
    • Madera - Merced - Stockton - Sacramento
    • Los Angeles - Riverside - San Diego
    • Palmdale - Victorville - Las Vegas


    The Pacific Northwest has this line:

    Vancouver BC - Seattle - Portland - Eugene

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    Looking in High-speed rail I find maps of several nations' systems, systems in Western and Eastern Eurasia.

    Some nations don't have much of a system, like Taiwan, but others have impressive systems.
    • China - 35,000 km - Network
    • Japan - 2,765 km - Trunk line with branches
    • S Korea - 1,543 km - Hub and branched spokes
    • Taiwan - 350 km - Single line
    • France - 2,647 km - Hub and branched spokes
    • Spain - 3,240 km - Hub and branched spokes
    • Italy - 974 km - Trunk line with branches
    • Germany - 1,571 km - Network

    Turning to the US plans, I find:
    • Atlantic Axis - Trunk line with branches
    • Greater Chicagoland - Hub and branched spokes
    • California - Trunk line with branches
    • Texas - Network
    • Pacific Northwest - Single line

    Construction of Buffalo - Cleveland, Pittsburgh - Cleveland, Chicago - Atlanta, Chicago - Texas, and Orlando FL - Texas connect the three eastern sets of lines to make what may be called the Eastern Network. Its western boundary is roughly at highway I-35, roughly a boundary between the more humid and more densely-populated eastern half of the contiguous US and its more arid and more thinly-populated western half.


    The bill that Seth Moulton mentioned. He is one of its cosponsors.
    H.R.5805 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): High Speed Rail Corridor Development Act of 2020 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
    Not much in it, however.

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    Nearly 40 years of construction in Europe has yielded a combined line of impressive length.

    Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Lille - Paris - Lyon - Montpellier - Barcelona - Zaragoza - Madrid - Seville - Cádiz

    1800 miles / 2900 kilometers

    For comparison:
    • The Atlantic Axis: 2000 miles / 3300 kilometers
    • Japan Shinkansen (Aomori - Kagoshima): 1,300 mi / 2,100 km
    • Italy (Turin - Naples): 600 mi / 960 km
    • California (San Francisco - Anaheim): 490 mi / 790 km

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    Choo choo trains. Pffft.

    Love him or hate him, does anyone doubt Elon Musk's ability to follow through and get the job done? How will history tell his story regarding the electric vehicle? He alone accomplished this. Not just the vehicles but the infrastructure to support them. In an industry known to be near impossible for start-ups, he not only succeeded in the industry but forced the industry to remake itself in his image. And then space travel. He took what was the dying achievements of US exceptionalism and propelled them into space once again.

    So the Hyperloop. He proposes travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes at speeds up to 760 mph for $20 per passenger. There will be a capsule leaving every thirty seconds. Supposedly at a total cost of $6-7.5B. Can he do it? Would you bet against him?
    Ref: Tesla short sellers.

    Why should the US play catch up, updating a centuries old mode of transportation? If Elon Musk can once again pull this off, delivering people and goods much faster and cheaper, what will the rail industry do?

    And on a personal note, as one who is nearly surrounded by railroad tracks, no more beat to shit R/R crossings, no more waiting for trains (most moving, some stalled), no more being woken at 0dark30 by train horns. All those rails can be turned into trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TV and credit cards View Post
    Choo choo trains. Pffft.
    Nowadays they are vroom vroom trains and whir whir trains.
    Love him or hate him, does anyone doubt Elon Musk's ability to follow through and get the job done? ...
    I've never understood the hero worship of Elon Musk.
    So the Hyperloop. He proposes travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes at speeds up to 760 mph for $20 per passenger. There will be a capsule leaving every thirty seconds. Supposedly at a total cost of $6-7.5B. Can he do it? Would you bet against him?
    I'd bet against him. This is a TOTALLY unproven technology that will need a LOT of testing. It isn't even a new idea. Vactrains have been proposed for decades, though with no effort to build any over all that time. Vactrains have some formidable technical challenges. Their tubes must be kept evacuated, the trains will have to enter and exit through airlocks, and the trains must be pressurized for their passengers.

    By comparison, cars and rockets are MUCH easier.

    Looking at the prices of recent Tesla cars, I note that they are still relatively expensive. They start at about $40,000, while other cars start at $20,000.

    I'll give him some credit for his rockets, like being competitive with existing ones, and especially being able to be reused. But it took a lot of development work, with lots of failed landings.
    Why should the US play catch up, updating a centuries old mode of transportation?
    Irrelevant bullshit. High-speed trains have mainly been developed over the last half-century, and doesn't that make them new enough?

    Let's look at some dates.
    • High-speed trains -- Japanese Shinkansen: 1964, French TGV: 1981
    • Jet-engine aircraft -- Gloster Meteor, Messerschmitt 262: 1044
    • Powered flight -- the Wright Brothers: 1903
    • Internal combustion engines for vehicles -- late 19th cy.
    • Steam engines for vehicles -- late 18th cy.
    • Wheeled vehicles -- ~ 3000 BCE
    • Paved roads -- ~ 4000 BCE
    • Work animals (carrying, pulling) -- Neolithic to Bronze Age -- bovine: 8000 BCE, horse: 3500 BCE
    • Boats / ships -- oldest known one (Pesse dugout canoe): 8000 BCE -- from human dispersion: Paleolithic
    • Bipedal walking -- older than our species. The first clear evidence is the Laetoli footprints: 3.7 Mya (Pliocene)
    • Walking in general -- much older than our species. The first clear evidence is the Zachelmie trackways: 390 Mya (Devonian)
    • Moving in general -- much older than our species. The first strong evidence is the Early Cambrian trace fossil "Treptichnus pedum": 541 Mya. There is weaker trace-fossil evidence from the Ediacaran, just before that.

    So one shouldn't dismiss a way of traveling just because it's old.

    If Elon Musk can once again pull this off, delivering people and goods much faster and cheaper, what will the rail industry do?
    I'll believe it when I see it.
    And on a personal note, as one who is nearly surrounded by railroad tracks, no more beat to shit R/R crossings, no more waiting for trains (most moving, some stalled), no more being woken at 0dark30 by train horns. All those rails can be turned into trails.
    Those are all freight trains, and they are not the main target of Elon Musk's vactrains.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    I've never understood the hero worship of Elon Musk.
    The guy scrapped together an auto company. Almost no one else has done that in the US in a century. And StarLink could be quite something if that flies.

    So the Hyperloop. He proposes travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes at speeds up to 760 mph for $20 per passenger. There will be a capsule leaving every thirty seconds. Supposedly at a total cost of $6-7.5B. Can he do it? Would you bet against him?
    I'd bet against him. This is a TOTALLY unproven technology that will need a LOT of testing. It isn't even a new idea. Vactrains have been proposed for decades, though with no effort to build any over all that time. Vactrains have some formidable technical challenges. Their tubes must be kept evacuated, the trains will have to enter and exit through airlocks, and the trains must be pressurized for their passengers.

    By comparison, cars and rockets are MUCH easier.
    Yeah, there are a substantial number of issues with the hyperloop. To begin with, the technology. Then all the issues that high-speed rail has in the US. The trouble with high speed rail in the US is everything. The US has almost no dedicated regional passenger rail lines to speak of. So high-speed is starting from scratch. I want it, I love the idea, but we have no right-of-way to go with and land gets expensive quickly.

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