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RE: WorldTransport Forum What High-Speed Rail Means For America

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  • Derek Scrafton
    Eric, Roy Lave’s piece is the most sensible summary I have seen on the popular topic of High Speed Trains, an expression capable of being defined to suit any
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 10, 2011



      Roy Lave’s piece is the most sensible summary I have seen on the popular topic of High Speed Trains, an expression capable of being defined to suit any preference or objective. His comments on who will pay for the ongoing operating and maintenance costs are particularly pertinent.


      There are similar calls for HST in Australia, when all we really need for long distance passenger rail is a more reliable and frequent version of the few trains that exist here (not easy given that most lines are single track with passing loops). The operating subsidies for passenger trains in the three eastern States are massive.


      Thanks for drawing my attention to the UK rebuttal, which is an over-reaction to the original criticisms. It typifies a problem: you must wholeheartedly support our cause, or you are ‘agin us’. Like Roy, I am an advocate for public transport, do not own a car, am a regular user of rail in UK, Europe and Canada, and an enthusiast for rail. But I wasn’t born yesterday and am not comfortable with modally driven bandwagons that do not give due consideration to other options available that might provide more appropriate levels of service at a lower cost.


      Every good wish,


      Derek Scrafton.


      From: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of roylave@...
      Sent: Thursday, 10 February 2011 12:07 PM
      To: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: WorldTransport Forum What High-Speed Rail Means For America




      Hope you are well and surviving the European winter.  We seem to be having summer in California for the last couple of weeks.  I write to respond to your email on HSR.


      In the States we constantly talk with envy about how great train service is in Europe and Japan and how we wish we had comparable systems.  Now, the Obama administration appears willing to help and California and other states will line up and receive funding for entirely new rail systems designed by politicians.  In California that means the routes are political routes not market-driven routes.  We'd be better off improving existing systems constructed when land use followed train routes.


      The promise of a decrease in pollution will only result in the movement of pollution from the route of the rail to some other maybe more pristine spot where fossil fuel will be used to produce the power for the train.   I guess that is consistent with sharing the wealth -- share the pollution.


      And then there is the matter of cost.  Nice of the federal government to finance the construction of the rail systems.  It will help the unemployment and maybe help elect the administration, but is the federal government going to subsidized these rail systems for their lifetimes.  Certainly  Congress has shown little interest in adequate funding for Amtrak.  If not the feds, who?  States with structural budget deficits?  Transit operators who cannot keep their buses running?


      Caltrain, a heavily used train system on the San Francisco peninsula is closing stations -- a perfect wonderful train system that is closing stations.  There may be HSR gifts from our congressmen to replace those rails with ones that will carry higher speeds but we won't have the funds to run the trains.    How about a program that provides greater federal subsidies to existing transit and rail operators.  Oh, maybe because they wouldn't produce a significant number of jobs and reelect an administration.


      Then there is the matter of ridership.  Ridership estimates are consultants' wet dreams.  This is not a criticism of consultants who probably mostly take assumptions made by politicians and produce estimates that sell the projects to the citizenry who seem to quickly forget the broken promises and false estimates made for the last rail system -- probably a light rail system.


      I probably generalize to hugely. I am a captive of the California experience.  There may be new HSR that makes sense somewhere in the country. 


      You know that I am a transit advocate.  You probably don't know I am also a rail aficionado.  I "drove" a steam engine a decade before I was old enough to drive a car because my Dad, who designed rail products, put me in the cab.  Penny and I take trains everywhere.   I just keep trying to remind folks of Gresham's Law of transportation -- that bad systems drive out the good ones.




      Roy Lave

      SYSTAN (ret.)

      Executive Director

      Los Altos Community Foundation

      -----Original Message-----
      From: eric britton <eric.britton@...>
      To: 'Global 'South' Sustainable Transport' <sustran-discuss@...>; WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Wed, Feb 9, 2011 12:51 am
      Subject: WorldTransport Forum What High-Speed Rail Means For America


      In our present context I thought it was not only timely but also generous
      that we be reminded that Britain is not alone when it comes to high hopes
      for HSR.


      (February 8, 2011) --  Today, in Philadelphia, Vice President Joe Biden,
      accompanied by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, announced a $53 billion,
      six-year program to accelerate construction of the nation's high-speed rail
      network. The plan calls for $8 billion in fiscal year 2012 to jumpstart the

      Reconnecting America President and CEO John Robert Smith, who attended the
      announcement, remarked that our nation is at a precipice, and the economic
      and environmental challenges we now face require a new way of thinking about
      how we create connections between cities and regions and how we can support
      the economic health of communities of all shapes and sizes.
       "A National High-Speed Rail System is not only an opportunity to redefine
      how we travel and how our regional economies grow," Smith said, "it
      represents the type of innovation and progress that can secure a better
      future for our grandchildren."

      Over the last 50 years, the federal government has spent more than $400
      billion building our interstate highway system. The interstate system opened
      new territory for economic development and created the interconnected
      regional economies that drive our growth today. However, with an additional
      100 million citizens expected by 2050, the nation needs new infrastructure
      that has the ability to move more people in more places and at a higher
      New investments are already showing measurable results. Since prior funding
      raised speeds between Harrisburg, PA, and Philadelphia to 110 mph, the
      corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent.  In fact, more
      passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia - and from
      Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. - by rail than by plane.

      What this means is less demand for foreign oil, lowering our trade deficit;
      less carbon emissions, yielding significant environmental benefits; and an
      expanded job pool for every community connected to the system.

      "We applaud the administration's vision of connecting higher-speed rail to
      80% of American households within 25 years, and today's announcement will
      move us closer to realizing this bold American ideal," Smith said.

      The Vice President did refer to John Robert Smith in his former role as
      Mayor of Meridian, MS, and the development of Meridian's Union Station.  We
      will post the transcript of his remarks when it becomes available.   
      # # #

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