US Rail System Transportation?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Modern Imperialism, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    The same way you get Kansas senators to support spending money on LA subways, or Hawai'i senators to support spending money on the Interstate Highway system, or Idaho senators to spend money on the Intracoastal Waterway, all of which also involve their constituents gaining almost nothing from spending but having to pay for it anyway. You roll the spending into omnibus bills covering not just passenger rail but other forms of transportation or other spending priorities so that opposing it is a self-own for them, remind them that opposing bills helping these states mean those states will oppose bills helping them, and include sweeteners geared towards giving them something of a benefit without actually having a line through them (e.g., maybe you won't have a line in Utah, but they might have a factory for building trains).

    You can, in fact, see all of these factors at work in the last attempt at federal spending on high-speed rail, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This was a big omnibus bill that included not just spending on high-speed rail but a range of other measures intended to help the economy, thereby making sure that every state got something from passing the bill. Naturally, this meant that there was no incentive for the senators from Idaho (or, more realistically, Minnesota, for reasons I will get to) to oppose the bill just because part of it was spending money on something that wouldn't benefit them, and made sure that the senators from Hawai'i knew that trying to shut that down would just mean retaliation from California, New York, and so on. And it gave out grants to all sorts of states, even for routes that perhaps didn't make a lot of sense, so that more states than just the "sensible" options would get something. Thus, there wasn't really all that much difficulty in getting it through. Certainly very little opposition based on geography.

    Which gets to another point: Geography isn't destiny. Geography isn't even important. Opposition to high-speed rail in the United States has nothing to do with whether a state will see benefits from it or not, but whether you are Republican or not, which is why Texas, despite having an excellent potential for high-speed rail, was opposed to the whole thing, voted against ARRA, and barely bothered trying to get any money to study high-speed rail, and why Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Scott canceled high-speed rail projects despite their states actually having good prospects for high-speed rail and it offering clear benefits for them. Conversely, states like Hawai'i and New Mexico, despite seeing little potential benefit from high-speed rail and not actually getting any grants, voted in favor and supported the idea.

    EDIT:
    This, on the other hand, is a serious issue. Cost is a problem...but it's a problem that affects everything, not just passenger rail, so it points to a deeper issue in public procurement. Other countries can do this for much more reasonable amounts of money, despite being just as unionized (France), just as protective of private property (Japan), just as this and just as that, whatever excuses you can come up with. If you want gory details, you could read this report written by Deutsche Bahn on CAHSR capital costs, and if you want solutions Alon Levy is always a good start.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  2. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    No, but they might be appropriate to link International Airport with Union Station.
     
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  3. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Hawaii has an interstate. It might be a misleading name but they do have federal highways. Passenger rail systems are not only expensive but ungodly expensive. Unlike freight track they will be barely used.
     
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  4. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    I can't speak for the other states but Wisconsin has NOTHING to gain from HSR. Outside a connection to Chicago it is worthless.
     
  5. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    So in other words it's not worthless but in fact quite useful for Wisconsin, ergo my point.
     
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  6. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Not really, cancelling it wasn't even controversial in Wisconsin. It costs a lot of money and Wisconsin would have gained next to nothing for it. For it to make sense for Wisconsin the Feds would have had to pick up virtually all the cost including yearly maintenance. It is that worthless.
     
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  7. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    I am aware that Hawai'i has "Interstate freeways," but the state had no need to support the Interstate program to get federal money for developing highways, nor can you honestly argue that three urban freeways are really so very beneficial to the state or even just Honolulu that it made any kind of financial sense to support the overall Interstate program to get them.

    In the United States, maybe. Elsewhere, not so much. Maybe we ought to copy what other people are doing instead of pretending we're special snowflakes who can't possibly do anything right.

    You're going to go back to this right after I pointed out how heavily Amtrak is used RIGHT NOW, with almost no investment...?
     
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  8. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Is there no economic benefit from moving commuters out of cars & onto trains? Yes, less congestion & less pollution, but that's more indirect, if not exactly zero benefit. I'm thinking about, frex, the gain of having 100K or so extra pairs of eyes on Google ads during the commuting time, if not actually doing work. (I'm not advocating for in effect making the workday longer.:eek: )

    Or will most HSR only apply to tourism?

    It seems the gains of an HSR system would "trickle down" to commuter rail; am I wrong?
     
  9. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    87.000 people out of a population of 300 million is hardly heavily used.
     
  10. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Only if you're being disingenuous, since that amounts to 30 000 000 people a year--10% of the population (okay, a little less because the United States has more than 300 000 000 people nowadays). And that's despite the notoriously poor state of Amtrak in most places, as if most airports were still little more than grass strips. Okay, it's not exactly the total traffic across the highway system or the air network, but why would it be, given the state of Amtrak? The fact that it is as high as it is shows that a quality system would, in fact, be pretty heavily used if it existed.
     
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  11. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    That is 30,000,000 trips a year , with mostly the same passengers. On any particular day there are 87,000 people taking Amtrack and probably a couple hundred million or more taking a car. 87,000 is next to nothing. Far more take the New York Subway alone. The New York Subway System makes sense, a rail from LA to SF does not.
     
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  12. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    And as I have repeatedly pointed out, this objection applies to any form of intercity transport. "On any particular day there are 200 000 people using LAX and probably a few million driving a car in LA. The LA road system makes sense, LAX does not." "On any particular day there are a few tens of thousands of people using I-5 and flying from LAX to SFO, and 250 000 using the Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge makes sense, I-5 doesn't."

    All
    forms of intercity transport see much lower usage numbers than similar forms of intracity transport, just because traveling within a city requires more journeys than traveling between them. If you're going to be consistent on this point, then you ought to also strenuously object to the Interstate Highway System, which cost half a trillion dollars (after inflation adjustment) to build and billions and billions more each year to maintain, with no hope whatsoever of ever returning any kind of profit or even covering its own costs, yet moves far fewer vehicles each day* than local urban roads do. But I haven't seen you say that Eisenhower was an idiot for pushing the Interstates.

    * About a quarter of vehicle-miles driven in the United States are driven on the Interstates; since Interstates obviously have a disproportionate share of long journeys this shows that an overwhelming majority of trips are not on the Interstates.
     
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  13. AJE Well-Known Member

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    I think the practical upper limit of maglevs alone is about Mach 0.7, or somewhat slower than normal air travel if the tracks are built in a straight line (that's Mach 0.7 at sea level, not at 30,000 feet). Anything beyond that runs into problems with the drag and noise pollution associated with near-supersonic speeds. A tunnel lessens the noise pollution issues, but makes the drag worse as there's nowhere for the air to be pushed out of the way- much like the earlier Hyperloop concepts, the tunnel had to be impractically large at those speeds to have air get out of the way even with a fan sucking that air in to take advantage of this extra air resistance. It's still useful over shorter distances, though, as it is cheaper and there's no point in higher speeds if there's not enough distance to accelerate to that speed before having to slow down again.

    For vactrains that are perfectly straight, the upper limit is either 25% the speed of light (approximately), or how fast the train can accelerate to before having to slow down again, whichever comes first (it's always the latter on Earth). Planetran could get up to 8,300 mph with 1/3 g acceleration between New York and Los Angeles, and that would result in a 36.5 minute travel time between the 2 cities, enough to be superior to air travel over even the longest distances. In fact its advantage over aircraft increases over longer distances as the train has more time to accelerate to an even higher maximum speed.

    This however requires reductions in maglev, tunneling, and vacuum pump costs. While the first issue is close to being solved, the second is being worked on, and it is certain all 3 will be solved at some point, it will take a while (decades) to get there.


    How far is that? If it's not far enough for the maglev to reach its top speed before having to slow down, then it's not worth the cost for maglevs (high speed maglevs tend to be less efficient than trains at slow speeds, as the energy to levitate the train exceeds the energy to overcome rail friction on a regular train).
     
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  14. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Shanghai has one that runs 19 miles. The airports in Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are all farther than that from downtown.
     
  15. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Again that is 87,000 in the entire US and 200,000 just in LA and LAX is an airport. 87,000 is nothing in a country of 300 million+
     
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  16. DougM Well-Known Member

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    A few points. First off in almost ALL cases including the vast majority of routes in France the poster child for HSR said routes lose money and are subsidized by the government. In the US we have a handful of routes that could stand a chance if breaking even.
    The second point is that in order to get Montana to vote for a 50billion dollar project that runs through two states it is going to want its 25 billion dollars in something else. Thus we need to spend 25 billion on 25 other states that comes out to 650 BILLION dollars. Perhaps you can get three routes in say 10 states all bundled together but not likely. Also this guesstimate is probably very low as most places it would be of use have VERY high land costs so probably California’s 100 billion + is more reasonable for most areas that can use HSR in that case you are looking at something nor of 2.6 TRILLION dollars to get enough states to vote for it. So on the low end we are talking hundreds of billions on the high end you are talking trillions.
    The cost is just crazy if you put it in populated areas,
    So we are back to doing what France did. A handful of HSR lines connected in an area the size of a couple states and thus useless to most of the country.
    And keep in mind that even in France and Germany the majority of the people don’t use HSR. But man you should see how busy the expressways are...
    Oh and in both cases they are building Expressways faster then HSR and spending more on them.
    By the way one HUGE benefit of not using HSR, you are less likely to get stuck because of a strike or work slowdown. (Yes happens to me in my way back to Paris from Avignon, and my car rental place was closed when I got to it because of this. So had to get a cab late at night to my hotel then back to the rental place in the morning missing a great breakfast I had paid for at my hotel. If I had driven my rental I would have been in Tours (my final destination) just as fast as the scheduled train and faster then the slowed down trip and had my car. Thus I could have gotten to bed sooner. Up latter, had a good breakfast and enjoyed my day better.
    Yes this is rare but it is not unheard of. My last two trips to Europe had two different delays of more then an hour (three in the case of France) on my supposedly punctual HSR lines. Including last years trip on a German route.
    So let’s not pretend that HSR is a perfect nirvana that everyone loves and that is used by everyone and never has issues.

    And before you think I am anti train. Think again. I love trains. I model trains. I take train trips. I photograph trains all over the place I go out of my way too find and see trains and I belong to a number of societies that support trains.
    But the reality is that the US is just to big for trains to be practical. And it will only work if you use government mandates and huge amounts of government money.

    And just because we need to consider it, how hard is it to set up a bomb to take out the rails under a train doing 200mp? And how many folks get killed? Now how do you protect a 300 mile long double tracked line? Much less a dozen such lines? I can’t even picture the cost of that security bill. Of course they will just force the state county and local police to absorb the cost.
     
  17. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    City center to city center, that's still pretty good.
    That sounds pretty low. I presume that's a sustained number, though. (It also suggests accel/decel in roughly equal amount at either end.) Where would you put the upper accel limit if the goal is hitting top speed ASAP? And for slowing in the least reasonable distance? Both without causing passengers to swear off using it ever again.;)
    That is the key question.
    Nonsense. That's not how the transportation bills work now, & there's no reason to think an HSR bill would be different. Just because California has more highways & gets more money doesn't mean Montana gets an equal share, or even an equal percentage. You're pulling numbers out of thin are to make HSR look impossible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  18. AJE Well-Known Member

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    That indeed was the low estimate. The high estimate was 1 g over the entire trip in which case the train would reach a peak speed of 14,000 mph (22,530 kph) and make the trip in 21 minutes. I suspect people don't want those forces, though, and I wasn't sure going from 36.5 to 21 minutes was worth that discomfort for them.
     
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  19. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    I'm thinking, for a straight-up maglev, a brief 4g accel to top speed; IDK what decel would look like, but it might run half that.
     
  20. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    That will be popular with commuters
    [​IMG]
     
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