Tag Archives: high speed rail

Obama’s proposed gas tax would fund high-speed rail, public transit

President Barack Obama late last week unveiled the details of his proposed $10-a-barrel oil tax to fund “cleaner” transportation options, including rail and public transit.

The fee, which would be paid by oil companies, would be phased in over five years, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House. The tax is part of Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, which is slated to be released in full tomorrow.

Obama’s proposed plan would make public investments and create incentives for private-sector innovation to reduce reliance on oil and cut carbon pollution from the country’s transportation sector, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the fact sheet.

The plan would invest nearly $20 billion per year above current spending to reduce traffic and provide new ways for people to get to work and school, the fact sheet said. In particular, proceeds from the tax would help expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors; invest in new rail technologies like magnetic levitation (maglev); modernize the country’s freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

Additionally, Obama is proposing the creation of a new “Climate Smart Fund” that would provide bonus funding to states that use existing formula funding to cut transportation-related carbon emissions. States could do so by encouraging better land use planning, investing in clean vehicle fueling infrastructure or increasing use of public transportation.

San Jose back in the running for early high-speed rail link

California high-speed rail officials are considering junking a 2012 decision to build the first segment from Burbank north into the Central Valley — and are now seriously studying the possibility of bringing the first stretch of track north to San Jose instead…
The outcome of the new evaluation will be known in the coming weeks, when the state unveils its 2016 business plan. The document will be the most comprehensive update for the $68-billion project in four years…
But the state is facing major difficulties with the south-first plan. By building in the north initially, the rail authority would delay the most difficult and expensive segment of the project: traversing the geologically complex Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains with a large system of tunnels and aerial structures.
What the media often ignores is the plan for California High Speed Rail is to build a starter service from the San Joaquin Valley to a major metro area that would operate profitably. In talks with potential rail operators and investors by the HSR Authority, they made it clear they wanted the State to get a successful starter project built before they would commit to a full project. This meant an initial terminal in either the north or south at a major metro market. The advantage of going to Southern California is it is the largest travel market in California. It looks at this time that going to San Jose could be built sooner and cheaper to get a successful starter service up and running.

What local officials in both the Bay Area and Southern California need to remember is High Speed Rail is a State wide project. To fully serve California the entire State needs to be connected to High Speed Rail either directly or with connecting services. If the first leg goes to San Jose, good connections will be needed there to Caltrain, BART, Capitol Corridor and ACE trains. In the South using the future run-through tracks at LAUS Amtrak and Metrolink trains will need to be extended to Burbank Airport and Palmdale connecting with bus bridges to Bakersfield and High Speed Rail. The point is to make it possible to travel by rail and bus within California from the start faster and easier than it takes now to drive.

San Jose Mercury News

Why is it So Difficult to Build High Speed Rail in America?


By Noel T. Braymer

There is no shortage of stories in the media about how difficult it is building High Speed Rail in America. There are also stories about how we are behind other countries when it comes to High Speed Rail. Many stories claim that America is the wrong place to build High Speed Rail. What these stories fail to write about is what is needed before you can build a successful High Speed Rail service.

After World War II, the United States mostly dismantled both its urban and intercity rail passenger networks. At the same time cheap open farm land was being turned into suburban housing built near to new freeways. All of this was made possible by inexpensive autos, cheap gasoline and affordable housing in the suburbs.

In Europe and Asia after World War II this wasn’t an option. Large parts of Europe and Asia were recovering…

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What if the Airlines owned the passenger rail service in the USA?


Got a couple of great opinions on rail passenger service. Check them out and enjoy!

At top is our high speed rail picture on the Northeast Corridor


What if the Airlines owned the passenger rail service in the USA?

Thomas Stagliano, Senior Aerospace Engineer

Imagine travel between NYC and Boston or Washington DC done solely on high speed trains? 100 min center-city to center city…… And you bought your ticket from Delta?
And if you wanted to fly from Boston to Istanbul, and the best flight was from JFK airport, you took a high speed train from BOS to NYC and transferred to a special subway car that took you directly to JFK terminal. And you passed TSA screening while on the train, and checked you bags to your final destination on the train.
Multi-modal seems to be the next big step in Public Transportation. And instead of dealing with Delta Airlines or Amtrak or Greyhound, you dealt with a Transportation company that booked all of your multi-modal travel on One Ticket.
The Federal Government subsidizes the airports and manages the ATC system, and subsidizes the highways. Why not have the Feds build the high speed rail system (~200 mph peak speeds) and that would free up valuable gate space at the airports for longer distance travel.
The sky is the limit…..

Now for the second opinion

The Economist explains

Why don’t Americans ride trains?

Aug 29th 2013, 23:50 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, DC

AMERICA has by far the largest rail network in the world, with more than twice as much track as China. But it lags far behind other first-world countries in ridership. Instead of passengers, most of America’s massive rail network is used to carry freight. Why don’t Americans ride trains?

Rail ridership is usually measured in passenger-kilometres—one passenger-kilometre represents one passenger travelling one kilometre. One 1,000-person train travelling 1,000 kilometres would on its own account for a million passenger-kilometres. Yet American railroads accounted for just 17.2 billion passenger-kilometres in 2010, according to Amtrak, America’s government-backed passenger rail corporation. In the European Union, railways accounted for nearly 400 billion, according to International Union of Railways data. When you adjust for population, the disparity is even more shocking: per capita, the Japanese, the Swiss, the French, the Danes, the Russians, the Austrians, the Ukrainians, the Belarussians and the Belgians all accounted for more than 1,000 passenger-kilometres by rail in 2011; Americans accounted for 80. Amtrak carries 31m passengers per year. Mozambique’s railways carried 108m passengers in 2011.

There are many reasons why Americans don’t ride the rails as often as their European cousins. Most obviously, America is bigger than most European countries. Outside the northeast corridor, the central Texas megalopolis, California and the eastern Midwest, density is sometimes too low to support intercity train travel. Underinvestment, and a preference for shiny new visions over boring upgrades, has not helped. Most American passenger trains travel on tracks that are owned by freight companies. That means most trains have to defer to freight services, leading to lengthy delays that scare off passengers who want to arrive on time. Domestic air travel in America is widely available, relatively cheap and popular. Airlines fear competition from high-speed rail and lobby against it. Travelling by cars is also popular. Petrol is cheaper than in Europe (mostly because of much lower taxes). Road travel is massively subsidised in the sense that the negative externalities of travelling by car, including the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, are not fully offset, and most major highways—which cost tens of billions to maintain—are still free of tolls. And finally, Barack Obama’s embrace of high-speed rail has heightened a political battle over rail that doesn’t exist quite in the same way in other countries (although the fraught debate over high-speed rail in Britain comes close). Opposition to rail is now often seen as essentially conservative, and Republican governors oppose rail projects to boost their conservative image. 

America’s national-level politics are unlikely to become more functional in the near term. So all this leads to an inevitable conclusion: what happens with California’s planned high-speed rail system matters a lot. If it is completed, works and is popular—all of which are uncertain—other states will undoubtedly take note. If California’s high-speed dream fails, it may be a long time before America has true high-speed service. And by that point, America may be ready to put in a call to Elon Musk. Hyperloop, here we come!