Saturday, July 28, 2012

8th World Congress on High Speed Rail - UIC Comments

The Northeast Corridor is unique. No other high speed railroad system in the world has high speed passenger trains, higher speed passenger trains, conventional passenger train speeds and has freight trains running on its tracks.

Anthony Perl, author of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil," was in attendance at the World Conference on High Speed Rail held earlier in Philadelphia on July 10 to 13.

Perl's comments about the conference can be found here:

Given the the multiple operations on the Northeast Corridor, it is little wonder that Perl notes that Amtrak equips its high speed Acela trains with baskets to contain damaged parts from falling from its Acela trains. The culprit is rough track.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ray LaHood Comments UIC HSR Conference

LaHood: Obama high-speed rail effort 'off to a good start,' despite GOP opposition

By Keith Laing - 07/11/12 12:55 PM ET
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that the Obama administration's high-speed rail proposals have gotten off to a "good start" despite rejections by several Republican state officials.
Speaking at the start of the World Congress on High-Speed Rail in Philadelphia, LaHood said the rejection of rail money by GOP governors in states like Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio was offset by a recent approval in California.
"We're off to a great start, but we still have a long way to go," he said during a news conference. "We hope our friends in Congress take their cues from California."

LaHood: High-speed rail 'not a pipe dream'

By Keith Laing - 07/12/12 02:15 PM ET
LaHood used a vote last week by state lawmakers in California to move forward with a high-speed railway to push back on questions about Republican governors who have turned down funds for projects in other states.
"Only three" governors have rejected high-speed rail money, LaHood said, referring to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are all Republicans. "Thirty-three have accepted it."
He added that the United States has learned from many countries that have built high-speed rail and were represented at the conference in Philadelphia.
"We're learning from our colleagues around the world … and I know we can do it here," LaHood said.
Republicans in Congress however, like House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), have sharply criticized the Obama administration for proposing to build high-speed railways in states outside of the populous northeastern United States, where public transportation and Amtrak are both popular.
But LaHood credited President Obama for including $8 billion in the 2009 stimulus package to expand the national high-speed rail network. The stimulus funding contained both $3 billion that went to the California railway and the money that was rejected by the GOP governors.
"The vision has to begin with national leaders," LaHood said of Obama's initial high-speed rail efforts.
"President Obama realized that, and that's why he included $8 billion in the economic recovery package," he said. "That's what got us in the high-speed rail business."
Asked by an attendee at the rail conference what supporters could do to build on the approval in California, LaHood said they should "put people in office who support their ideas."
"Elections make a difference," he said.
The High-Speed Rail Conference, which is sponsored by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), is scheduled to take place until Friday.

High-speed-rail executives from around the world are meeting in Philadelphia this week

July 12, 2012|By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff 
High-speed-rail executives from around the world gather in Philadelphia this week, hoping to boost support for bullet trains in the United States, where momentum has been slowed by high costs and political disputes.
The Obama administration's pledge to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed trains by 2035 seems increasingly unattainable. Instead, attention has shifted to the Northeast Corridor and California, where hopes for 220-mile-per-hour trains remain highest.
"Maybe we can bring a little help to a vision that is perhaps not fully shared yet in the United States," said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, director-general of the International Union of Railways in Paris and a leader of the Eighth World Congress on High-Speed Rail, which opens here Wednesday.
Story continues below.
"The wisest way to proceed is to get it running somewhere."
That could be in California, where the legislature last week approved, by a single vote, the first $8 billion for a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail line.
It could be on the Washington-to-Boston corridor, where Amtrak on Monday outlined a $151 billion proposal for 220-mile-an-hour trains by 2030.
Or it could be nowhere.
The new national transportation funding act signed by President Obama on Friday contained no money for high-speed rail, although the administration had sought about $8 billion a year. And Republican governors of Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio have spurned federal money for high-speed rail projects, sending the money back to Washington.
"There's no federal money, there's no private money, and states are not in a position to finance it," said Ken Orski, a transportation adviser to several Republican presidents, including George W. Bush. "The conference in Philadelphia will be high on rhetoric and talk of things going on in Europe and the Middle East . . . but in the domestic situation, their only hope is California."
Not so, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"High-speed rail is alive and well in America," he said Monday. "The future is as bright as it's ever been.
"We will not be dissuaded by the naysayers in Congress. All over the country, ordinary Americans want to get off of clogged highways and have the kind of transportation they see in other countries. This is being driven by ordinary citizens."

8th World Conference High Speed Rail - Philadelphia


High-speed rail world congress: speeches and stories from the opening session


By Angela Cotey, Associate Editor,  Progressive Railroading Magazine...July 11, 2012

The 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail’s opening session, held July 11, began the same way many high-speed rail (HSR) conferences have: with a loud, fast-paced video showing snippets of trains speeding along throughout the world.
This particular video featured graphics depicting countries that recently or soon will build or expand HSR systems: Spain, France, Russia, China, Turkey, Morrocco, Italy, The Netherlands, Korea. And this time, it featured a graphic depicting the United States.

Nearly 1,000 HSR leaders, experts and stakeholders from 37 countries swarmed the Pennsylvania Convention Center, eager to teach, learn and listen about how HSR development is unfolding throughout the world. Rumblings around the convention center halls were that about 200 of the attendees were day-of walk-ups. The large number of last-minute registrants presumably was due to the California Legislature’s decision to advance the state’s project just days before the conference.

Of course, news about HSR development in the United States isn’t always positive. Shortly after International Union of Railways (UIC) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA) signed off on the agreement to hold the 2012 World Congress in Philadelphia, governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio turned back federal HSR dollars. Since then, the federal HSR funding pot has all but dried up. But the slowed pace of U.S. HSR development didn't seem to put damper on the excitement. Ultimately, it gave agenda planners an angle to play off. As UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said: “We held the conference in the United States for the first time in 20 years, precisely for the idea of bringing the experience of those who have done this to those who wish to do it.”

Based on the showing of U.S. transit leaders and suppliers they do, indeed, wish to do it. The event’s kick-off included a speech by APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy, who said the United States has a long way to go in its pursuit of a high-speed rail network, but that “we’re working very hard to achieve that goal.” APTA Chairman Gary Thomas spoke, as well, likening the Obama Administration’s rocky HSR start to that of previous presidential administrations that built the transcontinental railroad, tunnels between New York and New Jersey, and the interstate highway system. All faced harsh criticism but eventually completed their infrastructure projects.

“I predict the very same thing will happen with high-speed rail in the United States,” he said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on hand, too, and used a portion of his speech to applaud California legislators for approving the bond sale that will enable the state to invest $6 billion in an initial high-speed rail segment and collect more than $3 billion in federal dollars.

“This is a historic opportunity for America — not just California, but America,” he said. “This train will be twice as fast as driving on highways.”

An international perspective
Today, more than 17,000 kilometers of high-speed lines are in operation and more than 9,000 are under construction, 791 trainsets are being manufactured or are on order, and 1.15 billion passengers ride high-speed trains each year.

HSR delegates from around the world shared stories of how HSR has helped them increase connectivity throughout their country and beyond, and increase economic development. Some of those experiences could serve as lessons learned, and provide insight into what U.S. HSR leaders will be facing in their efforts.

In Japan, where Shinkansen high-speed trains began operating in 1964 — making it the world’s first high-speed system — lines have been extended to various parts of the country. Last month, Japan’s government approved yet another Shinkansen extension. So, even 50 years after its initial opening, Shinkansen construction still is under way.

In late 2009, the Russian Railways launched 250 km/h operations on a line between Moscow and St. Petersburg. One year later, 200 km/h trains began operating between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. But operations were supposed to commence much sooner.

High-speed train service in Russia initially was discussed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1990s, the Russian government began to advance the project. Private capital backed by government guarantees was secured, a feasibility study was prepared, and government and public studies were conducted. However, a 1998 market crash sank project financing and construction ceased. Construction finally resumed in the mid-2000s. The slow start has set back the Russian Railways’ long-term high-speed plans.

“Our example is one of how past processes can make you face problems in the future,” said Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin. “Never will an opportunity return again. The possibility might be there, but the opportunity will not.”

The railway plans to have a network of HSR lines in place by 2030.

But on the good-news front, the Russian Railways’ high-speed trains have become very popular.

“The occupancy of these trains is much higher than the occupancy of conventional trains,” said Yakunin. “Within less than three years, we carried more than 6 million people between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and that is only with eight trains.”

In the densely developed areas of Northern Europe — reminiscent of the northeastern portion of the United States — HSR has been critical to increase mobility and accommodate port traffic between Belgium, The Netherland and Luxemburg.

“We have a very dense economy, so mobility is everything,” said Marc Descheemaecker, CEO of the National Railway Company of Belgium.

High-speed trains also give the small countries better access to the larger countries of France, the United Kingdom and Germany. In an analogy that probably best summarized the benefits of having high-speed trains in northern Europe — and also makes the case for building a HSR system in densely populated regions — Descheemaecker put it this way: “It’s possible now to live in Brussels, have breakfast in Paris, lunch in Amsterdam and dinner in London.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Altoona Passenger Station 1924 Plans

The Pennsylvania Railroad Altoona passenger station was a curious affair until its demolition in 1974. Built in the 1880's, it was a small affair not in keeping with stations at Greensburg or Johnstown. The trainshed was built for small trains with short cars. Most 20th century passenger trains would have about 4 cars under the trainshed built in the late 1860's or early 1870's. The trainshed was demolished in the early 1960's.

1924 plans have recently become available for a new Altoona station. See:

From "Pennsylvania Railroad Historical and Descriptive," 1875. The station building was to the left of the woodcut drawing. Looking eastbound, seen is the Logan House Hotel on the left. The trainshed to the right lasted until the early 1960's when it was demolished. The trainshed was hopelessly inadequate for 20th century passenger trains. But it was better than the current situation in which there is no passenger shelter whatsoever.

There are varying theories as to why the station with additional tracks was not built. One is that the Post Office Department building the new Post Office at the location near the passenger station obviously interfered with the proposed station plans. The stock market crash in 1929 and subsequent depression foreclosed upon new construction. Another reason offered by some Altoona residents years ago was that the PRR senior management in Philadelphia were so disturbed by the 1922 Shopmen's strike and subsequent labor troubles that they decided against construction. For whatever reason, the six story building with seven tracks was not built.

Moving Minds - Conservatives and Public Transportation

In 2009 the book, "Moving Minds - Conservatives and Public Transportation" by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind, was published by the Free Congress Foundation and Reconnecting America Center for Transit-Oriented America. The authors made the point that the only transportation mode currently allowing passenger transportation anytime is the auto. It is the auto mode that is the competitive mode for public transit and higher speed rail (HrSR) and high speed rail (HSR).

They made the point that transit competitive trips are what the public seeks in order to switch from the auto mode to transit. Transit competitive trips are trips performed by a service level that induces persons to leave the auto mode. Where transit competitive trips are delivered to the public, the public uses the transit competitive service. And, they emphasize the need to electrify urban transit systems.

Likewise, it can be supposed that HrSR and HSR services must provide service levels that will be competitive trips in cost, time, frequency and comfort to induce change to HrSR and HSR and from autos. And, the freight railroad system in order to support higher speed passenger rail (HSR) must be electrified.

The 1986 "Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Feasibility Study - Market Demand" prepared for the Pennsylvania High Speed Intercity Rail Passenger Commission based its assumptions upon the cost of auto ownership being 12 cents a mile. If that 12 cents a mile had held to inflation, the cost of car ownership today would be 26 cents a mile. The American Automobile Association now computes the cost of ownership at about 75 cents a mile. In 1986, the study made  assumptions as to service levels basing their assumptions upon HSR speeds. The study estimated 6.2 to 7.1 million passengers per year Pittsburgh to Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

The annual report by Amtrak for fiscal year 2011 at page 39 indicates that 1.3 million passengers used the Keystone Corridor East, Harrisburg to Philadelphia. That is, of course, is the slower  "higher speed rail service" (HrSR).

There are pragmatic conservatives and there are ideological conservatives.

Pragmatic conservatives understand that public investment in the auto mode has so skewed the transportation market to the highway mode that there are no options for high quality transit systems or any transit at all for too much of the country. And, for longer distance transportation decades of public policy let alone urban transportation  a transportation system totally dependent upon oil has been created. The dependence upon oil for transportation contributes substantially to trade deficits. Dependence upon foreign oil creates unavoidable military commitments and adventurism.

A pragmatic conservative can recognize that electrified transit, HrSR and HSR would lessen transportation costs for household incomes. If all three electrified transportation services were broadly available there would be more household income available for other consumption.

A pragmatic conservative recognizes that an electrified non-oil based transportation would create freight cost savings benefiting all shippers and ultimately consumers.

A pragmatic conservative recognizes that an electrified transportation system will lessen the trade deficit, lessen competition among nations for oil thus lessening the intensity and need for military for military adventurism.

An ideological conservative worries whether or not an abortion provider might use transit, HrSR or HSR.

An ideological conservative worries whether or not a person can conceal carry a handgun on transit, HrSR or HSR.

An ideological conservative is upset that an electrified transportation system will lessen CO2 emissions likely lessening global warming.

An ideological conservative will be concerned that the Ten Commandments be displayed in transit, HrSR and HSR stops, stations and vehicles.

Whether an electrified transportation system might be built in the USA will depend upon pragmatic conservatives and others.

Could generalized conservative truculence lead to destructive paralysis and stalemate?

Monday, July 9, 2012

California HSR News

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article describing French and Japanese observations and concerns about the California HSR planning process. The Japanese disagreed with the California integration of freight railroad tracks for access to metro stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The French disagreed upon the route selection in central California.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

California HSR Thoughts

California has a state GDP,  gross domestic product of $1,958.9 billion or about $1.95 trillion.
(See Department of Commerce, Bureau Economic Analysis:

California's GDP in comparison to other countries places it as being the 9th largest economy in the world after Italy and before India. (See:

California's budgetary problems are problems caused by beliefs in how a government is to be funded and in the purpose of government. Ultimately government exists to protect life and property. Whose life and whose property; how and why life and property is protected defines the government.

A government owned high speed rail system is a system that is capable of being built by all the citizens of California. Once built it may or may not be operated by California. That will be seen.

As an economic tool, the high speed rail system will contribute to California's economic strength just as such systems have contributed to the economic strength of France, Germany, Japan, etc.

Today it is not possible to begin and end a trip in California without reliance upon an oil propelled transportation mode.

It is possible to begin and end a trip in Italy, a place with a GDP slightly ahead of California's GDP, without relying upon an oil propelled transportation mode.

It was once possible to begin and end a trip in the USA without relying upon an oil based transportation mode.

The United States needs to build a higher speed (HrSR) rail system for the whole United States starting by upgrading the existing freight railroad system to higher speed rail capability. Higher speed rail (HrSR) capability is speed up to 110 mph. That can be accomplished through electrification of freight railroads. Doing so would create a transportation system capable of supporting higher freight train speeds compatible with passenger train speeds. Such universal passenger train service would be the feeder system to high speed rail (HSR) speeds up to 220 mph.

California Legislature OKs State HSR Effort

 California legislature OKs state HSR effort  From RAILWAY AGE 7/6/12

THIS is a 220 mph system!!

California High-Speed Rail Authority Statement on Passage of SB 1029

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard today issued the following statement regarding the Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 1029 which appropriates federal grant funds and Prop 1A funds for California High-Speed Rail:

            “Today’s vote to commence high-speed rail construction, like all major public policy decisions, is the result of hard work and collaborative effort.  Credit must go to Governor Brown whose courage and steadfast leadership has improved the High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans and operations,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority Chair Dan Richard.  “We also express deep gratitude to Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for passing this measure through their houses. The Legislature’s action sets in motion a Statewide Rail Modernization Plan for California.  Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centers, we will also modernize and improve rail systems at the local and regional level.  This plan will improve mobility for commuters and travelers alike, reduce emissions, and put thousands of people to work while enhancing our economic competitiveness,” said Richard.

Link to Senate Bill 1029: