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"Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much."
A Jim Pence Quote
"American Politics, a sport for the rich and enslavement for the rest of us."
A Jim Pence Quote
HSR

Sunday Train: Working on the Railroad for Energy Independence

by: BruceMcF

Mon May 10, 2010 at 10:50:26 AM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Well how the frack d'ya like me now?

I'm not going to say "toldya so", since many who will be reading this diary said much the same during the "Drill, Baby, Drill" absurdity in 2008 ... but the undersea oil volcano underlines, boldfaces and highlights in red the basic facts of the situation that we face:

  • Our country produces about twice as much crude oil per person as the world average
  • Our country consumes about five times as much crude oil per person as the world average
  • And we have been producing oil a long time, have passed our peak of domestic oil production, and aint ever getting back to it.

And, anyway, we already tried Drill, Baby, Drill. Its played itself out already.

Obviously, the direction to go to insulate ourselves from oil price shocks and the recessions they cause is to cut our consumption. Which means, in part, Train, Baby, Train.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1490 words in story)

Sunday Train: Kasich Lies About Strickland's 3C Victory, 3C Moves Ahead

by: BruceMcF

Mon Apr 26, 2010 at 18:38:52 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

There was recently a fight over the 3C starter line for Ohio's High Speed Rail system, which Governor Strickland won ... and the presumptive Republican nominee for Governor took this position:

... GOP challenger John Kasich, who said money awarded to Ohio for the 3C rail project could be better spent on Ohio roads and highways.

These are High Speed Rail funds. Arguing that they could be "better spent on Ohio roads and highways" is a blatant effort to mislead Ohio's voters into thinking that this $400m will stay in state if Republican sabotage of the project succeeds.

And it seems that coverage has buried one of the ledes in this story - getting the presumptive Republican nominee on the record as a slimy politician willing to mislead the electorate in his efforts to sabotage investment in Ohio transportation infrastructure.

This is an important fight for the dream of an Appalachian Hub ... since the Ohio Hub is a northern anchor for the system, and the potential ridership with the Ohio Hub in place is substantially greater than the potential ridership without it.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2067 words in story)

Sunday Train: Working on the Railroad - Why Krugman is Wrong

by: BruceMcF

Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 21:08:33 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

In his inimitable "twisting mainstream economics in as progressive direction as he can accomplish" style, Paul Krugman has made a splash among those following the challenge of our headlong and reckless pursuit of Climate Chaos with a column on the cost of policies to put the brakes on that reckless gamble.

Hat tip to A Siegal, who nailed a critical failing of Krugman's analysis:

Krugman falls into the trap of discussing the costs of dealing with climate change ... a robust cost/benefits analysis would ... result in a very serious statement as to the "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action".

In particular, it is a common failing of mainstream economics to assume an economy that naturally tends to full employment, so that policies that boost employment are a cost, when in the real world they are a benefit.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2192 words in story)

Sunday Train: Revisiting What's in SUPERTRAINS for Small Town and Rural America?

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 16:36:43 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Originally late April, 2009

This last weekend I wrote up a small diary, cross-posted to various places ... which even stumbled into being wrecklisted at Agent Orange ... about the High Speed Rail plan released by the Obama administration.

That diary focused on laying out the three "tiers" of HSR in the announced plan. "Express HSR" is one of the bullet train systems, like they are planning for California. But between that tier and conventional rail, are two more tiers, "Regional HSR" and "Emerging HSR".

The bullet trains are the show ponies ... but for small town and rural America, the genuine seat at the table for Emerging and Regional HSR is the real good news from the announcement.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1333 words in story)

Sunday Train: Heritage Opposes Freedom to Choose High Speed Rail

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 17:51:12 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I'm shocked, shocked I say, that a belief tank partly funded by Big Oil and Union Busters would issue a piece attacking High Speed Rail. But they did, claiming that there is a "Coming High Speed Rail Financial Disaster".

Less shocking is that the argument in the piece is tissue-thin, relying on shell games and appeal to stereotype in lieu of evidence.

Of course, just because its an empty argument does not mean its a pointless one. When you are trying to prevent solutions to problems, FUD ... Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt ... can sometimes be as effective as genuine argument.

Well, I hope someone out there is able to frame great counter-arguments that are useful in cracking into Dr. Utt's (Economics) target audience of those with short attention spans and limited access to information. What I can offer here is raw material for those counter-arguments.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2286 words in story)

Sunday Train: Economic Independence will Help Pay For Itself

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 23:48:25 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I presented a draft of a national Steel Interstate plan. The focus was on the Institutional Framework required to be able to build it, including the source for the interest subsidy to finance its up front capital cost.

Possibly lost in the wall of words was an important point, which was focused on by some commentary: the users are paying the capital construction cost. As a country, we need it, so as a country, it makes sense to find a way to jumpstart it and have it available for the oil prices shocks that are coming in this next two decades.

... but once it starts getting used, that's what will cover the original construction cost. One way we can tell we are heading toward Economic Freedom is that it helps pay for itself.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1896 words in story)

Sunday Train: A Nationwide Freight and Passenger Regional HSR System

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 07, 2010 at 21:12:39 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence

It often seems there is a deep canyon lying between what we can do and what needs to be done as a community, as a local region, as a state, as a national region, or as a nation.

But the Steel Interstate is a national program that a coalition of determined groups of advocates scattered across the country could get going. It bridges regional interest conflicts, and offers a way to advance some of the interests of so many - Interstate motorists, advocates of freedom from cars, organized labor, the largely disorganized army of the unemployed, advocates of ecological sustainability, advocates of mitigating climate chaos, and Progressive Patriots, to name just a few.

Of course, I want to talk process, but it seems to be network maps that catches people's interest. So how I will go about this is alternating Map and Process.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 3670 words in story)

Sunday Train: Attacks on HSR in Flyover Country

by: BruceMcF

Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 19:02:36 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Today's Sunday Train is focusing on attacks that have been launched against Ohio's 3C plan, which was granted $400m in the HSR round of Stimulus II grants. There are attacks from Republicans, engaged in their usual games of negotiating in bad faith and basing critiques on focus group testing of talking points rather than substance. There are attacks from "transport experts", calling for all of our HSR spending to be focused on the coasts with no systems developed to serve the needs of flyover country.

There is even an attack launched against the award of funds to Ohio by President Obama's Department of Transportation paradoxically by a kossack who goes by the name of "Ohiobama".

So today is focused on examining the attacks and seeing what there is to them. And lest it seem that this is a single-state issue, many of these same arguments may be used against all of the plans already in place between the Rockies and the Appalachias, as well as the Pacific Northwest and the South Atlantic Coast.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 2412 words in story)

Sunday Train: Open Thread

by: BruceMcF

Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 19:35:46 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I've been like a hare chased by a hound this weekend, darting this way and that, so while I've got a lot of topics I could be writing on, I've got nothing coherent for a full fledged diary. So this week will be bits and pieces and this and that.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1059 words in story)

Sunday Train: Taking the Train to the Airport

by: BruceMcF

Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 19:09:53 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Disclaimer: Nothing said here should be taken to imply that airport/train connections are the primary transport task for either light rail, mass transit, conventional intercity rail, or high speed intercity rail. In other words, the focus of an essay in a regular weekly series on one particular topic does not imply anything along the lines of "most important thing".

However, recently, I keep running into the issue of taking the train to the airport. I read an recent article in an air travel industry publication that focused on the airport connections associated with the projects funded in the $8b HSR funding. I read an older piece about the proposed intermodal station in Chicago that would allow our Ohio trains to get to O'Hare. And the proposal to terminate the California HSR at the redesigned Lindbergh Field came up as part of the discussion at the California HSR blog.

So with the Super Bowl coming up to distract things, I succumbed to what was clearly fate, and am going to discuss taking the train to the airport.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1771 words in story)

Sunday Train: Going to Disneyland, Disneyworld, and Other Adventures

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 19:23:38 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Huh, seems me that whatever the state of my various concerns, the agenda of the Sunday Train has been taken over by the White House ... funny how announcing the recipients of a total of $8b will do that.

The Transport Politic (aka Yonah Freeman and the TTP commentariat) has a very complete rundown. The allotments over $200m are:

  • California, $2,344m
  • Florida: $1,250m
  • Illinois: $1,236m
  • Wisconsin: $822m
  • Washington: $590m
  • North Carolina: $545m  
  • Ohio: $400m

So, what's the money for? Join me below the fold. For the Appalachian Hub, this is essential background information, though the St. Louis, Cincinnati and North Carolina projects have special interest.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1641 words in story)

Sunday Train: Frequency and Waiting on a Train

by: BruceMcF

Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 19:29:25 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I've been reading James McCommon's Waiting on a Train. And in cowed deference to the FCC, I will put the disclaimer up front that, yes!, I was more likely to read it and talk about it because Chelsea Green gave me a free review copy - since I would otherwise have had to wait until both it and I was in the library at the same time ...

... {of course, making me more likely to read it and talk about it is a gamble, since I'm not going to change my view of it because its a free copy - so if you have any publisher friends, warn them that if they reckon a book is a piece of garbage, they'd be better advised not to send a review copy}

The Chapter that is inspiring today's Sunday Train is "Amtrak Cascades: it's all about frequency".

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1886 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Birmingham Hub

by: BruceMcF

Sun Nov 15, 2009 at 17:25:04 PM EST


Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Programming Note: I recently received for review a copy of Waiting on a Train by James McCommons, published by Chelsea Green Publishing. I'll likely be talking about it next week, but til then, you can read James Kunstler's Intro online at AlterNet.

Back in early September, I discussed the Steel Interstate in the context of the Appalachian Hub. The concept of the Steel Interstate is electrifying main rail corridors and establishing 100mph Rapid Freight Rail paths.

The broadest application of this concept is the proposal to Electrify STRACNET, the STrategic RAil Corridor NETwork.

The Appalachian Hub, recall, is a hypothetical Emerging / Regional HSR passenger rail network, modeled on the Midwest Hub and Ohio Hub plans.

And it is hypothetical, of course, because the state governments of the Appalachian regiona have been laying down on the job. The High Speed Rail corridor planning framework established under the Clinton Administration in the 90's is a bottom-up system, with states establishing High Speed Rail commissions, advancing plans to the stage of gaining designation as a HSR corridor, sorting out the financing, and applying for Federal funding.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1357 words in story)

Sunday Train: Rescuing the Innocent Amtrak Numbers from SubsidyScope

by: BruceMcF

Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 18:16:03 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

A few weeks back, SubsidyScope, "launched by The Pew Charitable Trusts, aims to raise public awareness about the role of federal subsidies in the economy", pursued its mandate into transport subsidies, coming out with a study with the headline figure of $32 subsidy per passenger for Amtrak.

Why Amtrak? Why not provide a headline figure on federal subsidy per motorist or airplane passenger? Critics of the report suggest that the answer is simple - consider, for instance, Charleston WV mayor Danny Jones:

Jones admits Amtrak relies heavily on subsidies, but so do other modes of transportation, he said.

"I think it's just easier to see how much of it's subsidized with Amtrak," he said.

And there is a lot of merit in that. Further, SubsidyScope is not focusing on Government subsidy, but on Federal subsidy. Not only is it harder to analyze government subsidies to driving and flying, given how many direct and indirect subsidies there are to take into account - but many of the subsidies are at the state and local government level, so for SubsidyScope's purposes they "don't count".

But its worse that that. Even accepting SubsidyScope's twisted framing of the issue of government subsidies - the actual core part of the analysis that they themselves perform is hopelessly bad. The gory details, and then the numbers that pity forced me to rescue from the clutches of SubsidyScope, below the fold.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 2093 words in story)

Sunday Train: High Speed Rail - The Recruiters

by: BruceMcF

Sun Nov 01, 2009 at 15:06:32 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
Crossposted from MyLeftWing, also available in Orange

The big knock against high speed rail is, of course, that it does not run door to door. This is, of course, why the passenger air transport market is such a strategic target ... it is an existing fuel-inefficient mode of transport where everyone travels as a pedestrian. And a well designed high speed rail system will deliver the target market among pedestrian travellers from as close or closer to their origin, and drop them off as close or closer to their destination.

But those are not the only passengers that HSR will be catering to. A term I have heard railfans use for this type of activity is "recruiting" patronage, so, after the fold, I step through some of the important current, and potential, recruiters.


 

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 3019 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Pay-To-Grow Financial Model for Regional HSR

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 19:23:43 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
also Agent Orange

Let construction or upgrade of a rail corridor be proposed, and almost immediately the cry goes up, "but we can't afford it! It costs too much!".

Confusing the response to this cry is that there are two quite different types of "cost too much" - real, and financial.

There first "cost of rail" question is the real cost question: what is the full economic benefit, including all material and energy impacts saved versus other alternative, versus the full economic cost.
___________
Note: The first kind of "cost versus benefit" question is the kind that Ed Gleaser fumbled so badly when he assumed Zero Population Growth in east Texas, no congestion today between Houston and Dallas on the intercity road network, either deliberately or through negligence bypassed important intercity transport demands along the route of his corridor, and presumed that the only available option was the most capital-intensive type of rail corridor, the all-new, all-grade separated, Express High Speed Rail corridor.
____________

The second "cost of rail" question is the financial cost - given the complex, sometimes ad hoc, and often inconsistent sets of rules we have established for allocating resources for both investment in transport infrastructure and paying for transport operations, how do we "pay for" construction or upgrade of those rail corridors that our best analysis of cost and benefit indicate are wise investments.

That second question is what I am looking at today.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 2917 words in story)

Sunday Train: Breaking Free of the Population Density Myth

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 04, 2009 at 16:11:14 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Today, the focus is on one lovely rhetorical ploy used by anti-rail advocates to try to put one over on people with limited experience with trains. This relies on the false framing that "trains is trains", and uses something that is true about a particular kind of local rail transport to mislead people about 110mph Emerging High Speed Rail in particular.

Randall O'Toole, working for The Cato Institute (Sourcewatch), recently completed another of his series of propaganda pieces against High Speed Rail, for the "Show-Me Institute". Sourcewatch does not have much on the "Show-Me Institute", but it does note that in 2006, a contribution of $50,000 to the "Show-Me Institute" appeared in the annual report ... of the Cato Institute.

And what is this shell game?

  • High capacity, high frequency local mass transit rail systems yhtive best with high population densities
  • Therefore the higher the population density, the better for High Speed Rail
  • Therefore the Northeast Corridor shows the best that is possible for High Speed Rail

Didja catch it? Local mass transit rail and intercity High Speed Rail share people sitting in carriages with steel wheels running on steel rails - nowhere near enough in common to support the weight of the "therefore".

In reality, the Northeast Corridor could well be over the threshold where population density starts to undermine High Speed Rail operating ratios.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1708 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Charleston WV Hub

by: BruceMcF

Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 16:49:59 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence


The Appalachian Hub Part 2: The Charleston WV Hub

The increasingly infamous Appalachian Development Highway program started out with the goal of supporting the potential for genuine economic development in Appalachia by improving transport links into and within the region.

And yet, with the decentralized, state-based system for planning 110mph, 125mph and 220mph High Speed Rail systems, there is the threat that the very problem that the Appalachian Development Highway system was established to address will be re-created as we modernize our regional passenger transport backbones from asphalt to steel.

An Appalachian Hub project would aim to drag these laudable goals into the 21st Century by filling the gaping hole in Eastern US planning for High Speed Rail systems. "Would", since this is an exploration of what such a system might look like if West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee joined this planning process - not a report on ongoing, formal projects such as the Midwest Hub or Ohio Hub.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1316 words in story)

Sunday Train: Ed Morris Duped by Libertarian HSR Hackery

by: BruceMcF

Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 13:08:06 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Freakonomist Eric Morris finishes up his tag-team attack with Ed Glaeser on the HSR policy with a post that confesses to the hack jobs both are doing on HSR policy - but works hard to spin the confession into a defense of the hackery.

Eric Morris's efforts have been clearly the weaker of the two, to the point where Ryan Avent, who wrote blog posts to pick apart the analytical flaws of Ed Glaeser's four part series as well as the first posts by Eric Morris, responded to Eric Morris' last effort via twitter:

@ryanavent: Eric Morris closes HSR series by referring readers to Randal O'Toole. You know, in case you thought he and Glaeser were aiming for an honest critique

The main takeway point from below?

So the bait and switch is as follows. By overstating the costs and understating the benefits of Express HSR, "it costs too much", or is only useful in a very few special cases, and therefore we cannot afford its "transformative benefits". And by ignoring the fact that the benefit of investing in Emerging HSR is greater than the cost, and focusing on dismissing the quality of the benefits, the Emerging HSR is "unworthy" of investment because it is not "transformative" enough.
There's More... :: (2 Comments, 2451 words in story)

Ed Glaeser Flat Out Lies about High Speed Rail

by: BruceMcF

Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 14:16:29 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Ryan Avent has provided high quality debunking of many of the flaws of Ed Glaeser's ongoing analysis of Cost and Benefits of HSR. His current piece, Ed Glaeser's Rail Fail, does not let us down.

Hell, I decided I'd read Ryan Avent's piece first, before reading Glaeser, so I would not get riled up and start a long rant, only to find that Ryan has explained it more clearly ... and to more total readers, to boot.

But I got riled up anyway. Ed Glaeser in the most recent piece comes out with a blatant lie, and one that'll trap almost all casual readers.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 588 words in story)
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