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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
Living Energy Independence

Sunday Train: Local Electric Transport and the Energy Independence Levy

by: BruceMcF

Sun May 16, 2010 at 21:22:40 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

If we reduce our oil consumption by 5% a year over each of the next twenty years, that allows use to be free of our oil addiction if we choose to be. But as I observed last week, since 60%-70% of our oil consumption is in transport, that means that in each decade, seven out of the ten 5% reductions have to come out of transport.

I set forward three of the seven for the coming decade last week: the Steel Interstates, national funding for sustainable power local transit corridors, and a target of 5% "Active Transport" - pedestrian and cycle transport.

I have written at some length on the Steel Interstate, but this was the first airing of the rest of the proposal. I promised to go into more depth this week ... and that's what I aim to do today.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2878 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.

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Sunday Train: King of the Mountain, Part 1

by: BruceMcF

Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 20:18:20 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I noted near the beginning of the Appalachian Hub series about the special advantages offered by rail electrification for this project.

Now that I have sketched out a process by which a national Steel Interstate network of corridors can, in fact, be built in this coming decade, this is probably a good time to come back and take a look at the challenges that are faced when putting the Steel Interstates through hilly and mountainous terrain.

Of course, if rail electrification was a particular benefit in mountainous terrain, one would expect to see it in places like, say, Switzerland.
Picture of a Swiss electric freight west of the Albula tunnel

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1254 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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunday Train: Rescuing the Cardinal from Demise

by: BruceMcF

Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 20:42:35 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence


When looking at the famously mis-titled "Vision for High Speed Rail in America" map trotted out last year, showing those of state-planned High Speed Rail corridors that have already applied for and received official designation as High Speed Rail corridors ... there are ghosts on that map.

The Ghosts of Trains Past, also known as the Amtrak long distance routes.

As discussed on November 8th of last year in Rescuing the Innocent Amtrak Numbers from SubsidyScope, some of these ghosts are healthier than others. One of the ones in the most dire shape is the Cardinal, responsible for the only line on that map that enters either West Virgnia or eastern Kentucky.

Why it does so badly, and how it might be fixed up a bit, after the fold.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1500 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.

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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: A Train Running A Profit is Charging Too Much

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 20:22:48 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Note that the statement is abbreviated for the title. The full statement is, a common carrier like a train, bus, or plane that running a profit based on passenger revenue while paying its full operating and capital cost is charging too much for its tickets.

The radical abbreviation of the title is in part because of the radical abbreviation of the lie that is commonly used as a frame. The lie is that a common carrier like a train, bus or plane that is paying for its full operating and capital costs out of passenger revenue ought to run a profit, commonly expressed as a charge of, "SERVICE_XYZ is losing money, it needs to be reformed!", which assumes that Service_XYZ is supposed to be making a profit.

And, of course, in the sense described above, if its a common carrier transport service, of course it shouldn't be making a profit. And further, if under the above conditions, if its making a profit, you're doing it wrong. In the sense given above, PROFIT=FAIL.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1173 words in story)

Sunday Train: Energy Independence and Public Transport

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 18:34:59 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

{I'm still sick, so I am going back to a 24 July 2006 dKos post, slightly updated (additions/amendments in braces and italics like this paragraph) to recall why the Sunday Train goes out under the "Living Energy Independence" banner.}

All to often, the idea of Energy Independence has its priorities reversed. Scratch under the surface, and all too often the question lurking is, "How can we get as close as possible to Energy Independence without any real changes in the way we live and move?"

Stop and think about that ... really think about it, with your heart instead of your habits of thought. People - good people - are fighting and dying right now in Iraq {and Afghanistan} in a failing occupation, following a successful invasion ... in pursuit of a continued Energy Dependence policy.

In your heart, do you think that is a fair price to pay? If you do, do not read any further.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2712 words in story)

Sunday Train: Freight and Passenger Trains Should Be Friends

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 10, 2010 at 18:06:41 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Flying home from the Economist's national conference Atlanta (see note1) my brilliant entertainment plan to pass the day lost flying home from Atlanta fell apart.

I could not attend even the 8am session on Tuesday, because the flight left at 11:15, and I was warned about TSA security theater delays. So I got on the MARTA train around 8:30, to stand in line to check-in, to stand in line to get through screening, to get to the gate and wait, to get on the plane which waited in line for a runway. It was, however, only half an hour in the air, so that fact that with a 125mph train to Charlotte I could have gone to the morning conference session and arrived in Charlotte sooner is neither here nor there.

Then I had a 3hr+ layover in Charlotte until the plane back home to NE Ohio. But I had my Netflix and some FullMetal Alchemist DVD's, so no problem. Except my portable DVD player decided to stop working (see note2), so there were no DVD's. Which meant I was forced to fall back on a "pbook" (paper book) I had brought with me - Waiting on a Train, which meant that I finally finished it (and still had several hours to wait after I had done so).

And in particular read the fascinating discussion of the touchy relationship between freight and passenger trains. Regular readers will know that this is a critical point: indeed, the entire Steel-Interstate strategy to getting Higher Speed Rail for Appalachia rests on passenger trains running on infrastructure provided in support of 100mph electric freight trains.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1505 words in story)

Sunday Train: Why the CEI is Intrinsically Broken and How to Fix It

by: BruceMcF

Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 19:03:46 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

What is the CEI? It is the "Cost Effectiveness Index", used to evaluate applications for capital improvements in transit. As described by Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic:

In reviewing transit capital projects to fund with New Starts grant money, the Federal Transit Administration evaluates proposals from a variety of perspectives. Since 2005, it has placed an overwhelming focus on one criterion, requiring a medium "cost-effectiveness" rating, which values predicted overall travel time saved by commuters likely to use the new service.

... but there's a problem with that.

Of course, this goes directly to last week's Sunday Train looking at Dr. Dan's Rail Plan, since fixing the flaw in the CEI is a big part of the nitty gritty to getting the 90%+ of the money Kentucky pays into the Federal Transit Fund to be able to come back for transit projects in Kentucky.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1452 words in story)

Sunday Train: Doctor Dan prescribes High Speed Rail for Kentucky

by: BruceMcF

Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 18:26:43 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Doctor Dan Mongiardo, Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor, has announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for the Kentucky Senate race, to take on whoever wins the Republican nomination to challenge for the seat that Senator Bunning (R-Big$$$) has announced he is giving up.

Lots of politics to unwrap in that paragraph, which I'll leave to the political wise-guys. The Sunday Train today is about Dr. Dan's Rail Plan.

As far as I can tell, Dr. Dan's Rail Plan has four main parts, and regular readers of the Sunday Train will recognize much from each of the four parts:

  • Support for expanding Kentucky's existing and potential Amtrak routes into 110mph Emerging Higher Speed Rail corridors
  • Support for regional rail services to complete the above state rail map
  • "Hybrid Light Rail" to provide cross-metropolitan local rail services, principally to Louisville
  • Heavy investment in complementary local transit, including bus rapid transit and a high frequency driverless monotrain system for Kentucky.


Act Blue Page

For those looking to send some snake oil Doctor Dan's way: Daniel Mongiardo's Act Blue Page.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1489 words in story)

Sunday Train: Hey, Joe, I still want sustainable electric HSRail for Christmas

by: BruceMcF

Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 19:09:36 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last year, I told VP Joe Biden about the Sustainable Electric High(er) Speed Rail I wanted for Christmas (cf. links below). It involved electrifying the 30,000+ miles of STRACNET, and establishing 100mph Rapid Freight Rail paths, including support for running 110mph or 125mph long haul electric passenger services on the Rapid Freight paths.

In short, I wanted Joe Biden to take Alan Drake's plan and just fracking DO it.

I didn't get it for Christmas last year - but then, I guess he was only VP-elect last 25DEC08. The post today is to look at the progress toward the goal. The answer, surprisingly, is that we have made substantial progress. Certainly we are not halfway there, yet, but we are much further along than I expected to see.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1732 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)

Build Steel Interstates with $1/barrel and 1% of the Carbon Fee

by: BruceMcF

Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 13:07:56 PM EST

crossposted from Agent Orange

The Steel Interstate concept (tagpage) is one that I have been discussing, off and on, in my Sunday Train series. The basic idea is to electrify the Department of Defense STrategic RAil Corridor NETwork, STRACNET (right), and establish 100mph Rapid Freight Rail paths, to allow an estimated (Millenium Institute pdf) half of long haul trucking to shift to electric freight rail at a saving of about 10% of our current oil imports.

This diary is about how to overcome the only thing standing in its way: Public Finance. And that is to impose a $1/barrel tax on imported petroleum and petroleum products, and allocate 1% of any Carbon Fee to financing construction.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2064 words in story)
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