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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
transport

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 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: 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)

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: Leveraging Pittsburgh / Cleveland for Canton/Akron / UPDATED

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 25, 2009 at 19:31:15 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
crossposted from ProgressiveBlue, also available in Orange

One of the stories that came out into the press this week was the pledge by the US Department of Transport to look into extending the designated HSR corridors to include Pittsburgh/Cleveland.

This would extend the Cleveland/Chicago route via northern Indiana and connect with the Triple-C route at Cleveland (both currently competing for HSR Stimulus funding). This is a 145 mile alignment that would offer a 2:10 Express trip between these two cities as a 110mph corridor, for a 67mph route speed - and faster, of course, if later upgraded to a 125mph Regional HSR corridor.

The focus today is not, however, High Speed Rail - it is conventional rail. The focus is on how to take this alignment that hit the top northeast corner of Akron's Summit County and leverage it into effective rail service for the Canton-Akron area.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2186 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: 21st Century Steel Interstate

by: BruceMcF

Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 15:16:07 PM EDT

crossposted from MyLeftWing

Having lost sight of our goals we redoubled our efforts
- Mark Twain

I have blogged on this topic before (links below the fold), and the concept is both powerful and simple. Electrify main rail corridors and provide the capacity to support 100mph Rapid Freight Rail. The points are direct:

  • Electric rail freight needs under 10% the energy of diesel truck freight
  • Even with short-haul trucking to origin railhead and from destination railhead, 100mph Rapid Freight Rail is faster door to door freight than long-haul trucking
  • In underused Rights of Way, rail capacity is decreasing cost, with additional capacity cheaper than existing capacity
  • As a side-effect benefit, any system that supports high reliability scheduled freight delivery automatically support substantially upgrade passenger rail services

With the focus on Long-Haul Freight, this proposed system has been dubbed the "Steel Interstate" (pdf).

Virginia is facing a Dinosaur Economy proposal to expand I-81 to  eight lanes to cope with the combination of truck and car traffic. RAIL Solutions has turned to the Steel Interstate that:

  • is a lower cost alternative
  • is not addicted to oil,
  • and takes semi-truck traffic off I-81, rather than imposing more semi-truck traffic on the motorists using I-81.
There's More... :: (2 Comments, 2728 words in story)
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