The polity that is America

Now, with the collapse of the Florida [Orlando to Tampa] route, it looks as if the nation’s first segment of true high-speed rail will be in an even unlikelier place — linking Fresno and Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley, and scheduled to end construction in 2017.

Here is more.


As the article makes clear, the decision was driven by planning requirements, primarily but not limited to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act of 1969) requirements.

There are perverse incentives-- the places most eligible for rapid federal funds are the ones that have already studied a project, and decided not to do it on their own because the project didn't make sense. The best areas for rail have already started constructing all the improvements that they've already studied, meaning that you'd have to wait for new studies to be finished to start construction. Too, if you're only using state level dollars you don't have to do as much NEPA planning as if you're using federal dollars, so getting federal money can make it take longer, even if it pays for some of it.

The environmental regulations we have in this country make it much easier to expand what we already have (roads, etc.) than to build something new. Roads also have a pipeline of existing projects and studies; it's very difficult to start up a new pipeline for rail.

I've never found the environmental impact studies all that useful, since all they do is catalog the impacts, but rarely if ever seem to actually change the decision. The government tends to build whatever project that they wanted to build-- it's easy to tweak the statements to favor the preferred alternative anyway.

Pardon me, boy

Is that the Fresno-Bakersfield choo choo?

You can make a reservation by dialing Pennsylvania 6-5000.

I am a liberal environmentalist and work in the environmental field (although not on anything NEPA-related), but I tend to agree with John Thacker about NEPA. Of course, after 40+ years of NEPA, there is an entire professional field employing many thousands of people that is dedicated primarily to fulfilling NEPA requirements, so I would probably favor gradual changes (e.g. exemptions for certain types of projects). I realize some would disagree.

Great..let's build a bullet-train in an earthquake prone area....real fast to beat the quake...

We need to build high-speed rail the way the French and Chinese do.

1. Draw a straight line (well, almost straight) between 2 large cities.

2. Build the rail bed. Ignore silly items such as:

a. existing property usage

b. environmental impact studies

3. Subsidize the tickets.

Na, Dave, you need to build high-speed rail the way Mrs Thatcher did. Get the French to pay.

I liked the old logo better

Hmm entered wrong URL for my website. I need to get up to speed on WordPress!

I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that it runs through the town I grew up in. In fact, it's the first stop on the first line to be built.

Colour me idealistic, but shouldn't the first high speed rail project be between NYC and DC? I would go so far as to say, pick any two cities with a hourly airline shuttle service with no assigned seating. NYC-BOS; LAX-SFO etc...

Why? Just because the Northeast Direct is the ONLY one of Amtrak's lines that is actually profitable? That's just crazy talk.

holy shit this new environment sucks

The "WarNerd" will be pleased.

Anything that is not elevated is short-sighted.

Brad, it all depends on how you define "true high speed".

By most definitions, the Acela from Boston to New Haven counts as high speed, although it's near the low limit for the category and only travels at those speeds for a few dozen mile stretches. The usual definition for "high speed" is above 225 kph (135mph) or 250 kph (150 mph). The Acela between NYC and WAS travels at 125 mph, just missing the usual limit. It reaches 157 mph between Boston and New Haven. The limit between NYC and WAS is a combination of catenary, track, and signaling limits.

But "high speed" is all penis measuring for politicians. Travelers care about how much time it takes to get from where they are to where they want to be. Improving a few miles of 20 mph travel to 50 mph often makes more difference that increasing the top speed from 125 to 150. Even little things like loading and unloading make a difference. It's normal to make the train at Union Station when arriving at curbside 10min before departure. Nobody makes a flight when they arrive at curbside 10min before departure. Faster loading and unloading save 30min train vs flying.

The 'high-speed' from Cleveland to Cincinnati was to average 39 mph,top speed of 79, and cost more than driving even after large subsidies.

It is reported elsewhere that this is the first leg of a line that will link San Diego with Sacramento. If that's a good goal, why shouldn't CA spend the fed's money? The article you link to is very one-sided, or as some would say, "fair and balanced."

Sure they'll get to the rest of that San Diego-Sacramento line real soon now.

Obviously they are good people trying to do a good thing. Let's give them more debt money. Our children will love the idea of really fast trains that never get built.

The site linked to suggests that price of gasoline adjusted for inflation(based on a price of 3.60) is 0.58 cents a gallon. Now the argument against trains is that they have to be heavily subsidized. So does anyone know the calculation of how much roads, cars and oil is subsidized so we can drive cars and what would look like compared to the subsidy proposed for a high speed train?

The problem with spending the Fed's money is that the state will have to pony up it's own, and the line will never go away when it proves unprofitable. A conscientious politician understands these realities and refuses to put his constituents on the hook for never ending costs; one who isn't lines up for the "free" money.

A low-use boondoggle it will be, sucking money from the productive center. Interestingly like the long-forgotten Chicago-New York Electric Air Line Railroad of the early 1900s.

As the price of natural based fuels inevitably increases with the ever declining value of the dollar and the diminishing returns of a finite petro product, you should have something in place to replace it. Boondoggle or not, you better be investing in SOMETHING to replace the car/bus/plane infrastructure. Cause you know damn well people won't walk.

Then why not a government program to raise additional horses and hay fields to feed them between, let's say, San Francisco and San Diego. Sure, no one will ride the wagon trains today, but in the future, when oil runs out, the people won't want to walk.

i'm pretty sure that economists/public policy analysts have done extensive math and modeling on the feasibility and costs to the public.

living in california, i've read extensively on the NIGHTMARE involved on linking sacramento, san francisco, los angeles, and san diego together. the homework's certainly been done-- it is the politics of getting everyone to agree on the actual route, as well as environmental sensitivity, that's driving the first track to be laid out between "the middle of nowhere" and "150 miles south of nowhere."

it seems more or less like the tale told here:

"This was much more than a huge design and construction project. It was local, regional, state, and even federal politics; dollars and delays; finances and finger pointing; the U.S. Navy vs. Caltrans; northern vs. southern alignments; skyway vs. suspension bridge, with a bikeway; conceptual changes during construction; and monumental cost increases caused by such far-flung factors as the upcoming Olympics in China."

suspect, Timothy James Chapek, was in the bathroom taking a shower when the homeowner returned to the house Monday night…[He] locked himself in the bathroom and made an emergency call, police said. He said he had broken into the house, the owner had come home,

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