30.1.17

COMPOUNDING THE ERROR.

On television, the Money Pit is on Oak Island, Nova Scotia.

To the transportation critics of National Review, the Money Pit is the California bullet train  (Via Newmark's Door.)
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is seven years behind schedule on the easiest-to-build Central Valley segment. Delay is deadly to an expensive and over-budget effort, as it prevents a large public constituency from coalescing to support it, while scaring off elected officials. Federal authorities blame the delays on sluggish environmental approvals (Come on, this is California! They should have seen that one coming . . . ), not acquiring the needed rights-of-way in the richest farmland in America, and not quickly processing the paperwork to unlock federal money.
It isn't helping things that this bullet train is going the Great Way Around, rather than into the thickly settled parts of the San Francisco peninsula.  Meanwhile, the Bay Area Rapid Transit might be building an extension, through Silicon Valley, and apparently they know the way to San Jose.  "BART is coming to town, tunneling a “J”-shaped route from the Berryessa station, which is scheduled to open this fall, beneath Santa Clara Street to Diridon Station, then turning north beneath Stockton Avenue and finally surfacing beyond Interstate 880 at the former Union Pacific Railroad Newhall Yard and a terminal station adjacent to Santa Clara’s Caltrain station."  It's not clear from this map of the San Jose line whether riders will be riding northward east of the bay or west of the bay.

Only now might the folly of building the Bay Area lines to an idiosyncratic wide gauge hit home.  The existing cars are long, and the lines designed for, cruising speeds of up to 70 mph.  Perhaps such a rapid transit line could also handle the bullet trains, through Silicon Valley and into San Francisco proper.

There is a precedent.


That's the Mother of All Bullet Trains, at Belmont, with Wrigley Field behind.  Back then, you'd likely have the Milwaukee Braves pennant atop the National flagstaff and the New York Yankees atop the American, and the rush hour flag hoist would be the Blue Lima.  And yes, the Electroliners would fit into the subway, if required.

Back to the National Review article, with some better news from the commuter rail area.
In Florida, an alternative vision of high-speed rail is unfolding using updated diesel-electric locomotives built by Siemens — ironically, in a Sacramento, Calif., facility. Unlike California’s all-government effort, Florida’s Brightline is a private venture, with executive leadership drawn from the hospitality industry. Brightline’s investors have raised $1 billion to use existing tracks to operate a train between Miami and West Palm Beach, reliably shaving 30 minutes off a 90-minute drive, with service starting this summer.

Brightline’s investors plan to raise an additional $1.5 billion to operate a line from Miami to Orlando. Their trains will travel at up to 125 mph on this route. By comparison, California’s vaporware electric train is supposed to hit a top speed of 220 mph in its San Jose–to–LA run, assuming political considerations would allow it to operate non-stop. It will operate at up to 125 mph in the 51 miles from San Francisco to San Jose.
Existing infrastructure is adequate for Brightline's version of the "Free Rein to 110" campaign we have championed at Cold Spring Shops.  And let's think about the cost-effectiveness.  Consider an 85 mile rail route.  Average 60 mph, make the run in 85 minutes.  Push the average speed to 120 mph, cut just over 40 minutes from the trip time.  Push the speed again, to 240 mph, now you've cut the trip time another 20 minutes.  But it's a lot cheaper to reduce the trip time from 85 minutes to 45 give or take than it will be to achieve the further reduction to 25 minutes or so.

The Brightline proposal might be part of a larger project, in which the railroad is part of a real-estate development project.  That's not implausible, in fact, that's the way a lot of Japanese passenger railroads roll.  There's an old computer game called A-Train (even back then, some wags called it Sim Trump!) that might give the hobbyist an idea how it's done.

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