Biden Infrastructure Program and Amtrak

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ac6000cw

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Or Bakersfield to LA-although that's going to be part of the HSL if I'm correct.
The HSL project is planning to build a new route from Bakersfield to LA. The only existing rail route is via Tehachapi Pass, which is both slow and clogged with freight trains. There is an Amtrak 'Thruway' dedicated bus connection Bakersfield <-> LA but it takes 2.5 to 3 hours for 113 miles.
 

Jozhua

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$160bn isn't going to go very far in terms of improving public transportation nationwide, but it could stand to sow the seeds on some new corridors. If done in combination with state and private sector funding, perhaps it could strech a lot further.
That said, Brightline is building their new extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando for insanely cheap (less than $2bn). Considering it's essentially an entirely brand new 125mph line, covering 170 miles, this is just super impressive. I believe part of the reason they have built it so cheap is Florida's passive provision of space for the line following highway 528 and I-95?

The US highway network tends to be quite straight, so it's very possible to build HSR following, or in the median of, these roads.

Looking at Amtrak's plans, I'm happy to see Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati connected together, but I think Louisville should be connected to Cincinnati directly, travelling to Indianapolis that way, but either way, that section of the Midwest is absolutely perfect for intercity rail. I'm also glad to see Amtrak focusing on closer city pairs, not the super long distance stuff, which I think they have recognised for a while now isn't really viable. Now if the country builds out a larger HSR network, then I could see expanding service on this actually being quite good, but for now, it's just not perticularly useful.

Obviously with the North-East Corridor being Amtrak's largest source of riders, focusing funding on that will be useful. The Hudson River tunnels are an increasingly nessacery bit of very expensive infrastructure. They would probably be better getting a seperate round of funding to be honest, based on how large a percentage of the budget they would drain...(probably 20-25%).

There are other well used routes like Surfliner, Capitol and Cascades that would be good to see upgrades in.

Cascades could do with upgrades to avoid conflicts with freight, as well as upgrades to track to allow for higher top speeds. The states they are in seem fairly engaged with funding the routes, so with the support of those local governments, I could see them doing a decent amount with that.

Pacific Surfliner could absolutely justify major upgrades, possibly even electrification. There is some existing work on double tracking the North Coast Route, which is partially shared with San Diego commuter rail, Coaster. The line gets perticularly squiggly around Sorrento Valley, so perhaps an elevated line down the highway median could save a good 5/10 minutes on trips, that being just one example of many that could improve average speeds on the line.

My only worry though is Amtrak will not be strict enough with freight railroads to maintain good average speeds, or invest in running frequent enough service.
It is disappointing to see such a large proportion going on electric cars as that is totally regressive. All of society must pay for an already wealthy group to have new Private (albeit electric) cars whereas public transport is by definition open to all. I suppose that is the political horse trade required to getting funds for the transport system.
Much of the US is designed around Road Transport and just getting them out of their gas guzzling V8's will be a major achievement. Even in this country there will still be parts of the country mainly dependent on road transport and that's vastly more the case in the US, have you even been to the US? I do think some of the Pro public transport brigade sometimes need to take a reality check.
Well, it depends. I don't think anyone is realistically expecting a complete modal shift, but subsidising private road vehicles further does seem like a mis-step, when that money could go a lot further in terms of transit, or even green energy.

What is needed is a re-think of traditional ownership models, at least for a decent percentage of private vehicles, but that's a subject for another day!
Vast sums of money. Caltrain are undertaking an electrification project of their route between San Francisco and San Jose (around 50 route miles) and that's coming in at somewhere around $2bn. A project to electrify one of the big transcontinental routes like those operated by Union Pacific or BNSF would require a huge amount of cash. Especially those that go through the Rocky Mountains where you'll have long tunnels and snow sheds to work on. Similarly doing it on some of the railroads out east like CSX or Norfolk Southern would be equally tricky with all sorts of clearance issues to deal with. Doing something like Canadian National's route from Chicago through to Louisiana might be somewhat more simple as that at least avoids mountains but you'd still be talking about well over a thousand single track miles of railway to wire up. The costs would just be astronomical really. Considering that, whilst the big Class I railroads are profitable, the margins are often quite narrow I can't see them ever signing up for such projects without massive government intervention.

I think the reality for the time being is simply that US railroad are going to remain bastions of diesel power for many years to come. Probably some of the smaller commuter or suburban rail services (like Caltrain) will get wired up as time goes on and if they ever actually get some significant high speed passenger railway projects going those will be electrified as well (the California High-Speed Rail project is electrified as you'd expect). But outside of that? I can't see it personally.
True but nearly any electrification project out there is going to require new EMUs or electric locomotives and, I'd gamble, plenty of other infrastructure work too (for instance signals might not be as common as they are on our densely trafficked railway but they do exist and I'd bet they're not immunised). I'd gamble that the Caltrain cost wouldn't be that out of whack as a yardstick.
I think the point is that in the UK electrification costs only include the infrastructure, so any comparison with US figures needs to take account of the latter probably also including rolling stock.

The larger Northeastern cities, plus Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, are sort of comparable to European conditions with some level of all-day transit service that makes it possible for a reasonable number of people to have a worthwhile lifestyle without a car. New York dominates in this respect, probably still having more transit than everywhere else in the USA put together.

If anyone is car-free elsewhere, it's probably not by choice.
Electrification tends to encompass other changes to infrastructure in many parts of the world. If you're doing work anyway, you might as well get other jobs done at the same time.

CALMOD includes provision for CAHSR, getting high speed trains into San Francisco from San Jose, so that probably added quite a bit to the cost. A quad-track section has been added to act as an overtake section for about 8 miles of the route I believe. This combined with new rolling stock and Positive Train Control makes it really quite a significant upgrade.

In terms of reducing car use in the US, I think that they need to start responding to the significant demand for downtown living and start creating mixed-use mid/high rise neighbourhoods with good public transit and walkability across the country. The families occupying these spaces may be able to reduce the cars per household, use hourly rentals or forego a car altogether if the provision is good enough. At the same time, an effort needs to be made to better cover suburbs with buses that feed into rail stations, so that journeys can be made end to end by transit.

Cities like Vancouver have created a really fast, competitive transit network (skytrain) and upzoned areas around the stations to allow many more people to live near transit. The general area isn't exactly the most high-density and it proves with the right policies, and investment, you can achieve quite a lot. Considering many US cities are struggling to provide housing, dealing with terrible traffic and wanting to combat carbon emissions, these kind of investments and planning policies are no-brainers. Especially in California, where expanding suburban development further into risky wildfire areas is proving to not be such a great policy.
 

37424

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My only worry though is Amtrak will not be strict enough with freight railroads to maintain good average speeds, or invest in running frequent enough service.


Well, it depends. I don't think anyone is realistically expecting a complete modal shift, but subsidising private road vehicles further does seem like a mis-step, when that money could go a lot further in terms of transit, or even green energy.

What is needed is a re-think of traditional ownership models, at least for a decent percentage of private vehicles, but that's a subject for another day!
While there could be more model shift in such as the north east corridor and some other medium distance population densities, the reality is that even if all the proposed map comes to fruition there will still be large parts of the US which will have no Amtrak service or little more than a token service and for these parts any idea that the car and Air will not remain the dominant form of transport is pure fantasy, and for many lines freight will be the priority that's where the money is, lets not forget the US isn't the UK its very different.
 

nlogax

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While there could be more model shift in such as the north east corridor and some other medium distance population densities, the reality is that even if all the proposed map comes to fruition there will still be large parts of the US which will have no Amtrak service or little more than a token service and for these parts any idea that the car and Air will not remain the dominant form of transport is pure fantasy, and for many lines freight will be the priority that's where the money is, lets not forget the US isn't the UK its very different.

Absolutely this. The US is not set up for any mass modal shift outside of the population centres. If you're going to have to keep private vehicles then at least moving some of them to electric would be beneficial. We need to remember just how embedded in American culture the internal combustion engine is. It's no mean achievement to move away from it even if the end result still looks like a car.
 

Doctor Fegg

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But given that 83% of US citizens live in cities, then it's not worth fretting too much about the potential for modal shift in rural areas.

The vast, sprawling suburbs are the challenge, not Lower Goatherd, AL.
 

stuu

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$160bn isn't going to go very far in terms of improving public transportation nationwide, but it could stand to sow the seeds on some new corridors. If done in combination with state and private sector funding, perhaps it could strech a lot further.
That said, Brightline is building their new extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando for insanely cheap (less than $2bn). Considering it's essentially an entirely brand new 125mph line, covering 170 miles, this is just super impressive. I believe part of the reason they have built it so cheap is Florida's passive provision of space for the line following highway 528 and I-95?
It's only about 40 miles of new construction, from Cocoa to Orlando Airport, the rest is using the existing line, which is being updated
 

Taunton

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That said, Brightline is building their new extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando for insanely cheap (less than $2bn). Considering it's essentially an entirely brand new 125mph line, covering 170 miles, this is just super impressive. I believe part of the reason they have built it so cheap is Florida's passive provision of space for the line following highway 528 and I-95?
Before we get too eulogistic about Brightline, their mainstream service from Miami up to Palm Beach got shut down over a year ago, and all the operating personnel were let go. Considerable discussion about whether they will even start up again. Even before this happened they had notably thin loads compared to the parallel Tri-Rail commuter operation on the CSX tracks which for almost all of the distance is established and just a handful of blocks to the west. In the time it was operation the projected patronage and revenue for that part was seen to be a complete fiction, and their private investors will have noticed that.

I agree that the costs quoted are notable, even with just (40 miles?) of new line west of Cocoa which is all they are building from the FEC line, everything else being upgrading the old FEC main. Undeveloped ground, but this is over swampland. When you think that Network Rail "can't" double the few remaining miles from Newmarket to Ely because of supposed poor ground conditions - and don't have the alligators and poisonous snakes that open country civil engineering projects in Florida have ...
 

nlogax

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When you think that Network Rail "can't" double the few remaining miles from Newmarket to Ely because of supposed poor ground conditions - and don't have the alligators and poisonous snakes that open country civil engineering projects in Florida have ...

Heh... Network Rail started getting involved with advising on US rail infrastructure many years ago but their scope was limited to the Northeast Corridor. Can't imagine how they'd advise on upgrading a piece of FL swamp strewn with alligators and rattlesnakes.
 

37424

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But given that 83% of US citizens live in cities, then it's not worth fretting too much about the potential for modal shift in rural areas.

The vast, sprawling suburbs are the challenge, not Lower Goatherd, AL.
To a degree yes, but I did Orlando to Washington by Amtrak but only because I'm an Enthusiast and I don't like flying that much anyway, 17 hours even the car can be quicker around 13 hours and the plane 2 hours will be the answer for most people.

Brightline remains to be seen I think, if it restarts and gets to Orlando well Orlando Airport it isn't going to Downtown
and there is no train service to the Airport from Orlando which sums up American rail infrastructure as a bit patchy. They want to extend to Disney World Resort and eventually Tampa well good luck to them but I think the jury is still very much out on Brightline at present.

It looks as Amtrak also want to run additional services between Jacksonville/Orlando/Tampa and Miami according to map.

Heh... Network Rail started getting involved with advising on US rail infrastructure many years ago but their scope was limited to the Northeast Corridor. Can't imagine how they'd advise on upgrading a piece of FL swamp strewn with alligators and rattlesnakes.
It wouldn't get done by the time UK health and safety had finished it would be way too expensive and unworkable. :lol:
 

squizzler

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Well, it depends. I don't think anyone is realistically expecting a complete modal shift, but subsidising private road vehicles further does seem like a mis-step, when that money could go a lot further in terms of transit, or even green energy.

What is needed is a re-think of traditional ownership models, at least for a decent percentage of private vehicles, but that's a subject for another day!
I am glad somebody agrees with me. W)here's many are saying that Biden must give money to "less bad" electric motoring because for much of the country motoring dominates, it is precisely this reason that subsidising electric cars is a gimmick. It will be the tiniest drop US's car ocean-sized car pool, and reduce the amount that could go to the overhaul of the transport system.

I am perhaps too conservative. I don't believe the government's role is to buy its supporters nice things. Rather the shift to public transport and electric motoring would better be done with a fiscal stick, or simply banning traditional dinosaur-burners after a certain date as we intend to in the UK.

Actually the argument that the US is too badly planned to accommodate a viable transport system does not take into account the lifespan of the housing stock. I am given to believe that many vast housing estates built in the 1950s and 1960s are ageing badly, don't suit modern demographics, and are ready to be replaced by denser, walkable communities.
 

cle

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I think adding daily trundles (calling at 3am) to more cities is NOT what Amtrak needs to do, at all.

Any reinstatements should be high quality and useable.

If this is to move the needle on traffic and rail usage, it should focus on key corridors which could see a revolution in usage if treated more like the NEC or even the Keystone.

Brightline are doing this in Florida. They need to identify some key routes out of Chicago and up frequencies and cut journey times. Invest in the Empire, PNW, Texas routes etc... plus Virginia and down to RDU and ATL. Metrorail in LA is criminally underused and rubbish too, as are the routes out of San Jose. Work on those, and other routes with potential (Boston and Maine, plus up to NH, wires on the Hartford/Inland route) rather than 500+ mile daily links through nothing, hamstrung by freight.
 

edwin_m

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I think adding daily trundles (calling at 3am) to more cities is NOT what Amtrak needs to do, at all.

Any reinstatements should be high quality and useable.

If this is to move the needle on traffic and rail usage, it should focus on key corridors which could see a revolution in usage if treated more like the NEC or even the Keystone.

Brightline are doing this in Florida. They need to identify some key routes out of Chicago and up frequencies and cut journey times. Invest in the Empire, PNW, Texas routes etc... plus Virginia and down to RDU and ATL. Metrorail in LA is criminally underused and rubbish too, as are the routes out of San Jose. Work on those, and other routes with potential (Boston and Maine, plus up to NH, wires on the Hartford/Inland route) rather than 500+ mile daily links through nothing, hamstrung by freight.
According to the map in #14 those medium-distance services are exactly what they plan to focus on. As far as I can see there are no new long-distance services beyond restoring the Covid-related cuts, although some of them see enhanced services over the more populous parts of their journeys.

I guess the long-distance services might serve a role for hooking and hauling whatever equipment they use on something like Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo, when it needs to go to a main depot for maintenance.
 

Taunton

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Brightline are doing this in Florida ... They need to identify some key routes out of Chicago ... Metrorail ... criminally underused and rubbish too
Um ... what are Brightline doing in Florida? They've abandoned their service for the last 12 months.

Metrorail, the transit system in Miami, carries reasonable loads on a handful of extreme peak time services, the rest of what's provided (including all the counter-peak, daytime and weekend service) is pretty much empty stock. Despite a huge police/security presence the amount of crime on trains and at stations is out of all proportion to the usage. It's all been like this ever since it was built and opened. When the station security guards themselves are murdered (multiple occurrences), let alone security guards murder passengers ( Man Shot and Killed by Security Guard After Dispute With Miami-Dade Bus Driver: Police – NBC 6 South Florida (nbcmiami.com) ), however do you think ordinary members of the public are going to be attracted to it or US transit get away from the image that it contains the dregs of society? Into your car, lock the doors.
 

Jozhua

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While there could be more model shift in such as the north east corridor and some other medium distance population densities, the reality is that even if all the proposed map comes to fruition there will still be large parts of the US which will have no Amtrak service or little more than a token service and for these parts any idea that the car and Air will not remain the dominant form of transport is pure fantasy, and for many lines freight will be the priority that's where the money is, lets not forget the US isn't the UK its very different.
But given that 83% of US citizens live in cities, then it's not worth fretting too much about the potential for modal shift in rural areas.

The vast, sprawling suburbs are the challenge, not Lower Goatherd, AL.
Population density is important, but it isn't be all and end all. If you look at the density of cities like LA, they are actually pretty dense, but the issue is that everything is car-oriented as is. You can have a dense city that is very auto-oriented (see: Dubai), or less dense areas that are walkable (see: pre-war UK suburbs).

The reality is you need to build walking/cycling infrastructure that is safe and inviting, alongside good transit infrastructure. The large amount of space on suburban streets is useful for this. Plus, if you can mix land uses, then people can acess basic amenities within walking distance.
Before we get too eulogistic about Brightline, their mainstream service from Miami up to Palm Beach got shut down over a year ago, and all the operating personnel were let go. Considerable discussion about whether they will even start up again. Even before this happened they had notably thin loads compared to the parallel Tri-Rail commuter operation on the CSX tracks which for almost all of the distance is established and just a handful of blocks to the west. In the time it was operation the projected patronage and revenue for that part was seen to be a complete fiction, and their private investors will have noticed that.

I agree that the costs quoted are notable, even with just (40 miles?) of new line west of Cocoa which is all they are building from the FEC line, everything else being upgrading the old FEC main. Undeveloped ground, but this is over swampland. When you think that Network Rail "can't" double the few remaining miles from Newmarket to Ely because of supposed poor ground conditions - and don't have the alligators and poisonous snakes that open country civil engineering projects in Florida have ...
Yeah, I found that strange they completely shut up shop, but I guess the financial pressure of covid would be too much.

I do think Brightline will probably find themselves needing some level of state subsidy at some point, which I think is probably fine. If they can offer a service that is well used, for a price per pax/mile that is somewhat lower than what is spent on other services, then all the more power to them!
It wouldn't get done by the time UK health and safety had finished it would be way too expensive and unworkable. :lol:
It's not health and safety that ruins UK projects, it's the fact the government can't commit to anything long term, so we have a constant shortage of supplies and skilled labour! This is a similar problem to the US.
I am glad somebody agrees with me. W)here's many are saying that Biden must give money to "less bad" electric motoring because for much of the country motoring dominates, it is precisely this reason that subsidising electric cars is a gimmick. It will be the tiniest drop US's car ocean-sized car pool, and reduce the amount that could go to the overhaul of the transport system.

I am perhaps too conservative. I don't believe the government's role is to buy its supporters nice things. Rather the shift to public transport and electric motoring would better be done with a fiscal stick, or simply banning traditional dinosaur-burners after a certain date as we intend to in the UK.

Actually the argument that the US is too badly planned to accommodate a viable transport system does not take into account the lifespan of the housing stock. I am given to believe that many vast housing estates built in the 1950s and 1960s are ageing badly, don't suit modern demographics, and are ready to be replaced by denser, walkable communities.
I don't think it strikes me as a conservative point to say we should fund public transport vs subsidising electric vehicles. Ultimately the money spent will end up coming around to the US taxpayers at some point...(electric cars aren't really a capital project with any kind of economic return, besides reducing emissions).

If federal funding is to be limited, then I completely agree it would strech a lot further through investment into public transportation than EV's. In terms of a fiscal stick, increasing gas taxes would be a good start, as they haven't risen for something like 20 years!
I think adding daily trundles (calling at 3am) to more cities is NOT what Amtrak needs to do, at all.

Any reinstatements should be high quality and useable.

If this is to move the needle on traffic and rail usage, it should focus on key corridors which could see a revolution in usage if treated more like the NEC or even the Keystone.

Brightline are doing this in Florida. They need to identify some key routes out of Chicago and up frequencies and cut journey times. Invest in the Empire, PNW, Texas routes etc... plus Virginia and down to RDU and ATL. Metrorail in LA is criminally underused and rubbish too, as are the routes out of San Jose. Work on those, and other routes with potential (Boston and Maine, plus up to NH, wires on the Hartford/Inland route) rather than 500+ mile daily links through nothing, hamstrung by freight.
Yep agreed.

Services need to be at minimum at hourly frequency, 6am-10pm, 7 days a week, and competitive with off-peak journey times driving. Having a consistent journey time at peaks could be a massive factor for people travelling for work, business, or just at that time of day.

LA's Metrolink system has had increasing ridership in recent years (likely pre 2020), so I can see hope for it. Doing a CALMOD and introducing PTC, electrification and various line improvements for a proper all-day service seems like a sensible move and to be honest one that should be done for Metra, San Diego's Coaster, Salt Lake City's Frontrunner, etc.

Post-covid, moving these commuter operations to all-day ones is going to be a necessity, to reflect that the 9-5 in a downtown office market will likely be much diminished. That said, there are plenty of other riders, but a more consistent all-day service will be needed to cater to them. Considering much of the rolling stock (and staff!) sit around most of the day, waiting to do the return journey, running an all day service, even at a reduced frequency, makes a ton of sense, as it will likely add very minimal cost, with the possibility of attracting a lot more riders.
Um ... what are Brightline doing in Florida? They've abandoned their service for the last 12 months.

Metrorail, the transit system in Miami, carries reasonable loads on a handful of extreme peak time services, the rest of what's provided (including all the counter-peak, daytime and weekend service) is pretty much empty stock. Despite a huge police/security presence the amount of crime on trains and at stations is out of all proportion to the usage. It's all been like this ever since it was built and opened. When the station security guards themselves are murdered (multiple occurrences), let alone security guards murder passengers ( Man Shot and Killed by Security Guard After Dispute With Miami-Dade Bus Driver: Police – NBC 6 South Florida (nbcmiami.com) ), however do you think ordinary members of the public are going to be attracted to it or US transit get away from the image that it contains the dregs of society? Into your car, lock the doors.
I think this is a wider issue in the US. To be honest though, no-where is perticuarly safe from police brutality and gun violence. What does change though is that with more people around, people will feel a bit more comfortable if there is someone acting odd. There's plenty of dodgy folk out on the trains and buses in England, but I generally don't get too uncomfortable providing there are other people around who could intervene if they picked on me for some reason!
 

the sniper

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I think this is a wider issue in the US. To be honest though, no-where is perticuarly safe from police brutality and gun violence. What does change though is that with more people around, people will feel a bit more comfortable if there is someone acting odd. There's plenty of dodgy folk out on the trains and buses in England, but I generally don't get too uncomfortable providing there are other people around who could intervene if they picked on me for some reason!

'No-where is particularly safe from police brutality'...? Seriously? That's what you took from Taunton's point? Even if you are actually referring to specifically to the US, if you've experienced some of the many sketchy characters that can inhabit/surround public transport in some places there, the Police would be far from the top of your list of irrational fears...
 

Jozhua

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Basically, not enough money, probably all going to be spent on a few cities in the Northeast.

https://twitter.com/samjmintz/status/1379880153724162049?s=20
Later a Tweet pretty much confirmed this:
Here's how $80 billion in rail money in Biden's proposal would be divided, via
@TSnyderDC
scoop:
Grants to Amtrak National Network: $16b
Northeast Corridor Modernization: $39b
Intercity passenger rail $20b
Freight rail and safety grants $5b
50% going on Northeast Corridor. Which tbh they do need $39bn including Gateway, but if they had allocated more than $80bn for intercity rail, the funding available for the rest of the country wouldn't be so pitiful.

It's certainly a start, but the highway act adjusted for inflation cost $540bn, so really you'd want to start at something like that to build out a proper intercity/high speed rail network for the country, to reduce domestic flying. The only potential brightside is that whatever money reaches the Midwest, South and West should be amplified by DOT's who are onboard with HSR and transit, as most transportation funding is provided by states, both for Transit and Highways.

At least with Amtrak having a record of at least delivering their projects, the money shouldn't fall into an empty pit. But without cohesive planning and vision, simply throwing money at random projects that seem somewhat viable, the feds risk wasting a lot of it.
 

cle

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Brightline being shut is very much of the moment. Construction is still ongoing on their Orlando route, so it's a pause.

I think the rest of my post is fair. The map shows medium distance changes, yes - but nothing on frequency. Daily services, or the peak loaded nature of US commuter rail, will not help.

To move the needle on congestion, air quality etc we need behavioral, societal change and perception of rail. So concentrate it on corridors, make those damn good, change pax usage - and then move on to the next corridor.

More smatterings or hand-wringing about gaps on the map/equity are not what are needed.
 

edwin_m

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Basically, not enough money, probably all going to be spent on a few cities in the Northeast.

https://twitter.com/samjmintz/status/1379880153724162049?s=20
Later a Tweet pretty much confirmed this:

50% going on Northeast Corridor. Which tbh they do need $39bn including Gateway, but if they had allocated more than $80bn for intercity rail, the funding available for the rest of the country wouldn't be so pitiful.

It's certainly a start, but the highway act adjusted for inflation cost $540bn, so really you'd want to start at something like that to build out a proper intercity/high speed rail network for the country, to reduce domestic flying. The only potential brightside is that whatever money reaches the Midwest, South and West should be amplified by DOT's who are onboard with HSR and transit, as most transportation funding is provided by states, both for Transit and Highways.

At least with Amtrak having a record of at least delivering their projects, the money shouldn't fall into an empty pit. But without cohesive planning and vision, simply throwing money at random projects that seem somewhat viable, the feds risk wasting a lot of it.
If you're referring to the highways act that produced the interstate network, that was nationwide and included significant mileage in areas where the population distribution doesn't favour rail - cities that are big enough are too far apart to be time-competitive with flying. Realistically these areas across large chunks of the interior are never going to have much more rail passenger service than they get from Amtrak now. So the rail spend will be focused in a few areas, and the basic infrastructure probably exists in most of them, so it should be possible to put a reasonable amount in place for much less money than the interstates cost. I suspect issues of conflict with freight are much less on the "branch lines" where many of the extra services are being added, than in the transcontinental corridors where Amtrak runs today and freight makes most of its money.

Some states have been willing to co-fund Amtrak or other main line rail operations, but that's very selective and probably aligns quite closely with those where the Democrats control the legislature. Fortunately it probably also coincides with the places where urban density etc makes rail more of a contender.
 

37424

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In order to get a major modal shift in the states you need to build loads of medium distance high speeds routes and just isn't going to happen. I mean we are building 343 miles of new high speed railway if it all gets built and look at the cost and political argument that's causing and in the states 343 miles doesn't even get you fully from LA to San Francisco. Brightline well it remains to be seen as to whether it can survive long term and can it survive without a subsidy and if not who will subsidize it, and of course even then not really what you would call high speed by European or Japanese Standards.
 

cle

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I feel like what the Commonwealth of Virginia have already begun is how this should work. The bridge, the trackage, the rebuilds at Alexandria, Crystal City, Richmond works etc... choose a corridor and invest properly in capacity, wires, speed.

As a long-haul node also, many services will benefit. It is ostensibly extending the NEC to Richmond. But DC to Raleigh/Durham (especially once with the newly acquired route) becomes interesting now. Also Richmond-Baltimore/Philly etc... and you get all these overlapping pairs which add up to something viable.
 

edwin_m

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I feel like what the Commonwealth of Virginia have already begun is how this should work. The bridge, the trackage, the rebuilds at Alexandria, Crystal City, Richmond works etc... choose a corridor and invest properly in capacity, wires, speed.

As a long-haul node also, many services will benefit. It is ostensibly extending the NEC to Richmond. But DC to Raleigh/Durham (especially once with the newly acquired route) becomes interesting now. Also Richmond-Baltimore/Philly etc... and you get all these overlapping pairs which add up to something viable.
Also many of the people in that part of the world will have used trains on the Corridor and could be quite receptive to getting the same nearer where they live. Whereas in many parts of the states passenger rail is simply irrelevant.
 

cle

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Exactly. The Hampton Roads area was long the default end of the Regionals, at Newport News. And so using rail is already ingrained, so much so that the Norfolk route reopened and is having additional services added. Along the Roanoke line too, and with Charlottesville being the uni town (i.e. big potential users and existing awareness).

As a state, VA is among the most exciting for a rail future, and I see massive growth potential.
 

Jozhua

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The key issue with Biden's plan is a lack thereof of one.

What should have been specified first was a range of possible desired outcomes.

-Do they want to do some moderate upgrades to the NEC, Surfliner and other existing Amtrak routes?

-Do they want to also add a few new intercity rail routes, possibly boosting funding for projects like Xpresswest and Brightline?

-Do they want to build a number of brand new high speed railways capable of 186mph to link city chains, especially around the Northeast and Midwest?

There needs to be a plan, then funding allocated in proportion to said plan. Now Biden hasn't been in office for long, so drawing up detailed, fundable design for HSR would be a challenge. But it would be good to set out a strategy.

Getting the ball rolling with low hanging fruit, upgrading NEC with Gateway and Infrastructure renewals to help with higher speeds. Additionally upgrading/electrifying some of the popular corridors such as Surfliner, Capitol, Keystone, Hiawatha, San Joaquins. Then you could look at adding more frequent service and reduced journey times on other existing corridors that need a bit of TLC like Cascades and Wolverine.

I think then go for a second round of funding, maybe in a year or two, for some initial high speed rail corridors along chains of cities approximately 100 miles apart, such as in the midwest.
If you're referring to the highways act that produced the interstate network, that was nationwide and included significant mileage in areas where the population distribution doesn't favour rail - cities that are big enough are too far apart to be time-competitive with flying. Realistically these areas across large chunks of the interior are never going to have much more rail passenger service than they get from Amtrak now. So the rail spend will be focused in a few areas, and the basic infrastructure probably exists in most of them, so it should be possible to put a reasonable amount in place for much less money than the interstates cost. I suspect issues of conflict with freight are much less on the "branch lines" where many of the extra services are being added, than in the transcontinental corridors where Amtrak runs today and freight makes most of its money.

Some states have been willing to co-fund Amtrak or other main line rail operations, but that's very selective and probably aligns quite closely with those where the Democrats control the legislature. Fortunately it probably also coincides with the places where urban density etc makes rail more of a contender.
Well obviously a HSR act wouldn't mirror the highways act. But something of similar scale would be appropriate.
In order to get a major modal shift in the states you need to build loads of medium distance high speeds routes and just isn't going to happen. I mean we are building 343 miles of new high speed railway if it all gets built and look at the cost and political argument that's causing and in the states 343 miles doesn't even get you fully from LA to San Francisco. Brightline well it remains to be seen as to whether it can survive long term and can it survive without a subsidy and if not who will subsidize it, and of course even then not really what you would call high speed by European or Japanese Standards.
So HS2 is very different to what we'd probably see in the states. Primarily a large % of HS2's cost is building brand new alignments into city centres, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds. This is justified by the fact that our current rail infrastructure into city centres is full, therefore new alignments are needed.

Obviously US geography varies massively, but in lots of places like the midwest, it's pretty much flat, open land.

The United States doesn't really have this problem, so can probably take a more TGV-like approach, building straight high speed rail relatively unhindered in the countryside, then using upgraded existing lines to get into/out of urban areas. Many lines in urban areas tend to be pretty wide and straight, which helps!

Also many of the people in that part of the world will have used trains on the Corridor and could be quite receptive to getting the same nearer where they live. Whereas in many parts of the states passenger rail is simply irrelevant.
Well it's only irrelevant in the parts not many people live. But in terms of modal share, that doesn't especially matter. If you can hit the major population centres, Eastern Seaboard, California, Texas and the Midwest, you're basically golden.
 

cle

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If Gateway is done, as seems very likely, they should eliminate all NJT diesel working. Regardless of that fanciful Secaucus loop, NJT should be electric to its extremities. And potentially beyond - Raritan offers an alt route to Philly via West Trenton (which is wired), and straight west into rustbelt PA.

Same with the extremities of MTA. Montauk, Waterbury, Poughkeepsie even - insane. Hudson line should switch to AC, including up from Penn. Empire needs more trains, and high level stations. Harlem can probably stay, but with extension to Wassaic. GCT to Stamford is a shockingly slow journey, for the core of the New Haven route - improving this stretch would impact many many tens of thousands per day. It should be 30 mins non-stop max, not 45.
 

edwin_m

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There needs to be a plan, then funding allocated in proportion to said plan. Now Biden hasn't been in office for long, so drawing up detailed, fundable design for HSR would be a challenge. But it would be good to set out a strategy.

Getting the ball rolling with low hanging fruit, upgrading NEC with Gateway and Infrastructure renewals to help with higher speeds. Additionally upgrading/electrifying some of the popular corridors such as Surfliner, Capitol, Keystone, Hiawatha, San Joaquins. Then you could look at adding more frequent service and reduced journey times on other existing corridors that need a bit of TLC like Cascades and Wolverine.

I think then go for a second round of funding, maybe in a year or two, for some initial high speed rail corridors along chains of cities approximately 100 miles apart, such as in the midwest.
I think that is the plan...
Well it's only irrelevant in the parts not many people live. But in terms of modal share, that doesn't especially matter. If you can hit the major population centres, Eastern Seaboard, California, Texas and the Midwest, you're basically golden.
I was referring to the public attitude in different parts of the country, which can't be ignored. In somewhere like Virginia enough people have experience of how useful trains can be that there is a base of public support for extending them. Most of the South and much of the midwest hasn't had anything more than Amtrak's skeleton service in living memory and probably 99% of the population has never used a train. So even where the demographics would be suitable it's an uphill struggle to convince people that they need one. This combines with the political divide, with most of these areas being strongly Republican and highly suspicious of a form of transport that is anti-individualist, pushed by Democrats, and needs overt public money (conveniently ignoring the more hidden funding of freeways and airports).

I come back also to the fact that in most US cities the local public transport is no more than a basic service for people with no alternative, and people's origins and destinations are often well beyond its reach. If you have to drive to the station to access the train and then hire a car or have a long cab ride at the other end, then for the journeys in the hundreds of miles where rail might be competitive, most people will drive all the way.
 

37424

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So HS2 is very different to what we'd probably see in the states. Primarily a large % of HS2's cost is building brand new alignments into city centres, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds. This is justified by the fact that our current rail infrastructure into city centres is full, therefore new alignments are needed.

Obviously US geography varies massively, but in lots of places like the midwest, it's pretty much flat, open land.

The United States doesn't really have this problem, so can probably take a more TGV-like approach, building straight high speed rail relatively unhindered in the countryside, then using upgraded existing lines to get into/out of urban areas. Many lines in urban areas tend to be pretty wide and straight, which helps!


Well it's only irrelevant in the parts not many people live. But in terms of modal share, that doesn't especially matter. If you can hit the major population centres, Eastern Seaboard, California, Texas and the Midwest, you're basically golden.
Well I'm not sure HS2 is very different, sure it will likely to be easier and probably cheaper to build in the open country parts of the US yes, but in terms the mileage to be built it would be hugely expensive and I doubt its going to happen to the degree that's needed especially when the next Republican president comes along.

Much of Amtrak operation is like something out of the dark ages and totally irrelevant to many American's and even cities that have commuter rail networks some only operate during the main commuter hours. The US is so far behind in terms of rail and public transport in general a great model shift will be too expensive and even if everything on Amtrak's map happens it way too little too late and its not going to get the vast majority out of their cars or off planes.
 

Jozhua

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I think that is the plan...

I was referring to the public attitude in different parts of the country, which can't be ignored. In somewhere like Virginia enough people have experience of how useful trains can be that there is a base of public support for extending them. Most of the South and much of the midwest hasn't had anything more than Amtrak's skeleton service in living memory and probably 99% of the population has never used a train. So even where the demographics would be suitable it's an uphill struggle to convince people that they need one. This combines with the political divide, with most of these areas being strongly Republican and highly suspicious of a form of transport that is anti-individualist, pushed by Democrats, and needs overt public money (conveniently ignoring the more hidden funding of freeways and airports).

I come back also to the fact that in most US cities the local public transport is no more than a basic service for people with no alternative, and people's origins and destinations are often well beyond its reach. If you have to drive to the station to access the train and then hire a car or have a long cab ride at the other end, then for the journeys in the hundreds of miles where rail might be competitive, most people will drive all the way.
That's a fair point about public sentiment.

But a lot of Americans have been abroad and used transit systems in Europe and Asia, alongside everyone who immigrates. Plus, I'm sure they've visited parts of the US/Canada with transit like NYC, DC, San Francisco, Toronto or Vancouver.
Well I'm not sure HS2 is very different, sure it will likely to be easier and probably cheaper to build in the open country parts of the US yes, but in terms the mileage to be built it would be hugely expensive and I doubt its going to happen to the degree that's needed especially when the next Republican president comes along.

Much of Amtrak operation is like something out of the dark ages and totally irrelevant to many American's and even cities that have commuter rail networks some only operate during the main commuter hours. The US is so far behind in terms of rail and public transport in general a great model shift will be too expensive and even if everything on Amtrak's map happens it way too little too late and its not going to get the vast majority out of their cars or off planes.
I think the main point is to stop subsidising cars and airlines and maybe put even an equivalent amount of funding for transit.

High Speed Rail cost is very dependent on what you're building through. The costs between a 100mph and 200mph railway are virtually identical when you're out on the plains. The good news is a lot of freight corridors are pretty straight, so with upgrades perhaps no new alignment will be needed. The primary concern being grade-crossings.

Car related infrastructure can be easily converted for public transport use. Interstates are pretty straight, great to put high speed/higher speed rail alignments alongside.

Highways/wide roads within cities can have light rail, bus lanes fairly easily retrofitted. Being able to speed past the traffic is a pretty compelling option when run at a decent frequency!

All the things that would improve US transit are what improves transit basically everywhere. The rules of physics aren't different. Sure there are some unique challenges, but even with the worst design, you can't change the fundamentals of cities.
 

edwin_m

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That's a fair point about public sentiment.

But a lot of Americans have been abroad and used transit systems in Europe and Asia, alongside everyone who immigrates. Plus, I'm sure they've visited parts of the US/Canada with transit like NYC, DC, San Francisco, Toronto or Vancouver.
It was really surprising to me to find out how badly informed some Americans are - just look at how many believe the 2020 election was fraudulent when only a tiny handful of cases are supported by evidence. Obviously it's not true of all but it tends to be more true in the sort of states that also aren't really good places for transit. I'm not suggesting this is causation, simply correlation.
 

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