21 Jun

Texas hopes to copy Japanese rail success

Another article about Texas rail:

“Richard Lawless, who as a C.I.A. officer posted in Tokyo in the 1980s was a frequent Shinkansen passenger, has long found America’s failure to embrace high-speed rail ‘mind-boggling.’ But today the former Bush administration official is in a position to change things, as chairman and CEO of Texas Central Railway, a private company that plans to link Dallas and Houston with a 200-mile-per-hour bullet train as soon as 2021. The venture just might be high-speed rail’s best hope in the United States.

‘The project has been progressing below the radar, very quietly, very deliberately, over the last four years plus,’ says Lawless. It’s now undergoing an environmental impact study that will take between two and three years, but Texas Central, whose backers include Japan’s JR Central railway, has already conducted its own extensive research. The company, originally called U.S.-Japan High-Speed Rail, looked at 97 possible routes nationwide before concluding that Texas was the ideal place for a high-speed line — and that healthy profits could be made in long-distance passenger rail, a travel mode that for the past 40 years has existed only with the help of massive government subsidies.”

(Via The Big Texas Plan to Copy Japan’s High-Speed Rail Success – CityLab.)

People keep saying that last line (US rail only survives via massive subsidies). But it ignores the fact that the Acela (and even the slower North East Corridor) is profitable. It’s just that Amtrak was mandated to take on all long distance lines whether it made sense to or not, so in order to keep all lines going it has to be subsidized.

I’ve talked about how to kill off unprofitable lines to make a profitable Amtrak before:

Acela makes $220,200,000 a year.
Northeast Regional makes $146,500,000 a year
Northeast Corridor ‘special trains’ make $3,600,000 a year.
According to the chart you need to deduct $1,300,000 for labor on the NEC corridor.

You’re left with the North East Corridor routes making $369,000,000 in profit a year.

The Government Accountability Office and Subsidy Scope claim that Amtrak’s depreciation, ancillary businesses and overhead costs are $24.29 a customer.

That gives you $265,000,000 (roughly) in overhead. That means the North East Corridor lines mentioned above make $104 million dollars in profit a year.

09 Jun

The Texas bullet train

One reason I’m actually quite interested by this project:

“Were the nation’s first bullet train to come about thanks to Texas business travelers—shuttling, ironically, between two capitals of the oil and chemical industries—it could be the best advertisement imaginable. If high-speed rail is good enough for the good ol’ boys and gals of Texas, maybe the rest of America will realize that it’s good enough for them too.”

(Via The Texas Bullet: Y’All Aboard! | OnEarth Magazine.)

07 Apr

High speed rail’s future may yet be in Texas

I have this strong suspicion that the first high speed rail demonstrator in the US will probably be in Texas given the troubles California is running into. Still, if it’s demonstrated in Texas, struggles into California, and the North East Corridor continues making improvements, we may yet see an idea who’s time is well over due. And having it work in Texas will take it back out of the culture war it somehow slipped into and back into ‘does it work for this leg’ sort of discussion that’s really more interesting.

“Dallas and Houston are the ideal distance for high-speed rail, about 230 miles apart. A one-way rail trip is expected to take less than 90 minutes.
Each metro area is an economic powerhouse. Dallas and Houston have fast-growing, young populations that are roughly the same size.

The cities are also separated by flat terrain, a better fit for the closed corridor and dedicated track necessary to reach speeds of 200 mph. No costly tunnels needed.”

(Via For high-speed rail’s future in Texas, the private sector dares to go where government won’t | Dallas Morning News.)

Oh, yeah, combine that with Texas showing some serious wind power inroads (over a third of the energy produced for a brief moment not too long ago), you have an interesting dichotomy happening there.

04 Feb

Texas and high speed rail

Wouldn’t shock me if high speed rail in the US has to happen in a primarily red area in order to get past the culture war pawn status it has become…

“The Texas Transportation Commission is expected to vote Thursday at its monthly meeting on the creation of a high-speed rail commission focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Separately, TxDOT is holding a series of public meetings around Texas and Oklahoma, starting this week, to hear comments on a study looking at the feasibility of high-speed rail projects between Oklahoma City and South Texas.”

(Via More on TxDOT and high speed rail – Off the Kuff.)

12 Sep

Malaysia set to spend money on rail…

I’m curious to see how much they’ve set aside for the high speed rail bit. But short of it is, Malaysia is about to join the list of countries investing in it as the US, still, lags:

“Malaysia plans to spend a staggering US$50 billion to develop its rail network over the next seven years, including a high-speed rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore set for 2020, and the urban mass rapid transit system that is rolling out in 2017.”

(Via Malaysia set to spend US$50b to develop rail network – Channel NewsAsia.)

03 Jun

What the hyperloop may be

Business Insider ponders the possible technology that might behind the high speed rail ‘hyper loop’ system that Elon Musk has been teasing us about:

“Tesla founder Elon Musk has been teasing an exciting idea for a new form of transportation for the last year.

He calls it the ‘Hyperloop’ and he says it’s better than a bullet train. The Hyperloop would get people to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 30 minutes.
However, he’s been vague about how he’s going to make the Hyperloop a reality.

The closest to detail he’s gotten is when he said the Hyperloop is a ‘cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.'”

(Via What Is Elon Musk’s Hyperloop – Business Insider.)

31 May

High speed rail could spark a real estate boom in second tier cities

Interesting research:

“New high-speed rail lines are credited with sparking a real estate and housing boom, among other economic benefits, in smaller cities in China. Now experts are debating whether rail modernization can have the same effects in the U.S.
A study by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and China’s Tsinghua University found that by connecting ‘second tier’ cities to global hubs, more people move to the smaller cities where housing costs are lower, creating a real-estate boom, among other unplanned benefits.”

(Via Researchers say high-speed rail could fuel U.S. real-estate, economic booms | Trains For America.)

11 Apr

Administration pushing for big high speed rail investment over next five years

This will become another huge battle and explosion over it, but I’m thrilled as fuck to see a potentially big step forward in high speed rail still something the current administration is fighting for:

“The Obama Administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 today, and the President has once again put forth a bold plan for transforming and expanding train service in the United States, with $40 billion in passenger rail investment over the next five years.”

(Via National Association of Railroad Passengers – President Pushes Bold Plan for Passenger Rail | Trains For America.)

07 Feb

Yummy look at what high speed rail could be…

Dan Geiser, and Jacki Wyse-Rhodes both pointed out this link to me of a vision for high speed rail in the US:


Created by Alfred Twu, the map compiles visions of possible American rail systems from a long list of places and mashes them together to show what a national rail network might look like.

Interesting in that, were you to develop a real high speed rail system in the US, Chicago sort of becomes the center of it all…