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HSR and national security


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#1 northnorthwest

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 08:41 AM

I recently read an article about China's HSR, which is the most extensive in the world, and which has been built up insanely fast over the last decade or so.  One of the points of the article is that China views HSR as part of their security, because it allows troops to be deployed anywhere in the country very fast.  I don't expect we'll have a land invasion in the US anytime soon, but with the huge storms happening all the time now and the need to evacuate large numbers of people, why doesn't the government build a HSR system connecting every small and large town in the nation in the name of safety and security?  



#2 StriderGDM

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 08:53 AM

One word: COST.

 

It simply isn't feasible to build that much HSR nor economical.

 

And it's really not necessary. For example, most large storms from which you'd want to evacuate people have days of warning, so you can plan accordingly, or happen in a matter of minutes (tornadoes) and no HSR rail system in the world will help.



#3 northnorthwest

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 09:43 AM

I see.  The USA, the richest country in the world, can't afford modern trains.  Kind of like the USA can't afford to insure every citizen.  But China can afford to have 2/3 of the world's HSR and the most-used system.  And numerous other countries can insure all their people.  Pathetic!  



#4 JoeBas

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 10:29 AM

LOL, the only intersection in the US between HSR and Nat'l Security would involve the letters T, S and A. 

 

No thanks.  



#5 StriderGDM

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 10:36 AM

I see.  The USA, the richest country in the world, can't afford modern trains.  Kind of like the USA can't afford to insure every citizen.  But China can afford to have 2/3 of the world's HSR and the most-used system.  And numerous other countries can insure all their people.  Pathetic!  

No, that's not what you originally said or what I replied to.

You said "why doesn't the government build a HSR system connecting every small and large town in the nation in the name of safety and security?  "  That's a HUGE difference from "afford modern trains".

 

Do you realize exactly how many small and large towns there are in the US? For example, if we look at my home state, some of the "small towns" are 6 miles apart (center to center on average). This is barely time to get a train up to speed before you have to slow down again. And what's the point?

 

You want to connect major city centers, not every single town. No country in the world, especially China does that.

 

Secondly, we already BUILT our system for high speed access to cities and towns, it's called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. China is starting from scratch and deciding to go more the rail route than we did.

 

Can we afford to build HSR between many of our major cities, sure. Can we do it as you suggested? No, it's not practical nor affordable.



#6 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 10:47 AM

First of all, that was the same story used to sell interstate highways. It is a fragile infrastrucuture, however, because disrupting any number of things (wires, tracks, bridges) at any point on that route makes it useless. Military trucks can generally traverse anything but a blown out bridge.

Secondarily, Im going to cite an example- an MCI line haul bus costs a tour company about $350k including restroom. It costs NJT, sans Restroom but with cosmetic stainless cladding, about double that.

We use union labor, and that means that the workers need to be paid a living wage + for a country with somewhat higher standards of living. We have much more costly property seizure proceedings, we have a lot more lawyers, and much larger and more powerful NIMBY base, not to mention safety standards that certainly are higher than the Chinese, and are based on the fact that we are too dumb to consistently keep trains on the tracks, and to stop them from occupying the same space at the same time.

All of this means that it will cost our taxpayers several times as much to build the thing. Possibly even an order of magnitude. So citing cost really isnt as unreasonable as you make it sound.

If you want to advocate for something, dont just look at your perceived advantages of its existence. Also look at the positions that can and will be taken by people who oppose it. For example, I like the idea of HSR, and I generally dont like NIMBYs, but I dont want the thing wooshing by my house. If you are going to build it near my house, I better not hear it (sound barriers or dont!).

Various parties who have vested interests in preventing this stuff (oil companies, air lines, and so on) they have a bunch of verbiage they trot out when this stuff comes out to start a counter movement. Discounting the reasons of these campaigns as stupid and antiquated may be an automatic response, and logical in your mind, but those opposed have equal logical certainty of their perspective.

Pick half a dozen issues you dont give a hoot about and listen to arguments from both sides- it doesnt matter what issue. You will realize that the logic and reasoning of both sides is at least somewhat wrongheaded, and both sides arguments are downright dumb.

These kinds of discussions are almost always counterproductive; we have two sides of this argument here: old fashioned and fiscally conservative Railfan who think this is both too expensive and likely to kill their beloved rail travel experience, and the more progressive, less fiscally conservative transit advocates who want to see more transit options. And each one sits I here, makes arguments the other side will never agree with, and then preaches to the choir of their side.

Enough of that, already.
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#7 Ziv

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 10:49 AM

A large part of the cost of developing passenger HSR in the US is simply buying the land we would need to straighten out the curves (and widen the right of way) in the tracks that are acceptable at 60 mph but not at 150 to 200 mph. China just mandates that the people in the way move, and sometimes they get compensated, sometimes they do not. When I was in Beijing, huge sections of the city (mostly hutongs) were condemned and the residents forced to leave with very little notice or compensation. I would bet that the expansion of the rail network has displaced a large number of Chinese citizens.

Europe has a very nice HSR system but much of it was developed decades ago when the land was more easily obtained. Relatively recent additions to the network are easier to finance and plan due to the fact that they are reinforcing an existing system that is in wide use by the people it services, something we don't have in the US.

Here in the US our passenger rail system has been deteriorating since the 1930's. A smaller percentage of our population use rail than in most developed nations and it has never had the critical mass needed to engender widespread public support for building a real HSR system. We are to some extent a victim of our own economic success. By the mid-50's most families could afford their own car in the US while in Europe the percentage of car owners was lower (though this has changed over more recent decades), thereby making rapid rail transit more attractive in Europe than in the US. The vast majority of Americans simply do not see the utility of HSR. Why pay for something you will never use?

Our politicians see the apathy of the average citizen and expecting politicians to show the vision needed to see the usefulness of a nationwide HSR network is probably not being realistic considering how expensive it would be to even start the process.  Look at the cost increases in the projected cost of the California HSR vs. the relatively smaller increases in the expected cost of the Brightline railway. (Brightline was in the neighbor hood of $1.5Bn to $1.75Bn for 220+ miles vs. $68Bn-$80Bn for about 400 miles of HSR in California, if it works without further increases.)

Maybe the Federal government or state governments aren't the best way to build HSR in America? But Brightline has a relatively rare set of advantages that most prospective HSR developers would only dream of having.

I don't have an answer to "How can we develop an HSR network in the US?"   I just know that the question is a difficult one to answer.

 

 

I see.  The USA, the richest country in the world, can't afford modern trains.  Kind of like the USA can't afford to insure every citizen.  But China can afford to have 2/3 of the world's HSR and the most-used system.  And numerous other countries can insure all their people.  Pathetic!  


Edited by Ziv, 08 November 2017 - 10:52 AM.


#8 snvboy

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 03:06 PM

I think the biggest reason this wouldn't be a viable solution for evacuation in time of emergency is you just can't load enough people fast enough to make it any better than air or road evacuation ahead of a disaster. And after a disaster, it's even worse since you have limited tracks that just take one break to be of no use at all.

 

There are many solid arguments for more, better, and faster rail infrastructure. Evacuation of people on very short notice is not one of them.

 

Also, please cite the article about China. I'm curious how they would actually use their high-speed rail to support large troop movements.



#9 bretton88

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Posted 09 November 2017 - 08:16 AM

China has always been a poor comparison for costs just because they can get away with things we can't here in the USA. Better comparisons are Western Europe, especially Germany/France/UK.

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#10 neroden

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Posted 09 November 2017 - 09:13 AM

I think the biggest reason this wouldn't be a viable solution for evacuation in time of emergency is you just can't load enough people fast enough to make it any better than air or road evacuation ahead of a disaster. And after a disaster, it's even worse since you have limited tracks that just take one break to be of no use at all.

Actually, this isn't true at all. Rail really is much, much more effective at evacuation in an emergency than anything else. You can load people much, much faster. There's a reason trains are used for clearing people away after sporting events.

This is basically due to the fact that rail can carry very high volumes of people very quickly. Set up a two-track line and a series of trains going at subway frequency, and you can move far, far more people than all other modes combined. We actually saw this in New York City after 9/11. I remember the infographics on people-moving capacity; essentially, the ability to get people out of Manhattan is determined by the number of railroad/subway tracks, because the rest of the bridges and tunnels and ferries don't amount to a hill of beans, though if you convert them all to pedestrians only, they make a *small* contribution.

Rail evacuation works even better with hurricanes since you have advance notice of them.
 

There are many solid arguments for more, better, and faster rail infrastructure. Evacuation of people on very short notice is not one of them.

On *very* short notice perhaps not. But I contend that with a few hours' notice, yes, evacuation of people is one of them. Specifically, coastal cities which are at high hurricane risk really should have a good-speed double track line and the ability to run evacuation shuttles before a hurricane.

I believe this is already part of the emergency planning for most of the coastal cities which do have substantial passenger rail (NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, etc.), but not for cities like Houston or Tampa.

Edited by neroden, 09 November 2017 - 09:16 AM.

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#11 me_little_me

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Posted 09 November 2017 - 10:06 PM

I can't see how HSR would be much of an advantage over regular rail. Given that on a line from, say Miami to Atlanta (or other city where it terminated), there wouldn't likely be a lot of HSR trains available. On the other hand, given that the rail lines were shut down for non-emergency freight use and passenger trains in cities not involved being redirected, there would likely be multiple tracks available to multiple locations on multiple railroads with a lot more passenger trains potentially available. Similarly, the one HSR line being built ((or planned) from SFO(where a disaster requiring evacuation happened) to LA (and possibly extended to Seattle) wouldn't compare to the number of slower sped trains using Amtrak long distance including CS and EB trains, Sounder/Cascades and other trains pulled from up north, Caltrans/Caltrains, tourist trains and any other passenger service that can run on Claas 2 or higher freight tracks can have multiple routes away from the disaster area. Then there is the availability of engineers and conductors. Far more of them for regular rail and FRA could waive some restrictions on what engineer could run what train or use freight engines with freight engineers to supplement passenger engineers.



#12 west point

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 04:59 PM

Brightline would probably cost about same as California if each grade crossing was eliminated from MIA to Cocoa ?  Fortunately Cocoa to Orlando is mostly non grade crossings and any future roads will have to build their separated overpass.



#13 jis

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 05:20 PM

Brightline would probably cost about same as California if each grade crossing was eliminated from MIA to Cocoa ?  Fortunately Cocoa to Orlando is mostly non grade crossings and any future roads will have to build their separated overpass.

There are actually already a couple of "future roads" that are under construction with overpasses across the future ROW of Brightline parallel to SR528. I drive by them all the time on the way to orlando and back. Brightline has just started construction of water management structures along portions of its right of way along SR528.

 

There is no chance of eliminating all grade crossings between Miami and Cocoa and there really is no pressing need to either.

 

If someone ever wishes to attempt building a true high speed line between Miami and Orlando, they should do so along the ROW of Florida's Turnpike, and not along an ecologically vulnerable coast line, and they can have all the grade separation they want, and it would not cost all that much once one gets beyond West palm since there really are not that many cross roads to contend with.



#14 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 08:05 PM

The cost of Californias and Floridas systems are somewhat consumate to the difficulty of traversing the terrain they operate through.
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