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  1. I really wish there were an anti-NIMBY equivalent of the anti-SLAPP rules various jurisdictions have (i.e. a vexatious/frivilous case results in either having to pay opposing counsel's costs and/or sanctions against the plaintiff and their counsel).
  2. I'm the national secretary for RPA. Please, call the office and check what happened. It is entirely possible that there was/is an issue on RPA's end, but it is also possible that there's an issue on Amtrak's end (which I am fairly sure we would be happy to investigate). The number is 202-408-8362. One thing I would ask: Did you join as an annual member or with a monthly payment? If the latter, I believe the points get broken up over the year. (And I'm going to ask about the RTJ ad) Edit: I've PMed both of you to try and get to the bottom of this and make sure you get your points.
  3. Well, in a sense Caltrain electrification is part of this project in at least some form, so that's there. On the LA end, there's been some study work on the Burbank-to-Palmdale segment, but that's also cost-heavy and engineering-heavy. Burbank to Union Station could be done, but I think the work there would have relatively little independent utility until you start ramping up frequencies. Edit: And, of course, there's the fact that the federal money landed where it did...
  4. Electrification of the IOS (as things stand) is a pointless and expensive boondoggle. Not that the overall system shouldn't be electrified, but if you intend to use electrification there either you're going to need to do a "toaster pop" at the north end (probably adding 15-20 minutes back in since Amtrak can't figure out how to do locomotive swaps in a reliably timely manner), have a diesel at one end and an electric locomotive at the other (so now you're spending an extra umpteen million dollars on locomotives), or spring for dual-modes (cheaper but still expensive and has its own drawbacks).
  5. Anderson

    Christie withholds Amtrak payments from NJT

    I'd be very curious to see how this and the latest appropriations bill(s) affect Amtrak's cash balance. It would seem that Amtrak has a lot of receivables coming in...
  6. I don't think secession would be the smartest move on their part (and opinion polling shows heavy opposition, to be fair). However, I do think there's a plausible scenario where if California voted to leave (a big, implausible-at-present "if"), the Federal government would say "Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you". NB that if California seceded tomorrow and the seats weren't redistributed until after the 2021 census (I think that would be a practical requirement), the GOP would get back control of the House. I cannot see a Republican President going to war to stop that. In theory, there was nothing stopping Lincoln from deciding to do the same in 1861. Politically it would have been a disaster (if nothing else, keeping the capitol in DC wouldn't have been practical), but he could have thrown up his hands and said that preserving the Union against a group of states that wanted out that badly wasn't worth the price. Obviously, he didn't do that.
  7. I'll just say that the legal problems (especially with intrastate projects, such as...er...the cores of all three of the major projects that have been in the mix in the last decade) are probably the biggest problem here. You can make a case that once federal benefits get entangled (tax free bond status, etc.) there's a "federal interest", but "federal interest(s)" have crept to the point that I cannot help but remember a candidate for Governor in Virginia noting the EPA's tendency to refer to cows as "point sources for water pollution" or somesuch. If you want to see someone twitch, ask AOC if she'd be willing to punch a hole in NEPA and the Clean Water Act (it might be safe from the Clean Air Act) for HSR. Edit: @cirdan I think you can make a case for integrating the East Coast, Midwest, and Chicago areas with one another. The net benefit of plugging the hole between Pittsburgh/Buffalo and Cleveland is probably substantial. The West Coast is probably always going to be isolated, however...you have too many miles with too few people. Even Denver-Omaha is a stretch at HSR speeds.
  8. The main problem is still that it won't "demonstrate HSR in a US context" because unless they're going to do something wacky like grab gas turbine locomotives, you're either going to have a bullet train running in the (relative) middle of nowhere with forced connections to other trains to get out of the valley or you're going to be accomplishing something that's restricted to 125 MPH, which (I hate to break it to folks) is basically on par with Washington-New York operationally. The only "bonus" is arguably more 125 MPH running...but I'm not even sure that gets your average speed up over 90 MPH. What I need to think the project is going to happen is a hard commitment to either Tehachapi, Pacheco, or another link to either metro area. Both are needed in the long run, but either works to get things rolling.
  9. I'm not seeing any clear commitment in there to get even to San Jose. A San Jose-Bakersfield system (with trains almost obviously carrying onwards to either San Francisco or Oakland) would at least be something. Not that knocking 30-45 minutes off of the existing run is nothing, but it seems pretty clear that there isn't even the stomach to sort out funding for one of those chunks of the project.
  10. And there are a few stations (Princeton Junction, Aberdeen, and North Philadelphia) that get some limited additional coverage. Well, if this isn't a red letter day for us...sigh...
  11. I'm worried that AOC is going to "solve" this for us by making it politically radioactive. Right now she's on my list of least favorite people in DC. I'd also note that having this drop a few days before CAHSR got slashed back massively is just bad optics. Swinging around to what HSR can do, let's presume a maximum speed of 220 MPH (yes, I know there's some faster stuff out there, but this feels like a safe place to start) and an average endpoint speed of 150-160 MPH (remember, inevitably there will be portions of the route that you can't keep the needle on 220 because geography is still a thing). That gets NYC-Chicago down to about six hours, maybe a little bit less depending on the routing (via Albany/Buffalo sits at 960 miles; IIRC via Philly/Pittsburgh is a bit less...the Pennsy logged it as 907, but that also skipped Cleveland). You can pick up some traffic at the endpoints (notably, even on a midnight-to-0500/0600 shutdown, you can leave NYC after work and get to Chicago before the line closes), but the real answer is in your major intermediate markets, most of which start falling into that up-to-four-hours range that tends to be viable in many parts of the world. By the way, that doesn't get NYC-Chicago-Los Angeles to 16 hours, it gets it to 17.5-19 hours (maybe as much as 20 if you follow a slightly less direct routing to hit SLC/Las Vegas or Phoenix en route). So the Japanese "no bullet trains at night" model isn't going to get you coast-to-coast without a forced overnight, which is a problem. Arguably if the system was broad enough you could do some things with overnight trains that would allow some routes to be shut down (e.g. alternating which nights an overnight train from Chicago to LA runs via SLC vs Phoenix) or punching in 90-120 minutes of relative "slow orders" for overnight services to allow single-tracking for work (and passing the work zones at safe speeds), but that's going to require building a lot of expensive partial redundancy into the system or other management that isn't generally part of the model.
  12. That sort of line can carry commuter services. Nothing, conceptually, was stopping the service from running a Japanese-style Nozomi/Hikari/Kodama model with perhaps 2-4 Kodamas/hour. That would equal all but the most aggressive commuter schedules in most areas. No, it wouldn't have the stop density (you'd probably need to handle that with some paralell/semi-parallel conventional tracks or quad-tracking in the denser areas), but using the service to establish major new suburban developments in the Central Valley that could vent folks from the (seriously overloaded) Bay Area is hardly an illogical or improbable use of the service, especially given the housing situation in the Bay Area (i.e. forking over $1000/month for a bullet train commuter pass isn't even an illogical decision compared to housing prices (e.g. a house in Sacramento will tend to run about $325,000 where one in San Francisco will tend to run about $1,600,000; the difference in the mortgage on that is about $5000/month, to say nothing of property taxes, which effectively add another $1300/month to the difference). Honestly, with prices like that, I'm surprised that there hasn't been a serious proposal to do something aggressive with the Capitol Corridor route (or the San Jose-Merced bit) and pay for it with major developments along the line. I don't think it is hard to envision getting a serious "refugee" flow there.
  13. I lost a reply on this to a computer restart. Sigh. Basically: (1) The project was a disaster area from start to finish. There were a number of onerous requirements in the initial specification that were non-starters (most notably, the 30-minute San Francisco-San Jose runtime demand, as well as the 2:40 San Francisco to Los Angeles demand). Looking at HSR operations elsewhere, many of these items weren't even necessary (an end-to-end time of three or three and a half hours would likely have been sufficient and would have allowed more engineering flexibility). Being saddled with this nonsense meant that they were stuck with vexatious lawsuits that dragged on for years. It was also mis-sold (in terms of price) from the start, probably to shuffle that initiative through. In a sense, the project was probably in permanent trouble from when that initial cost estimate jump occurred. Clearly some folks thought they could simply channel Robert Moses' ghost and get a lot more money for it that way. (2) Setting aside most of the initial mangling of the project, they picked a dubious first segment. I get it, the valley is the cheapest area to start. Lancaster/Palmdale (where SCRRA ownership ends) to Bakersfield (where existing San Joaquin service starts) is the hole that needed filling. You could spec that section of track to enable higher speeds later and then work on the other "hole" between the Valley and San Jose and go from there (bearing in mind that you'd be supporting 6-7 existing trains plus some additional frequencies that you'd probably want/need to lay on as a result). Instead, the new routing is both mostly redundant with existing tracks (but doesn't totally take the existing trains off of them) and doesn't really add anything new in terms of service. (3) All of the issues with the project don't avoid the fact that California is going to have to spend a LOT of money on transportation infrastructure regardless. New airport runways aren't cheap, most of the highways in the major cities have filled out their physical capacity, etc. Oh, and that's all happening as the Highway Trust Fund is in long-term trouble because of (in particular) mounting vehicle fuel efficiency. (4) I find a deep irony in this coming out about three days after the Green New Deal announcement was dropped. Not that I haven't found that to be an aggravation from my end as well, but this borders on farce.
  14. I cannot speak to the viability, but under the agreement with the Expressway folks in theory both Stuart and Fort Pierce could get stations (the rule in that agreement is, roughly, one station per county north of Palm Beach). I'd note that Fort Pierce, by happy accident, probably limits the need to actually do anything at Vero in the near term due to its catchment area. As to why they didn't move this earlier, I'd note that this has pretty clearly been in the works for a few years. The problem is that once they got to a certain point, adding these stations earlier ran the risk of messing up the various environmental documents...for example, Indian River (or CARE) would probably have sued using this as grounds. The morass of bond documents and the like would also have had to be redone at that point as well, I'm guessing, adding to the complications. Adding them after-the-fact seems to be a safer move even if they're working on it now (since it basically lands as an extra project rather than part of the original project).
  15. They offered some beers, as well as Coke products. Also, in my experience the staff were far nicer than the Met Lounge folks had a reputation for being.