• Mar 11th 2008 at 7:03PM
  • 17
While riding the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Kyoto and back last year, I got a real eye opener. It wasn't just the amazing scenes of sleepy villages and snowy bamboo hillsides that passed by between dark mountain tunnels but rather the vision that had gone into imagining the future. I could picture a group of people excitedly talking about the possibilities of moving people at high speed, smoothly and comfortably, all across the country, freeing up road space and stimulating economic opportunity. I don't know how much resistance their plan met along the way but apparently they were able to convince the right people and made it happen.

This November, the people of California will have the opportunity to vote on a $10 billion bond measure which will show the world they have the vision to put in place the needed infrastructure to meet a crowded future. I know $10 billion is a lot but if you put it into a certain perspective, it's not so bad. Especially if you look at it as an economic investment.

Imagine going from downtown L.A. to San Francisco in under 2 1/2 hours while working on a presentation (or commenting at your favorite blog) or just watching a movie on your laptop. No annoying click clack of rails or encumbering traffic. How about if the train was powered by electricity made with zero greenhouse gas emissions (PDF)? Sounds great to me. Need more information? Check out a video by California High-Speed Rail Authority.

[Source: Carectomy]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      High speed rail has proven very popular in Japan and Europe. There, the network will triple between now and 2020.


      The rolling stock is electric, but California will need to new power plants to support the service. One expensive option would be to cover the entire length of the tracks with solar panels and add buildings chock-full of ultracapacitors to support recuperative braking. Night trains would still need to be powered by fossil fuels or nuclear power, though.

      A second issue is earthquake risk. The proposed route traverses several major faults. High-speed railroad tracks are particularly vulnerable, because a local dislocation of a couple of feet means miles of track on either side must be rebuilt to avoid having to slow down. This would take weeks or months, during which time normal service would be disrupted.

      A third issue is tie-ins with CA airports for long-distance flights. Ontario and Burbank are included and, it looks like SFO, SJC, OAK, SAN would all be very near the proposed route. The important part is to provide passengers with frequent rapid transit between airport and rail station. The critical spur from downtown LA to LAX is missing from the proposed route. Connections to SMF, FAT and BFL should also be part of the plan, though bus service may suffice for them.


      Baggage check-in and pick-up at selected railway stations would be very convenient for air travelers, provided adequate security measures are in place. Even so, platforms and rolling stock should be designed such that entry into the trains is level, if only for the benefit of the disabled.

      Fourth, middle-distance commuters in Orange County and the Bay Area will only switch to rail if there are connecting services to their homes and places of work, respectively. Light rail is one possibility, as are dynamically routed sharecabs. Another option would be folding electric bicycles that can be taken along.

      Finally, all of this needs to be paid for. The most honest approach would be to slap a surtax on gasoline and diesel sold in the state. Combined volume is currently running at 40 billion gallons a year, so an extra $0.10 per gallon for ten years would bring in the required funds. A surcharge on kerosene for intrastate flights would also make sense.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Shinkansen, TGV, and Transrapid trains use specially designed tracks to achieve high speeds. The proposed "California High speed Rail" plans to use existing tracks, shared with freight lines and commuter trains, and those rails just don't support high speeds. There have been several attempts to run "high speed trains" on conventional tracks, none perform as fast as originally proposed. This "high speed" train will never reach 150, let alone 200 mph, nor will it achieve LA to SF in 2.5 hours. They've already admitted that the San Jose to SF portion will be limited to 60 mph. Part of the supposed time saving is avoiding long security check-ins, but with just one Madrid style bombing, security would be just as bad and as slow as any airport.
      It will have little effect on freeway traffic jams as most of that traffic is local, not those taking long inter-city trips.
      It's a big boon to the freight rail companies, as "CalRail" will assume the cost of upgrading and maintaining the rails. The only good thing to come of it will be the elimination of many "at grade" crossings.
      The real sad thing is that for less than half that cost California could build a "Personal Rapid Transit System" that could cover most major cities, would transport more people, be more convenient, cost less to operate, and could even be faster. See:
      • 7 Years Ago
      High Speed train Los Angeles- Las Vegas... and you can start gambling ON the train... this would be a smash hit!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh Heaven yeah! I am so voting for this one here in California. Whats more. I am going to campaign for it.

      How come countries like japan, germany, and many europe countries have this and United state of America does not? That does not make sense

      I am freaking tired of traffic.

      Hey guys, it will be hard. but not impossible!
      • 7 Years Ago
      "A second issue is earthquake risk. The proposed route traverses several major faults."

      Japan (and Italy) are covered in faults. Japan is particularly more seismically active than CA. I expect we have a lot to learn from their experiences.

      I rode the Eurostar from Rome to Florence during my honeymoon. White linen and silver service lunch while ripping through Tuscan farms at 120mph. What a blast. Of course, I kept wondering what would happen if we hit a wayward cow at that speed...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Here we go again...

      People in California love there cars, true enough, but I am sure they would love to miss traffic in the mornincg and evening commute and not always have to drive to work.

      I will back this 100%, it takes 5.5 hours to drive to Sacramento, I know I drive up their to run at Sac Raceway.

      There has been talk of route changes to put it in-line with the Bay Area, big deal that will get worked out.

      I want this, I rode from Frankfurt Germany to Paris France main train station in 4 hours at up to 300km per hour.

      We need this as a state and a country, why do we always have to be so ass-backwards to the rest of the world I'll never understand. The people that don't want to be progressive should find their own rock someplace, your slowlying down progress...
      • 7 Years Ago

      This bond measure won't pass unless California's economy somehow turns around by November.

      Arnold is currently slashing the budget by billions. The mortgage debacle has hit thousands of Californians and there's the recession that's just hit.

      No one will want additional debt or taxes right now.

      Also, does anyone really think this project will cost $10 billion and remain within budget ?

      Highly unlikely.
      • 7 Years Ago
      One of the most problem-plagued and costly public works projects in the history of this country was also a transportation one: Boston's "Big Dig" is expected to have cost over $14B (more than twice the estimated cost when it was first proposed in 1982) when all is said and done. It cost WAY more than was originally projected and took WAY longer. Its safety is also in question.


      Gov't doesn't have a great history in large public works projects for the good of the people. I wouldn't surprise to see that $10B turn into $100B and decades late due to bureaucracy and mismanagement. I know, we're California, so we won't fall into the same pitfalls as Boston...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Murc, do you really think airlines are in charge when it comes to delays? Often times they are stuck in traffic just like we are when we drive. Should every driver be held accountable if I leave for work and am late because of traffic?

      1985 Gripen, wouldn't you expect inflation to make up a large portion of the doubled big dig cost over 16 years? Luckily, modern construction planning and estimating can be extremely accurate and rapid when given the chance. 4D modeling, various modern project delivery methods, newer materials, and excellent safety standards all can contribute to a highly expedited project when properly decided upon.

      As to Curt mentioning a recession... It sometimes stands to reason that executing a large scale public works plan during such a downturn can result in a significant discount in labor, materials, and planning as they are lowering their prices to stay competitive in an increasingly sparse job market.

      I for one would love to take the train from my Oakland area residence to the Los Angeles area in about 2.5 hours without having to fly. Infrastructure such as this will stay relevant for decades.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @why not the LS2/LS7?
      Yeah, I would love it too, but being a Californian, I know there's little chance this will pass. Californians just love their cars too much and most could care less about public transportation.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If I lived in California, I'd vote for this in a heartbeat. I was just in the UK and France, and used the Eurostar to Paris and also Virgin Trains' just-about-high-speed service between London and Manchester, and even Virgin's service beats the airlines stone cold dead, and as for driving, for most of the two hours from London to Paris by train you're alongside either the M20 or the A1 autoroute, more than doubling the speed of the BMW-driving lead-feet in the fast lane.

      It's important that the backers explain to the Sacramento crowd and others who don't think that "they" are "connected" that these trains can run on ordinary tracks as well as high speed. That's the whole basis of how the French system works, actually. You'd run on regular tracks from Sacramento for about 100 miles at 80 to 90 mph, then those tracks join the high speed coming in from the Bay Area, and you go the rest of the way to LA at 200mph. It will still up being faster than flying once you consider the downtown stations and the much more streamlined check-in and security, not to mention the fact that intermediate locations like Fresno will be served as well, thus saving on time-consuming airline transfers for those who aren't necessarily going to LA.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No public works project is ever without it's problems but this would be the best, most beneficial transportation improvement CA could ever do in every way. Yes, we Californians love our cars but we hate traffic even more and let me tell you, ours is BLOODY AWFUL. My long commute from OC to LA is incredibly stressing and puts a ton of miles on my beloved Focus SVT. It takes me an hour an and a half to go 40 miles! That's an average of 25 mph!!!!! It would be my dream to commute on a high speed rail. I've taken the high speed rail between London and Paris and have also flown between the 2. Guess which one was quicker and more enjoyable?
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