• A meandering route through the Central Valley devised to win support at the ballot box, locking planners into a scheme that took the route away from its goal of connecting the state’s biggest cities.
• A mad rush to begin construction without knowing the route, acquiring the right of way, studying the geology, or securing the funding.
• An irresponsible partner in the federal government that rushed California to get going and encouraged the state to proceed with half-baked plans.
• A balkanized planning process teeming with eager private-sector beavers who were afraid to report how flawed the enterprise was, a system that Naik called “no consultant left behind.”
• The determination not to engage French and Chinese engineers who offered to just build the damn thing for us. “The equivalent of Bangladesh saying they’d go to the moon with indigenous technology” is how Perl describes the general attitude. “We excluded all the learning and tech that happened elsewhere.”
But after all that, the thing that wasn't said was "by how this was done, one would deduce that no one really cared whether the project succeeded or not."
Which is to say that if another project of this sort is attempted, creating an institutional imperative to succeed from the start is crucial.
And as far as popular support goes, it seems reasonable to make it clear to the voters that the project didn't die by accident but that it was killed. Of course, with all parties conveniently culpable, it's hard to say what a concerned citizen is to do.
Sadly, corruption tends to be a part of any large scale infrastructure project. The trick is creating a situation where the forces involved have incentive not to eat the golden goose. And this incentive basically has to come from the top. Obviously, it didn't this time.
Part of the reason he interstate got built / was such a success was that there was enough goodwill and cohesion in society to see the whole thing through. JFK served in his unit alongside guys who hadn’t finished the 9th grade. People trusted each other more than they do today.
Even the moon landing and the work of NASA was part of this cohesive society. That being said cohesion requires conformity which has a ton of drawbacks as well, and this eventually fell apart after a Vietnam. Maybe it had to happen but societies move in cycles and some other highly cohesive event will occur, making stuff like this possible again.
The problem with public transit in the US generally is the process of destroying infrastructure and soaking up money has become standard because freeways and automobile were always an adequate alternative when public transit failed (and it's failed and failed).
Now, we have a situation where a lot things dying in the waste of the automobile but the habit of soaking up every bit of transit dollars is very well established. And America's ruling class now resemble a slumlord class - running the entire operation into the ground for maximum profits. Yet confused where to go when things fall to pieces.
I rather think it was still-born. Original ballot was a bunch of lies which could never work without additional huge billions and lack of profits.
The US has many strengths. I’m not sure restraint and political discipline is one of them.
There are only a few corridors where high speed rail makes sense. Northeast US. Texas Central Railway is even trying to build a line between Houston and Dallas.
Building out everywhere though is a surefire way to rack up debt. Look at Japan, which is touted as a high-speed rail success story. Although the Osaka-Tokyo route is profitable (and very beneficial to their economy), the rest of their high-speed rail network essentially bankrupted JR Rail. JR Rail ended up being privatized, with most of the debt being funneled into a holding company owned by the government. JR East/Central are operating off of a high-speed network they essentially got for free.
> In another study conducted about Japan's High-speed rail service, they found a "4-hour wall" in high-speed rail's market share, which if the high speed rail journey time exceeded 4 hours, then people would likely choose planes over high-speed rail. For instance, from Tokyo to Osaka, a 2h22m-journey by Shinkansen, high-speed rail has an 85% market share whereas planes have 15%. From Tokyo to Hiroshima, a 3h44m-journey by Shinkansen, high-speed rail has a 67% market share whereas planes have 33%. The situation is the reverse on the Tokyo to Fukuoka route where high-speed rail takes 4h47m and rail only has 10% market share and planes 90%. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail
The journey is a bit more than 4 hours. The above "4-hour wall" seemed to make a lot of sense. Passenger ridership end-to-end was not very high, but intermediate station pickup and putdown, consisting of quite large cities by European or North American standards, was high. Taking a plane would be slightly faster and sometimes a little cheaper, I prefer the train because of time in laptop/connectivity, good seat size/leg room/decline, ability to have a snooze.
Without the intermediate cities, the train would have be mainly empty. What the train brought/brings was a relief of bus/coach traffic, and a substantial increase in facilitating movement between 'smaller' (though not small) cities that mainly don't have airports.
Does the US have this layout or need?
Hmm, many US airports recommend showing up a minimum of 2 hours early, and it takes me 1 hour to get to the airport...
Narita is right out for time to get there (like your scenario, it will take more than an hour to take a train there and make it to the check in desk). However, Haneda is only 19 minutes from Tokyo station by monorail. If you live in the more populated areas of Tokyo, it's probably not any more or less convenient than taking the Shinkansen.
Coincidentally, Fukuoka airport is only 3 km away from Hakata station (though you have to take a shuttle bus Edit: It's actually 2 stations away on the metro -- I didn't know this!). So in this example, it's really 6 of one half a dozen of the other. You end up in practically the same spot. I think this is one of the reasons why people fly to Fukuoka. In the other direction, I would probably fly to Sapporo if I needed to get there quickly, but would take the train if I was going anywhere in the Tohoku region (NE region of the main island). The main reason is that the Shinkansen stops at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and then you have to take a different train to Sapporo. When they finally have a line going all the way to Sapporo, I think it will be competitive because it takes an hour to get from Chitose airport to Sapporo station.
Remembering that Americans on average drive much larger cars that use more gas than Japanese people, and I’m not sure thst your point holds up.
JNR ("JP Rail") is in debt because underperforming local lines and inability to increase fare. During privatisation, the Shinkansen is only leased to the newly formed companies as it's making money hand over fist. JR East/Central/West have since bought the line, though.
And flying is cheaper precisely because people like Shinkansen more, though it's not always cheaper.
As far as HSR goes, the article is actually unfair when it talks about the Line running through the Central Valley. It's a lot cheaper to run the line there than any straight line between SF and LA. More importantly, tying Bakersfield, Merced and Fresno into the Bay Area and LA regional economies would be great for all three.
But the idea of ‘freight tracks’ vs ‘passenger tracks’ isn’t a thing in most other places.
In most of the world they’re the same thing and they prioritise using a schedule. This is another artificial problem that Americans see as an inherent one.
Actually Shinkansen/TGV/ICE run on special tracks. Passenger-only local service (e.g. BART, nyc subway) has proprietary track systems.
In the US, apart from municipal systems, essentially all the rail roads are owned by private freight companies; passenger rolling stock runs on those roads at second priority. This is true in Australia as well.
In Europe freight on, say, SNCF roads has second priority to passenger service.
When I was a kid we used to take the sleeper trains on that route but these days it's pretty much entirely freight. Most of the country stations have been shut.
Amtrak does actually own its own infrastructure.
From wikipedia: "Amtrak owns approximately 623 miles of this track and operates an additional 132 miles of track."
From the top of my head, this is the NEC (North East Corridor), some track in Michigan, and some track in New Mexico.
Ironically, their used to be a third rail line over the cascades, with was flatter and honestly, better engineered - but it was ripped up in 1978-1982 era - that is the former Milwaukee Road route thru Snoqualamie pass
In popular US corridors where real estate is at a premium, that can be significant.
In our current economy, I simply don’t see how building new trains can be economical or even efficient (frok a traveler usage of real estate perspective).
Also the right of ways are used for all sorts of things e.g. the SPRINT phone company was originally the Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications
One the one hand, that's true. On the other hand, the more stops you add to your high-speed train, the less high-speed it becomes. One of the great things about the Paris-Lyon TGV mentioned in the article is that it was very purposefully built to bypass all other settlements. Slowing down, stopping, letting passengers disembark and board, and starting up again would really eat into the time budget.
I trust that the French made the right decision. Germany has fast trains that stop at more places than the French, and in my experience they don't have the theoretical fast trains that just pass through almost all stations with very few stops. Presumably because it's hard to make it work.
What I find especially amusing is when US size is brought up as a counter-point. It had the same size back in the day when it had the most vibrant railway industry in the world.
I'd like to see high speed trains, but it's never going to happen in the US without massive investments. Too many special interests.
Trains are the slowest option for 99% of routes in America. It’s a diffuse population that built diffuse cities. By the time rail makes sense here, I suspect we’ll have leapfrogged to regional electric air travel.
From station to station, sure. From door to door, it's more complicated.
That's not the reality of train travel. You often wait for pretty long lengths of time for the train to arrive and then have to deal with transit on the other end.
The in-transit time for a train (just like a plane) must be MUCH faster than driving for it to ever really be worth it from an efficiency point of view. That's why we prefer planes to go long distances and trains in cities where driving times are very high (like NYC).
There are a lot of issues with cars (traffic, sprawl, environmental concerns, etc..) but Americans don't prefer cars in general because Americans are stupid, cars solve the last mile in a way that trains/planes just can't.
Trains from Tokyo to Osaka leave about every 10 mins. You can generally find a seat on a train if you just show up to the station 30 mins before the departure. And if that train is full, just wait 10 minutes more. It's just so much better.
You're also not price-gouged by making last minute travel arrangements as happens with airlines.
The US still has one of the most vibrant freight rail networks in the world.
I guess Americans are simply used to the idea of transporting everything over rail?
...and yet somehow none of these people seem to be able to internalize the idea that better mass transit systems (and transit options in general) means less traffic for them to drive in, should they choose for whatever combination of personal or professional reasons to continue driving a personal vehicle on routes served by transit.
One side argues in favor of options to expand access and efficiency for society at large, the other side argues against options because they don't think the new options would benefit them personally. Even when you're talking about trains or bike lanes, classic American political problems are omnipresent.
The whole HSR project from the very beginning was a complete disaster. We should have known better but progressive arrogance got the best of us. At least newsome was smart enough to kill it off before we dug the hole deeper.
This is an interesting take. Are you arguing that we should've known that high speed rail was never going to work? Or that we should've seen the warning signs of a bad plan and not have pushed a bad plan ahead in lieu of a good plan?
You can see this "toxicity" in, for example, the singular influence California (and Texas on the other side) have on K12 textbooks, and the synergistic relationship between huge California ag businesses and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Housing in the valley (and elsewhere in CA) is a problem and it has nothing to do with land shortage and everything to do with local politics preventing the use of that land. Housing prices are insane. This is not helped in any way by property taxes which are also very high. So you have an economy that is basically bottle necked on housing. A lot of venture capital goes straight to paying the rent instead of more innovative uses.
In the same way, it's kind of surprising that e.g. desalination plants are not already fully solving water shortages in LA and elsewhere in the state. Instead they seem to continue to insist on providing water from depleted sources for essentially close to free to their citizens while simultaneously struggling to keep the agriculture sector going. Agriculture is a big economic sector in CA and it's being held back by water availability. Water shortages are a huge problem throughout California and most of its population pretty much lives within miles of the Pacific. Yet, people install toilets in their home that flush gallons of drinking water from depleted sources into the sewer..
Roads are notoriously bad (maintenance issues, decades of neglect). Public transport in the Valley is a joke and subways are only a recent novelty in LA. Both cities are notorious for the level of difficulty of actually getting into them or around them by car.
There's a unifying theme here where a policy actively prevents meaningful progress on what are fundamentally not very challenging technical problems (providing housing, getting from A to B, having enough water, etc.). This is odd because tech is basically a core business of that state.
High speed rail around the valley could cut commute times to reasonable levels, get cars off the congested streets, and would allow people to commute in from way beyond the currently practical range. It solves a lot of real problems. But getting it done requires policy changes that are entirely reasonable but yet seemingly impossible. The total investment needed is substantial but comparatively small compared to the money made by unicorns across the valley. Why would you take a plane to LA when you can get there by rail in the time it takes to get to the airport, through security, etc. There's no good reason for not being able to get from downtown SFO to downtown LA in under 2 hours by rail. A few billion investment doesn't sound like it should be particularly hard in the VC epicenter of this planet. Money is not the issue. Policy is.
Let's invest in self-replicating rail construction!
I don't know if there's something to prepare the foundation, most videos show replacing a line rather than laying a new one.
who’s gonna be the guy who eminent domains all the existing developed property to unkink the existing lines so they can support fast trains?
Bait topic, cant we just talk about new tech and how that makes rail better?
The problem California has is that they're trying to take long from rich people, which means protracted fights. You see Eniment Domain working against the poor all the time, just offer slightly above market and twist a little.