Tuesday, July 16, 2013

High Speed Rail part 2

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The claim was made that High Speed Rail would be cheaper than air fare.  The High Speed Rail was sold as a ballot measure with the assurance that it would cost $50 SF-LA.  This is inconsistent with existing high speed rail costs in the US & other countries.

The air fare for Tokyo to Osaka is about Y13,000 = roughly $130.  The Bullet Train is almost exactly the same.  Various discounts are available for both modes of travel.  Tie.  Bus is about Y5,000 and based on my personal experience is the most popular for business passengers who board at night and sleep on the bus.  (Companies in Japan are notoriously cheap except for higher ranking managers at very big cos.)

Paris - Marseille: The TGV (HSR) costs $130-$214.  Skyscanner gives air fares of $86-$130 and above so air can be cheaper than train.  The TGV is subsidized.

Madrid - Barcelona:  Air = $90-$132 on "Cheap Air".  The HSR is $153-$309.  Air is cheaper than HSR.  HSR is extensively subsidized in Spain or it wouldn't exist.  Given the sad state of the Spanish economy I have seen numerous complaints about this subsidy from Spaniards.

Boston-Washington, DC by air (one day in advance) $153-$222 (Google).  By train - $199-$219.

"The Economist" has a blog post on HSR here:

If you drive SF-LA (300 miles) one way in a standard car averaging 25 mpg it costs 12 gallons X $4.00 = $48.  In a Prius it would cost $24.   Families of 2-4 would average $6/person - $24/person depending on car and how many people.  Families don't count wear and tear or amortize the cost of insurance since they would pay those anyway.  Steady highway cruising is the least stressful on an auto so even if you count wear and tear it would be at a lower rate than typical cos. mileage allowance.  Business people aren't going to drive so any HSR will have to rely solely on business air travelers.

The argument is often made that SFO or LAX will not be able to accommodate the growth in intercity traffic.  Heathrow, UK is one of the 2-3 busiest airports in the world and has 2 (TWO!) runways.  SFO has 4.  LAX has 4 which can be landed on from both directions.  Airport capacity is not an issue.

I consider myself a liberal Democrat but I am at a loss as to why my fellow Democrats are so in love with HSR.  Is it some sort of reverse "cool" thing where anything different is automatically better?  Like hipsters who derive great pleasure in adopting things others consider uninteresting but immediately drop it once it becomes popular?

Everyone has the right to believe in miracles, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and HSR.  What a wonderful country that allows people to create their own realities and get quite energized over them!

The HSR will never get built in CA so I am going to drop it.  There are so many people pointing out the absurdity of the entire thing in every conceivable way that I cannot believe this ongoing drain on the state coffers will last another economic dip, no matter how mild. 
HSR is a matter of belief - like the tooth fairy - the numbers don't add up in any way, shape, or form.

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