Monday, May 16, 2016

High Speed Rail - Expert Testimony

Former head of the High Speed Rail Association Joe Vrainich for the first time ever in his advocacy of HSR plans testifies against the CA HSR:

At a CA Senate hearing on High Speed Rail former World Bank analyst William Grindley provided a report showing the impossibility of HSR providing a viable alternative to air travel in terms of destination to destination time - video here:

A report by Grindley and others showed the costs were escalating far beyond the original estimates as a result of which the Palo Alto City Council was unanimously opposed to the HSR.  Report here:

The one-time subsidies for HSR construction will be dwarfed by the Operations and Maintenance costs.  It will be too costly to maintain to compete with air without ongoing subsidies.  Here is UC-Berkeley Civic Engineering professor William Ibbs testifying to that and the 450% average cost over-runs on rail projects around the world to the CA State Transportation and Housing Committee hearing. Video of testimony here:

The traffic congestion (and auto pollution) is in the SF-SJ and LA *METRO* areas which would require massive extensions of heavy urban rail (like BART) to relieve.  That would be wonderful and would benefit far more people and save a lot more gas and eliminate a lot more pollution.  >That< is where the $150B should go - not HSR.

Existing HSR in Europe costs exactly as much as air travel despite being typically subsidized for 33% of the costs.  That is mostly business travelers and Eurail Pass foreigners.  A family of 2 adults and 2 children going on vacation for SF to LA, faced with a choice between $200-$640 for 4 rd-trip air or rail tickets ( ) or $100 in gas (762 miles rd-trip, 30 MPG, $4/gal) will almost always take the car.  (Air or HSR travelers to LA have to rent a car when they get there, anyway).

A recent NY Times article on High Speed Rail in the US left me feeling that a lot of people who support HSR don't understand what it is.  The hundreds of reader comments talked of eliminating congestion, replacing the automobile, and gems like 'I live in a small town in the South and I would love HSR to enable me to visit my relatives 80 miles away.'

High Speed Rail is conceived as an alternative to air travel between major population centers.  If HSR made more stops to relieve congestion it wouldn't be High Speed Rail, it would be "Plain Old Rail" (POR) which we already have.  It will NOT serve small towns anywhere.  In the SF-LA route HSR would make very few stops (maybe 2-3) and will only relieve congestion on I-5 in the Central Valley.  Except there isn't any congestion on I-5 in the Central Valley.  If you aren't doing 80 on I-5 you aren't keeping up with traffic.