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Elon Musk / Hyperloop


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#41 BSLMikeLowe

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 06:52 PM

The difference is that passenger rail isn't an essential economic or military system like we view the highways and freight rail systems. It has always been the secondary purpose within the rail system itself, and currently only is cost-effective over relatively short distances.

 

Now that doesn't mean there shouldn't be investment in it, in regions that could benefit from passenger service. However, subsidizing it at a national level has always been something like the government taking over telegraph/gram service from Western Union. There are valuable services that the company provides (mostly wiring money) but overall it's a dying system that doesn't need to be supported in full.

 

As your first sentence intimates, we essentially chose to value cars and planes as the means for people to travel great distances around the country. But does that automatically mean that those are the most efficient ways to achieve that? Likewise, are there not sufficient ancillary benefits to building a national high-speed passenger rail system, like economic development in some of the more remote towns across the country?



#42 NewMarketSean

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 08:45 PM

I think Amtrak costs too much actually. The benefits of Amtrak don't outweigh the cost. I've never ridden it, actually. Been on trains all over Europe...love it, wish I could do it here but when going to Philly or NYC it's easier to drive and cheaper to take Megabus. Perhaps if they cut service on long distance runs that no one uses and focused on high density routes like the NE corridor, California and Pacific NW, they'd see more of a return on investment and prices could be lowered to attract more riders.
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#43 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 08:48 PM

I think Amtrak costs too much actually. The benefits of Amtrak don't outweigh the cost. I've never ridden it, actually. Been on trains all over Europe...love it, wish I could do it here but when going to Philly or NYC it's easier to drive and cheaper to take Megabus. Perhaps if they cut service on long distance runs that no one uses and focused on high density routes like the NE corridor, California and Pacific NW, they'd see more of a return on investment and prices could be lowered to attract more riders.

 

Prices are fine where the service is decent... 750,000 people use it PER DAY between DC and NYC... 3 times the number who fly... (I only know that because all-the-sudden it's 24/7 news coverage about the crash... because of where it was...)

 

FL had free money to build a fast one between Orlando and Tampa... their Governor turned it down because of "basic principles"...


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#44 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:11 PM

As your first sentence intimates, we essentially chose to value cars and planes as the means for people to travel great distances around the country. But does that automatically mean that those are the most efficient ways to achieve that? Likewise, are there not sufficient ancillary benefits to building a national high-speed passenger rail system, like economic development in some of the more remote towns across the country?

 

Unless the government treats that kind of system like the highway system, it really can't work. The reason the highways work is because the government only has to build and maintain the actual infrastructure; essentially everything that then uses the system is private--cars, trucks, many buses, etc. The energy required for propulsion is also acquired privately.

 

When it comes to Amtrak, the government must provide all of the rolling stock, and all of the energy necessary to move it. So unless they offer to build and maintain the system then allow private companies to run and compete on top of it there really isn't a reason for the government to get into that further expense.


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#45 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:18 PM

You are mirroring our history of vastly underestimating the numerous costs (hidden and otherwise) of favoring "more highways" over train travel...

 

There are good reasons why Europe does trains, and it's not all about population density...

 

In our case, it's not about primary vs secondary... it's about political decisions made in the 50's to *heavily* subsidize infrastructure for both cars and planes while not subsidizing infrastructure for trains... it really does boil down to that...

car companies don't pay for highways, and airlines don't pay for airports... but railroads do pay for train tracks *and* are taxed for every square foot of right-away that tracks are on..

 

Europe is far, far denser in population than the US. The US population density is about 33 per square km. The UK is almost eight times denser, at 256. The only sizable nations less dense than the US are the Scandinavian countries and Russia.

 

You're right in the decisions that were made, and there were definitely ulterior motives behind them (here's a great documentary on the subject). But there were also legitimate reasons, too. With the size and population density of the United States, it makes far more sense to provide for air travel between distant population centers and provide for private options locally and as alternatives.

 

I have no problem with subsidizing the building of rail systems, like I suggested in a post above. But they simply don't make sense when organized like the current system.


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#46 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:31 PM

Unless the government treats that kind of system like the highway system, it really can't work. The reason the highways work is because the government only has to build and maintain the actual infrastructure; essentially everything that then uses the system is private--cars, trucks, many buses, etc. The energy required for propulsion is also acquired privately.

 

When it comes to Amtrak, the government must provide all of the rolling stock, and all of the energy necessary to move it. So unless they offer to build and maintain the system then allow private companies to run and compete on top of it there really isn't a reason for the government to get into that further expense.

 

This just isn't right...

 

The gov't not only subsidizes but completely pays for *all* non-toll road construction *and* maintenance (which is a huge cost at every level)... but it *taxes* rail tracks by the dang foot, which is an anti-subsidy...

 

Increased rail use lessens demand for huge highway construction and maintenance costs...

 

It's not correct to say that car fuel cost are just privately paid... policy that's not arbitrarily skewed to support auto traffic would result in much higher fuel costs....the gov't seriously subsidizes fuel costs for cars, it's just hidden from consumers... no reason they can't subsidize passenger service...

 

This is like healtcare:  *all* other industrial nations subsidize passenger rail, and not because they're all stupid...  just because we don't need high-speed rail in the middle of nowhere doesn't change that...


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#47 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:38 PM

Europe is far, far denser in population than the US. The US population density is about 33 per square km. The UK is almost eight times denser, at 256. The only sizable nations less dense than the US are the Scandinavian countries and Russia.

 

But that's seriously misleading because our population is dramatically *not* evenly distributed around the country... we don't need lots of passenger service in the middle of nowhere where nobody lives...

 

If you look at the country based on where people actually live, we've got plenty of population density... and those are the places where the topic comes up... nobody's pushing for high-speed rail to serve little towns in Montana or Alaska... people want modern passenger rail precisely in those places and along those routes where too much traffic already is... and if you look at places where there *is* decent rail service schedule-wise (like DC-BOS), it's a roaring success re: the demand for it... and that's with crappy slow trains...


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#48 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:43 PM

This just isn't right...

 

The gov't not only subsidizes but completely pays for *all* non-toll road construction *and* maintenance (which is a huge cost at every level)... but it *taxes* rail tracks by the dang foot...

 

Increased rail use lessens demand for huge highway construction and maintenance costs...

 

It's not correct to say that car fuel cost are just privately paid... policy that's not arbitrarily skewed to support auto traffic would result in much higher fuel costs....the gov't seriously subsidizes fuel costs for cars, it's just hidden from consumers... no reason they can't subsidize passenger service...

 

This is like healtcare:  *all* other industrial nations subsidize passenger rail, and not because they're all stupid...  just because we don't need high-speed rail in the middle of nowhere doesn't change that...

 

1) Your first paragraph is almost exactly what I said.

 

2) You don't get increased rail use unless people want to use the rails.

 

3) You really need to stop trying to make direct comparisons between the US and Europe. It's like making comparisons between baseball and football: it's possible when done correctly, but in most important ways the sports a different to the point of being incomparable.


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#49 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:46 PM

2) You don't get increased rail use unless people want to use the rails.

 

In the very few places we have decent rail service in terms of scheduling, people have demonstrated that they *do* want to use rail... the idea that people don't want to use rail makes no sense... 

 

Where people don't want to use it is where the scheduling sucks...


 "You say you've lost your faith, but that's not where its at.

  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#50 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:47 PM

But that's seriously misleading because our population is dramatically *not* evenly distributed around the country... we don't need lots of passenger service in the middle of nowhere where nobody lives...

 

Right. We need it in areas like the East and West Coasts, both of which have significant rail service already. Probably a few other places as well. But you keep making comparisons with Europe, which have transnational rail systems and can do that because they are relatively small and very dense in population.


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#51 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:48 PM

In the very few places we have decent rail service in terms of scheduling, people have demonstrated that they *do* want to use rail... the idea that people don't want to use rail makes no sense... 

 

Where people don't want to use it is where the scheduling sucks...

 

In some places, maybe. In others, it's because it doesn't make sense.


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#52 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:51 PM

3) You really need to stop trying to make direct comparisons between the US and Europe. It's like making comparisons between baseball and football: it's possible when done correctly, but in most important ways the sports a different to the point of being incomparable.

 

This is not about sports preferences... it's about having transportation systems that don't make people suffer to use them...

 

Most places where passenger rail service exists, it imposes serious constraints and inconveniences on people who might otherwise want to use it... just look at BAL-DC.. or ATL-NOLA... or ATL-DC... you can only use it if you have an arbitrary schedule for your travel... it's not that the rail service serves you... instead, you have to arrange things to accommodate insufficient rail scheduling that doesn't suit you... 


 "You say you've lost your faith, but that's not where its at.

  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#53 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:52 PM

Right. We need it in areas like the East and West Coasts, both of which have significant rail service already. 

 

The East Coast does not... DC-BOS does, but nowhere else does...

 

I'm not sure about the West Coast, but I bet it's somewhat the same...


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#54 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:54 PM

In some places, maybe. In others, it's because it doesn't make sense.

 

I have no idea why you would say that.  The US has *lots* of busy highway corridors, most of which have zero rail service.

 

Even in the DC-BOS route, which is our exemplar, the average speed is a measly 60-something mph...


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#55 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:57 PM

This is not about sports preferences... 

 

Right. It's about bad comparisons :P

 

Most places where passenger rail service exists, it imposes serious constraints and inconveniences on people who might otherwise want to use it... just look at BAL-DC.. or ATL-NOLA... or ATL-DC... you can only use it if you have an arbitrary schedule for your travel... it's not that the rail service serves you... instead, you have to arrange things to accommodate insufficient rail scheduling that doesn't suit you... 

 

This sounds like all scheduled travel. Especially when there isn't competition to encourage better service.


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#56 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:59 PM

I have no idea why you would say that.  The US has *lots* of busy highway corridors, most of which have zero rail service.

 

Which ones? And which ones are conducive to rail as a reasonable and eventually successful option?


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#57 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 10:01 PM

This sounds like all scheduled travel. Especially when there isn't competition to encourage better service.

 

It has nothing to do with rail competition... almost no place has competition among passenger rail services...

 

One way to judge where the demand would be is to examine flight schedules... that;s the only possible basis for considering service competition... and where rail service is available to compete with flying, rail wins... in America... right now... even with crappy slow trains...


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#58 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 10:04 PM

Which ones? And which ones are conducive to rail as a reasonable and eventually successful option?

 

There's some place where you can look-up highway traffic density but I forget where it is... but if you look at where there's lots of highway traffic density and at places where there's lots of short- and mid-range air traffic, that's where rail would succeed if decent passenger rail was available... which it's almost always not...

 

This is kinda like an analog to "Where should you put the sidewalks on a college campus?"

Answer: wait and see where the kids wear out the grass and create dirt footpaths... that's where you need sidewalks.

Same basic thing here about existing traffic patterns for short- and mid-range (~1000 miles) travel.


 "You say you've lost your faith, but that's not where its at.

  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#59 DJ MC

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 10:07 PM

 and where rail service is available to compete with flying, rail wins... in America... right now... even with crappy slow trains...

 

Over relatively short distances, like the NEC. Because of the hassle of air travel versus the comparative lack of hassle in rail travel. But I'd much rather fly to Atlanta than take a train, because even accounting for hassle at each end it's much less time. New York, I'll definitely take the train.

 

The NEC is quite unique, anyway. The two most important cities in the country (and arguably the world) sit at each end, with large numbers of people looking to move quickly between the two, and several major cities in between with people looking to travel to each of the two. That's a lot of demand that simply isn't going to exist in most other areas. How many people really are looking to travel between LA and San Francisco? or St. Louis and Kansas City? Or New Orleans and Houston and Dallas?


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#60 RShack

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 10:25 PM

Over relatively short distances, like the NEC. Because of the hassle of air travel versus the comparative lack of hassle in rail travel. But I'd much rather fly to Atlanta than take a train, because even accounting for hassle at each end it's much less time. New York, I'll definitely take the train.

 

The NEC is quite unique, anyway. The two most important cities in the country (and arguably the world) sit at each end, with large numbers of people looking to move quickly between the two, and several major cities in between with people looking to travel to each of the two. That's a lot of demand that simply isn't going to exist in most other areas. How many people really are looking to travel between LA and San Francisco? or St. Louis and Kansas City? Or New Orleans and Houston and Dallas?

 

The problem is you're judging desirability of rail based on our current crappy slow speed trains... ATL-DC is viable once you stop pulling the trains with horses and mules... LA-SF would have huge demand if the trains were fast... doesn't have to be world-beating fast, just not embarrassingly slow... of course, world-class fast would be better... and world-class is exactly what the US used to define all the time until we stopped trying to do anything at all as a country except tax breaks...

 

Of the specific other routes you mention, the only one I know off the top of my head is NOLA-HOU... there's a lot of travel between them... more than you think... (I only know that because of friends in NOLA...)


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  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan





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