A high speed train, hmm ... what could possibly go wrong?
Looking into this a few years ago I ran across details of the trains; they will be Japanese design and likely the components will be built there.
This is a no-brainer, the Japanese have half a century of experience with their high speed trains. No sense trying to reinvent the wheel as the BART system did.
They say 68biliion, so figure 136billion. They say 200mph, so figure an average speed of 100mph after acceleration and deceleration between stops. Then there is the time it takes to load and unload passengers. Average speed by car is well under 47mph in poor traffic. The time savings won't be much, but at least you can sleep on a train.
Not sure how it compares to electric cars or hybrid cars, plus you still need to drive to the train station, find a parking spot, then wait for the train.
The first part of the line to be built will be a 65-mile (105 km) stretch between the Californian cities of Fresno and Merced, with the SF to LA run scheduled for completion in 2029.
There are 558 km/347 miles between LA and SF. It took the Chinese only 4 years (2008-2012) to build the 1400 km/870 mile Beijing–Shanghai high-speed line. Why would the California line take so much more time?
Not much information is available on the train itself, although it will be electric, running entirely on renewable energy – a combination of wind, solar, geothermal and biogas.
Nuclear is also green, and a lot more efficient. Just build new, safer 3G nuclear plants.
2029? I can't believe it will take 16 years to complete the project if and when it ever gets started. I feel like in other nations it would take maybe 5 years max to complete. Also, by the time they are finished with the line it will most likely be completely outdated. I would love a high speed rail line, and I think we need them throughout American, but this sounds like a failure already.
"running entirely on renewable energy.... Construction of the line should also be carbon-neutral..."
That. Right there. Two physically impossible goals for the project, listed one right after the other.
IF this thing gets built, you can tack an extra three zeros onto the price tag.
Right below in "related articles" is this story:
so we are still WAY behind the curve, that was a Jan 2012 article.
And did anybody read the article about a Japanese road rebuilt after the earthquake in only 6 days:
They have been working on the same patch of road in my home town for 8 months!.... and it is only 3 blocks long.
Even the majority of technology articles these days are saying :Zurich discovered this, and Korea invented that, etc. So yes, we are still WAAAAY behind, not because of a lack of Ideas, or creativity..... but because of the bureaucracy, cost, and restrictions about coming up with something new and novel in this country. The cost to build this bullet train in my opinion is a 40M$ project. Maybe less. But zoning restrictions, paperwork, finance, lawyer fees, etc. will balloon that to a MUCH larger number.
Off my soap box now.
I live in SF and, as much as I like the idea of a train to LA, it's just a huge waste of money.
Flying takes around 3 hours if you include the journey to the airport & your final destination. Driving takes 5-6 hours depending on where in LA you are going, traffic & how fast you drive. And you have a car.... If you are going to LA, you NEED a car. There is no way to realistically get around without one.
So the train takes 3 hours, you need 30-45 minutes to get to the station, 30-45 to get from the station after spending 15 minutes picking up your car.... The savings going by train is what - 15 minutes - over using your own car? And easily 2 hours more than flying.
Like I said, the whole thing is a waste of money. Never mind that SF is on a dead-end peninsula on top of it, so no train coming here...
Screw this... Let's build the Hyper-Loop!
What happened to Elon Musk's proposed super fast non rail based new mode of transport... forgotten the name but Gizmag has featured it regularly....
You're thinking of the Hyperloop http://www.gizmag.com/musk-hyperloop-design-reveal-august-12/28334/ - Ed.
The idea that High Speed Rail is some sort of technological triumph is foolish at best. The only advantage that it has over flying that adding an average of a ton to the weight of each passenger does not doom the enterprise so that it would be practical to take the train and take your car with you or even ride in it. (If you happen to be allergic to perfume you will really understand the advantage.)
Importantly in this case is that the California project is not about building a high speed rail route it is about putting tax money into the pockets of the well connected.
I believe that it was typed wrong, no? The reasonable time limit would be 2019, and not 2029.
Herbert da Rocha
This plan is a boondoggle!
Not only does it go where no population centers really exist. For a person to get to the line, requires a 1-2 hour commute or more JUST to get to the station!
Additionally, the total trip takes longer and costs more than driving or flying!!
What a over-rated - moneypit this exercise in futility this project will become!
We here in California we call this the "Train to nowhere." 200mph, yeah right. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. It will take 6 hrs if not more from SF to LA. many stops along the way. Every mayor will want the train to stop in his/her town. Make that 7 to 8 hrs SF to LA. Money for the unions, work for no reason. Big boondoggle if there ever was one.
Waste to time, money and energy...
We, California, are already over $800 Billion dollars in debt! Why did the voters pass this high speed rail initiative?! Can't blame the politicians on that one... lol.
Chris Maresca's and Justme70's comments are pinpoint correct... these ambitions are nothing more than a pipe dream.
Nice summary article though!
Chris Maresca > So the train takes 3 hours, you need 30-45 minutes to get to the station, 30-45 to get from the station after spending 15 minutes picking up your car.... The savings going by train is what - 15 minutes - over using your own car? And easily 2 hours more than flying.
You forgot a few things:
It takes more time to get to the airport, go through security, and wait for the plane to actually take off (delays).
Trains run on electricity, which can be produced by nuclear plants, which don't output CO2, while planes will still fly on kerosene for a long time.
Trains are more convenient for users: No security check, more space to work, easier to get up and walk around or get a drink, and less noisy to neighbors.
The US is blessed (?) with having fossil fuel, while Japan and Europe basically aren't. But global warming means we'll have to divide our emissions by four by 2050. Transportation is a big part of this. Besides, less dependence on fossil fuel also means the US can leave Saudi Arabia, which can only help solving terrorism.
What ever idiots approved this project should be exiled from California, and never allowed to participate in politics again (they can join most of the US congress). This will be both the slowest AND most expensive ($/mile) in the WORLD. This is like buying a 3 year old smart phone and paying $100 more for it than it would cost you to buy the latest and greatest model.
If these so called leaders had any sense what so ever, they'd be looking into something like Elon Musk's hyperloop, or evacuated tube transport (et3.com) that would be greatly superior AND cost less money.
Look at the mind boggling price tag on this one. They ONLY have $10 Billion Dollars (sigh) and need much much more to hit the completion date in the tomorrowland of 2029! For what? Who will ride? How much are THEY willing to pay for this?
With all the cities declaring bankuptcy in California, where are they getting the money for the high speed train?
With all the open space in Texas and long roads that seem to take forever to travel, one might think it would be better off in Texas.
The Calif voters approved this because they are bad at math. Let's be optimistic and assume this thing can be built on time and in budget. I'll be even more optimistic and assume they can find 2000 people to use this thing every day... for 20 years. OK, that's 14.6 million rides --- for $68 Billion (nevermind interest or lost opportunity costs) -- it's only about $4650 per ride.
THAT is why America didn't build one before -- it's stupid.
piperTom - think your numbers are far too pessimistic.
Eurostar takes 750 passengers per train - Im sure the LA/SF train will be similar capacity. I would assume it'll be an hourly or half hourly service, and in both directions.
So a conservative estimate of daily passenger numbers could be 18 daily journeys in each direction, 50% occupancy, would equate to 13,500 passengers per day. Up the occupancy to 75% and make it twice hourly services and the figure jumps to 40,500 per day.
At that level your price per rise falls to $230, and you could start to debate that 20 years is far too short to fully depreciate the asset - more like 50 years as a minimum, which then takes the cost to $92 per journey.
Still not cheap, as you still have operating expenses, but then it saves on fuel costs, its a LOT 'greener' than using planes, and there would be scope to increase the speed as technology advances providing they factor this into the design of the tracks.
p.s. it only takes around 5 years to build these project, but it takes 10 years of legal wrangling. blackmailing and buying up of peoples property. Here in the UK we have our own high speed project which is about the same projected cost and timescale..... but the main defence has to be the overwhelming success of Eurostar in terms of passengers & profit and its many, many times more pleasant than getting a plane to Paris.
You mean "Feinstein Line"? 200 mph is pretty pathetic, considering the operational speed of the Shanghai Maglev (268 mph) or the speeds available with Evacuated Tube Transport (370-4000 mph!), and which could also be built at a fraction of the cost and minimum environmental impact. Of course, Senator Feinstein's husband doesn't own a piece of either the Shanghai Maglev or Evacuated Tube Transport.
$68B is a lie. We all know that government projects run more expensive than advertised.
For the cost of the this project, the Cali government could buy 1.7M Toyota Prius cars and hand them out to the middle class and poor that have long commutes.
America is a car nation. Trains simply don't work here as well as they do in other nations. We have a wide-spread road infrastructure that can efficiently take a car from any point to any point.
Bullet trains are neat things, yes, but for this particular plan, it is a waste of tax payer funds.
PiperTom where were you when the Loonies were planning this boondoggle. (forgot to add in the cost of the ridiculous green energy mandate) :)
"with the SF to LA run scheduled for completion in 2029"
Meanwhile just be happy for the commuters going from Fresno to Merced, I guess.
We could do a LOT better than that, couldn't we?
This is the train to nowhere. It is a total waste of money. Government projects like this always take longer and cost more than promised but even if it all works out as planned in terms of cost and time to build it would be ridiculously expensive and will take an insane amount of time to build. The project is a symptom of out of control government both at a state and federal level.
This should never be built.
Why did voters approve the bond issue? because they are Democrats, led by Democrat politicians. Perhaps they think it will provide sorely needed jobs, but the money spent will be wasted, largely on planning.
There is no land in urban areas available for this so it will use existing lines and easements, competing with slower rail.
It won't be non-stop (as airline travel is) but will have several stops along the way.
It makes no sense, yet the politicians were thrilled to sell the bonds, take the money, and spend it. Yay! Money to spend. Yay!
It's a romantic concept that will not happen in my lifetime, paid for by taxpayers and subsidized forever.
There is a good article on Wikipedia. I believe the TSA will show up at the train stations, just like at the airports.
Bruce H. Anderson
Why do high speed rail lines always have stops along the way? It seems to defeat the purpose of the high speed. Couldn't there just be various non-stop trips from various starting points and ending points. A computer could easily handle the scheduling so the trains wouldn't run into each other.
@JPAR - if there was any way to get those numbers, it might actually be a decent idea. We don't have congestion between LA and SF - that's not where our problems are. We also don't have enough traffic that goes between LA and SF - and what we do have can make the trip in a short time for FAR less money.
Someone said it's a 3-4 hour flight - it's not. A non-stop flight from Ontario Airport or Los Angeles Int is about 1:30. Flights run every hour or so. A 3-4 hour train ride cannot compete with that.
But, what about the security you have to go through at the airport? You think there won't be security at a high-speed train? That goes through metropolitan areas? The TSA will have the same stuff at the train. Same thing with travel to and from the train station. So the total time for the train is going to be 4-5 hours compared with the 2-3 hours for the plane.
In any case, it's still going to be a LOT longer of a train ride - the train has to go over the Grapevine, a fairly steep and tall pass that is just north of Los Angeles. That's going to limit its speed just by logistics - you can't get a train up to any speed going over mountains, and we're not going to build a tunnel here in earthquake prone California.
In addition, the High Speed Train Authority has already admitted that much of it is going to be "mixed mode" meaning 55mph - so there is ABSOLUTELY no way it's going to get down to the 3-4 hour target we were guaranteed.
There are already multiple lawsuits trying to stop this thing - the law that we voters passed, blindly, has several set-in-stone requirements that cannot be met. Funding is not going to be met, speed is not going to be met. . . While I love trains and train travel, this thing is not a wise use.
As a native Californian, and political conservative, I am a strong supporter of building a high-speed rail system. Once completed, it could allow a person to conceivably live in Sacramento or San Francisco and work in LA or San Diego-- and there is talk of expanding it to Las Vegas and Reno, up to Oregon, etc. This could reduce urban sprawl, reduce freeway congestion, and more. If properly integrated into public transport systems such as light-rail, regional transit bus, or convenient car rentals, it could work. People talk of long commutes to the train station, but in reality, if properly planned, those commutes would typically be less than 15 minutes on either end.
As for financing, I propose other forms of transportation invest in this as well. Airlines could invest and share in the profit while reducing their costs for expensive short-haul flights and air traffic congestion into some of the busiest airports. I would venture to guess that Elon Musk would invest even if it isn't his hyperloop program, simply due to his interest in modernizing transportation and an opportunity for return on investment.
One of the major sticking points in this project is unfortunately the Republican Party. They try to block every step of the way. They see it as a useless spending project. What they don't see is the possibility of future profit. First, the job creation in this tough job market is valuable, creating tax revenue and disposable income that those workers could spend on other goods and services. Maybe they are complaining about the loss of fuel tax revenue that would occur with fewer people using the roadways and airlines (oil companies have a huge influence with the Republicans).
Another common talking point is the location of the first line, going between Fresno and Merced. They call this the "train to nowhere". Well, it has to start somewhere. The politicians from those districts just happened to outsmart other districts. Just because it isn't starting in one of the main anchor cities doesn't mean it is useless. Starting near the middle means that it can expand in either direction and eventually reach both anchor cities, rather than starting at one anchor, then at the very end of construction finally reaching the other anchor. It really makes no difference.
The main reason it is getting so expensive and expected to take so long is the politicians' attempt to block it at nearly every step of the way. They keep adding more feasibility studies, environmental impact studies, and any other study they can throw at it. Each study costs taxpayers millions. Then they try to fight it in court, which costs tens of millions.
They say that the state cannot afford to build it now in a time of recession. I say, when can we afford it? Land is cheapest NOW, not later. Labor is ready NOW, not later. Why wait until the gas runs out?
Like most conservatives, I hate Dianne Feinstein and think she is one of the biggest pieces of crap ever to enter politics, but we shouldn't let that influence our critical thinking. We in California can catch up to the rest of the world technologically, having once led the world from Silicon Valley. Let's do it. If they want the project privatized, fine. If they want it to be a public works project, fine. If they want every citizen of the state to be part owner and get some dividend, fine. Just stop getting in the way and let it proceed!
Why not an article on the hyperloop? Quicker cheaper and private investments can do the job? If California will give the right away and stop all enviromental or othe lawsuits this coulsd be a ery nvironmentally friendly and economic powerhouse! Eric
PS save California 68 Billion dollars it does not haveto spare!
Next stop LA to NY in 45 minutes
NY to Beijing in 2 hours!
[See our article on the Hyperloop at http://www.gizmag.com/how-does-elon-musk-hyperloop-work/27757/ - Ed.]
If they say it'll cost $68 billion that means it would cost about $500 billion if they say 2029 that means it won't be done by 2060.It's a scheme for taking people's money. Advanced nuclear plants can make zero carbon fuels for aircraft much greener and less expensive.What is needed is the AirTrans system a little like a ski gondola very inexpensive very low carbon.The company is in California,you should give them a try.
The problem with making projects like this in CA are the pre-planning, multiple environmental impact reports, hearings, more hearings and more EIRs before a spike can be hammered. My issue with the whole process is that nobody will take the trains when it's faster to take a one hour flight from LA to SF. Hardly anyone will be commuting from LA to Sacramento, save for members of the CA legislature. Sacramento isn't a greatly visited tourist city. Frankly, the money should be used for upgrading and building of new urban transit which will be used b millions of people. The only way the high speed trains would make any money is if they carry freight, which doesn't seem to be a part of the plan. A stupid idea (but I'd ride it for the experience.
This boondoggle-in-the-making is the purest version of the idiots in state government pandering to the unions - who are the only constituents who (claim to) think this is a good idea (naturally, since it provides jobs to the union members).
I firmly believe this is nothing more than another "make work" program sponsored by "da gub'ment" in an attempt to reduce unemployment - never mind that the state is $20+B in debt and we already have some of the highest taxes around. But, as is its wont, government, which is terrific at spending other peoples' money, is pushing beyond the objections of myriads of thinking people in the state to dig us a deeper financial hole for zero value in return.
And, @chopperDanny, I too am a conservative, but see this as the pathetically ridiculous project that it is.
Allowing the possibility of someone living in SF to work in LA by building a very expensive train seems a bit indulgent. This especially considering that once in LA, one would need secondary transportation anyway. Also, just because construction is relatively cheap right now doesn't support the need of a completely impractical and unaffordable project. That's like saying that a family having a hard time making ends meet should go buy a Mercedes with a credit card just because the dealer is having a huge promotion. Otherwise when would that family ever buy a Merc?
Almost all comments, apart from chopperdanny13, are right on the mark. Why haul around a ton of train per passenger? This HSR idea has been done, now on the next level. One line between LA and San Francisco will solve nothing for congestion and local travel.
Too costly in so many ways, and the noise is something none of the cities between San Jose and San Francisco want in any form: construction, or operating the train. They have CalTrain, and it is absurdly noisy.
Scott in California
re; Robert Fallin
You loose all credibility when you say that a Maglev or Evacuated Tube Transport could be built for less money than High Speed Rail. The track costs a lot more and the politics and graft will take the same percentages.
I am amazed at the vitriolic comments about this article. Sounds like trolls - no statements of substance, just knee jerk reactions to public spending for community projects.
What is with these curmudgeons-do they not see that carbon based energy forms are peaked, and its finite, and will be much more costly in the future? Nor recognize that at a CO2 of 400 ppm prevents more heat from radiating back into space, warming the earth and melting the ice caps which currently keep us cool, spelling a much more costly outcome in raised sea levels and displaced billions of people or billions into seawalls for cities under sea level?
Perhaps its because they lack a trust of community funded projects, preferring private industry to meet our needs such as transportation, health care, etc. at prices 2 to 3 times what could be accomplished with pooled resources of a common fund?
This article would do well to include a section into some of the systemic reasons why this nation, originally built on communal transportation (ships, trains, buses), lost its edge in advanced high speed ground, low impact communal transportation to privately funded automobile and air transport. How private industry and its competitive nature has bought previously community funded project and trashed them (such as the trolley and bus system in LA), and how people can easily fall victim to their rhetoric.
I know, I once did too.
I have always thought the idea of a high speed train was likely impossible to build, considering terrain (mountain ranges), earthquake faults (numerous), multiple stops, politics, land ownership, money, etc.
After seeing the reports on several major train wrecks in Europe and Asia, I wonder what would happen when a train leaves the track at 200 mph. The Spanish train was going over 90 mph. Most of these wrecks are human error, but mechanical problems do happen. I won't want to be on a sub-sonic bullet when it hits a concrete wall.
Also regarding TSA included in the boarding system is scary.
There are a lot of negative things to say about this and I believe almost all of them have been well-captured in the comments above.
Scott in California raises a good point that nobody else seems to have touched on - noise. Noise is one of the two reasons the Acela's maximum speed is 150 but real speeds are between 60 and 90 for most stretches (the other reason being tight turns in some spots). Cities want to have stops for the train, so they let it in, but then pass noise ordinances that act as back-door speed restrictions. Because, let's face it, anything going 150-200 miles per hour in air is going to be pretty loud.
And ultimately, the only place in the whole country that long-distance passenger rail makes sense is the Northeast Corridor. The rest of the country is too spread out; rail systems work in Europe and Japan because population centers are more closely packed than they are over here. This project is just a money bazooka aimed at friends of connected politicians, funded at the expense of taxpayers that are already billions and billions of dollars in the hole.
I read that article too. But it seems your assuming that Elon Musk's Hyperloop is the same thing as ET3's ETT (evacuated tube transport) which is NOT correct. Although Musk has not yet released many specific details of Hyperloop, he has SPECIFICALLY said it does NOT use evacuated tubes. Therefore, ETT, would most likely be capable of faster top speeds, because it will have almost no air resistance. The ET3 website listed, a top speed of 4000mph. I don't think the Hyperloop will be able to reach that high of a speed. But for SF to LA its irrelevant, because it wouldn't be going that fast for shorter regional jaunts, but for cross country or cross continental travel. Either way, Hyperloop would be FAR better than the stupid, slow, waste of money fullet train (faux bullet train)
This is not a comment on the (lack of) wisdom of HSR.
If you have a high speed train running a long nonstop trip it does not mean that you can not pickup or drop off passengers along the way. Accelerating a single car would use a lot less energy than the accelerating the whole train. The Galloping Goose connecting service.
How about this idea ? A giant Circus Cannon in SF, loads a capsule full of passengers. Shoots towards LA, where a giant net over Griffith Park catches the capsule. Survivors will get a free ticket to a Dodger's game, or Disney Land. Going the other way from LA to SF, you get a free seafood dinner at Fisherman's wharf. Hey ! It could work !
In the real world, Portland, OR, has completed several electric rail transit projects on time and under budget - but then ended up scrapping a much needed and reasonably straight forward bridge project because they couldn't get cross-state cooperation. So, 1) I think that California is the perfect place for this. If it works out, it will be a major cost and time savings (will I take the train for $50-$100, twice the leg room and twice the carry on space, over $150 for a puddle jump that runs a few times a day and forces me to deal with SFO? YEAH I will! Oh, and it will be so nice to not get scrod by "wind conditions" and airline incompetence.) 2) There's no way a project like this could start in the NE (at least not with the current collection of petty school yard scrappers in office across states) and 3) This train has fixed costs, where in 10 years a puddle jump flight will likely have doubled in cost. Sure, it would be great if 200 mph was the average speed, and not the max, or if the full investment (we did read that they are looking for investors and not state funding, right?) was already fulfilled, or if this budget was not obviously accounting for a lot of grease money, easements, and legal fees - but if it works, then it will be something to truly be proud of, and if it doesn't - then at least we have a train that doesn't spend half it's time sitting on the rails waiting for freight. (Also bullox to the person who thinks freight could make this viable - have you ever BEEN stuck behind a freight train?). I'm excited to see this happen, and only wish the time table were a little shorter (but grant that it's probably going to take that long to get through what's coming).
By contrast, the "Hyper Loop" looks like pie in the sky. Good for Musk if he can make money off it, but let's start with something real.
I live in Calif. and have been following this issue. This is a huge union backed boondoggle! It has been shown that the ridership levels, the cost, the time to build the project and the alleged speed of the train are all greatly exaggerated. In since the speed of the train is actually in the law the Californians were tricked into passing, and the train can not possibly make the speeds that were projected. There is a movement to sue the state and stop funding the project. If taxpayers can't stop it, the thing will have very low use and very high and tax payer subsidized operations cost.
Funny you used the term schoolyard scrappers. I've often compared members of US congress as children at the playground who can't get along. Also, don't be so quick to discount the Hyper Loop as "pie in the sky" Elon Musk is a smart man. Many people thought Tesla and certainly SpaceX were "pie in the sky" and look at them now.
I also live in California. Lets hope that movement to sue the state and stop funding the project succeeds. Then, they hire Mr. Musk or ET3 or a similar company to build a true 21st century mass public transit system.
Wait long enough and L A and the S F Bay Area will have grown together anyway. Then it just becomes a 'local' whistle stop train. Who wants to go to L A on purpose anyway?
C'mon guys! Did you ever heard about TGV's french high speed trains?
You probably should take a look & buy a licence!
wow this is cool the fastest way to travel
Christopher Sims Cec
America needs to stop throwing away money. This is a grand WASTE of Money. Build Elon Musks Hyper Loop and have it span both East and West Coast. It will give the air travel industry competition which should make all travel affordable for everyone.