Trains For America

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Texas advocates renew push for high-speed rail

I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about the Texas “T-Bone” HSR plan lately, both in the news outlets and on visits to this blog. Looks like groups such as Texas Rail Advocates and The Texas High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation are making a publicity push in light of what will hopefully be a more friendly federal environment. There’s discussion of both high-speed-lite 110mph trains and “bullet train” HSR. Looks like it’s catching some attention. Gov. Rick Perry seems to be open to the idea, and there’s some tangible legislation that could help get the ball rolling. From the Houston Chronicle:

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee chairman, already has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow high-speed rail facilities to be exempt from property taxes. It would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and voter approval.

Carona said his proposed amendment has a good chance of passing: “I think high speed rail is a near-term reality for this state.”

But why do advocates think that this can succeed now when a similar proposal was squashed by the airlines in the 1990’s? From the Star-Telegram:

But Southwest and Fort Worth-based American Airlines now see the benefit of high-speed rail, Dallas transportation consultant David Dean said.

“The old, post-World War II model of sending planes 250, 300 miles to collect passengers and bring them to central hubs . . . is no longer feasible,” Dean said. “The short-haul flights are dropping like flies in the United States. They’re depending upon passengers to find their own way to the airport. If you have high-speed rail . . . bringing potentially 16 million passengers to your central airports, it becomes a collection system for them. If the rail comes to the airport, they will support it because it becomes a matter of convenience.”

Right now it looks like this is mostly talk, but talk is precisely what we need to get started with. With the airlines declining and a federal administration that is, at least on paper, amenable to infrastructure projects and a greener economy, states need to start developing their proposals right now.


Filed under: United States High Speed Rail, , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Cal says:

    Unless some of these projects put up some of there own money as California has done it might be hard for them to get this 100% private financed thats whats holding all of these plans nationwide back..except California

  2. Rafael says:

    Terminology suggestion:

    LEGACY RAIL = tracks owned by freight operator, trackage rights for passenger rail, grade crossings ok, FRA-compliant rolling stock, max. gradient 2.2%, top speed 79mph

    RAPID RAIL = tracks and ROW owned by public-private partnership with legacy freight operator, single dispatcher for multiple freight and passenger train operators based on a timetable, grade crossings ok iff quiet zone, positive train control, mixed traffic ok (FRA-compliant and non-compliant rolling stock sharing track), max. gradient 2.2%, top speed 110mph (125mph if grade crossings feature imprenetable barrier)

    HIGH-SPEED RAIL = tracks dedicated to passenger rail and high speed cargo, ROW sharing with legacy freight operator ok, single dispatcher for multiple train operators based on a timetable, no grade crossings, positive train control, anti-trespass measures, non-compliant rolling stock (e.g. off-the-shelf bullet trains from Europe or Japan or maglev), max. gradient 3.5% or better, top speed over 125mph (preferably over 200mph where appropriate)

    NOTE: qualifying heavy freight trains may run on rapid rail sections, as may high-speed trains. Freight trains must not run on high-speed tracks.

    NOTE 2: The NEC is currently somewhere in-between legacy and rapid rail. If implementing a brand-new high-speed rail alignment (e.g. in highway medians) is deemed infeasible, gradually upgrading the existing ROW to full rapid rail status would make sense, with a focus on increasing *average* speed using track geometry databases to anticipate curves and lightweight trains with high tilt angle capability (cp. JR 281)

    NOTE 3: The California system will be high-speed rail, with a price tag to match. This is expensive but appropriate because its primary population centers are large, separated by hundreds of miles of sparsely populated farmland ideally suited for a very fast trunk line.

    NOTE 4: In Texas, it might make sense to implement HSR from Dallas to Houston via Forth Worth and Temple, plus rapid rail from Temple to San Antonio. Houston in particular will need a lot of new connecting transit to attract sufficient ridership for HSR.

    NOTE 5: In other parts of the country, notably the Midwest, a web of rapid rail lines might be more appropriate. Ridership growth depends primarily on door-to-door trip times, so transit-oriented development and connecting local transit is often more important than top speed on the rails. Chicago has well-developed transit but some of the smaller cities may not. Note that HSR would not be time-competitive with flying between Chicago and New York, though rapid rail sleeper trains might be quite popular.

  3. NikolasM says:

    The T-Bone really should be redesigned as the Texas Triangle. Waco, Austin (maybe Georgetown), and Bryan-College Station should be the points of the triangle and then continue to the big city endpoints from each tip. That would provide far better runs between Houston and San Antonio (no one would ever use it as it currently is aligned for that run, heading all the way up to Temple first. It would provide better and more direct runs between all three big cities/metro areas and not cost that much more, maybe 90 extra miles of rail needs to be built.

  4. Julie Sommers says:

    This plan shows the triangle and how Texas fits into a larger national system:

  5. david sharman says:

    Unbelievable waste of taxpayer money on a system that never makes back the money spent on it because very few people will ride it. It will survive only because our tax dollars will go to subsidize the few people who will ride it.
    Very, very inefficient use of money, land, time, etc…

  6. John Bredin says:

    An excellent description of rural roads, Mr. Sharman. Actually, leaving out that “few people who will ride it” jazz, it’s an excellent description of the highway system in general.

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February 2009


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