Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

High speed rail fever strikes in Oklahoma

The State Transportation Director, Gary Ridley, says Oklahoma officials are reviewing the latest FRA documents in consideration of making an application for high speed rail funding. The Daily Oklahoman story indicates that the Sooner State may be part of the South Central HSR corridor. TFA thinks they are mistaken, but that should not hold back a qualified application.

“We need to look at the guidance and understand it fully before putting together our response,” Ridley said after the state Transportation Commission met Monday.

The Transportation Department already owns a portion of the railway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but updates would be needed to make the track conducive to high-speed travel, Ridley said.

“It’s rough country up there,” he said.

A study conducted nine years ago estimated it would cost at least $950 million to run passenger rail between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Today, that could be closer to $1.5 billion, Ridley said.

Although unlikely to be selected as a demonstration project, The Oklahoma City-Tulsa corridor is a natural for HSR.

  • driving distance is about 100 miles
  • state owns much of the existing rail line (which needs lots of work)
  • state owns turnpike right-of-way (could this land be used? It’s straight as an arrow.)
  • Oklahoma City pop. 1,200,000 plus
  • Tulsa pop.685,000
  • interfaces with an upgraded Heartland Flyer service to DFW.

The quality of public transportation in both cities would be an important factor and that is a subject on which I am not able to comment. It seems to make sense that Oklahoma should get moving on improving the existing track to “high performance rail” standards and start operating in the 100 mph range.

Oh, look at that! 100 miles at 100 mph gives you a travel time of about one-hour end-to-end. Why haven’t they figuted this out already? And here’s the good part; it would not cost anything approaching the afore mentioned $1.5 billion.

The total construction on this is probably more like $250 million. Trains departing each end on the hour all day and scheduled at a running time of around 75 minutes is a big winner.

Oklahoma should forget European-style HSR and get moving on “high performance rail” tomorrow. It will change that already vibrant region forever.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

THIRD UPDATE: Metro D. C. train crash, 4 dead, 70 injured.

CNN is leading with a breaking story. It appears to be a head-on, which raises issues of which we are all well aware.

The crash occurred just before 5 p.m. on an above-ground track on the Red Line near Takoma Park, Maryland, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Watch “live” coverage here.

UPDATE: death toll at six.

These are Metro trains running on Metro tracks.

SECOND UPDATE: Washington Post reports possible signal failure operator error.

THIRD UPDATE: L. A. Times: 9 dead, emergency brake was applied

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

Randall O’Toole launches renewed attack on high speed rail (yawn)

There are so many things wrong with yet another O’Toole screed against high speed rail. I am sure you will want to review and comment on his fallacious and false commentary running in the Gwinett Gazette.

It’s not personal, honest. Times are hard and I am personally delighted that Randall has found a secure position as a paid mouthpiece for highway and airline special interests. Here is a sample of his labors.

As of this writing, $99 will get you from Washington to New York in two hours and 50 minutes on Amtrak’s high-speed train, while $49 pays for a moderate-speed train ride that takes three hours and 15 minutes. Meanwhile, relatively unsubsidized and energy-efficient buses cost $20 for a four-hour-and-15-minute trip with leather seats and free Wi-Fi. Airfares start at $119 for a one-hour flight.

Who would pay five times the price to save less than 90 minutes? Those wealthy enough to value their time that highly would pay the extra $20 to take the plane. The train’s only advantage is for people going from downtown to downtown.

Who works downtown? Bankers, lawyers, government officials and other high-income people who hardly need subsidized transportation. Not only will you pay $1,000 for someone else to ride the train, but that someone probably earns more than you.

Trucking interests were represented at last weeks Texas HSR Corp. and the National Multimodal Steering Committee joint meeting in Little Rock. It is a group firmly rooted in the 20th. century and determined to force the defeat and destruction of anything that might interfere in their own perceived best interests.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

TIME: U. S. bullet trains

TIME has an analysis of high speed rail developments that is not too horribly misinformed. It correctly highlights the political minefield that awaits proponents in Florida, but drifts into simplistic buzzwords.

Liberals tend to romanticize trains (because the French use them) and conservatives tend to disparage them (because the French use them). But while the U.S. probably can’t recreate the charming ride from Paris to Lyon, it also can’t keep treating rail like a loathsome relic. Since World War II, the U.S. has poured almost $2 trillion into highway and aviation systems, while passenger rail — like the wheezing federal Amtrak line — has received less than 3% of Washington’s transportation dollars. Obama argues the U.S. needs, economically and environmentally, a rail revival in order to relieve stressed auto and air infrastructure. That means emulating the long-established high-speed (more than 110 mph or 177 kph) passenger rail systems in Europe and Asia.

Ah, the French! (Do people actually pay for this gibberish?)

Moving right along. the story does (amazingly) suggest that a revival of more conventional trains operating in the 110 mph range may be in our future. This has a pleasant tone and is agreeable to the TFA position.

However, having spent three days with the Texas High Speed Rail Corporation board (video interview with Maureen Dickey, David Dean, and Temple Mayor Bill Jones below) I am forced to step back and consider some contradictory viewpoints. Texas folks make a good case for true European style HSR.

There must be great care taken in selecting any project as a demonstration. HSR needs lots and lots of population and feeder lines at both ends to pay for the substantial construction costs. The social ane economic value of true HSR is tremendous. The experiences in Taiwan and Spain are held up as examples.

Two points. The presence of true HSR (200 mph.) shrinks a region and brings cities and businesses closer together. Second, the population growth forecast for some already booming areas is staggering. Building more highways is an economic and environmental catastrophe of Katrina proportions.

The opposition of some “conservatives” to an economic engine of such potent and proven power is totally astounding. Is there something wrong with higher property values and easier commercial relationships?

America needs a high speed rail of international standards somewhere. We also need to grow and mature the market for conventional trains between cities that can sue them and strengthen the network of long distance trains that support all of it. They all work together.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Illinois-Missouri governors plan joint press conference on high speed rail

The federal standards define HSR at 110 mph, which seems to grant an advantage to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. Although supporters of the Texas-T-bone claim Midwest programs are not in the running for the $8 billion in federal money (scroll down to our coverage of the recent Texas High Speed Rail Corp. board meeting below), the St-Louis-Chicago corridor appears to be a mature concept with strong political support and the proper market conditions regarding population.

Triangle Business Journal reports there will be some developments today.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn plan to hold a joint news conference Monday afternoon at the St. Louis Gateway Amtrak Station regarding efforts to land stimulus money for a high-speed rail line between St. Louis and Chicago.

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

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June 2009