Trains For America

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Madison debates city station, airport station for HSR stop

My Wisconsinite boss for the summer over at the Congress for the New Urbanism, Stephen Filmanowicz, tweeted about this a few days ago, so a big H/T to him. Madison, WI is one of the major cities to be part of the Midwest HSR project, but a number of activists are uncomfortable about the idea of having the city’s sole train station be at the regional airport outside of town. One man in particular is raising a fuss, much to the ire of many government leaders, who don’t want the city’s chances of getting federal HSR money to be put in jeopardy. From the Madison Capital Times:

Shorter travel times were a key factor in 2002 when officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation sent a letter to then-Mayor Sue Bauman, saying a “single airport station best serves the interests of the Madison community and the overall service goals of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.”

City of Madison officials initially balked at the decision and at one point talked about pursuing two train stations: one at Monona Terrace and another on the east side. But eventually the issue faded as rail dollars failed to materialize, gasoline prices fell, and talk of trains went to the back burner.

With federal rail money looking likely, however, the question over station location has come up again — much to the chagrin of some state and local officials who were hoping to keep things quiet to avoid any last-second controversy.

One initial problem identified with a station downtown at Monona Terrace was the need to back trains out to rejoin the main line, adding 30 minutes to the trip and creating traffic snarls downtown. But the Yahara Station plan avoids that hang-up by sticking to the mainline route, eliminating the need for trains to reverse course out of the downtown.

Even the mayor is backing the airport site, stating that there might be two stations for the city in the future. I don’t think that’s going to appeal to Amtrak and Midwest HSR planners, who are going to want to limit the stops to keep travel times down. The whole airport vs. downtown station discussion is one we’ve featured before on TFA. On one hand, one of the biggest benefits of good passenger rail is the downtown-to-downtown connectivity that is convenient for passengers and good for local economies. On the other hand, connections with other modes of transport, including air travel, are also important, particularly if airlines are to be convinced that they stand to benefit from improved train service.

And the pragmatists have a point that it would be a shame to muck up a bid for federal HSR money. But that’s not a good enough reason to not think ahead when placing critical infrastructure. Connectivity is going to be key. If the station ends up being placed at the airport, they need to make sure that there are convenient connections to downtown and vice versa if the urban location is chosen. Taxis don’t count. And the article mentions commuter rail; it would be extremely shortsighted of the city to place this intercity station without an eye to how it could connect to local rail service in the future.

A sticky issue to be sure. Thoughts?

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

Virginians for High Speed Rail support emerging rail corridor to Norfolk and Newport News

Here’s the release, with our best wishes.

Richmond, Virginia – Virginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR), the Commonwealth’s leading rail advocacy group, is urging federal and state rail authorities to improve and expand conventional rail service to both sides of Hampton Roads as the first step towards upgrading both Hampton Roads corridors to Emerging High Speed Rail.

VHSR, a non-profit coalition of citizens, localities, economic development agencies, community organizations and businesses, has been reviewing and helping to lay the groundwork for improved rail service in the state since the mid-1990s.

The organization’s Board of Directors, made up of community and business leaders, including former executives from four different railroads, unanimously approved the following statement:

Virginians for High Speed Rail supports the improvements necessary to upgrade both Hampton Roads Corridors (Richmond-Newport News and Richmond-Norfolk) to Emerging High-Speed Rail status of 90 mph track speed, a minimum 90 percent on-time performance level, and increased passenger rail service to both corridors that can be done incrementally; with the first steps being expanding conventional passenger rail service to Norfolk via the Route 460 rail corridor and improving the on-time performance of the passenger trains currently serving Williamsburg and Newport News.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has defined Emerging High-Speed Rail as reasonably expected to reach 90 mph and a 90 percent on-time performance with increased service on a shared use corridor including both freight and commuter rail service.

“The FRA has stated the need for regional cooperation and support for any high-speed rail corridor plan for federal funding,” stated Meredith Richards of Charlottesville, President of Virginians for High Speed Rail.  She continued:  “Our plan supports reasonable improvements along two corridors that would vastly improve transportation options for their citizens.  High-speed rail is about more than just speed, it is about fast, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service from Richmond to Newport News and Norfolk that will serve all of Hampton Roads.”

“The current passenger rail service along the Peninsula averages less than a 50 percent on-time performance level,” said former VHSR President Thomas G. Tingle, who is the President of Guernsey Tingle Architects in Williamsburg.  “As a business owner, that is unacceptable. Our plan brings improved reliability and increased service to both sides of the James, allowing the best use of limited resources.”

“Increased reliability and frequency is key, we need passenger rail service that runs on time more than 50 percent of the time and runs when the public needs it to run” observed Hampton’s Ann Hunnicutt, VHSR’s Vice-President and President of Westwood Contractors, Inc.

“It’s about jobs.  We need better transportation options for both our tourist community and our citizens to promote economic development,” commented Henry “Sandy” Harris III, Chairman of the Norfolk Economic Development Authority, VHSR Director, and portfolio manager at Palladium Partners. “South Hampton Roads is the most populous region in Virginia not served by passenger rail. We need to extend intercity passenger rail service from Richmond to Norfolk to manage future growth. It’s clear that our highways cannot do the job alone.”

“Tourism is very important for the local economy of Greater Williamsburg” stated Robert “Bob” Hershberger, Executive Vice-President of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance and VHSR Director.  “We need fast, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service to Williamsburg so that people can visit all the attractions throughout their destination without the hassle of driving and parking.  It will do wonders for our economy.”

“There are currently a dozen Northeast Regional Amtrak trains that begin in Washington and head north which could be extended to serve Virginia” said former State Senator Wiley F. Mitchell Jr., who just completed his term as Chairman of the Commonwealth’s Rail Advisory Board and serves as a VHSR Director.  “I can imagine one day having both Norfolk and Newport News the terminals for improved passenger rail service in the northeast corridor. A high-speed rail corridor is nice, but first we need increased service that is reliable to get a true public benefit for our investment.”

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

New High Speed Train From Beijing to Tianjin China

Opened August 1, 2008, the new high speed commuter train significantly reduced travel time between Beijing and Tianjin. Take a look at Asia’s largest railway station and join me as the train goes 320 kph. (198 mph.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: Uncategorized

CNN: “China’s Amazing New Bullet Train”

It is “amazing” if you are a mainstream American journalist, I suppose. And what’s more, ya’ know, that there China is one gosh-darned big country (darned near as big as Texas).

Creating a rail system in a country of 1.3 billion people guarantees that the scale will be gargantuan. Almost 16,000 miles of new track will have been laid when the build-out is done in 2020. China will consume about 117 million tons of concrete just to construct the buttresses on which the tracks will be carried. The total amount of rolled steel on the Beijing-to-Shanghai line alone would be enough to construct 120 copies of the “Bird’s Nest” — the iconic Olympic stadium in Beijing. The top speed on trains that will run from Beijing to Shanghai will approach 220 miles an hour. Last year passengers in China made 1.4 billion rail journeys, and Chinese railroad officials expect that in a nation whose major cities are already choked with traffic, the figure could easily double over the next decade.

It’s really a comprehensive and useful story. China has mounted a major “stimulus” package with high speed rail as a crucial factor. The scope of this thing is just amazing (and I know that China is slightly larger than Texas).

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

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