Zoom, Oct 17th 8pm (Central):
Wheels on Steel:
It was a busy week in response to last week's New York Times Article (links to a Yahoo edition is not behind a fire wall):
Expert's response to the article:
High Speed Rail Alliance
And the conservative's response to the New York Times' piece:
New York Post
The Indiana Gazette
KTVU - Fox
A company hoping to help California with its high-speed rail built one in North Africa instead, saying the region was ‘less politically dysfunctional’
(Note: Deusche Bahn, not SNCF was chosen as the early operator of California High Speed Rail...so it is no wonder SNCF left the Calfornia project)
Other Wheels on Steel News:
The Japan Times
I spent $518 for a 23-square-foot roomette on a 16-hour Amtrak ride. Take a look inside the space that was worth every penny.
In the Tube:
The New York Times
The New York Times
Up in the Air:
How America Lost High Speed Rail: Part 4 - DeRailed
Continuing our series from last week: How America Learned to Hate HSR
We now are in the 2000s whereby Americans had moved on from the promises of high-speed rail of the '80s and '90s when project after project was highly publicized and then canceled. In the 2000s Americans have now started to believe the misinformation such as the US is too big, US is not dense enough, or Americans loved their cars too much.
Across the world, though, high-speed rail was flourishing. Spain was in the process of building the largest high-speed rail system in Europe. Then China was just about to launch its first high-speed train between Qinhuangdao–Shenyang. Even in the US Amtrak’s Acela was gaining popularity. Meanwhile, regional trains such as the Hiawatha between Milwaukee and Chicago, Pacific Surfliner in Southern California, Capitol Corridor in Northern California, and Cascade service from Portland to Seattle continued to see ridership increases (pre-Covid).
Along those same lines, states were putting together their plans for high-speed rail.
Foremost was Wisconsin…yes, Wisconsin. They had one of the most developed high speed rail plans...but lost it all. For the full recap of what happened, there is an 7-episode podcast which details off that happened…and is a must listen to for anyone interested in high-speed rail in the US.
To summarize the podcast.. under Wisconsin’s Governor Tommy Thompson (yes a Republican) plans were put together in the 1990s for a Chicago to Minneapolis high-speed rail line. This same plan was further refined under the Doyle Administration (a Democrat). Then in 2008, the economy was on the brink of collapse due to a housing bubble. In response, the federal government signed the PRIIA act which freed $10 billion to jump-start high-speed rail throughout the US. Wisconsin applied for $810 million for a Milwaukee-Madison passenger train…and got all of it. Wisconsin was shocked…Wisconsin got all the money asked from the federal government to start a high speed rail system...and even had the trains built at a new Talgo factory in Milwaukee.
(2012 Open House Announcement by Talgo America showcasing the new trains sets built for Wisconsin, but never accepted by the Walker Administration...these trainsets are now in Lagos Nigeria)
However, Governor Doyle was not running for re-election in 2010 and the Republican candidate for Governor used the Milwaukee to Madison train as a platform claiming the project as wasteful spending of taxpayers' dollars that would only benefit Madison and Milwaukee. The strategy worked and Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 2010. Then once in office Walker did turn away the $810 million from the federal government. Meanwhile, newly elected Republican Governors in Ohio and Florida also returned their funding…and this is how Republicans became known for being against high-speed trains in the US.
Why Republicans want to kill High-Speed Rail:
Why High-Speed Rail is so polarized in the United States:
As mentioned in previous articles, the Republican party's strategy of being against high-speed rail is rather recent as Republicans used to be great supporters of high-speed rail. After all, it was under Republican President Nixon that Amtrak was formed in 1971. Then it was Republican Governor Tommy Thompson who started planning for high-speed rail in Wisconsin in the 1990s. Then it was Republican Governor Arnold Swarzenegger that started California's high-speed rail project in the 2000s. Even Governor Abbot of Texas had supported Texas Central Railways (up till the Texas Supreme Court case). So why is the Republican Party seen as anti-high-speed rail while Democrats are seen as pro-high-speed rail?
Well, here is what we have learned so far:
High Speed Rail is publicized to only serve major cities (Democratic strongholds)
No one has experienced these trains (Republican areas tend not to travel internationally)
Perception that it will take away their cars...(remember that rural areas tend to be 2nd amendment strongholds)
Train won’t make stops in rural areas/small cities...so have no benefit to them
Project timeline are 10-30 years, spanning multiple political cycles
Very high upfront costs with long term maintenance costs
Belief that roads aren't subsidized.
A long history of being promised high-speed rail, but not delivering
Amtrak’s image of being unsafe and poor customer service
What this means is that since high-speed rail is a long-term and expensive project which uses taxpayer’s money to link major cities... which is the perfect platform for Republicans.
After all, Republicans represent rural and suburban locations, who have likely never ridden a train before and unlikely to travel international to experience the technology. Then add in the highly publicized Amtrak crashes and bad customer service and a high-speed rail project is ripe for an aspiring Republican candidate to use as a platform to get elected. After all, it was the perception that taxpayers in northern Wisconsin were going to fund the high-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison that got Scott Walker elected Governor in 2010…and then it was Scott Walker who went on to kill the project losing all Sconies the federal dollars and potentially thousands of jobs that would have created.
However, the anti-high-speed rail philosophy of the Republicans is a fallacy. Research report after research report is showing that it is small, secondary cities will benefit the most from high-speed rail and it is not because of commuters!
With high-speed rail these secondary towns will have new access to other cities. No longer will someone from Wisconsin need to drive to Chicago O'Hare Airport from Racine or Kenosha, but instead could just board the high-speed train in the middle of their city and connect to the world. Then because of this accessibility businesses will move to the smaller cities redeveloping the cities economies (there are more caveats to which small cities will benefit…but that is a different topic). The result would be the economic turnaround to rural areas that Republicans have been promising for decades.
In a few weeks we will be diving more into why Republicans will love high speed rail...once it finally is built. Next week we start of what high speed rail projects are underway today, and why we are looking at a fundamental shift in real estate due to high-speed rail.
Washington DC: American Public Transportation Association.
Cramer, K. J. (2016). The Politics of Resentment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Culver, G. (2016). Moving Forward or Taking a Stand? Discourses Surrounding the Politics of Wisconsin High-speed Rail. Mobilities, 11(5), 703-722.
McCommons, J. (2009). Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service A Year Spent Riding Across America. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Status Check: Brightline West
by Alex Kofman
Last week, we checked in on Brightline’s major expansion to its Florida network. But that is not all that the private (almost) high-speed railroad is doing to build out its system. In the West, Brightline is building a true high speed route through the desert to connect Los Angles to Las Vegas. Well, almost.
Brightline West has secured the rights to use the median of I-15 to build 170 miles of track from Las Vegas to Victorville, CA, shown in green. This long stretch has significantly reduced the EIS burden and land acquisition process, as it is all already state-owned. From Victorville, Brightline has expanded on the plans of its predecessor, XpressWest, and is hoping to one day build all the way to Downtown Los Angeles. There are two different ways that it can do this:
Build track directly west from Palmdale to link up with the planned California High Speed Rail tracks that will run through Burbank and into DTLA. Land would need to be acquired, similar to California HSR, which would be difficult and expensive. The city of Burbank is already lodging objections to the proposed route from Palmdale to Union Station downtown.
Build track south through the Cajon Pass, and west from there into DTLA. More of the I-15 right-of-way could be used to build most of this extension.
Either route would not initially end downtown. The Palmdale route would end there, and the Cajon Pass route would end at Rancho Cucamonga. Both terminal options have connections to LA’s Metrolink regional rail system. Last week, the Rancho Cucamonga City Council agreed to sell Brightline five acres of land to construct a station for a price still TBD. It looks like Brightline is leaning toward Rancho Cucamonga, but may ultimately choose to build both track sections. With a promised 25 trains per day in each direction, the railroad can afford to spread departures out among both locations. Plus, connecting to California High Speed Rail in Palmdale affords the option for a two-seat ride to Las Vegas from as far away as Fresno and later San Francisco.
The LA-Las Vegas high speed line has been in the works since 2005 under various companies, and Brightline now hopes to break ground in 2023 to begin operating the 180 mph line in 2026. The railroad has already acquired the land in Las Vegas to build its eastern terminal as well. When complete, the line will be 260 miles long and connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas in just under three hours. On this timetable, the train falls into the high-speed rail sweet spot: much faster than driving and competitive with flying. In the West as well as the East, the future looks bright for Brightline.
Youtube Channels We Love: The UK Points Guys
When you are a Youtuber and you have traveled the world in every premium cabin...What do you do next? Well you race. Specifically race between a plane and a train.
Based in the UK, we came across these guys who all travel on the same plane, but one will be in economy class, with another in business class, and another in first class. However, in the last year these Youtubers have gotten into trains. Yes...from planes to trains.
What they will do is start off at the same location, such as central London. Then they will race each other. One goes to the airport and flies, while the other rides the train. These videos really display the difference in comfort, reliability, and stress between flying and riding. Some of our fav:
And of course, if you always wanted to compare the big 3 US carrier business class products, they also have a video for you:
The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wiscosin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high speed rail and high speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.