Tag Archives: railroad

Bullet Train Plan Sparks North Texas Turf War, by Aman Batheja

photo by: Norihiro Kataoka

Story: Bullet Train Plan Sparks North Texas Turf War, by Aman Batheja.

Another on the Texas passenger train idea.  I’ve had this in the buffer for a while and just noticed it again now.

Two quotes amuse me:

“[…] this latest plan to make passenger rail work in highway-loving Texas.”

“Highway-loving Texas.”  Let’s see what there is for them to love.

There are several thousand miles of expressway in Texas, most of which can be used at no direct cost to the user, 24 hours per day, every day of the year.

There are three intercity trains in Texas.  One of the trains runs from Chicago to San Antonio via Longview, Dallas, and Ft Worth once per day in each direction.  Three days a week, you can connect in San Antonio with a train that makes it’s way from New Orleans to Los Angeles via Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso.  There is another daily train that connects at Ft Worth for Norman and OKC.

So if a Texan wanted to love a train instead, they wouldn’t have much opportunity, would they?  I maintain that so many people drive in Texas because they have no other rational choice.  The same is true in most of the rest of the country, of course.

The other is this:

““It is, at the moment, considered to be a 100 percent privately financed venture, so in some respects, we may be limited to what our authority is,” [NTCOG senior program manager Tom] Shelton said.”

It’s a 100% privately financed venture as someone just said. What makes government officials think they have any authority? Yes, there are land-use regulations through which they can exercise some control, but if the company thinks it will make more sense to have a station in Waxahachie instead of Ft Worth, then that’s where they’re going to put their station.

The Big Texas Plan to Copy Japan’s High-Speed Rail Success – CityLab

JR Central 700 Series Shinkansen on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen between Kakegawa Station and Shizuoka Station – via Wikimedia Commons.

Story: The Big Texas Plan to Copy Japan’s High-Speed Rail Success – CityLab.

Not unlike All Aboard Florida, but not nearly as far along.  And this isn’t the first time that this has been floated.  Google around for “Texas TGV” from the early 1990s.

“The Triumphant Return of Private U.S. Passenger Rail”

Henry M Flagler Florida East Coast Railway

Story: The Triumphant Return of Private U.S. Passenger Rail.

Bit of a misleading headline.

The railroad in question is the Florida East Coast Railway, which is owned by Fortress Investment Group.  Fortress also owns  Florida East Coast Industries (FECI).  FECI, in turn, owns All Aboard Florida as well as the right of way that the FECRy runs over.  FECRy granted AAF an easement to run passenger service over the line.  Confused yet?  I am.  Part of the problem is that FECI used to own all the pieces, but it’s since been carved up like a mortgage-backed security.

Moving on, it’s AAF’s intention to run passenger service between Miami and Orlando via Cocoa, Florida, just west of the Kennedy Space Center.  Sixteen round trips per day are expected with trains capable of 125 mph with limited stops.  That’s not actually high-speed rail, but plenty fast enough for a three-hour trip time.   (Aside: If the one-way trip is truly less than three hours, as they say, then the company ought to be able to get two full round-trips out of a crew before their hours of service expire – by law, RR workers can only work 12 hours in a row).

The FECRy route is straight and flat so 125 shouldn’t be a problem once they install updated signaling.  West of Cocoa, the service will run over a new line to be built on an easement leased from the Orlando Expressway Authority that runs along Florida State Road 528, the Beachline Expressway, which will end at an intermodal facility being built at the Orlando airport.

But here’s the thing:  There is no “triumphant return” because trains aren’t actually running.  Trains aren’t running because there are no trains.  Even if they do hit their target dates, and I hope they do, then there is no guarantee that they will attract enough passengers to bring in enough revenue to cover their costs or get a satisfactory return on their considerable investment.

Yes, I am skeptical.  This is not the first time there has been an announcement that some company or another is going to run a passenger train and expect to make money on it.  There have been many of those over the years including one in Oklahoma a few months back.

There is a difference with this one in that they have actually executed legal documents with other parties.  IOW, they really seem serious.

We’ll see if there are trains running by 2015.

Infrastructure decay: Metro-North WALK Bridge

MTA Video Release: Metro-North Walk Bridge – 6/9/2014 – YouTube.

Unlike most highway infrastructure, which was built after 1950, most (surviving) railroad infrastructure was built before 1950.  Many exceptions in both directions, but generally that’s the case.

Which is a good thing because the facilities built prior to that date were generally overbuilt.  This particular bridge was built in ’96.

1896.

It’s lasted over a century and still carries hundreds of Metro-North and Amtrak trains every day between New York’s Penn Station, New Haven, and Boston’s South Station.

Unfortunately, despite the overbuilding, this bridge is past its “best by” date and needs to be replaced.  This week it’s been jamming when it moves, disrupting rail traffic on the entire  Northeast Corridor.  Near the end of the video, you can see a maintenance crew manually unbolting the movable part of the bridge prior to opening.  The new structure, like the other movable bridges replaced on this line in the last 10 years, will probably not require a crew to open bridge.

By the way, WALK is the name Penn Central (successor to the original owner, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford RR) gave to the “interlocking” that controls the bridge and it’s approaches so that trains don’t run into the river.  It’s located in Norwalk, Conn, and crosses the river of the same name.