pacomartin
pacomartin
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June 6th, 2010 at 11:53:01 AM permalink
A third high speed rail line is looking for funding. This one is called Desert Lightning and if possible is even more ambitious than the other two.

This one would abandon the Cajon Pass completely in favor of heading due South roughly following US 95 in NV and US 95 in CA . In the vicinity of Interstate 10 it would head due west through Palm Springs and into the Los Angeles Basin. Eventually it would extend to Phoenix as well.

The idea would be to use cutting edge steel on wheel technology (similar to the recently opened rail lines in China) to make up for the increased distance. Airports would be on the route (which ones are not specified). There may be an simply small ones like Palm Springs, or it may include Ontario and Phoenix International.

You have to hand it to them to up the Ante and talk about uniting the three cities with over 500 miles of new rail. It makes the DesertXpress with 186 miles of rail seem positively quaint. The company doesn't even appear to have a web site, and is looking at total cost of $35b - $40b as opposed to the $4b to build the DesertXpress which of course gets you only to Victorville.
pacomartin
pacomartin
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June 6th, 2010 at 12:14:35 PM permalink
When San Diego was widely publicizing their high speed rail link to Imperial County Airport (roughly 100 miles one way), I kept thinking what is the #1 destination of people flying out of San Diego Airport? The answer is Phoenix, of which I believe the overwhelming majority intended to transfer planes and were not headed for Phoenix itself.

People should have been honest and looked at the possibility of building high speed rail from the SD basin directly to Phoenix International (over 300 miles). But that would mean that all future growth would be at Phoenix. As it is the depression has killed almost the entire International air market in San Diego anyway (except for Cabo, Vancouver, and Calgary).

This is a rant I may have used before. There is exactly one city in the world with a high speed rail link from downtown to the airport (Shanghai). There is a big sign above the terminal that says in Chinese "Shanghai Magnetic Levitation Demonstration Operation Line". The German company freely stated at the outset that the project made no financial sense, and they considered it a billion dollar advertisement that would hopefully put their technology in the forefront of consideration for the nationwide network.

If high speed links from downtown to the airport don't make financial sense for Tokyo, London or Paris, then why would anyone think that they would make sense for San Diego? There are millions of people in Tokyo who get on a train every day of their lives, while the overwhelming majority of people in San Diego have never gotten on a train in the county ever.
AZDuffman
AZDuffman 
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June 6th, 2010 at 12:29:56 PM permalink
Quote: pacomartin


This is a rant I may have used before. There is exactly one city in the world with a high speed rail link from downtown to the airport (Shanghai). There is a big sign above the terminal that says in Chinese "Shanghai Magnetic Levitation Demonstration Operation Line". The German company freely stated at the outset that the project made no financial sense, and they considered it a billion dollar advertisement that would hopefully put their technology in the forefront of consideration for the nationwide network.



The first time I read about Maglev was in 1986 in high school social studies. We got to read "Time" once a week in this teacher's class. The article stated that maglev was conceived in the 1960s bit would still be "decades away." Decades later it is no closer.

I see three problems with maglev:

1. You cannot use existing rail lines to tie into it. Sure the USA uses a rail guage derrived from Roman Charriot width, but it works and is built. Putting in Maglev means new right-of-ways, bridges, tunnels, and track. So cost is sky-high.

2. There is little advantage over conventional rail speed-wise when you get down to it. Sure it goes 100 mph faster, but that is at top speed. How often do you hit top speed and for how long? Say two cities are 300 miles apart. A 200 mph high speed rail will do this in 1.5 hours. A 300 maglev will do it in 1 hour, all assuming you are at top speed port-to-port, which you will not be. You save a whopping 30 minutes. This does not overcome the extra cost. For a local line the speed savings would be unnoticible.

3. For trips > 300 miles you start to have to compete with airplane travel. The planes will travel faster but the maglev would have less "ground delay" time. But the time savings on most days goes to the planes, along with the fact that to change an airplane's route is easy but new track must be built if you want to get off at Love Field instead of DFW for example.

Maglev has the problem many early internet sites did. It is "cool" but has no practical application.
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pacomartin
pacomartin
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June 6th, 2010 at 1:07:36 PM permalink
The speed difference is rapidly getting smaller between wheel and steel and Maglev

The Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway (72.7 mi) with 4 stations (2 more to be added in the future). Stations are an average of 14.5 miles apart with a minimum of 6 miles and a maximum of 23 miles. It reaches 205 mph at a maximum.

The Shanghai Maglev reaches 268 mph for a few seconds before it begins decelerating over it's 19 mile track.

============
The cheap planes for long distances are really only practical for a relatively wealthy low density place like the USA.

When they complete the high speed train in 2 years to get from Beijing to Hong Kong / Macau it will still take 9 hours to do the trip with a lot of time to go the last 25 miles (until the link into downtown Hong Kong is completed.

The equivalent distance in the USA is Las Vegas to Houston which is 3 hours by Southwest. It would probably never be economical to build a train from Vegas to Houston, but the train will become the dominant mode in China for this trip.
ruascott
ruascott
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June 7th, 2010 at 6:41:42 AM permalink
Are they really going to build any of these? They seem to be either a pipe-dream (Desert Lightning) because of their cost, or a complete failure (DesertXpress) because of their route. Who the hell is going to take a train to Victorville? Or drive out to Victorville, park and then ride the train from there?

It seems like this has epic failure written all over it...ala the Monorail. A good idea, horribily executed.
Nareed
Nareed
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June 7th, 2010 at 7:51:05 AM permalink
Overall railroads in the Western hemisphere are nothing much. I'd say the most successful rail systems in the Americas are the various subways systems in the big cities.

As to the Vegas monorail, I suppose it's mostly a failure. I see two reasons for this: 1) it doesn't go far enough either north (Downtown, the outlet mall) or South (the airport, the other outlet mall), 2) the stations are too far removed from the casinos and the strip.

I used it almost exclusively in my first trip in 08. It was ok, but limited. For example, I could get off at the Harrah's station and walk to the Venetian, or across the street to the Mirage. But if I walked farhter north, say to the Wynn, I'd then have to walk all the way back to Harrah's, or take the Deuce north to my hotel (the Sahara on that trip).
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ruascott
ruascott
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June 7th, 2010 at 8:13:16 AM permalink
Yep, the monorail should have gone from the airport to downtown. An even better layout would have had it running down the middle of LV Boulevard, instead of behind the casinos. Its already in bankruptcy, I wonder if there is any way it will ever be financially viable. It may end up being closed.
Nareed
Nareed
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June 7th, 2010 at 9:08:41 AM permalink
Quote: ruascott

Yep, the monorail should have gone from the airport to downtown. An even better layout would have had it running down the middle of LV Boulevard, instead of behind the casinos.



Functionally, yes, that would have been best. The stations could be on the walkways across the Strip, or right on the casinos. Besides you could have had stations at Caesars, Excalibur, etc.

But that would have obstructed the view of the casinos. So not a chance in hell.
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