36 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The High-Speed Bus Plan”

    1. And faster. BNSF is firm on the 90 mph speed limit for shared tracks. The state should be planning for dedicated ROW for future real HSR.

      1. The state already is… the planned ‘third track’ and ‘fourth track’ projects (the next set in the queue for Seattle-Portland after what just got funded) are intended to be for passenger use only and faster than 90 mph. Unlike SOME railways, BNSF is willing to allow fast trains to be on tracks NEXT TO the freight tracks.

  1. I think I mentioned this before but in the novel _Ecotopia_, the Ecotopians established a high speed bus network at 100 MPH with dedicated lanes while the high speed rail network (225 MPH) was under construction. The rail lines were put in the medians of the Interstate highways. Maybe high speed bus lanes could work in real life….

    1. Only if we make the lanes mixed use, and only if the drivers are recruited from LA’s ‘scariest moment’ chase scenes.
      Those kids are amazing.

    2. “Maybe high speed bus lanes could work in real life”

      One problem: Physics. Pushing a bus to even just 120mph would increase wind resistance by an *enormous* amount. Sadly, I don’t have enough detailed knowledge to explain it well. Suffice it to say, carrying enough diesel or a big enough battery to push a bus along at 120mph for a long distance is not feasible. There is a reason most high speed rail is electrified.

      (Shoutout to Matt the Engineer – do you know the physics and/or math better than I do to explain this one?)

      1. Anyone know the ‘land speed’ record for the old Breda buses?
        I think it was 83 mph, in neutral, coasting down the south-center hill, so this is pretty old technology.

      2. I dont know i’d trust a transit bus much over 70 MPH. Even i like to drive fast but i’d start coasting it out or tapping on the brake at that point…

      3. Steering also starts being a major issue over 100mph (heck, it’s already a meaningful issue at 90 mph). There’s a reason speed limits for roads tend to top out around 120mph, autobahns notwithstanding.

        How do you deal with the steering problem? Rails…..

      4. [aw] has it. I remember back in my human powered vehicle design days in college that friction from air resistance started overpowering other sources of friction as low as around 20mph. After that the design of your fairing (a shell around your bike) becomes more and more important. With a good fairing we had bikes going over 55mph.

        So design a bus like a bullet train and it can help quite a bit (reducing that drag coefficient). It looks like the Transrapid maglev train has a drag coefficient of 0.26, about that of a sports car. Of course a bus has a lot more frontal area than a car or even than the Transrapid, so even with a good fairing you’d use quite a bit of fuel.

        If I were to design a high speed bus I’d start from scratch. It would look a whole lot more like a maglev train than a bus, riding very low to the ground (requiring high-end repaving every few years), with a long nose and minimizing the frontal area (meaning it would be shorter and skinnier than current buses). Of course that would be after asking why we can’t just add rail to those lanes.

  2. Or you could just buy everybody their own private Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Having everybody traveling at 258mph on the freeway would *dramatically* increase capacity without having to add lanes and without having to waste government money on an “RBN”. Of course the tires only last about 37 miles at 248mph – unknown how long they last at higher speeds. The tires for the Bugatti cost £20,000 a set so increased safety and fiscal prudence would dictate a more modest speed limit, say 200?

    (To see the whole episode you’ll need to rent an episode of BBC America’s Top Gear on iTunes)

      1. I’d be curious about maglev. With no moving parts it seems like you’d really just have wear from the passengers on the trains themselves, and maybe some on the joints between trains. The tracks would still have a varying weight pass over them and have to deal with weather, so you could still have wear there. But nothing like metal-to-metal or rubber-to-concrete wear.

      2. The “active” maglev sytem (the unstable one which falls over if anything goes wrong) has fairly low wear-and-tear, but that wear-and-tear is so dangerous that it requires very expensive frequent maintenance.

        The “passive” one (which doesn’t fall over if anything goes wrong) seems to be somewhat better. Wear and tear in those systems would be mainly on electrical and magnetic components.

  3. It’s not completely unworldly.

    If the tests of autopilot cars go ok at Pike’s Peak (where a robot car will attempt to ascend) and the technology continues (Google Car) to develop, one can imagine allowing higher speeds for computer driven vehicles on highways.

  4. Lets think of some good new Amtrak ad campaigns…

    Amtrak… we’ll get you there, without getting the TSA off.

    Amtrak, Molestation Free.

    Amtrak, where Security Theater isn’t on the movie list.

  5. I like one of the business class perks- the privledge to tell two economy passengers to stop whatever they are doing. ha ha! gotta love the Onion. :)

  6. Ignore the forecasts of oil price increases of 500%, that is only rumor and has nothing to do with the limit supply of oil we have on Earth and the increase in demand for oil from China and India.

    1. In energy economics, there is a concept known as “backstop technology”. Essentially, it’s the off the shelf substitute for an existing energy source that is presently untapped because it is economically infeasible at current prices. The cost-effective price point of backstop technologies put a price ceiling on current energy sources. As soon as the price rises high enough, the entire economy switches to the backstop technology within a very short period of time.

      With oil, the most likely backstop technology is liquified coal. We know how to convert coal to a liquid fuel that could be used in motor vehicles. This not some theoretical “we’ll figure it out in time” point. We know how to do this right now. We don’t do it because oil is too cheap. As soon as oil actually gets expensive, we’ll switch (unless some new technology actually does come along that’s even better). The U.S. has sufficient coal reserves to power the entire economy under business as usual projections for more than 300 years. Again, this is worst possible case scenario, as it assumes no new technologies and no significant increase in energy use / unit of GDP. These are both unrealistically pessimistic assumptions.

      Oil will not get 500% more expensive, and if it does, it won’t matter because we won’t be using it for fuel anymore. If you don’t believe me, you should be buying oil futures. That way, when Peak Oil does strike you’ll make a fortune while arrogant experts like me will be begging you for alms.

      Peak Oil is not the problem; the consequences of global climate change are going to bite us long before resource depletion does.

      And now, after sharing that bit of academic trivia, I plan to disappear from the comment threads once again for at least a couple months.

      Happy holidays everyone.

      1. Tony has it exactly right. The Germans were using liquefied coal (syn-gas) back in WWII. Companies like Evergreen Energy are refining (pardon the pun) the process with their K-Fuel program. We won’t have to wait for “peak oil” because modern coal liquefication programs have the advantage of more efficient combustion and cleaner burning that offset the costs. For those fixated on “peak oil” (and I’ve been hearing how it’s right around the corner since the mid 70’s); already happened… whale oil!

      2. Liquified coal is a quick recipe for human extinction via global warming.

        The fact is that electric technologies have the edge and will continue to have the edge.

      3. I will say, *economically* speaking, that oil prices are already high enough that it’s not a good fuel for anything. Electricity prices, on the other hand, keep going down. Battery tech keeps getting better and photovoltaic tech keeps getting better. I expect that anyone who’s electrified is going to be laughing all the way to the bank very quickly.

  7. Actually Obama will probably create a commission to determine future transit policy. He will appoint Lee Iacocca, Bill Ford Jr, some oil industry executives, a handful of Republicans, and John Dingell to this bipartisan commission.

  8. Sounds a lot like that movie “The Big Bus” a spoof on disaster films which a giant bus goes through lots of trouble traveling from New York to Denver.

  9. what is the maximum sardine-load capacity for a standard high floor 40′ city transit bus (standing and seated)?

  10. Is anyone else seeing “Stop the brown bailout” ads everywhere, including here and on facebook? I wonder if I’m in their target demographic or something. Seems like its FedEx trying to avoid being regulated under the same rules as UPS.

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