59 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Hayabusa”

  1. High-Speed Rail news from China:


    Ministry puts brake on nation’s fast trains


    BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhuanet) — China’s high-speed railways will run at a slower speed than previously expected, according to the newly appointed railways minister.

    Sheng said in the interview that only the four east-west and four north-south artery lines of the high-speed rail network will carry trains at 300 km/h.

    The inter-city lines that usually connect major centers within regions should be operated at between 200 and 250 km/h, while most railways in central and western China will operate at less than 200 km/h.

    The new policy is a change from the one publicized during Liu’s time.

    Previously, China was expecting to build a high-speed rail network with an operational speed of 350 km/h or more.

    The landmark Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway was built to run trains at 380 km/h that could compete with airlines. But Sheng did not say whether the line will still run that fast when it opens in June.

    Zhao Jian, a transport professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, told China Daily that the speeds should have been slower right from the start.

    “Because, at 300 km/h or less, the high-speed rail network can operate in a more economically efficient and safer way,” he said.

    The energy consumption of trains at 350 km/h could be twice that of trains at 200 km/h, he explained.

    But he stressed that priority will be given to ongoing projects to make sure they have enough funds for construction to be completed, and emphasis will be given to projects that are in urgent demand because of economic development.

    Zhao said the arrangement could mean some projects might be cut or postponed.

    “In addition to cutting some projects, the ministry should also adjust some ongoing projects as well,” he said, adding that the planned 350-km/h railway between Xi’an and Urumqi should be built to operate at 200 km/h.

    The ministry also plans to ask passengers to provide their real names when buying bullet train tickets starting June 1.

      1. Not sure what’s up with your photo gallery Bruce, but I seem to remember an article from NYT about the lack of quality control surrounding china’s HSR construction (something about ash in the concrete ties) that would soon cause the trains to run slower. Will link when I am on a computer.

      2. Lack of quality control can be applied to a majority of China’s infrastructure projects.

      3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/are-chinas-high-speed-trains-heading-off-the-rails/2011/04/22/AFHzaNWE_story.html

        Are China’s high-speed trains heading off the rails?

        Questions have also arisen about whether costs and public needs are too often overlooked as the leadership pursues grandiose projects, which some critics say are for vanity or to engender national pride but which are also seen as an effort to pump up growth through massive public works spending.

        For now, the high-speed trains appear to have few riders, mainly because ticket prices are considered exorbitantly high for most Chinese.

        The Finance Ministry said last week that the Railways Ministry continued to lose money in the first quarter of this year. The ministry’s debt stands at $276 billion, almost all borrowed from Chinese banks.

        “They’ve taken on a massive amount of debt to build it,” said Patrick Chovanec, who teaches at Tsinghua University. He said China accelerated construction of the high-speed rail network — including 295 sleek glass-and-marble train stations — as part of the country’s stimulus spending in response to the 2008 global financial crisis.

        Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University and a longtime critic of high-speed rail, said he worries that the cost of the project might have created a hidden debt bomb that threatens China’s banking system.

        “In China, we will have a debt crisis — a high-speed rail debt crisis,” he said. “I think it is more serious than your subprime mortgage crisis. You can always leave a house or use it. The rail system is there. It’s a burden. You must operate the rail system, and when you operate it, the cost is very high.”

        Part of the cost problem has been that each segment of the system has been far more expensive to build than initially estimated, which many trace directly to the alleged corruption being uncovered, including a flawed bidding process.

        During February’s annual migration, officials noticed that the high-speed trains were largely empty. But the slow trains on those lines have been taken out of use, giving people few choices. As a result, the highways were clogged and more people rode long-distance buses.

      4. So China is screwed up, what else is new? There’s only about a dozen other countries that have built perfectly successful HSR systems, but you choose to endlessly cherry-pick the China example.

      1. It’s a weird one if it is. It only allows you to turn left off Queen Anne Ave and head back north on !st Ave N, plus those two streets are one way. It allows you to skip the whole downtown section of the route, but then it’s not really the same route in any meaningful way.

      2. That’s where the #1 Shuttle once turned back to Kinnear. In days of old (the 1980s and 1990s) passengers had to change from the 1 to a 2 or 13 to the CBD, and outbound from a 2 or 13 to the 1 Shuttle.

      3. Hardly the “days of old.” Like, as recently as 2008 or 2009.

        (I still feel like a relatively new Seattle transplant, so it’s still weird when things as recent and familiar to me as the #1 shuttle are outside the realm of the newest transplants’ experience!)

        For what it’s worth, the extension of all #1 trips through downtown is another fantastic example of squandered TransitNow funds! It:

        – reinforces the default one-seat expectation
        – is interlined in an entirely redundant way (always a minute or two off the 13 or 2)
        – serves no purpose to those who don’t live in the tiny sliver that is West Queen Anne/Kinnear.

      4. At least on-peak, the 1 is not unnecessary. At night, possibly, but I can tell you personally that the 1, 2 & 13 are routinely packed at rush hour, and load up pretty well the rest of the day, at least as far as 1st & Mercer. Performance statistics bear this out: the 1 is 6th in the West Subarea on Peak and 3rd off-peak but is pretty mediocre at night. If the shuttle routing existed into ’09, that would explain the additional shuttle routing of the 1, which performs abysmally in every guide time.


      5. Bruce, I should have been clearer. During my tenure in Seattle (since 2006), the shuttle was always evening/Sunday as Kaleci described below. Perhaps it used to be shuttle at all times, decades ago, like Lloyd’s post implied.

        Still, it does serve to reinforce the one-seat mentality. And the combined 1/2/13/15/18 remain unreliable enough that you still can’t count on LQA-Downtown in <20, demonstrating the limitations of interlining with no attempts to improve reliability and consistency elsewhere.

      1. In its shuttle capacity, it also demonstrated one of the rare circumstances when timed transfers are actually helpful in an urban setting. The last couple of shuttles waited on the Thomas turnaround until a specific #2 arrived, and then would turn out and pull up right it at the Republican stop.

        Exactly the way last-of-the-night buses should be holding for specific trains in the Rainier Valley or holding for transfers in the U District today (as they do on final runs in any number of cities).

        (Note: I am not advocated for a timed-transfer based approach the rest of the day, which is a horrible way to build an urban network.)

      2. I know you’re not down with a 1st Ave streetcar, d.p., but I actually think it could work really well with timed transfers in Lower Queen Anne. In my experience — rather limited, I admit — the 1, 2 & 13 load up steadily up to Denny and then start unloading pretty quickly at the Key Arena and onwards. I think if those busses were made into neighborhood circulators with timed transfers to a streetcar at 1st & Mercer, it would provide people on the top of the hill with equally fast two-seat rides and the people at the bottom with faster, better one-seat rides.

      3. My belief is that the 1st Ave Streetcar simply will not be fast. (Anytime. And especially not at rush hour and on weekend nights.) And that 10 minutes is not all that frequent when you’re talking about Seattle’s densest 2-mile corridor.

        Forcing transfers, timed or not, when neither leg meets a minimum standard of rapid/reliable mass transit, only reinforces the preference for one-seat service. This is why I am also opposed to RapidRide’s urban lines being launched in such an anemic way.

    1. Oh and it provided an emergency turn-around in case other routes from Queen Anne couldn’t go downtown for some reason.

    2. In addition, the Route 1 and Route 2 terminals had wire connecting the two as at times the 1 and 2 would sometimes be interlined at night and on weekends. It would also allow Metro to operate a trolley on snow route.

      1. Some 3s and 4s used to terminate on the east side of the Seattle Center and they used the loop on Valley and Aloha to head back downtown. I don’t think that loop allows an inbound 3 or 4 to return to Queen Anne, however. I sometimes wonder if it would ever be a good idea to send the 7s to the Aloha/Valley terminal instead of their current terminal. It seems that the existng 7 terminal requires a lot of wandering around downtown.

      2. Kaleci,

        My first year in Seattle, when I lived in the geographically befuddling environs of North Queen Anne, the wires between the 1 and 2 terminals were extremely helpful in finding my bearings (on foot or in a car) and learning the layout of the so-called “arterials.”

        So as far as I know those connecting wires are still there.

    3. “Anyone know what the trolley wire on Thomas is for? Has there ever been a route that used it?”

      No, Bruce. There has NEVER been a trolleybus route there. Why else hang tension catenary there if not intended for use? Sarcasm.

    1. Interesting that our Russian friends have named their higher speed Moscow-Petersburg trains Sapsan which also means Peregrin Falson.

  2. http://www.newgeography.com/content/002195-here’s-comes-bus-america’s-fastest-growing-form-intercity-travel

    “Here Comes the Bus: America’s Fastest Growing Form of Intercity Travel”

    “Travel by intercity bus is growing at an extraordinary pace: reflecting a rise in travel demand, escalating fuel prices, and investments in new routes. This confluence of factors has propelled scheduled bus service between cities to its highest level in years and has made the intercity bus the country’s fastest growing mode of transportation for the third year in the row. “Curbside operators,” including BoltBus, DC2NY Bus, and Megabus.com, which eschew traditional stations in favor of curbside pickup and provide customers access to WiFi and other amenities, have enjoyed particular success.

    “The comeback of the intercity bus is noteworthy for the fact that it is taking place without government subsidies or as a result of efforts by planning agencies to promote energy efficient forms of transportation. Instead, it is a market-driven phenomenon that is gradually winning back demographic groups that would have scarcely contemplated setting foot on an intercity bus only a few years ago. Our DePaul University study estimates that curbside operators like Megabus expanded the number of daily departures by 23.9% last year. In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, service grew at an even faster rate.

    “Curbside buses achieve more than 160 passenger-miles per gallon of fuel burned, making them several times more fuel efficient than commercial airplanes and private automobiles, as well as conventional diesel trains. Using the results of a survey we administered to 250 curbside-bus passengers in East Coast and Midwestern revealing how passengers would have traveled had curbside bus service not been available, we estimate that curbside bus service is reducing fuel consumption by about 11 million gallons annually and reducing carbon emission by an estimated 242 million pounds—the equivalent of removing about 23,818 vehicles from the road.”

    NO government subsidies, but still, low ticket prices.

    160 passenger-miles/gallon of diesel.

    Clearly, intercity buses are by far the best form of transit between cities that are not too far apart. For cities more than a few hundred miles apart, airlines will still be the best mode for most people.

    1. NO government subsidies, but still, low ticket prices.

      You mean, aside from the highway?!

      1. These bus companies pay taxes which pay for the highwayws: diesel tax, tire tax, licenses and fees, et. al.

      2. Norman, in that case rail companies receive no government handouts either because the infrastructure is paid for with taxes.

        Face it, dude, no form of transportation is self sufficient.

      3. Is that a joke? Private bus companies PAY taxes. AMTRAK RECIEVES huge tax subsidies.

        You can’t understand the difference between paying taxes, and receiving tax subsidies? lol

      4. These ‘private’ companies also rely almost entirely on public infrastructure. Not only the roads that we all pay for (well actually in recent years it’d be more accurate to say ‘we all borrowed for’), but they are also piggybacking on public infrastructure for their ‘stations.’ You think it sheer coincidence that in all the cities I cited above they JUST HAPPEN to pick the curb across from the city’s major train station? Alot of street corners in Boston, NYC, DC and Baltimore… No, they picked it b/c they can piggy back off of public infrastructure. From the public transit to get people to the curb to waiting rooms, restaurants, cafe’s, restrooms ect that give the customer somewhere to go while they wait. In fact they don’t even have a physical presence to sell tickets, instead doing everything online, again utilizing a public resource.

        Free Market! Private Enterprise! LOL!

      5. The private bus companies pay the taxes that are used to build the highways. This really is too complicated for you? lol

        AMTRAK RECIEVES taxes. The private bus companies PAY taxes.

        Hard to believe anyone cannot comprehend the difference between the two.

        Let me ask you this: where do you think the revenue to build highways comes from? King County Metro? Sound Transit? AMTRAK? lol No: those tax subsidized transit agencies suck tax revenues out of the public. Private bus companies PAY taxes.

        How much tax revenue did Megabus receive last year? How much tax revenue did King County Metro, Sound Transit, and AMTRAK receive last year?

        Can you figure that out?

      6. Can you wrap your head around the fact that there are more kinds of subsidies than simple cash transfers?

    2. I don’t think it’s surprising at all and they point to an interesting fact from the surveys: “more than 40% of passengers on curbside buses are equipped with portable devices.” Stuff you can’t do while driving a car. Seems like about that many people are using smartphones, kindles, or listening to music on Metro too.

      Highway buses are a great option, but are dependent on traffic and diesel prices, just like public transit. And they’re not particularly cheap, I just looked at DC2NY and it is $55, or here QuickCoach to Vancouver BC is $70.

      It will be interesting to see if they scale up and consolitate and the fleets age, what that does to maintenance costs, wages, etc. which are perennial problems for Greyhound and airlines. Note that while they operate “without subsidies” meaning operating subsidies, so do high-speed rail operators in Japan and Europe. The roads, airports, stations, rails, etc. are all maintained as public property.

    3. “Fastest-growing” is always largest when the starting point is small. When Centralia adds a thousand people it grows by 6%. When Seattle adds a thousand people, it grows by 0.2%.

      The dollar bus companies offer frequent service really only from NYC to a few select places (DC, Philadelphia, Boston). Other cities are in their schedule but they only get a bus once or twice a day. “san francisco cheap bus” and “los angeles cheap bus” come up with a couple non-Trailways hits (Greyhound is part of Trailways), but not “portland cheap bus”, “seattle cheap bus”, or “northwest cheap bus”. I spec’d an LA-to-SF trip at two companies and got $40-55, 1-2 departures per day. Greyhound is $42 (web-only), $55 (standard). Greyhound does tend to match the midlevel companies but not the ultra-cheap companies in the places it has competition. I couldn’t find any ultra-cheap fare in California, but Boston-NY is $13 on Mega bus, which is half the distance. 55-26=29, so either California has less than half the travellers of the northeast or they are paying twice as much as they should or the northeast operation is unsustainable, I’m not sure which.

      Maybe Norman should start a cheap bus company for the northwest.

  3. Norman,

    Maybe buses are the mode of the future. Why don’t you go start the Seattle Intercity Bus Blog (SIBB) and leave the rest of us retrograde railfans in peace. You wouldn’t be missed.

    1. Or perhaps begin an intercity bus service between Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Spokane.

      1. In addition to a couple of others. But they must not be operating correctly if the trains still run.

      2. The trains still run because the ticket prices are heavily subsidized by taxes. Eliminate the government subsides for the trains, and see if they still run, or not.

      3. Calculate the cost-per-posting to the blog owners, charge Norman per post, and see how long he’ll stick around.

      4. I’d love it if we had a really cheap bus system around here like Megabus. Although I’m a big train nerd, as a student I dont’ have enough money to take that all the time.

  4. Amtrak and Greyhound might be picking up the slack in and out of St. Louis until Lambert Field is back up and running at full capacity. A Tornado shut down the airport Friday Night. American Airlines(which bought out TWA, the major airline that Lambert Field used to be home too) seems to have lost the most terminal capacity. Not much Amtrak service to the west of St. Louis, just the Missouri River Runner to KC and the Texas Eagle, and the the East, the Texas Eagle and the 4-5 trips of the Abraham Lincoln service. The Amtrak terminal, thankfully, is independent of Lambert Field, being closer to the riverfront.


    1. Actually this is really interesting. Philly’s diesel APUs can’t take grades of more than 6%. Presumably one could put a bigger diesel in there, but it’s obviously not an off-the-shelf item for us.

    2. Gearing the Hybrids for the hills seems to negate any potential interoperability they would have with the rest of the system.

      1. Maybe for operations, but I imagine they would still be largely the same as “regular” hybrids for maintenance/parts.

    3. Ugh, that “Annual Fleet-wide CO2e Emissions” graph is terrible. It is deceptive and meaningless. The correct measurement would be something like “Annual CO2e Emissions per revenue mile per mode.” Same for the “Annual energy consumption” graph.

  5. Incredible. The contrast between “inside” and “outside” is very effective. I’ve been fortunate to travel there in 1980 and 1984, riding both the local and the Shinkansen. Both were impressive for their efficiency: on-time arrival and departure, the latter left even if somebody had part of their clothing caught in the door (and there were such people). The Shinkansen was “only” 120 mph at the time, yet very impressive, and made more sense than flying for anything within 300 miles, even before today’s tightened airport security (although, in Japan, we got patted down and luggage checked prior to taking transit to the airport to leave the country). Sadly, now 30 years later, even that speed, which would serve the U.S. quite well in a series of regional high-speed segments, is still a dream for the U.S. market.

  6. Union Pacific to improve 52 miles of track in Mo.

    Union Pacific Railroad plans to make improvements to 52 miles of track on its rail line between St. Louis and the east-central Missouri community of Morrison.

    The railroad company said Tuesday that it will spend nearly $29 million to lay new rail, redo 54 road crossings and replace five switches that move trains from one track to another. The improvements in Missouri are part of the company’s $3.2 billion nationwide maintenance plan this year.

    Union Pacific ( UNP – news – people )’s route between St. Louis and Kansas City is used primarily by freight trains but also carries Amtrak passenger trains.


    It’s interesting that UP is funding its own track, but BNSF is expecting the taxpayer do its improvements under the misnomer of “high speed” rail. BNSF, owned by Warren Buffet, recently made a profit of $1 billion.

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