Friday, July 31st, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

High Speed Rail and Transit Roundup

America 2050 has a national high speed rail proposal that is featured in Newsweek. Click the image below for a full sized map:

A group of eight Midwest states have signed a pact to collaborate on high speed rail. The amount of money flowing to HSR is really getting people’s attention.

Wisconsin is ordering Talgo rail cars capable of 200 MPH operation. These will be placed in service on the Amtrak Hiawatha line for now. This seems to be an effort to build HSR support in Wisconsin, boost its chances of federal funding, and to secure the US manufacturing site for the trainsets.

A mix of federal and state funding is finally getting the CREATE program off the ground in Chicago. This is designed to both dramatically reduce freight rail congestion in Chicago, and also to boost passenger service (Metra and HSR) by building several overpasses.

The CTA “Max” car experiment on the Brown Line came to a halt. This was where seats were removed to make more room for standees and expand capacity. Apparently passengers hated them. That’s why you do a trial. And I think this was definitely a good experiment to try. Kudos to the CTA for first doing it, then being willing to back track when it didn’t get the passenger response they hoped for.

The Tribune has a great story on the private rail car that runs on Metra’s UP-North line.

John McCarron writes in favor of investment in metro transit over high speed rail. (Thanks Robert Munson)

Here’s an awesome op-ed on rational public transit policy from a director of the Bay Area’s BART system. (Hat tip Human Transit)

Governing magazine article on the high cost of paratranist service (hat tip Metropolis on a Hill).

Best Cities for Singles

Forbes has another one of their controversial lists out, this one their annual “Best Cities for Singles“:

  • #3 – Chicago
  • #9 – Milwaukee
  • #14 – Cleveland
  • #19 – Minneapolis
  • #23 – St. Louis
  • #24 – Pittsburgh
  • #28 – Columbus
  • #31 – Indianapolis
  • #34 – Detroit
  • #37 – Kansas City
  • #38 – Cincinnati

Given the Midwest bashing of most Forbes surveys, it’s good to see at least some places here get some love.

Newspapers and Urban Culture

There was a mini-furor in online communities in Columbus about this article about dining in Columbus. The Dispatch apparently runs these type of “Where I Eat” articles profiling various locals. In this version, a woman talks about Applebee’s being her favorite restaurant, as well as saying that’s where she would take someone new to Columbus.

Now, nothing against this woman personally. In fact, I’d have to second her endorsement of Potbelly’s, chain though it might be. But there is a legitimate concern about what type of message this is sending about Columbus. I’m not saying newspapers need to be civic boosters, but what is the journalism value in something like this? And how was this person selected?

Clearly, stories like this only allow people from larger cities to have a laugh and reinforces the prejudice against smaller Midwest cities that exists out there in the world. Editors should take care to consider not just how articles will be perceived locally, but also nationally and internationally in the age of the internet. I’m sure there are many fine local restaurants in Columbus, and to cherry pick someone who says Applebee’s is their favorite place does the city a disservice.

8664 Update

The Louisville Metro council has to approve the creation of a new tolling authority to pay for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Some councilors who wanted to have more debate and hearings introduced an ordinance for that which was shot down. However, the recitations section had an amazing collection of facts worth noting. Here is an excerpt (hat tip Broken Sidewalk):

WHEREAS, the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) is now estimated to cost $4.1 Billion; and

WHEREAS, State of Kentucky traffic counts indicate that traffic in Spaghetti Junction did not increase from 1992 to 2007; and

WHEREAS, in 2008 traffic volumes declined by more than 11% on the Kennedy Bridge and by more than 5% in Spaghetti Junction; and

WHEREAS, according to the Texas Transportation Institute 2009 Urban Mobility Report, congestion in Louisville “stayed relatively constant” over the decade from 1997 to 2007; and

WHEREAS, according to INRIX National Traffic Scorecard, in 2008 traffic congestion in Louisville decreased by 39%; and

WHEREAS, six years of actual traffic counts are now available to compare to the assumptions in the ORBP 2003 Environmental Impact Study; and

WHEREAS, a November 2008 study conducted by Wilbur Smith and Associates for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) determined that an alternative which included only an East End Bridge provided the same “system wide performance” as the Ohio River Bridges Project;

There’s a lot more, but I found these particularly compelling. Broken Sidewalk also has even more great 8664 coverage. And a hot off the presses series of pictures that will either make you cry or drool depending on your perspective.

Migration Blowback

There’s plenty of talk of brain drain and people being sucked up into global cities. But a counter-trend is starting to attract notice as some become disenchanted with high costs and other hassles. And it is affecting surprising places, such as Scranton, PA, which is now growing in population again.

There’s a distinctly white-collar movement behind Scranton’s comeback. A return of college-educated natives from cities like New York and Philadelphia is fueling a population rise and a civic makeover. Bringing them back are the very small-town qualities many once wanted to escape: the likelihood of meeting acquaintances and relatives on the streets. The embrace here of modest ambition. The deeply held belief — only heightened by ridicule from the outside world — that Scranton matters.

For six decades Scranton lost an average of a thousand residents a year, many bound for college. The return of even a fraction of them — along with their families — could confer substantial economic benefits. “There was a diaspora of Scrantonians, and now we’re inviting them back,” says the Chamber’s Mr. Burke. The group has a campaign called Rediscovering Scranton, which includes a Web site with testimonials from returning natives.

A population rise of about 3,000 in the last two years, to about 75,000, has given hope that the long exodus is over. School enrollment is up to 10,000 from 8,500 seven years ago. And downtown is buzzing with the sounds of construction. A Radisson hotel is in the city’s old train station. Other recently vacant buildings now house advertising agencies, architectural firms and financial offices, many started by professionals who have returned.

Cities like Scranton lack a lot of urban amenities. While those are to some extent needed to attract people, they can also be a lagging indicator. The amenities are built in response to people moving in, and its feeds on itself. Here’s another perspective from NPR. Definitely something to watch, though to early to call a major trend. More like “green shoots”.

“Starchitecture” in Action

If you needed any more indication that starchitecture as currently practiced is past its sell-by date, check out this piece in the Las Vegas Weekly about this Frank Gehry building:

A Lesson in Skepticism

A group of people put out a hoax proposal to turn Central Park into an airport. Here’s their proposed map of the site:

This came complete with a realistic web site, as well as Facebook pages and a Twitter account.

I don’t think this really fooled anyone, but what I find interesting is just how similar to almost every real proposal the rhetoric was. For example:

New York City is the cultural and financial capital of the world. It is also our nation’s most densely populated urban area. Yet surprisingly, New York City has no viable airport. JFK, La Guardia and Newark may work for people who live in certain outer boroughs. But they are not an acceptable option for the majority of New Yorkers, requiring travel through some of the most congested traffic arteries in the nation. A journey which by train takes nearly two hours and by automobile can take up to three hours. For a place which purports itself to be the greatest city in the world, this is not a workable model.

Or this from their FAQ:

I own an apartment alongside Central Park. What will Manhattan Airport do to my property value?

History has proven that bringing a transportation amenity to an underserved region elevates the perception and economic well-being of the area. In the past, these types of transformative public works projects have created an influx of interest and new investment in the neighborhoods in which they have been built. There may be some who resist the progress. But as neighborhood residents, small business owners and local civic organizations begin to experience the economic “trickle-down” effect these types of large scale redevelopment projects have precipitated time and time again; Manhattan Airport will be embraced.

What about the environmental impact of building Manhattan Airport?

Research shows that single-passenger car-service and taxi trips between Manhattan and JFK/EWR/LGA account for up to 9% of automobile-created carbon-based emissions in the region. Reducing our environmental impact is a major concern for all of us and preliminary findings indicate that building Manhattan Airport can be a critical first step as we strive to live up to our long-neglected environmental responsibility

I think we’ve all got to admit that the arguments in favor of most projects don’t sound much more impressive than this. They are plausible stories about what would happen, backed up by research that it is difficult to independently evaluate. History has shown that our cities have built way more than their fair share of “Manhattan Airports” based on this exact type of faulty reasoning, many of which had to be ripped out later at significant cost. Of course, not everything will work out as planned and any entrepreneurial venture has high risk of failure, but we should at least look at these things with clear eyed realism. That includes, of course, even the things I’ve spoken in favor of.

Economic Development Roundup

Unconventional Thinking” A counter-argument to convention center led economic development strategies.

Failure is not an option; it’s essential“. Thoughts on the culture of innovation.

Failure to invest in new power transmission lines endangers the wind power revolution.

A Ball State University study says city-county mergers don’t help economies.

National and International Roundup

President Obama launches his Office of Urban Affairs.

The NYT Magazine profiles President Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett.

The NYT had a great article on cities that are uncovering long buried waterways, focusing on Seoul. In previous years it was not uncommon to bury urban streams into underground channels that doubled as sewers. Now cities are turning these back into surface streams as recreational and neighborhood amenities.

Let the water wars commence. A landmark federal ruling says Atlanta can no longer draw water from Lake Lanier unless it reaches a water sharing agreement with surrounding states. It has three years to do so. This is big, big news so stay tuned to this one.

Apparently highway spending isn’t the stimulus it was envisioned to be.

Everything went smooth when Vancouver converted a highway lane to pedestrian and bike use on a major bridge crossing. (via @gosner)

The Where Blog has the best collection of High Line photos I’ve seen yet.

The New York Times is exploring whether they can implement a foundation model for news.

The latest from Brookings I’ve yet to digest: “The New Geography of United States Immigration

Oh, and those Marxists in Toronto (they describe themselves this way, btw) who hate Richard Flordia? They now have their own web site.

More Midwest

Chicago
O’Hare’s New Runway Improves Arrival Times at Airport and Unclogs US Airways (WSJ) – The title says it all. Keep it coming!
Chicago, City That Works? (Tribune op-ed)
Bid to raze Western Ave. overpass takes shape (Tribune) – Hmm – I don’t think I support this one. Traffic on Belmont is already a nightmare.

Cleveland
Changing strategy direction in Cleveland (Ed Morrison @ BFD)
Proposal for new form of Cuyahoga County government gets on November ballot (Plain Dealer)
Plain Dealer Wants to Profile from Cleveland’s Carcass (Roldo Bartimole @ Cleveland Leader)

Detroit
Quicken sets mid-2013 target for new Detroit home (Detroit News) – Quicken to move HQ downtown, bring 2,200 jobs. A big win for Detroit.
Is right-sizing the right fix (Free Press) – via @GreatLakesGuy

Louisville
Stretch of Eastern Parkway Going On ‘Road Diet’ (Broken Sidewalk)
Two major PGA events coming to Valhalla (C-J)

Milwaukee
Is it time for Milwaukee to Consider a Combined City-County Government (Urban Milwaukee)
Is it time to dissolve Milwaukee County government? (Milwaukee Talkie)

Pittsburgh
City of Steel (and other stuff) to Get Its Turn on the World Economic Stage (NYT) – G20 meeting to be held in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Scrubs Up for Visit From the G20 (WSJ)

St. Louis
2009 Eleven Most Endangered Places (St. Louis Landmarks Association) – via @sethteel)

Twin Cities
Cray supercomputers to bring 225 employees to downtown St. Paul (Minnesota Public Radio)

30 Comments
Topics: Architecture and Design, Economic Development, Public Policy, Talent Attraction, Transportation
Cities: Columbus (Ohio), Las Vegas, Louisville
Tags: ,

30 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Jason says:

    There's a lot to comment on here.

    But the Brookings report says that from 2000-2007 the fasting growing metros for immigration were Indy (6) and Birmingham (!) (8).

    Nashville is 3 and take out Indy and Las Vegas(bubble) from the top ten and the list is southern cities you wouldn't usually think of as immigration destinations.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    The proposal is saner than the FRA map of designated corridor, but it's still full of pure pork. Boston-Maine, Denver-Albuquerque, and a triangle configuration in Texas instead of the T-Bone are all useless. Why did they bump Chicago-Cincinnati for those?

  3. Alon Levy says:

    On another note, the 267 mph figure for Chinese high-speed rail is only for the maglev train, a white elephant taking you from Shanghai's airport to a suburb at the end of one subway line. The conventional HSR lines China has top at 205 mph, with plans to extend to 217, the same projected speed of HSR in California, Korea, and Spain.

  4. Ironwood says:

    Best Miscellany yet.

    It's going to take a few days just to read all these articles. Can't imagine the time and effort on your part that went into compiling and summarizing them, too.

    Thanks!

  5. OINKER says:

    HSR – Alon used the word 'pork' for HSR! Hell must be freezing over.

    They need to craft a song to go with the map (which rightfully graphics Sticker Shock)

    "I hear that train a coming
    its' zooming round the bend
    not carrying much of nothing
    it's the Pork Train express…
    it keeps draining alllll of my cash"

    OINK OINK OINK

  6. Anonymous says:

    2 Major golf events announced for Valhalla…and next week…some big announcement due for the Louisville Arena.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Oinker, not every corridor is good for HSR. We both agree on that – I just happen to think that the Chicago hub network is on the good side of the divide. The reason I'm complaining about some of the lines there, besides the fact that the only thing that would justify HSR to Maine is getting Snowe and Collins to vote for the bill (i.e. pork), is that HSR ridership is sensitive to the population of the largest city. There are successful HSR lines connecting Tokyo to small cities and towns, one of which has more ridership than the line from Osaka to Fukuoka. This means that in the US you'll want lines based on hubs in the largest cities, rather than circumferential lines like the one from Cincinnati to St. Louis. It's fine to build a 20-km Chicago bypass, but a brand new 500-km line is going to be a very lonely ride.

  8. thundermutt says:

    Of the growing cities/shining stars in the US, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, and Atlanta all have looming or actual water issues. Also all of California south of Sacramento.

    That's most of the "big smiley belt".

  9. Jefferey says:

    From that WSJ article on Scranton:

    "But hard times also tend to increase the appeal of small-town life, in part because of costs. Scranton sits only two hours from Philadelphia and New York City, yet has a median house value of less than $120,000, about $20,000 below the national average."

    …in other words it has the same relationship to the east coast megalopolis that Sacramento and Modesto have to the Bay Area; promximity, but a low cost of living and doing business.

  10. JG says:

    The west side of Manhattan along the Hudson would be a great place to run an extension of HSR, which could connect to the new Manhattan terminal via Morningside Park and the Columbia University campus (right by Alon Levy’s office – he won’t mind.) Lots of unused green space there to spare since the West Side highway was removed.

    I hope all are pulling for the 8664 Project. Though not from Kentucky I worry about it. This fight might be a pivotal one in not only waterfront reclamation in American cities (particularly the Midwest) but urban renewal projects, and reasonable urban interstate and highway design standards. The outcome of this project could indirectly but significantly influence progress in ALL of our cities. With $2 trillion in savings not to mention major savings in roadway maintenance, it is beyond reason more in the government are not giving this significant attention – to the point it IS the favored option. The legislature (fiscal conservatives in particular) should be pinching themselves every morning for having the 8664 group bestowing such a brilliant proposal with major tax payer savings. “Vote for me. I saved OUR state $2 trillion dollars.” Sounds like a slam dunk campaign slogan.

    Cheers to the artists who designed the “chairs on rails” for the High-Line – they look fantastic. Looking forward to lounging in one for a few moments on my next trip to Gotham.

    URBANO, thanks.

  11. Alon Levy says:

    JG, there's already a rail line there, right under Riverside Park (Morningside Park is completely out of the way), with room for two tracks. It needs some work, though, especially since its connection to the mainland, the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, is a single-track swing bridge.

  12. JG says:

    ALON: Oh OK. Thank God – It sounds like the Manhattan Airport is gonna be a big hit. Haha

  13. thundermutt says:

    JG, The Manhattan Airport should be connected to a HSR line running above Fifth Ave. and extended in a straight line down to the WTC site and across the river on a new bridge to Jersey and southwestward to Philly. The Boston leg of that line should run straight up through the Bronx and veer northeast through Stamford, New Haven, and Providence.

    As long as you're spending billions you might as well do it up right. Don't mess with the old tracks already in place.

    [remove tongue from cheek]

  14. Adron says:

    Just a quick note…

    …the Talgo's that are being bought for the Hiawatha are built for about 200mph but they won't be used over 79-90mph for some time.

    The HSR fervor is awesome, but we aren't going to see any of it for a long time still unless we get some serious private sector interest. That 8 billion wouldn't build but about 200 miles of HSR, let alone even touch a line into a major city. We're going to need about 3-4 trillion for all the lines mentioned – with the Government building them you can bet they'll be more in the range of 6-10 trillion.

    If we could get private interest in this and some real stock & bond funding vehicles going we'd see it get built faster, more of it, and probably better than the Feds piddling around with the states as they've been doing.

    Any ideas on that?

  15. Alon Levy says:

    Adron, your numbers are off by an order of magnitude. The most expansive HSR fantasy maps around have about 16,000 km of HSR, which at recent European prices (all built by the government) works out to about $250 billion.

  16. Jim Russell says:

    But a counter-trend is starting to attract notice as some become disenchanted with high costs and other hassles.

    Immigrant flows, usually secondary migration, to this region are well-established. That probably explains the bump up in population. As a result, some minor league cities are becoming immigrant gateways.

    Concerning the US-born talent migration the WSJ describes, I see more than green shoots. I've noticed a strong trend in the active courting of boomerang migrants. The initiatives have a good understanding of the target demographic. In other words, it is predictable.

  17. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks for all the comments.

    Alon, America 2050 is organized around the "mega-region" idea. You see them shaded on their map. I'm guessing they used the mega-region geography more than any transportation criteria to draw those lines on the map.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Did you see the comment to the NPR piece

    "middle america SUCKS!!! it's like being trapped in a time warp… unless, of course, you are straight, white, conservative, have no gay and/or non-white friends, enjoy the suburban life, think the menu at applebee's is exotic, and always felt out of place in california. then, by all means, middle america is for YOU!"

    Well this is the off the cuff perception we have to deal with I guess. Not any easier when, midwestern as used by Californians (and a Romanian ex-Californian?) means anything not California or the east coast, so Madison is in the same region as Arkansas "The Midwest, including the beautiful Ozarks where I live"

  19. Alon Levy says:

    Megaregions and HSR don't mix well, except in linear regions like the Northeast and the Taiheiyo Belt. The problem is that HSR lives on the fact that its stations are easier to reach than airports, which requires thinking in terms of metro areas and metro area divisions instead of megaregions. That's why China and Germany, whose megalopolises are clumpy rather than linear, are focusing instead on connecting major cities.

  20. Robert says:

    Looking at this proposed HSR map from a Pittsburgh perspective, this group makes the mistake of including Pittsburgh in with the "Chicago sphere" due to the very loose concept of the ChiPitts megaregion… which eventually links Pittsburgh to Chicago via a spotty corridor of occasional small cities. Pittsburgh's linkages with distant Chicago are unremarkable and certainly do not warrant a priority route over the group's delayed vision for a PGH-Harrisburg-Philly route… or the group's "possible later route" to DC (which could be PGH's most important city relationship due to the immense talent churn). Not only are DC, Philly and NYC closer to Pittsburgh than Chicago (DC is almost half the distance)… but the combined economic projection of those three cities is much greater than Chicago.

    Of course, I'd love to see a link run west from Pittsburgh and connect the Midwest to the Northeast… but if you're looking at a priority line.. there's no reason to dangle a distant line out from Chicago just because Pittsburgh's pretty close to Cleveland. Other than nearby areas of Ohio, Pittsburgh's major nodes of economic linkages and population interchange are on the East Coast.

  21. JG says:

    Levy is correct that a foundational argument for HSR is inadequacy of airports to meet transportation needs. Often times due to overcrowding, poor proximity to the population center of a metropolis, or frequent bad weather (Newark and Chicago come to mind.)

    A useful HSR line, of course, connects two cities with dense central city populations with some degree of proximity (What are the threshold distances? Within 200-300 miles?). Additionally there must be inadequacy with the other transportation modes via air, bus, or car. There are stretches of interstate highway that are a nightmare to drive even out of the city.

    I appreciate the thought put into possible corridors but hope an adequate portion of the initial HSR money is spent on very sophisticated multivariate studies of all factors to find routes with significant benefits in cost and travel time, and also public willingness.

    The Midwest HSR Assoc did a nice study regarding Chi-StL URBANO posted recently. My issue was little was said about “If” it would be beneficial, and the study focused on “Could” it be built. I suspect a study is in the works and I will be more interested in its findings.

  22. Alon Levy says:

    What are the threshold distances? Within 200-300 miles?

    With late-2000s technology, you can stretch HSR about 600 miles and still have an above-50% share of the air/rail market. However, without induced demand or strong intermediate stations, the line won't make a profit at that distance. A 600-mile line needs almost twice the ridership of a 300-mile line to succeed.

    In practice, with legacy HSR tracks, the current outer limit is about 500 miles. This is achieved between Tokyo and Hiroshima, where the Shinkansen attains parity with the airlines. The full route from Tokyo to Fukuoka consists of the world's busiest and third busiest HSR lines, and is highly profitable even after including capital costs.

  23. ROINKER says:

    The Pork Train appears to be adding ham and bacon.

    Any comparisons to Shinkansen must note that the 2-3 most recent expansions have cost far more than the revenue they generated. Reason: Because those routes look alot like 90% of the routes the US Pork Train enthusiasts are mapping.

    Japan and the US are very very different geographies with very very different demographics/densities and other options for travel.

    Outside of the NEC there are no possible Shinkasen routes that make any sense at all.

    ROINK ROINK ROINK

  24. Alon Levy says:

    Yes, the last 2-3 extensions, which have yet to be completed, have not generated enough revenues to pay off their construction costs.

  25. AmericanDirt says:

    Regarding the Applebee's-in-Columbus contretemps, it does appear to be a particularly ill-chosen interviewee for a feature in the Dispatch. Yet it reminds me of several months ago in the Indianapolis Star, when, in coming up with proposals for what to go in the old Market Square Arena site, one woman suggested that it remain a surface parking lot in perpetuity, because she doesn't feel safe using parking garages. Thankfully her response was buried among a number of other proposals for MSA, many of which were imaginative.

    Regardless, Diana Baker's answers probably do reflect the sentiments of a majority of people out there, even in those "sophisticated" coasts. Applebee's are everywhere (including the Northeast), obviously because people patronize them heavily; it now seems that a small city can justify an Applebee's even when it has a mere 15,000 people, making its site selection strategy (and trade area) almost comparable to WalMart.

    I hope the folks in Columbus aren't so insecure about their city that they let a single middle American respondent get them in a panic about how New Yorkers might perceive them.

  26. JG says:

    I am surprised a route from LA to San Diego is not among the high priority HSR routes. This stretch of interstate highway is heavily traveled and I believe 8 lanes for the majority of the distance, over 100 miles from CBD to CBD. How much more can this road be widened?

    It is two population centers separated but with some proximity making flights questionable, but with forseeable disadvantages to continued highway expansion.

  27. thundermutt says:

    JG, there's a 20+ mile undeveloped stretch of SoCal between San Onofre and Oceanside in SD County.

    It's called Camp Pendleton.

    I-5 is two or three lanes each way through there, and when I've been on it, it's not heavily traveled like other SoCal freeways. More like I-65 between Indy and Chicago…steady, but not overwhelming.

    LA-SF or LA-Sacramento are the right HSR routes for California. However, there's the issue of the San Andreas Fault. What happens to a high-speed train when the earth under it starts shaking violently? It would be interesting to know how the Shinkansen deals with the threat.

  28. JG says:

    TM: Incorrect. Are you recalling a road trip from 1975? The road is 8 lanes (4 in either direction) from LA to SD. I drove it 3 years ago – it's just true. Double check Google Earth if you don't know.

    Still, this does not change my arguement. The road is congested for the majority of its route through LA county, most of Orange County, and about 60% of San Diego County. With Orange, San Bernandino, and SD counties gaining population and limits on how much a highway can be expanded, better rail or air transportation will be a priority.

    The stretches through LA and SD ARE overwhelming during peak traffic. I suspect the 20 miles in northern SD County might be a breeze any time of day, but that is irrelevant for making a case to add HSR to the region. Delays getting into and out of cities is a major factor in the arguement for HSR (60 miles of that route.)

    Still I'm not a huge proponent, I just know this is one of the MORE reasonable routes if the project is to go forward.

  29. Alon Levy says:

    What happens to a high-speed train when the earth under it starts shaking violently? It would be interesting to know how the Shinkansen deals with the threat.

    The Shinkansen has an earthquake monitoring system, which alerts the train whenever there is an earthquake. The train will then brake to come to a stop. Both the trains and the tracks are equipped with systems to avoid derailment, which has only happened once, and to avoid cars toppling in case of derailment, which did not happen the one time a train derailed.

    The TGV has great expertise in avoiding derailments and toppling as well; the centerpiece of its program is having cars share trucks in pairs, which provides greater stability and makes it impossible for one car to topple before the other does. The system was tested in three accidents involving derailments, at speeds of 250, 270, and 300 km/h; in none of the three did any car overturn or any person die, and in all three injuries were minimal.

  30. thundermutt says:

    JG wrote "I suspect the 20 miles in northern SD County might be a breeze any time of day, but that is irrelevant for making a case to add HSR to the region."

    The Camp Pendleton stretch of I-5 represents the base load of intercity car traffic between the LA/OC metro and SD. It's the MOST relevant number after current air traffic.

    You're right about lanes…and you're right that my first trip down that highway was in the mid-70's when it was indeed just 2 lanes each way. The most recent was in the last couple of years, a round trip from SD to the LA Harbor/Long Beach area.

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