Brightline, "conservative" policy, and the future of rail

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Devil's Advocate

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For many years Arizona was "replenishing" ground water usage with surface water rights to balance their books. When it was clear that surface sources would become severely constrained that system lost effectiveness and new use water rates began skyrocketing. This threatened to stall Arizona's suburban sprawl and as a result the state started buying out Indian water rights to help keep their growth expanding. Last I checked toilet water processing was able to reclaim around 5% of the all water used and they can probably double or triple that amount in the future but it will never be enough to save Arizonans from their own hubris. That being said not everyone will suffer equally and if you bought the right land from the right people at the right time you will be fine while everyone else is screwed.
 

Nick Farr

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I don't know the details of the hydrogeology of the Phoenix area, but I suspect that the amount of water being recharged into the local aquifers by the scant rainfall in the area is far less than the amount of water being used by the population.
Most of Phoenix's water comes from salt river valley snowpack. By virtue of being a valley with one outlet, the area is more suited for groundwater replenishment than other desert cities.

You're always going to have some evap, especially in sprinkler usage.

The critical thing is making sure runoff goes to groundwater rather than the ocean.
 

87YJ

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I live in AZ and Nick is mostly right :) . We have been in our 20 year dry times(right after the 20 year wet times). Just know, that's still not much of a water diff(dry to wet) to most people who live in the US.
 

cirdan

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I would not have a problem with that. The reason Amtrak doesn't do this is to avoid the increased overhead cost of maintaining a maintenance base at Denver.
I think that a service immediately becomes less attractive when you have to change trains.

This is not just about the inconvenience of getting out of your seat and dragging your luggage onto another train. There is a time penalty involved which further lessens the attractivity of train travel, and more important than this there is always the latent risk of a missed connection. At busy travel times a missed connection may also imply loss of a reserved seat or room and thus a continuation of the journey under less pleasant conditions.

Maybe if you could get trains running every hour or so, the significance of a missed connection would fade to insignificance, but as things are now, this would not be acceptable.

I would rather a train like the CZ ran a couple of hours late than being forced to spend a day waiting for the next train in Denver because my train narrowly missed the connection. And if the connecting train is going to wait, then you might as well continue running the train through as one anyway.
 

MARC Rider

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Most of Phoenix's water comes from salt river valley snowpack. By virtue of being a valley with one outlet, the area is more suited for groundwater replenishment than other desert cities.

You're always going to have some evap, especially in sprinkler usage.

The critical thing is making sure runoff goes to groundwater rather than the ocean.
"Snowpack" is just frozen rainfall. :) It might be true that the Phoenix area is better suited for ground-water infiltration than other desert cities, I still suspect that the total precipitation averaged over years is still a good deal less than the water used by the population.

From what I can read, the Salt River Project is mostly reservoirs and canals, so I expect evaporation is a big source of water loss. The Central Arizona Project may rely more on closed pipelines, but the big reservoirs (Lake Mead, Havasu Lake, Lake Powell) are still evaporating water like crazy. Also, it's not just evaporation, there's also transpiration, the uptake of water by plants. Desert plants can develop really deep, extensive root systems to seek out underground moisture and suck it up. And in deserts, evaporation from sprinkler and flood irrigation are not negligible, and those sorts of water uses should probably be banned. Finally, the water rights issues make things even more incomprehensible to an Easterner like me who just deals with riparian water rights.
 

Nick Farr

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"Snowpack" is just frozen rainfall.
Yet, you know it's measured differently from precipitation that falls on the population area and the volume of supply is known months in advance so you can plan accordingly. There's not much you can do when you count on unpredictable rainfall.

An area that gets virtually no precipitation can survive just fine off of snowpack from nearby mountains.
 

MARC Rider

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I think that a service immediately becomes less attractive when you have to change trains.

This is not just about the inconvenience of getting out of your seat and dragging your luggage onto another train. There is a time penalty involved which further lessens the attractivity of train travel, and more important than this there is always the latent risk of a missed connection. At busy travel times a missed connection may also imply loss of a reserved seat or room and thus a continuation of the journey under less pleasant conditions.

Maybe if you could get trains running every hour or so, the significance of a missed connection would fade to insignificance, but as things are now, this would not be acceptable.

I would rather a train like the CZ ran a couple of hours late than being forced to spend a day waiting for the next train in Denver because my train narrowly missed the connection. And if the connecting train is going to wait, then you might as well continue running the train through as one anyway.
Most of the ridership of the California Zephyr aren't going to be traveling through Denver. And the people who do are already willing to tolerate delays on their through trains, so why not a reliable scheduled delay? Also, remember that the original transcontinental rail service required changes of trains in Chicago, Omaha and Ogden. Changing trains for through passengers could be eased by having redcap transfer of luggage. A break out of the train might be a nice change of pace. You could enjoy a nicely cooked meal served to you while sitting in the lobby of the Crawford Hotel waiting for your connection.

Actually, in an expanded rail passenger world, trains that terminate at intermediate points don't have to replace the long-distance through train. It's just that some intermediate points can't be served at reasonable hours by trains that travel the whole long distance corridor. For example, a train that serves Cleveland at a reasonable hour can't serve both Chicago and the east coast at reasonable hours. What the passengers in Cleveland really need are Chicago-Cleveland trains and East Coast-Cleveland trains in addition to the existing Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited. They could probably even use more trains than that to provide additional departure and arrival times, just as New York has the Empire Service to provide additional trains to Albany and Buffalo from New York City. I'm not sure mow much market there is for additional east-west trains out of Denver, but corridor service along the Front Range would probably be well patronized. However, I don't think they need to run a Cheyenne - Albuquerque through train.
 

MARC Rider

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Yet, you know it's measured differently from precipitation that falls on the population area and the volume of supply is known months in advance so you can plan accordingly. There's not much you can do when you count on unpredictable rainfall.

An area that gets virtually no precipitation can survive just fine off of snowpack from nearby mountains.
Unless climate change messes up the reliability of the snowpack from year to year.
 

Tlcooper93

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Most of the ridership of the California Zephyr aren't going to be traveling through Denver. And the people who do are already willing to tolerate delays on their through trains, so why not a reliable scheduled delay? Also, remember that the original transcontinental rail service required changes of trains in Chicago, Omaha and Ogden. Changing trains for through passengers could be eased by having redcap transfer of luggage. A break out of the train might be a nice change of pace. You could enjoy a nicely cooked meal served to you while sitting in the lobby of the Crawford Hotel waiting for your connection.

Actually, in an expanded rail passenger world, trains that terminate at intermediate points don't have to replace the long-distance through train. It's just that some intermediate points can't be served at reasonable hours by trains that travel the whole long distance corridor. For example, a train that serves Cleveland at a reasonable hour can't serve both Chicago and the east coast at reasonable hours. What the passengers in Cleveland really need are Chicago-Cleveland trains and East Coast-Cleveland trains in addition to the existing Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited. They could probably even use more trains than that to provide additional departure and arrival times, just as New York has the Empire Service to provide additional trains to Albany and Buffalo from New York City. I'm not sure mow much market there is for additional east-west trains out of Denver, but corridor service along the Front Range would probably be well patronized. However, I don't think they need to run a Cheyenne - Albuquerque through train.
to me, this makes a lot of sense. There is a huge market for Cleveland in education, arts, sports, etc... much of which comes from Chicago and the coasts. Had there been a reliable train there aside from LSL, I would have definitely used the train to get to oberlin.

United/JetBlue charged $350 for their direct flight tickets anyways... I would have gladly booked a sleeper on LSL if it didn’t drop me off in Elyria at 4:50am.
 

sttom

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When it comes to talking with conservatives about the value of rail travel, I was able to get some of my conservatives friends to agree that funding Amtrak on par with the interstate highways is worthwhile. Which would be paying for capital expenditures and operation costs. I was able to do this just by citing that the economic impact of increase building, business activities, and that direct spending from tourists will generally exceed the total operating subsidy. I also brought up how much we subsidize our highway network and how the associated traffic is more of a drag on our economy than we really get out of it. Depending on the person, you might be able to explain to them that Brightline is not a very applicable model to work off of. Since its basically being built and run to spur real estate development. And if it were a widely applicable model, the railways would start doing it and forsake Amtrak.

The main rules I have for talking with conservatives about trains are:
1) Don't mention Europe or the Environment.
2) Do explain the cost of roads and how you get more bang for the buck with Amtrak funding.
3) Show them that the economic benefits greatly exceed the costs to build and operate the services.
 

danasgoodstuff

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Most of the ridership of the California Zephyr aren't going to be traveling through Denver. And the people who do are already willing to tolerate delays on their through trains, so why not a reliable scheduled delay? Also, remember that the original transcontinental rail service required changes of trains in Chicago, Omaha and Ogden. Changing trains for through passengers could be eased by having redcap transfer of luggage. A break out of the train might be a nice change of pace. You could enjoy a nicely cooked meal served to you while sitting in the lobby of the Crawford Hotel waiting for your connection.

Actually, in an expanded rail passenger world, trains that terminate at intermediate points don't have to replace the long-distance through train. It's just that some intermediate points can't be served at reasonable hours by trains that travel the whole long distance corridor. For example, a train that serves Cleveland at a reasonable hour can't serve both Chicago and the east coast at reasonable hours. What the passengers in Cleveland really need are Chicago-Cleveland trains and East Coast-Cleveland trains in addition to the existing Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited. They could probably even use more trains than that to provide additional departure and arrival times, just as New York has the Empire Service to provide additional trains to Albany and Buffalo from New York City. I'm not sure mow much market there is for additional east-west trains out of Denver, but corridor service along the Front Range would probably be well patronized. However, I don't think they need to run a Cheyenne - Albuquerque through train.
Another example of this would be Spokane, the biggest City in eastern WA and the biggest for hundreds of miles, its metro area has grown by leaps and bounds since Amtrak was started, but the only service is the Empire Builder in the middle of the night. Tiny towns in MT on the EB route get much better service. I love those towns (Cut Bank, etc.), but a Seattle - Yakima (no current service) - Spokane loop service that arrived at and left Spokane pretty much any time other than the middle of the night would be a major improvement. Boise which is nearly as big has no current service at all and has also grown since the last time it did. We need to think in different terms than they did in 1971, much less 1950 - it didn't even work well then, and the world is a very different place now.
 

west point

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JIS has it right about Florida service. However I am disappointed that the Orlando - Tampa extension is going to take so lone in getting started. My one ride on the Star from FLL to Orlando I could not believe the number of passengers north of Palm Beach ( 4 coaches almost all full ) until I saw all the ones getting off at Tampa. It would be interesting for some rider report on the Star now with its reduced consist.

Yes Tucson - PHX - LAX has a very high ridership potential. All that is really needed is reopening the PHX - west line to at least HrSR speeds.
 

neroden

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"Snowpack" is just frozen rainfall. :) It might be true that the Phoenix area is better suited for ground-water infiltration than other desert cities, I still suspect that the total precipitation averaged over years is still a good deal less than the water used by the population.

From what I can read, the Salt River Project is mostly reservoirs and canals, so I expect evaporation is a big source of water loss. The Central Arizona Project may rely more on closed pipelines, but the big reservoirs (Lake Mead, Havasu Lake, Lake Powell) are still evaporating water like crazy. Also, it's not just evaporation, there's also transpiration, the uptake of water by plants. Desert plants can develop really deep, extensive root systems to seek out underground moisture and suck it up. And in deserts, evaporation from sprinkler and flood irrigation are not negligible, and those sorts of water uses should probably be banned. Finally, the water rights issues make things even more incomprehensible to an Easterner like me who just deals with riparian water rights.
Yeah, to me Phoenix looks like they're hardly doing anything to conserve their limited and decreasing water supply. They haven't covered the Salt River Project canals, they're still doing sprinkler and flood irrigation, they haven't even shut down the golf courses. Certainly Las Vegas is doing *worse* -- it is the poster child for never planning for the future, as you'd expect from a town whose primary industry is gambling -- but that isn't saying much.

Snowpack in Arizona? Will definitely be shrinking a lot from now on. That much climate change is baked in and unavoidable now. Could have stopped it back in 2000, but not now. 2019 might even be the last reservoir-refill year ever, and they aren't planning for it.


A smaller Phoenix will still deserve a Phoenix-Tucson rail line and a rail connection to LA, but don't kid yourself, Phoenix is going to shrink; they have no option.
 

cirdan

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That is exactly what is giving California conniptions these days. Drastically reduced snow packs most years.
So this means there is not actually less precipitation than before, it just comes down as rain rather than snow?

Then surely this could be fixed by building reservoirs to capture it?
 

sttom

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The problem here in California is that the state government doesn't have much of an appetite to do anything. This isn't the days of Pat Brown and the State Water Project, these are the days of the Austerity Democrats. At least when it comes to big infrastructure projects outside of highways or whatever the counties break down and pay for. Which is a really bad way to run a lot of things, Water distribution included.
 

jis

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So this means there is not actually less precipitation than before, it just comes down as rain rather than snow?

Then surely this could be fixed by building reservoirs to capture it?
How did you arrive at that conclusion? 🤔 Assuming that total precipitation has not changed is your fantasy, not fact.🤷‍♂️
 

Ryan

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The problem here in California is that the state government doesn't have much of an appetite to do anything. This isn't the days of Pat Brown and the State Water Project, these are the days of the Austerity Democrats. At least when it comes to big infrastructure projects outside of highways or whatever the counties break down and pay for. Which is a really bad way to run a lot of things, Water distribution included.
Are there actually any serious plans for infrastructure projects that would actually make more water available?
 

John Bredin

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Yeah, to me Phoenix looks like they're hardly doing anything to conserve their limited and decreasing water supply. They haven't covered the Salt River Project canals, they're still doing sprinkler and flood irrigation, they haven't even shut down the golf courses. Certainly Las Vegas is doing *worse* -- it is the poster child for never planning for the future, as you'd expect from a town whose primary industry is gambling -- but that isn't saying much.
Without digging to see if Phoenix is doing better than Las Vegas, your remark about Las Vegas not planning for the future is not borne out by reality. I recall from some home improvement TV show that the Las Vegas water authorities are paying people to remove lawns. This page, this page, and this page bear that out and describe various other measures being taken. Forbidding new lawns, requiring removal of existing grassy areas nobody walks on, and paying people to remove existing lawns don't sound like measures someone blowing off the problem would be taking.

Las Vegas Valley Water District said:
The community used 23 billion gallons less water in 2020 than in 2002, despite a population increase of more than 780,000 residents during that time. This represents a 47 percent decline in the community’s per capita water use since 2002.
I don't know if that's enough for the size of the problem (I live in metro Chicago with a huge lake on our doorstep, so I lack perspective) but it doesn't support the implication that Las Vegas is sitting back and doing nothing.
 

Willbridge

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I think someone here had an idea for this run similar to the Palmetto.
There are several ways of restructuring the CZ route and they all have pluses and minuses. There are a lot of minuses if someone thinks that it could be done without a net increase in train miles. Most of the coach loads turn over at Denver, the sleeper occupancy less so, but the through rider revenue could be lost in the shuffle.
 
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jis

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There are several ways of restructuring the CZ route and they all have pluses and minuses. There are a lot of minuses if someone thinks that it could be done without a net increase in train miles. Most of the coach loads turn over at Denver, the sleeper occupancy less so, but the through rider revenue could be lost in the shuffle.
The Palmetto like train clearly has to be a second train on the route, just like the Palmetto is on its route.
 

Devil's Advocate

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So this means there is not actually less precipitation than before, it just comes down as rain rather than snow? Then surely this could be fixed by building reservoirs to capture it?
Yeah, we'll just turnkey a few mountain sized reservoirs. Piece of cake.

Forbidding new lawns, requiring removal of existing grassy areas nobody walks on, and paying people to remove existing lawns don't sound like measures someone blowing off the problem would be taking.
Are they responding to the threat? Sure. Is continued growth safe from decades of increasingly severe droughts? Nope. This is a multi-state problem which needs a multi-state solution but is hindered by archaic water laws that never considered something like a hundred years of climate change.
 
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