Support for expanded Electrification?

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MattW

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I've taken something of an interest in the Caltrain electrification the past few days and it got me daydreaming into owning a company which somehow convinced NS to electrify the entire route of the Crescent etc. etc. yadda yadda details. If tomorrow, the route of the Crescent was electrified, would Amtrak have the capability of putting Toasters or HHP-8s on the head-end of the Crescent NYP-NOL? I know the Crescent and other LDs take up one or two electrics when they run the NEC, but those electrics are taken off at least at WAS and can be used for other trains like Regionals and other LDs northbound. What about another LD route such as the Cap Limited? Or even just keeping the Regionals electrified down to Newport News (and/or Lynchburg)?

Back in the land of reality and logistics aside, politically what would it take? What's the support like for the electrified trains outside the NEC? And what about Chicagoland? They're talking all about high speed rail up there, but I've heard nothing about electrification. California and their high speed rail is...well...out there and not truly Amtrak. I know it's a huge expenditure of billions and billions (mostly for studies :p ), but aside from this, what's the status?
 

transit54

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Feb 13, 2007
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You might be interested in picking up a November copy of Trains. The cover story is actually on electrification and they cover these issues pretty well.

I really don't know how much of a political issue it is. It's more of a financial issue. It would be the freight railroads that would have to lead the way on electrification, and at the moment it doesn't make a lot of business sense. But if when oil prices begin to rise again, it will begin to make more sense. You also need a very high volume of traffic to even make it close to worthwhile. If there was to be any major freight electrification in the next decade or two, BNSF's transcon would probably make the most sense.
 
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Philzy

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Jan 6, 2009
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99
I've taken something of an interest in the Caltrain electrification the past few days and it got me daydreaming into owning a company which somehow convinced NS to electrify the entire route of the Crescent etc. etc. yadda yadda details. If tomorrow, the route of the Crescent was electrified, would Amtrak have the capability of putting Toasters or HHP-8s on the head-end of the Crescent NYP-NOL? I know the Crescent and other LDs take up one or two electrics when they run the NEC, but those electrics are taken off at least at WAS and can be used for other trains like Regionals and other LDs northbound. What about another LD route such as the Cap Limited? Or even just keeping the Regionals electrified down to Newport News (and/or Lynchburg)?
Back in the land of reality and logistics aside, politically what would it take? What's the support like for the electrified trains outside the NEC? And what about Chicagoland? They're talking all about high speed rail up there, but I've heard nothing about electrification. California and their high speed rail is...well...out there and not truly Amtrak. I know it's a huge expenditure of billions and billions (mostly for studies :p ), but aside from this, what's the status?
I’m going to take a jump and say one it’s not likely any time soon. From everything I’ve read and what others on this forum board have mentioned it’s incredibly cost prohibitive short term.

While I don’t think it’s totally impossible, the state of VA or states along said route would have to offer serious - I meand serious - tax breaks and incentives to the railroads to electrify the route. VA has actually pretty much done a 180 in the past few years, now really seeing support for trains -obviously with the new Lynchuburg/Charlottesville corridor route, So, it’s always a possibility. Who knows it might create enough jobs that it would be a worthwhile investment.

Being all hypothetical and all, if they *did* electrify the route of the Crescent, one has to wonder what would happen in Charlottesville for the Cardinal. Would there be a change in route for the Cardinal to the NS tracks using a happy toaster to power all the way to CVS and then switching to Diesel (*salivating at the thought of all that happening in my hometown*) or just operating with a Diesel all the way down?

Honestly with the likelihood of us hitting peak oil in the next 10 years I’d like to see more LD routes become high speed and electrified. I would *guess* that if any one of them was to become electrified the Capitol limited would prob be first on Amtrak’s list. Anyone else venture to raise a guess?
 

AlanB

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If Virginia was in any way going to sponsor or encourage electrification, it wouldn't be for the Crescent's or Cardinal's route. The only route that would make any sense would be to Richmond as it's the only route with multiple trains that might just come close to justifying the costs of electrification.

And even then, I rather suspect that Amtrak would still do the engine changes for any trains going beyond Richmond in any direction, back in DC. No point in moving half the diesel base to Richmond when you still need to change the Card, Crescent, and other trains in DC.
 

stonesfan

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Dec 30, 2007
Messages
121
If Virginia was in any way going to sponsor or encourage electrification, it wouldn't be for the Crescent's or Cardinal's route. The only route that would make any sense would be to Richmond as it's the only route with multiple trains that might just come close to justifying the costs of electrification.
And even then, I rather suspect that Amtrak would still do the engine changes for any trains going beyond Richmond in any direction, back in DC. No point in moving half the diesel base to Richmond when you still need to change the Card, Crescent, and other trains in DC.
I think any electrification stateside will be together with brand new high speed lines......
 

George Harris

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Given the current diesel engines' thermal efficiency, and the line losses in transmission lines from fixed power plants, it is entirely possible that the net energy savings from electrifying freight lines would be zero, and possibly even negative. As I have said elsewhere, there would be no saving in engine weight except in top of the line premium services, as in normal freight operation the ability of a diesel to get freight trains moving and haul them at low speeds is proportional to the engine weight.

In passenger service there might be some savings in long distance trains with infrequent stops because there is no need to haul around the power plant. And then again, maybe not. One of the usual advantages of electric powered passenger trains is faster acceleration due to the ability to have a higher power to weight ratio by not having to haul around your power plant. Higher acceleration equals more power consumed, all else being equal. So, if the increase power consumption in faster acceleration is more than the reduced power demand do to lower train weight, you have a net increase in power requirement. Couple that with electric system line losses, this electrification may also have no energy saving benefit.

And: Yes, for high speed lines there is not practical alternative to electrification. Here there are true savings due to modal shift, that is from automobiles to trains or airplanes to trains. When considering the savings in modal shift from plane to train, a factor not normally mentioned is the differential in fuel consumption between the origin to airport and origin to train station trips. After all, no one lives at and relatively speaking, few people work at either railroad stations or airports.
 

transit54

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Feb 13, 2007
Messages
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Given the current diesel engines' thermal efficiency, and the line losses in transmission lines from fixed power plants, it is entirely possible that the net energy savings from electrifying freight lines would be zero, and possibly even negative. As I have said elsewhere, there would be no saving in engine weight except in top of the line premium services, as in normal freight operation the ability of a diesel to get freight trains moving and haul them at low speeds is proportional to the engine weight.
Electrification was always attractive, in my mind, because it allowed the electricity to be generated from a diversity of sources, not necessarily because it was inherently more efficient.

But I do agree with you that the real investment needs to be made in moving trips onto rail from other more energy intensive sources of transportation. That's where the real benefits lie.
 

goodnightjohnwayne

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 25, 2009
Messages
75
I've taken something of an interest in the Caltrain electrification the past few days and it got me daydreaming into owning a company which somehow convinced NS to electrify the entire route of the Crescent etc. etc. yadda yadda details. If tomorrow, the route of the Crescent was electrified, would Amtrak have the capability of putting Toasters or HHP-8s on the head-end of the Crescent NYP-NOL? I know the Crescent and other LDs take up one or two electrics when they run the NEC, but those electrics are taken off at least at WAS and can be used for other trains like Regionals and other LDs northbound. What about another LD route such as the Cap Limited? Or even just keeping the Regionals electrified down to Newport News (and/or Lynchburg)?
Back in the land of reality and logistics aside, politically what would it take? What's the support like for the electrified trains outside the NEC? And what about Chicagoland? They're talking all about high speed rail up there, but I've heard nothing about electrification. California and their high speed rail is...well...out there and not truly Amtrak. I know it's a huge expenditure of billions and billions (mostly for studies :p ), but aside from this, what's the status?
First of all, the Caltrain electrification project is a total waste of resources. The density of service does not warrant electrification and Caltrain has been pushing for this project for years, despite contrary findings from one of their own studies. Caltrain is poorly run by group of naive, non-railroaders. These people have little regard for the practical aspects of the business, or even long established safety practices - as shown by the recent horn issue that might have gotten someone killed at a road crossing.

Second of all, looking at the population growth south of Washington, there is a very real opening for the expansion of electrification - although most definitely not to New Orleans. Current plans encompass Richmond, which is hardly an overambitious goal. I'd say that Atlanta might be a reasonable goal for electrification, although it would require a far greater number of daily passenger trains to justify the investment. A first step would be to introduce a daylight Washington to Atlanta train over the existing infrastructure, and then look at expansion from there.

As far as the freight business, electrification is hardly a rewarding proposition, since conventional diesel locomotives give you the flexibility to traverse the "last mile" to industrial customers. Electrifying yards and sidings just isn't practical, and for short stretches of electrified mainline, the labor costs associated with crew changes at the end of the wires outweigh any saving from electric traction.

So, your idea isn't as far off as you might think, although the costs of electrification will probably preclude even the Richmond expansion. Still, I think there is room for NE Corridor expansion to the south. I only wish there was a more sweeping vision.
 

George Harris

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Apr 6, 2006
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First of all, the Caltrain electrification project is a total waste of resources. The density of service does not warrant electrification and Caltrain has been pushing for this project for years, despite contrary findings from one of their own studies. Caltrain is poorly run by group of naive, non-railroaders. These people have little regard for the practical aspects of the business, or even long established safety practices - as shown by the recent horn issue that might have gotten someone killed at a road crossing.
? ? ? ? ? ?

As a fairly regular, but not daily rider of Caltrain, I do not see any evidence for the "poorly run by a group of non-railroaders" with the front-line people.
 

goodnightjohnwayne

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 25, 2009
Messages
75
First of all, the Caltrain electrification project is a total waste of resources. The density of service does not warrant electrification and Caltrain has been pushing for this project for years, despite contrary findings from one of their own studies. Caltrain is poorly run by group of naive, non-railroaders. These people have little regard for the practical aspects of the business, or even long established safety practices - as shown by the recent horn issue that might have gotten someone killed at a road crossing.
? ? ? ? ? ?

As a fairly regular, but not daily rider of Caltrain, I do not see any evidence for the "poorly run by a group of non-railroaders" with the front-line people.
I'm talking about the people who are making major management and capital spending decisions. All of the objective evidence is against electrification, but Caltrain management isn't influenced by the facts.
 

gswager

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Aug 22, 2002
Messages
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Probably they have to prioritize the projects to make an easier transition for the massive electrification project.
 

George Harris

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At this point, Caltrain plans to get their electrification as a side benefit from the Calif HSR project which will use their right of way to access San Francisco.
 

Murjax

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May 2, 2009
Messages
58
The main problem with electrification is the fact that passenger rail is a money loser. Looking back to pre-Amtrak days, freight profit would make up for passenger losses, so railroads could improve their passenger services as they wished. Today electrifying lines probably wouldn't work in this country. It works in others because of high taxes. What we need to do is first upgrade our existing lines and/or create new ones so higher speed is possible. The next big step is to create a locomotive that can efficiently operate faster or at least as fast as the Acela. Does anybody remember the JetTrain? That failed mostly because simply put, no line outside the NEC could handle its speeds. If we could invest technology that would let railroads "plug in" their locomotives instead of operating on diesel that would be a money saver too. That in my opinion is the answer to high speed rail in America. A European or Japanese system just doesn't work here.
 

transit54

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Feb 13, 2007
Messages
1,390
The main problem with electrification is the fact that passenger rail is a money loser. Looking back to pre-Amtrak days, freight profit would make up for passenger losses, so railroads could improve their passenger services as they wished. Today electrifying lines probably wouldn't work in this country. It works in others because of high taxes. What we need to do is first upgrade our existing lines and/or create new ones so higher speed is possible. The next big step is to create a locomotive that can efficiently operate faster or at least as fast as the Acela. Does anybody remember the JetTrain? That failed mostly because simply put, no line outside the NEC could handle its speeds. If we could invest technology that would let railroads "plug in" their locomotives instead of operating on diesel that would be a money saver too. That in my opinion is the answer to high speed rail in America. A European or Japanese system just doesn't work here.
I have to disagree that European-style HSR wouldn't work here. In fact, I think it would be immensely popular. Now, would the sorts of things we needed to do to make it affordable be politically viable? That, I'm not sure about. Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure. But I digress..

Using typical, off the shelf technology commonly used in Europe and Japan, we could see 220 MPH trains on many corridors. Yes, this involves building a completely new right of way, and yes this would be very expensive, but nonetheless, it would be very popular if built. Washington DC to Orlando, FL could be covered in a little over 5.5 hours if the train averaged 150 MPH. Think of the number of people who fly that route everyday. 5.5 hours is very similar to the flight time, if you include the need to arrive at the airport early, wait in line to board the flight and get from where you live to the airport, and from the airport to your final destination. And that doesn't even include the tremendous demand there'd be between intermediate points.

Same thing could be said for New York to Chicago and a number of other corridors in this country. These would be very viable corridors if built. Now, you could argue that we wouldn't have the political support to build something like that here, but that's very different than a system not working here.
 

Murjax

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May 2, 2009
Messages
58
The main problem with electrification is the fact that passenger rail is a money loser. Looking back to pre-Amtrak days, freight profit would make up for passenger losses, so railroads could improve their passenger services as they wished. Today electrifying lines probably wouldn't work in this country. It works in others because of high taxes. What we need to do is first upgrade our existing lines and/or create new ones so higher speed is possible. The next big step is to create a locomotive that can efficiently operate faster or at least as fast as the Acela. Does anybody remember the JetTrain? That failed mostly because simply put, no line outside the NEC could handle its speeds. If we could invest technology that would let railroads "plug in" their locomotives instead of operating on diesel that would be a money saver too. That in my opinion is the answer to high speed rail in America. A European or Japanese system just doesn't work here.
I have to disagree that European-style HSR wouldn't work here. In fact, I think it would be immensely popular. Now, would the sorts of things we needed to do to make it affordable be politically viable? That, I'm not sure about. Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure. But I digress..

Using typical, off the shelf technology commonly used in Europe and Japan, we could see 220 MPH trains on many corridors. Yes, this involves building a completely new right of way, and yes this would be very expensive, but nonetheless, it would be very popular if built. Washington DC to Orlando, FL could be covered in a little over 5.5 hours if the train averaged 150 MPH. Think of the number of people who fly that route everyday. 5.5 hours is very similar to the flight time, if you include the need to arrive at the airport early, wait in line to board the flight and get from where you live to the airport, and from the airport to your final destination. And that doesn't even include the tremendous demand there'd be between intermediate points.

Same thing could be said for New York to Chicago and a number of other corridors in this country. These would be very viable corridors if built. Now, you could argue that we wouldn't have the political support to build something like that here, but that's very different than a system not working here.
Well I what I was getting at by saying a European or Japanese system wouldn't work here is mainly the financing part of it. I think we can must get high speed rail that can achieve speeds in excess of 150 or 200 MPH. If we can get the cost down in infrastructure a bit though it would help greatly. That's why I'm wondering if we can develop the technology of the "plug in locomotive" more. If we don't have to build a long distance catenary system, that's half the battle.
 

TVRM610

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Apr 30, 2007
Messages
1,664
The main problem with electrification is the fact that passenger rail is a money loser. Looking back to pre-Amtrak days, freight profit would make up for passenger losses, so railroads could improve their passenger services as they wished. Today electrifying lines probably wouldn't work in this country. It works in others because of high taxes. What we need to do is first upgrade our existing lines and/or create new ones so higher speed is possible. The next big step is to create a locomotive that can efficiently operate faster or at least as fast as the Acela. Does anybody remember the JetTrain? That failed mostly because simply put, no line outside the NEC could handle its speeds. If we could invest technology that would let railroads "plug in" their locomotives instead of operating on diesel that would be a money saver too. That in my opinion is the answer to high speed rail in America. A European or Japanese system just doesn't work here.
I have to disagree that European-style HSR wouldn't work here. In fact, I think it would be immensely popular. Now, would the sorts of things we needed to do to make it affordable be politically viable? That, I'm not sure about. Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure. But I digress..

Using typical, off the shelf technology commonly used in Europe and Japan, we could see 220 MPH trains on many corridors. Yes, this involves building a completely new right of way, and yes this would be very expensive, but nonetheless, it would be very popular if built. Washington DC to Orlando, FL could be covered in a little over 5.5 hours if the train averaged 150 MPH. Think of the number of people who fly that route everyday. 5.5 hours is very similar to the flight time, if you include the need to arrive at the airport early, wait in line to board the flight and get from where you live to the airport, and from the airport to your final destination. And that doesn't even include the tremendous demand there'd be between intermediate points.

Same thing could be said for New York to Chicago and a number of other corridors in this country. These would be very viable corridors if built. Now, you could argue that we wouldn't have the political support to build something like that here, but that's very different than a system not working here.
Well I what I was getting at by saying a European or Japanese system wouldn't work here is mainly the financing part of it. I think we can must get high speed rail that can achieve speeds in excess of 150 or 200 MPH. If we can get the cost down in infrastructure a bit though it would help greatly. That's why I'm wondering if we can develop the technology of the "plug in locomotive" more. If we don't have to build a long distance catenary system, that's half the battle.
Why must we go faster than 150 for a HSR system?
 

Murjax

Train Attendant
Joined
May 2, 2009
Messages
58
The main problem with electrification is the fact that passenger rail is a money loser. Looking back to pre-Amtrak days, freight profit would make up for passenger losses, so railroads could improve their passenger services as they wished. Today electrifying lines probably wouldn't work in this country. It works in others because of high taxes. What we need to do is first upgrade our existing lines and/or create new ones so higher speed is possible. The next big step is to create a locomotive that can efficiently operate faster or at least as fast as the Acela. Does anybody remember the JetTrain? That failed mostly because simply put, no line outside the NEC could handle its speeds. If we could invest technology that would let railroads "plug in" their locomotives instead of operating on diesel that would be a money saver too. That in my opinion is the answer to high speed rail in America. A European or Japanese system just doesn't work here.
I have to disagree that European-style HSR wouldn't work here. In fact, I think it would be immensely popular. Now, would the sorts of things we needed to do to make it affordable be politically viable? That, I'm not sure about. Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure. But I digress..

Using typical, off the shelf technology commonly used in Europe and Japan, we could see 220 MPH trains on many corridors. Yes, this involves building a completely new right of way, and yes this would be very expensive, but nonetheless, it would be very popular if built. Washington DC to Orlando, FL could be covered in a little over 5.5 hours if the train averaged 150 MPH. Think of the number of people who fly that route everyday. 5.5 hours is very similar to the flight time, if you include the need to arrive at the airport early, wait in line to board the flight and get from where you live to the airport, and from the airport to your final destination. And that doesn't even include the tremendous demand there'd be between intermediate points.

Same thing could be said for New York to Chicago and a number of other corridors in this country. These would be very viable corridors if built. Now, you could argue that we wouldn't have the political support to build something like that here, but that's very different than a system not working here.
Well I what I was getting at by saying a European or Japanese system wouldn't work here is mainly the financing part of it. I think we can must get high speed rail that can achieve speeds in excess of 150 or 200 MPH. If we can get the cost down in infrastructure a bit though it would help greatly. That's why I'm wondering if we can develop the technology of the "plug in locomotive" more. If we don't have to build a long distance catenary system, that's half the battle.
Why must we go faster than 150 for a HSR system?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the very definition of HSR are trains that can travel at 150 or higher. It at least has to be 150 or it doesn't count.
 

transit54

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Well I what I was getting at by saying a European or Japanese system wouldn't work here is mainly the financing part of it. I think we can must get high speed rail that can achieve speeds in excess of 150 or 200 MPH. If we can get the cost down in infrastructure a bit though it would help greatly. That's why I'm wondering if we can develop the technology of the "plug in locomotive" more. If we don't have to build a long distance catenary system, that's half the battle.
Well, such technology already exists, albeit for the freight world. See this photo, it's an experimental NS battery powered plug in locomotive.

Now, I really doubt that you'd be able to adopt this technology for HSR. For one, the massive amounts of energy that would need to be stored would massively increase the weight of the train, reducing efficiency and acceleration.

But is stringing catenary that much of a cost and burden? In the entire process of a new HSR line, I'd imagine obtaining the right-of-way and constructing the track would be far, far more expensive than running the catenary. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.
 
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volkris

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Mar 7, 2009
Messages
339
Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure.
That's not the situation. Oil prices aren't increasing because oil companies are taking higher profits--in fact their marginal profits have been decreasing!--so it's not a choice between paying more for oil or paying the same amount and then more for taxes. Oil prices will continue to rise, and increasing taxes will increase the cost of fuel... thus harming the economy and making it harder to support infrastructure spending needed for rail. The right solution is to simply tax fuel as needed to pay for the infrastructure that it naturally uses, e.g. tax gas enough to pay for highways and no more. Then, tax everyone else through normal governmental taxation routes to pay for the rail infrastructure that will benefit everyone. The natural and fairly predictable increase in oil prices over time will have people chooses appropriately whether they want to travel by rail or road.

The point is, taxing fuel won't really work to pay for HSR the way you think it will because the oil companies aren't the profiteering evil corporations they're portrayed as.

Well I what I was getting at by saying a European or Japanese system wouldn't work here is mainly the financing part of it. I think we can must get high speed rail that can achieve speeds in excess of 150 or 200 MPH. If we can get the cost down in infrastructure a bit though it would help greatly. That's why I'm wondering if we can develop the technology of the "plug in locomotive" more. If we don't have to build a long distance catenary system, that's half the battle.
You start to run into problems with fundamental laws of physics at that point. There are limits as to how much energy can be stored in a given volume, and that energy can only be shoved in so fast. Having batteries (or whatever) store more and more energy and making them absorb energy more quickly not only increases difficulties of engineering, but also issues of safety. Just think, it's no big deal to short out a low-powered nine volt battery, but what happens when there's a short in a cell holding a million times the energy? You have to start armoring the storage compartments to guard against even unintentional piercing. These fundamental physical problems are why progress in battery capacity has been so slow over the decades: throw all the money you want at it, the gains remain marginal.

Fortunately we do have a well understood, mature, and common medium for storing huge amounts of energy in a safe, usable form: petroleum :) I'd like to see what would happen if we married the very efficient single-speed turboelectric engines with modern batteries for storing energy during slowdowns, and switching to catenary power when it is available. The JetTrain was proposed as a turboelectric with an additional low-speed diesel engine almost a decade ago; I wonder how well the diesel could be replaced with power control and battery technology now developed for hybrid cars.
 

acelafan

OBS Chief
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May 24, 2009
Messages
891
You might be interested in picking up a November copy of Trains. The cover story is actually on electrification and they cover these issues pretty well.
I really don't know how much of a political issue it is. It's more of a financial issue. It would be the freight railroads that would have to lead the way on electrification, and at the moment it doesn't make a lot of business sense. But if when oil prices begin to rise again, it will begin to make more sense. You also need a very high volume of traffic to even make it close to worthwhile. If there was to be any major freight electrification in the next decade or two, BNSF's transcon would probably make the most sense.
Sitting here in BOS waiting for the Lake Shore Limited departure, and I found the Trains article to be a very good read. There is a lot of discussion about why the US hasn't invested in electric but simply put I feel it is largely a result of our short-sightedness for future transportation needs. Only when petro rises significantly (for 6 months at a time) do we begin to look at alternatives.

It was interesting to note that electrifying 1 mile of track is abput 1.5 million dollars while widening a freeway can be 10+ times that amount. We should be getting trans-continental and regional tractor trailers off the interstates and use double stack freights similar to China and Russia. Use trucks for the final delivery. How backward the US is in terms of rail when compared to other countries. It's funny but sad at the same time.

But American politicians love the automobile and RRs take a back seat. We can't expect the RRs to string all the cat - the government needs to take a part. But Wall Street and car dealership bailouts take precedence.
 

AlanB

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That's not the situation. Oil prices aren't increasing because oil companies are taking higher profits--in fact their marginal profits have been decreasing!--
I'd hardly call Exxon's $45.8 Billion in profit for 2008 marginal. :eek:

Oil prices will continue to rise, and increasing taxes will increase the cost of fuel... thus harming the economy and making it harder to support infrastructure spending needed for rail. The right solution is to simply tax fuel as needed to pay for the infrastructure that it naturally uses, e.g. tax gas enough to pay for highways and no more. Then, tax everyone else through normal governmental taxation routes to pay for the rail infrastructure that will benefit everyone. The natural and fairly predictable increase in oil prices over time will have people chooses appropriately whether they want to travel by rail or road.
The point is, taxing fuel won't really work to pay for HSR the way you think it will because the oil companies aren't the profiteering evil corporations they're portrayed as.
This model has worked quite well for Europe for many years. No reason to expect that it won't work here. Not saying that there aren't other ways to get it done, including what you've suggested. Just saying that we should be considering all models.
 

AlanB

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28,406
It was interesting to note that electrifying 1 mile of track is abput 1.5 million dollars while widening a freeway can be 10+ times that amount. We should be getting trans-continental and regional tractor trailers off the interstates and use double stack freights similar to China and Russia. Use trucks for the final delivery. How backward the US is in terms of rail when compared to other countries. It's funny but sad at the same time.
Truth be told, last I knew and this info is a few years old, this country still leads the world in moving freight by rail. We only fall down on the job when it comes to moving people by rail.

I do know for sure that even if we no longer lead the world, we still do move more freight by rail than by any other form of transit. According the the Bureau of Transportation Stats, in 2007 the last year for which data is currently avaiable, rail moved 40% of the freight ton miles in this country. Trucks, the next biggest, moved 28%.
 

MrFSS

Conductor
Honored Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2004
Messages
9,713
It was interesting to note that electrifying 1 mile of track is abput 1.5 million dollars while widening a freeway can be 10+ times that amount. We should be getting trans-continental and regional tractor trailers off the interstates and use double stack freights similar to China and Russia. Use trucks for the final delivery. How backward the US is in terms of rail when compared to other countries. It's funny but sad at the same time.
Truth be told, last I knew and this info is a few years old, this country still leads the world in moving freight by rail. We only fall down on the job when it comes to moving people by rail.

I do know for sure that even if we no longer lead the world, we still do move more freight by rail than by any other form of transit. According the the Bureau of Transportation Stats, in 2007 the last year for which data is currently avaiable, rail moved 40% of the freight ton miles in this country. Trucks, the next biggest, moved 28%.
Wonder how they count it when a truck is on the train flat car?
 

Ryan

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Apr 14, 2008
Messages
16,975
Fortunately we do have a well understood, mature, and common medium for storing huge amounts of energy in a safe, usable form: petroleum :)
Er, no. Unless there's some method that you'd discovered to turn energy into petroleum, there's no comparing it to other methods for storing energy.
 

transit54

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Feb 13, 2007
Messages
1,390
Things like raising our fuel tax to bring it in line with most industrialized countries and working to move towards lower energy forms of transportation and urban planning. Of course, the fact of the matter is oil is just going to continue to increase in price over time - we can either pay that money to oil companies in the form of higher profits, or tax fuel to reduce demand and utilize those funds to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure.
That's not the situation. Oil prices aren't increasing because oil companies are taking higher profits--in fact their marginal profits have been decreasing!--so it's not a choice between paying more for oil or paying the same amount and then more for taxes. Oil prices will continue to rise, and increasing taxes will increase the cost of fuel... thus harming the economy and making it harder to support infrastructure spending needed for rail. The right solution is to simply tax fuel as needed to pay for the infrastructure that it naturally uses, e.g. tax gas enough to pay for highways and no more. Then, tax everyone else through normal governmental taxation routes to pay for the rail infrastructure that will benefit everyone. The natural and fairly predictable increase in oil prices over time will have people chooses appropriately whether they want to travel by rail or road.
Alright, you've got me on one point. You're right, the oil price increases aren't a result of oil companies, and that I shouldn't be blaming them for the inevitable increase in the price of fuel. That increase is a result of the increasing costs of extracting oil in harder and harder to get locations - we're not running out of it by any means, but the oil we extract continues to cost more and more to do so. I just read an article about another large oilfield that was discovered - but to profitably produce from it, oil must be a consistent minimum of $70 per barrel.

However, if you reduce demand by way of a fuel tax, a price decrease will follow simply due to the decreased demand. So the cost, if the tax is set appropriately, wouldn't rise as much as one thinks. A $1 a gallon tax (which would be excessively high to start with, anyway - you have to slowly implement it to give consumers the ability to change behavior over time) wouldn't increase gas prices by anywhere near $1 a gallon. It's been a year or two since I've seen academic literature on this, but I think a $1 increase will result in fuel prices rising 60-70 cents due to the underlying commodity price decreasing as a result of slackening demand.

Now, you argue that a gas tax should only cover the cost of maintaining infrastructure for cars. I disagree with the specifics, but I agree with you in principle. A gas tax should cover the full expenses occurred by society due to the operation of an automobile. Part of that is infrastructure. But there a lot of other negatives that drivers don't pay for, but are assessed against society as a whole. Pollution, congestion, unnecessary consumption of a limited resource, car based urban planning and deaths of cyclists and pedestrians are only a few. In economics, these are referred to as externalities and to create an efficient market, should be taxed to ensure that the consumer is paying the full cost of consuming their product, which they aren't right now.

Now what do you do with that extra revenue? You could invest it in transit infrastructure, or you could return it to the people as a revenue neutral tax (i.e. divide up all the revenues and distribute them equally to all taxpayers). Either works and I'm alright with both models. In a revenue neutral scenario, you'll have to raise money from other areas to pay for transit improvements (due to massively increased demand), but it really doesn't matter, the result is the same: once people start to pay the true cost of driving, many will choose to take transit. As long as everyone is paying their costs, there's nothing wrong with driving versus any other form of getting around. The problem is that drivers don't pay their full costs right now.
 
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