16th Century Dutch Invented Timed Transfers, Clock Headways

Photo – English Canal Boats (By Graham Horn)

NOT the Swiss.

From the September-November issue of TRAC’s California Rail News (http://www.calrailnews.net/cal-rail-news-archive/):

The Pursuit of Glory, Cambridge professor Tim Blanning’s 2007 study of baroque to modern Europe (Viking Press 2007, $39.95) provides revealing insight on timetable innovations and passenger amenities which predate railroads by over two centuries. Here are some choice excerpts:

“The Dutch economic historian Jan de Vries has reconstructed a journey under- taken in the mid-seventeenth century from Dunkirk, in … the Spanish Netherlands, to Amsterdam in the Dutch Republic.”

De Vries describes regular scheduled departures for most of the way. The barge pulled by four horses on the Bruges-Ghent canal, according to the contemporaneous British tourist Thomas Nugent was “the most remarkable boat of the kind in all of Europe; for it is a perfect tavern divided into several apartments, with a very good … [meal] at dinner of six or seven dishes, and all sorts of wine at moderate prices.”

Following a coach segment to Antwerp and two sailing segments onward toward Rotterdam, “on the following day he could once again benefit from fixed timetables. He took the 5 a.m. barge, the first departure of a scheduled service which left every hour on the hour for Delft, changed there for Leiden … finally reaching Amsterdam at 6:15 in the evening.” …

Blanning opines, “Once established, the idea that ‘time is money’ meant that coach or barge companies with an atti- tude of ‘we’ll start when I feel like it’ were doomed. Travelling by passenger-barge in the Dutch Republic in 1670, Sir William Temple wrote: ‘by this easie way of travelling, an industrious man loses no time from his business, for he writes and eats, or sleeps while he goes; whereas the time of laboring or industrious men is the greatest native commodity of any country.’”

Makes one wonder if there were any similar services in the Roman Empire, of which there is no record…

CHSRA CEO Morales Misses Point of TRAC Op-Ed

Instead of responding substantively to my piece in the Sacramento Bee on Monday, September 29th, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) CEO Jeff Morales merely repeated his agency’s PR schtick. His article read like something written by CHSRA’s “Office of Communications” e.g., their PR flacks.

Reading between the lines, however, Mr. Morales’ article spoke volumes: by claiming “interest” in the HSR project by private companies and investors, he tacitly admitted that CHSRA actually has no commitments for private capital.

After some more verbal gesticulating including a specious claim that American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds can’t be moved to upgrading existing lines (a political choice by the Obama Administation, not a legal one), Morales failed to explain where CHSRA will get the $26 billion of public funds his plan calls for. This means that private investment is an utter pipe dream.

In short, if the courts are kind to CHSRA, they may manage to blow through $6 billion improving railroad service through downtown Fresno. After that, though, the current manifestation of HSR in California is dead in the water. CHSRA simply doesn’t have the money to build much more of its insanely expensive infrastructure, and has no idea where they will get any more money, public or private.

Another Claim: Private Sector Can’t Build High Speed Rail

In his recent response ( to TRAC’s opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee (see http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/29/6743679/viewpoints-heres-a-better-high.html), blogger Robert Cruickshank claimed:

The idea that the private sector would pay for HSR tunnels from Bakersfield to LA is absurd. They are not going to pay billions to do so. It’s too big a lift, too much risk, for the private sector to pull off. I am skeptical of the claims made in Texas that HSR can be built without any public funds, but it’s more plausible there given that Texas has much less challenging geography than California – especially between Bakersfield and LA.

First of all, the private sector would NOT build long tunnels between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Only a HSR plan apparently unconstrained by cost, and built by people with no experience in actual HSR construction and operations, would propose such a thing. Think of CHSRA…

Second, five years ago in 2009, SNCF America proposed a HSR system in California that could be constructed with a large percentage of private dollars. They also proposed similar, HSR networks in Texas, the Midwest and Florida. See http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2009/09/19/breaking-sncf-proposes-development-of-high-speed-rail-in-midwest-texas-florida-and-california-corridors/

More details on SNCF’s California proposals and how they were covered up:



Blogger Robert Cruickshank Ignorant of TRAC’s Role In CA Rail Development

Photo – San Diego Trolley, which would not exist without the efforts of close TRAC collaborator State Senator Jim Mills, nor would the modern light rail transit renaissance starting in 1981.

Here is text of TRAC’s comments tonight on the California High Speed Rail Blog in response to criticism of our September 29th Sacramento Bee opinion article:

Robert said:
The TRAC plan is created by people who are way too caught up in small details and have lost sight of the bigger picture. Their ideas won’t go anywhere, of course. But it’s worth pointing out them why they’ve never been influential in Sacramento.

Robert, brush up on your California rail history. Rich Tolmach and TRAC, along with PCL were the sparkplugs behind the development and successful passage of Proposition 116 in 1990. Without the $2 billion in Prop 116 bond funds, the Capitol Corridor would simply not exist today at all, we’d still probably be stuck with only one or two San Joaquins, the Surfliners would probably be where they were 30-40 years ago (5-6 round trips per day, maybe), and a large number of transit projects would not have been built.

The same people, including Tolmach, who were involved with the Modern Transit Society (before creation of TRAC) successfully sold the concept of light rail in Sacramento, which opened in 1987. And without TRAC allies such as State Senator Jim Mills, the San Diego Trolley and the modern rebirth of light rail would never have occurred, or would have occurred much later than the 1980’s.

California’s High Speed Rail Controversy Resembles Debate Over Streetcars

Photo: A San Joaquin train at Bakersfield

On Monday, September 29th, the Sacramento Bee published an Op-Ed by TRAC (see http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/29/6743679/viewpoints-heres-a-better-high.html) pointing out that

California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Executive Director Jeff Morales admits that a high-speed rail line with a straight shot route from San Francisco to Los Angeles could conceivably have been accomplished privately. (http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2014/09/09/why-does-californias-high-speed-rail-need-public.html).

Continuing from our opinion piece,

He [Morales] noted dismissively that such a line “would have bypassed all those population centers” in the Central Valley, Antelope Valley and Gilroy. “All those population centers” however, when added together, constitute less than 10% of California’s population. So why would the CHSRA plan to build a route through these cities at enormous cost, if these locations don’t have that many potential passengers?

This resembles the ongoing argument over streetcars, e.g., “transportation vs. development.” For example, see http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/10/hey-streetcar-critics-stop-making-perfect-the-enemy-of-good/380913/.

The CHSRA plan is designed to serve development potential in places like Gilroy, Los Banos (potentially), a string of Central Valley cities and the Antelope Valley. Unfortunately, the current HSR plan includes doglegs to these areas adding significantly to travel times, compared to the “straight shot route” advocated by TRAC via the Altamont Pass, I-5 corridor and Tejon Pass. CHSRA’s preferred routing makes it physically impossible to meet the HSR bond requirement for a 2 hour, 40 minute travel time between downtown San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles.

David Alpert in the Atlantic CityLab linked above says:

Matthew Yglesias wrote at Vox that streetcars aren’t worthwhile unless they have a dedicated lane. He called the streetcar on H Street in Washington, D.C. “the worst transit project in America.” Respected transit expert Jarrett Walker agrees, proclaiming that “streetcars mixed with private car traffic are overrated.”

And on this very website, Eric Jaffe pointed out that most of the newer U.S. streetcar systems, with a few exceptions, aren’t running frequently enough to meet the usual standards of good mass transit.

And Jarrett Walker points out the political limits of the Portland Streetcar (http://www.humantransit.org/2014/10/are-streetcars-in-traffic-skeptics-sacrificing-goodness-for-perfection.html),

The streetcar has been extended up to the limits of usefulness for such a slow-by-design service (about 3.5 miles).  But there are no serious proposals for taking cars out of its lanes for enough distance to matter, nor is there much energy behind extensions.  Why?  

In Portland, support for streetcar spending has collapsed.  A recent Bureau of Transportation poll found that only 38% of Portland residents would assign a more-than-neutral priority to further expansions of the streetcar.  The same number for more frequent bus service is 67%.   (Light rail, in exclusive lanes by definition, is at 59%)

The Portland Streetcar has taught Portland residents a lot about what’s really matters as you define an “imperfect good.”  Listen to what they’ve learned:  Frequent, useful, reliable transit — using tools that scale to the scale of the whole city —  is the “imperfect good” that matters.

Historically, in the U.S. most promotion of the Portland Streetcar and other lines have focused on their development impacts, not improving transit speeds, frequencies or reliability. While encouraging new walkable development around transit stops in downtown and other areas is desirable, expensive rail transit lines should also actually bring significant improvements in transit service.

In a similar vein, what Jeff Morales has admitted that in the current CHSRA plan for high speed rail, development potential has trumped improved transportation and the potential to obtain private investment to reduce the burden and risk to taxpayers.

An additional irony is that those arguing in favor of the current CHSRA plan (for example, see the California High Speed Rail Blog by Robert Cruickshank at http://www.cahsrblog.com/2014/09/tracs-unfeasible-alternative-hsr-plan/) have fallen for the “Fresno Fallacy.” That is, “all HSR trains have to serve Fresno” despite the fact that trips between Fresno, the Bay Area, Sacramento and Southern California in less than three hours would be possible with 110 mph upgrades to current service and the more efficient HSR routings via the Altamont and Tejon Passes.

Significant Rail News, September 30, 2014

Sacramento Bee TRAC Op-Ed: Here’s A High Speed Rail Plan California Can Afford

CHSRA Supporter & Blogger Robert Cruickshank Tries To Debunk TRAC’s HSR Op-Ed

Deja Vu All Over Again Dept: BART To Roll Out Test Of Late Night Service

First Rail Installed For Detroit Streetcar M-1 Project

Its Gone To The Birds Dept: Caltrans Claims Old Bay Bridge Demolition “On Schedule”

Fort Worth: New Approvals Push TEX Rail Plans Forward

OK, Politician Doesn’t Like Current HSR Plan, Overdoes Symbolism Dept: GOP Governor Candidate Kashkari Smashs Toy Trains

Los Angeles MTA Breaks Ground On Downtown LA Regional Connector

Alfred Hitchcock & Tippi Hedren (1962 “The Birds”) Would Appreciate It Dept: Spending Soars On Relocating Bay Bridge Birds

$6.5 Billion Gone To The Birds Dept: Caltrains Orders New Bay Bridge Anchor Rods Checked For Rust

Well, LRT Doesn’t Solve Everything Dept: Can Jerusalem LRT Still Unite The City?

Oh, How 20th Century Dept: Without Mandatory Helicopter Pads, Downtown LA Skyline Can Take Off

Los Angeles: Metro’s Union Station Master Plan A Significant Shift

We’ll See It When We Believe It Dept: Mayor Eric Garcetti Wants LA To Be First City To Do Robocars “Right”

We’ll See It When We Believe It Dept: S.F. Muni Says They’ll Address Near Term Service Concerns Before New LRVs Arrive

San Jose:  VTA Receives $8 Million For Double Track To Meet 49’er Stadium Overloads, Among Other Venues

How Transbay Transit Center Deal’s Collapse Would Impact San Francisco

From The Doh! Homer! Dark Side, Revenue Edition Dept: Opinion – Red Light Cameras More About Money Than Safety

High Speed Rail Faces Tough Climb Over Tehachapis

North Bay: SMART Platform Designs Generate Little Fanfare

Dominant Life Form On Earth Dept: What On Earth! (Autos Dominate The World!)

Uncertainty For Developer Funding Deal Bankrolling S.F. Caltrain Extension

“Sardine City” From First Day? Dept: Marin-Sonoma SMART Survey Indicates Strong Interest In Train Service

OK When Will This Technology Be Applied To Even More Efficient Railcars Dept: Electric Bus Passes Antelope Valley Testing With Flying Colors

North Bay: SMART Rejected Changes Recommended By Marin Grand Jury

Opposition To Likely Cap And Trade Related Gasoline Price Increases In California Next Year Goes Nowhere

SFMTA Approves Contract For Muni Mission Bay LRT Loop

Doh! Homer! Dept: Walking Or Cycling (Or Taking The Train) To Work Soothes Nerves

Houston, TX: Technical Glitches Force Delay In Opening Of Two New LRT Lines

Extra! Extra! Henry Ford Spins In Grave Dept: Ford Motor Company and DTE Energy Make Contributions To Detroit’s M-1 Streetcar

Economists Do Research And Then State The Obvious Dept: Long Destroyed Streetcar Network Still Shapes Los Angeles

From The Dark Side Dept: Left Wingers Expose The ‘Dark Side’ Of Alleged, Expensive Alternatives To Transit Such As Uber, Lyft

Money Matters Dept: US Highway Funding Is A Mess In One Chart

Midwest: Hamilton County, OH Approves Request for HSR Study Chicago-Cincinnati

Ideally, Why Should This Be News? Dept: Mayor Lee Rides Crowded SF Muni Train Downtown With The Masses

Virginia: Arlington Streetcar Moves Forward Amid Rising Costs And Controversy

Amtrak Gets “TIGER” Funds To Repair Southwest Chief Tracks In Colorado

Yes, We Knew That Dept: LRT More Cost Effective To Operate, Attracts More Investment Than BRT

Now We’re Talking Real Money Dept: Sustainable Transportation Could Save The World $100 Trillion+

North Bay: SMART Loses Bid For TIGER Grant To Extend Train To Larkspur

North Bay: Opinion – Keeping SMART Platforms Simple Is Smart

Fighting Traffic Dept: Over Time, Will More Streetcars Get Their Own Lanes?

Washington, DC Streetcar Could Start Service In November

Doh! Homer! Begs The Question Why Not More, Faster Transit Dept: Study Finds Time Main Factor In Choosing Transit

Doh! Homer! Begs The Question Why Not More Faster Transit Dept: 68 Percent Want More Transit Funding, Poll Says

Well, It’s Not Tokyo With Subway “Pushers” Yet Dept: BART Trains More Crowded, Shorter

Is Proposed BART Fare to Oakland Airport On New Connector Too High?

Is Proposed Japanese Maglev Their Answer To Howard Hughes (e.g., The Spruce Goose?)

Bejing, China’s Subway Network To Double In Size

All Aboard Ohio Proposes Increased Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati Rail Service

Philly, He Just Missed A Darwin Award Dept: Crazed Teen “Train Surfs” To Escape Cops

Bringing More Train Travel To California