Disruptive Technology, High Speed Rail

Often these days in the transit community we see article after article about how X number of jobs are going to be created.  One of the quotes I’ve seen recently, on LA Metro’s Website for High Speed Rail, states 90,000 jobs created for building the high speed rail (HSR), somehow statewide they theorize 600,000 construction, and 450,000 permanent jobs.  I call bull.

Yes the work will create some jobs.  Some of those will be sustainable ongoing jobs, some will be for a few months.  It might be 90,000 jobs or it most likely would be much less.

However, one thing that is not mentioned is what will happen to all the jobs at the airlines and airport.

Do we really, as a pro-HSR & transit community think that HSR won’t be very disruptive?  When the high speed line between San Francisco to LA, and LA to Orange County and down to San Diego opens, almost every short distance flight within 500 miles will probably disappear.  Why do I say this?  Because it happens over and over and over again when high speed rail, even merely 110mph speed rail service it put into action.  The simple fact is, when a comparable trip can be made by rail people will not get on a airplane.

With that said, and something I just assume will happen, what about the workers in the airline industry?  This goes on the perpetuate the broken window scenario laid out many years ago.  Disruptive and especially destructive changes to the economy are only short term boosts during the repair.  Then the loss actually has to be compensated for and somebody ends up with the short stick.  In this scenario, the high speed rail will be very disruptive, but in the end there will not be a net increase in new jobs.  The airlines will lay off and probably sell or junk most of those short jumper planes.  Meanwhile the high speed passenger rail industry will take in some of those workers, the others will have to go find work elsewhere.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  Disruptive technologies, especially like high speed rail, are needed and a great deal in today’s world.  They are cleaner, cheaper over the long term, and provide people a much better traveling experience.  However, this continued bragging and politicking over jobs created is a myth.  Which, in politics simply equates to more lying.

In the end, we end up with no net new jobs from this Government intervention into the market.  It didn’t happen when they where dumping money into the airlines, it won’t happen when they disrupt things to dump money into the high speed rail.  Technically, if they wouldn’t have dumped the money in the first place, the market would have disrupted itself to run higher speed rail in California if the Government had not been dumping billions in to ever competing mode of transport at the time.

The railroads got shafted by the states & Federal Government, and now they’re the Golden Child again.  If the Government wants to have net positive new jobs, that are sustainable and economically feasible, they’re going to have to figure a way to get out of the industry and not be further disruptive in it.  But alas, I know we’re well past those days, but no reason we should accept the lies that the Government through infrastructure spending will somehow save our economy and create new jobs.

It has happened elsewhere, and even here in the US before, don’t fall for it.

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Ok, Seriously, All You “Let’s Make it Free People”

I was watching the Video of the Transit Rider’s Union Meeting and the topic of making transit free.

I have one basic serious question, as this suggestion just seems absurd from a million different perspectives.  The largest issue though is simply,

Where is the money going to come from to maintain the little bit of transit we have if the fare is removed?

I have some other questions that aren’t as pivotal as that single question.

The new induced demand, at least in Portland that free transit would provide, how is that going to be met?  Technically there doesn’t seem to actually be a way to do this, physically.

LA, Detroit going LRT

It appears that the push for light rail continues throughout many communities.  Even in LA were the Metro was sued in order to increase bus service, is now stuck with trying to move to light rail after laying down BRT in various places.  When capacity is needed, going to BRT is not a smart move.  The Orange Line being a prime example, as a line that prevents ridership because it is at capacity, and was theoretically built because of the lawsuit.  (Wad, maybe you can add some specifics to that for me)  But anyway, look like South LA is bound for the flanged wheel.

But Detroit, is a completely different situation.  They actually have $125 Million in private money that has been put up for their $430 million dollar line.  Currently they’re working on a Federal Match.

Portland to Centralia to Portland, A Quick Round About

During the Thanksgiving Holidays Amtrak rounds up some extra passenger cars and runs an extra train between Seattle or Portland.  The train usually consists of a few Amfleet 74 Seat Passenger Cars & a snack car with about 10 business class seats.  I believe the train often runs on the day before and day after Thanksgiving with even more cars, number 7-8 of the above passenger cars and the same snack car.  The extra passengers number between  300-1400 per day during the long weekend and days off.  The irony being, if we had the equipment full time Amtrak could very likely fill up the trains even then.

My father and I rode up and I’ve put together a story line of pictures for the trip.  Click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

My segment started at home.  I walked out and across a few blocks to board the north bound MAX to Union Station.  The first train that came along was a Yellow Line MAX.  During that time I say three streetcars go by which I snapped a few photos of.  I also decided a bit of sugar and caffeine was in order, so I stepped into the Seattle’s Best at PSU while waiting.  There I snagged a sellable couple of photos and sat watching the streetcars & buses roll by.

With the arrival of the Yellow Line I boarded and enjoyed by 8 minute ride to Union Station.  At this time of the morning, on a Thanksgiving Holiday, almost nobody was around.  I was the first on the LRV, which I took a shot of since it is a rare thing to see a truly empty MAX.  Upon arriving I entered the station to see, as expected, a massive line of passengers waiting to board the #502 extra.  Again, I sat and waited for the line to dissipate, and once there was only 2-3 people left, I stood up, walked to the counter and got my seating assignment.

Off to the train, seated, and rolling at a precise 9:00am, as scheduled.  We left Portland and arrived in Vancouver on time, were father boarded the train and joined me.  A short time later we arrived in Centralia, on time.

In Centralia we walked about the small one street downtown.  There is a coffee shop with their own grounds, St Lucia, that is a cool little place.  We got some hot beverages and then stepped outside to watch some freights rolling in and out of Centralia Station.

We noted the Kansas City Southern engine working the freight load, which is odd being that Kansas City Southern (KCS) is not often running anything out in these parts of the country.  After watching this train do some shoves and pulls we arrived back at the station where I took some Twin Transit photos.

After our short 45 minute wait, the Coast Starlight pulled in nonchalantly into the Centralia Station.  Everyone boarded in a a timely and orderly way, and with a few seconds to spare we were back rolling on the rails.

On the way back we enjoyed lunch on the train, with some pleasant co-riders heading to Portland themselves.  This being their first train trip I had to ask them how things were going.  Everything had been top notch for them so far, and they were much relieved that it was nothing like air travel.  Even waiting in lines wasn’t an issue while waiting for and riding the train.  I’m always glad to hear a first time rider who loves train travel.

Another train trip for the books.

Where Am I Going? The Transit Oddities.

First off, just look at these awesome Google Transit Maps. I’ve got a few thoughts below though.

Trip Part I

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Pioneer+Square+North+MAX+Station&daddr=17960+Northwest+Evergreen+Parkway,+Beaverton,+OR+97006+(Old+Chicago+Beaverton)&geocode=FfiRtgIdug6w-Cn_9iH7BAqVVDFmjDzH0HHJeg%3BFaXQtgIdQ0Gt-CGwq0PDEsA3gil3mSadQQ-VVDFmjiOSkVWLjA&hl=en&mra=ls&dirflg=r&date=12%2F8%2F09&time=4:50pm&ttype=arr&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.51777,-122.775112&sspn=0.200629,0.297318&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=2&ll=45.51777,-122.775112&spn=0.055196,0.19098&output=embed
View Larger Map

Trip Part II

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=17960+Northwest+Evergreen+Parkway&daddr=3400+NW+John+Olsen+Pl,+Hillsboro,+OR&hl=en&geocode=FaXQtgIdQ0Gt-Cl3mSadQQ-VVDFmjiOSkVWLjA%3BFYD0tgIdkAKt-CnHdWHQXw-VVDEdSneJbSBXhg&dirflg=r&date=12%2F08%2F09&time=6:00pm&ttype=arr&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.540143,-122.870793&sspn=0.025069,0.029397&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=0&ll=45.54015,-122.871753&spn=0.008851,0.019054&output=embed
View Larger Map

Trip Part III

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=3400+NW+John+Olsen+Pl,+Hillsboro,+OR&daddr=222+SW+Harrison+St,+Portland,+OR+97201&geocode=FYD0tgIdkAKt-CnHdWHQXw-VVDEdSneJbSBXhg%3BFQ9ttgId1w-w-ClVhZT0EwqVVDEBFnIIry1dqg&hl=en&dirflg=r&date=12%2F8%2F09&time=8:00pm&ttype=dep&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.509937,-122.778085&sspn=0.200657,0.235176&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=0&ll=45.511328,-122.779397&spn=0.066497,0.205143&output=embed
View Larger Map

Ok, there are a few issues with TriMet‘s Bus System, and 90% of those issues are on the west side. That’s what I want to discuss and these maps show so well.

First off, the central business district and east of Portland pretty much have the touted “best transit” system that TriMet often calls itself.  However, the west side has barely a mediocre system, and in many places is completely disconnected from any mode except automobile.

West Side Core Transit

The core of the west side consists of the MAX, #57, and basically the #12.  Beyond that, there are some infrequent routes, feeders, and split service bus routes (ala the #56 & #54, the #76 & #78, etc).  The easiest areas to get to, from downtown, are areas directly along the MAX.  This is also the only timely route to take from anywhere east of the “west hills” (for those not from the area, that is the big green slice on the maps above just barely to the west of downtown).  What other routes are effective from an east to west side transport perspective?

Besides MAX, West Side Routes

Gas Hits $4.35, Finally Pays Full Road Costs

In fact, the subsidy ratio (or, in the case of roads, the "Asset Value Index") for TXDOT's infrastructure makes Amtrak's taxpayer-supported needs absolutely pale in comparison! It is estimated that gasoline taxes would need to be six times higher than they are today just to bring revenue in line with expenditures.

In other words, the average cost of one gallon of gasoline in Dallas would instantly jump from today's approximate of $2.50 (for regular grade) to an outrageous $4.35!

Finally, it seems some organization has published some truth, along with the appropriately made factual correlations.  I found this beauty written up in the Progressive Railroading Journal’s Website, written by Garl B. Latham titled “Do Roads Pay for Themselves?”.  Now, in addition to me being able to show, in simple math terms why roads don’t cover their cost anymore than other modes, I have this actual DOT report that backs up the obvious fact.  Roads are heavily subsidized.

Now of course, at this point, since we can all finally agree all modes are subsidized at heavy levels we can step back and determine if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  My take, is varied, dependent of course on what we as a society are actually trying to achieve.

As far as subsidies are concerned, what are others take on these expenditures?  Should policy be to selectively encourage more efficient usage based on environmental concerns?  Should policy be made to reduce overall subsidy so that the end user foots the bill relative to actual usage?  Should policy be made to actually equalize subsidy regardless of any particular condition; environmental, economic, or otherwise?

I’m betting somebody has some great ideas out there, it’s just a matter of getting them implemented.  ; )

Finalized, Transit Meetup, Come One, Come All…

The meet will go down at Chad’s Meeting Space in the South Waterfront.  So jump on the #35 or Streetcar and head down!

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=ardea&sll=45.509903,-122.679337&sspn=0.014526,0.026157&ie=UTF8&hq=ardea&hnear=&ll=45.505204,-122.66613&spn=0.02906,0.052314&t=h&z=14&iwloc=A&cid=1107255446398457358&output=embed
View Larger Map

UPDATE:  Just wanted to add to this entry a few specifics.  Just go to the front concierge desk of the Ardea and ask where the upstairs room is with the transit meetup.  He/she will point you in the right direction.  We'll be just in front of and upstairs where the concierge desk is.