Populist movements don't build themselves ...

... It doesn't matter what the "horse race" outcome of the campaign is, if we fight the campaign. Fighting it, we learn how to fight. Learning how to fight political battles, we become citizens again. Becoming citizens again, we reclaim the Republic that lies dormant beneath the bread and circuses of modern American society.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Train: The Texas Wishbone Regional High Speed Rail

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Back in the 90's, Texas tried to get an Express HSR system off the ground (that is, a bullet train system somewhere in the 125mph to 220mph range) with the "Texas Triangle" project. It was to be an entirely privately funded project. Not surprisingly, competing against the heavily publicly subsidized interstate highway and air travel systems, it did not get off the ground.

More recently, the Texas T-Bone was proposed, based on the Dallas to San Antonio leg of the Triangle and a route from Houston to Temple, then running north to Dallas with connections south to Austin and San Antonio.

While the Texas T-Bone seems to be the current plan of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, this is more of an advocacy group than an official HSR Commission or Rail Development Commission.

Given that we are in between periods of substantial federal funding for High Speed Rail, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at the prospects for Regional HSR, in some of the existing rail corridors within the "Texas Triangle" region ... and so arrived at the Texas Wishbone.
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3 comments:

Jama said...

Bruce -

It's done. Well done.

HSR is finished for, at least, another generation. You took such extreme exception to my framing of rail on a comprehensive, multi-tiered, national level. You argued that the current, piecemeal, some state in/some states out approach would serve as the groundwork. I said that the projects would never come to fruition for obvious political and economic reasons.

I have been a rail supporter for 40 years - and saw the handwriting on the wall with the "Corridor" approach. Not to mention that CHSR and other agencies created fairy tale scenarios.

There will be no HSR in Texas at this juncture - nor in the immediate future. With a lack of any federal funding and a hostile state transportation climate, it is only wishful thinking.

Only when there is a national rail plan - similar to the Interstate Highway Act - will there be the political and long-term economic backing to revive the American passenger rail system.

Steve Stofka said...

Jama--I disagree. The axe HSR has gotten as of late has been mainly because of a handful of far-rightist loons in Congress. Their destructive policies will live on long after them, true, but the key changes in the ways Americans live and work and play (which have been ongoing for over a decade now and were largely unaffected by the suburb-centric real estate bubble bursting) keep trucking, and will make the "Tea Party" even more fringe than it already is by the end of the decade.

CAHSR has much more momentum and a greater groundswell of public support behind it. For a few extremists to manage to slay it would be great a deed indeed. I suspect that while CAHSR will be the only HSR program that will be able to be developed for whatever the length Mica's transportation bill lasts, once equipment runs on it other states will want in again. 2015-2017 or so.

However, you won't find me arguing with the need for more commuter and regional intercity rail. This need will quickly become desperate as the price of gas grows increasingly unaffordable. (Again, by 2015, I predict.) And the commuter network is very much necessary as groundwork for HSR. Without a strong commuter network HSR will be underutilized: this is another benefit of CAHSR (especially over Florida): California has the strongest commuter rail network anywhere west of the Mississippi and south of Fredericksburg, VA.

In other words, we need to develop commuter rail networks as a skeleton for the eventuality of HSR. Only in the Northeast, California, and (parts) of the Chicago Hub do such networks even exist.

BruceMcF said...

Jama,

You'll note that the piecemeal, corridor at a time approach, which created a range of different projects with the process of killing them all being a game of "whack a mole" ...

... succeeded. Florida was killed, California was not. The 3C and the Hiawatha Extension was killed, the Virginia, Pacific Northwest, Illinois, and Michigan projects benefited as a result.

A single comprehensive national plan to kill would have been a single target to aim at. Instead, with a number of targets to aim at, the opponents took out some, but did not take them all out.

And as the projects that were funded go ahead, and start operation, between 2013 and 2016 the demonstration effect will kick in.