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, October 25, 2009

Sunday Train: Leveraging Pittsburgh/Cleveland for Canton/Akron | UPDATED

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

One of the stories that came out into the press this week was the pledge by the US Department of Transport to look into extending the designated HSR corridors to include Pittsburgh/Cleveland.

This would extend the Cleveland/Chicago route via northern Indiana and connect with the Triple-C route at Cleveland (both currently competing for HSR Stimulus funding). This is a 145 mile alignment that would offer a 2:10 Express trip between these two cities as a 110mph corridor, for a 67mph route speed - and faster, of course, if later upgraded to a 125mph Regional HSR corridor.

The focus today is not, however, High Speed Rail - it is conventional rail. The focus is on how to take this alignment that hit the top northeast corner of Akron's Summit County and leverage it into effective rail service for the Canton-Akron area.

Intercity Connections Along the Corridor

In the figure, I have isolated the Youngstown/Cleveland section of the corridor. In Cleveland, I've continued from the downtown Amtrak station next to Browns Stadium along the Triple C corridor to the Puritas Avenue intermodal station, then ended up on the Red Line to Hopkins Airport (see disclaimer below).

Along the route, I have given a rough indication of the station locations (other than downtown Cleveland and Puritas Avenue, these have not been pinned down), and the airports that lie directly adjacent to this alignment. Youngstown / Downtown Cleveland is 1:17 in the all-HSR-stations schedule, so a conventional rail service would fall within 1:50.

Of course, these are not enough stations for a conventional rail route. The second figure shows the result of adding stations in smaller population centers and then filling in to get most of the corridor within 5 miles of a station. This is a total of 13 stations - the original five stations plus the Hopkins airport terminus, plus seven intermediate stations.

Disclaimer: This is not an official plan, an official preliminary plan or even a necessarily fully worked out sketch of an outline of a plan. Its just an idea. So if you ask, "why didn't you ..." don't be surprised if the suggestion shows up in an updated version of one of these figures.

Now, on the one hand, for those living along the alignment, this would be a substantial upgrade in terms of their range of available transport options. And given the very light usage of the preferred HSR rail alignment between Kent and Youngstown, it represents an opportunity to establish a conventional rail service at a substantial savings in capital costs.

On the other hand, it misses Akron, and while passing through the north of Kent, lies well beyond regular walking distance from Kent State University. Is there anything that can be done to fix that?

Adding Akron to the System

The rail corridor in the preferred Ohio Hub alignment is a branch line to Youngstown, and it does in fact has a connection to Akron. So in this figure, I've run a line from the first station west of the branch down through Kent, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, past Akron University, and terminating in Barberton.

For local transport, this is a reasonable alignment - it runs right by Akron University, close to Kent State University, and a short bus or shuttle ride from main hospital in Portage County and a major shopping mall in Summit County. However, for intercity travel, its less than ideal - it makes is straightforward to get from Akron to Youngstown (!), but not to get from Akron to Cleveland. It also completely omits Canton, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Canton Akron Airport.

So the Canton/Akron intercity line runs from Canton (note that Google Maps for some reason has a grudge against Canton itself) past CAK Airport, connecting with the University Line at Cuyahoga Falls, then up to join the HSR corridor south of the Summit County HSR station in Hudson.

The full Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown system would have about 20 stations, as illustrated in the figure, offering substantial access through the Northeastern Ohio area.

Operations on the Canton Akron system

Clearly the Intercity traffic between Cleveland and Youngstown/Warren will be strongly drawn to the HSR service itself. Therefore the cornerstone of the operation is the Canton/Cleveland line, which would run in sync with the HSR services, operating as an intercity service in its own right, a collector into Hudson and distributor out of Hudson for the HSR corridor, and as an airport transfer from both Hopkins and Canton-Akron airports.

This leaves the Universities line to run from Barberton through Akron University and Akron, Kent, and then west serving the local and HSR stations along the alignment to Youngstown - ending near Youngstown State (how close depends, of course on the siting of the Youngstown HSR station).

If there is sufficient demand for additional services from Southeast Cleveland to downtown and the airport, a final set of services might be added from Ravenna to Cleveland, synchronized with the Universities line.

And under current conditions, competing against heavily subsidized automobile transport, and (unlike the HSR service) operating more slowly then direct automobile transport except during rush hour - all of these services will be running an operating loss.

Cap'n Transit has been pursuing the question of how to generate a profit (or, more modestly, and operating surplus) with transit lines, and has arrived at a Magic Formula:
1. Give transit its own right-of-way and good terminals
2. Make it hard to use cars
3. Make it expensive to use cars
4. Profit!

That suggests that as repeated oil price shocks hit in the decade ahead, it should become profitable to operate transit lines at a profit everywhere it is hard to use cars - which is automatically the case in densely populated urban areas. As he discusses, even if it becomes more expensive to use cars, given the diverse population, both (2) and (3) is necessary to arrive at the high mode shares that yield profits for transit lines.

The proposed system would qualify as providing dedicated right of way. Good terminals are not automatic, but the capital efficiency of sharing infrastructure with the HSR line makes it an easier goal to hit. But its not likely to become hard to use cars in most of the area covered by this line.

So that provides the frame if something like the Northeast Ohio Regional Rail is going to be established in present conditions. No matter how much capital efficiencies are gained by leveraging work done to establish the HSR corridor - unless there is a way of covering the operating loss.

Financing Operations of the Northeast Ohio Regional Rail System

There are, however, still a lot of potential wins in the system. Most important, in the eyes of people in Northeast Ohio, is likely to be the jobs impact. As discussed at Streetsblog Capital Hill, the American Public Transport Association reports that public transport spending has been shown to create as many jobs as highway spending - but with greater spending on operating subsidies would create more. Comparing the jobs impact of a billion dollars spent on public transport:
  • Capital Spending: 23,788 total jobs (8,202 direct, 7,875 indirect, 7,111 induced)
  • Operating Spending: 41,140 total jobs (21,227 direct, 2,934 indirect, 16,979 induced)

With our current mix of Federal spending, public transport spending generates just over 30,000 jobs per $1b - equivalent to highway spending. But that is due to the 69:31 split between capital and operating subsidies. Release the restrictions on operating subsidies to areas where populations exceed 200,000, and the jobs created by the public transport operating subsidies would be substantially higher.

An important step in increasing the jobs impact of operating subsidies in this case is to electrify the system, since this will cut the share of operating costs that goes to powering the system, leaving a higher share for paying workers. "Sunday Train: Supporting Rail Electrification with the Climate Bill" offers one framework for supporting this work by permitting states to allocated a portion of their share of Carbon Fee revenue to providing interest subsidies for transport electrification. Another section in the same framework would provide Funds for Energy Efficient Transport accounts to local municipalities and counties - and a portion of this could also be used to support electrification of the rail corridor.

If Federal operating subsidies were available, the investment in electrification would lower operating costs and (by reducing the time required to stop at stations) increase trips speeds and therefore patronage, and would therefore stretch the operating subsidies go further. However, it is unlikely to be enough to cover the cost.

There is a local source of funds that could be used to help provide local operating subsidies. Establishing the rail corridor will increase property values in the vicinity of the new train stations. This will lead to an increase in property tax receipts. So one source of operating revenue would be to allocate a portion of the increase in property tax receipts to subsidies of the rail operation.

Indeed, as argued in Sunday Train: Rapid Streetcars and Suburban Retrofit, this effect, which naturally follows the establishment of a useful new transport route, can be substantially leveraged with a zoning easement that relaxes single-use, single-residence zoning restrictions and allows for multiple use and multiple residence within a given radius of the train station - the specific example was a two-tiered system of multiple use within a quarter mile radius and up to four residences per lot (through stacked townhouses) within a half mile radius.

In suburban areas, that zoning easement increases the potential number of properties that can benefit from the presence of the train station. Indeed, the transport operating levy may well be focused on those properties that take advantage of the easement.

A second source of direct operating subsidies should be congestion pricing on those roads that are congested - which is to say, in the more densely populated areas during peak traffic periods. As Ryan Avent argues in Streetsblog San Francisco, Congestion Pricing: Still Good For Basically Everyone. The revenue source for transit is an obvious benefit to transit riders. At the same time, those that continue to drive get to drive on less congested roads. And driving on less congested roads then has spillover benefits all around - including costs of congestion that we frequently overlook:
The results suggest that traffic congestion is a significant contributor to poor health in affected infants. Estimates of the costs of traffic congestion should account for these important health externalities.

Will this close the circle, or will additional revenue sources be required? That I do not know. However it will in any event partly close the circle, and leave a system that is not overly dependent on a single source of funding, such as the systems funded by a portion of sales tax revenues that have been finding their revenue drying up even as difficult economic times are increasing the numbers of people looking to rely on public transport.

Substantial further work would be required to estimate incremental capital costs and potential patronage on the two proposed rail corridors, and work up both capital and operating budgets. However, a final advantage of the proposed system is that it is possible for it to start small and grow:
  • A first stage would run as a shuttle from the corridor east of Kent through Akron U, and then up to the Hudson HSR station
  • A second stage would extend the shuttle on through to Cleveland after the HSR service has passed
  • The third stage completes the local stations along the Youngstown corridor to provide the full Universities Line service, reversing at the University of Akron to connect to the HSR corridor at Hudson
  • Then the fourth stage would complete the Universities line out to Barberton and the Canton/Akron line to Canton

As a staged system, with the first stage looking to coincide with the start of the Pittsburgh/Cleveland HSR service, it would have an opportunity to establish its operating funding and build its market.

So, construction of the Pittsburgh/Cleveland HSR corridor, on the preferred alignment, does provide opportunities to share rail infrastructure with a Northeast Ohio Regional Rail System providing local conventional rail transport. However, barring dramatic changes in both the cost and ease of automobile transport in the region, actually operating the system would require establishing sources of operating funds over and above farebox revenue.

The strategy contemplated here is, first, capital investment to narrows the operating deficit, public transport property tax levies that recover some of the gains in property value created by the system, and congestion fees to offer alternatives to congested roadways while offering drivers willing to pay for their use of the road a less congested road, with all the spillover benefits in terms of health and energy efficiency that comes from reduced traffic congestion.

OTOH, you may have a better idea - or additional idea - so the floor is open.

UPDATE This just in from Transport for America (T4America.org):
Thank senators for making clean transportation part of the climate bill

The authors of the Senate climate bill have decided to support serious investment in cleaner transportation options. And it only makes sense – transportation pollution is responsible for nearly one-third of our national greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill will secure funding for clean transportation alternatives, such as public transportation and passenger rail, affordable neighborhoods around transit stops, vanpooling and neighborhood projects that increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

Please thank your senators for moving forward on this landmark bill and ask them to continue to support strong transportation measures in the climate bill.

Follow the link to send an expression of support to your Senators.

Midnight Oil: Beds Are Burning

Friday, October 23, 2009

Action Hours Against Rupert the Pirate: Week One

Burning the Midnight Oil for Breaking the Silicon Cage

Rupert Murdoch operates and profits from a big pirate support base, and we - I and anyone who joins with me - are going to go after him, in an ongoing "name and shame" operation, until he agrees to close down the pirate support operations at his base.

Act on Friday, 4pm Eastern, 1pm Pacific, and 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific.

Or, to make a different analogy, Rupert Murdoch owns own of those pawn shops that "just happen" to end up with stolen goods in their possession. That is, some pawn shops in run-down areas of town are just fence. Some are legalized loan sharks that work hard at avoiding being fences. And some respect the letter of the law but, well, if they somehow end up with stolen goods anyway, well, waddyagonnado? "Dese people are here, no respect for private property".

Few bootleg anime streaming sites would be able to keep operating if they had to pay the cost of streaming the media themselves. Fortunately for them, Rupert is happy to host their bootleg anime on MySpace servers. As long as its not NewsCorp copyright rights, NewsCorp is happy to do the minimum required by the law (I am sure it is just a coincidence that the when ordinary users link to the bootleg media at MySpace, that draws traffic and brings revenue to MySpace).

Who Watches Out for the Little Guy?

Now, the big media middlemen can look out for themselves, but its a lot harder for a small, niche industry. And the anime distribution industry is, of course, a small niche industry that is struggling - of ten distributors operating at the start of 2007, one has closed, one has gone bankrupt, and one has been forced to restructure and spin off their dub production studio.

Under the pressure of bootleg distribution, the anime industry has fought to adopt, making a wide variety of ad-supported free streams available.

If you go to the biggest aggregator of legitimate anime streams, Anime News Network's Anime Streaming Page, scrolling down you can find 39 dubbed series and 49 subtitled shows. Not quite 500 series - but OTOH, some of the most popular series in the US market. CrunchyRoll" specializes in early subtitled releases of shows presently airing in Japan, with about half the Fall season available for ad-supported free streams a week after going to air in Japan. Hulu's Anime Channel specializes in the most popular series, including most of those airing on cable in the US.

The legitimate streaming sites are making, in the complaint of Rupert's Newscorp "dimes rather than dollars", but at least the dimes provide revenue to go back to support the industry. And if the free streaming sites wanted to, they could very well redirect their viewers to the legitimate free streams when they are available - but that would mean losing internet ad revenue and risking a reduction in donations. So they rely on bootleg sites instead.

This is the focus of the direct action. But the action is not focused on the free streaming sites. Its focused on the sites that provide the free streaming that they rely upon.

And as I documented in Rupert Murdoch is the Biggest Pirate of the US Anime Market, Rupert Murdoch's MySpace servers are the free stream host of preference for bootleg anime.

The direct action itself is simple. Provided you have a flat-rate broadband internet connection, click on the bootleg anime shows that are streamed off of his MySpace servers, at the same time that everyone else participating does. You can download them to a temporary directory and, of course, delete the files when you are done.

What does this do? First thing is it makes Rupert pay extra for bandwidth when he hosts these bootleg media. How much extra? Well, that depends on how many people participate. A dozen - not much. A hundred - given the number of episodes we can stream at once, about as much as a bloodsucker site. A thousand - then we would be starting to cost some money.

Second thing is that if we publicize the weekly hours of action, and slowly build momentum, it risks generating bad publicity for Rupert Murdoch, undermining his credibility for his next attempt to make a money grubbing modification of copyright law - and there will always be another money grubbing modification to be made.

The list of files follows. For those with an interest in the knotty issues raised by the New Media Economy, there's a background discussion section first, and then the list. This is a list that will grow from week to week, unless of course Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp agrees to take down bootleg material competing against legitimate free streams.

Act on Friday, 4pm Eastern, 1pm Pacific, and 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific.

Background Discussion

At one time, very few Japanese animated shows, "anime", made it across to the US in a licensed release. However, fans who were able to understand Japanese could obtain the original media from Japan. Translating and subtitling these shows without a US release made it possible to share with other fans who could not speak Japanese. And so groups of "fansubbers emerged.

As the Internet expanded and computer capabilities expanded, the original VHS tape fansubs were replaced by growing number of electronic media files. And of course, alongside the fansubbers, groups emerged that just ripped files off of licensed works released on DVD.

The law is straightforward - the ethics, less so. Fansubbing is never legal use of the original published media, but we (make: homo, model, sapiens s) often distinguish different cases.
  • (1) Some anime are not licensed for US release, there is no official subtitled publication available - while the rights of the Japanese copyright holder is being infringed, the infringement is not doing them any economic harm.
  • (2) An anime is not yet licensed for US release, but is likely to be licensed some day - a fansub might either be building a market for the release or spoiling the market for the released
  • (3) An anime is licensed for release but some fans argue that they cannot obtain it or afford it because of expense ... "It's not fair, they got to see it free in Japan" ... obviously if any people who can afford it and otherwise would buy it end up just watching the fansub instead, these releases are clearly taking income out of the industry, and in our screwed up economic system where the strongest protections are given to middle-men and the weakest to those actually doing the work, this is clearly undermining the job opportunities for illustrators and graphic artists, voice actors and actresses, directors and producers in Japan and translators and voice actors and actresses in the US.
  • (4) An anime is licensed and made available for free ad-supported streaming ... in which case no remotely plausible excuse can be made. Streaming video ads pay extremely little per view, and stealing the audience away from legitimate streaming in order to avoid losing audience for a bootleg anime streaming site is just taking income out of the industry with no remotely plausible excuse.

Human nature being what it is, those that enjoy getting something for free, without the annoyance of advertising, without having to jump through whatever membership hoops or waiting periods while paid subscribers get a preview, without having to switch sites to get access to material that has never been released in the US ... will make up excused for what they are doing.

And that will sometimes get tangled up with serious policy discussion focusing on what the copyright law should be, compared to what it is.

Some fansub groups draw the line between case (1) and case (2) - they focus on fansubbing material that is otherwise never likely to be available to a non-Japanese speaking audience. Most long-standing fansub groups draw the line between case (2) and case (3). Some fansub groups will not draw the line even at case (4), but have other boundary lines - there is one that subtitles a popular series that is now available on free stream at Hulu, but only for peer-to-peer distribution - they will flag their material when it shows up on a free streaming site.

For myself, I am not interested in "going after copyright violators" - that is a hopeless task. The focus here is more narrow: go after those sites that provide free streaming of bootlegs for shows that are available by legit free stream.

As far as I can see, the streaming of bootlegs of shows available by legit free streams is just being a bloodsucking leech. But attacking the individual leeches is not going to address the problem - we have to hit their breeding grounds: the MySpace servers owned and operated by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp.

If you wanted to, you could also let the nice people at Fox know that you are participating in the online action: Mailto wmf@fox.com and ndc@fox.com, with a message along the lines of
Dear Fox Webmaster
Good day. I am participating in the Online Hour of Action against the support that subsidiaries of Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp give to bootleg anime streaming sites
(tell me if that mailto doesn't work, I've never used one before).

So what follows is "the list". It will grow week by week - at least unless and until it starts having an impact.

The List

Act on Friday, 4pm Eastern, 1pm Pacific, and 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific.

Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee at CrunchyRoll

Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/183/vid_507c7882740444f1894c8ae0e92f9926.flv

Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/151/vid_930a22aec97c4edbad8c7431a99d0968.flv

Ep3: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/184/vid_ec33035cde1a444ea00b1bd822ae8e17.flv

11Eyes at Crunchyroll

Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/178/vid_b959ed011b8442a585e9f4d7a7a68622.flv
Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/227/vid_2efe0de4c3624cf59de17cbd5950b399.flv

Tail at Crunchyroll

Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/136/vid_c13594d14f9f4b5281772b7d639d8b71.flv

White Album Second Season at Crunchyroll

Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/199/vid_2ae06ddcd4c14af0b052194bf9a2655b.flv

Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/151/vid_f5a74443bc40454dab17cd348332b6c7.flv

Armed Librarians - Book of Bantarra at Crunchyroll

Ep3: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/199/vid_5c4dd294f806414da629d5e93295bc92.flv

Bleach at Hulu

ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/212/vid_0988580aba55490480947406ab5aed6d.flv
ep3: http://content.movies.myspace.com/F0014839/28/18/1483918182.flv
ep18: http://content.movies.myspace.com/0015994/14/11/1599481141.flv

Naruto Shippuden at Crunchyroll

ep112: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/183/vid_09b0b19cbf43482a9b7c0fcc09ad274a.flv
ep113: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/213/vid_ba6751bb448a404784e9d51ee55fccfd.flv
ep114: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/99/vid_4c834b3956864727b257b951779bf368.flv
ep115: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/203/vid_cd3b24b3258a4d5d944d7e42cb3a8ad9.flv
ep116: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/127/vid_a36c19436828426f9d499daf3407b0a9.flv
ep117: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/210/vid_02b96a7287884f2eb1df8905b2f640a6.flv
ep118: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/189/vid_6992c55fc25e425895e9fdbaff5c27bd.flv
ep119: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/210/vid_97f779d08c4c44cdbb2767629be39546.flv
ep120: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/218/vid_1f649f19fb10449cb7b72fb30584faa6.flv
ep121: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/206/vid_ec0feaa1254f44d3a04659b8f78b724e.flv
ep122: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/123/vid_462c2d3a5dbc49d1addad2c8f42a6b8f.flv
ep123: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/238/vid_261ebb75c6cc454cb1c02667cd1f33ec.flv
ep124: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/137/vid_a522e466f61842d0a3d602b5e8f44cd7.flv
ep125: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/238/vid_ec0a6e3bf58d46ef84b3cda028d4b609.flv
ep126: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/215/vid_3c9cc336119d42b5a141b8fcbd9ae546.flv
ep127: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/156/vid_2cc80908653e4f018ec08a15ad7a79d0.flv
ep128: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/235/vid_6886f579aff547f9b6e35b371ab05404.flv
ep129-130: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/164/vid_44781135214d41cfaa060b7900c8ffe6.flv
ep131: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/162/vid_ead62cf694f4436cb20fae4937634a77.flv
ep132: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/186/vid_606beda237af41c0baab9a4e806a0ca0.flv

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rupert Murdoch is the Biggest Pirate of the US Anime Market

Burning the Midnight Oil for Breaking the Silicon Cage

When I wrote Can the Teaspoon Model stand up to Bloodsucker Streaming Sites?, it was clear that one reason the bloodsucker leech anime streaming sites are able to offer their "free anime" because they don't pay streaming costs either. They rely on pointing their users to places that host the streams.

They are, in other words, an aggregator. People that know how to look and where to look collect the information, and they put a shell around it to make it convenient to the user. They live off a trickle of net advertisements and donations - and of course, nothing ever gets back to the animators, voice actors and actresses, producers, directors who actually create the work.

And if the anime was unavailable in this country, they could argue they are "growing the market". But of course, an increasing amount of this media is available for legitimate free streaming, supported by a range of internet ads, streaming ads, and subscription models - which does feed income back to the industry that creates these collaborate works.

But the real problem is the hosts for the streams. Without the free hosting of bootleg streams, these leech bloodsucker sites could never afford to offer, as one of these sites boasts, "503 series, 7,657 anime episodes". Its the ability to point to free streams of bootleg copies provided by someone else that allows the bloodsucker leech sites to spoil the market for legitimate streaming sites.

When I looked at who was doing this streaming, I was startled that MySpaceCDN.com showed up so often. MySpaceCDN.com is registered by 20th Century Fox, part of Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp media empire.

On the other hand, I was just looking at a few series that I knew to be available by legitimate free stream from Crunchyroll.com a week after airing in Japan - maybe it was a coincidence that MySpaceCDN.com showed up so often?

After all, when you allow people to upload videos, some people will upload bootlegs - its just not feasible to screen each and every one. A few bootlegs will surely fall through the cracks.

So I decided to double check. I went through the first episodes of every series listed as AnimesFree.com, starting with ".Hack//Legend of the Twilight" through to the end of the "F for FOX" section.

And learned that its true, and Keith Olberman is entirely right to always quote Ol' Rupert like its "talk like a Pirate day":
  • Ahoy, Me Maties! Rupert Murdoch is the Biggest Pirate of the US Anime Market! Shiver Me Timbers!

YouTube, Google? Barely an appearance. Second tier upload sites like Veoh, Sevenload, Megavideo? Small fry. Murdoch even outdoes the sites that the bootleg leech site hides behind a streaming link on its own site. By my rough count:
  • 51: MySpaceCDN.com & MySpace.com
  • 42: AnimesFree.com (hidden stream origin)
  • 22: Veoh.com
  • 8: Megavideo.com
  • 6: SevenLoad.com
  • Youtube.com, Google.com, Tudou.com, only 1 or 2 apiece

Note that this is just a raw count of the streams that AnimesFree.com leeches from - I have not yet verified that all content is bootleg video, legitimate video being hijacked, or even video that has been released for free distribution. I know that Murdoch is hosting some bootleg video, since I have seen video taken from a Crunchyroll.com stream, with the name of the premium member deliberately obscured.

So that people can verify that I am not making this up - that Rupert Murdoch really is the biggest Pirate in the US Anime market, I'll finish this post with a long list of the information I copied down off of the FreeAnimes.com site (and h/t to FreeAnimes.com - without your hard work, we never would have known what a Pirate Rupert Murdoch really is in this particular market - though we of course know how bad he is in a lot of other markets!).
  • Note that Veoh streams give the Veoh PermaLinkID, rather than the URL

Also note that this count is subject to change if any of the hosts of the bootleg streams elect to cease doing so.

#'s: 11
6 myspacecdn.com / myspace.com
2 Veoh
1 megavideo.com
1 sevenload.com
1 animesfree.com

.Hack//Legend of Twilight: Veoh v4164495GyqbyX68
.Hack//Liminality: ep1: http://www.megavideo.com/v/EQ5SLDT5e9cf611b8449049c9ac66c71a5083bd8
.Hack//Roots: ep1: http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=21684830
.Hack//Roots (DUB): ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/22/vid_8edb5f27071aa0245259971f5222602f.flv
.Hack//Sign ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/26/vid_634b8cd5579a7357217091ed3c3ddb91.flv
009-01 (DUB) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/1443d40c99146979b5eb56a4215c54e4/v18414035xWnqdrNy.flv
07 Ghost: ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/104/vid_112e1c409a884198a2e33d45c03100d0.flv
12 Kingdoms ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/153/vid_bd9ce36eb7194578920d917900f41317.flv
12 Kingdoms (DUB) ep1: http://datal3.sevenload.com/data30.sevenload.com/slcom_1/qv/ce/opmonie/thsskkjiecih.flv
2 x 2 Shinobudden ep1: http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=30889802
3x3 Eyes ep1: Veoh v1190228CCg56qHG

A's: 34
11 myspacecdn.com
1 megavideo.com
10 Veoh
9 animesfree.com
1 seveload.com
1 google.com
1 YouTube.com

Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai (Dub) ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/26/vid_8196192793e742a3ba688a270402c088.flv
Afro Samarai Resurrection http://cache02-videos02.myspacecdn.com/84/vid_ad7861efdb6943509955615d12d96035.flv
Ah, My Goddess! ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/42/vid_799911e64362468d93b4e4687d39af0a.flv
Ah, My Goddess! Season 2 ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/6/vid_5473097483cc2041e294df67fd063baf.flv
Ai Yori Aoshi ep1: http://www.megavideo.com/v/AEIRFT8U1f89d6eebec76b31a8354be956883ee3
Aika R-16 ep1: Veoh v1652369sSXDTCjy
Aishiteruze Baby ep1:
Veoh v157848154rndd7r5
Ajimu Kaigan Monogatari ep1: Veoh v12057517Kse4cx28
Akane-Iro Ni Somaru Saka Veoh v18605695txP7HSh7
Akikan ep1: Veoh v17213061y6DYZGzH
Akira The Movie: http://www.animesfree.com/55c585706b853cc84d34d65d45a8775d/v6480341kWtdd7HA.flv
Alien 9 ep1: Veoh v1019368ePErxhR4
Amaenaideyo ep1: http://cache02-videos02.myspacecdn.com/86/vid_6dcd0cceaf4a4d0fba55c90687d63f88.flv
Amaenaideyo! Katsu ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/4/vid_875cd531a62845c68a965b6080d43523.flv
Amatsuki ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/7/vid_5527dded942c458783782fb50801ed61.flv
Amazing Nurse Nanako ep1: Veoh v4731998f7rFGP4
Android Kikaider ep1: Veoh v1735970dA7jBADN
Angel Cop (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/fbd3a41a7a00f251cebbda55d120afbe/v6489835TNyY8G7S.flv
Angel Links ep1: YouTube
Angel Tales (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/242523e5359c993c75fba3493057f1c1/v18212139RDmBD6aW.flv
Angel's Feather Ova ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/002ff72a28386433d3be0b3b95088b2a/v65337157BtMqM3c.flv
Aoi Bungaku ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/9ec32cc30ccfa954011772bdeab21613/v192390382p2Cm47J.flv
Aoi Hana ep1: http://datal3.sevenload.com/data83.sevenload.com/slcom_2/od/kj/mklrkge/qmdghfinlmmg.flv
Aquarian Age (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/55f5e30bb8ef6fc82ba044bdbb6c76e7/v18636819PCEKwrAz.flv
Arcade Gamer Fubuki ep1: Veoh v1577164rfwc4mxT
Area 88 ep1: Veoh v15600583D682PjCP
Armed Librarians ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/16cb7e37b96ef20da3d465bf3a303881/v191595926YmD5BmB.flv
Asatte no Houkou ep1: Veoh v14526678sfjk3Rzr
Asura Cryin' ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/124/vid_3622c8db50264463bdc2179195ac5c15.flv
Asura Cryin' 2 ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/103/vid_877d445269044973a4e416cbffc00cd7.flv
Avenger ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/0dc9478228588feb533ce96376682b46/v14082263rKk7WaCN.flv
Ayakashi ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/a0677e9c444a02c20ce8f8dd3c78294b/v12360338TWyKeCh.flv
Ayashi no Ceres ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/8/vid_38c54486f4074719b49b48d93ee1d5f5.flv
Azumanga Daioh ep15: http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-505055837559655847

B: 23:
10 myspacecdn.com/myspace.com
7 animesfree.com
4 Veoh
7 animesfree.com
1 sevenload.com
1 megavideo

Bakemonogatari ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/128/vid_5ec785e306ca4235b91cb10d5809225c.flv
Baldr Force ep1: http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=53252366
Bartender ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/1d3ee0ed3750685066ccc621b612f296/v15009494WBTSxGD.flv
Basquash! ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/135/vid_79ec57a682da4f0785b1330929ae8aea.flv
Bastard (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/5322ec24402c02072646cc54e6746042/v693681Q2jkgfrD.flv
Battle Athletes Victory ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/160d027d517db68cf4a11d82efdb3fd4/v4707627bFbfzrk.flv
Battle Programmer Shirase ep1: Veoh v15317746QP4QK92Q
Berserk ep1: http://content.movies.myspace.com/0016177/84/63/1617773648.flv
Black Jack 21 ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/fa1fd5f041c9b8380ba8f14d787a8013/v1087149yT4PEAKr.flv
Black Lagoon S2 ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/94/vid_4e6bcd9567df412293df29c5cf971a3f.flv
Blade of the Immortal ep1: Veoh v16056311CcW8jtSc
Blade of the Phantom Master (dub): http://datal3.sevenload.com/data21.sevenload.com/slcom_1/qy/gx/mmnpnje/pnlughgmtmjh.flv
Bleach ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/212/vid_0988580aba55490480947406ab5aed6d.flv
Bleach (Dub) ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/197/vid_9ca3d3152c2b49068c393bb0651a2f44.flv
Bleach Movie 01: http://www.megavideo.com/v/HFL8KERZ28e32496f24434e53fee575624d24bd3.5317925145.0
Blood+ ep1: http://content.movies.myspace.com/0016609/54/60/1660930645.flv
Blue Dragon (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/b641adf05aaaf0016298a2c33325ad52/v6542173YDA2zpb5.flv
Blue Drop ep1: Veoh v16491454GMzhgds
Blue Gender ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/47/vid_3cee062a0be148a487d2e31755ceafb9.flv
Blue Submarine No.6 ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/2a98e46b5b980af526eda523272bb518/v17323783xtbKdBdF.flv
Bokura Ga Ita ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/146bb101aefd003df11066c956c69b53/v1381115T5sTPqZx.flv
Bus Gamer ep1: Veoh v6608236yqmcdYDe
Buso Renkin ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/94/vid_c1af1b4b486d40eea7684e419a8af103.flv

C: 24:
9 myspacecdn.com
2 megavideo
4 animesfree
1 sevenload.com
5 Veoh
1 livevideo.com
1 tudou.com

Canaan ep1: http://www.megavideo.com/v/7V2XIJ0P548d5916434b663f23c3447c5d6748b0
Candy Boy ep1: Veoh v13191946sGH2kxeW
Canvas 2 ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/bb15a3f3ae5b125203b89b9b74736d9f/v398370yMn4Rdj6.flv
Capeta ep1: http://datal3.sevenload.com/data21.sevenload.com/slcom_1/kx/nu/jjeloie/szrmjrlhhdih.flv
Cardcaptor Sakura ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/6b0fec692da0956a03b3e4a42803a329/v1620802NrN5bSmN.flv
Casshan: Robot Hunter (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/5403a28b3e8e8695217823a40d29d60e/v18774646cdgzeKFW.flv
Chaos Head ep1: http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=46543124
Chobits ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/15/vid_18520eb5a7841489fbf0736bad4e8f41.flv
Chocolate Underground ep1: Veoh v178920044hP2BK5D
Chocotto Sister ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/03a25a2c27effb547bddcb002ba7fe38/v9782305Dx3QJqYA.flv
Chrome Shelled Regios ep1: http://cache02-videos02.myspacecdn.com/81/vid_7c886031872649f39e317f9f4d8cc012.flv
Chrono Crusade ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/61/vid_e3d62dbb251d46a9ba758898ca456078.flv
Cinderella Boy ep1: Veoh v699082DYtxsC77
Clannad ep1: http://cdn.livevideo.com/video/flash8/07/153007/387265.flv
Clannad After Story ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/58/vid_c61f9c5cb9f2c87bf284a6ee6090bd46.flv
Clannad, The Animated Film: http://www.tudou.com/v/aX221X96A0o
Code-E ep1: Veoh v16977279GqPBsbAk
Code Geass ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/22/vid_afe26aa5e49fe5cb77fbef25eac14e4f.flv
Code Geass R2 ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/29/vid_749b8a06cd8a777877d82712dd35f5fb.flv
Cowboy Bebop ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/25/vid_6c306cb2edf542a5968afec1d6e9e0f9.flv
Cowboy Bebop (Dub) ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/157/vid_4b040c5e467745c5b273ea64d4472b75.flv
Crayon Shin Chan (Dub) ep1: http://www.megavideo.com/v/82D0QR38b3c14d48f869fe3f4f0a9c2f73e619e1
Cross Game ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/110/vid_8f9b2ccff6134036837fcbe78d4437ac.flv
Crystal Blaze ep1: Veoh v70477479HZNqSWa

D: 24:
8 myspacecdn.com/myspace.com
9 animesfree.com
3 Veoh
1 YouTube
1 megavideo
1 sevenload

D-Gray Man ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/19/vid_673178725742e7c0df025b2597165e9a.flv
D.N. Angel ep1: http://content.movies.myspace.com/0020709/80/83/2070943808.flv
Da Capo ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/adc4cc81840d83cf6c4e79905aceef2d/v1080112GbH8NTSy.flv
Da Capo II ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/5e93ffca76f9bce053e0514b3b0d11da/v7019431ypXarNqD.flv
Dai-Guard ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/0c9436dc18328dc999743a133cea243e/v951646CJyrXxxJ.flv
Dan Doh ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/0e5994f71e7216ae3a61c2414ca93fa7/v6199483nGtmrDJ.flv
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/102/vid_5899d2c3316b4ea1922554710cc4d868.flv
Darker Than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/327e7ecc76717251cba7336610bdd9fe/v19194404RasjJ6e8.flv
Dazzle ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/45/vid_eea112d76774002ba54cd6acfabbb752.flv
Dear Boys ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/482c92365360bd1e212967b6ce314621/v707992MbNEjwfr.flv
Dears ep1: Veoh v6350563wt7hAfHs
Death Note ep1:
Demonbane ep1: http://content.movies.myspace.com/0010676/95/72/1067652759.flv
Descendants of Darkness (Dub) ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/096552b827530d21081c6bb305c36032/v16971949kG24pFxc.flv
Detective Conan ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/15/vid_79cf8f46b4514c3f9fe8ea70465ed47d.flv
Detective Conan Movie 1 - The Timed Skyscraper:
Detroit Metal City ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/18/vid_e3fe092c5143eec7845a7652ad18f034.flv
Devil Lady ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/69189d2b325fc7f474569a838c661f35/v19012021C9TReE5W.flv
Disgaea ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/4109cbd423ed0dd5ff22af5702501e34/v1007489PAHKYkNQ.flv
Dogs: Bullets and Carnage ep1: Veoh v18556223QMBeS78B
Doujin Work ep1: Veoh v1458470sYAdksz3
Dragon Ball Kai ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/130/vid_c6e68b0c345d4fcfa977dfd823cc046b.flv
Dragon Half ep1: Veoh v1225881Z3b65rQP
DragonBall (Dub) ep1: http://datal3.sevenload.com/data30.sevenload.com/slcom_2/wn/yw/mfdbfie/sunhpnililpg.flv

E: 10:
3 myspacecdn.com
2 Veoh
4 animesfree.com
1 sevenload.com

Earl and Fairy ep1:
Veoh v16454395PnQmGq6b
Ef: A Tale of Memories ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/64a776c50518a7c4f14ed495f32d564f/v13409657Ep5fXZ6.flv
Element Hunters ep1: Veoh v18777546mbsaR8nB
Elfen Lied ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/21/vid_13856492836a492d09d8edd4b63ce675.flv
Escaflowne (DUB) ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/213/vid_1f98ebd1cd394bd7b18fe7150602f22a.flv
Eureka 7 ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/43/vid_de01a9ee0442f0a325f556d079e71db5.flv
Excel Saga ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/7f44df4b9ef7379eaa8d8bd604e29657/v655039tBa4W5th.flv
Eyeshield 21 ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/27d9b9626acea8a1dce4005c7d0bbc67/v1146639RM54PZrp.flv
Eyeshield 21 (Dub) ep1: http://datal3.sevenload.com/data26.sevenload.com/slcom_1/ez/ek/hglnmie/qsullqnejjhh.flv

F: 15:
8 myspacecdn.com
5 animesfree.com
1 sevenload.com
1 megavideo.com

Fairy Tail ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/136/vid_c13594d14f9f4b5281772b7d639d8b71.flv
Final Approach ep1: http://cache02-videos02.myspacecdn.com/71/vid_cd4aa0e9c70e485180398c22147207ba.flv
Final Fantasy Unlimited ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/134/vid_ded0a6f87f24470896077725b02664d3.flv
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (Dub):
Final Fantasy VII: Last Order Ova: http://www.animesfree.com/be6ecee1bd730d0dd7831df58eb5268d/v10176428pY8Jdkc.flv
Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals Ova ep1:
FLCL (Dub): http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/49/vid_245c378b50dc44b4889722e3cd78932f.flv
Fruits Basket ep1: http://www.megavideo.com/v/8JFQBJCR25ac6ac0a6bae7f8281d511ba717c6ff.677359553.0
Fruits Basket (Dub) ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/97/vid_2cbade16f7b54baf90054ea3572254ac.flv
Full Metal Panic! ep1: http://cache02-videos02.myspacecdn.com/69/vid_f4cb38350b2e4d77a68b104d01968f59.flv
Full Metal Panic! TSR ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/107/vid_8f6a09990ee04d25a61f3c2a99cdf0d0.flv
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/49/vid_36daa938fee2476db8469c63764c4a12.flv
Futakoi ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/289b5dfb9cb92fdfe18964dfea629f05/v1063524xWYtpxk2.flv
Futakoi Alternative ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/a68928db2253a9a5d5e0b356c5a9ba2f/v1029773pP5JXesJ.flv
Future Boy Conan ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/b00f213059a5e9e176142c79688f4572/v16625629axBW3Sf6.flv

There is a clouded glass between the audience and the creators...

... but maybe they can just sell T-shirts

Monday, October 19, 2009

Can the Teaspoon Model stand up to Bloodsucker Streaming Sites?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Breaking the Silicon Cage

A little while back I saw a Tweet about one of these bloodsucker bootleg anime sites from debaoki, manga blogger at About.Com:Manga. So I want to check it out, and a little conversation ensued ... (NB: skip to the last section if you've heard all of this before)

The post that Deb Aoki pointed to was a whining complaint about getting a "Cease and Desist" letter from the American anime distribution house Funimation to take down links to bootleg copies of the works that Funimation licenses. The list (shown an item per line at AnimesFree.com) was:
Afro Samurai, Air, Air Gear, Baccano!, Baki the Grappler, Basilisk, Beck, Black Blood Brothers, Black Cat, Black Lagoon, Blassreiter, Burst Angel, Claymore, D.Gray-Man, Darker than Black, Desert Punk, Devil May Cry, Elemental Gelade, Ergo Proxy, Fate Stay Night, Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ghost Hunt, Great Teacher Onizuka, Gunslinger Girl, Hellsing Ultimate, Jyu-Oh-Sei, Love Hina, Lovely Complex, Magikano, One Piece, Ouran High School Host Club, Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, Samurai 7, Samurai Champloo , Shuffle!, Strike Witches, Trinity Blood, Welcome to the NHK, Xenosaga, xxxHOLiC, Casshern Sins and Eden of the East

Lest you think that "whining" is unfair:
I woke up this morning thinking it would be a crap day.

I was right. As I opened my e-mail inbox I found a nice little message from my webhost. Funimation had launched a massive DMCA notice and had kindly taken the liberty to go straight to my copyright-zealous host asking them to ensure that I take content down. They said I had 48 hours before my account was suspended.

So as it is, I spent three hours today taking down each and every category that Funimation wanted me to remove due to their licensing, each with a nostalgic flashback of the many hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons that it took to link and add. In reality, it really felt painful removing over 1000 episodes of good Anime from the website. All the staff on AF are devastated as well. They worked hard. We all did.

So I hope that anyone who reads this little message understands that life never goes the way you want it to. And as far as ‘Anime’ and ‘community’ are concerned, Funimation seem to only care about the sites that would be too troublesome to take down and pick on the one’s that try to grow. And what perfect timing too. We were just becoming more popular by the day. I hope whoever DMCA’d us from Funimation feel good about what they just did, because we must have been SUCH a threat to the industry that they had to have us remove One Piece alongside other good Anime.

But it wasn't all just whining: there was bravado as well:
But here’s a little message:

AnimesFree.com will continue just as STRONGLY as it has been these past three months. Meeting everyone new on the website was great and I don’t intend for it to stop anytime soon. So we’re not going to quit just because of a few dozen series. There’s two things that you can do when a bully pushes you down. You either stay down and cower, or you stand back up and fight until you can’t walk anymore. There are just some things that the ‘Anime’ corporate giants will never understand about how people rely on online Anime communities.

Fans supporting a healthy industry speak out

The first reply from Dave (URL seemingly deleted in a fit of pique by the site admin) received the kind attention of having a reply edited in by the site admin:
Jesus Christ, you need a tissue? The legal owners of the material claimed their rights to the product you compile links to. You are not a victim. They are not bullies. What you are is a whiny, entitled brat. And then the begging for money: priceless! Thanks for the laughs, bro, I’m out.

Reply from Admin:

And you’ve just wasted minutes of your time and my time insulting me which doesn’t make a damn difference to… anything. And if they’re not bullies, why do they pick on some sites and others? Or maybe ten or so other websites have the ‘legal rights’ to stream all their products for free? Whatever it is, if you’re going to post such a useless comment don’t even bother putting in your site URL through the comments next time. Begging for money? That’s about as retarded as you can get. You’re getting nothing from us and we want nothing from you. Get lost. On our site, we always have the last laugh.

gia pointed out that some of these titles are available streaming from legitimate sources:
I’m with Dave– don’t whine because your copies of copyrighted material that people worked hard to make so that they could earn a living had to get taken down. The only reason I cared enough to even look at this was to see if there was any indication of new licenses.

I mean, really– Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood? Why would you even host that? FUNi’s worked its ass off to make that anime available FREE and QUICKLY after its air date in Japan. Anyone who claims to “care” about anime or its industry should want to support projects like it.

... and so the conversation went. Having a link to the original complaint about the evil Funimation copied out through the #anime Tweetosphere and connected parts of the anime blogosphere attracted the interest of those who were less than impressed with all the work put into attracting people to get free streams with not a fraction of a cent going back to the original animators, voice actors, graphic artists, directors, or any of the other collaborators in the creation of the original works.

The replies started putting the site admin who posted the original complaint into defensive rationalization mode. Icy Storm:
I don’t think this is worth complaining about. You’re illegally providing content that others sell legally; does it not make sense that they use the law to rightfully assert their ownership of the content in the United States? I think the DMCA is crap, but if you’re offering licensed shows here, I don’t see why you’re surprised and devastated. I think it should be expected. At least on Hulu, FUNi (and the Japanese companies involved) would probably get compensated in some way for showing Baccano! for basically free. Here, they don’t get squat unless a viewer decides to buy the DVD… but how many people actually do that in the United States?

Reply from Admin:

The only reason why I was devastated is because I’ve heard many stories about Funimation and how harsh they are with their series. It’s understandable, they have rights to their titles. But instead of simply sending me an e-mail, they went straight for a full on hostile DMCA which could have been avoided. If Funimation would have co-operated a little more, I would have been willing to comply and this post would have never existed. And looking at all the other sites on the Internet which are left alone, it really boils my blood. {emphasis added}

VamptVo of ani-gamers weighed in:
Frankly, you are an idiot.

What in the world made you think that you had any right AT ALL to post videos of anime that somebody else owns? The only reason why you are allowed to do what you do on this site is because no one steps in to stop you. When a company finally decides that enough is enough and shuts down a mere fraction of your operation (not to mention all of the unlicensed shows that you also have no real right to distribute), they’re not a goddamn bully, they’re somebody whose business is being hurt by your self-righteous bullshit. Get over it, dude.

Well, this generated a big rationalizing reply, which prompted a reply by VamptVo, which prompted another rationalizing reply, and that was when I butted in ... note that the interior quotes are mostly by the AnimesFree site admin in question in reply to VamptVo (just to be, uh, clear):
“You’re supporting companies who never even aired something that was aired FREE in Japan.”
Actually, it was either aired on ad-supported or subscription supported broadcast or narrowcast networks. It was never aired for free. If it had been aired for free, they could not pay the salaries of all the producers, directors, animators or voice actors involved.

“Unless, of course, you guys are Funimation employees. In which case, you can keep your jobs.”
Actually what happened is this page link hit Twitter, so it was exposed to a broader cross-section of anime fans, including those who support anime.

“Funimation should work in CONJUCTION with sites such as this in order to provide both for anime communities local and abroad.”
Why? There is no revenue stream from sites like this to even support the salaries of the employees who are “working with” sites such as this.


… is their effort to generate revenue from video streaming. Why should Funimation undermine its own revenue, when Funimation’s revenues are what pays for its licenses, which are one of the income streams that funds the industry in Japan and helps new anime series be financed?

“This site doesn’t just help US people who can purchase Anime for themselves, but also in other countries where DVD purchases are far out of reach.”
Simply block access from US locations, and US license holders will not bother with you. In fact, block Region 1 and 2, and pragmatically you are unlikely to attract much notice at all.

And backing slowly away from the storm in the teacup

It goes on ... indeed, I have another point by point reply, VamptVo weighs in again, but the point is not this particular bloodsucking bootleg site amongst the swarm of bloodsucking bootleg sites out there. The point is rather trying to think through how niche creative industries are to survive when they have had much of their income stream knocked to one side.

It became clear to me just how naive the site admin was when I received this challenge:
As for Bruce however, who makes some constructive points -

Name me one Anime licensing company that has folded over because of the recent financial crisis.

Setting aside the notion that the recent recession was the start of the recent financial crisis in the anime distribution industry in the US, I did some googling and in less than a quarter hour came up with:
The Synch-Point R1 division of Broccoli shut down in 2005. The Geneon USA division was shut down in December 3, 2007. Central Park Media filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in April of 2009. Last month, ADV finished the re-organization it was forced into by threat of insolvency, re-organizing as AEsir/Sentai and spinning off its production arm.

That leaves Viz Media, Bandai and Funimation as the substantial surviving dubbing houses, with AnimEigo, Manga, Media Blasters, and Nozomi all adopting lower overhead niche marketing distribution strategies focused on sub-only thinpack boxset distribution.

Now, as noted in some of the discussion above, its not as if its impossible to get legit streams for many of the animes under discussion. For example, the site Crunchyroll which gained the reputation of being the "YouTube of Anime", largely on bootleg copies, went entirely legit at the beginning of this year, and now streams about half of the Japanese Fall season line-up, an hour after Japanese broadcast for subscribers and by ad-supported free stream, normally a week later, for the balance of members.

Yet when I took a closer look at Animesfree, I found they were linking to the following clips which I knew to be Crunchyroll streams:
  • Letter Bee
    • Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/183/vid_507c7882740444f1894c8ae0e92f9926.flv
    • Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/151/vid_930a22aec97c4edbad8c7431a99d0968.flv
    • Ep3: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/184/vid_ec33035cde1a444ea00b1bd822ae8e17.flv
  • 11Eyes:
    • Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/178/vid_b959ed011b8442a585e9f4d7a7a68622.flv
    • Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/227/vid_2efe0de4c3624cf59de17cbd5950b399.flv
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/136/vid_c13594d14f9f4b5281772b7d639d8b71.flv
  • White Album Second Season:
    • Ep1: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/199/vid_2ae06ddcd4c14af0b052194bf9a2655b.flv
    • Ep2: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/151/vid_f5a74443bc40454dab17cd348332b6c7.flv

  • Armed Librarians - Book of Bantarra:
    • Ep3: http://cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com/199/vid_5c4dd294f806414da629d5e93295bc92.flv

And just who is "cache01-videos02.myspacecdn.com"? According to Whois.Com, the administrative contact is
Fox Webmaster
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Intellectual Property Department P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills CA 90213


"MyspaceNCD" seems to mean, in other words, "Network Data Communications" service served by the myspace.com servers.

Does this mean that Twentieth Century Fox is streaming these films and Animesfree is leaching off of them? Does it mean someone has uploaded the bootleg files (maybe at the request of AnimesFree, maybe not) using a free video server, and that is being leached by Animesfree? I have no idea.

But it does highlight the perilous state of niche businesses like anime distributers in the new information economy. This is just a small sample of the information that could be automatically harvested from AnimesFree and followed up to find the actual site where the bootleg material is being stored. After all, "off-site" streaming sites have to tell the Java player that they are using where to find the material, so they can't keep secret the location that they are leaching material from.

Including, in this case, proving themselves to be liars in the disclaimer that they put up on episode player page:
Note: AnimesFree is a streaming website which embeds already uploaded videos on the Internet much like the way Google embeds searches. In case anyone had any misguided ideas about the purpose of this site, we fully support the Anime licensing industry and encourage anyone who watches and likes a particular series to go buy it, from sites such as VizMedia or your local Anime licensee.

Yet at their Armed Librarians: Book of Bantarra (Crunchyroll) pages, while they stream the third episode from MySpaceCDN.com and link to an external free streaming site for episode 2, they seem to stream the video for episode 1 from:
  • Ep1: http://www.animesfree.com/16cb7e37b96ef20da3d465bf3a303881/v191595926YmD5BmB.flv

Now, I have not been able to confirm that, since it may just be a link to an external site - that link may be to a process which is required to leach off of some larger site like Veoh (which when I checked does seem to have several copies of Book of Bantorra). However, if that is a file at their server rather than a process, then it would show how "flexible" they are with respect to their disclaimer.

What does the Teaspoon Model have to do with it?

The lovely Shakespeare's Sister at Shakesville presents the teaspoon model like this:
The teaspoon reference started with my post on International Human Rights Day, when I said: "Today is the final day of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, during which I suppose I have blogged exactly as often as always about violence against women, in America and abroad. Sometimes it feels like it's all I ever write about; sometimes it feels like I can't possibly write about it enough to do the issue justice; often, those feelings exist within me simultaneously. All I ever do is try to empty the sea with this teaspoon; all I can do is keep trying to empty the sea with this teaspoon." From that came the Shakesville Silver Teaspoon for Random Acts of Feminism, and a whole lot of subsequent references to teaspoons in these pages, when we are feeling crushed by the vastness of the work to be done.

As far as the economic health of this creative industry which is just a niche market in the US economy, and the success of efforts to try to come up with business models that can work in the new information economy - AnimesFree is not "the problem". They are one small bloodsucking fly in a cloud of bloodsucking flies.

And swatting down that cloud of bloodsucking flies would seem to be impossible but still, I wonder. After all, as I noticed when I started looking into this - being an aggregator for material available elsewhere in the Internet means pointing to where to find the material. And the reason they attract memberships (they are presently trying to raise $100 for their new and improved site design) is because its time consuming to wander around the back alleys and dank corners of the Internet trying to find places where the bootleg material is available.

So this is what I was thinking. Perhaps a small, struggling company that wanted to reduce the density of the cloud of bloodsucking flies draining the work of the artists who create this material of market value could gain leverage not by trying to find the Super-Teaspoon - but by recruiting a supporting group, each armed with ordinary teaspoons.

There'd have to be at least one person at the company actually sending out the letters to the sites streaming the bootlegs - but they would be far more effective if backed up by ten or twenty people contributing a couple of hours a week tracking down where the material is located. Indeed, the "white hats" could drop in info on where to get the material legally while at the bootleg bloodsucker streaming sites, including the proliferating opportunities for legal free streams.

Anyway, that's the idea that comes to mind when I think about the position of small, struggling distribution companies trying to survive the turbulent transition from the Old Media economy to the New Media economy.

Midnight Oil: Bedlam Bridge promotional clip

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Train: The Pay-To-Grow Financial Model for Regional HSR

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Let construction or upgrade of a rail corridor be proposed, and almost immediately the cry goes up, "but we can't afford it! It costs too much!".

Confusing the response to this cry is that there are two quite different types of "cost too much" - real, and financial.

There first "cost of rail" question is the real cost question: what is the full economic benefit, including all material and energy impacts saved versus other alternative, versus the full economic cost.

Note: This is the kind of "cost versus benefit" question that Ed Gleaser fumbled so badly when he assumed Zero Population Growth in east Texas, no congestion today between Houston and Dallas on the intercity road network, either deliberately or through negligence bypassed important intercity transport demands along the route of his corridor, and presumed that the only available option was the most capital-intensive type of rail corridor, the all-new, all-grade separated, Express High Speed Rail corridor.

The second "cost of rail" question is the financial cost - given the complex, sometimes ad hoc, and often inconsistent sets of rules we have established for allocating resources for both investment in transport infrastructure and paying for transport operations, how do we "pay for" construction or upgrade of those rail corridors that our best analysis of cost and benefit indicate are wise investments.

Even narrowing down to the financial "cost of rail" question, it is a very broad question.
  • The balance between direct benefit and third party benefit is substantially different for local rail and intercity rail, so the share of the benefit that can support ticket receipts varies widely.
  • The cost per mile varies substantially between urban, suburban and rural areas, and between available space in an existing right of way and a new alignment.
  • The cost of alternative modes of transport will vary widely based on the prices that are seen in future international oil markets
  • And, critically, the finance constraint faced by state and local governments is quite different to the financial constraint faced by the Federal government, which is the monopoly issuer of currency and cannot ever be forced to default on debt issues in its own currency

Since the whole problem is too big for a single post, I will be attacking the attacking this problem by starting with the Emerging/Regional High Speed Rail intercity systems. The good lord willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be looking to conventional intercity systems, local rail, and Express High Speed Rail over some future Sundays.

Financing Intercity Transport

A substantial share of the transport benefit of intercity transport is received by the travelers themselves - it is direct benefit. That means that if you have an intercity transport option with good benefits relative to costs in real terms, there should be substantial revenues available to that operation in the form of ticket revenue.

However, there are still a wide range of other benefits. Effective intercity transport is widely seen as an factor in promoting economic development. Freight transport in particular has often been critical in generating regional exports that have been central to regional growth.

There is also the question of property values in the vicinity of the intercity route: access to intercity transport makes a location a magnet for local transport to engage in those trips.

As a result, the US government has long provided capital subsidies of one form or another to intercity transport. The Erie and Eire & Ohio canals received substantial government support. Before the Civil War, state and local governments offered a variety of inducements to gain railroad service, and during and after the Civil War, the Federal Government was heavily involved in promoting the development of transcontinental railroads to "open up the west", including massive land subsidies to support the capital spending required.

In the 20th century, government support for railroads was largely abandoned as attention turned to roads and air travel. Indeed, from 1942 to 1962, a rail ticket tax was in effect which, in some cases, helped to finance the construction of roads and airports.

For intercity air travel, from 1946 to 1971, Federal airport spending came out of the general fund. Since user fees were first instituted in 1971, capital spending has been made out of user fees, and when, as is normally the case, this does not leave enough to cover operating costs, a direct subsidy for operations comes out of the General Fund (cf. GAO report, page 7). The average general fund contribution is around 20% of the FAA budget, and so with operations accounting for about 60% of the FAA budget (cf. 2010 FAA budget), normally about 1/3 of FAA operations are subsidized from the general fund.

For Interstate Highways, we have a system where a Federal gas tax paid by all drivers, no matter what road they are driving on, funds a Federal Highway Trust Fund which is used to subsidize capital spending on a wide range of Interstate, US, State, Country and Township Highways, used primarily by suburban and rural motorists. So the core of capital funding for intercity road transport in the US is based on a cross-subsidy from local urban to local suburban and intercity motorists, with local city streets largely funded from property, and local income and sales taxes.

The Federal gas tax is also an excise tax without inflation indexing, so it has been falling behind explicit commitments and has recently been requiring "top-ups" from the General Fund. At the same time, as the American Society of Civil Engineers points out, the work that is performed is not keeping pace with the demands that have been placed on the roads.

Of course, car operations are also widely subsidized. For example, driving requires a place to park the car, and while most parking occurs at "free" parking, "free" parking is by no means free. It is normally provided either as streetside parking out of local funds or private parking required to be constructed by zoning laws, with the cost included in rents, prices for shopping and dining, and housing prices.

Operating Finance for Emerging & Regional High Speed Rail

"Emerging" High Speed Rail is the Department of Transport lingo for 110mph maximum speed routes in existing rail Right of Way. At this speed its possible for the passenger rail services to share some track with conventional freight rail, and possible to share all infrastructure with 100mph Rapid Freight Rail.

"Regional" HSR is the lingo for 125mph maximum speed routes, primarily in existing Rights of Way. While modernized regulations would allow these services to share infrastructure with 100mph Rapid Freight Rail, they will operate on track isolated from conventional Freight trains.

These speeds are not extreme for trains - for example, the NYC No. 999 is reputed to have run over 100mph in 1983 (even if the story may be in doubt), and between WWI and WWII, trains such as the Pioneer Zephyr regularly ran faster than 100mph.

The modern technology that is to be used by the 110mph and 125 mph Emerging/Regional HSR corridors is tilt-train technology. This is not focused on hitting the fastest maximum speed, but at keeping the train near the maximum speed.

The problem is that existing rights of way are designed with curves that are too tight for trains to take at 110mph unless the track is banked - the passengers would be thrown from side to side. But if the track is banked for 110mph trains, it will be banked too steeply for 20mph and 60mph trains. So what tilt-trains do is add the extra banking required themselves, so that they can run at 110mph through a curve banked for a train to pass at 60mph.

The result is a substantial improvement in effective trip speeds. For example, the line of sight distance between Columbus and Cleveland is 124 miles. Google gives the driving distance as 142 miles and the driving time as 2:15 (2 hours, 15 minutes). The proposed 110mph Ohio Hub has a sample schedule (pdf) (including scheduling leeway to permit reliable on-time service) of 1:38 for the Express running from Cleveland to Columbus, 27 minutes faster than the Google estimate driving distance and an effective line-of-sight speed of 75mph.

This is something of a best case example for Emerging HSR: two cities less than 2 hours apart by 110mph rail, and a 112mile (LOS) stretch between Berea and Columbus where the train can maintain an average 80mph, including stops and leeway for service reliability.

The projected operating ratio - operating revenues divided by operating costs - is 199%, reflecting the strength of the corridor for 110mph HSR.

Now, this projection refers to 2025, which means it includes assumptions of ongoing population growth, in Central Ohio in particular, and it also includes the assumption of Emerging HSR connections to Chicago available at both Cincinnati and Cleveland. And while it is based on a detailed regression model informed by existing travel, two hour and under rail trips available between Columbus and either Cleveland or Cincinnati, supplemented by one hour train trips between Dayton and either Cincinnati and Columbus is a substantial expansion of existing transport choices, so a cautious use of this projection would require including some substantial margin for error.

On the other hand, the projected operating surplus is 99% of operating costs, so even with a very substantial margin for error, the corridor would still be offering an operating surplus. And this projection is based on travel conditions circa 2005 - a rail service that acts primarily to provide a supplementary alternative to Interstate Highway traffic can be expected to provide surges in patronage during each of the oil price shocks that we can expect to experience in the decades ahead.

The take-away conclusion is that the strongest of corridors for 110mph and 125mph Emerging/Regional HSR ought to be able to cover their own operating costs, unlike road and air transport ... and yield a surplus. And that potential for operating surplus is key to the specific question of how to finance these rail corridors.

Capital Finance for Emerging & Regional High Speed Rail

Substantial capital subsidies and cross-subsidies since the end of World War II account for the intercity transport system we have today, with its heavy emphasis road and air transport. I have seen an estimate that the airport and air traffic control infrastructure we built up before starting to charge users for a portion of the costs amounted to over $1 Trillion in 1980 dollars.

And the Federal Government is proposing to subsidize Capital spending on High Speed Rail systems, with an original $1b annual request by the White House expanded to $1.2b in the Senate and $4b in the House. Indeed, Transport for America among others are, as I write, engaged in an advocacy campaign to push for adopting of the $4b House figure in conference.

While $4b itself may seem relatively small set against the $61b the Department of Transport budgeted for highways, Emerging and Regional HSR is quite capital efficient.

For example, the Cleveland to Cincinnati section of the Ohio Hub is projected to cost $1.104b in 2002 dollars, or about $1.4b in current dollars. Adding in a +/- 30% margin of error for feasibility study precision of estimation, and the cost is comfortably under $2b, for capital works on 260miles of corridor with a life of 30 years and up. That is a capital cost of under $8m/mile (possibly under $6m/mile), similar to project portion of the capital cost of adding a lane each way to an Interstate Highway.

But of course, Ohio is just one state, and the Triple-C is just the strongest segment of one longer corridor in a system of three long corridors and a cross-connector, connecting to additional planned corridors to its east and west.

And should the infrastructure be entirely Federally funded? States pay 10% of the costs of constructing new Federal Highways, and even in the days before User-fees starting contributing to FAA capital spending, local tax-exempt bonds provided some of the finance for our nationwide system of airports.

Of course, the state matching portion of Federally funded infrastructure projects are not in place because the Federal government cannot "afford" to invest in a project. If an infrastructure project is economically justified in terms of providing more economic benefits than costs, and if the country can afford the impact on the external accounts, the Federal government can always "afford" 100% funding of these projects.

The purpose of state matching funds is to act as a check on states requesting investment in projects simply for the short-term benefit to economic activity due to the project, even though there is no substantially need to be met by the project. And based on the evidence of how states act with respect to highway funds, it would seem that a 90% Federal, 10% State match is not an adequate check.

So I will suppose that the Federal formula for capital grants to intercity Emerging and Regional HSR is 80% Federal, 20% State. This means that the $1.4b-$1.8b for the Ohio Hub would be a Federal Share of about $1.1b to $1.5b - or, in other words, the proposed Senate funding for HSR would fund the equivalent of one "Triple-C" Cleveland to Cincinnati line, including stations and trains, every year to year and a half. The $4b proposed by the House would fund the equivalent to two and a half to three and a half.

Or, in other words, maintained over five years, and assuming its adjusted for inflation, the Senate proposal would fund four to five corridors equivalent to the Triple-C corridor, while the House proposal would fund 13 to 17.

Now, the HSR funding is not restricted to Emerging and Regional HSR, but it seems clear that at least the House funding levels are adequate for providing an 80% Federal share of the capital costs of a substantial assortment of Emerging and Regional HSR corridors.

But, no matter what the theory of the state match may be, the question must be asked, where are states to find the matching funds? One possible answer looks back to the issue of operating funds.

Foundation Corridors as Seeds of Growth

Suppose that the 110mph version of the Triple C was established, and the patronage it attracted put it on track to meet the projected 199% operating ration. What kind of money are we talking about here? Well, from the same Financial Viability study, that is revenues of $100m against operating costs of $50m.

Now, assume a cautious real discount rate of 5%, 20 years of revenue bonds funded by a revenue stream of $10m is about $150m, which in a 20:80 match can help fund a project of about $760m. So for a corridor with operating costs of $50m, operating ratios above 100% translate into potential funding for system expansion:
  • 120% ==> $10m/yr ==> $760m
  • 150% ==> $25m/yr ==> $1.9b
  • $50m ==> $50m/yr ==> $3.8b

In other words, once an effective keystone corridor has been established, it can yield a revenue stream that can provide the state matching funds for ongoing expansion of the system.

An objection may be made that if the state provides its matching funds using revenue bonds funded from operating surpluses, that the check on "reckless expansion" has been lost. However, the reality is that if states pursue this approach, the check is even more effective.

The reason is straightforward. Any ambitious "empire builder" operating under this approach must continue building corridors that can grow the patronage to deliver operating surpluses. At the point that a corridor is built that continues to generate an operating loss, it reduces the revenue bonding capacity of the system as a whole, and so slows the growth of the system as a whole.

Rail Electrification

An important area where the potential for an operating ratio over 100% is very useful is rail electrification. Electrification will reduce operating costs of an operation and, because of the greater traction available when electric motors are distributed along the length of the train, increase acceleration and deceleration, further reducing trip speeds. Indeed, in a 110mph corridor, electrification may be one of the improvements supporting upgrade to 125mph operation.

Further, electrification allows the Emerging/Regional HSR network to be more easily powered by sustainable, renewable power sources, since direct electric power sources such as wind turbines offer far more energy capacity and higher rates of Net Energy Return on Investment than biofuels such as biodiesel.

However, while electrification improves operating costs, it is capital intensive, and when capital costs are limiting the speed of roll-out of the system, there would seem to be a risk of delaying electrification until after a regional system is entirely built out.

However, if the capital expenditure is provided for separately, there is no need to wait. Provided that finance is made available, it is possible to build the electric infrastructure and charge the rail operator a user fee for the use of the electricity - with the user fee refunding the capital costs.

Indeed, as proposed last week, it is possible to accelerate electrification even faster. The proposal is to allow states to use a portion of the state share of Carbon Fees to provide an interest subsidy on the infrastructure to support Rapid Electric Freight Rail.

Under this proposal, electrification of Emerging/Regional HSR can be integrated into electrification of a longer Interstate Freight Corridor along the STRACNET system, allowing the earlier roll-out of electric trains along that segment of the system, with diesel trains freed up in the process free to be used in more recently established corridors.


So, this is the general framework. First, establishing a sufficient Federal HSR funding stream to support the establishment of "multiple Triple-C corridor equivalents" each year. Second, going to states for bond funding for the establishment of the strongest Emerging HSR corridors in the various systems under development. Third, building up patronage in the keystone corridors to the point of financing revenue bonds for system expansion. And fourth, establishing a separate system with its own stream of Carbon Fee funding for Rapid Freight Rail electrification which can also be leveraged to the benefit of Emerging and Regional HSR corridors.

Of course, the reason that I started with Emerging/Regional HSR corridors is that it is, in a certain sense, the easiest place to start.

Heading off in one direction, once we reach the point of conventional rail corridors, where such a dominant share of the benefit is external benefit, we need to work what conditions will generate an operating surplus and, under those that do not, how we can sustainably finance an operating deficits.

Heading off in the other direction, while well-chosen Express HSR corridors can certainly generate operating surpluses, they are also dramatically more capital intensive than Emerging/Express HSR corridors, and that generates its own set of problems.

So while this is a pause point - in reality, its just the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Train: Supporting Rail Electrification with the Climate Bill

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
posted at ProgressiveBlue, crossposted at The Hillbilly Report, Docudharma, and Agent Orange.

Transport For America (t4america.org) has a call to action out on the Climate Change Bill. "ACES" passed the House, and the corresponding (but of course not identical) legislation is presently up for consideration in the Senate.

The basis of the call for action is straightforward:
  • 1% of the revenues raised by the Carbon Fee is permitted to be used for clean energy transport - not even mandated, but optionally may be used for that among a range of other options.
  • Transport is responsible for 30% of the CO2 emitted
  • thus, "You can't solve 30% of the problem with 1% of the funds

Now, about 14% of carbon fee revenue is dedicated to emissions reduction, so that is 7.2% of the emissions reduction budget allocated that is the maximum allowed to be spent on installing existing clean energy transport. Based on CBO estimates of carbon fees, the maximum amount that states would be allowed to devote to clean energy transport is:
  • $391m in 2011; rising to
  • $1.3b ($1,323m) in 2019

By contrast, the bill authorizes utilities to tax customers by $1b-$1.1b a year over 10 years to finance the installation of Carbon Sequestration Technology, which is the excuse given for permitting continued construction of coal-fired generating plants. (source: 1Sky analysis, pdf)

There is plenty of funding in the bill for vehicle electrification. Plug-in cars, plug-in trucks, plug-in buses, all get funding. However, vehicle electrification funds read as if they were written by a battery manufacturer: existing electrified rail and trolley bus technologies are restricted to a public transit ghetto. It seems that the motto for vehicle electrification funding is, "Lord, make me virtuous, but please, not quite right now."

Even worse, the 1% funding that is permitted is provided by allowing states to use up to 10% of their funds to provide the state match to "greenhouse gas saving" transport such as bicycles and transit.

This means:
  • The most promising single opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport inside a decade, electrification of the STRACNET long haul rail freight network, is entirely out of bounds for any funding
  • Funding for electric rail and trolley bus passenger transport requires first gaining approval through Federal programs that discriminate against energy-efficiency

Those are two massive flaws for any bill that is serious about greenhouse gas emissions reduction in the next decade, as opposed to hoping for greenhouse gas emissions a generation or more in the future.

They can, however, be fixed, if the Senate can be made aware that there is a loud and demanding constituency for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this coming decade, and not just in some indefinite future ... and that this loud and demanding constituency is capable of both rewarding its political friends and punishing its political enemies.

First the Steel Interstate ... jump here for fixing the local transit project funding bias and here for the Local Community Funds for Energy-Efficient Transport, LC-FEET.

Financing Steel Interstates

In a previous Sunday Train, I discussed the Steel Interstate. The focus there was on the transport benefits provided, and the spill-over benefits to the opportunities for improving the range and quality of transport opportunities available in Appalachia.

It's been much longer since I've discussed the financing of a Steel Interstate.

The financial challenge is straightforward. While we have been massively subsidizing diesel truck freight infrastructure, we have placed rail freight on the YOYO principle: Your On Your Own. And while the infrastructure used by diesel trucks is in part funded by property taxes, the infrastructure used by rail pays property taxes - so rail in effect subsidizes their competition with each investment that they make in infrastructure.

Not surprisingly, the response by US railroads has been to focus on cutting capital costs and associated cost while maximizing the tonnage of freight they can haul on that infrastructure. Heavy freight is, after all, where their energy efficiencies give them a competitive advantage even competing against subsidized truck freight in a low-energy-cost environment.

Now, electric freight rail requires overhead electric infrastructure. Fully taking advantage of of the market opportunities requires 100mph Rapid Freight Paths, which themselves require investment in track and signal infrastructure, since 100mph single stacked container freight will not be able to meet schedules if they share the existing pare-down bi-directional single track networks with slow coal trains and double stack slow container freight.

Further, private railroads remain capital intensive industries, facing substantial risks of fluctuations in market demand, so that investment in Rapid Electric Freight Rail could easily drive a private railroad into bankruptcy in a recession even if it is offers a massive long term financial benefit to the company.

So, that is the challenge. And that challenge points the way to a direct solution.
  • First, a public authority, organized like a regional economic development corporation, is established to finance, build and operate electrical rail infrastructure and Rapid Rail track and signaling.
  • Second, those authorities receive a dedicated flow of funding from Carbon Feeds to cover the interest on the debt that they issue to fulfill their responsibility
  • Those corporations charge user fee for electric rail that uses the electric rail infrastructure, and access fees for use of the Rapid Rail track and signal infrastructure
  • The Federal Rail Authority establishes equipment and operational safety regulations for the operation of Rapid Light and Medium Freight Rail and Rapid Passenger Rail on the Rapid Rail infrastructure

Providing the funding stream for these corporations is straightforward. Allow States to dedicate an amount of up to 20% of their current Carbon Fee share to the establishment and interest subsidy for these Public Electric Freight Infrastructure Corporations.

Now, 20% of 10% is projected by the CBO to be $782m in 2011. At 5% interest for Public Regional Development bonds, that would finance up to $15.6b in infrastructure, rising to $50b by 2018. After meeting debt finance requirements, each non-profit corporation would have be allowed to use surpluses from user and access fees to finance further improvements.

In the event of oil price shocks which would substantially increase the competitive advantage of Steel Interstate freight, we could expanded investment in infrastructure, and accelerated payback of bonds.

Solving a Problem by Financing More Problem

The second glaring weakness of the transport-oriented spending by ACES is the way that money is made available to existing electric transport technology - electric rail and trolley buses.

Their entire stake in the program is inside the 10% state allocation for energy efficiency programs. Up to 10% of that - or a maximum of 1% of carbon fees - can be spent on cycle or public transit as part of the state matching fund to attract a federal grant.

That means, of course, that the present biases of federal grant funding are built into the funding. And those biases are a big part of the problem.

Take the example of the Minneapolis light rail project, as reported at Yonah Freemark at Transport Politic in Southwest Minneapolis’ Transit Route Selection Process May Rule Out Light Rail to Uptown.

The problem is this:
After years of study, Minneapolis is almost ready to submit its locally preferred alternative (LPA) corridor to the Federal Transit Administration, which will distribute up to 60% of total funds to the project through the New Starts major capital grant program. In order to receive money from Washington, Metro will have to show that the proposed route meets national cost-effectiveness guidelines, which are stringent enough to sieve out a large percentage of proposed new transit lines.

This requirement puts elected officials in a quandary: should they work to build the most effective transit network possible, or should they limit their ambitions for fear that the federal government will rule out any funding at all?

And why is it that the route that would provide the most attractive service to a larger number of people (as well as serving neighborhoods with a larger percentage of people living in poverty) is disadvantaged in the chase for Federal funds? What gives? Its in the formula for estimating transport benefits provided by a transit system:
One, the cost-benefit analysis is heavily biased towards the number of annual hours commuters will save by using the new transit system. This means that people who already have longer commutes are seen as more valuable for the FTA than those who choose to live in in-town locations with shorter distances between their residences and workplaces. ...
Two, similarly, the FTA likes speed. As a result, the slightly shorter 3A route is better for commuters in the far-out suburbs hoping to get to jobs downtown. The tunnel planned for route 3C, which ramps up costs exponentially, is only necessary because a surface route would be too slow and make the commutes of people from Eden Prairie slightly longer. Note that a 3C route without the tunnel would have a significantly lower construction cost, but it still wouldn’t meet FTA cost-effectiveness criteria because fewer outer-suburban people would ride it because their trip would be longer.
Three, the formula used by the FTA prefers new riders to old ones. In other words, a person moving from a car to a train is considered more important than a person moving from a bus to a train. ...

So an area is discriminated against if transit will encourage more short trips, more car-free living, and provide transport improvements to people already forced to rely on lower quality transit.

When an electric vs diesel choice is included, there is a further bias, since the funding formula does not count energy saving as a distinct benefit (Daily Kos: 14Apr2007).

Add on top of that the fact that a conservative ridership estimate is required when handing out Federal funds ... especially in light of the massive underfunding compared to the need for transit systems. However, conservative ridership estimates means that the project must be proposed with a conservative operating frequency. That means that the major financial benefit of the electric traction, in reduced operating costs, is persistently underestimated, while the financial benefit of the diesel traction, in lower up-front capital costs, is always given full weight.

What I propose here are two fixes to this problem. The first fix is to make the allocation proposed by the House both more selective and more effective.

Increasing selectivity: The purpose of this funding is reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but even a modern high-efficiency diesel bus in an effective transit system with reasonable load factors will only be competitive with a Prius in terms of gallons consumed per hundred passenger-miles.

Therefore, this allocation is restricted to personal transport infrastructure - that pedestrian and cycle infrastructure - and electric mass transit. And for electric mass transit, the funding is for the electrification: the cost of electric vehicles (including both overhead and pluggable battery-electric), and the cost of electric support infrastructure.

Increasing effectiveness: The purpose of this portion of the funding is reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the portion of the cost that is funded by this allotment is not considered as part of the base cost when computing cost-benefit ratios.

Longer term, I would hope that the next transport authorization will fix some or all of the bias in the current funding formulas against energy efficient transport. Improving the funding formula to eliminate the bias against Transit-Oriented-Development in Federal transit funding will be a win-win-win in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy independence, and promoting economic equity.

However, whatever the funding formula, the investment of Carbon Fees to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of transport should still be excluded from the transport cost/benefit index.


The second fix is to allow funding for existing energy efficient transport that is entirely outside of the Federal funding framework. This is provided for with a new institution that allows for local community-based project selection, provided that the project qualifies as providing clean energy transport. I call this institution the "Local Community Funds for Energy-Efficient Transport", or "Local-Community-FEET".

These funds are structured on an account basis, with an account for each incorporated municipality, county (for population outside an incorporated area) and tribal area.

The funds can either be used to fund projects - paying up-front for their capital expense, or to finance projects - paying the interest expense on projects whose original capital cost can be funded over time by either cost-savings or user-fees.

The administrator of the project does not do a cost-benefit assessment - it is the responsibility of the local community to decide how to best allocate the funds in the account. Instead, what the administrator judges is whether a project qualifies as an Energy Efficiency Transport project that also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.{note1}

The legislation will therefore establish qualifying types of projects, with the administrator of the account evaluating whether a specific application will promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If transit agencies, transport authorities, or state governments wish to gain pre-qualification for a project that will be seeking support from LC-FEET accounts, they may do so, provided they pay an application fee that covers processing costs.{note2}

Once a local area has qualified projects registered against its account, it can either allocate capital funding for a qualified project from the account or, for projects that will generate cost-savings or user-fees to recover the initial capital cost over time, interest finance for capital project bonds.

The following types of projects should qualify for LC-FEET funding, if they pass the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions tests:
  • Dedicated pedestrian infrastructure - sidewalks, plazas, pedestrian bridges and subways;
  • Dedicated cycle infrastructure - cyclways, traffic calming infrastructure for shared use bicycle boulevards, cycle parking, secure transport cyclist showers in public buildings
  • Electric vehicles and electric support infrastructure for local transit - pluggable electric shared cars, pluggable electric buses, trolley buses, electric light rail, electric mass transit
  • Electric vehicles and electric support infrastructure for inter-urban transport - capped at the pro-rata local share based on proportion of population served

The proposal is to allocate 10% of State Funding to LC-FEET accounts, with 2.5% from the existing 12.5% share directed to local communities. The allocation to local communities is therefore increased to one-fifth of the state allocation, 10% under the existing heading, and 10% to the LC-FEET account system.

All This, and a Set of Steak Knives

I would like to add a note that all of this qualifies as Brawny Recovery Economic Stimulus. If you have made it this far, you will have seen that there is a heavy reliance on providing finance for projects that are partly self-funding - that is, that can cover up-front capital costs over time, provided an interest subsidy.

This is simply bringing our current economic system in line with the economic accounting required for strongly sustainable economic development. Strong sustainability is we should leave the same or better material wealth to the following generation that we inherited. That implies that a dollar of cost experienced by the next generation is not compensated for by $0.10 in benefit today - and therefore, among many other implications, requires us to evaluate project impacts at a 0% discount rate for strong sustainability even as we evaluate it at whatever liquidity preference we determine to decide on the financial present value of the project.

This is only a first step toward adopting strong sustainability principles, but it says that if a project can be self-funded at a 0% rate, and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, why in the hell wouldn't we at least do that?

The second part of the Brawny Recovery is that the focus on interest subsidies means that the Carbon Fees collected today can finance more total economic activity today. And since that is investment in economically useful infrastructure, once the infrastructure is in place our economic experience further benefits from the improved energy efficiency and reduced reliance on imported petroleum.

With so much of the emissions reduction funding devoted to projects that will take over a decade to bear fruit, it is important to front-load investment where existing clean energy technology makes it possible.


So this is the proposal. In the funding share allocated to states, 10% to 30% is available to existing Energy Efficient Transport technology, up from 0% to 10%:
  • Up to 10% for funding Steel Interstates for promoting Long Haul Rapid Electric Freight Transport in the light and medium freight markets currently hauled cross-county by energy-wasting diesel motor freight
  • Up to 10% for providing the state match for funding personal transport and electric public transport, with capital costs that are funded for greenhouse gas emissions reduction excluded from transport cost/benefit formulas.
  • Exactly 10% for funding local community selected projects for personal transport and electric local and intercity transport

Further, the funding is designed to take advantage of opportunities to finance partly-self-funded projects, to amplify the economic benefit of the construction of the infrastructure, and accelerate the delivery of multiple economic and ecological benefits.


{Note 1: For sufficiently strong energy efficiency improvements, greenhouse gas emission improvements are automatic. For example, long-haul electric rail freight requires less than 10% the energy cost of diesel truck freight. At this efficiency level, coal-fired electricity provides substantially fewer tons of CO2 emissions per ton-mile than diesel fuel would do. However, a pluggable all-battery-electric large city bus that offered a 20% energy efficiency gain compared to a pluggable hybrid diesel-electric bus would require a substantially larger share of carbon-free electricity supply before it could also ensure a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.}

{Note 2: I would suggest placing the administration of the accounts within the EPA.}