Rep. Richardson: China Bullet Trains and Oregon Amtrak: Part 2

Part II. Oregon — China Update: China Bullet Trains and Oregon Amtrak.
By State Representative Dennis Richardson,

As you may recall, Part 1 of this report on the Oregon 2009 Legislative Delegation to China discussed timber management for Oregon and her sister-state in China, Fujian Province. (Click here.) Today’s newsletter focuses on China’s high-speed bullet train and Oregon’s equivalent, Amtrak’s Eugene to Portland commuter service.

High Speed Bullet Trains””200+ MPH. Our Oregon delegation met with the Port of Tianjin for three reasons: (1.) to promote with Tianjin port authorities a closer alliance with the Port of Portland; (2.) to promote greater utilization by Tianjin shippers of the Port of Portland’s excellent facilities; and (3.) to learn about the renovation and increased capacity of Tianjin, the world’s fifth most active port. Traveling from Beijing to Tianjin required our delegation to ride China’s new Beijing-Tianjin bullet train.

The Beijing-Tianjin high speed train is one of the fastest bullet trains currently operating in the world. This sleek, 21st century train cruises on rails at speeds of 325-350 kilometers per hour (that’s 202 — 218 mph), and has been tested at speeds approaching 500 kph (300+ mph). During our short trip, I saw the digital speedometer reach the blazing speed of 338 kph (210 mph). It was an amazing trip. Four of our train’s eight sleek, space-age cars, had electric motors, powered by overhead electric wires. The four powered cars had spring-activated, hinged arms that arched upwards against the wires above. The aerodynamic design of the train, along with the inherent quietness of its electric motors, created a surreal experience, where we sat in near silence as the terrain flashed by the windows at 210 miles per hour. Eighty-five percent of the track was above ground (essentially everything except the approaches to and from the train stations). Thus, since the high-speed train travels on a super-long concrete overpass, there are no concerns about cross-traffic, loose cattle or other obstructions that could cause a catastrophe at such high speeds. The entire 125 kilometer distance from China’s Capital City of Beijing to its nearest coastal city and port, Tianjin was traveled in less than 25 minutes.

We Americans might wonder why China, Japan and various European nations are leading the world in high-speed train travel, while the U.S.A. is side-tracked with Amtrak. The answer is based squarely on economic viability. Such an investment simply does not pencil out in a large country with a dispersed population. The economics of a billion dollar bullet train require a large, dense population base of commuters who will regularly ride the train.

There are eight Beijing-Tianjin bullet trains that carry 40,000 passengers daily, at an average ticket cost of roughly $10. If every passenger paid $10 per ticket, the route’s eight high-speed trains generate revenues of $400,000 every day. By contrast, the Eugene-Salem-Portland Amtrak daily commuter service has an annual ridership of approximately 114,000 (less than 3 days worth of the Beijing-Tianjin ridership). The cost to ride Oregon’s Amtrak line is about $7.50 per ride for daily business or student commuters who buy a monthly pass ($22 is the advance ticket rate, and $37 at the gate). Although it is difficult to obtain Amtrak’s financial details, ODOT’s Rail Division indicates every ticket for Oregon’s Amtrak train costs $83. Oregon’s portion of the ticket subsidy is at least $38. (Click here.)

In short, the U.S. is a large country with a relatively sparse population, especially in the western states. Unless President Obama’s Stimulus Plan foots the bill to build an American bullet train and the taxpayers are willing to pay huge subsidies to keep it running after it is built, we cannot expect to ride an American bullet train in the foreseeable future.

Employment-Recession Update””U.S. Rates Climbs to 10.2%, Highest Since 1983.

The unemployment statistics for October have just been released; it has climbed to 10.2% from 9.8% in September. (Click here.) Although the national unemployment rate is still less than the 11.5% September unemployment rate for Oregon, the trend is not good news for those touting a quick economic recovery.

To put these unemployment rate percentages into perspective, the current recession has resulted in a loss of approximately 10.5 million jobs nationally. By contrast, in the booming 1990’s, the highest number of new jobs created in a single year was 2.5 million. The 1990 tech-bubble expansion years are gone, so the conclusion is unavoidable — if everything goes well, it will take at least 4-5 years before the U.S. can return to the same level of employment enjoyed before the economy tanked.

Oregon is in a similar situation. Oregon has lost 124,300 jobs since December 2007. The average annual increase in new jobs from 1991 to 2008, including the boom years of 1994-97, was 25,000 jobs per year. Thus, if the recession were to end today (which is not happening), and Oregon were to begin creating 25,000 new jobs each year, it would take five years before as many Oregonians would be employed as were working two years ago. How can we regain or replace those lost jobs? Oregon must become an attractive place for private sector employers to live, invest and do business. There is no other way.

Next Week–Part III. Preparing Oregon Students for the 21st Century Global Economy. Next week I will complete Part III of my 2009 Oregon — China Delegation Report. The evidence is irrefutable that China is on track to be the dominant global economy of the 21st century. With foresight, Oregon students willing to learn Chinese will be better prepared to participate in such an Asian led global economy. Part III of this report will focus on Chinese language and cultural instruction for Oregon students. It will consider the question, “if China were offering to send experienced Chinese teachers to Oregon schools to teach Chinese language classes at minimal costs to the schools, would it make sense for Oregon schools to take advantage of such an opportunity? Such programs exist and are being offered with open arms to Oregon””America’s future gateway to the Orient. We will discuss the Confucius Institute Program, Confucius Classrooms and Voluntary Teachers Program.

Until Then,

Dennis Richardson
State Representative

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  • Arthur

    It is widely accepted and understood that the U.S.A. population density east of the Mississippi River is about the same as that of continental Europe. This article doesn’t hold water.

  • Jerry

    Plus, if our kids are to learn Chinese what good would it do them without knowing first some math, science, and English??
    Just a thought.
    Question: How much lead is in the bullet train??
    Just thought I would ask.
    These foolish politicians are grabbing at straws roaming around the globe at our expense dreaming up a bunch of crazy stuff when they should be paying attention to what is going on in our country.
    What good would a bullet train do us if everyone is unemployed?
    Where would the ride and why??
    That is the question.
    Man, great work if you can get.
    Do nothing all the time, get paid, and then write about how wonderful you are.

  • Anonymous

    40,000 trips a day usually breaks down to 20,000 because most trips are round trips, and they have to go home.

    High speed rail looks good and may be fun to ride, but it is very expensive and it has to make stops to pick up passengers and that starts to slow down the average speed.

    It also needs a right away and security to be sure no one is on the tracks.

    Most of the time it does not go to where you need to be, when you need to be there.

    That is why transit use in the United States has dropped to the low single digits from the high 90% range, a hundred years ago.

  • Anonymous

    Makes me worry even more about who is “representing” us.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    For whatever reason our country just simply cannot run passanger railroads on a cost effective basis. We have tried to do so for decades and it is probably about time to stop looking for the reason and just give up.

    Population density?

    Total nonsense, that is not the reason. Amtrak has a high speed rail that runs from Boston to Washington DC. It was plagued by cost overruns during construction, delays for years and guess what? It can’t make any money. Now Boston to DC is probably the most cherry pickable route in the entire country. It would be the first pick in the entire nation if you were to try and set up a profitable commuter rail. Lots of people on either end and in between who don’t even own a car. Flight times that are comparable with train times in some instances (I used to take this route, Boston to NYC, plane vs. train, total time very close, bus was fastest but no bar car). Population density yaddda yadda, it still doesn’t work.

    Around here? We have quarter of a billion dollar a mile choo choos that do nothing but bleed money.

    This is one problem the US needs to take not a long look at, but a quick one and just say whatever the reason, it doesn’t work here.

    Once we have done that maybe we could simply park all the Amtrak cars and turn them into retro diners. They would actually turn a profit that way.

    • AlanB

      *Total nonsense, that is not the reason. Amtrak has a high speed rail that runs from Boston to Washington DC. It was plagued by cost overruns during construction, delays for years and guess what? It can’t make any money. Now Boston to DC is probably the most cherry pickable route in the entire country. It would be the first pick in the entire nation if you were to try and set up a profitable commuter rail. Lots of people on either end and in between who don’t even own a car. Flight times that are comparable with train times in some instances (I used to take this route, Boston to NYC, plane vs. train, total time very close, bus was fastest but no bar car). Population density yaddda yadda, it still doesn’t work.*

      While you are correct that they had big issues with cost overrun’s, at least they weren’t as bad as the cost overruns of the Big Dig. And that was only to electrify the RR from New Haven to Boston, as well as rebuild the track and close some grade crossings.

      However, it does indeed make a profit for Amtrak. For fiscal 2008, the NEC earned $369.0 million. When one throws the Capital costs of maintaining the NEC into the picture, then and only then does the NEC loose money. However, it is important to note two things. First, no passenger RR in the world makes a profit with capital costs included. In fact, in every other country, the operator of the service does not own the tracks. Two, a good chunk of the costs of maintaining the NEC have nothing to do with Amtrak. Amtrak supports 6 commuter rail operations on its tracks. They run many more trains per day than does Amtrak.

      Finally, while flight times are comparable, overall travel times are not. By the time you factor in getting out of the city to the airport, allow for security checkin, flight time, and then getting back into the city at the other end, Amtrak wins hands down. Which is why Amtrak owns about 55% of the travel market between NY and DC and about 45% between Boston and NY.

      Ps. Amtrak isn’t commuter rail. It’s intercity rail.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Finally, while flight times are comparable, overall travel times are not. By the time you factor in getting out of the city to the airport, allow for security checking, flight time, and then getting back into the city at the other end, Amtrak wins hands down. Which is why Amtrak owns about 55% of the travel market between NY and DC and about 45% between Boston and NY.

        Yep, I know that and that is why I said exactly that point in my post. I picked the one train line in the entire country that actually makes sense time wise. In other words, there is no reason why it should not be profitable if trains make any sense at all. Boston to NYC via plane or train is roughly the same amount of total travel time. The key is, planes make money, trains do not. Therefore, not a lot of point in pursuing trains.

        But that’s just Boston to NYC, our most ideal rail line in the country in terms of travel time, customer base and general feasibility of it ever being profitable or self supporting.

        However you start talking flight times vs. train time on longer distances and forget it, there is no way people will ride a train. No one is going to spend days on a train vs. hours on a plane going coast to coast or north to south.

        >Ps. Amtrak isn’t commuter rail. It’s intercity rail.

        Ok, never said it was but thanks for the info.

        • dartagnan

          “The key is, planes make money, trains do not.”

          Planes make money? Damn, I wouldn’t have guessed that from the airlines’ P&L statements.

          BTW Amtrak is not “high-speed rail” by the standards of the Japanese, Chinese or French — not even close. Check out https://www.publicpurpose.com/ic-hsramtrak.htm.

        • AlanB

          *In other words, there is no reason why it should not be profitable if trains make any sense at all. Boston to NYC via plane or train is roughly the same amount of total travel time. The key is, planes make money, trains do not. Therefore, not a lot of point in pursuing trains. *

          And again, Amtrak’s NEC made a profit in fiscal 2008. It’s only when you factor in the Capital costs that the NEC lost money. Show me one airline that owns an airport. There isn’t one. Cities, towns, and local entities own the airports.

          And for the record, airlines are not profitable. In fact, collectively over the last 40 years they’ve lost about $10 billion. And that’s despite interest free/low interest loans, grants, and annual subsidies. Last year We The People gave the FAA about $1.4 billion to help keep the airlines running. I won’t even go into the indirect subsidies that the airlines get, like pilots trained in the military.

          • Anonymous

            Amtrack promised to be self supporting in the 70’S.
            you are grasping at straws.

          • AlanB

            *Amtrack promised to be self supporting in the 70’S.
            you are grasping at straws. *

            First, Amtrack never promised anything. There is no such company.

            Second, your entire post is irrelevant since we were not discussing Amtrak being self-supporting. Rupert stated that the NEC was not making a profit. I showed that to be wrong. There was no discussion of Amtrak as a whole; therefore your entire comment is useless in the context of that discussion.

  • v person

    “The answer is based squarely on economic viability. Such an investment simply does not pencil out in a large country with a dispersed population.”

    This is a myth. We are as urbanized as Europe and much more urbanized than China. If we built high speed trains connecting our main populated areas on the east coast, in the industrial midwest, and on the west coast (and maybe the gulf coast) the system would be highly used, especially if we jacked gas prices up as we should. The impediment is that many of us don’t like “big gubmint,” which is what it takes to plan and build high speed trains. Until we get over that, or if ever, we won’t build these systems.

    “For whatever reason our country just simply cannot run passanger railroads on a cost effective basis. ”

    If by cost effective you mean profitable, I doubt any other country manages this either including China. We don’t run effective passenger systems here because we are not willing to invest the capital to build efficient systems, and we are not willing to pay taxes to subsidize the operations, which is what they do elsewhere.

    • Jerry

      If it is not profitable why do it?
      Cars are so we do them.
      Simple stuff.

      • dartagnan

        Do you have any idea how many billions of public dollars go to pay for building and maintaining highways, policing them, etc.? Car (and truck) travel is far more heavily subsidized than any railroad system in this country.

        • Anonymous

          The majority of money spent on highways are from auto and truck user fees!

          • AlanB

            Once again that is a false statement. I’ve already proved that the highways got $34.5 billion in funding that did not come directly from the users. With just over $69 Billion spent at the Federal level, that means that 50% of the money did not come from the users.

            Please stop making false claims!

          • Anonymous

            None of the money spent on capital construction of rail or transit is from the users. And Tri-Met users only pay 20% of operating cost.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >If we built high speed trains connecting our main populated areas on the east coast, in the industrial midwest, and on the west coast (and maybe the gulf coast) the system would be highly used

      Based on what? Dean wishes it were so so that makes it so?

      Why would someone spend days on a train rather than fly coast to coast in hours?

      >especially if we jacked gas prices up as we should

      Why? Just to force people to use your silly choo choo?

      Wouldn’t it simply be easier to move those with this love of coercion to the more Stalinist regimes of the world rather than ask everybody else to be inconvenienced?

      >The impediment is that many of us don’t like “big gubmint,”

      Well, it is the basis on which our country was founded, limited government. Most people aren’t enamored of coercive government.

      >We don’t run effective passenger systems here because we are not willing to invest the capital to build efficient systems

      Well that’s obviously something you just made up.

      We are building trolleys at a quarter billion dollars a mile. We built the high speed Amtrak line from Boston to DC and it has been plagued with delays and cost overruns from the get go. Therefore the case that we aren’t willing to spend the money is just liberal boiler plate slapped on without a lot of thought behind it.

      Spending taxpayer money on trains? We are and we have been since Amtrak’s founding and it still doesn’t get us anywhere.

      Yet another case of proving Ruperts second rule – To a liberal there is no such thing as a fully funded program other than defense.

      >we are not willing to pay taxes to subsidize the operations

      Virtually every ticket sold on Amtrak contains some portion of taxpayer subsidy, has been so since the start of Amtrak in the 70’s. Ok, so again, you just made something up out of thin air.

      Lets also not forget that back in July on this very blog you defended jet travel for two people, you and Al Gore. Its the most efficient method of travel time wise and would still be even if we had high speed rail. Back then you saw nothing wrong with Al Gore flitting around on a private jet or your own travel being by plane. For you and him, apparently saving time by taking a plane makes perfect sense. For everyone else, coercion seems to be in order.

      No thanks.

      • v person

        “Why would someone spend days on a train rather than fly coast to coast in hours?”

        You of all people should read more carefully since you like casting that stone. My suggestion is to regionalize a high speed rail system by connecting major east coast cities (stop) and Midwest cities (stop) and west coast cities (stop) to each other (stop). Not connecting west coast to east coast across a whole lotta sagebrush.

        “Why? Just to force people to use your silly choo choo? Wouldn’t it simply be easier to move those with this love of coercion to the more Stalinist regimes of the world rather than ask everybody else to be inconvenienced?”

        So that we can internalize the true cost of a resource we have to import from places that use the money we send them to either kill us or teach others to kill us. By internalizing the cost we would find ways to make do with less oil, including riding high speed trains. Which by the way, do not make “choo choo” noises.

        Stalinist regimes? You mean like Japan, France, Germany, and Spain? They are Stalinist? Or maybe you meant China? Hardly Stalinist. Its about the most capitalist nation on earth these days.

        “We built the high speed Amtrak line from Boston to DC and it has been plagued with delays and cost overruns from the get go.”

        Depends on what you mean by “we.” If you mean the taxpayer, that is incorrect. The Northeast corridor is for the most part pre-existing track, some of which we purchased, some of which is owned by others. To the extent service there is “plagued by delays,” this is what happens when you co-locate fast intercity trains with slow commuter trains and slower frieght trains. They don’t do this in Europe or Asia. They build new track exclusively for high speed rail. And they have no delays.

        “Well that’s obviously something you just made up.”

        No Rupert, that is demonstratable fact. We have yet to invest in a single high speed rail system dedicated to that purpose anywhere in the United States, which was the subject line. Not trolleys and light rail and subways, which we do build here and there. Everything that runs on tracks is not equal.

        “We are and we have been since Amtrak’s founding …”

        No we have not. Amtrack has built next to nothing. It uses freight track owned by others. You should read up.

        “Virtually every ticket sold on Amtrak contains some portion of taxpayer subsidy”

        Peanuts. So little none of us would notice if they stopped taking the 2 or 3 dollars a year we all sort of chip in for our national rail service each year.

        “Lets also not forget that back in July on this very blog you defended jet travel for two people, you and Al Gore. ”

        Me and Al and nobody else? I said that? I think your dementia is progressing. Fly all you want Rupert. You have my blessing. But just because that is your preference don’t diss creating alternatives. And anyway, as a practical matter wouldn’t it be better to board a train for a 1 hour ride to Seattle rather than driving to an airport, paying for parking, standing in line for 2 hours to board a plane (more if you are strip searched,) and ending up in an airport 20 miles from town? Wouldn’t a 200 MPH train be a lot better for trips of 3-500 miles? I mean, do the math. In business time saved alone we would pay for the system in short order.

        • AlanB

          *”Virtually every ticket sold on Amtrak contains some portion of taxpayer subsidy”

          Peanuts. So little none of us would notice if they stopped taking the 2 or 3 dollars a year we all sort of chip in for our national rail service each year. *

          Correct. In 2008 each and every person in the US paid $4.38 to help run Amtrak. Contrast that with the fact that each and every person in the US paid $113.46 to subsidize our Interstate Highways. And that’s just at the Federal level. Most cities, counties, & states had to further subsidize our roads.

      • AlanB

        *”>especially if we jacked gas prices up as we should

        Why? Just to force people to use your silly choo choo?”*

        No Rupert, we should jack up the gas tax so that people are actually paying for the roads that they use, especially since you’re demanding that rail shouldn’t be subsidized. If we’re to stop subsizing the rails, then we need to stop subsidizing the roads and the airlines for that matter too. In fact, if we hadn’t started subsizing our roads years ago, and taxed the RR’s to help build the roads, we might not be in the current position where we need to subsidize our rails.

        *”We are building trolleys at a quarter billion dollars a mile.”*

        Wrong. The entire Portland Tri-Met light rail system as it exists now with the recent opening of the new Green line cost $2.228 Billion to build. The system runs for 52.6 miles, which means that it cost about $42 million per mile, not $250 million per mile.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          I sure hope you aren’t trying to say that my trip in a car, say from Eugene to Portland is subsidized anywhere near the extent that gandma’s ticket on Amtrak is for the same trip. If you are that’s baloney.

          > In fact, if we hadn’t started subsizing our roads years ago, and taxed the RR’s to help build the roads, we might not be in the current position where we need to subsidize our rails.

          Actually I agree with this. At least to whatever extent rail was taxed to build roads.

          However I am pretty consistent on this. Generally, but not always, I am not a fan of situations like this, taxing one thing to subsidize another.

          >The entire Portland Tri-Met light rail system as it exists now with the recent opening of the new Green line cost $2.228 Billion to build. The system runs for 52.6 miles, which means that it cost about $42 million per mile, not $250 million per mile.

          Wrong, I never claimed the cost per mile of the whole system was $250M

          Wrong – There are more than a few notable sections of track that cost a quarter billion dollars a mile. You trying to divide the cost of the whole system to knock down the cost of track that cost a quarter billion dollars a mile and thus made no sense whatsoever financially is disingenuous at best.

          Kinda like claiming the Amtrak subsidies are peanuts by diving the subsidy by the total population of the US rather than the percentage subsidy per ticket.

          • v person

            “You trying to divide the cost of the whole system to knock down the cost of track that cost a quarter billion dollars a mile and thus made no sense whatsoever financially is disingenuous at best.”

            Its a lot more accurate to average the cost by totaling the amount spent and the miles built than it is to cherry pick the most expensive mile you can find and pretend that is a typical cost of a mile of light rail. Disingenuous? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

          • AlanB

            *I sure hope you aren’t trying to say that my trip in a car, say from Eugene to Portland is subsidized anywhere near the extent that gandma’s ticket on Amtrak is for the same trip. If you are that’s baloney.*

            I can’t say that simply because there is no easy way to find out if indeed your trip in the car is as bad as grandma’s trip on Amtrak. There are too many variables, like finding out the funding levels for each road you use, costs to clean up accidents, not to mention accurate counts of just how many cars hit the pavement on each road. I’m providing the only comparison that I can, which does show that we subsidize our roads at a much higher level than we do our trains.

            And if one is concerned about one’s tax bill, then the subsidy per user is useless. Because if that’s where one’s concern lies, quite clearly I would think that anyone would choose the $4.38 over the $113 charge to their tax bill.

            *Wrong, I never claimed the cost per mile of the whole system was $250M*

            I’m sorry, but with respect, you certainly implied it when you made this bold statement:

            *”We are building trolleys at a quarter billion dollars a mile.”*

            That’s not ambiguous, it quite clearly indicates that we are indeed spending that much. You needed to further clarify that statement if that’s not what you meant. Sorry!

            *Wrong – There are more than a few notable sections of track that cost a quarter billion dollars a mile. You trying to divide the cost of the whole system to knock down the cost of track that cost a quarter billion dollars a mile and thus made no sense whatsoever financially is disingenuous at best.*

            My intent was not to knock down the cost of track, since again your statement did not specifically state that certain sections of track cost $250M, it implied that all sections cost that.

            And guess what, we have highways that cost far more for certain sections, than others. Who cares? Would you like me to tell you about the $11 billion currently being spent in Seattle just to add two lanes to the beltway? That works out to about $1,055 per square foot of pavement. Or maybe I should mention the proposed highway extension in California, the 710, that would have run a little less than 5 miles. Yet it would have cost more than the entire LA Subway did, inflation adjusted, and moved less people. It’s price tag was $311 million per mile for an estimated total of $1.4 Billion.

            I hope that we can agree that both roads and rails can have sections that will be more costly than other section and just move on now.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >I’m sorry, but with respect, you certainly implied it when you made this bold statement:

            Not really, the quarter billion dollar a mile figure for specific sections of track has been so widely publicized and so widely talked about it would be absurd to think I was implying every mile cost that much.

            >That’s not ambiguous, it quite clearly indicates that we are indeed spending that much. You needed to further clarify that statement if that’s not what you meant. Sorry!

            Ok, fine, I am talking to the one person who has not heard the endless news reports or seen the posts on this blog about the quarter billion figure for various sections of track.

            >My intent was not to knock down the cost of track, since again your statement did not specifically state that certain sections of track cost $250M, it implied that all sections cost that.

            Please, you are dividing the Amtrak subsidy per trip, which I admit varies according to the trip, by the entire population of the United states, or at least the taxpaying population. What you were doing was pretty clear.

            >And guess what, we have highways that cost far more for certain sections, than others. Who cares?

            Obviously not you. However I care because I have a real strong feeling those sections of highway that cost that much provide far more utility to more people than the choo choos

            >Would you like me to tell you about the $11 billion currently being spent in Seattle just to add two lanes to the beltway?

            Not unless you want me to cite for you the amount of traffic that will probably carry versus the number of people the 1/4 Billion dollar choo choo trains carry.

            >That works out to about $1,055 per square foot of pavement.

            Hey, you will never get me to argue we can’t cut costs for building highways. Get rid of Davis Bacon and you would save a bundle, Id be right behind you voting for that one.

            >I hope that we can agree that both roads and rails can have sections that will be more costly than other section and just move on now.

            Sure, the difference is most roads, not all, are much more useful to more people than costly rail lines. I am sure that there are costly boondoggle roads that get built. I am the first to criticize them,. The infamous road to nowhere in Alaska? I was more than ready to criticize that. Sen. Robert Byrd’s endless road projects that do nothing? I am the first to criticize that. I am also there to criticize costly boondoggles in the train world as well. The quarter billion dollar track sections I am concerned with fall into the same category as the examples I just mentioned. Therefore I criticize them.

          • AlanB

            *Please, you are dividing the Amtrak subsidy per trip, which I admit varies according to the trip, by the entire population of the United states, or at least the taxpaying population. What you were doing was pretty clear.*

            No sir, I’m not doing that. I took the entire subsidy that Amtrak received last year, $1.332 billion and divided that by the estimated population of the US 304,059,724, as stated by the US Census Bureau. Just like I took the $34.5 billion handed over to the FHWA this year and divided it by the estimated population of the US.

            *Obviously not you. However I care because I have a real strong feeling those sections of highway that cost that much provide far more utility to more people than the choo choos*

            Clearly then you missed the part about the 710 extension carrying less people than the LA subway.

            And with respect, you’re wrong in general that highways provide more utility than the trains. You may not have any desire to use them, but millions of people in the US do indeed use them every day. And that does mean that those people aren’t in your way when you do take your car out onto the subsidized roads. In Portland the system is still small compared to other cities, yet each day thanks to light rail there are 58,000+ people who aren’t on the highways and roads in front of you.

            And the best part is that the trains cost less to provide public transit than do the buses. Buses that further clog the roads and damage them.

            In other cities, the trains make an even greater impact, like NY City. NYC doesn’t even rank in the top ten for most time lost commuting to work in a car because of the trains, despite the fact that it is the most populous city in the US. And unlike most other cities of similar size, NYC doesn’t have 12 lane freeways or even 10 lane freeways. In fact, but for a dozen miles in Queens, it doesn’t even have 8 lane highways.

            *Sure, the difference is most roads, not all, are much more useful to more people than costly rail lines.*

            With respect, that is your opinion, not fact. And since those roads are driving us into debt faster than our rails are, it could be a costly mistake.

            Despite the $34.5B dumped into the FHWA, on top of the $37.5 billion that Highway Trust Fund also provided this year for our highways, we still have more than $200 Billion in unfunded work that needs to be done to return our highways to a state of good repair. And again, that’s just at the Federal level. Most cities, counties, and states are also facing huge amounts of monies that need to be spent to fix the local streets and highways that don’t qualify for Federal funding. I won’t even go into the billions dumped into Detroit this year.

            And to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we just roll up all our roads and give up on them. I am however suggesting that we need to continue to expand rail alternatives, even as we try to fix up and maintain the roads we have. I’m also suggesting that we slow down the pace of expanding and adding roads. And I am suggesting that people need to stop expecting that rail should make a profit when all of our other forms of transit don’t and require subsidies.

  • Jerry

    The system would save nothing.
    Nothing.

  • Anonymous

    The reason that rail is not sustainable, anymore, are planes and Autos.
    We cannot turn the clock back before planes and cars.

    Let’s see if we cam make a connection?
    Just look at the transit market share.

    Public Transit Market Share from 1900
    Transit use
    1900 —100.00%
    1905—-98.55%
    1910—-93.77%
    1915— 79.33%
    1920— 50.25%
    1925 —28.91%
    1930 —21.06%
    1935 —14.20%
    1940 —35.00%
    1950 —18.26%
    1955 —10.43%
    1960 — 7.11%
    1965 — 5.19%
    1970 — 3.63%
    1975 — 2.90%
    1980 — 2.82%
    1981 — 2.68%
    1982 — 2.51%
    1983 — 2.46%
    1984 — 2.48%
    1985 — 2.42%
    1986 — 2.40%
    1987 — 2.32%
    1988 — 2.23%
    1989 — 2.06%
    1990 — 1.90%
    1991 — 1.86%
    1992 — 1.76%
    1993 — 1.67%
    1994 — 1.72%
    1995 — 1.71%
    1996 — 1.67%
    1997 — 1.66%
    1998 — 1.70%
    1999 — 1.74%
    2000 — 1.70%
    2001 — 1.74%
    2002 — 1.69%
    2003 — 1.61%
    2004 — 1.57%
    2005 — 1.51%
    2006 — 1.56%
    2007 — 1.58%
    United States Urban Transport Statistics
    US Urban Personal Vehicle &
    Public Transport Market Share from 1900

    DATA

    PERSONAL VEHICLE
    YEAR MARKET SHARE
    1900— 0.00%
    1905— 1.45%
    1910— 6.23%
    1915— 20.67%
    1920— 49.75%
    1925— 71.09%
    1930— 78.94%
    1935— 85.80%
    1940— 85.90%
    1945— 65.00%
    1950— 81.74%
    1955— 89.57%
    1960— 92.89%
    1965— 94.81%
    1970— 96.37%
    1975— 97.10%
    1980— 97.18%
    1981— 97.32%
    1982— 97.49%
    1983— 97.54%
    1984— 97.52%
    1985— 97.58%
    1986— 97.60%
    1987— 97.68%
    1988— 97.77%
    1989— 97.94%
    1990— 98.10%
    1991— 98.14%
    1992— 98.24%
    1993— 98.33%
    1994— 98.28%
    1995— 98.29%
    1996— 98.33%
    1997— 98.34%
    1998— 98.30%
    1999— 98.26%
    2000— 98.30%
    2001— 98.26%
    2002— 98.31%
    2003— 98.39%
    2004— 98.43%
    2005— 98.49%
    2006— 98.44%
    2007— 98.42%

    Data in Billions of Passenger Miles. Estimated from data in National Transportation Statistics, James Dunn, Driving Forces Table 4-3, FHWA Highway Statistics, National Transit Database and American Public Transportation Association.

    Pre 1920 personal vehicle data estimated based upon vehicle miles, vehicle and fuel data.

    2007 personal vehicle passenger miles estimated from total urban figure

    • v person

      So the Europeans & the Japanese, they don’t have planes and automobiles?

    • AlanB

      *The reason that rail is not sustainable, anymore, are planes and Autos.
      We cannot turn the clock back before planes and cars.*

      No, the reason that rail is not sustainable is that we subsidize our planes and autos. If we stopped subsidizing our other forms of transportation, then we might be able to stop subsidizing rail too. In fact, had we not subsidized planes and roads in the first place, not to mention levied a 4.3 cent fuel tax on the RR’s 50 years ago to help build the roads, the freight RR’s might still be running passenger service in this country.

      But with the high costs of running passenger service, and being forced to help subsidize their primary form of competition (namely the truck), the freight companies dumped passenger service on the public.

      And it’s because we’ve made driving cheaper with subsidies, as well as more convienent, that the market share numbers have changed so dramatically. People are always going to opt for that which costs them less. Drop the subsidies to the roads, read increase the Federal portion of the fuel tax by about 70 cents to cover what’s actually needed, and people will start flocking back to the trains. At least where that’s still an option.

      • Anonymous

        USDOT Study
        by Wendell Cox and Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D.
        Backgrounder #2283

        In December 2004, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) published its first and last report on the cost of the federal subsidies provided to each mode of transportation per passenger per 1,000 miles: cars, buses, airplanes, transit, and passenger railroad. The survey covered the years 1990 to 2002 and demonstrated that motorists received the lowest federal subsidy per 1,000 passenger-miles and that transit and Amtrak received by far the largest federal subsidies.

        https://www.heritage.org/Research/SmartGrowth/bg2283.cfm

        • AlanB

          Rail is a lot more sustainable than our highways. Especially when the users of the roads aren’t paying their fair share.

          Sure, if you look at things like that study did, rail does come out looking the worst. Simply because we ripped out most of our rail lines and people were left with no choice but to drive. The shear volume of people driving automatically makes the cost per 1,000 passenger miles lower for cars. But that doesn’t mean that the biggest budget and the biggest amounts of your tax dollars aren’t being spent on the roads. If you’re looking to cut your tax bill, then look at the roads, because we’re spending a fraction of what we spend on our roads on rail. Rail isn’t driving the Federal deficit higher and higher nearly as fast as our roads are.

          • Anonymous

            They ripped out the rails because they were going bankrupt keeping them.

            Transit ( Tri-Met) only collects 20% of the operating cost and none of the capital construction or new buses from the users. Transit is not sustainable without massive subsidies. Amtrack is no better and has been promising to be self supporting sense the 70’s and is no closer today, than in the 70’s.

          • AlanB

            *They ripped out the rails because they were going bankrupt keeping them.*

            That’s because moving people is not a profit making business. And when we taxed the RR’s to help build the highways and subsidized their primary form of competition, the truck, the RR’s got tired of subsidizing things with their own monies. It also didn’t help that with the heavily subsidized roads that people stopped riding the trains because it was cheaper to drive, thanks to the road subsidies.

            *Transit ( Tri-Met) only collects 20% of the operating cost and none of the capital construction or new buses from the users. Transit is not sustainable without massive subsidies. Amtrack is no better and has been promising to be self supporting sense the 70’s and is no closer today, than in the 70’s. *

            You are more or less correct, in 2007 they collected 23% of their operating costs. However, you left out the most important part, the actual breakdowns. It was buses and demand response (handicapped and senior services) that pulled down the percentage. Rail actually collected 39.83% of it’s operating costs, buses recovered 21.55%, and demand response only 12.07%. Many rail lines actually break the 50% mark for recovering operating expenses from the fare box.

            Now, let’s take a quick look at our highways. This year the Fed spent $69.116 Billion on our roads. Via fuel taxes, the users of those roads paid $34.616 Billion or just about 50% of the cost of building/maintaining those roads. Not factored into that number is the billions being spent on policing those roads, snow removal, lighting, police, ambulance services for accidents, and clean-up of those accidents. Meaning, our roads are no better than our trains.

            One study from UC-Davis two years ago suggested that just that we need to immediately raise the fuel taxes by at least 70 cents per gallon to actually come close to seeing the users of the roads actually pay fully for the roads.

          • Anonymous

            And none of the Capital construction!

          • Anonymous

            If Tri Met is so great, why did the legislature increase the Tri Met tax on business?
            If Transit is so great why does it need to tax business?

            Tri Met and rail transit is a loser, no matter how you look at it,
            unless you work for Metro, Tri-Met or ride it for a fraction of the operating cost
            and none of the capital construction.

            Time for transit supporters to pay their fair share

          • AlanB

            *Time for transit supporters to pay their fair share *

            Just as soon as you start paying for your fair share of the roads. Let me know when you start lobbying your legislators to increase the gas tax.

          • Anonymous

            And none of the capital construction

          • AlanB

            You’re not paying for the capital costs of the roads. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

          • Anonymous

            Neighborhood roads are paid for by the neighborhoods that use and need them to get to their home with supplies and services they need. It would be impossible to get a loan on a house or building that is landlocked. When a area is developed the roads are usually paid for by the developer and home owners and or commercial property owners that buy into that development. Roads are paid for by the users and transit is not.

            Roads have license fees, county, state, federal, fuel taxes, weight and mile taxes. and now county sur charges for the Sellwood bridge.

            Transit has a business tax on businesses that do not use transit and the users only pay 20% of operating cost and none of the capital construction. Transit also uses parking meter money to subsidize transit.

            Amtrack begs for local and federal money every year from non users.

          • Anonymous

            Roads are paid for by user fees and property owners that need roads to their homes and businesses.

            Rail needs auto and truck taxes and massive subsidies because it is 19th century technology, that does not go to where people are going, when they need to be there.

            Autos take you when you want to go, listening to the radio or music you prefer, in a warm or air conditions environment of your choosing, carrying the people and the things you need, when you get there.
            autos = freedom

            Transit and rail travel, makes you conform to the transit schedule, transfers and destinations of their choice.

            It is easy to see why transit and rail use, is so low today.

          • v person

            “Autos take you when you want to go, listening to the radio or music you prefer, in a warm or air conditions environment of your choosing, carrying the people and the things you need, when you get there.
            autos = freedom”

            Written by a person who has never been stuck in traffic I presume. And who had his nice new air conditioned car purchased by his or her daddy?

          • Anonymous

            Written by a person that has lived in the city of Portland for decades,
            was a full time bike rider in his younger years and has used transit in Portland.

            Even in bumper to bumper traffic, a car is faster than using transit, in all of my trips.

          • v person

            “Even in bumper to bumper traffic, a car is faster than using transit”

            Well then you have never been on the Banfield or the Sunset between 7-9 in gridlock while the Max train zomed past. Either that or you are busy texting and the time just flies by.

            And if all those riders were not on Max your gridlock would last a lot longer I assure you.

          • Anonymous

            I’m on I-84 and the Sunset, many times a week, often daily.
            Even if a train passes me, it is a rare occasion that I don’t catch up to the train before leaving the freeway. I often zoom past the the light rail especially when it stops at the stations. Light rail average speed on I-84 is about 17 mph, because it has to stop at every Max station.

            When the east side Max was built, we were told Max would carry as many people as a 6 lane freeway. We now know Max is a low capasity systeem and only carries about 1/3 of the capasity of one lane on I-84. The light rail cars are crowed, because it is a low capasity systeem.

          • AlanB

            *When the east side Max was built, we were told Max would carry as many people as a 6 lane freeway. We now know Max is a low capasity systeem and only carries about 1/3 of the capasity of one lane on I-84. The light rail cars are crowed, because it is a low capasity systeem.*

            How’s that again? The maximum capacity of one freeway lane under pristine conditions according to the Fed is 2,000 cars an hour. Pristine means that there are no truck or buses in the mix, and that a steady speed of 60 MPH is maintained. Most experts use 1,800 cars and hour because of trucks & buses. But I’ll stick with the 2,000 number anyhow. The average vehicle occupancy is 1.3 people per car, which means that one highway lane can carry a max of 2,600 people. And that’s over-estimating the capacity as any slow downs and trucks and buses reduce capacity.

            In the second quarter of this year, MAX carried an average weekday ridership of 54,350. Daily boardings were 108,700, which I divided by 2 since most people make a round trip to get the ridership. I’ll take another 30% off that number to account for people who either travel outside of rush hour or take more than 2 rides in one day. That brings us to 38,010. If we divide that by the 2,600 number, that means that max carries the equivilent of 14.6 highway lanes for a period of one hour. If we divide by a typical 4 hour rush hour, that still means that MAX is moving at least the same capacity as 3.7 highway lanes of traffic during rush hour.

            Ridership numbers that include the new green line are not yet available, but any ridership over a totally empty train will only increase rails numbers.

          • Anonymous

            so where is Max carrying as many people as a 6 lane freeway?

          • AlanB

            The system currently carries the same amount of people that 14.6 highway lanes can carry in one hour, more than beating the 6 lanes you were promissed.

            Reread my post.

          • Anonymous

            It would make more sense to compare how may people are driving on I-84, I-5 or the Sunset.

          • AlanB

            *Roads are paid for by user fees and property owners that need roads to their homes and businesses.*

            No, as I pointed out just above, the users of the roads are relying on massive subsidies for their travels. This year just at the Federal level, Congress handed the FHWA $34.5 Billion in subsidies; that includes $7 Billion put directly into the Highway Trust Fund because the fuel taxes collected fell short of expenditures and $27.5 Billion from the Stimulus. I won’t even go into the billions given to Detroit so that we can still buy cars.

            Let me also again remind you, that’s just at the Federal level. Most cities/counties/states also have to subsidize the local roads & highways.

            And the sad part is that all that money still didn’t bring the backlogged work that is needed to bring our highways back to a state of good repair under $200 Billion.

            *Rail needs auto and truck taxes and massive subsidies because it is 19th century technology,*

            I hate to tell you this, but the car is also 19th century technology.

            *It is easy to see why transit and rail use, is so low today. *

            Apparently it’s not easy to see. Convenience is only part of the formula here. Price is the bigger factor. When gas prices soared in 2007, people flocked to public transportation. Now that prices are lower, ridership has fallen off a bit, but it is still way above the levels prior to that gas price spike.

            And if we forced people to fully pay for the roads that they use, transit ridership would go through the roof.

          • Anonymous

            Tri Met users only pay 20% of operating cost and none of the capital construction or the cost of new buses.

            Autos and truck users pay 99% of the cost for roads because 98% of us uses autos and trucks and nation wide less than 2% of the nation use transit.

            It is time for transit supporters to put their money where their bus and train is.

            the model T is 19th century technology

            New cars are not!
            gps
            radio
            blue tooth
            cd
            dvd
            modern engines

            And the freedom to go to where you need to be, when you need to be there, on a road system paid for by user fees

            Unlike trains and transit that needs 100% of the capital construction subsidized!

  • Todd Wynn

    Check Cascade Policy Institute’s stance on high speed rail at: https://www.cascadepolicy.org/pdf/misc/HSR%20061809.pdf

  • Anonymous

    To all those above (v person, Alan B, Rupert, Anonymous):

    I hope it doesn’t seem strange, but as someone who is relatively ignorant when it comes to “transportation politics” I feel compelled to thank you all for the quality discourse. Really interesting reading.

    CM

  • AlanB

    *Autos and truck users pay 99% of the cost for roads because 98% of us uses autos and trucks and nation wide less than 2% of the nation use transit.*

    If that were true, then Congress wouldn’t have needed to dump $34.5 Billion into the highways this year. The entire budget for the Federal Highway Administraion this year was $69.116 Billion, of which the users paid $34.616 Billion or half. And no, not everyone uses the roads, there are many people who don’t use a car all of whom helped to subsidize your ride on a highway this year.

    Every man, women, and child in this country paid $113.46 into the highway this year, just at the Federal level. I don’t know of many kids who own cars, and many senior’s don’t either. And there are even some people who are of driving age that don’t own cars.

    *the model T is 19th century technology

    New cars are not!
    gps
    radio
    blue tooth
    cd
    dvd
    modern engines*

    And trains started with steam engines and open air coaches. Today we have electric and diesel powered engines and heated/air conditioned coaches. And get this, there’s even that invention called an IPOD that lets you bring along your own music.

    Both forms of transportation have evolved since then, so this is a useless argument.

    *on a road system paid for by user fees *

    Correction, on a road system paid for only partially by the users. Just like transit.

    • Anonymous

      The highway trust fund is regularly picked clean, by nearly evrry transit agency in the USA.

      It is time for transit users to pay for the transit they demand.

      • AlanB

        *The highway trust fund is regularly picked clean, by nearly evrry transit agency in the USA.*

        No, the HTF doesn’t pay out one dime to transit agencies. If it did, then the FHWA would not have had $34.616 to spend on the highways.

        Transit agencies get funding from the Mass Transit Fund.

        • Anonymous

          Then where do you think the federal transit money come from?

          • AlanB

            Federal transit money comes from taking 2.86 cents of the Federal portion of the fuel tax collected from a gallon and depositing it into the Mass Transit Fund. That represents about 15% of the total collected from gas and about 11.5% of the diesel fuel tax. It certainly doesn’t come close to *”picking the HTF clean”* as you falsely claimed.

            And considering that for close to 40 years, every gallon of fuel that the RR’s brought was taxed at a rate of 4.3 cents per gallon and used to help build the roads, I’d say that turnabout is fair play.

          • Anonymous

            So public transit is taking money from auto users.
            Shocking! I never would have guesses!

            And transit does not pay fuel taxes.

            I’m starting to see a pattern of transit users not paying for the services they demand and grasping at straw to make a point!

          • AlanB

            *So public transit is taking money from auto users.
            Shocking! I never would have guesses!*

            If you don’t like it, then complain to your elected officials, But be warned, it was a Republican controlled Senate that sent the bill that approved taking that small amount of money from Federal fuel tax to Republican President Ronald Reagan who signed it into law. So apparently even the conservatives thought that it was a good idea.

            *And transit does not pay fuel taxes.*

            This could be the silliest argument ever. You’re complaining that transit doesn’t pay for itself and you don’t want to pay for transit. Yet now you want to tax the fuel so that you can put even more money into that transit that you hate so as to pay for that fuel tax. Talk about circular logic.

            *I’m starting to see a pattern of transit users not paying for the services they demand and grasping at straw to make a point! *

            And I see a pattern of drivers not wanting to pay for the services that they get either.

          • Anonymous

            I will end with Amtrak promise to be self supporting back in the 70’s
            It didn’t happen

            Transit users in the Portland Metro area only pays 20% of operating cost and none of the capital construction.

            spin all you want

            Good by!

  • Anonymous

    Both forms of transportation have evolved since then, so this is a useless argument.
    ————–

    Yes they have, auto use has evolved to 98% of the market
    and transit has dropped to less than 2% .

    Because transit does not go the where the majority of the people are going, when they need to be there.

    We are voting every day with our cars, because we prefer the freedom it brings.

    • AlanB

      *Yes they have, auto use has evolved to 98% of the market
      and transit has dropped to less than 2% .*

      If you’re going to try to argue, at least stay on the topic that you started. That’s not the type of evolution that you were talking about and you only make yourself look foolish when you play games like this.

      *We are voting every day with our cars, because we prefer the freedom it brings.*

      No we’re not. In last year’s elections, voters approved 75% of the transit initiatives on the ballot. That was 26 out of 32 transit projects on the ballet approved. Voter’s are also making their choices known by boarding transit more than 10 billion times in 2007.

      • Anonymous

        When did we last vote in Portland for a transit project?

        • AlanB

          I didn’t say that Portland had any votes lately. I said that American’s in gave transit a 75% approval rating where it was on the ballet.

          That means that most people do want transit, even if you don’t.

          • Anonymous

            When did we change subjects?

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