Are the FRA and European Operators Sabotaging Texas Central?

Texas Central is a planned high-speed rail system connecting Dallas with Houston, using turnkey Shinkansen technology and private funding. The trains to be used are lightweight Japanese-made N700s, with extremely good performance, and the operating paradigm is to be based on the Shinkansen, without any interface with legacy rail, even in city centers. However, there may still be some conflict with regulators over this, since American rail regulations, since 2018, have been based on European/UIC standards and not on Japanese ones, which are distinct and incompatible. This is supposed to be okay because there is no track sharing at all, the same model proposed by California High-Speed Rail before US regulations under the supervision of the FRA were realigned with UIC ones. And yet, there may be trouble.

None of this is news – these are documents from 2020. See for example here:

Some commenters asserted that FRA is exempting TCRR from any crashworthiness requirements so that the N700 series trainset technology could be imported. This assertion, however, is not supported by the requirements proposed in the NPRM, as FRA makes clear that its approach is to ensure that the trainset is safe for the environment in which it will operate. To this end, FRA is including additional requirements that are not inherent in the JRC approach to trainset structure design. These requirements include a dynamic collision scenario analysis that is designed to address the residual risks that could potentially exist within the TCRR operating environment.32Of particular note, in this instance, is the inclusion of the steel coil collision scenario outlined in § 299.403(c). Despite the safety record of JRC’s Tokaido Shinkansen system, FRA believes that the North American environment poses unique risks with respect to potential objects that might somehow enter the protected ROW, either by accident or on purpose. In this case, FRA believes that requiring dynamic collision scenario analysis using the 14,000-lbs steel coil scenario derived from existing requirements to protect against risks presented by grade crossings can serve as a conservative surrogate for potential hazards that might be present on the TCRR ROW (e.g., feral hogs, stray livestock, unauthorized disposal of refuse). With the inclusion of this dynamic collision scenario, and adaptations of existing U.S. requirements on emergency systems and fire safety, FRA believes it has reasonably addressed risks unique to the TCRR operating environment in a manner that appropriately considers crashworthiness and occupant protection standards for the operating environment intended, while at the same time keeping intact the service-proven nature of the equipment.

PDF-pp. 34-35

Of note, the FRA speaks of grade crossings on a line that has none, and demands trains to withstand the impact of a 6.35 ton steel ball that may be dropped from overpasses that do not exist.

This is likely malicious more than incompetent; advocates I know out of California suspect a specific unnamed staffer placed by Ed Rendell who is trying to sabotage the project. This may also involve some lobbying by European vendors, which constantly snipe at competitors within the American market, and even by individual consultants. California had a little bit of this, when competitors started spreading rumors that SNCF was a pro-Nazi organization, and even got some state legislators to make a testimonial bill designed to embarrass SNCF.

It’s a real danger of assuming that foreign public companies that behave responsibly at home will behave responsibly in your periphery. SNCF is subject to public pressure within France, which limits its ability to extract surplus out of riders; this pressure vanishes even right next to France, with majority-SNCF-owned services to Britain (Eurostar) and Belgium (Thalys), which charge considerably higher fares, let alone in the US. The same is true of the other vendors, really, and thus in Britain, franchises owned by EU state-owned railroads like SNCF, DB, and NS are unpopular. Outsourcing the state even to vendors with a track record of responsibility at home will not lead to responsible results, because such outsourcing is an admission that the American state is not capable of adequately overseeing such a project itself and therefore will not notice extravaganza.

50 comments

  1. Phake Nick

    https://toyokeizai.net/articles/amp/422005?page=4
    A Japanese media report quoted someone from FRA saying the following:
    “I’m not worried about Japanese Shinkansen technology. The Shinkansen system should work in the same way in the United States as well. However, it will be operated by Americans. The biggest challenge is how to make JR’s safety culture take root in the United States.”

    • Sassy

      Toyota managed to teach not just any Americans, but the Americans reputed to be the worst that GM and UAW had to offer, how to make a car. Presumably their neighbor JR Central, can teach Americans how to operate a railway.

      • oevans82

        In this case, perhaps the solution will be to not hire any American who has ever been employed by a railroad.

        If shinkansen is basically a long, fast heavy rail system, then they should perhaps hire out of transit agencies that run heavy rail systems instead, where the incompetence and rot is not set in so deeply.

    • Alon Levy

      Nobody hates Americans as much as Americans do. Snide Europeans, Chinese tankies, ISIS, Chavistas – they have nothing on how Americans treat themselves.

        • Alon Levy

          The evidence is in our notes so far. tl;dr American managers have a deep loathing for people who work for them, which in some cases leads them to overstate the contribution of blue-collar labor to high costs. “Our workers are too dumb/venal to do ___” is a line I’ve heard a number of times, including from people whose names you’ve heard of.

          This also cascades to a deep loathing of the riding public, which to hear American (and sometimes British and French) managers hear it, consists of criminals and thugs who need to be constantly surveilled, policed, and told what to do. The number of times I’ve heard “Americans are just worse-behaved than Germans” when I talk about POP is staggering, especially given how, at the supermarket line, Germans are the worst-behaved people I’ve lived among, and Brits, who are more sensitive to queuing manners, notice this of Germany as well.

          • Sassy

            Is that Americans hating Americans, or plain old classism? Class structure and classism is much more prevalent in the US than most Americans would like to admit.

            This might be stereotyping a bit much, but as a nomadic academic globalist, you probably talk to a lot of members of an American group that could be described as the professional/academic class, which has a tendency to look down on the rest of America, and may view themselves as permanently disgraced Europeans.

          • Alon Levy

            I don’t hear this from academics, I hear this from managers and other white-collar workers who can barely find Germany on a world map. The people who tell me Americans are unusually ill-behaved are as a rule never people with much experience with the rest of the world, so they interact with the rest of the world through stereotypes and say things that are not so much wrong as unrecognizable. They’re saying this not out of some European affectation; they’re justifying why they need not assimilate the superior knowledge of Europe and East Asia in transportation.

          • Sassy

            Most managers are part of the professional/academic class, and the view that oneself is a permanently disgraced European goes hand in hand with having little to no experience or familiarity with Europe, since familiarity would shatter the illusion of superior old world traditions. To maintain the illusion, the clashing observations from their European vacation five years ago can be explained away, and people who have actual familiarity with Europe can be ignored.

            Europe and Asia are both heavily exocitized, but there is a self identification with (fantasy) Europe, along with the view that if all the lower class Americans would only act more like (fantasy) Europeans, America would be more like (fantasy) Europe, i.e. “Americans are just worse-behaved than Germans” i.e., (lower class) Americans are just worse-behaved than (fantasy) Germans.

          • Alon Levy

            Most managers are part of the professional/academic class

            No. I mean, if you lump everyone who went to college into a single group then yes, but that analysis is shoddy and only befits mediocre generalist pundits (but I repeat myself).

            In the real world, STEM academia is extremely internationally connected. In grad school, I learned early how Parisians perceive the RER, even while living in New York, because there would always be a professor or grad at the department who had recently worked in Paris and would complain about how bad the RER B is for getting to IHES. If anything, people who actually work in Paris think better of the RER than people who didn’t, because objectively speaking, the RER B is fine, and if you don’t share the racism of the French elite you don’t see anything wrong with those trains.

            The generic managers are not professors. Good rule of thumb: boomers who spent the 1960s fantasizing about nuking Vietnam are not the same as boomers who spent the 1960s protesting the war.

            The actual issue is that generic managers are animated by a deep class loathing of people who work for them, and get into an I’m-stuck-with-those-dumbasses mentality. This is not a class that romanticizes Europe. It’s a class that sneers at Europe, because it’s paid to; mid-level American transit and railroad managers earn as much as the head of ADIF, and senior management earns a lot better, and that’s in the public sector, where US white-collar wages are lower than in the private sector. It vacations in Europe but treats it in the same way one would treat a vacation in Mexico or Thailand: the only thing people who vacation there want to bring home is how obsequious the serving staff is, plus, for European resorts (not the big cities), the lack of black people.

            This is important. Americans who haven’t worked in Europe never try to bring home ideas from Europe, and this includes the 20-years-out-of-date tourist version. On the contrary, they make up reasons why they don’t need to. The Americans who eurowash bad ideas like design-build are consultants who’ve worked in Europe before and bring back bad ideas because they’re familiar with the European projects that bring in international consultants, which are a skewed sample.

          • michaelrjames

            @Alon: “a professor or grad at the department who had recently worked in Paris and would complain about how bad the RER B is for getting to IHES. If anything, people who actually work in Paris think better of the RER than people who didn’t, because objectively speaking, the RER B is fine”

            Of course Parisians are totally spoiled by the Metro and are grumpy about being forced to mix with the extramuros crowd (NYC equivalent of the “bridge & tunnel crowd”). IHES is about 30km and 22 stops from the centre of Paris, approximately three times the east-west span of intramuros Paris. But imagine how much grumpier they would be if they were forced to slide around on longitudinal seating, grinding hips with banlieusardes, or even standing for half the journey:-)

  2. Sassy

    Wasn’t it just like 2 years ago that SNCF published a public report criticizing Texas Central?

  3. Mark N.

    It would be preferable if this ludicrous project were defeated upon merits alone, but if this does the trick, I’d be fine with that too.

  4. Matthew Hutton

    It seems very bad for a Shinkansen based project to die on health and safety grounds when zero passengers have died on the Shinkansen ever.

  5. Frederick

    JR Central is a publicly traded company, while SNCF and DB are state-owned. This makes three differences:

    1. There are officials in the French government who have their interests aligned with SNCF, or believe that SNCF represents the soft power of France. Thus, they will allocate some state power in support of SNCF. (Ditto for DB, and especially true for Chinese HSR export.) On the other hand, I do not feel that the Japanese government is very supportive of the JR group.

    2. JR Central has to explain where and how they use their “entertainment expenses”, while SNCF or DB is able to entertain their business partners directly with suitcases of non-sequential €500 bills.

    3. SNCF and DB can be more risk-taking because the risk is borne by taxpayers, not the management. Meanwhile, JR Central cannot take too much risk, or else the shareholders will be angry.

    • borners

      More like JR Central has less experience with 1. building railways 2. building railways (the Maglev is the first new line JR Central has built). And JR maybe a publicly traded company but it is very well connected ones, JNR relationships die hard and the eternal President of JR Central Kasai Yoshiyuki is a big supporter of the current PM and his predecessor. They got special laws passed to build the Chuo Shinkansen. Add in cross-subsidized local lines, permits, real estate, export loans, investment tax credits etc government intervention is as critical to JR Central’s operation. The whole Texas central project is backstopped by Japanese taxpayers (which technically includes me). On wining and dining, you haven’t seen how opaque Japanese expense accounting is and JR Central is the most profitable railway enterprise on the face of the earth.

      The problem is that Japan has been disappointing a rail systems exporter so far (don’t say Delhi metro they should have stopped the damned standard gauge nonsense) . Taiwan was literally the easiest place to build a turnkey shinkansen and it almost blew up completely in their faces and the lesson they took was “bigger loans” rather than don’t build viaducts everywhere (viaduct in Texas, Texas!). Japan is on top of the world in HSR operations and has spent so long building theirs out that they can claim to have the best overall system. Problem is that whole experience was very particular, HSR generally is but that’s not an excuse for developing adaptability towards local conditions, a long term commercial relationship will require political goodwill etc. Worse Shinkansen development a complex set of relationships between the relevant JR companies, the Railway technical institute, the relevant ministries and the rolling stock builders (which means Nippon Sharyo since its JR Central), that’s worked well domestically but you can see the problems for building export flexibility. Who is going to hire and train the export staff?

      By the way Japan inc has done similar things before, Sassy mentioned Toyota above, but the Japan-Brazil relationship is based on two things, the Brazilian-Japanese diaspora and the decades long joint project to develop the Cerrado’s savannh into soy bean farmland. Its not a cultural thing per se, just nobody’s been put on point to the due diligence. That’s partly JR Central’s fault because they inherited the Tokaido shinkansen they think they are geniuses when they are compared to the rest of JR playing on easy mode.

      • Sassy

        > Taiwan was literally the easiest place to build a turnkey shinkansen and it almost blew up completely in their faces and the lesson they took was “bigger loans” rather than don’t build viaducts everywhere (viaduct in Texas, Texas!).

        I thought the main lesson from Taiwan was to focus on turnkey Shinkansen, rather than the mixed Euro/Japanese THSR.

        > Who is going to hire and train the export staff?

        That would be typically coordinated by a general trading company and/or JICA.

        Texas Central is weird though. Obviously in the US, JICA isn’t going to be involved at all, but afaik they have no general trading company partner either.

      • Phake Nick

        I think the business model failure of Taiwan HSR simply reflect the business model being selected is faulty, instead of any number of construction cost

          • John

            The original THSR business model was that it was going to pay back the entire cost of construction within the 35-year concession period, with no government support. By that metric it definitely failed, requiring essentially a government bailout and takeover a few years after it opened.

          • Alon Levy

            It is going to pay back the entire cost of construction within less than 35 years at current profits. The government needed to refinance because the early-year ROIs looked weaker, but in a growing country, if your infrastructure returns 4% the year it opens rather than 10 years later, you’ve waited too long to build it.

      • michaelrjames

        @borners

        Good post and good points.
        But I do find it curious because these are some of the same points I make–especially the broad one of “Japan Inc”–for which I get attacked on this blog, even by you IIRC. Indeed my main point has been that, while self-evidently it can work excellently for them, often it cannot be reproduced easily outside Japan. In addition, there are the geographic and geo-demographic particularities of Japan especially the Tokaido corridor that makes it inappropriate to promote as a model for elsewhere, especially the West, eg. justifying HSR or in PR trying to convince the western public. Then there is your point about JRs (to paraphrase) remaining an extension of government policy in action, including financially something which particularly gets some people agitated.
        Let me repeat that I have no problem with these things (or SNCF re French government), just with those who pretend that it is merely ‘proof’ of some things (eg. ‘free market’ or ‘successful’ privatisation) that are clearly not the case or at least is simplistic (which you are not doing in your post, bravo).

      • Frederick

        > The problem is that Japan has been a disappointing rail systems exporter so far.

        Well you can actually delete the words “rail systems” here. Most traditional Japanese companies, those tied to the keiretsu system, have zero knowledge in exporting, and rely on a general trading company (“sogo shosha” in Japanese) to be the mediator between them and the foreign buyers. (Of course there are a few significant non-traditional companies who don’t rely on keiretsu financing or sogo shosha, like Toyota or Sony.)

        > Taiwan was literally the easiest place to build a turnkey shinkansen and it almost blew up completely in their faces and the lesson they took was “bigger loans” rather than don’t build viaducts everywhere (viaduct in Texas, Texas!).

        Building viaducts is essential for the reliability of the Taiwan HSR (just recently a construction truck just fell onto the legacy rail of Taiwan and caused about 50 deaths, no?), and also there is a general reason for the Asian obsession of viaducts: floods. (I shall explain this further in a comment elsewhere.)

        I don’t know whether Texas floods frequently, though.

        > Problem is that whole experience was very particular, HSR generally is but that’s not an excuse for developing adaptability towards local conditions.

        One might say Japan is playing in easy mode because their HSR is a greenfield construction; they didn’t even need to adapt to their own legacy system. But in the context of USA, I don’t think integration with the legacy network will be fruitful (or even workable) at all, because the legacy network is rotten to the core.

        • Max Wyss

          Japan as rail exporter… The decent domestic market did not really force the Japanese industry to look at the world market. The only exception, traditionally, was Hitachi with building and licensing. They expanded to the UK, and to get access to the EU market, it was them to acquire AnsaldoBreda (and beating them up to speed – successfully). The other exporter was Kinki Sharyo in the US (with mixed success).

          Often, the opening of the market is a mutual affair, and until very recently, the Japanese market has been one of the closest around. This changed a bit with the FTA with the EU, allowing, for example, Knorr to sell brake equipment, and doors.

          • borners

            @alon levy I said almost! Taiwan is not a failure.

            @Max Wyss I did say “rail systems” not rolling stock, most of the rolling stock market is about fitting into existing rail systems. But I’d say Hitachi has done most of the due diligence in building the relationships and internal capacity to do so. It helps that its Keiretsu has connections and experience I would think. I just don’t think JR Central is doing the do diligence because as I said they think they are the best already, maybe at operations they are but that’s only part of skill set to make rail systems exports work, you need to understand the political system and economy of your export destination to use your technology and government back loans properly. Nobody’s cracked how to that well, since you can’t solve a country’s institutional problems from the outside.

            @Frederick The JR companies are not classic Keiretsu they don’t have those relationships except with each other…kinda. And Keiretsu ties have been eroding for decades (see Hanshin’s buyout by Hankyu). Not to mention the bank mergers from the Koizumi years. And that’s kind of my point, JR Central’s particular history plus its buy out of Nippon Sharyo mean it has develop its own methods instead hoping government loans, reputation and its own brilliance will win. I mean good god they want to train Indians drivers in Japanese! Also like most HSR lines are “greenfield” outside major city stations. HSR lines work not just because of speed but because of expanding capacity. China is even more greenfield!

            @michaelrjames HSR and other rail systems are always going to be a little bespoke because countries are. That applies to France as well. But I think say HS2 would have a lot to learn from both JR Central and JR East. Most of England’s population lives near the existing WCML. And both Korea and Taiwan have used similar geography pretty well. And I think JR East would be more valuable to learn from than the Tokaido line, since it has a more complex network with the Omiya-Ueno bottleneck, lots of distinct train sets, better attention to intramodality and two layers of branching. The problems are in India where there isn’t a mega-corridor to piggy back on and you need to build quite a lot of network to get returns to scale. I don’t think the Japanese involved in the Indian HSR quite get they need cost discipline so they can build lots quickly.

            Private and Public are at best ideal types, government’s legal and taxation powers means all business is connected and dependent on the state and a state is only as capable as its own society. Japan Inc is always a bit of mythos since burrow under the surface and the polycentrism of pretty much everything is clear. JR Central’s particular power comes from having the flagship and more importantly super-profitable Tokaido lines with as a large a conventional network as JRWest, JR Kyushu and JR East. That’s why it could buy up struggling Nippon Sharyo and do Chuo shinkansen. The other JR’s are in a weaker position politically and financially having to focus on convention operations, shinkansen expansions and commercializing their stations. My god JR Central’s Bell Mart looks like its stuck in the 1980’s.

          • michaelrjames

            @borners: “But I think say HS2 would have a lot to learn from both JR Central and JR East.”

            Certainly, but what I have said doesn’t concern engineers, planners etc but the politicians, transit policy wonks and HSR boosters who should know that using Japan (or latterly, China) as a model is as likely to be counterproductive with their constituency that needs convincing. It wasn’t the success of the Shinkansen that got the Chunnel+Eurostar underway but the overnight success of Paris-Lyon TGV, against beancounter pessimism, that did the trick.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s not beancounter pessimism so much as beancounter narrowness. If it’s not Europe, it doesn’t exist, just as, for their American counterparts, if it’s not the US or possibly Canada, it doesn’t exist unless in turnkey format.

          • borners

            Not in the current UK climate where Europe is “bad”. And naturally France would take the lead in a project connecting the two. Alas HS2 discussion is pretty insular even backers can’t be bothered to say “this is a proven technology that has succeeded everywhere its been implemented, in France, Germany, Spain, China, Japan even Morocco”.

          • michaelrjames

            @borners

            But it costs an awful lot less in all those places. Besides, the real heat over HS2 is that it is really just another London-centric project and that the humungous budget should be use to build some stuff up north. (I’m not sure there is much faith in HS2 getting beyond Birmingham!)

          • borners

            Oh the cost will bring it all down. But the reason England doesn’t have a proper Civil Service is because those same northerners don’t want it as much business owners in the South. Improved transport and improved government capacity would change things and they can’t have that. Northerners have never been serious about the regional divide, so neither is the South.

        • Paul

          @Frederick
          > I don’t know whether Texas floods frequently, though.
          Yes, it does. The inland areas see some street and stream flooding after heavy rain. And Houston can get an incredible amount of rain from tropical storms, like 40-60 inches from Harvey and Imelda. So viaducts over rivers and floodplains make sense given the rainfall potential. HSR service would probably be suspended during a tropical storm anyway, but you don’t want water on the tracks after a big thunderstorm. However, viaducts over farmland are complete madness. The whole Texas Triangle is relatively flat with only rolling hills. You shouldn’t need viaducts and tunnels at all in that kind of terrain — it’s possible to build the whole corridor with just cuts and embankments.

    • Phake Nick

      Despite JR Central being a publicly trading company, their projects overseas including Texas Central still have quite some degree of Japanese government support.

  6. bruce hain

    In a word, yes. But TC was happy go along with it, since the FRA’s 40-foot-high wall ploy dovetailed nicely with their desires to avoid the correct route – which is ten miles shorter – for the purpose of employing the off-the-shelf Shinkansen technology, which if you ignore all the drawbacks in this particular instance, is a noble and valid cause. The civil engineer with the household name, Aquilar, who was no doubt hired for that reason, seems happy enough to carry on this established tradition that ignores physical facts and abandons half the high-speed ridership potential. Early on, the Texas DOT actually went so far as to offer them the rights to high-speed service originating in Ft. Worth – as a suggestion – which would have increased the total ridership entrained at Dallas by about half, in addition to passenger-intensive advantages elsewhere on a line having the correct alignment, which would add substantially more. It looks like Timothy Kieth, the original CEO, was given to the belief the Japanese government would be willing to help with financing in order to get their technology promoted on the world stage. But once the original $400,000,000 in assistance had been rendered and used up, the Texas governor made an unsuccessful junket to Japan in recent months with the aim of securing more, and returned with his tale between his legs, the victim of some ironic “special” and humorous hospitality offered to him by the Japanese to make their point. As for the French-promoted entry, the Texas-Y: Well although it was basically more reasonable, it was no more well thought out. (probably because they didn’t see any chance of succeeding against TC) and, as drawn, would entail more than a hundred miles of extraneous two-track construction to achieve their three-expanded-nodes goal. An Austin and San Antonio high speed extension is best achieved by one line running from Houston and branching quite near Austin, to connect to the existing line running south, to San Antonio. (I have done some careful study on this extension, but can’t show any pictures of it and haven’t produced an explanation to go along with it yet.)

    In Ft. Worth there is a GORGEOUS train station. In Dallas there is a GORGEOUS train station that needs its upper-level waiting room restored (with escalators this time) and its platform access bridge rebuilt. In Houston, there WAS a gorgeous station that can be rebuilt better with reasonable ease and a total lack of property issues. The Houston one requires access by a short tunnel, taking the line 6 miles beyond the place where the TC proposal stops – on into Downtown Houston – while still being ten miles shorter than the TC alignment.

    Needless to say, these three gorgeous stations (or two gorgeous and one nonexistent stations) – along with State College at the tip of a west-tending triangular connection to the line – would form the anchor points of any sane scenario for providing the needed and most-desirable-possible Dallas-to-Houston service.

    Here’s my illustrated NEPA comment from early 2018: https://www.rail-nyc-access.com/rail-texas

    • Phake Nick

      JR Central probably learned from their own operation that only large cities would generate significant traffic, and in cities with low public transit share most connecting traffics would be on cars instead of public transit

      • bruce hain

        Ah but the Texas Central line was not planned by the Japanese, or JR Central. It could be said it was planned by the FRA, with Kieth being accepting of it because he wanted the Shinkansen technology and not interoperability. But it’s a big sacrifice to make in this situation.

        • Phake Nick

          That is why the station is there instead of closer to anywhere people actually live and would use. They probably found it unworthwhile to bend the track to build it anywhere closer to the College Station

        • Eric2

          This stop exists for PR purposes, not because they expect significant ridership there

    • Mark N.

      I agree completely with you that the only good, long-term solution is the utilization of existing downtown stations as much as feasible, and in Houston the construction of a new downtown station which would integrate the old Amtrak line. I also think it makes sense to extend the northern end from the start to include Fort Worth and (additionally) Arlington since the Metroplex is so spread out. I’m anything but an expert, but I think your inclusion of so many stops in relatively small cities is not only financially unrealistic but also an inappropriate application of HSR. Once a well-planned HSR network is in place (serving only fairly major cities, among which I would also include College Station from your list), I think that would create conditions that could make a regional rail network on (mostly) legacy lines viable to serve a fair number of those smaller towns.

      If I had my druthers as a “backseat” planner of an HSR network in Texas, my Houston-Dallas route would be by way of Waco and College Station. That would put in place track that could be used by a future HSR line down the I-35 corridor to San Antonio — roughly a third of what would be required for that, in fact. If the legacy right-of-way along Hardy Road could be used coming out of Houston to the north, it would probably make sense for a stop to serve the couple of hundred thousand people who live in the Conroe/Woodlands area before proceeding on to College Station. As stated above, I would also extend the northern end to include both Forth Worth and Arlington. In a distant HSR future in which the isolated HSR projects of the USA are connected into a broader national network, this extension could be incorporated as a segment of a much longer east/west line along the I-20 corridor.

      Because of the many mid-size to large cities along I-35, its potential for HSR possibly exceeds that of the Dallas-Houston line. Going south from the branch at Waco, I would include stops in Temple, Georgetown, Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels before terminating in San Antonio. At some point it would probably make sense to “close the triangle” with a line connecting San Antonio and Houston, which (in that distant HSR paradise) would provide a segment of a future east/west line along the I-10 corridor.

      Sadly, Texas Central is very far from embodying any thoughtful, long-term solution. I’m now convinced that it has only gotten so far toward realization, with all of its enormous planning failures and shortsightedness, because of its symbolic role in an ideological battle representing the (supposed) superiority of the free market over public planning (i.e. Texas vs. California). However, if it fails (which I anticipate), that would make any of these other scenarios for HSR in Texas far less likely to ever being built.

  7. Gok

    Just so I can put the strings on my conspiracy cork board correctly, the idea is that Ed Rendell is trying to sabotage TCR because he wants Maglev instead?

    • Alon Levy

      I have no idea; all I’m told is that the staffer, who I don’t know the name of, was put there by Rendell. My presumption is that the staffer is some political hack, like Sarah Feinberg but lower down the food chain, who creates red tape for the entire agency and doesn’t know enough to call bullshit when a rando SNCF lobbyist says that Shinkansen are unsafe.

  8. Herbert

    Why do entities in the railroad business engage in this kind of negative lobbying? You don’t see Airbus openly badmouthing Boeing (or vice versa) or VW doing something like that to GM….

  9. Reedman Bassoon

    But, what is sabotaging California HSR? It is an understatement to say that CAHSR is not going well. California, on its own, has an economy that would put it between Germany and France.

    • Richard Mlynarik

      Calfornia?

      It really is as simple as rent-seeking and bid-rigging by the consultant mafiosi, with every single decision (short of using maglev) made in order to maximize cost.

      That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

      It’s an program to earmarked public funds and transfer the money into private pockets. It’s not a transporation project, it’s not a public works project, it’s not an employment project, it’s fiscal engineering and nothing else.

      So California HSR is not “sabotaged” at all: it’s working excellently and exactly as conceived. You’re just not using the correct evaluation method.

  10. R. W. Rynerson

    In miniature, I’ve experienced the “it won’t work here” phenomenon here so often that it’s like going to a movie that I’ve seen before. Still, there usually are some people willing to try something new from elsewhere.

    When Edmonton introduced POP fare collection on light rail in November 1981 there were several different reactions to the idea. As I’ve mentioned before, Edmonton had a larger than normal number of people who had visited European cities via cheap over-the-arctic air service, so there were political and opinion leaders who knew about it. Then there was a small number of people who dismissed the concept’s success on the Vancouver Seabus because that was a ferry. There was a bigger number who dismissed European experience because Canadians are not as honest as Europeans. And the last group overlapped with the recent arrivals from Central Canada who felt that we should retain a barrier PAYE system like the Toronto subway.

    Then in 1994 the first Denver LRT line opened, its entire existence predicated on using POP to avoid building cages for surface stations. There seemed to be more people who had visited Mexico than Europe (no statistics, just my impression from public meetings). The experience with POP in California was dismissed by some on the grounds that Californians are soft, flaky airheads. Canadian experience didn’t count because Canadians are more honest than Americans. And the last group overlapped with the recent arrivals from Back East who felt that we should retain a barrier PAYE system like the NYCTA subway.

    In both cities I found that for some people the best comeback was to out-stereotype their stereotypes. That turned out to be to inform them that Milan had adopted POP. Fortunately, there were people in both North American cities who were willing to learn the logic of POP in our circumstances and in both systems it turned out that fine-tuning TVM’s, pass sales, and enforcement had more to do with suppressing fare evasion than stereotypes of fellow citizens.

    In contrast, when we had a problem in Denver with bus movements from a bus lane across traffic into a station I drew in my breath and suggested to a meeting of traffic engineers and bus operations people that Edmonton had solved this problem with a queue jump signal. I hoped the idea might float for a few years until someone else thought of it. I thought that I might follow up with a couple of related American trolley coach signal ideas but that wasn’t necessary. To my amazement, one of the City of Denver engineers liked the idea and came up with a couple of local improvements.

    Then a tabloid Scripps-Howard newspaper learned of this (the Cinncinati-based chain is often against public transit). They sent a reporter AND a photographer to cover implementation of this wild idea. Having grown up in the newspaper business I recognized their expectation that it would be a fiasco. Instead, after a few hick-ups caused by motorists who started into the intersection before their green signal, it worked fine. That was in 1987 and it still works fine. Implemented as a lunar signal, it also set the course seven years later for LRT signaling in surface operations.

    So, the “not here” vaccination against foreign ideas occasionally is breached by a variant.

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