Showing posts with label high speed rail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high speed rail. Show all posts

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Benefits of High Speed Rail

I just read an interesting article on high speed rail that takes a more comprehensive look at the benefits of high speed rail ... it's not just travel time savings, but what these make possible for the economy. The article presents a very nice analysis by the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute. Here it is High Speeds, High Costs, Hidden Benefits: A Broader Perspective on High-Speed Rail.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Web 2.0 and California High Speed Rail Planning

I have been working with Nadia Naik from Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design on ways to use Web 2.0 techniques to improve the California high speed rail system planning and design by increasing the ability for citizens to collaborate in the planning process.

We just wrote a draft paper called: Peer-to-plan CSS 2.0: A Web 2.0 application to facilitate public collaboration in the project planning and design process. It builds on the work described in my Transportation Research Paper: Web 2.0 Applications for Improving Public Participation in Transport Planning - described in a previous post. As it is a rough concept, I would be interested in your comments and ideas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Web 2.0 and California High Speed Rail Planning

TGV at Zurich Hauptbahnhof - October 2009 - from my flickr photos.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just finished revising my TRB paper on Web 2.0 applications for improving public participation in the transportation planning process (download here: web2transport). Yesterday I was talking to someone about some of the ideas in the paper and I remembered a story I wrote in 2005 as part of a proposal for completing the Regional Rail Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area.

The story was a speech given by one of the participants in the Regional Rail Plan planning process given 25-years after completion of the California High Speed rail system. I just re-read the story and I was surprised about how good it is and how relevant so many of the points it raises are today. So, here's the link to a pdf file. As they say, sit back, relax and enjoy the trip!

San Francisco Bay Area Regional Rail Plan - A vision (2005)

(By the way, although people I talked with on the inside said that this story was an important reason for selecting the consultant team, the consultants never asked me to help with the project and I'm not sure what ever happened to the plan itself.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

High Speed Rail - Challenges and Opportunities for California

While in California last week I attended a high speed rail seminar organized by the University of California's Institute of Transportation Studies and the Global Metropolitan Studies Center. The seminar consisted of six UCB professors talking about challenges and opportunities associated with the proposed California high speed rail system. The seminar was excellent.

Professor Carlos Daganzo gave the first presentation. He showed convincingly how high speed rail can bring down the total cost of travel given the expected increase in travel demand combined with the HSR's decreasing cost per passenger model. This means that there is a very strong case for subsidizing high speed rail in the early stages of development, since it will improve the overall transport system.

Daganzo also believes that high speed rail can have a transformational effect on local public transport. This means that cities will seek to improve public transport linkages to the HSR stations creating a positive feedback loop leading to better integrated local-long distance public transport systems.

Professor Mark Hansen spoke next. Hansen looked at the relationship of HSR to air travel. He believes that with HSR the air travel market will become less competitive and that the reduction in flights will be most evident in secondary airports (only a small share of SFO, LAX and SAN flights are intra-state ... although they use more than their share of capacity since they are generally smaller planes).

Hansen described research on proximity of Japanese HSR stations that shows that small differences in accessibility make a big difference in demand; therefore stations need to be very carefully located and highly accessible. Finally, he suggested that the best strategy for airlines is to fully integrate their systems with HSR by adopting an intermodal strategy. Interestingly he suggested that this strategy could be ad-hoc, for example, when there is bad weather airlines could shift passengers to HSR.

Professor Robert Cervero spoke third and described the land use impacts of high speed rail systems and joint development. He reflected that there have been many studies of the impact of rail on development. Most of these have shown that rail increases development of downtown areas (it would be impossible to have such dense downtowns without rail systems bringing in workers), increases commuter sheds (people are traveling longer distances to access jobs) and that transit oriented suburban development is very hard to accomplish (it needs very strong political support).

Cervero proposed four lessons for California: (1) station siting is critical, building stations in freeway medians or surrounded by free parking will lead to more sprawl development and greater driving; (2) feeder systems are important for solving the "last mile" problem, extended TOD corridors are a good solution; (3) TOD as a necklace of pearls (e.g. like Copenhagen's approach) would be excellent, but California's current planning regime does not support this approach; (4) joint development must be high quality and pedestrian-oriented, studies of joint development in Hong Kong show that these types of joint development can be much more effective than the alternative basic systems.

Cervero ended with the warning that, the high speed rail planning must carefully consider land use or it will simply fan the flames of sprawl development. California needs institutional reform to make effective land use planning possible.

Professor Elizabeth Deakin was the fourth speaker. She described results of a study she had done for the California High Speed Rail Authority for several Central Valley cities on how they could use HSR to revitalize their city centers. Her presentation was fascinating because she was able to show how these cities could use infill to grow into much more sustainable places while maintaining local building styles and character. Her drawings and planning maps helped illustrate the great potential HSR has for creating livable and environmentally sustainable cities.

Professor Arpad Horvath talked about the full life cycle environmental impacts of HSR. His main point was that HSR needs to be well used to be a more sustainable form of transport than automobiles or airplanes. However, if well used, HSR would be good for the environment. Another important point was that much of the electricity generated for California has a high level of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which means that HSR would generate more SO2 than driving or flying (on a per passenger KM life cycle basis), therefore, as part of the California HSR project, the state needs to develop alternative sources of electrical energy (not a bad idea).

Professor Samer Madanat, Director of the ITS, summed up the main points and moderated the question and answer period. He emphasized the fact that most of the speakers emphasized the need for good feeder systems and improved land use planning to make HSR successful.

The seminar was an excellent overview of ideas for making high speed rail in California more successful. The ITS is trying to develop an organized center for continuing and expanding this interdisciplinary research, I hope that they are able to attract the funding and support necessary to create the center.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swiss Travel System Video Contest - Bad News For Andy

Unfortunately my video entry for the Swiss Travel System Casting competition was not selected. Since I won't be heading to Switzerland, maybe somewhere else would be nice? Check out the video.

By the way, the Swiss Travel System Casting competition was lots of fun and congratulations to the winners! You'll really enjoy Switzerland and its fantastic travel system.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Railways in Wired's Today in Tech

Wired has a fun blog called This Day in Tech. It describes some invention or idea that was first deployed on the same day sometime in the past. Today's was on the invention of the automatic coupler for railways.

When we talk about how good the European railways are, it's interesting to remember that Europe still uses the old manual method of coupling which makes their railways much less efficient. I heard that Europe was about to change to automatic couplers in the 1970s, but France vetoed the idea for some odd reason. C'est la vie!

Here's a list of some of the other railway related This Day in Tech postings:

Aug. 2, 1873: San Francisco’s First Cable Car Conquers Nob Hill - Describes the first cable car in San Francisco and how the system works.

March 5, 1872: Westinghouse Gives Railroads a Brake - Describes how air brake systems work, the air brake 2.0 reference provides a nice perspective on technological innovation.

Nov. 18, 1883: Railroad Time Goes Coast to Coast - who knew that the idea of standard time started with the railways, but it makes sense when you think about it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Brûlé: Rail Transport Quality and Market Streets

Tyler Brûlé's weekly column in the Financial Times today World-class city or grim ghost town? addresses two of my favorite subjects: quality in rail transport and vacant storefronts on shopping streets.

First, transport. Brûlé is right-on in his questions about EuroStar and Belgium's rail stations. My favorite Belgium railway story is that in the International Airport - picture thousands of people coming from all over Europe every day to do EU business - the automated ticket machines don't take credit cards (photo above is of the ticket machine, photo on right is of the lines waiting to buy tickets - note they don't even use customer-friendly queuing system).

You can use your VISA card to buy gasoline at every gas station in the world ... when will railways learn?

By the way, I've written a song about the railway ticket machines, music video coming soon!

Second, empty storefronts. Again, Brûlé raises some interesting questions as he praises the large number of home-grown businesses on Lisbon's shopping streets. I have always thought that landlords are short-sited when they throw out solid local businesses in favour of chain stores.

But, crisis brings opportunities. We need to develop business models, call them market 2.0 streets. These streets would be managed using a cooperative approach: say one chain store, five local businesses with the six landlords sharing the profits. Add-in ideas like locally-based programming, extra cleaning and more safety - paid for jointly by the cooperative and we may be on to something.

Better yet, cheap storefronts on these streets for local businesses would be incubators - helping creative people to develop new ideas and products ... real products and services that people need. Could these market 2.0 streets be a path out of today's economic problems?

Incredible Railway Information Technology Story

In an article entitled How RailCorp's derailing commuter 'apps' the Sydney Morning Herald reports that RailCorp, the railway operator there, has sued independent developers of applications that enable real time schedule data to be read from mobile telephones. RailCorp says that the schedules are out of date and might confuse passengers.

Hmm ... maybe RailCorp should provide up to date schedules?

This is a good example of the types of social and institutional problems preventing railways (and public transport in general) from being as successful as they could be. As ETH Zürich Professor Ulrich Weidmann said in the 2008 IT08.rail conference, railway customers expect a very high level of information since that is what they have in their cars with GIS etc. Just today, the NY Times in Have Smartphone, Can Travel about the latest applications for drivers. If railways don't provide quality information using new technology, they will lose customers.

Fighting new technology and the social systems that grow up around these new technologies (e.g. open source, Web2.0) doesn't work. Just look at how successful record companies have been fighting music downloads. Only iTunes has worked because it makes it easy for users and is based on new technology.

Companies, especially railways, need to embrace new technology and support developers of applications that make their systems better and more attractive to customers. More about information technology in the railway industry in our papers: Can Information Technology Help Rail Play a Greater Role in Preventing Climate Change? and From Engineers to Entrepreneurs: The need for social innovation in high speed rail systems.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Transport Simulation Games - Free

I everyone thinks they are a transportation 'expert'. I mean, how many times have people come up to you at a party and, once you tell them you are a transport planner, say something like, "Why don't they add another lane to Highway 66? That would solve the congestion problem."

Usually at this point I excuse myself to get another glass of wine rather than getting into a discussion about the ins and outs of simply 'adding a lane' or 'running more trains' (yes, transport experts are multimodal!).

Anyway, I just read about two free transport planning simulation games that are available on line. I can't vouch for these games, but they sound interesting. Maybe next time a transport expert starts giving me suggestions for solving transport problems I will refer him (or her) to the site!

Friday, November 21, 2008

High Speed Rail Music Video

I have finally found time to upload my music video to YouTube and am waiting for all my fans to download it. It's about high speed rail and why it's better than flying. Sorry about my singing ability, but it is supposed to be funny. Here it is:

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Best Cities and Quality of Life

Tyler Brûlé writes one of my favorite columns in the Financial Times Weekend Edition. The column, Fast Lane, is often devoted to transport and travel issues or city liveablity. Brûlé focuses like a laser beam on quality and often presents ideas for improving quality whether it be on an airline, railway or city planning. He is also editor-in-chief for Monocle Magazine and writes for the International Herald Tribune (also weekends).

Brûlé wrote a column for the IHT in June 2007 describing how he and his Monocle colleagues rated cities with the title Urban Manifesto: Factors that make a city great. I think the method they used is quite good and furthermore it provides ideas that could help planners improve their own cities. I also recommend the city summaries developed for the top twenty cities.

Just say no to GM, Ford and Chrysler!

Mark Morford, one of the San Francisco Chronicle's columnists is always interesting. I especially like the transportation ideas he discusses from time to time. Today's column asks the question I have been wondering for some time, why not let the big US automakers die? That would give us the opportunity to rebuild the transportation and auto industry into something more fitting for today's world. As always Morford puts it more colorfully:
We have a chance to let this fat, lazy, top-heavy, SUV-glutted industry implode like it so very much deserves, and we might not take it? I think: What an opportunity. We could begin to reinvent the American automobile starting next week, and we might instead keep the old ways alive simply because the Big Three were too stupid and greedy to see past their gross SUV sales figures for the past 25 years? Come on.

He also suggests that rather than shoveling money into companies making products no one wants, just because the workers would suffer, we should be spending the money helping train workers for the future and on reducing the social impacts of letting these dinosaur automakers die. It's an interesting idea, quite Republican in many ways (aside from the retraining and addressing social impacts part of course).

The other side of the question, somewhat lukewarmly argued I felt, is by Daniel Gross from Slate. He believes the bankruptcy process would not be an efficient way to reorganize the auto companies and fears for the economic consequences on workers and the rest of economy. But then again, as he says:
The failure of the American automotive industry—and let's be honest, it has basically failed—is a matter of public policy. If the Big Three can be saved, they can be saved only by government.

What a mess. It's clear that a little bit of regulation twenty years ago would have really helped the auto industry. I can't blame them for fighting it, but I can blame the Republican party.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Built for comfort, not for speed!

I have argued in several papers that railways should focus on the needs of today's customers, but not eliminate the qualities that make rail travel comfortable and enjoyable. For example, the ability to have a good meal or enough space to work or relax without leaning on the person sitting next to you (today's air travel model).

Alex Marshall wrote an article called The Comfort Zone for Governing Magazine that covers similar ground. The article suggests that transport is more than just moving people, he says,

For state and local officials, it means resisting the urge to think about transportation as something that can be reduced to wheels and wings. We humans, being soft and fleshy creatures with a handful of senses, have considerations that go beyond how fast and how far and at what price.

While I think there is a lot railways can learn from airlines, low cost airlines in particular, the learning includes both positives and negatives! Imitate some of the operational strategies, but imitate first class food service and amenities!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The train in Spain is better than the plane.

Here's an article I wrote in support of California's high speed rail initiative which is on the ballot on November 4, 2008.

The train in Spain is better than the plane.

High speed trains are transforming Spain and countries throughout the world. High speed rail’s benefits are clear, it’s time for California to get on board.

California’s transport system is a brake on innovation and growth, airport lines, flight delays, and traffic congestion, it’s an endless series of hassles stealing our money and wasting our time – it’s different in Spain.

Spain’s first high speed train started operating in 1992 between Madrid and Seville. At the time many ridiculed it as a prestige project with little economic value. Well, they’re not laughing now. Instead, based on the initial line’s economic and environmental success, they are too busy building a high speed network connecting Spain’s major cities and neighbors in France and Portugal.

One of the first benefits Spain noticed was that the share of people flying the Madrid – Seville route dropped from 75% to 25% overnight and the total number of travelers doubled. In addition to spurring economic development, reducing flights helped reduce greenhouse gases and airport congestion. The shift from plane to train has been repeated in many markets including Brussels - Paris, Paris - London and Paris - Lyon. In several cases airlines no longer even offer service.

Ah, but the airlines won’t give up without a fight. Well, not really; European airlines have taken an “if you can’t beat them – join them” approach. Lufthansa uses high speed rail on feeder routes to Frankfurt airport providing through ticketing and baggage handling. KLM-Air France is a partner in the new Netherlands high speed rail company. Can’t we do the same in California? High speed rail makes good economic and environmental sense for both airlines and society.

But, it’s not only people, high speed’s newest market is freight. Several railways now offer express delivery and will soon move more substantial goods. Again, railways are working with private sector partners like FedEx and UPS to create efficient networks, and again they are economically and environmentally sustainable. Imagine the number of trucks we could remove from California highways with a similar system.

Spain is also overlaying regional rail trains on its high speed network just as California is planning. These trains are a supercharged version of Caltrain”s highly successful Baby Bullet trains, imagine San Jose to San Francisco in 20-minutes! This is being successfully operated now, so ignore the doomsayers who say it won’t work.

Finally, high speed rail is revitalizing economies. A fine example is England’s high speed line from the Channel Tunnel to London – a case study of top quality planning, engineering and environmental sensitivity. The line was specifically routed through southeast London to encourage economic development in a depressed area. So far the EURO 10-billion project has generated EURO 40-billion in investments, and played a major role in securing the Olympics for London. Can’t we use high speed rail to revitalize California too?

So, repeat after me, the train in Spain is better than the plane: faster, more economic and better for our environment. What’s California waiting for?
Andrew Nash,, is Managing Director of Vienna Transport Strategies, he formerly served as Executive Director of the San Francisco County Transport Authority. This article is based on his experience at the UIC 2008 World High Speed Rail Conference.