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Is the Portland-Eugene high-speed rail worth the cost?

November 11, 2010

Editorial Pick of the month:
The huge cost of fast trains
By Democrat Herald, Hasso Herring

Oregon and the federal government are about to spend another $10 million or so on planning for high-speed rail in the corridor from Eugene to Portland via Albany and Salem. It’s time for a reality check.

The latest effort about to be launched is an environmental impact statement which, among other things, is supposed to determine the best route for a passenger service that would feature more and faster trains.

The question is: Are we just dreaming about this stuff, and spending lots of money on studies and consultants to keep from waking up, or is there a real chance that any of it could actually be built?

A year ago in December, a report by the Congressional Research Service called into question the whole notion of high-speed rail in the United States. The costs are astronomical and the benefits small or questionable, according to the report.

More passenger trains will hardly make a dent in highway congestion because most highway traffic does not go from and to the same places as the trains, the congressional researchers concluded. And as for energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases, trains represent no net gain either, because in the United States, owing to population patterns, most trains are sparingly used.

In the Willamette Valley, consultants for ODOT rail said developing passenger service along portions of the old Oregon Electric line would cost upwards of $1.8 billion in construction alone. As huge as that expense is, the estimate for improving the main line for the same purpose is even bigger: more  than $2.1 billion.

Oregon doesn’t have the money to accomplish this. There’s no reason to believe Congress will have the money either, although it could always try to borrow more, from China or some other place.

Assuming the money could be obtained, there is no way the Union Pacific will allow the use of its main line for more passenger trains, especially high-speed ones, without vastly more improvements than even the $2 billion estimate includes. The UP has told the state so.

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Russell November 11, 2010

Who benefits by negating this idea? Oil companies , of course. Streamlining traffic to and from Portland and Eugene is an enormous improvement over what we now have. Let’s step into the future without having to drag the ney sayers with us. They said that cars were not as good as horses too, remember?

THETRUTH November 11, 2010

More backward BS brainwash from the visionless..AND its not REAL HSR like Japan its just much needed passenger rail improvement that costs around 3 days of war in Iraq

VR November 11, 2010

“Is the Portland-Eugene high-speed rail worth the cost?”


A Real Look November 11, 2010

High Speed Rail is not going to happen in the US.

China is spending over 800 billion on high speed rail, but it would cost the US 2 to 3 times that much. China does not have the legal issues or environmental issues that we have to over come here in the US.

England just built a 60 mile line that cost 8 billon. that is 130 millon dollars a mile. That is just the start. There again they would not have the legal battles that would ocur in the US over closing crossings and getting the land nessary. On top of all of that, there is not one High Speed Line anywhere that pays it’s own way.

I would suggest reading this article for a reality check, then you decide.

vere_veritas November 11, 2010

There is not a rail system anywhere in America that comes anywhere close to even being revenue-neutral.

They suck the life blood out of any real commuting or transportation options. “High-speed” rail isn’t. There is always a hub and spoke system that is underused and impractical. There are no exceptions. They always cost significantly more than proposed and always carry fewer passengers than expected.

“Future”? Rail was invented in the 1700’s. It’s still basically the same. Fixed. Unscaleable. Incapable of deviating from a route. Hub and spoke. Never point to point. The negatives outweigh any positives 100:1.

T Paine November 11, 2010

“Oregon doesn’t have the money to accomplish this. There’s no reason to believe Congress will have the money either, although it could always try to borrow more, from China or some other place.”

And then we can have China build the train, rail, and everything else.

I imagine congestion will clear up on I5 as those in rural areas head to Portland for jobs and others flee the state entirely.

John Dough November 11, 2010

Folks, which part of…

The costs are astronomical and the benefits small or questionable

More passenger trains will hardly make a dent in highway congestion

(T)rains represent no net gain…(in) energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases, either….

…do you people not get?

You see, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there are NO benefits to HSR. How can you not see that?

Even if it was cheap, it wouldn’t make sense to invest in it. But, it’s not cheap; it’s sinfully expensive and we can’t afford it.

It’s interesting that somebody who would call the Congressional Research Service “visionless” would call himself “thetruth”….

VR November 11, 2010

So being able to finally live in America without being FORCED to own a car would not be a benefit?

So having an alternative to air travel would not be a benefit?

So having a robust multi-modal transportation system that could be more diversified in case of natural disasters, economic swings, and international pressures would not be a benefit?

So encouraging businesses to locate in an area where there is quality transportation *options* is not a benefit?

So while the rest of the entire industrialized world works on implementing high speed rail on national levels – here in the USA we have the Tea Party nut jobs keeping us perpetually stuck on the automobile.

But a new age is coming. The press is calling it the “iPhone” generation. With smart phones, facebook, and wireless internet – fewer and fewer young Americans are enamored with the automobile. Those are tomorrow’s work force, those are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, those are tomorrow’s taxpayers. They don’t want to be stuck in cars.

What about those of us who are aging and want to stop driving some day? I don’t want to be the 75 year old who drives over the babies in strollers. I want to be able to give up my car as I get older – but I don’t want to be a prisoner with no mobility…

Oregon can step up and build a quality diversified and multi-modal transportation infrastructure or Oregon will lose out to the places that are building it.

Many many many many of our greatest achievements didn’t “pencil out” for the accountants. We still lose money every day on the highway system…

It is time that we stop being prisoners to the automobile.

Bob Clark November 11, 2010

We don’t really have an east coast transportation problem requiring trains to exurbia. Freeways in and out of Portland are congested for only a couple hours twice during the weekdays. And the congestion time even during these times doesn’t exceed the amount of time which would be waisted waiting for a train. Folks are already flexing their schedules to work around the few hours of congestion, again mostly within the Portland Metro area.

So, I wouldn’t waste money studying trains and instead use it to manage existing road traffic and maybe add some strategic road additions. Also, automobile technology is about to change radically allowing for more travel capacity. Automobiles within the next two decades will become more computer driven so as to allow them to be (human) driverless. It will almost be like individually regulated taxis.

This is the problem with many of the government’s heavy infrastructure projects such as lightrail in that they routinely assume useability greater than thirty years. But this is a dubious assumption. Look how streetcars died out once before in the streets of Portland back before the 60s.

This high speed train idea is probably the wet dream of politicians and bureaucrats living in Portland and having to commute to Salem daily. Seems more efficient if these folks just moved to the Salem area instead of requiring everybody else to heavily subsidize their transportation needs.

John Dough November 11, 2010

Prisoners to the automobile? Are you nuts? The automobile has given us personal mobility unlike that ever known in the history of man. And trains would never replace automobiles — even under the most ambitious scenarios. Trains would merely supplement our mobility, albeit marginally, at enormous cost.

I would never give up my automobile — which enables me to go anywhere, anytime, at reasonable cost — in exchange for trains (no matter how fast) that enable me to travel to only a handful of selected places at higher cost. Ask the next 100 people you run into, at random. There are more people like me than there are like you.

Your premise is incorrect. If you give up your car when you get older, you will be giving up your mobility … unless the only places you want to travel to happen to be those with train stations.

No, I think last week’s elections spell the beginning of the end for HSP. For that, we all owe the “Tea Party nut jobs” a resounding “THANK YOU!”

Erik H. November 20, 2010

Let’s say that we build this magical, wonderful “high speed rail” through Oregon.

1. People do not commute from Eugene to Portland. And why should we encourage it? Isn’t that WORSE than urban sprawl?

2. Someone gets off the high speed train in Salem or Albany. Now what? The local transit systems in those towns are pitiful; that is if you show up when the systems are in operation. There’s no bus service in Salem on a Saturday, and in neither city late at night. While Albany has built their local transit hub next to the train station, Salem’s train station is wedged in a poor location for local transit – and a new station at Riverfront Park is also in a poor location to access transit services.

3. The existing Amtrak Cascades trains barely get 80 boarding rides between Portland and Eugene – for a train that carries nearly 300 passengers, it is environmentally wasteful for a 3,200 horsepower locomotive (plus a second diesel engine for onboard electric needs) when two, much smaller buses running at/near capacity, would do the exact same job.

4. Continuing with the buses, Oregon could implement hourly bus service between Eugene and Portland with brand new buses, for a tiny fraction of the cost of high speed rail – and each of the buses would be far more energy efficient than the train.

5. The bus system could also link communities NOT on the I-5 corridor – cities like Corvallis (population: 55,370), McMinnville (population: 32,930), Dallas (population: 15,555) – even communities like Newport and Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast; it could continue south all the way to Ashland, and provide service to and throughout Eastern Oregon – and the cost of a statewide intercity bus network, with 100% brand new, LUXURY buses, would still be a fraction of the cost of just ONE HSR trainset – never mind the cost of rebuilding the track to support high speed rail, the cost of the stations and associated parking lots, etc.

6. The “jobs” angle is flawed. So we create a bunch of construction jobs – in three years, the politicians will have to find a new project to save all those jobs. What will be the next folly? It is not the role of government to somehow save cyclical construction jobs. Someone who chooses a career in construction ought to know that there might be a time when there is no construction happening and plan for it – just as a teacher should plan that there’s no classes in the summer, or farm workers know that there’s little farm work in the middle of winter. If you want a 52 week a year job, you need to find a job that actually will span 52 weeks a year – not a 30 week a year job, and expect government to pay you the other 22 weeks.

haha December 1, 2010

Oregon is nothing compaired to CA

Eugene celebrates National Train Day; high-speed rail EIS agreement nearing approval | MyEugene May 6, 2011

[…] Is the Portland-Eugene high-speed rail worth the cost? […]

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