Monday, September 20, 2010

Southwest Groundlines

I've been picking at my regional high-speed rail map for the Southwest for a while, and I've decided enough is enough.  Here it is.  I'd like to think it is self-explanatory, but I've provided some commentary below.

The main point to note is that it is a fantasy map.  I feel it's one that is fairly well grounded in reality, as several of the core routes are based on the current proposal by the California High Speed Rail Authority.  I've also taken into account city population rankings and city pair air routes (see the second page on the map) for my new lines.  But I've also made two major assumptions.  One is that the Federal Railroad Administration will grant a full waiver for HSR trainsets to operate on mixed traffic (freight and passenger) lines.  Currently, lightweight trainsets are prohibited from operating in mixed traffic due to the FRA's somewhat ridiculous safety requirements (which is a long discussion for another day).  I've also assumed full cooperation from BNSF and UP.  Currently the latter is fighting all efforts to have HSR lines anywhere near its property, let alone having frequent passenger operations on them.  BNSF has been more cooperative, but it still would probably not want as much passenger traffic on its lines as I propose.

As I mentioned, several of the core lines, with track that enables high-speed trainsets to travel at up to 220mph, are based on the current CHSRA proposal.  Those lines are San Franscisco-San-Jose-Chowchilla-Los Angeles, Sacramento-Chowchilla, Los Angeles-Irvine, and Los Angeles-Riverside-San Diego.  With the exception of Chowchilla, which is just an interchange point, those cities are all ranked in the top 25 most populous in the country.  I've added five more lines of similar capability: San Jose-Oakland, Mojave-Las Vegas, Riverside-Barstow, Riverside-Phoenix, Phoenix-Tuscon, and Quartzite-Las Vegas.  Phoenix and Las Vegas are connected with dedicated track due to their size and the amount of air traffic between them and other cities in the network.  The Oakland-San Jose line is important because of the difficulties of crossing the bay, and because over half of the population of the SF MSA lives east of the bay.  The Phoenix-Tucson line doesn't compete with an air route because the two cities are too close, but they are both large and the connecting freeway is very busy.  Finally, the Riverside-Barstow line provides more direct routes from San Francisco and Las Vegas to Riverside and San Diego.  I think the importance of all of the high-speed lines is pretty clear.

What might not be as obvious is the inclusion of lower speed lines.  To explain them, let me first describe the two models for HSR systems around the world.  One is a closed system, as used in Japan and Spain.  In those systems, HSR trainsets operate only on dedicated lines, much like a subway does.  Dedicated lines make for less complicated trains, but have a downside, which is that passengers must transfer between trains if their destination is not on a dedicated line.  While a transfer between two trains is usually much less frustrating than a transfer between two planes, it still is a disincentive to taking a train.  An open system, as in France and Germany, allows for "one-seat rides" between a greater number of destinations by utilizing parts of the existing railroad network.  In France, in fact, most locations served by HSR trainsets are not on dedicated lines.  Now, the US does not have an existing passenger rail system anything like what European countries have.  Nonetheless, it still has an extensive rail network that could be exploited to people.  Utilizing the track would require significant upgrades and extensive cooperation between the freight railroad companies and the CHSRA, but it could be done.  I think the low speed lines I propose (marked in green and purple) are logical if one accepts the premise that one-seat rides are important.  A few might be marginal if for some reason the cost of driving doesn't rise significantly.  I expect costs to rise a lot - soonish if Americans come to their senses, or later and more dramatically if they doesn't.  The track on the low speed lines would be upgraded to either 79mph or 110mph, based on a combination of cost and traffic potential.

The Stockton-Fremont-Redwood City low speed line merits a specific comment.  One of the hotter points of debate about the CHSRA system proposal is the choice of route into the Bay Area.  CHSRA has selected Pacheo Pass (Los Banos-Gilroy) over Altamont Pass (Tracy-Fremont) several times.  I think doing so makes sense because going through Pacheo Pass would allow a single train to serve both SF and SJ once the initial segment is constructed.  This would increase the probability that the initial segment is successful, which is very important.  The Altamont Pass route has the advantage of reducing the SF-Sacto distance significantly once the second segment is constructed (which most people seem to think would extend the network to Sacramento).  However, that route would mean the frequency of arrivals and departures from SF and SJ would be about half as often as they would be if Pacheo Pass was selected.  More frequent departures make a transportation system more convenient, which boosts its use.  That's the main reason why I decided to keep the Pacheo Pass route.  However the circuitous route from SF to Sacto via Pacheo Pass would definitely reduce the number of people taking the train between the two cities.  So a shorter route would be needed.  I've included two, actually; one through Altamont Pass and across the southern SF Bay on a new bridge, and one through the Carquinez Strait.  Both routes include existing UP track that would be upgraded.

Another thing that I should expand on is the three types of stations I propose.  The first, a full-service HSR station, would be one where nearly every train would stop.  Obviously every train has to stop in a station at the end of the line, but there is no point in bypassing a major intermediate station like SJ, Fresno, or LA.  The time savings from skipping any one stop is minimal, and there will be demand at all times of the day from passengers in big cities.  Full-service stations would open early and close late, would provide services like checked baggage, and would have various businesses located inside the facility.  A limited-service HSR station would be an intermediate station where not every train would stop.  A few, like Blythe or Elk Grove, might have only have two or three arrivals in each direction per day.  Others, like Palo Alto, Burbank, or Escondido, might see every other train stopping.  Most of these stations would not have other services co-located on the property, but some might.  Finally, a low-speed station would be a location on a low-speed line where a HSR trainset stops.  These locations would see several HSR trains a day, but also might see other electrified trains, conventional diesel-hauled trains, or both.  Once again most would not have services co-located, with exceptions.

Some minor points
  • The map is diagrammatic.  I've laid the lines out in some detail so the distances would be fairly accurate.  But they should not be interpreted too far beyond that.
  • The map shows only lines served by HSR trainsets.  Lines not shown include those that host commuter trains or regional services.  Note that some of those lines are immediately adjacent to dedicated HSR tracks.  (Actually, other passenger lines are on page 2 of the map.  Remember when looking at them that non-HSR trains can operate on lines marked in green, purple, and brown.)
  • Even though the lines are presented together, obviously they can't all be built at once.  And with the exception of the Stockton-Fremont-Redwood City line, there's no point in upgrading existing lines for use by HSR trainsets until all of the dedicated lines are built.
  • Since I have attempted to make a fairly realistic map, I have not included new SF Bay crossings.  For instance, a new SF-Oakland tunnel capable of supporting HSR trainsets would be a nice addition to the system.  But it would also be terribly expensive, and the money spent on it could be better used extending the reach of the rail system.  The same could be said about a Richmond-San Rafael crossing.
  • There are a three areas with top 300 metropolitan areas that are not served: the North Bay, the Central Coast, and Northern Arizona.  All three areas have difficult geography that would make any lines to the area both circuitous and expensive.
  • There are two major air routes that are not duplicated by an HSR line: San Diego-Phoenix, and and San Francisco-Phoenix.  The first route would has difficult geography and little population between the destinations.  The second is too long of a journey for HSR to be effective, even if a direct route could be built.
  • All electrification would supply 25kV AC at 60Hz.  25kV is the de facto global standard, and 60Hz is the national standard.
  • All dedicated lines would be double-tracked with in-cab signaling.
  • Upgraded lines would be electrified, and double-tracked where necessary if they aren't already.
  • While HSR trainsets can operate on upgraded lines, non-HSR trains can't operate on dedicated HSR tracks.
Comments on individual lines:
  • San Francisco to San Jose - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 1) Bay Area governments already own this ROW
  • San Jose to Chowchilla - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 1) parallel to UP in the Santa Clara Valley, then a new ROW with significant tunnelling to Chowchilla
  • Chowchilla to Mojave - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 1) parallel to UP to Frenso, then BNSF to Bakersfield, and then a new ROW with major tunneling to Mojave
  • Mohave to Los Angeles - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 1)  parallel to UP in the Antelope Valley, then a new ROW through Soledad Canyon, and parallel to Metrolink in the San Fernando Valley
  • Sacramento to Chowchilla - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 2) parallel to UP
  • Stockton to Redwood City - (under study by CHSRA for ... something, 110mph, Phase 2) parallel to UP, with a new bridge from Newark to East Palo Alto
  • Los Angeles to Riverside - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 3) parallel to UP
  • Riverside to San Diego - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 3) parallel to BNSF, then a new ROW from Perris to La Jolla, then parallel to the Surf line into San Diego
  • Mojave to Las Vegas - (mine, 220mph, Phase 4) parallel to BNSF from Mojave to near Barstow, then parallel to I-15 to Enterprise, then parallel to UP into Las Vegas
  • Riverside to Phoenix - (mine, 220mph, Phase 4) parallel to UP to Indio, then parallel to I-10 to Goodyear, then parallel to UP
  • Phoenix to Tuscon - (mine, 220mph, Phase 5) parallel to up
  • Los Angeles to Irvine - (CHSRA, 220mph, Phase 5) parallel to BNSF and Metrolink
  • Los Angeles to LAX - (110mph, Phase 5) on UP and Metrolink
  • Quartzite to Las Vegas - (mine, 220mph, Phase 5) entirely new alignment
  • Barstow to Riverside - (mine, 220mph, when needed)
  • Redding to Sacramento - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on UP
  • Sacramento to Oakland - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on UP
  • Gilroy to Salinas - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on UP
  • Burbank to Goleta - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on Metrolink and UP
  • San Diego to San Ysidro - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on SDIY
  • Indio to Calexico - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on UP
  • Tuscon to Nogales - (mine, 110mph, Phase 6) on UP
  • Sacramento to Reno - (mine, 79mph, Phase 7) on UP
  • Fullerton to Riverside - (mine, 79mph, Phase 7) on BNSF
  • Placienta to Orange - (mine, 79mph, Phase 7) on BNSF
  • Irvine to La Jolla - (79mph, Phase 7) on Metrolink and Coaster
  • Tempe to Coolidge - (79mph, Phase 7) on UP
Comments on individual stations:
  • Anaheim - (CHSRA, full-service, suburban, new) very close to Disneyland
  • Auburn - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing) in the foothills northeast of Sacramento
  • Avondale - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) western suburbs of Phoenix
  • Bakersfield - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new)
  • Barstow - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) outside of city because of space considerations
  • Berkeley - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Blythe - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) only station on the 230 mile stretch between Indio and Avondale
  • Burbank - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Calexico - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new) close to the border crossing to Mexicali
  • Calipatria - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new) northernmost station in Imperial Valley
  • Casa Grande - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) largest city between Phoenix and Tuscon
  • Chico - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing) close to Cal State Chico
  • Chula Vista - (mine, low-speed, suburban, new)  south of downtown San Diego
  • Colton - (mine, full-service, greenfield, new) station at the junction of several lines to allow transfers
  • Coolidge - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new)
  • Corona - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Davis - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing) close to UC Davis
  • Driftwood Ranch - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) southern suburbs of Phoenix
  • East Sacramento - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new) adjacent to Cal State Sacramento
  • El Centro - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new) largest city in Imperial Valley
  • Elk Grove - (mine, limited-service, suburban, new) southern suburbs of Sacramento
  • Encinitas - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Escondido - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Fairfield - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Fremont - (mine, full-service, suburban, new)
  • Gilroy - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Goleta - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing) near UC Santa Barbara campus
  • Green Valley - (mine, low-speed, suburban, new)
  • Hayward - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Hanford-Visalia - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new) 
  • Henderson - (mine, limited-service, suburban, new) southeastern suburbs of Las Vegas
  • Higly - (mine, low-speed, suburban, new)  in suburban Phoenix
  • Indio - (mine, low-speed, suburban, new) last station in Coacella Valley
  • Irvine - (CHSRA, full-service, suburban, new) at end of high-speed segment
  • La Jolla - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new) near UC San Diego
  • La Puente - (CHSRA, limited-service, suburban, new)
  • Lancaster - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new) downtown is more dense than the one in Palmdale
  • Las Vegas - (mine, full-service, downtown, new)
  • LAX - (mine, low-speed, airport, new) provides direct airplane-train transfers
  • Livermore - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Los Angeles - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new)
  • Madera - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Martinez - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Mesa - (mine, low-speed, suburban, new)
  • Merced - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Millbrae - (CHSRA, full-service, suburban, existing) provides (almost) direct airplane-train transfers
  • Modesto - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Murrieta - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Needles-Bullhead - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new
  • Nogales - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new) close to border crossing to Heroica Nogales
  • Northridge - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Oakland - (mine, full-service, downtown, new) probably underground
  • Oceanside - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Ontario - (CHSRA, full-service, suburban, new) adjacent to airport
  • Oxnard - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Palm Springs - (mine, limited-service, greenfield, new)
  • Palmdale - (CHSRA, limited-service, suburban, new)
  • Palo Alto - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new) one option for the CHSRA "mid-peninsula" station
  • Phoenix - (mine, full-service, downtown, new)
  • Pleasanton - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Red Bluff - (mine, low-speed, downtown, new)
  • Redding - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Redwood City - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new) one option for the CHSRA "mid-peninsula" station
  • Reno - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Richmond - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Riverside - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Roseville - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Sacramento - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new)
  • Salinas - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • San Diego - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new)
  • San Fernando - (CHSRA, limited-service, suburban, new)
  • San Francisco - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new) end of the line, underground
  • San Jose - (CHSRA, full-service, downtown, new) close to downtown
  • San Juan Capistrano - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • San Ysidro - (mine, low-speed, greenfield, new) adjacent to border crossing to Tijuana
  • Santa Barbara - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Simi Valley - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Sky Harbor - (mine, full-service, airport, new) in airport terminal
  • Stockton - (CHSRA, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Strip-UNLV - (mine, full-service, suburban, new) towards the southern end of the Strip
  • Sunnyvale - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new)
  • Tempe - (mine, limited-service, downtown, new) adjacent to ASU
  • Tracy - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Truckee - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Tuscon - (mine, full-service, downtown, new) close to UA
  • University - (CHSRA, limited-service, suburban, new) adjacent to UC Riverside
  • Ventura - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)
  • Victorville - (mine, limited-service, suburban, ?)
  • Watsonville - (mine, low-speed, greenfield, existing)
  • Whittier - (CHSRA, limited-service, suburban, new)
  • Yorba Linda - (mine, low-speed, suburban, existing)
  • Yuba - (mine, low-speed, downtown, existing)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Golden State Spikes

I've been wasting a lot of time with GMaps, and the latest product is this map of railroads in California.  It's definitely the most extensive map online, and I hope people will find it informative.

A few comments are in order:
  • The map is comprehensive but not complete.
  • I've included the interurban lines of several systems, but not their local streetcar lines.  Additionally, no strictly urban streetcar systems are included.  This might seem like an arbitrary division, but interurbans often hauled freight (in small amounts) whereas streetcar systems almost never did.   Thus, the distinction.
  • No modern transit systems are included.  Right-of-ways abandoned by their original operator and reused later by a transit system are shown as abandoned.
  • Freight spurs are not included, unless they are a remnant of a longer line.
  • Temporary logging spurs are not included.
  • A number of abandoned lines are submerged in various reservoirs around the state.  I've drawn lines through the water, but they are not at all accurate.
  • A few abandoned lines around Sacramento were torn up before 1880, and no drawings of their locations exist.
  • Colors are as follows: green = BNSF; brown = UP; blue = everybody else; purple = operating narrow gauge; red = abandoned standard gauge; orange = abandoned narrow gauge.
  • Because of the limitations of GMaps, the content is split over several pages.  I've arranged the lines from north to south, but I have no control over where the breaks occur.  If an area you would like to look at is on two different pages, try flipping back and forth.  The page breaks aren't fixed, so all of the lines you want to see may (or may not) end up on the same page.