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Rail: Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study

If you look at the Transport Canada report on the full costs of transportation, inter city rail is never actually cheaper (on a full, social costs basis) than Single occupant vehicles or buses and only rarely cheaper than air travel (see Table 3-16). So he's not exactly making stuff up.

The rail system being evaluated in that table is the current one, not an electrified route on more level track.
 
If there is any point in that article that I can agree with it is the last two paragraphs:
I agree with your points of agreement. But instead of highway tolls, Metrolinx should start implementing basic congestion tolls like London has been doing. It would definitely provide them the capital needed for improving transit in the GTA.

As for the environmental benefits of HSR, one HSR train running on electricity must be many, many times more efficient than two or three jets.
 
The rail system being evaluated in that table is the current one, not an electrified route on more level track.
So? The road system being analyzed is the same road system we have now, not including any future gains in automobile efficiency.

The point was that passenger rail, especially unused passenger rail (the dominant kind of passenger rail), is not the environmental messiah it is repeatedly painted as. From an environmental perspective, money is better spent on increasing automobile air travel efficiency.

Its worth pointing out that where rail does actually have large social cost savings over equivalent methods is freight. The full social cost/ton of freight is half that of trucking when using freight railways between Tor-Mtl. That is with the current, largely unsubsidized and unelectrified, rail network. Yet freight rail is roundly slagged here for disturbing inefficient passenger rail operations. Hell, in the most extreme case, shipping by rail has 12% of the social costs of shipping by truck. It begs the question why all the focus on passenger rail, often at the expense of freight?

As for the environmental benefits of HSR, one HSR train running on electricity must be many, many times more efficient than two or three jets.

On average, not really. There are a lot of variables to consider. A high use route with high rider density probably would, but then again low or even moderately used routes over longer distances might not. The chunnel, for instance, is wildly inefficient compared to simple flights (it takes a lot more energy to plow through rock than it does to plow through the troposphere). Thats the key thing though, unless a route has the ridership over which to lay it's very high initial costs (both financial and environmental) it's potential benefits quickly disappear.
 
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But instead of highway tolls, Metrolinx should start implementing basic congestion tolls like London has been doing.

This is a topic on inter-city rail. I'm not sure congestion tolls in the inner city would change the number of people who drive to Ottawa and Montreal rather than take the train.

A train should always use less fuel than an aircraft to transport the same number of people the same distance. The train would become less and less efficient as more gradients, stops, and indirect routings are added to its journey, and as the train is carrying less passengers per vehicle weight so a heavy diesel locomotive with 5 cars nowhere near full could easily become less efficient than an aircraft.

If VIA wanted to look good in the social cost report between Toronto and Montreal it would run with no stops and have a stand-by seating policy to give major discounts to fill the last remaining seats. Keeping seats empty for a part of the trip for a passenger boarding half way through the trip can ruin the efficiency as well so VIA really needs to ensure its pricing policies get people on the train for those middle of the line segments that have more vacancies. VIA's current pricing model and the fact it isn't available on travel websites means it isn't dynamic enough to get maximum efficiency. For example in cases where there is a Toronto to Belleville passenger and a Kingston to Montreal passenger there isn't a way for VIA to give deep discounts to fill that specific seat without possibly filling other seats that would push out Toronto to Montreal passengers.
 
Another thing to consider, if VIA can Expedia and Travelocity a good rate of commission in exchange for VIA showing up as a lower priced option after a flight is selected they might also be able to drive up ridership. Many people don't realize that two can travel for the price of one in many cases once taxes are applied.
 
This is a topic on inter-city rail. I'm not sure congestion tolls in the inner city would change the number of people who drive to Ottawa and Montreal rather than take the train.
Yeah, that was a bit off-topic and I misunderstood your post.

But small details aside, my original comment was more focused on the craziness that the entire article seemed to fail to mention even one good point about High Speed Rail at all. To me, it seemed either very uneducated, or brutally biased.
 
Our country has a rail system featuring trains from the 1950s and track infrastructure from the 19th century... most developed countries started electrification 80-100 years ago (or more), and even less industrialized countries like Iran and former Yugoslavia began decades ago. Boarding is incredibly inefficient, the tracks are owned by freight companies, level crossings are everywhere, there are singled tracked areas between major urban centres, there are routes running at maybe 10mph along residential streets, there are frequent delays... No wonder it's expensive to run (and to travel on, despite the subsidy).

Is it really fair to compare this to 20 lane expressways, billion dollar toll bypass highways, interchanges costing hundreds of millions of dollars, grade separation from Windsor to Halifax (soon), and fast, comfortable modern cars... of course cars will come up to be more efficient. A more fair comparison would be taking highway 2 from Toronto to Montreal in an old vw bus.
 
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Our country has a rail system featuring trains from the 1950s and track infrastructure from the 19th century... most developed countries started electrification 80-100 years ago, and even less industrialized countries like Iran and former Yugoslavia began decades ago. Boarding is incredibly inefficient, the tracks are owned by freight companies, level crossings are everywhere, there are singled tracked areas between major urban centres, there are routes running at maybe 10mph along residential streets, there are frequent delays... No wonder it's expensive to run (and to travel on, despite the subsidy).

Is it really fair to compare this to 20 lane expressways, billion dollar toll bypass highways, interchanges costing hundreds of millions of dollars, grade separation from Windsor to Halifax (soon), and fast, comfortable modern cars... of course cars will come up to be more efficient. A more fair comparison would be taking highway 2 from Toronto to Montreal in an old vw bus.
Well said, well said.

But, while we need to improve passenger rail, freight rail is also a very important thing that we need to improve. It's true that freight rail is getting pushed over for passenger rail, and we should also be taking the necessary steps to allow freight rail to operate as efficiently as possible.
 
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I couldn't agree more about the need to promote rail freight. A great way to start doing that is to take the majority of passenger trains (VIA and GO) off CN and CP tracks.

Just like adding lanes to a highway, we should be adding rails to busy corridors to separate traffic. Start with a new HSR corridor between Toronto and Montreal, allow GO to operate dedicated tracks in corridors with enough space, and we'll end up with much more freight capacity.
 
Thanks for the link, kendrew! That was actually an amazingly good read.

Some *interesting* points that I saw,

"Let's face it, if these things were commercially viable, it would have happened (in North America) a long time ago,"
That is the kind of thing that's really making me angry. "If it actually made sense to do it, then we would have done it before." That makes absolutely no sense! If everyone thought like that, absolutely nothing would ever get done!

"It changes your whole travel experience to be able to do a day trip to a city that's 400 kilometres away," said Leddy. "I would say we are right now 50 years behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to that component of our transportation system.
"
This is totally true. Our rail system is ancient. VIA uses rickety, unelectrified, low speed freight rails and trains that are actually rather close to 50 years old. Canada could greatly benefit from better rail service, yet we're not doing anything to actually get there. High Speed Rail would be a great start to improving our rail infrastructure.

Collenette, who admits it was difficult in government to promote massive infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail, said the key will be finding an integrated approach with participation from airlines and bus companies that now have concerns about losing customers to a new subsidized passenger-train system.
I just find this a bit funny, because rail is really not competitive at all with Bus or Plane. I'm actually surprised that a very large portion of people (40%!) would switch to HSR from cars, while only 18% would switch from planes. Seriously, HSR would be pretty much just as fast as a plane, yet it would be considerably less expensive, very much more comfortable and a lot more relaxing than plane.
Actually, speaking of planes and being relaxed, I was very surprised when there was a sign and San Francisco international airport that read "WARNING: There is currently a high terrorist threat level." It had a little arrow pointing to High that was on a semicircle that looked like it was ripped off from the forest fire hazard signs. I guess I can blame George Bush for that, but it seemed totally stupid to me :confused:

"It's unfortunate that governments on both sides of the border are spending billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to prop up an auto industry that's doomed to obsolescence by triple-digit oil prices when, in fact, those billions of dollars should right now be directed to an expansion of public transit and rail," Jeff Rubin, author of Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, said in an interview.
I totally agree with him. I also read his book, which was very interesting.
 
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...allow GO to operate dedicated tracks in corridors with enough space, and we'll end up with much more freight capacity.


It's not a new idea, having GO operate on their own tracks was thought up before, during and after the GO-ALRT project. But it would have cost billions of dollars and trying to find suitable land and build tracks, that's why the continued to use the CP/CN lines is because its cheaper to pay rent then it is to build a new line.
 
Seriously, HSR would be pretty much just as fast as a plane, yet it would be considerably less expensive, very much more comfortable and a lot more relaxing than plane.

After all the money that would have to go towards building infrastructure (stations, rails, new trains, etc), is it likely it would significantly cheaper than flying? Of course, if the government paid for all the infrastructure and bought the trains, then perhaps fares wouldn't need to be expensive.

It takes less than an hour gate to gate to fly from Toronto to Ottawa (and only a little longer Toronto-Montreal). A train would need to be awfully fast to get there that quickly.

Looking at total journey time, if I leave my apartment in North Toronto at 6am, I can catch a Porter flight at 7am and be at a meeting in downtown Ottawa before 8:30am. What sort of total journey time are the HSR proponents looking at (assuming downtown to downtown)? From a practical point of view, what time would I need to leave home in order to get to that 8:30 meeting? [EDIT: If I have to stay overnight, the total cost of the trip starts to go up significantly, which is why I don't take the train now]
 
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After all the money that would have to go towards building infrastructure (stations, rails, new trains, etc), is it likely it would significantly cheaper than flying? Of course, if the government paid for all the infrastructure and bought the trains, then perhaps fares wouldn't need to be expensive.

It takes less than an hour gate to gate to fly from Toronto to Ottawa (and only a little longer Toronto-Montreal). A train would need to be awfully fast to get there that quickly.

Looking at total journey time, if I leave my apartment in North Toronto at 6am, I can catch a Porter flight at 7am and be at a meeting in downtown Ottawa before 8:30am. What sort of total journey time are the HSR proponents looking at (assuming downtown to downtown)? From a practical point of view, what time would I need to leave home in order to get to that 8:30 meeting? [EDIT: If I have to stay overnight, the total cost of the trip starts to go up significantly, which is why I don't take the train now]
The trip to Montreal would take 2 hours, 18 minutes, so something in the neighbourhood of an hour and a half seems realistic to Ottawa. It was estimated that air routes in the corridor would lose 44% of their ridership, and short haul flights have all but been replaced on HSR corridors in other countries. The train would also be more reliable and safe than flying.
 

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