China’s tests out world’s first driverless train that runs on virtual rails

By

bus_train11

Look Ma, No rails! or Medians!

The Hunan city of Zhuzhou is currently testing out an unmanned train that doesn’t run on rails. You know, like a bus.

The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) is being dubbed by Chinese state media the “world’s first smart rapid rail bus,” whatever that means. The train/bus (trus?) was first shown off in June this year. It uses sensors to determine the dimensions of the road and make a virtual track for itself to ride along…(more)

This kind of technology may be the best argument for putting a halt on new projects while we finish the ones underway now. Eliminating the rails, medians and other “traditional” infrastructure elements costing billions of dollars now, could be the cheap public transportation answer in the very near future. Give the public a break while the technology catches up.

 

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CA bullet train authority postpones critical $30M contract award

Kim Slowey : constructiondive – excerpt

Dive Brief:

  • The California High Speed Rail Authority has postponed awarding a key, $30 million operations and management contract for the first leg of its new rail line through the state’s Central Valley region, according to Courthouse News Service. CHSRA was scheduled to award the contract at its monthly meeting Thursday.
  • The CHSRA had planned to tap DB Engineering & Consulting USA, a subsidiary of German rail company Deutsche Bahn, for the project, but Spain-based bidder Renfe protested the decision at the last minute. Renfe objected based on its scoring process, during which the company said it received high marks in two out of three categories.
  • The CHSRA’s reluctance to move forward with an operations contract led some meeting attendees to suggest that the authority was dragging its feet at a “critical time” in the bullet train’s schedule. The agency, which is already late in delivering the first segment of the high-speed rail by eight years, will address the contract award issue at its next meeting in November…

Dive Insight:

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a June CHSRA report that said the 119-mile line through the Central Valley cost $1.7 billion more than originally forecast, which raised the total price tag to $8 billion. The CHSRA chalked up the increases to the rising cost of land, the cost of utility relocation and negotiations with freight companies over the logistics of running high-speed trains near their tracks. It is unknown whether this add-on will raise the entire projected cost of the rail past its current budget of $64 billion… (more)

California’s bullet train is likely to face more environmental hurdles after a high court ruling

By Maura Dolan and Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court.

In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

It clears the way for opponents of the $64-billion bullet train to file more lawsuits as construction proceeds and also allows Californians to challenge other rail uses, such as the movement of crude oil from fracking… (more)

High-speed rail gets us stuck in traffic

By David Schwartzman : californiapolicycenter – excerpt

It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed r.ail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: it is more expensive and smaller in scope, and it will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas.

High-speed rail will cost Californians billions of dollars. In urban areas, increased traffic may cost Californians billions more. Its business plan relies on unrealistic ridership projections. The project is devoid of private funding because businesses see high-speed rail as likely to run at a loss. While high-speed rail wastes more taxpayer dollars, the private sector makes it obsolete with technological innovation, which will reduce future income from the high-speed rail system. High-speed rail authorities have violated federal law by making significant changes to the proposition approved by voters. High-speed rail has not been the success voters imagined when the bill passed.

When voters approved Proposition 1A with 52.7%, the estimated cost for high-speed rail going from Sacramento and San Francisco to San Diego was $45 billion. However, a 2011 business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority projected costs to be $98.5 billion, and potentially as high as $118 billion, while also ending at Anaheim rather than San Diego. Despite the enormous difference in cost, Californians were not consulted about whether they were still interested in high-speed rail. Instead, the project was scaled down, with slower speeds and fewer new tracks, estimated to cost $68.4 billion, and later $64 billion... (more)

Most poll respondents don’t plan to ride SMART

By Stuff: ARGUS-COURIER – excerpt

Last Mile Issues require parking options

A majority of respondents to an online Argus-Courier poll said that they would not use the SMART train for their daily commute.

Here are some comments:

“Aside from the fact there is a serious lack of parking near the train station, the train goes nowhere near where I work in San Rafael. Walking or taking a bus to or from the train station will not work either. I will continue to drive.”

“I’d like to, but that may change depending on price, in particular, as well as timing with the Larkspur ferry. ”

“I am retired but want to ride the train and see the sights once all the bugs are worked out.”

“I do not and do not know anyone who will. This train has cost us millions in taxpayer dollars and has woken me up several times as it blows its horns.”

“I go into San Francisco. It is not time or cost effective, including the incomplete route to the ferry.”

If the transportation authorities quit fighting and added sufficient parking to their list of amenities for ALL public transit stations and hubs, they would not have the problem of a sinking ridership. There is no excuse for this lack of parking at the stations other than an out-dated notion that people can and should be controlled by a “wiser” government.

The Crazy Idea of Running Caltrain onto Muni’s Tracks

: streetsblog – excerpt

Maybe it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds

A little over a week ago, the San Francisco Examiner ran the Op-Ed: “Fast and cheap: Getting Caltrain to Transbay Terminal … this year.” Author Stanford Horn proposed extending Caltrain via Muni’s T/N tracks on King Street and building some more tracks on Howard Street to a platform at the new Transbay Terminal, as a stop-gap measure until the DTX tunnel is built

Horn’s assertion, that it would be such a simple project that it could be connected up in a few weeks or months, is as silly as it sounds. As Noel Braymer, editor of the Rail Passenger Association of California newsletter wrote: “Oh dear God, where do I begin! There is no way that the Federal Railroad Administration will allow Caltrain equipment to share tracks with much lighter rail transit trains. The reason is, in the case of a collision Muni cars would be crushed if hit by Caltrain!”

To point out another obvious problem: although the track gauge is the same, Caltrain’s rolling stock is wider than Muni’s. Since Muni uses high-level platforms, that means if you plopped a Caltrain onto Muni’s tracks, it would crash into the platform. Furthermore, Caltrain’s equipment would likely derail on Muni’s track switches. Horn’s piece was savaged in the comments section as totally unworkable… (more)

MTC Wins Transportation Planning Excellence Award for Plan Bay Area and One Bay Area Grant Program

MTC : prnewswire – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, June 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has been awarded a 2017 Transportation Planning Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration for the project, “A Strategy for a Sustainable Region: Plan Bay Area and the One Bay Area Grant Program.” Plan Bay Area is the long-range transportation and land use plan for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area while the One Bay Area Grant Program channels the region’s federal transportation funding to make the vision of Plan Bay Area and its successors a reality… (more)

More deceptive back-patting by MTC.  The Bay Area sports a dropping per capita transit ridership and suffers as the second most congested metropolitan region in the country.  Despite this, according to its many boastful pronouncements MTC would have us believe that it is the most wonderfully successful planning department in the country if not the entire world.

Here’s the truth of the matter.

MTC’s “excellence” is in the forming of multitudinous overlapping and vaguely defined committees and in generating mountains of fine sounding reports that make it look to the feds and the gullible as if everything in the Bay Area is in perfect order. The truth is that MTC doesn’t come even close to practicing what it preaches in its flood of written communications.  Instead of advocating and promulgating sound regional planning MTC remains passive whenever a regional transportation problem of consequence arises.  Instead of addressing regional transportation issues MTC remains in the back rooms brokering deals with the handful of Bay Area cities with significant influence in Washington.  The result is a continuing series of high cost/low benefit parochial projects that do nothing to address the increasingly excessive traffic congestion and dropping public transit ridership that are detracting from the Bay Area’s quality of life.  So far the Region has let MTC get away with this swindle.

Do We Want to Improve LA Transportation, Or Just Spend Money On It?

Kenneth S. Alpern, City Watch LA : capoliticalreview – excerpt

TRANSIT WATCH–Do you wonder why homelessness has shot UP in our city and county after we’ve screamed and spent more to try to help our fellow Angelenos and free up our streets, and instead we’ve gotten more … Garcettivilles? Do you ever wonder whether those sudden and new homeless living in tents, in campers, or in sleeping bags under our bridges and taking over our streets are actually Angelenos, who have come here from all over the nation and who have decided to create their own “neighborhoods”… a.k.a., Garcettivilles?

Money is best spent well, and to its credit, LA Metro has overall earned the bragging rights to money well spent, and to not taking the taxpayers’ money for granted.  But we’ve seen lots of interesting data, and we’ve not always had the best partners in Sacramento and Washington…so how do we best proceed?… (more)

Leadership turnover at the California High-Speed Rail Authority could signal shakeup

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

The organizational chart of top management at California’s bullet train authority disappeared from the agency’s website about three months ago, sending what now seems like a sign of impending shakeup.

Chief Executive Jeff Morales announced his departure on April 21 in a letter sent to Gov. Jerry Brown and the rail authority. Late last year, the senor deputy officer left, and before that the chief administrator and the computer systems director said goodbye.

A leadership exodus has also roiled the authority’s corporate “rail delivery partner,” Parsons Brinckerhoff, which makes many of the day-to-day engineering and construction decisions in the effort to build a high speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is critical to the bullet train project’s success or failure.

Gary Griggs, the company’s top executive on the California project who has worked on BART, the San Francisco subway, and the Taiwan bullet train, quietly announced his retirement recently. Griggs was preceded by Tony Daniels, Hans Van Winkle, Brent Felker and Jim Van Epps — all since about 2012. A deputy, Gay Knipper, was just let go as well.

It adds up to a senior management upheaval at a time when the rail authority is wrestling with construction falling behind schedule, cost estimates heading higher and a hostile wind blowing from the Trump administration…

“”As long as Dan Richard is at the helm and Mike Rossi oversees finance, then you are in good shape.” Thea Selby, former rail authority board member…

“When you have a large infeasible project, it is better to not be in the room when it comes to a halt.” — James Moore, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC…(more)

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