Posts Tagged ‘idiocracy’

3rd Class

Governor Brown on why California needs a high-speed rail line:

Gov. Jerry Brown is on a mission to prevent the United States from becoming a Third World country, and he says the solution is a high-speed railroad in California. “We’re not going to be a Third World country if I have anything to do with it,” Brown said in a Friday morning interview on KCBS-AM in San Francisco. Fourteen countries already have high-speed rail, but the United States does not.

Having a high-speed rail line is hardly a prerequisite for first-world status. Factors like the quality of the education system, health care, income levels are the standard metrics used by economists. All programs being heavily cut by the Brown Administration.

However, it is interesting how many cities and states fool themselves into building things like trains and sports stadiums — for appearances. The thinking is that anyone living without such things is merely third-class. Because, well, trains and stadiums are way more sexy than maintaining a world-class university or health care system.

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Like a lot of news stories, the LA Weekly describes CHSRA Board Member Dan Richard as the smartest guy in the room:

In August, Gov. Jerry Brown set out to inject some honesty into the debate over the cost and business plan for the vast public works project — for which taxpayers are on the hook. He appointed two nonpoliticos, who also are free of longtime insider ties to big labor: rail expert Dan Richard and financial guru/banker Michael Rossi.

Richard’s “expertise” stems from his tenure on the BART Board (an elected position, making him anything but a “non-politico”). His main accomplishment during that time was the BART extension to the SFO airport. In fact, his bio on CHSRA web page boasts about this project.

As most readers know, the BART-SFO project went 100% over cost projections. And the ridership has been so dismal, it blew a huge fiscal hole in SamTrans finances. In any other circumstance, that project would have disqualified Richard from serving on a transit agency board. In assbackwards California, the opposite is true: failure is rewarded with responsibility over even larger mega-projects.

Speaking of BART-SFO, Quentin Kopp was recently interviewed on KQED public radio and had this to say:

Real high-speed rail, you get on in one place, you get off in another. Making people transfer from one train to another in my opinion is a sure recipe for discouraging ridership. That’s why I fought to have BART into SFO, not a mile and a half away, and that’s proved to be the most successful part of the entire BART system.

And when you read this quote, you have to wonder why nobody at KQED (or any other media outlet) ever looks up the BART-SFO numbers and asks, “Hey, is it a good idea to put these guys in charge of a $100 billion project?”

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“F” is for…

It was with great fanfare that the White House announced one of those top-to-bottom Regulatory “Reform” efforts. So how is that going over at the FRA?

Comment: [49 CFR Part 229] UP does not believe there is a safety justification for FRA’s requirement that the letter “F” be displayed on each locomotive to identify the front end.

FRA response: FRA is currently engaged in a rulemaking proceeding dealing with the revision of the Locomotive Safety Standards.  An NPRM in the matter was published on January 12, 2011, RIN 2130-AC16, 76 FR 2200.  The subject of the letter “F” requirement was not raised by UP or any other RSAC participant during the development of the NPRM, but to the extent practicable, FRA will consider UP’s suggestion as a late comment to the NPRM in developing the final rule.  The letter “F” requirement is related to safety, because it identifies not only the front end of the locomotive, but also identifies all of the locomotives equipment.

Good thing that locomotive has a letter “F” on it; otherwise, how is one to know it is a locomotive? And for those hoping PTC would mean the end of the infamous FRA weight-penalty, guess again:

Comment: [49 CFR Part 238 ] SRC believes that the crashworthiness standards in Part 238 are detrimental to the use and growth of passenger rail transportation.  According to SRC, the regulation assumes wrecks to be commonplace, which has not been the case, acts to curtail the export of passenger rail equipment to other countries, and results in prohibitive capital costs for passenger rail expansion and startup in the U.S.  SRC states that with the advent of PTC, perhaps the regulation could be revised to enable passenger rail equipment to  compete more effectively with other modes of  transportation.

FRA response: 
FRA’s regulatory approach to passenger equipment safety is balanced and does incorporate both crash avoidance and crashworthiness measures.  FRA necessarily considers the safety of the rail system as a whole,beginning with ways first to avoid an accident, such as through adherence to standards for railroad signal and operating systems (to  avoid a collision) and railroad track (to avoid a derailment).  Yet, FRA is indeed concerned about mitigating the consequences of an accident, should one occur, and crashworthiness features are an essential complement to crash avoidance measures.

Chamber of Commerce types are already blasting the regulatory “reform” as underwhelming. As much as I hate to admit it, they may have a point.

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The FRA (Federal Railway Administration) has issued new Proposed Rules for “High-Speed and High Cant Deficiency Operations”.

In layman’s terms, that means how fast trains are permitted to travel around curves. Obviously, faster is better, especially as the Administration has announced an ambitious $50 billion plan for high-speed rail.

The FRA has long been known for obstructing high-speed rail in the US, so it is no surprise that the new rules generally retain the antiquated regulations. Don’t expect Amtrak to be swapping its museum rolling stock for Pendolinos or Talgos anytime soon.

In the case of the Acela, the new rules would shave a measly 2 minutes over its entire run. That is well below 30 minutes that might be possible with modern tilting trains.

DB class 612 operating at 11.8 inches of unbalanced superelevation, well beyond what FRA allows

It is also worth discussing the absurd methodology used to validate the “new and improved” safety regulations. The FRA ran a variety of diesel-hauled commuter trains, and an Amtrak Acela Express trainsets. In terms of suspension and performance characters, these trains are quite primitive. No Pendolino or DB Class 612 took part in the tests. It would be like using a Model-T to devise highway safety rules.

In other words, this is the FRA’s usual lowest-common-denominator approach to regulation.

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