Capdiamont\’s Weblog

SMART is not Maglev/high speed rail
Saturday 9 Aug 2008, 10:12
Filed under: Marin, Railroad, SMART, Sonoma | Tags: ,

Some SMART opponents say don’t vote for SMART because it isn’t Maglev, and voting for SMART might preclude Maglev and I will include high speed rail.

The problem here is nothing else is studied, and high speed rail costs much more than SMART. It takes a long time to do the studies, get public input, revise, put on ballot, do construction, wait for rails cars that are in high demand, etc. Remember the old saying, tomorrow never comes. Keep waiting for the ideal whatever, all you will have done is gotten older, and materials have gotten more expensive.

SMART is a 70 mile commuter rail using existing railroad right of way. SMART owns this right of way, not the NCRA. SMART trains have the priority, not freight. $540 million is the upfront costs. This cost is something people complain about.

One person said they won’t support it because it isn’t Maglev. The Shangi Maglev is 19 miles long and cost 1.33 billion US dollars. That is 70 million a mile. At that per mile cost, SMART would have an upfront cost of 4.9 billion dollars. Yet it still would not connect to San Francisco, Oakland, BART, etc. Another thing is it would still be a train to nowhere, it can’t use the existing tracks, it’s trains can’t use the BART system, and would not be able to use California’s high speed train network. After all these years it is still in development. This is the highest speed possible on railroads. However at these high speeds, Maglev is 5db louder than conventional trains. One nice thing is there is no overhead electrical line needed to supply the train, and thus wear out.

High Speed Rail:
The reason it can’t connect to California’s high speed network, is because the California high speed rail network is using conventional high speed trains. Think Amtrak high speed trains on the East coast, Germany, South Korea which I’ve been on the last two. The nice thing besides being a part of the CA hish speed rail network, is you can use the same stations at commuter rail. Saving space in cities. However you have to go slower at these stations, and shared rail. Talking with Mehdi Morshed, Executive Director of the CA High Speed network this past Friday, several things came to point. One is figure 50 million a mile for high speed rail. Again to make SMART a high speed rail, 3.5 billion in upfront costs. Two, when pressed about putting in High Speed rail on Marin, Sonoma counties, he could only say he couldn’t predict the future, twenty or thirty years down the line. So no studies, and no plans within twenty or thirty years? Three, wanting to put in high speed rail, instead of commuter rail, is to paraphrase him, wanting to use a Ferrari when you need to use a bus. Four, he said, “They need commuter rail.”

The problem with both is while it is nice to have the right of way, unaffected by traffic, and vice versa is cost, materials, and energy to build such structures. The higher speed you want to go, the more perfect the track and right of way must be, plus the changes in elevation, and curvature must be smaller. Think bigger more imposing structures, or more overpasses for everything else. Typically concrete must be used a lot. This poses two problems, at least. Where does the material come from? Island Mountain would be a good place, but people don’t want to hear that. The other is concrete has a high embodied energy. If we are to reduce our energy usage, we must reduce our energy usage in all things. Then where do we put this super perfect right of way? Who would give up their land? It takes time to build up speed, for two reasons, one is the rate of speed change the motor(etc) can handle, the other is the rate of speed change people an handle. The average person can’t handle a great deal of speed change(g’s). This means the stops have to be infrequent, and a good distance between each other.



Morshed’s estimate of $50 million per mile is absurdly low. It will be more like $400 million per mile. Look at what the estimates are from extending BART to San Jose — then you get a true picture.

Morshed is using the $50 millin per mile to jsutify the estimated of 40 -45 billion for the HRS project. Everyone including the prime contractor Parsons Brinkerhoff,knows that this estimate, is nuts. Insiders are now saying 80 – 100 billion.

Comment by get real

That could be, which makes my point even better. People want some kind of HS rail over SMART, and yet complain about it’s cost.

Comment by capdiamont

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