TxDOT Really Wants to See That Whole Dallas to Houston High-Speed Rail Line Happen

Categories: Transportation
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I just stumbled across this piece out of Houston, which says the Texas Department of Transportation has submitted docs to the feds asking for around $43 million to expedite that long-discussed and even longer-debated Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail line. I called Jennifer Moczygemba, who oversees the Texas Rail Plan at TxDOT, to confirm. And she said: Absolutely.

Not only that, but she walked me through all the docs that accompanied the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail applications, which were due to the Federal Railroad Administration by Monday. (I would read this one first, if I were you.)

Says Moczygemba, some of the money would go toward preliminary engineering and environmental analysis necessary for choosing the best route between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston for a train that would travel at 150 miles per hour. She tells Unfair Park that creating a rail line between North Texas and Houston is "definitely a priority," but that there's been little money available to study the feasibility of such a line.

"We do have money to look at Dallas to San Antonio, which we got from the last round of applications," she says. "And we're advancing the Oklahoma City to South Texas line. But Dallas to Houston, we hadn't gotten any money. There aren't a lot of cities in between to require a detailed corridor analysis, but the feasibility study would look at routes that would include the BSNF or something else that runs roughly parallel to I-45."

She says the money would allow for a route study, which would then be taken to the public for further thoughts on where the line should and would run. She says that once the preferred alternative is determined, then the state would "develop a public-private partnership" to get the train moving. I asked her: Is she referring to the Central Japan Railway Company's presentation down in Houston last September?

"They're interested, which is why we're moving forward, and there may be others," she says. "So we're looking at the opportunity to determine best possible route through the public involvement process, and then take that to a public private partnership."
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67 comments
LovesTrains
LovesTrains

Amtrak hates the TSA.

For the high-speed train to truly serve its customers, a vehicle car is needed, so we can have our cars when we get to the other end. Amtrak has these cars on its Florida/New York run.

Those of us who need to go to multiple locations at our destination need our wheels, and rent cars are too expensive and impractical.

BTS
BTS

Airlines are dependent on cheap oil to be profitable. Without cheap oil you would have to be rich to afford to fly. So what if trains were invented over a 100 years ago. The physics that make them the most energy efficient form of transportation has not changed. Oil will not be cheap forever! Electric trains are like insurance for the future and well as a more comfortable way to travel. We should not be so dependent on only a few forms of transportation. To be so is foolhardy.

Groucho42
Groucho42

It'd be a great idea. However, I'm sure that SWA will bribe the state legislature and Congress in order to stop it, as the airline has successfully done multiple times in the past. After all, the DFW/Houston/Austin triangle is its cash cow, and it'll protect that monopoly from competition by spending money it gets from tax breaks.

Let's hope this time the politicians realize the need and that overcomes their greed. I doubt it will, but I'll hope.

Groucho42
Groucho42

While ignoring the fact that both the national highway system and the airline industry have been completely subsidized throughout their entire histories. Both have been complete losses their in their financial lives.

At least rail in corridors such as DFW/Houston/Austin would be more efficient than either, better for the environment and more cost effective. However, that means change and change is scaaaary, right? Grow up.

Jd
Jd

Where do all these idots come from?

bmike
bmike

Trains, oh and windmills too. You liberals have awesome ideas! Could I also suggest covered wagons, the telegraph and this one is an old classic - fire. I definitely think that is the future.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

43 million for a route study? How do I get in on this action?

I will do the study for 32 million and throw in a study on how many different ways we can waste money studying things.

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

Won't happen. When our Chicago machine president dreams about high speed rail, it is not for states like Texas. No, that would be breaking the cardinal rule of the Chicago way. If your going to beg at his feet you must at least have voted for him.

Branden Helms
Branden Helms

^Once again, Hannibal selectively gathers his numbers. According to the Chairman of the Texas House Transportation committee, no road paid for itself.

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2009...

Ted, as for TSA at train stations, it is apparent you don't travel by train. Penn Station in New York is the equivalent of an airport (though much much smaller and handles a comparable amount of passenger traffic). Never once been screened. I have traveled Amtrak from New York to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Chicago (another highly used, geographically smaller station), Chicago to Dallas, Fort Worth to Norman, Fort Worth to Oklahoma City, Norman to Fort Worth, Oklahoma City to Fort Worth and Fort Worth to Dallas. Never once been screened.

Robertphou
Robertphou

Better read the fine print at the txdot web site. it is a 77 mph average speed for a 3.25 hour travel time. this is comparable to the infrastructure florida was proposing at a cost of 3.2 billion for 84 miles. Jennifer needs three times that mileage so the real number should be 12 billion not almost four as in the application. rather than blowing nearly 20 million on a new study just go to the UT library archieves and read the Texas TGV work. It's first class, they spent 40 million of '90 dollars doing the reports and it would appear Dallas and Houston haven't moved since then.

Facebook User
Facebook User

Ted... you're the only sensible one of the bunch here... the rest of you need to read up on the truth behind rail. And if you all really think that the TSA won't expand into trains, you're all crazy. It's not about weather a train can be flown into a building like a train... it's about controlling the public with fear... that's what it's all about and you all need to wake up and read some history. You watch, as rail starts to take off the Dept. of Homeland Security will uncover a "terrorist plot" about the trains and bam! you'll have groping and naked body scanners at the trail terminals.

Hannibal_Lecter
Hannibal_Lecter

Oh, joy. Here go all the pathetic little choo-choo lovers again.

Air Travel: Safest form of transportation known to man. Fully paid for by users. Infrastructure (airports, ATC) paid for by user fees. Privately-owned airlines and aircraft manufacturers pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

Highways: Used to transport basically all goods in this country at some point. Paid for by users in the form of fuel taxes and tools. Actually used as a profit center by the state of Texas, which diverts around 1/3 of fuel taxes to other uses, and the federal government, which diverts fuel taxes to other forms of transport, such as rail. Highly effective network, whose primary drawback is congestion caused by the fact that so many people *want* to use it and are willing to pay to do so.

Passenger Rail: Financial blackhole that exists only because of government ownership and massive funding infusions from general taxes. Users are generally unwilling to pay more than a small fraction of operating costs and none of the capital costs (reference: see DART, the least cost-effective major transit operator in N. America). Intra-city operations shown to be no more fuel efficient or less polluting than bus service, yet advocates continually express attitude of entitlement due to misplaced sense of moral superiority. As a 19th century technology long since supplanted by superior alternatives, today exists more as a form of nostalgia than transportation.

Bottom line: If rail is so great, why isn't anyone willing to pay the actual cost of using it?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Considering the sluggish economy and the low cost to the govt for borrowing, and the benefit to infrastructure development for the general economy; this can be supported even if its utility won't be fully realized for a decade or more. As Dallas and Houston's light-rail develops, as street cars and trolleys expand these will make more sense and pay increasing dividends.

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

What makes you thing we won't have TSA at the train station too?

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

So... 150 MPH. That would get me to Houston in an hour and a half or so. How many trains will run each day? How much will tickets cost?

I just checked southwest.com. It takes them about an hour to get to Houston with a plane leaving every half hour. I could buy a ticket for a 5pm departure tonight for $163, and I could probably get a much better deal if I planned my trip more in advance.

I'm not sure a "high speed" train between Dallas and Houston is a good use of our time and money.

BLT
BLT

SWA isn't opposed any more. It doesn't make much on the short haul flights. Transportation Secretary told Texas to get serious and forget about the Texas T-Bone which runs through College Station and Temple. If you look at the board of that group, it has 1 from E. Texas, 1 from College Station, 1 from Temple and the rest from DFW. T-Bone plan is to promote D-FW and DFW airport along with Temple and College Station and have the rest of the state pay for it.

Most of the high speed rail plans are ridiculous, but Texas is one of the half dozen areas where it might work. But it needs to be designed for business travelers, not just A&M students and people who live in Temple.

And the train needs to be priced right. Air traffic between Houston and Dallas has fallen by 1/3 over the last 20 years as the price of flights has gone up. More people are tele-conferencing, driving or deferring trips.

md
md

Growing up means realizing if other systems are established and heavily used there may not be a need for another system that is also subsidized.

Rail infrastructure was well established when the car and plane came along. If rail travel had been widely considered superior, it wouldn't have mattered how many roads were built.

There were 129,774 miles of track in 1890. By the last century most major cities had a grand central station of some sort.

Streamliners in the 1950s went 110 MPH. From a supporter of high-speed rail:

"Streamliners attracted customers by the carload. In fact, they made money. Wall Street consultants Coverdale & Colpitts surveyed 58 streamliners in 1948 and found that they grossed $98 million and netted $48 million after out-of-pocket costs, for a return of 49 percent.*"

Between 1956 and 1969, a total of 28,800 miles of interstate highways were opened to traffic. In the same period, 59,400 miles of railroad were taken out of passenger service.

From 2,500 daily intercity trains in 1954, fewer than 500 trains were left when the National Railroad Passenger Corp., or Amtrak, took over intercity rail service in 1971. Outside of the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor, America’s passenger train had virtually disappeared.

The truth is rail had a head start and couldn't compete.

MattL1
MattL1

Funny. Fire still works. That is tested every time you start your car. So do trains and windmills. There is no better way to turn wind energy into usable power. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's no other way. Telegraph works, but we have invented stuff that works better. I don't know how covered wagons enter into this discussion.

Modern trains are very different than the steam locomotives you probably have in mind. When we build some, try one out. You may find yourself surprised.

scottindallas
scottindallas

that may sound right to you, but the fact is that Texas availed itself to more Obama-bucks than any other state in the union. Perry took fists full of dollars, while puffing out his conservative feathers

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Madrid??? Does anyone remember that? TSA will be there, with the government being the main providers of this venture.

Daniel
Daniel

"Fully paid for by users"?

Oh, haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw

Reality Check
Reality Check

Fully paid for by users. Infrastructure (airports, ATC) paid for by user fees.

Man, you lost all credibility with that one. LOL

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

I agree with this. The population growth and associated car usage growth in Texas is not sustainable in any way. You can't fund and build roads fast enough.

pak152
pak152

they are doing security checks on trains.trust me i've seen it

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

@Ted Because you can't drive a train into a high rise office tower

MattL1
MattL1

Air travel is horrible. I'm not talking about the process of getting on the plane, either. The actual time spent on the plane makes people miserable. You can't move around. Standing up and walking to the bathroom is a process. The seats are tiny.

On a train, there's so much more space. You can move about, go to other cars, socialize (if you want). It's actually rather fun. All other things being equal, which I don't believe they are but will grant for the sake of argument, high-speed train travel is a far superior experience.

Though if you still want to fly, be my guest...

pak152
pak152

will there be any stops between Dallas and Houston? i've read in the past that there would be stops in Waco and College Station. that just cuts the speed. no way that a high speed train can compete with SWA. don't forget you'll need to change the federal railway rules. ever been on a train when the crew times out? I have numerous times and several were out in the boonies. you have to wait until a new crew is rounded up and brought to your train.

Phelps
Phelps

If I can take a 1.5 hour train trip to Houston without having to get irradiated or have my nuts fondled, and the fare is comparable, I will go with that. Right now, you have to add two hours to any plane ride -- an hour and a half before to check bags and get through the security theater (that has never actually stopped a terrorist) and another half hour to deplane and get the checked bag (that you would have just carried on before again, the security theater.)

Reality Check
Reality Check

The 163 pays for SW to make a profit. It does not pay for the municipality to build the airport (with further federal subsidies) and it does not pay for the 7 billion per year FAA budget (air traffic controllers a major part of that). The Greyhound bus fare would not pay for the interstate either.

So 'good use of time and money' needs to be compared on an apples to apples basis. Your method falls short of that.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

@Tedtry that southwest flight, then - add $20 for DAL and $30 for HOU cabs from downtown to downtown, add at least 1 hour for each flight for checking in and sitting around, add 15-20 minutes on the end of each arrival if you are checking bags.

TimCov
TimCov

Don't forget to add an hour to deal with check-in and TSA screening when you are doing the Southwest flight numbers. As long as you don't have to deal with the TSA and the ticket price is about the same, high speed rail wins (IMNSHO).

Garl Boyd Latham
Garl Boyd Latham

md opined:

"If rail travel had been widely considered superior, it wouldn't have mattered how many roads were built... The truth is rail had a head start and couldn't compete."

So, according to your reasoning, the fact that private, self-supporting, tax- and dividend-paying companies eventually realised they were unable to successfully compete against the folks who print the money proved their technology was inferior?!

No; wait just a minute. That argument was only a ruse.

You actually stated your ultimate point in the first sentence: "...if other systems are established and heavily used there may not be a need for another system that is also subsidized."

In other words, you see no problem(s) with our drive-or-fly society; therefore, it's all right for us taxpayers to continue supporting those modes. However, you do NOT like trains; therefore, anyone who does can go take a leap.

Strangely enough, even with BILLIONS of our dollars being dumped EVERY YEAR into the never-satiated cauldron of automobiles and aeroplanes, those modes are failing right before our eyes! We no longer even have enough money to _maintain_ our highways, much less _expand_ them, a gallon of gasoline is once again approaching four dollars-plus, and commercial airlines continue bleeding red ink.

Honestly, I find it difficult to weep over this nation. We deserve whatever we get.

I only weep for our children - and _their_ children. They will suffer the most for this generation's selfishness and general lack of forethought.

Garl B. Latham

Bill Lumbergh
Bill Lumbergh

I don't suppose changes in circumstances (gas prices, road congestion, TSA screenings, poor airline service) could possibly make rail a potentially viable product once again, eh?

Phelps
Phelps

Because they don't yet, and the one time they've tried with their VIPER thing they got banned from Amtrak by its head of security.

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

I can't argue with that fact, but I'm not sure it's valid in this discussion.

I just did a google search for "tsa screening train station" and found a story (corroborated on the tsa blog http://blog.tsa.gov/2011/02/sc... about a TSA mobile unit that they set up at an Amtrak station. If/when we have high speed train travel between cities, TSA will be there ready to make us miserable.

Charlington76012
Charlington76012

You can't take down a plane with an 8oz tube of toothpaste either but that doesn't stop the insanity.

This is a ridiculous project that will cost a hell of a lot more than anyone thinks and will transport a hell of a lot less people than will be forecast. The amount of carbon savings will be a drop in the bucket.

Do me a favor and divide up the operating costs of DART and divide by the total number of passenger rides. Last time I looked the figure was close to $10 per rider. So, tell me why rail is so great?

Drill more, bitch less. Rock on Escalades.

md
md

One hour.

I'm not inclined to spend tens of billions of dollars up front and tens of millions of dollars a year to enhance one hour of travel time.

If many people feel as you do, I'm sure you can find a first-class flight on wide-body jet. If you can't, start your own airline. By your own reckoning, it's a can't-lose proposition.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Those $1 beers SW used to serve made air travel pretty fun.

BinHT
BinHT

Not every train has to make all stops. Did you ever year of "express trains"? Even Amtrak runs limited-stop 130 MPH trains between Washington, New York, and Boston which actually hit 150MPH on a short stretch in Rhode Island.

md
md

Considering terrorists have set bombs on trains and whole carloads of people have been incinerated in India, it's unlikely that you could.

Shineon
Shineon

I'll go with having my nuts fondled.

Stacy
Stacy

the Washington DC - Boston express" which is a similar model to what we are trying to build only electric" cost $99.00 to get from NYC to Boston ROUND TRIP 2day..Your $160.00 tickets to Houston 2nite are ONE WAY so your total cost is $320.00 verses my 100.00 if I add $75.00 I get 1st class both routes......still cheaper than urs....When this train station is complete it will leave Union station, which any dart train can connect to and brings me to Downtown Houston which has inter city transit as well thus making it convientant.. Your 1 hr flight actually will take 2 1/2hrs...may be 3 depending on cancellation, weather, check-in and ect....versus mine which is 1 1/2.On the trains they're is NO early boarding when the train gets there, u got 5 mins to jump on or it leaves.... lastly the train will be ELECTRIC which is not dependant on fuel and thus the price would no fluctuate like a planes I paid that exact price from NYC to Boston when I was n college in Boston 7yrs ago....If you think being dependant on a industry that charges for everything now...change ticket, bring bag, use miles...talk to a live person to buy ticket and prices that are getting OUTRAGEOUS.. then you might wanna research harder the pros and cons of an ELECTRIC High Speed rail....P.S....I might get to Houston 30mins later than you " in reality I'll be there 1st". but at least I saved $220.00....compared to you...

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

I don't think it does. My train ticket would go to whoever is operating the train (Amtrak?). The rail lines would be built with tax money (or bond money paid back with tax money, probably combined federal and state financing) and the train station would be paid for with municipal money. Maintenance would fall under TxDOT, so that's tax money as well.

I'll ask the question again. Why spend all this time and money to build an infrastructure to provide slower, less convenient, and less flexible travel than we already have?

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Anyone who tries to determine the benefit of mass transit as if it were the P&L of a lemonade stand is an idiot

pak152
pak152

but stacy you forget the heat restrictions that take place along the east coast forcing the trains to crawl along so they won't derail.

Stacy
Stacy

sorry reality check this was meant for Ted C. Howard

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

@Stacy - OK, I'll give you that a $99 round trip is pretty good. I could probably do that with southwest with careful planning on some fun fares (or whatever they're called these days).

Your statement about how my 1hr flight will be more like 2.5 - 3hr isn't valid. Sure sometimes planes get delayed because of weather and other factors, most of the time my 1hr flight takes 1 hour. I'm sure even trains get delayed sometimes.

Stacy
Stacy

the Washington DC - Boston express" which is a similar model to what we are trying to build only electric" cost $99.00 to get from NYC to Boston ROUND TRIP 2day..Your $160.00 tickets to Houston 2nite are ONE WAY so your total cost is $320.00 verses my 100.00 if I add $75.00 I get 1st class both routes......still cheaper than urs....When this train station is complete it will leave Union station, which any dart train can connect to and brings me to Downtown Houston which has inter city transit as well thus making it convientant.. Your 1 hr flight actually will take 2 1/2hrs...may be 3 depending on cancellation, weather, check-in and ect....versus mine which is 1 1/2.On the trains they're is NO early boarding when the train gets there, u got 5 mins to jump on or it leaves.... lastly the train will be ELECTRIC which is not dependant on fuel and thus the price would no fluctuate like a planes I paid that exact price from NYC to Boston when I was n college in Boston 7yrs ago....If you think being dependant on a industry that charges for everything now...change ticket, bring bag, use miles...talk to a live person to buy ticket and prices that are getting OUTRAGEOUS.. then you might wanna research harder the pros and cons of an ELECTRIC High Speed rail....P.S....I might get to Houston 30mins later than you " in reality I'll be there 1st". but at least I saved $220.00....compared to you...Flag

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

@bigjohndaniel - Ok, so it's a wash then, maybe. If I can fly from Love to Hobby in 1 hour, that leaves me 1:22 to split between downtown to Love and Hobby to downtown. I bet I could do it.

@montemalone - doesn't usually happen on planes either

Montemalone
Montemalone

Trains don't usually add sunroofs mid-trip.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Rome to Bologna is around 400km (248 miles). The ICE takes 2:22 minutes and is$86 one way, downtown to down town

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

So Rome to Florence is about 182 miles. Dallas to Houston is 242 miles.The super fast train in Italy takes almost an hour and a half to go this distance (essentially here to Huntsville).

The plane still wins.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

@Ted. No -the trains do not stop a lot. ICE are basically point to point. The 200 miles from Rome to Florence tales about 85 minutes downtown to downtown for under $200 even with the bad exchange rate.

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

@bigjohndaniel Trains are faster than airplanes? I'm pretty sure planes travel faster than 150 MPH. I have been to Europe, the trains are alright. They move reasonably fast, but they stop a lot. Local mass transit is better there. It's practically unusable here unless you live in Plano and drive to a park 'n ride train station to go downtown.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

@Ted. It's not slower -it's faster It's more convenient, it's more flexible if it connects into local mass transit. Have you even been to Europe?

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

@bigjohndaniel No, obviously I don't live at the airport. My point is that travel from home to the station/airport is the same for planes as it is for trains. Trains have no advantage here.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

so you live at Love field? Isn't that a wash? and of course, it all depends on where you will end up, and what your mobility needs are

Ted C. Howard
Ted C. Howard

@bigjondaniel I don't live downtown, so I still need transportation from my house to the train station. That's either a cab fare and waiting time or bus/train fare and waiting time (and hassle of carrying luggage on a Dart bus)

Then, once I get to Houston, I'm confined to downtown? That's probably not always the case.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Because train stations are already downtown, Ted

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