So hsr is good for "up to 400-500 miles" but LA-Phx is too far at 372 miles? Fullerton at 356 miles? Riverside at 320 miles? LA-Palm Springs not an intermediate market?
Author: Upon further review
Date: 02-07-2024 - 20:22
It would appear to me that LA-Phx, Orange County-Phx, and Inland Empire-Phx are effectively 3 combined corridors. Even if you write off LA as too far, there's 7 million persons in the Inland Empire and Orange County. 5 million in Phoenix, I have a hard time believing there are 100 better market pairs for HSR than this one with at least 12 million that rail can serve in under 4 hours.
Why wouldn't LA-PHX hsr piggyback off of LA-Fullerton-Riverside to Palm Springs/Indio? The latter is not huge but still home to 360,000 persons. Big enough that Bob2 has advocated conventional corridor rail. Is it really inconceivable that Phx service could tie into that, now only having to justify construction from Indio to Phx? (And some minor improvements Riverside-Indio.) With a ready to go wide interstate median available from Indio to Buckeye, where the UP ROW can be used to penetrate to downtown? 4:35 to LA is doable, 4:10 possible, maybe 4:00. Thus Fullerton 4:05 to 3:40, maybe 3:30, Riverside 3:35 to 3:10 to 3:00. See rough calculations below.
I also did question if the corridor would be viable with the likely need for electrics, and all the expensive infrastructure they require, to get PHX-LA under 4 hours. But we also aren't talking about a project to be officially proposed tomorrow. Other than studies, it is more likely not going to be approved and funded until well after Brightline Vegas has been running and proving itself, Metrolink's planned network upgrades for the Olympics, more transit extensions throughout the LA/OC region, with further incremental upgrades to the Surfliners in both directions. Perhaps not until after LA-Bakersfield has been built. All of that providing bits of feeding traffic to PS/Indio and PHX if built. I could see Riverside-Indio being built first, or possibly as a joint project with a PHX leg.
PHX-Tucson will likely be finished first, so there's another market to overlap an LA-OC-IE-PS/I-PHX corridor. More incremental traffic. Nost might still fly LA/OC/IE to Tucson, because of being a 5+ hour trip, but some would ride. PHX-Tucson should be strong, so a little extra helping to fill legs increases the chances of viability.
The 4 hour max for hsr vs flying still mostly holds true, but that is not as hard a cap in recent years as pre-911/Covid/max jamming cabins full. At least for driving, 5, 6, even 7 hour trips instead of flying have become more common in the US. More incremental potential to tap.
Spain, as well as others, have shown that you can do HSR on single track. Every 2 hour service, with a gap filler in morning and afternoon rush, may be all the corridor needs. So another lowering of the threshold for viability.
So can LA be reached in 4 hours? I'm thinking this corridor is perhaps 20+ years away. By then the service may have to run 40 miles or more west from downtown PHX before reaching enough edge of development to cut over from UP to I-10. Say on a separate parallel track built in conjunction with a new commuter rail line, justifying double track in this portion. With one stop in Buckeye and speeds maxing at 90 to 110 mph, :30 to :40 is doable (maybe longer if single track or shared trackage with UP.) 212 miles to Indio where the UP runs next to the freeway. Brightline diesels can run at least 125 mph, which would cover that in under 1:45. 45 miles to Beaumont mostly capable of 110 mph plus a few minutes slowing for the S curve west of 111 would be under :30. All the curves in the 31 miles to Riverside probably make that a :25 to :30 section and add in :10 for the 2 stops at PS/Indio and Riverside. (Assuming Brightline style 2 or 3 minute stops, not sloppy Amtrak forcing everyone into bogged down 1 or 2 door boardings.) 20 years from now I expect LA-Fullerton will have some of the proposed track additions added and LAUS run through. Amtrak currently does LA-Riverside in 1:16, with some Fullerton-Riverside upgrades a Brightline in 1 hour is feasible.
So far that results in 3:20+ to Riverside, 3:50+ to Fullerton, 4:20+ to LA with Brightline style diesel ops. But you also have to add in schedule padding (industry standard typically 7 to 10% of the running time) because things don't always go right, have to switch tracks, etc. And more if running single track unless using a rigid clockface schedule and long sections of passing tracks. More padding for not being able to run max uphill if the grades are long and steep on I-10? More padding for congestion from Colton to LA? Now we're about 3:35+ PHX to Riverside, Fullerton 4:05+, LA 4:35+ But Buckeye to Riverside 3:05 or less, Fullerton 3:35, LA 4:05, so half of the 6 market pairs get under 4 hours, plus everything to Palm Springs/Indio.
Thus Brightline diesel service LA-PHX might be on the fringe of viability. Would it be assessed as an entire corridor from LA-Tucson if LA-PS/Indio and PHX-Tucson haven't been built? Or more likely Indio-PHX segment separately, where it might not qualify for certain types of funding.
How about upgrading to electric? There would be a lot of curves on I-10 that would either require slow downs or expensive flattening out or the rail line crossing over and back, but I would guess as a whole a nonstop average of 140 mph+ could be achieved, given several very long straight segments. A 140 mph average could save 10 minutes on the 212 mile HSR segment, 150 mph 15 minutes. Plus the faster acceleration could save another 10+ minutes to Riverside with the slowdowns for several curves and the stations, and the net running time reductions another 2 or 3 minutes on the padding calculations. That probably gets us PHX-Riverside in under 3:10, to Fullerton under 3:40, to LA in under 4:10.
Even less with more (expensive) engineered solutions. Maybe all the way down to 4:00 for LA. For example, from Palm Desert to Beaumont there is plenty of room for an HSR ROW to parallel UP at a safe distance. But a question for the experts: How far does the FRA require HSR (150-200 mph) to be separated from freight tracks? If they converged to cross under existing overpasses, can a crash wall separating them be enough? How tall does it have to be? Would that even be allowed? Or would HSR have to construct new grade separations the sufficient distance away from the freight tracks?
So there is a much higher cost for electric. Does the ridership increase come close to covering that higher cost? If the LA Basin in the meantime has strung wires to go green on LA-Fullerton-Riverside then that helps a bit. More likely an electric PHX corridor is a phase 2 unless at the time there's a federal program to subsidize electrification.
All of those estimates are very, very rough, I'd expect refinements to likely bump times upwards. But probably close if enough infrastructure is built. I was using a base of a separate passenger only line sharing only ROW with UP (though piggybacking on Metrolink/shared BNSF Colton-Fullerton-LA with the existing planned improvements and perhaps a few more for a PS/I-PHX future corridor. Less than that will obviously increase trip time, as superelevation can't be maximized, increased congestion and variability, different dispatching, etc.)
I don't think LA-PHX is high on Brightline's list of future candidates. I do think it will be feasible one day in the future. Sooner if it is combined with the Palm Springs/Indio corridor project.
laff trak Wrote:
> HSR is good for distances up to 400-500 miles as a
> faster replacement for driving. 3-4 hours on a
> train vs 4-8 hours driving is competitive. As with
> most rail, it's best when there's some
> intermediate traffic to serve, not just end-to-end
> flyover. At shorter distances (a few hundred
> miles) HSR can beat air travel time when all the
> airport hassles and local access time are included
> - yes, some of those apply to the train as well,
> but if there are suburban stations in addition to
> downtown they can be reduced considerably. BLW to
> Vegas fits this category.
> Properly done, HSR can eat United
> Express/Skywest's lunch.
> None of that applies to LA-PHX. It's too far, and
> there's essentially no intermediate traffic to
> help pay the bills. So I'd see LA-PHX as something
> done with a different technology a long time in
> the future. Or else, perhaps, as an overnight
> train where you're selling lodging as well as