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American infrastructure
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besson3c
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Feb 28, 2014, 08:25 AM
 
I'm in Japan now, and have been very impressed with the Shinkansen and their train systems in general.

It seems like having all of these different train options (both for travel within a city and between cities) serves to provide additional options to travelers, and perhaps takes stress off of certain infrastructure. There are still cars and trucks here, and there are still domestic planes, and each of them seem to have their advantages depending on all sorts of little contextual variables.

It has been suggested that further developing trains in America would be too expensive to both build and maintain, and of course right now is not a good time to be spending money on projects like this, but if this were not an issue I don't see what the downside to high speed rail would be? The fares can be set as high as necessary to make development and maintenance sustainable, and so long as these prices are less than or comparable to booking a flight, I think some of the public would make use of these options for certain purposes.

Perhaps transportation options should be treated like energy options in taking an "all of the above" attitude?

Japan is working on incorporating the Maglev trains in the 2020s (although it won't be completed in time for the Tokyo olympics), do you think America should think of following suit at some point in the future? For a country with as much innovative technology as the United States has developed, I think it kind of sucks that our transportation options are so limited. The bullet trains here are pretty fantastic!
     
Laminar
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Feb 28, 2014, 10:17 AM
 
If you believe this report, it's rare to find a profitable high-speed line. Pricing the fares high enough to cover maintenance, operation, and repair would push it above what's competitive.
     
BadKosh
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Feb 28, 2014, 10:36 AM
 
Rail is best at moving large amounts of raw materials and large heavy objects. Most all railroads lost money on passenger service. Those who did do lots of passenger service (PRR etc) had the losses offset by mail contracts.
     
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Feb 28, 2014, 11:21 AM
 
Fuel prices are a tad higher now than they were in the heyday of trains, though, and they're not going down.

There is a big difference between building the kind of ultra-straight railways needed for Shinkanzen and the French TGV (and successors) and the slow milk trains commonly used in the US. One can modernize without going all the way to hovering monorails.
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BadKosh
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Feb 28, 2014, 12:06 PM
 
During the "heyday of trains" the main fuel was coal and oil. today its good ole Diesel fuel. The higher prices of fuel have been offset by the newest high HP engines and the computer controlled traction systems. American RR's have been leveling grades, smoothing curves and such for decades. Many of the largest gondolas and hoppers are using 40" diameter wheels and high tech roller bearings so the power needed to start a train is less, and moving, the drag is less.
     
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Feb 28, 2014, 12:58 PM
 
Passenger rail went to shit when Amtrak sold every damn inch of their track to private freight companies. Because of that, Amtrak passenger trains have to give priority to freight trains, since they're leasing the track from those companies.

There's decent rail on the East and West coasts, but high-speed rail is still very costly - Acela costs as much or more than a plane ticket on the same route.

There's also the fact that United States is ENORMOUS in sheer acreage, so running and maintaining passenger rail that ultimately goes through hundreds of miles of uninhabited land in the middle of the country is costly, and there's not a whole lot of demand for it - why ride a train for several days from coast to coast when a flight is only five hours?

If you're looking at high-speed rail that has the same travel time as flight, the fuel consumption is going to be high enough that it will cost as much as flying, so why even spend the money on that infrastructure when we've already got flight pretty well handled here?
     
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Feb 28, 2014, 01:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by BadKosh View Post
The higher prices of fuel have been offset by the newest high HP engines and the computer controlled traction systems.
Not even close - and you also have to consider that one is an investment and the other is a running cost. Also, aren't American railroads electrified?
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BLAZE_MkIV
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Feb 28, 2014, 02:09 PM
 
The problem is they keep wanting trains to stop along the way. If planes had to land and takeoff at every city along the way it would take a long time too.
     
turtle777
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Feb 28, 2014, 02:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Japan is working on incorporating the Maglev trains in the 2020s !
I bet this won't happen. Maglev and other similar technologies (e.g. German Transrapid) were a complete commercial failures so far. Look at the only commercial route ever built (China - Shanghai); there are no plans to expand it with this technology.

It's great in theory, but too expensive in practice.

Side note: by 2020, Japan's economy will be a complete clusterf&$%, so that alone will prevent it from being built.

-t
     
BadKosh
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Feb 28, 2014, 03:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Not even close - and you also have to consider that one is an investment and the other is a running cost. Also, aren't American railroads electrified?
No. Big GE and GM diesels along with refurbed/rebuilt engines built as far back as the 1960's. I'm a rail history buff, member of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society and my main interest is the locomotives from the 1900's to today.

Example of a GM modern heavy freight unit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_SD90MAC
     
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Feb 28, 2014, 04:18 PM
 
Warren Buffet and Carl Icahn seem to think that some train companies are a good investment.
     
subego
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Feb 28, 2014, 07:13 PM
 
I just wanted to ape shif's comment about the colossal size difference between the US and Japan, as well as the population density anywhere outside of New England.

Shit. Europe minus the former Soviet Union is much smaller than the US, and a higher population density.
     
turtle777
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Feb 28, 2014, 07:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
ape shif's comment
LOL. Apeshit comment ? Gotta love autocorrect.

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Feb 28, 2014, 08:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
If you believe this report, it's rare to find a profitable high-speed line. Pricing the fares high enough to cover maintenance, operation, and repair would push it above what's competitive.
I don't think there is a way to measure the hidden costs and hidden savings of shifting more infrastructure to rail, e.g. Less stress on roads, fewer car accidents and all the expenses involved there, less dependence on gas, etc.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Feb 28, 2014, 08:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
Passenger rail went to hashish when Amtrak sold every damn inch of their track to private freight companies. Because of that, Amtrak passenger trains have to give priority to freight trains, since they're leasing the track from those companies.

There's decent rail on the East and West coasts, but high-speed rail is still very costly - Acela costs as much or more than a plane ticket on the same route.

There's also the fact that United States is ENORMOUS in sheer acreage, so running and maintaining passenger rail that ultimately goes through hundreds of miles of uninhabited land in the middle of the country is costly, and there's not a whole lot of demand for it - why ride a train for several days from coast to coast when a flight is only five hours?

If you're looking at high-speed rail that has the same travel time as flight, the fuel consumption is going to be high enough that it will cost as much as flying, so why even spend the money on that infrastructure when we've already got flight pretty well handled here?
FWIW, the Shinkansen is cheaper than airfare in Japan. I've used it 3 times during this trip, it gets healthy usage here. Even if the prices are equivalent here (and we did a lot of research in pricing our trips here, hopefully you can take me at our word), a greater variety of arrival/departure times might help stimulate an economy in ways that are difficult to measure.

Of course, fuel costs are greater here than in the States too...
     
besson3c  (op)
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Feb 28, 2014, 08:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I just wanted to ape shif's comment about the colossal size difference between the US and Japan, as well as the population density anywhere outside of New England.

Shit. Europe minus the former Soviet Union is much smaller than the US, and a higher population density.
What about just the NE US or parts of California?
     
subego
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Mar 1, 2014, 12:23 AM
 
It makes more sense there, but it's something of a catch-22. The places which need it have no places to put it.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 1, 2014, 01:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
It makes more sense there, but it's something of a catch-22. The places which need it have no places to put it.
That seems very defeatist.

I hope one day we can return to that sort of "why not?" attitude that sent man to the moon rather than starting from a place where we look for reasons to not do something.

The benefits of more high speed transportation options between urban areas (I never suggested we should start with massive cross country infrastructure) seem absolutely massive to me. In addition to some of the benefits cited there is also more delivery options, tourism, and potential environmental benefits.
     
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Mar 1, 2014, 11:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
The problem is they keep wanting trains to stop along the way. If planes had to land and takeoff at every city along the way it would take a long time too.
This is also why some countries (e.g. France) decided to build up an entire second rail network for the high-speed trains - instead of making a new train that didn't stop at some stations, thereby pissing people off, you just make a new one and build as many stations as needed. Of course that "just" makes it expensive.
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Mar 1, 2014, 11:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
Passenger rail went to shit when Amtrak sold every damn inch of their track to private freight companies. Because of that, Amtrak passenger trains have to give priority to freight trains, since they're leasing the track from those companies.
There is one more thing the freight companies have done to make passenger travel slower. In the US, freight trains are heavier and slower than in Europe, which means that the passenger trains have to be slower as well - they can't overtake a freight train. There is a speed difference in Europe as well, but by making the freight trains run mostly at night and the fast passenger trains during the day, you can work around this - provided the freight train is fast enough to get to its destination during the night.
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ebuddy
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Mar 1, 2014, 12:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
Warren Buffet and Carl Icahn seem to think that some train companies are a good investment.
Because they also think oil and its transport are an extremely lucrative investment evidenced by their similar interests in Exxon-Mobile and opposition to the Keystone pipeline.
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Mar 1, 2014, 01:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
Because they also think oil and its transport are an extremely lucrative investment evidenced by their similar interests in Exxon-Mobile and opposition to the Keystone pipeline.
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subego
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Mar 1, 2014, 03:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
That seems very defeatist.

I hope one day we can return to that sort of "why not?" attitude that sent man to the moon rather than starting from a place where we look for reasons to not do something.

The benefits of more high speed transportation options between urban areas (I never suggested we should start with massive cross country infrastructure) seem absolutely massive to me. In addition to some of the benefits cited there is also more delivery options, tourism, and potential environmental benefits.
You're reading too much into what I said.

I never said that was insurmountable, but it's a hurdle which must be jumped. It's not going to be surmounted without evicting people and a severe alteration of the noise profile.

But hey, it's New England, I'm sure they can just steamroll over poor people. They like doing that.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 5, 2014, 07:20 AM
 
The other interesting Japanese infrastructure (if you want to call it that) was, of course, their vending machines. You can find vending machines that pump out ice cream, coffee, tea, soda, cigarettes, and alcohol quite readily.

I don't understand what there aren't more US/Canadian vending machines. $4 ice cream and $x coffee would do quite well in high traffic areas.
     
turtle777
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Mar 5, 2014, 09:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
The other interesting Japanese infrastructure (if you want to call it that) was, of course, their vending machines. You can find vending machines that pump out ice cream, coffee, tea, soda, cigarettes, and alcohol quite readily.

I don't understand what there aren't more US/Canadian vending machines. $4 ice cream and $x coffee would do quite well in high traffic areas.
Labor cost. Labor (in the US) is cheaper, and therefore, you can afford having real people sell it.
You are aware that more vending machines would mean less jobs ?

Not that I'm against vending machines, but what we have in the US (a 7 Eleven or convenience store at every corner) isn't really all that bad.

(No idea how things are in Canada...)

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 5, 2014, 10:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Labor cost. Labor (in the US) is cheaper, and therefore, you can afford having real people sell it.
You are aware that more vending machines would mean less jobs ?

Not that I'm against vending machines, but what we have in the US (a 7 Eleven or convenience store at every corner) isn't really all that bad.

(No idea how things are in Canada...)

-t

The Japanese minimum wage is about the same as the Starbucks minimum wage, and there are 7-11s and "FamilyMarts" all over the place there too. I don't think this explains it.
     
turtle777
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Mar 5, 2014, 02:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
The Japanese minimum wage is about the same as the Starbucks minimum wage, and there are 7-11s and "FamilyMarts" all over the place there too. I don't think this explains it.
Population density plays a role. You might have a 7 Eleven in the busy cities, but not out in the country side as you would have here.

Also, real estate prices probably paly a role as well. A machine takes less space and therefore, costs less in real estate. In most places in the US (except some bigger cities), real estate is much cheaper.

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 5, 2014, 05:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Population density plays a role. You might have a 7 Eleven in the busy cities, but not out in the country side as you would have here.

Also, real estate prices probably paly a role as well. A machine takes less space and therefore, costs less in real estate. In most places in the US (except some bigger cities), real estate is much cheaper.

-t

I don't think this explains things either.

There are 7 Elevens in the Japanese rural areas too, the Japanese population is denser than the American population given that the population is something like 130 million in a much smaller geographic area.

As far as real estate prices go, why wouldn't we see Japanese style vending machines in US areas where real-estate is expensive, such as Manhattan?

One theory might be restaurant deals to keep vending machines away in the US, but I guess these don't apply to Japan since there are coffee machines and Starbucks everywhere.
     
turtle777
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Mar 5, 2014, 07:36 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
As far as real estate prices go, why wouldn't we see Japanese style vending machines in US areas where real-estate is expensive, such as Manhattan?
Well, you do see some vending machines, in US airports for instance. You can buy electronics, rent movies etc...

This might also be a cultural thing: Americans might want to interact more than the Japanese.

I think there's probably a multiple reasons.

-t
     
subego
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Mar 5, 2014, 07:53 PM
 
Can I just toss in here one of the reasons Japan has such great infrastructure is because we ****ing leveled the place first.
     
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Mar 5, 2014, 07:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Can I just toss in here one of the reasons Japan has such great infrastructure is because we ****ing leveled the place first.
There is that.

OAW
     
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Mar 5, 2014, 10:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Can I just toss in here one of the reasons Japan has such great infrastructure is because we ****ing leveled the place first.
So true. An amazingly strong ally when you think about it.
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Mar 5, 2014, 10:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
The other interesting Japanese infrastructure (if you want to call it that) was, of course, their vending machines. You can find vending machines that pump out
ice cream - they exist in the US
coffee - they exist in the US
tea - not as popular here
soda - well, yeah
cigarettes - they exist in the US, but only in establishments barring people under 18
and alcohol - I imagine the concept of liquor licenses and liability make this difficult in the US, but it's a thing

I don't understand what there aren't more US/Canadian vending machines. $4 ice cream and $x coffee would do quite well in high traffic areas.
You say that with a lot of certainty...how are you so sure they'd do well? How do you know it hasn't been tried but it failed?

I spent a month in Japan (the non-touristy parts) a couple years back, the restaurants with vending machines at the entrance for ordering food were my salvation. Insert money, print ticket, hand ticket to waitress, receive food.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 6, 2014, 02:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Can I just toss in here one of the reasons Japan has such great infrastructure is because we ****ing leveled the place first.
True.

I had an interesting experience walking through the Edo Tokyo Museum. I'm not really good about remembering historical facts, so this might not be news to anybody here, but I was interested in the fact that the pre-WW2 population of Tokyo was around 7 million, and after-WW2 it was down to between 2-3 million. The museum did not couch the fact that the country was completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the US attack, but it was sort of a mixed blessing since post-WW2 the country was forced to install a democratic government. The country rebuilt a lot of things, including, obviously Tokyo, which is now the most populated city in the world, and the air raids killed a comparable number of people in Tokyo that the atomic bombs killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Maybe every once in a while a leveling is good for infrastructure, sort of like wiping a clean slate, or like rebuilding an application.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Mar 6, 2014, 02:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
ice cream - they exist in the US
coffee - they exist in the US
tea - not as popular here
soda - well, yeah
cigarettes - they exist in the US, but only in establishments barring people under 18
and alcohol - I imagine the concept of liquor licenses and liability make this difficult in the US, but it's a thing
In Japan the cigarette and alcohol vending machines apparently have ID card swipes, I don't know how effective they are though.

You say that with a lot of certainty...how are you so sure they'd do well? How do you know it hasn't been tried but it failed?

I spent a month in Japan (the non-touristy parts) a couple years back, the restaurants with vending machines at the entrance for ordering food were my salvation. Insert money, print ticket, hand ticket to waitress, receive food.

I don't know, it just seems intuitive that they'd be a success if installed in certain locations. I mean, there are all sorts of marketing principles which show how easy it is sell things that provide a utility based on location. For example, movie theater popcorn can be priced aggressively. A bunch of coffee machines near a subway train station in any North American city with subways should be a similar hit, no? I'm sure they exist at some scale, but that scale is WAAYYY smaller than Japan's. In Japan there always seems to be fleets of vending machines within a stone's throw selling just about every fathomable type of drinkable liquid, as you know from having lived there.

Maybe there are US laws which prohibit certain vending machine placement?
     
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Mar 6, 2014, 05:20 AM
 
What I've seen of US infrastructure is a build and forget approach. They build it. They forget it. They have to fix it when it becomes really bad. That sums it up.
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Mar 6, 2014, 11:08 PM
 
Have you guys ever suffered from a cultural shock returning to your own country after spending time abroad? It's not like I was gone super long, but I just wish I could mix and match certain aspects of Japanese culture with North American culture. I realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence, but I guess I'm tired of my grass and see some of it as being brown.
     
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Mar 7, 2014, 04:51 AM
 
I learn to appreciate what I have at home a lot more when ever I travel.
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Mar 9, 2014, 09:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Have you guys ever suffered from a cultural shock returning to your own country after spending time abroad? It's not like I was gone super long, but I just wish I could mix and match certain aspects of Japanese culture with North American culture. I realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence, but I guess I'm tired of my grass and see some of it as being brown.
It's always a relief to come home. I hate to even bring this up with you, but the one thing I want most in America is Japanese toilets. They get it.
     
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Mar 9, 2014, 09:47 AM
 
Their toilets, vending machines, approach to service, low crime rate, some of their food/diet, train system, politeness at times.
     
Laminar
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Mar 10, 2014, 02:25 PM
 
Those Yakuza really know how to run a country.
     
subego
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Mar 10, 2014, 07:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Their toilets, vending machines, approach to service, low crime rate, some of their food/diet, train system, politeness at times.
If you dig a little deeper you'll find it's built upon a bedrock of misogyny and racism.

Not that we aren't, but at least there's a general trend towards realization of how ****ed up that is.

I don't get that feeling from Japan.
     
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Mar 10, 2014, 07:19 PM
 
There is definite misogyny in Japan, but it has gotten better in recent years.

How does the racism manifest, in your opinion?
     
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Mar 11, 2014, 01:07 AM
 
As ethnically based nationalism, or if you want to go back a few years, killing or enslaving anyone not Japanese.
     
   
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