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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I saw this story a couple of weeks ago, but between the happenings in California and some unanswered questions I had, I haven't mentioned it yet. Florida East Coast Industries plans Miami-Orlando passenger service by 2014:

Passenger train service between Miami and Orlando could begin as early as 2014 under a plan announced Thursday by Florida East Coast Industries.

The new "All Aboard Florida" service, which would be privately owned and operated, would offer frequent, regularly scheduled daily trains geared to business travelers and tourists. The Miami-Orlando trip by rail would take three hours, about the same time it takes by car via Florida's Turnpike.

There would be four stops: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, each with connections to airports, seaports and existing rail systems such as Tri-Rail and Metrorail. The trains would run on existing FEC tracks that stretch along the east coast from Miami to Cocoa. Forty miles of new track would link Cocoa to Orlando.

Well, waddya know ~ a Passenger Train that Rick Scott can't kill. More about the Miami/Orlando Train, below the fold.

Wait a minute, why weren't you on this immediately?

Hey, wait a minute, its one thing to get questions from fellow Sunday Train passengers ... but from my own headings?

Anyway, its a fair question. Thing is, I like to dig into things, and while there was a lot of surface to the Miami/Florida Passenger Train project, there were also more questions underneath that surface than answers.

Anyway, first, a look at that glittery surface:

According to the All Aboard Florida website:

  • What: Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) is developing a privately owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger rail service that will give business and leisure passengers a new convenient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to travel between South Florida and Orlando, and eventually Tampa and Jacksonville.
  • Where: The new route will feature passenger service along Florida East Coast Railway’s existing tracks from Miami to Cocoa and the creation of new tracks into Orlando.  Eventually the system will be expanded to Tampa and Jacksonville.
  • When: 200 of 240 miles of Right of Way (ROW) are already in place and have been in service as an operating railroad for over a century, which allows for passenger service between South Florida and Orlando to be up and running in 2014.
  • Who: FECI would own, operate and manage the passenger rail line. Florida’s taxpayers will have no ongoing construction or operating risks.
Now, is this "High Speed Rail"? Well, I've talked before (in 2009, and 2010, and 2011) about the different meanings of "High Speed Rail":
  • As fast as the fastest steel wheel on steel track trains in regular service somewhere in the world (220mph or so)
  • What is the normal threshold for systems often called HSR in Europe and Japan today (faster than 150mph)
  • So fast that all in-cab signalling is required because out of cab signals flash by too fast (faster than 125mph)
  • Faster than the normal mass transit-oriented Urban Express Electric Train (faster than 110mph)
  • Faster than the fastest mainline freight speeds in common use ~ the official federal definition when federal funding for "High Speed Rail Funding" began in the 1990's (faster than 90mph)
  • Faster than the longstanding common conventional rail speed limit in the US over the past half century (faster than 79mph)

Arguments over what is "real" HSR can be focused on any one of these meanings. The Federal definition from the 1990's was tightened up a couple of years ago, and now the formal Federal terminology is:

  • Express HSR is high frequency passenger rail with a maximum speed of 150mph or higher on dedicated, completely grade separated rail corridor
  • Regional HSR is relatively high frequency passenger rail with a top speed of 110mph to 150mph on a mix of dedicated and shared, grade separated corridor
  • "Emerging" HSR is passenger rail service with a top speed of 90mph to 110mph, primarily on shared corridor, with the potential for future upgrade to Regional HSR or Express HSR in the future

While regional economists and transport professionals should be aware of the three categories when considering the future evolution of intercity transport in a region, this is all a bit much for the ordinary public. So I simplify things a bit, and just tag the "Express" onto HSR, which are the "bullet trains" most people think of, and use the name "Rapid Rail" for the Emerging HSR and Regional HSR categories.

Now, when we think about the Florida proposal, its for a service on an existing 90mph speed limit freight corridor, extended 40 more miles to get to a station on the Orlando Sunrail system to connect into downtown Orlando. Its supposed to make that trip in 3 hours. Now, Miami to Orlando is about 200 miles as the crow flies, so 200 miles in 3 hours is a line of sight speed of 67mph. The project, of course, is not as the crow flies, but along a rail alignment, which runs reasonably straight along the Florida Coast for 200 miles, and then goes another 40 miles inland to connect to Orlando, making a track speed of about 80mph.

Which makes sense: the corridor from Miami along the Florida Coast is already 200 miles of track with a 90mph speed limit, so if the 40 mile connection is a similar speed for most of its length, that would be three hours. This also explains the limited number of stations: it would need the ability to stretch its legs to 110mph or 125mph along the way to serve many more stations and still keep the end to end trip down to three hours.

Of course, "High Speed Rail" is anathema in some circles of the modern Republican Party, and the project proposers have taken pains to stress that this is not "High Speed Rail". However, and I hope they will not get ticked off at me, it seems to fit what I have been calling Rapid Rail.

But Why Would a Private Railroad Start a Rapid Passenger Rail Service

The question is ... what are they up to?

Well, I was just today pointed in the direction of a Metro Jacksonville post: Stunning Things Are Happening As Florida Goes Rail that speculates on several possible things that might be happening here. I'll stress that much of the following is fact but much of the following is also speculation and inference built upon those facts.

First, the "who". Robert Mann writes:

Built primarily in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, the FEC was a project of Standard Oil principal Henry Morrison Flagler. The story goes that Flagler originally intended only to develop world class hotels, resorts and industries in Florida, until the narrow gauge Jacksonville and St. Augustine Railway decided to charge exorbitant amounts to carry his construction materials. Flagler bought the railroad, extending it all the way from Jacksonville to Key West and never looked back.

... [Starting in the 1960's,] the late Mr. Ball converted the FEC RY into what might be termed America's first modern 'super railroad.' Passenger trains were swept aside as Ball's philosophy of 'Negate the negative, accentuate the positive,’ started to take effect. In 2007 the railroad was purchased by, Fortress Investment Group, which acquired it for over US$3 billion (including non-rail assets). Fortress owns Flagler Development and for the first time in years, the famed development monolith and the railroad are back in the same hands.

So there are two levels to the "who". The Railroad is the regional freight railroad that serves ports in Miami and Cape Canaveral, carrying heavy bulk freight in Florida including, importantly, high grade limestone quarried in the Miami area, and intermodel freight running through onto the CSX and Norfolk Southern systems. And the owner of the railroad is an Investment Group that owns the property development group that the railroad was originally built to serve.


Don't get caught up in the tricky wording in the mainstream media, what FECI is saying is they will manage the project at no risk to the taxpayers. They never said they would own the right-of-way between Cocoa and Orlando, just “the existing right-of-way.” FECI is not going out on a limb in a venture this risky unless there are some solid guarantees and in following my hunches, I have found the collective dividends will be huge. Rapidly growing real estate markets near the tracks is a strong incentive for a company like Flagler Development.

Nowhere in the press release do I actually read the words; FECI will own the right-of-way, tracks, or even the trains, (again except for the historic Miami-Cocoa portion which is owned by sister company FEC RY). All of the indicators point to heavy state involvement in zero risk infrastructure improvements. All Aboard Florida, could easily own the operating rights, maintenance contracts, staffing, and through the complex family tree, 200 miles of the Florida East Coast Railway itself, without really owning the balance of the 40 extra miles of new right-of-way between Orlando-Cocoa, or the tracks, or even the trains.

Second, the Where and How? Which is to say, how is the already existing, already pretty darn good for passenger rail corridor going to get to Orlando? Robert Mann writes:
Metrojacksonville's railroad pundits "speculation," is that from Orlando, the existing state owned Sunrail/CSX route would be used to get trains from the Orlando Central Business district south to the vicinity of Sand Lake Road where it intersects with the Orlando Utilities Commission Railroad, which loops south of the Tradeport Drive area and the south end of Orlando International Airport (OIA). ...

[From there, it could either follow] the Beachline to the Florida East Coast tracks in Cocoa[, or it could] cross the Beachline Expressway where it turns southeast after the interchange with State Route 407. The route would continue east staying north of the Canaveral Groves Subdivision until crossing Interstate Highway 95 where it would turn southeast crossing the intersection of Canaveral Groves Boulevard and Grissom Road. This alignment would then turn south entering the Florida East Coast right-of-way near Cidco Road.

The following section of the 2008 section of the Multi-Modal Study of the Florida State Route 528 Corridor (pdf) gives an idea of the airport to existing FEC corridor section, in terms of the solid Green line on the map. Sorry about the difficulty in making it out ~ the pdf is rescalable if you are interested in getting a closer look:

And what about the politics of this?

Even more speculative is what is going on from the public side of things.

Lastly, 2014 is an election year, and Governor Scott performed poorly in this part of Florida in 2010. Scott came up short in Orange, Osceola, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, Broward, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Dade Counties. He knows he must win these voters over to have a chance in the next election. Anyone who has driven in Southeast or Central Florida, and heard the Republican rhetoric typically pro highway and anti rail will instantly understand why we're getting the High Speed Rail (HSR) route, without the ‘HIGH SPEED’.  To be honest, this time it will be done right. Far right.  ...
The 2014 date suggests that things are already well advanced, and that rather than a preliminary announcement, sometime later this year we will be hearing that various hurdles have been cleared, and then sometime in 2013 that Construction has begun.

Does this mean that Scott Walker was right to junk the Express HSR corridor between Orlando and Tampa? Of course not: while this places Orlando and Miami three hours apart, and an extension either as conventional rail along the expressway median or running on an improved CSX corridor between Orlando and Tampa will place Orlando and Tampa less than three hours apart ~ it will leave Tampa substantially further than 4 hours from Miami.

One advantage of HSR with a "triangular" route is that going fast enough the "long way around" can easily be quicker than going far more slowly the direct way. So while an extension from Orlando to Tampa with capacity upgrades to ensure a clear path through at 79mph (or even 90mph) will work OK between Orlando and Tampa, it will also bring home the opportunity lost to run 150mph between Tampa and Orlando.

And then there's freight ...

One of the things I suspected when I first heard about this that this might involve a freight connection.

The reason is simple: the Panamax Class Is Getting Bigger (Wikipedia)

Panamax and New Panamax are terms for the size limits for ships traveling through the Panama Canal. ...

The allowable size is limited by the width and length of the available lock chambers, by the depth of the water in the canal and by the height of the Bridge of the Americas. ... The limits have influenced those constructing cargo ships, giving clear parameters for ships destined to traverse the Panama Canal.

"Panamax" has been in effect since the opening of the canal in 1914. In 2009 the Canal management published the "New Panamax", that will be in effect when the third lane of locks, larger than the current two, are operational in 2014.
After this expansion, the Panama Canal will be able to handle vessels of cargo capacity up to 13,000  twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU); currently, it can only handle vessels up to about 5,000 TEU.

Panamax cargo is important for Florida freight, for obvious reasons ~ here's Florida, over there is the Pacific Rim (author waves vaguely toward the west), up there are a large number of markets that you can get to by rail from Florida (author waves vaguely toward the North) ... and in between Florida and the Pacific Rim is the Panama Canal. And so that fact that New Panamax is 2.6 times the container capacity of Since-1913-Panamax ... is a big deal.

And which is the rail line that serves the existing Miami Port and is in the best position to serve Port Canaveral? Yup, the FEC, owners of the 200 mile corridor that All Aboard Florida is going to use for its passenger trains.

Now, think about this from the perspective of the FEC. You have this rail corridor that has Positive Train Control, and that has a 90mph speed limit. However, one of the biggest part of your business being limestone, you have been operating trains at 60mph.

Now, there's is the prospect of a substantial increase in container traffic. Indeed, Port Miami is dredging to allow it to serve New Panamax ships. You are the rail line that serves Port Miami. And you can get an appreciable competitive advantage if you can get your containers rolling along at 80mph ~ giving the almost dead flat alignment, you are in great shape to get long container trains rolling along at 80mph and keeping them going without requiring an excessive number of locomotives or burn an excessive amount of diesel.

Now you have your container trains and heavy bulk trains going at different speeds. There are two ways to cope with this: more express overtake along the corridor, and handling some of the heavy bulk traffic onto another corridor. And look to the CSX corridor system in Florida to the right.

Now, this isn't Robert Mann's speculation any more, this is mine. Look at that one corridor running north from Miami, and then there is the big tangle at Lakeland and then two are running north toward Jacksonville, one of them going through Orlando. And remember that the FEC is running basically up the Atlantic Coast from Miami to Jacksonville. Why, if you could upgrade the capacity of the southern section, and then find a way to connect to the CSX system at Orlando ~ you could pass off heavy bulk freight at Orlando, and keep the fast container trains rolling on the already-90mph FEC corridor to Jacksonville. And you can be sure that CSX can accommodate that freight, because they have an alternate path to Miami that bypasses Orlando.

But that's if you can find a way to connect to the CSX system at Orlando. And ... note something about one part of the potential alignment above: "the existing state owned Sunrail/CSX route would be used to get trains from the Orlando Central Business district south to the vicinity of Sand Lake Road." CSX insisted that if the State of Florida wanted to use the CXS route through downtown Orlando as a local passenger rail corridor, they would have to buy the corridor. Which Florida did. Of course CSX retained trackage rights in the deal, but now Florida owns that link of the chain to get from the FEC right of way near Orlando to the CSX system.

Which is why this smells an awfully lot like a deal. "You want to get your freight trains through here? Sure you can ... what do you have to offer us?"

And, truth to tell, if that's what is going on, it could well be a pretty good deal. Underlying this is the basic logic of a shared use Rapid Rail corridor: if you upgrade a corridor to allow effective running of Rapid Passenger Rail, that is an expansion of track capacity. And that track capacity is there 24 hours a day ~ at times of day that lots of people want to travel, and at times of day that most people are asleep in bed. Meanwhile, containers do not much care whether they leave the railhead at 3pm or 3am. Further, in many freight tasks, arriving before the morning peak travel period is a good thing, and departing after the evening peak is a good thing.

Now, for the landbridge container trains, if you have a steady flow of ships being unloaded and loaded, you want to have a steady flow of container trains heading north, and a steady flow of containers (sadly, too often empty containers) heading south. But if the container trains are moving at about the same speed as the passenger trains, there's little interference there.

So, waddya think?

As always, while I certainly welcome and thoroughly enjoy comments on the topic of the evening's Sunday Train, you are also welcome to raise any issue in sustainable transport that comes to mind.

Midnight Oil ~ Dreamland

The Breakfast Creek Hotel is up for sale
The last square mile of terra firma
    gavelled in the mail
So farewell to the norfolk island pines
No amount of make believe
    can help this heart of mine

End - your dreamworld is just about to end
Fall - your dreamworld is just about to fall
Your dreamworld will fall

So shut that buckle and turn that key again
Take me to a place they say the dreaming never ends
Open wide drive that mystery road
Walk through eden’s garden and then wonder as you go

Sign says honeymoon to rent
Cloudland into dreamland turns
The sun comes up and we all learn
Those wheels must turn

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And then, if it gets up to Jacksonville, and then (25+ / 0-)

    ... if Amtrak restores the Sunset Limited all the way to Jacksonville, you could get to ...

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:46:35 PM PDT

  •  nitpick (11+ / 0-)

    You refer to Scott Walker killing the Tampa-Orlando HSR. I think you meant Rick Scott---Walker is the Wisconsin flavor of teaparty douche.

  •  Would it be FEC all the way? (4+ / 0-)

    I have to wonder if the proposal would use FEC tracks between Miami and West Palm Beach. Tri-Rail has made a nimber of improvements between the two cities--double tracking all the way and building new bridges that are higher than the drawbridges that the old lines had. If FECI switches to the Tri-Rail tracks (My Amtrak schedule says that Florida DOT operates them), it'll be faster and with fewer interruptions for boat traffic.

    It would be nice if the existing Amtrak traffic between Jacksonville and Orlando could be switched once the proposed new line is operational, so Daytona can be served.

    Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

    by Judge Moonbox on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:16:17 PM PDT

    •  I do not know any details of the ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox, Aunt Pat, RunawayRose

      ... alignments under consideration ~ as a private project, I'm not sure that they even have to make Alignment Alternatives and etcetera public information, but in any event, they say they will run on the FEC all the way from Miami to Cocoa.

      They are only going to stop in Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and indeed its possible that Tri-Rail would be better off not having to schedule around a through flyer.

      As far as interruptions ~ Robert Mann figures that if they expect to be able to start in 2014, they'll be further ahead in their planning than they are letting on.

      If this is in part improving a corridor for greater container capacity and running a passenger service with a modest operating surplus in order to gain access to the CSX system in Orlando ~ then they'll have planned improvements to eliminate interruptions north of NW 6th St / Port Blvd in any event, in service of greater container rail freight capacity. So don't be surprised if the Miami Station is not very far south of NW 6th St.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:57:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hate to say it... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but Rick Scott was right to kill the Tampa-Orlando line. That was a really, really bad idea. I think that Orlando-Miami was always where you had to start. No one was going to take a train to Tampa at the rates they were going to charge.
    What they really need is a truly fast train that can get from Miami to Orlando in under 2 hours - that would make a lot of people happy - but I can see that this other one could get some business for now. I once actually took a train from West Palm Beach to Orlando (with stops in Sebring and Winter Haven) and could see doing so in the future. That slow Orlando to Tampa link though - that was a disgrace and I think it being killed was the best thing to happen to High Speed Rail.

    •  And if ridership was less than projected? (6+ / 0-)

      This is the thing: suppose that ridership was less than projected?

      The riders who did take the train would still have gained the service. Ridership models are sometimes off, but they are not that far off.

      The State would have gained the first leg of the HSR from Tampa to Orlando to Miami.

      And the State would not be on the hook for the Tampa / Orlando service even if it lost money, since there was already a consortium willing to sign up to cover any losses. Which is obvious ~ even if there were losses, they would not have been large, and the consortium running the Tampa / Orlando service would have the inside track for Phase 2 to Miami.

      Unless the State of Florida shoots itself in the foot and squanders that median highway alignment, its going to end up building an Express HSR rail corridor in that alignment sometime in the next ten to twenty years ... except when it does, it will have to put up local matching funds. The opportunity to get it done with all funding from Federal Stimulus funding and private investors was tossed in the garbage.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 10:16:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ridership (5+ / 0-)

      The east coast Tri-rail has great ridership, and probably more importantly, it serves a population (mostly poorer workers) that really need it. If there were a link to the Carolinas and then Amtrak to New York, it would be really, really popular.

      •  It looks to me like it would have a link to ... (4+ / 0-)

        ... to Amtrak to the Carolinas and New York in Orlando, without taking the long, winding route that Amtrak takes to get to Miami, and if it gets to Jacksonville, an even closer link.

        At Jacksonville it would also connect to the Southeast HSR which is, at present, just a planning corridor south of the improvements taking place in Virginia and North Carolina, ...

        ... but with ongoing improvements and rapid ridership growth in the Virginia and North Carolina section, and the coming demonstration effect when the 110mph Chicago to St. Louis corridor goes into service in 2014, its possible that the politics of the SE High Speed Rail system south of North Carolina will shift from "that's those Socialist Obama trains" to "why can't we have the nice things they they have???"

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:42:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  AMTRAK flies through here (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, RunawayRose

          couple times a day. But you can't get a car on a train until the Carolinas.

          I spend a lot of time in Europe where the trains run on time!

          •  Yeah, in Europe the ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PeterHug, RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

            ... rail corridors tend to have more passenger traffic, so they never went through the single track revolution with sometimes a couple of hundred miles of single track between passing sidings. If the Amtrak and a freight are going opposite directions, and either the Amtrak or a freight is running late, and the freight is occupying that single track going one way, there's just nothing to do but way for it to get clear so the Amtrak can go the other way.

            That's one of the big upgrades for the "Emerging HSR" corridors that share tracks with freight, is 10 miles of two way track for every 40 miles of one way track. Then you can just stop the freight before it gets a one way section, the passenger train gets through that one way section at Express speeds, and then the freight rumbles on its way.

            Odds are that the FEC is going to do something like that anyway, to make more capacity for the container trains to pass the heavy freight trains.

            With a little more investment, in track quality and upgraded level crossings, the FEC corridor could be raised to 110mph, which would allow it to have more stops and still keep to a three hour schedule between Miami and Orlando.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 07:45:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  One thing Europe does NOT have (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              as far as I have seen, is the double-level, completely containerized trains that are 1 - 2 miles long.  In terms of freight handling, they appear (at least the railroads I have seen) to be 20 years behind the US and Canada.

              •  Europe is a Peninsula on Northwest Asia ... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, PeterHug

                ... made up of Peninsulas. Its rare that you need to GO 500 miles from the closest ocean port to the final destination, where its not uncommon in the US to go 1,000 mile or more.

                And then there's the system of river and canal freight ~ you won't see a lot of double stack multi-modal container trains, but you'll see containers on canal barges, along with the heavy freight like timber and granite and coal and limestone and grains and, yes, phosphate that we are also used to seeing on trains.

                And the flipside of the heavier focus on Passenger Rail is that until the last decade, Europe was mostly a system of national rail networks, with different signaling, loading gauge (how wide and high you can stick out without hitting something), and sometimes, as in Spain, different gauge of track.

                Indeed, border controls before the 1990's gave an even heavier incentive to rely on Ocean Freight to Truck for container freight ~ because once you clear a truckload through Customs, it can go on its way, but you have to clear each and every carload that makes up a train before it can proceed.

                Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:04:09 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You're right, of course. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Judge Moonbox

                  Although I must also say that I spent a summer once in Basel on the Rhine (having grown up in Cincinnati on the Ohio River) and European barge traffic is not up to the American standard (at least as it exists on the Ohio/Mississipi sytem) either.

                  In 2008 I spent about 3 months in Switzerland near Oftringen (this is the trunk line that goes south through the Alps to Italy).  They ran trains about every 3 - 4 minutes around the clock, with most being freight - but generally short and not containerized.

                  •  Because even in Switzerland ... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    ... the containers are mostly on trucks. Think about how far even land locked Switzerland is from an ocean port. Then think about a normal US container freight scenario, with containers loaded onto a train, run as a unit to the railhead, then picked up by truck for the last part of the trip.

                    That last part of the trip is sometimes as far as Switzerland is from an ocean port.

                    European rail operators ~ and those concerned with a more oil independent future ~ have been working on increasing the appeal of European rail freight, in particular with systems that increase the efficiency of truck to rail and rail to truck transfers, to reduce the amount of time spent on marshaling freight and so let rail compete effectively for shorter hauls. But the US hauls far more bulk freight and container intermodal freight by rail than the Europeans do.

                    Indeed, part of the Steel Interstate proposal is to leverage the advantage of rail given US geography.

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                    by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 06:53:41 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Approved twice by voters (6+ / 0-)

    And killed twice, by Crist and then Scott.
    But the property is already purchased.
    So do Scott's friends get an enormous discount buying the land the state is stuck with now?

    (Meanwhile the Cuban sugar farmers are "saving the Everglades" by making similar profits selling their degraded soil back to the state.)

    It's a great idea. There is no cross-state mass transit at all right now. But it could have been done with stimulus money.

    •  It seems unlikely that ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

      ... FECI would buy any new corridor. First, if what they need is freight access between the FEC corridor and Orlando, they'd most likely run the Orlando / Tampa service on conventional rail. And second, as Robert Mann writes:

      ... FECI is not going out on a limb in a venture this risky unless there are some solid guarantees and in following my hunches, I have found the collective dividends will be huge. Rapidly growing real estate markets near the tracks is a strong incentive for a company like Flagler Development.

      Nowhere in the press release do I actually read the words; FECI will own the right-of-way, tracks, or even the trains, (again except for the historic Miami-Cocoa portion which is owned by sister company FEC RY). All of the indicators point to heavy state involvement in zero risk infrastructure improvements. All Aboard Florida, could easily own the operating rights, maintenance contracts, staffing, and through the complex family tree, 200 miles of the Florida East Coast Railway itself, without really owning the balance of the 40 extra miles of new right-of-way between Orlando-Cocoa, or the tracks, or even the trains.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:36:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So, in short, property development and ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

      ... freight rail benefits point to trying to maximize service on as much existing track as possible.

      My point regarding the HSR corridor between Tampa and Orlando is that when people experience a good quality Rapid Passenger Rail, its going to whet people's appetites for more and better service ~ and that's highly likely to push the Express HSR corridor between Tampa and Orlando back on the table.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:45:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The containers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

    lumber all day long from Miami through some of the richest communities in the country (Boca, West Palm Beach) and through our (winter) back yard. Many are uncovered loads of phosphate, spewing black dust all over million dollar condos. And if those folks knew how little inspection was done on them, they'd be amazed. At least once a week CSX reroutes them over the passenger rail lines, slowing everything down.

    But that's not to say we don't really appreciate the good passenger rail on the East coast of Florida, connecting 3 airports in a reasonably efficent way.

    •  Containers wouldn't be uncovered loads of ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... phosphate, a container looks like this:

      Phosphate in uncovered hopper cars would look like this:

      These changes wouldn't cut back or eliminate the heavy bulk freight like phosphate or limestone or coal by any means, but the focus of the New Panamax freight seems likely to be the containers. The heavy bulk freight is less time-sensitive, so there's less incentive to use Port Miami and put onto faster container trains than there is for the containers.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:28:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The first link is wrong. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Aunt Pat, RunawayRose

    If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

    by Bush Bites on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:14:09 AM PDT

  •  FEC was on-board... (4+ / 0-)

    ...with plans to expand Amtrak service from Jacksonville to Miami down FEC tracks, with multiple runs daily. Surveying the current political landscape - both in Florida and Washington - they may have concluded Amtrak was not going to be in a position to make that happen anytime soon.

    That and the ability to expand their freight traffic to Orlando - and from there potentially to Tampa - makes this a great idea, from their point of view.

    I'm all for anything that expands rail travel opportunities for me in my home state.

    Still, this is a pretty ironic move on FECI's part when you remember that the FEC was the first Class 1 railroad to suspend its passenger service back in the early 1960s (using a highly contentious strike and several instances of sabotage as their reason for petitioning the government to do so).

    The fact that the holding company controlling a Class 1 freight railroad is looking to make the leap back into passenger rail is all the proof I need that we are on the verge of a rail renaissance in the US.

    I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

    by ObamOcala on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 05:50:13 AM PDT

    •  Yes, and in part the dropping of the ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... passenger service seems to have been part of their union busting drive of the 60's, since the fewer workers you have on a train, the easier it is to find replacements for those workers.

      Now, I'm confident that, given that they already have a 90mph alignment with the PTC you need to run at 90mph, and for new passenger service (though the politicians in DC seem to keep getting the start-up date pushed back on behalf of the existing passenger corridors that are grandfathered in) ... the service will generate an operating surplus.

      But not an operating surplus that justifies a massive capital investment in new rail corridor on a financial basis, without taking the public benefit into account and providing public support for the infrastructure improvements.

      However, look at the big expansion in freight opportunities coming their way, and the fact that they are one part of a big corporate property "developer" (ie, a speculator that engineers their profits by changing the zoning status of the assets that they own) ... and then a Republican governor who needs to do better in the area he pissed off by handing back the Federal money while pandering to the highway lobby and the radical reactionaries in his own party from the northern part of the state ...

      ... that is likely the basis for some kind of deal.

      And when property developers start thinking like they did back in the first decade of the 1900's ~ "hmmm, lets get a passenger rail service in here to juice up property values" ~ that looks like a sea change in the status of passenger rail.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 06:39:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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