This Is Your Train on Drugs – Sydney and Minnesota Zoos Mothball Monorails

WiredAnother ‘Outdated’ Monorail Bites the Dust:

First, the pylons of Sydney’s monorail came tumbling down. Now, the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, MN has shuttered its aging monorail for good.

The troubled traincars took their last loop around the zoo campus on September 2, and now the zoo has announced the line won’t run ever again.

“It was an outdated system that had reached the end of its useful life,” spokeswoman Kelly Lessard told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Back in 2011, the train stalled, leaving passengers stranded 18 feet above ground. Firefighters rescued them with ladders when they couldn’t get the monorail running again.

Maintenance on a 34-year-old system was certainly an issue. But the biggest problem with the zoo monorail was that it didn’t have any stops along its route. Instead, it looped around the zoo, and those on board could only catch glimpses of animals as it drove past.

That’s the problem with trains. They stop at a fixed number of places which are set in stone when the train is built.

Meanwhile, buses can stop at any number of places and their routes and stops can be changed as demands change. Buses good. Trains bad.

This is Your Train on Drugs, UK and Detroit Editions

High speed rail scheme cost to double to £80bn, economists warn:

HS1, the high-speed rail line that connects the Channel Tunnel with London, was initially expected to cost £1billion. The final bill was around £11billion.

The London Underground’s Jubilee Line extension, the biggest rail project before HS1, came in at four times the original estimate in real terms.

And unlike buses, trains require the destruction of everything along their route:

Even though the first train is not due to run along the new line until 2026, values of homes close to the route have already fallen by as much as 40 per cent. Estate agents have said that properties up to a mile from the route are being blighted by the proposed line, with some close to the proposed line failing to sell at any price.

Apparently the UK wants to be Springfield to Detroit’s North Haverbrook.

Everyone’s heard about Detroit’s financial problems. One of the many failed attempts to revitalize their downtown (and to funnel taxpayer money to political cronies) was a train system, the Detroit People Mover:

The Mover costs $12 million annually in city and state subsidies to run.[9] The cost-effectiveness of the Mover has drawn criticism.[10] In every year between 1997 and 2006, the cost per passenger mile exceeded $3, and was $4.26 in 2009,[11] compared with Detroit bus routes that operate at $0.82[11] (the New York City Subway operates at $0.30 per passenger mile). The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also charges that the system does not benefit locals, pointing out that fewer than 30% of the riders are Detroit residents and that Saturday ridership (likely out-of-towners) dwarfs that of weekday usage.[12] The system was designed to move up to 15 million riders a year. In 2008 it served approximately 2 million riders. In fiscal year 1999-2000 the city was spending $3 for every $0.50 rider fare, according to The Detroit News. In 2006, the Mover filled less than 10 percent of its seats.[12]

Among the busiest periods was the five days around the 2006 Super Bowl XL, when 215,910 patrons used the service.[13] In 2008, the system moved about 7,500 people per day, about 2.5 percent of its daily peak capacity of 288,000.[14][15]

Under-utilized and overbudget is a pretty good summary of recent urban trains.

PreviouslyThis is Your Train on Drugs: CA Train Versus Endangered Species, Asthmatic Children

This is Your Train on Drugs: CA Train Versus Endangered Species, Asthmatic Children

LA TimesEnvironmental objections in path of bullet train:

The California bullet train is promoted as an important environmental investment for the future, but over the next decade the heavy construction project would potentially harm air quality, aquatic life and endangered species across the Central Valley.

Eleven endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, would be affected, according to federal biologists. Massive emissions from diesel-powered heavy equipment could foul the already filthy air. Dozens of rivers, canals and wetlands fed from the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada would be crossed, creating other knotty issues.

Where the train’s path isn’t wrecking the environment it will wreck homes and businesses. Those properties will have to be bought after contentious, expensive lawsuits. The expense and destruction involved in putting in new rain lines is one of the reasons for the saying “buses good, trains bad.” Buses can use the same existing streets as cars without disrupting the environment, homeowners, or businesses. But buses aren’t glamorous and there isn’t a Big Bus industry to grease the palms of elected officials, which is how things get done.

And besides all that, the train would also be a massive, over-budget, 100 billion dollar boondoggle in a state that’s quickly going bankrupt.

PreviouslyThis is Your Train on Drugs: Garbage In, Garbage Out

This is Your Train on Drugs: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Now we know how California’s high speed train got approval. They lied about everything in the study justifying its construction.

City JournalSolyndra Times Seven:

The bullet train’s “reasonableness of financial estimates” is questionable, beginning with the project’s revenue forecasts. The LAO noted a projection of 44 million riders a year when the L.A.-Bay Area line is complete. That’s down from the hallucinatory claim of 117 million passengers that proponents of Prop. 1A offered in 2008, but it’s still ridiculous. In reality, 44 million passengers would be 50 percent higher than the number of people Amtrak carries to and from more than 500 stations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces each year.

So the state of California is high, is what they’re trying to say.

How was the estimate derived? Elizabeth Alexis, a Palo Alto finance expert and co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, delved into the methodology and discovered, among other things, that the rail authority assumed that the future cost of gasoline would top $40 a gallon.

Pretty gigantic assumption there. Let me guess: they didn’t likewise factor $40/gallon gasoline into their construction and maintenance costs, did they?

Alexis also noted that the public-opinion polls that bullet-train backers crafted to gauge potential passenger interest were heavily biased. For example, 96 percent of commuters surveyed were already train riders. But unlike commuters in other states, only a tiny percentage of Californians rides the train.

They basically need to tear up this study and start over.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

California attempts to build world’s most *optimistic* commuter rail



ReasonCalifornia is Headed for a Real Fiscal Train Wreck:

Another rosy assessment comes in estimates of annual ridership. The Rail Authority says the trains will carry 65 million riders each year. But the Reason Foundation’s study gives a much lower estimate—23 million riders annually—after looking at Japan and France, which have the world’s strongest markets for rail. Neither country has achieved the kind of ridership California is predicting and both countries have far higher population densities in the cities served by their bullet trains than Los Angeles and San Francisco.

To attract riders, California’s rail will have to out-compete cars and airplanes by keeping a lid on commute times and fares. To keep commutes short, the state legislature has put statutory limits on travel times. The Los Angeles-San Francisco commute, for instance, is legally required to come under two hours and 42 minutes. This is probably impossible because it would mean that the train will have to post average (not potential) speeds of 200 miles per hour, something that has not been achieved anywhere in the world, even in places whose flat topography allows for far straighter routes.

And as for fares, the Rail Authority is promising a $70 ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is about half of Japan’s Tokyo-Osaka ($135) and France’s Paris-Marseille ($140) train and far less than the $172 Amtrak charges riders traveling between New York and Washington—all of which are shorter and, with the exception of Japan, heavily subsidized.

It seems that California is promising to build a train that is faster, cheaper, more efficient, and serves more riders than any high-speed train in the world. And all it has to do to pull off this miracle is defy the laws of economics and physics.

Modern commuter rail projects seem to be triumphs of hope over experience, and this is a crowning example.

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