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How rail travel can work

Original post made by European Traveler, Palo Alto High School, on Jul 6, 2012

Just returned from a trip to Europe where I used multi systems of public transport. I found it fast, clean, efficient and at first sight very expensive, but there were plenty of buts to travel.

I found my ticket expensive, but discovered I could take my kids (up to 16 and as many as 6) for peanuts. The overall family cost was acceptable.

I found that if I started my trip after 10.00 am, it was cheaper.

I found that one ticket could take me to the capital city and be used all day on various public transports without additional charge.

I found that if I booked in advance it was cheaper.

I found that the more that traveled together (group tickets) the cheaper it became.

The signs (electronic and maps) were all very helpful for those who were not familiar with the system and all staff were knowledgeable and helpful. All modes of transport were clean and user friendly.

Locals were not complaining about how much tax it cost them to have a useful service. They all realized the benefits to them as individuals and to the country in having efficient public transit. There was no question as to whether transportation funding should be considered versus education funding or any other kind of funding. Taxes on fuel was heavy. Gas and parking is expensive in Europe and unless there was a good reason to go by car, public transport was always considered a good choice. Even commuter monthly tickets could be purchased which could also be used for additional trips at no extra charge.

I used commuter services as well as long distance and was very impressed.

We should be able to learn from Europe.

Comments (17)

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Posted by priorities
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Rail transit works in Europe (and Asia) because the government doesn't heavily subsidize private cars and trucks like we do in the US.


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Posted by European Traveler
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Agreed, and perhaps it is time that the Government here started to do the same.

Subsidizing road transit is causing so much of the congestion we have in our urban areas. There is no incentive to improve public transportation when the public is happy (?) to sit in congested traffic jams for hours because there is no alternative. Then when the problem of a fire on BART or police activity on the Bay Bridge causes gridlock, drivers have few alternatives but to be delayed!


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm



The light rail system in San Jose is a white elephant disaster that no one uses and is hemorrhaging money.

Trains are a 19th century technology-still used in very high density populations where most people live in apartment blocks

That is NYC in the USA, urban areas of Japan, China and Europe.

Rail is completely inappropriate for America outside of a narrow East Coast corridor.

The internet, telepresence have drastically reduced the need for business travel--planes and cars will take care of the rest.

We have vast reservoirs of natural gas which can be and is used to fuel cars and trucks-it is cheap clean and abundant.

Combine this with computerized traffic control systems and we have solved the problem of transportation for the USA.

Trains are a 19 century technology-

-still useful for some long haul heavy freight transportation like coal and cattle.


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Posted by European Traveler
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

Sharon's pov shows all the reasons why local transportation doesn't work here. It is these misconceptions which are preventing a true innovative system with well thought through interactions and interdependency being invoked here, both in the Bay Area and the State.

For those who depend on public transportation to get to where they are going, they can see the benefits and the potential of how much better our system needs to be to make it truly competitive with road travel and even short haul air travel.

As an example, how about trying to get from Palo Alto to SFO or SJC, or even to Great America or the Great Mall. All these popular destinations are much quicker by car, but they shouldn't be. There is a big fallacy that public transportation is just for commuters or business travel.


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Posted by pavoter
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm

European Traveler you've got a point although I oppose Brown's pushing HSR because we can't afford it. You are right about getting to those destinations and that they should be easier than they are right now. I'd be more impressed if the HSR project wasn't setting up a link in the middle of nowhere, and instead Brown was working on improving connections here in the Bay Area. As the HSR plan stands, it strikes me as silly to focus on a segment in the middle of nowhere. Frankly, I don't understand how this is supposed to improve our future.

I agree that Europe has some fantastic transportation links. But don't forget that it is also very densely populated.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2012 at 9:56 pm


Mexico has dumped trains--a wise move--now they only move freight.

Europes subsidy of outdated train technology is one of the reasons that Europe is bankrupt

"Almost all passenger trains in Mexico were discontinued in January 2000, when the Mexican federal government stopped subsidizing them.

Only one scheduled intercity passenger route remains, as described in the next paragraph.

Please note that there are no scheduled international passenger trains connecting Mexico with the USA, Guatemala, or Belize.

The only scheduled international ground transportation into Mexico is by motorcoach (bus).

Web Link


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Posted by passenger travel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Sharon's link is indeed an odd website, basically a privately run email list. Not exactly scholarly research. Web Link

Mexico is indeed interested in high speed rail, and beyond one line as Sharon suggests.

"The Secretariat of Communications and Transport of Mexico proposed a high-speed rail link that will transport its passengers from Mexico City to Guadalajara, Jalisco, with stops in the cities of Querétaro, Guanajuato, Leon and Irapuato; and a connected line running from the port city of Manzanillo to Aguascalientes. The train, which would travel at 300 km/h, allows passengers to travel from Mexico City to Guadalajara in just 2 hours at an affordable price (the same trip by road would last 7 hours). The network would also be connected to Monterrey, Chilpancingo, Cuernavaca, Toluca, Puebla, Tijuana, Hermosillo, Cordoba, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Colima, Zacatecas, Torreon, Chihuahua, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Mexicali Saltillo and Acapulco"

Beyond all that, isn't comparing the United States with Mexico aiming just a little low? Most Americans I know like to think we can do things better than all other countries, not be compared to Mexico as an example. Maybe Sharon and I travel in different circles.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm



The facts are that our vast amounts of natural gas plus computerized freeway systems will solve our transportation problems-clean-cheap-domestic-no longer any need for foreign oil.

We now have enough proven reserves of natural gas to meet our energy needs for 150 + years.

Trains are a 19 century technology-outdated and redundant.


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Posted by passenger travel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm

So Sharon is not standing by the bogus site she posted, and going back to the "trains are old" argument.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Guess we can scrap all the cars, trucks and buses too; and use 20th century technology planes. Since cars use that old technology.

Called the "wheel".


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm



The reality is that "Almost all passenger trains in Mexico were discontinued in January 2000, when the Mexican federal government stopped subsidizing them."

They have no intention of building any because they are redundant-

Mexico is harvesting its own natural gas reserves and plans to convert 90% of vehicles to natural gas within 5 years-

-this will also solve the pollution problems in Mexico City-a big win-win.

Socialist-whether National Socialist or Soviet/ Chinese socialist have always had an obsession and fixation with trains as a forced form of transport.

In the US we have evolved beyond and defeated that fixation--fortunately


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Posted by passenger travel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm

"Mexico is harvesting its own natural gas reserves and plans to convert 90% of vehicles to natural gas within 5 years"

Do you have a source for that?

Not bad, you beat all the others in bringing "socialism" to the thread.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

@ Posted by passenger travel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood


In response to your question -

In the 21 century we have Google and Bing

If you do not know how to use a computer -go to the Palo Alto library and they will help you to the best of your ability

Good luck--and get well soon

Ironically-Iran has also converted most of its vehicle to natural gas
presumably because they have some much and would like to export oil.

America will be energy independent through natural gas-we can refill through our own home gas system

Welcome to the 21st century-when you are fit enough


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Posted by European Traveler
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Another good thing to see in European cities is they have a one day (or two or three day) rover pass for unlimited travel for all types of public transport. These are particularly good for tourists who can travel as much as they like for one set amount. It is a shame that San Francisco can't do the same thing, as every trip on Muni, BART, ferries or Caltrain charge for each trip. For a city that touts tourism, this would really be a good idea.


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Posted by passenger travel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Sharon - I politely asked you to substantiate your claim because I googled it and did not find it to be verifiable. For you to pull this is ridiculous:

"In response to your question - In the 21 century we have Google and Bing If you do not know how to use a computer -go to the Palo Alto library and they will help you to the best of your ability"

I also googled your Iran claim - also a complete absurdity.

Sharon's false claim: "-Iran has also converted most of its vehicle to natural gas"

reality: 2.86 million Iranian LNG vehicles out of 7 million vehicles, along with 8 million motorcycles

Most? No.

But you're correct Sharon, I've only used these new fangled computer thingies since 1981 at work and I bought my first one in 1982. Golly gee, maybe I'll get the hang of it your your generous advice.

Now I'll ask again, in a different way because you didn't recognize a politely asked question the first time:

Your claim about "Mexico plans to convert 90% of vehicles to natural gas within 5 years" doesn't ring true, nor could I easily find anything to substantiate it. Is it another one of the legendary Sharon falsehoods posted in these forums or can you back it up?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Those educated in economics understand it is a matter of price and supply

"In the Latin American region almost 90% of NGVs have bi-fuel engines, allowing these vehicles to run on either gasoline or CNG.[3].

In Pakistan, almost every vehicle converted to (or manufactured for) alternative fuel use typically retains the capability to run on ordinary gasoline.

Web Link

90% of cars in Iran are also dual fuel and that is the goal in Mexico, Pakistan etc.

While you are learning about computers @ Palo Alto library-check out a book on basic economics-

-friendly advice


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Posted by passenger travel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Sharon - your link does not address your claim AT ALL.

- your claim: "Mexico is harvesting its own natural gas reserves and plans to convert 90% of vehicles to natural gas within 5 years"

- the entirety of discussion regarding Mexico at your link: "Mexico - The natural gas vehicle market is limited to fleet vehicles and other public use vehicles like minibuses in larger cities. However the state-owned bus company RTP Of Mexico City has purchased 30 Hyundai Super Aero City CNG-Propelled buses to integrate with the existing fleet as well as to introduce new routes within the city."

Wow. 30 buses = "plans to convert 90%"

Not.

Still waiting for you to substantiate your claim.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

Rail travel works in places (like Europe) where the transportation at the destination is also available. In cities like Boston (with the T), Chicago (the El) , New York subway - rail works because. Do we have a subway in San Francisco? LA? Buses just don't cut it for most non-commute travelers.

It is also silly for us to be planning to build a train from SF to LA when you can't get to SFO, San Jose or the Oakland airport by rail.


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