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Transportation Earth Power

220-mph Solar-Powered Train Proposed In Arizona 416

Posted by kdawson
from the gonna-soak-up-the-sun dept.
Mike writes "An ambitious Arizona company has recently revealed plans for a solar powered bullet train that will streak across the desert at 220 mph, traveling from Tuscon to Phoenix in 30 minutes flat. Proposed by Solar Bullet LLC, the system comprises a series of tracks that would serve stations including Chandler, Casa Grande, Red Rock, and Marana, and may one day be extended to Flagstaff and Nogales. The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity, which would be generated by solar panels mounted above the tracks." Local coverage of the plan takes a harder look, noting that Solar Bullet LLC is two guys who are now asking local governments in the towns at which such a train would potentially stop for $35K for a legal and feasibility study. Total cost is estimated at $27B.
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220-mph Solar-Powered Train Proposed In Arizona

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:39PM (#27925511) Homepage Journal

    Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost. I've made the drive from Tucson to Phoenix when it is bumper to bumper the entire way and going the speed limit is physically impossible. A half hour train ride sounds very nice in light of that. But the reality is the ride and the electric car rental on the other end have to be cheaper than driving down there in one's own car. Arizona cities are textbook cases of sprawl. It is almost impossible to get around in them without a vehicle, especially in the summer. It's unlikely too many people would want to just ride the train and not need a car on the other end.
     
    Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities. Maybe they are thinking of express trips interspersed with trips that stop? The article doesn't say. Of course the way things are going, eventually this would run right up the middle of one big metro area.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:42PM (#27925583)
      Am I the only person who read the summary and instantly thought of the Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" where a fast-talking salesman sells a malfunctioning solar-powered monorail to Springfield?
      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clong83 (1468431) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:52PM (#27925761)
        No, it was my thought as well. But as a once long-time resident of Tucson, I can say that a functioning, efficient, high-speed passenger train service between these two cities is an excellent idea. These guys might be snake-oil salesmen, but even so, hopefully it wakes some other more serious people up.
        • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:12PM (#27926073) Journal

          The problem with the snake oil salesmen, is they make the honest people with similar appearing ideas look bad when they finally show up.

          • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris&beau,org> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:04PM (#27927091)

            > The problem with the snake oil salesmen,...

            You see it as a negative, I see it as a positive. We need con men like these guys to remind folks to not believe every smooth talking hustler who comes along selling something that sounds too good to be true... if you will only make a token investment today. Two guys asking for $35K a pop expecting sane people to believe they are going to pull off a 27B project that pushes every politically correct button one can imagine.

            And if they DO collect any money, that is also great because as the wise man said, "It is immoral to let a sucker keep his money."

            Has anyone sat down and run the numbers on just the 110 megawatts worth of photovoltaics? Then add in the infrastructure to store and transport that kind of power up and down the track. Now consider this would be among the fastest trains ever put into service and it is going to be solar powered electric? I guess it will have super size batteries to run at night? No, either the train is a good idea regardless of power source or it isn't. And the solar power station is a good idea on it's own or it isn't. The attempt to sell them as a package is just an appeal to emotion amongst the greens who these guys (rightly) figure will be the key decision makers on giving them the cash they are asking for.

            Con job.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        I remember it being defective, but not solar powered.

        • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

          by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:56PM (#27928069)

          I remember it being defective, but not solar powered.

          It was solar powered. They couldn't cut its power because 'it was solar powered'.

          "Solar Power!? When will people learn!?"

          Ironically, the out of control monorail stopped briefly because Springfield had a solar eclipse, and then sped off again when the eclipse ended.

      • No, but it got me thinking of the feasibility of a solar powered warp drive!

      • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:36PM (#27926535) Journal

        Am I the only person who read the summary and instantly thought of the Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" where a fast-talking salesman sells a malfunctioning solar-powered monorail to Springfield?

        #27925567 [slashdot.org]
        #27925609 [slashdot.org]
        #27925625 [slashdot.org]
        #27925865 [slashdot.org]
        #27925971 [slashdot.org]
        #27926055 [slashdot.org]
        #27926173 [slashdot.org]

        Apparently not.

    • by dfm3 (830843) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:44PM (#27925607) Journal

      Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost.

      I bet that regardless of cost, it won't. Because, well, it's a train, and last time I checked trains couldn't fly. :-P

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:56PM (#27925811) Homepage

        Ha! Shows what you know [wordpress.com]. Bet you'll tell me next that trains can't travel through time!

      • Because, well, it's a train, and last time I checked trains couldn't fly.

        Oh, so just because you *say* they can't fly, that means we can't try to use technology to make it so? Why do you so rudely stand in the way of technological progress?

        All we need to do is add some aerodynamically shaped projections (we can call them wings), onboard fuel tanks and engines, and some takeoff&landing equipment. And if we add a navigation and guidance system, we could even ditch the whole track requirement -- so the

      • At 220 mph, I'll bet if you put a ramp at the end of the tracks it would.
      • Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost.

        I bet that regardless of cost, it won't. Because, well, it's a train, and last time I checked trains couldn't fly. :-P

        Au contraire [wikipedia.org].

    • Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost.

      And aerodynamics. And gravity.

      Seriously, though, strict monetary cost is a misleading metric for mass transit. There are other costs, like inconvenience, time, etc that make a big difference to potential users.

      One thing I'd like to note about areas that still have a large potential for development... The trains can (and should) be planned and/or built first. Proper growth planning and direction can then help mitigate the uniform sprawl that makes

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) *

        I agree - and that's why I say the cost has to be lower. When I still lived in Phoenix a few years ago I was tired of driving my commute so I looked into public transit. It had the other costs you mention, plus it cost more monetarily. It just didn't make sense. For people to put up with the other issues they must either have no other choice, or it has to be cheaper.

        That's a good point about the water. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of the people living in places like Las Vegas or Ph

        • re: the cost... if high-speed rail is *faster* than commuting by car, then it could be more expensive than driving, and still be feasible. The problem is that neither jobs, nor homes, are centrally concentrated. This makes the inconvenience of mass transit one of the primary costs, from a rider's perspective. I'm a firm believer in sound growth policy that factors in future need for mass transit; Arizona, by and large, has no such policy.

          I've a sister in Boise ID -- they are undergoing massive growth al
        • by Dan Ost (415913)

          How realistic is it to build desalination plants on the coast and pipe the resulting water to the desert communities?

        • I'm not sure what all the people do down there.

          Snow birds from the upper Midwest are absorbing the heat and spending their retirement money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Killer Orca (1373645)
      For 27 Billion I would rather have robot cars that drive themselves.
    • by vivin (671928)

      A Phoenix-Tucson train would be nice.

      I think what would also be nice is bullet-train service to San Diego or Los Angeles.

      • A train to San Diego or LA would be interesting purely from an engineering perspective as I'm guessing it would mean some rather large tunnels.

    • We'll maybe if this is feasible then we can line both sides of the interstates with PV cells. That covers a lot.

      Maybe you could also power automobiles this way by induction for safety reasons this way. You still would have to have some extra power from somewhere when the sun doesn't shine.

      This would lead to hybrid designs which I don't like because of the extra weight. Imagine what a car would weigh if it only needed electric motors without batteries or an internal combustion engine?

      But...for right now this

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by Peeet (730301) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:11PM (#27926047)

      Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities. Maybe they are thinking of express trips interspersed with trips that stop? The article doesn't say.

      But, the article DOES say. Did you mistake the summary for the article? What you're reading now is a comment if you're still confused.

      From said article:

      With four tracks, the innermost two would be reserved for nonstop travel, going 116 miles in a half hour. The outer two tracks would allow a one-hour trip, with stops slated for Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana.

    • I've made the drive from Tucson to Phoenix when it is bumper to bumper the entire way and going the speed limit is physically impossible.

      "The entire way" is a massive exaggeration. This is a very sparsely populated 100 mile stretch of highway.

      It should be noted that "Marana to Chandler" is not quite the same as "Tucson to Phoenix". Marana is far northern Tucson and Chandler is far southern Phx. Tucson to Phoenix is 114 miles, Marana to Chandler is 74.

    • Let us do the math. (Score:5, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:19PM (#27926217) Homepage Journal

      They claim the cost will be 27 billion dollars. If they make 100 dollars per rider it will take how many riders?
      If they build it using bond money you will have to pay the interest as well. It would take 270,000,000 riders and that is without interest. So if you had a million riders a year it would only take 270 years to pay it off.
      So I would say that it is insane. Yes you could charge more for the ticket but I was using $100 as the profit on the ticket. You will still have to pay for up keep and other operating expenses.

      • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:27PM (#27926329)

        If they build it using bond money you will have to pay the interest as well. It would take 270,000,000 riders and that is without interest. So if you had a million riders a year it would only take 270 years to pay it off.

        Does that count the cost of the real estate? They could put the stations near a major attraction, downtown center, etc, but that would be inconveniently noisy for the non-riders and the land would be really expensive. So, lets put the track and stations in the middle of nowhere. Weirdly, many mass transit projects are designed this way.

    • by pfleming (683342)
      The second article stated there would be 4 sets of tracks. The inner two would be dedicated to express type service whereas the outer two would be all stops.
    • by nsayer (86181)

      Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities.

      CalTrain baby bullets make a ~45 mile trip in an hour with 5 stops or so at a cruising speed of 79 mi/hr, but since the service is driven with diesel-electric locomotives, the acceleration and stopping is a non-trivial percentage of the dwell time. I could imagine a CalTrain express service with EMUs could make that same trip in 45 minutes. That's not 30, but then the CalTrain EMUs would have a maximum top speed less than half of what is quoted for these trains.

      Tucson to Phoenix is twice as many miles, but

    • Pretty much anytime a train station is built, be it metro, or longer commuter trains, local business and housing growth ensues. - Why? - because people want to live by trains/metros. Building a train station there wil decrease sprawl.

  • by sageres (561626) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:41PM (#27925551)
    This is what the green economy is all about. Get rich on the government handouts or by imposing government requirements of consumers' energy consumption.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Why yes. Yes it is! Welcome to the Obamanation

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#27925797) Journal
      As opposed to the standard non-green economy, which is all about externalizing environmental costs, so that others can pay for it, while you rub your hands in anticipation of quarterly profits?

      Lack of environmental regulation and incentives is a handout to companies that pollute; the cost is born by the general public (or, even worse, by a small segment of the public who are negatively impacted in a massive way (flooding, disease, loss of livelihood, etc).

      Yes, people will take advantage of incentives -- this is true of any incentive. On the other hand, I consider people who bitch about environmental incentives and regulations to be selfish bastards who choose not to, or cannot, comprehend that there are true costs to environmental damages, and that these externalized costs must either be internalized by the parties responsible, or matched by incentives to be environmentally responsible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rev_sanchez (691443)
        High speed rail is pretty efficient at moving people when compared to cars or planes even without the solar angle but I'd prioritize work on the existing projects and extend deployment to link the Midwest to the East Coast [dot.gov].
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by moosesocks (264553)

          How about linking the East Coast to the East Coast?

          The Northeast Corridor is basically at capacity. We're eventually going to need to add another mainline.

          South of DC, the NEC is f-ing terrible. Amtrak don't own the tracks, and on a bad day, it can take 6-8 hours to make it from DC to Hampton Roads. The line from Richmond to Newport News is particularly bad, given that it's single-tracked, carries lots of freight, and only runs 2 Amtrak trains per day in each direction.

          (While I'm complaining about Hampto

    • by pfleming (683342)
      Rush, is that you?
  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:42PM (#27925567) Homepage
    Two guys pitching a feasibility study? Sounds like the monorail episode of the Simpsons.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:43PM (#27925587)

    I don't really feel like paying $27B so that people in Arizona can have super-duper-fast commute. That's a lot of our cash or the riders' luxury.

    Can't they just get a 60 mph version for a lot less money?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)

      We've got a 75MPH version. We call it I10.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pfleming (683342)

      I don't really feel like paying $27B so that people in Arizona can have super-duper-fast commute. That's a lot of our cash or the riders' luxury.

      Can't they just get a 60 mph version for a lot less money?

      I'm sure Americans* thought the same when the national highway system was conjured up.

      *Citizens of the United States who think they are the only ones who live in the hemisphere.

  • ... as long as you live in the desert. This is a great idea, if they pull it off. Clean, reliable, and fast as hell. While it's not (well, probably not) feasible in 'regular' climates (like Ontario, or the prairies, or even the mid west) where sunshine isn't a guarantee - it could be a step in the right direction for self-sufficient transportation infrastructure. When you push the technology envelope, everyone wins.

    Now, how long before bureaucracy clouds over this idea?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ... as long as you live in the desert. This is a great idea, if they pull it off. Clean, reliable, and fast as hell. While it's not (well, probably not) feasible in 'regular' climates (like Ontario, or the prairies, or even the mid west) where sunshine isn't a guarantee - it could be a step in the right direction for self-sufficient transportation infrastructure. When you push the technology envelope, everyone wins. Now, how long before bureaucracy clouds over this idea?

      Define "regular" climates? Deserts [wikipedia.org] make up between 20% (hot) to 35% (hot and cold) percent of the worlds land mass. I would consider either of those numbers to be pretty "regular". Having lived in both climates myself, we need to stop thinking as either of them being the "norm". "Think globally, act locally" has never meant more.

  • (np)
  • Solar! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:44PM (#27925615) Homepage Journal

    traveling from Tuscon to Phoenix in 30 minutes flat

    It is estimated that the journey at night could take up to 12 hours.

  • Monorail! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter@noSPaM.earthlink.net> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:45PM (#27925625) Journal
    Lyle Lanley:  Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
                  Like a genuine,
                  Bona fide,
                  Electrified,
                  Six-car
                  Monorail! ...
                  What'd I say?
    Ned Flanders: Monorail!
    Lyle Lanley:  What's it called?
    Patty+Selma:  Monorail!
    Lyle Lanley:  That's right!  Monorail!

    [http://www.snpp.com/episodes/9F10.html]
  • How much?!?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:49PM (#27925691) Homepage Journal

    1.21 gigawatts?!?! What?!?!?

    The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity

    Oh. Well that makes tons more sense. In fact, let me just get out these multi-megawatt solar panels I have sitting around...

    Seriously, this is a rather larger undertaking. Generating 110 megawatts (per train, I imagine?) is no small feat. Especially for solar paneling. That's usually the type of thing you need your own power plant for. It's a nice idea, but you'll forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical of:

    a) Solar Power only above the rails being effective
    b) The practicality of any design that relied only on the rail footprint
    c) The realistic cost benefits of this idea
    d) That maintenance costs won't be overwhelming
    e) That consumer demand for service won't result in the train operating during periods where it will be forced to pull from the grid. Frustratingly, very likely during the hours when demand is high for home lighting/heating/etc.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Don't worry, it's just a scam. It's in the summary ;) This "corporation" is two guys asking the cities involved for $35K each to do a "feasibility study" that will almost certainly end in a result of "not feasible, sorry" ;)
    • Re:How much?!?! (Score:4, Informative)

      by skeptikos (220748) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:09PM (#27926019)

      110 MW per train sounds like too much. The typical power output for a locomotive seems to be roughly 5000 HP (http://www.ecoworld.com/blog/2008/05/23/ges-4500-hp-locomotive/). Even if we double that number, since it a high speed train, 10 000 HP = 7 456 998 watts. It is only 7.5 MW. You could power more than 10 of these suckers with 110MW

      • Re:How much?!?! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:33PM (#27926457)

        The TGV (french electric high speed train) runs 199mph in passenger service on many routes as of 2009 (some older routes are limited to only 186mph, like in the dark ages, sheesh!).

        The trains used there pull somewhere around 9MW to do 200mph, and because to go faster the force required increases as a square of the speed, I'd imagine that the last 20mph being proposed could bump the required figure up to about 12MW per trainset. 100MW would allow for a couple of trains in the station, and a couple en route, so the number looks about right to me when transmission losses are taken into account.

        C

    • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:14PM (#27926113) Journal

      Hmm. Perhaps.

      I have 48 solar panels on my roof in northern CA. Yesterday they generated 45 kWH between them. Figure that the middle of the desert is actually a better solar energy source and bump that to (say) 60, and the multiplier becomes 110,000 / 60 = ~1800 times as many panels or 86,400.

      There's ~116 miles between Tucson and Phoenix. That's ~750 panels per mile. It's a lot, but it's not unfeasible.

      I'm not saying your concerns aren't valid, I think some of them are, but the energy side could be made to work. They ought to get a significant discount on the price (~ $1k/panel) if they're ordering circa 90,000 of them, which should help their cost-benefit analysis :)

      Simon.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:30PM (#27926377)

        I have 48 solar panels on my roof in northern CA. Yesterday they generated 45 kWH between them. Figure that the middle of the desert is actually a better solar energy source and bump that to (say) 60, and the multiplier becomes 110,000 / 60 = ~1800 times as many panels or 86,400.

        There's ~116 miles between Tucson and Phoenix. That's ~750 panels per mile. It's a lot, but it's not unfeasible.

        You're magically converting from MW to kWh. Your 48 panels generated 45 kWh in about 12 hours, which is a lot closer to 3kW than it is to 60 kW. 110,000 / 3 = ~36000 times as many panels, or 1,728,000 of the things.

        Note also that you need to be able to handle generating that power in winter also, when you have rather fewer than 12 hours of sunlight per day, even ignoring weather.

        It's not infeasible. Not even close. But it's not a trivial investment, and unless there are going to be enough customers to pay for the thing, it'll never be built.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hackerjoe (159094)

        Running the figures through Google math, starting with a 60"x42" panel generating 55W at peak, I calculate a 116 mile x 2 meter strip of solar panels would generate ~12MW. That's an order of magnitude short... I don't know what kind of duty cycle the 110MW is required at, but if that's continuous to run the train line, it's only going to be able to operate for an hour a day.

        It's enough to make one suspicious about feasibility, anyway.

    • Re:How much?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:20PM (#27926233) Homepage

      I work for a train company, and not only are most of your concerns accurate there are quite a few *more* even.

      f) Infrastructure. To get to those speeds you need to replace the entire rail system. Concrete railroad ties, carefully planned/banked track, etc.
      g) HVAC on the trains themselves. Cooling is massive.
      h-z) If I wanted to go on.

      Maintenence costs would be prohibitive. Guaranteed. But if they can manage federal funding (they won't) they will soak up a never-ending stream of cash for upkeep.

      This is one of the dumber ideas I have seen make this much press this quickly. People are so blindly interested in anything billed as "eco" or "green or "solar" that common sense goes right out the window. Trains are about as efficient a means of transportation as possible *right now*, how about going after the real areas of waste and inefficiency?

    • Re:How much?!?! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:28PM (#27926353) Homepage

      Seriously, this is a rather larger undertaking. Generating 110 megawatts (per train, I imagine?) is no small feat. Especially for solar paneling. That's usually the type of thing you need your own power plant for. It's a nice idea, but you'll forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical of:

      a) Solar Power only above the rails being effective
      b) The practicality of any design that relied only on the rail footprint

      Hmm, well let's do a little napkin engineering here and guestimate the footprint needed. Let's start with standard 1000 W/m^2 solar irradiance, and assume 2m wide cells over the rails. With that you'd need solar panels over 55km of track. Easy-peasy. Now assume inexpensive thin film cells at about 10% efficiency -- then you need 550km of over-rail cells. Which is longer than the rail from Phoenix to Tuscon would be.

      If they could afford 30% efficient cells, then it'd be 183km, which is about the distance from Tuscon to Phoenix. For one car. If they have a pair of tracks, then they could have one going in both directions at all times. Is one train every 30 mins, for a 30 min trip, reasonable? Doesn't seem any worse than normal trains today. So I'm going to call this one barely feasible, physically. Economically? That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

  • by Joe Snipe (224958) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:51PM (#27925727) Homepage Journal

    Solar Bullet LLC has already built trains in Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by golly it put them on the map! [snpp.com]

  • Same idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I had the same idea a few years ago, except mine was along the lines of a highway, with the power going to cars. The road would be set up like a giant slot car track and the pannels would provide power to it. As a bonus the solar panels would provide shade to reduce AC use and the structure would be useable for running data lines between cities.

  • Dumb idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#27925789) Journal
    Arizona is not fit for human habitation. Best plan for Arizona is for all the people of Arizona to move to places like Pittsburgh, where there is plenty of water and nice homes for dirt cheap prices. That will be lot more green, enviro friendly etc etc than this nonsense about 220 mph train that connects two points in the desert.
  • by wjousts (1529427) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:59PM (#27925869)
    Regardless of the idea, I loved the 1950's style "World of Tomorow" style rendering [inhabitat.com] they did. Take that you kids and your fancy CAD packages and 3D modeling.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:00PM (#27925885) Homepage Journal

    Assume that the cost of the thing is financed like a 30 year mortgage. Just as a rule of thumb, with interest we're talking about a total of 54 billion. Just to satisfy construction costs, a need to make a payment of 150 million a month, every month. To make that payment, we need to have 5 million dollars a day, ever day. To get that, assuming a $10 a day per person spend, you'll have to have 500,000 riders a day, every day, traveling across Arizona. Is that economical? Are there THAT many people riding back and forth? I think this project is a stretch.

    • by doctorcisco (815096) <doctorciscoNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:19PM (#27926207)

      It's not that simple, because your analysis ignores the public cost of people driving.

      Already now, I-10 is apparently gridlocked much of the time. This is a high-growth area. Assume that the number of people wanting to make this trip doubles over the next 30 years.

      Without rail or some kind of public transit, taxpayers will need to more than double the carrying capacity of I-10 (presumably the goal isn't to have twice as many people in the same gridlock as today.)

      What's the PUBLIC cost of doubling the size of I-10, compared to the PUBLIC cost of the train?

      The cost-benefit analysis is much different when you stop assuming that the I-10 you need in 30 years will be free, just because a smaller-than-needed version already exists.

      doctorcisco

    • by nsayer (86181) <nsayer@kfCOWu.com minus herbivore> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:41PM (#27926625) Homepage

      Just some supporting evidence...

      CalTrain links San Jose and San Francisco, both of which are metropolitan areas somewhat larger than Tucson and Phoenix. And the points between them are just a bit more densely populated than places like Chandler.

      CalTrain's 2008 average weekday ridership was about 37,000.

  • Couldn't we just built regular trains with present technology? I think that would make a big difference by itself, aye?

  • I work for one of the larger light-rail/commuter train companies and we already have a line in PHX... I think this idea is a total pie-in-the-sky dream only. Now maybe working in conjunction with what we already have in place to supply all or most of the energy running the existing system from solar would be a better use of money and resources.

    Trains are already efficient and the sheer amount of subsystems they are not accounting for is staggering. Best of luck to them, I'm not fearing for my job.

  • 30 Minutes Tuscon to Phoenix*!

    *Depends on forecast. Results not guaranteed. 45 Minutes in overcast. 60 during eclipse

  • But what if the track could bend?
  • Lessee. We have 2 guys who want to build a $27B railroad, and they don't have the $35K for a feasibility study?

    WTF?

    All they have is an idea. There is no way that they can be for real. I don't doubt they're sincere, but it is going to take some real money to get moving.

  • Flagstaff and Tucson will get zero publicity but a HS line with an ending in Vegas will get the newspapermen slavering over the chance to ride the first train - for the good of their readership, obviously...

    More seriously, if it was planned as an extension of the SoCal-Vegas train maybe the idea might go somewhere (like the Phoenix Coyotes, real soon now)

    • by wjousts (1529427)
      You know there is no proposed SoCal-Vegas HS rail line right? Look at the plan [thinkprogress.org]. It's a myth that Republicans are trying to use to bash Harry Reid with.
  • From TFS, I was thinking these guys were porksters doing a small town shakedown for "studies" - not uncommon in Western states. However, as it turns out (from TFA), what they're up against is that the corridor in question is not yet approved for high-speed rail transit - so, asking each whistle-stop to kick in $5k now doesn't sound so bad.

    Also - TFS says the project will cost $27B - TFA notes that that is only for the initial phase. The idea that transportation across a desert with a few whistle stops is

  • Anyone think of Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haberbrook's monorails?!?

    If it doesn't have a catchy "Monorail" song, its not worth public funds...

  • I'm a little unclear on the requirements of the train, it says it needs 110 megawatts but not for how long, how many trains, etc. At its most conservative, I'll specify that the trains will each require 110 megawatts per run, and 11 runs are made per day. (Because that means I get to work with the magic 1.21 gigawatts number, which is just funny.) Ok, so, we need 1.21 GWH/day. Solar insolation in the Phoenix area averages 5.78 at its minimum, so we'll need about 210 MW of solar panels.

    Taking a reasonab

  • Unfortunately... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agnosticanarch (105861) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:20PM (#27926225) Homepage

    If you want the train to take you past Topeka, you have to beat it in a riddle contest. One sure-fire winning riddle:

    How did the dead baby cross the road?

    Answer: It was stapled to the chicken!!

    Now who wants to ride on Blaine, the insane train? I know I do!

    ~AA

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:30PM (#27926385)

    People keep talking about urban sprawl like it's an insurmountable issue. As I've said recently, Japanese cities have massive sprawl and they manage just fine.

    As cool as high speed rail lines are the big problem is that they're a huge waste of money if there isn't some sort of infrastructure for getting people around each city without cars. What American cities and suburbs need are extensive rail systems which service outlying areas in addition to the city core.

    And this doesn't just mean a spoke and hub layout, this means that those outlying areas should be directly connected as well. Take a look at this map [johomaps.com] of the rail lines owned by a single company around Tokyo.

    Want to be really impressed? Check out this PDF [google.com]. In that map, Shibukawa, tucked away in the upper left corner of that map is 120km from Tokyo. That should give you a sense of how extensive their rail system is.

    If you want people to take rail seriously this is the sort of extensive service you need to provide. I'd take the train to work if it provided me this level of accessibility. Hell, I wouldn't even need a car.

    This is the embarrassment [mta.info] that passes for a rail system in the New York area. Just imagine trying to get from somewhere like Poughkeepsie to New Haven.

    Of course, there's another issue. The rail system in Japan runs like clockwork. With far fewer lines Metronorth is incapable of ever being punctual. Every year they send out press releases stating, with pride, that their trains are on average only 5 or 10 minutes late. I rode the New Haven line for years and I can't recall it ever being on time. Hell, it was even late departing the very first station.

    Every so often the train manages to pull down power lines or at least damage them sufficiently to cause significant delays as has been happening the past week or so. The bathrooms are a cesspool and unfortunately a lot of riders are slobs who leave their crap on the train when they get off. And then there's the vandalism.

    Despite increased ridership the MTA, which runs the rail system around New York, can barely stay afloat without drastically raising fees or getting bailouts from the government. Years ago they began ordering new trains. I've yet to see one. But the bigger joke is that some of these new cars are being pulled by diesel locomotives. On an electric line! It's crap from the bottom up.

    These are all important issues that need to be taken seriously if anyone expects a rail line to be successful. But an extensive rail system does make far more sense than any high speed rail line.

    Unfortunately, in the US there are far too many obstacles for any such system to ever see fruition. First, are all the environmentalists who piss and moan about everything even if it were to provide real long-term advantages. Just as bad are all the residents who have this irrational fear of any perceived threat to their idyllic communities. They're all wrapped up in their selfish desire to preserve their little communities even if these projects would ultimately benefit everyone. In the Northeast there are a number of extremely helpful projects which have been blocked by just these sort of people.

    I'm quite pessimistic about the whole thing. American's have lost that can-do attitude a long time ago and I think have grown quite self-centered. I mean self-centered from the standpoint of wanting to be sheltered by the government from all the little challenges of life. Although, I don't doubt that the government will spend untold billions on some boondoggle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MaWeiTao (908546)

      I thought I'd add to my rant... I rode this metro system [wired.com] for several years. That article is correct. The trains were always pristine and always punctual. The announcements were clear, even if not necessary because the trains were frequent and on time.

      I think the first line opened a bit over 12 years ago. And it's already reasonably extensive, and they're working aggressively to expand service. I know of two or three lines currently under construction and pretty far along. And looking at the map of what they

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:37PM (#27926547)
    One thing that's been missing from this country is the willingness to do big, daring things out of national pride. For example, the Europeans had the Concorde and Japan has their high-speed rail. I'd love to see this happen just to show that we can. Develop the technology and let others follow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)

      I think in the long run, we're much better off because we said "no thanks" to supersonic transport. The Concorde was nothing but a huge a waste of money and time to make a toy for the already-wealthy. Give me American Airlines' hundreds of Super-80s that everybody in the country can afford to ride in any day.

      (Well, ok, maybe not Super-80s specifically-- those things suck-- but you get the point.)

  • by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:41PM (#27926639) Homepage
    I AM CONTACTING WITH YOU ON BEHALF OF THE RAILS CONSTRUCTION PLANING CORPORATION SOLAR BULLET LLC. I HOPE THIS DAY FINDS YOU WELL. MY ASSOCIATES AND I ARE PREPARED TO START THE MOVING FORWARD ON CONSTRUCTIONS OF A 220MPH SOLAR-POWERED BULLET TRAIN TO MAJOR CITIES IN ARIZONA AND ALSO TO BE PASSING THROUGH THE SMALLER CITIES SUCH AS YOURS. THIS WILL BE A TWENTY-SEVEN BILLION US DOLLARS PROJECT ( $27 000 000 000 US ) WHICH WE ARE PREPARED TO MAKE LARGE INVESTMENTS IN AT NO COST TO YOUR TOWNSHIP. IN ORDER TO RELEASE FUNDS WE WILL BE REQUIRED TO DO A VERY SMALL ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY AT THE COST OF THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND US DOLLARS ( $35 000 US ) TO SECURE THE TWENTY-SEVEN BILLION. THIS STUDY COSTS WILL BE SPLIT BETWEEN THE CITIES OF ARIZONA ON THE PATHS OF THE SOLAR-POWERED BULLET TRAIN AT THE COST OF FIVE-THOUSAND US DOLLARS ( $5 000 US ) PER CITY. PLEASE SEND IN HASTE THE FIVE-THOUSAND US DOLLARS TO OUR ASSOCIATES SO WE CAN BE MADE ABLE TO SECURE THE TWENTY-SEVEN BILLION US DOLLARS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! WARMEST REGARDS, BILL GAITHER, CO-PRESIDENT, SOLAR BULLET LLC RAYMOND WRIGHT, CO-PRESIDENT, SOLAR BULLET LLC

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