Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:46 am

eolesen wrote:for corporate travel, I don't know if there's enough incentive to divert traffic away from a 30 minute flight to a 90 minute train ride.
Seems like trying to compare the plane's wheels-up to wheels-down time (~30min) to the train's platform-to-platform time (which TC says will be 82min), and glossing over what must be the plane's taxi time on both ends?

WN, AA, and UA show scheduled gate-to-gate times that average slightly more than 60 minutes. (ranging from ~59 to ~72 minutes). Could they really get to :30 if they had to? (seems like, based on a random flight, whether taxi-air-taxi is :10+40+10 or 15+30+15, it always comes out as an hour-ish)

Perception-wise, it looks to me more like travelers will choose between a "one hour flight" versus "an hour and a half train"
Mathwise, it looks like a 63min scheduled flight to a 82min train.

What do you think will be the effect on comparative curb-to-curb trip times of:
- Train's multi-door boarding (2x as many doors per "section" and only 66% as many seats per section = 1 door per 33 seats, vs plane's 1 door per 70 ~ 100)
- Plane's re-introduction of rear stairs (but still 3x3 seating vs Train's 2x2)
- Plane's "single jetway" / "podium validation of tickets" vs Train's onboard fare collection*
- Plane security adding an incremental 5min "line time" and 5min "scan time"
- Train having inherently "thin" curb-to-seat walking distances
- Train having inherently better all-weather performance (short of tornadoes)
- Planes having to deal with delays imposed by "the rest of the system" (congestion from other flights and airlines)

And origin-to-destination the train has two more time-savers:
- closer-to-the-center terminals (assuming corporate = central tall building on at least 1 end) **
- Fewer 1-hr gaps (more :30 interval service)***

Maybe the LEK Ridership Study overstated the value of downtown-to-downtown total elapsed time (which, for planes at busy times, they pegged at 4h20m by air and 4h40m by car) but I think you've understated even the curb-to-curb time by air.

*Train can kick all fare-beaters off mid-trip at Brazos and not gum up DAL or HOU aisles/doors

**
Houston Uptown to Hobby = 16 miles (and 10 more to IAH)
Houston Uptown to Northwest Mall Site = 5 miles

Houston Downtown to Hobby = 10 miles (and 10 more to IAH)
Houston Downtown to Northwest Mall Site = 8 miles

Dallas Downtown to Love = 6 miles (and 15 more to DFW)
Dallas Downtown to Cadiz@Austin = <3 miles


*** "Current plans call for trains to run every 30 minutes during peak hours and every hour during off-peak times, with 6 hours reserved each night for maintenance and inspection of the system." This probably does mean last trip of the day has to end by 11:30pm (a 10pm departure) and the first can't start until 5:30am (a 7am arrival). Seems to require about 10 trainsets (departing-30-60-arriving-turning, each way)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:08 pm

In fact, I'd say there's a close analogy...only better... between what Acela did to the Air Shuttles DCA-LGA, and what TC HSR will do to Dallas-Houston Air.

The CityLab article is Why More Northeast U.S. Travelers Take the Train Instead of a Plane, in 2 Charts
(i'd include the charts as {IMG}, but RR.net stupidly won't include images unless dimensions can be determined)

Not only is it that ground transport and terminal friction take too great a toll (covered, above), but also that time on the train is considered more productive, as in:
- If you need a meal, you can buy one "on demand" (on your schedule, in quantities & varieties that satisfy you)
- Connectivity, Power, and at-seat space make work on the train easier, and it "lasts" for near the whole duration of the trip

In DCA-LGA, too great a % of the "in-vehicle" time is devoted to taxi, takeoff, and landing...at which all your electronics are off or stowed, allowing only a very constrained "productive flight" window in the middle (which is usually interrupted by the "one chance for food/drink") versus the train being "productive the whole time" (sit down, open your laptop, and interrupted only for fare collection)

So the "corporate travel productivity" factor is going to favor the train in Texas. Perhaps so much that WN will operate HOU-DAL more for connecting convenience than for locals. I'd say that'd predict a drop from 19x to more of an "every 2 hours" 5-7-9-11-1-3-5-7-9....call it 9x dailies, a reduction from 19x today.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

eolesen
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by eolesen » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:05 pm

I'm still a skeptic. At best, door to door travel times look to be a a wash, and if frequent flyer status stands to be threatened, it's not quite as compelling of an argument as the spin makes it out to be.

Regardless, the target market for HOU-DAL shouldn't be air travelers. It's the >90% of people who are currently driving I-45...

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:13 pm

TC says its fares will be structured: "on the high end, tickets will be competitive with the cost of flying, and on the low end, they will be competitive with the cost of driving."

In their ridership forecast, they computed typical drive time (door to door) of 4h40 and a typical flight time (door to door) of 4h20 and felt that the train would typically save 1 hour vs these options.
https://www.texascentral.com/ridership/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.texascentral.com/wp-content/ ... ochure.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:21 pm

I'm also going to wager that TC HSR will find a way to do an airline alliance of some sort, even as Amtrak has at EWR and Brightline will likely have with Virgin (and perhaps SkyTeam?).

Either assume at least one will, or answer: "What would cause all 3 local airlines to say "no" to a TC alliance?"

Seems to me that the airline that "breaks ranks" and joins TC to its FF program would steal a march vs the other 2. For UA in particular, being able to offer NW Mall to Dallas Convention Center 20+ times a day is way better for local elites than offering IAH-DFW just 9 times, even as it was for UA (CO) to use Amtrak for EWR-PHL/HVN

The great thing is that unlike "handing" over one (admittedly huge) local point-to-point market to a competing "shuttle" airline, whichever airline allies with TC isn't thereby empowering TC to threaten the rest of anybody's hubs.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

bretton88
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by bretton88 » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:18 am

A big difference being that neither airport in Texas has a direct transfer to the train like Newark has, and IAH is really disconnected from the transit system. It might be solvable by a dedicated shuttle, but its not as straightforward as on the NEC.

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:22 pm

In Texas, the point would not be hub feed, it would simply be frequent traveler loyalty.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

eolesen
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by eolesen » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:34 pm

The fact nobody else except United has a codeshare with Amtrak hints that there’s an exclusivity clause, and that might block an agreement between UA and TC, even though there’s no overlap.

Agree that the intermodal capability at EWR is unique and the only reason this works for PHL and Stamford/HVN. UA is the only of the big three who doesn’t operate a LGA shuttle, and that makes an argument for the BOS/NYC/WAS codeshare on the Acela.

All said, the mileage accrual on Amtrak is fairly paltry. 250-325 on the connections from EWR, and 500-750 on Acela. Neither seems to qualify for elite status miles or spending calculations. EQM/EQD matter a lot more than award miles.

Could that logic extend to HOU-DAL? I don’t see the business case, and I’ve been working in the industry for 31 years including a few with codeshare development and implementation...

If HOU has a more comprehensive commuter or light rail network, maybe I’d be more optimistic about this.

Likewise for DAL, who already has a good light rail network touching both airport, but it doesn’t really extend beyond Dallas County.

Because of that general lack of a regional transit network to tie into, there’s going to need to be both parking and rental car infrastructure at both HSR endpoints.

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:37 pm

WAS & NYC had many travelers who are FF loyal, and who were DCA-LGA/EWR Shuttle Loyal.

The introduction of Acela boosted Amtrak's air-rail market share of DCA-LGA from 38% to 75%

At about this same time, US/AA and DL downgauged DCA-LGA from A319 & B737(?) to RJs, cutting capacity by about 40%
Going from mainline craft with 125ish seats to RJs with 75ish.
Was that reflective of declining local traffic?
(DCA-EWR was an early RJ market so I don't have a good swag on how much UA shrunk)
(at some point in there did they also get more promiscuous in making Shuttles part of connecting markets?)

Whatever effect Acela had, it came despite the rail being about a 160 minute trip vs a 90minute gate-to-gate by air. (the train took nearly 40% more time; more than 1 hour longer)

TC will only be 33% more time and only 20 minutes (timetable) longer, and closer to downtown on both ends. Seems reasonable to expect each/all of WN/AA/UA would be in an environment where a 40% reduction would be appropriate.

A 40% reduction of WN's 19x schedule--since they can't downgauge much--would require cuts of about 7x ~ 8x, so maybe saying they'd cut back to 10x is too drastic, but 12x seems normal to expect.

For D/FW & Houston, parallel reduction at AA and UA would also seem a natural way to reflect the entry of a 20x per day entrant with really low variable costs and really big vehicles.

Given the enormous fixed costs of the rail itself, and the need for daytime ops to earn that back, if things look dicey, growing the fleet and going to :20 minute intervals at peak times might be lower risk and higher reward for TC than anything else it could try.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:45 am

I'm looking to estimate the effect of TC's entry into DAL-HOU on the air carriers.
To do this, I'm going to use the Acela's entrance into WAS-NYC

The "air" market DCA-LGA was down by half in the decade between 2007 and 2017
Using: https://www.transtats.bts.gov/airports.asp?pn=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
2006 688k
2007 680k
2008 546k (recession begins)
2009 451k
2010 403k
2011 381k
2012 366k
2013 425k
2014 413k
2015 360k
2016 374k
2017 305k

I'm going to say that that's what happens to a short distance city pair when rail gets its act together.
Moreso in D/FW - Houston because, unlike the NEC, TC will be an entirely new entrant, will have higher average speeds, and a smaller gate-to-gate disadvantage vs Air.

Today the annual air market (from BTS) blending 2016 & 2017 numbers
HOU-DAL = 620k on WN
IAH-DFW = 555k on UA+AA

The entry of TC will add frequencies equal to WNs, but at triple WN's capacity (train =400 seats per departure)
That's the equivalent of 3 NEW SOUTHWESTS being added to the market.

Swag that at 8000 seats per day 220 days per year and 4000 seats on the other 145 days.
That's 2.3m NEW seats per year in a market that, today, has 1.2m passengers.

And like the Chunnel, once the tracks are laid, even if the rails go bankrupt (as the Chunnel did, unable to pay its debt) the rail operators are never going away (as Eurostar has stayed, and basically driven AF/VS/BA out of the LON-PAR local market forever.

My forecast for "Year 3" of TC Operations
HOU-DAL = 300k on WN
IAH-DFW = 200k on UA+AA
HOU-DAL = 1,500k on TC (roughly 1/3 taken by taking half of air's passengers, 2/3 taken from driving)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

mtuandrew
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by mtuandrew » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:59 am

And that doesn’t even count the College Station-area passengers, not that it’s a huge air market.

eolesen
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by eolesen » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:59 pm

At least you recognize it's heading for bankruptcy at the get-go....

This will be a $20B project by the time it's done. It's already grown from $12B to $15B before the first shovel of dirt has moved... Assuming 1% interest over a 30 year bond, that's a $64M monthly (not annual...) debt payment.

That's over $2M per day that the route would need to generate just to service the debt, and over 8000 seats, that means every seat has to generate $250/day...

The walk-up fare on DAL-HOU hovers around $100 per seat.

You can expect some revenue premium for convenience, but not double the going rate...
Last edited by eolesen on Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Arlington
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by Arlington » Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:06 pm

I keep thinking that College Station isn't going to "happen" until the train station and the University start growing together, kind of the way that it wasn't until DC grew out along the Dulles Toll Road that Dulles became sustainable as a domestic hub. I'm sure that many employers will like the idea of:
- Hire Texas A&M Grads
- Consolidate ops in one office (or back office) at the HSR station
- Have them live and work in Transit Oriented Development around the HSR station
- Let them visit clients via HSR, or "visit home" on weekends

I'm also wondering if they'll do a "backwards h" or sideways T shaped network that ran:
San Antonio-Austin-College Station
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

eolesen
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by eolesen » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:35 pm

The moment I graduated from university, the last thing I wanted was to remain on campus. Same thing for my nephew who graduated from A&M...

That's only a sample size of two, but I can't imagine there's a huge population of A&M grads who want to stay in College Station to start their career. What's the incentive to stay behind?

electricron
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Re: Texas Central HSR (Houston - DFW Dallas Fort Worth)

Post by electricron » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:30 pm

eolesen wrote:At least you recognize it's heading for bankruptcy at the get-go....

This will be a $20B project by the time it's done. It's already grown from $12B to $15B before the first shovel of dirt has moved... Assuming 1% interest over a 30 year bond, that's a $64M annual debt payment.

That's over $2M per day that the route would need to generate just to service the debt, and over 8000 seats, that means every seat has to generate $250/day...

The walk-up fare on DAL-HOU hovers around $100 per seat.

You can expect some revenue premium for convenience, but not double the going rate...
How did you reach $2 million /day, where is the math?
$2 million x 365 days/year = $730 million/year, significantly more tha $64 million, at more than 1,100%
$730/$64 x 100 = 1,140%

Assuming your estimation that it will cost $20 billion (including interest) to build it, and the bonds will be paid off in 30 instead of 50 years.....
$20,000 million / 30 years = $667 million / year
$20,000 million / 50 years = $400 million / year

But suppose they actually build it for $15 billion (including interest)?
$15,000 million / 30 years = $500 million / year
15,000 million / 50 years = $300 million / year

As anyone should be able to see, the amount of money needed per year varies by total amount borrowed and by over how many years.
Another thing to keep in mind is the infrastructure; land, rails, wayside equipment, and trains will still be around 30, 50, 80 years from now, which can be used for second and third mortgages. As long as the trains are earning and operating profit refinancing later on will be easier. They should not need $500 million / year to run the trains at an operating profit.

Even you can refinance your home and stretch out repaying your debt of home ownership to mortgage banks far longer than 30 years.

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