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

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

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  by Jadebenn
John_Perkowski wrote:This just in...

WFAA Original: The Texas Bullet Train Now Looks Likely; Heres What To Expect
Ah, that's the piece I was talking about! I totally forgot to link it here like I said I would, though... :(

Here's the full article with some more coverage if any of you are interested. I highly recommend giving it a read, and wouldn't hesitate to say it's the best local coverage of the project so far. Probably some of the best coverage of it period. I think that's mainly because the news crew they sent to Japan got hands-on-experience with the technology, meaning that the lack of experience that leads to so much of the bad coverage on trains in American news wasn't a problem here. They even cover the land-use and development angle, which almost no-one talks about in the US!

While the report mostly summarizes already-known facts, it also officially confirms something I've heard rumors and speculation about for a while now: JR Central intends for the Texas export models to be eight-car trains based off the N700S design.

Personally, I think if Texas Central can achieve even a fraction of the reliability and service the Shinkansen is known for in Japan, it will be a game-changer for the state. Most of our officials are skeptical of passenger rail currently (to put it kindly), but attitudes have been changing. After all, it wasn't that long ago that the state was outright hostile to passenger rail. If anything can bring them around fully, it's this project.
  by electricron
Recent interview on KERA (Channel 13 PBS in Dallas) with Texas Central CEO.
http://www.kera.org/2018/12/03/carlos-a ... -138639029" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The three points I found interesting:
1) Looking at 5 to 6 years before service commences.
2) 82 minutes between Dallas and Houston.
3) Fastest average train speed in the world due to just three stations at 179 mph average speed.
  by Arlington
This will radically free up gate space at the DAL, DFW, HOU, & IAH airports "for free" (to air travelers), which will be particularly noticed at gate-constrained DAL (Love Field).

Gatewise, Southwest's 19 daily round trips from DAL to HOU represent about 10% of all gate capacity at Dallas Love (which is legally limited to 20 gates) A flight every :30 for much of the day, and 630k local passengers per year. (Southwest operates about 10 flights per gate per day)

Suffice it to say that proven demand is HUGE (when you include another ~25 r/t per day on AA (DFW-IAH/HOU) and UA (DFW-IAH)). Well-located train stations that are easy to get to and get through are going to slash the air business and capture a big chunk of the driving business (that air hasn't been able to serve), just like the Chunnel practically zeroed out LON-PAR.

And then there's a huge boon for D/FW and Houston people who will benefit when all those planes and gates (particularly at DAL) get re-deployed in other markets.

If WN drops to 5x per day at DAL, that frees up space for 14 new round trips to places like Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta.
  by Jadebenn
No wonder Southwest's stayed out of the way of this project in contrast to their role in killing the Texas TGV in the 80s: with the Wright Amendment gone, the Texas Triangle routes are more of an obligation than a profit center to them nowdays.
  by eolesen
Hmmmm...... I don't think I'd go as far as to say the Triangle is an obligation. WN is still a for-profit company, and they've always been that way.

They do keep a large presence in order to support their contracts with state/federal government travel, as well as corporate travel.

It's possible some of that state traffic could fall off with HSR, but 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.

Some might complain about TSA waits, but that's only for the infrequent travelers. Any smart business traveler will have TSA PreCheck. I fly out of Houston on a regular basis (2-3 times a month), and my line waits rarely exceed more than 5 minutes from the time I enter the queue to exiting the screening area.

My guess is that there would still be an hourly service pattern on DAL-HOU if for no other reason to help feed the international flights out of HOU.
  by Arlington
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 [email protected] = <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)
  by Arlington
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.
  by eolesen
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...
  by Arlington
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;
  by Arlington
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.
  by bretton88
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.
  by Arlington
In Texas, the point would not be hub feed, it would simply be frequent traveler loyalty.
  by eolesen
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.
  by Arlington
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.
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