Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone is having a good Christmas. Here are some fun links for you:

Census shows slow in sunbelt burst.
Holland looks at per KM pricing.
Intercity trains in Germany beating the pants off of planes.
I WISH buses all had 5 minute headways.
Is China building HSR too fast? Like Robert, I feel like someone is trying to affect the US debate.


rajan r said...

On the Netherlands's road pricing scheme: I don't know, I'm rather peevish about the privacy concerns. I much rather the Singapore solution (restricted number of cars, and electronic gantries charging a congestion charge along congested cordons and routes).

On China's HSR, the argument that expansion is growing too fast, in the article, is crouched in the comparison between regular passenger rail and HSR (unlike US, much of the inter-city travel is dominated by buses and trains). But HSR competes against air travel - and at least between Beijing and Shanghai, the route is bound to be competitive. Both Beijing Capital in Chaoyang and Pudong airports are located at distance from downtown (making HSR very trip timing competitive) and air travel between those two cities are very high currently.

Moreover, the NYT piece made it out to be a potentially useless stimulus project (preponement of infrastructure projects isn't wasteful like digging and refilling holes) and mutually exclusive to social welfare (creating new entitlements isn't the same as infrastructure). I'm not sure if China's HSR is sustainable (especially routes outside the east), but I'm heavily discounting the NYT's piece for wrong analysis.

Alon Levy said...

Rajan, HSR doesn't compete just with planes, but also with cars and buses. It can decimate air travel while still underperforming - see Eurostar, which underperforms expectations and loses money while still maintaining a 70% share against the airlines.

Joel said...

The roads aren't the only thing The Netherlands is charging per kilometer. Some genius came up with the idea to use a unified payment scheme across metro/tram/bus and train services. The latter got money to implement this to improve security/safety by installing gates at stations on high risk lines. However, the implementation of all this is badly thought out, mainly because transport companies are looking for money. This new payment scheme allows them to charge each passenger for their the part of the trip travelled on each agency. This makes changing modes and companies of transport hard and expensive... Long live technology and the "OV-Chipkaart" as it's called (literally: public transport smartcard).

arcady said...

China's HSR might be unsustainable, but so what? It's pretty typical for rail lines to go bankrupt after they get built, and then make an operating profit, never having to pay off the cost of construction. Also, even if the huge infrastructure investment is a bubble, it's still better than the one the US had. China will get a lot of nice and long-lasting infrastructure, while the US got lots of shoddily built exurban McMansions.

Alon Levy said...

Arcady, remember that in China people still don't have health insurance. If they run out of savings while at the hospital, they get kicked out. The PRC's infrastructure priorities aren't very humane and would never pass in a democracy with a responsive government,

Peter said...

different topic -- found part of that Bergan to Oslo train trip online at YouTube:

arcady said...

Alon, consider the trade balance between the US and China. As you know, the US has quite a significant trade deficit with China, which is only possible because the US has such a low savings rate, and China has such a high one. China's savings rate is so high in part because people are trying to build up huge amounts of savings to make up for the lack of social insurance. So, in a way, our current economy depends on China's population not having health insurance. Which is yet another reason why that whole arrangement needs to change, and the sooner the better.

Also, and this isn't really addressed to anyone in particular, but nobody really needs health insurance. We need health, and health care is often an important factor in maintaining that health, and insurance is a way to help pay for that health care. But it's at least two steps removed from the actual goal. Treating health insurance as something fundamental is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons the whole health care debate is such a mess in this country.