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Stations do NOT affect train speed

Bullshit from an email thread and repeated constantly by the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

“Other potential benefits are also intriguing: a probable economic windfall for several cities along the route . . .”
“There will be as many as 24 passenger stations along the way . . .”

The train could more easily meet speed requirements if it stopped less. CA should do some land use planning first, then plan the train.

How would a station affect speed? Every train has to slow down to say “Hi”?

Stations have nothing to do with speed. Stations are INFRASTRUCTURE.

Station STOPS affect speed. Station STOPS are an OPERATIONAL decision and can be solved with a schedule change.

How come no one talks about having fewer freeway exits as a way to make freeways go faster? Because its stupid, drivers don’t get on and off at every freeway ramp. Yet somehow people think that a train has to behave like a stupid driver who takes every freeway exit! How come people think a train has to stop at every station?

News flash!

Trains can skip stations! If a train doesn’t stop a station the existence or (non-existence) of a station is irrelevant!

California High-Speed Rail Authority puts out this BULLSHIT as an excuse to avoid building a system that could actually serve dual purposes as both a long-distance system and a higher-speed adjunct to commuter rail.

“We can’t build more stations because that would slow down the train!”

This shinkansen train doesn’t look to be at all affected by the station:

Update 1:

Questions and astonishment from the email thread:

I’m not a train engineer, but I imagine money is spent on building a station with the expectation that some of the trains stop – because people live or work there.

I would hope so myself!

If there are stations for which trains stop infrequently, is that good planning?

Yes it is good planning. Stations can be built at relatively low cost. At the lowest end just a long enough siding, a asphalt boarding area, a parking lot and a place for taxis/buses. Even for HSR there is no reason a low frequency stop has to have even a building. Sure the HSR trains might require a high platform but that can be easily handled with a portable “step-up” carried on the train.

If I lived, or had a business near that station, I sure would want as many stops as possible.

well of course you would — and I want a pony. Wishes don’t mean you get.

Communities around those stations will use the existence of the station as marketing to attract development, but should it be happening at all 24 stops?

How is this a bad thing? Communities promoting passenger rail is bad?

Might there be some type of express/local arrangement, where a slower local (on a separate track) can feed the HSR? That doesn’t come through on the article.

You don’t need a separate track for anything except the station area. The station siding just needs to be long enough to allow for acceleration/deacceleration off of the main line. ( about 9 miles on the acceleration, less on the deacceleration ) Unless we are talking very impacted ROW the extra track is minor. The siding track is only necessary when the OPERATIONAL issues dictate that a train stopped at a station needs to be passed.

It probably doesn’t come through in the article because this is another operational issue that is decided after system is built. Running a train slower that system maximum because it is a “local” only matters when a higher speed express wants to pass. If there is nothing coming up behind it, a train can run at 40mph on the main high-speed line or it can stay stopped for 10 minutes blocking the main-line track.

How many stops do you think a typical train will make?

The system being proposed can run a train every 3 minutes / direction. 20 trains per hour going the direction you want as a passenger. If a passenger is going from one low traffic station to another they might have to transfer but at least they get service from a station close to their house. Why are we going to make them drive a long distance when the tracks are next to them. So what if only one train stops per day? This is just like Amtrak today!

Just make sure that the entire end-to-end trip time does not exceed a policy maximum.

How is it decided which stations to stop at?

By the people setting the schedule — same as today. Don’t get this question at all.

you’ve GOT to be kidding! Train Stations & Bus Stops have EVERYTHING to do with speed! Did you see: Muni floats plan to pull hundreds of S.F. stops

So the VTA 522 Rapid is slowed down by the existence of a bus stop on a curb? Did not notice that at all! Better go out and remove all those sign posts along El Camino Real for Route 22. That will definitely make the 522 go faster.

Update 2:

that bus is the transit agency’s version of BRT.
Not only have they eliminated stops (one mile length between most stop), it doesn’t even have a schedule after it leaves its origin at set time, meaning it doesn’t have to ‘wait’….

Amtrak buses doing something similar – on many runs, they will only stop if a passenger gets off, but not to pick up.

I think it important to recognize the differences between bus types – local, inter-city, BRT, and train types: commuter rail, heavy rail, LRT….speed is always an important factor – to some types more than others. Intercity trains are expected to go faster than commuter rail; commuter rail faster than heavy rail (though there can be express and local subway lines, of course), all both faster than LRT.

Can you imagine a ‘smoke break’ for HSR???

And ?

Once again — how is the *existence* of a bus stop going to affect a bus’s schedule if the bus doesn’t stop at the stop?

How is the existence of a train station going to affect a given train’s speed and schedule if the train doesn’t stop?

I am completely baffled.

I am completely astonished that the NYC subway routes are impacted by stations where the train doesn’t stop.

I really do not understand how the “6-express” subway runs slower because of the existence of the “Elder Ave” stop ( which the 6-Express skips ). Perhaps someone else can help explain this?

I have no idea what a “smoke stop” has to do with station planning. Maybe you can enlighten me?

Update 3 [ 15 June 2009 23:13:00 ]:

An intelligent question from twitter:

Is there a (federal) law requiring trains to slow below a certain speed in stations irrespective of stopping?

No Federal Law. A train can go through at whatever speed it wants to. Certainly, some sort of warning system may desirable. The only exception is “holdout” stations. Holdout stations are stations where passengers cross active tracks to board. California Ave USED in Palo Alto, Ca to be holdout station.

Posted in environment, high-speed-rail, political, random silliness, rants, transportation.

2 Responses

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  1. Stuart says

    Sorry, just found this page on a Google search (looking for something else). Hope you don’t mind if I make a couple of points this long after the original post!

    “Trains can skip stations! If a train doesn’t stop a station the existence or (non-existence) of a station is irrelevant!”

    Trouble with this theory is a stopping train needs to slow down, thus delaying the train behind (or to think of it another way, using up line capacity). You can get around this by building extra long loops to allow the train to slow down off the running lines, but again this presents difficulties. The first is that the fastest speed that turnouts are currently rated at is 140mph (considerably less than even a 186mph line speed), so slowdown on the running line is still required for a stopping train. The second is that long loops mean four tracks in towns/cities, the very place where land use is both expensive and sensitive (more houses and businesses bulldozed).

    SNCF complain that pressure from local communities for more services to stop at their town, impedes them from running more efficient TGV services.

    “Running a train slower that system maximum because it is a “local” only matters when a higher speed express wants to pass.”

    True, many countries (such as Spain and now the UK) run lower speed services over their HSLs. Unfortunately even when the ‘slow’ trains run considerably faster than most US services (generally 125-140mph), this dramatically reduces line capacity, which is meant to be a reason to build them in the first place. So a skeptic might argue that if you cannot fill a HSL with HS services, is there really a market for it in the first place?

    To close, here’s an anecdote of some of my personal experience of HSR (it’s not meant to be a scientific comparison). I’ve stood by the Madrid to Barcelona HSL for hours and seen few enough trains to count on the fingers of one hand. By contrast, the day after I was standing next to LGV Meditereanee (France) watching flights of twin Duplex (i.e. double-decker) TGVs pass at six minutes headways.
    If I were going to spend $30 billion on a high speed line, I know what I’d rather have.

  2. patrick says

    @Stuart —

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Your issues are:

    1) turnout speeds require that a train slowdown to exist the main track to the local loop.
    2) Right of Way widths with 4 tracks.

    Turnout Speed limitations
    You are correct that a train will need to slow down because of limitations on turnout speeds. However, this point is meaningless for these reasons:

    * The speed through the east bay ( just like along the peninsula if the Pacheco Pass route is used ) will likely not be at maximum speed.
    * Even if the train is running flat out. Based on my back-of-envelope calculations slowing from 220mph to 140mph should only require that the following train be 5 minutes behind (instead of 3 minutes behind). This is a minor scheduling issue and does not impact the following train’s speed.

    Constrained right-of-way
    This is a red herring. The same “problem” only worse exists along the Caltrain ROW. But this does not seem to deter the California High-Speed Rail “authority” from deciding to drive the train through some very expensive real-estate. Most property bordering the train tends to be commercial anyhow.

    In any event, 4 tracks requires only 80ft Right-of-Way, which is considerably narrower than many roads.


    The rest of your points fall into the category of interesting red herrings that do not pertain to the question at hand.

    * “SNCF complain that pressure from local communities for more services to stop at their town, impedes them from running more efficient TGV services.” — So more people want the train to stop in their town… how is this related to the question at hand which is does the existence of a train station impact the speed of a train that is not stopping.

    * “Reducing line capacity” is only meaningful if the traffic numbers warrant more trains. If the demand does not warrant more trains then the “reduction in capacity” is meaningless.

    * Madrid – to – Barcelona observations: Interesting but meaningless. Missing data: When ? What time of day? Weekday? Weekend?


    My point is and continues to be: a freeway (or a rail system) can be engineered for higher speeds than possible for the current vehicles. China in fact is building their High-Speed Rail System to support trains running at 250mph anticipating that those speeds will soon be possible.

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