Texas Bullet Train Dallas to Houston to use Japanese technology


“The 240-mile (380-km)-long rail link, which will be built and operated by Texas Central Partners and Amtrak, is expected to cut travel times between the cities to about 90 minutes, from 3-1/2 hours by car.”


It kind of makes sense to start in Texas. That’s because in Texas, it at least has a small chance of actually being built. In California, we can see that fast rail ends up in multiple committees, spending billions to “study” everything and anything, then if that phase even ends, the environmental lobbies begin their objections and that can last 5 or 10 more years, mostly in court where the attorneys can milk any remaining grant money. Then if they can find another few tens of billions, they might start the first few miles of actual building stuff, but that inevitably also gets mired in various court cases. Maybe a native-American burial ground, maybe new beetles for the environmentalist attorneys to “protect” (protect = “charge a lot of fees”), maybe some lad ownership kerfuffle, maybe something else, maybe all of them!


Doing a few Google searches, I can get a round-trip flight from Houston to Dallas for $48. Flight time is listed as 1 hr 18 min. Sure, you need to check in early at the airport and go through TSA and make your way to the proper gate. But you will probably need to get to the train station early too, if you want to check any baggage. All it will take is one unfortunate incident, and they will probably put TSA at the train stations sometime in the future.

From my experience, the Los Angeles to Las Vegas high speed train they are planning makes the most sense, if it is done correctly.

  • Pete

Texas has been talking about high-speed rail since at least 1989. All attempts to get even the most basic plans implemented have previously failed. Having lived here my entire life, I’ve seen no changes (in governance or attitude) that lead me to believe Texas will ever build this. Texas has nothing on California, as far as this goes. Overcoming airline resistance to this was a major obstacle in the past, IIRC.


I wonder if train stations would be downtown. Railroads were mostly built 1850 to 1880. Then all trains including passenger trains went downtown. That’s where the business was–usually centered on a riverport or seaport.

Most airports were built 1920 to 1950. Few ended up downtown. Most went to the suburbs where land was available. Business and passengers wanted to live near the airport. The airports quickly became population clusters.

Maybe the bullet train terminals could be built in green fields far from downtown creating yet another population cluster. You could still have commuter rail/bus etc to take passengers downtown. Green fields would allow for much parking as well as new business development.


Europe has a robust passenger train system, but it also has a robust discount airline network, which says to me people place value on time savings. And very often the plane is cheaper than the train.

Trains have a two-headed problem in that the more places it stops the more useful it becomes, but the more places it stops the slower it becomes and it the makes more sense to fly. This is a particular problem for California because a non-stop high speed link between LA and SF could work, in that it would be time competitive and certainly easier than flying. But if you have to stop at a bunch of small towns along the way, then probably not. But if the train doesn’t stop at those towns then the legislature won’t support it.

With the airlines, the door closes at a certain time, usually about 15-20 minutes before the flight departs and if you aren’t onboard you are SOL. So you have to budget whatever time it takes to get through TSA comfortably in order to get there because you don’t have a lot of margin for error. And it is good to board early so you get overhead space, blah, blah, blah.

With trains, there is no TSA hassle and as long as you board less than a second before doors close–which is seconds before the train leaves–you are fine. There is no seatbelt lockdown period and mobile devices are always okay. It is a great way to go.


What counts for most people is the time from downtown to downtown, not the time of the individual segments. Many, many moons ago, pre TSA, we had a similar discussion Boston/NYC. The then slower train matched air travel.

As the crow flies
Boston/NYC = 190.04 miles
Dallas/Houston = 225.84 miles

BTW, downtown to downtown, no taxi-fare to airport.

BTW, train is (can be?) electric, planes burn hydrocarbons.

BTW, follow the money…

The Captain

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I question the value of downtown to downtown. A handful of cities are able to keep downtown vibrant. Increasingly they are becoming govt centers surrounded by aging dying residential areas. Most business now locates in the suburbs where people live. Easy commutes. Close to quality man (and woman) power.

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Per the project’s website, neither station will be located in downtown proper. The Dallas station is closer - it’s in the Cedars area, which is just outside of downtown Dallas. The Houston station, however, is going to be located on the site of a defunct shopping mall about eight miles outside of downtown.

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That’s why they invented the Express train. It leaves first and only makes a couple of stops. The next train or two are local and make every stop.


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The problem with the California setup is that in order to get the proposition passed they promised the train would be self-supporting. To do that the train needs lots of riders. This meant the route had to be changed to go through the high desert and more stops added.


The Texas train is planned to have only three stops - Dallas, Houston, and Brazos Valley (about halfway in-between).

It’s just a guess, but I would expect that the main dollars for this aren’t coming from operations (though that’s important), but from real estate - developing the land around the stations.


Just to make it clear…I’m not for the CA train. But having more stops is a problem that can be worked around. The better argument against the train is the high out of control cost and the fact that most people will just fly LA to SF


Downtowns are still the central hub, even in most cities which have decayed somewhat or flattened to expand to the suburbs. The permanent infrastructures of rail lines and yes, government, has kept them if not pristine, at least relevant. Most airport services, for instance, link to the associated downtown areas, not to far flung suburbs (there are some, but they are less convenient.)

There is no solution that is perfect, but linking city to city seems optimal given the other choices. (I note that airports which are located really close to downtowns thrive, even as their bigger brothers with space to accommodate far more flights take over the bulk of the traffic (LaGuardia, Midway, Reagan). A train which could actually “land” closer to the city would do quite well in my opinion.

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Cities deliberately do things to bring people downtown. Convention centers. Sports stadiums. Concert halls. Symphony. Etc.

Department stores flourished downtown once electric street cars made them easily accessable to shoppers. But that faded as population moved to the suburbs with cars and stores followed. Now office jobs are following. Plenty now say they are afraid to go downtown.

Putting new stations downtown where parking is limited, traffic is congested, and crime is a concern is a mistake. Better to put them in the exurbs. Easily accessable by highway. Lots of parking space. Closer to travelling public. And tourists can still take commuter train downtown if they want.

One day someone will figure out how to redevelop the vacant inner city residential property but so far politics make that difficult.

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It really depends on the details. If your business model is to make your money on running the train system, then being in downtown may make it easier to charge for tickets to that destination (though it might make it a little harder for people to get to to begin their journey, if there’s not a lot of residential downtown).

But if your business model is to make your money on developing the stations (and some of the land around it, maybe), then maybe less so. For that kind of venture, the play is to buy undesirable land very cheaply, and then make the land more valuable by building and operating the transportation system. That’s harder to do downtown than in the suburbs, or by putting a station halfway between Dallas and Houston in Brazos Valley.

Of course, any venture will necessarily involve some of both. But given that it’s probably easier and cheaper to buy a city block or more of land to build a train station outside of downtown than in it is inside of downtown, there’s something to be said for being outside the CBD.

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How would that work?

Another argument against it is tunneling through the mountains. And, eventually, FSD technology will be a strong competitor.


Of course not.

The planned HSR terminal in Houston is in the dodgy Northwest Mall neighborhood about 8 miles from downtown. That will be a 45 minute bus trip to downtown in rush hour.


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This I doubt. It’s unlikely that FSD will ever reach even 1/3 the speed of a high speed train. That triples the driving time, so while it relieves some of the stress of the trip it doesn’t save any time at all.

(The argument that “they’ll fly anyway” might be true, but then it doesn’t seem to have crimped HSR in the EU or in Japan, both of which have discount airlines; in fact it might be nice for them to have some real competition instead of the fake competition that has them competing mostly for scarce landing slots instead of customer amenities.)

That said, there are some corridors where it may work and some where it surely will not. I’d suspect one place to fail is pricey California real estate, and one place that could work is cheap Texas farmland.

(Overcoming the small city/big city issue is not that hard. A couple of limited stop express trains per day and a couple of multiple stop trains per day; scale up or down depending on passenger demand.)

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I wonder if we could use FSD tech to make the trains work more like Ethernet than SONET.

Currently every car on the train most leave one particular station and arrive at a particular station all together.

What if some of the cars left the far end station the other cars attached as the train passed by, the detached when the needed to. Thus all trains would be express trains and there would be no intermediate stops.


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