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Rail freight here is huge, and I'm sure makes money. Those companies don't do passenger at all, however (BNSF, for example, which moves freight from Long Beach, CA eastwards, and every train stops here in NM for diesel). Amtrak (government passenger rail here) is subsidized, and the rates are still fairly high for cross country (if you get a sleeper, which is pretty much required to travel huge distances).

High speed starts looking better once travel times get short enough to compete with aircraft in a meaningful way, I suppose, but the infrastructure requirements are large in the US because distances are so huge. Boston to DC is short at an 8 hour drive with some traffic (~700km), and it's populated pretty heavily over much of the route. I could see real high speed rail doing some good there. The current amtrak high speed only hits high speeds (still not very fast) over a few sections in Eastern CT and parts of NJ due to congestion and rail quality as I understand it.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

*snip* (passenger rail in Europe is heavily subsidized by freight as I understand it). *snip*

All things rail are subsidized in Europe, but it is much more heterogeneous than in the US. Rails do play a vital role e.g. in Germany, France and Switzerland. French have the sexy TGV (renamed i read), speed up to 300km/h overland, Germany a dense ICE network, speeds up to 280km/h. That makes a flight between lets say München and Frankfurt more of an ego decision. And trains between the centers usually are crowded in the morning and in the evening, without a seat reservation people loiter in the corridors.

In Germany the company that own the rail network is different from the carrier companies. The former state owned monopolistic rail organisation was forced to split up.

But rails, as well as almost all of the roads are built by the taxpayers (biggest part) and/or through toll systems (overland motorways in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany for trucks, sooner or later cars as well).

Interesting thing: In Spain trains don't play a vital role. Probably because it was still a dictatorship until the 70's. But the economy is catching up fast. They'll leave the brits behind to pray if the Basques or Catalans don't separate ;-)

ok, sorry, politics, i love the British, but couldn't resist :-))

Edited by Green Baron

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1 hour ago, tater said:

The East coast is where tons of commuting happens, and really is the only place in the country where trains are not a wholesale money loser.

The Boston-NYC-DC corridor is a place where rail (or this notion) could actually work, and there are few other places in the country where in fact makes any sense at all. Passenger rail is not a good idea (from a money standpoint)  pretty much anywhere on Earth, so that's the only caveat I would have (passenger rail in Europe is heavily subsidized by freight as I understand it). If hyperloop could be used for freight, then maybe it's better.

It is a strange conceit by capitalism that rail service is judged by whether it is profitable or not. Even in the most capitalistic of countries, roads are not profitable. They are public works. Why would railroads be different?

And when seen as part of an integrated infrastructure, it may be well cost-effective for governments to subsidize the movement of people and even freight by rail rather than build more highways to facilitate the same traffic.

The main reason why passenger rail is problematic in the US is simply distance. The major US population centers are more spread out than the European equivalents. Over a few hundred miles, air travel starts gaining a lot of advantages over rail: no local footprint/right-of-way required along the route, faster speeds, more route flexibility, and fuel/pax-mile for air travel actually comes down with distance (up until reaching a maximum somewhere around 2000 nmi).

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Population density is much more important for trains than speed.

If you have enough passengers, rail traffic is more cost-effective than any other form of land transport. You need much less drivers and other staff than with cars and buses, and even the infrastructure investments are lower than for a highway with the same passenger capacity.

The minimal sufficient population density is rather high, however. If your cities are sparse enough that most people can commute by car, there are too few passengers on any given route, and trains don't make sense.

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Building a rail line would be like building a road. Operating rail transit is different.

I disagree on population density in the sense that it might be a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. Light rail in the US is never cost effective, for example. Busses make far more sense than trains, they are scalable, and require no new infrastructure. 

The "Railrunner" train in NM (seen on Mythbusters in an episode) cost half a billion to solve a problem that doesn't exist, then they charge so little that it doesn't pay for operations. In LA, they could have bought the poor rail riders a Prius every few years, and paid to put gas in them for the cost of the rail system.

I think self-driving cars are going to change a lot, because in the US a consistent problem is that once you get off transit (between cities), you really need a car to get to the final destination in a timely matter---even small cities have transit (usually busses), but getting across Albuquerque, for example, would probably take longer than getting to Albuquerque from Santa Fe and hour away on a highway.

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11 minutes ago, tater said:

I disagree on population density in the sense that it might be a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. Light rail in the US is never cost effective, for example. Busses make far more sense than trains, they are scalable, and require no new infrastructure. 

This is another effect of low population density. Buses are scalable downward but not upward. Main routes in dense cities often require so high passenger capacities that you cannot fit enough buses on streets and bus stops.

I am somewhat familiar with public transport in Europe. The rule of thumb is that light rail becomes more cost-effective than buses when you would need more than four buses per hour on the same route. The initial investment is higher with light rail, but it is offset by lower operating costs. Buses need more drivers because they carry less passengers than trams, and you also have to replace the vehicle several times more often.

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A bus every 15 minutes on a route that is many km long is a problem?

Maybe in cities not designed for cars. Major streets in the west are often 3 lanes in each direction. 

Albuquerque is currently spending 100 million on bus lanes on one street. Adding rail would cost vastly more. Every level crossing alone costs 10 M$. It would have to be elevated, or underground, and would cost billions. For one route down one street.

I use transit in large, walking cities in the US (NYC, Boston, San Francisco, etc), but it works because you can get off near a destination. It's far harder in Denver, Phoenix, or LA to make it work.

I get the point of Musk wanting to move traffic off the roads, and because LA requires cars, his idea of taking the car on the subway doesn't at first seem crazy. That said, he's also making self-driving cars which you need not take through the tube, you leave one at the end you get on, then get on another on the other side. Your trip software can make sure you have a car waiting when you walk out on the other side, too, so it's not like you get off the subway then call a Lyft, you call a Lyft that gets you at home, brings you to the nearest tube that gets you close to the destination quickly, then the 2nd Lyft picks you up to finish the trip (the Lyfts being autonomous).

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3 hours ago, tater said:

Rail freight here is huge, and I'm sure makes money. Those companies don't do passenger at all, however (BNSF, for example, which moves freight from Long Beach, CA eastwards, and every train stops here in NM for diesel). Amtrak (government passenger rail here) is subsidized, and the rates are still fairly high for cross country (if you get a sleeper, which is pretty much required to travel huge distances).

Very profitable, and lax in infrastructure maintenance. Great, isn't it ?

Europe ends up owing a lot to passenger traffic as well because their trains and rails were made with governmental planning and support, so they were made to serve various usage (freight, passenger, other national interests). They remain open no matter what era they're in. Exception being the UK which rails were run by truly private companies, many serves short distribution services, which ends up having those "short" lines removed later when rails were brought under a national company (where only long-distance matters most of the time). The same can be seen in the US, but due to the vastly larger size, when later a lot of short freight movement moved to the road or other means, and only long-distance freight remains profitable, a lot of the lines close down (or rarely maintained), practically the passenger transport becomes a terrible burden - hence Amtrak. It goes even worse when (jet)plane appears as long-distance passenger movement nearly dissapears on rails. Inner-city (or local) transit becomes scant as the long distance one barely exist. When people feel the need of having a local transit again, the rail infra are no longer up to the task (most of the branches left deserted or the local stations closed and/or occupies by extra sidings). I can see that probably Elon was thinking on making some ways to ensure people keep the local transit alive by encouraging people to use some non-plane or car transport, but I don't see why the same can't be said to just providing a transit in the first place to airports etc.. If he was trying just to have that. If he wants to redo the intercity rails, I'm sure a well-maintained line with traffic segregation between passenger and freight would work better under the same cost (I mean, come on, 50 mph isn't enough, most train in europe would run 100 mph or more). I can't justify his idea economically, that's it.

In the UK when people need transit again practically they only have either busses or trains. Ofc with trains running free of congestion, everyone uses them again.

Edited by YNM

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45 minutes ago, tater said:

A bus every 15 minutes on a route that is many km long is a problem?

These are two separate issues. If there are more than four buses per hour on a single route, it starts being cheaper to build light rail instead.

Many routes converge on main streets. If there are 20 routes, 80 buses/hour in a single direction is still manageable, while 100 buses/hour means trouble.

45 minutes ago, tater said:

Albuquerque is currently spending 100 million on bus lanes on one street. Adding rail would cost vastly more. Every level crossing alone costs 10 M$. It would have to be elevated, or underground, and would cost billions. For one route down one street.

That sounds more like heavy rail than light rail. In the projects I'm familiar with, light rail costs around €10-15 million/kilometre.

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9 minutes ago, Jouni said:

That sounds more like heavy rail than light rail. In the projects I'm familiar with, light rail costs around €10-15 million/kilometre.

Well, I'm not sure, but AFAIK trains in the US are much bulkier or something due to regulations.

What about trams ? Most light rails are basically trams on separate line nowadays.

Edited by YNM

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55 minutes ago, tater said:

A bus every 15 minutes on a route that is many km long is a problem?

Drivers are expensive. As are buses. You can do the math, a bus that stops everywhere-1 goes not faster than 30km/h/18mph in a city. Hell, i used to catch up with a bike. On a 50km track (buses connect the outskirts), in a medium town with 20 lines that is a large stable of buses (and drivers) :-) Newer cities (like e.g. Karlsruhe, constructed 18th century) have trams and buses to connect the hinterland (yes, that's German :-)). They could have the space for wide roads but in the late 20th century that was built back, the main roads don't enter the city any more.

55 minutes ago, tater said:

Maybe in cities not designed for cars. Major streets in the west are often 3 lanes in each direction. 

Sorry to talk old, but that is mostly valid for the towns and cities in countries with space. In a typical German town, even cities, most roads are single lane. The main veins for in and out can be 2 lanes but the trend has been to build that back and keep the cars outside. See for example pictures of Tübingen (typical medieval University town) with different kinds of buses. Main roads do not enter the town any more, they go along outside. But, as said, that is a newer trend to add quality of life to the cities.

55 minutes ago, tater said:

Albuquerque is currently spending 100 million on bus lanes on one street. Adding rail would cost vastly more. Every level crossing alone costs 10 M$. It would have to be elevated, or underground, and would cost billions. For one route down one street.

Sounds very expensive to me, but if you say so ...

55 minutes ago, tater said:

I use transit in large, walking cities in the US (NYC, Boston, San Francisco, etc), but it works because you can get off near a destination. It's far harder in Denver, Phoenix, or LA to make it work.

Because of distances i assume ? Bikes would be nice in these cities ?

55 minutes ago, tater said:

I get the point of Musk wanting to move traffic off the roads, and because LA requires cars, his idea of taking the car on the subway doesn't at first seem crazy. That said, he's also making self-driving cars which you need not take through the tube, you leave one at the end you get on, then get on another on the other side. Your trip software can make sure you have a car waiting when you walk out on the other side, too, so it's not like you get off the subway then call a Lyft, you call a Lyft that gets you at home, brings you to the nearest tube that gets you close to the destination quickly, then the 2nd Lyft picks you up to finish the trip (the Lyfts being autonomous).

To me this sounds much more expensive with much less throughput than a bus system, a classic tube or a tram could manage. I think there is a lot of "freakyness" involved. Which i can understand :-)

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3 minutes ago, YNM said:

Well, I'm not sure, but AFAIK trains in the US are much bulkier or something due to regulations.

What about trams ? Most light rails are basically trams on separate line nowadays.

Maybe we have a difference in terminology here. For me, light rail basically means large fast trams. They run on streets on their own lanes in dense areas and use separate tracks in sparsely built areas.

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Like this. Partly subway, partly together with car traffic, partly own tracks. And runs on regular train rails as well.

Or this. Not a subway.

Edited by Green Baron

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10 minutes ago, YNM said:

Well, I'm not sure, but AFAIK trains in the US are much bulkier or something due to regulations.

What about trams ? Most light rails are basically trams on separate line nowadays.

I see you two are having a terminology confusion. "Light rail" in today's Europe basically means trams running into the suburbs. Light rail systems like the US of old never really caught on here. I am only aware of one comparable network, forgot which benelux country it was in but even that withered away around the world wars.

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Light rail is like subways. Each train has how many cars? 4? So half the employees, since you still need a driver, and also a conductor. I think of trams like streetcars, which are just one car. 

Popular bus routes here have articulated busses, so one driver, 2 busses worth of people. Soon they will self drive anyway, labor issue solved.

Light rail on streets only saves time if it avoids traffic and operates as a train does. If it solves level crossings by stopping at lights, it's just as slow as a bus.

In the US I think light rail needs mostly exclusive right of way.

In the US, a train crossing traffic would need a traffic blocking level crossing---or would as soon as the first person gets killed and the lawyers descend, lol.

Edited by tater

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13 minutes ago, tater said:

Light rail is like subways. Each train has how many cars? 4? So half the employees, since you still need a driver, and also a conductor. I think of teams like streetcars, which are just one car. 

Between 2 and 6. But you have a tram every 3-5min. That's throughput ;-) No conductor, you buy a ticket and enter. If caught without, you're shot, no, it's Germany, you pay ;-) I think it is the most cost effective method to transport many people in a dense area with a lot of employee traffic etc. Single cars won't manage that.

You park outside (parking ticket is included in tram ticket), enter the tram, drive into the city. Much faster than by car and less stressful.

Quote

Popular bus routes here have articulated busses, so one driver, 2 busses worth of people. Soon they will self drive anyway, labor issue solved.

Same in Tübingen on the main lines. But they can't go everywhere, so smaller buses are still needed. Self driving is not that far yet, it may work on wide open roads, but cars, pedestrians, bikes, buses etc. are mixed, roads are narrow with a lot changing lanes, traffic lights, etc.. No automatic driving (Ottopilot :-)) in sight ...

Quote

Light rail on streets only saves time if it avoids traffic and operates as a train does. If it solves level crossings by stopping at lights, it's just as slow as a bus.

It does. It has priority switch at crossing, traffic lights, etc. It is much faster in Stuttgart than going by car, search (and pay !) a parking lot .... The tram goes underground in several levels in the center.

 

Edit: basic operations of the systems are described in the links.

Back on topic, i think, the boring thing is a nice technological play and i hope it works, but it's surely not effective throughput- and cost-wise compared to light rail.

Edited by Green Baron

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Light rail in the US ends up hugely subsidized. Operating cost per rider on the order of $1.60 in a study I saw, and revenues of $0.60.

A single round trip on metro north (trains to/from Connecticut to NYC), are on the order of $50, a monthly pass is like $350.

That works for NYC. Far harder in any western city. Some of those trains have more than 10 cars, standing room on peak.

Our ABQ-SF version is like $6 to ride round trip, and SF is an hour away. The fare is far too low, but no one would use it if it was more.

People obeying the law might work in Germany (for a while more, anyway), but in the US you'd need to force people on at the front, or have someone checking with multiple cars.

Edited by tater

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Same in G., public transportation as well as road or rail construction is mostly paid by the taxpayers.

Btw., who pays the new LA underground ? Boring company alone ? Hard to imagine ...

 

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The stuff he's playing with now is not paid for by the government, for that it would have required a real project, impact studies, and bidding. If the government decided to do it it would not start for at least a decade, lol.

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7 hours ago, tater said:

Building a rail line would be like building a road. Operating rail transit is different.

I disagree on population density in the sense that it might be a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. Light rail in the US is never cost effective, for example. Busses make far more sense than trains, they are scalable, and require no new infrastructure. 

The "Railrunner" train in NM (seen on Mythbusters in an episode) cost half a billion to solve a problem that doesn't exist, then they charge so little that it doesn't pay for operations. In LA, they could have bought the poor rail riders a Prius every few years, and paid to put gas in them for the cost of the rail system.

I think self-driving cars are going to change a lot, because in the US a consistent problem is that once you get off transit (between cities), you really need a car to get to the final destination in a timely matter---even small cities have transit (usually busses), but getting across Albuquerque, for example, would probably take longer than getting to Albuquerque from Santa Fe and hour away on a highway.

Yes, but every person riding a train instead of driving eases the congestion of the roadways. And while rail systems can also have their problems, rail tended to work very well for commuting. It is usually more consistent in terms of how long the commute takes. And instead of moving a person and a car back and forth to work, you only move the person. Unless the car is actually desired at the office, this just makes more sense.

Yes, buses can provide some of the same benefit, but crucially they tend to be caught in the same traffic jams as the cars. I have commuted by car, by bike, by bus, and by train. Given a reasonably convenient train commute, that would be my preference.

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7 hours ago, monophonic said:

I see you two are having a terminology confusion. "Light rail" in today's Europe basically means trams running into the suburbs. Light rail systems like the US of old never really caught on here. I am only aware of one comparable network, forgot which benelux country it was in but even that withered away around the world wars.

 

7 hours ago, tater said:

Light rail is like subways. Each train has how many cars? 4? So half the employees, since you still need a driver, and also a conductor. I think of trams like streetcars, which are just one car. 

Popular bus routes here have articulated busses, so one driver, 2 busses worth of people. Soon they will self drive anyway, labor issue solved.

Light rail on streets only saves time if it avoids traffic and operates as a train does. If it solves level crossings by stopping at lights, it's just as slow as a bus.

In the US I think light rail needs mostly exclusive right of way.

In the US, a train crossing traffic would need a traffic blocking level crossing---or would as soon as the first person gets killed and the lawyers descend, lol.

Well, you're talking Metros and/or Commuter Rail then there. I can give one example in the UK : Tyne and Wear metro. But even so they actually largely occupies the same right-of-way (land) as "normal" (heavy) rails have had back when they did away with lots of short spurs, so their development did takes somewhat lower value.

Also, if that's the case, Manchester happily disagree with you - most of the tracks are not on the roads.

6 hours ago, tater said:

Light rail in the US ends up hugely subsidized. Operating cost per rider on the order of $1.60 in a study I saw, and revenues of $0.60.

A single round trip on metro north (trains to/from Connecticut to NYC), are on the order of $50, a monthly pass is like $350.

That works for NYC. Far harder in any western city. Some of those trains have more than 10 cars, standing room on peak.

Our ABQ-SF version is like $6 to ride round trip, and SF is an hour away. The fare is far too low, but no one would use it if it was more.

Even so 

How many trains per day run there between ABQ-SF ? They actually run on heavy rail doesn't it ? (ie. sharing tracks with long-distance traffic, large freight trains)

1 hour ago, mikegarrison said:

Yes, but every person riding a train instead of driving eases the congestion of the roadways. And while rail systems can also have their problems, rail tended to work very well for commuting. It is usually more consistent in terms of how long the commute takes. And instead of moving a person and a car back and forth to work, you only move the person. Unless the car is actually desired at the office, this just makes more sense.

Yes, buses can provide some of the same benefit, but crucially they tend to be caught in the same traffic jams as the cars. I have commuted by car, by bike, by bus, and by train. Given a reasonably convenient train commute, that would be my preference.

Not really when your train have about the same top speed as a car down a HOV lane. Which is the problem the US have.

Edited by YNM

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I'm fine with trains, I like them. High speed is actually useful for short hops. As soon as total travel time (for the same price) exceeds aircraft, then I'm on a plane, though. I can get to SFO in 2 hours from here, even at bullet train speeds it would be an all day thing.

Heavy and light in the US refers to traffic volume NOT the capacity of the rail bed to support heavier rolling stock. All US rail, subway, light, and freight runs on the same 1435mm track.

I meant right of way vs cars, not vs other rail traffic. The Railrunner here shares the line only with Amtrak, and the Southwest Chief only comes to ABQ twice a day (once heading to Chicago, and the other heading to LA). There is a siding the RR sits in while the SW Chief passes if they are running at the same time. There is not nearly enough scheduled traffic to make the train useful, however, it's only really good for spending an entire day in either location. It's basically a 500 M$ initial cost, then many 10s of millions a year to subsidize State government workers who commute to and from the State capitol complex (has a stop) and the courthouses in the middle of ABQ (near the rail station). Would have been cheaper to buy all of them Teslas.

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On 7/21/2017 at 5:25 AM, YNM said:

[...]

Regarding geological stability : going north from LA means crossing one portion of the San Andreas fault. Even so, apparently artists and entertainers don't mind it. Also, doing tunnels on the east coast is easier I suppose ?

I've looked into this a bit, because I've seen it before, and it seems like earthquakes have not historically been very damaging to subway networks. I found this:

http://thesource.metro.net/2012/08/10/designing-a-subway-to-withstand-an-earthquake/

And this:

http://blogdowntown.com/2012/08/6959-metro-tunnels-are-one-of-the-safest-places

Both of which say that it is fairly safe. It seems that in the area around the fault, the ground shakes mostly uniformly, and wouldn't damage a tunnel. For one thing, the majority of injuries from earthquakes come from objects and loose parts of buildings falling. 

Don't quote me on this, but I think that at the fault itself, there isn't very much slip, and the energy of the earthquake comes from the fact that the fault is long and deep, so even a slip of a few inches means a lot of energy.

EDIT:
Turns out faults do slip more than I thought.

Edited by Mad Rocket Scientist

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2 hours ago, Mad Rocket Scientist said:

I've looked into this a bit, because I've seen it before, and it seems like earthquakes have not historically been very damaging to subway networks. I found this:

http://thesource.metro.net/2012/08/10/designing-a-subway-to-withstand-an-earthquake/

And this:

http://blogdowntown.com/2012/08/6959-metro-tunnels-are-one-of-the-safest-places

Both of which say that it is fairly safe. It seems that in the area around the fault, the ground shakes mostly uniformly, and wouldn't damage a tunnel. For one thing, the majority of injuries from earthquakes come from objects and loose parts of buildings falling. 

Don't quote me on this, but I think that at the fault itself, there isn't very much slip, and the energy of the earthquake comes from the fact that the fault is long and deep, so even a slip of a few inches means a lot of energy.

In places where you're close to the fault but not on it, it's probably the case. But on the fault itself, I doubt it. Almost all earthquakes that truly originates from a fault line (any type), those that ensures aftershocks, the ground does move. Although, Hollywood Fault only moves like, what, 0.6 mm each year or something, so even a 150 year earthquake may only move like 90 mm. Which, for something like Hyperloop vacuum chamber, could be "interesting".

For the record, I haven't see any tunnel in Hollywood's vicinity. LA Metro runs on elevated sections around the place.

EDIT : Scratch that - the LA Metro Red Line passes through the whole thing underground. Pretty much parallel to Musk's Hyperloop, just that his closes the I-405 while the Red Line closes the US 101. What I was referring to is the Gold Line which is actually closer to tram/light rail.

Edited by YNM

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13 hours ago, Mad Rocket Scientist said:

Don't quote me on this, but I think that at the fault itself, there isn't very much slip, and the energy of the earthquake comes from the fact that the fault is long and deep, so even a slip of a few inches means a lot of energy.

Whoops, I quoted you on that..

Evidence+of+earthquake+ground+movement+b

I'd say there's more than a few inches slip there...

(Fun Fact: The Universal Studios tour includes experiencing an earthquake in a subway station)

Edited by StrandedonEarth

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