Tuesday Open Thread

Jun 15th, 2009 | Posted by

by Rafael

Should CHSRA push back against powerful state legislators like Sen. Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) on plans for a central maintenance hub and test track in the Central Valley or, focus on making sure it can keep paying its consultants in FY 2009-2010 (i.e. live to fight another day)?

Unsurprisingly, the Merced Sun-Star takes a dim view of the Senator’s efforts to postpone construction in the Central Valley in favor of projects (e.g. grade separations) in the tail sections of the starter line. Can FRA be expected to draft the rules required for operation at 220mph without a suitable test track? Can CHSRA pre-qualify a shortlist of HSR trainset and technology vendors without one?

  1. jim
    Jun 15th, 2009 at 23:31
    #1

    Since the central valley has the most to gain or lose and they are decades tired of southern california politicians dictating things to them, I think a coalition of valley cities need to get together and put a stop to both this politician and the peninsula nimbys via a media campaign. chsr doesn't have to do anything but tell this guy – no, he won't be getting his way.

  2. jim
    Jun 15th, 2009 at 23:55
    #2

    what are they smoking in michigan? hydrogen powered maglev on the interstate instead of hsr?

  3. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 00:18
    #3

    Given that HSR trains won't realistically be running for at least a decade, I don't think the location of the maintenance hub should be a top priority right now. CHSRA has many, many other more important matters on its plate.

    A legitimate concern is whether HSR ever gets out to the Central Valley. CHSRA could easily run out of money just building the San Francisco-Gilroy and LA-Anaheim segments, especially with the already inflating budgets. It will look pretty stupid to have a CV maintenance hub built without any HSR service in the vicinity.

    Politicians know they need to bring home the bacon, and the Central Valley desperately needs some economic stimulus. This is what CV politicians are trying to do, but the SF, SJ, and Anaheim politicians are getting their fill first.

  4. Paul Herman
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 01:44
    #4

    The Central Valley is the system. No CV link, no system. The whole basis of the Bond that was passed last November was that the system would connect the Bay Area to LA. Not the travel within the bay area and within Southern California. The maintenance hub will be in the Valley because that makes the most sense, and to politicize its location is ridiculous.

  5. arcady
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 05:41
    #5

    The CV is not the system. The most crucial links are over the mountains, Gilroy-CV and LA-Bakersfield. Unfortunately, there's hardly any people or politicians there, and thus it's not in anyone's narrow regional interest to bring home this particular bacon. The right answer of course is inter-regional compromise, but how likely is that?

  6. yesonHSR
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 07:17
    #6

    This Senator has been trying to Stop/limited this system since before the election.He tried before to limit the money to just these sections and thats not statewide system.I find it hard to belive he is a Democrate..he is as bad as the Mcclintoc joker when it comes to HSR.He needs some pressure put on him, and im glad the valley papers are exposing his tricks to kill HSR.

  7. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 08:16
    #7

    San Francisco-Gilroy and LA-Anaheim are actually viable regional HSR systems on their own, even though they basically constitute an upgraded Caltrain and Metrolink. Merced-Bakersfield is not viable as its own system UNLESS it is connected to the Bay Area and LA populations centers.

    A Merced-Bakersfield segment could be integrated into the existing Amtrak network, but politically, it certainly looks like Gilroy-CV and LA-Bakersfield will be the very last segments to be built.

  8. still lurking
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 08:43
    #8

    Actually what would make the most sense is LA to Anaheim to San Diego. That way, at least a working segment might indeed get built before they run out of funds. Anaheim to SD should not go inland as planned, but stay along the I-5 corridor nearer the coast, making for an efficient run in this very heavily traveled corridor.

    However, this project is not about what is best; never has been. Its about who has the political pull.

    It is quite possible that Kopp and Diridon are losing there strangle hold on the project.

    Isn't tomorrow the day when the Feds come out with their Stimulus funding requirements?

  9. We Don’t Need No F.ing Train
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 09:29
    #9

    This train is a waste of money. We don't even have money to fix the things we have, let alone build this pipe dream.

    These should be the priorities to relieve traffic:
    1. Build more freeways or widen freeways where space is available (Central Valley and wherever else possible). People would not take your train from the CV to LA or SF, because once you consider the time of going to the station, waiting for the train, ride the train, getting from the train to the place you actually want to be, it's actually faster to drive the 2-3 hours from the CV and go straight to the place you wanna be at.
    2. In the metro areas, scrap Metrolink and Caltrain. pave the tracks and use the paved path on top of the existing tracks to run buses only. The advantage over trains is that buses are cheaper to operate and more flexible. They can exit this 'expressway' whenever and wherever the market demands.
    3. Give poor people a voucher to buy gas. With the money you'd save by not building this crazy HSR of yours there would be plenty of money left to give people free gas.
    4. Upthere in the Bay area build more bridges and a freeway right on along the shoreline on the marshes. We need wetlands like we need toothache!
    5. Shut down this blog. With plans 1-4 above it won't be needed either.

  10. Richard Mlynarik
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 09:39
    #10

    "Can FRA be expected to draft the rules required for operation at 220mph without a suitable test track?"

    Step 1. Legislate neanderthal, technically incompetent, innumerate, NIH FRA out of existence.

    Step 2. Hire a technical translator.

    Step 3. Adopt German EBO (or take your pick of proven to work railway law from some other advanced industrialized first world democracy.)

    Step 4. Done.

    As for test tracks, that's the vehicle manufacturers' issue. They're quite capable of dealing with it.

    Especially since backwards countries should under no circumstances be allowed to do any "design", but instead, like Spain in the 1990s, should simply adopt existing vehicle, track, signalling and safety systems unchanged.

    In summary, there are perfectly good "test tracks". They go by names such as "Japan", "France", "Switzerland", "Germany", "Korea", etc.

    Of course that all assumes that anybody is interested in building a functional system at acceptable cost, rather than, say, filling a trough to be swilled at by domestic consultants with long and unbroken records of budget blowouts and technical failure.

    I'm holding out for Acela Next Generation, redesigned by military contractors in the LA Basin, and assembled by skilled Californian autoworkers, and tested and accepted by fine California-based engineering conglomerate rent seekers on a test track in the Mojave desert.

    World Class!

  11. jim
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 09:58
    #11

    YOu cna't get rid of the FRA as they are responsible for among other things, safety of passengers and railroad workers. They can make expceptions however for this technology and they will, eventually, after proper review and after bringing all the parties to the table.

  12. Aaron
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 09:58
    #12

    First, off topic – if we're going to switch blogging platform, can we switch to a soapblox-style similar to Calitics, so we can start HR'ing all of this obvious trolling? A little self-regulation appears to be in order here.

    I do have to agree with Richard that we should seriously be looking for a way to adopt Japanese safety standards wholesale for HSR lines separated from freight traffic (I specify Japan because they have faced similar seismic concerns). However, it would be highly negligent (nay, reckless) to fail to extensively test any rolling stock, even if fully-constructed train sets are purchased from Japan and brought over by freighter. Look at LA Metro – they've been extensively testing the new Gold Line cars on the East LA extension even though they're using the same brand of cars on a mere extension of an already-operating line.

    So yes, for purposes of enabling the Authority to walk and chew gum at the same time, the Central Valley facility and test track should be built early on, in the event was discover some sort of problem with the construction process that seemed inconsequential on the drawing board.

    As well, having a test track may be necessary to get the FRA on the same page – let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Unfortunately it appears as though California is going to have to slow-walk FRA regulatory modernization for benefit of both itself and other states' potential HSR systems. Even well-tested technology needs to be tested again in California just to make sure there aren't as-yet-unknown problems, as it is impossible to control every single variable to make the track and setting identical to Japan. Bear in mind that sometimes very small things that seem inconsequential can cause catastrophes (see: Columbia STS-107). I've always argued that one reason that America is generally successful and modern is our attention to detail in engineering projects, and this is no reason to back off from that.

    Call me an idealist, but I'd rather see real FRA reform than simply ramming through a narrow exception for California's HSR project, and providing a test track would make that a little less infeasible.

  13. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 10:45
    #13

    With off-the-shelf and proven trainsets, you can do any testing in situ on the track you expect to have imminent service. The stuff is already proven to work elsewhere, so CHSRA only needs to check for quality-control and integration. Is there something special about California climate and soil conditions??

    It's the newly built service track that needs checking for flaws, and this is what is happening with the new Gold Line extension. If the trainsets have flaws, that will be readily apparent on any track, and the manufacturer should be responsible for delivering a fully-qualified product. When you buy a new car, you don't build a special test track to make sure all the systems work. You expect the manufacturer to have done all the testing. At a certain point, the "test track" just becomes excessive pork, satiating a political desire to build something, anything here now, regardless of whether it is wise or useful.

  14. Eric M
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 10:49
    #14

    Aaron said:

    "I've always argued that one reason that America is generally successful and modern is our attention to detail in engineering projects, and this is no reason to back off from that."

    I disagree with you on this one. The american mentality is, built it the cheapest you can. Germans are the ones who give attention to detail. We have our heads in the sand all too often and it is ruining this country. Forward thinking has all but vanished. Its a shame.

  15. Adirondacker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:03
    #15

    At a certain point, the "test track" just becomes excessive pork, satiating a political desire to build something, anything here now, regardless of whether it is wise or useful.

    The "test" track isn't going to be a separate distinct set of tracks. Once they are done with testing they'll connect it up to the rest of the system and it becomes the main line through the Central Valley.

  16. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:07
    #16

    Interesting that you bring up American and European standards of engineering. Even with the original "engineering" of 19th century railroad construction, the American mentality was build it fast, dirty, and cheap, because a lot of distance needs to be covered. The Americans came up with great railroad innovations, but the quality of building was shoddy. The Europeans, on the other hand, especially the British, built their railroads to much higher standards of quality with more durable materials.

    Even in more loose, general terms, American engineers are great innovators, but quality-control and detail have never been strong points for American engineering. Just compare the car manufacturing traditions of the US, Germany, and Japan.

  17. Spokker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:09
    #17

    Don't maintenance facilities usually go at the end of lines?

  18. Anonymous
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:17
    #18

    Spokker, yes, except that when the ends of lines are exceptionally expensive and have no open land.

  19. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:24
    #19

    I understand that the "test track" will eventually become service track as part of the system, but how long will it take to connect this track to the population centers of the Bay Area and LA?

    My concern is about prioritizing how CHSRA spends its limited resources. If CHSRA doesn't get around to getting over the mountains to access the CV until very late (if at all), how useful is this "test track" and the maintenance center?

    Then again, hooking up the "test track" with existing Amtrak service to the Bay Area might work to get operations off the ground. This would likely involve the Altamont Pass route that Amtrak is considering starting service on. Regardless of the "official" route selection by CHSRA, I believe this is the Altamont route's ace in the hole, as I don't think CHSRA will have the money to get over the Pacheco Pass. CHSRA will be forced to use Altamont out of expediency.

    This still doesn't address the LA-Bakersfield missing link, which seems very low on the priority list yet will be very expensive.

  20. Adirondacker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 12:01
    #20

    My concern is about prioritizing how CHSRA spends its limited resources. If CHSRA doesn't get around to getting over the mountains to access the CV until very late (if at all), how useful is this "test track" and the maintenance center?

    Do you want to ride on a train that hasn't been tested? How about on one that hasn't been maintained?

    The trains have to be tested before they go into revenue service. Once they are in revenue service they have to be maintained.

    Even if they look at the brochures from France Germany and Japan and pick a total system, that has to be tested. They have to verify who ever has been making the ties has been making them correctly. That the crews welding rail have been doing it right. That all the minor changes in the off the shelf technology they bought actually works. The test track and the maintenance facilities have to be in place long before the first revenue train runs.

  21. mike
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 13:12
    #21

    Do you want to ride on a train that hasn't been tested?

    Nobody disputes that vehicles should be tested before entering service. The question is why there needs to be a special "test track" in the United States to develop "FRA standards" for these vehicles. Why would we not simply adopt the proven standards used in other advanced industrialized nations?

    The Boeing 787 will conduct most of its test flights in Seattle and the Airbus A350 XWB will conduct most of its test flights in Toulouse (special tests relating to high altitude/hot weather takeoff performance will be conducted in other locations). When the A350 XWB enters service in the US, it will not go through another raft of "testing" in Los Angeles to develop "FAA standards" for the A350. It will not do test flights in London for UK service, test flights in Tokyo for Japanese service, test flights in Toronto for Canadian service, test flights in Dubai for UAE service, test flights in Beijing for Chinese service, etc. The laws of physics work the same in all of these countries. There is no need for additional test flights outside of France.

    Ditto for the AGV, or the ICE, or whatever they choose.

  22. Aaron
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 13:35
    #22

    @Mike: There are international standards and treaties on airworthiness, and although I'm no expert, I believe the FAA is accordingly limited by said treaties. Next time you fly, read the back of an airline ticket about the various treaties which limit airlines' liabilities and the like. It's not a good example.

  23. BruceMcF
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 13:37
    #23

    Fred Martin said…
    "San Francisco-Gilroy and LA-Anaheim are actually viable regional HSR systems on their own, even though they basically constitute an upgraded Caltrain and Metrolink."

    Quite obviously neither are long enough to justify Express HSR systems in their own right … anyone who suggests they are is either playing semantic games with what tier of HSR they are talking about, or is writing without worrying about the truth of the matter.

    A substantial project benefit of the "Both Ends Plus CV" lines is that if either big tunneling project turns out more expensive than initially thought, which is always a risk with tunneling, then completing the CV through to the less problematic of the two tunneling projects gives a service that can begin operating and allow the issue of revenue bonds.

  24. lurking
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 13:57
    #24

    Commenting on the NY Times article by Gertner last Sunday, James Knustler posts an article titled:


    The High-Speed Rail Cart Before the Horse

    http://whiskeyandgunpowder.com/the-high-speed-rail-cart-before-the-horse/

    This viewpoint probably not very popular with HSR zealots, but there are plenty of passenger rail supporters would agree with much of what is said there.

  25. Spokker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 14:18
    #25

    He says that high speed rail would have been great in the late 90s but now it's too late.

    The incrementalist approach is not one I disagree with, but Caltrans and Amtrak aren't really doing much to improve the north/south rail links Kunstler calls "Kazakhstan without the basic competence." 100 MPH trains up the coast or central valley? That would be great. But it doesn't preclude the need for high speed rail to do the heavy lifting. They are two different tools for two different situations. And they can also complement each other.

    By the way good of him to shill for his book in the article. Always be selling.

  26. Spokker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 14:22
    #26

    My mistake, he said late 20th century.

  27. Bianca
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 14:24
    #27

    My god what a gloomy piece that Kunstler thing is. It's just too late, is it? If it's too late to build high speed rail, then it's too late to do anything? Sheesh. Why don't we all just sit here in the dark while owls take up roosting in our attics.

    Yes, HSR is expensive. The longer we put it off, the more expensive it gets. Yes, the California state budget is a mess. But also, HSR is many tens of billions dollars cheaper than doing the necessary highway and airport expansions that California will need if we don't build HSR. The people here are going to keep having babies, and more people keep moving here. For some reason we can't build HSR because it's too expensive, so we should resign ourselves to spending tens of billions of dollars more (that we don't have) on airports and freeways? Or wait, Kunstler would have us riding bicycles everywhere because in his view the oil will run out in 2027 or so and we'll be left without any alternatives. Whatever.

    Kunstler has made a career out of gloom and doom predictions, and only people who agree with him produce ideas consistent with reality? Please.

  28. DBX
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 14:24
    #28

    They need a plan that will benefit everybody. And I'd argue that this means starting off by moving quickly to build the San Jose-Valley and Bakersfield to LA segments ASAP. This has the effect of getting through the mountain passes and also provides trackage that would be genuinely useful to existing services as a stopgap before the entire line is finished. Even without extra testing, these segments will be good to go at 150mph off the bat with new trains or 110-120mph with existing ones, and then it can gradually transition to all high-speed rail.

    Bottom line, it's vital to deliver something concrete and quickly.

  29. Anonymous
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 14:36
    #29

    Bianca writes:


    But also, HSR is many tens of billions dollars cheaper than doing the necessary highway and airport expansions that California will need if we don't build HSR.

    This statement that keeps appearing is one of the big lies that Kopp and Diridon keep trying to propagate.

    The number don't justify any such conclusion. Highway construction and possible airport expansion will still be needed in the future, unless we get population explosion in California under control.

  30. Adirondacker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 15:15
    #30

    The question is why there needs to be a special "test track" in the United States to develop "FRA standards" for these vehicles

    Because after it's been through the Panama Canal on a slow boat from Bremen you want to make sure it still works? Or after it's been hauled cross country on 15MPH freight tracks you want to make sure everything still works?

    So that the mechanics who fix it have some experience? So they can train drivers? So conductors can become familiar with it? They can't just dump the train on the tracks and hand a schedule to an Amtrak crew. . .

  31. Anonymous
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 15:30
    #31

    High Speed Rail: An Unprofitable Trainwreck

    http://www.freedompolitics.com/articles/claims-1196-rail-speed.html

    One of the most frequently mouthed claims about high speed rail is that it is enormously profitable. Indeed, with the claims made by proponents, you might wonder why all the world’s capital had not “beaten a path” to the station. Some of the wildest profits claims have been made by board members and staff of the California High Speed Rail Authority, which plans to proceed with building a $50 billion system from San Diego and Los Angeles to San Francisco and Sacramento. Sadly for rail advocates, these claims are largely bogus.

    Recently, Iñaki Barrón de Angoiti, director of high-speed rail at the International Union of Railways in Paris, said that high speed rail is not a profitable business. The New York Times went on to report that he referred to the short Paris-Lyon and Tokyo-Osaka routes as the only ones in the world that have “broken even.”
    In fact, rail promoters have never produced financial statements prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards to show that any high speed rail systems are profitable. Invariably, services are provided by government owned railways or other large companies that do not report fully allocated costs and revenues for high speed rail. For instance, in some countries, government payments that would be called subsidies in the United States are called commercial revenues. In others, high speed rail operators operate over tracks owned by government infrastructure companies, which are also subsidized in some cases. And often previous write-offs of capital investments are not a part of the profit equation.

    In short, there is a lack of transparency in high speed rail accounting that makes it impossible to demonstrate that profits are being earned. The refreshing statement by Mr. Barrón de Angoiti goes a long way toward clarifying the issue.

    There is, however, one high speed rail system in the world where there is sufficient transparency to make a judgment about profits. The Taiwan high speed rail system, which operates down the west coast of the island from Taipei to Kaiohsiung was built and is being operated as a private, non-subsidized business entity. Despite frequent railfanesque reports, it is far from profitable.

    Earlier this month, Taiwan Today has characterized the Taiwan high speed rail system as “loss plagued” and noted that it was in the process of seeking to restructure its debt. A principal problem was that less than 90,000 of the 275,000 daily riders projected to use the system had bothered to buy tickets. No, the stations aren't full of turnstile-hopping commuters. The Taiwanese were either staying at home or traveling another way.

    Projecting more passengers than show up is not unusual in high speed rail. For example, the Eurostar service from Paris to London attracts less than one-half of the ridership that was forecast for five years ago and has required a government financial bailout. The new high speed rail system in Korea is carrying little more than one-half the passengers that were projected.

  32. Anonymous
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 15:31
    #32

    Continued…

    All of this is ominous news to California, where daily ridership projections of Taiwan levels are often cited, despite lower population adjacent to the lines, a longer corridor and much higher automobile ownership.

    Unlike the Taiwan project, the California high speed rail system will not have to cover all of its capital costs. State taxpayers have already committed $9 billion in bond funding. The Authority hopes to obtain a large share of the $8 billion soon to be divided between a number of high speed rail corridors in the nation.

    However, even if California received one-half of the national funding, it would cover little more than the cost escalation that has occurred since the last formal estimates in 2006. A quarter of the funding would pay for less than two years in cost escalation. The Authority hopes that the private sector will be a significant investor in the venture. However, that may not be “in the cards.” The Authority’s financial advisor, Lehman Brothers (yes, Lehman Brothers) noted serious barriers to private investment in a March 2008 report. The collapse of private capital markets makes that only worse.

    A second oft-repeated justification for the high speed rail system is that it can be a significant contributor to the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. That is not borne out by either the official documentation of the Authority or the California Air Resources Board. Based upon this information and Authority projections, Joe Vranich and I estimated that the cost of building and operating the high speed rail system would be a minimum of approximately $2,000 per GHG ton. We also suggested that more defensible projections would put the cost at more like $10,000 per ton. These figures are rather more than the $15 per ton that the carbon market from which Governor Schwarzennegger and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi pay for their carbon offsets.

    Meanwhile, California, the government equivalent of the HMS Titanic, lumbers on toward construction, apparently intent on winning the coveted Captain Smith Award. Despite every piece of evidence pointing toward an impending disaster, rail advocates refuse to the see the financial disaster looming. This could be the first time a train hits an iceberg.

    ~

    Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris. He was born in Los Angeles and was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission by Mayor Tom Bradley. He is the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.”

  33. NONIMBYS
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 15:50
    #33

    ANNO enough of the stupid Wendell
    Cox BS and the rest of the crap you
    post..Nobody here cares about that dribble execept the Naysayers and you trolls.."feedom" only in the right wing "mind"

  34. mike
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 16:02
    #34

    Next time you fly, read the back of an airline ticket about the various treaties which limit airlines' liabilities and the like.

    Yes, it's called the Warsaw Convention, and it regulates liability amounts for passengers and baggage. I don't see how it's even remotely related to my post or the topic at hand, however.

    Because after it's been through the Panama Canal on a slow boat from Bremen you want to make sure it still works.

    Of course you're going to test each trainset before you put it into revenue service. But that's going to take, what, a few weeks, maybe at most a couple months? We're talking here about building a test track many years before the completion of the system. Are you really suggesting that we ship a bunch of AGVs out here in 2015 and test them seven days a week at 220 mph for four or five years until we put them into service? I don't understand how that makes any sense at all.

  35. mike
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 16:04
    #35

    @Anonymous Posting entire articles is poor etiquette and is widely considered as comment spam. The appropriate thing to do is to post just the link and whatever comments pertaining to that link that you might want to add.

  36. BruceMcF
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 16:26
    #36

    The only good thing about the mindless copy and paste is that it includes the blurb at the end, where Cox paints himself quite clearly as pro-sprawl.

  37. swing hanger
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 16:37
    #37

    I wish people (including some HSR proponents) would quit placing value on some project based on the potential that it can make a profit. HSR, or any infrastructure intensive transportation mode (highways and airports included) are a public service, for the good of society over the long term. I swear, many Americans are so caught up in the mantra of free market capitalism and instant profits, they would rather enrich insurance and big pharma than keep their own health (to use an example from another field).
    As for the Taiwan HSR system, yes, it's having difficulties, but there happens to be a worldwide recession now, and many of the stations on this line have underdeveloped links to city centers. HSR lines are strategic investments that will not generate immediate "profits" (in the money sense). You have to look at things from a long term perspective- difficult in this "what have you done for me lately" society we live in.

  38. K.T.
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 17:47
    #38

    I thought the test tracks were for:

    1) Test the train sets so that it will actually achieve expected specs in the actual environment (especially in Central Valley, where it is running on full speed, 220mph)
    2) Give experience to the train operators, maintenance crew, and operators in the Centralized Traffic Control Facility prior to Day 1 of business
    3) Quality Assurance/Quality Control of the track, to make sure there is no serious flaw in the construction.
    4) If necessary, they can also test the soundwalls and other noise/vibration dissipating devices to make sure they will function

    BTW, I have never heard of Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens, or Kawasaki owning the actual test track long enough to test trains at 200mph. I have seen TGV/ICE/Shikansen train sets tested in the laboratory with all sorts of equipments, but not on the company-owned test track. From my knowledge, the final QA/QC for High-Speed Rail Train Sets and other components seems always took place in the actual train track which would be used for business operation.

    @Mike
    According to the timeline of Taiwan High-Speed Rail, 1st day of business was approximately 2 years after the 1st day of test-run. Also, 1st day of trial for N-700 series was March 2005, which became operating in business at August 2007. I would assume it would take at least 1 years to complete the final QA/QC of the high-speed rail system, for equipment, operation, and maintenance to be ready to take passengers.

  39. BruceMcF
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 18:11
    #39

    Anonymous said…
    "Bianca writes:
    "But also, HSR is many tens of billions dollars cheaper than doing the necessary highway and airport expansions that California will need if we don't build HSR."

    The number don't justify any such conclusion. Highway construction and possible airport expansion will still be needed in the future, unless we get population explosion in California under control."

    This is, I believe, a quite sensible decision to post without a pseudonym, since it is such a blatant and transparent red herring. "The cost of the freeway and airport expansion that we will need if we don't invest in HSR" means precisely that … the difference in the amount required for those with or without the HSR system.

    Pretending that it is a claim of zero spending for road and airport if HSR goes ahead is so absurd that it would mark any pseudonym as being someone either falling for idiocy or willing to repeat idiocy even though they know it is idiotic.

    Aha! Post as Anon. Then the idiocy can be repeated, in hopes someone will fall for it, and even better spread it, yet without the downside of letting anyone know who was spreading such a clearly foolish misreading.

  40. Spokker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 18:22
    #40

    If HSR doesn't perform how they say it will perform, then you would need more highway and airport construction.

    But if HSR gets the job done, then you wouldn't need as much airport and highway construction.

    It depends on whether you believe HSR will do well or not.

  41. Fred Martin
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 18:26
    #41

    K.T.'s points:

    1) Since CHSRA will be using proven train technology, we should know their capabilities well in advance. Send some engineers to inspect them in operation in other countries. (No, Diridon, that doesn't mean you get a junket trip, since you have no formal expertise.)
    2) For training up the first line of operators, flying them to Japan or Germany for training would be cheaper than building a test track. Future operators can learn from previously trained operators during actual operation.
    3) Quality assurance testing for flaws in the track is going to have to happen wherever track is built. The test track doesn't help in this regard.
    4) Soundwall testing can be performed in a laboratory setting — it's not a new engineering problem — or taking a trip to real-life examples should be sufficient. Even computer modeling provides some idea of soundproofing.

    I can see two arguments for actually having a test track:
    1) As a PR device to show trains going at 220mph in California and
    2) If the test track can be built quickly and relatively cheaply, so the overall budget is not drained for a demonstration.

    One reason I have always favored the I-5 route is because it is easy to build with no NIMBY speed restrictions. Getting a 220mph train demonstration established along I-5 wouldn't be difficult and relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, the "official" CV route is held up by Union Pacific and will be going through urban areas that do have NIMBYs. The engineering will also be more expensive with more grade separations, so getting this test track done quickly and cheaply is questionable.

  42. Anonymous
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 19:43
    #42

    The I-5 route is preferable but the fix is already in. California is as corrupt as any 3rd world country when it comes to policy decisions based on payola. About the only exigency that could change the Palmdale route would be the uncovering of some substantial new faults in the Tehachapis.

    But the test track idea introduces BART boondoggle perils. Give engineers too much time and money and you'll end up with Indian broad gauge.

  43. Spokker
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 19:54
    #43

    Even Richard "Whose Payroll Are You On?" Milknark believes that the diversion to Palmdale is sound and the I-5 route inferior. So there.

  44. mike
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 21:39
    #44

    Even Richard "Whose Payroll Are You On?" Milknark believes that the diversion to Palmdale is sound and the I-5 route inferior.

    There's also something to be said for the fact that the Southern Pacific Railroad chose to build via Tehachapi and Cajon Pass rather than going via the Grapevine. Yes, HSR can scale grades of 3.5% vs. the 2.2% ruling grade on the SP (UP) Tehachapi line, but that still doesn't mean that you want to choose the most challenging pass (*cough* Pacheco *cough*).

  45. YESON1Aketimnes
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 22:39
    #45

    HEy Spoker Dog…when I ever fuck with the PA Whitebread/jerwish rye bread cuts they alwayscall me YOU

  46. jim
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 22:54
    #46

    Why on earth would you build a train on 1-5 that would miss an an entire region of the state? The whole point of hsr is to bring regions closer together not pass them up. Building a fast train from sf to La isn't even that important. What is important for the future of california's popualtion and economy is to have the states largest, fastest growing and under served regions connected together for mobility's sake. Californians would never have approved a PROP 1A that was for and express train from LA to the BAY for business people. You would have lost the kern county vote, the fresno county vote merced county and san joaquin county right off the bat. Yes 1-5 is faster but so what if you are leaving a third of the states population and one of the states most important regions out of the deal?

  47. jim
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 22:59
    #47

    i can get from sf to la in an hour and I can get their without a car. I can not get from sf or la to fresno in an hour with or without a car. In fact, the valley population has been shortchanged for the last 50 years on all of its transportation infrastructure. I think its time they have a quick way to get up and down the valley. Valley folks have been treated like red headed step children by the state for long enough and now ( due to transplants from the bay and la) they are gaining the political clout to get their due)

  48. highspeeddogs
    Jun 16th, 2009 at 23:14
    #48

    HEY JIM..DO YOU GO TO THE EAGLE?

  49. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:03
    #49

    about once or twice a year why?

  50. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:12
    #50

    Was this interview with the FRA guy- Joe Szabo discussed here yet – it was pod cast and it came over the teletype this week in rail news… about america will not duplicate what they have in europe but focus on upgrades onlyand that we have an unsurpassed freight network that has to be part of the plan.

    i have it on paper but no link.
    i guess there s a podcast of the interview on something called "let's talk trains"

  51. LOSTONHST
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:15
    #51

    HIGH SPEED TRAINS ARE SWEET…SO ARE YOU..WOOF WOOF

  52. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:20
    #52

    ha. do you know me? Or do you have me confused with some one else? (None of my freinds would call me sweet thats for sure.)

  53. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:25
    #53

    "improvements will happen in a fashion similar to how the interstate system was built with certain corridors built up in the first phase and then supporting segments built out concentrically. "

    hmm- well isn't that usually how things are done?

  54. Robert Cruickshank
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:36
    #54

    Alan Lowenthal is doing this to KILL the HSR project and ensure all it becomes is a glorified commuter rail project in the Bay Area and SoCal.

    He has no interest in upholding the will of the voters, who approved a STATEWIDE system that would link SF to LA, not have a huge hole in the middle.

    Fuck you, Alan Lowenthal.

  55. Adirondacker
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:37
    #55

    For training up the first line of operators, flying them to Japan or Germany for training would be cheaper than building a test track.

    They aren't getting driver's licenses valid anywhere. Train crews are intensively trained on specific sections of track. Bits and pieces at a time. I have no idea how long it takes a conductor or engineer to qualify for a section. It's doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen unless they have spent long periods of time actually on that specific section of track.

  56. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 00:40
    #56

    no wonder the curves in the tbt are the way they are – they have to squeeze them into this blank spot off 2nd and natoma They can't come in from 4th in a straight line too much stuff in the way. ARe these 3 buildings coming out?

  57. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 01:26
    #57

    wow even the french have to draw the linesometime

  58. looking on
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 07:43
    #58

    Robert Cruickshank writes:


    Alan Lowenthal is doing this to KILL the HSR project and ensure all it becomes is a glorified commuter rail project in the Bay Area and SoCal.

    He has no interest in upholding the will of the voters, who approved a STATEWIDE system that would link SF to LA, not have a huge hole in the middle.

    Fuck you, Alan Lowenthal.

    Wow!!! fellow Democracts yelling at each other — your really going to help your case Robert with such posts… just sent off to Lowenthal's office right now.

    A real food fight among Democracts — wonderful — that will be sure to kill off this project.

    Stimulus guidelines released in 68 page document.

    http://www.fra.dot.gov/Downloads/RRDev/HSIPR_Guidance_6-16-09-WEB.pdf

  59. Skeptical
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 08:36
    #59

    I read a comment above from Anonym. making claims about the unprofitability of HSTs around the world. That is partly true, since often the capital costs of the tracks construction and maintenance are not kept in the financials of the train operators, but rather of the separate companies (also state owned) that own and operate the fixed capital (tracks and stations). What many detractors however fail to recognize however, is that, to my knowledge, the same problem exists for freeways and highways. I'm not aware that Caltrans derives a profit from those. Said this I tend also to be very cautious to get too excited with projects like this, because they are indeed very expensive and one should be judicious with taxpayers' money. My skepticism is more with the type of choices that have been made with this SPECIFIC project, rather than with the principle of HST itself. I'm not yet sure if the route has a sufficient population and volume of passengers to make this investment worthwhile. In addition there are other questions one should ask. For example is the Palmdale detour really warranted? 50 extra miles are likely to add at least 30-40 minutes to a trip to LA. And are so many stations (which also cost money to build and operate) in smaller towns really necessary from the start? In the end the HST will need to be competitive to be successful, and to be competitive you have to be either cheaper or faster (or both) than all other options. That's the only way you'll achieve the volume of passengers to justify the investiment. The way I see things I'm not sure the HST in its current plan can achieve those objectives.

  60. Anonymous
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 09:12
    #60

    It's too late – the influence peddlers have already commandeered the hsr. Thus the detours and extra stops. You might as well add on more. The hsr has become one gigantic Muni Central Subway. It will function somewhat but will greatly disappoint.

    The hsr honchos appear to me to be so obdurate that even if they discovered seismic problems with their Tehachapis tunnels they would buld them anyway.

    I suspect their geological studies were a priori biased toward the Tehachapis route. I would like to see one done that openly favored the Grapevine, if only to compare claims and contentions.

  61. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:10
    #61

    I don't know why it's so hard to understand the concept of building a system that is designed to serve the 7 or 8 largest cities, including the fastest growing and future growth regions as well as the fact that there is already a base of ridership in those areas which need to be upgraded. The route map is exactly as it should be and the plan would not have ever passed a vote with out including those regions. The travel times involved for express north south trains is more than adequate, and if you left out a third of the states population by bypassing it then there wouldn't be any project. Is that really so hard to grasp? The system as designed is the most useful to the most people.

  62. Spokker
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:26
    #62

    You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

  63. Alon Levy
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:35
    #63

    Skeptical, your intuition about highways is right – in Texas, gas taxes recover between one sixth and one half the total capital cost of a highway, depending on how heavily used it is.

    HSR is a bit different, because the Tokyo-Osaka, Paris-Lyon, and Osaka-Fukuoka (which the article fails to mention) lines have all paid off their construction costs. Most other lines are paying them off slowly with operating profits. The lines that are unable to recoup their construction costs are marginal lines like the Shanghai maglev train, or the small town-to-small town AVE lines Spain is building. CAHSR will probably pay off the construction bonds relatively early, because it connects very large cities with a large travel market between them. The ridership projections, which I see no reason to doubt, have the LA-SF line tying Osaka-Fukuoka for second highest ridership among all HSR lines in the world, trailing only Tokyo-Osaka. (Though there are other lines, such as Boston-NY-DC, that would get even higher ridership if constructed to HSR specs).

  64. Anonymous
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:36
    #64

    It's quite possible that the Grapevine I-5 line might be built anyway in relatively short order. It would be foresight to design those Tehachapis bores large enough to accommodate freight.

  65. Adirondacker
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 11:06
    #65

    Though there are other lines, such as Boston-NY-DC, that would get even higher ridership if constructed to HSR specs

    …but would they ever pay off the tunnel from New Haven to Wilmington?

    There's never going to be 200 MPH service on long stretches of the NEC, there's too much suburb in the way. There's lots of things they can do to increase speeds. Get DC to NY down to two hours and the only people flying between the two will be doing it to change planes at either end. They'd have to bypass all the twisty bits in Conn. to get Boston to NY down to that time.

  66. Alon Levy
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 11:19
    #66

    From New York to Wilmington the track is nearly straight anyway. From Wilmington to Washington they need some curve easements, but long sections of existing tracks are still usable. You're right that New York to Boston is a bigger problem, but there's no need for a tunnel – from New Rochelle to New Haven, tracks can run roughly in the I-95 ROW with some segments elevated over US 1. From New Haven to the Rhode Island state line there's enough open space to bypass the worst curves, and east of the state line the track is straight again.

  67. flowmotion
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 11:20
    #67

    While there's certainly technical justifications for a "test track", it still seems to be motivated by political and process reasons. First of all they need to see if UP or BNSF will really play ball with them, and what the actual costs and constraints are. If this doesn't work out, it's back to the drawing board to find a ROW.

    Second, they need broad political buy-in to get a second round of funding. With
    disconnected track segments around the state it will be much easier to argue we need to 'fill the gaps' rather than just having high-speed commuter service in SF and LA.

    On the other hand, if they can't get something actually useful up and running with the first round of funding, the entire project might be at risk. An expensive "railroad to nowhere" in the central valley might be perceived as a boondoggle if the SF & LA segments can't be built as a result.

  68. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 11:30
    #68

    @flowmotion – you are right. I think that it makes sense to be getting the urban areas ready along with planned improvements to those corridors existing services – caltrain- metrolink-amtrak- and to get construction going because the cost of construction in the urban areas goes up with every passing day. Building the central valley stretch concurrently or immediately thereafter is both a political necessity and a much easy faster project. This will put in place relatively quickly, an example of the very high speed demonstration that will show the success of the system. Then the need to complete the most expensive and difficult mountain crossings will then be glaringly evident. Remember the I-5 was up and running in parts of the state even though there were large gaps in its route.

  69. BruceMcF
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 12:55
    #69

    jim said…
    "I don't know why it's so hard to understand the concept of building a system that is designed to serve the 7 or 8 largest cities, including the fastest growing and future growth regions as well as the fact that there is already a base of ridership in those areas which need to be upgraded. The route map is exactly as it should be and the plan would not have ever passed a vote with out including those regions. The travel times involved for express north south trains is more than adequate, and if you left out a third of the states population by bypassing it then there wouldn't be any project. Is that really so hard to grasp? The system as designed is the most useful to the most people."

    Its quite easy to understand. The network economy of having an Express from the Bay to the LA Basin combined with services from the CV into each is straightforward.

    Of course, the fact that its easy to understand only helps people who are interested in understanding. People trying to undermine the project by spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt don't require a consistent understanding … if they get one person opposed to it because the quite straightforward and easy to understand parts of the alignments are "evidence that the fix is in", someone else opposed to it because its supposed to be anti-sprawl and they like sprawl, and someone else opposed to it because its supposed to be pro-sprawl and they don't like sprawl, that's all good in terms of fighting the project.

  70. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 12:57
    #70

    oohhh, so THAT's what's going on. who would have thunk. not very nice, deniers. not very nice. ( no very bright either huh)

  71. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 12:59
    #71

    if one basis their anti hsr arguments on disinformation that any person off the street can see though then one isn't going to succeed with ones argument.

  72. Anonymous
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 13:51
    #72

    @Alon Levy

    Your comment here that CHSRA would pay off construction bonds is entirely bogus. The Authority has never made any such claim. I don't know where you got that idea.

    The Authority claims only that extensions to Sacramento and San Diego would be paid for with profits from an operating system. This will never happen either, and as many articles have pointed out only 1 or 2 systems in the world of HSR operate at a profit. State run systems funnel money around; you never get the true picture.

    Look, you can argue that even if the system operates at a loss, there is nothing wrong with that. BART recovers on about 40-50% of its operating cost from fares. Most people feel BART is a success because of the service it provides. Judge Kopp openly talks about a transit being successful even if only operating costs are recovered at about the 50% rate.

  73. Anonymous
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 13:56
    #73

    @Flowmotion

    A second round of funding!!!!

    Surely you must be kidding. The state is bankrupt and your talking about a second round of funding.

    Right now they can't float any long term bonds.

  74. Alon Levy
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 16:06
    #74

    Anon, all HSR systems in the world make operating profits, often very large ones; the losses come from depreciation of capital costs over many decades. Comparisons to BART are misleading. In France, too, the local and regional rail systems recover half of their costs at the farebox, but at the same time the TGV is extremely profitable. California, with its high-demand future HSR corridor, is likely to be the same.

  75. flowmotion
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 21:20
    #75

    @Anon 2:56 PM –

    This project was estimated to be $40B in 2001 dollars and they only have $10B in 2010 dollars. There will be a second, third, fourth round of funding. And yes, due to the state's endless budget woes, this will be a problem.

    That's why I think it's critical that they get something up and running with the initial money they have. Because funding for the complete system will not come as quickly as many here would like to see.

    Building a "test track" is a nice idea, but not if we sit around 4-8 years waiting for the 'right time' for another bond measure while the rest of it rusts.

  76. Anonymous
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 21:38
    #76

    Since Palmdale is the obvious focal point of the whole hsr as presently conceived, build your test track there.

  77. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 22:31
    #77

    anon-How is Palmdale the focus of the entire system? Who told yo that?

  78. jim
    Jun 17th, 2009 at 23:29
    #78

    they even go fast through snow

  79. Alon Levy
    Jun 18th, 2009 at 05:59
    #79

    Flowmotion, the $40 billion was for the whole project, not the first phase…

  80. Adirondacker
    Jun 18th, 2009 at 23:18
    #80

    there's no need for a tunnel – from New Rochelle to New Haven, tracks can run roughly in the I-95 ROW with some segments elevated over US 1.

    There's a better chance of Heisenberg Compensators being perfected making transporter technology safe before an El could be built in Fairfield County.

    Running roughly in the I-95 ROW means you are outside the ROW in the world's richest suburbs. The ladies of the Junior League have been organizing against highways for nearly 100 years. They would use those skills to block an El over Ye Olde Boston Post Roade.

    Besides fighting roads they've been fighting grade separation tooth and nail since… probably since they gave up the fight to stop NYNH&H's electrification project.

    Boston Post Road aka US 1 is usually the town's Main Street, has been since the Europeans arrived. It's fairly lousy with historic buildings and parts of it are historic districts. By the 20s there was talk of widening it to 3 lanes in each direction. They didn't do that, they aren't going to build El over any of it.

    The New England Thruway and the Connecticut Turnpike go through rich suburb. They were back in the 50s when they built the road. Wide medians would have cost too much. The median is a Jersey Barrier. Much of it is elevated. Just like there's lot of bridges on the railroad, there's lots of bridges on the road too. To have a railroad over it would mean tearing lots of it down. Road that frequently carries 150% of it's capacity. Parts of it carries 180%.

    In many places the railroad ROW is straighter.

    It's not going to be easy to get permission to do it. It wouldn't be cheap. It wouldn't be done quickly. . it would be faster and cheaper to build a tunnel. . .

    They've been fiddling with this for 175 years. Since it wasn't possible to build railroads across the fjords of coastal Connecticut or across the insurmountable mountains of western Mass. and Conn. they built the Long Island Rail Road to get people from Boston to New York. Ferries at either end of the Island. They then built the route via Springfield and Hartford. In the 1870s they tried to build an air-line from New Haven to Boston. It went bankrupt. In 1889 they finished the last bridge along the route more or less used today… There was a major grade crossing elimination in New Haven in 1893…..

    Between New Haven and New London abandoning the line to SLE and occasional regionals would probably do a lot more to speed up Boston to NY speeds. The Turnpike ROW is reasonably straight. there's actually a median, a narrow one but there aren't lots of overpasses or elevated sections. . .

    Replacing the antique catenary between New Haven and Pelham would not only speed up Amtrak but Metro North too…

  81. BruceMcF
    Jun 19th, 2009 at 09:58
    #81

    flowmotion said…
    "This project was estimated to be $40B in 2001 dollars and they only have $10B in 2010 dollars. There will be a second, third, fourth round of funding. And yes, due to the state's endless budget woes, this will be a problem."

    On the dollars, the $46b budget widely cited last year was current dollars, not 2001 dollars.

    And of course there is no need for a second, third, or fourth round of state funding. They are going to get federal funding, and at a generous 80:20 match … that's the main part of spreading the present HSR money around, and get usefol amounts out to services that will be running by 2012 … is to increase the national footprint of systems hoping to be in line for HSR funding, ensuring that HSR funding will be ongoing and growing.

    And even if there is a budget blow-out, Stage 1 can always be opened in two phases, which would permit the issue of revenue bonds.

    So this idea of three or more additional issues of state bonding is just the spreading of Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. Whatever your source for this storyline was, put them on the list of unreliable sources.

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