A Grand Bargain With UPRR?

Aug 28th, 2009 | Posted by

by Rafael

the recent Initial Ruling on Atherton v. CHSRA underscored yet again that lines on a map are not at all the same thing as deeds to rights of way. The judge essentially signaled that the level of risk of eminent domain takings needs to be quantified at the program level, i.e. factor into the choice of preferred route. In this particular case, the biggest red flag related to the UPRR Coast Corridor ROW between Santa Clara and Gilroy, especially the section south of way point “Lick”. It lies roughly 3 miles south of San Jose Diridon, close to the intersection of Almaden Expressway and hwy 87.

However, that isn’t the only stretch of the planned network in which CHSRA will have to contend with UPRR – far from it, in fact. As we discussed on this blog back in March, 50% of the entire HSR network as planned today relies on acquiring part of a UPRR right of way or else land very close to it. Where possible, the expensive grade separations required for HSR should include adjacent legacy tracks to maximize bang per taxpayer buck.


View UPRR sections of CA HSR route in a larger map

In the discussion thread on the Initial Ruling On Atherton v. CHSRA, regular commenter Tony D. in San Jose(?) Gilroy claimed that “Freight service in this corridor and traffic on Monterey Hwy is nil.” While that’s no doubt an overstatement, it does highlight the fact that the coast corridor isn’t actually all that busy north of San Luis Obispo. Its primary value is as as a backup freight route in case UPRR’s core route via Cajon Pass and the Tehachapis were to become unavailable for trains heading up the west coast or across to Salt Lake City, e.g. after an earthquake. Since UPRR is a for-profit enterprise, Tony surmised “that [it] will either operate or co-operate [with] high-speed rail in California. They’re not blind to the profits HSR systems are making overseas […]. I don’t think this would be a bad arrangement.”

To which another regular, SF native and Amtrak employee Jim, replied: “Well they can’t just operate it, they have to bid on it first and prove that they can provide the service infrastructure (staff, ticketing systems, the list goes on per the requirements an operator must offer) and UP doesn’t have any such thing or people to do the job. [CHSRA] wants someone who can bring experience, personnel and the other infrastructure needed for passenger travel. That means Amtrak, an airline or a foreign railway.”

Now, I don’t work for UPRR nor do I have any shares in the company or any other affiliation to it. I have no inside knowledge regarding where the company’s head is really at relative to California HSR right now. Publicly, the company still maintains that HSR trains running next to its own would be a safety hazard. Simple passing of an aerodynamically contoured high speed train has already been shown not to present a showstopper problem even for extra-tall AAR plate H cars loaded with two empty containers. Lateral sway at the top of the upper container reached a maximum at a relative speed of 110mph and declined beyond that. The amount of sway obviously depends on the track centerline distance as well, which in the California system could be larger than the usual 15′ or so (if the ROW is wide enough).

The root cause of the cited safety concerns may therefore be the quality of UPRR’s track and rolling stock maintenance program. The income generated by hosting HSR would go a long way toward addressing any deficiencies on that score. Derailment detection and automatic train protection systems would further reduce the risk of a freight train ever fouling an adjacent track and also triggering a follow-on collision.

So, the noises UPRR is making could be either a signal that UPRR isn’t really interested in avoiding derailments or, a negotiating ploy to jack up the price.


However, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that Tony is correct and that UPRR secretly would be interested in getting back into the intercity passenger rail business, if only it were sufficiently profitable.

The experience in other countries has shown that true bullet trains can and do turn operating profits, i.e. enough to pay for running the trains, maintaining the system, insurance fees and future expansion beyond the starter line. What they cannot do is turn a total profit, i.e. service the debt on the initial capital investment as well. That difference, combined with property tax laws, is why US railroads are not voluntarily building HSR systems on their own nickel. DesertXPress is the exception that proves the rule: it would be a loss leader for getting punters/tourists/convention attendees from (Southern) California to Lost Wages and back again.

HSR opponents often cite this inability of passenger rail to fully fund its own infrastructure as evidence that it is a bad idea per se. As this blog has often pointed out, they conveniently forget the financial, energy security, environmental and social costs shouldered by taxpayers when they agree to invest in new highway lane-miles and airport runways. Fortunately, California voters showed in November 2008 they understand that moving people – as opposed to freight – just isn’t a profitable enterprise in its own right. It takes public investment to reap the macroeconomic benefits of high speed rail, which in the California system will include traveling on renewable electricity instead of distilled dino-juice.

Funding is supposed to come from federal, state and local governments plus private investors. The ~$33 billion estimate for the starter line reflects the cost of planning, land purchases, engineering, constructing the line plus yards and maintenance facilities, buying a fleet of trains and developing the human resources needed for safe and cost-effective operations. In its 2008 Business Plan (PDF p23), CHSRA estimated the cost of acquiring the ROW for the starter line at 7% of the the total, i.e. roughly $2.3 billion. This assumed that required land already in public hands (Caltrain, SCRRA, Caltrans etc.) would be made available at no cost.

However, since UPRR is an interstate freight railroad that ostensibly delivers a public service so valuable Congress even delegated limited powers of eminent domain to it, the chances of successfully exercising eminent domain against UPRR itself are slim to none. That means the company has CHSRA over a barrel and can more or less name its price. The initial ruling in Atherton v. CHSRA has now strengthened its hand even further.

The operations of the California HSR are supposed to be put out to tender via long-term contracts, separately for the infrastructure (a local monopoly) and the trains (competition possible). The idea was that these tenders will be entirely divorced from the process of acquiring land and getting the infrastructure built. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. As we explored in the post on HiSpeed Services And Branding, there is always the option of bartering for ROW rather than paying for it up front.

Any railroad that owns a ROW that CHSRA would like a slice of could negotiate for the initial contract to operate the HSR infrastructure and/or for easements such as deeply discounted slots on the timetable or blocks of seats on trains to be operated by someone else. One-off asset sales generate cash, but railroad operators are in the business of running trains. Participating in the operations of the HSR system could therefore be an attractive proposition for them.

If CHSRA could somehow strike a statewide “Grand Bargain” barter deal with UPRR, that would solve most of its ROW issues at a stroke. It would also allow the Authority to claim UPRR as a private investor-in-kind. After all, a dollar you don’t need to spend is almost as good as one you raise from financial institutions. Some lateral thinking could go a long way here.

Whether this would be a genuine bargain for taxpayers or a Faustian one obviously depends on the fine print, of which there would no doubt be copious amounts. Giving up on the opportunity to put the initial operations contracts out to open tender, reducing its scope and/or saddling it with easements would be no small matter. Negotiators would also need to put a dollar figure on the value of grade separations plus fences plus CCTV surveillance of the entire ROW width, including all legacy freight/passenger tracks, to a freight operator. Cameras and software could conceivably even detect a derailed bogie on a freight car before that train’s crew does. The wireless signaling and train control infrastructure of the HSR network could be leveraged to implement interoperable PTC functionality on the heavy freight tracks at sharply lower incremental cost. If all traffic on the entire ROW is controlled by a single infrastructure operator, the accident liability issue should become much more tractable.

Add to that the potential for light rail freight, i.e. driverless High Speed Cargo trainsets coupled to passenger trains during the day plus a limited number of much slower cargosprinter or intermodal trains at night. Such trains would need to negotiate the 3.5% gradients in mountain crossings. To avoid excessive track maintenance overheads, the axle load on HSR tracks is strictly limited, typically to 17 metric tonnes, including the power cars/locomotives. That’s only possible with non-compliant equipment, so light freight trains would be restricted to the isolated HSR network augmented with spurs to transshipment facilities in selected locations. The business model would be focused on getting high value goods shipped quickly and trucks off the roads. In technical, regulatory and business model respects, light freight would be entirely divorced from conventional heavy freight rail.

In the simplest scenario, UPRR could limit its involvement with HSR to operating and maintaining the infrastructure according to timetables negotiated with the train operator(s).

However, the company could go one step further and negotiate to also operate some or even all of the trains wholesale, by which I mean it would employ the drivers and maintain the rolling stock. Dealing with HSR and light freight equipment would involve a learning curve, but there would be plenty of time to build up a new business unit with a skilled workforce, headed up by managers poached from foreign railways that already have plenty of HSR experience. Keep in mind that UPRR has been in business for 147 years and that during most of that time, its progenitors did operate passenger trains. Companies can and do change their business models all the time, just look at how Apple Computer now makes cell phones and sells music online.

The retail end of high speed passenger trains, i.e. marketing, selling tickets, cabin service and cleaning, could be left to organizations that already have relevant expertise in the state: heavy rail transit operators (Amtrak California, Caltrain, Metrolink et al.), perhaps airlines already plying the California Corridor. Some of these might prefer to own their trainsets, others could charter them from UPRR in whatever livery they want. Similarly, UPRR might be content with just running the trains for established logistics players like FedEx, UPS etc. and not handle individual cargo items. On the other hand, retailing intermodal freight and cargosprinter service might well be something UPRR would want to do itself.

Final notes:

1) Needless to say, the bigger the bite of the HSR cherry UPRR would get without having to bid for it in open tender, the more value that would represent. At some point, it would exceed the total represented by the ROW offered. Conceivably, UPRR might even have to throw in track construction services, even cash, to get the deal it wants. That’s fine, every dollar of private investment, in kind or regular, would let CHSRA stretch taxpayer dollars (both state and federal) that much further.

2) As part of any Grand Bargain, UPRR would formally transfer the ROW (land or underground/air rights) for the HSR tracks to a new entity owned by the state of California, possibly others as well. UPRR would not have a stake in this entity. This arrangement would let it avoid a massive hike on its property taxes while ensuring the new entity will be able to put the follow-on operations contracts out to a genuinely open tender some (large) number of years later.

3) Since infrastructure operations and maintenance and possibly train maintenance will be natural monopolies, the rates UPRR would be permitted to charge for these services would have to be spelled out in the Grand Bargain contract and regulated thereafter to prevent gouging. A cap on fee income would give UPRR an incentive to participate in track construction to make sure it’s done right. The company does not yet have the specialized expertise required to actually design and build the track and overhead catenary geometry for a safe HSR system, that’s where experienced foreign engineering consultants come in. UPRR would contribute its expertise in general track construction plus material logistics and some brawn plus supervisors on site. The idea is to let them learn on the job so they can maintain the high-tech infrastructure after it’s built.

4) BNSF might be interested in a similar Grand Bargain in the Central Valley, perhaps even on its Trancon line out of the LA basin. HSR infrastructure operations are a natural local monopoly, with appropriate care it’s perfectly possible to hand over control to another operator at well-defined interface locations. Air traffic controllers do it all time.

5) All of the above fun and game are moot if neither UPRR nor BNSF are interested in participating in HSR operations in any way. That is their prerogative, of course.

  1. YesonHSR
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 04:55
    #1

    BNSF has stated they are interested
    per CAHSR..Southern Pacific if I remember wanted to sell this route to the state in the late80-90s when they were broke..the state did not either have the money or did not want it,dont remember but to bad at this point.

  2. jim
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 05:43
    #2

    well as interesting as it sounds, and as much as it would seem to streamline the situation… I honestly can't see UP wanting to get into this.. not even for a profit. unless they want to run the infrastructure / maintenance portion of it for pay. But again they are not in the habit of maintaining high speed row. the whole idea would seem to be more trouble than they'd want to get into. I'd gues they'd much rather just collect cash for row.
    and as far as staffing a passenger railroad, they would have to hire a huge workforce and "retail" as you put it, infrastructure. that would drive up the costs astronomically. ( keeping in mind that any new employees would be covered by the same contracts as existing employees.

    In my completely unbiased opinion, it would be more a cost saving to the operation of hsr to have a company do it who already has the staff and infrastructure in place…. keeping in mind that some such company would bring additional federal operating funding throught back door giving any such company a distinct cost advantage. ( hardly any new labor would be needed, it would be a matter of adding the skeds to the res system and letting conductors, and on board staff with high seniority bid into the jobs-( no additional labor cost to the operator.) which in turn results in it being easier to make a profit.

    UP would likely be happy to collect rent.

  3. jim
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 05:56
    #3

    I also think bnsf would be very likely to be more cooperative . Also, bith railroads currently benefit by haveing passenger rail on their tracks because amtrak funding is used to upgrade private railroads tracks.

  4. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 06:09
    #4

    @ yesonHSR -

    ROWs are among a railroad's most valuable assets. They are usually extremely reluctant to sell them, doing so only if the customer base they connect to goes away or if they're more generally in financial straits.

    That was the case with SP in the late 80s/early 90s, when PCJPB bought the Caltrain corridor, SCRRA bought bits and pieces for Metrolink service etc. Marin and Sonoma county purchased part of the NWP ROW in the same spirit of ROW preservation. However, all of these efforts were strictly regional, not at the state level.

    @ jim -

    perhaps I wasn't clear on this: I don't believe UPRR would want to get back into the retail end of the passenger rail business.

    Iff they did want to have their finger in the passenger operations pie at all, it would most likely be as a wholesaler: operate and maintain the infrastructure, perhaps drive and maintain the trains, perhaps even own some rolling stock and lease it to companies who know a lot about medium-distance passenger travel but squat about train technology (e.g. airlines). There would be multiple levels of involvement for UPRR to choose from.

    As for collecting rent from trackage rights, that only applies if they own the tracks. For the HSR network, that would anyhow not be the case. Renting the ROW in perpetuity rather than acquiring it outright makes no sense for CHSRA.

    All I described was an alternate path toward acquisition, one that would allow UPRR to expand its railroading business into new sectors. Whether they want to do that, I don't know. So far, they've opposed HSR on their ROW but perhaps that was because they would not be in control of it, even for a limited period of time.

  5. jim
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 06:24
    #5

    I see, still, im doubtful, other than maintaining the row. the 'operations" contractor would supply engineers though not the maintainence contractor.

    I don't know. gguess well watch it all play out. its like a soap.!

    off to reno…

  6. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 08:20
    #6
  7. Observer
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 08:47
    #7

    Did CHSRA include an ongoing operating payment (lease, rent etc) to UPRR for use of UPRR right of way (indefinitely) in the EIR?

    Also, you said this:
    "Fortunately, California voters showed in November 2008 they understand that moving people – as opposed to freight – just isn't a profitable enterprise in its own right.

    Pure BS because the measure on the ballot required CHSR to run with ZERO subsidy – it didn't say zero subsidy except. California voters approved the bonds only on the exact opposite presumtion that moving people WILL BE a profitable enterprise in its own right.

  8. Andre Peretti
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 09:03
    #8

    TGV sharing tracks with freight:
    A portion of the Paris-Bordeaux line is temporarily used by TGVs in the day and freight trains between midnight and 6pm. ECR (a German private company) uses it to carry heavy machinery to Spain.
    On May 20, at 1pm, the blade of a digger on an ECR train hit an oncoming SNCF train on the other track. It took 12 hours to clear the tracks and 20 TGVs had to be cancelled, with thousands of tickets reimbursed. ECR was found at fault, but this will be settled out of court by insurance companies and will make no waves.
    Now, just imagine the SNCF train had been a TGV running at 186mph and there were casualties. ECR would be sued for manslaughter and would face years of trial.
    Don't you think this is the sort of situation UP wants to avoid?

  9. Andre Peretti
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 09:05
    #9

    Sorry, I meant 1am, not pm.

  10. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 09:06
    #10

    Observer -

    There were zero costs assumed with getting use of UPRR ROW or a parallel ROW, getting UPRR to give intercity rights to HSR, buying land for temporary easements during construction etc.

    As a matter of fact, there were zero costs assumed for rebuilding caltrain stations to accomodate extra tracks.

    Oh yeah, and there were zero costs assumed for having to reconstruct existing grade crossings like san Antonio rd that cannot accomodate 4 tracks.

    And oh yeah, there was zero money assumed for anything to do with caltrain like positive control or even tracks # 3 and 4.

  11. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 09:16
    #11

    @ Observer -

    please stop foaming at your mouth. There isn't going to be any operating subsidy for HSR, just cash up front to build the infrastructure of the starter line.

    All of the right of way will be legally secured, either by permanent joint use agreements with other public agencies or else, by purchasing land, air rights or underground rights. There isn't going to be any recurring payment to UPRR or anyone else just for the privilege of using their land.

    The only issue I explored in this context was how to pay for that ROW. Cash is an option, if UPRR wants it.

    However, the HSR system also needs to be operated. The cost of that will be born – indirectly – by passengers, not taxpayers. Achieving ridership high enough to avoid subsidies is the whole point of running at such high speeds.

    Operations cover numerous aspects: controlling traffic according to a timetable and safety rules, maintaining the infrastructure, driving the trains, marketing and selling train tickets, cabin service, cleaning trains, maintaining trains, running stations etc. All of this could be done by one organization or by several competing ones.

    The related contracts are typically long-term commitments, which is why UPRR and BNSF just might be interested in trading part of their ROW to capture that revenue stream.

    Emerging HSR at 90-110mph top speed is being advocated for other corridors, e.g. Portland(OR)-Vancouver (BC), Richmond(VA)-Washington(DC) and Cinncinnati-Columbus-Cleveland. Those upgrades would provide a useful public transportation service and cost a lot less up front. However, they would never return more than 100% at the fare box, i.e. they would need permanent subsidies – just like more local commuter rail.

    The trade-off makes sense in areas that simply don't have sufficiently large and dense population centers to support full-fat express HSR at speeds of 186mph (300km/h) or more. California does, which is why it makes sense to spend a whole lot more up front and avoid massive upgrades to highways and airports.

  12. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 09:58
    #12

    @ Andre Peretti -

    I'm not familiar with the details of the incident in France, sounds like ECR simply goofed up and caused property damage to one of SNCF's trains. That's what insurance is for.

    However, I wasn't even advocating that the California HSR network be used to move odd-shaped cargo like wide diggers around the state.

    I was talking about shipping mail, packages etc. in converted passenger trains (cp. La Poste's small fleet of TGVs) during the day. No envelope problems there.

    I was also talking about cargosprinters (single-stacked containers) and intermodal freight (trucks/trailers on special flatbed cars) at night, when there are no passenger trains in service. Again, no envelope problems.

    As for cargo on FRA-compliant heavy freight cars, that would be on adjacent tracks. However, the centerline distance between legacy freight tracks and HSR tracks would probably be larger than the usual 14'.

    The FRA study I cited looked at the derailment risks posed the aerodynamic interactions of Acela Express trains at 150mph running past heavy freight cars holding two stacked empty containers. This study was conducted because Acela has to run on a legacy alignment.

    That's simply not the case for California HSR, there is leeway to lay its tracks further away. In a few places, e.g. the SF peninsula and Fullerton-Anaheim, that leeway is constrained by the ROW width that is or can be made available.

    Fortunately, neither of those sections sees a large number of freight trains during the day, so worst case a limit on passing speeds would be feasible. That entails tracking all trains on the ROW and enforcing that speed limit, but that's what modern train control systems like ETCS do anyhow.

    In the wake of last year's Chatsworth crash, Congress added provisions to PRIIA that (finally) require PTC functionality on busy railway lines and those carrying hazardous materials by 2015. It's a largely unfunded mandate, i.e. the freight railroads are going to have to pay for it out of pocket.

    The law does not specify a particular technical standard, so freight railroads are looking to radio/satellite-based tracking that would avoid the expense of installing and maintaining thousands of miles of wireline systems. PTC implemenations will need to be interoperable and also tie into the speed controls in driver cabs. In-cab signaling alone is not good enough.

  13. Samsonian
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:11
    #13

    Rafael, I both agree and disagree with your assessment.

    I definitely believe that UPRR would agree to a "Grand Bargain," that would also be in the interest of the state and its taxpayers. But, I don't think they'd go for based on the details you laid out.

    The devil's in the details, but UPRR doesn't want to be in the passenger business. They were trying to get out of it since the 50s and 60s. And who would blame them? Competing against the government designed, financed, built, owned, maintained, and massively subsidized roads and airports (and aviation system) that came out of that era, is a fool's errand.

    To put into perspective how disastrous a public policy that was, keep these facts and figures in mind: There used to be over 100 Class 1 railroads, today there's only 7, and there's thousands of defunct railroads.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_United_States_railroads

    Even worse, there was once over 300,000 railroad miles in the U.S., today there's about 147,000, less than half of the peak. That's a national travesty, we'll never have a rail network that big again. Even massive efficiency gains can't make up for that.

    Freight rails survives by moving heavy freight as cheaply as possible. We'd need to invest several hundred billion into the rail network (ala The Transport Politic and other plans) to make rail competitive with road and air (or charge road and air users the true costs of providing that service).

    I'm getting off point. Here's my idea for a "Grand Bargain" to solve freight railroad cooperation problem:

    The railroad and gov't negotiate in gory details what they both need from the ROW, now and in the future. A government entity, or gov't owned/controlled corporation (stays of gov't books), buys the ROW for a nominal amount, say $1. The gov't spends the significant sum to upgrade the ROW, including potentially: acquiring/condemning more land to widen the ROW, re-configuring the entire track layouts, building more track (quad track, if not more), etc. Then lease 2 or more of the tracks back to the private railroad for a $1, and keep 2 or more for public use. They could also agree to some type of joint maintenance if they wish.

    Both the public and the private operator make a payment in kind (no cash changes hands), and both benefit. The public gets a state of the art, dedicated, high speed, passenger railway in an established rail ROW with minimal impacts; the private railroad gets a state of the art freight rail line, with more capacity, less maintenance costs, for basically free. And because they don't nominally own the line (perpetual lease), they don't pay property taxes on it every year either (roads and airports don't pay property taxes).

    If something like that was the offer on the table, you know they would jump for it. I think the problem so far is CHSRA hasn't been serious about making such a deal. Maybe it doesn't have the ability/authority to do so?

  14. Samsonian
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:13
    #14

    I got character capped. Continued:

    A couple good examples that illustrate this:

    The wrong way: BART negotiated with UPRR for their line between Concord/Pittsburg and Tracy for the eBART project. Basically, BART offered a low ball figure and no trackage rights for the whole line (tried to banish UPRR). No surprise, UPRR told BART to go pound sand. Now, BART is going to waste far more money, building an inferior eBART in the median of CA-4, with no transit-oriented development (TOD) opportunities. BART likes think it's a thug, and owns Bay Area rail transit, but you can't out thug a 150 year old railroad with federal eminent domain powers from the Lincoln/Civil War era Congress.

    The right way to do it:

    The Alameda Corridor Express is a government funded, built, owned, and maintained rail line between the Port of LA/LB and UPRR's and BNSF's rail yards. Fees are assessed on every container and rail car.

    http://www.acta.org/about/governance.asp

    Also more recently, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB), aka CalTrain, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CHSRA. CalTrain contributes their ROW and CHSRA contributes the upgrades (about $5 billion worth). CalTrain gets a state of the art rail line and blossoms into a first class rail operator it dreams of being, and CHSRA gets a high speed rail line in an established rail ROW to serve San Jose and San Francisco.

    Both make a payment in kind, and both are happy with the arrangement. It's a model that can work with UPRR and BNSF. The problem is this is the most expensive way, but possibly the only way in some cases, as UPRR in particular is probably holding out for this type of deal.

  15. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:25
    #15

    @ Samsonian -

    I was thinking of acquiring just a slice of the ROW and leaving the rest on UPRR's books. However, buying all of it with an easement to keep the legacy heavy freight tracks in operation would also be possible.

    The issue to be resolved there would be the ownership of those legacy tracks, as opposed to the land underneath them. Ownership implies responsibility for maintenance, signaling upgrades etc. but also dispatch authority and quality standards for rolling stock. We're in violent agreement that the devil would be in the details.

  16. Robert Cruickshank
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:25
    #16

    What this ultimately says to me is that the federal government needs to get involved in this dispute, as they alone have the legal power to push UPRR to cut a deal.

    Obama is focused on the funding issue, and I'm glad he is. But we also need folks in DC who can help lead on the other key policy details of implementing HSR, from changing the FRA's outdated and absurd weight rules to finding a new accommodation between the freight railroads and passenger railroads.

    This issue isn't just going to play out in California. It's even more intense in other HSR corridors where dedicated tracks are not yet part of the plans.

  17. Tony D.
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:33
    #17

    Great thread Rafael!

    Simply put: work together for the greater good (and $$$!), not against each other.

    For the record: SJ native who was brought up (folks still live) in southeast SJ near Monterey Hwy (UPRR) and Senter Rd. Lived in Gilroy for the past 5 years (yes, I'm happy as hell Pacheco Pass was picked!).

    And yes, an overstatement with the "nill" comment, but I'm not seeing much freight or vehicular traffic in the Monterey/UPRR corridor (I experience it every day).

    Lastly, Wikipedia claims UPRR operates Metra passenger service in Chicago…True? (you never know with Wiki).

  18. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:41
    #18

    @ Samsonian -

    btw, BART tracks are broad gauge and the service depends on precise dispatch control to avoid delays in the bottleneck sections in Oakland and San Francisco. BART trains are also extremely lightweight and not FRA compatible. It could not host heavy freight trains on its tracks even if it wanted to.

    The appropriate solution for eBart would have been to hammer out an agreement with BNSF and the US Army to run standard-gauge diesel commuter trains from Oakley to the inland portion of the old Concord Naval Weapons Center, with an intermodal station right next to North Concord BART. Unlike UPRR, BNSF actually cares about the on-time performance of passenger trains on its tracks.

    Ownership of the inland portion recently transferred to the city of Concord. The Port Chicago portion was transferred from Navy to Army control.

    Note that the BART organization already manages Amtrak Capitol Corridor, so it's not as if dedicated ROW is all they understand.

  19. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:45
    #19

    Amtrak. Now there's a money winner.

  20. flowmotion
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:58
    #20

    @ Rafael – This is somewhat tangental, but has there been any engineering proposals related to sharing a freight right-of-way. I assume this might mean grade-seperating the entire freight line and providing fly-overs/fly-unders for spur tracks when they cross the high speed line.

  21. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 10:59
    #21

    @ Robert Cruickshank -

    so far, it hasn't been Obama's style to ride roughshod over anyone. The entire freight rail industry, all of its customers and all of the politicians whose campaigns they help finance would immediately sour on HSR if it was perceived as a material threat to freight rail. FRA would instantly revert to form and insist on repeating the Acela Express fiasco.

    IMHO, this is a green-eggs-and-ham issue. CHSRA needs to adapt its plans to make them palatable to UPRR or else get out of that company's hair everywhere. At this point, the relationship appears to be badly broken so perhaps someone other than Rod Diridon or Mehdi Morshed should be listening to UPRR and seek to address the safety concerns it has raised with something more credible than the default civil engineering approach of pouring more concrete. Those concerns will not go away altogether even if CHSRA ends up buying land adjacent to the UPRR ROWs: in a serious derailment, debris can be spread over a substantial area.

    I'm thinking of someone with railroad operations expertise and a stake in not pissing off UPRR. Someone like … Bob Doty.

  22. Robert Cruickshank
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 11:45
    #22

    Oh I very much agree it is not Obama's style to ride roughshod over anyone. I'm not suggesting he do that. What I am suggesting is that the feds need to be involved in the discussion so that UPRR knows that the feds are committed to building HSR, and willing to alter some pieces of decades-old legislation to make it happen.

    That serves as a kind of stick to get UPRR to the table, so they don't feel they can just fall back on the status quo.

  23. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 11:52
    #23

    "Oh I very much agree it is not Obama's style to ride roughshod over anyone"

    Bullshit. It is very much Rahm Emanuel's style to ride roughshod over people. It's the Chicago-way.

  24. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 12:11
    #24

    @ flowmotion -

    "[…] engineering proposals related to sharing a freight right-of-way"

    It's early days yet, but there are some data points and specific ideas.

    In the Fullerton-Anaheim section, there's a roughly one-mile section where the ROW is just 50 feet wide. CHSRA considered three alternatives: stacking HSR on top of the legacy tracks on an aerial ($115 million), widening the ROW to accommodate four tracks side-by-side and grade separating all of it ($170 million) and stacking HSR in tunnels under the legacy tracks ($411 million). In spite of the much higher cost, the locals insisted on a tunnel, so CHSRA bit the bullet.

    Note, however, that the solution means any future grade separations will have to be overpasses tall enough to accommodate AAR plate H freight cars (double-stacked containers).

    In the Caltrain corridor, freight trains share track with Caltrain locals and baby bullets. The objective is to grade separate the entire right of way and, to lay four tracks all the way. That essentially limits the entire grade separation project to the 1% gradient limit for heavy freight trains. For that reason as well as low freight volume, Clem has advocated restricted axle loads for freight trains in the SF peninsula.

    Four tracks side-by-side requires at least 70-75' of ROW width, which is already available except for sections totaling 1.12-2.89 miles. In those, CHSRA is looking at the alternatives of widening the ROW and stacking tracks (cp. Fullerton-Anaheim).

    Arguably the trickiest bit between SF and SJ is downtown San Mateo. Full grade separation there might require two tunnel plus two elevated tracks, with cross roads remaining at grade. That's an expensive solution, but it would avoids having to widen the ROW.

    Multiple variations exist: HSR underground + Caltrain/UPRR elevated, HSR elevated + Caltrain/UPRR underground, northbound tracks elevated + southbound tracks underground. Each has pros and cons.

    A simpler solution with just three tracks side-by-side (elevated or underground) might also be possible. HSR is currently slated to get the center tracks south of Bayshore, so this approach would create a short single-track section dedicated to HSR, with extra-long turnouts at either end. Whether that's acceptable depends on HSR traffic volume and the target speed limit through downtown San Mateo.

    Wrt access to freight spurs: predictably enough, UPRR has asked for full grade separation to avoid ever having to cross the HSR tracks. Since most – not all – of UPRR's customers happen to be east of the Caltrain corridor, the easiest way to accommodate heavy freight would be to run both HSR tracks west of the Caltrain tracks (i.e. track order FFSS).

    The planned switch between SFFS and FSSF track order at Bayshore could be avoided by using the existing Caltrain tunnels north of there for northbound HSR trains and southbound Caltrain locals. HSR tracks also need to stay west of Caltrain in the throat for the 4th & King terminal station.

    Of course, it's worth asking if HSR even needs dedicated tracks north of Bayshore at all, since it can't run much faster than Caltrain in that section anyhow. Basically, the constraint is regulatory, FRA has not yet given anyone permission to run mixed traffic without generous time separation.

    Also note that the Port of SF wants a gauntlet track to be added to Caltrain tunnel #1 so it can run AAR plate H rail cars through it. The electrical clearance isn't large enough, so such trains could only run if the OCS were switched off. In practice, that would mean at night.

  25. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 12:25
    #25

    The primary and determining difference between the US and most all other countries is that we have a privately owned freight railroad system. Even in Thatcherized Britain the ROW is still under quasi-governmental control.

    The UP must know instinctively that in any conflict between a private rr and one owned by a government agency the government will prevail in the short term. Federal seizaure of the railroads in WWI and Conrail are two large scale historical examples.

    On the other hand the UP can simply wait it out. Conrail can provide a model, where the government invariably loses interest in running a railroad and sells it off. Maybe even on the cheap. The brains at UP can probably see that saddled with the Tehacahapis detour and podunk stops the hsr is doomed to fiscal failure. It will be more like an upgraded Amtrak than a true express hsr and will certainly require on-going subsidies to continue operations, especailly with high labor costs thanks to the Pelosi machine. In the end the UP might be the only company with the resources and motive to complete a purchase from the State. Of course they wouldn't touch it unless they had carte blanche to reconfigure at will. They would figure a way to run freight thru those Tehachapis bores.

    So why not make money selling off ROW you are going to get back again eventually anyway. Just sit back and wait for the inevitable fiasco.

  26. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 12:29
    #26

    @ anon @ 12:52pm -

    Emanuel's bark is worse than his bite in his new role, Obama has bent over backwards to accommodate centrist Democrats and even the Party of NO on just about everything so far.

    Obama has far bigger fish to fry right now than UPRR's recalcitrance regarding California HSR. IMHO, h's not going to spend any political capital on the issue anytime soon, certainly not before the state of California (represented by CHSRA) has bent over backwards in an effort to reach an amicable agreement or obtain ROW some other way. He strongly supports the concept of HSR but he does not own the California project.

  27. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 12:39
    #27

    @Rafael: In spite of the much higher cost, the locals insisted on a tunnel, so CHSRA bit the bullet.

    Has that decision been made already? The alternatives analysis carried forward both the at-grade and tunnel options.

    If they have, in fact, decided on a tunnel, I know several residents in the area that are going to be very upset. They've been trying to get metrolink/amtrak grade-separated in that area for years with no success. If they are stuck with at-grade FRA traffic they're going to be livid.

    I mentioned this in another thread but two different people I know who live along the line said they didn't care about the train noise, they just wanted them to "stop blowing the fucking horn".

    A tunnel option is going to make that much harder.

  28. Samsonian
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 13:14
    #28

    @ Rafael

    Re ROW Acquisition: The problem is UPRR doesn't want to sell a slice of its ROW. As you said earlier, a railroad's ROW is possibly its single most important asset. Without that, it's nothing. Protecting and preserving its ROW is vital to the future of their company. If UPRR grows, and needs to expand to triple or even quad track, do they have room to do so if they sell off part of their ROW? Foreclosing on that future growth prospect, just to get some short term cash, would be foolish and short sided. Their successors would look down on them with contempt for their incompetence and inability to look past their nose. Which is what all of us do when we inherit a cluster****.

    Again, UPRR's property can't be condemned with eminent domain under federal law. They have no pressure to sell or make a deal. CHSRA does have pressure on them, a lot of pressure to make a deal happen. UPRR has all the time in the world, CHSRA doesn't; it has tight deadlines to build HSR, especially if it wants billions in stimulus (ARRA) money.

    Re Tracks: My idea, as part of that plan I laid out in my earlier comment, was that the freight railroad would be completely responsible for those tracks "leased" to them (dispatching, maintenance, liability, etc.), that would certainly be spelled out. The whole purpose of structuring the deal like I proposed was so: freight railroads have *strong* incentives to cooperate and make a deal (billions worth of free upgrades and property tax avoidance), and a barter/payment-in-kind deal is more palatable to everyone than a straight purchase. And that assumes a straight purchase were even possible, and I don't think it is.

    I should point out a stronger freight rail network in our state could take thousands of trucks off the road everyday. Such a deal could pay for itself, in money saved from not having to repave US-101, I-5, and CA-99 as often, because trucking does the overwhelming amount of damage to roads. It's hardly a giveaway to UPRR.

    Re BART and eBART: I'm well aware of the situation (and sham) that is BART. I saw your plan for what eBART should have been (I think it was part of a regional proposal?), from North Concord BART (track already there!) to Oakley and thought it was great. I was actually somewhat referring to that and similar plans, in my earlier comment.

    eBART is a standard gauge DMU (maybe EMU in future) plan last I heard, but will now be in the CA-4 median. My understanding was that previously BART was negotiating with UPRR for its ROW, not BNSF, so they could get to Brentwood (and eventually Tracy, instead of Stockton). Either way it would be technically easy to cross-over the different lines in Port Chicago, but that's all moot now. I'll defer to you on the Port Chicago/Concord Naval Weapons Station situation, you know it better than I do.

    BART only manages Capitol Corridor under contract to the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA). They're paid to do so, it's not out of the kindness of their heart. And there are companies who specialize in this, and could manage it as well.

    BART has a long track record of not playing well with others. They couldn't come to a ROW sharing agreement with UPRR (doesn't mean they have to use same track), or buy UPRR out. eBART was only one of the more recent in the endless (and expensive) saga of BART-or-nothing.

    @ Robert Cruickshank

    We could definitely use more leadership (and money, and reform) at the federal level on rail issues. While not as strong as their heyday, freight railroads are still powerful enough to prevent their federal rights from being stripped.

    And as Rafael pointed out, we still haven't reformed the FRA and their stupid rules. Even after they fouled the Acela Express. Most people just don't realize how stifling that agency is, or we'd see calls to blow that agency up. The PTC mandate, while long overdue, is concerning though. It's an unfunded mandate and no particular system (like ETCS) was selected. It sounds like an expensive, dysfunctional, incompatible mess in the making.

  29. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 13:14
    #29

    @ anon @ 1:25pm -

    a) Fresno (pop 500,000) and Bakersfield (pop 250,000) are "podunk" towns? Arrogant and condescending much?

    b) the route via the Tehachapis was chosen because of the high tunneling risk through the Grapevine.

    Plus, almost half a million people already live in the Palmdale/Lancaster area, admittedly very much spread out. HSR could prompt mid-rise transit-oriented development with architectural self-shading, solar absorption chillers, purple pipes, double glazing plus local transit.

    Finally, half an hour from downtown LA and 45 minutes from downtown Anaheim to Palmdale Airport is a game changer, provided the HSR train station there is part of a new passenger terminal.

    c) tunnels through the Tehachapis with a gradient of just 1% would be extremely long and expensive. It's quite possible diesel-based heavy rail locomotives couldn't even be used. Plus, freight trains would still have to climb out of the LA basin via Cajon Pass.

    On the other hand, total tunnel length required for a 3.5% gradient alignment is much shorter and more affordable. As I pointed out, part of a Grand Bargain could be permission to run light freight on the HSR network at night, using electric locomotives. Aerodynamic safety considerations limit intermodal freight to 100-120km/h (55-70mph), but that's still zippy compared to the bicycle speeds heavy freight trains manage on the Tehachapi loop.

  30. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 13:17
    #30

    @ AndyDuncan -

    afaik, the decision for a tunnel in the Fullerton-Anaheim section has already been made, but perhaps I'm jumping the gun here. Please contact CHSRA directly for authoritative information.

  31. Gianny
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 13:22
    #31
  32. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 13:23
    #32

    Finally, half an hour from downtown LA and 45 minutes from downtown Anaheim to Palmdale Airport is a game changer, provided the HSR train station there is part of a new passenger terminal.

    It really is, it puts Palmdale closer than LAX, LGB and ONT for a large portion of the LA population (at least until they put in the HSR line to ONT/SD. United's one flight-per-day out of there isn't exactly using the airport to it's fullest.

  33. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:05
    #33

    @ samsonian -

    a) Your point regarding every freight railroad's instinct to preserve its ROW is well taken, but you do need to look at the specific situation. The legacy alignment through the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge is single track and would be nigh-on impossible to expand to two.

    The Milpitas line through San Jose's Ryland Park area is also single track. The ROW is too narrow for two tracks side-by-side. UPRR used to run coal trains through there and across to Hansen Cement in Cupertino via the Vasona line. That ended when Hansen switched to natural gas to eliminate trace emissions of mercury. Afaik, the line is no longer used at all between SJ Diridon and US-101, though the yard in Fremont Warm Springs is still very much active.

    The port of SF isn't about to give the one in Oakland a run for its money, freight traffic in the peninsula will remain low.

    Ergo, there is no good reason to believe UPRR will ever need more than two tracks south of San Jose. Hanging on to the entire ROW width between San Jose and Gilroy to retain the option of expanding to three or four freight tracks makes little sense.

    For UPRR, the issue HSR raises is fouling of adjacent tracks and the associated safety/liability hazard.

    In the Central and Antelope Valleys and especially, in the San Gabriel Valley, capacity is very much a concern for UPRR. Between south Stockton and Algoso (east Bakersfield), CHSRA could cut a deal with BNSF instead.

    Algoso to the foot of the Tehachapis and Mojave to Palmdale may be solvable by buying land sufficiently far from the UPRR tracks. Avoiding UPRR will be much harder through downtown Stockton, Elk Grove to downtown Sacramento and especially, between Redondo Junction and Colton.

    b) eBART was supposed to run out to Byron at the eastern edge of Contra Costa county, site of a small general aviation field. The idea was to close and redevelop Buchanan Field, but local aviation enthusiasts nipped that in the bud. As a result, the eBART project was shortened to Antioch, at which point it's fair to ask why they don't just extend the existing electrified line instead of futzing around with DMUs.

    BART is adding crossover tracks in central CC county (Pleasant Hill-Walnut Creek), ostensibly to increase service frequency and reliability. They could also be used to reduce mid-day service frequency east of Walnut Creek. The existing tail track in North Concord could also be used for the same purpose.

  34. Adirondacker12800
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:07
    #34

    Acela Express fiasco.

    Technology was different when Acela was designed. The Northeast Corridor doesn't have the luxury of dedicated HSR tracks that the system in California will have.

    any future grade separations will have to be overpasses tall enough to accommodate AAR plate H freight cars

    Assuming they decide to keep the trains at street level. It would be really really expensive to do but they could put in elevated train tracks. Might even be cheaper than a bunch of roadway overpasses.

    Arguably the trickiest bit between SF and SJ is downtown San Mateo. Full grade separation there might require two tunnel plus two elevated tracks, with cross roads remaining at grade. That's an expensive solution, but it would avoids having to widen the ROW.

    Might be cheaper to tear down the buildings that are in the way. I seem to remember it's a multiplex and a parking garage that are less than ten years old.

    Conrail can provide a model, where the government invariably loses interest in running a railroad and sells it off..

    The government never had any interest in running a railroad. The railroads in the Northeast were bankrupt. Liquidating them wasn't an option. Conrail was created with the intent of creating system that private operators would be interested in. They were and most of it has been sold off.

    If they are stuck with at-grade FRA traffic they're going to be livid.

    I ain't too happy about it either and I'm almost 3,000 miles away. The federal government is going to be funding lots of this. Why should I be paying twice as much for what seems to me, to be the worst solution.

    If UPRR grows, and needs to expand to triple or even quad track

    Are there any freight operators running more than two tracks for significant distances? 200 car trains aren't all that unusual. With a 209 car train every 30 minutes that would be just over 10,000 cars a day.

  35. Peter
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:22
    #35

    I found some statutes and a Supreme Court ruling where Amtrak had the power to use eminent domain to take over existing rail tracks under certain circumstances. The statutes were repealed in 1995. Not sure if they got replaced by anything. Ran out of research time.

    The Supreme Court case is still good law, but as the underlying statute has been repealed, I think it's moot in that regard. The citation is "National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston and Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407 (1992)"

    Does anyone know whether those statutes were reenacted somewhere else?

  36. Samsonian
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:29
    #36

    @ Anonymous 1:25

    I disagree with most of what you said, except for the main difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world on railroads. America is one of the only countries with a largely private rail system today. And I think it's one of the biggest showstoppers with regard to improving our rail network.

    In most other countries, the rail network is owned by the government in some form. Rail is considered a full fledged mode of transport just like roads and airports/aviation is. And in some enlightened countries, it's considered the premier mode of transport, and for good reason.

    Rail is about 10 times more efficient than roads, and up to 40 times more efficient than aviation. The reason is simple physics. Steel wheel on steel rail has very little rolling resistance, and steel is very durable, so it doesn't deform easily. Rubber tire on asphalt or concrete has a lot of rolling resistance, and rubber tires deform. And of course, it takes a lot of fuel to propel an aircraft hundreds of mile per hour, through all that air and overcome gravity.

    This country is different though. Because rail was privately built, owned, and operated, for some reason we don't consider it equal to roads and airports/aviation (never mind better). Even though roads and airports/aviation are massively subsidized. And if it's not equal, it's not going to get funded equally either. Perhaps it's a moral hazard to invest public dollars into private control. But, how would it be a moral hazard to invest in one (particularly superior) mode of transport, when we invest and subsidize all other modes?

    We'll never have a successful HSR systems around the country if they aren't publicly owned, like they are in Asia and Europe. That's not to say our freight rail network is useless. It does heavy rail freight better than almost anybody in the world. It has to, just to survive. It moves more than twice as much freight today than it did 60 years ago, and on less than half as much track (which is still a national travesty and crime of epic proportion). And it's moving more than 10 times as much freight by rail than Europe does.

    Europe can catch up if they choose to make the investments in rail to do so. The fact that their railroads are publicly owned, makes it that much easier. And with an EU directive, they're moving to a public/private hybrid rail model. Where governments own and maintain the rails, and they make it available for multiple operators to compete on a non-discriminatory basis. This has a lot of buy in. Air France KLM and others are planning on operating HSTs.

  37. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:32
    #37

    @ AndyDuncan -

    United actually canceled its one remaining flight to SFO recently. It was basically only used by government (Edwards AFB) and Lockheed Skunk Works employees. The former get deeply discounted fares and the latter weren't enough to make it worth United's while.

    Palmdale Airport is pretty vast, there would even be enough land to add a third runway if one were ever needed. However, it is at 2600 feet elevation, so the air there is thinner than at sea level. That means really big birds like a cargo 747 or a fully loaded A380 need even longer runways than usual.

    HSR also puts Palmdale within 30 minutes of Bakersfield and an hour from Fresno. Leveraging this very large catchment area will require a new passenger terminal-cum-train station, possibly two buildings connected by a really fast people mover.

    The existing Palmdale Metrolink station is 2mi (!) from the nearest runway, so planners still have their work cut out for them if they want to turn the airport into LAX East.

  38. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:50
    #38

    United actually canceled its one remaining flight to SFO recently.

    I hadn't heard that. I remember when they started it, it was supposed to be a big deal. I guess it wasn't.

    The existing Palmdale Metrolink station is 2mi (!) from the nearest runway, so planners still have their work cut out for them if they want to turn the airport into LAX East

    Yikes. Well at least there's plenty of land around there. Palmdale/Lancaster is so spread out that there's not a whole lot to lose by putting the HSR station at the airport instead of downtown.

  39. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 14:55
    #39

    Rafael is right,
    UPRR between SJ and Gilroy will never have to be 3 to 4 tracks.
    I don't believe massive ports will ever be constructed at Alviso/SJ or Monterey.

  40. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 15:07
    #40

    @ Samsonian -

    Europe's geography is different from that of the US. It's cheaper to move bulk goods over the ocean or via inland waterways than by rail, so European railroads focus on time-sensitive light/medium freight rather than lowest-cost-per-ton heavy freight.

    The lower axle loads and the higher per-ton revenue generated by time-sensitive goods mean freight and passenger traffic can more easily share track in Europe.

    The biggest problems are incompatibilities (gauge, OCS parameter, signaling, staff qualification) between and even within countries and, national monopoly railroads. The former has been addressed by innovation, the latter by an EU requirement to separate infrastructure and train operations by 2010. There are 30 priority axes in the EU's TEN-T program, the majority designed to boost freight rail volume.

    A new line prepped for double-stacked containers has been built built between Rotterdam and the Ruhr Valley. Austria is close to completing tunnels through the western part of Vienna, a key link between Western and Eastern Europe. Several basis tunnels are being dug through the Alps, the Pyrenees and other mountain ranges. Fixed rail links already exist between France and the UK as well as Denmark and Sweden. Road+rail bridges are in the works between Denmark and Germany and between mainland Italy and Sicily. Spain and Morocco are looking into the techical feasibility of a tunnel, as are Finland and Estonia. The Rail Baltica project will connect Warsaw to Tallinn.

    Etc.

    European light/medium rail freight – especially intermodal freight – looks like it will be growth market in the next decade or two, saving a lot of diesel fuel and reducing congestion on Europe's freeways.

  41. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 15:45
    #41

    @ AndyDuncan -

    I forgot to mention that Long Beach Airport could be connected to LA Union Station, Disneyland and Anaheim ARTIC via Metrolink.

    However, the ever-elusive someone would have to cough up some funding for short tunnels at LGB and under Disneyland plus FRA quiet zone features for the numerous grade crossings (cp. those for SMART).

    See MAP for details.

  42. BruceMcF
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 15:47
    #42

    Rafael said…
    "The existing Palmdale Metrolink station is 2mi (!) from the nearest runway, so planners still have their work cut out for them if they want to turn the airport into LAX East."

    Of course, its not at the location where the existing ROW adjoins the airport land. And from the map, the main terminal is on the railway ROW side of the runways, so a corridor could run into an airport station, which would be a natural time to put in a branch line from the existing ROW for an airport Metrolink station as well.

    Typically how far the train is from the terminal is more critical than how far it is from the runways, given that people catch a ride from the terminal to the runway in this long tube shaped thing with wings.

  43. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 15:52
    #43

    Rafael-

    The ROW south of San Jose is only 50-60 feet wide. It is MUCH narrower than that on the peninsula. It is only large enough for 2 tracks. Even if UPRR agrees to stick to one track, HSRA will still have to buy ROW.

  44. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:06
    #44

    @Rafael: I'd also like to see it connected to, you know, Long Beach (along an extension to the Harbor Corridor).

    I have no idea if that connection is even feasible or who owns the ROW, and you'd need to tunnel into LGB under the LA "River". Not fun. But it would get you DTLB-LAX (Connecting to the green line, crenshaw lines, and any future Lincoln Blvd line), as well as a DTLB-LAUS express (the blue line is crazy popular and slow as mollasses).

    CAHSR rejected the idea of putting a station at LAX due to ridership questions. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't make sense for commuter rail, especially if the line also runs south to DTLB

  45. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:18
    #45

    @ BruceMcF -

    true enough, plenty of airports uses special buses to shuttle passengers to planes out on the tarmac. Works well enough for relatively small planes, but I doubt Palmdale could attract any of the big birds if passengers had to board and deplane via really tall stairways.

  46. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:23
    #46

    @ anon @ 4:52pm -

    well, if the ROW is too narrow, there's always the option of stacking the HSR tracks on top of those for freight. The visual/noise impact won't be any different to stacking them on top of traffic lanes on the Monterey highway.

    It doesn't resolve UPRR's beef regarding derailments and safety/liability, though. Support columns would not take kindly to a locomotive or railcar ploughing into them.

    Note that CHSRA's plans for LA-Anaheim call for 5 miles (!) of aerials above BNSF's Transcon yard. Apparently, that company is more confident it can keep its trains on the tracks ;^)

  47. DaLanc
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:26
    #47

    So the Union Pacific could have a motivation to bid on serving as the system's first operator? Did anyone else imagine UP Yellow AGV trainsets streaking up and down the state? That would be an interesting 'legacy' concept.

    http://www.american-rails-forums.com/AR%20Images/Streamliners/SP_Daylight.jpg

    http://www.trainnet.org/Libraries/Lib003/UNIONPAC.JPG

    I know I sound like a bit of a train-nut when I bring up this idea, but you have to admit this idea is pretty cool!g

  48. Reality Check
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:55
    #48

    Palmdale air is too thin for big planes to take off at only 2,600 feet? If so, it must really be a problem for Denver's airport (DIA). Their runways are at 5,320 feet.

  49. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:55
    #49

    @ Andy Duncan -

    check out LA Metro's plans for the Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor, a corridor BNSF sold off after the Alameda Corridor was built.

    No decision has been made yet regarding LAX-LAUS non-stop service vs. a more extensive network out to San Pedro/Long Beach with lots of stops. They're looking at all modal technologies except BRT, but BNSF sold the ROW with an easement for heavy freight.

  50. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:57
    #50

    @Rafael, yeah I've already submitted my comments on that to Metro.

    I was referring to the ROW I have outlined from DTLB connecting up with your line north of LGB. I have no idea who owns that.

  51. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 16:58
    #51

    @ Reality Check -

    I didn't say large planes couldn't take off from Palmdale, just that they needed a longer runway to compensate for the lower density. That's doubly true in Denver.

    It's mostly an issue for straight cargo planes, though. For passenger ops, the elevation difference probably doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

  52. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 17:33
    #52

    @ Andy Duncan -

    sorry, I misunderstood your question. The ROW from LA Harbor to Redondo Junction via Paramount belongs to UPRR.

    Afaik, it is little-used now that the Alameda Corridor is operational. It is, however, UPRR's back-up route if the AC should become unavailable for any reason so it's not available for light rail.

    Your map shows a fixed link across the LA River into downtown. Since new heavy rail alignments in California must not use streetcar mode, that implies a tunnel. Besides, the freight rail operators might not be prepared to host Metrolink traffic between LB harbor and the southern end of the AC.

    In any event, crossing the LA river twice isn't exactly the fastest route between downtown Long Beach and its relatively small airport. That looks more like an autotram opportunity to me.

    As for the Blue Line light rail service, how many cars are used on each train and how often do they run? Are there bypass sections to support a semi-express service level?

    Also check out the Rhônexpress light rail project to finally link downtown Lyon with its airport.

  53. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 17:43
    #53

    @ DaLanc -

    actually I was imagining TGV-style trainset in e.g. US Mail, FedEx or UPS livery attached to a passenger trainset in e.g. Amtrak, Caltrain, Metrolink, Southwest Airlines, United or Virgin Atlantic livery.

    The driver of this full-length train would be a UPRR employee and that company might even own one or both trainsets. Branding is a retail issue, so there would be no prominent UPRR logo on the trains in this scenario.

    For you enjoyment, here's a video of a yellow TGV going La Poste-al at 155mph. Pay no attention to the full-length duplex train going the other way, that's just 1090 seats (~800 fare-paying passengers) zipping past at 186mph. Nothing special, happens every half hour between Paris and Lyon.

  54. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 17:48
    #54

    @ DaLanc -

    this second video shows the high speed cargo train running past more slowly. Not sure why it's dawdling, perhaps it's just so we can get a good look at it!

    Btw, another 800 people just zoomed by.

  55. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 18:01
    #55

    As for the Blue Line light rail service, how many cars are used on each train and how often do they run? Are there bypass sections to support a semi-express service level?

    They use bifurcated two or three car sets (6 sections). There are no bypass sections.

    The main problem is they run at-grade through a large section of the run. Everything north of the Slauson station is at-grade, slow, and it takes two 90-degree turns to get to downtown. A full trip takes just under an hour to go the 22 miles from DTLB to the terminus at the 7th st metro center.

    Expanding service isn't really possible without grade separation as longer trains wouldn't fit at stations already enlarged to fit 3-car trains, and running more trains will make the already bad cross traffic worse.

    There have been a number of collisions and deaths on the line, and while still safer than buses, it has become a whipping boy for people who advocate for grade-separations.

    I think the advocates get obnoxious, but it needs to be grade separated. Unfortunately there's no money for that, and new lines are getting priority.

    It's really a microcosm of the problem with rail in LA. 22 miles is a regional rail distance. But LA wants to put in light rail everywhere so that it can stop every half mile. That's fine if you're not going from DTLB to DTLA, but if you are, you're screwed.

    Perhaps converting it to aerials would give them the opportunity to put bypass tracks at the newly elevated stations. But we're talking a couple billion, most likely, and the aforementioned advocates are pushing hard for subways everywhere.

    Sound familiar?

  56. BruceMcF
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 18:21
    #56

    Anyway, this has got to be close to a record for burying the lede: "All of the above fun and game are moot if neither UPRR nor BNSF are interested in participating in HSR operations in any way. That is their prerogative, of course. "

    A grand bargain typically involves each side offering something of substantial value to the other side. When one party requests something of value to it and offers in return something that promises no perceptible benefit to the other party, that's "stalling" at best, "bargaining in bad faith" at worst.

    The question is, what could CAHSR offer the UP that would be of objective value to UP?

  57. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 19:01
    #57

    @ AndyDuncan -

    I've been looking into all things rail in Austria recently. The Blue Line sounds very much like the Badner Bahn between Baden and Vienna, which takes an hour to cover 20 miles. Typical trains consist of two articulated cars. Most people only ride part of the route, since the national railway OeBB offers faster regional rail locals (S-Bahn) and semi-express trains (CityShuttle).

    In Vienna itself, there's a fully grade-separated light rail line (U6) that covers 10.6 miles in 36 minutes. The route leverages a 19th century embankment, that's why it can't use subway rolling stock. While it's no faster than the Badner Bahn, typical trains feature four articulated cars and they run every 2min (peak) to 7.5min (eve).

    Putting the LA Metro Blue line would permit massively increase capacity, but without bypass tracks it would be no faster than today.

    For something comparable to the CityShuttle, you'd need to extend the Metrolink route I proposed along the west side of LGB toward Cherry Ave. via an abandoned railroad ROW. Descending into a tunnel, the alignment would veer west under Signal Park, the parking lot at Long Beach City College, Alamitos Ave and west under E Ocean Blvd. to LB Transit Mall. That would take about 5 miles of tunnels, a.k.a. mucho dinero. On the upside, if it's an extension of a core LAUS-LGB line, an express LBTM-LGB shuttle would require just a complete wye at Cover St.

    See updated MAP.

  58. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 19:18
    #58

    @ BruceMcF -

    "what could CAHSR offer the UP that would be of objective value to UP?"

    Well, the revenue stream derived from the monopoly right to operate the infrastructure and trains for e.g. 20 years. According to the 2008 CHSRA business plan (PDF p21), that's worth ~$500 million/year. Track maintenance is estimated at $140 million/year, train maintenance at $485 million/year. All numbers for 2030 expressed in 2008 dollars.

    All told, that's ~$1.2 billion in annual revenue. If UPRR decides not to deal with the retail bits, figure perhaps ~$750 million for the wholesale services unless it owns and leases a fleet of trainsets as well.

    I don't know how much light freight could add to the total. As I mentioned, that would require additional capital investments in turnouts and spurs to transshipment facilities.

    None of the revenue would be guaranteed by the state, UPRR would be participating in ridership risk. Only if the service is as successful as expected would it become a cash cow.

  59. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 19:24
    #59

    @ AndyDuncan -

    oops, this sentence didn't come out right:

    "Putting the LA Metro Blue line would permit massively increase capacity, but without bypass tracks it would be no faster than today."

    should read

    "Putting the LA Metro Blue line on an aerial would permit a massive increase in capacity, but without bypass tracks it would be no faster than today."

    Sorry about that.

  60. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 19:25
    #60

    the revenue stream derived from the monopoly right to operate the infrastructure and trains for e.g. 20 years. According to the 2008 CHSRA business plan (PDF p21), that's worth ~$500 million/year.

    Yes, and according to measure 1A that belongs to the tax payers to be ploughed directly back to california high speed rail investment.

    Are you suggesting CHSRA bargain with something they don't own?

  61. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 19:33
    #61

    "(5) Revenues of the authority, generated by operations of the high-speed
    train system above and beyond operating and maintenance costs and financing
    obligations, including, but not limited to, support of revenue bonds, as
    determined by the authority, shall be used for construction, expansion,
    improvement, replacement, and rehabilitation of the high-speed train system."

    The theoretical revenue bonds, as I understand it, are already spoken for to finance the BALANCE of SFtoLA.
    (At least that's how Morshed described it to Eschoo – in answer to answer the question 'besides the $10B Measure 1A bond, how is it being funded?"

  62. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:17
    #62

    "Putting the LA Metro Blue line on an aerial would permit a massive increase in capacity, but without bypass tracks it would be no faster than today."

    Actually full grade separation and fixing the entry to downtown (those 90 degree turns are on surface streets, we're talking 20ft radii) is estimated to save between 10 and 15 minutes over the full route (I can't find the sources, so consider that speculation, but the at-grade portions are as bad as you can get). In LA we have a lot of those kind of people that Jim likes to bitch about, the ones where every second counts, especially on a daily commute. 10-15 minutes would have a large effect on ridership, as would the increased reliability and punctuality that comes with a dedicated track – People in LA think yellow lights are just a warning that you're going to need to get into the intersection quickly to make sure you don't have to wait another light cycle, trains are often delayed by traffic.

    But even so, we need the capacity, even at it's current, seemingly noncompetitive speed, the damn thing is close to capacity. Whoever says Angelinos won't give up their cars has never squeezed onto the blue line.

    Also, the unique thing about the blue line, and part of the reason it's so popular, and part of the reason the end-to-end trip time is so important, is that DTLA and DTLB are actually population and business centers of gravity (as opposed to something like the wilshire subway, where it's just dense along the whole thing), I don't know the numbers and I'm speculating, but in my anecdotal experience the blue line gets a lot of end-to-end riders.

  63. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:28
    #63

    @anon: I actually don't think the "grand bargain" idea holds much water, as the Authority has said they would like to arrange a Design/Build/Operate or similar type of contract, as it has, in their view, less risk and lower costs. I don't think ROW acquisition is going to be that big of a problem: the most difficult portions are 75-85% handled (Caltrain corridor and Sylmar-Anaheim), everything else is cheap land compared to those. UPRR might have clout, but their clout is limited by the price of the land adjacent to theirs. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that drastically limits their bargaining power, regardless of the recent decision.

    That said, such a contract doesn't mean that the operator will be entitled to all of the profits, and the "operational costs", just like the construction costs, would have to include the profitability of the private company providing them. I don't think the authority/state is going to just hand over the keys and let the operational partner set ticket prices and reap the rewards.

  64. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:31
    #64

    @anon, sorry, let me clarify: If I contract you to operate my railroad, I still get the profits from that operation, should they exist. You get whatever I pay you to perform that work. I'm still the railroad owner. I take the risk and make the investments, you perform a service and get paid a fair rate for that service. I believe that's the $500m in question, the value of that service contract. How much of that revenue is profit depends on how efficiently the operator can, er, operate that line.

  65. Alon Levy
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:34
    #65

    An hour for 22 miles isn't that bad. The 1 train in New York takes an hour to go 15 miles, and it's fully grade-separated.

  66. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:43
    #66

    For something comparable to the CityShuttle, you'd need to extend the Metrolink route I proposed along the west side of LGB toward Cherry Ave. via an abandoned railroad ROW. Descending into a tunnel, the alignment would veer west under Signal Park, the parking lot at Long Beach City College, Alamitos Ave and west under E Ocean Blvd. to LB Transit Mall.

    Yeah lots of pricey tunnels, but it would allow you to have a through-station in DTLB and complete what was my main plan: to have a rail circle around southwest Los Angeles.

    For the record though, the "Long Beach Transit Mall" is pretty lame, just like the Redondo Beach Regional Transit Center and the Torrance Regional Transit Center (both are big bus stops). I think a station under 4th street makes more sense for commuters, and would keep the tunnel coming in from the Harbor Corridor under the LA river and not under the (deeper) LB Harbor. But I don't work in LB, so maybe someone who does would have a better opinion on placement.

    Whatever heavy rail gets put in to DTLB is going to have to be underground though, you're right, which means EMUs not DMUs like they're thinking, and lots of money.

    Also an Idea would be to drag an HSR-Compliant EMU track down there on a similarly expanded ROW (dedicated tracks, yada yada yada). I don't know how wide the HC is along it's entire route, but it's certainly wide enough along parts of it for 3-4 tracks.

  67. AndyDuncan
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:46
    #67

    An hour for 22 miles isn't that bad. The 1 train in New York takes an hour to go 15 miles, and it's fully grade-separated.

    It's not in the context of a metro, for sure, 13-20mph is about average. But the line is used as regional rail for a lot of people who make the whole 22 mile journey, and when they hop off at either end, they often need to transfer to another line to get where they're going.

    We have a weird situation in LA where we're dense enough for rapid transit, but still spread out enough for regional rail.

  68. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 20:57
    #68

    @ anon @ 8:33pm -

    the operative words here are

    "above and beyond operating and maintenance costs and financing
    obligations"

    Someone has to operate and maintain the system and get paid for it. The plan of record is to put the related contracts out to open tender after the infrastructure is built.

    What I discuss in the post is to award to UPRR and/or BNSF much earlier, in (a) barter deal(s) for right of way.

    So yes, the state would forgo the revenue from the initial tender process, but it would also avoid spending cash on ROW acquisition.

  69. Adirondacker12800
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 21:19
    #69

    Bruce F said:
    Typically how far the train is from the terminal is more critical than how far it is from the runways, given that people catch a ride from the terminal to the runway in this long tube shaped thing with wings.

    and then

    Rapheal said:
    true enough, plenty of airports uses special buses to shuttle passengers to planes out on the tarmac. Works well enough for relatively small planes, but I doubt Palmdale could attract any of the big birds if passengers had to board and deplane via really tall stairways.

    Bruce do you often have to resist the urge to bang you head on the desk? I do. Usually while muttering "have these people ever seen a train?" and occasionally "have they ever been in an airport/bus station/seen a freight terminal"

    Rafeal, The airlines have this all figured out. They load the passengers onto the plane at the terminal. They then taxi the airplane to wherever the runways are. Just because the existing terminal at Palmdale isn't hovering over the tracks doesn't mean the new terminal they have to build handle the new passengers couldn't be. They could load the passengers onto the plane mere steps from the HSR and Metrolink platforms and then taxi the planes – the long tube shaped things with wings – out to the runways. . . . not a bus or a stairway involved.

  70. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 21:32
    #70

    @ AndyDuncan -

    I don't know Long Beach well enough to say where the best location for a heavy rail station would be, that would be up to resident there. I just figured that even if the Transit Mall is "aspirational" right now, at least it's a target every transit planner and TOD developer will shoot for.

    As for the technology, it would have to be FRA-compliant on account of UPRR. A US Railcar DMU would fit the bill. By the time any of this would be implemented, they'd have to offer it with EPA Tier 4 diesel engines. Forced ventilation of a 5-mile subway tunnel shouldn't be a significant problem. Accommodating bi-level cars would require tunnels with greater vertical clearance.

    If electrification is desired in the tunnels, it would be straightforward enough to add a pantograph or third rail pickup plus power electronics and install some off-the-shelf bogies featuring permanent magnet synchronous motors mounted directly on the axles. Above a certain voltage, AC power and a transformer would be needed.

    Pantographs increase the vertical clearance requirements in a rectangular tunnel, but using overhead conductor rails instead of catenaries makes that more manageable. The advantage of pantographs over third rail pickups is that they provide the option of extending the initial partial electrification via an overhead catenary system even if grade crossings are still present in the alignment.

    Cutting over from diesel to electric is a straightforward and proven process: the pickup/pantograph makes contact, the diesel engine is shut off, the train coasts for a short distance and the electric motors are engaged. When leaving the electrified section, the diesel engine is usually fired up and left to idle for a short while before power is cut over. This works much better for DMUs than for conventional serial-electric gensets because the diesel engine(s) are much smaller, comparable to those found in trucks and buses, in fact.

    Running HSR trains down to Long Beach is not on the menu, sorry. UPRR and FRA will not allow non-compliant bullet trains to run on heavy freight tracks.

  71. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 21:49
    #71

    @ Adirondacker12800 -

    no need to get abusive. Of course LAWA could build a huge terminal building with oodles of passenger boarding bridges, but those need a lot of room and cost a bundle per gate.

    That's why a lot of airports around the world feature more modest terminal buildings and offer airlines a choice between using gates with boarding bridges and cheaper ones that require passenger to take a bus out to their plane, parked on the tarmac. The former option is preferred for large aircraft, the latter option is popular with low-fare operators.

    Here's an example.

  72. Anonymous
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 21:56
    #72

    Kopp's circuitous hsr is the fitting partner to his SFO BART extension. Both swimming in red ink.

    The UP has nothing to fear from the Palmdale Big Dig. There's so little business there's not even an Amtrak train thru the Tehachapis.

  73. Adirondacker12800
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 21:58
    #73

    Forced ventilation of a 5-mile subway tunnel shouldn't be a significant problem.

    Why would they build a tunnel for a system that has so little traffic it doesn't justify electrification? Or if it has so little traffic it uses diesel why would they be thinking about building 5 miles of tunnel?

  74. Rafael
    Aug 28th, 2009 at 22:29
    #74

    @ anon @ 10:56pm -

    Amtrak California doesn't run trains across the Tehachapis because UPRR won't let it. There would be plenty of demand.

    As it is, Amtrak San Joaquin terminates in Bakersfield. Passenger bound for LA have to transfer to a motorcoach.

    Metrolink serves both Lancaster and Palmdale, but the trip to LA takes a long time because the tracks over to Santa Clarita and Sylmar are very twisty. Metrolink doesn't have the money nor and FRA waiver to buy and operate lightweight active tilt trains, never mind straighten its alignment with tunnels.

    HSR will run in a brand-new, fairly straight alignment with plenty of tunnels through Soledad Canyon. It will bypass Santa Clarita.

    @ adirondacker12800 -

    I agree that tunnel construction is so expensive that electrification of that section amounts to a pittance by comparison. Ridership analysis would have to show the investment in tunnel construction is justified. That would be true of the shorter tunnels at LGB and Disneyland as well.

    However, electrifying the remaining 20-odd miles to LA Union Station as well would tens of millions more that could be deferred with custom dual mode rolling stock if desired.

    Besides, it's possible UPRR or residents along the way might not permit electrification of the existing track(s), even if the OCS is strung high enough to avoid problems with AAR plate H rail cars.

    All-diesel, partially electrified and fully electrified implementations are all technically possible. The preferred option would depend on the EIS/EIR process and available funding.

  75. Adirondacker12800
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 00:38
    #75

    However, electrifying the remaining 20-odd miles to LA Union Station as well would tens of millions more that could be deferred with custom dual mode rolling stock if desired.
    .

    Why would it be custom? They could just order up some the beasts NJ Transit and AMT have ordered. By the time this project gets close to being designed NJ Transit and AMT will have years of experience using them.

    20 miles of electrification will come in at around $100,000,000. Five miles of tunnel needs lots of traffic to justify it. Dual mode locomotives are much more expensive than straight electrics.
    Roughly 5 million more than straight electrics – from the prices NJ Transit pays for ALP46s versus ALP46DPs, though I can find sources that make that price differential even higher. 12 million a pop for the dual modes.

    High traffic means lots of locomotives. If they can do this with less than 20 locomotives it might be cheaper in the short term. More than 20? Probably cheaper to electrify than it is to buy nice expensive dual modes. Cheaper to run and maintain too. Gives them the option to use MUs eliminating the cost of locomotives.

  76. looking on — very happy now
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 06:45
    #76

    This thread is really ignoring the reality of the situation.

    Like it or not, the program level EIR for the Bay area is going to be de-certified. SJ to Gilroy must be re-done, a new ROW found and studied. This is all going to take at least 1 year and is gonig to cost money. (small change in the overall scene, is that the Authority must now pay all court costs and legal fees the plaintiffs have spent — this should come out of the pocket of PB, but it won't).

    Diridon seems to now realize that his dreams for stimulus funds for the Bay Area will not be realized.

    All early work will have to go to the South. All project level EIR work thus far done for the Bay area, will have to be scrapped, and restarted only when a new program level EIR has been completed and certified.

    One should not fail to speak to a very important point. PB is the cause of this mess. They have made a huge blunder. PB should have insisted that the EIR be re-circulated in face of what Diridon and Kopp wanted. They didn't. The board is ultimately responsible, just like they are responsible for this most poorly planned HSR project ever.

    No legal person I have talked to, thinks the Authority should appeal. The decision written by the judge is pretty un-assailable, to appeal would just mean more delay, more legal fees to be paid.

  77. resident
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 07:27
    #77

    Doesn't UPRR have some claims to ROW in places other than between SJ and Gilroy? Is the judge's ruling wrt UPRR resolution of ROW acquisition really ONLY limited to that small section? I heard on this blog some time ago that UPRR has some sort of claim on the SF to SJ Caltrain segment.

    You don't think the judge intends that UPRR's claims should be worked out across the board?

    I'm just asking – seems like resolving SJ-Gilroy still leaves potential for alot of UPRR risk/unknowns in plenty of other areas.

  78. NONIMBYS
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 07:58
    #78

    @looking on..go back to nimby alto on line..is there not enough articles in that stupid little paper for your nimby cheerleader type rant? BTW the TRAIN the TRAIN WAAAA is still goingthru!!

  79. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 08:33
    #79

    As for the technology, it would have to be FRA-compliant on account of UPRR.

    Running HSR trains down to Long Beach is not on the menu, sorry. UPRR and FRA will not allow non-compliant bullet trains to run on heavy freight tracks.

    If they can't run physically separated, dual-track, non FRA-compliant, OCS-powered, lightweight EMUs down the Harbor Corridor, they're going to have a BITCH of a time making it a light rail line, no?

  80. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 08:37
    #80

    @ looking on -

    so far, the judge has only ruled on the merits of the numerous complaints, of which four were upheld. The second document the court still has to deliver will spell out the remedial actions CHSRA will have to take to comply with the ruling.

    Until the second document arrives, all we can do is speculate on the implications. Of course, interpretation is half the fun for armchair pundits like you and I.

    While the ruling does mean the EIR will have to be amended, there is no basis for assuming the judge will require CHSRA to start from scratch. I expect the Authority will have to spell out the risk of having to exercise eminent domain to acquire ROW in more detail (among other amendments) and that will then have to go through another round of review to decide if the route preference needs to change.

    Eminent domain risk needs to be one factor in that decision, but whatever owners of abutting property would like to believe, it actually doesn't trump all others. Both state legislators and state voters have explicitly endorsed AB3034, the legislation governing the HSR project. It does leaves substantial wiggle room on the route, but running down 101 and/or across via Dumbarton and Altamont Pass may still be even less acceptable overall than the Caltrain corridor and/or Pacheco Pass – even now the eminent domain issues looms a lot larger than before.

  81. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 08:37
    #81

    @ resident -

    the SJ-Gilroy sections was the only ROW belonging to UPRR that was the subject of a complaint against CHSRA on this particular document, the Final Bay Area To Central Valley Program EIR (since it was challenged under CEQA, not NEPA).

    The lawsuit was not directed at the statewide program EIR, so the judge did not rule on that. However, it's not as if UPRR has been willing to co-operate with CHSRA anywhere else in the state, which is why I anticipate additional problems elsewhere unless CHSRA either mends in its relationship with UPRR in some way (e.g. strikes a Grand Bargain) or, it gets out of UPRR's hair everywhere.

    Wrt UPRR's right on the SF-SJ ROW owned by the PCJPB and used primarily for Caltrain, they stem from the 1991 contract between PCJPB and SP. That railroad was acquired by UPRR a few years later.

    I'm not a lawyer, but this is my reading of the tea leaves:

    a) UPRR has an easement to run heavy freight trains in the corridor in perpetuity. Like all freight railroads, it enjoys federal protection against efforts to shut down this service just because this or that hamlet is unhappy with the land use, noise, vibration, pollution etc.

    b) Section 8.3.c gives PCJPB has the right to shut down freight traffic if it needs to make changes to its commuter service that preclude continuation in its present guise (cp. The Effect of Heavy Freight).

    The contract does not spell out specific circumstances in which this "nuclear option" could be invoked, the grade separation project in the context of HSR may or may not qualify.

    c) SP also retained the intercity passenger rights in the peninsula corridor. There is no hard-and-fast definition of what exactly "intercity" means in either the contract or in general use. The 50 miles between SF and SJ probably don't qualify as an intercity route, but SF to LA to Anaheim certainly does.

    There is a catch, through. Unlike SP, Union Pacific did waive its rights (more like obligations, at the time) to operate intercity passenger trains way back when Amtrak was founded.

    Did the "intercity passenger service" clause of SP's contract with PCJPB become implicitly moot when UPRR acquired SP, given that UPRR gave up the right to deliver such service south of San Jose? UPRR hasn't conceded that point, but to date it hasn't tried to invoke the clause, either. Worst case, it would have to be litigated. I don't know if there is a relevant precedent in US case law.

  82. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:03
    #82

    @ AndyDuncan -

    it is possible to run light rail vehicles on heavy rails – the term literally refers to their weight per linear foot – as long as the gauge is the same and there is guaranteed time separation.

    Basically, it boils down to the circumstances under which BSNF would want to run freight trains in the HSTC. My understanding is that it currently runs a minimal number just to underline that the corridor is still active, this avoiding calls for its abandonment. BNSF wants to retain the ability to run freight trains out of the LA/LB harbors even if the Alameda Corridor were to become unavailable for some reason.

    You might argue that exactly the same applies to any new regional rail route between LAUS and LGB along a similar ROW owned by UPRR. There is, however a salient difference: trains would need to run on two other, very much active, UPRR freight line between S. Grande Vista Blvd and the LA Union Station throat.

    It is in this segment of the route that light rail vehicles could not be permitted, which is why I suggested any LAUS-LGB service be run by Metrolink rather than LA Metro.

  83. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:20
    #83

    There is, however a salient difference: trains would need to run on two other, very much active, UPRR freight line between S. Grande Vista Blvd and the LA Union Station throat.

    S. Grande Vista is right about where the IE/SD and OC lines of the HSR system will meet up. The plans call for dedicated tracks from there to LAUS. A HSR-Compatible line could use those.

  84. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:30
    #84

    @ AndyDuncan -

    btw, in case this wasn't clear: the HSTC now runs underneath the very active freight tracks at Redondo Junction and up the right bank of the LA river. There's are several active yards and maintenance facilities (Amtrak? Metrolink? LA Metro?) along the way, but afaik UPRR runs all of its freight up the Coast Corridor via its own tracks on the left bank.

  85. Tony D.
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:44
    #85

    UPRR right of way south of Diridon/SJ may be just 50-60 feet wide in some places (Lick?), but for most of the route to Gilroy it parallels an ultra-wide Monterey Hwy (wide shoulders, median with 6-lanes) and open space rural. As Rafael suggested, tight spots could be stacked or elevated above main freight line.

  86. resident
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:51
    #86

    Rafael – there is some ??? about exactly what rights UPRR to call the shots from SF to SJ on the Caltrain route – no doubt they'll try to exercise rights, and perhaps CHSRA will need to challenge that? Or perhaps they will reach mutual agreement.

    My real question is, does the ruling last week require this UPRR interest to be worked out along the Caltrain row from SF to SJ? Did the judge really simply limit the UPRR questions to SJ-Gilroy?

  87. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:54
    #87

    @Rafael If you were building both the Harbor Corridor and your LAUS-LGB-DTLB corridor as HSR-compatible, you could bring the HC line over a viaduct along slauson to meet up with a viaduct coming up Downey, that merged line could then meet with the viaducts that are already planned over the S. Grande Vista/Washington Blvd/26th St section. They're planning on a split viaduct in that area (sheet 202 of appendix E of the LA-Anaheim AA), I don't know if that makes it more or less difficult to merge the lines.

    With such an arrangement you could run some of your SF-LA trains straight through to DTLB, and you could run HSR commuter service between Sylmar and DTLB.

    I don't think this is going to happen, but I'd love to get LA thinking about regional rail, not just local light rail and metro lines.

  88. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 09:56
    #88

    @ AndyDuncan -

    S. Grande Vista is right about where the IE/SD and OC lines of the HSR system will meet up. The plans call for dedicated tracks from there to LAUS. A HSR-Compatible line could use those.

    Not so fast. CHSRA may yet have to share its tracks with Caltrain baby bullets in the SF peninsula as a condition of obtaining the ROW. Caltrain could still choose to run locals on the mixed traffic tracks plus regional HiSpeed trains on the HSR tracks, with cross-platform transfers at the small number of joint stations.

    The decision will depend on part on how FRA rules on the whole kit and kaboodle: Caltrain is seeking a waiver to operate mixed traffic on the corridor and CHSRA will seek a "rule of special applicability" for its own network. In the past, FRA has sought to regulate passenger rail out of existence at every turn.

    The only bulletproof strategy for obtaining permission to run lightweight, energy-efficient non-compliant rolling stock is to studiously avoid any connection to the national freight rail grid at all. This may be part of the reason why CHSRA has decided to build dedicated HSR tracks between Fullerton and Anaheim after all.

    Until the FRA has clarified its position on the Caltrain waiver, the rule of special applicability and on PTC implementation, what you're suggesting is most definitely not going to be so much as studied.

    If you want to pursue the possibility of a new LAUS-LGB-LBTM regional rail service any further, your default assumption has to be FRA-compliant commuter rail rolling stock operated by Metrolink.

  89. BruceMcF
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:02
    #89

    Rafael said…
    "@ BruceMcF -
    "what could CAHSR offer the UP that would be of objective value to UP?"

    Well, the revenue stream derived from the monopoly right to operate the infrastructure and trains for e.g. 20 years."

    The question, though, is why that is more valuable to UP than to any other potential franchisee. After all, part of that net revenue stream is to go to part of the funding for the system expansion beyond Stage 1.

    It seems highly likely that it is less valuable to UP than to a number of other potential franchisee's, since there are so many new capacities that UP would have to develop that some potential franchisees would already possess. And if they are going to sub-franchise it, the grand bargain involves them taking on project risk that they do not face with a cash sale of a sliver of ROW.

    so that paying cash of the same value to UP would be a net cheaper move for the CAHSR.

    If there was any substantial freight origin/destination corridors that would benefit from electrification where electrification infrastructure in the ROW split between UP and CAHSR could be provided by CAHSR as a requirement of the ROW acquisition, there would be an actual cost foundation to that bargain, since expanding electrification infrastructure from two tracks to four tracks is a decreasing-cost acitivity – on the hypothesis (electrification of a freight corridor), the benefit to UP would be greater than the cost to CAHSR.

    That's a solid foundation for a Grand Bargain … where the benefit to one side is greater than the cost to the other.

    Indeed, the same thing in the opposite direction is where UP is pressing – there is an intrinsic opportunity cost to the sale of ROW, but given the increase in freight capacity in going from bidi to two tracks, as long as the UP retains the profile to permit two track freight, that opportunity cost may be low. But if there is an increase in liabilities following derailment, the opportunity cost of selling ROW could be very substantial.

    I don't know enough about UP's current business strategy to speculate on what a solid foundation for a Grand Bargain would be, but based on the noises they have been making, it may lie along the lines of a physical configuration that minimizes risks of derailment liability while sharing in sufficient grade separations to experience a substantial reduction in crossing liability risk.

  90. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:16
    #90

    The only bulletproof strategy for obtaining permission to run lightweight, energy-efficient non-compliant rolling stock is to studiously avoid any connection to the national freight rail grid at all.

    Which is what I was proposing. Dedicated HSR/EMU tracks alongside the freight tracks. If they can do it along LOSSAN and they can do it along the peninsula, they can do it along the Harbor Corridor.

  91. BruceMcF
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:27
    #91

    Rafael said…
    "@ BruceMcF -
    true enough, plenty of airports uses special buses to shuttle passengers to planes out on the tarmac.
    "

    There is such a thing as confusing the possibility of a particular option and the conditions under which it is desirable to choose a particular option.

    Very few of the buses you describe have wings, which is part of the configuration of the most common vehicle for carrying long-distance passengers from terminal to runway.

    As a special hint, that long tube-like thing with wings then typically employs the runway to become airborne.

    Palmdale Airport is, I would note, an airport. The present terminal is on the same side of the runway as the rail corridor that directly borders the airport. There is therefore nothing preventing either:

    (1) Running the HSR corridor out of the existing rail corridor entirely on airport land to an HSR station integrated into the existing Palmdale terminal; or

    (2) Building a new Palmdale terminal at the end of the airport that borders the rail corridor. If desired, the existing terminal could be for small aircraft, connected to the main terminal with an elevated people mover.

    In either case, the point that I was making regarding the distance to the existing Metrolink station stands: that distance is nothing but a Red Herring, since the rail corridor runs on to directly border the airport. The minimum required distance between an HSR station and a terminal at Palmdale Airport is Zero Feet – that is, the station can be inside the terminal building, and with two distinct ways to accomplish that, to boot.

  92. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:27
    #92

    @ resident -

    afaik, UPRR was not a party to the Atherton vs. CHSRA lawsuit. The judge rules that CHSRA had failed to fully disclose the risk that eminent domain might have to be exercised to acquire sufficient ROW in SJ-Gilroy and also in the Caltrain corridor.

    In his opinion, such risks need to be factored into the decision on the preferred route, i.e. be part of in the program-level EIR. In particular, UPRR raised a very late red flag in its letter stating that it would not offer up any of its ROW between Lick and Gilroy and that CHSRA should forward this information to the other stakeholders in the program-level EIR/EIS process for the Bay Area to Central Valley section before it is certified.

    The court did not say anything at all about UPRR's rights under the 1991 agreement with PCJPB because those were not subject of this particular lawsuit.

    Interestingly, though, you could argue that CHSRA also failed to disclose the land use and railway operations impact of having to accommodate heavy freight rail service in the design, construction and operation of the grade separation project in the Caltrain corridor.

    With input from Caltrain, the Authority ought to also spell out the impacts of failing to leverage the HSR project to finally fully grade separate and electrify the entire Caltrain corridor between SF and SJ. In the recent town hall meeting in Menlo Park, Caltrain officials warned that without electrification, Caltrain may soon go out of business altogether.That would have significant implications for UPRR service, land use, road congestion etc. – some positive, many negative.

  93. BruceMcF
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:38
    #93

    resident said…
    "My real question is, does the ruling last week require this UPRR interest to be worked out along the Caltrain row from SF to SJ? Did the judge really simply limit the UPRR questions to SJ-Gilroy?"

    Part of the details of what the decision means will be made clear when the second half of the ruling is released, regarding required remedies.

    The question of UP rights on the Caltrain corridor might limit the design options. It is far easier to maintain ongoing freight service during the construction period with elevations
    than with cut and cover tunneling. Also, as covered at the Caltrain HSR blog, converting the freight access from the common mainline standards to an electrified medium freight shortline would increase the design flexibility.

    However, since the UP does not own the ROW, constraining the design of the HSR grade separations is the most that the UP freight access rights can do.

    Its is, however, quite odd that one NIMBY lawsuit could have the impact of ruling out tunnels, which would be the result if the design is forced to accommodate heavy weight freight wit diesel locomotion up the Caltrain corridor.

  94. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 10:47
    #94

    @ Tony D -

    Railroads are built one foot at a time or not at all.

    The primary issue in south San Jose is the section between Lick (close to the Almaden Expwy/87 intersection I believe) and the Monterey highway near Caltrain's Capitol station. It's annoying that a two-mile stretch might have such large consequences, but there it is. The devil is in the details.

    Perhaps UPRR will relent and offer up air rights to bridge the gap but for now, the planning assumption has to be that it won't. It might not even want a rail overpass across its tracks, though it would have a much harder time blocking that.

    In addition, whoever owns the Monterey highway as well as nearby property owners will have to be consulted on any proposal to run the tracks there on an aerial in the middle of the street. The same applies for the alternative of tunneling across to the 101 corridor (or else, somehow running in the 87 and 85 corridors to get there).

    One factor in all this is how fast CHSRA intends to run trains between SJ Diridon and hwy 152.

  95. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 12:14
    #95

    @ BruceMcF -

    "[…]] a physical configuration that minimizes risks of derailment liability while sharing in sufficient grade separations to experience a substantial reduction in crossing liability risk."

    Are you proposing grade separations a couple of hundred feet wide?

    "[…] the station can be inside the terminal building […]"

    That would be ideal, no argument there. A very long linear terminal would also permit plenty of gates with passenger boarding bridges, reducing or eliminating altogether any need for buses.

    Three things, though:

    a) there is no concrete plan to build any new passenger terminal at Palmdale Airport at all, let alone one that calls for tight integration with HSR and Metrolink.

    In fact, a small one at 41000 20th Street East was built only recently and is now eerily silent.

    Earlier this year, after voters approved prop 1A(2008), LAWA went one further even surrendered the right to operate commercial lights out of Palmdale altogether.

    Remember the six P's: "prior planning prevents piss-poor performance".

    b) at this point, CHSRA is planning an intermodal station with Metrolink at the existing location in Palmdale. Moving the HSR station further north to anticipate a possible future new airport terminal would mean either not having an intermodal with Metrolink, moving the existing Metrolink station north as well or, adding a new Metrolink station between Palmdale and Lancaster.

    Unfortunately, this isn't quite as trivial as it sounds. The huge Lockheed Skunk Works plant is located exactly at the optimal site for a station-cum-passenger terminal with short taxiways to both runways.

    While the Antelope Valley as a whole is now home to at least half a million people, density near the prospective HSR station area is currently very low. Palmdale itself is home to about 150,000 residents, spread out over 104 square miles. No "downtown" in the sense of clusters of mid-to-high-rise buildings there, just lots of free-standing single-story houses, i.e. sprawl.

    Unless the airport is resuscitated in a major way, it will no longer blight the area. That means an HSR station in Palmdale will be an open invitation to even more residential development without – as yet – any commitment to transit-oriented principles.

    That would dramatically increase the demand for water, which – Cptn. Obvious reporting for duty – is scarce in the High Desert. Palmdale is on the California Aqueduct, but whatever the reasons, climate change is already happening: the Sierra snowpack is shrinking at an alarming rate. Strategic population development needs to happen where the remaining run-off flows of its own accord, i.e. much further north.

    c) CHSRA's primary arguments in favor of the route via the Tehachapis were lower tunneling risk and the opportunity to leverage Palmdale Airport to relieve LAX.

    If there isn't even any integrated planning, shouldn't the Grapevine route be given a second look?

  96. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 12:18
    #96

    @ AndyDuncan -

    and what I was proposing is that you make do with trackage rights on the existing UPRR track(s) until and unless you can demonstrate that the construction of many miles of brand-new track dedicated to passenger trains can be justified.

    In phase 1, wouldn't it be better to focus scarce resources on actually getting passengers all the way to the terminals at LGB and/or to downtown LB?

  97. Brandon in San Diego
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 12:31
    #97

    Rafael & AndyDuncan,

    The LA Metro Blue Line carries a lot of people; over 80,000 daily. With those numbers, the line must operate with 3-cars.

    If you look at the online schedule, during the am and pm rush hours, not all trains go all the way south to Long Beach. The heaviest ridership is along the segment where most of the trips are run. That includes the transfer location with the Green Line at Wilmington/Imperial that runs East-West between Norwalk and Redondo Beach.

    As an aside, past planning documents spoke to extensions on each end of the Green Line; to LAX on the West and to the Norwalk Metrolink station on the East. The Norwalk Metrolink station is a possible HSR station. I do not know the status of those plans, but there is no project page on teh Metro website…as there are for others.

    Back to the Blue Line, there is another Metro project under construction right now that will use the same alignment as the Blue Line as it travels into downtown. It's called the Expo Line.. and it goes to Santa Monica (?).

    And then there is yet another Metro project… a downtown subway that is an extension of the Blue Line to Bunker Hill and then to Union Station via a connection with the Gold Line Extension under construction… and visible in Google Earth.

    Nice diversion from HSR talk.

  98. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 13:46
    #98

    The LA Metro Blue Line carries a lot of people; over 80,000 daily. With those numbers, the line must operate with 3-cars.

    It does. They use two-car sets in the late evenings.

    If you look at the online schedule, during the am and pm rush hours, not all trains go all the way south to Long Beach.

    South of Wardlow the line runs in street-car mode, making a slow loop around traffic-ridden DTLB. Stopping some trains at wardlow has more to do with the nightmare of running light rail through DTLB on a 5 minute headway than it does with demand.

    As an aside, past planning documents spoke to extensions on each end of the Green Line; to LAX on the West and to the Norwalk Metrolink station on the East. The Norwalk Metrolink station is a possible HSR station.

    The green line extension is mixed into the Crenshaw Corridor project and has recently been given new life thanks to the (expensive) purchase of a parking lot near LAX Terminal 1 (Southwest/US Airways).

    The Green Line extension to the Norwalk Metrolink station is still being talked about, but it would require tunneling. That possible connection is listed in CAHSR documents as a factor in choosing whether to put a HSR station at Norwalk instead of the busier Fullerton. I only see each of those happening if Metro and CAHSR come to some sort of mutual agreement to fund both projects to make sure nobody is left with an expensive station in a sub optimal location.

    Back to the Blue Line, there is another Metro project under construction right now that will use the same alignment as the Blue Line as it travels into downtown. It's called the Expo Line.. and it goes to Santa Monica (?).

    Phase 1 goes to Culver city, Phase 2 is in planning to take it to Santa Monica. It only shares the blue line tracks along a rather small portion.

    And then there is yet another Metro project… a downtown subway that is an extension of the Blue Line to Bunker Hill and then to Union Station via a connection with the Gold Line Extension under construction… and visible in Google Earth.

    It's called the Regional Connector.

    Oh, and Jim, I found two more line colors in Metro Documents for planned projects: Yellow and Silver, so now we're at:

    Yellow, Gold, Orange, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Aqua, Green and Silver.

  99. BruceMcF
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:01
    #99

    Anonymous said…
    "The theoretical revenue bonds, as I understand it, are already spoken for to finance the BALANCE of SFtoLA.
    (At least that's how Morshed described it to Eschoo – in answer to answer the question 'besides the $10B Measure 1A bond, how is it being funded?"
    "

    That is, rather, the balance of the system – the San Diego and Sacramento corridors. Revenue bonding could, of course, be used to complete the project if extra funding was needed and if some portion of the system could be opened, but the primary revenue bond opportunity comes with the opening of the full SF/LA route.

  100. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:08

    @ Brandon in SanDiego -

    afaik, there are no firm plans to extend the Green Line east to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink/future HSR station. That would take about 2 miles of tunnels underneath Studebaker Rd and CA-90 (Imperial Hwy).

    Note that the LAUS-LGB Metrolink service I suggested earlier could have an quasi-intermodal station with the Green Line at Century Blvd. The freeway prevents a true intermodal exactly where the UPRR cross overhead, so a short walk would be involved.

  101. observer
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:14

    "..make do with trackage rights on the existing UPRR track(s) until and unless you can demonstrate that the construction of many miles of brand-new track dedicated to passenger trains can be justified…In phase 1, wouldn't it be better to focus scarce resources on actually getting passengers all the way to the terminals at LGB and/or to downtown LB?"

    Uh, No.

    The construction of a 50-100B permanent once in a lifetime infrastructure project isn't something you just 'make due' with for now, while you figure out if there's another better way. You're talking about drasticcally changing towns and lives all across california when you shove this thing through – no matter where you shove it though. Youre basically suggesting remodeling the entire state. Its not like you can just relocate the line to a dedicated new line once you figure it out.

    You said railroads are built one foot at a time – what a bunch of nonsense. Precisely because it is a TRAIN, on a fixed guideway, and a not a PLANE that can just meander around depending on where and when you get around to outfitting routes and stationss, You MUST have the balls to plan the whole thing out from beginning to end – or not at all – before you break ground one. You don't just start banging railroad ties into the ground and see what happens next.

    The hard truth is, and the judge recognized this – if you got roadblocks in the middle you got NOTHING, and there's no sense or justification whatsoever in breaking ground until you get the WHOLE thing figured out. Rafael, this is not a friggin game.

  102. BruceMcF
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:15

    @Rafeal, since you think that's ideal, and can't come up with serious reasons to oppose it, and since Palmdale airport clearly showed a desire to get into the general passenger airport line of business (unlike UP wrt the passenger rail line of business), and since its the sole location along the main Stage 1 corridor that is eligible for an integrated HSR station / local transport station / air terminal, I'll put your name down in the supporter's column.

  103. AndyDuncan
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:24

    @Observer: He was referring to my proposition to extend the HSR system from LAUS to LGB and Downtown Long Beach as part of the in-planning LA Metro Harbor Corridor project, as well as a potential new line along an existing freight ROW through south east Los Angeles.

    This would be an LA Metro/SCRRA (Metrolink) project with little or nothing to do with the HSR system, I just think they should build it to HSR spec so you can integrate systems, but Rafael is right in that it makes more sense to just get Diesel metrolink service operating through there right now and upgrade the line later.

    We're talking about an LA-area regional train system that would interface with the HSR system, not the HSR system as a whole. But I'm glad you see the value in doing the whole thing at once, I thought you had previously stated we should stop the line at San Jose and just upgrade caltrain. Maybe I have my commenters mixed up.

  104. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 14:44

    @ observer -

    precisely, you don't turn dirt until you've actually got all of the ROW figured out. That's the "or not at all" part of my comment, so we're in violent agreement. Btw, CHSRA actually takes the same position, at least on the segment-by-segment basis imposed by the state legislature.

    Perhaps you didn't realize, but AndyDuncan, Brandon and I are having an essentially separate conversation about a potential new regional rail service between LAUS and LGB, optionally other destinations as well. We don't need your permission to have that conversation.

    Since Metrolink uses FRA-compliant equipment, there would be no need to make the massive investment in a brand-new passenger-only alignment. I suggested tunnels to reach the LGB terminals. If money is tight, an at-grade alignment hugging Lakewood Blvd. to an aerial across E Wardlow and the parking lots would also be possible.

    AndyDuncan is looking for a way to to add capacity and speed to transit between Long Beach and LA, which is a much more expensive proposition that would serve a lot more people. In that scenario, Long Beach Airport would just happen to be (almost) on the way.

  105. jim
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 16:03

    bart doesn't manage capitol corridor, ccjpa does.

  106. jim
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 16:28

    U just got back from one of those much ballyhooed 49 dollar southwest flights that are suppose to make traveling around cali so much more cheap and convenient than hsr.

    YOu all can keep your cheap southwest flying muni bus. It wasn't faster, it wasn't more convenient and damn sure wasn't enjoyable, or comfortable.

    Fist there's the schlepp to the airport, and considering I have a bart station about 100 steps from my front door, you'd think, "oh even better".
    Now granted my flight was reno and not LA,, reno being 10 minutes shorter, and the hotel being a 5 mintues shuttle ride from the airport, so again you'd think "my my how nice"
    (insert family feud wong answer buzzer here…)

    but since both flights are about an hour the experience would have been the same…
    730a
    30 minute bart ride 3.80
    20 minute airbart 3.00
    820a check in/ security, shoes, pockets, blah blah blah,
    845a
    cattle call ( this part of the southwest process is enough to make me get up and go home.. its the dumbest clusterfuck ever and I don't know who's idea it was)
    9am clusterfuck continues inside cabin with the carry on ballet.
    strap into seat designed for 1st graders.
    take off
    920am eat four peanuts ( why do they even bother, is it suppose to be a few grams of protein to sustain us if we crash in the wilderness?)
    950 land
    ear pain, lack of hearing for the remainder of the weekend.
    1010a claim bag

    1030 hotel shuttle.
    total time for one hour flight. 3 hours.

    Coming was the same thing in reverse plus add:
    Bonus crying baby and Raiders game letting out at coliseum bart.
    The same three hours door to door on hsr would have been pure luxury in comparison.

    full food service,
    crying babies = can move to another car
    lounge car for a treat
    full time use of electronic devices
    wide comfy seat with limitless legroom.
    spacious bathrooms.
    electric outlets.
    train doesn't have to wait until every fool on board is stowed and strapped in before departing. train is already en route while people get situated.

    no ear pain, deafness.
    no threat of plunging to ones death from 20,000 ft. into shark infested waters.

    total=hsr far superior travel experience.

  107. Rafael
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 16:59

    @ jim -

    welcome back. You should audition for a MasterCard commercial ;^)

    Regarding amenities on board, check out SNCF's (relatively) new iDTGV service aimed at the under-30 set. Cafe car available in all trains.

    Quiet zone (enforced by staff): magazines and sleep kits for sale, courtesy wake-up service, magazines for sale, DVD players + movies for rent.

    Talk/play zone:
    Snacks and play cards for sale, game consoles for rent

    Party zone at night: DJ

    On many routes that don't have TGV tracks (yet), SNCF offers the Corail Teoz long-distance trains featuring amenities like mini playgrounds for toddlers. This is geared more toward older passenger, including grandparents.

  108. jim
    Aug 29th, 2009 at 17:24

    rafael-

    very cool– and the thing is, with trains, the possibilities are nearly endless and available for the average traveler, not just the 1500 dollar first class ticket.

  109. looking on
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 07:07

    today an article:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_13224575?nclick_check=1

    titled:

    Union Pacific, high-speed rail board are talking

    appears.

    These articles always seem to include a statement that Federal Stimulus funds are jeopardized.

    California is only going to get a limited amount of the 8 billions. It is not that Stimulus funds are going to be less if the Bay Area projects can't be included, just that the funds will have to go elsewhere in the project.

    Yea, its too bad for poor CalTrain, since they can only qualify as a piggy back onto HSR. they will just have to wait a bit longer, if ever to get their lusted for electrification and grade separations.

    The Authority should really think about "cutting the blanket" with CalTrain and going its own way, via 101 or 280 of maybe even up the East Bay. BTW, how come nobody talks about cutting off Oakland, and the Cities further east, Walnut Creek, etc., with the present routing.

    None of the Bay area section should have been applied for inclusion in the Stimulus funding anyway. Morshed told the board they couldn't meet the time deadlines, but Diridon convinced the boards to try and deceive the Feds and apply anyway. that action alone might make the Feds give less than they might have, if the Authority had been truthful in its pre-application.

  110. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 09:41

    @ Rafael

    The Grapevine option should definitely be given a second look. I believe tht even for Bakersfield and Fresno it would be a faster trip to LA.

    At the very least if there is indeed only one Grapevine alignment that seems to meet the hsr criteria it should be scrutinized in depth to ascertain if it is feasiblew. Every project should have a first runner-up, an alternative in ready reserve, in case it proves to be needed. The CHSRA should definitely stake first claim to this alignment. What a shame if it were grabbed by a highway project or the like if it turns out to be the uniqeu Grapevine solution.

  111. flowmotion
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 09:49

    @ Rafael –
    Just as a bit of feedback, the blogger comment screen is not very conducive to following multiple lines of conversation. IMO all this talk about the Palmdale airport and LA Metro is derailing the conversation about the UPRR article you wrote.

  112. AndyDuncan
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 10:08

    Every project should have a first runner-up, an alternative in ready reserve, in case it proves to be needed.

    That's actually the reason the Grapevine alignment was rejected. There's no equivalent backup if it doesn't work out (there are backups, but they would require lots of tunelling and tunneling across fault lines). Whereas the tehachapi alignment has several different runners-up if the preferred alignment doesn't work out.

  113. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 10:37

    What I am referring to is an alternative to the entire concept of the Tehachapis detour.

    The Grapevine's directness is being undervalued. As events unroll this may become more appreciated.

  114. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 10:40

    @ flowmotion -

    fair enough. I was willing to have those side discussions because they all related to rights of way owned by UPRR.

  115. AndyDuncan
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:12

    The Grapevine's directness is being undervalued. As events unroll this may become more appreciated.

    I don't believe it is, although this whole kerfuffle over ROW may make the 10 minutes saved by going over the grapevine look very valuable if they need it to keep the SF-LA trip time under 2:40.

  116. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:20

    @ anon @ 11:37am -

    I wasn't following the HSR project yet back when the Grapevine vs. Tehachapis discussion was raging. There were vocal advocates on both sides.

    The Grapevine route is more direct, it would shave 10-12 minutes off the SF-LA line haul time or alternatively, permit lower speeds through e.g. Fresno or an Altamont-via-Santa-Clara alignment (run-through tracks!) The upsides are well understood.

    The obvious downsides are that it would cut the Antelope Valley out of the route and, preclude any opportunity to use Palmdale Airport to relieve LAX. Also, Palmdale-Bakersfield is UPRR's core west coast route. While HSR would use a greenfield alignment through the mountains, the approaches on either side still involve UPRR.

    However, in the end it was apparently the tunneling risk that made the difference. CHSRA was dissatisfied with the sky-high contingencies Parsons Brinkerhoff baked into its initial cost estimates, which were based on traditional, imprecise alignment screening methods.

    When new software (Quantm) from Australia became available, they organized a tunneling workshop (report,slides). After feeding detailed terrain information and all relevant constraints into the program, it automatically generated and evaluated thousands of local variations for the general routes that were studied.

    There were several hundred slightly different viable ways to get through the Tehachapis. There were only two through the Grapevine, one that crossed a fault underground and another that ran close to a wildlife preserve.

    Ergo, if circumstances forced CHSRA to switch to the Grapevine, they probably could – though they might well run into some serious problems with the meter-scale geology and hence, into delays and cost overruns. Exploratory tunnels will be dug to reduce the risks, but mother nature almost always has some nasty surprises up her sleeve.

    On a per-mile basis, tunnels are far and away the most expensive way to build a railroad alignment. It's just that it's impossible to get sufficiently straight tracks for high speed operation without them.

    It just bugs me that between LAWA's lack of interest in developing Palmdale Airport, talk of a erecting solar power plant there, Palmdale's lack of interest in transit-oriented development and UPRR's incalcitrance, the downsides of the Tehachipis alignment now loom larger than ever.

    I'm sure CHSRA doesn't want to re-open the discussion, but a second tunneling workshop involving a brand-new group of tunneling experts might create some new options through the Tehachapis or at least, confirm the findings of the first workshop. Given the scale of the project as a whole, spending a couple of additional millions on making absolutely sure the route through the transverse route really is optimal doesn't sound like a waste of money to me.

  117. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:27

    @ AndyDuncan -

    the maximum non-stop SF-LA line haul time of 2h40m is spelled out in AB3034 (section 2704.09), precisely to prevent individual communities from forcing CHSRA to slow down service until it's no longer competitive overall. Times for other city pairs are spelled out as well, including San Jose-LA in 2h10m.

    Three guesses as to who persuaded lawmakers to put that particular number into the bill. It would be impossible to achieve via Altamont as long as the route runs past Palmdale.

  118. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:36

    @ AndyDuncan -

    caveat: the SJ-LA line haul time requirement would be moot if SJ were to be cut out of the route. After all, bullet trains aren't slated to go up to Oakland, either.

    The bill specifies the starter line as San Francisco Transbay Terminal – LA – Anaheim. Legally, CHSRA is not required to include San Jose in phase 1 at all.

    However, San Jose has more political clout than Oakland, so there would be hell to pay if CHSRA changed the route to bypass Cahill Street. And no, I'm not referring just to Rod Diridon's sizeable ego.

  119. AndyDuncan
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:39

    @Rafael: It also spells out a 30 minute trip time for SF-SJ, and the only way to do that is down the peninsula, though it doesn't say such a line has to be built, just that 1a funds can't be used for such a route unless the trip time is 30 min or less.

  120. jim
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:40

    the palmdale route is not a "detour." There half a million californians out there versus no one on the grapevine.

  121. AndyDuncan
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 11:46

    the palmdale route is not a "detour." There half a million californians out there versus no one on the grapevine.

    And while I'd love to save 10 minutes going to SF, the Palmdale alignment makes a future Vegas connection financially do-able.

    It's not a reason to drag the line out there (though there are plenty of others), but it's a nice benefit.

    CAHSR doesn't want to say anything about it because if they ever so much as muttered that there could be a vegas line they'd be strung up, regardless of how many people would ride it.

  122. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 12:10

    Hell to pay if SJ wasn't included on the route? Damn strait!
    Not only that, but it would be just plain stupid.
    By 2035, SJ's population will be 1.4 million and Santa Clara Co 2.4 million.
    Walnut Creek/Oakland more important than SJ? Thankfully the route WON'T be changing.

  123. jim
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 12:16

    In fact there's twice as many people in the high desert/antelope valley than there are in the greater livermore valley area

  124. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 12:56

    @ jim -

    I'm aware of the total population of in the Antelope Valley, but it's a very large area. Palmdale itself has just 150,000, and they're spread out over 100 square miles.

    CHSRA projects 12,000 boarding/day in Palmdale vs. 7000 in Fresno and 9000 in Bakersfield (numbers are for 2030 afaik).

    The number for Palmdale is only credible if either the airport attracts enough airlines or, if HSR turns the town into a bedroom community for LA.

    While the city "hopes" to revive commercial air service, there are at present no credible plans for making that happen on the back of HSR. United's recent pull-out after subsidies ran out has frustrated regional aviation planning.

    The bedroom community scenario is more credible, there might also be a some growth in local industry beyond defense-related employment. By car the distance form downtown Palmdale to downtown LA is about 70 miles, but that can take as much as two hours in traffic. Commuting via HSR would be more manageable, but only for those who live sufficiently close to Palmdale station to avoid having to own a car just for commuting. A few years ago, SCAG got the city to draw up a specific plan for a transit village near the the existing Metrolink station, but those are now in limbo because of the recession. In any case, they did not yet factor in HSR nor the possibility that the HSR station might well be sited a mile or two further north to give the airport a fighting chance.

    For all these reasons, I'm inclined to question CHSRA's current ridership estimates for Palmdale. IMHO, the existing situation and current development plans will not be enough to achieve the forecast HSR ridership for the Palmdale station. Until and unless that changes, I think raw population numbers in the Antelope Valley are a very weak argument in favor of the Tehachapis route.

  125. Rafael
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 13:10

    @ AndyDuncan -

    elsewhere in AB3034, San Francisco Transbay Terminal is explicitly references as the northern end of the starter line. Ergo, travel time is not the only reason CHSRA has to either go up at least part of the peninsula or else, build a new fixed link across the bay between Oakland and SF.

    In addition, HSR is supposed to relieve SFO via the Millbrae station. Given how the BART extension messed that up for everyone, I'm not sure how well that will work. If only they had moved Caltrain's San Bruno station, made it intermodal with BART and run the SFO AirTrain out there. But no, the octopus just had to run its broad gauge tracks where they don't belong.

  126. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 13:33

    The 10 minute time differential cited is an absolute minimum. The mileage savings offered for a typical San Jose-LA trip by an I-5 alignment is significant. The eventual 99 corridor route should include Sacramento anyway, altho Bakersfield and Fresno can be served at the outset by a branch to I-5 along the lines of the existing freeway.

    If the Grapevine has already been correctly narrowed down to one workable alignment it is wise to study it in depth, if only to erase doubts that the Tehachapis is the best the hsr can do. I am not at all yet convinced.

  127. AndyDuncan
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 14:04

    In addition, HSR is supposed to relieve SFO via the Millbrae station. Given how the BART extension messed that up for everyone, I'm not sure how well that will work. If only they had moved Caltrain's San Bruno station, made it intermodal with BART and run the SFO AirTrain out there. But no, the octopus just had to run its broad gauge tracks where they don't belong

    Yeah, the whole San Bruno/SFO/Milbrae station trifecta is really a clusterfuck, both from a scheduling standpoint (not all trains can service all stations), and from an intermodal standpoint.

    If the Milbrae station gets enough HSR traffic, you could just run a bart train back and forth between there and SFO, which wouldn't be so bad if you're going to the international terminal, but the air tram isn't much better than walking to the other terminals (it's really only useful for the rental car/parking area).

  128. Alon Levy
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 15:01

    Andy, the BART executives tried to run shuttles from Millbrae to SFO. The union demanded that such a route be treated as a full line, with a 10-minute break for the train operator at each end.

  129. BruceMcF
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 15:52

    Anonymous said…
    "The 10 minute time differential cited is an absolute minimum. The mileage savings offered for a typical San Jose-LA trip by an I-5 alignment is significant.

    What is the mileage savings by an I-5 alignment for a typical Fresno / SF trip? Fresno/LA? Bakersfield/San Jose?

    In operations research, this is called "subgoal-optimization", optimizing for one system goal, commonly at the expense of a greater loss elsewhere in the system.

    Around three hours is an important threshold in inter-regional transport, because beyond three hours an inter-regional transport option drops out of consideration for a number of day trips within the transport market, but for a wide range of trip times within that threshold, there is a fairly stable elasticity at work, where a given percentage of travel time savings translates to a given percentage of patronage increase. The next big threshold will often be inside an hour, when frequency and ease of access to the origin/destination starts to dominate.

  130. BruceMcF
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 16:03

    @Rafeal: "The bedroom community scenario is more credible, there might also be a some growth in local industry beyond defense-related employment. By car the distance form downtown Palmdale to downtown LA is about 70 miles, but that can take as much as two hours in traffic. Commuting via HSR would be more manageable, but only for those who live sufficiently close to Palmdale station to avoid having to own a car just for commuting."

    Where does that "but only for those who live sufficiently close to Palmdale station to avoid having to own a car just for commuting" come from? That's silly. Anyone who lives sufficiently close to either a connecting Metra station or the HSR station itself for walkable or park and ride or kiss and ride(or, for completeness, bike and ride) represents potential patronage, unless you are saying that the congestion delays from Palmdale to LA are primarily within Palmdale rather than on the connecting expressways to LA.

    Palmdale to Union Station is 27 minutes, to Burbank 23 minutes. The idea that the use of the HSR for commuting from Palmdale excludes park and ride commuting is absurd.

  131. Alon Levy
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 16:12

    I don't see any evidence for time travel thresholds. The 3-hour rule, or 4.5-hour rule, tells you when HSR gets a 50% mode share versus air, but I haven't seen anyone argue that a time reduction that crosses said threshold is qualitatively different from one that doesn't. Is there really a difference between shaving 10 minutes off a runtime of 4:35 or 3:05 and shaving 10 minutes off a runtime of 2:40?

  132. Anonymous
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 21:23

    Alon,

    While BART did have a problem with the ATU workers demanding breaks after each run (BART tolerates, nay, encourages labor inefficiencies at many levels), the real problem with the Millbrae-SFO shuttle was the pathetically few passengers riding it. The free airport shuttle to Millbrae was so much better.

  133. jim
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 22:50

    Bart sfo– for as many of you who think bart to sfo was a bad idea, just as many folks back then also thought that not going all the way in was a bad idea too. the point being that places such as chicago for one, have trains that go all the way in and that so should we. personally I love it it takes me right to my jet blue flights, my virgin america domestic flights, and my alaska air (PVR and (YVR) flights — my front door to the ticket counter.

    -palmdale- may not have po. as an argument now but we are building this for the future not for conditions in 2010.

    and why are we still arguing about nonsense such as 1-5 versus central valley etc

  134. jim
    Aug 30th, 2009 at 22:59

    p0. = pop.

  135. Rafael
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 03:22

    @ anon @ 10:23pm -

    amen to that. The free shuttle bus service was one of those SamTrans down to help pay for BART coming to Millbrae. It was, after all, competition.

    @ jim -

    the question is, do we want HSR to go out of the way to encourage further pop growth in Palmdale, a town in the High Desert?

    LA county does, but from the state's perspective Bakersfield will be just as good a bedroom community for the City of Angels, especially if the route is changed to the Grapevine.

    No-one was arguing to bypass Fresno and Bakersfield in this thread.

  136. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:33

    Rafael – I'm still hearing people argue for and I-5 route rather than secntral valley.

    As for palmdale, we have to encourage growth there. There nothing but room, and nothing to damage and LA county is already pretty messed up so using this corner of it that is of no use to anyone makes sense.

    otherwise they will try to cram the new people here and that is completely unacceptable and will meet huge resistance.

    as for water… if 20 million more people come to california, they will need water no matter where you put them, and few in california get their water from where they live. If you add them to the bay area, we still have find and pump water from someplace to here.
    if you put them in the desert, you hav to find and pump water to them there. and if you put them in central valley, you have to find and pump water to them there.

    all water in cali is found and pumped, either from the ground, across the state, or from dams and canals.

    the no water argument doesn't hold water.

    if the people who make money from economic growth ( that's all of us) want to continue that economic growth, we have to keep letting people in . I don't like it one bit but its reality. What I can do is insist they put these people out there out of the way where they won't be in my face. Send the train to palmdale and send the new people there on the train. LA county and the powers that be, want that and LA unlike SF, they make things happen. I assure you they will find the water, at an exhorbitant cost, but they will find it and they will mke the desert bloom.

  137. jim
    Aug 31st, 2009 at 10:34

    itmakes more sense than paving over valualbe farmland…. ag is still the states biggest money make and paving over the central valley is killing the goose.

  138. neroden@gmail
    Sep 2nd, 2009 at 07:25

    "However, since UPRR is an interstate freight railroad that ostensibly delivers a public service so valuable Congress even delegated limited powers of eminent domain to it, the chances of successfully exercising eminent domain against UPRR itself are slim to none."

    I believe this is simply untrue.

    The State of Washington threatened to exercise eminent domain against BNSF over the Cascades corridor. The state government, represented by the attorney general, was apparently willing to go direct to the US Supreme Court — and last I checked, such a dispute might be under the *original jurisdiction* of the Supreme Court, being in essence a dispute between a state and the federal government, and could go directly there without landing in any intervening courts.

    BNSF settled.

    Given that the corridor would be used for railroad purposes in either case, the state of the law seems unsettled (what seems to be settled is that you can't remove it from railroad use using eminent domain). And it's an issue of state sovereignty.

    I do believe that to get a fast court hearing and have a decent chance, any such attempt would have to be led *directly* by the California state government, not by CAHSR Authority, Caltrain, or anyone else.

  139. neroden@gmail
    Sep 2nd, 2009 at 07:35

    "Again, UPRR's property can't be condemned with eminent domain under federal law."

    US Code citation please. I believe you are wrong.

    As a matter of *fact*, Amtrak can use eminent domain against freight railroads if the Surface Transportation Board (formerly the Interstate Commerce Commission) approves. http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/1100

    Presumably STB approval would be needed for the State of California to use eminent domain too, but for HSR I don't see that as being a problem.

  140. neroden@gmail
    Sep 2nd, 2009 at 07:53

    "The question is, what could CAHSR offer the UP that would be of objective value to UP?"

    With normal railroads, this is easy.
    (1) The state upgrades the freight tracks to improve freight service — grade separations, clearance improvements, junction layout improvements, et cetera.
    (2) The state buys the freight tracks, injecting immediate cash — and eliminating property taxes.
    (3) The state grants the railroad a cheap lease or easement to run on the freight tracks.

    The state then gets part of the ROW (a section which doesn't currently have tracks).

    If the line is an mainline of strategic importance to the freight carrier, then they just do (1).

    UP, however, seems to be unusually hostile. However, they *did* agree to essentially the standard bargain in Utah, for FrontRunner. Of course, they had an insane amount of ROW there, having bought up every single railroad operating in Utah, basically.

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