HSR Security: No Need To Panic

Jan 29th, 2010 | Posted by

In his remarks yesterday in Tampa, President Obama mentioned that one benefit of HSR: no need to take off your shoes in security.

Makes sense, right? Not if you’re Politico’s Josh Gerstein, who wrote about the topic yesterday. He wondered why rail security is “so much more lax” than at airports, and used a post by Rafael at this blog as an example of arguments about HSR security that “aren’t very persuasive.”

So while everyone’s still debating ridership in the other thread, I thought I’d take a look at this issue in some more depth. Here’s the Obama quote, as reported by Gerstein:

“How many people here have been on one of these high-speed trains?” Obama asked the crowd at the University of Tampa. “When you were traveling outside the country, unfortunately, for the most part. I mean, those things are fast, they are smooth. You don’t have to take off your shoes. Right? [No need to] check to see if you’re wearing the socks with no holes in them.”

What Obama is playing on here is the widespread public view that taking off one’s shoes in order to be able to board an airplane is absurd. Just because some dumbass tried to light his shoes on fire nine years ago shouldn’t mean we can never walk through security without unshoed feet again. One has to wonder just how real the threat of shoe-induced terror actually is. Instead most Americans see it as another example of “security theater” – things the TSA makes us do that are designed primarily to make us feel safe rather than actually address a genuine threat.

Obama is also recognizing that, yes, the threat posed by a high speed train and an airplane are completely different. What we learned on September 11, 2001 was that there really isn’t much difference between a passenger aircraft and a cruise missile. Aircraft are also particularly vulnerable to explosions and such, so there is plenty of reason to take care with ensuring that they are secure from threats.

But a high speed train? Rafael was absolutely right when he put it like this:

trains can’t fall out of the sky, nor can they be made to crash into buildings

Quite true. If someone hijacks a train, you just turn on the automatic train control, shut the train down, and you have a hostage crisis instead of a runaway train. Granted, a hostage crisis is a serious issue. But it’s not the same as a train barreling down the track at 220 mph under the control of a madman.

Gerstein’s response to Rafael’s argument:

However, the blog’s claims that “trains can’t fall out of the sky, nor can they be made to crash into buildings” aren’t very persuasive suggestions that there’s no real threat. It is true that Al Qaeda seems obsessed with blowing up passenger planes, but anything high profile could be a target….

I get that the lack of security-related delays is a practical advantage for rail. It’s one reason why a lot of people traveling between D.C. and New York choose the train over the plane. It’s also the travelers’ choice about how to balance convenience versus safety. But the absence of security doesn’t seem like a great selling point for taxpayers being asked or required to subsidize the network.

Certainly you don’t want to turn HSR into a target by boasting about how it has less strict security than airplanes. But one doesn’t have to create a big and unnecessary security theater system to deal with potential threats. Instead, the US needs to take cues from its European counterparts when it comes to HSR security.

Despite people who think the US is constantly under threat of terrorist attack (the reason we haven’t been attacked by overseas terrorists since 2001 is because they just don’t pose the kind of ongoing threat many believe they do), Europe actually has FAR more experience with actual terrorism than the US has. Countless terror attacks targeting transportation infrastructure in Europe since the 1970s have shown them the threat is very real. Yet their HSR security isn’t anywhere close to what the TSA operates at US airports.

Let’s cast our minds back to March 11, 2004. That morning, 191 people were killed and over 1,800 wounded when Islamic terrorists attacked the Madrid commuter rail system, the Cercanías. Three bombs went off at Atocha Station, which is also the hub of Spain’s high speed AVE trains. Damage was done and lives were lost. But the AVE trains were not targeted, and only suffered collateral damage from the attacks on the commuter trains.

One might assume that in the aftermath of the 11-M attacks, security at Atocha Station would resemble Washington National airport circa 2002. Not so. Our own Bianca, who frequently comments on this blog, traveled to Spain last month, and reported that:

we had to put our bags through an x-ray machine, but we did not have to walk through a magnetometer/metal detector.

No shoes off. No emptying pockets. No wanding.

Just drop bags on conveyor belt, walk around, pick them up off the other side of the x-ray, that was it. You barely had to slow your stride, it was such little hassle.

Remember – this is Spain, where ETA attacks are a constant threat. And this is at Atocha Station, where the 11-M bombings were focused. If Spain feels that is a sufficient level of security, why wouldn’t the same hold true for the US?

Of course, we’re a nation of gun nuts, so metal detectors are almost certainly going to be required. But adding that to x-rays of bags would basically recreate the domestic airport security arrangements of the late 1990s, which succeeded in preventing any repeat of the 1980s or early 1990s-style bombing attacks. The September 11 hijackers had to devise new tactics to get around that system, and while those tactics were effective, they are also not suitable to high speed trains, where again ATC can just shut down the system in case someone tries to use a box cutter to take control.

It’s impractical to try and screen every passenger on a system like Caltrain, or BART, or LA Metro Rail, even though the July 7, 2005 bombings in London showed that such systems could be potential targets of attack. Nor can we scan every car driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Caldecott Tunnel, or on the 405 during rush hour. HSR might present a slightly greater threat level, but we already have plenty of effective tools at our disposal to deal with such threats without resorting to such absurd measures such as making people take off their damn shoes to go through security.

In short, President Obama was exactly right to cite that aspect of HSR travel as a selling point. And if Politico’s Josh Gerstein is still worried, maybe he can arrange to have the Human Target join him whenever he rides our system.

  1. Peter
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 16:48

    But Robert, the correct knee-jerk reaction to any and all security threats, both real and imagined, is to impose restrictions so ponderous to make it impractical to use the “threatened” system, isn’t it?

  2. Anonymoose
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 16:52

    My question: if the threat to unsecured, “high profile” targets is so great, then why hasn’t the Acela been targeted? What about the New York City Subway? (you could make a splash there with a bomb)

    This really shouldn’t be a concern. Let’s (as in society at large, not this blog, which is already intelligent) actually talk about real issues

    Peter Reply:

    Agreed. If it was a major security concern, it would have already been dealt with.

    Evan Reply:

    Good point!

    Andrew Reply:

    The NYC Subway seems like a fairly easy place to do it, too. All of the stations are so cluttered with support columns, there are lots of places to hide a bomb.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They dropped two 110 story buildings on subway stations back in 2001, they came out pretty well. It would be difficult to carry a conventional bomb that could do extensive damage to the structures through a turnstile.

  3. Spokker
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 17:01

    Why is rail security more lax?

    1. It isn’t international. Some routes aren’t even going to be interstate.

    2. A hijacked plane becomes a weapon in and of itself, to be crashed into a target. A train is on a fixed guideway and cannot be used as a weapon.

    I believe that there is a possibility of a train attack being attempted in the future. It does not mean we give up all of our rights and make the system unusable. It means that we step up intelligence and we stop meddling in foreign lands. Whether that attack is successful and kills or injures anybody depends on how good our intelligence is.

    Security theater is not likely to stop the attack anyway. Might as well live comfortable before we are blown up.

  4. Spokker
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 17:04

    “It’s also the travelers’ choice about how to balance convenience versus safety.”

    A plane is safe as long as you and your fellow passengers are able to wrestle the attacker to the floor. Also, better hope the attacker is incompetent. The would-be bomber failed to get his shit to work.

    Spokker Reply:

    Would-be Christmas bomber that is.

    Bianca Reply:

    I’m sorry, but that dude deserves to go down in history as the “underpants bomber. ” Seriously.

    jimsf Reply:

    Fruit of the Boom.

  5. Jathnael Taylor
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 17:53

    It can happen, but it don’t created the big news blitz that a plain bombing would.

  6. Reality Check
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 17:59

    @Jathnael Taylor
    Why would anyone want to bomb a plain? Well, maybe if it was to blow up some crop circles or some kind of weird target practice … huh? what’s that? Ohhhh, you meant an airPLANE? Doh!

    Jathnael Taylor Reply:

    damn typo …

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    that was funny

    Jathnael Taylor Reply:

    bad spell check > me :)

  7. Spokker
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 18:19


    Haha, see something, say something was actually good for something.

    Haha they released him too.

    Spokker Reply:

    More info and his defense. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/29/ojore-nuru-lutalo-detaine_n_441717.html

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    The guy sounds like a complete idiot.

  8. Alan Figgatt
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 18:22

    One major difference between an airplane and a train is that a small amount of high explosives can be sufficient to bring down an airplane in flight and take the lives of everyone on board. That is what the shoe and the underwear suicide bombers were trying to do. Fortunately, it is not as simple as one might think from watching movies to construct effective devices to do this.

    If someone sets off a bomb on a train with several pounds of high explosive located in their shoe or concealed under their clothes, they will only injure or kill those in the seats immediately around them. The train will just come to a stop. The threat to trains would be large amount of explosives in bags, which is what the X-ray scanners in Europe and bomb sniffing dogs are supposed to detect. So for planes, we will be either taking off our shoes for years to come or eventually go through expensive full body imagining systems with only a pretense of privacy to provide some small measure of protection against a fanatic who has placed explosive charges under his clothing or in his shoes.

    Of course, the reality is that if they were to impose additional screening for Amtrak trains, there is no way it could be done for commuter trains which may be packed with 500 people or at crowded high volume train stations like Penn Station in NYC. And there is no way to realistically protect all the miles of tracks. So hopefully they will keep the security theater away from trains, even if an incident ever occurs in the US.

  9. Truth be Told
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 18:36

    How naive you are, Cruikshank, to believe anything coming out of Obama’s lying mouth.

    Joey Reply:

    Meh. As politicians go he seems pretty good. And even if he hasn’t been able to keep all of his promises, he has at least tried to make a difference…

    jimsf Reply:

    Obama let the republicans know what’s what today thats for sure. He’s no bill clinton, but he’s good when he’s on his game.

    jimsf Reply:

    After putting up with george bush and his criminal ridden administration, I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying watching right wingers writhe and twitch convulse, heads spinning ’round like linda blair. It just warms my heart and tickles me pink each and every day. Are ya hatin’ it? really really hatin” it? he he.

  10. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 21:34

    For more than thirty years, there have been about 45,000 auto deaths per year in the US 45,000 PER YEAR for – well, now pushing 40 years… 1,600,000 american dead on the road since 1975.

    How many dead from terrorist attacks?

    Lets get a little perspective.

    Brian Reply:

    This is an excellent point. I think the transit community should raise this number much more frequently than it does in support of transit projects. I suspect if you polled people on how many auto related deaths occur in the US each your your average response would be in the low thousands.

  11. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 21:47

    closer to home. the average is about 4000 auto deaths per year, in california. With 400 people on a train, the terrorists would have to blow up 10 trains per year, ( the whole train, not just one or two cars) to match the number dying on the roads already.

    And most of us, are probably a lot more likely to bite it from cholesterol, than terrorism.

    Now that Im older Im a lot more afraid to fly – not bacause of terrorism, ( I fly to burbank and palm springs – not Yemen) but because it only takes on little mechanical thing to go wrong and the plane goes down. Remember the md80 with the broken bolt in the tail flaps, they hadnt kept it properly lubed. the damn plane flew upside down till it dove into the pacific. THATS terror.

    At least with a train, one, dispatch can shut it down remotely. two, a bomb is only going to take out one or two cars. three, you are more likely survive and get out of a derailment at ground level than you are to survive falling 10,20 30,000 feet out of the sky. ( cant they please at least give us all parachutes? geez)

    four, the train is not going to have to land in the husdson river.
    five, there’s no dicey landing and taking off in weird cross winds and micro bursts.
    six, if I do die on a train at least ill die in a comfortable seat with plenty of legroom.

  12. adirondacker12800
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 23:25

    Europe actually has FAR more experience with actual terrorism than the US has.

    Things used to explode fairly regularly in Manhattan back in the 70s and 80s. And don’t forget that the events of 9/11 were the second attack against the World Trade Center by the same people.

    Countless terror attacks targeting transportation infrastructure in Europe since the 1970s have shown them the threat is very real.

    You have to have a transportation system to attack before it can be attacked. For instance it’s impossible to attack the Denver subway because Denver doesn’t have a subway.

    Joey Reply:

    Conclusion: we shouldn’t build anything whatsoever?

    Joey Reply:

    Because anything that exists is at risk of a terrorist attack. So no more buildings, roads, or anything.

    Joey Reply:

    Come to think of it I’m at a much lower risk of being a victim of a terrorist attack if I don’t exist…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Conclusion is that you can’t blow up the Denver subway because there is no subway to blow up. If you want to read something into go ahead.

    A digression. Something like 25% of all pedestrian deaths in the US occur in New York City. Sounds awful doesn’t it? But that’s mostly because there are pedestrians in New York to run down in crosswalks. You can’t run pedestrians down in the crosswalk in places where there are no pedestrians. Places without pedestrians have few if any crosswalks. So it’s very difficult if not impossible to run down pedestrians in crosswalks if there are no pedestrians and there are no crosswalks. That doesn’t make the drivers in those places especially attuned to pedestrians. Or make the rare pedestrian safe.

    Survey 60 year olds and most of them are content with their sex lives. Survey 70 year olds and the men are content but the women aren’t. That’s because there’s a lot more widows among 70 year olds. They didn’t ask the widows’ husbands how their sex lives were going which I’m sure would alter the percentage of men who are content with their sex lives.

    You can’t blow up 100 story buildings in San Francisco. Not because 100 story buildings in San Francisco are somehow invulnerable but because there are no 100 story buildings to blow up. You’d have to settle for the Transamerica Building. Which was targeted in 1995. To be blown up by an airplane….

    Terrorists don’t target US trains. But that’s partly because there’s are few trains to target. And it’s not as if there haven’t been terrorist attacks against train in the US, it’s just that most people don’t know about them. There was a doozy in Jersey City that blew out windows in Philadelphia….

  13. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 23:46

    TBT made curbedsf again

  14. lpetrich
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 23:59

    One can do terrorist attacks on flat roads also, like hijacking a full gasoline truck and running it into a car.

    That aside, I think it’s fair to say that trains are much more fail-safe than airplanes, even very fast ones.

    A train does not depend on having properly-working control surfaces to stay stable, as an airplane does, and if it loses power, it’s much easier for it to come to a stop in a non-catastrophic manner. An airplane would have to be landed at an airport, or else do a water landing. A small one could land in a highway if need be, but that’s not an option for a big one.

    I was impressed with how minor last year’s Eurostar troubles were — lots of people got inconvenienced, but hardly anyone was hurt, let alone killed, and the trains survived more-or-less intact.

  15. wu ming
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 01:17

    even successfully blowing up a train is unlikely to kill everyone on the train. it would suck for those next to the bomb, to be sure, but the damage is going to be bad for a car or two, and then a high speed derailment, but that’s nothing like blowing a hole in a pressurized plane at 10,000 feet, or flying one into a building.

    these people just crave to be terrorized. i think some resent obama for not being scared, and doubly so for not trying to scare them as they’ve become accustomed. they’re hooked on the panic+hate adrenaline combo, shades of war is a force that gives us meaning.

  16. bleh
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 02:02


    It’s more like:

    1. A small bomb can down a plane if it’s placed in the wrong spot. You need a suitcase bomb on a train to kill more than a few people (which is why the Spanish just take a quick look at the innards of your bag. They just want to know if it is literally full of explosives)

    2. If you do bomb a train, HSR is a bad choice because of low density and 100% seating. (the seats act as makeshift blast shields, reducing the force relatively quickly) Commuter rail, busses or subways are a much better choice. During rush-hour they’re *full* and it is impossible to check all passengers.

    3. Targeting the train itself (i.e. blowing up the tracks as it goes by) makes no sense. With the amount of explosives needed you could blow up a tunnel, bridge, dam or skyscraper instead.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Much easier to just sabotage the tracks and let the train itself tear up the tracks when it derails. You need a wrench to do that. Or maybe a sledgehammer. A piece of rebar wedged into the correct switch…

    Joey Reply:

    Assuming you weren’t caught on CCTV.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Seeing the recording of the act after the fact doesn’t help much. Monitoring hundreds of miles of track closely 24/7 wouldn’t be cheap. It takes miles to stop a train going 220, even if a CCTV operator saw an act and instantaneously sent out the command to stop all trains the train wouldn’t be stopped if the act was timed well. .. a train going 300 KPH/ 186MPH goes 5 km or 3 miles in a minute. It takes longer than a minute to bring them to a stop. Time it so the sabotage only takes 30 seconds…..

    Bianca Reply:

    You do realize that intrusion monitoring is already in the budget, right? And frankly, a 30 second window is in highly trained commando territory. It’s not just the time it takes to effect the sabotage- there will be barriers to get over. Sabotage on the tracks is not going to be very easy either.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s a difference between monitoring and prevention. For comparsion sake most cross gates come down 20 seconds before the train arrives. How many Darwin award competitors manage to get around the gates in 20 seconds? 30 seconds is more than enough time to drive a pickup truck through the fence and get away from the tracks. Assuming getting away from the tracks is part of the plan. Even less time is needed if the saboteur is expecting his ticket to paradise to be punched by the train.

    The Peninsula is going to have all sorts of lush landscaping along the fence. Perfect place to cut a hole in the fence undetected and dart out onto the tracks at the appropriate moment.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    You must not have looked too carefully at the HSR plans. There are not going to be any crossing gates. Everything at grade will have a fairly significant concrete barricade; you’re not getting anything smaller than a tank through that.

    They know how to make fences that can tell if they’ve been cut. Heck, in a spate of post-9/11 paranoid security theater, the tiny reservoirs around San Diego had such fences installed around the water inlets and dams.

    Also: How do you function day-to-day, with such paralyzing paranoia?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    paralyzing paranoia

    I’m not paranoid. Having an alarm system on the fence isn’t going to stop someone who is determined to be a martyr.

    Bianca Reply:

    Which is it, dart out onto the tracks, or determined to be a martyr? Because I don’t see those two concepts fitting into the same disaster scenario. Someone who is willing to die to accomplish their aims is a lot harder to stop than someone who wants to see the sun rise the next day. But that applies in all cases, not just to high speed rail. Your argument seems to be “if they build it, someone will want to blow it up.” But I just don’t agree.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    my argument is that if someone wants to blow it up they will at least make a loud boom on the tracks. A nice fence stops stupid people . Thinking that an alarm system the fence and camera monitoring the ROW is going to stop determined people is wishful thinking. Luckily the determined people are very very few and usually while they are very very determined they aren’t particularly effective. Even the ones who want to see the sunrise tomorrow have a good chance of blowing themselves up while they are busy building a device. The ones who are determined and competent are extraordinarily rare.

    Google FALN sometime. Or 18 West 11th Street. There ate whole lists of things the IRA was unsuccessful at including managing to blow themselves up during manufacture of bombs.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    It won’t stop them from getting on the tracks, but it’ll stop the train from reaching them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How long does it take a train going 220 MPH to stop? You have that much time to do something.

  17. Alon Levy
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 03:05

    High-speed trains usually require all passengers to have a seat, making them much less crowded than local and regional trains. Terrorists like to blow things up for symbolic effect, but they also like to inflict maximum damage, which means attacking subways, which are crowded and travel in confined tunnels.

  18. Ben
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 05:56

    Robert- I am a strong supporter of high speed rail and I am glad to see this national commitment to a more sustainable mode of transportation but security on trains is a legitimate issue. You mentioned the tragic Spain terrorist attack where 191 passengers died. In the past decade, there have been fatal attacks in London, Mumbai, and Russia resulting in hundreds of deaths. A bomb on a train traveling 220 mph will cause dozens, if not hundreds of deaths. The unfortunate legislation that Congress passed allowing firearms on Amtrak also increases the security risk on rail. I certainly do not want to stifle this mode of transportation but a fair-minded analysis of the risk is necessary. I also understand that terrorists will look for vulnerabilities. If security on high speed rail is addressed, then local transit or highways –think of the great economic and human toll of a tanker explosion in the Baltimore tunnel– will become a target.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Oh I very much agree there does need to be security for HSR, and that the analysis of the risk needs to be “fair minded.” I don’t think that’s what we got from Josh Gerstein. My point here is that Spain shows how this can be implemented effectively without requiring the obnoxious “security theater” measures used by the TSA at airports.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “A bomb on a train traveling 220 mph will cause dozens, if not hundreds of deaths”.
    In 1983 a bomb was planted in a luggage rack on the Marseille-Paris TGV. It was timed to explode at the same time as another one in a baggage locker at Marseille station.
    The bomb on the train killed an SNCF employee. The one at the station killed 4 people and seriously injured 50. The two bombs were identical but the one at the station proved deadlier than the one on the train. The terrorist (Carlos “the Jackal”) is now purging life imprisonment in France.
    Other attempts by Algerian islamists were even less successful and the TGV doesn’t seem to be a target any more. Terrorists don’t want their bombing attempts reported as failures. What they want is a blood bath and, clearly, there are far better places than high-speed trains to obtain that.
    By the way, the TGV has derailed several times at full speed, due to land subsidence, with zero casualty or serious injury. This is worth noting for those whose next anti-hsr argument will be the seismic risk.

    dist Reply:

    TGVs are safe because of their special architecture. If you really want to speak about trains or high speed trains and seismis risk, just take a look at Japan. Their records are clean.

  19. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 10:23

    Here’s something way more interesting to talk about…

    “Initial work would involve digging and moving underground electrical wires to make way for track foundation, said Diridon, a Bay Area representative. At that time crews could also begin work on some of the previously designed and approved rail bridges, called grade
    separations, required in cities such as San Bruno and San Mateo.

    The heavier construction work, including track laying along the Caltrain line, could begin as soon as late 2011 or early 2012, Diridon said. Another Bay Area board member, Quentin Kopp, said he estimates the heavy construction in the region could start in 2012.

    The authority must start building the rail system by September 2012 and finish by September 2017 or it would lose the stimulus money.”

    Now THAT’s funny…
    The PREVIOUSLY APPROVED grade separations and foundation work for Caltrain wouldn’t be designed to accomodate HSR… In terms of HSR, they won’t even be done with the EIR lawsuits (including TBT), by 2017 if they don’t get their route decisions seriously fixed pretty fast. Plus, EVEN if they get a whopping $2B a year for the next 7 years from the feds (2017) – they’ll have a whopping total of only $25 Billion of the 42B they need by 2017 including the california bond funding. Not to mention the fact that Diridon apparently assumes Pringle and his Gal Galgiani would stand for the spending of ALL of this first round of fed money in the bay area. And someone (certainly not the authority!) believes they’re going to be able to tap in to matching funds from AB3034 for this ARRA 2.2B?! – which of course would be blatantly illegal (read lawsuits up the ying yang), because their ARRA projects don’t even come close to the lawful criteria for AB3034 appropriations.

    As for the security thread…
    Well, once again, you guys prove that you are idiots, thinking you can control the topic with loud and moronic pronouncements. The target for train terrorism would be the tracks, not the trains (high speed derailments in highly populated, densified areas, off arials, etc. Not spectacular?) Or stations – monumental intermodal hubs – lots and lots of people in and around.. And, nothing more high profile than the signature US infrastructure project. Now, on the other hand, the operation of high speed rail is SO far off in to the future that your grandkids grandkids will still be arguing about station security for opening day so really, this particular topic isn’t worth your time. Suffice it to say, especially since CHSRA deems to target hundreds of miles ofhere will be security, lots and lots of it.

    jimsf Reply:

    Oh, well that’s different. Never mind. I guess we’d better shut down the blog and call the governor and let him know the project has been cancelled.

    Joey Reply:

    The entire project doesn’t have to be done by 2017, just the segments funded by this round of federal stimulus money.

    Also, you do realize that while getting a train to derail isn’t difficult, getting it to derail enough to actually completely leave the guideway is extremely difficult (especially since measures are being developed to keep the train more or less on the tracks when it derails). If you’re a terrorist, there are a lot more effective things to do with your resources than to get a train to fall off of an aerial structure.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What Joey said. This: Plus, EVEN if they get a whopping $2B a year for the next 7 years from the feds (2017) – they’ll have a whopping total of only $25 Billion of the 42B they need by 2017 including the california bond funding. is clearly just a dishonest attempt to confuse people that the terms of the ARRA funding are about anything other than the specific projects applied for.

    jimsf Reply:

    Isnt 42b the number for full build of phases one and two – not phase one?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, its the full build out plus all rolling stock for phase one. Its in current year dollars, mind, so the later year costs are substantially inflated compared to 2010 values, and it includes a substantial amount of cost for work already planned for after 2017, on segments not included in the ARRA funds application, and for vehicles, which was not included in the ARRA (and of course for which there’s no real doubt about a winning franchisee funding under a franchise lease arrangement).

    As for whether the elements are funded at the application level or at the project level, its laughable to imagine that CAHSR will be unable to complete the work they contract for out of the ARRA funds by 2017.

    Denialists (a neologism for denial specialists) can of course paint all sorts of scary scenarios into any lack of information, but given their track record to date in terms of previous scary scenarios they have painted that have reached the point of being proven right or wrong, any skeptical observer would place the burden of proof on their shoulders – rather than buying it when they say, “well, imagine if the rules turn out to be written this way, that would cause this problem”, given their low hit:miss ratio to date, the response should be, “show me where it says that, just imagining scary things happening out in the dark does not cut it”.

    Remember part of what is behind the current denialist flurry: trying to distract from the fact that the gloom and doom “California won’t get any ARRA funding, it will all go to FL/Midwest/SE/NEC etc.” turned out to be YADAGD … Yet Another Doom and Gloom Disproven.

    Bianca Reply:

    Observer, the Authority’s plan already calls for fully-secured tracks:

    In California, key safeguards will prevent unwarranted access to the system. The California high-speed train system would be a fully grade-separated and fully access-controlled guideway with intrusion monitoring systems in place. This means that the train system’s infrastructure (e.g., mainline tracks and maintenance and storage facilities) would be designed to prevent access by unauthorized vehicles, persons, animals, and objects and to detect breaches of the system. The capital cost estimates include allowances for appropriate barriers (fences and walls), state-of-the-art communication, access-control, and monitoring and detection systems. All aspects of the California high-speed train system would conform to the latest federal requirements regarding transportation security. High-Speed trains will not require lengthy “airport style” screenings because like other passenger rail transportation services operating throughout the United States, high-speed trains do not present as great a security risk as air transportation.

    Dan S. Reply:

    “thinking you can control the topic with loud and moronic pronouncements”

    Hah, good observation.

  20. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 12:17

    The 2017 comments were quotes from the paper. Have you seen the actual text of the ARRA grant? Do you have a link?

    Joey Reply:

    I don’t think the ARRA rules have any jurisdiction over corridors which they do not fund.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, they do not: the requirement is on projects accepting funds.

    And that’s not subject to DoT or FRA decision, that’s specified in the legislation itself. We knew that much in March of last year.

  21. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 12:46

    Terms of the ARRA contract? Oh do you have a link to the terms? Thanks.

    Joey Reply:

    It just seems illogical that they could reasonably do anything like that, considering how the ARRA funding was organized. Granted, we’re both just speculating, but the funding was going toward specific corridors, not the entire project.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not just speculation – its compliance with the ARRA act itself. Different allotments are given different dispersal deadlines. And its all with respect to the projects being funded. This is just Observer thinking that its a fine print question so he/she is free to make shit up when he/she cannot be contradicted by the facts, but because of not knowing the facts himself/herself, ends up by mistake making shit up about something already known in advance.

  22. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 14:03

    Joey: “Funding was going toward specific corridors”… But Joey, California got only about half of what they requested… Which half? If you’re saying certain specific projects are funded and other specific projects were denied? Which are which?

    Or do we just have one big pot for CHSRA to fund a big generic thing called “high speed rail”? In which case, couldn’t it be the case that the big generic thing needs to be completed by 2017? What ARE the performance measures in the ARRA contract?

    Again, anybody (Robert??) have any idea how to see the grant agreement terms themselves? Endless spin and speculation is getting a little tiresome. Lets get some facts on the table.

    Joey Reply:

    Actually that brings up the question of whether all four of the corridors being funded by the ARRA have to be complete by 2017, or just the ones that the money goes to.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Just the ones the money goes to, and just for the projects as specified in the applications.

    The non-receipt of money cannot impose a deadline which exists as a requirement of accepting the money, and the existence of a broader project does not mean that the broader project inherits the deadline.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Just the ones that the money goes to. The story as to where the problem lies, of course, will adapt to the circumstance of the degree to which specific projects in the application were funded – but the conclusion is known in advance. There will be a “serious” problem foreseen.

    Just as we were once told that it was a lead pipe cinch that all or most of the points in the EIR/EIS court case would be decided for the plaintiffs, and then when a majority were decided in favor of the defense, that the points decided for the plaintiffs would mean that all work would have to come to a halt until a new EIR/EIS was filed … and then the judge ruled that work could proceed while CAHSR complied with the finding.

    The “foreseen problem” always is and always will be the maximum that can be imagined based on what we do not yet know.

  23. jimsf
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 15:11

    According to a co worker who was involved in the applications for the portions that amtrak got, I think they had to specify the specific projects, so weren’t the same procedures followed for hsr? Were the applications submitted for specific portions of the project, and were they awarded that way?

  24. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 16:07

    Or Joey, it brings up the question of whether ANY corridors that the money goes to will be completed by 2017 – because none of them will with with a total of only 1.85B available to spread across many

    – and none of them will be able to get the matching AB3034 bond funds either, unless they ARE going to be completed with that bond appropriation – so it seems a little bit like a rock and a hard place.

    But the crucial question of the day is – which ones are funded, which ones are not.

    JimSF – no doubt applications were probably project specific – but whether they were awarded that way, and if so, which ones were awarded and which ones were denied – that’s kind of the question of the day, isn’t it.

  25. BruceMcF
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 16:18

    Or Joey, it brings up the question of whether ANY corridors that the money goes to will be completed by 2017 – because none of them will with with a total of only 1.85B available to spread across many

    The crucial question is what stake you have in lying about these matters? The basis for you saying that they cannot be finished by 2017 is that you have argued that they cannot be finished by 2017. But you saying that does nothing to prevent them receiving the ARRA funds, so that there is nothing preventing AB3034 bonds.

    Its not being between a rock and a hard place, its being between a rock and a fictitious hard place. And in that case, simply avoid the rock, problem solved.

  26. Spokker
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 16:37

    If we expect nobody to ever die while using any mode of transportation we would be walking everywhere.

    Joey Reply:

    But you can still slip and hit your head or something. Better to just stay put.

    Spokker Reply:

    But if you stay put you’ll die of a heart attack after a buildup of too much butter in your arteries.

  27. BruceMcF
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 17:07

    Observer :
    Joey: “Funding was going toward specific corridors”… But Joey, California got only about half of what they requested… Which half? If you’re saying certain specific projects are funded and other specific projects were denied? Which are which?

    You claimed that $42b would have to be available to be spent by 2017, which is outside the frame of the projects applied for. Having made a bullshit claim and being caught on it, here you are trying to demand specifics when your claim of $42b remains bullshit no matter how the detail is filled in.

  28. BruceMcF
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 17:15

    Observer :
    Or Joey, it brings up the question of whether ANY corridors that the money goes to will be completed by 2017 – because none of them will with with a total of only 1.85B available to spread across many

    Prove that the ARRA disbursement requires that the state promise of a 50:50 match be expended concurrently, since the funds under the Act are not required to have any state match. Without that requirement, then the ARRA funds can be expended first, fulfilling their share of the AB3034 bond requirements for outside funding, and then the concern that it will take until 2017 to finish disbursing the ARRA funds becomes ludicrous on your own arguments premises that substantially more will be required to finish the work on those segments projected to be required to finish them in 2017.

    Sure, things “could be” bad. Things around the corner always “might be” bad. But the number of bad things that happen is always a small share of all the total possible bad things that “might” happen.

    And in this case, you are just shooting in the dark, and trying to bluff behind framing the issue with the burden of proof on the other side, and never on yourself.

  29. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 18:35

    That’s exactly what I’m asking for Bruce – I’m asking for proof. For Fact. For Data. Where’s the link to the terms of teh ARRA grant? What’s been funded and what hasn’t?

    Its clear that they asked for 4.7, they got 2.2. Minus the TBT (assuming it was on both the request and the final grant), thats 4.3 requested and 1.8 granted – for everything else. That’s ONLY 43% of what was requested. What DID get funded? What DID get denied? Are there specific projects on the list or not?

    And, Its not the ARRA funds that i’m saying need the matching. Its the AB3034 funds that require not only the matching but also this whole other host of requirements which are not obtainable without 100% funding of a completed usable segment. Does the ARRA award provide for that strucute? WHO KNOWS? Sure, they can spend the ARRA funds without a single other penny, but they won’t be able to tap the AB3034 funds without a completed segment. Without a completed segment, will they be in compliance with the ARRA 2017 requirement? WHO KNOWS – WE DON”T HAVE THE DOCUMENT.

    Are all these train fanatics, mental superheros on this blog going to just sit around like soggy little 1 day old kittens, eyes squeezed shut, mouths wide open, waiting to suckle at Robert’s teat of spin and PR? I guess no one here even cares if they’ve funded CALTRAIN improvments “as is”, San Bruno Curve “as is”, grade separations for a 2 track wide, grade level track all up and down the Peninsula ‘as is’, (because that the only thing that has environment clearance right now), or if they’ve funded a bit of Anaheim, or big fallic monument at Diridon… No one cares, huh? Just taking the bits of scraps of PR trash that Robert feeds you, like hewpwess wittle kittes. How cute.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    ts not the ARRA funds that i’m saying need the matching.

    Yes, it is, since if they do not need matching, how does your appeal to AB3034 precent the CAHSR from spending the $1.85b before 2017?

    WHO KNOWS – WE DON”T HAVE THE DOCUMENT.” When you claimed to know that $42b was required to be spent by 2017, you were claiming knowledge.

    Your whole claim argument that there is this insuperable obstacle now stands revealed as boiling down to, “I have no reason to believe this is so, but it might possible could be true that …”

    Quite evidently, the reason you are appealing to what you do not know rather than to what you do know, is the hope that you can confuse someone into repeating your now admittedly baseless speculation as if it is fact, in order to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

    You are the one who is arguing that, well, you don’t know as a fact but its “possible” that, knowing full well the text of AB3034, the FRA allocated the funds under terms that will not allow the funds to be used.

    But the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the burden of proof, and “I do not have the slightest bit of information to suggest that its true, but I am going to argue that it might be true until someone proves it is wrong.” … that does not cut the mustard.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Anyway, it boils down to: if you wish to make a claim that California will be caught in a bind that will not allow it to spend the ARRA funds: provide proof. Its an extraordinary claim and therefore the burden of proof lies with you.

  30. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 20:12

    No, 2017 was a quote from the Paper, link was provided. And the point still stands that they have precisely and no more than 1.85B, and that isn’t enough to attract any AB3034 appropriation.

    So, the two main questions still stand: Given CHSRA requested 4.3B (not including TBT) and only got 1.8 (not including TBT), what got funded and what got left out? Secondly, what are the terms of the ARRA grant? Link?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Good lord, you mean your are imagineering this threat to the ability of the State of California to spend its allotment based on a newspaper article, without actually having any obtained any direct information about the American Recovery and Re-investment Act of 2009? Which is to say, essentially, just making shut up?

    It sounds as if you never even bothered to read the FRA FAQ on the HSR ARRA grants:

    Question 5: While the federal share is “up to” 100 percent, are applicants expected to provide a non-federal match?

    Answer 5: No. Grant recipients determine whether to provide a match or not. However, once a grant is awarded, recipients will be expected to cover any project expense overruns and complete the projects. Moreover, the existence of non-federal matching contributions strengthens an application insofar that it provides evidence of a tangible commitment on the part of the applicant to fully implement and complete the project.


    So your argument boils down to, you think it will be hard to spend $1.85b in 7 years because its not a large share of the total required.. How it makes a shred of sense that funding fewer than half the proposed projects makes it harder to disburse the full $1.85b by 2017 – I guess that is left as an exercise for the reader.

    One thing we know about the terms of the ARRA grant is that it will be within the scope of what is allowed in the Act. And you want to imagineer a crisis based on interpreting a newspaper story because you are too lazy to research the relevant terms of the Act?

    If you want someone else to do your homework for you, as you work out what is the best line of attack to spread FUD regarding HSR, why don’t you ask a fellow denialist for that?

    Observer Reply:

    Nope, you are still contorting to make up an argument I’m not making, then flailing around for an smart ass answer.

    Let me simplify:
    I’m trying to get to a copy of the document that shows what specifically was awarded to California, and what the funding conditions are. Its pretty much that simple.

    Why? Because speculation is a waste of time – the possible scenarios are endless. But why it matters? well Bruce, what if they didn’t just fund 50% fewer projects. What if they only funded 50% of the projects they funded? So that California couldn’t back out of its matching promise? How will the remainder be funded for those projects? Not AB3034 (unless its an entire usable segment). So how?

    Or, what if they funded 50% of the projects at 100% – but they are (for example) all “TBT” type projects – projects that don’t really further, and maybe just hinder HSR. Like pre-HSR, EIR approved, shovel ready, Caltrain projects – that are yes – shovel ready – but that just get in the way ultimately of HSR.

    Or, what if they funded 50% of the projects – but they don’t string together for anything usable. OK in this case, sure the state can go ahead and hurry up and spend fed funds (perhaps, depends on the conditions), but the real question there would be which ones are left out – how much more would be needed to complete the usable segment. Because AB3034 funds are locked up until CHSRA can show a usable segment is funded and ready to generate revenue. In other words – how thin was the federal funding spread across California? Does it get them any closer to usable segments to unlock AB3034?

    Or what if they’re the projects that would be job creators, but not the EIR readiest ones, or perhaps the most controversial ones? or the ones that involve UPRR? .

    Or blah blah blah – we could speculate forever and ever and ever and its all useless speculation.

    As for the 2017 question – simple. What did the FEDS say had to be completed by 2017?

    ALL we really know is that we DON’T KNOW what was awarded, we can’t guess what was awarded because the award is so much less than the request. 1.8 vs 4.7. 3B of something just DIDN’T get funding. HELLO? MCFLY? Is that at all curious to you?

    The issue is, where are the documents that give the details.

    Main point. Where are the documents?

    Matthew F. Reply:

    If you hate speculation, why are you spending so much time speculating the same question over and over again?

    Live up to your name: Start observing for a while, instead of spouting off how “THE PROJECT IS DOOMED”.

    (By the way: A “usable segment”, as defined by Prop. 1A, is a segment that includes two or more stations. It’s a pretty loose constraint. )

    wu ming Reply:

    dude. process point:

    see that little blue word in brackets below people’s posts that says “reply”? if you want to reply to a specific point, CLICK IT and then reply, please. we went to all the trouble of giving you nested comment threads to make the context for your silly claims easier to follow. please use the nice blog features.

  31. Elizabeth
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 21:00

    The 2017 date is in the original ARRA grant terms, available online at FRA site.

    The original requests were 1.1 bn under track 1 (shovel ready) and 4.7 bn under track 2 (“corridor” programs, 2011 finish environmental review, 2012 start construction, 2017 finish construction).

    The 1.1 bn included the $400mm for Transbay. So really, high speed rail requests were 5.1 bn.

    So for the rest of the projects they got $1.85 bn out of $4.7 bn.

    I have not seen any of the details about how matching will be done, given they seem to have just given California a lump sum. I suspect from the feds perspective, the way we have broken this project up is not their problem.

    This is on agenda of next board meeting. Hopefully some of these questions will be answered.

  32. Elizabeth
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 21:06

    I would add that whatever the rules are, the feds will make them stick. They are VERY strict.

  33. Observer
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 21:41

    Hi Elizabeth,

    So the question here really is whether they gave a lump sum of 1.85 to fund ‘california high speed rail’ (california you figure out where to put that 1.85), and terms are that ‘california high speed rail’ must be completed by 2017.


    California we gave you 1.85 for some certain projects on your list (here’s the list of the ones we approved), and this list must be completed by 2017.


    if its a specific list, we can see
    a) which of those projects are 100% funded with the federal grants, versus which ones need matching from the state.

    b) which of those projects are structured in a way that would qualify for AB3034 funding

    How can we know the answer to this without seeing the actual funding award wording – the award and its terms. Do you know where the funding agreement, the grant terms (the award, or whatever its called) can be seen online? It should be public information, right?

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Why do you always add replies to the bottom of the article? Just hit ‘Reply’ below what you’re replying to. That will make it easier for everyone….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How can we know the answer to this without seeing the actual funding award wording

    So you admit that when you said earlier:

    Plus, EVEN if they get a whopping $2B a year for the next 7 years from the feds (2017) – they’ll have a whopping total of only $25 Billion of the 42B they need by 2017 including the california bond funding. … And someone (certainly not the authority!) believes they’re going to be able to tap in to matching funds from AB3034 for this ARRA 2.2B?! – which of course would be blatantly illegal (read lawsuits up the ying yang), because their ARRA projects don’t even come close to the lawful criteria for AB3034 appropriations.

    (1) The “need $42b by 2017” is either a deliberate lie or negligent falsehood and
    (2) The presumption that the matching funds need to be spent in line with ARRA funding is nothing but idle speculation?

    A fine trick to engage in idle speculation in pursuit of raising fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and then when called regarding the idle speculation demand that people prove you wrong …
    … even as in the process of insisting that they cannot prove you wrong until more details become available you admit that you yourself had no real foundation for your original idle speculation.

    Go to the original prep work for the application for the costs that were the basis for program applications:
    SF/SanJose: $2.56b
    Merced/Fresno: $0.932b
    Fresno/Bakersfield: $1.639b
    LA/Anaheim: $4.009b

    In 2010, $228m for program implementation. That leaves $1,612.

    2011 work on these four corridors is, of course, under $600m, and the total of Fresno/Merced is $2,212m, half of which is $1,106m, less $91m (2011) is $1,015m. Allocating $1,015 of ARRA funds to Fresno/Merced would allow $1,106m in state bonds to be sold – you are assuming on the basis of having no information either way that this can’t be done, but if the FRA knew that this would be more convenient for finance given the terms of the $9b state bonding authority – what is the argument for why they would elect to throw a roadblock in the way of raising state matching funds?

    Now, start of 2010, and one 220mph segment and all 2011 work has its funding secured – having one 220mph segment funding secured is required, of course, to remain on track for vehicle testing. And of course, by spending the ARRA funds first, on projects (projects, remember, not programs), completing pre-2017, and bond or other funds secured later for the final work, the ARRA 2017 disbursement rule is met easily.

    OK, so California applies for more funding and you argue if it gets $2b a year, its in dire trouble. But the reality is that, as elsewhere in the world, underfunding the corridor just means delaying some of the work on some of the lines.

    $2.4b this year would cover over half of 2012 costs, and there is ample work in the Fresno/Merced in 2011/2012 for $400m in state bonds to be sold to finance that work.

    $2.4b in 2011 would cover the balance of 2012 costs and go into 2013, and enough work in 2013 in Fresno/Merced to sell $400m in state bonds.

    If it remains at $2b Federal, $2.4b total, 2012 at the latest is when California has to decide where to “go north” or “go south”, maintaining CV through to either the Bay or LA Basin on track (though financially, making that decision in 2011 would be prudent). If its “go north”, the next tranche of federal funds secures over half the funding for San Jose / SF, opening up the sale of bonds to finance that segment, to provide the matching funds, if its “go south”, the next tranche of federal funds secures over half the funding for LA/Anaheim, opening up the sale of bonds to finance that segment. Either way, work proceeds on the “go” portion with any additional available funds used on the other side, and with the state match coming from segments that have already had substantial federal funds spent on them, the balance of Merced/Fresno can be fully Federally funded.

    So $2b federal per year could cause a delay in specific segments, but the ARRA no-match funding is sufficient funding to prime the pump as far as the state bonding authority goes.

    Indeed, when you step through the figures … sufficient with not $100m’s to spare. Huh, what a funny coincidence. I’m sure it was just accidental, and no staff group tasked with working out the amount of pump priming required by the CAHSR could figure out in several months what it took me less than an hour looking at the Business Plan cost calender to figure out.

    Of course, if you assume that the FRA was trying to force CAHSR to trip over the state bonding requirements, its possible to imagine that the FRA put the CAHSR in a double bind, promising money that the CAHSR is not in a legal position to accept.

    That begs the question, though … why would they do any such thing?

  34. Me
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 08:55

    A couple of things:

    1) There are clearly things going on behind the scenes that render meaningless any of our guesses as to what the Feds money is available for. Board meeting this week… or just ask the Authority. They do answer their phone.
    2) In the apps, while there no requirement to match track 2 requests, they did ask if you would. California committed to matching because they felt like it. At this point it seems like it didn’t get them anything by making formal pledges and it has opened up a can of AB3034 worms.
    3) The budget numbers above don’t represent the full costs of any of those segments. You can look online at staff memo for sept 23 board meeting to see what is missing.
    4) ab3034 says you can’t use money for construction until you have all money lined up and whatever you build must be ready for service and have at least 2 stations. There is smallish slush fund but at the rate they are going through planning dollars that puppy will be gone soon. Even including benefit of fed planning dollars.
    5). They must put Anaheim on back burner if this project has any chance.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I included all the planning program costs for 2010, and did the allocation to full year costs first before allocating any balance to additional projects toward completing a segment. Since its just one scenario – the $2b/yr scenario allows completing one of the two tunneling projects on schedule, $3b/yr allows completing both on schedule, there are infrastructure bank proposals under which the question becomes moot and indeed under any substantial Steel Interstate project, it’d be straightforward for any 220mph segment to be the fastest leg on routes completed at 110mph, so Stage 1 service could begin well in advance of completing all of the Stage 1 projects.

    Peter Reply:

    So the question now is, does it matter that they made a pledge to match funds? We have to see the wording to determine this, but there might be no requirement to match the fed funds…

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Anaheim is in AB3034.

  35. Observer
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 09:28

    I don’t have to assume its FRA at fault (with incompetent, arrogant CHSRA at the helm for California, why would I have to assume that?) Nor do I have to assume anything about AB3034, I can read the wording.

    (c) (1) No later than 90 days prior to the submittal to the
    Legislature and the Governor of the initial request for appropriation
    of proceeds of bonds authorized by this chapter for any eligible
    capital costs on each corridor, or usable segment thereof, identified
    in subdivision (b) of Section 2704.04, other than costs described in
    subdivision (g), the authority shall have approved and submitted to
    the Director of Finance, the peer review group established pursuant
    to Section 185035 of the Public Utilities Code, and the policy
    committees with jurisdiction over transportation matters and the
    fiscal committees in both houses of the Legislature, a detailed
    funding plan for that corridor or a usable segment thereof.
    (2) The plan shall include, identify, or certify to all of the
    (A) The corridor, or usable segment thereof, in which the
    authority is proposing to invest bond proceeds.
    (B) A description of the expected terms and conditions associated
    with any lease agreement or franchise agreement proposed to be
    entered into by the authority and any other party for the
    construction or operation of passenger train service along the
    corridor or usable segment thereof.
    (C) The estimated full cost of constructing the corridor or usable
    segment thereof, including an estimate of cost escalation during
    construction and appropriate reserves for contingencies.
    (D) The sources of all funds to be invested in the corridor, or
    usable segment thereof, and the anticipated time of receipt of those
    funds based on expected commitments, authorizations, agreements,
    allocations, or other means.
    (E) The projected ridership and operating revenue estimate based
    on projected high-speed passenger train operations on the corridor or
    usable segment.
    (F) All known or foreseeable risks associated with the
    construction and operation of high-speed passenger train service
    along the corridor or usable segment thereof and the process and
    actions the authority will undertake to manage those risks.
    (G) Construction of the corridor or usable segment thereof can be
    completed as proposed in the plan.
    (H) The corridor or usable segment thereof would be suitable and
    ready for high-speed train operation.
    (I) One or more passenger service providers can begin using the
    tracks or stations for passenger train service.
    (J) The planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor
    or usable segment thereof will not require a local, state, or
    federal operating subsidy.
    (K) The authority has completed all necessary project level
    environmental clearances necessary to proceed to construction.

    So to recap conditions of AB3034 appropriation:
    (D) – 100% funding identified for that usable segment
    (E) – Ridership and Revenue specified for thAT usable segment
    (G) – Construction on that usable segment can be completed
    (H) – Plan Results in a Usable segment READY for HSR operation,
    (I) – That Usable Segment can go opertional for passenger service at the completion of that plan
    (J) – HSR – IN THE USABLE SEGMENT – will not require Fed, State or Local subsidy
    (K)- All project level EIR for that Usable Segment worked completed, ready for construction

    AB3034 requires that every bond appropriation request be for a plan that is resulting in a completed usable segment, 100% identified funded, which results in a revenue generating service, profitable in its own right, as a result of the use of THAT bond appropriation.

    So just startig with your bizarre Fresno/Merced comments your funding plan/timeline violates these AB3034 criteria wildly.

    Also bizarre in your Fresno/Merced scenario – you “argue’ they’ll be allocating 1.01 of remaining 1.6 available to Fresno/Merced? Really?! So you really think Dianne Feinstein, Quentin Kopp, Rod Diridon, and Curt Pringle are going to go for that? The segment for which they requested the least mount of funding, they’ll allocate the bulk of the stimulus to, and leave peanuts for SF, SJ and LA to scrap over?

    As an aside, there’s no way in hell that I’m “arguing” that california will get $2B a year going forward. Perhaps you missed the sarcasm (I’ll have to work on that). I used $2B a year to be overly generous in their favor, to show how even at a wildly optimistic $2B per year, they’re screwed. They got only a small fraction of what they requested this year – they didn’t even get $2B this year – in the most generous single stimulus year HSR will probably ever see again. The most (in their wildest dreams) that they’ll get going forward, assuming they don’t prove themselves to bumbling idiots, would be $1B a year, and even that amount would be a miracle. What’s far more likely is that they will prove themselves to be bumbling idiots.

    By the way, the business plan says they’ll get $3B a year for the next six years. That’s pretty much ruled out completely at this point. If they would have gotten their 4.7 this year, we might still be able to suggest $3B/year was within reason in this universe. Guess the LAO was right on about ridiculouness of those assumptions. I can picture Pringle standing up there saying ‘Its a Hope”. Hope the legislators tell them to go to hell with their ridiculous business plan.

    Peter Reply:

    That actually wouldn’t surprise me at all if Merced-Fresno got $1 billion. They know they need to build a test track.

    Also, there are still $2.5 billion in HSR funds to be disbursed, if I recall correctly. There’s a good chance CA will get a good portion of that. I know you know that, why don’t you mention it?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I just sketched a scenario based on your premises. I agree that $2b is sarcastic … given the distribution of HSR funds and the desire of Senators in a large number of states to have the funding available when their system needs expansion, the likelihood of the funds available for California to apply being limited to $2b a year seems low, but if you wanted to apply a conservative scenario, that’s fine.

    As to the “operating a service”, after all this time imagineering problems with the HSR project, you seem to have lost sight of the basic economics of the things: they have very low operating costs, its capital costs that are problematic. And there is already a well-established conventional rail ridership base in the CV to parameterize ridership modeling.

    Plan the services that the market will bear – it could be one, it could be three – and of course that planning is no obstacle to increasing frequency as the market expands. It will run on an operating surplus.

    Now before you put an unwarranted spin on that, no, of course you’d never set out to build that segment alone – but as I am sure you are quite aware, the reason would be the economic benefit of that segment alone compared to capital costs – we both understand that the fears you guys are trying to spread about ridership is just political rhetoric with no grounding in reality.

    As far as this bit of obvious bullshit spin:

    The segment for which they requested the least mount of funding

    … on all four segments, they applied for half the design and build construction costs. The reason they “applied for the least amount of funding” for the Merced/Fresno section is its the cheapest. Since they need the 220mph test corridor, its either Fresno / Merced or Fresno / Bakersfield. The choice is dictated by the location of the northern major maintenance facility, and the strategic location for that is near the fork in the “Y”, so Merced is the most likely. But if they identify a location for a major maintenance facility in Bakersfield and instead allocate a major stabling yard and overnight servicing center to Merced, they could flip it around to Bakersfield.

    By the way, the business plan says they’ll get $3B a year for the next six years. That’s pretty much ruled out completely at this point.

    That’s just you making shit up. We have no way of knowing whether it will be more like $2b/year, $3b/year, or whether there will be an infrastructure development bank system and they will be able to compete for the funding of entire multi-year segments. You have no way of knowing which way it will be.

    But of course, there is your track record of dire pronouncements of disaster turning out in the majority of cases to be not disasters, followed by dire pronouncements of disaster later on. We are all walking a path in a fairly heavy fog, and your the guy that keeps saying, “I can see a cliff just ahead”, but it never turns out to be a cliff.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So you really think Dianne Feinstein, Quentin Kopp, Rod Diridon, and Curt Pringle are going to go for that?

    Will Dianne Feinstein, Quentin Kopp, Rod Diridon, and Curt Pringle go for allocating funding to nail down the corridor without which none of the others can go ahead, because a 220mph test corridor is a pre-requisite for finalizing approval of the train sets?

    I can see why you posed it as a rhetorical question instead of formulating an argument, since as an argument, the conclusion is obvious: of course they would.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Oh, and I take it from silence on that part of the question that you were just bullshitting and you knew it when you said that the CAHSR needed $42b by 2017?

  36. jimsf
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 11:37

    Suppose they build a segment, say the high speed segment in the valley that doubles as a test track, and they get a trainset, and run that trainset over existing track at regualr speed , and over the upgraded track at high speed, for the time being. That makes it a usable segment right?
    Or say they do lax-ana and sfc-sjc and those segments are high speed capable and an existing agency runs high speed over those two segments. Seems there’s plenty of ways to make usable segments unto themselves.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    We don’t have a lot of electrified track, but OTOH, there is an ongoing electrification program, and if they electrified a connecting segment, and its a segment with existing passenger rail service so that it will be getting PTC before the Merced/Fresno segment is finished, certainly they could do that. And every corridor with passenger service is due to get PTC before 2017.

    That’s how France built their first HSR line, with a 220mph corridor over a portion of the route at first, and then more and more of the route.

  37. jimsf
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 11:39

    I was under the impression that hsr systems around the world did it that way, with trains running at high speed only those segments of track that were upgraded. they did that in the early years right? until they go the whole system, and now the whole continent upgraded?

    Joey Reply:

    The issue for us is the FRA.

    Peter Reply:

    Specifically, the issue for us is the FRA’s institutional intransigence.

  38. Me
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 14:11

    Usable segment means what it is defined as in AB3034

    (g) “Usable segment” means a portion of a corridor that includes
    at least two stations.

    Read the whole thing: http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_3001-3050/ab_3034_bill_20080826_chaptered.html

    Unless they do test track as part of a usable segment, they just have the slush fund money which as I said is rapidly disappearing. The problem they have is that in both bakersfield and fresno, they are planning insane 12 mile long 60 foot elevated incredibly expensive and challenging alignments. They will have to cut some deal with feds if they want a test track.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If there is this “problem with” the segments as planned, and yet the segments as planned still have design and construct budgets that allow them to be established and funded as usable segments under the rules of the bonds, that implies that they have leeway to cut the budget below the business plan levels.

    Me Reply:

    The whole critique of the business plan is that it is still based on program level alignment costs AND that it more or less ignored AB3034, except for the matching part. The business plan provides cold comfort.

    The state senate is struggling with what to do – cool project but the business plan is basically a blow off to state law.

  39. Andre Peretti
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 15:01

    Running high-speed trains on legacy lines is possible in Europe because integrated signalling systems make collisions impossible. The FRA would probably accept mixed traffic if the level of security was the same as in Europe. As long as they consider collisions between different types of train are possible, they won’t allow mixed traffic as they would be held responsible should an accident happen.

    Joey Reply:

    Also consider the fact that most of Europe’s mainlines are electrified anyway, whereas ours aren’t.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Until 2 years ago, the TGV to Les sables d’Olonne, a sea-side resort on the French Atlantic coast, did the last 50 miles towed by a diesel electric locomotive. Look at the second photo on this site .
    That funny combination enabled passengers to have a one-seat ride all the way from Paris.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of course, PTC will be in place on all rail corridors carrying passenger traffic in the US long before the California Stage 1 will be finished, even under the rosiest funding scenarios.

    There is no requirement that the “usable segment” on its own hosts a 220mph service, just that it hosts a service that does not require operating subsidies.

    Me Reply:

    There is a requirement that it be ready for high speed service – so just building tracks and forgetting HSR equipment and electrification like the current Anaheim plan does not cut it. Having Amtrak run doesn’t do it (the subsidy thing)

  40. TomW
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 06:27

    I grew up in the UK in the 80s and early 90s, when the IRA was regularly bombing all sorts of places. The only impact at railway stations was the ironclad rule that you were never to leave your bags unattended, because it might get mistaken for a bomb). On very the rare occasions people did, it would prompt an evacuation and a call to the bomb squad… but because of this simple rule, the IRA never even tried to bomb a railway station, because they knew it wouldn’t work.

    Seperate issue: a bomb goes off on a plane, everyone dies. A bomb goes off on a train, and there’s a good chance many will survive.

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