Quick Takes On Today’s HSR Stimulus Announcement

Jan 28th, 2010 | Posted by

While we celebrate the announcement of HSR stimulus funds for California and debate its implications, HSR critics are still getting their ideas into the state’s media. Below are some reactions to today’s HSR stimulus announcement, but first have a look at yours truly explaining to Central Coast TV viewers tonight the meaning of the HSR sitmulus.

The LA Times gives some space to HSR critics Richard Tolmach and Alan Lowenthal:

“There are lots of complications that need to be worked out before they can build,” said Richard Tolmach, director of the California Rail Foundation. “They haven’t determined the right of way between San Jose and Gilroy. Service doesn’t look feasible in the Central Valley. The L.A. to Anaheim route is pretty challenged.”

This is all nonsense and distortions of the truth that the LA Times should have fact-checked before publishing. Service absolutely looks feasible in the Central Valley; Tolmach is just making shit up here. He doesn’t explain what the challenges are with the LA-Anaheim route. One would think he’d be pleased that non-HSR passenger rail got $100 million in funds.

Worse is Alan Lowenthal:

State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who has presided over six hearings into the high-speed rail project as chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, is a supporter of the proposal. However, he also said there are significant financial and planning hurdles.

Lowenthal contends that the project’s ridership and cost forecasts, which have changed repeatedly, might be unreliable and he questioned whether the authority could secure enough money to complete construction as scheduled.

“How are they going to go from $6 [billion] to $7 billion in funding to $42 billion?” Lowenthal asked. “How are they going to attract private investors? How do they expect to get $17 billion to $19 billion, as they have said, from the feds?”

But Lowenthal here, as at the Palo Alto hearing last week, has been completely unable to actually explain in any detail what is wrong with the ridership studies. He just asserts there’s something wrong without proving it, which is nonsense. As to the costs, he’s being willfully ignorant here, misstating the amount of funding HSR has – it’s actually $11.25 billion – and playing dumb when it comes to the federal funding issue, not acknowledging that there’s $2.5 billion in the current fiscal year budget, a jobs bill likely to include some more HSR funds, an unfinished transportation bill also likely to include HSR funds, and a proposed National Infrastructure Bank that would further fund HSR. Lowenthal could, you know, just call up Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer if he were worried about this.

Meanwhile the San Jose Mercury-News offers some interesting views on what should be done with the funds:

“I would like to see this additional funding dedicated to a tunnel under San Jose,” said John Urban, president of the Newhall Neighborhood Association, which represents 1,600 residents near the proposed rail corridor. “This would preserve the character of downtown and our adjacent neighborhoods.”

Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Sure, a tunnel could happen, but not with these funds. The stimulus funds are going to the core elements of the project, not necessarily to something like a tunnel in San Jose. If that tunnel is to be funded, local sources will likely be required.

Of course, the Peninsula HSR critics took their shots at the stimulus, suggesting that the aesthetic concerns of prosperous homeowners took precedence over the desperate need for jobs for working-class residents in their communities:

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt called the new construction timeline “very optimistic.” Like others, he said he’s concerned that the state won’t give cities and residents enough time to scrutinize what is being called the biggest infrastructure project in the nation.

Of course, Burt was on the Palo Alto city council in 2008 when it unanimously endorsed Prop 1A. Cities and residents have had plenty of time to scrutinize the project, and will have almost all of 2010 to work through the upcoming draft alternatives analysis, not to mention the fact that a lot of time was spent in 2009 debating this issue as well. I’m all for a thorough planning process, but at some point decisions have to be made and steel put in the ground. When the state’s economic recovery is on the line, it’s reasonable to tell Palo Alto that we’ll give them plenty of time to look the details over and give their input, but we’re not going to wait around forever.

But why let the critics have the last word? Here are some comments from HSR backers:

From the Riverside Press-Enterprise:

“Finally, finally, finally — it’s going to happen,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who pushed for bullet trains 20 years ago in her failed gubernatorial bid.

The trains will revitalize how Californians travel, officials said.

“Once the projects are completed, the high-speed corridors would allow travel between Riverside and Los Angeles in just 33 minutes,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. From Los Angeles, riders could be in Sacramento in two hours and 17 minutes, she said.

While the funding amounts to about half of the state’s $4.7 billion request, Boxer said the Obama administration had to spread the money out to ensure enough political support to keep high-speed rail projects going.

LaHood and Boxer both said they are optimistic about California receiving more federal funds for high-speed rail.

“This is a project of national significance and, therefore, they’re going to have high priority and they’re going to become part of our funding process,” Boxer said.

Our federal representatives helped make these stimulus funds possible, and for that we thank them. At least for today. Tomorrow, we tell them to get back to work and ensure that we have a stable, long-term source of HSR funding so that days like today become routine over the coming decade.

  1. Spokker
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 22:53

    “”How do they expect to get $17 billion to $19 billion, as they have said, from the feds?””

    When the next round of funding nets California 2 billion in HSR money…

    “How do they expect to get $15 billion to $17 billion, as they have said, from the feds?”

    Another round of funding passes.

    “How do they expect to get $10 billion to $12 billion, as they have said, from the feds?”

    Another round of funding passes us by.

    “How do they expect to get $5 billion to $6 billion, as they have said, from the feds?”

    Yet another round of funding whisks by.

    “How do they expect to get $2 billion to $3 billion, as they have said, from the feds?”

    The final round of federal funding for California passes.

    “No one will ride it! Earthquakes! Terrorists! Boondoggle!”

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Nailed it.

    Thankfully, Lowenthal will be termed out in 2012.

  2. Donk
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 23:14

    The more I think about this, it really is better to get a little less this time around and to throw some money around the country to wet everyone’s palates.

    I can already picture Obama and the Republican dude (or dudette) hosting town hall meetings in the run up to the 2012 election in some run-down town in Michigan talking trumpeting how they are going to bring high speed rail money to Michigan to create jobs for Gary the Plummer, the middle class American living on Main Street, defaulting on his undewater mortgage, facing skyrocketing health care costs, unable to feed his family, payinig $5/gallon to refuel his truck, with three kids in college with rising tuition, two other kids in Afghanistan, and his IRA going down the crapper. They will totally go for it. The Republican dude will totally have to get on the bandwagon.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Yeah, overall I think the distribution of spending was very well thought out. It makes a lot of people interested in making sure there are more funds available for HSR. I see this a being good for CA overall, since we are probably the furthest along, it makes sense to put a lot of money into our project to keep progress and have a successful example to point to.

    mike Reply:

    Yeah, it’s also pretty clear that they are setting things up so that there will be substantial appropriations towards HSR in the coming years as well. Basically they are giving each project only a fraction (substantially less than 50%, in almost all cases) of what it ultimately needs. While there will surely be some additional state matching funds, ultimately there will have to be more federal appropriations, or else you’ll have a half dozen unfinished projects sitting around. I’m sure this is exactly their plan.

  3. Spokker
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 23:22

    “But Lowenthal here, as at the Palo Alto hearing last week, has been completely unable to actually explain in any detail what is wrong with the ridership studies. He just asserts there’s something wrong without proving it, which is nonsense.”

    First of all, ridership forecasting is not an exact science.

    Second, the ridership estimates in the most recent business plan are not out of this world crazy. Maybe Gilroy has too many boardings per year (however I expect it to be a popular station with the Salinas and Monterey crowd) and LA has too few. But if that’s what the model spits out then that’s what it spits out. Are they supposed to change the numbers by hand to match our own perceptions?

    30-40 million riders per year? Optimistic but doable. No, that’s not going to be first-year stats (CHSRA expects 13 million boardings in the first year, Caltrain already does 12 million boardings per year.

    One HSR critic I know of claimed that the CHSRA’s ridership estimates were ten times higher than comparable systems overseas. I checked this out and could not find any evidence of this. The CHSRA’s 2035 ridership projections are slightly higher than Korea’s KTX, but KTX is only an 208 mile system. And we’re comparing other high speed rail system’s 2008-2009 stats with California’s 2035 projections. If KTX is doing nearly 40 million now, imagine what they are going to be doing in 2035 as the system is refined and improved (especially when their economy improves).

    Korea’s ridership estimates were off by more than half. However, it also has 63% of the share of intercity travel, so it’s obviously very popular. Even though they initially missed ridership projects by more than half and continue to miss it by half, the company that operates it is operating in the black.

    I do, however, believe costs will escalate, both because of lawsuits and other obstructionists and because of optimistic projections. Still worth it. Still doable.

  4. Evan
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 23:32

    You know, Feinstein makes a good point. While I was really hoping that California would see a majority of the funding, spreading it around the country will mean planting seeds of interest and support for high-speed rail in a myriad of places. If politicians from Florida, Washington, Iowa and everywhere else start seeing — firsthand — the potential of high-speed rail, that could bode very well for California in the long term.

    It’s starting now. This is laying the groundwork, and they’re going to want to see a whole lot more federal support for HSR once this project gets going.

    Maybe not so bad to slice up the pie after all.

    Bianca Reply:

    I agree. It’s going to take a while for California to raise all the needed funds to complete the system. Getting more states on board with the idea of HSR creates more energy for Congress to continue to grow the pie.

  5. Spokker
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 23:35

    Ridership estimates are routinely attacked in the following manner.


    “The vision of a Sonoma-Marin commuter train rides on a prediction
    that it would draw more passengers than rail lines serving much
    larger cities such as San Diego and San Jose.

    But critics don’t buy the numbers, and say basing the rail system on
    such an optimistic forecast would be a ticket to disaster.

    The $200 million plan envisions transit hubs from Cloverdale to San
    Rafael, linked by a 68-mile commuter train running along the spine of
    the North Bay on now unused railroad tracks paralleling Highway 101.

    It is built on a study that predicts the trains would attract 5,090
    riders a day in a two-county region of about 750,000 people, lured by
    easy parking at stations and trains running every 30 minutes during
    rush hour.

    Yet, that ridership is 60 percent more than the actual passengers on
    a commuter train from Stockton to San Jose, an economic engine in the
    heart of Silicon Valley. And it is slightly higher than the ridership
    on the commuter train running from Oceanside to San Diego, the
    nation’s seventh-biggest city. ”

    But the article fails to address that the transit agency that offers commuter rail service between Stockton and San Jose only runs four round trips daily (and today the fourth run is suspended until further notice). The Coaster is also rush-hour commuter rail.

    SMART will be similar to San Diego’s Sprinter, a DMU system that does 7,200 boardings per day and mostly has headways of 30 minutes (which did not exist at the time of that article, so I guess hindsight is always 20/20).


    Spokker Reply:

    Similar attacks were launched at CAHSR. CHSRA proposes that CAHSR will see more riderhsip than all of Amtrak! Higher ridership than the Northeast Corridor! Higher ridership than Acela!

    CAHSR will have higher ridership than slow long-distance trains. CAHSR will see more ridership than half-assed HSR in the Northeast. Yes, CAHSR will see more ridership than a bank vault on wheels.

    Marcus Reply:

    The Regional Service has higher ridership than Acela. Why? It’s priced economically. I recently took a trip from Boston to NYC, Philly and DC, normal speed trains the whole way, costing a total of $98. The first leg alone would have cost more had I taken the Acela, and would have only gotten me to Penn Station half an hour sooner. When I was boarding in Boston there was an Acela train boarding around the same time. Everyone lining up for that train was in suits and ties! The Acela is a luxury train for businessmen, it is not High Speed Rail.

    elfling Reply:

    They’re wrong to consider only the two county area, among other things. There are two counties north of Cloverdale, Lake and Mendocino, that have people who need to travel into the Bay Area and currently have a significant drive to do so. If they are able to park in Cloverdale and use transit the rest of the way, that could also draw ridership.

    Sonoma/Marin voted by a 2/3 majority to tax themselves for SMART. That suggests a highly interested ridership.

    Finally, one should keep perspective. 101 was recently widened from Santa Rosa to Windsor for a budgeted cost of $328.2 million (the actual cost ended up about $70 million under thanks to the recession).

    The Novato Narrows widening, from Petaluma to Atherton, is budgeted at $700 million. These projects are running $20 million a mile or more. And, they’re sorely needed. 101 in these areas has no practical alternatives and is severely overcrowded for much of the day.

    So $200 million for 68 miles – around $2.9 million a mile – looks like a pretty good deal to me.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s a totally intellectually dishonest form of “analyzing” ridership numbers. It’s like saying “well there’s only so much traffic on this two-lane road, so surely you’re crazy to assume that a four-lane highway will have any higher traffic!”

    It also is based not on hard evidence or analysis, but on an assumption: that passenger rail doesn’t attract riders and cannot ever break even because of its inherent nature.

    So all critics have to do is compare the numbers to some other system that has fewer riders in order to mobilize the “passenger rail has low ridership and can’t cover its costs” assumption in support of their attack.

    Stephen Colbert had a term to describe this: truthiness. It’s the ONLY thing the HSR critics have going for them right now when it comes to the ridership numbers. And it’s complete bullshit.

  6. Observer
    Jan 28th, 2010 at 23:38

    Caltrain has mostly daily repeat riders (same guy rides it 5x per week – round trip.) You know, commuters? ARe there a lot of people that you know that need to get from SF to LA -and back same day- 5 x per week?

    If Caltrain does 12M boardings per year – thats about 32,800 boardings per day – figure you have to divide that by two to get to the number of people taking trips per day (round trips), that’s about 15000 people taking Caltrain every day.

    So how many of those train riders have need to take a trip from SF to LA more than one time per year? Half? (Generous). But for the sake of erring on the really generous side, Lets say EVERY SINGLE person who rides Caltrain every day has some reason to go to godforsaken LA and back multiple times per year. How many times per year? Maybe three times per year? 15000*3 = 45,000 trips – but of course! they will also need the return ride back, so that sounds like caltrain riders will need about 90,000 boardings per year on HSR. Just slightly shy of 13M

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What is laughable here is the absurd idea that there is a special breed of people “train riders”, and the only people who will be on the HSR will be the “kind of people” on Caltrain. But people drive to the airport every day – we are not surprised to find that more people drive to the airport than fly their Cessna to the airport. Somehow the idea that travelers at the airport are just people making a choice of how to get where they want to go, and not “plane people” … that’s easy to understand.

    But with sufficient political inspiration, people can pretend to think that the market for HSR is limited to those catching a local train. “Pretend to think” because its obviously a put-on job — nobody that stupid would be able to fill out the captcha code successfully.

  7. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 00:39

    dang, these recent announcements sure have the comments section buzzing. They naysayers , especially the politicians, are totally transparent, and californias, who support this project by the way, can see that.

    I think that now is the time for a deep breath and calm heads to start determining what’s next. Of course the tbt money is good news because that is probably the most shovel ready part of the project. They are ready to begin digging almost immediately from what I gather. All the hoo hah about it not being good enough, well, time to put it to rest. any capacity constraints, if there are any, wouldn’t even be reached for a couple of decades, and the solution is future through tracking. simple a that, and thats likely to happen because the tbt would reach capacity around the same time that a new transbay crossing will be put in place. In fact, it will likely work out so that when the nex transbay tube is proposed, tbt capacity will be cited as one of the supporting reasons for the project, thus helping to ensure its construction.

    There is a method to the madness folks. trust.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I think the capacity concerns are real. There are only 4 tracks for HSR & 2 for Caltrain. Yes, Caltrain can end most of it’s trains at 4th & King, but that makes it confusing for riders, and the majority of them will prefer to go to the closest stop to the financial district. It certainly depends on the turnaround time, if HSR can manage 15 min, I don’t see too much of a problem for them. Caltrain could probably do turnaround faster than whatever HSR can do since the trains are smaller and simpler, but they have less platforms. I think they could do 15 minutes, but I also think they could bungle that. My experience in CA public transit is that management/governance is rarely able to handle what one would reasonably expect from the system. There are exceptions, but they are pretty rare.

    As far as a transbay line, I don’t think there would be any room at all, particularly if the trains had different profiles than HSR and/or Caltrain.

    And what if HSR ridership exceeds expectations? What if gas prices go up to $6-7? I don’t like the idea of getting into something with no room for expansion. Shoot, what if CA population keep growing and it reaches capacity 30 years after opening?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lyqwyd, commuter trains all over the world turn back in 2 minutes when they need to. HSR turns back in about 10 in Japan, I believe; in Germany it turns back in 3-4 minutes at stub-end stations where the train continues on (think LAUS on the Surfliner).

    The capacity issue isn’t the number of tracks at the station, but the curve-ridden, conflict-encouraging station throat.

    jimsf Reply:

    well they are just going to have to tweak the throat design. there’s plenty of time to do that. In fact really, if need be, they might be able to convince the city to use third instead of second so the trains could straighten out before fanning out. I dont know. But theres time to make adjustments and as pointed out in an earlier post by someone, its within what the chsra asked for to begin with.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    3rd instead of 2nd would make things far better. So would trivial modifications to the throat reducing conflict; however, the column placement may make such modifications impossible in the future.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There really isn’t much time to make substantial adjustments … if the track and switch layout does not permit required parallel movements, its not like you can just relay the track when the track layout is locked in place by columns holding up a large multi-story building.

    jimsf Reply:

    the columns in the throat are not under the building though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But the columns that lead to and from the throat are.

    Clem Reply:

    Jim, have a look at these columns.

    jimsf Reply:

    Im sure they can rearrange some of those. Besides, There isnt going to be a need for more than one departure every 15 minutes anyway, and with four platforms. I just dont see the problem. I mean Im a huge hsr supporter, and I know it will be successful, but 15 minute departures, will be enough and thats only at peak times.

    all this talk of 3 minute or 5 minute headways, come on guys, really that just isnt going to happen. And for most of the day, you only need half hourly departures.

    I would like it if anyone can post a map of those tracks that shows the whole thing, in a pdf that I can zoom in on, if anyone knows where one is. I want to see if they can configure them better. I think they did it wrong. but all the maps are cut off, or, too small.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There may not be an average of one departure every 15 minutes, but it would be stupid to use that as a headway requirement – its certain that there will be times during the day when you want to bring in trains closer together than that, and there will be times during the day when you want to schedule departures closer together than that.

    And even more, when there is a problem causing a schedule to run late, when running on track dedicated to passenger service, it would be commercial insanity to compound the delays by forcing a train that can find an open slot on the network to wait for an open slot to enter the TBT tunnel. Indeed, one would want to do all that one could to make up time while underway.

    There is no excuse to build the system with HSR money in a way that cannot support the five minute headways that is a system-wide HSR design trait.

    If San Francisco does not want to fix the design, the ither solution is obvious – turn down the $400m and come up with your own money. If its funded with money you came up with yourself, outside of the HSR funding base, you obviously would have at least one leg to stand on in trying to build a train station that falls outside of HSR network standards.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Somewhere between 20 degrees t0 25 degrees of the 90 degree turn are under the building. To provide parallel movement from that start would required digging a second level down to get some cross-unders.

    And digging down = $$$.

    Jesus, the thing costs as much as Ohio’s restoration of the Triple C corridor designed for later expansion to run as fast or faster than cars travel between Cleveland and Columbus and Cincinnati and Columbus, San Francisco wants the whole box built on Federal Money, with NO matching funds, and doesn’t want the Federal Government to ask whether it will be any damn good for what were from the beginning supposed to be its design goals?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The columns blocking passenger access to and from the platforms are another immense issue.

    Since the building was “designed” with absolutely no regard whatsoever for either the tracks of a railway station beneath it nor for either high throughput not convenient accessibility for railway passengers.

    Somebody about ten years ago whipped out their CAD system, typed in the numbers 42 feet 6 inches and 52 feet, laid out a structural grid over the entire site, and that was the end of it. There has never been the slightest modification at any time, especially not by the “winner” of the “architectural” “competition”, of this étant donné.

    The columns don’t line up with either the platform of the inter-track centrelines. The columns are so closely spaced and so large (5 foot and 6 foot diameter) that only unpaired single width escalators — meaning unidirectionall, which is a throughput disaster — can be placed in the space between the columns and the platform edges.

    If you look at any contemporary, competently designed passenger facility — airport, bus terminal, and especially mainline and metro stations, which is where the <a href="”>throughput action is really at — you’ll find banks of escalators and stairs, with bidirectional flow, you’ll find that the structural elements of the building are placed around and un-impeding of capacious, non-circuitous, open and inviting pedestrian circulation routes, and you’ll find short and direct and plentiful street to vehicle routes. If there had ever been any architect with any rudimentary professional skill involved, the first words out of his or her mouth would have been “desire line“.

    And that’s just getting from the platforms, with their hideous, claustrophobic 10’6” dropped ceilings, up to the full-plate, cost-plus, completely unnecesssary underground mezzanine level, from which point the number of access points to ground is severely limited. A normal, competently designed underground railway station features multiple access points to the surface, spaced the full length the station, and uses the inherent lateral run of escalators and stairs to extend the access points into the neighbourhood street network, shortening pedestrian access times and maximizing convenience. In contrast, the TJPA “plan” concentrates train to surface into a couple highly centralized, points solely within the building footprint.

    It’s a recipe for congestion, beyond the fact that craziness will add several minutes to the trip time of every commuter who uses the facility. For no reason!

    This thing is going to make NY Penn Station look like an utter masterpiece of circulation efficiency, per-platform train throughput, and passenger ambiance.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I think the capacity concerns are real. There are only 4 tracks for HSR & 2 for Caltrain.

    If Caltrain is only bringing a single class of service (as they say) in, its enough track, and enough platforms, provided access and egress do not interfere with each other.

    Worst case scenario, “the politics say just do it, because TJPA doesn’t care whether the design works or not, that’s just it”.

    Best case scenario, “You’ve got $400m. Oh, BTW, before the check is written out, the design together with proposed operational plan has to pass third party independent review, and we hire the independent reviewers.” After all, there’s something about a guaranteed $400m at the other end of a design hurdle that could have a way of concentrating the mind. Especially if a first effort to palm off something that is not likely to work is bounced.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I agree that the number of platforms are not the immediate problem, but what if ridership exceeds our wildest expectations? There’s is just no room for growth. Which is my main concern with the current plan. I’ve seen arguments that there is plenty of capacity available, and I find them very credible, which has allayed some of my concerns.

    On the other hand, we have little history of properly running public transit here in CA. Look at BART, montgomery & Embarcadero are at capacity during rush hour, not because of the ability to handle the trains, but the ability to move people through the station. This has been a problem for years, and as far as I know BART doesn’t even have a plan on how to address this.

    I get very nervous when there are so many elements that require things to be run very effectively to not be a problem, especially when there’s another option that could at least be studied. Perhaps it will have it’s own problems, but that’s the point of the study.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If ridership exceeds our wildest expectations, and if the station throat is fixed, then the 2-track bottleneck at Mission Bay will still be a far greater problem than the TBT platforms. Under no circumstance is HSR ever going to get more than 12 tph on the shared trunk line, which translates to about 8 tph to SF, well within the capability of four station tracks. This restricts Caltrain to 22 tph, which two station tracks can handle, with just a little difficulty.

    Clem Reply:

    Turn around 22 tph on two terminal tracks? What are you smoking?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not a subway but subway operators all over the world do it all the time. The part about 22 trains per hour on Caltrain needs some really good stuff though.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    And if a new transbay tube is constructed?

    My point is, there are a lot of assumptions that have to turn out to be true for the current design to be sufficient. If anything turns out wrong that results in more traffic, then we’re screwed.

    Although I will say that your comment has definitely made me less concerned from a track/platform perspective. I still have reservations, but definitely less. I also still contend the money would be better spent elsewhere on the network (grade separations) than on the train-box.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “And if a new transbay tube is constructed?”

    It can’t happen.

    The engineering professionals of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority determined that, irrevocably and irremediably, in 2003.

    Sorry. We tried. Really, really hard.

    jimsf Reply:

    no – bet you itll look like this

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Jim, if you do that you’d able to get the train in and out of the station at 2 or 3 minute heasways but you won’t be able to get the people on and off the platforms fast enough. Think of it as the Embarcadero station on BART but without any other stations in SF.

    Joey Reply:

    Ah, so we have a circuitous route, sharp curves, short platforms, and no extra capacity for these trains. Obviously the best way to design transportation!

    Joey Reply:

    Wait. So you DO believe in a Geary subway then?

    jimsf Reply:

    I personally don’t care if bart wants to go out geary. My view on geary bart is that it if it happens, it will happen in conjuntion with a 2nd transbay tube.

    Currently, the neighborhood will not allow it. But in 2050 that could change.
    Once bart completes east co co, livermore, and san jose, They will begin planning a new line in the inner east bay along with a new tube, and possibly a geary route. None of that will happen before 2050. But it will be on their list. So, as it will be the same time that capacity is reached, it will become the next big project.

    Personally, I dont think there is any reason to put bart on geary when muni is already going to be there.

    jimsf Reply:

    @ adiron- There will never in 100 years be the need for an hsr train every 3 minutes. Thats just not going to happen. and it doesnt take 3 minutes to get off the platform anyway.

    If you have four platforms, well, look at MacArthur station in oakland four tracks, two platforms, time transfers, and they don’t even have a full set of escalators, you have to use the stairs, no prob.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Is the bet based on a pessimistic view of planning in San Francisco?

    One look at that map and the question that arises is, “why not go straight to the tunnel from King?

    And, indeed, with all those locals heading to the TBT, and with the Expresses terminating at Kind, why, the more desirable trains to get onto from the Oakland side are all going to be stopping at King. Tempting to have those be the ones that keep going under the Bay.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    It is extremely unlikely that another transbay tube would ever be built. The extreme cost and the complex politics work against any such plan. The best chance would be to get rail back on the Bay Bridge, but look at what an expensive fiasco the Bay Bridge East Span has become. Even the current Transbay Tube was a compromise instead of building another “Southern Crossing” bridge. BART could improve its Tube capacity with a better GPS-relay-based control system, and any new Bay crossing would most likely be a restoration of the Dumbarton rail crossing. The old Bay Bridge Railway was built to handle 100 million annual passengers on only two tracks with 63 second headways. BART has never come close to matching the capabilities of its predecessor system. So much for progress.

    Big central cities — or at least places that like to think of themselves as big central cities — don’t really like transportation infrastructure crossing through them. For selfish reasons, they want all routes to terminate within their city. SF would gladly tear down its thru-freeways if given the opportunity. A key reason why San Jose threw a match on the Dumbarton rail crossing is because certain SJ politicians considered it as potentially bypassing their city center from East Bay-Peninsula traffic. All trains must stop at Diridon!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Two station tracks in the most recent published track fan-out certainly could not handle 22tph. That would be 2 minute effective headways, which, and since some bottlenecks will take over half a minute to clear, you are talking about simple through headways of under 90 seconds.

    And a critical part of the built in bottlenecks is part of the TBT foundations … it can’t be “just fixed up” in some later design stage once the box has been built into the foundation.

    That’s why they should insist on an operational plan to run the infrastructure as proposed, reviewed by a genuine third party panel, before they actually issue the check. Having to convince a panel who can’t be bluffed with political game playing and slick powerpoint slides before actually getting the money would clearly take the TJPA out of their comfort zone, and that couldn’t be a bad thing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Passenger circulation, and the quite literally sub-moronic columns blocking passenger access to and from the platforms, are another immense issue … even if the catastrophic, project-killing train throughput issue were even considered, let alone addressed.

    Since the building was “designed” with absolutely no regard whatsoever for either the tracks of a railway station beneath it nor for either high throughput not convenient accessibility for railway passengers.

    Somebody about ten years ago whipped out their CAD system, typed in the numbers 42 feet 6 inches and 52 feet, laid out a structural grid over the entire site, and that was the end of it. There has never been the slightest modification at any time, especially not by the “winner” of the “architectural” “competition”, of this étant donné. They quite literally slapped some lipstick (aerial park! funicular!) on a pig, made some financing promises that were known and the time and since proven to be bald faced lies, and … bingo!

    So … the structural columns of this architectural masterpiece don’t line up with either the platform of the inter-track centrelines. The columns are so closely spaced and so large (5 foot and 6 foot diameter) that only unpaired single width escalators — meaning unidirectionall, which is a throughput disaster — can be placed in the space between the columns and the platform edges.

    If you look at any contemporary, competently designed passenger facility — airport, bus terminal, and especially mainline and metro stations, which is where the <a href="”>throughput action is really at — you’ll find banks of escalators and stairs, with bidirectional flow, you’ll find that the structural elements of the building are placed around and un-impeding of capacious, non-circuitous, open and inviting pedestrian circulation routes, and you’ll find short and direct and plentiful street to vehicle routes. If there had ever been any architect with any rudimentary professional skill involved, the first words out of his or her mouth would have been “desire line“.

    And that’s just getting from the platforms, with their hideous, claustrophobic 10’6” dropped ceilings, up to the full-plate, cost-plus, completely unnecesssary underground mezzanine level, from which point the number of access points to ground is severely limited. A normal, competently designed underground railway station features multiple access points to the surface, spaced the full length the station, and uses the inherent lateral run of escalators and stairs to extend the access points into the neighbourhood street network, shortening pedestrian access times and maximizing convenience. In contrast, the TJPA “plan” concentrates train to surface into a couple highly centralized, points solely within the building footprint.

    It’s a recipe for congestion, beyond the fact that craziness will add several minutes to the trip time of every commuter who uses the facility. For no reason!

    This thing is going to make NY Penn Station look like an sheer masterpiece of circulation efficiency, per-platform train throughput, and passenger ambience.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ah but the problem in Penn Station is that they don’t run the trains through not narrow platforms inadequate stairs and constrained entrances. Run the trains through and a gazillion passengers would be able to get on and off the trains in nanoseconds allowing NJTransit and the MTA to run a train every 30 seconds over the interlockings bringing peace harmony, free ponies and nickel cigars to the world. Probably solve the problem with yellow waxy build up and leave the flavor in bubble gum when you leave it on the bedpost overnight too.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Um, if you actually talked to the Auto-Free/IRUM/NJARP people, they’d tell you that stairs are perfectly adequate on the LIRR platforms, each of which has 5 staircases. The LIRR shilled money to improve circulation; NJT didn’t, so it’s stuck with 2-staircase platforms.

    As for the concourses, half of the space is used for concessions and back offices. I don’t think even Caltrain is stupid enough to put back offices in the middle of a congested passenger circulation area of a major train station. Only Amtrak is that stupid.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That last is not institutional stupidity, its institutional insanity. Amtrak has to periodically pretend that its working to being an unsubsidized profit-making institution, while required by law to run routes competing against heavily subsidized rivals. A certain share of insane decisions, made in the context of that alternate reality which does not line up with our everyday reality, is a natural outcome.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Um, if you actually talked to the Auto-Free/IRUM/NJARP people

    I dont’ have to talk to them. I’ve used Penn Station frequently enough that I know which car to get on in New Jersey or Long Island so that I end up at the bottom of a staircase when it arrives. It can save 5 minutes if you aren’t at the back of the crowd trudging up the stairs. I also know where the third and fourth staircases to the NJTransit platforms are and use those to avoid the crush outbound. Been really annoyed when I get to the place where a staircase should be and they’ve gone and installed an escalator that’s running the wrong way. I also know where the entrances on the east side of 7th Ave are so that I don’t have to cross 7th in traffic or get swept into the mob heading down the stairs on the west side of Seventh. I’m really really annoyed that the underpass along 32nd street isn’t open – have to go up to the street if I’m going to or from the BMT.

    NJT didn’t, so it’s stuck with 2-staircase platforms.

    Except that they installed 4 staircases per platform back in 1910 and unless they’ve gone and torn them out there’s still 4. Of course if you are only looking at from the upper concourse or the lower concourse it looks like there’s only two. I’m too busy scheming to avoid the crowds at the the TVMs, the stairs and the platforms to do things like count stairscases. I concentrate on things like counting the cars in the consist so that I end up at the Market Street stairs instead of the concourse stairs when I get to Newark…..

    I don’t think even Caltrain is stupid enough to put back offices in the middle of a congested passenger circulation area of a major train station. Only Amtrak is that stupid.

    So moving Amtrak a few hundred feet west across 8th Ave doesn’t solve that problem how?
    They’ve been chewing the grant and loan process and who is going to pay for what for decades. I’m sure someone has come up with all the ideas NARP has foamed about.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What does the location of Amtrak back offices have to do with Moynihan Station? Amtrak does have plans to move its back offices, to a location south of 31st, but they’ll almost certainly be replaced with new back offices.

    I’m not sure how you count staircases – the lower concourse is what matters, and that’s where the counting should go. The LIRR has 4-5 staircases per platform, NJT 2.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What does the location of Amtrak back offices have to do with Moynihan Station?

    Why would they keep offices in Penn Station when their operations are in Moynihan? When they vacated Grand Central they kept little if anything there. How much are they going to keep in Penn Station when they vacate? Amtrak owns Penn Station, they could lease the space out and get very high rents for it.

    I’m not sure how you count staircases

    I usually start at “one” and stop when I get to the last. Sometimes for fun I’ll start with jeden and usually get to cztery

    the lower concourse is what matters

    The only compelling destination on the lower level is the LIRR. Most people coming into Manhattan from New Jersey are doing that to get to Manhattan. Transferring to a train to Speonk isn’t high on their list of things to do. The important task while on a platform is to get off the platform and whether you end up on the lower level or the upper level doesn’t much matter unless you really really want to get to Speonk. Even then if the stairs to the upper level aren’t crowded and the ones to the lower level are, using the upper level stairs might be faster.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t be snippy. The part about counting staircases is a valid question. If there’s a pair of staircases both leading to one exit, you can count them as 1 or 2. I’m counting them as 1, in which case there are 2 on the NJT platforms, 5 on the northernmost LIRR platforms, and 4 on the platforms in the middle.

    The part about Amtrak operations is valid, too. Amtrak’s plan to move its back offices elsewhere doesn’t involve Moynihan, but a separate building further to the south. But at any rate, the question isn’t who owns the space, but what’s done with it. I just don’t see TJPA put back offices for any company in the middle of a congested concourse. And if Amtrak were even minimally competent it wouldn’t do so either; it would forfeit the extra rent for better station circulation, which would increase passenger throughput.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Clem, Richard, Adirondacker: I know the station concourses suck and I know Caltrain will only get 22 tph if the automobile is banned. I brought this up just to say that the platform tracks are not the station’s biggest issue. Six should be enough.

    Restricting Caltrain to two tracks is not stupid except in the context of not letting it use the HSR platforms. If the six tracks are there, of course Caltrain should be able to use more when it needs to. It just won’t ever need more than two in ordinary service (service disruptions are another issue). In fact you could argue that in ordinary service Caltrain should only use one platform out of three for consistency, which is industry best practice, at least in Japan.

    It’s not just subways that turn around 22 tph on two tracks. The Chuo Line only has two tracks at Tokyo Station, some of the current RER stations were once two-track terminals (e.g. Chatelet-Les Halles, which was the RER B’s terminal for four years).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The problem turning around is not the platforms, the problem turning around is getting from the platform to the egress track in the tunnel without blocking an access from the tunnel.

    Solving that with platforms was a “throw concrete at it” solution, allowing for empty platform to be available so that the outbound train can simply be held until the inbound train has cleared the bottleneck.

    There has to be capacity for one HSR train to arrive five minutes after the previous, to avoid placing a terminal bottleneck on the HSR network. But the HSR will have ample acceleration and deceleration leeway when operating in the Peninsula, and so if there are three minute headways coming into San Francisco and through the tunnel, then three HSR trains could come into the TBT in a quarter hour period and two Caltrain services, provided there are no train crossing bottlenecks built in.

    But, of course, there are train crossing bottlenecks built in. So its either violate the AB3034 conditions for through HSR services, or allow for the contingency that Caltrain services might have to be cut down to four per hour.

    Since three slots each quarter hour have to be open for the HSR trains to enter the Peninsula corridor at San Jose, and since all trains entering the Peninsula corridor are to terminate at the TBT, that implies that three slots each quarter hour have to be open for HSR trains at the DTX and the TBT.

    There’s no bottleneck in the four track segment … even with four minute headways on the Express track, that’s one Express/passing slot each quarter hour, or four per hour, and with two or three minute headways on the slow track, 20 to 30 slots per hour on the slow tracks. If its three minute headways on the Express track, which is not 220mph, that’s eight express/passing slots on the Express track and 20-30 slots on the slow track.

    But its a maximum 20 slots per hour into the DTX, 12 of which have to be allowed to be available for HSR, leaving 8/hr for Caltrain into the TBT with a good design, as few as 4/hr if the DTX is not fixed.

    With only locals going to the TBT, 8/hr is under one every 10 minutes which is fine. Under ten minutes, people don’t consult a timetable, they just go and wait for the next train. If there’s passenger capacity problems, go longer and bi-level triple door with metro seating in the lower deck.

    4/hr, that’s not fine

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What you assume to be a back to back Y bottleneck – Sacramento trains plus San Francisco trains no more than 12 total – also assumes that the commuter overlay is not built, in which case the network capacity of 12tph on each network leg is the effective constraint on HSR traffic into SF.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Assuming the commuter overlay is built how long will it be before people on the northern end of the Capitol Corridor line begin to ask why they don’t have 100 MPH average speeds on their line? and want to know why their trains go to Oakland instead of to San Francisco. How long before people in Santa Rosa want to know why they have to transfer to a slow ferry in Larkspur when Livermore go a billion dollar bridge for less traffic? …..

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Whether or not ridership exceeds our wildest expectations, four platforms with appropriate parallel movements between access and egress can turn around four trains in a twenty minute period, which is as fast as the network can deliver trains to any terminal station on the network.

    Adding platforms underground is a massively expensive work-around to the poor station throat design, and since the platforms are determined when the box is built into the foundations, unless there are arrangements made for building a lower level to the train box at the outset, its even more expensive to add as a later tack-on than grade-separating the access tracks outside of the part of the fan-out that is built into the train box. I would not be surprised if adding platforms later in a second level box at the time that work on the DTX begins would end up costing more than just boring deeper train box offset to one side.

    Richard’s fan-out seems like it would provide the needed parallel movements, and as long as the train box portion of the fan out and the platforms in his design are built in from the start, there’s no need for it to cost any more at this stage, and could well save money in the DTX by permitting most of the tunnel to be two-track if desired later. Though of course Richard’s approach to advocacy is to fill two shells full of buckshot and fire away at his feet with both barrels.

    Joey Reply:

    Four platform tracks is enough for HSR. The question is whether or not you can get trains in and out of those four tracks quickly. Also CalTrain has two platform tracks with a single track approach. That is a problem.

  8. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 01:14

    One thing that seems to get overlooked is the benefit to california’s tourism industry., and we have a huge tourism industry. I mean really. I don’t think people stop and think and wrap their brains around just how beneficial this can be. The possibilities for growth, jobs, revenue, in this sector are going to be like low hanging fruit. Im to tired to go into it, and Im sure those of you are experienced globetrotters already get it, but for most folks, especially the, ill call them “skeptics” the exponentially beneficial possibilities that come tacked onto a system like this are enough to make the project worth it, even with out commuters. This high speed core, in conjunction with the existing and expanding statewide network, will bring every corner of the state within reach of the global tourist community. The hotel industry will benefit from high speed rail as will the guided tour industry, the restaurants, the hostels, the parks, businesses all up and down the state will have the opportunity to tap in and now, the California@ brand will have a whole new spiel to market to the world.
    This is huge. Do you know how huge this really is?

    elfling Reply:

    I think so too. Once you make it to Disneyland, everywhere is a day trip.

    I also think that our public universities will benefit from it enormously, and as it happens, a majority of UC and CSU campuses are on the route. It will create new opportunities for consultations, conferences, and continuing education, and more tightly link businesses who benefit from research and the researchers who are doing the studies. It will create new opportunities for joint projects between universities as well, and for allowing students to access sister campuses.

    jimsf Reply:

    The students LOVE the train and their “student advantage” discounts. My 1045pm bus is chocked full of over night bus pax to SLP everynight and if I had a dollar for every DAV ticket Ive sold, id be living in beverly hills by now.

    wu ming Reply:

    tourism is significant in two ways: 1, as a source of foreign currency for our economy in a future where the dollar will likely be a fair amount cheaper than it has been for several decades, and 2, as a way of building demand for HSR outside california as domestic tourists come and visit, and wonder WTF they can’t have one of them fast trains back home (just as several of us have done after a trip to europe or asia)?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Exactly. Monterey, where I live, is dependent on two industries for most of our jobs: tourism and the military. And the military is one of the biggest boosters of local transit in the region. The Presidio of Monterey has kicked in some funds to run 6 or 7 new bus lines to connect to other cities in the county, and is quietly supportive (behind the scenes, mostly) of bringing light rail to town.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Great point, and another benefit of HSR to our economy. I’m sure that many tourists from Asia and Europe will choose to come to CA rather than somewhere else because we have HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They won’t choose California just for the trains, but they might choose train travel as part of a holiday package, just as tourists to Japan sometimes ride the Shinkansen as part of the vacation.

    jimsf Reply:

    Being on the front lines of tourism, ( sfc is far more travel agency and far less you typical commuter location) I can tell you that there is absolutely pent up demand for sure. I am amazed at how many tourists, will use our slow trains and thruway bus connections to tour the state, and I spend many hours putting together these itineraries, giving advice, finding hotels, and planning trips the make the most of the passengers time and I can only dream of having this high speed core to work with because it will make the process better for everyone involved. The europeans and asians, both love our trains, Im not sure why “we love american trains” is what I hear all the time, “really?” I say, perplexed…
    but they do. go figure.
    Regionally, some of our best, most loyal customers are our valley passengers, they don’t travel daily, but the do travel weekly and more than people realize and there is a huge untapped potential out there. When I hear deniers and armchair engineers deriding the plan, or the route choices, I know their claims are simply without merit. I don’t know much about a lot, but I do know what californias train riding public wants. This system is going to be successful. The state is gonna be addicted to this thing once its up and running.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I’m not saying they would choose it on that alone, but if the choice is between CA with HSR & another region without, that may be the deciding factor. It certainly can’t hurt our tourism industry.

    When I travel I usually am choosing between 2-5 different areas that I’m equally interested in, and it usually comes down to 1 or two factors that determine the final decision.

  9. YesonHSR
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 01:28

    What is a state senator from Long Beach doing in NORCAL?? at a local HSR conference???
    Time For the Media to talk to this person and ask why???

  10. morris brown
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 06:08

    YesonHSR — before you post you should perhaps get some knowledge. Lowenthal is chairman of the State Senate Housing and Transportation committee, and he is doing what his job requires, since his committee is the key committee that will first pass on approving any funds from Prop 1A that will be used in the project. What a stupid remark.

    Good old Robert can put almost as good a spin on what has happened as the new PR firm that the Authority is paying $9 million to do.

    The Authority got much less than they wanted or need to really get the project rolling. If indeed $400 million is dedicated to the TBT train box, they are even further behind in needed funds.

    When Kopp and Diridon were promoting the project, they said LA to SF would cost 32 billion. Now we know when you put that in terms of real dollars to be spent at time of construction, you are now up to $43 billion, and that’s using their own estimates. What should be as obvious as the nose on anyone’s face is that #43 billion is going to be woefully short, but that is for another time.

    So in Nov. of 2008, the public was led to pass Prop 1A with the expectation that only $23 billion additional (32 – 9) would be needed to complete the project.

    Now the Feds have thrown in 2.4 billion, but guys, the costs are now up to $43 billion. So LA to SF needs today (43 billion – 9 billion – 2.4 billion) 31.6 billion more from somewhere. Conclusion, over the last 18 months, the project needs to find $8.6 ( 31.6 – 23) billion more than was forecast in Nov 2008, and that is after getting this “windfall”, in a one time “stimulus” funding.

    Furthermore, Prop 1A has restrictions, on how bond funds can be used, so matching the Feds stimulus funds with Prop 1A funds in not assured, in spite of what Robert and the media currently seem to think.

    So, Robert, am I “unhappy” with what the result of the Fed’s award proved to be? No at all. I thought they would get at least $3.5 billion, and they got much less than that, which will mean that can throw away that much less before California wakes up to what a “boondoggle” this is.

    Joey Reply:


    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Once again you make assertions without any evidence to back it up. You don’t explain the reasons for the cost increase, which is a shift from 2008 dollars to year of expenditure dollars. You also don’t acknowledge that the bid for many other big projects, like Doyle Drive, that have recently been accepted have been far below engineers’ estimates. Finally, you still have never shown any actual reasons why we might expect the final cost to increase above $43 billion – well, unless you all get your tunnel, I suppose.

    As to the amount, everyone got less than they wanted from the feds. With something like 25 states competing, there was no way at all that CA would get the full amount. $2.25 billion is still the largest single amount, not just for any state but for any region (the Chicago hub comes close).

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    You’re overlooking the fact that CA is geographically larger than any other state, and that it applied for more track mileage than any other state. A better comparison would be dollars funded per track mile. With that measure CA came out seriously underfunded – close to the bottom. Florida was the big winner with three times the funding per dollar that CA received. Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, DC, and even Washington state came out ahead of California.

    Peter Reply:

    But none of those other states have shown themselves willing to put skin in the game. They don’t have a dedicated funding source, as we do with the Prop 1A bonds. So they needed more funding at this point to get the ball rolling.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It was because California has the dedicated funding source, promised at least a 20:80 state match (went overboard and promised a 50:50 state match, actually), and has runs on the board in terms of providing complementary local transit support and state subsidized conventional rail that California got as much as it did.

    That’s what gives the political cover for giving California more than any other state. The reward for state subsidies to conventional rail is similar to why Illinois got its first priority Chicago/STL corridor funding and Wisconsin got its extension of the Chicago / Milwaukee line to Madison funding.

    Florida got half the funding they need for Tampa/Orlando, but that’s a much smaller share of the full system to Miami. However, the Florida legislature committed to local rail transport, and they needed to get a substantial slice of funding because the local rail was billed as being necessary to show Florida’s support for complementary transport connections. Ohio was quite similar – the fight to pass the state subsidy for the Amtrak-speed Triple-C line was very close in the Republican controlled State Senate, and that was before the recession took its toll on Strickland’s approval rating.

    It was very much a money talks, bullshit walks distribution of funds.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You’re overlooking the fact that CA is geographically larger than any other state, and that it applied for more track mileage than any other state. Except, of course, that he did not overlook any such thing:

    $2.25 billion is still the largest single amount, not just for any state but for any region

    You respond to that with state by state comparisons when the connecting line from east central Michigan through Detroit to Chicago then Springfield to St. Louis would be a more reasonable comparison.

    And how many dollars funded per track mile did Iowa or Texas receive? There was over $50b in applications, and $10.5b in dollars to hand out … when you are saying that California is underfunded by comparing the size of the REQUEST to the size of the allotment, something has to be screwy with your arithmetic, since unless you are tossing out states like Texas, Indiana and Iowa that received very small allotments, or states that made applications that did not success, since clearly California got more than the average allotment per dollar requested.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’re overlooking the fact that CA is geographically larger than any other state

    California is the biggest state west of the Sierra Nevada and south of Puget sound. Texas, which applied for money, might disagree with your guesstimate. Alaska definitely would.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Hey morris, did you notice how people keep saying “where’s the money going to come from?” And then a little while later funding appears? That’s how these big projects work. It takes a while to get all the funding sources lined up, since there is rarely a single source that can fund the whole thing all at once.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    After a while it feels like the guys breaking into the house and asking “where’s the money Lebowski?” Ridiculous.

    This is obviously an ongoing process to pin down the federal funds. I’d love for all $17 billion or so to show up all at once. We ALL would. But it’s probably not going to work that way. $2 billion a year over 10 years would indeed produce $17 billion and then some.

    john Reply:

    Morris… I’m sorry friend but you need to wake up. This isn’t just about Menlo Park anymore. HSR is quietly becoming a national priority of this administration. I bet in the early fifties the interstate sounded just as crazy (well not really, because the zeitgeist at the time wasn’t “we can’t do anything” like today) but nevertheless, the Feds spent an unprecedented $450 Billion between 1956 and 1993, and the states put down another 10% on top of that. Did it come all at once? No.

    You were around in the 60’s Morris, what happened to that can-do spirit? We went to the moon with slide rules, I’m sure we can build HSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    NASA had some of the fastest computers…. the kind you would find in your toaster nowadays.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s not a very quiet priority – Obama specifically mentioned it in the State of the Union address and the very next day went to Florida to tout it.

    It’s a core priority of the administration and is getting more support from Republicans in Congress. This is going to happen and it is going to be funded.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Note that – no filibuster on $1.2b for HSRail in the Senate in the annual appropriation after the White House requested $1b, no filibuster on the conference report that compromised between the White House $1b, Senate $1.2b, and House $4b at $2.5b.

    There are Republican Senators in states that want a slice of that money.

    And half the House Republicans voted for the appropriation that included that $4b annual appropriation.

    Truth be Told Reply:

    “Show me the money” is pretty much what the SDUT (Chris Reed, one of the best editorial writers in the state) is asking today: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/29/2771-billion-to-go/.

    He concludes “Given the billions of dollars involved – and the high-speed rail project’s potential to be the worst public works boondoggle in U.S. history – it is insulting. And so we await a second round of news releases on high-speed rail from Schwarzenegger and Steinberg. These will explain why the two state leaders would back a multibillion-dollar project with an illegal business plan.”

    Peter Reply:

    “Best editorial writers” says it all. He can say whatever he wants with no need to abide by the facts.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The operating subsidy issue is one that will dog the CHSRA so long as it clings to the gerrymandered routing. It is too meandering and slow to break even. Tolmach is correct in pointing this out. Private capital won’t touch it.

    Public operating subsidies for existing transit systems are very much in today’s news. BART and Muni face another round of service cuts and fare hikes. Odds are that the economy will remain in doldrums or worsen. It will be increasingly difficult to justify or sell a massive capital project like the hsr, which will also require operating subsidies. Not to mention that if the overall California travel figures, total of trip by air, auto, bus, etc., stagnate or dip the projected patronage of the hsr would be questionable.

    Perhaps the legislature will force a major audit upon the CHSRA plan that will find Prop 1A fatally flawed and require a revision of the entire route.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, but your record is broken. Get a life.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Nagging truths are unpleasant like a broken record.

    Isn’t it interesting that all of the videos the media are running of the hsr of the future show surface alignments. There is nary a berm in any of them.

    That would be a good video project for some creative kids in Palo
    Alto – to create an alternative, mad-max, apocalyptic vision of the the hsr, mit berms and all. A mix of the Blues Brothers elevated and resident evil. ha ha. Brutalism carried to its logical extreme.

    The Jettsons in the ghetto.

    Joey Reply:

    Eh? Did you mis the Palo Alto simulation in that cave of yours? Also they showed an aereal for downtown San José.

    Also what’s with this whole circuitous and slow business? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 220mph isn’t exactly slow, and if you’re talking about Tehachapi, that’s ONE detour, not the whole route, and it only adds twelve minutes to the line-haul time, which isn’t that long by international standards to begin with.

    Spokker Reply:

    “That would be a good video project for some creative kids in Palo
    Alto – to create an alternative, mad-max, apocalyptic vision of the the hsr, mit berms and all. A mix of the Blues Brothers elevated and resident evil. ha ha. Brutalism carried to its logical extreme.”

    That would rule.

    jimsf Reply:

    @syn-“Odds are that the economy will remain in doldrums or worsen”


    From todays headlines:

    “The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the final months of 2009, the fastest rate of growth in six years and well above the 4.6 percent rate forecasters had expected.Neil Irwin: Welcome, everyone. This is Neil Irwin, economics reporter at the Post. This morning, the government reported that the nation’s economy roared ahead, at least as measured by gross domestic product, in the final three months of 2009. The 5.7 percent pace of GDP growth was the strongest reading since 2003, and is pretty definitive evidence (combined with the third quarter number) that the recession technically ended over the summer”

    synonymouse Reply:

    The verdict is totally out on the economy, with many predicting a double dip, starting with a fall-off in the second half of this year. The dollar is up, which means more imports, less exports.

    A second wave of defaults and foreclosures is looming. The truth is that the world has changed since the thirties and infrastructure stimulus may simply be ineffectual now. The deficit is a real worry – which is why the Republicans will return to power shortly.

    If you want an hsr you had better make it self-supporting. Dump politicized detours that slow it down, for starters.

    jimsf Reply:

    you wish.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    a “detour” that provides service to a city of 150,000 & a metro of nearly 500,000 and still manages to keep the legally mandated maximum trip time and avoids a subterranean fault crossing…

    Tony D. Reply:

    It will take a lot more than simply saying “Nope!” to get back into power. But keep on wishing Rat! Boy this HSR news must have made you miserable.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not at all. Actually I found the TBT blox $400 mil most interesting and curious. I remember when BART, Quention Kopp and Willie Brown killed the TBT tunnel in the early ’90’s. Judging from Kopp’s sour grapes comments he is still against it. Cdincinnati still has a mothballed subway tunnel from the First World War.

    What does interest me is this “ïnvestment grade” project evalution.

    Peter Reply:

    If the economy is going to sour over the long-term, then a major infrastructure project like CAHSR is precisely what is needed to keep people employed while at the same time working on development needed for the future.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They have been trying the approach you advocate in Japan for decades with decidedly with mixed results. The Japanese economy remains in doldrums and the debt level is quite high.

    Most Americans now are independents, because the two parties are basically one party with wings. And this one party takes its marching order from special interest groups rather than the majority. That is why there is so little trust of DC.

    Curious that Nevada got no stimulus funds – could be they’ve written off Reid. You guys are in denial – even Barack is preparing to deal with the GOP resurgence. This is an ongoing crisis with revolving door governments a real possibility.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Are you seriously suggesting that American’s will go back to the party/policy’s that got us into our current financial crisis in the first place? Must be rough living in a cave and listening to broken records.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually, when they were doing it with things like building out the original #HSRail corridors, they were gavely irrefutably unmixed results.

    In the 1990’s, the big Japanese exporting corporations shifted from 90% local value added to something closer to 60%, and since that meant investing in overseas capacity rather than domestic capacity for around a decade, at the same time they were coping with the burst of a housing bubble like the one that just burst for us, of course they were in the doldrums for quite a while. We will be too unless we focus on developing industries that have the physical possibility of being growth industries – rather than living in a drill baby drill fantasy where no more than 10% added to what will at that time be 1/3 of our oil consumption will allow us to continue with an oil-fired economy.

    Peter Reply:

    Did Nevada even ask for any stimulus funds for a high-speed rail project? Not including maglev, which would have been a ridiculous use of stimulus funds?

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I’m not too concerned about who is in power, both sides have their flaws. HSR is not about a political party, but the future of this country, and the world… But I will point out that the national debt and the stock market have historically fared far better under democrats than republicans.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Japan hasn’t had “mixed results.” It had very good growth until the liquidity crisis of 1990, leading to a 15-year deflationary crisis. The US had okay growth until 2008.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I believe a lot of Americans are declared/registered “Independant” to stop getting all that mf’ng mailers!!!!!!!!!!!

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    No… synomyn is mostly correct. A double dip is a clear possibility.

    To it… foreclosures are heading up in San Diego despite no increase in filings.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Name a HSR corridor in the world that deliberately runs as far away as geographically possible intervening populations adding up to millions in order shave off five or ten minutes of running time.

    Oh, yeah, there’s that pesky fact that lots of others have tried it, and tried it successfully, and there is an accumulation of operating experience.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Chris Reed is a far-right wacko who cannot abide government spending, unless it goes directly to his pocket.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Something is wrong with Chris Reed… he’s the guy in the SD Trib, right?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, he is. I know his type well from having grown up reading similar trash in the editorial pages of the OC Register.

  11. egk
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 09:09

    Apropos tourism, the Obama administration really was very clever to put that big chunk of change into the Tampa/Orlando route. It’s a short enough route to get built quickly and (relatively cheaply). And it will be highly visible: Over 2 million annual visitors are now bussed from Orlando Airport to Disney world. In five years they will be riding modern HSR (and going home to to talk about it). That is a boon for HSR publicity that no amount 3D simulation can match: There’s nothing like actually having ridden a high speed train to reduce skepticism and increase enthusiasm.

  12. Observer
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 09:29

    The reason for the increase is that CHSRA produced cost estimates in the first place stated in current year dollar terms, even though build would occur far in the future. They are now forced by the feds to state the cost in future dollars. There’s nothing untruthful or deceptive about the statement of dollars in the future. Its an accurate portrayal of what the system will cost taxpayers. But regardless of the reason, the project is now stated with a more accurate portrayal of total cost.

    As for reason why we might expect the final cost to increase above 43B – your own CHSRA President Curt Pringle said so in his last testimony in front of the senate – not the least reason of which is that as engineering proceeds, they’ll learn more, and true costs will be determined. He refers to precisely this in his explanation for the drastic increase in the Anaheim segment.

    Robert, you seem to want to argue about blame and about making up excuses for WHY the costs are increasing. The fact is they are and will continue to increase. Even the authority admits it. The issue is about truth. The citizens, voters, tax payers of California deserve the truth. You, even more than Pringle and the CSHRA are all about obfuscation of the truth.

    Response to Spokker who said:
    “30-40 million riders per year? Optimistic but doable. No, that’s not going to be first-year stats (CHSRA expects 13 million boardings in the first year, Caltrain already does 12 million boardings per year.”

    Caltrain Boardings @ 12M per year. Caltrain ridership is mainly daily commuters, who are taking round trips each day, 5X per week. The question is, how many caltrain riders have the need to travel from SF to LA daily roundtrip 5X per week? Not many. Smell test, shall we?

    So 12M boardings per year = 32,876 boardings per day. Those are mainly commuter round trips, so that equates to 16,438 riders per day. Approx same people repeating ridership daily.

    How many Caltrain riders have the need to take multiple trips per year from SF to LA – let say for the sake of yuks that its 100% (pretty generous) How many trips per year??? Three? Ten? (And we’ll even assume 100% go by HSR, they ARE
    train riders, afterall all.)

    16,438 * 3 = 49315 trips, but double that because they’ll be roundtrip, so 98,630 boardings per year on HSR from Caltrain riders

    OK, all of a sudden every single person riding Caltrain has a burning need to go from SF to LA TEN TIMES PER YEAR (wow!).

    16,438 *10 = 164,380 *2 (roundtrip) = 328,767 Boardings per year from Caltrain riders.

    Just slightly shy of 13 Million

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are some people who’re interested in going from LA to SF but not in riding Caltrain.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Caltrain has about 2 million people who could reasonably take it, HSR will have about 20-30 million people, if not more, who could reasonably take it (most of the population of the state). By the time this all opens Caltrains ridership will probably hit about 20 million a year with strong ongoing growth (since the trip will be vastly improved with grade separations and electrification)

    john Reply:

    Ah, because of course HSR will only leave SF to collect passengers on the peninsula and blast to LA, drop them off and then deadhead back to SF to do it all over again…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Again, this is simply a dishonest comparison that deserves to be laughed out of the room. Even a comparison to Caltrain is flawed since HSR serves a very different ridership market.

    You also fail to consider the “induced demand” that has been proven to exist – new trips that will be made because HSR is there to offer the service, rail trips that aren’t being made now because nothing like HSR is available.

    Such an analysis would get you flunked out of any college course on urban or transit planning. What a bunch of crap.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Good grief, how can someone who lives in California doubt that providing new transport options induces new transport demand. Someone who have NEVER sat in a traffic jam that was not there when the last road expansion of that road first opened, but which developed as people moved into new developments down the road and more and more people started relying on the road until it became as congested or more than it was before the improvement began.

    Especially in California – how could any Californian doubt the observed behavior of induced demand?

    Peter Reply:

    They either don’t doubt it but are denying it for their own reasons (don’t want the project built, etc), or they are blind.

    Observer Reply:

    Hey Robert – didn’t see you flunking Spokker – because it was HIS comparison of Caltrain ridership (12M) to HSR first year (13M) that was being debunked here. So we can agree then that using caltrain ridership, or Bart ridership, or any other commuter “riderships” (ie” car trips on bay area freeways) is a bullshit way to count up HSR ridership. Thanks for confirming.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What things like Caltrain ridership and BART ridership show is that if you connect key centers of density with passenger rail that is quick and goes where people want to go, you can generate levels of ridership that resemble HSR.

    That doesn’t validate the actual HSR numbers. It validates instead the theory behind the HSR numbers, which I just articulated. Because your criticism is inherently a theoretical criticism, since you critics have never ONCE actually presented an assessment of the HSR ridership on its own merits, it’s reasonable to use something like Caltrain and BART to prove the underlying theory.

    Of course, the theory alone does not prove the HSR ridership numbers themselves. But it shows they’re not implausible, which is yours and Lowenthal’s argument.

    Observer Reply:

    The ‘theory’ behind HSR ridership is ‘build it they will come’ or “Induced Demand” = field of dreams.

    You said it perfectly yourself – Bart and Caltrain have riders because it connects population centers with where people want to go. Where people want to go is to work. They work locally. They need local transportation.

    Bay areans dont work in LA and LA’ans don’t work in Bay Area. Might some start? For a six hour commute? Highly doubful. They work locally, will continue to work locally.

    Or, as logical slightly greater than half-witted people are apt to do, they’ll move to where the work is. (as opposed to the people I guess who travel many hundreds of miles a week for work, or the people who continue live out in the middle of nowhere waiting for the next great government jobs creation program to come and rescue them from 30% unemployment)

    The underlying theory is clear – a transportation method will get high ridership, driven by repeat riders IF riders need to use it regularly to get somewhere compelling, all the time. Same riders = multiple daily trips = big ridership.

    On the other hand, it will get only infrequent one-time riders, and will need a constant flow of NEW one-time riders if it doesn’t take people to where they need to go all the time. A population center doesn’t mean there is demand for long distance travel – depends what’s at other end. IN this case, Bay Area to LA – underwhelming ‘inducment’.

    Robert – you can’t seem to decide whether you WANT to use Caltrain and Bart riderships to defend HSR or whether you want to debunk Caltrain and Bart riderships for HSR.

    In any case, I probably would get laughed out of an urban or transit planning class, since I’ve never been in one. but you don’t have to be a snake to spot one. I’ll wait for the investment grade independent ridership analysis anyway – as opposed to I guess the “PR” grade that CHSRA has so far been trying to hawk.

    Peter Reply:


    Only a fraction of the trips will be done Bay Area-LA. Even then, there are MANY passengers travelling between the Bay Area and LA. No one is saying people will be commuting between those destinations. However, business travellers use that route constantly.

    Much of the ridership will be driven by people travelling between city pairs along the route. That’s why there are more stations than just the terminals and the express stations. To consistently deny those facts just continues to discredit you.

    jimsf Reply:

    hsr works for intra urban commuting, for long distance business and leisure travel, and regional business and leisure travel as well as some inter regional commuting. FNO-SJC for instance.

    as for a constant supply of one time riders… that called that california tourism industry:
    California-Find Yourself Here@
    Facts and Figures

    Domestic and international visitors spent $97.6 billion in California destinations in 2008
    The nearly $100 billion in spending supported 924,000 jobs and accounted for combined earnings of $30.6 billion.

    Travel spending also generated $2.2 billion in local taxes and $3.6 billion in state taxes
    Domestic Travel- 338 million domestic visitors traveled to and through California in 2008; 86% of domestic visitors were residents of California.

    International Travel- Approximately 13.4 million international visitors traveled to California last year. Five and a half million were from overseas origins, 6.7 million were from Mexico and 1.2 million were from Canada.

    jimsf Reply:

    and now they will be able to do it twice as fast and thus, we can accommodate twice as many. and collect the cash every bit as fast as they can spend it. ka ching.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Your theory is that there is no intercity travel in California. No travel market between LA and SF. No travel market between Fresno and SF or LA. No travel market between San Diego and LA. No travel market between Merced and San Jose or San Francisco.

    And the moronic thing about your theory is that the ridership model is a mode SPLIT model, which means its based on CURRENT intercity travel, correlating the factors related to the number of people traveling, plugging in the population projection for the given year, getting the total intercity transport market, then using the characteristics of the different transport options to split that transport market between the various transport options available.

    So if there was no CURRENT intercity travel, the current numbers would all be 0’s, so the reactions to population growth would all be multiples of 0, so there would be nothing to split, so the ridership projection would be 0 riders.

    The entire line of argument is designed to first and foremost try to play wedge politics between intercity rail and local transit, by pretending there is a single pot of money to divide between the two and a single pool of riders to be served by the two, and then arguing that it “should go” to transit. But of course, propose a transit project, and all of those people saying, “what about transit?” … the once who were spreading the nonsense argument are nowhere to be found … only the people that they were able to sucker with the argument.

    The reality is that California massively subsidizes BOTH local AND intercity auto transport, and as a result of that bias is under-equipped with both common carrier local transport and common carrier intercity transport. But nobody every suggests ripping out the Interstates between the cities to cut maintenance costs so the state can afford to repair its local roads. Nobody suggests shutting down the airport until all the potholes in more densely populated cities are fixed.

    And because nobody actually REALLY cuts off intercity transport to put all resources into intercity transport, someone with half a brain and an interest in local transit will want intercity transport spending to be spent as efficiently as possible. Because California has been looking for the most effective Intercity Interstates to build for decades, and has been looking for where to expand airports for decades, and both of those have long since passed into the increasing per additional seat capacity range, while California has barely gotten started on working on effective intercity rail systems, it has quite a number of effective opportunities to invest in intercity rail transport, where the equivalent capacity expansion in highways or airports simply cost more to provide the same capacity.

    Setting aside the fantasy world where intercity transport is simply denied all funding while every cent goes into local transport, someone interested in local transit will be a strong supporter of effective HSR corridors, because they are the most effective means of providing the expansion in intercity transport capacity that a state of California’s size experiencing population growth will need.

    dejv Reply:

    You said it perfectly yourself – Bart and Caltrain have riders because it connects population centers with where people want to go. Where people want to go is to work. They work locally. They need local transportation.

    Bay areans dont work in LA and LA’ans don’t work in Bay Area. Might some start? For a six hour commute? Highly doubful. They work locally, will continue to work locally.

    And because of this very reason, there’s no air traffic between LA basin and Bay Area, right?

    You should read this.

    Spokker Reply:

    “Caltrain Boardings @ 12M per year. Caltrain ridership is mainly daily commuters, who are taking round trips each day, 5X per week.”

    If CAHSR is set up for commuters between SF and San Jose (monthly passes, 10-trips), I imagine some will make the switch and some will stick with Caltrain.

    It’s just another attractive level of service on the Peninsula.

    Spokker Reply:

    Of course, they could choose to not make the service attractive to commuters on the Peninsula and between Palmdale-LA-Anaheim (Phase 2 could include commuters from the Inland Empire to LA), but I think it’s worthwhile to offer peak-hour commute passes even if they have to be subsidized (like Caltrain and Metrolink are now). There are many ways to do this.

    If they don’t do that, then yes, a comparison to Caltrain is wrong.

    Spokker Reply:

    The Pacific Surfliner is intercity rail, but guess what, your Metrolink monthly pass is good on the Surfliner between the stations listed on your pass. It’s just another level of service.

    Is it an intercity train? Is it a commuter train? It can be both!

    Why is Metrolink subsidized? The justification is that it takes cars off the road. The old statistic is that Metrolink takes about 1 freeway lane worth of cars off parallel freeways. I don’t know if that is true, but it is true that the majority of Metrolink riders do own cars, which is a lot of cars taken off Southern California freeways. Of course, they are all at the park and ride lots, which we are working on… I think.

    mattlos Reply:

    This argument would be great, if reps from CHSRA were not running up and down the state saying they have no desire to serve a commute market.

    CHSRA has not desire to serve commute markets and intends to price travel in a way that would be unaffordable for the majority of commuters. That is why the fare assumption in the 09 business plan was around 77% of comparable air-fare.

    If fares were low enough to attract commuters, the system would likely require a subsidy. CHSRA does not intend to run some ort of public private partnership in the vein of Foothill Transit. They intend to run a profit—that’s the only way they believe they will attract private sector investment.

    Spokker Reply:

    The CHSRA can charge 83% of airfare for one-way and round-trip tickets. They could also offer monthly passes that counties can choose to subsidize if they want to.

    Basically each county can make a decision on whether they want to offer a discount commuter high speed rail monthly pass for select station pairs, similar to the way five counties currently fund Metrolink in Southern California.

    Ideally you would see Anaheim-LA monthly passes, or Palmdale to LA monthly passes in SoCal, and similar monthly passes in the Bay Area. You could put restrictions on them. No weekend travel. No holiday travel.

    Perhaps it could act like an add-on for Metrolink and Caltrain monthly passes. Who knows? The point is that there are options and I intend to bring this up as the project moves forward.

    “If fares were low enough to attract commuters, the system would likely require a subsidy.”

    My point is that not all fares would be priced for commuters, only those who would travel 4-5 times per week in a particular region. Those who only use the system anywhere from once a week to once a year would be paying full fare.

    So, if LA-Anaheim is $15 one-way the commuter pass could be priced to be $10 per trip (assuming 20 work days per month). You are essentially getting a discount for buying in bulk. Monthly passes are like a Costco for trains.

    Amtrak works the same way. One-way fares between LA and Anaheim are $11. If you buy a 10-trip your one way fare is $6.90 assuming you take all ten trips within a 45 day period.

    ML Reply:

    you might want to try and run this by the actual employees of CHSRA. They are saying, to anyone who will actually listen, that they will price off commuters.

    many of the relevant stakeholders see high speed rail as a possible threat to the metrolink business model. this is why you see studies on high speed commuter service overlays in San Diego county, but not in the rest of southern california.

    Senior staff at CHSRA are repeatedly saying that they will not serve a commute market, because their prices will be too high, and they don’t want to offer discounted monthly passes. It’s my understanding that they see their business model as closer to America Airlines than Amtrak. Whether or you or I or anyone else agrees with that decision.

    Spokker Reply:

    Here’s a personal anecdote about travel demand in California.

    My girlfriend works at a law firm in Southern California. She routinely appears in court to do various lawyer things, mostly in LA and Riverside Counties.

    However, once or twice a month she has a case in the Bay Area or the Central Valley. For example, she had to fly out to the Bay Area to appear in court. However, when her case was in Fresno, she was not put on a plane and sent there. The law firm hired a local lawyer to appear in court for them, even though they would prefer one of their own to appear in court. Why? Because Fresno to SoCal is $600 round-trip.

    CAHSR may open up the Central Valley for business. There is demand for travel all over the state, and yet not everyone is switching to telecommute options which exist right now. I can stream HD movies over the Internet right from my shitty apartment, yet I have to show up for work. I have to show up for class. Why doesn’t everyone just use their built-in web cams and attend classes and work at the office that way? Because it’s fucking stupid, that’s why.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    Teleconferencing will kill business travel just like the phone did.

    Spokker Reply:

    Will it? Is it? Is it doing it right now? We have the bandwidth. We have the software. Let’s go.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    I was being facetious. The phone didn’t kill business travel, neither will teleconferencing. I used to travel for my job, I made the flight from LA-SF every week for almost a year and I often saw the same people on the plane several weeks in a row. I would have killed human beings weekly for the ability to get on a train and sleep for 2.5 hours uninterrupted on monday mornings, instead of trying to steal 5-10 minutes in between security theater, boarding lines, takeoff, landing, announcements, transferring to BART or a getting a cab. The fact that you can sleep for 2.5 hours on a train on monday morning and get there faster than you can flying (and I got really good at shaving seconds off my commute) just makes this whole thing the biggest fucking no-brainer in the history of transportation projects.

    I’m convinced that not only do most HSR opponents not have any idea how nice it is to ride a train, they don’t seem to have any idea how much it sucks to fly on a regular basis. And don’t get me started on how much it sucks trying to get out of Los Angeles on a weekday afternoon.

    People are going to flock to this thing in droves. It simply has no competition for transit in California.

    Peter Reply:

    Attorneys at the law firm in San Jose I work for are constantly driving to other cities for appearances. If they could work on files while travelling to that appearance, they would be SOOO much more productive, not to mention more alert and less stressed at the appearance. Even with BART to San Jose they could ride BART to Oakland for appearances, which would be a more productive use of their time than driving 880. Same thing with Caltrain/Capitol Corridor to Salinas.

    Bianca Reply:

    I’m convinced that not only do most HSR opponents not have any idea how nice it is to ride a train, they don’t seem to have any idea how much it sucks to fly on a regular basis. And don’t get me started on how much it sucks trying to get out of Los Angeles on a weekday afternoon.

    This, a thousand times over. Lots of people have to travel on a regular basis, and giving people an alternative to sitting in a shaking metal tube will be a godsend. Teleconferencing is never going to kill business travel- too much has to happen face to face. Sometimes there is just no substitute for being there.

    Spokker Reply:

    Ah, point taken.

    jimsf Reply:

    Teleconferencing has been around forever. People will always want to meet in person. Its a human thing. And people want to get out of the office and out of town.

    There’s no information you can get at a typical “convention” (which are huge business in america) that you can’t get in a memo or phone call but till conventions continue. Besides, business types love clandestine debauchery and you can’t really teleconference that. You need a hotel room.

  13. mike
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 09:57

    @morris brown
    Morris (and Arthur):

    My challenge still stands, and will continue to do so until answered. This is a very serious matter, because serious accusations have been made, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

    You claim that HSR “promoters” (i.e. Kopp or Diridon) fooled the public into passing Prop 1A by saying that “117 – 120 million passengers would be using the system by 2030.” Please find one or more quotes by Kopp or Diridon (ideally both, but in a pinch either will do) in which they claim that ridership is forecast to be 117 million riders/year in 2030.

    Again, 117 million (or higher) has to be the actual forecast – it can’t just be something like “over 80 million” or “up to 117 million”, because Morris has claimed that 117 million is the lower bound.

    I don’t know whether or not such a quote exists. But I am saying that I haven’t seen such a quote, and that fact itself is surprising given that Morris et al imply that Kopp and Diridon were publicly promoting such a number at every opportunity.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Many HSR detractors use French TGV ridership figures to prove CHSRA predictions are unrealistic.
    This comparison is flawed because it considers the TGV is the only fast train in France. In fact, many Corail or TER trains have top speeds in excess of 110mph and have a faster average speed than Acela.
    As CHSR will have the role of TGV+Corail+TER, the whole SNCF ridership should be taken into account as reference.
    In 2008, SNCF ridership was 1.1 billion. Scaled down to match California’s population, the figure would roughly be 500 millions. 117 million riders in 2030 might even be understated.
    Of course, there is the argument that Americans are in love with their cars. So were the French, but with the price of gasoline and the 130km/h speed limit, the thrill is gone.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    130 km/h is higher than the speed limit in the US. I don’t think it’s 130 km/h anywhere – the highest I’ve seen is 120, and usually it’s 100-110.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The speed limits in France are: 90 km/h on roads with no median separation. For autoroutes (freeways) it is either110 km/h (urban) or 130 km/h (intercity). The 130 km/h limit was not really enforced until 10 years ago. Many people think 130 km/h is too low and would like 160 km/h (100mph) to be allowed on the fast lane.
    In Germany, many portions of autobahns have no speed limit at all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In the US it’s 75 mph in a few predominantly rural states, such as Montana; 65 intercity in the rest of the country; and between 40 and 55 within cities. Unofficially, when traffic is light and driving conditions are good, the cops let you do 10 mph above the speed limit.

    It’s nothing like, say, Italy, where, no matter what the speed limit is in principle, in practice people drive 160-200 km/h on the intercity autostrade.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, if I recall correctly, most portions of the autobahns have speed limits during the day to contral traffic flows, and revert to no speed limit at night.

  14. Bobierto
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:37

    Thanks for posting that local news clip … nice to put a face with the strong voice on this blog!

  15. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:43

    117,000,000 riders per year is 320,000 riders per day in state that will by the full build out will have a population around 50 million.

    you don’t think hsr can 320,000 riders a day out of 50,000,000 people? BART gets that many riders per day from 7,000,000 people.

    Now if I understand this, the 117m is the ridership number for a full built system and 117m doesn’t mean 117m trips between LA and SF. A trip is a trip, inclding a trip from ANA-LAX or RIV-BUR or SAC-SKN a short 15 minute trip, is a trip and there will be lots of those too.

    EVeryone who rides bart isn’t going from concord to sf. many of us use bart to go fromel cerrito to coliseum, or fremont to hayward.

    and that is exactly the beauty of the current hsr design – that it maximizes its potential ridership by offering these intermediate city pairs and local, regional, and express service.

    320,000 riders a day is not at all unrealistic.

    mike Reply:

    Jim, the point isn’t whether or not 117m/yr is realistic. The point is that Morris, Arthur, et al appear to be engaged in an active campaign for deception and misinformation re: the ridership estimates, and they need to be called on it.

  16. Donk
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:47

    Hey Observer, why do you think people are only going to go from SF to LA? The bulk of the trips will be from LA to SJ or ANA-Fresno or Bak-Mountain View or Palmdale to LA or some other piece of the system. Many of these people will be daily commuters.

    Peter Reply:

    Because he thinks in terms of an airline flight, i guess.

  17. Clem
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 11:27

    The latest figure from the HSR business plan is 23.4M annual riders in 2035 between the LA Basin and the Bay Area.

  18. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 11:53

    Does it say how they define LA Basin? are they counting the SFV? IE? or just LAX-ANA? Just curious.

    A narrow definition would be 5 stations up here and 5 down there, 10 stations 65,000 per day, or 6500 per station per day or 270 passengers per hour or 135 per hour each way with 4 trains per hour each way = 33 people boarding each train at each station.

    pretty reasonable.

  19. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 12:05

    to those pessimistic right wing party of no obstructionists out there who insist that the nation is doomed. Look how many times we have been doomed before, and each doomsday was followed by economic recovery. The best thing we can do right now while labor is cheap and people need work is to go ahead and put them to work preparing this centuries infrastructure needs. Just as in the early 20th century, we put people to work building the things that made america great, and sustained us for 100 years, we need to do it again as those things are crumbling or outmoded. high speed rail as a standard system of transport around the world, is a no brainer for cali. You don’t need numbers, and reports to know that. An ounce of common sense will do.
    Late 2000’s Recession
    Early 2000’s Recession
    1990’s Recession
    1980’s Recession
    1970’s Oil Crisis
    Late 1960’s Recession
    Early 1960’s Recession
    Late 1950’s Recession
    Early 1950’s Recession
    Late 1940’s Recession
    Recession of 1945
    The Great Depression
    Recession 1926
    Post World War I Recession
    Panic of 1907
    1870’s Recession
    1890’s Recession
    Panic of 1857
    Panic of 1837
    Depression of 1807
    Panic of 1819
    Panic of 1797

  20. Robert Cruickshank
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 12:09

    So now we’re talking ridership. Some points:

    1. There is every reason to believe riders will flock to these trains. They’ve done so in Spain, France, under the Channel, in Japan and on Taiwan, all of which have some similarities to California, no place moreso than Spain. The riders may not come immediately – remember the 5 year curve – but they will come. Probably sooner.

    2. The specific numbers only matter as they relate to a specific funding plan. In and of itself it doesn’t really matter whether 23 million or 117 million people ride the system. But it does matter if your projections suggest you need X number to pay for the operating costs and service the debt on funding plan Y. CHSRA projections indicate this is possible. Please deal directly with those projections as much as possible.

    3. Most HSR critics are functioning on the “nobody rides trains and they will always fail to break even” assumption. It is the keystone in their entire argument. And they are highly unlikely to ever accept the untruth of that assumption, even if you strapped them down in a chair on the AVE and made them ride back and forth between Madrid and Barcelona for a month.

    4. A big piece of the ridership question is the future of the state’s economy, particularly its economic geography. Already there is a significant amount of business travel that takes place between SF and LA that cannot or will not be replaced by teleconferencing. That will likely continue, but the key question will be whether the Central Valley is tied into the “megaregions” of either NorCal or SoCal. HSR is indeed going to help make that happen. But it will likely begin before the system is complete. As people commute to and from the Valley, HSR becomes a more elemental part of the state’s economy, as does the Valley itself. This is one reason why the Tolmach “omg use I-5 instead of Highway 99” argument is so unimaginably stupid.

    5. If you want to criticize the ridership numbers, you MUST show why the estimates are flawed in and of themselves. Comparison to other passenger rail systems, whether it’s long-distance Amtrak trains or commuter trains or light rail, is so deeply flawed as to not be credible. Comparison to other HSR systems IS credible, but one must keep in mind conditions specific to California. I make the Spain comparison often because its geography and urban densities are quite similar to California. By that I mean ACTUAL conditions that can be measured, not “Californians won’t ride trains” or “California has no public transit.” The latter one is particularly absurd given the plans for expansion of passenger rail feeder lines over the next 10 years, particularly in the LA area but also in other parts of the state.

    ML Reply:


    if the inter-regional models that CS developed for the 2005 EIR are proprietary, how can anyone actually show why the estimates are flawed? Can you tell me what the assumptions were? Can you tell to what extent they used SCAG’s deeply flawed MAGLEV forecasts to build the Southern California Regional Model?

    Does being skeptical of a far,far, far less-than-transparent forecast make one a “hsr denier?”

  21. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 12:44

    I love the californians wont ride trains argument. Especially those car loving, freeway hugging southern californians who have made surfliners the 2nd most successful route in the nation and number one in california and when gas hit 5 bucks, were packed on the trains, standing room only. Even with cheap gas and a recession the ridership numbers are going up. (must be arizonans sneaking in and riding in secret)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Oh, its not just Arizonans sneaking in pretending to be Californians – Nevadans, Coloradans, whole bunch of people. That’s why CA with around 10% of the country’s population got 20% of the funding … to make up for all those people from neighboring states in the habit of sneaking into LA and Fresno and Sacramento to ride the Coaster and San Joaquin and Capital.

  22. YesonHSR
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 13:23

    @morris brown
    O REALLY Morris? GEE was it not nice that they chose Palo Alto of all places to have this ..why not SanJose or SanFrancisco where far more people live? and love the swing at Robert and the PR firm..Haa
    you seem to be in the very same shoes..web sites ,,commenting in newspapers..going to hearings at the capital.

  23. Scott
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 13:34

    Just for comparison, China is spending nearly $300B in their nation-wide high speed rail network, which is expected to have 6,000 miles of HSR open by 2020.


    For once, I’m actually envious of something made in China.

    Scott Reply:

    And a little bit of food for thought from China HSR:

    “The Chinese Railway Ministry says that the new system makes economic sense: A two-track bullet train can transport 160 million people a year, compared with 80 million for a four-lane highway.”

    Spokker Reply:

    I wouldn’t take anything China says seriously even if it’s pro-HSR.

  24. HSRComingSoon
    Jan 29th, 2010 at 18:33

    One thing that has only been touched on is the impact HSR will have in So Cal and the potential for high ridership. While Spokker and a few others have touched on it, here are some things to consider. LA Union Station when phase 1 is completed will have the multiple Metrolink lines running to it, not to mention the fact that HSR will run north to commuters around Palmdale, Sylmar, but also gain riders from the Norwalk and Anaheim stations as well. But more importantly, LAUS will also have the following feeder lines: Metro Red, Purple (extended to at least Westwood), Expo Line (built-out to Santa Monica), Blue, and Gold (including the Eastside expansion further east). These lines will attract major ridership to LAUS and HSR not only for daily ridership but also because travel to points North will be considerably faster than trying to get to LAX or even Bob Hope Airport (Burbank) by car and having to deal with all of the other inconveniences. Moreover, the Norwalk Station could possibly include a direct connection to the Green Line, which will add more ridership. For the record, I assume that the regional connector, full expo and purple line projects are completed by the time phase I is completed.

    This direct connection will benefit daily riders, intra-state travelers, and tourists who often complain about the need for a car to get from SF to LA and be able to see destinations like Santa Monica, then move onto Disneyland in Anaheim. As an added bonus, travel between LA/Bay Area will also get a boost because of all the college students who might want to travel see their team play against a rival, all made easier by HSR and feeder lines. Example: see Stanford play UCLA in Pasadena – take HSR from Palo Alto to LAUS with direct connection to the Gold Line to Pasadena. Or USC vs Cal at Cal: USC students hop on the Expo Line to LAUS, HSR to SJ (or even SF) then BART to Berkeley. I’m sure other comparisons of schools can be made in similar fashion. The fact of the matter is that many people will be using HSR to/from SoCal which benefits the system as a whole.

  25. EJ
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 19:32


    “The europeans and asians, both love our trains, Im not sure why “we love american trains” is what I hear all the time, “really?” I say, perplexed…
    but they do. go figure.”

    I get this from my European relatives. They think the Pacific Surfliner is absolutely the cat’s meow. But, if you’re on vacation and not in any particular hurry, it actually is a pretty great train – it’s spacious, reasonably priced, comfortable, rarely overcrowded, the staff is usually friendly and professional, and the scenery is interesting.

    Though they’d probably prefer HSR if it was available…

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Hopefully we’ll see enough improvements to the Pacific route that we can have a Coast Daylight running from SD to SF. That’ll be a spectacular trip.

  26. jimsf
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 21:20

    @EJ, you know sometimes they come in with their cameras and want to know “where are the trains, we want to see the american trains” ( I only have buses here) and when I tell them the trains are in the east bay, they go all the way oakland, seriously, to “see the american trains” they seem to like that our trains are big and powerful and loud. I guess in Europe even the freight trains are a little on the wispy side. Well, the grass is always greener…….

    Matthew F. Reply:

    One of these days I need to check out the train museum in Sacramento – I visited Old Sacramento last Labor Day, but the museum closed a little before I got there….

  27. BruceMcF
    Jan 30th, 2010 at 22:07

    Yeah, American freights are 30 tonne axle loadings on the mainline, where a common Euro maximum axle loading is 22.5, and then on electric lines for longer freight trains they’ll often have two smaller locos rather than one big one, because more wheels has its advantages.

    So we do have bigger, louder, freight trains. Grass is always greener, indeed.

Comments are closed.