Only Californians Have Veto Power Over the HSR Project

May 15th, 2010 | Posted by

The Peninsula Cities Consortium, comprised of the cites of Belmont, Burlingame, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, is considering a new “Core Message” that, if approved, would signal their demand to be given veto power over the project – and that the rest of California be potentially made to pay for an expensive tunnel. The draft states that if these demands are not accepted, “high speed rail should be put on hold.”

While community input is both an important and welcome piece of the process for building high speed rail, it is simply inappropriate and unfair for these cities to consider demanding so much power while leaving the rest of us with the cost.

The proposed “core message” was discussed at yesterday’s PCC meeting. I only have it in .jpg form – Page 1 and Page 2 – but I’ve included the key points below, with my commentary following.

Suggested Core Message for PCC

Cities belonging to the Peninsula Cities Consortium believe that high speed rail should be built right – or not at all. By “right,” we mean that the rail line should integrate into our communities without disrupting their current livability, according to criteria determined by each city that includes a collaborative process with their neighboring cities.

This is entirely inappropriate. It is not for the PCC to decide whether high speed rail will be built. That decision was made by the people of California at the November 2008 election, and only the people of California can undo that decision. The PCC cities do not, and should not, have the power of life or death over the HSR project.

Further, the notion that their support is contingent upon “livability” is a very vague and, in my mind, flawed metric. One person’s notion of livability is different from another’s. Some Peninsula residents believe a city dependent on oil, choked with traffic, and with an extremely dangerous at-grade railroad that kills dozens of people each year is “livable.” Others believe a city that is more walkable, not dependent on oil, with robust transportation options and a grade-separated railroad that does not pose a danger to residents is far more “livable” than the current situation. For the PCC to implicitly embrace the former definition without public discussion is to arrogate to themselves a power they do not deserve to have.

After setting out that initial statement, the PCC goes on to propose the following specific principles:

We believe that the California High Speed Rail Authority should abide by these principles:

• Provide a valid business plan and financial plan to support the project
• Provide valid ridership studies to support the project

Here, as with “livability,” “valid” is in the eye of the beholder. So far the CHSRA has produced business plans and ridership studies that many, including myself, believe to be valid. Further, you cannot guarantee any ridership model – they are projections that by their very nature come with less than 100% certainty. However, that fact can and probably will be used by the PCC to pronounce any business/financial/ridership plan as “invalid.”

• Increase and enhance local Caltrain service and improve Caltrain infrastructure as a condition of using the Caltrain corridor

This bullet point suggests to me that whoever wrote this particular item has not been following the HSR project very closely, if at all. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the actual situation on the ground.

From what I can tell, the CHSRA absolutely wants to increase and enhance local Caltrain service and improve Caltrain infrastructure. It is Caltrain, not the CHSRA, that is not playing along here. Further, if the HSR project is to improve Caltrain service, that is going to likely require a four-track fully electrified and grade-separated solution that the PCC seems to oppose. So this bullet point is fundamentally inconsistent with the PCC’s apparent desire to prevent such infrastructure from being built.

• Fill all positions on the Peer Review Committee, ensure members review all items detailed in AB 3034, and provide them a budget and a staff to do their job

Does the PCC still oppose the bills in the state legislature that would fund additional staff for the CHSRA? Would the PCC still see a Peer Review Committee as legitimate if they considered all the evidence and pronounced the CHSRA’s current plans as valid and reliable?

• Affirm that design rather than finances, will determine the alignment chosen for each section of the rail line and that the design alternatives balance transportation goals and community values and goals equally

This is unacceptable and illegitimate. The PCC has no place telling the rest of California – and the rest of the country – that they must pay more money to provide the gold-plated infrastructure that PCC members desire. The PCC needs to be willing to put up their own funding if they are going to be making this kind of demand – and no such funding is mentioned anywhere in the proposed document. In fact, as you’ll see in a moment, they expressly say any local cost contribution demand will be cause for them to oppose HSR.

Further, we see again the arrogation to themselves of defining what “community values” are. Most residents of these communities want grade-separated high speed rail. But they’re unrepresented by the PCC, which seems little more than an institution designed to impose a uniform aesthetic standard than a collaborative project to design a good railroad.

• Empower community leaders to be an integral part of the decision-making process regarding the final alternatives

This where they are demanding veto power, something they have no right to demand. Community members and community leaders already are an integral part of the design process. They are being consulted and will continue to be consulted. However, it is not for them to decide the final alternatives. Because this is a statewide project, it must be a decision made by the representatives of the people of California – or in this case, the representatives of those representatives, the members of the board of the CHSRA.

The CHSRA is almost certainly going to place great weight on what the communities want, but cannot make that the sole determination. They have a responsibility to deliver the best project for an affordable price, a responsibility the PCC proposes to ignore if they adopt these principles.

• Secure funding that will allow the full range of alternatives to be considered without expecting local cities to contribute to the cost

In other words, they want people in Redding, San Bernardino, South-Central LA, and Santa Barbara to pay for their tunnel, even though a perfectly workable and much more affordable alternative exists. This is ridiculous and should not be given any serious consideration.

Further, if the PCC really wants to secure funding, they can start by stopping their talking down of the HSR project. Have PCC members signed the Four Billion for HSR message? Have they lobbied our Congressional delegation to approve the $50 billion for HSR in the new Transportation Bill? Or have they been dismissing the federal stimulus and criticizing the HSR project?

• Provide funding to allow cities to hire experts to study reports requiring feedback

• Provide funding to allow cities to engage community members and accurately capture their concerns and suggestions

This is not appropriate for the CHSRA to fund. If the cities want to hire experts, they must do so at their own expense. The PCC has been doing that for some time now, and clearly they can afford to do that instead of spend that money keeping other services open. Further, it sounds like the PCC wants a poll of their constituents? Why not do that themselves?

• Clearly define the points at which the public can influence the process, the deadlines for comments and the decision-making process

This has already been done.

• Allow adequate time (a minimum of 90 days) to fully involve the public in Alternatives Analysis and EIR discussions, and conduct these reviews at separate times

The current time allotted is more than sufficient to allow for all of this.

• If Context Sensitive Solutions is employed, allow sufficient time to carry out this very thorough eight-step process and explain how this work will be integrated into the high speed rail plan

And how does the PCC propose to make up for the loss of stimulus funding for the corridor if this means the project can’t make the September 2012 deadline?

• Answer questions from community members promptly and accurately, and post these answers on a website where others can read the answers

That’s what the EIR process is for. Responses to comments and questions are posted online when the EIR is completed. So far, from what I can tell, the CHSRA has been very responsive to community requests for information.

• Provide for realistic renderings of what the various alternatives will look like in each community and sound/vibration simulations that accurately reflect their impact

This demand should not even be considered until the PCC permanently abandons any “Berlin Wall” framing of an above-grade solution. Of course, the way this demand is written indicates that the only renderings and simulations that will be deemed “realistic” and “accurate” are those that meet their preconceived notions.

• Treat community members with respect and refrain from labeling them

I don’t even known what this is about – I’ve never seen CHSRA officials treat community members with anything but respect. Perhaps they’re thinking of me and this blog, but if that’s the case, they should say so. Besides, my labeling of many of the HSR critics as “NIMBYs” seems to be proven by the list of demands made here.

The proposed “core message” document closes with this:

Until these principals [sic] are in place, we believe high speed rail should be put on hold.

Overall this is a very unfortunate and disappointing proposal, one I hope the PCC rejects in its entirety as being entirely inappropriate for the project and for the PCC.

The PCC itself serves a valuable role in mobilizing community input on the HSR project. That input is not only welcome, it’s necessary to an effective project.

But the PCC appears to have lost sight of what constructive engagement with the HSR project looks like. Under the influence of the NIMBY tendency on the Peninsula, the PCC seems to be considering eschewing a collaborative approach to the project. They seem to forget that successful planning requires compromise, not a list of “our way or the highway” demands.

It is my hope that the PCC scraps this document in its entirety, and instead focuses on the Alignment Alternatives before it, offering their feedback and constructive solutions as to how the Peninsula Rail Corridor should be improved for the benefit of all Californians – including, but not limited to, their own constituents.

  1. Clem
    May 15th, 2010 at 15:52

    From what I can tell, the CHSRA absolutely wants to increase and enhance local Caltrain service and improve Caltrain infrastructure.

    Based on what evidence can you tell?

    The fact is that the CHSRA wants to run an exclusive-use two-track system as straight as possible between SJ and SF with as few property takes as feasible. Caltrain is just another obstacle in the way and I applaud the PCC for standing up for Caltrain’s interests.

    I agree with you that Caltrain itself is not very good at recognizing its best interests, let alone standing up for them. They chant the electrification mantra, oblivious to everything else.

    Tony D. Reply:

    “Caltrain is just another obstacle in the way and I applaud the PCC for standing up for Caltrains interests.” Pardon me for being so blunt, but you’re so full of crap Clem!
    For starters: 1) Again, we’re talking about a commuter railroad that transports only 40k riders per day vs. a potential upgrade/system that will transport millions along the Peninsula and throughtout California, 2) I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Caltrain financially is on life-support; it needs HSR! and 3) The PCC (as Robert alluded to) doesn’t even represent the citizens of the Peninsula (see 60+% voting for HSR in 08), they’re basically a megaphone for the minority NIMBY contingent. But alas, I won’t fret to much about the PCC’s attempt to “void” the HSR system. Much like Caltrain, they’re pretty weak and won’t thwart the will of the majority. Sorry Clem.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They can huff and puff all they want ..we are still going to have HSR on caltrain to SF and yes a megaphone for the nimbys..theyare the ones that voted no and hounded these elected officals to form PCC….really for what is a major safety and improvment to something already there we have all this drama and fearmongering

    Clem Reply:

    Tony, before becoming rude you might want to review your research.

    (1) It is exceedingly likely that Caltrain will carry more passengers on the peninsula than HSR ever will. The agencies’ respective ridership studies bear that out, even more so now that HSR plans to charge a higher proportion of airfare than when I wrote the linked blog post.

    (2) Caltrain is on operations life support. Caltrain has oodles of capital funding, is about to start a multi-hundred million dollar project in San Bruno, and has large chunks of money already programmed for electrification. What do you think HSR will do for Caltrain operations revenue, besides poach the most profitable customers when the Baby Bullet is discontinued ?

    (3) The PCC represents its member cities, speaking for ALL of the member cities’ citizens. Even if some citizens don’t agree with the PCC, that is how they are being represented vis-a-vis HSR. That’s no less democratic than the CHSRA carrying out the will of ALL citizens of California. Democracy cuts both ways.

    I support HSR, but I do make it a point to maintain a modicum of critical thinking. I enjoin everyone else to study up on this highly complex issue.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The operations funding is a *huge* problem, but it’s certainly not HSR’s doing. Only a dedicated revenue source, ideally as part of a region-wide operations solution, will provide for Caltrain’s long-term needs.

    Clem Reply:

    Right. Tony’s argument that Caltrain “needs HSR” to right its finances is very far off the mark.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It would seem to need HSR’s ability to bring federal funding in order to complete the electrification project, which as I understand it Caltrain can’t pay for itself, a project that is necessary to the long-term survival of Caltrain. But it is also true that HSR doesn’t solve the near-term crisis.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    IMO, the best model for the future is a statewide HSR system with commuter overlays, also run by CHSRA. Rolling stock, tracks and stations can be shared. One system with sufficient sidings or by-pass track would be much more effecient… and at the end of the day, provide greater safety.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That would work well, but you’d need a few safeguards:

    1. CHSRA should operate commuter lines with local money whenever they cannot turn a profit.

    2. The fares and timetables of each system should be integrated with the rest of the transit networks in the region first and with the statewide system second.

    3. The management should be local, with CHSRA operating separate regional divisions.

    Essentially, the point is that you want local transit to integrate with HSR like German S-Bahn systems and like JR East and JR West’s commuter networks, and not like the TER or the JR Central network.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why does the HSR operator need to be involved with local transit at all? SEPTA and NJTransit manage…well used to manage… coordinated transfers on Amtrak owned infrastructure.

    …..NJTransit and SEPTic….

    Now if we could convince SEPTA to pay NJTransit to run trains into Pennsylvania so the commuter who live in Pennsylvania and work in Manhattan didn’t have to drive to New Jersey to get to work…..

    Joey Reply:

    Not to mention that whole San Bruno thing.

    I applaud the PCC for standing up for Caltrain’s interests.

    I would too, except that I don’t think they really know what CalTrain’s best interests are.

  2. Evan
    May 15th, 2010 at 15:55

    Great takedown. The continued hypocrisy and misunderstanding of the high-speed rail project by the PCC have been pretty unbelievable.

  3. Spokker
    May 15th, 2010 at 15:56

    Caltrain is pretty weak. They run a good commuter railroad by U.S. standards, but they lack vision. Officially, nothing has been decided yet. But if the final result isn’t a system where tracks are shared between HSR and Caltrain, that will be the biggest failure of this project, in my opinion, and I don’t even live in the Bay Area. There is an opportunity to turn the Caltrain corridor into something grand.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What I’m starting to wonder is why Caltrain and the CHSRA are two separate agencies.

    For a whole host of reasons, perhaps – and I’m really just tossing an idea out there on the table that isn’t formed in any great detail – it might be time to merge the two?

    The funding crisis facing Caltrain and many other Bay Area agencies might be a good opportunity to consider how to combine operations and planning as part of a funding solution.

    Joey Reply:

    Simple. One is a planning body, the other is responsible for running a commuter service. That doesn’t mean that the planning process shouldn’t be more integrated though.

    Clem Reply:

    The CHSRA has a very narrow and clear charter, which is to provide statewide high-speed transport. Diversifying into urban transit and short-haul commutes is unlikely to align with its primary goals. The agency already seems to have its hands full with what they’re doing.

    The situation on the peninsula highlights the fact that HSR and commuter rail interests overlap in some areas but downright conflict in others– and I haven’t shied away from pointing that out on my blog. “Done right” means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me it is increasingly about avoiding HSR trampling roughshod over Caltrain.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    How much of that “trampling roughshod” is due to conflicting planning goals? To carry on the thought process here, if there were to be some kind of fundamental restructuring of rail service in the state, perhaps some sort of state agency that can do both Caltrain and HSR (and other rail operations) can find the balance between Caltrain and HSR, which after all ought to be complementary services.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Operationaly they will be effectively merged once Anaheim to SF service begins. At that point it’d be logical to merge the two entities. But at this point? Probably a bridge too far.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    You just opened the Pandora’s Box of California governance….

    Namely, why do we have all these special districts with the power of state law in a local jurisdiction? I think you know the answer.

  4. HSRComingSoon
    May 15th, 2010 at 17:45

    The PCC should remember that reciprocity is the key to every relationship. That being said, here’s what the PCC could do to make the planning process better.

    1. Call for the corridor track alignment to be either SFFS or FSSF so that Caltrain can really benefit from the upgrades. Grade separate all crossings with realistic solutions, not just demand tunnel or nothing.
    2. Let pro-HSR elected officials be part of the PCC board to make it more “fair and balanced.” Also, don’t overly criticize those who might be selected for the Peer Review Committee, especially if they have backgrounds in companies that build HSR infrastructure, design ridership studies.
    3. Communities should look at Mountain View and is decision to explore potential designs for the corridor drawn up that show how HSR can both fit into the corridor and how it can co-exist with communities, not just call for tunnels. Another good example was Menlo Park’s drawings for grade separating the line through the city.
    4. Remember that finances do matter. This project isn’t a blank check, it does have to work within a budget.
    5.If cities want to hire experts, they can do so on their own dime; they’re already paying for the litigation, why not re-direct it to be more productive.
    6. Keep in mind deadlines; the longer things are put off, the greater the chance of missing federal funding so don’t expect excessive periods to comment on reports.
    7. Use the CSS process as a process; not an obstacle to delaying the project. Work with, not against HSR/Caltrain
    8. Don’t immediately disregard reports or initial renderings and designs if a town feels they are not “done right”
    9. Allow for city-hired experts, consultants to work with the Authority, not simply tear down what has been proposed.
    10. Expect that extravagant, unreasonable demands will mean that communities will have to contribute financially, enough said. Unreasonable could constitute building un-needed tunnels when there is more than ample corridor width.
    11. Treat HSR Board members, reps, subcontractors with respect and don’t label them by unsavory names either since reciprocity is the key to every working relationship.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    These are *excellent* points, and I hope that the PCC takes these seriously.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    Sounds to me like this org’s only purpose is to delay or kill HSR, not to actually resolve any real concerns.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It certainly appears that way, though I try to give the PCC the benefit of the doubt.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Just a note – the PCC has an open invitation to all the Peninsula cities to join. It is really serving as an excellent information exchange. Many of the other cities who have not yet chosen to officially participate send representatives to the meetings.

    The differences between the Peninsula cities when it comes to HSR coming through their cities is essentially tone. All of them (with possible exception of RWC and San Carlos) want and expect below ground alignments. Some say “we love HSR – because it will have to come underground in our city” and some say “we don’t want HSR – unless it comes underground in our city”, but the substantive differences are fairly minimal.

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    Yet the PCC could be a better conduit for cooperation, not litigation. I honestly hope that other cities do not join the PCC for the very fact that other cities want to see an improvement in the way the corridor connects the peninsula. Also, the very notion of expectations of what will vs. what could happen is also highly contentious. Why have San Mateo and Mountain View not joined the PCC? probably because they view the PCC as being litigious and counter-productive instead of working with Caltrain/HSR to develop realistic, workable solutions to complex problems that also recognize that cost is a real issue. Further, I honestly think that when PCC members call for the project to “reset” or “slow down” this is merely an attempt to get the lawyers ready if we don’t like what we’re seeing. PCC is supposed to cooperate and work with Caltrain/HSR, not issue exorbitant demands, or hold the project hostage with threats to sue or using the courtroom as a first line of defense.

    Clem Reply:

    What is a little odd is that they want design to trump finances, which is really another way of saying “cost is no object”, and then they turn around and complain that the business plan won’t pencil out. Of course it won’t pencil out if everybody wants a tunnel.

    So. You can’t say that you want it “done right” and demand both tunnels AND a business plan that pencils out. You can say that you want it “done right” and demand tunnels OR a business plan that pencils out, but not both. If you demand both, you aren’t really demanding that it be “done right”; you’re effectively demanding that it not be done at all.

    Maybe the PCC should pick one position or the other, without any triangulation.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    To be clear, from my perspective, “tunnel or nothing” isn’t so bad if these cities are willing to put up the money to make it happen, as Berkeley did 45 years ago.

    But when I see the PCC saying the opposite – saying “tunnel or nothing AND don’t you dare ask us to pay for it” then I see no other legitimate response than to dismiss the demands entirely. It’s just not a credible position to demand a tunnel and refuse to pay for it.

  5. rafael
    May 15th, 2010 at 17:49


    a) invoke paragraph 8.3(c) of the 1991 contract between SP and PCJPB to impose operations and maintenance constraints on freight rail that will make it compatible with the desired passenger service mix. This explicitly includes high level entry platforms at all stations. Assess the annual value of current and target freight rail service as well as its environmental costs/benefits. Come up with a fair offer to subsidize the changes to freight rolling stock and/or operations that would be required. If UPRR rejects the offer or CPUC refuses to waive General Order 26-D, enter into abandonment proceedings.

    These should not include freight service in the Santa Clara-Lick section except at UPRR’s request – the central coast corridor is the only available backup for freight up and down the west coast if the Tehachapis loop becomes temporarily unavailable, e.g. after an earthquake or accident.

    b) select Redwood City as the mid-peninsula stop for HSR.

    c) accept that the 2h40m line haul target for SF-LA will only be met during acceptance testing, not in commercial service. Impose a speed limit of 90mph for HSR on the peninsula and insist that all HSR trains operating during Caltrain’s rush hour stop at both Millbrae and Redwood City.

    d) require Caltrain to abandon its current three-tier service in favor of a pair of stop-skip services in order to increase average speeds. Both service patterns must include stops at SJ Diridon, Redwood City and San Francisco. Offer Amtrak Capitol Corridor incremental funding to extend service out to Gilroy, perhaps Hollister or Salinas (if the affected counties put up funds). If this is accepted, cancel Caltrain service south of Tamien.

    e) formulate an integrated timetable for HSR and Caltrain, especially wrt operations in the DTX tunnel in SF. Harmonizing platform heights will increase operational flexibility at SF Transbay Terminal, especially for off-design conditions. The timetable will implicitly define the maximum length of Caltrain consists as well as the stations at which HSR will require bypass tracks.

    f) task CHSRA alone with defining the following technical parameters of the future rail infrastructure in the corridor: vertical alignment, track type, fences, ROW surveillance, overhead catenary parameters, signaling system, platform height, maintenance access.

    g) require Caltrain to select rolling stock that is crash-compatible with HSR and make CHSRA responsible for getting FRA to roll the Caltrain waiver into its own request for a “rule of special applicability”.

    h) require CHSRA to assist with the incremental cost, if any, of the Caltrain rolling stock and Caltrain station modifications required to meet the technical specifications for the upgraded corridor (compared to realistic estimates of what Caltrain would have to shell out if HSR were canceled).

    The payoff for all this: make do with just two mainline tracks, leveraging Caltrain’s legacy tunnels north of Bayshore. This should ease land acquisition issues and sharply reduce track construction costs throughout the corridor. Much of the delta will, however, have to be spent instead on making UPRR and its customers whole plus Caltrain station upgrades.

    HSRforCali Reply:

    The two track alignment is a good idea. But each station along the Caltrain route should include two station tracks and two bypass tracks to allow HSR to maintain 125 mph. Also, 4 tracks should be built in-between stations that are relatively close together so local trains do not disrupt HSR or Caltrain express service running at maximum speed.

    rafael Reply:

    Even with bypass tracks at every single Caltrain station, the timetable might not permit running HSR trains at 125mph except during the initial testing phase. That’s why I suggested biting the bullet and accepting a top speed of around 90mph.

    In addition, reducing the top speed will considerably ease the noise issues that will inevitably be created by the combination of increased rail traffic and higher speeds, even though horn noise will be eliminated and rattling freight trains banished. Note that in Europe, conductors use a simple whistle to warn pedestrians on the platform that a train is leaving – there is no regulatory requirement for the engineer to sound the train’s much louder horn. Adopting this practice could be part of the “rule of special applicability” CHSRA will have to obtain from FRA.

    This just underlines that it is very much in everyone’s interest that CHSRA fund a headcount for a senior FRA liaison based in its own headquarters in Sacramento and sitting right across from his/her counterpart from the California Public Utilities Commission. Get the red tape sorted as soon as possible to create new, sensible planning options at the project level!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’ve never seen a four track railroad in operation have you? The bypass tracks you are confecting will join up together into a four track railroad if you want to run more than 2 or 3 trains an hour in each direction.

    rafael Reply:

    On the contrary, lots of railroads all around the world operate multiple service levels on dual tracks at frequencies well above what you are suggesting. That’s because they have modern, lightweight trains featuring rapid acceleration plus level entry platforms plus modern signaling and traffic management. The existing passenger railroad technology in California and most everywhere else in the US is 50 years out of date.

    It is, however, critical that the speed differentials between the service levels be kept within reason, especially during peak periods. That’s why I suggested slowing HSR down and speeding Caltrain up by reducing the number of stops served by each train. Even so, optimizing a timetable for a shared track concept would entail trade-offs between top speed and throughput for each service.

    Clem Reply:

    Rafael, modern technology has nothing to do with it. As you point out, the issue is the AVERAGE SPEED of services operating on the same track. If those average speeds are homogeneous, then you can easily run 20 trains per hour per direction, as BART does in the Transbay tube or Amtrak / NJT through the Hudson tunnels. If they are not homogeneous (e.g. Caltrain’s existing rush-hour timetable), then you can only run 5 or 6 trains per hour per direction. If you make them even less homogenous by adding a non-stop 90 mph train with an average speed far in excess of the 49 mph Baby Bullet average speed, then you further reduce throughput to the vicinity of 2 or 3 trains per hour per direction exactly as Adirondacker said.

    If you allow overtakes, most importantly a mid-line overtake, then your throughput increases significantly. But that will require four tracks along some significant chunk of Atherton to San Mateo.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    If you hold slower trains at the nearest station stops (assuming passing tracks at stations) to allow faster trains to pass, you make very good use of the ample capacity provided by only two mainline tracks. Relative average speed is much less a concern than trying to find that siding window to pass at speed. Local trains may be slightly inconvenienced by waiting at stations, but by class definition, local service is slower and entails shorter trips — the time premium is not as important. This requires better schedule adherence and/or better train control, but think of the enormous savings in capital costs and NIMBY political trouble by relying on two mainline tracks as opposed to four.

    Electrified Baby Bullet service should be almost as fast as the HSR service, but even the Baby Bullets can wait for the relatively rare HSR train to pass. Let’s not kid ourselves: SoCal-bound HSR trains will only be operating at 1-2 tph for at least the first decade of operations on the Peninsula.

    Joey Reply:

    Well, we’re not building for the first decade. Even in America, we’re not that short sighted. HSR will have to provide for our transportation needs for the larger part of the 21st century.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    OK, even at maximum service build-out decades from now, we’ll be talking about 4 tph at the peaks for SoCal-bound HSR service. Long-distance traffic just isn’t that much, and no need to ever have service to LA any more frequent than every 15 minutes. And that’s at the peak hour. Running mostly empty trains at high speeds is not ‘green’ at all.

    With the way CHSRA and the PRP are falling on their faces, we’ll be lucky to see anything build. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Peninsula Rail 2010 is wrong here – we’re looking at a significant shift in how intrastate travel is done in California. While we shouldn’t build too much capacity right now, neither should we be building for present levels. Aiming for 2035 ridership levels, which will certainly be more than 1-2 tph, is the right move.

    You (PR2010) seem to not be factoring in the rising cost of oil or the attractiveness of HSR and the resulting modal shift that has been proven to occur where HSR is an option. We cannot design and build this project by assuming the present situation will continue indefinitely into the future.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    we’re looking at a significant shift in how intrastate travel is done in California.

    There is incontrovertible, objective historical data that show that PBQD to have lied deliberately, systematically, repeatedly and knowingly about ridership and budget for the last northern Californian megaproject that they conceived, designed, shopped and bought politically, gamed alternatives analyses of, fraudulently eliminated alternatives to, and profited massively from building.

    This will be an exact repeat, as it always has been. Look at the unbroken historical record of fraud in ridership and budget estimation by the parties involved.

    While we shouldn’t build too much capacity right now, neither should we be building for present levels.

    Visit the PB-designed, Kopp-promoted 73% under ridership “predictions” Millbrae BART station sometime — the one that “required” bulldozing an entire low income neighborhood — and tell us all about just how important “capacity” is. Watch out for tumbleweeds!

    Massive overbuilding, based as ever on outright fraud about ridership and traffic levels, certainly is important for some of the involved parties. Either you’re on the gravy train (a time-honored profession, with plenty of company) or you’re a fool to be promoting their profit without pay.

    dejv Reply:

    Richard –

    The travel patterns shift materialized even in places where their planning incompetence matched that of PBQD/Kopp:

    The failure to meet expectations after the start was widely discussed as a national scandal in both countries. However, you can also see on the graphs that there was steady growth thereafter. And that at the expense of other modes of transport.

    The modal shift was particularly spectacular in Taiwan. In just 20 months, all but one single daily flight between the cities served by THSRC was eliminated (last December, THSRC’s share of the air/rail market was 99.95%…), leaving the highway as only competition. Total domestic air passenger transport fell almost by half(!). The steady uninterrupted annual growth of highway traffic was not only stopped but turned back.

    Were BART ridership predictions reviewed by anybody competent, like CAHSR numbers by SNCF?

    Peter Reply:

    Right Richard, because even PB was supposed to foresee the dot-com bust, right?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Right Richard, because even PB was supposed to foresee the dot-com bust, right?

    Come on, you’re not even trying! Even the most amateurish straight up historical fabrication really ought to require more than a single Google search to refute.

    Anyway, that would be a really good one, because they’d have to “predicted” the dot-com boom first, before the whole not forseeing the bust bit. (“Source: MTC, BART-SFO AA/DEIS/DEIR Patronage Forecasts, May 1991 MTC, BART-SFO DEIR/DSEIS Patronage Forecasts, October 1993. Parsons Brinkerhoff, July 1995.“) In that case, what were they doing investing in politicians who could grease earmarks their way rather than betting the house on Silicon Graphics, Cisco and Sun Microsystems?

    Next up: go with the other standard BART-PB-Bechtel-MTC line next and blame everything on “9/11”?

    Or the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody could predict that.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, I guess I was off a little on my timing…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Richard, not all of us look at this project through the lens of the previous battles. I don’t honestly give a shit what happened on the BART to SFO project. (It matters to Peninsula folks because of the wacko funding model used, but that’s as far as it goes.) We know from global experience that HSR ridership will be significant and high. We know it is a very different project to connect the two major urbanized cores of the state with the smaller and emerging urbanized cores than it is to extend a BART line to an airport.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the rest of us have moved on from the BART to SFO situation. Perhaps you should too.

    Peter Reply:

    I think a good description of PB’s involvement with BART to SFO would be a phrase I recall Richard using: “What’s the definition of ‘anecdote’?”

    dejv Reply:

    HSR isn’t about very long distance trains only. There will be 1-2 LA-bound trains with minimum stops. Then 1 CV-bound train stopping in all HSR stops. Then, one Monterey-bound train in former TGV Vendée style (the French line has been electrified recently). All of that in integrated clockface schedule with node in SJ to make possible minimum-time transfers with all services there.

    Given that there are four sensible levels of service on Peninsula (all stop Caltrain, limited stop Caltrain, “all stop” HSR and non-stop HSR with 2-4 tphpd each, there can be easily 10 trains per hour per direction since start of HSR phase I. It’s doable on two tracks but it’s close to line capacity even if top speed is limited to 75-80 mph of all-stop Caltrains.

    Clem Reply:

    Local trains may be slightly inconvenienced by waiting at stations

    Suppose your signaling system allows trains to follow each other at 3 minute intervals. Suppose that train B needs to overtake train A while train A “waits at a station”. That’s at least 6 minutes of wait time, which is 4 minutes more than train A actually needs to stop at the station (more, if you account for the fact that B will catch up to A as A slows down for the station). Now add a little bit of schedule padding, so that very small delays do not break you schedule by preventing the overtake. Give that an incredibly optimistic 2 minutes.

    So now train A, in the most optimistic scenario possible, with excellent time-keeping, high acceleration performance, and a top-of-the-line signaling system, is stuck waiting an extra six minutes for the overtake.

    This is why you need an extended section of overtake tracks, preferably encompassing three or four local stops. e.g. Atherton through Belmont, or San Carlos through Hayward Park, or something in between.

    Now throw in the possibility that overtaking traffic comes in from as far away as Anaheim and San Diego. Will a shopping cart on the tracks in Fullerton at 6 AM demolish the peninsula schedule at 9 AM? Nobody’s going to let that happen. This is why you need nearly 100% quad tracking.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This is why you need nearly 100% quad tracking.”

    And I’m in full agreement about that, and CA4HSR has raised that very point (about delays in one segment impacting the whole system) with respect to the planning for the LA-Anaheim segment.

    However, to bring this full circle, it does not appear that the PCC favors 100% quad tracking. Which is why their list of demands is not consistent – if they want Caltrain to thrive with HSR, then they’ll need a wider corridor than they seem to be willing to accept.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This is why you need nearly 100% quad tracking.

    On if you’re as utterly stupid — and without an engineering precedent anywhere in the world — or hell-bent on maximizing construction cost, operating cost, and urban intrusion as to choose to mix your local/regional and high-speed long-distance traffic on the same tracks for 20 miles longer than technically or operationally or geographically necessary.

    That’s 20 miles you’re “forced” (nudge nudge, wink wink) to build tracks dedicated to a Flight Level Zero airline blasting non-stop through people’s back yards, providing them no benefit and all sorts of ongoing costs, including but not limited to worse local trains service forever. Yeah, they’re “NIMBYs” and “obstructionists” and “denialists” and “BANANAs’ and all the other Bad Words, but you know what? They have interests that are being screwed so they should be jumping up and down. And, most unpalatably, they’re right, just like the proverial stopped block.

    The Los Banos HSR routing guarantees overbuilding (mmmmm…. $$$$$$$$$$) and unnecessary impacts all the way from San Jose to San Francisco, including unnecessary quad-tracking Santa Clara-Redwood City, unnecessary quad-tracking Brisbane-SF, unnecessary new tunnels in SF, and of course a completely unnecessary and completely stupid and absolute unprecedented separate-and-unequal two terminal catastrophe in SF where three quarters of the riders will be dumped off the train short of their destination.

    Smart people involved in infrastructure and operations planning have little slogans like “electronics beats concrete”, meaning “work smarter, not harder”. No surprise then that C4HSR should be all about cheerleading for maximizing the amount of concrete poured in Northern California.

    Clem Reply:

    I said nearly 100%. I agree quad-tracking Brisbane to SF, where speeds are homogeneous and throughput on two tracks is very high, is a dumb idea.

    Quad tracking just Redwood City – Brisbane is of course a much saner plan. People who think that Caltrain wouldn’t be electrified south of Redwood City in such a scenario are smoking something good.

    Joey Reply:

    Richard – to be fair, you have to add two additional tracks somewhere, and to an extent it might be easier to do on the peninsula than in the east bay…

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think Richard is ever fair. He is too entrenched with his personal view that everything he thinks and does is right, everyone else be damned.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    Funny how the Tokaido Shinkansen, the busiest intercity passenger line in the world isn’t 100% quad-tracked… Actually, the Tokaido Shinkansen is primarily a two-track system with passing tracks at the stations, yet it handles three distinct types of passenger service remarkably well. The Tokyo-Osaka line even handles three different types of service that are similar to the service classes the Peninsula might one day handle: Nozomi (super-express, stopping only at major stations, similar to CHSRA’s service), Hikari (express, stopping at a few more stations, similar to an electrified Baby Bullet), and Kodama (stops at all stations, similar to an all-local electrified Caltrain EMU). The Shinkansen services are obviously faster overall, but the Nozomi has about twice the average speed as the Kodama. In practice, CHSRA’s speed-limited trains on the Peninsula will be about as twice as fast as the all-local electrified Caltrain EMUs. The Japanese know a thing or two about building rail corridors in constrained urban environments, so it’s a useful model for the Peninsula. The Japanese private suburban railways, who are especially cautious about not wasting their capital, also make extensive use of passing at stations to minimize the need for four-track mega-building everywhere.

    Where do the faster services on the Shinkansen pass slower services? At the stations. It’s safer this way; you don’t waste valuable capital in overbuilding four tracks everywhere; and you actually do want different services meeting at the same station at roughly the same time. For every HSR arrival at Redwood City or Palo Alto, I would hope a local Caltrain would be waiting to handle transfers too. The Japanese achieve this with a tradition of impeccable punctuality and schedule adherence, but that’s the beautiful thing about a railroad as a transportation system. It’s a closed system that can be tightly controlled and managed, and you should be able to dictate that a train will arrive at such and such station at 7:51.

    The basic point is that four tracks can be built where it is comparatively easy to put in four tracks, but four tracks everywhere is an expensive extravagance. The Caltrain corridor is fortunate in having a rather wide ROW in most places, but a few ROW bottlenecks exist where it will be both financially and politically costly to ram four tracks through. Wise, successful infrastructure planners pick their battles, avoiding conflicts than can be worked around with sound system planning. They really don’t seek to tangle with some of the wealthiest and politically-connected suburbs in the nation, yet CHSRA risks project doom with a strategy that isn’t even operationally necessary.

    Clem, you’re assuming minimum headway spacing of at least 3 minutes fore and aft will be the future norm. With the ‘intelligent’ transportation systems that are revolutionizing car and plane positioning in networks, trains really need to get with the program of fully utilizing the latest positioning, sensing, and communication technologies. ‘Moving blocks’ are obviously an improvement from the ancient ‘fixed blocks’, and that’s clearly where train control is headed. Better train control will shorten the headways, and you can do so much more in improving capacity with constrained physical infrastructure. As Richard pointed out, “electronics beats (carbon-emitting) concrete”, and to think that we are talking about a rail corridor through the heart of Silicon Valley!!!

    Indeed, the future of rail transport will rely on its ability to squeeze lots of capacity out of constrained corridors while maintaining service flexibility. Anytime you seek to widen a transportation corridor in an urban environment, whether it’s a road or railway, political consequences will emerge. The big advantage for rail is that lots more capacity can be realized by moving away from the ancient fixed block method of train control while still keeping a small physical footprint (and a minimum of concrete!).

    Joey Reply:

    You know, Shinkansen stops are spaced pretty far apart, and the trains maintain a pretty constant speed between them. With stops spaced at as little as 1.5 miles, the acceleration stages are going to have a huge effect on the capacity of the mainline. Even Richard’s (arguably conservative) analysis shows four tracks nearly all the way from Bayshore to Redwood City once HSR is fully built-out (with none further south because his analysis is for Altamont).

    You can take your approach – that is – only quad-track where you need to, but in truth you’re going to end up with something that is quad-tracked in all but a few places anyway.

    rafael Reply:

    @ Clem –

    if bypass tracks at stations aren’t enough, then yes, a mid-line overtake section may be required. The faster Caltrain rolling stock can accelerate (and brake) and the smaller the signaling system can make the headways, the shorter that section can be.

    In a nutshell, I’m arguing that the entire system of infrastructure + Caltrain + HSR should be optimized together to ease environmental review and maximize bang for buck. Right now, various bureaucracies are each doing their own thing.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    While the Tokaido Shinkansen stops are certainly spaced further apart than the Peninsula stops, all three of the Tokaido Shinkansen services travel at significantly faster speeds than any “high speed” service proposed on the Peninsula. Trains don’t accelerate or decelerate quickly, but this is especially evident at higher speeds. Stopping a train from 186mph takes much, much more time and distance than stopping a train from 90mph. A lightweight, electrified all-local Caltrain will be able to accelerate and decelerate comparatively quickly, especially considering it only has to reach the next local stop before ducking off the mainline. When a local train is held at a local station as an HSR/express whooshes by at 90mph, allowing the local train to start leaving the station seconds after the express has passed doesn’t present any collision hazard. The local is starting from a standstill, while the express has maintained momentum at 90mph. With moving blocks or even just a series of small fixed blocks around the stations, local service can be threaded between faster express services quite nicely.

    Work smarter, not harder. Make use of available technology and basic ingenuity to maximize capacity and minimize political and capital costs. Of course, PB and HNTB really, really, really want to build a total four-track, total grade separated corridor the full length of the Peninsula and all the profit that entails. The problem is that no one has figured how to pay for that astronomical pricetag yet. I just want present the case that cheaper and less politically contested solutions are available.

    Again, you really want the Altamont connection, because that introduces regional traffic from the Sacramento/ San Joaquin market, which is far more substantial than Gilroy and Monterey.

    dejv Reply:

    When a local train is held at a local station as an HSR/express whooshes by at 90mph, allowing the local train to start leaving the station seconds after the express has passed doesn’t present any collision hazard. The local is starting from a standstill, while the express has maintained momentum at 90mph. With moving blocks or even just a series of small fixed blocks around the stations, local service can be threaded between faster express services quite nicely.
    This approach has only one slight problem: if you want such schedule reliable, you have to compromise average speed and frequencies of locals or expresses or both.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    On the contrary, lots of railroads all around the world operate multiple service levels on dual tracks at frequencies well above what you are suggesting.

    I’ll bite, how many trains can you run on two tracks with stations every two miles and still run express and local service? How long are the station sidings? They can’t be short because then you have trains accelerating and decelerating on the main tracks. How does a minor delay affect everything else? Or does this all fall apart when a train is delayed 15 seconds because someone tripped as the doors were closing?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Not a HSR line, but Keihin Kyuko Railway in the Tokyo area is a standard gauge double track line which runs a mix of locals, expresses, limited expresses, high speed ltd. expresses, and through trains off other railways/subways (Keisei, Toei Asakusa Line) and does it very well, with fewer disruptions than its competitor, JR East, which it parallels along most of its route. But as other above have noted, HSR sharing track with commuter (even lightweight commuter trains) is a different proposition altogether- it’s just not done in Japan, even if it could be.

    rafael Reply:

    It’s true that JR operates its bullet trains exclusively on shinkansen (“new main lines”), but that’s because the legacy rail network is narrow gauge (1060mm), full of tight turns and has a long-standing rule that the emergency brake distance of any train is limited to 600m. Selected legacy lines have been upgraded to standard gauge and do support bullet trains service based on special rolling stock operating at somewhat lower speeds.

    In France, Germany and several other European countries, high speed trains do share track with regular ones in certain low-speed sections, especially the approaches to downtown stations. In many cases, e.g. the elevated east-west line through Berlin, the high speed trains are forced to slow down severely but each situation is different.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That doesn’t answer the question of how many local trains, how many limited stop local trains, how many local express trains and how many long distance trains that make almost no stops you can mix on 50 miles of railroad with only two tracks. Station sidings here and there will increase capacity, how many of them do there need to be? Where do they need to be. How long do they need to be? If they have to be a mile long the places where stations two miles apart both need sidings you have a four tracks railroad.

    What happens when one of the two tracks goes out of service? One of them will a few times a year right in the middle of the peak, maybe only for a few minutes. ( The point of this exercise is passengers. Passengers are very unpredictable.) ….hey there’s an idea…. don’t stop the trains at all you can run lots more that way, the passengers can drive to their destinations! It would cut down on cleaning expenses and the interiors will last much much longer….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The LGVs leave the legacy mainlines very close to the termini.

    rafael Reply:

    I can’t answer exactly how many trains an optimized dual track corridor with bypass opportunities could support every hour. That’s exactly the kind of thing you pay experts (e.g. the ETH Zurich) to figure out for you via scenario analysis. Sure, there are performance and throughput trade-offs (not to mention red tape) if you abandon the concept of full quad tracking. But there are also potential environmental and cost benefits that need to be quantified. My beef is that CHSRA and Caltrain have copped out of even commissioning the analysis.

    In addition to Switzerland, I’d look at the fine-tuned timetables mix operated by JR Kyushu and the private Tobu Railway for inspiration.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    My beef is that CHSRA and Caltrain have copped out of even commissioning the analysis.

    So they came up with this four track concept over a three martini lunch on the back of cocktail napkin?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I Have a HSR handout that was/is at the Caltrain stations and it says that the current system after signaled and electrified will be able to handle 12train per hour per direction of combined Caltrain and HSR
    It does not state what speeds will be and also that certain locations may need expanded to 3-4 tracks as the level of demand increases….now I dont know if that HSRs position also

    rafael Reply:

    Modified performance parameters for both services plus level entry at all Caltrain stations plus high acceleration drivetrains might well bump that up into the 14-16 tph combined range. That ought to be sufficient.

    If the platforms are long and straight enough everywhere, Caltrain could operate trains with as many as 12 full-length cars – though I doubt it will need to anytime soon. For its part, CHSRA could pencil in additional trains between San Jose and LA if/when the seat capacity utilization on the ones from SF reaches a threshold. AB3034 does not mandate that each and every train into the Bay Area run the entire length of the peninsula.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How do you get the people destined for San Jose to take the train that terminates in San Jose and not the train that terminates in San Francisco?

    rafael Reply:

    Option 1: not all trains destined for SF need to stop in SJ.
    Option 2: rating engine that offers slightly lower fares for trains terminating in SJ.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So build a system that could cope with any train to any stop and then using scheduling and lad management legerdemain turn it into two stubs. . . it’s gotta be the palm trees or Hetch Hetcy water or something. I’m sure the people who got to San Jose on a Caltrain local will just love watching the sleek blue and gold trains whoosh through the station while they cool their heels waiting for the train that actually stops at the station to arrive. But then there’s going to be an excessive amount of platforms at San Jose they can just have the train loiter for a half hour or so while passengers filter in from the surrounding area. They can watch the express to San Francisoc whoosh through from inside a train that isn’t whooshing through.

    Joseph E Reply:

    Two classes of skip-stop service? Max speed 90 mph? Just so we can have a slightly narrower right-of-way?

    I don’t think this will do much to make the local opponents happy. They want a tunnel or want HSR out of their backyard. Even a 2-track tunnel with subway or trench stations will be more than twice as expensive as the planned alignment; are those cost savings worth slowing down HSR, greatly reducing capacity, and limiting Caltrain service?

    Otherwise, all your other suggestions are great idea. With a shared 4-track alignment, Caltrain could offer very frequent local and limit-stop service, supplemented by express HSR service to SF, Milbrae, Redwood City and SJ.

  6. jimsf
    May 15th, 2010 at 20:45

    Well, on the bright side, if caltrain goes out of business at least it will mean the end of silicon valley hipsters taking up residence, and space in san francsico

    YesonHSR Reply:

    No thye will just drive in..ever notice traffic is now worse on the weekends because so many people come into the city by car .

    jimsf Reply:

    yes like today in my hood I don’t know what went on in sf today but soma traffic was a fustercluck all day. did someone throw another parade?

    jimsf Reply:

    on that same note – today in the elevator I overheard some prospective tenants, sort of asian-y 20 somethings, talkin’ ’bout how they would like to live here and is it close enough to caltrain so they can commute to work. I wonder if they are aware of caltrains troubles? ( and why on god’s green earth anyone who can afford this kind of money for rent, would pay all that, to live an hour away from a job, when the southbay has so many stunning places from which to choose) I learned long ago that there is nothing more valuable than living within walking distance to your job considering how big a part of your life it is.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    You have to remember something. The majority of young people in California are not white. Most of them are second generation immigrants, which means that their parents have zero recollection of what happened in this state before oh I dunno. 198…3. (I wish someone would do a statewide poll asking people if Jerry Brown has ever been governor before…I would bet the result would frighten everyone.)

    Whites, of course, and the over 30 crowd are different. They remember a smaller, less crowded, less polluted, more anarchic place…. This same group is not exactly excited about more people moving in (white or not, immigrant or not) and more fallout from the state’s gross urbanization. To that end, they oppose HSR because they think it will turn the state into some God-fersaken third world country or Manhattan, or both.

    The rationale you describe (which I don’t disagree with) is so far removed from what the majority of California’s residents use to describe their thinking that, it’s um, sad.

  7. D. P. Lubic
    May 16th, 2010 at 06:10

    Some comments and observations:

    First, I think the noise issue is either a red herring or the product of (willfull?) ignorance. I’ve watched Amtrak trains whizz past the station at Elkton, Md., at over 100 mph, and was amazed at how quiet electric traction can be. This was some years back, with AEM-7 “Toasters” pulling Amfleet and Heritage cars, including one that must have been a mail train (baggage-express cars only). BART’s MU trains should be similarly quiet.

    I personally think the community complaints are from people in what I’ve been taking to call the “difficult, in-between age” between 58 and 88 years. These people used to be between 40 and 70 when I tried to get a light rail system up as an alternative to a highway project in West Virginia, and I’ve since noted that the ages have moved up to what I now estimate the 58-88 range. They were 20 to 25 (coming of age years) between about 1950 and the first oil crunch of 1973, and among the things that were common then was a future that looked like the Jetsons, which didn’t include trains (or light rail). I don’t know their ages, but I think Randall O’Toole and Wendell Cox are both in this age range, and this probably includes most, if not all, of the anti-rail think-tank crowd.

    The other age groups were more supportive of the transit concept, and likely are for you today. I figure the old crowd, over 70 before and almost 90 now, remember what we had and are sorry we let it go; the young crowd takes cars for granted, is environmentally aware, and is hammered with gas prices and insurance costs. I also have a hunch that driving isn’t the big thing it used to be (Teenager: “What’s so big about driving? My grandma drives. . .), and let’s admit it, it is no longer fun (how many people do you know who still take Sunday drives?).

    There is evidence that there is a huge demographic shift underway in this regard; look up a subject called “demotorization” for more reading. I will say that I wouldn’t want to be a car company president or marketing officer in the auto industry today.

    I personally think the auto industry is growing desperate. A sample of ads, both old and new, help illustrate my point.

    I do have to admit the newer ads are fun, even if degenerated:

    And ask Fritz Plous for his comments. He’s been seeing the same things in Chicago.

    And have fun.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    MY God bingo on everything D.P. yes its just what is happening here ..from the overblown fears to its not worth it because I have my car..This generation was the auto.. dirt cheap gas crowd that left the cities where they were babies in the 1930-40s (the tuff years) this is my parents age and they did just this and why so many midwest cities lost the great passenger rail when all moved out to ring housing with cars and the airport.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Also this was the age group that voted against the HSR bond by the largest percent..under 30 hadt he greatest percent for the bond

    jimsf Reply:

    It looks like went backwards from this

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dig up some old news magazines from the 70s. We were all going to be hopelessly enmeshed in the problem of what to do with all the leisure time we had when the work week was shortened to four days and the work week to 28 hours. In the 90s we were all going to be working from home. And there was a bit of talk of getting back down to a 40 hour week. . .

  8. John Burrows
    May 16th, 2010 at 11:47

    At age 71, I fall in the middle of the “difficult age” As a kid I remember riding the “streetcar’, a light rail line which ran from San Francisco to downtown San Mateo. and then wondering why they tore it up a few years later. Now, over 60 years later, I personally think that high speed trains will transform California, and that this represents one of our best hope for future growth.

    Unfortunately, my children and their friends do not share my view. With huge payments on their homes, being “underwater” or close to it on their mortgages, and wondering about their jobs, they are not about to spend anything unless they can see how it will benefit them. High Speed Rail is not high on their list of priorities. They take Ron Paul seriously , and even though they may as a group have voted for Prop 1-A, they could just as easily vote against it if given another chance.

    It would be a mistake to think that support for California High Speed Rail will grow as my generation dies out. It would be best to convince younger voters just how high speed rail will benefit each of them. They are the ones who will enjoy the benefits and pay the bills.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    The thing is, the pro-transit, pro-HSR vote in California is really a “silent majority” of younger, and less white people. That’s going to become more evident over time.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Younger people like myself very strongly support HSR.

    The difference between people like me (under 35) along with other HSR supporters, and those who you describe, is that we do not believe that there will cheap oil forever. Further, we know that the status quo has failed, and that new investments in sustainable infrastructure are necessary for our future.

    The folks you describe delude themselves – and it is very much a delusion – that if we just spend less, everything will be fine and the status quo can continue. That is not anywhere close to realistic, but until those people understand that they’ll never have a secure retirement or an affordable lifestyle until we spend public money to get out of this economic crisis, they’re merely going to see a slow but steady downward spiral.

    The last 18 months have taught me that one of the #1 priorities we face as a society is to reject the notion that spending less is spending wisely. We need to spend more – a LOT more – public money on the right kind of investments, such as HSR, if we are going to have long-term economic prosperity. People who remember the 1930s understand that thinking quite well. People who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s tend to not grasp such thinking (though by no means everyone, I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush) and instead believe that if we just do things as we are, but do less of it for lower cost, we’ll somehow be fine.

    We won’t. I hope it doesn’t take a final and complete economic collapse for that strain of Hooverism to be finally and fully discredited.

    Tom Reply:

    Well, at least you’ve recognized that HSR can’t run without a subsidy. As far as spending public money now on HSR, it seems absurd with yet another round of state budget cuts announced. More layoffs, more services reduced, etc. Putting in luxury trains just makes no sense in these circumstances. Spending more public money makes no sense. We are hugely in debt, the country is outraged at the excess of public spending, and it will take years to right the ship. It’s hard to believe the spending money on HSR is going to result in economic prosperity when we can’t even fund schools and other infrastructure adequately. HSR is for another day…..a long way out.

    Also, how can you say that we need to reject the notion that spending less is spending wisely? What has ARRA done? If we need to spend more, we ought to do it on the essentials that have recently been cut, not on HSR. It’s just more public money down the drain with developers, the Authority and its cronies, and foreign train makers to be advantaged.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What are you talking about? Nowhere did I say HSR can’t run without a subsidy; the public money comes for the construction cost.

    As to state budget cuts, you need to reread what I said. We need to reject the notion of spending cuts. They only produce deeper recession, a deflationary spiral that will ensure this recession is nasty and prolonged.

    Public spending is a good thing. The ARRA money plays a key role in having turned around the economy and allowed for job growth dating back to last March. Sure, the growth is slow, but it is there.

    Your argument is that we should simply cut spending all across the board. That was Herbert Hoover’s solution too. And it failed catastrophically. Only when public spending was increased under FDR did the Depression begin to wane. And when FDR listened to the deficit hawks and cut spending in 1937, a slide back into Depression was the result.

    Our country’s debt is manageable, as leading economists like James Galbraith have noted. But if we cut spending now – on HSR, on schools, on health care – then we’re going to have a long period of bad economic times.

    It’s your choice. Which do you want? Prosperity or poverty?

    Tom Reply:

    There is no way HSR can run without a subsidy. Amtrak runs with a subsidy. Most systems around the world do too. It’s foolish to think otherwise here in California.

    With respect to cuts, how are you going to balance the budget, which is a constitutional requirement in California? You can make more cuts and use the money to fund HSR. Seems pretty absurd when the cuts would have to come more out of social services. So do you suggest raising taxes further? Well, that’s possible, except CA is one of the most heavily taxed states in the America, and businesses don’t seem to be flocking here. And we have a 12% unemployment rate. I doubt that the ability to take HSR to LA will help much in that respect. Tax cuts get you growth, which is what the economy needs. If you want to make public spending investments, put the money into fixing stuff we really need and that needs fixing, like the levies, local transit, etc.

    Peter Reply:

    “Amtrak runs with a subsidy.”

    Yes, Amtrak does, because it runs long-distance trains at a loss, and those have to be supported. But did you know that even the not-so-HSR Acela Express does NOT require an operating subsidy?

    “Tax cuts get you growth, which is what the economy needs.”

    And tax cuts do nothing to balance the budget, either. The only thing that can balance the budget is increasing revenue. Which comes from taxes.

    Tom Reply:

    No Peter. Increasing revenue comes from expanding the economy so businesses can grow and pay more taxes. The more you raise taxes the more you stifle the economy. Just look at Michigan as a great example. We’re heading in that direction.

    Acela operates in a far more populous region than central and southern California. Whether it is subsidized or not is not clear. Since it’s running on existing track, it’s likely that those capital costs are not included. Most economists who have looked at this have concluded that a state subsidy is highly likely, given the bizarre ridership numbers and the lack of cost escalation in the project.

    Spokker Reply:

    The Laffer curve is generally accurate at a 0% tax rate and 100% tax rate, my friend. Between 1 and 99 is where it gets kind of fuzzy…

    One problem is that the United States does not know what it wants, to be quite honest. Even the tea partiers want Social Security and their Medicare to be saved while they are shouting about lowering taxes. We need to decide what we want, high taxes and high spending, or low taxes and low spending.

    High spending and low taxes will doom us all. High taxes and low spending does not exist in this universe ;)

    Spokker Reply:

    Here’s a good explanation of the Laffer Curve.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, increased revenues does come from expanding the economy so businesses can grow and pay more taxes.

    Government spending and major infrastructure projects enable both. So too does freeing up expenditure on oil to be used for more productive purposes. We’ve tried the “cut taxes and cut government to grow the economy” nonsense and all it’s produced is the worst recession for 60 years.

    As we have shown repeatedly on this site, California’s population density is very similar to that of Spain, where HSR has been a runaway success. You only think the ridership numbers are “bizarre” because you cannot imagine a California where people use means other than cars and planes to get around. You’ve become so trapped by the late 20th century that you can’t enable yourself to think outside of that model.

    Which is fine. Enough Californians do think outside it, and that’s why Prop 1A passed in November 2008.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Get rid of prop13 have alot of these millionares that pay next to nothing on there property taxes help with these issues..BTW housing developers should pay for those levies your talking about .why should the rest of the state pay for “the luxury'” of living in a track housing on a flood plain/delta that should be a natural water shed??…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Conditions today are quite different from 1933. Public employee unions were illegal and civil engineering projects employed armies of manual laborers.

    A WPA would not be possible today because the jobs created would be in direct competition with existing union jobs and the government could no way pay union scale.

    Joey Reply:

    Define subsidy. HSR will of course require public money for construction, but should be more than able to cover its day-to-day expenses with ticket sales.

    Actually your post brings up an important point. Despite rising fuel prices, global warming, congested highways, population growth, and soul-killing airports, many people still see HSR as a luxury. Perhaps, based on our current transportation and land-use model, it is. But things are changing, one way or another. In the end, it will be no more a luxury than airports or freeways are today.

    Tom Reply:

    Subsidy is when the state has to provide some amount of funding to cover the unfunded operating costs, (including debt service, depreciation, etc) in the system. It’s when the state has to take a dollar away from public education funding to cover the costs of running HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Debt service and depreciation aren’t operating costs. They’re accounting terms for capital costs.

    Conflating capital and operating subsidies is a serious accounting fail.

    Tom Reply:

    …….subsidies is a serious accounting fail?” What does that mean?

    Serving the debt is a cost of operating the system. Someone has to pay it. It’s a real cost.

    Depreciation is a real cost. It needs to be recognized. When the trains wear out, they have to be replaced.

    Spokker Reply:

    I guess you can call it a capital subsidy, if you want.

    The point is that few people are saying that high speed rail will pay back capital costs. It will not require a subsidy to make the trains move once the thing is built.

    If you are against public money being used to build high speed rail, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The system generates economic activity that helps repay the cost of construction and the debt service.

    Really, some people argue as if the New Deal never happened…

    Peter Reply:

    But the thing that Tom seems to be missing is that the system never was supposed to pay its capital costs on its own.

    Clem Reply:

    Debt service and depreciation of the civil infrastructure is not an operating cost. No matter how you define or categorize the costs, if the taxpayer pays for the civil infrastructure, including debt service, the system will make money. Even the “bankrupt” Taiwan HSR makes money on that basis!

    Spokker Reply:

    The New Deal didn’t go far enough and neither did the ARRA. Doing it half-assed only makes problems worse.

    The only thing we can do now is wait for the companies that are making profits again to start rehiring. Unemployment lags behind economic growth partly because news of new jobs being added causes more people to start looking for work again, thus raising unemployment. Weren’t ~300,000 jobs added most recently? The millions who are out of work are competing for them.

    Maybe Time Warner will start hiring again. They just had a record quarter. Is that enough to rehire the thousands they gave a pink slip to? I wonder how many new jobs are created by Conan’s new show.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    It should have been 50 billion for HSR that really would have started real planning and action..Oberstar wanted much more for infasture in ARRA but was overruled I have read by people in the Cabinet

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s pretty widely known that the White House got a mountain of advice in early 2009 saying they needed to go big on the stimulus, but that the political folks, including Rahm Emanuel, said it had to be kept to under a trillion dollars, or else it might cause a political revolt and alienate the public from further government spending.

    Thank god that didn’t happen!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thank you for your responses, Yes On, Jim, John, and Risen Messiah.

    I do agree at least partially with John, we aren’t out of the woods yet! While what I described was the pattern I’ve been seeing (and Fritz Plous and Yes On also see it), keep in mind this is only a pattern, and not everybody will fit into it. (Remember, four out of five dentists thought Colgate or whatever toothpaste had superior whitening–but there was that fifth dentist who disagreed!) And if the whole thing blows up because of the financial situation, well, that would give us a black eye–but I also hate to think of the consequences if this doesn’t succeed, in particular in regard to peak oil (which I am assuming the readers here are familiar with).

    One thing I think would help sell the hard-to-sell or marginal supporters (and also strengthen the support from the younger crowd) would be to frame rail service in all its forms–freight, light rail, trolley transit, intercity, HrSR (higher-speed rail, about 110 mph toop speed), regional and eventually intercity HSR–as a national security issue in regard to energy independence. We import 65% of the oil we use in this country, and 65% of our total consumption is for transportation. Gasoline makes up 48% of the total, and the diesel fuel trucks us is another 6%. That’s 54% of total oil use, including heating, chemicals, power generation, etc. (Power generation from oil, by the way, is about 3% of total oil demand, and supplies about 3% of our electricity.) Our highway system is our Achilles heel!

    I expressed before, in another post, that motor fuel and the cost of access to the highway system is badly underpriced. According to Highway Statistics (USDOT website and publications), combined motor fuel taxes and tolls at all levels only account for 51% of highway expenditures in 2008; the rest came from sales taxes, general taxes, and so on, in other words, a subsidy of 49%!

    In 2008, this country consumed 174.5 billion gallons of gasoline (it’s been going down a bit in recent years, as noted in the chart below):

    If you divide this 174.5 billion figure into the 49% subsidy level of $88 billion (I’m rounding off numbers here), you come up with a subsidy cost per gallon of over 44 cents per gallon. I find it interesting that in all the statistics shown in these charts and numbers from the USDOT, this is not among them; you have to work it out from the two tables yourself.

    I’ll also mention again that this is only a cash-flow analysis; it doesn’t include the costs of deferred maintenance, compromises in design and construction due to inadequate capital, and external costs such as air pollution and an oil war or two. My seat-of-the-pants estimate of the real cost of gasoline is about $7 per gallon, and I’m conservative compared to these folks:

    Some other reports on the subject:

    Make no mistake, we are paying this outlandish figure for our gas, hidden in our income taxes, our sales taxes, our car insurance, and so on.

    Now, the car crowd won’t like hearing this at all. They’ll think you want to tax gas to $10 per gallon or something. They’ll revolt for real–and if this is all you do, it would be understandable. What we need to do is place the tax where the cost is (oil addiction), and remove it from the productive goose that lays gold eggs (income taxes, property taxes, etc.) That will make it possible for private enterprise to run transit services again. It can’t do so now because the game is rigged. We need to unrig the game.

    Now, we are still going to need roads, but we also need to come up with a new way to pay for them. Ironically, I wouldn’t use gas taxes for this! Why? Ask yourself what would happen to the road revenue we do have if suddenly everybody gets even a few million Chevy Volts and Tesla roadsters on the road–vehicles that use little gasoline, or even none at all. Gas taxes made sense when everyone drove Stovebolt Chevys and Flathead Fords, and still made sense in the days of small blocks, Y-blocks, and wedge-heads (V8s from GM, Ford, and Chrysler, respectively), but it makes little sense now with everything from Hummers to hybrids and a war against terrorists who are at least partially financed with our oil imports. Basically, we need to divorce road revenue from fuel consumption. I would suggest tolls for limited access roads and fixed yearly taxes for the rest, like the license fee; others have suggested a mileage fee based on information from a transponder in your car (but many, including myself, have privacy issues with that approach).

    I’ll let you talk about this now and quit being my sometimes windbaggy self! In the meantime, a couple of linked stories about the changing demographic of young people and cars:

    It’s not just here, either:

    I couldn’t find it, but there is also a story around somewhere about how auto executives fear the next country to go through this could be the United States. We certainly do have a saturated market–for every 100 licensed drivers, we have 117 vehicles. How many can you drive at one time?

    Finally, I have a question. I’ve pointed out how our cars cost so much more that anyone wants to admit. This cost is far higher than rail subsidies. Why haven’t I seen rail supporters use this argument against the likes of O’Toole the Fool and Cox the Con?

  9. John Burrows
    May 16th, 2010 at 17:38

    Another thought on the “difficult in between age”. Many of us do not travel well. Airplane seats can cut off circulation, we are less confident of our driving abilities, and we need to be nearer to a bathroom. High Speed Rail is made to order for us; comfortable seats, unbeatable travel times in many cases, and hopefully steep discounts for senior citizens. One of our primary reasons for travel is to visit our children and grandchildren. So get ready: grandma and grandpa are coming to a high speed rail station near you.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What you describe here is why HSR has such high ridership around the globe and why it will in California as well: it’s simply a better way to travel around this state.

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