Right-Wing Candidates Attack HSR

Aug 18th, 2010 | Posted by

I’ve been pretty consistent here at the California HSR Blog over the last 2+ years in saying that high speed rail is something that everyone can and should support, regardless of political affiliation. Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ray LaHood, and Florida Congressman John Mica have shown strong support for the HSR project, among others (including Republican members of the California state legislature, who unfortunately must remain nameless, at least for now).

But as we know, some right-wing Republicans instinctively react against passenger rail projects whenever they see them. Convinced that all rail projects are “boondoggles,” they’ve fought against them at every turn, whether it was calling the idea of high speed rail to Vegas a “casino train” or whether it’s John Stossel inviting Randall O’Toole and Glenn Beck to bash trains on Stossel’s Fox Business TV show.

Now we’re seeing some right-wingers ramp up their criticism of passenger rail, and of high speed rail in particular. In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker has made opposition to HSR a centerpiece of his campaign. Walker put up a microsite attacking the project, NoTrain.com, with a misleading logo featuring a heavy Amtrak-style train and a video where Walker pledges to fight HSR, even returning federal stimulus money Wisconsin won.

Walker’s argument is familiar: HSR won’t pay for itself, won’t create jobs, and sucks money away from repairing roads and bridges. None of this is true, but Walker comes from a wing of the Republican Party that has become deeply hostile to investment in 21st century infrastructure. They’re betting America’s future prosperity on prolonging a failed status quo as long as they can, despite widespread evidence that relying on automobiles and oil is an economic loser for this country.

In Wisconsin, the opposition to HSR is particularly crazy – construction is set to begin later this year on HSR from Milwaukee to Madison, with over $800 million in federal stimulus funds and some state money as well. Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle already was able to get Talgo to agree to build a factory in the state in exchange for Talgo receiving orders for trainsets on the HSR project. Right-wing opponents believe that Wisconsin apparently doesn’t need jobs or federal money, and have been egging on NIMBY opponents of the project in cities along the proposed route.

In Ohio, former Republican Congressman John Kasich is running for governor and criticizing high speed rail as well, in terms similar to those of Scott Walker.

Over at the Huffington Post, Bill Scher surveys the right-wing mobilization against HSR and offers some valuable thoughts to HSR supporters:

That tension within the political middle of the electorate — between wanting bold public investment and worrying about wasteful government spending — is a perennial obstacle to progressive reform.

Fortunately, the desire to create jobs and revitalize American manufacturing is broadly shared by the electorate.

The widely reported poll by The Mellman Group on behalf the Alliance for American Manufacturing showed huge support, 86% for “invest[ing] in our infrastructure–using American made materials–to integrate new smart electrical grid technology, generate power by building wind turbines, and create a modern network of high-speed passenger railways.”

But the Mellman Group cautioned that “strong” support for “new” infrastructure — including high-speed rail — only reaches 47%, whereas strong support for “old” infrastructure such as roads and bridges hits 58%.

Conservatives are comfortable making this a false choice between “old” and “new” infrastructure. Walker’s ad argues for taking the federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail and diverting to roads and bridges.

Scher goes on to argue that we need to reject this false choice, and I fully agree. The federal stimulus, which these right-wingers opposed, was a perfect example of how government can fund “old” infrastructure and “new” infrastructure. We should definitely be repaving existing roads and replacing worn bridges while we also build a 21st century transportation infrastructure.

But right-wingers, invested as they are in a politics that sees defense of the status quo and any effort to change the status quo as some kind of massive existential threat to the American Way Of Life, believe they can score points against Democrats by mobilizing an angry, worried, and fearful electorate to oppose anything that is “new” or “different.” Concerns about funding are merely the velvet glove hiding an iron fisted defense of an oil economy whose massive costs played a central role in producing this recession.

Scher goes on to suggest one way to deal with this:

As pollster Stan Greenberg discerned from the poll he executed on behalf of Campaign for America’s Future and other progressive groups, voters are concerned about both job creation and deficit reduction, and see a connection between them.

Therefore, it is possible to make the case that public investment to create jobs and grow the economy will also help reduce the deficit. But it is also possible to spew out misleading numbers to convince a skeptical electorate that a certain public investment project will waste taxpayer money.

Here in California, voters still believe in the concept of using public money for infrastructure and public services. The stimulus is still popular here, and the Tea Party is still a small movement popular only with 25-30% of the electorate.

Scher does warn even people like us in California to not get complacent:

But if we cannot credibly portray an thriving America powered by a revitalized infrastructure, and beat back bogus arguments, to give people a reason to say “Yes,” then we risk a “No Train” conservative populist backlash that could stifle our ability to recover from the recession and compete in the 21st global economy.

Here in California, I don’t think we’re in any serious danger of this happening. The polls statewide and on the Peninsula show just over 75% support for HSR. Still, we need to be robust and persistent in our defense of the HSR project, especially as HSR opponents concerned about the impact of the project on their property seize upon any argument against HSR and spread it around the state as fast as they can.

And what of the gubernatorial candidates here in California? We’ll have more on them tomorrow.

  1. Alon Levy
    Aug 18th, 2010 at 22:12

    Walker’s logo isn’t misleading at all. Wisconsin is planning on Amtrak-style trains, complete with low platforms to maximize boarding time. It’s not planning California-style HSR, or anything that could lead to California-style HSR in the future.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As I understand it, they’re planning to use Talgo trainsets, not Superliners.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    FRA-compliant Talgos aren’t the same as real Talgos. The FRA version is limited to 6″ cant deficiency, which is less than what non-tilting trains in Europe are capable of, and has high fuel consumption and low acceleration.

    But it’s not just the trains that suck. It’s the boarding times, and the planned turnaround times. For the Madison station, the plan for the future is to have trains take 20-30 minutes to reverse direction and go onward to the Twin Cities, unless the station is run-through.

    TomW Reply:

    Low platforms make no different to the boarding times… the number and size of the doors is what matters most.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re wrong. Low platforms actually make a lot of difference, because boarding takes longer when it’s not level. Wheelchair passengers and passengers with strollers need assistance, which requires more schedule padding. At very large platform/train height difference, the conductors need to put a stool on the platform next to every door.

  2. morris brown
    Aug 18th, 2010 at 23:14

    We now see the Cities of Burlingame, Belmont, Atherton writing letter to the FRA to deny funds. Redwood City even writing saying they won’t accept elevated aerials. Also San Jose on the same theme.

    So how many cites are going to have to write to make it quite clear that proposed plan isn’t working here in the Bay Area.

    Dan S. Reply:

    The Redwood City case is interesting. On August 11 they wrote a letter to the CHSRA saying they were “disappointed” that tunnels and trenches were ruled out, but indicated continued support for the project and willingness to work constructively for optimal solutions.


    “We’re disappointed in the Authority’s perspective that other, more desirable configurations won’t be considered,” said Council Member Barbara Pierce of the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on High Speed Rail. “Despite that, our intention is to continue to work with the Authority on constructive solutions that will be more suitable for our community.”

    But then, on August 16, the mayor of RC wrote a “scathing” letter to Bob Doty. My evaluation of the letter is that RC is pissed that trenches seem to be on the table for its neighbors who have been whining and complaining of being utterly destroyed by railroad development, while RC gets the perception of being shafted for virtue of being cooperative. I don’t blame him for the resentment of his neighboring cities, actually. But I think it goes to show that the CHSRA has its work cut out for it as it tries to tease and appease all the towns along its alignment. Good luck with that.


    I disagree with Mayor Ira’s assertions that HSR at or above-grade will divide RC neighborhoods and have other overwhelmingly negative effects. But of course it’s a commonly held belief in these parts.

    In fact, if I had the ear of Karma, Redwood City would get a tunnel and Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Burlingame would get elevateds! Unfortunately we’re not exactly on speaking terms. ;-)

    mikeorama Reply:

    What action did Atherton take last night? I’m going to guess that they approved the resolution of opposition but did not approve sending the letter to FRA. Tho I kinda hope that the do send that letter; the only thing that would more clearly show the world what a bunch of cranks they are is IF IT WERE TYPED IN ALL CAPS ON A MANUAL TYPEWRITER WITH COPIOUS WHITEOUT CORRECTIONS.

  3. morris brown
    Aug 19th, 2010 at 08:39

    In an article in the PA Daily News, we see that the City of Burlingame is exploring possible legal action.


    Go to page A2 and click on the article.

    from the aritlce:

    Aggravated Burlingame city leaders said Wednesday they will meet with their attorney to discuss “legal options” as the state prepares to build what local officials are calling an “elevated freeway” through town.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m not seeing any basis for a lawsuit based on that article. Being unhappy doesn’t give you a leg to stand on in the courtroom.

  4. Missiondweller
    Aug 19th, 2010 at 09:00

    I’m a lifelong Republican and supporter of CAHSR.

    Though right leaning people are particularly sensitive to government waste, HSR provides enormous benefits that will be shared by the entire state. We need to continually state the facts on HSR and remind people that the alternative is more congestion on highways and at airports and is a bargain in the long run compared to the $$$ required to expand that existing infra-structure.

    I think its worth noting that the greatest opposition and threat to HSR comes not from any Tea Party but rather from wealthy, liberal Peninsula residents.

    Regardless, supporters from both parties need to keep getting the word out of the benefits of HSR.

    Dan S. Reply:

    I often wonder how many Republicans are working in the tech sector in Silicon Valley, living in multi-million dollar homes in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Burlingame, and oppose this and practically all other government programs, yet are feasting in their careers upon a successful government investment in developing the internet and in creating an educated, technical workforce. It’s hard for me to understand the rabid opposition to all government programs of what I would term the fundamental Republican mindset. They at least owe a personal letter of thanks to Al Gore. ;-)

    Thanks for the reassuring perspective!

    But I’m sure you’re right that much of the Peninsula opposition is actually from political liberals who are defensive about their lifestyle investment.

  5. Andy M.
    Aug 19th, 2010 at 09:24

    As an observer from Europe who maybe doesn’t understand American politics as well as I should, I’d like to point out that here in Europe it is the left wing parties who make by far the most noise about developing rail and are good at the PR game and making it seem as if they are rail’s greatest advocates. However in terms of real projects pushed through, and especially the more courageous ones, right wing governments have actually achieved more. This is especially so in France and Germany. The first TGV project was voted in by a right wing government – and that was much more of a risk than the later projects which basically built on the experience gained with the first line. In Germany the pattern is similar.

    This is why I believe it is very dangerous to try to define pro or anti rail politics along party lines. This can only alienate potential allies. To be succesful, you have to build support across political divides.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I totally agree, which is why I didn’t make this out to be a Republican vs. Democrat thing, and acknowledged the GOP supporters of HSR in the post.

  6. morris brown
    Aug 19th, 2010 at 10:23

    I copy below an article from the Daily Post, which is not on the internet.

    This interview with Assembly member Jerry Hill, a Democrat,

    19th district — http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a19/

    and a supporter of the HSR project to date should open some eyes. Hill is a former Mayor of San Mateo and former San Mateo Co. supervisor. He has been following the project as evidenced by having one of his staff people attend various meetings in the Bay Area including the Peninsula Cities Coalition.

    Please note this excerpt from the article:

    “With many of those cities upset over the possibility of an aerial track, is it time for high-speed rail to go back to the voters?

    If the cost for the project winds up too far past its $43 billion cost estimate, then perhaps it would be appropriate to put it back on the ballot, said Hill. ”

    Well the cost has gone from 32 billion to 43-45 billion in two years. Now there appears to be 2.8 billion for the extension to the TBT that hasn’t been counted (Kopp at last Autority board meeting) and then there are all these local contributions for stations ,(Kopp at one time said 4-5 billion from local sources). Just where is the threshold on cost?

    The ballot measure was “sold” to the voters on a 32 billion dollar project, with $55 tickets and estimated 117 – 120 million annual riders. All these discarded after Prop 1A passed by the “overwhelming” majority of 52.5 to 47.5.

    (copy of article Daily Post 8-19-2010)

    Hill doesn’t want sky-high rail line

    Daily Post Staff Writer
    Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, agreed with many on the Peninsula that high-speed rail shouldn’t run high in the the sky on elevated tracks, but remains hopeful that the state High-Speed Rail Authority will continue listening to his constituents.

    “At the end of the day, we have the say on what happens on the right of way, but we are not at the end of the day,” Hill told the Post yesterday.

    Hill hosted a bus tour of the Peninsula rail corridor Friday, taking along with him San Mateo County business and political leaders. Dominic Spaeth- ling, an engineer on the high-speed rail project, was also on the tour, which was part of an effort to bring together supporters of the high-speed rail and those who think it will mar the Peninsula.

    New to him

    Hill said he learned things we wasn’t previously aware of, like the need to elevate the 80-foot-wide tracks on 30foot-tall pylons in Belmont, which already has an elevated berm. He said that was to allow enough clearance for cars to cross underneath.
    Another thing Hill learned was that nearly a third of the track crossings were in San Mateo and Burlingame combined. And that creating track crossings in San Mateo would have a “devastating impact” on downtown businesses.

    With many of those cities upset over the possibility of an aerial track, is it time for high-speed rail to go back to the voters?

    If the cost for the project winds up too far past its $43 billion cost estimate, then perhaps it would be appropriate to put it back on the ballot, said Hill.
    The rail authority ditched tunneling through the mid-Peninsula two weeks ago and agreed that open trench, ground-level or elevated tracks were the way to go.
    But Hill said he wasn’t sure a majority of residents want tunnels.
    “A majority of the people we have heard from that have been the most vocal expressing their concern want tunnels,” said Hill. “I can’t say the majority of the people living in these cities want tunnels.”

    Cost concerns

    The high-speed rail authority has said it dropped the tunnel alternative because it’s too expensive and brought up too many construction issues.
    The authority agreed that aerial tracks were the only option for the route from Redwood City to San Francisco.
    The high-speed railroad is projected to cost $43 billion, but Hill said people shouldn’t expect the authority to have all $43 billion by 2012, when it hopes to start construction. In 2008, voters approved $9 billion in state bond money for the project, and it’s also won a $2.5 billion federal grant,
    “That you have all the money in today is a stretch,” he said. He said that what’s needed is a pathway to funds as the years go on to help offset the costs.
    Hill said that if no such pathway exists then legislators, such as himself, • will have to make a determination on whether the project continues to move forward.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I wish the PCC et al the best in their efforts to cut an acceptable deal with the CHSRA. Personally I doubt that is possible. The only real solution is to relocate the hsr.

    The only way a revote makes any sense is if route alternatives are included. The people should be allowed to weigh on the real high speed alternative: SFO, Altamont, I-5, Tejon with branches to both Bakersfield-Fresno and Sacramento.

    Peter Reply:


    political_incorrectness Reply:

    The only way a revote makes sense is, well, it doesn’t. I see the PCC as they want to hear answers that go their way whether they like it or not.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Hill would do well to remember that a majority of the Peninsula voted for HSR and still wants it.

    morris brown Reply:

    Only in your dreams Robert. In MP, all candidates for Council are against the project.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Oh! here I thought everybody was for it but “done right” whatever that means.

    mike Reply:

    And clearly there are no voters except for council candidates. It’s a regular oligarchy down there!

  7. Ken
    Aug 19th, 2010 at 20:01

    Hello, I’m new here and just recently caught attention of HSR finally coming to America after seeing Siemens ads at airports.

    Having travelled through Japan and Europe for a lot of my life, I’ve always wondered why we don’t have these kinds of trains here. We built the intercontinental railroad and we used to be the world’s largest railroad manufacturers until all that skill was lost and thrown away in favor of cars and the Interstate.

    And sadly I do understand why we are enduring all these hardships to jumpstart this sector again in the US. Rails over here have poor reputation from Amtrak, slow, inefficient, and infrequent. Why take the Amtrak that only goes by once a day between Kansas City and St. Louis when the Interstate is more direct?

    Then it dawned on me which I have yet to know why we can’t do this: we already have the infrastructure pre-built: the Interstate. It has overpasses, it has underpasses, it’s already a dedicated lane to connect intercities. When it goes through neighborhoods, there are already sound barriers built in compliance with noise pollution.

    Then why can’t we build HSR on top of the Interstate instead of building it from scratch? Wouldn’t this save a lot more money in the long run? Why pour concrete for more pillars, bridges and underpasses, try to appease to locals with endless meetings and negotiations when there already is a pre-built Interstate infrastructure which can be upgraded to handle HSR tracks?

    If you think about it, our Interstate system has a lot of analogies with HSR tracks: they get from city center to city center, it’s the most direct route connecting our cities, it goes where people want to go like airports, and major freeway exits can be analagous to train stations.

    Is there some kind of law which prevents the Interstate Highway System to work in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration to bring Interstate 2.0 as truly as an upgrade to handle HSR tracks? Wouldn’t it be much easier to say, lay tracks between the center dividers, or even take out one lane of the Interstate in each direction which already go through cities and neighborhoods for rail? Considering that 90% of funding for the Interstate comes from federal funds, I don’t understand why it’s not possible, nor even practical for the agency overseeing the Interstate to work together or even merge with the FRA so that the Interstate can be upgraded to handle both cars and rails.

    Can someone care to elaborate why this is not possible? Is it law? Is because of politicians? Or is this idea to darn practical that it cuts off interest groups from both sides?

    Caelestor Reply:

    Here are some ideas thrown out there:

    1) The idea is that we need train stations to be located in convenient places (that is in downtown).
    2) Incredibly high viaducts are expensive, HSR should be at grade as much as possible.

    Of course there are some places where the highway could be a good alternative if existing rows are not straight enough, such as in Connecticut.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He has no idea what you are talking about.

    Ken, high speed trains need tracks that are very very straight. Interstate highways are built for car traveling at 60 or 70 MPH. They aren’t straight enough for trains traveling at 200.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes. In essence, freeways can allow tight curves and steep grades. HSR lines can’t.

    That being said, there are places (particularly in urban environments) where it might make sense to repurpose freeway right-of-way as a transit guideway.

    Ken Reply:

    But the Shinkansens in Japan and TGVs in France have “tilting technology” and many of them are not straight rails especially when coming into stations. From what I’ve seen and ridden in Japan, they’re actually more capable of making sharper turns than cars; the [url=http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=ja&geocode=&q=%E5%A4%A7%E5%AE%AE%E9%A7%85&sll=37.371129,-122.106192&sspn=0.007623,0.01811&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC,+%E5%A4%A7%E5%AE%AE%E9%A7%85%EF%BC%88%E5%9F%BC%E7%8E%89%EF%BC%89&ll=35.906293,139.62769&spn=0.015538,0.036221&z=15]Omiya station for the Tohoku Shinkansen uses a dedicated track that makes a sharp turn into the station a few hundred meters away[/url]. Yet, express trains zoom by just as elegantly and smoothly than a car could.

    For the most part, I believe the Interstates are straight enough for long portions (weren’t they built originally planned to have several miles of straight lines for emergency runways?), wide enough for tilting technology to be incorporated as opposed to the limitations that the Acela has back east.

    1. True, that trains stations need to be in downtown or the airport for connections (LAX for one), but Interstates go very close to downtown and the airports as well. Wouldn’t be better to say, get rid of one lane each direction on the I-405 and replace them with HSR tracks? Then it’ll hit very close to LAX. Or, get rid of some lanes on the I-5, replace them with HSR tracks and just spur off to Union Station. Some of the Interstates in LA already go over, under or near existing railroad tracks too. Why build HSR rails 100% new when you can build it over existing Interstate infrastructure and keep new constructions minimal?

    2. My point exactly, which is why I wonder why they can’t be built upon the Interstate which are already built upon viaducts, overpasses, and underpasses. Wouldn’t that be cheaper to take out a lane on the I-5 in each direction for HSR instead of asking residents to move the heck out because the train’s coming, bulldoze all those homes, and lay down tracks? It’s not a great public image either and it’s darn obvious there going to be opposition to that. I would too if I were told I were to lose my home or face noise pollution or have my community divided.

    However, pre-existing infrastructures like the Interstate already have those issues solved. It goes through communities, they already have sound barriers when it goes through neighborhoods, communities are already divided by the Interstate in many areas so no need to divide up other communities, it links city to city, it goes where people want (downtown San Diego, downtown LA, LAX, Bakersfield, Fresno, downtown Sacramento, downtown San Francisco, SFO), there’s already viaducts, overpasses, underpasses, and bridges to build on top of on instead of starting a new. Any new construction will be kept minimal for the last few miles into the train station in the middle of the city.

    If the city of Atherton doesn’t want HSR going through their communities, don’t bother with them. People who can’t figure out the benefits of HSR will have only themselves to blame when it’s successful anyway. If so, why not just build on top of the I-280? It practically does the fairly the same job all the way between SFO and San Jose, if straight lines are an issue make it straddle along the I-280 as much as possible in straight line. A lot of empty lands both sides of the lane and in between, I’m sure it’ll be much easier to lay down tracks as straight as possible on the I-280 than dealing with Atherton NIMBYs. If CA needs assistance on how Japan is able to make curvy rail tracks work with HSR, ask them for their advice.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, the TGVs don’t tilt. The Shinkansens do, but only slightly.

    Second, there’s a difference between absolute minimum curve radius, below which the trains start squeaking, and minimum curve radius at a given speed. High-speed trains’ minimum curve radius is about 200 meters, but at that speed they can’t go very fast; the new tilting trains can go at most 80 km/h at this speed, and the non-tilting TGVs are limited to about 67. At Omiya it’s not a problem because all trains stop, but on running track it’s deadly to high speed.

    Ken Reply:

    Thanks for the enlightenment…and saddening truth that then, all I can say is CA HSR is pretty much dead in the water. These endless meetings and negotiations will just continue every city by city, with legal issues and outcries that just add to delay and cost overruns. By the time we get everything resolved, it’ll be too late and too expensive with right wingers saying “see, you wasted your time with not even a shovel in the ground and now you want more money!” :(

    Unless we get a huge backings with real private investors to fund our own advocacy group or powerful lobby, there’s no chance in heck that HSR will happen here. We’ve just let this living with cars idea out of hand too far too late.

    Although I want to help, but I hear no real big campaigns, private investors, or powerful lobbies that I can align myself with. Are there any thing really substatial, anything with substinence that I can donate my time and money to get things really rolling?

    I’ve heard that JetBlue is pretty positive to working together with HSR. Anyway we can get some help from them?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    JetBlue’s operating revenue is about one fourteenth the projected cost of CAHSR. So no, you can’t expect help.

    Not that it matters too much. HSR has been built before, in hostile political climate, on greenfield alignment. In fact one of the criticisms some people (e.g. Clem) have of CAHSR is that to avoid NIMBYism, it adheres too many to existing railroad and highway rights of way. Those rights of way are for the most part straight, but are sometimes complex to work with because of UP’s negative response and the need to ease some curves with takings. The HSR Authority has been trying to avoid takings at all costs, including slow zones. Those slow zones aren’t a huge deal, but they cost a few minutes that could be saved for much cheaper than raising top speed.

    Ken Reply:

    Of course we can’t obviously ask one single company like JetBlue to cover all the expenses it needs to be divided up between more private partners. But even a $1 million from JetBlue makes us $1 million closer to achieving a dream; heck a $1 million can at least be put into a savings account and earn interest than zero.

    Why don’t we create a lobby group to start going out to private partners at the least likely of places. Steel workers unions might be a good example. Or even construction firms. Local glass shops or metal works too. Other unlikely places might even be couriers like FedEx or UPS; in Japan couriers utilize the Shinkansen to help deliver small packages faster than truck but way cheaper than air.

    Electric companies like Edison might see benefit too, right? HSR is powered by electric lines and they’re the likeliest to be as strong and powerful against the oil companies that are backing the main opponents. How about Silicon Valley companies? HSR requires lots of software and hardware implementations computer side.

    Or how about using the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow foreign firms to lobby Congress and interest groups in the US? The motive of the Republicans and right wingers can be turned against them by seeking help and funds from big name HSR firms like Siemens, JR, Talgo, and the like.

    A $1 million here, maybe $1 billion there, heck even $1 from every HSR advocate here all inch us closer to achieving this dream. All these can be put into a savings account or so to earn interest.

    Seriously, we can’t just expect big daddy federal government to help fund us nor expect taxpayers in these tough economic times to cover the costs. I’m fairly skeptical myself that CA alone can cover the costs from bond sales alone when our entire state is practically broke. If we really want this dream to happen, we as advocates need to band together to see what we can do to help this dream become a reality.

    And of course, we also need to tighten our belts and may need to make tough decisions. For your sake, would that cost of saving a few minutes outweigh the cost of saving say…a $1 billion from the price tag? Would that few minutes be so important that it can wait for future improvement plans? Does CA HSR have to be perfect from the start, or can we cut some portions as a tradeoff for future investment?

    Just like the Interstate, it wasn’t built to perfection from the get-go, it’s a work in progress even to this day. HSR can be exactly that as well: get the framework going for cheaper for the beginning, and constantly improve upon it as more ridership and more revenues are generated. Maybe we don’t need that link at Fresno and Bakersfield right now, maybe that can wait later. Build the part that’s bound to be the cheapest, the empty void between San Jose and LA now and do a pre-start of the line. Put up a sign at the end of the track in San Jose that says “This train wants to go to San Francisco, but we need more support,” “future plan for Fresno station but…” or “plan to spur off to LAX and Irvine but…”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ken, California isn’t the NEC. The minimum operable segment connecting SoCal and NorCal involves crossing both the Tehachapis and Pacheco or Altamont Pass, which is where the bulk of the cost is. Going from Los Angeles to San Jose with slow service on a two-track electrified Caltrain line with grade crossings would not save too much money, not for the reduction in speed. You’d save about $4 billion while slowing trains by nearly half an hour. Not building stations in Fresno and Bakersfield doesn’t work for the same reason, only it’s even more lopsided: the cost of building an additional station on the line is nothing, while the benefit in terms of intermediate markets is large.

    Ken Reply:

    Alon Levy,

    Somehow I think you’re not on the same page with me; you always seem to respond with example of the other extreme whilst many of my examples lay somewhere in between.

    My example of building between LA and San Jose meant using full HSR tracks on full HSR, not extending electrified CalTrain all the way down south. I say this because it’s probably easier and cheaper to get this portion up and running first rather than tackling NIMBY neighborhoods which can take years to resolve from the get go. By doing so there’ll be a basis for demand; the lines are already built, it’s already in full service, and people will ponder why it doesn’t go all the way up to downtown SF. Furthermore there will already be shovel in ground work in progress which can’t be stopped.

    The Interstate was build in many ways: from two end points meeting each other or building outwards from a midpoint, hit NIMBY roadblock along the way, put a gap in between for the time being and build it later. That’s what made the Interstate so successful; it was a work in progress with actual physical work already being done which enabled them to receive more funds year after year because they can’t stop something in constant work in progress. Eventually NIMBYs capitulated in the development of the Interstate because they saw more demand for it and people were becoming frustrated why I-XX has this gap between so and so city.

    In contrast I really don’t see any work being start on high speed rail. I don’t hear news of actual rail tracks being laid or see work in progress whenever I drive from LA to SF. There’s no clear visibility that anything is being done. At least if I see tracks being laid beside the I-5 with big construction signs that read: coming soon High Speed Rail or ads along the freeway that I don’t have to drive in the near future I can be assured that there’s some progress going on.

    Eventually I’d also want to see actual test runs being performed. Just imagine everyone stuck in traffic on the Interstate between LA and San Jose when bullet trains on a test run zooming by. It’s freeform advertisement in itself, people will take notice “honey did you just see that!? Hey there goes another one from the other direction!” or “Daddy, what’s that!?” It these visible things that catches attention of everyone that HSR is coming, the actual trains being run where everyone can see for themselves instead of the snobbish “haven’t you ever gone to Europe or Japan :snicker:” attitude.

    Peter Reply:

    @ Ken

    You are correct, there is no current construction. There are no completed environmental studies, therefore there can be no construction. Once the environmental studies have been certified in late 2011 and early 2012, expect construction to begin basically immediately.

    I-5 will see no construction, as HSR will mainly follow the SR-99 alignment so that the Central Valley cities are connected to HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ken, I’m not really bringing up extreme examples – just noting how what worked for the Interstates won’t work for rail. You can’t have gaps in service; the Interstates’ gaps are served by slow roads, whereas the money-saving gaps in the CAHSR route would have no rail alternative. Ending it in San Jose cuts costs by less 10%, and cuts ridership by way more than 10%. People talk about it a lot on this blog because of the dominance of Northerners in the discussion, but to make a real dent in cost you’d need to cut a mountain pass, and that makes it impossible to run rail service all the way. The Tehachapi Loop has no room for passenger trains; the UP line on Altamont Pass has room, but it’s excruciatingly slow and UP is in no hurry to let noncompliant trains run on its tracks.

    Observer Reply:

    This is a basic fundamental lie in this discussion on the Peninsula – that ‘downtown’ for any one of these cities is convenient.

    For those who have lived here for a lifetime its well known that downtown is generally not convenient because its surrounded by suburb residental for miles, its historic area, so the streets are generally narrow and often subject to very slow traffic, They ARE closer to the caltrain row – but much farther from freeway access, parking is generally limited, walking distances are longer, and generally not located near other conveniences, like schools, and large places of work (work centers of employment are usually very freeway convenient – like Apple, HP, Agilent, Ebay, etc.) and other issues – and so generally for most purposes, the convenience centers of the areas are NOT the downtowns. This is why its so frickin crazy – litterally NUTS to continue to claim the stations need to be ‘downtown’ for convenience. That’s just plain UPSIDE DOWN world. These downtowns are for the most part the ‘old towns’ of the area. Not terribly useful for living, working or shopping, and certainly inconvenient to access from nearby towns. What they’re good for is a food row, and occassionally closing down a for a farmers market, a smalltown pet parade, or an art fair.

    Will HSR ‘fix’ these downtowns – well, if you believe HSR draws thousands in – they will create traffic nightmares. In fact these towns have a better chance of ‘fixing’ HSR. (And by fixing, I mean ruining.) Anybody wondering why so few Caltrain riders??? (Ask yourselves where the stations are located, and how people GET THERE.)

    Very doubtful HSR stations create any new commerce in the ‘downtown’ (there would be new commerce inside the station – but when was the last time you went on a plane trip and stopped to shop OUTSIDE the airport – might you shop INSIDE the airport? Sure, but not in the town area directly surrounding the airport. You’re pretty much on a beeline for the airport itself when traveling. Picture what needs to happen for HSr stations – new freeway links to drop people direclty in to the station facilities= otherwise NIGHTMARE trying to access these stations from pretty much anywhere surrounding.

    AND – who owns the commerce INSIDE the station? Well, the HSR investors of course! Not community.

    So the only economics it might bring is a whole bunch of traffic – maybe we can convert these historic downtowns to big parking lots, rental car, bus station, and gas station hubs.

    And then you’d have to ask why? Why remodel every ‘old town’ and replace it with parking structures, when you could have just as easily located AWAY from the downtown for way more convenience, and space, to get what you really needed around the HSR station. One mile away – truly convenient access to ALL the same cities. Just 1 mile to the east. What a shame.

    AND its not even the right place to locate an HSR station if station convenience is any part of the criteria! So you’ve chosen the exact wrong location for HSR ~and~ you’ve ruined the location you picked. good job.

    Peter Reply:

    “Very doubtful HSR stations create any new commerce in the ‘downtown’”

    No one expects the people riding on the train to be buying stuff downtown as part of their travel. However, what is entirely reasonable is to expect increased business near the stations from the people who travel into yes, the downtown, for business reasons. Those out-of-town people would have to eat somewhere on their lunch, and if the business they are working at that day is near the train station (as is the plan), they would likely eat at a place near the station. Just one of many scenarios. Open your eyes and see more uses for your downtown than are exercised today.

    I do agree that massive parking structures are counter-productive at the Bay Area stations. Those stations have enough feeder transit to make huge garages unnecessary. If they don’t, they need to get cracking at improving service to their station location. That’s actually a really good reason to have the cities pay for the parking structures they want, instead of having the Authority build them. This way the cities get to make the choice between building new massive structures, or improving service. I’d wager the latter is a LOT cheaper.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh FFS you act like someone is saying that HSR needs to run through every little town on the peninsula in order to be successful. There will only be TWO stops between San Francisco and San José, one of which has already been selected to be placed at Millbrae, which (a) Was selected because of its proximity to SFO (b) Has decent auto access and is not particularly congested, dense, or historic and (c) Already has a massive, underutilized parking structure thanks to our friends at BART. As for the other station, if you think that the stuff you said above should influence where that station is placed, by all means that is perfectly fine. Palo Alto has poor auto access, whereas both Redwood City and Mountain View have access from at least one Freeway and a couple of major streets/expressways each. For the rest of the peninsula downtowns, HSR will just be passing through (though hopefully without zero benefit – grade separations should be an improvement, and hopefully we will see significant CalTrain upgrades and access to HSR via an easy, timed transfer from CalTrain.

    Bianca Reply:

    much farther from freeway access, parking is generally limited, walking distances are longer, and generally not located near other conveniences, like schools, and large places of work (work centers of employment are usually very freeway convenient – like Apple, HP, Agilent, Ebay, etc.) and other issues – and so generally for most purposes, the convenience centers of the areas are NOT the downtowns.

    So why then is Palo Alto the second most heavily-used Caltrain station, after San Francisco if it’s so darn inconvenient?

    Why remodel every ‘old town’ and replace it with parking structures

    Not every town. You do realize that the plan is for *one* station on the Peninsula, somewhere between Millbrae and San Jose- not stations in every single town. And changes to existing Caltrain stops is not the same thing as “remodeling every ‘old town’ ” I agree that massive parking structures are something that need to be considered very carefully. The best way to reduce the need for massive parking structures is to enhance and improve access by local transit, including Caltrain. The more people can access HSR by hopping onto a local Caltrain and switching at Palo Alto or Mountain View or Redwood City, the fewer cars need to be parked at the HSR station. So if you are concerned about parking structures, keeping HSR on the Caltrain line is kind of the no-brainer. Moving it away from Caltrain will lead to MORE traffic, more cars, and larger parking garages.

    Peter Reply:

    To clarify my above point, you take a WAYYYY too narrow view of how commerce will be increased through HSR on the Peninsula.

    Also, as Joey stated, there will only be one stop between Millbrae and San Jose which COULD have any of the impacts from HSR that you decry.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    This is a basic fundamental lie in this discussion on the Peninsula – that ‘downtown’ for any one of these cities is convenient….

    or as Yogi Berra was heard to have said “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”

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