Riverside Officials Promoting Greenfield Site for HSR Station

Aug 25th, 2010 | Posted by

The following post is a guest post from UC Riverside PhD student and blogger Justin Nelson. It appears that planning for HSR stations along the Los Angeles to San Diego Section is moving away from the Authority’s commitment to downtown stations in favor of greenfield sites (described below), or in the case of San Diego, at the airport (rather than their vibrant downtown). This does not bode well for ridership along this portion of the system and indicates that the Inland Empire and San Diego still have not fully embraced a more transit-oriented future and continue to see HSR stations like airports, places where people drive and park, rather than places that great urbanism is built upon.

Guest Post by Justin Nelson:

As followers of this blog are well aware, the California High Speed Rail project offers us the best chance to change Californians’ transportation habits in probably all of our lifetimes. When I say this, keep in mind that I’m 23. However, out in the Inland Empire, already one of the worst offenders in the area of suburban sprawl, planning efforts are underway to ensure that – instead of transformative change – we get more of the same.

This article in Riverside’s local paper, the Press-Enterprise, shows that City officials are making an “aggressive push” to put an HSR station near March Air Reserve Base (what I’ll call “March Field”). The site would be at the intersection of Alessandro Ave. and Sycamore Canyon Blvd. on the fringes of the city and nearly 8 miles from its rapidly re-developing downtown.

I’ll launch into why this is a terrible idea in a second, but first, a little background. When CHSRA first proposed their project-level alignment for the LA-SD segment, they planned on placing a station next to UC Riverside, alongside the then-planned Metrolink Perris Valley Line station that was to be located there. While UCR is still around 4 miles from downtown, the area around the University is the second-densest in the city, housing thousands of students, faculty and staff within walking distance of both the campus and nearby amenities, so it was a fair compromise. However, the residents of the neighbourhood complained bitterly about the siting of a Metrolink station there. First, they expressed concern about parking and traffic impacts, and when the local transportation commission agreed to remove all on-site parking, they complained about noise until the station was removed from the project altogether.

In what must be an attempt to placate these residents, local officials have simply moved the HSR station to the next station down the proposed Metrolink Perris Valley Line, the station at Alessandro. Unlike the station at UCR, the Alessandro site is on greenfield land, with nearly nothing within walking distance, and nothing but suburban sprawl surrounding it on all sides.

The proper and obvious location for a station here in Riverside should be downtown, at the existing Riverside-Downtown Metrolink. Like both UCR and Alessandro, downtown will be a station on the Perris Valley Line (an extension of Metrolink’s 91 Line), but it is also a station on the IE-OC Line, the Riverside Line, and the San Bernardino Line on weekends. With 4 Metrolink lines, Riverside-Downtown is the most connected station in the Metrolink system after Los Angeles Union Station. It’s also a stop on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Chicago and for Amtrak California buses that connect to the San Joaquins trains in Bakersfield.

City officials are also currently working on the design of a brand new multi-modal transit centre that will be located adjacent to the downtown station. This centre will be the primary hub for local and express buses serving the region, of which the Riverside Transit Agency has several. (There’s even an attractive “system map” of express buses throughout western Riverside County here, although that map misses the Omnitrans 215 express which links downtown Riverside and downtown San Bernardino.) Greyhound and other intercity buses will also serve the station, which will allow direct connections to places like the Coachella Valley, the Victor Valley, Barstow and Las Vegas.

Downtown Riverside is undergoing a rapid re-development process at the moment, and the City is a major investor in that process. We just spent a considerable amount of money renovating the Fox Theatre, an early 20th century movie theatre that is now a state-of-the-art performing arts centre hosting everything from films to professional theatre to major performing artists. A new hotel and condo-centred mixed-use development, with restaurants and shopping at ground level, is going to be built soon, and construction has already begun on a new office tower.  And despite the use of the word “re-development”, downtown is already a pleasant place to be right now, with a hearty helping of restaurants, bars, clubs, the requisite cozy coffee shop and speciality retailers. Of course, all of this development is walkable and transit-adjacent (if not transit-oriented), unlike anything being built nearly anywhere else in the city. It seems like a natural fit for high-speed rail.

City officials have said that March Field is an ideal fit for HSR because there is room for “development.” The unstated assumption here is that the sort of development that will surround HSR will look precisely like the sort of development that most of suburbia has seen for most of the last century- auto-dependent, low-density, and poorly served by transit. Proponents of this site seem to think that high-speed rail stations of the future will necessarily look like airports of today: easy freeway access and plenty of long-term parking. Some proponents of the March location say that access to Metrolink will provide convenient car-free connections to downtown, or that RTA will provide ample transit service to the station once it is built. If Metrolink connections are indeed desirable, then the downtown site (with 4 lines) is much better than March (with 1). As far as transit provided to the March site, I have no doubt there will be – right now, RTA runs the #20, an hourly bus route, along Alessandro – but while this may serve to get transit-dependent riders to the train, the surrounding area will never allow for the kind of transit service that would influence development outcomes: frequent, all-day transit.

As of right now, it seems that CHSRA is not pursuing a downtown Riverside station – the current alignments being debated are either via I-15 and Corona, with a stop at the Dos Lagos area (more miserable sprawl) or via I-10 and I-215 and northern Riverside, with a stop at March. There is an alternative – the UP railway alignment travels nearly directly from the Ontario Airport to downtown Riverside, with straight, nearly-flat tracks and ample room along most of the corridor for expansion. (HSR will probably have to move to elevated tracks as it enters Riverside, but that was the Authority’s original plan anyway.) The downtown station could easily be re-developed to include the necessary parking and station facilities for HSR, putting it within walking distance of the most vibrant neighbourhood in the Inland Empire and connecting it to nearly everywhere else in Riverside and the eastern San Bernardino valley via transit. However, this alternative is not being considered, and unless we make an issue out of it now, it won’t be.

If any of you have any opportunities to comment on the LA-SD leg of the HSR project, please tell CHSRA and any applicable politicians that you want a station in a vibrant downtown, not a sprawl-surrounded parking lot.

Tags:
  1. Paul Dyson
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 13:40
    #1

    RailPAC agrees 100% with Mr. Nelson. We did not back HSR for it to become a “ground level airline”. City center to city center is the answer.

    PD, RailPAC President

    Matthew Reply:

    And I think Justin’s blog deserves a link on the CAHSRblog sidebar ===>
    There’s even a link for the “Seattle Transit Blog” there, but we’re missing a link to the main grassroots transit blog for California’s 12th largest city, and 3rd largest metropolitan area.

    Justin N Reply:

    “the main grassroots transit blog…” You flatter me.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Totally agreed. In fact, the blogroll deserves an update when I return from Hawaii. But I’ll add Justin’s blog now.

  2. Joe
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 15:02
    #2

    6000 parking spaces for Gilroy’s station!

    That’s the size of a parking structure CHSRA wants the city council to build.

    3000 parking spaces at a cost of 50,000 each for a palo alto station.

    The problem is CHSRA is treating the stations like Airports. There going to force cities to put the stations in a remote field of blacktop.

    StevieB Reply:

    The amount of parking is not an engineering necessity as would be the width of right of way or land for a station. Parking is certainly something for community input.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I will note that the Authority has taken down the original parking memo they posted in March.

    Nadia Reply:

    I’ll add that I was at a meeting where Bob Cervero (Berkeley ITS) and Peter Calthorpe discussed the “Vision California Plan” relating to the issues of sprawl. The biggest “concern” was that the Authority’s model thus far for stations includes these massive parking structures. As noted by a Sierra Club rep in Palo Alto at a recent meeting, this is way too auto-centric – as he said “if you build it, they will come” – but likely by car.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Hi all, the consultants did not say 3,000 spaces should be built. The study that created the ridiculous numbers like 10,000 spaces in SF or 6,000 in Gilroy, was an “unconstrained” analysis. It ignored “details” like land availability. Of course in downtown areas land is far too valuable to be vacant parking lots. That is why the study estimates 10k spaces in SF and Transbay will have none.

    An unconstrained analysis is like the physics you did in high school without drag, good enough for a rough upper bound, but dangerous if you actually try to build an airplane (or parking structures) with it.

    The unconstrained analysis needs to be followed by a constrained study that exams the opportunity cost of using land for parking, TDM measures, and how to displace residual parking to lots outside the station area with connecting shuttles. Only a thorough and competent study that looked at all of those interrelated factors would provide realistic numbers.

    Whomever is using the analysis to say that cities need to plan for or build 3,000 or 6,000 parking spaces is misusing the consultant’s study. If anyone has a statement from the Authority or a consultant saying such a thing I would appreciate if you would forward it to me. CA4HSR would like to get this parking issue resolved before it negatively impacts station placement and planning decisions.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Brian,

    The numbers the cities are talking about are the numbers the Authority has told them they will need to build. The only caveats have been that can perhaps phase some of it and some can be offsite with shuttle service.

    TOD is not going to have a meaningful impact on parking needs for a HSR station in the same way it might for a light rail or urban rail stop. Transit connections, and TOD around the transit stations, will help, as will parking pricing appropriately which may cut the number of parking spaces if not cars (people with luggage will get dropped off or take a taxi).

    HSR is not an airport, but it is not Caltrain or BART either. It is somewhere between the two.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    To be clear, it is the consultants misusing the other consultants studies.

    And let’s not get started with the problems in the ridership model that exacerbated the problems with the parking numbers…

    egk Reply:

    Those parking numbers are crazy.

    It looks look like CAHSR use the simple airport rule of thumb: Parking spaces needed = half the daily passengers (10,000 places for 20,000 daily riders estimated for San Francisco).

    But this is far from what rail stations typically have:

    Northeast Corridor:
    Parking at Union Station Washington ca. 2000
    Parking at 30th St. Station Philadelphia ca. 2000
    Germany:
    Parking at the new main station in Berlin (ca. 225 intercity trains a day): 900
    Parking at the main station in Frankfurt: 400

    Why so few? Because people typically take short-duration trips by rail: In California interstate trips last for just 2 nights, while trips out of state last for almost 5 nights, on average. 70% of CA air trips are out of state, but all of the CAHSR trips will be interstate, of course. You need fewer spaces for people taking shorter trips, of course. So on average at a rail station (given the ratio above we might estimate that to serve 20,000 HSR passengers we’d need maximally 4000 spaces – and of course probably many fewer, given transit connections (why park at the TBT when you can park at BART?)

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    Remember that a large parking garage is a very expensive construction project in its own right. Even building a simple surface parking lot (hardly TOD-friendly) is more expensive than you might imagine (developer rule of thumb: $25K per parking space, even more on valuable real estate). Some construction firm will profit handsomely from building these parking facilities. Whenever in doubt over what’s driving these decisions: “follow the money”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Following the money could explain why they intend to build massive parking garages in Gilroy. But in San Francisco, you’d imagine the construction contractors would make money building TOD than parking.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Aix-en-Provence TGV sation was built with 700 parking places for private cars. They have proved largely insufficient, and random parking is really a nuisance. An additional underground parking lot will have to be built
    Aix TGV is a greenfield station, 15 km from Aix, 10 km from Marseille airport. It has a ridership of 2 million, which is much higher than the SNCF had expected, considering Aix’s population is only 140,000.
    In fact, passengers from Aix only represent a fraction of this figure. Most riders are people from Marseille suburbs. With the freeway, it takes them 15-20 minutes to reach Aix TGV. Getting downtown would be much more of a hassle and might take a full hour.
    This proves a greenfield station is not necessarily a bad solution.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Union Station in DC is served by the heavily-used Metro Red Line. Philadelphia’s 30th Street station is served by the main downtown subway and underground trolley lines. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is served by 4 S-bahn lines and an U-bahn line. All three are also served by regional commuter rail. So how are parking needs there comparable with Gilroy??? How extensive is Gilroy’s subway system?

    Justin N Reply:

    If HSRA thinks we need that much parking, we need to change their minds. Moving a station from a greenfield site to a downtown with ample transportation connections will reduce the need for parking in general, and community input could strongly constrain the amount of parking that we are required to provide.

    Setting that aside, there is ample parking in and around downtown that could be pressed into service as remote parking lots. I have no doubts that enterprising parking lot owners will provide high-speed rail specials and shuttles for those who wish to drive. There is no need for us, as a community, to provide all of that parking for free at the expense of setting aside our opportunity to re-develop our city in a sustainable way.

    Victor Reply:

    I do know the parking for the Amtrak Station in old town Victorville CA has maybe about 100 or so parking spots along the railroad, It’s near Downtown, So any Downtown station shouldn’t have a huge lot or parking structure, If a station truly needs extra parking then local lots If large enough could be enhanced I’d think to fill the bill, The one in Victorville goes mostly unused in any case. The area is served by local transit which consists of local buses, Which has routes that serve Victorville, Hesperia and Apple Valley, But do not extend beyond these 3 cities.

    Joey Reply:

    Okay, you do realize that Victorville is currently served by ONE train each way PER DAY, rather than the dozens which will HSR will support? Parking requirements are several orders of magnitude different.

    Justin N Reply:

    As a former Victor Valley resident myself (I grew up in Wrightwood), might I say that Victorville’s Amtrak station is not a model that anyone should emulate for anything? Not to mention that downtown Victorville is not exactly vibrant or livable, and the local transit that does exist both a) barely serves the train station (only the 41 does, and only in one direction, go figure) and b) doesn’t actually meet the train (shutting down too early at night, starting up too late in the morning).

    Also, VVTA doesn’t just cover those three cities. They have routes that run to Adelanto, Silver Lakes, Lucerne Valley, and the Tri-Community (Phelan, and Pinion Hills and Wrightwood by arrangement).

    Victor Reply:

    I only knew of the 3 areas that I mentioned as those were the areas I’d worked in and/or lived in. The Bus routes and times could be adjusted some I’d think, But someone would cite extra costs on the times of operation I’d expect.

    StevieB Reply:

    Parking would be in structures and not free but priced at what the market will bear. The number of parking spaces in newspaper reports so far is enormous and should be questioned.

    Emma Reply:

    However, it should be free in terms of that the parking fees should pay for all expenses associated with the construction and maintenance of the parking structure. The best solution would be the following, I think: They would need to purchase a more expensive train ticket that allows them to make use of the parking structure wherever they are.

    Matthew Reply:

    Not sure what you mean exactly, but just to be clear, passengers who do not park at the station should never have to pay more for their ticket to factor the cost of an adjacent parking facility.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I believe she means that parking should be an independent profitable self-sustaining business (even if the profits go to the train system), basically. That’s certainly what I’d recommend. We don’t need to subsidize the parking to get people to ride the train.

    TedCrocker Reply:

    Parking garages are named specifically in the Business Plan as one of the few listed potential sources for private funding for this project. For the HSR reps to speak in terms of parking spaces less than the unrestrained numbers works against the viability of the financial model. Catch-22, right?

    James M. Reply:

    I feel that there can be a parking space balance. Start with a modest parking lot or structure, maybe 10 to 20% of what the authority feels is necessary. Hold on to some space at the station for developing into either a parking garage or other TOD. If the lot is full continuously then it is obvious more spaces are needed and then build the structure. If the station gets by with the existing parking spaces, then that space can be developed for other uses, such as businesses. This will give the contracters something to look forward to building after the major construction is done, keeping people employed longer, too.

    We just completed a new parking garage in Irvine, CA at the AMTRAK and Metrolink station, and I think it is working well.

    Emma Reply:

    Parking makes sense. These are the US after all. Due to our relatively bad public transit system, most people will not consider public transit to get to the station. Of course it would be WAY SMARTER if those governments would expand and improve public transit to convince peopel to use them to get to the station. But again, these are the United States..

    Justin N Reply:

    I won’t say that there should be *NO* parking at the station at all. However, there should be a sensible amount, it should be structured, and it should not impede the urbanist aims of a downtown transit centre. Americans aren’t inherently transit-averse, they just live in a built environment that makes driving the most sensible option. If it’s a less sensible option for some trips, they will use transit. And more transit use is better for everyone.

    ks Reply:

    If the cab fare is lower, the need to drive to the station – or airport for that matter – would be greatly reduced.

  3. Victor
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 16:07
    #3

    This is what I’d like to see If I lived in Riverside county too:

    There is an alternative – the UP railway alignment travels nearly directly from the Ontario Airport to downtown Riverside, with straight, nearly-flat tracks and ample room along most of the corridor for expansion. (HSR will probably have to move to elevated tracks as it enters Riverside, but that was the Authority’s original plan anyway.)

    Not out in the Boonies waiting for potential development that may never come about, Not with so many empty houses from the last Doomed Housing Bubble, But then the people in charge in Riverside County must be a bunch of empty headed Bubble Brains.

  4. Al-Fakh Yugoudh
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 16:49
    #4

    A greenfield station at the edges of a city, as opposed to a downtown station, would make much difference in America, as it would in Europe.

    In European and Asian cities 80% of the population of lives and/or works either in downtown or within 15-20 minutes from downtown. Sprawling there is rare.

    Not so in America. With the exception of a few cities, such as San Francisco in California, the majority of people live in a very wide area comprising hundreds of square miles of sprawling suburbs. To top that, in the past few decades downtowns have also ceased to be the centers of work lives and many business parks, where people work, are now located in the sprawling suburbs as well.

    Given this urban development pattern that has characterized the US basically for several decades now, no matter where you build a station (either downtown or in a greenfield outside of town), most people will probably end up driving to it, exactly like it happens now with airports.

    I also disagree with those who think that an HSR station downtown (or anywhere) will spur dense housing development near the station. That generally happens with commuting train stations which people use for daily commute. But HSTs are not designed for daily commuting and will not generally be used for daily commuting. They will be used with the same frequency that people use airplanes today, at most, for some business people, maybe twice weekly. Would a weekly use (in the best scenario) motivate people to move closer to the station? I doubt it. In my past job I used to fly SWA from OAK to BUR almost weekly, yet I never considered moving next to the Oakland airport.

    In conclusion the HSR will not modify the sprawling urban development pattern in America. That is the result of several factors: cheap gas, absence of road tolls, availabilty of parking space, government tax subsidy for large housing (in the form of interest tax deductions), zoning policies etc. That will likely not change, therefore driving to the HSR in a greenfield will not be much different from driving to the HSR downtown. Actually you might even get more customers that way. I bet there will be more people living closer to that greenfield than to downtown. Have you ever gone to most downtowns in California? From Fresno to Bakersfield to Riverside etc, you can roll up the sidewalks downtown right after 5pm.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s not really true. Southern California has some significant locations of high density, and this is only increasing as 21st century realities – the end of cheap gas, the end of cheap credit, and the collapse of the great 20th century housing market – are already cutting off new sprawl.

    Your experience of “most downtowns in California” is no longer true. Sure, some cities like Fresno are slower to catch up, but the trend in other downtowns is clear – they’re where California’s future and, increasingly, its present lie.

    Justin N Reply:

    You obviously haven’t been in downtown Riverside on most nights lately. Believe it or not, our sidewalks are still needed late into the night. New residential and mixed-use development, along with more restaurants, bars and nightlife moving into downtown, have made it so that downtown is one of the few places in the city that’s not half-vacant in the midst of this recession. On a Friday night, there are people walking about late into the evening.

    As far as HSR relating to development patterns, I agree that most people won’t be taking the train every day. This is why I think that putting HSR at a greenfield site will NOT magically create TOD around it, because HSR isn’t “transit” in the traditional sense. HSR done properly, though, has the ability to spur walkable development around it in order to serve rail passengers, and to significantly increase transit utilization nearby if it’s convenient (and driving is inconvenient). There will also be many businesses who want to locate near the rail station, whether that’s because they are branch offices of a larger corporation or because they want to provide services to travellers. In concentrating that development in a walkable area, and improving transit links throughout the area, HSR is able to drive TOD if it’s part of a larger multi-modal system. If it’s surrounded by parking lots, then it’s going to make no difference at all.

    Also, you have to remember- this isn’t going to be running until 2030 at best. Think what gasoline is going to cost in 20 years, when we’re a long way down the wrong side of the peak oil graph. The folks living near a downtown transit centre are going to be much happier in the long run than those living in suburban sprawl, and HSR in that transit centre will make life all the better for them.

  5. Robert Cruickshank
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 17:23
    #5

    Excellent post, Justin. Thanks for writing this up and bringing it to everyone’s attention. I fully and completely agree that the Riverside station shouldn’t go out at March Field, but ought to be in the city center. Downtown Riverside has enormous potential for new growth within the existing urban footprint – dense, mixed-use development right next to an Amtrak and Metrolink station. As we know, sprawl is no longer viable in the 21st century, and the Inland Empire in particular needs to move away from it.

  6. Derek
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 17:42
    #6

    If 6,000 people will park when the price is zero, don’t build a 6,000 space parking lot. Build 3,000 spaces and price those spaces according to demand so there’s always a space or two available in every aisle. SFpark shows how it’s done.

    This eliminates the kind of shortages that exist at some Coaster stations in San Diego which prevent people from taking mass transit. It also reduces sprawl and helps the parking lots pay for themselves.

    The CHSRA ought to encourage this kind of parking policy.

  7. Lionel
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 17:58
    #7

    Today’s Palo Alto paper reported that the Mayor stated that the most likely scenario for Palo Alto was that, during a “staging” period of indefinite duration, there would be only two tracks, no grade separation, with HSR sharing those tracks with Caltrain. Does this have any basis?

    StevieB Reply:

    What I see in the Palo Alto Online news today is very active discussion of a HSR station in Palo Alto with an unusual amount of support. High-speed rail station a tough sell in Palo Alto

    The main concerns are the huge number of parking spaces that have been discussed and resulting automobile traffic. Several have stated that if HSR is going through Palo Alto that they should benefit from a station.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That support isn’t unusual (well, maybe it is for the comments section of that publication). Keep in mind that large majorities still support the project in Palo Alto, as the polls have shown.

    Peter Reply:

    Part of the funding request to the federal government was a proposal to upgrade Caltrain in stages. The Mayor is correct in stating that under that proposal, there would be no upgrade in Palo Alto to begin with. There is no guarantee though that the feds will approve that scenario, and may demand that the funds be used for construction to begin on a different section. Who knows what the sequence for construction in Palo Alto would be if that was to happen.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Did anyone else take notice that at least one respondent in the comments section accused “rail foamers” of flooding the comments section with multiple posts by the same people using different names?

    Maybe we are hitting the big time–we’re being accused of being secret conspirators!

    YesonHSR Reply:

    No most ‘railfomers” dont visit that rag..tho that paper loves a drama so they always throw some “shocking” HSR story out..plus the nimbys are always acting like thousands and thousands think like they do ..so when local people support HSR or station they of course get loud and rude and make up things like that

  8. Emma
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 19:43
    #8

    All those talks about moving the stations out of Downtown are baloney, especially in San Diego. When the station is not in the central business district, it is dead. Downtown is where the whole public transit system comes together, where you can find all businesses and it usually is very close to attractions (LA might be an exception). I have heard the proposals about moving the station to the airport. Everyone who lives in San Diego will notice that this idea is completely insane. It is already very difficult to get to Lindbergh field, when you know the city and don’t have a car. Consider all the tourists who want to see Downtown. And I’m sure all the rail that needs to be constructed to get to Lindbergh field would be just as long (but more expensive) than straight-forward to the future Downtown station.

    Johnathan Reply:

    Very true. A significant amount of Lindbergh Field users are flying to/from Los Angeles and San Francisco. They will disappear once HSR is in place, much of it due to access of direct international flights from LAX.

    Public transit connections are also important, when Las Vegas and Phoenix connect to the CAHSR system in the near future. Influx of taxi and shuttles to downtown would look like the Las Vegas strip today… a nightmare!

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    Not true on SAN-LAX flights. Travelers will still prefer flying into LAX from SAN. If the LA rail station were at LAX you would be correct, but rail to Union Station, followed by a shuttle, followed by clearning security will not be an attractive option for most. Far easier to park or ride transit to the Intermodal Center at the San Diego airport, fly into LAX (already having cleared security) and connect gate to gate. It is better to separate origin and destination traffic from connecting traffic when thinking about the relationship between the rail and aviation networks. High speed rail stations at airprots can also induce more air travel by extending airport catchment areas.

    Johnathan Reply:

    I did an imaginary flight search from Ho Chi Minh City to San Diego on Orbitz. Transfer at LAX required waiting at least 2 hrs. for a connection and a 45 min. flight time to SAN. Sadly, airside connections barely exist from Tom Bradley to domestic terminals. Even Terminals 6 & 7 force international passengers to exit customs and re-enter security.

    On the date Nov. 23rd to Nov. 30th return flight, the cheapest flight for SAN-SGN is $1,073, while only $872 for LAX-SGN, a difference of $201!

    International visitors to San Diego know that it is easier to land at LAX and take a tour bus to San Diego (run by travel agencies), while San Diego residents will drive to LAX and park their car.

    2 hrs. by CAHSR to Union Station and LAX FlyAway is comparably faster, cheaper, and less stressful.

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    Quite a few people to drive to LAX today from the South, no doubt about that. But take a look at the United schedule from SAN to LAX–these are 99% connecting pax and I would be very surprised if there was a significant downsizing of these flights even with HSR. The pricing you allude to is one data point in a gigantic array of city-pair markets, hardly conclusive. The real point is that all of this should be put in the planning and alternatives analysis process to find the answers, not assume that because one builds HSR (especially when not integrated with the airport), that pax will use it to access the airport. Fortunately, that very work is going on in the San Diego region right now.

    Matthew Reply:

    How does the Tijuana Airport proposal fit into all this? It seems like it would be possible to extend the San Ysidro trolley a little bit further to the new international crossing:
    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2010-08-02-airportcheckin02_ST_N.htm

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    It does. Already today, thousands of people take advantage of Volaris the mexican low-cost carrier that operates from Tijuana (with over 20 non-stop destinations into Mexico). With a large immigrant and 2nd generation population, it is a real option. You are still crossing an international border, however, creating a significant “seam” and bringing in air service rules that govern operations.

    Matthew Reply:

    I was thinking more that if there were a trolley connection to a new streamlined airport access facility on the US side, that it would further the case to primarily pursue a downtown San Diego station rather than stopping at SAN. I think the idea of using Tijuana Airport is great in general. Basel Airport is actually located in France, and prior to Switzerland joining the Schengen zone, passengers would just walk to the immigration desk of the country they wanted to go to. France and Switzerland had two different visa regimes, but well thought out airport operations meant the infrastructure could be shared without any problems.

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    Theoretically you are correct, but U.S./Mexico is not Switzerland/France. And remember, if the flight takes off from Mexico it is still international coming into the U.S. They could do preclearance like they have in Canada, but that falls to DHS and Customs–no guarantees.

    romo Reply:

    That’s not necessarily true at least for international flights. If you fly out of SAN via commuter flight to LAX, you have to get out of the terminal at LAX and go back into the international terminal (which means going back through security). This means you go through security twice: once at SAN for the commuter terminal, and a second time at LAX for the international terminal. It is equally annoying for arrivals as well. You arrive in LAX at the international terminal and often have to transfer to a commuter terminal to get back on a plane to SAN.

    That’s why a lot of us drive to LAX especially for international flights. Security is ridiculous at LAX international terminal. So a commuter flight out of SAN to LAX is worthless when you end up having to account for security wait times at both airports.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, ah, but that “easier to clear security at San Diego than LAX” only applies if you’re taking the same airline.

    If you have to clear security in San Diego, fly to LAX, *LEAVE* security, change terminals, *RE-ENTER* security, then taking HSR to Union Station and the FlyAway Bus to LAX begins to seem just about as reasonable.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Not really. I detest coming in an international trip at LAX, clearing customs, dropping my bags on a belt, and then going back through security and taking a shuttle bus to the commuter terminal to fly home to SAN. BUT … if I am jet lagged and tired and need a shower, I think that would be better than lugging my bags onto a bus, and then shlepping them across Union Station and down onto a train platform and then finding a place to stow them on a train.

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    There is no “not true” for this type of connection. The fact is that people will drive on the highway, take the HSR, and take commuter flights. The question is what will the size of the market be for each? Planners break those options down and examine factors such as what type of traveler are you, how many bags are you carrying, who is traveling with you, etc. A HSR stop at LAX would have revolutionized travel to the airport–the Union Station stop will likely lead to marginal shifts.

    Compare that with the effects of an ONT stop–with its excess capacity (at least for now), a direct connection will spread out traffic and will induce additional non-stop markets from the airport. The interactive effects of that stop with one of the two SAN alternatives is going to be very interesting to model and follow the results. Think of the North San Diego County market for example.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This is not true. The SD-LA market is tiny: it doesn’t even make the top 100 in the US. Even SD-Phoenix is larger. The SD-SF market is pretty large, but CAHSR’s planning documents indicate that most people on this city pair will continue to fly, as rail will take too long, about 4 hours on the fastest train.

    Johnathan Reply:

    Under the Cambridge Systems study, with a full system by 2030 and HSR fares 77% of airfare, LA Basin-San Diego annual ridership will be 19.1 million out of the 74 million total. A San Diego line extension is a given, since the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire population is about 6 million people, with their economy dependent on LA. Extending from Riverside to San Diego is only another hundred miles.

    However, it will be a totally different picture if Las Vegas and Phoenix connects to the CAHSR system in Riverside. Judging by the numbers, 3.7 million annual air passengers for LA-LV, 3.4 million for LA-Phoenix, 1.4 million for SD-Phoenix, and 1.7 million for LV-Phoenix, the LOSSAN corridor would rival that of Phase 1 to San Francisco.

    I do not disagree that travel between LA to SD is insignificant today, but it is the key to a new Western US megaregion.

    An extension to Tijuana can also be considered, as 50 million people pass through the San Ysidro crossing every year. The politics could get nasty though…

    Matthew Reply:

    Johnathan, it seems the LA-Las Vegas connection would almost certainly go via Palmdale and not Riverside. The Cajon pass seems to be too expensive a barrier until HSR is proven to be a vital technology with a similar place in the political consciousness as interstates today. Phoenix, however, makes a lot of sense to connect to the CAHSR system at Riverside. Getting to the San Gorgonio pass could be achieved along the 60/10, 215/10, or UPRR, enabling one or two non-express stops in Palm Springs and Indio before going on to Arizona. The Desert Lightning proposal to Las Vegas would take this same route, and then shoot north to Las Vegas, but it seems to be too expensive a proposal to beat out something like Desertxpress with a connection to CAHSR at Palmdale in the short run. Having a redundant link to LV from a Riverside-Phoenix line would provide improved connections between SD-LV, Phoenix-LV, etc., but would likely not make financial sense for a few decades, and possibly much longer. Nevertheless, LA-SD via the Inland Empire is a good idea with or without these additional future connections. Given that LA-Phoenix is one of the busiest air corridors left that won’t have HSR service after the current plans for CAHSR are built, it makes even more sense to plan for a future connection via Downtown Riverside.

    Johnathan Reply:

    Assuming both LV-Palmdale and Phoenix-Riverside lines are built and profitable, I believe that Las Vegas can connect into Riverside through a 90 mi. Barstow-Palm Springs (Morongo Valley) connection, effectively bypassing the question of a Cajon Pass route.

    The mileage estimate under Morongo Valley scenario:
    LV-Riverside: 298 mi.
    LV-LA: 366 mi.
    LV-SD: 397 mi.
    LV-Phoenix: 511 mi.

    Existing scenario with Palmdale connection:
    LV-Riverside: 362 mi.
    LV-LA: 294 mi.
    LV-SD: 461 mi.
    LV-Phoenix: Not viable.

    The Morongo Valley option I believe is what’s needed for the missing link and better option than having to build a direct 300 mi. LV-Phoneix link. DesertXpress should not rush to judgment on a Palmdale route, although they are under pressure from other competitors.

    Matthew Reply:

    Morongo Valley is an interesting idea I hadn’t heard before. I guess everything would have to be priced out to really see what the best alternative would be. It’s not clear to me that expensive engineering wouldn’t be needed along the 62 between Morongo Valley and the Coachella Valley as the valley is pretty narrow there with lots of curves. The Barstow-Morongo Valley segment might not be so bad, and the Coachella Valley section should be straight and very fast, but it seems a lot longer route, and would miss an opportunity to pick up additional ridership at a stop in the IE. Anyway, this is decades down the line, but it’s good to at least think about while planning the LA-SD section. I know there have been doubts expressed in this forum about the feasibility of a Downtown Riverside HSR station, but that would certainly provide for a Phoenix extension along one of several ROWs with sensible and flexible options for future operations. A March Field station seems to be less advantageous from this perspective.

    thatbruce Reply:

    There is also the Desert Lightning Project which is proposing a similar spoke system between LA, LV and Phoenix, although their map shows the leg from LA going through Joshua Tree NP. Blythe would be a better midpoint if Barstow is not involved.

    Cajon, with its expense, would probably still be cheaper than a route via Morongo Valley.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I should perhaps clarify: LA-SD air travel is insignificant. Gun to head, I’d guess it’s the single largest intercity car travel market in the US, whence the 19 million HSR riders at full buildout.

  9. Joey
    Aug 25th, 2010 at 21:44
    #9

    Okay. For the record, Downtown Riverside seems like a great place to put a station, but the geometry of actually getting there does not work out. The UPRR line from Downtown Ontario is (a) too winding to allow decent speeds (b) even if there is room in the ROW, UPRR would probably not allow HSR to use it and (c) It sets trains up in the WRONG direction to continue down to San Diego. An alternate option, proposed by the Riverside County Transit Coalition, is to route it along SR-60 with a tunnel through Riverside (see this, page 11). Contrary to what the RCTC say though, it will only reduce the total track mileage by less than five miles, which shouldn’t affect operating costs very much, plus it’s going to be expensive as hell to tunnel through Riverside. While a downtown station might make sense ridership wise, you’re going to have to try REALLY hard to actually reach downtown Riverside without kicking up the project’s cost another $5 billion. In a fantasy world, we might have a cross-platform transfer to Metrolink at Ontario International (of course rerouting Metrolink to serve the Airport), which would allow easy access to downtown Riverside without the nightmare of trying to run HSR directly there, but I guess we all know that’s not going to happen under any circumstances.

    Joey Reply:

    I would also like to add that the RCTC’s claim that the reduction in route mileage would finance the tunnel is absurd. By reducing the length of the route by less than 5 miles, you are maximally saving $200-300 million. This is nowhere near enough to fund what would be at least 3 miles of bored tunnel.

    Justin N Reply:

    Joey- Where is the UPRR alignment winding? It follows Van Buren/Mission on a nearly dead straight shot through Rubidoux, makes a turn at the river, then follows Jurupa on a dead straight shot towards downtown and turns north just before the station. The latter turn shouldn’t be a problem- the train should be slowing down anyway to make a station stop. The turn at the river is a bit tricky, but it could probably be smoothed out with a new bridge that curves from Van Buren to Jurupa rather than following the UP ROW behind that housing development. Shouldn’t be problematic- that area is all industrial development anyway.

    If UPRR doesn’t let us use the ROW, we have a solution for that. It’s called “eminent domain.” It’s a tool for government to use so that intransigent companies and individuals don’t get in the way of critical public works projects, like, I don’t know, a high-speed train from LA to San Diego.

    A tunnel downtown will be expensive and ridiculous, and I don’t know how it solves many issues. Much cheaper to build viaduct along the UP line, and more practical as well.

    As far as being in the wrong direction, the CHSRA has the train coming south along I-215 as-is, so they still have to turn east to get onto the I-215/CA-60 ROW over the Box Springs pass. The trains leaving the Riverside station can head north, make a sweeping turn over an industrial area north of the station, and join up with the I-215/CA-60 freeway, get over the pass and turn south. We don’t need to worry too much about turn radius because, again, the trains will be slowing down for a station stop anyway. (Yes, this means that every train will have to stop in Riverside, or at least slow down… a sacrifice I think we can make.) Either plan requires trains to turn east in the vicinity of northern Riverside- mine does require a sharper turn, but that’s a minimal sacrifice to make when you consider the difference between these two station sites.

    Joey Reply:

    The UPRR alignment has a few major curves, but they would limit speeds severely. The most serious ones are the closest to Riverside, though the farthest one I’m going to talk about is 7 miles away. This first curve is just south of the Pedley Metrolink station, and has a radius of about 0.6 miles, or a design speed of about 100 MPH. The second curve (getting closer to Riverside) is closer to a 0.5 mile radius, or about 90 MPH design speed. The last few curves before Riverside station would allow maybe 80 MPH, though the farthest is still pretty far from the station (i.e. trains would not be going that slow at this point, even if they were stopping). By comparison, the major curve on the program alignment (turning south from I-10/UPRR to the BNSF line (it’s not along I-215 yet), would allow speeds upwards of 180 MPH (2 mile radius), though trains will probably be limited to 150 MPH in urban areas.

    As for curving from Riverside station onto I-215, if you’re willing to cut a large swath through a bunch of homes, businesses, and industrial parks, as well as build an Aerial structure through much of Riverside, you could get as much as 160 MPH (1.5 mile radius) out of the curve (this assumes that HSR runs down the east side of UC Riverside). You could avoid the homes if you’re willing to cut it down to 120 MPH. You are also incorrect that the existing planned alignment travels along I-215 from Colton to Riverside. It generally follows the existing rail line to the Perris Valley, meaning it goes east of UC Riverside (cutting through the edge of a residential community near the botanical gardens to avoid a very sharp curve on the existing rail line) before joining up with I-215/SR-60. This means much wider curves and much faster speeds than you have assumed.

    As for eminent domain… States and state agencies have no authority to exercise it upon railroads. Only the Federal government has this power (there have been talk, at least unofficially, of trying to get them to do it for us, but so far it looks like nothing is happening). So if you’re exercising eminent domain, it will be against the homeowners along UPRR, not UPRR itself.

    Given all of that, here’s what I have to say: The price of this is probably much more than you estimate. Between an aerial through Riverside, property acquisitions along the ENTIRE route (more if you want to straighten any of the curves), grade separations, and impact mitigation through residential areas, the cost of doing this will likely be quite steep. Also the added time to the LA-SD trip would likely be significant. My rough calculation shows that it would add at least 8 minutes, though it could easily be more. Given the costs and impacts, serving Downtown Riverside just doesn’t make sense. There are much easier and cheaper methods of getting people from downtown to CAHSR.

    Justin N Reply:

    You seem very knowledgeable about the technical aspects of this project, which I greatly appreciate. I admit that I’m no railroad engineer. Also, that the state has no eminent domain power over railroads is news to me, and if that’s the case then the UP alignment may well be very problematic. I know UP is no fan of passenger service. (Though, for the record, Van Buren and Mission Boulevards run along that alignment as well, with large medians and shoulders. It might be possible to use some of the roadway right-of-way, which RCTC or SANBAG owns.)

    However, I maintain that a March Field station is a bad idea from a perspective of sustainable development. We simply cannot afford to use this project, the most ambitious public works project in a generation, to encourage more sprawling development at the expense of our downtown. There may well be plenty of ways to get people to and from the station, but there are none that will prevent a station at March from becoming a sea of parking lots, low-density business parks and strip malls. I supported the UC Riverside station location, but local residents have made that site politically impossible.

    If it costs more to serve downtown Riverside, and even if it adds a few minutes to the runtime, we should do it. We are talking about a project that we will have to live with for decades, maybe centuries to come, and that means we need to get it right this time. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

    Joey Reply:

    Believe me, I don’t disagree that March Field is a VERY bad station location. There’s nothing out there. I’m also not discrediting the benefits of a downtown station, which are considerable. The URC station would probably be the best compromise, and I’m not convinced that it’s politically impossible. Obviously, arterial and transit connections to the station site would have to be improved, depending on its exact location. NIMBYs are a problem, but not an insurmountable one (and whatever happens in Riverside will probably look like a footnote compared to what’s happening in the SF peninsula), though if the CHSRA is learning toward the March AFB station, it would be consistent other recent decisions which seem to be geared simply at appeasing NIMBYs.

    Justin N Reply:

    I think a UCR station would be a fine compromise, but I think that even there would be irresponsible without a connection to the regional rail network (though an infill Perris Valley Line station is always possible). However, I think it’s politically impossible here at the moment. March Field is not a development compromise, it is a political one, and a bad one at that.

    In light of the fact that it would be politically difficult at UCR, and technically difficult downtown, I am much more inclined to select the technically difficult option. Engineers are problem-solvers, politicians less so.

    Joey Reply:

    By the way, since you seem to have better information than I do about this subject, where exactly would the March AFB station be? Would it be closer to the SR-60 splitoff in Moreno Valley (bad but not that bad), or close to the AFB itself (very bad).

    Joey Reply:

    Never mind, I see where Alessandro BLVD is, and yeah, that’s a pretty bad location.

    Nathanael Reply:

    State eminent domain power over railroads *for the purpose of building other railroads* has never been tested. State eminent domain power for the purpose of removing railroads was prohibited back in the 19th century.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s true. However, Amtrak actually has limited eminent domain power when the owner of the tracks they use makes it unfeasible to run passenger trains, which it has exercised.

    I think eminent domain against UP should be avoided if at all possible. This will likely be avoidable, as UP is in fact still in negotiations over use of its ROW with the USDOT and Authority.

    The doom and gloom people who are attempting to use UP as a reason why we shouldn’t build HSR ignore the ongoing negotiations. I personally think that UP is simply negotiating for a better deal before they permit use of their ROW.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Aerial through downtown Riverside solves *all* the curve “problems” you identify.

    Joey Reply:

    Using the SR-60 alignment? There’s no room to build an east-west aerial through downtown Riverside.

  10. Steve Van Beek
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 04:09
    #10

    Interesting post about the value of downtown, but your implied attack on airport stations is misplaced. Alternatives for San Diego downtown and the airport should both be considered. Alternatives analysis should carefully analyze the markets, including the proposal for an Intermodal Transportation Center at the airport, which will provide a nice aggregation of autos, transit and air travelers (including transit links downtown). The value of such an approach is evident in cities as diverse as Amsterdam, London, Paris and Munich. In addition, airport-based stations at Ontario and San Diego offer the potential to use aviation infrastructure in Southern California more intelligently.

    TomW Reply:

    The troubel is that the our-of-town siet discussed here isn’t by an airport – it’s by an airbase. Big difference.

    Justin N Reply:

    Steve-
    Airport stations are fine, I feel the need to connect HSR in to our air travel infrastructure. If it means folks in Murietta can get to Ontario and LAX without driving, great. This is why I understand that the Ontario Airport stop is going to happen, even though I think there are better places in Ontario to put an HSR station than at the airport.

    Riverside, on the other hand, doesn’t have an airport. We have, as TomW pointed out, an air force base. Not only that, but the March Field stop would be on the wrong side of the air base from the terminals, so even if March were to be developed into a commercial passenger airport 20-30 years hence (unlikely, considering even Ontario is struggling right now), HSR at the March Field site won’t serve it.

    Also, in the cases of the cities you mentioned, HSR trains stop at the airport, but they ALSO stop downtown. A lot of the value in building HSR to compete with short airline trips is by sending travellers downtown, rather than at a distant airport. I don’t think I’d have a problem with both a San Diego Lindbergh Field station and a downtown San Diego station. The problem is thinking that the latter is a substitute for the former.

    Matthew Reply:

    Actually, half the cities Steve listed have HSR service in the city center, but not their airports, and *all* cities listed there have HSR stations in the city center.

    London has a “Heathrow Express” service, which connects to Paddington Station, from which you can take an approximately 20 minute Tube connection to St. Pancras with its Eurostar service. I would budget somewhere around 1 hour for the total connection. Eurostar does not directly serve any UK airport train station, but it nevertheless has fantastic ridership. Current expansion plans to service Birmingham and points north have considered a stop at Heathrow, but that was canceled by the current government as being too expensive for too little benefit.

    Munich requires a relatively long connection on the S-Bahn to get to a major train station with an ICE connection. In fact, connecting to high speed trains to the West of Munich often requires an approximately 1-hour connection to the Pasing railway station.

    Airports can be good places for inter-modal transit stations, but mainly if capacity in the city center is used up. I think it would be a huge mistake to skip city centers, be they Riverside or San Diego.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Unlike London or Munich, San Diego’s airport is in the city center. So much so that first-time visitors are often frightened by the proximity of downtown towers during the descent. So we’re not talking apples to apples here.

  11. Steve Van Beek
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 07:19
    #11

    Agree on March, especially if it is not going to be developed 20-30 years from now into a commercial service airport. I was speaking to the “lumping” of the two together in the beginning of the comments.

    Steve

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    As Matthew and Justin clarify, I think we are in agreement. It is far preferable, where possible, to go both to an airport and to downtown. San Diego is an interesting case because the two stations would be relatively close, but given that they would be at the end of the line, presumably the time penalty of an additional stop would not be too punishing. And, that should be considered against the additional aggregation of networks available at the two stops. If the ITC is really built in a robust fashion at Lindbergh, that could present a real opportunity. My real concern as an advocate of INTERCITY transportation is that we take full advantage of both aviation and rail networks and not get sucked into a air vs. rail conflict which would damage both (especially rail since it does not have what aviation does–a trust fund that brings in billions of dollars a year for infrastructure). –Steve

    Ben Reply:

    Hopefully high speed rail and the extension of the Gold Line will encourage some passengers using LAX to use Ontario. This will certainly bring more passengers to the airport, combined with growth that would occur in Riverside/SB Co. over the next 20-30 years.

    Is there enough demand, however, to justify the San Bernardino International Airport (http://www.pe.com/business/local/stories/PE_Biz_S_airport25.3946730.html)? This seems like a complete boondoggle. These two counties already have a combined population greater than Orange County but I don’t know how they can support to medium hub airports within 25 miles of each other.

    Steve Van Beek Reply:

    Ben:

    Your analysis is sound today, but it will be interesting to watch in the future. Most of the Southern California airports are going to hit the wall with capacity in the next 20 years (some by design, some because it is impossible to expand). With the defeat of both Miramar and the decision not to convert El Toro into a commercial service airport, there is a decided lack of capacity in the region if air travel recovers and grows close to its normal rate (say 3%). Certainly, HSR offers to potential to bleed off some O&D traffic, and if the stations had been integrated across the board into airports, a significant share of short-haul connecting traffic as well. Remember: planners have to look to 2025/2030 and beyond not 2010 or even 2015. If nothing is done, fares will shoot through the roof, the region will lose economic activity and tax revenue, and there will not be as many national and international market opportunities.

  12. Ben
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 07:31
    #12

    One poll released today has eMeg up by 8% over Jerry Brown. Admittedly, the people at Rasmussen are GO(B)P hacks but if you want to see high speed rail built in CA, it is essential to vote for Jerry Brown this November.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/governor/

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’d wait to see this confirmed by more reputable polling, such as SurveyUSA, PPP, or the grandaddy of them all, Field. Still, this is by every assessment a very close race.

    Ben Reply:

    Robert- I don’t mean to digress but the latest Courage Campaign video is excellent. Good work!

    StevieB Reply:

    Quoting Jerry Brown in a speech in Santa Rosa Wednesday August 25, “The campaign starts after Labor Day,” he said. “Save your energy.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Can anyone show anything that indicate that Jerry Brown is aware what is in the CHSRA plan? Is he even aware of the difference between Altamont and Pacheco?

    Another oblivious machine hack rubber-stamping another big dig. You really want Etheridges and Barzhagis running the state while Jerry takes a nap?

    Peter Reply:

    Can anyone show anything indicating Jerry Brown is NOT aware of CHSRA’s plans?

    Coming up with conspiracy theories is unproductive. Unless you’re trying to sell books to UFO enthusiasts.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fidel is suggesting that Osama bin Laden is a US agent. Now that’s a conspiracy theory.

    Since the campaign has been going on for months andJerry refuses to say anything about the CHSRA plan there are only two possibilities. Either he has an opinion and he is afraid it will be unpopular or he doesn’t have one at all. So the question remains valid.

    But here is a question for those who have access to the CHSRA bunker. What is the party line as to how to operate 200mph trains on slab tracks sitting all day long at 110 or more degrees? You are going to need that half hour saved by the Tejon base tunnels.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What is the party line as to how to operate 200mph trains on slab tracks sitting all day long at 110 or more degrees?

    I dunno. What the alternative to using the Tejon Tunnels while they are out of service for weeks of months after the earthquake?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The weeks of out of service would also apply to the average-engineered Tehachapi line as to the over-engineered Tejon base tunnels. Could be the base tunnel would fare better as it is all reinforced and covered – just realign the track at the fault.

    Peter Reply:

    “just realign the track at the fault”

    You mean the way they would do it for any line crossing a fault? Easier to do that when you’re not in a tunnel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The plan is to construct a large as needed gallery to accommodate movement in entire slip area of the fault. Apparently this was what was done with the BART East Bay Hill tunnel, Old Pole Burner on the Altamont site pointed out that this will have to worked on in the future as planned slip range has been used up. So the principle pans out in reaity, you just have to allot adequate room for the movement in the planning.

    Peter Reply:

    The plan is actually to avoid miles and miles of tunneling, including crossing at least one fault line in a tunnel, as well as paralleling a fault line for many miles at a close distance.

    Your plan is irrelevant, as no one important is interested in it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the avoidance involved 4 miles of detour instead of 40 it would make sense.

    The hsr needs a signature accomplishment anyway. Tourists will love the base tunnels.

    Peter Reply:

    “Tourists will love the base tunnels.”

    When was the last time you enjoyed a tunnel? What the frak are you smoking? Tourists will want to see a landscape. No one but rail foamers loves railway tunnels.

    Joey Reply:

    Err, I’m pretty sure there is NO fault realignment cavern in BART’s Berkeley Hills Tunnel.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just realign the track after you haul out all of the debris, have the civil engineers examine it for a month or two, hope the signals survived if not reinstall them… Takes a few days when a train derails above ground, can take months underground.

    Peter Reply:

    30 minutes “saved” by Tejon base tunnels will be irrelevant on days with 110 degree heat if trains can’t get to the tunnels because they can’t move. Welcome to synonymouse’s latest distraction from relevant facts.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If they had to suspend all hsr operations due to heat that would place the viability of the whole project in question because in a normal year triple digit temperatures are a daily reality for weeks on end from one end of the San Joaquin Valley to the other.

    Presumably they would have to operate at reduced speeds. So they would stiill be able to access Tejon and south of there the temperature would be a little lower towards LA.

    It will be interesting to see which is preferable from the thermal pov, ballasted or slab.

    Peter Reply:

    Hey, you’re the one who said the trains would be “sitting all day long at 110 or more degrees”. I was simply pointing out the lack of logic in your argument.

    Of course they’d simply operate at decreased speeds.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I was referring to the hopefully immobile tracks sitting in the noonday sun. Remember Amshack is running trains on those bendy ribbon rails at 79mph not 179mph. I am sure they would be using some kind of broken rail detection system but if the track popped out of gauge right in front of a train I guess it would go to ground. The reduced speed would probably be partly required by the need to stop, shall we say, in visual mode.

    Peter Reply:

    In extreme weather conditions, all modes of traffic operate at reduced levels of performance.

    That’s why they’re called extremes. Unfortunately, they’re happening more and more often due to global warming, but an I-5 alignment would be no less vulnerable to extreme heat conditions and the attendant delays than the planned alignment.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not aircraft, the hsr’s primary competition, at least not because of triple digit temperatures.

    I am not so sure about the I-5. I think it is slightly cooler as it is to the west and it would be on the surface not aerial. 99 is urbanized and cities tend to generate and retain heat.

    I wonder if the temperature atop those 60′ aerials would be the same as on the ground. And what effect would sound walls have? Interesting.

    Peter Reply:

    “Not aircraft, the hsr’s primary competition, at least not because of triple digit temperatures.”

    See density altitude for an explanation as to why you are incorrect. Ask the Concorde passengers who had to make fuel stops in Iceland about the effects of temperature on aircraft performance.

    “I am not so sure about the I-5. I think it is slightly cooler as it is to the west and it would be on the surface not aerial. 99 is urbanized and cities tend to generate and retain heat.”

    Now you’re just pulling stuff out of your ass. There’s a reason the southwestern portion of the San Joaquin Valley is a desert. Here are average temperatures for Bakersfield, Fresno, Tehachapi, Tejon, and Visalia. There are hardly any weather stations along I-5 because no one lives there (i.e. no passengers for a passenger train).

    Peter Reply:

    And here’s Coalinga.

    K.T. Reply:

    Peter, try this website:

    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/coopmap/

    Peter Reply:

    @ K.T.

    I don’t really care. I was just making the point that synonymouse has no point, and that conjecture is useless in convincing people.

    Joey Reply:

    Tejon would save 12 minutes. Only twelve.

    Peter Reply:

    Not if you do Tolmach’s Magical Bypass-Entire-Central-Valley-Population alignment…

    Joey Reply:

    True, I guess, though it might not save quite 30 minutes. Irrelevant, anyway – I know of exactly two people who still support any of this (and that’s assuming that one of them isn’t Tolmach in disguise :D).

  13. Bobierto
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 15:27
    #13

    I have never been to Riverside and know nothing about its downtown. I don’t think “green field stations” make much sense, although I do notice that people tend to categorically oppose them, yet they also praise French HSR, which seems to work despite the fact that in France many cities are served by stations that are not in the city core. So it would be interesting to me to hear a person who is anti-green field station and praiseful of French HSR to reconcile the two.

    I do wonder if knee-jerk support of “downtown or nothing” is always sensible, and I would take San Diego as a case in point. It’s not all or nothing. @Emma, do you live in San Diego? If you do, you know that downtown is NOT the central business district – though I wish it were. My company just moved from downtown to UTC to be closer to our clients. A downtown station will not move us back, because Qualcomm, SAIC, General Atomics, all the dozens of biotechs and wireless companies and defense contractors and all the other companies that cluster around UCSD will stay up there. Better to lobby for a UTC station, which neighborhood interests oppose, and contributors to this blog seem to be ambivalent about fighting for.

    I am not a proponent of either a downtown or airport station. But it seems to me that a lot of arguments for a downtown San Diego station simply state that stations “should” always be downtown, and don’t take into account the environment of this city, which might point to the logic of an airport station. Frankly I would prefer to see stations in both locations but apparently the number of stations in the system are limited and there isn’t justification for two stations that close together.

    It appears that there are two main arguments for siting the HSR terminus downtown as opposed to the airport.

    The first argument is that San Diego is a destination, not a transfer point. People on their way to elsewhere won’t fly to San Diego and change to a train, because they won’t fly to San Diego to begin with. People on their way to San Diego are unlikely to fly to SFO or LAX and then get on the HSR for the rest of the trip. I agree.

    But you’re overlooking one thing: 3 million people live in San Diego county. A substantial portion of them will live along the corridor from Murrieta to downtown, so those who live out there may be able to use HSR to get to the airport. San Diego is largely suburban. It isn’t dense enough to be served by a robust local rail system. It will be a long, long time before that changes. Meantime, we need to serve the population that is here. Santa Fe Depot downtown is a lovely old station, with nowhere to park, nowhere to put a cell phone lot, very little curb for picking up passengers or putting a cab stand. It is in a tangle of streets that close every five minutes due to crossing trolleys, making driving there inconvenient. It isn’t particularly close to the freeway. An airport station will be more fully “intermodal”, connecting not only to the trolley, HSR, Amtrak, and the commuter rail, but will also have more room to be a major regional bus interchange (perhaps replacing Old Town in this regard), will have car rental facilities for arriving tourists, and a large parking garage for those who arrive by car from the vast areas of the county not served by public transportation.

    In addition, the rail corridor narrows as it approaches downtown. It’s actually possible to imagine overnight train storage in the vicinity of the airport – this would never be possible at Santa Fe Depot. Downtown land is too valuable for train storage to be anywhere near a downtown train station, you would have to go halfway to Tijuana to find a site. (In which case you should go all the way to Tijuana – which I believe is practical – but that’s a different conversation.)

    The second argument for a downtown station is that a lot of people live downtown, and they should have easy access to the station. To make this argument seriously, you have to be of the opinion that the needs of the 20,000 people who live downtown carry more weight than the needs of the bulk of the San Diego economy, and the 2 million people or more, who won’t be arriving by public transportation. As I pointed out above, I don’t believe an HSR station will cause many businesses to locate, much less relocate, downtown. And the city has about as much housing density downtown as it will be able to absorb for some time to come – there are empty condo towers already. A station might encourage some people to live downtown, but I think it will be quite a while before substantially more housing is built downtown, regardless of whether there is a station there.

    Also, when I read about transit there tends to be a lot of talk about quarter- and half-mile radii from stations. Most of the housing downtown is not particularly close to Santa Fe Depot. There are three main residential areas downtown. Though Little Italy is only a few blocks from Santa Fe Depot, it is small and not very dense dense – it is under the airport flight approach so there are sever height limitations. Next is Cortez Hill, which is more than a mile from Santa Fe Depot. Finally there is the “East Village” around Petco Park, which is also around a mile from Petco Park. By the way, the largest convention hotels are also in that vicinity, so quite a long walk for an out-of-towner with bags.

    So then you argue that downtown is well-served by the San Diego trolley, so all those folks downtown can just jump on the trolley and ride 6 or 7 stops (or 4 or 5 stops plus a transfer, depending on where you are), and be at the train station. So wouldn’t those people be willing to just stay on the trolley another 2 or 3 stops to an airport station?

    Here’s my point – there are a LOT of good arguments for both locations, but the more I think about it, the more I think that the airport site is preferable, and that the transit advocates who categorically state that a station “should” be downtown are not taking into account the specifics of this city. I live two miles from Santa Fe Depot and one mile from the probable location of an airport station. I could drive, take the bus, take a cab, or even walk to either. Personally, either would be fine. But for most San Diegans, I suspect, the airport would be more convenient.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Sorry, a couple of typos at the end there – height limits are severe in Little Italy, not sever! And Petco Park is more than a mile from Santa Fe Depot – not from itself!

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    I have never been to Riverside and know nothing about its downtown. I don’t think “green field stations” make much sense, although I do notice that people tend to categorically oppose them, yet they also praise French HSR…it would be interesting to me to hear a person who is anti-green field station and praiseful of French HSR to reconcile the two.

    The explanation is simple: this blog has commentors posting from far off locations like Monterey and New York. They hold forth expert opinion on far-off cities, despite having little practical, geographic knowledge of those locations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Far from me to imply that living in Berkeley doesn’t make you a bigger expert on California than living in Monterey, but some of us actually read the documents the people who run French HSR write. Not only do they endorse the current plan, but also their proposals for HSR in other regions of the US often feature downtown stations.

    Spokker Reply:

    Well, shit, I live in Anaheim but all people talk about is Palo Alto.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    CA4HSR has advocated for consideration of a dual stations, one at the airport with the parking for those who still need to drive, and a downtown station to serve the vibrant and booming downtown San Diego. But omiting downtown in favor of an airport-only station, and forcing everyone on to light rail to complete there trip 1.5 miles downtown is crazy. There are going to be all kinds of capacity issues as huge loads of people are dumped onto the light rail system. At rush hour, when the trolleys are already packed with commuters, one can imagine how bad the crowding will be.

    Though some companies may be moving out of downtown now, to what I believe is the the dull and unwalkable UTC area, downtown should still be served. What is wrong with prioritizing the 20,000 residents and the businesses that do reside in the large downtown area? Downtown is still the CBD. Further, I firmly believe, and lots of research overseas shows, that business is attracted by HSR. I believe the companies abandoning downtowns to sprawled out areas with little cultural attractions and little mass transit will in the future regret it. Why? Becaue the workforce is changing. Younger people don’t want to be struggling in traffic nightmares. They rather be online. They also want attractive, vibrant places to work in. Businesses that decide pre-HSR to locate in dull office parks may have a short-term financial advantage, but post-HSR, I bet a lot the will realize they are less competitive and will start looking to move back to the city cores. This is the power of HSR.

    All that said, I would support a UTC station, but I don’t see the businesses up there fighting very hard for it. Auto culture rules in the UTC area and they are going to regret not jumping on the opportunity for having an HSR station. As far as I can tell, UTC is likely not going to happen at this point.

    Joey Reply:

    The trouble with dual stations is that we could end up with another nightmare like the one that has been decided for SF, where some trains stop at one and the rest stop at the other.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “San Diego is largely suburban. It isn’t dense enough to be served by a robust local rail system. It will be a long, long time before that changes.”

    Uh…. huh? San Diego Trolley?

    Anyway, if we’re worried about the lack of parking and highway access at the Santa Fe Depot, the Old Town Transit Center is actually a pretty good location for an HSR stop. An ‘airport’ stop would only work if the Trolley connection were built at the get-go.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    The more I think about it, if there does have to be a decision between an Airport station and a downtown station, I would prefer the airport.

    I think a lot of people overlook the airport’s plan to move terminals, parking, and car rental to the north side of the airport, where it will be integrated with the Coaster, at least two trolley lines (green + mid-coast lines), and busses, as you mentioned. Personally I would hope that the Blue and Orange lines could also continue to link to the airport station, making it a mega-transfer point.

    Lately I’ve taken the Coaster to Santa Fe Station to go to Padres games. It’s a 20 minute walk – not awful, but hardly convenient. Once you have two people, it’s cheaper to drive to a parking structure 2 blocks from the stadium, or to one near Gaslamp, or most of the juicy targets downtown. So, I think most transit-oriented travelers taking HSR to Santa Fe Station would wind up transferring to a trolley to get where they’re going downtown anyway – so why not transfer at the airport station, rather than Santa Fe?

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Why not just have the hub downtown? Why force everyone to the airport site? There is nothing to do at the airport but use the airport and as was said earlier, the San Diego airport is not going to create a situation where people fly in and then use HSR to get somewhere else in CA. That said, if a park and ride facility is needed (which it is because of the sprawled nature and lack of transit in SD) then I am okay with a station at the airport, but not by eliminating the downtown station. If dual stations doesn’t work, then a station farther north or east (UTC; Qualcomm, etc.) can serve as the parking and ride. San Francisco will also have a dual station solution that is 1.5 miles in length as well (4th and King and Transbay Transit Center).

    The other problem with the airport site is, there is no way TOD can take place there. Downtown SD will see much more development happen when the HSR train arrives.

    And just to clear one thing up. The SD airport, even if reconfigured is still 1.5 miles from the downtown and is not in the downtown. Almost nobody will walk that, forcing huge loads of people to have to screw around getting transit connections, whereas the downtown site will allow a good portion of the riders to walk to their desitination, reducing the strain on the trolley system and saving much time for many people.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Daniel, do you live in San Diego? Santa Fe Depot is already the terminus for Amtrak and the Coaster, and served by two trolley lines. Numerous local and limited bus lines converge nearby. Yet the four new condo towers near the train station are selling very slowly. The office buildings nearby are having trouble holding tenants as business continue to pack up and leave downtown. Where is the evidence that transit oriented development will magically appear when the HSR line terminates there? If people don’t choose to live near the local transit, what will be the superior appeal of a quick train to LA?

    Santa Fe Depot is walkable to the W Hotel, the Westin on Broadway, and a few boutique hotels in Little Italy. The other major hotels downtown are in the Gaslamp or near the Convention Center – quite a walk for a person with luggage, particularly in an unfamiliar city. E.g. the Manchester Hyatt is 0.5 mile, the Marriott 0.6 mile, the Omni 1.1 mile.

    Where will you put this downtown transit hub and new development? There is only one open lot directly adjacent to the train station, and it is already slated for development. The lot further to the east is used primarily for cruise ship parking – where will that go? The vacant lots south of Broadway all belong to the Navy, so don’t be counting on developing them.

    On what do you base your statement that “there is no way TOD can take place” near the airport? The Solar Turbines campus on Harbor Drive is a very poor use of that land, and I suspect that they fully recognize the value of their manufacturing facility by the sea and would vacate for the right price (they have an office campus off Balboa already). The strip of blocks between Pacific Hwy and Kettner north to MCRD are an underdeveloped tangle of rental car lots (which will be relocated), parking structures (which will be relocated), cheap motels and a self-storage place. That isn’t a good place for denser development?

    I’m all for a dual station solution, it’s my preference. But if there’s to be only one, it should be at the airport.

    Peter Reply:

    Business space and apartment/condo space is selling/leasing slowly everywhere.

    TOD is difficult to implement near airports. They’re loud and you have difficulty building very densely due to height restrictions.

    Bobierto Reply:

    Doesn’t seem to have stopped dense – and popular – condo development in Little Italy, a few blocks south …

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    The envisioned station site at the airport is squeezed between the airport and the I-5. Maybe a few stuctures could be built, but over all it is probably the least-TOD friendly site being consider anywhere in California. Even greenfield sites, thought I generally don’t support them, have more TOD opportunity that the airport site in San Diego. Again, I am not against a station there, for parking and airport users, but I still believe downtown will be incredibly enhanced by HSR. If downtown is suffering a loss of business to the suburbs, all the more reason to use HSR to entice them back in an effort to reduce sprawl, which is destroying our state. That said, I still think downtown has a lot going on. And as Peter said, all real estate is suffering right now.

    Yes, I live part-time in San Diego.

    Bobierto Reply:

    @Drunk Engineer, was that reference to Monterrey a shot at Robert C? Clearly he IS reading all the documents, so he must be as much an expert on other regions of CA, as @Alon Levy is on France if he is reading the French documents. Having lived in Boston and spent significant amounts of time in NYC and DC, personally I feel more qualified to comment on the NE corridor than I am to comment on Riverside or Palo Alto. Not living in San Diego doesn’t disqualify you from commenting on conditions here – but not knowing anything about conditions here doesn’t give an argument for against a downtown station much credibility.

    @Alon Levy, if you have read the documents produced by French HSR administrators, then you are whose comment I am looking for, regarding why their successful system builds green field stations, yet such stations are not appropriate for our system. As I said, in general I do think stations should be centrally located, but San Diego’s Lindbergh Field is often referred to as a “downtown airport” – building an HSR station is hardly a green field location.

    @Spokker as far as I can tell there is a significant population of whiners in the peninsula! I pretty much stay out of that conversation because I’m not that familiar with the issues and obstacles there, but they do seem pretty parochial and not based on the needs of the whole state. With all due respect, we could live without HSR running to Anaheim, but if it can’t pass through Palo Alto on its way to SF, the system loses much of its utility.

    @Daniel Krause, I don’t have much argument with what you write. I really hope they build both downtown and airport stations. I don’t think it will be a crisis if there’s no airport station but I think downtown-only would necessitate a LOT of infrastructure and traffic upgrades around Santa Fe Depot. In the past there was talk of running the C Street trolley as a subway and a downtown terminus might necessitate that. At peak hours the Blue Line runs every 7 minutes, off peak during the day every 15 minutes. I think the line could accommodate a little more frequency, particularly if the midtown and downtown section were grade separated. The C Street section is the bottleneck, and it isn’t the section that serves the airport. The conflict could easily be alleviated by re-routing the Blue Line so it proceeds from Santa Fe Depot to the Convention Center and south, and the Orange Line terminated at America Plaza instead of looping back to the Convention Center (which would probably remove the need to create a C Street subway).

    You are completely on target regarding a UTC station. I think they are going to be caught by surprise by how heavily the Mid-Coast Corridor is used, and regret not connecting to HSR at UTC. But for reasons I can’t explain, no one ever asks me what I think.

    @Nathanael – I agree about Old Town. I don’t think it would be the end of the world if HSR terminated there, particularly if it ends up following the I-15 to I-8 route. But given its location at the edge of a state park, I don’t think there is as much room to expand there as there is at an airport location.

    Do you live in San Diego? If so then you must realize that the airport station is part of a larger plan to move the terminals to the east end of the airport, and to realign Pacific Highway in the process. Realignment of the trolley at the same time would be part of the deal. A trolley station right in the terminal, similar to PDX, would then be possible.

    I’ll stick to my guns regarding San Diego and rail. I wish there was more rail, but there isn’t. There is talk of some busways in the central city, but that’s it. The trolley is great, where it goes, but there are a LOT of places it doesn’t go. Like – ALL of the areas of recent development. The I-805 corridor, the I-15 corridor – no trolley line and no plan to build one. Even a plan to build a streetcar to City Heights died. The Trolley is heavily used, but robust? If it covered SD like MAX covered Portland, I would agree – but it doesn’t.

    @ Matthew F – Thanks, my point exactly. Petco Park isn’t really walkable to the train station, and there is a lot of residential density down there too. So if the condo dwellers get on the trolley to connect to HSR, will they care whether they get off at Santa Fe or Middletown? (Again, particularly if the Blue Line is realigned so that no transfer is necessary.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, Monterey is where Robert lives. I live in New York.

    As for the greenfield station issue, there are about three different things I could say:

    1. While TGV stations with full-speed express tracks are just outside urban areas, the termini are all in city centers. Where the TGV’s penchant for exurban station comes into play is in Fresno and Bakersfield, not San Diego.

    2. That said, I honestly don’t know much about San Diego. Everything I’ve heard about the downtown versus airport distinction comes from other commenters here.

    3. The difference between France and the US is that in the US, there are a lot of dead-straight legacy rail rights-of-way with spare room passing through city centers. Going at high speed through the center of Fresno or Bakersfield would involve serious noise mitigation, but would not dramatically slow the trains. Going at high speed through the intermediate cities served by the TGV would involve slowing down for curves, and often sharing track with busy commuter railroads. In addition, in the most extreme cases – Haute-Picardie and Aix-en-Provence TGV – a station closer to the urban area would require a serious detour.

  14. Nadia
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 22:17
    #14

    OT – but likely of interest for the engineers in this crowd:

    CARRD has obtained the technical Systems Requirements for the project that were submitted as part of the FRA application submitted on Aug 6th. They are now available on our website:

    http://www.calhsr.com/resources/system-requirements/

  15. Al-Fakh Yugoudh
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 22:43
    #15

    I often read many of you stating that gasoline in the future will be much more expensive than today and therefore people will not be willing to use their cars as much, but rather will switch en masse to public transport.

    That is pure science fiction based on hot air.

    First of all, we don’t know where the price of gasoline will head in the year 2030. During the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 (when many of you weren’t even born, I might add) most people predicted that by the end of the century (XX century) gasoline would cost $30 or 40 or 50 a gallon (depending on whom you listened to). Guess what? In 1998 gasoline went down to less than $1 gallon in many parts of California, and even though it’s now around $3 (OPEC got their act together a few years back), we are nowhere near where people predicted in the 1970s. As a matter of fact, in real terms, gasoline is still cheaper today than it was 35 years ago.

    Second of all, even if your fictional prediction of skyrocketing oil prices became reality, technology will probably have made enough advances in alternative fuel technologies that cars will still be the preferred mode of transport. Maybe by then electric cars or cars running on feces will be cheap and ubiquitous and people will still prefer that form of private transport to sharing a bus or a train with a bunch of bad smelling strangers (which reminds me of a terrible olfactory experience I had last month on a Eurostar train in Rome, sitting next to some North-African migrants obviously facing some deodorant shortage).

    Sorry guys, but unless the State or Federal Government decides to impose predatory gasoline taxes on Americans to the chagrin of Tea Party goers, I don’t expect that Americans will migrate to public transport en masse and to dense downtown living. Living in large homes, sorrounded by big yards, is part of the American way of life for many people and it’s hard to convince future generations to abandon the type of living where they grew up and switch to European or Asian style cramped apartments where people live on top of each other. I grew up in such environment and frankly, although I don’t live in a large suburban house now, I certainly don’t miss it. It’s fine while you’re a young person when you spend most of your free time bar and restaurant hopping with friends, but now I actually enjoy the suburban life of the Bay Area and the ability to use my car if I want, without fear of losing my street parking spot or without the aggravation of being unable to find a damn parking spot when I need it. If then one day I feel the need to re-live that type of life, all I have to do is drive to North Beach in San Francisco for dinner and feel exactly the way I’d feel in Italy when I couldn’t find a parking spot if life depended on it. No thank you. I’ll happily drive to that greenfield HSR station and get on my train to LA the same way I do today when I drive to the airport. I’ll leave dense downtown apartment living to all of you. Although I wonder if you really enjoy that kind of living yourselves. Justin seems to live in Riverside, and Robert in Monterey. Haven’t been to either in a few years but I doubt they now look like Manhattan. Obviously you would want “other people” to move to city apartment living, but as far as you’re concerned, you’d rather live in suburbia as well. Uhmmm! And what makes you think that the rest of Americans wouldn’t want to live in spacious places like you?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In real terms, gas prices are most definitely not lower than they were 35 years ago. Oil currently trades at $73/bbl, whereas between the 1973 and 1979 price hikes it was about $50 in today’s money.

    Everything you say about American culture could be countered by going to Calgary. You’d expect that a city with few exports other than oil, a conservative local government, low population density, and a Sunbelt development pattern would be a car mecca, like Los Angeles. Instead, it has an expanding light rail system, with a mode share higher than that of any American city other than New York. More people take transit in Greater Calgary than in Greater Chicago, Greater SF, and Greater Washington.

    You should stop thinking in terms of American stereotypes about Europe. The difference between US transit and rest-of-world transit isn’t about a unique property of US culture; it’s about a unique level of government incompetence.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    New York is in America. Most of the people riding the trains are Americans. Most of the people riding the trains in and around DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago are Americans. If it’s almost as fast as driving, cheaper or more convenient, they’ll use trains and buses. Like they do in SF or LA when it’s faster.

    Adjusting for inflation is somewhat of an art. Peak price in 1979 was 108, peak price in 2008 was 125 per barrel.

    http://inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Inflation_Adj_Oil_Prices_Chart.htm

    Or this chart which says 103 versus 102 … but the chart is as of 2008… not that there’s been much inflation since 2008

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/business/worldbusiness/04oil.html

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know which country I live in, thanks.

    The reason I didn’t bring up those cities is that they’re old and have dense cores and built the bulk of their transit systems before WW2, which makes a lot of Sunbelters think their transit successes are impossible to replicate in places like Houston and Los Angeles.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … you live in Unreal America. People who say “Americans drive everywhere” aren’t counting where you live as America. They don’t count people who live in places like it, Shaker Heights for example, as Americans. They do it all the time. They slip now and then and use the phrase “….Real Americans….. “

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know. As I said, I didn’t bring up East Coast cities for precisely this reason. Calgary is different; it’s Canadian, but it’s a conservative, oil-funded, Kotkin-approved boomtown. On a lot of the Bush-era Jesusland/United States of Canada maps, Alberta was moved to Jesusland.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The price of gasoline will only go up. I follow the oil industry, I know. People *will* flee en masse from gasoline cars as they will be cripplingly expensive. Biomass is not a cheap alternative.

    A more reasonable argument would be that people will switch to electric cars instead of riding public transit. At the moment electric cars are still expensive enough that only the upper-middle-class will find it a reasonable expense., while electric trains will be cheaper and more reliable. This *could* change — I doubt it.

    Don’t forget that the US was built by trains and streetcars. It is (regardless of my preferences) perfectly possible to have suburban sprawl with everyone taking electric trains. Just look at the Long Island Rail Road for a modern example.

    Bianca Reply:

    You’re also overlooking a demographic shift- even if gasoline prices hold steady, trends suggest that many younger people would rather take public transit and be able to surf the net/text/watch a movie than actually drive a car. Enough so that automakers and insurance companies are starting to worry about the pattern.

  16. Spokker
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 23:27
    #16

    Off-topic, but there are so many HSR articles these days but few of them have any actual news. It’s mostly editorials for or against the train and bullshit studies supporting or opposing the project. Polls are also very popular now.

    Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can’t decide.

  17. dfb
    Aug 27th, 2010 at 01:55
    #17

    “Proponents of this site seem to think that high-speed rail stations of the future will necessarily look like airports of today: easy freeway access and plenty of long-term parking”

    That seems to be something the Authority itself is promoting. For example, Mountain View has been told it needs “1,000 parking spaces would be needed adjacent to the station, while 2,000 more located within three miles. Passengers would likely be ferried to and from those 2,000 spaces via shuttles, Fuller said, much like long term parking at an airport.” http://www.mv-voice.com/news/show_story.php?id=3196

    Peter Reply:

    Well, like Elizabeth stated above, they pulled the memo that those statements were based on from their website. Let’s see what the Authority’s station policy is actually going to be (as in let’s wait for the next board meeting).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Let’s see what the Authority’s station policy is actually going to be

    It will be whatever is deemed to arouse the least immediate opposition to the maximal flow of “design” and construction funds to the prime consultant.

    Whatever policy they come up with can always be — and will be — amended by a single consent calendar vote once there are enough facts on the ground.

    Peter Reply:

    “Whatever policy they come up with can always be — and will be — amended by a single consent calendar vote once there are enough facts on the ground.”

    Thank you, Captain Obvious. The same applies to basically EVERYTHING that doesn’t have to go through environmental review. Duh.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    It true though, the 2005 EIR discusses a commitment to downtown stations, but the Authority immediately caves to the auto-culture focused SD an Riverside politicians that are about 20 years behind those in LA, SJ, SF, Fresno and Bakersfield, and agrees that it is okay to omit one of the largest most vibrant downtowns in California (San Diego) and an up an comming in downtown in Riverside. The LA-SD section is really starting to fall apart from a planning standpoint. So much for the commitment to downtowns.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Los Angeles to San Diego section is in an early stage and funding is limited due to the priority of stage 1. We will have a long wait through another political cycle before environmental reports are final. It is very difficult to predict what political forces will prevail but there is still hope for downtown stations.

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