Redwood City Calls For “Collaboration, Not Confrontation”

Sep 30th, 2010 | Posted by

First Burlingame, now Redwood City has announced it will not join the Palo Alto-Menlo Park lawsuit against the California High Speed Rail Authority:

The Redwood City City Council indicated Monday it has no plans to join three Peninsula cities in a new lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Council members said they have concerns about the ambitious, $43 billion rail project which will bisect the city, but several of them used the phrase “collaboration, not confrontation” when describing their strategy for convincing the authority to dig a trench for the bullet trains instead of running them above ground.

It is very encouraging to see Redwood City embracing “collaboration, not confrontation” in dealing with the HSR project, especially since the city has not been entirely pleased with the proposals they’ve seen. But they’ve chosen to work this out sensibly, instead of wasting precious and scarce taxpayer money on yet another lawsuit that Burlingame was advised had little chance of success.

PS: State Senator Joe Simitian (SD-11) is hosting a series of town hall events in his district, beginning tonight in Los Altos at 6PM. Click here for more information.

  1. William
    Sep 30th, 2010 at 20:06

    One thing I think CA4HSR can help is to send out pictures, simulated or real world example, that elevated structures can be functional and beautiful.

    For many people in the Peninsula, trench is the “best” option, but a beautiful elevated viaducts are perfectly good alternatives.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Might some of these photos (some of which have been posted here before) be what you have in mind?


    Emma Reply:

    We shouldn’t show Acela. The CAHSR project should be trying to distance itself from Amtrak. I think photos from new high speed rail lines and stations in East Asia and Europe would be more helpful. I was thinking about pictures from Spain which has a similar climate and geography.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why should they be distancing themselves from Amtrak? Using Amtrak as an example is a subtle way of refuting the meme “Americans don’t use trains”

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, use the Acela. “Even Amtrak runs an operating surplus with HSR, and that is even with the slowest HSR in the world! When California gets proper Express HSR, it’ll kick ass!”

    James Fujita Reply:

    I sort of have to agree with Emma, although for different reasons.

    Acela uses heritage tracks, I think that really ought to be limited or even not done at all with Cal HSR. Acela is a lot slower than what we have in mind for California. And picture #50 shows a grade crossing, something which I thought Cal HSR was trying to avoid…

    Japanese, French, Chinese, Taiwanese, Spanish or German trains would make more sense in the context of what we’re trying to accomplish.

    Nice pictures, though!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Glad you like’em anyway!

    I do see where you are coming from. My intent, however, was to showcase that elevated tracks can look good (although this is on masonry bridges you wouldn’t build in an earthquake zone, and besides, the bridges predate the electrification by about 30 years!), and that the new system can fit in with the landscape. You’ll also notice I put in photos with boats and water, both very much a part of California living, at least as this easterner has heard of it, and again, this was to emphasize the fit in the landscape. And it’s not in exotic Europe, but here in the goodle USA. . .

    Now, to see how it might really look in Mediteranian California, I’ve got to find some of those Spanish photos. . .What was the name of that system, AVE, or was that the name of one of the equipment sets? Darn, wish I’d paid more attention to the Spanish discussions here. . .

    I’ll get you some, just a little bit. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, here are a few, from the same site that the Acela shots are from; might be an interesting search, the site has only 1,492 Spanish rail photos:

    Station scene:

    Talgo equipment; I’m not at all familiar with the Spanish equipment sets, but is this one of them?

    Not necessarily a high-speed set, but interesting for revealing the snow Spain can get; shows how little I know, didn’t think they would get much at all:

    Semi-general link to photos from the site; good starting point, in my opion, at least.

    Not high speed, just a local trolley line, but I couldn’t resist–check out the poles and lamp posts!

    As a steam fan, I couldn’t resist this one, either:

    Magnificent heritage bridge:

    Another bridge:

    Have fun!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Looking a little more; looks like the Spanish have adapted Talgo sets to high-speed service:

    Being a steam fan I had to include these; all remind me of scenes on the Southern Pacific. I also can’t help but be reminded of how Sergio Leone and other directors filmed those “spaghetti westerns” in Spain, sometimes with extensive rail sequences. Two examples that come immediately to mind are both by Leone, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” and “Once Upon A Time In The West.” Comments–the countryside looked great, particularly the opening sequence from “Once Upon A Time In The West,” which looked so lonely and desolate (as it should for this sequence), and the officers’ special train was neat with wooden cars in a varnished natural exterior finish (Canadian Pacific had cars like that into the early 20th century, I believe), but those link and buffer couplers, four-wheel freight cars, and other details for a steam man who knows a little something–oh, no fooling me that this is Utah or Nevada!

    jimsf Reply:

    Where did little country like spain get all the money to build so much hsr so (relatively) quickly? If they can do it why can we do it? We have the same sized economy.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I don’t think the problems are really financial; I think they are political and generational. Too many people in this country got brainwashed by the auto industry, buying into the idea that “cars=freedom=the American way of life;” as observed in much of the NIMBY crowd, this is also the current noisy crowd, and politicians want to keep their jobs. We here know there is a generational shift under way, and even the car and car insurance people know it based on the Advertising Age item that was here a while back, but the noisy crowd, the ones that genuinely (and legitimately) fear the slipping of America’s position in the world, don’t know this, and the pols lack the knowledge and/or backbone to speak the truth.

    I’ve seen this myself; I’ve brought up many of these things to some of my state representatives, and the answer I got from one of them, who is in many other ways a very decent fellow, was “You’re right, Dave, but we can’t do that. We wouldn’t be reelected, and then we couldn’t do anything at all.”

    I declare, most politicians make you, me, and about everybody else here look as brainy as Albert Einstien and as brave as Audie Murphy!

    (Hey, how many of the younger ones here know who Audie Murphy was?)

    jimsf Reply:

    and its the 40-80 crowd that votes and pays taxes. the 18-40 crowd is too busy going to keggers or whatever it is they do these days, and getting laid. They are too hung over to go vote on a tuesday afternoon. or something.

    Peter Reply:

    “18-40 crowd”

    More like 18-25 crowd.

    jimsf Reply:

    well in my day we took it a little further but that was pre tech, when there wasn’t much else to be concerned with. Ordinary people had ordinary dull jobs and dull lives and never expected much. Now I guess they are more interested in the wall street and the google and such…. But in any case, my point being that the politicians are more worried about catering to the 45-80 crowd. Seniors and boomers ( I am not a boomer btw, born at the very end of the very last boomer year… not a boomer, not quite a gen x, but part of the forgotten, lost, no impact, nearly invisible, gen lol) have had a strangle hold on every aspect of american life for the past 80 years. I’m kind of sick of it myself. Always having to follow their big grand ass parade of narcissism. They get everything. Now the ones who make changes, are the ones who are in their teens and 20s now. But, they won’t be taken seriously for another 10 years, when they get mortgages. In the meantime they will be to distracted by madison avenue who will be dangling shiny objects in front of them in the interim. Thats how it works around here in capitalismamericaland! Can I be optimistic and yet completely cynical at the same time? Yes things will change, but Ill be dead by the time they do.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just for fun (and for a wonderful trip into the past), I thought it would be neat to take a look at what I think may be a sign of the generational change.

    First, we’ll look at some classic ads from the 1950s. It’s interesting, at least to me, to look at the emphasis on building America in a Dodge ad (with a soundtrack that sounds like it should be from “Oklahoma!”), and on engineering in Nash-Hudson ads that feature Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Brer Rabbit, and Donald Duck!

    A couple of these ads, including the Donald Duck Hudson ad, feature independent front suspension. Now, take a look at a more recent ad, supposedly on the same subject, and tell me the ad agencies aren’t getting desperate. . .

    Attention! Attention! Guilty Pleasure Alert!

    Warning! Warning! Do Not View In Presence Of Children!


    Even classy Mercedes must be desperate:

    Of course, there are other ads that are much better, including current ones, but I’m not sure these approaches would have been so accepted in the past. . .

    flowmotion Reply:

    Why would they do that, when they have no intention of making them beautiful?

    dave Reply:

    Maybe CHSRA can plan the elevated structures and each individual can have their say how they want it to look, engraved designs, lanscaped with colored rock, painted, covered with vegetation completly, lined with trees, etc. This should be handed to the cities to do instead of wanting a trench that probably will not come or sueing.

    Dan S. Reply:

    CHSRA should be more straight-forward when dealing with the cities. Yes, they should explore all possible options, but they should be really up-front about the fact that they are responsible to the tax-payers of California to deliver a successful system for a minimal expenditure of dollars. They have fallen into the trap of saying that all options are “on the table”, without specifying how all the options will have to be evaluated. So if one of the options is removing all existing train tracks and putting them all underground and replacing the current right-of-way with a vast network of parks and bike trails with accents of sustainable local vegetation and lemonade stands and waterslides and petting zoos, then people are likely to prefer the gold-plated option.

    I agree that one good tactic they could take is to present the option that gives the most value to California taxpayers first, and then offer all localities a big menu of upgrades that could be locally funded. Things like turning a concrete elevated structure into a brick-lined viaduct, or adding architectural flourishes to the sides of a retained fill, or, if they’re really able to muster the resources, to underground the whole thing.

    Yes, I think the PAMPA complainers are being unreasonable, but that’s the American way! Unlike the superiority that some might think comes with great wealth, the right to whine is an American privilege! ;-)

    Anyway, I actually thought that the Alma St. video the CHSRA posted was a great addition to the discussion and presented each vertical option as one that clearly would not spoil the bucolic temperateness that these pleasant Peninsula cities evoke. But clearly my view is not universally accepted!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    CHSRA should be more straight-forward when dealing with the cities. … They have fallen into the trap of saying that all options are “on the table”, without specifying how all the options will have to be evaluated. …

    Except that really really really fundamental things like
    * the cost and benefit of freight service
    * the cost of completely incompatible HSR/Caltrain stations
    * the long and short term impacts on Caltrain service types and levels and flexibility
    * realistic, real world evaluation of real short, medium and long term HSR service requirements
    have never been evaluated or “put on the table”.

    CHSRA and the Peninsula Rail Program have been grossly, grotesquely, massively professionally incompetent and professionally negligent, as well as politically insane, in the way that they’ve never once ever offered any alternatives or analyses beyond “what colour tint would you like applied to the concrete”?

    Nothing of any substance has ever been “on the table” in the past, and certainly none is on the table today.

    Clem Reply:

    Right. The infrastructure is being sized for 390 trains / weekday (162 Caltrain and 228 HSR), something else that was never “put on the table”. This is why scrutiny of the ridership model is very important… a mistake or a manipulation of the ridership model creates the “need” for massively over-built infrastructure. For a stakeholder like Menlo Park, that results in enormous and unnecessary community impacts. For a stakeholder like Parsons Brinckerhoff or HNTB, it results in profits as far as the eye can see. Somebody needs to mediate amongst all the stakeholders, but the very people who might do so (the CHSRA and the Peninsula Rail Program) seem unable to do so.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …go ahead build a two track railroad and then when it suddenly reaches capacity wait 25 years while the new tracks get built.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The possibility of totally eliminating freight service appears not to have been considered, for whatever reason. Perhaps to avoid alienating UP.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Heh, somehow, when I wrote “the right to whine is an American privilege,” I was hoping that Mlynarik would reply to my post. In all other ways, though, I was hoping against it.

    Clem Reply:

    The Peninsula Rail Program got right on it. Their web page now features an image gallery of context-sensitive elevated rail, for example the Pont de Bir-Hakeim in Paris (shot #21). I kid you not.

    Peter Reply:

    Where does it say that those pictures are “context-sensitive”?

    Peter Reply:

    Right, found it.

    jimsf Reply:

    I would think PA would jump at the chance to do a design such as those in pics 20/24/27/28/29

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some interesting shots there, but I find it interesting that they didn’t use anything from the NEC; as you’ve seen, even with all the disadvantages Amtrak has, some good images are available to help make the case. And they aren’t in “ferrin” places like Japan or France, but right here in the goodle US of A. . .

    John Burrows Reply:

    Redwood City includes a rendering of how an elevated downtown HSR station would look as part of its 2007 “Downtown Precise Plan” It looks pretty good.

    Tonight we ate dinner at Copenhagen Restaurant in downtown Burlingame (One block from the Caltrain Station). We couldn’t help but notice a rendering of the Burlingame Station dwarfed by an elevated 1950’s style viaduct with a train on top. We saw this picture posted in a doorway next to the restaurant, and also in a doorway across the street. The picture is anything but complimentary to CAHSR. I tried to find info on the picture online—-no luck.

    One thing is for sure—A picture can be a powerful tool—for whichever side you are on.

    Joey Reply:

    You wouldn’t happen to be talking about this picture, would you? Compare to official simulation (note that the road is dipped a bit so that the tracks don’t have to be so high).

    John Burrows Reply:

    It was different. A second picture (hard to read in the dark) was comparing station to underside of freeway overpass. Guess I’ll have to take a better look in daylight.

  2. Missiondweller
    Sep 30th, 2010 at 20:29

    Good move. If they’re really smart they’ll also push hard to get the station.

  3. peninsula
    Sep 30th, 2010 at 21:18

    Yes, Redwood city is willing to continue to collaborate on getting HSR ‘done right’ which for them means underground. Sound familiar?

    rafael Reply:

    The problem with trenching in the SF peninsula is that there are numerous gravity-drained conduits (creeks, underground creeks, storm drains and presumably, sewer mains) that cross under the railroad right of way, often fairly close to the surface.

    MAP (p3 PDF) of storm drains in RWC. Note the direction of North indicated at the bottom, the railroad right of way in columns 8 and 10 plus the Dumbarton turnoff (in black) and especially, the four natural underground creeks (in light blue) crossing under the main line. All this just in RWC. The story is similar in many other peninsula cities.

    Any rail trench construction would need to divert every single one of these conduits either under or over the excavated volume. If any of these diversions were to fail, e.g. after by silting up or a particularly severe rain storm or some pump(s) seize(s) up or an earthquake, you’ll have local flooding. If one of the natural creeks is affected, it could be severe. This is not just a theoretical issue: as recently as 1998, the San Francisquito Creek just a few miles further south at the border of Menlo Park and Palo Alto burst its banks after a heavy rain storm and cause a 100-year flood.

    In the aftermath of this event, the cities set up the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority to plan and implement flood control measures. Naturally, someone pointed out that those might affect some 75 trout living in the creek. Twelve years later, SFCJPA is still seeking input on its environmental impact report.

    Electrified tracks in a trench would be especially vulnerable because 25kV AC circuits and deep pools of water just don’t mix. Operations could easily be disrupted for days, possibly weeks, causing severe congestion on roads and at airports.

    Lesson learned: don’t mess with the hydrology of the SF peninsula. Even if Mother Nature could be tamed, the NIMBYs are firmly in charge of any trench/culvert projects to actually do so. RWC residents might be a lot more reasonable about this than those in PAMPA but don’t bet on it.

    Here be dragons. Keep the rails at or above grade.

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    This is one of the very reasons why a trench does not make any sense in Burlingame. The City doesn’t want it’s gravity-drained conduits touched, but they want a trench which means the conduits will be touched. The next problem, as you alluded to, would be who builds/pays for a pumping station? This shows yet again that “done right” could mean not being able to tunnel or trench just because of the increased cost of mitigation that could otherwise be avoided by not digging into the water table.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Railroads go under rivers and even under open ocean. It’s not a technological feat. An economic one but there isn’t any insurmountable problem running trains using high voltage overhead lines under natural or manmade water courses.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yeah, but then you have to go even *deeper*. If you design a reasonable-grade railroad underneed *all* the watercourse in the Peninsula, you get a *very* long tunnel. Not a trench. A bored tunnel.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And the waterproofing and the care needed to avoid destabilizing the artificial drainage above the tunnel adds really quite a lot to the cost. It’s not quite like tunnelling under an artificial lake behind a dam (see Switzerland), but it’s expensive.

  4. dave
    Sep 30th, 2010 at 22:16

    A Redwood City Station should facilitate a future Dumbarton Rail option later operation-wise.

    Caelestor Reply:


    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    And just what do you suppose the odds of PBQD’s CHSRA and the world class professionals of the Peninsula Rail Program giving a microsecond’s thought to Dumbarton (= EVIL ALTAMONT ARGHHH) rail, even though it part of voter-approved tax plans in multiple counties and part of the binding Regional Transportation Plan and part of the various official county CMA Transportation Plans and part of the official Caltran Transporation Plan? Go ahead, one guess!

    The only thing that matters for those clowns in Redwood City is connectivity to the massively overwhelmingly unquestionably important Port of Redwood City.

    Remember, the worse you fuck up the first time, the more you get to spend to do it over. And doign things badly and more expensively and multiple times is always its own reward. (See: PBQD’s/Caltrain’s/SMCTA’s Millbrae Hyper-dimensional Quentin Kopp Memorial Parking Lot with Station Appendage.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Richard, if I remember correctly the studies for Dumbarton rail projected 6 trains a day in each direction with the possibility of maybe a dozen in the far future. A very good thing to do if there was a operating railroad bridge across the bay. But there isn’t. It would be cheaper to have free buses run across the Bay than it would be to build the bridge just for commuter trains. . . just because people voted for it doesn’t make it a good idea. Look at what the voters of San Francisco did to themselves.

    Joey Reply:

    The existing single-track bridge could be repaired relatively cheaply. I believe the plan was to replace the section that burned down (less than 1/2 mile on what looks like very shallow water), and replace the swing bridges with bascule sections. Then there’s general track rehabilitation and new stations, but all in all it could be done for a few hundred million.

    If there was any plan to run any sort of modern, fast commuter, regional, or intercity to the East Bay and Altamont, then of course, a new two-track high bridge or bored tunnel would be required. This would of course be more expensive, though not as expensive as we may have been lead to believe. Anyway, even official estimates for Altamont are about the same as Pacheco, if you want to look at it that way.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then there’s general track rehabilitation and new stations, but all in all it could be done for a few hundred million.

    It’s been out of service for almost 30 years. 30 years of rehab work isn’t going to be cheap. It’s not going to be cost effective for 6 trains a day in each direction. Express buses would do it cheaper and probably faster for the passengers.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They could build a tunnel. It’s always profitable to the contractors to build tunnels on multiple alignments. As long as Pacheco breaks ground first, they lose nothing from also building Altamont.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 04:16

    Warning, warning, this is way off topic, almost into space–but it does tie in to railroading in a way, and is a bit of unique California history:

    jimsf Reply:

    There was recently a similar story in the local bay area news about a house with a steam train

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, it’s the weekend, and I came across this link (via Railway Preservation News) to a “normally” leisurely trip up and down Mt. Washington, in New England, and thought, as Jim SF has commented, that so, so often we need to step back and smile a bit. . .


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Another history item, this time from Oakland:

  6. orulz
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 06:49

    The article mentions that Redwood City wants to “collaborate” but also essentially states that the only end they hope to achieve from this collaboration is a tunnel, even in spite of the fact that their own Downtown Plan calls for a four-track elevated viaduct through town:

  7. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 07:08

    The advantage for RWC accepting a Viaduct option is visibility as they can use that presence to draw attention to the surrounding, if not embedded, multi use retail and housing options. Don’t hide it, showcase it as a destination.

  8. Peter
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 07:36

    Having Redwood City sue on the Program EIR makes no sense if they don’t think the routing will be changed. They are more likely to sue on the Project EIR and argue that the trench should have been analyzed more fully in the AA prior to being withdrawn.

  9. Nadia
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 07:51

    OT: Governor vetoes bill on Holocaust disclosures

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    There is reason why the governor has veto power. However, did the SA have more than 2/3rds in both houses? I know the House had a near unanimous vote for the disclosure.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, it passed 56-12 in the Assembly, and 32-1 in the Senate.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Veto override in the future I take it?

    Emma Reply:

    But when it passed with a supermajority, how can he veto it? I mean, it will go back and they will override the veto within hours.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Of course he can veto, but it is pretty much useless unless there is no effort to override the veto.

    Peter Reply:

    It lets him make a political point.

    Eric M Reply:

    Good for Arnold. Enough is enough.

  10. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 10:01

    why does anyone care what some company did 70 years ago? What is the point? The people who ran the company then are long gone. The people who run and work for the company now had nothing to do with it. And nothing will change what happened. There is no point to any of this.

    Peter Reply:

    “Why does anyone care what some company did 70 years ago?”

    It’s a big deal in Germany, for example, because this Sunday Germany makes its final reparations payment for World War I, of all things. History is important, and people (and nations and companies) are responsible for their past actions.

    Eric M Reply:

    I don’t see Boeing paying money to the German people when they knowingly bombed innocent civilians. Or GM making cars and trucks for Germany’s army. Lots of companies, foreign domestic, made money killing innocent people.

    bleh Reply:

    Of course not, Germany lost. =P

    Honestly, I don’t have a problem with the basic requirement for disclosure.

    The problem is that the information will be used to try and influence the outcome of the bidding process which is stupid. The people who worked at the companies during WWII are long dead. The people who swept their deeds under the rug post-war are long dead. The parents of most of the people who are gonna build those trains weren’t even born during WWII and weren’t even on the same continent as the Nazis (or the Imperial Army) due to the Buy-American clause.

    Emma Reply:

    Exactly! It is important what those companies did 70 years ago. It is important that BP messed up the Gulf of Mexico. Just because there are new people working in the same company doesn’t mean that we should get over it. Good point Peter!

    jimsf Reply:

    yes you should get over it. Nations should certainly be reminded of things, and history is important, and nations and companies should be reminded of things so that they don’t do it again, but so long as they are no longer in violation, then there is no problem.

    If your kids screws up, do you remind them of their screw up and hold it over them for the rest of their life just because you are pissed? Or do you make sure they learn from their mistakes, show them the consequences and then move on? Otherwise the world would come to a grinding halt because you can’t isolate one war, or one political incident and ignore the others, the other things that have gone on throughout human history. We have thousands of years of history of people doing shitty things to each other… so none of us should even talk to each other any more. Its ridiculous so get over it.

    michael Reply:

    So at what point can a country, company or individual get past their history? There really aren’t too many countries that have a perfectly clean record. Certainly not the United States. Certainly not Germany, China, Japan, Korea, Spain or France. Oh well, I guess we can’t buy any trains.

    I do agree that history is important and we should never forget the atrocities that have occurred in the past. However, at some point we do need to accept the apologies and move on in a more productive manner. Blaming the current populations of France or Germany for the atrocities that occurred under Hitler’s regime 70 years ago makes even less sense than blaming the U.S. citizenry for the atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush.

    I think you would be hard-pressed to make an accurate claim that you don’t use any Dow Chemical products and I am pretty sure you would find their not-so-distant history pretty disgraceful:

    And perhaps you need to be reminded that SNCF didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter?

    Emma Reply:

    What about, if the country sincerely apologizes and compensates?? 90% already fail to do that. This is a democracy. If you want a government contract, you need a clean record. It has always been like that. Just imagine the headlines if BP would sponsor high-speed rail.

    Forgetting about history. This is why the US has invaded more than 50 countries since WWII. It is this whole “forget about it and let’s move on” & “I don’t care what they did” attitude that makes us so unpopular.
    If you really don’t care who participates, I suggest we ask the Bin Ladens (a rich family) to invest in CAHSR. No?

    Bianca Reply:

    If you want a government contract, you need a clean record.

    I wish.

    Ever heard of a little company called “Blackwater Xe”?

    Emma Reply:

    Well, it’s another thing if you have a thug ruling over the country who makes contracts despite some company’s background.

    “In December 2008 a US State Department panel recommended that Xe should be dropped as the main private security contractor for U.S. diplomats in Iraq.”
    On Jan 30, 2009, The U.S. State Department told Blackwater Worldwide that it will not renew its contract in Iraq.” – Wiki

    Peter Reply:

    It didn’t help Blackwater/Xe that the Iraqi government pulled their license to operate in Iraq.

    jimsf Reply:

    and what if BP wanted to build HSR, good, then we simply call it restitution. “you screwed up in a big way, so now, one way you can make it up to us is to pay for some green transport starting with cahsr”

    I ‘d have no problem with that at all. In fact I’d prefer it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Bin Ladens may well be interested – not all of them are Osama.

    Anyway, there’s a huge difference between BP and SNCF/DB: BP may have replaced some of the people, but its corporate culture is the same. This is not true for the European companies that helped the Nazis, whose culture has changed in the last 70 years.

    michael Reply:

    Might I add I have absolutely no idea what people at the company I work at thought/did/practiced 20, not to mention 70 years ago?

    Jon Reply:

    Well, I certainly hope you’re not driving around in one of those cute little Volkswagens

    Seriously, sometimes you just need to forgive and move on, not forgetting what happened but not dwelling on it either. There are very few German companies who existed in the 1930s who were not in some way complicit with the Nazis, but there comes a point when continued hatred and resentment no longer achieves anything. We’ve learned that the hard way in Europe.

    Alan Reply:

    Using your logic, Emma, Union Pacific should be barred from doing business with the state
    because a subsidiary of a UP predecessor company was involved with moving Japanese-
    Americans to the internment camps during WWII…

    But tell us, Emma: What would you have done differently if a Gestapo officer was holding
    a machine gun to your head?

  11. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 11:24

    For that matter, why is it ok for us to do business right here in america as american companies are manufacturing weapons being used in iraq and afghanistan as we speak. And I am now suppose to unscrew all my GE lightbulbs from their sockets because they helped build the atom bomb? i’ll bet GE is making weapons of war right this very minute and you know what, I’m not unscrewing my light bulbs. get over it.

  12. Clem
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 13:09

    OT: Riot police disperses a high-speed rail protest in Stuttgart, Germany, using water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray. I seem to recall Martin Engel musing about acts of civil disobedience–maybe we’ll see something like this in Menlo Park someday?

    Bianca Reply:

    “high speed rail protest”? The words “high speed” don’t appear anywhere in that article. The protest is about trees being cut down, and high speed rail isn’t the only reason trees ever get cut down.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The issue isn’t really the HSR, though – it’s the new high-cost, high-impact, high-footprint train station.

    Peter Reply:

    And the fact that they’re tearing down a historic building in the process.

    Emma Reply:

    It’s not about HSR. It’s about keeping an old ugly building although a new station has been planned and approved 5 years ago. Fact is, this station would save a lot of electricity, space and finally connect Stuttgart with other European cities.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Fact is, this station would …

    And cost vastly more than alternatives.
    And have very worrisome capacity issues.
    And abet a massive real estate scam.
    And be a civil engineer’s wet dream.

    But somehow it will “save electricity”, so full speed ahead!

    Emma Reply:

    Look at the US if you want to “save” money. All those opponents take NIMBYism to the next level.

  13. Peter
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 13:58

    Like Burlingame, Redwood City has nothing to gain from challenging the Program EIR and trying to get the alignment switched to Altamont. HSR would still run through Redwood City via the Dumbarton. So them not joining this suit makes complete sense. Like Burlingame, they are most likely to challenge the Project EIR instead.

  14. Emma
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 13:58

    From Reuters: “German industrial group Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is the preferred bidder to supply a new generation of high-speed trains to Channel Tunnel operator Eurostar, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

    Eurostar’s board should decide in principle on the deal, worth several hundred million euros (dollars), later on Friday, with further details to be negotiated in the coming weeks, the source added.

    Until now, Siemens’ French rival Alstom (ALSO.PA) has supplied trains for Eurostar, which runs trains through the Channel Tunnel that links Britain to France, and on to Belgium.

    Eurostar is owned by French state rail operator SNCF, Belgium’s SNCB and British government-owned LCR.”

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    This clearly marks the end of the allegedly privileged Alstom-SNCF relationship. The SNCF has grown remarkably immune to Buy-French political pressure. A huge contract to renew the fleet of regional trains (800 double-deckers) was awarded to Bombardier.
    From what I could gather from SNCF blogs, lower price was not the only reason for Bombardier’s victory. Bombardier was praised for working in close collaboration with SNCF’s engineers whose interventions were always welcome. This contrasts with Alstom’s reputed “know-better” mentality. It is also known that SNCF resented the fact that the AGV was developped with no input from its engineers. By the way, this is the sort of feeling DB’s CEO expressed about Siemens, which shows European firms still believe in protected home markets which exist less and less. Renault and Peugeot used to supply the French police with patrol cars at inflated prices, but lost the latest bid to Ford which was 20% cheaper. So, even state services no longer buy French if it is too costly.

    Some journalists think the choice of Siemens by Eurostar is a warning shot directed at Alstom and Bombardier. Every time one wins a bid, the other ends up being its subcontractor. SNCF seems to be tiring of this duopoly. The TGV fleet is aging and its replacement will be a far bigger contract than a few Eurostar trains. Hundreds of trains will have to be replaced and Guillaume Pepy, SNCF’s CEO, has declared he would also welcome a Japanese bid if they can propose UIC-compliant rolling stock.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Renault and Peugeot used to supply the French police with patrol cars at inflated prices, but lost the latest bid to Ford which was 20% cheaper. So, even state services no longer buy French if it is too costly.

    Neither do Americans. I haven’t looked in a very long time, if a foreign vendor can do it cheaply the foreign vendor gets the contract. I seem to remember that domestic bidders can be no more than 25% more expensive. Makes sense, the government gets much of that 25% back in taxes.

  15. Emma
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 14:28

    Btw. Anyone seen Amtrak’s high speed rail plan? $115 billion for $900 million revenue/year. In other words, the system would start to make real revenue in more than 127 years. Compare that to CAHSR: $46 billion for $1 billion in revenue per year. And I’m not counting in the increased revenue coming from the LA-SD extension which is inevitable. Our system will pay off within 30 years.

    Amtrak must find ways to halve the bill to win any real support. See, this is why we should have started decades ago. The cost to build a grade separated network (especially property prices) were much lower. But they favored track sharing and now the system needs a hundred billion dollars to upgrade. Guys, this is what will happen to CAHSR if we give in to track sharing and snake tracks to save money. The system should be built in a way that makes traveling at >300 mph possible. Now you say we are far away from such speeds but by the time the rail net is complete (2030), Siemens, Shinkansen, AGV, Bombardier might have such a train in development.

    Peter Reply:

    No one expects them to regain the capital investment through revenue. However, even the current stunted version of Acela manages to cover its operating expenses. That’s what the general idea is.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, I’ve seen it. There’s a 200-comment thread about it on The Transport Politic.

    The high cost is deliberate: Amtrak is trying to scare people into thinking real HSR in the Northeast is unaffordable. In one place, Baltimore, Amtrak is proposing an alignment that was rejected in an alternatives analysis several years ago as too expensive. The AA examined options to relieve the bottleneck west of the station, and found that a new tunnel to the west was the most cost-effective; Amtrak is resurrecting the rejected plan to build a new station closer to downtown complete with new tunnels to both the west and the east.

    The only reason Amtrak is peddling this is to make people stop criticizing its Master Plan for doing so little to improve speed. It’s a common ploy, really. There’s even an episode about it on Yes Minister, dealing with an integrated national transport plan.

    Emma Reply:

    The plan is ridiculous $115 billion for ~400 miles. That makes $ 200 million per mile. What are they constructing? Golden rail tracks? OR is it the world’s first high speed subway? The money would be enough to buy a fleet of planes AND build a new airport in every state. Heck! China is using the same amount of money to build their national HSR system and Amtrak wants to tell me that they need all of it for only 425 mi of rail?

    I really think you are right. Of course! This whole plan does nothing but discouraging HSR in the US. On top of that, they don’t even mention HSR plans outside the Northeast. I wish the CHSRA could make its proposal for the NEC. It would embarrass Amtrak.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem is that everyone defers to Amtrak on this route. Amtrak makes enough money on today’s POS Acela that it won’t sell, so SNCF didn’t even try to make a proposal akin to its proposals for the other corridors in the US.

    They kind of are construction a high-speed subway, I think. At several places, the route needlessly diverges from existing rights of way, and in Connecticut it’s going straight through the hills. It’s public works for tunnel diggers, not transportation.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A reason for everyone defering to Amtrak on this route may be that this is one route Amtrak owns outright. Little hard to argue with people who actually own property.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, exactly. Amtrak owns this, and is not bleeding money on it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Basically, it is underground most of the way.

    And no, the money would not be *nearly* enough to build the same transportation capacity with planes. Try to build a fourth airport in New York City if you don’t believe me.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The money would be enough to buy a fleet of planes AND build a new airport in every state.

    The problem is that there is an almost unbroken string of suburbs from Wilmington Delaware to New Haven Connecticut. It’s gets pricey building things through hundreds of miles of suburbia. Interspersed in all those suburbs are lots and lots of rivers. The upgrade for the bridge over the Hackensack is coming at a nice cool billion. Betcha you have never heard of the Hackensack River.
    Part of that upgrade is to handle all the new traffic generated by the new tunnels under the Hudson. The tunnel itself is, if I remember correctly, just under 3 billion.

    A new airport in Montana and another one in Wyoming doesn’t do much for someone who wants to get from NY to DC. There’s no place to put a new airport for NYC unless you want to go to upstate NY or the Poconos ( NE Pennsylvania ) but then the airport in NEPA would be serving Philadelphia too. There is a plan floating around on the Internet for using Central Park as an airport. If I remember correctly Arrivals on Central Park West and departures on Fifth Ave…..

    rafael Reply:

    It’s not clear the NEC really needs express HSR service (150mph +) all the way between Boston and D.C. The basis for planning should be competitive capacity, frequency, travel times and travel cost between station pairs, weighted by fraction of total ridership.

    The NEC is much more densely populated than California, so there are more stations between the end points and the average trip distance is shorter. What HSR customers care about most in the 21st century, beyond safety and security, is door-to-door travel time and reliable broadband internet access en route so time spent in transit is no longer wasted.

    That means it’s rational to invest in incremental improvements to signaling, OCS, rolling stock and station architecture (level boarding platforms, walking distances) plus improved connecting transit (coverage, frequency, ADA compliance, timed transfers etc.) plus eliminating specific capacity bottlenecks. This isn’t as sexy as a prestige project to build a brand-new rail line, but it delivers a lot more bang for the buck. Not having to slow down is more valuable than being able to speed up.

    In California, there is no comparable legacy passenger rail infrastructure, certainly not between San Jose and Fresno nor between Bakersfield and LA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Amtrak doesn’t do timed transfers. That’s why the Master Plan is so crappy: it offers gold-plated capacity upgrades where better scheduling could deliver the same bang for one tenth the buck.

    Many of the issues you talk about are non-issues in the Northeast. There’s already level boarding. Internet access is good, but it merely equalizes the Acela with the much cheaper express buses (to say nothing of the fact that the Shinkansen and the LGV Sud-Est do fine without it); to regain mode share, Amtrak really does need speed. This does not mean top speed, but it does mean doing something about the station throats, the curves, etc.

    Some things could be done incrementally, but Amtrak is doing them the wrong way. Its plan for Connecticut is beyond horrible: it involves a few curve modifications, even where it’d be simple to construct cutoffs on I-95. The entire Shore Line between New Haven and the CT/RI state line could be bypassed relatively easily. So can parts of the Shore Line west of New Haven.

    The alternative to keeping the Acela slow is not a brand new rail line. In fact, for the majority of the route, the optimal alignment is the legacy line, with some curves modified or bypassed. This is why Amtrak’s proposal is so bad – it deliberately tries to maximize costs to make the alternative seem unaffordable. In reality, getting Boston-DC down to 3:00 would require buying Talgo 350s or N700-Is and spending about $8 billion on infrastructure. Anyone who’s proposing $100 billion plans to do this is out to pick your pocket.

    jimsf Reply:

    I doubt anyone at amtrak thinks this is a good idea. Sounds like something dreamed up politicians and the board.

    jimsf Reply:

    and most of the new money amtrak has received recently, has apparently all gone to the east coast leaving the rest of the system begging. The east coast is where the politicians ride. I don’t think the amtrak board even knows where the west coast is.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, Amtrak’s received very little *lately*. It’s *still* underfunded.

    The reason Amtrak’s track-improvement money has gone to the East Coast is because that’s the only place Amtrak owns tracks. And it’s needed to do multiple bridge replacements. Elsewhere in the country, someone else owns the tracks and it’s up to them. Exception: In Michigan Amtrak owns some of the tracks and has put a lot of money into them.

    Amtrak-owned stations nationwide have actually getting improvements — but most are on the East Coast, of course. Even so the East Coast stations are getting *less* attention than stations elsewhere (like Chicago). Most stations are getting ADA improvements, which is a large cost for Amtrak, even at stations it *doesn’t* own.

    Amtrak’s top priority right now is actually new passenger cars, and frankly the East Coast services need them more than the West Coast; there are enough Superliners for now.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    There is much to be said for the new car order; it will finally allow Amtrak to retire the last of its Heritage fleet.

    Some of those Heritage cars could qualify for being historic; all of them are on the high side of 50 years old. It’s my understanding that some diners and a sleeper or two still in service are from the original California Zephyr sets of 1949!

    At least it says Budd built well.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Afraid not, that would have been at best when Bryant was a baby. She would have been cute on the platform, though. . .

    jimsf Reply:

    thanks for clearing that up. All of that is accurate. It has always seemed like they forget we are out here despite the success of the west coast lines. With owning that corridor, and the backing of the high population /senators etc, they get all the financial attention. OF course being so old and rickety, it makes sense that the big projects such as bridge replacement need to be done. Plus its good stimulus work for local communities. I don’t think they need 220mph service over there though. I think they should find a way to run a more consistent high speed on the existing route. It would be a lot cheaper to eliminate grade xings, replace catenary and track, straighten a couple curves here and there, and just shave 15- 20 minutes off the trips. Maybe throw in a couple nonstops.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are no grade crossings to speak of on the NEC, they are all in Connecticut.

    jimsf Reply:

    right, but thats still part of the nec, so, they should get rid of them. Would it be possible to get the existing bos nyp and nyp was times down to 2:30 and 2:00 respectively by simply bringing the corridor into good repair and putting in nonstops. it looks like wasnyp is currently 2:42 so how to shave off 42 minutes? how many minutes would a nonstop shave off, 10-15? and increase average speed by what? 20mph? Wouldnt that be a doable goal?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    right, but thats still part of the nec, so, they should get rid of them.

    They are on tight curves near stations, the trains are slowing down anyway. You don’t gain much if anything at all by eliminating them.

    how many minutes would a nonstop shave off, 10-15?

    Historic best speed is 2:30 which the Penn Central wasn’t able to reliably reproduce. … yes the fastest times on the NEC were before it was the NEC. Penn Central and again Amtrak tried NYC-Phila-DC super expresses in the past, they weren’t well patronized. … you do realize that just because there are platforms the train doesn’t stop? Acela only stops at the major stations now. Where the trains are slowing down anyway for station curves. There’s not a whole lot of time to be saved stopping less.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jim, the part in Connecticut where the grade crossings are doesn’t belong on an upgraded NEC anyway; in that area (and only in that area), the NEC is curvy and I-95 is straight and has room for tracks.

    jimsf Reply:

    ok well, then leave it as is I guess. I mean they are managing to get a big market share even with the slower average speeds, because driving up there is a nightmare (i-95) and the airports are too from I understand. Being dropped downtown in place such as ny, boston and philly, I guess just can’t be beat for convenience. I think the goal should be to be able to at least run consistently between 79-150 the whole length. Those places where they slow down to 35 or 45 or whatever ( im really not very familiar with it) those are what should be fixed.

    Is there a way you could keep two tracks within the existing row but, by elevating sections a la bart viaduct, smooth out the curves. LIft the trains up and over the other tracks to alter the radii ?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are very few 35-45 slow zones. In Connecticut it’s mostly just 50-60 SRs grinding down trains.

    Stacked tracks are really expensive, and do not solve anything; either you can straighten within ROW, or you need to go significantly out in which case stacking does nothing. For many of those curves, straightening outside ROW requires little eminent domain, if at all. Others would require more takings, but even then it would be worth the travel time reduction.

    The NEC gets a mediocre mode share. Based on the populations of the cities it serves, you’d expect it to get more riders than the Sanyo Shinkansen, which has 65 million passengers a year. Instead, it gets 12 million passengers. Cost-conscious travelers use the express buses, which are somewhat less comfortable, barely slower, and much, much cheaper.

    jimsf Reply:

    wel, I would never expect it to get the share the japan or europe gets, any more than I expect CA hsr to get that kind of share. But by american standards it does well just as ca hsr will do well, by american standards. Americans will come around to a certain amount of public transit use, but they will never have the japanese or euro mentality towards it. Anyway, the current travel times are good enough for the most part. The best investment would be in bringing stations, track, catenary and rolling stock into good repair as reliability is more important than speed.

    Peter Reply:

    It should be at least competitive enough to knock out most of the express buses. Some speed improvements on the NEC should be definitely be implemented.

    Same way Caltrain should be able to knock most of the private express buses on the Peninsula.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The single biggest reliability improvement on the NEC would be reefing the Acelas and replacing them with un-FRAed rolling stock.

    jimsf Reply:

    the fra isnt going to allow that.

    What private buses on the peninsula? In 40 years I have never heard of a private bus on the peninsula. If they exist they sure are keeping it a secret.

    Peter Reply:

    Bauer’s isn’t private?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The express buses will be there unless the fares go up on the buses or the fares go down on Amtrak. The people on the bus are aiming for cheap. Really really cheap. Ask anyone who has down both and the train wins hands down except for it’s cost.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


    It sounds like you’ve done both. Out of curiosity, how do the bus and train compare, particularly in timings? I would think the train would be considerably faster, if more expensive; I would also think it would be more reliable in terms of timekeeping, because of traffic congestion.

    Also, can you confirm that the bus operations have been cleaned up considerably compared with some years back? I recall reading somewhere that some of these bus operators were rather reckless in the past. This was in the early years of some Chinese immigrants going into this business on a shoestring; to their great credit, I understand they have become much more professional in recent years, particularly in regard to safety.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s just under 3 hours on Acela, and approximately 4 hours by bus, traffic permitting.

    jimsf Reply:

    I’ll take the FRA safe train over the rogue lead infused china-bus any day thanks. The FAA and FRA are there for the protection of passengers and workers. When bad things happen, its usually because there was an FAA or an FRA violation. Follow the rules, nobody gets hurt.

    Peter Reply:

    “I’ll take the FRA safe train over the rogue lead infused china-bus any day thanks. The FAA and FRA are there for the protection of passengers and workers.”

    Except for the last few years where the FAA got REALLY cozy with the airlines, allowing things like Southwest’s airframe cracks, and American’s MD-80 wiring bundles to slide for a very long time. Thank God nothing happened during that time period.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The train is the fastest way to travel between NY and DC and points in between unless you are traveling between far suburbs. Even the low speed unreliable Adirondack or Ethan Allen will get me to Philadelphia or DC fastest. Toll roads make it the cheaper alternative too.

    The bus sucks. They say they have a timetable but the way it actually works is that a bus is dispatched when it’s full, even on Greyhound/Peter Pan. If you are the 55th person to get on the bus you get to sit next to the restroom and listen to the blue stuff slosh around in the bucket under the commode for four hours. Five hours if it rains. Nah 6 hours if it rains because traffic is awful along most of the route most of the time. The approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, can add a half hour easily and frequently. They don’t operate from bus terminals, at best there’s a storefront at the curbside bus stop. Greyhound/Peter Pan will run less than full buses but the independent operators are notorious for having a “break down” when there isn’t a full load to be hauled.

    As for cleaning up their act? … there’s been a lot of consolidation, I assume they do things like carry insurance these days. I can’t really tell because I only take the bus if I have no other option and I really really need to get someplace cheaply. At the moment bus fare is 35 dollars roundtrip on an independent according to the front page on the consolidator’s site. Megabus can be as low as 26.50. Pick the right trains far enough in advance Amtrak is 98 roundtrip. A AAA discount woudl make it 88.20. Difference of 61.70… it’s worth 31 bucks each way to get there faster, much more comfortably and without having to deal with a bus or driving.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Peter’s comments about the FAA and the airlines reminded me of a friend I have who used to work for the US Park Service in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. I may have mentioned this before, but one of the stories he used to tell tourists was about how Harpers Ferry in the pre-Civil War era was a boom town, with government employees in the armory there (the objective of John Brown’s raid in 1859) were making $30 a month ($360 per year) at a time when the average American farmer had a cash income of $125 per year.

    This was a lot of money coming into Harpers Ferry, and a lot of businessmen tried to get some of it, opening up establishments such as boot shops, pharmacies, dry goods stores, and lots and lots of saloons. There was a great deal of competition; my friend said the average life expectancy of a business was only about 6 months.

    What gets interesting is that if you spoke to someone in the Small Business Administration some years ago, they would tell you that, on average, 50% of all small business startups will fail in the first year, and up to 90% will fail in the first five years. That initial estimate, at 50% in the first year, essentially works out to that 6 month life expectancy from 1859. And in 1859, there is no income tax, no sales tax, no unemployment tax, no workers compensation coverage, no minimum wage law, no child labor law, no OSHA, no building code, no health code, no hours-of-service law for railroaders (and no standardised equipment or boiler inspection or repair law)–in short, “no nothing”–and the failure rate is essentially unchanged!

    What this tells me is that the real secret of a successful business or a successful economy isn’t in regulation or the lack thereof, but in the abilities of the management and in a bit of luck in being in the right place at the right time.

    Rush Limbaugh and the rest of that crowd wouldn’t like hearing that at all.

    Now, does anybody have an idea of how I can get to say this on the radio and get $40 million for it, like Rush does? Be glad to split the $40 million, maybe we can go on the air as a team . . .ought to be fun! And I would bet Spokker and Jim SF would be great partners, too!

    Peter Reply:

    “Rush Limbaugh and the rest of that crowd wouldn’t like hearing that at all.”

    Truthiness is always easier and more fun to use.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, and Peter, I forgot to mention I took a look at that Bauer bus site; one of the things that caught my eye was the bus interior photo that appears to have been taken with a wide-angle lens, making the bus look as big and long as a railroad car!

    Good grief, we have the anti-rail crowd telling us rail supporters that we have European train envy; looks like the bus people have train envy, too!

    Ho, ho, ho, ho!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jim, forget Chinese trains (which, by the way, crash less often than American trains piloted by Veolia staff). The Shinkansen has had zero crashes.

    Adirondacker, the trains that cost $98 roundtrip don’t take less than 3 hours. They take about 3:30.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Rush Limbaugh and the rest of that crowd wouldn’t like hearing that at all.”

    “Truthiness is always easier and more fun to use.”

    I don’t know, truth looks like fun to me, especially when you have it against the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, and other gas-bags, er, entertainers. And I have lots of stories to tell as an auditor for a state agency, both of the businesses I audit and of some of my coworkers. None of them would be made up; I’m not that good at being creative, and not that good at telling lies, either, although of course I would have to make sure the names were changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty, too).

    The problem is, how do we get paid for it?

    P.S.: Is it me, or do I really get the impression that Limbaugh, Beck, Ingraham, Hannerty and the like have difficulty laughing? I realize that much of what they do is an act, but I think it would be tiring to act so angry all the time. Me, I’d want to have more fun, maybe take a more relaxed approach on the air. You’ve seen some of what I mean here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The 98 dollar trips are on regionals which are usually 3:30 or less. It’s not worth 200 bucks to save an hour roundtrip. It’s still faster than a bus that is running on time. The buses run on time midday when the weather is good.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If you have a middle class income, it’s true. I’ve personally never taken any of those buses. But I know people who just can’t afford $49 one way, and prefer to pay $5 for a Fung Wah bus, or maybe $20 for the less sketchy Bolt.

    Yes, Amtrak is faster. Yes, Amtrak is more reliable. That doesn’t mean it’s particularly good. When my ex-girlfriend tried to take the Regional to Providence, the train left 15 minutes early, and she got stranded at Penn Station overnight.

    jimsf Reply:

    don’t forget regular travelers also get discounts with multi ride tickets. 624 for ten rides providence to nyp for the once a week or so, travel, the 9-5 m-f crowd gets a monthly unlimited ride ticket for 1404, which, if youre m-f thats 20 round trips roughly per month at 70.20 rt or 35.10 each way.

    I have no idea what it costs to drive from providence round trip everyday, with tolls and parking in manhattan but Im sure it isn’t fun.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jim, I know full well about the discounts. I investigated them back when I wanted to see the cost of living in Providence. I especially liked the part about how the ten-ride ticket costs more than ten single-ride tickets bought in advance.

    Don’t get me wrong, if I needed to get between Providence and New York, I’d ride Amtrak. The marginal cost is (much) higher than driving (explanation: you can do this without tolls, and the parts of New York I’m likely to visit have free on-street parking), but owning a car is really expensive.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Perhaps I’m right at the “sweet spot” of rail-roady ignorance, but I actually liked the Amtrak plan a lot! Heck, I’d vote for $100 billion to put HSR on the NEC, or *under* the NEC, whatever they are talking about! ;-) True, I’ve never lived in that area, but I really do think the NEC deserves a true HSR system. But why not shift the governmental graft from the asphalt pavers and the weapons makers to the rail layers, tunnel diggers and bridge raisers? At least we’d get a valuable transportation system out of it.

    jimsf Reply:

    I read more about it. It has more support than I realized. and why not indeed? (@ what dan s said)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    As I understand it, a portion of this route north of New York, perhaps 75 miles or so (corrections welcomed if I’m off), is not owned by Amtrak but by Metro-North (commuter agency). This is supposedly the slowest section on the Corridor outside of station approaches (I believe it may have a 75 mph limit), with speed restricted by ancient catenary. Amtrak doesn’t own it and understandably is reluctant to put money in it, but at the same time Metro North either doesn’t have the money or the will to upgrade to higher speed operation, perhaps not seeing the need for more speed for its commuter service.

    This sort of thing illustrates quite well the concept of the “weakest link,” and in my opinion makes an argument that the Corridor should be under the control of a single entity, much like the Pennsylvania had control over everything between New York and Washington. It is also of interest to note that the Baltimore and Ohio, building late into this corridor, was always at a disadvantage because of the lack of a direct connection into New York (they had to rely on ferries and later on buses from Jersey City Terminal, which was shared with the Central of New Jersey and the Reading Company). A period in which the B&O did fairly well was when they did have access to Penn Station in the WW I era (under government control of the original United States Railroad Administration), but they sank again when that went away and the Pennsy kicked them out of their corridor connections.

    The Pennsy could be cantankerous to deal with even if you were a friendly connection. The roads running the trains to Florida (Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line, partnering with the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac in Virginia and the Florida East Coast in Florida) had regular battles with the PRR about timings and consists. The PRR wanted to utilise its track space to the fullest, which meant running Budd streamliners at standard speeds, plus combining these trains with regular Pennsy trains made up of older equipment; some of these trains would thus run to enormous sizes. Neither practice displayed the Florida service to its best.

    Speaking of the Florida service reminds me of a couple of descriptions of such a trip. One recalled that you would leave New York in snow and ice, ride that way down to Richmond, where you typically went to bed in your sleeper–and would wake up the next morning, approaching Jacksonville, Fla., with the smell of orange blossoms coming into the ventilators. Another touch was that there were tables set up on the platforms of the station in Jacksonville, where people had cups, juice squeezers, and oranges, and you got a nice little drink of orange juice as a welcome to Florida; this almost had to be (and most likely was) a promotion scheme between the railroads involved and the orange growers’ association. In any event, things of this sort remind us of how travel could really be fun.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re right that there’s a 75 mph speed limit, but it has nothing to do with the catenary. I’ve never read that the catenary is a problem between New York and New Haven; I’m not sure whether it’s because constant tension catenary has already been installed, or because variable tension catenary limits trains to 135 mph and not 75. The real problem is a combination of multiple factors:

    1. The route is curvy, limiting speeds.

    2. Metro-North doesn’t allow the Acela to tilt. I’ve heard different explanations, coming either from narrow track spacing or from Metro-North’s preference that all trains travel at the same speed.

    3. The FRA limits cant deficiency on non-tilting trains to 3″, because of a 1950s experiment about passenger comfort that was done with an exceptionally poor train. Today, low-speed trains can do 6-7″ without tilting, and very high-speed trains can do 5″.

    4. Cant is limited because of freight trains, which used to use the express tracks but are now limited to the local tracks.

    5. Because of the above factors, Metro-North’s express trains could not travel much faster than 75 anyway, so in the railroad’s view allowing some trains to travel faster would require schedulers and dispatchers to make too much effort.

    Ten years ago, Amtrak could tell the MTA that if it doesn’t make Metro-North allow tilting and higher top speeds, it would kick the LIRR out of Penn Station. Today, with East Side Access on the horizon, this threat is no longer as strong. The only solution might be for Amtrak to bite the bullet and buy the line outright; it would be expensive, but accommodating a 75 mph speed limit would be even more expensive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    DP, the bus trip still involved a ferry ride between Jersey City and Manhattan. The railroad was running the ferry anyway – the bus drove onto the ferry. It was probably faster than using the Holland Tunnel which isn’t close to the CNJ Terminal.

    Alon, as far as I know Metro North/CDOT replaced all of the catenary as part of the project switching to 60Hz. The rumors I read on about the speed restrictions on the CDOT part of the line is that Connecticut is too cheap to upgrade the track from Class 4 to Class 5. Metro North trains run at 90 in NY all the time.

    jimsf Reply:

    and was the orange served up by a perky pre divorce anita bryant?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Darn this program, the answer went in the wrong place. Bryant would have been a baby at best, but if she were born a little earlier, or if the practice continued a while longer, she would have been a cutie in Jacksonville. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thought you might want to see Bruce McF’s commentary from his own site:

    Some interesting observations?

    And a big question mark: if there is that much extra traffic, that suggests more population growth. Where will all these extra people go, and even in the relatively lush east, where will their food and water come from, along with jobs for them to do?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “Amtrak doesn’t do timed transfers”
    Neither do regional trains and SNCF, maybe for the same reasons: union resistance. Regional train timetables are more convenient for drivers and conductors than for passengers. This has no consequence in the Paris region but it is a problem in less populated regions with lower train frequency.
    Some people think regional transport authorities do nothing about it because it contributes to keeping local airlines and airports alive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Timed transfers to what? The only place where there are trains to transfer to are in New York and Philadelphia. Empire Corridor to the NEC and Keystone Corridor to the NEC.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Timed transfers to regional trains.

    But I used a wrong terminology, and what I actually meant was timed overtakes. Time the overtakes in Massachusetts and Maryland properly and two shared tracks with passing sidings are enough until HSR traffic exceeds 6 tph, which according to Amtrak will never happen. In Connecticut so many bypasses are required that Amtrak shouldn’t need to share tracks with express commuter trains for more than a few km at a time; this means timed overtakes away from those segments would ensure Amtrak could coexist with 20+ commuter tph on four tracks.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think the lack of schedule optimization in the US is about unions. Unions play a role in it, though: together with other institutions, they reinforce a culture of old-time railroading tradition. The one railroad in the US that tried to modernize, SEPTA, got attacked for imposing outside ideas on railroading and not adhering to tradition: the managers had backgrounds in urban transit and not railroading, and the person who designed the through-routed network was an urban studies professor who modeled the system after the S-Bahn. The employees got annoyed and those who could transferred to Conrail and Amtrak, which did not require them to stick to schedule or do other post-steam era things.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s funny; I was under the impression that good timekeeping was one of the most important things in the steam era. Just to pick a celebrity example, didn’t an Illinios Central man named John Luther “Casey” Jones get himself killed in 1900 attempting to get a late passenger train back on schedule (and as it was, very nearly succeeded in doing so before that unfortunate rear-ender at Vaughn, Mississippi)?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Good timekeeping was important, but not nearly as much as today. Today, railroads maximize ridership and minimize costs by having timed cross-platform transfers, timed overtakes, very short turnaround times, and predictable clockface scheduling. This is different from what was done in the steam era, when engineers would sometimes go faster than they were supposed to in order to make up time; while recovery time is still important, its relative importance is much smaller, and it’s always done with tight limits in order to prevent accidents like the one you’re describing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Pshaw. Trains go faster than they are supposed to all the time. I really need to get my hands on employee timetable. If I remember correctly the track speed limit is 90 for the track the train is on in the video below

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Assuming the location is accurate (Princeton Junction, also listed as Nassau in my copy of Amtrak’s employee timetable), the maximum speed is 110 mph. This is in a 1984 edition, by the way; freight trains were limited to 50 mph. Nearest areas of restricted speed that I can see with a very quick look at the timetable appear to be between Mileposts 37 and 44 (105 mph), and between Mileposts 54 and 56.2 (80 mph, approaching an interlocking), with restrictions of 60 mph through the interlocking on Track 3 and an agonizing 30 mph on other tracks in the vicinity. There is no immediately available milepost location for Princeton Junction on the pages I’m looking at, although it is between Mileposts 45 and 51. Keep in mind this is in 1984, which is a little while back now.

    If you can come up with an employee timetable (and to go with it, a book of operating rules), you’ll have a remarkable combination of documents that tell you a great deal of how a railroad is run. It’s not at all like driving your car!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nassau is the interlocking in West Windsor which is where Princeton Junction is. ( Princeton Junction is not in Princeton Borough or Princeton Township ) The local tracks tend to have lower speed limits than the express tracks. NJTransit and Amtrak have upgraded a lot of things since 1984 – one of the things they did was figure out how to make the switches in the interlocking higher speed, cheaply, using standard parts.

    You might find this interesting

    It’s a bit unwieldy, 11 + meg and I have to zoom in to 800 percent to read things. I’m almost sur the speed limits are for the express tracks. Then there’s funky things like Acela’s speed limit is 135 constrained by safe use of the catenary, Amfleets and AEM7s or HHP8s limited to 125 by thier rating and 100 for NJTransit equipment. The old stuff peaks out at 100, the new stuff hasn’t been rated for 125 yet.

    NORAC rules are online, don’t need a paper version except to go with the other bits and pieces of railroad ephemera. ETTs are hard to come by and I’ve never seen one online.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not sure how the Shinkansen’s ATC works, but on the TGV, the train can’t go more than 15 km/h above the speed limit. If the driver tries, the train automatically brakes.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Alon, the Shinkansen ATC system is similar, though I think the overspeed trip is more sensitive- I don’t think JR would let any running above the speed limit for more than allowed driver reaction time.

    StevieB Reply:

    The choice of an exclusive right of way for the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment is difficult. The segment engineer said it would require a 160′ right of way for 5+2 tracks. Three tracks for freight, two tracks for Metrolink and Amtrack, and two exclusive tracks for CAHSR. The alternative is three tracks for freight and two tracks shared by CAHSR, Metrolink and Amtrack. Shared track would cause reduced speed and increase travel time on the segment by 4 minutes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I haven’t waded through the plan yet. Amtrak checked it’s past projects on the NEC and estimates that they fund 33% of the cost of upgrades. In other words the states come up with 67%. When California comes up with another 18 billion you can start whining about how costly improvements to the NEC will be.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are perfectly straightforward ways to halve the bill; Amtrak’s “HSR is expensive” proposal is in fact gold-plated, and building only the highest bang-for-the-buck portions of it is the obvious way to do things. The GCT-Penn Station tunnel would actually recover its costs faster than CAHSR if built right.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The GCT-Penn tunnel is awesome for commuter rail. It’s not useful for intercity rail. It’d also be expensive, because of the need to tunnel right underneath all the older existing infrastructure, especially the Herald Square subway complex.

    The highest bang for buck would be getting rid of every FRA regulation that doesn’t exist in Japan; this is cost-free. Not including regulatory stuff, the highest bang for the buck is higher superelevation, which is nearly cost-free, followed by new rolling stock, some easy curve modifications, and fixing station throats. The rolling stock is really expensive, but everything else should cost in the tens of millions; together these would give you about 2:00 NY-DC and 3:00 NY-Boston.

    Peter Reply:

    If you check out page 2 of the LA-Anaheim Supplemental EIR Appendix I, the FRA is apparently considering at least raising the maximum superelevation.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, that should be Supplemental AA. We’re NOWHERE near the supplemental EIR stage yet…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The FRA is not the main obstacle when it comes to superelevation. The maximum cant it allows is 7″, which isn’t much less than the global maximum of 200 mm. The problem is that the NEC doesn’t have 7″. In Connecticut it’s limited to 4″ or 5″, I’m not sure which.

    Joey Reply:

    The GCT-Penn “ARC Alternative G” tunnel was actually the cheapest of any ARC alternative, and provided the highest ridership. It was of course eliminated because letting trains sit in a station with no passengers on them for an hour is apparently a valid technical requirement.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It was cheaper until they looked at detailed engineering issues. Foamers will whine that they weren’t insurmountable. Most foamers aren’t civil engineers. NJTransit will be running 26 trains an hour at peak into 6 paltfomrms. Keep the math simple, that’s 15 minutes per platform.

    Joey Reply:

    15 minutes per platform

    You say that like it’s incredibly fast or something.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They don’t need to be any faster, there’s only two tracks in the tunnels. They can only get 26 ttains an hour through the tunnels.

    Joey Reply:

    Also, source? The EIR explains why they eliminated Alternative G, but says nothing about cost.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You were the one who claimed it was cheapest. Feel free to go digging. I’m the one who has been standing on rush hour trains for 40 years because they can’t run enough trains to satisfy demand. I retire in few decades and would greatly appreciate not having to ride in the vestibule.

    Joey Reply:

    Everything I’ve said comes from here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    More than a million people a day use the Lexington Ave subway. I’m sure there’s a bit of demand for Amtrak service at Grand Central. Won’t cost much to let Amtrak trains use NJTransit tracks at Grand Central. It would cost a lot to build Amtrak a new tunnel to New Rochelle though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So what? Even more people use the Tozai Line every day, but you don’t see JR Central rush to build a new train station at Otemachi.

    If Alt G is actually built, and if excess trains traveling only south of New York are not needed to go to Jamaica and serve JFK, then it will probably make sense to send them to Grand Central. But for through-trains, it’s too curvy north of Harlem-125th, and involves too much track-sharing with Metro-North; it’d be much slower than the existing alignment.

  16. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 18:35

    Hey were is syno-mouse? I’m wondering what his take is on the whitman (cough) victory …. you know now that we know how clean her house has been kept. ( good thing its clean as she won’t be moving to sacramento anytime soon)

    James Fujita Reply:

    Are you saying that Whitman shouldn’t be involved with high speed rail based on decisions she made in the past? ;-)

    jimsf Reply:

    no, I’m saying she isn’t going to be governor because of decisions she ( not her great grandparents) made in the past. I actually don’t care who she hired. I’m just glad she screwed up so I don’t have to worry about her winning.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “collaboration not confrontation” – sounds like Petain at Vichy.

    StevieB Reply:

    Joining in the lawsuit sounds like Muselier at Miquelon.

  17. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 19:03

    or Immediate Release:
    October 1, 2010 Contact: Rachel Wall


    SACRAMENTO – The Council of Fresno County Governments voted yesterday to establish a “High-Speed Rail Facilities” program, allocating up to $25 million dollars for the fund.

    Following the vote, California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle made the following statement:

    “The Council of Fresno County Governments should be commended for their leadership and vision. The program they have developed to prepare their region for the enormous economic benefits that will accompany the state’s high-speed rail system is both innovative and forward-looking. The Council has been a great partner to the Authority and while there are several facilities still being considered, it is clear the Council is working to serve its region and to attract the thousands of jobs and economic development opportunities that will accompany the high-speed rail system.”

    The Council voted to develop the fund to support the region’s preparedness and planning for its high-speed rail heavy maintenance facility proposal. According to the Council, the fund could be used for planning, design, and development of related facilities, nearby transportation infrastructure improvements, infrastructure such as utilities and more.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    It’s been over 3 hours and no response to this from Castle. I thought this wasn’t going to happen and the money wasn’t going to materialize??????

    jimsf Reply:

    Anywhere in the san joaquin valley would be good. I think fresno is a good choice because it the major city in in the central part of the state. Merced would be good in that they have the airbase to utilize. Its a toss up to me, exxcept that if they put it at castle, in phase one, there would be that much of the sac line completed ahead of time. I say give it to whomever can pull off the best deal.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I like Fresno for this Im hoping that the Fresno-Bakersfield segment gets the ARRA money as it would fit right in as the test track with the base ..and this segment would be a real HSR section without all the nimby BS up here

    Eric M Reply:

    My guess is that the first construction will be from Merced to Bakersfield. That would give a test track of 160+ miles. On the HSRA chart showing preliminary engineering/analysis, the two mountain passes will be that last to start construction.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    problem with Merced/Bakersfield is the UP, the BNSF is a partner already and seems easier to construct and get ready for those deadlines that are coming up

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