Fresno and Hanford Aren’t “Nowhere”

Nov 29th, 2010 | Posted by

Readers of the Fresno Bee were treated today to something rather surprising: a columnist calling their fine city “nowhere.” Dan Walters is a political columnist for the Sacramento Bee, and because of shared ownership, his column is syndicated in the Fresno Bee. Walters is the one who told Fresno residents their city doesn’t count:

Despite this jumble of political and financial uncertainty, the HSRA plans to spend billions of dollars on a section of track out in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley.

Is that crazy or what?

Of course, neither Fresno nor Hanford are “the fields of the San Joaquin Valley” and I cannot imagine their residents taking too kindly to Walters’ dismissal of their cities.

Walters is floating the new right-wing attack on our high speed rail project – that because the new track will begin and end in undeveloped areas, it’s a “train to nowhere.” That only makes sense if you ignore the fact that two stations will be built in Fresno and Hanford, and ignore the fact that the track is just the first part of a much larger construction project, as Walters has chosen to do.

It’s a bit surprising to me that Walters made such a deliberate distortion – he’s a good observer of California politics, but in this case, his zeal to trash the HSR project has led him to overlook important facts. His column is full of misstatements and inaccuracies:

The HSRA’s ridership and revenue estimates have been widely panned, including a blistering critique by the University of California’s Institute for Transportation Studies, for their pie-in-the-sky unreality.

At a state Senate hearing this month, the UC researchers said the authority’s ridership consultant had cooked the books to create a far rosier picture than the facts warranted. Opposition is building in the Legislature, with Democratic senators publicly blasting the HSRA for clinging to an unrealistic business plan.

I don’t know if the Berkeley ITS researchers actually accused Cambridge Systematics of “cooking the books” at the hearing – that was Fresno Bee reporter Tim Sheehan’s interpretation of their statements, even though Samer Madanat, one of the researchers, has specifically disavowed the charge of “cooking the books.” And we know that their study did not provide a “blistering critique” of “pie-in-the-sky unreality” but actually offered a dry, boring technical analysis that merely questioned some of Cambridge Systematics’ methodological choices.

If Walters wants to oppose high speed rail out of his desire that Californians have no other transportation options but their cars, that’s fine, that’s his right. But it’s not too much to ask that he base his criticisms in accurate reporting of the facts, is it?

Walters also charges that the selection of the Madera-Corcoran route was politically motivated:

You’d have to be terminally naive not to believe that the splashy announcement, made personally by an Obama administration official in Fresno, was to help an embattled local congressman, Democrat Jim Costa, stave off a very stiff Republican challenge.

You’d have to be economically naive not to believe that the Obama Administration looked at the sky-high unemployment rate in the Central Valley (at least 15% in Fresno County) and thought “you know what? Since these are stimulus funds, shouldn’t they go to the part of the state in the greatest economic distress?” Sure, there are construction workers in the Bay Area and SoCal who could use the work as well, but if you want bang for the buck, it’s hard to imagine a project segment that would create more jobs than one in the San Joaquin Valley.

  1. Al-Fakh Yugoudh
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 15:52

    It may not be “nowhere”, but as a former resident of Fresno, I can affirm in unequivocal terms, that Fresno is not Paris either.

    Nevertheless, a stimulus spent on two train tracks to nowhere in the San Joaquin Valley is not any worse than a stimulus wasted on a bridge to nowhere in Alaska or on a freeway in peopleless Wyoming or on a useless weapon system to fight the Soviet Union in the 21st century.

    Any money spent on anything will result in increased economic activity thanks to the multiplier effect. That’s how the Chinese spurred the economy thousands of years ago: the Emperor then simply spent stimulus money to build a Great Wall, and look where the China economy is now!

    Said this it would have been nice to at least connect Bakersfield to Fresno, two decent size cities, and have at least some revenue coming in, while the rest of the funding materializes.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Some French would consider anywhere but Paris to be nowhere. Doesn’t make it true.

    This isn’t a train to “nowhere”. It’s the first, small step toward a train to the future, if you’ll pardon the metaphor.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Same old rhetoric, Fresno is a rest stop, the only thing to do here is eat, etc, etc. It gets old. This is one of the primary reasons I want this train. It will help to change opinions about Central California. Were not all po’dunk hillbillies out here. Someone of us even comment on blogs about trains!

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Gahh, I am still hillbilly enough to not preview my comment.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    No Walters is a po’dunk billy!!! It will be a huge boost to Fresno with benfits that will pay for years.thou even there you will read some of the most stupid backward comments in the Bee about the HSR project and its a waste and not needed

    YESONHSR Reply:

    And if you notice one of the comments is from the Nimbys here in the BayArea and there constant fearmongering and lies about HSR

    Victor Reply:

    It’s worse in the High Desert, Adelanto, Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley & Barstow are even smaller still, But then We only have Buses, Not even Light Rail is talked about, Although some would like to See Metrolink come up the Cajon Pass now that the Pass has more rail lines and no tunnels on the BNSF anymore since 2008(One tunnel was built in 1913 and extended in 1923, The tunnels are now daylighted, Plus their are rails as old as 1885 that were recovered from the tunnel foundation, Lots of pics to see), As BNSF now has had since 2008 3 Main line tracks running through the pass, UP still has only 1 of course. Amtrak has sent trains up the pass of course.
    Cajon Pass pictures in Southern California

    YESONHSR Reply:

    cool pics..and I cant wait to see the HSR in construction esp in the passes with the tunnels and viaducts

    Victor Reply:

    Thanks, Me too. My Nephew and at least one other relative thinks It’s waste of money, But at least My oldest Niece thinks HSR is needed, She’s smart and has a BA in English.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    before the 1980s something like the building HSR would be looked on with great pride by most people instead of todays visionless selfcenter mindset.

    Victor Reply:

    I think some are over extended on their mortgages more than anything else and so their stressed, It wasn’t always like this, One originally got a mortgage to buy a house, Not to use a mortgage as a piggy bank.

    jimsf Reply:

    I know people in fresno who are totally psyched about getting this train. I’m ever so totally sick to death of these right wing tea party freaks thinking they run this country, just like the right wing christian freaks who thought they ran it in the 80s and 90s. None of those people speak for anyone but themselves and they are attention hogs. I truly wish they’d stfu. Truly. I mean after hearing this crap for 4 decades. Tired. tired. tired. I’d just as soon take em out back and shoot em but you can’t do that, ( you can’t even say it really) but truly, I’m ever so sick to death of them.

    When, oh when, is the media going to get its collective heads out of its ass and start doing its job?

    Peter Reply:

    “just like the right wing christian freaks who thought they ran it in the 80s and 90s”

    You mean unlike the right wing christian freaks who thought they ran it from 2000 through 2008? I’m guessing that most of those same right wing christian freaks are today’s right wing tea party freaks, having “reinvented” themselves with a “cool” moniker.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes well. I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt, I mean everyone needs a decade off right… but you know what they say, no rest for the wicked apparently.

    Victor Reply:

    Some are just a bit isolated, Like My relatives, Two commute from a rural area to the city for work on a freeway through a mountain pass with 4 rail lines(1 UP and 3 BNSF) that could use Metrolink service(from San Bernardino to Victorville CA), Yet none exists, Amtrak does go through the pass of course(Cajon). One lives and works in a rural area and a fourth lives and works in a major urban city area and thinks HSR is needed and is a good idea just like I think It’s a good idea, She drives a car still. I do live in a rural area now, Although I was raised in a major urban area near where one of My relatives currently lives and I favor HSR, It’s just the two of the three who live in a rural area think their taxes are too high, Ones says She pays 33% in taxes already and She’s not rich either, She just has a good sized mortgage on a house She can’t sell cause She’s upside down on the houses value vs It’s mortgage. I’ve heard California will soon have a population of 50 million people in a few years and I’ve seen lots of growth already, The 3 relatives have not seen this as they’ve been out of state for a long time. One wants to join the TEA party and two of the four were talking about moving out of state like to Idaho, One said She’s staying put, The other person who wasn’t there when the 2 were talking about moving wants to stay as She likes California, But three don’t seem to get the idea that roads are expensive and that gas taxes aren’t able to pay for them as well as they used to cause people are driving more fuel efficient cars and so people are paying less in gas taxes than they used to and the Gas Tax hasn’t been adjusted since the 1990’s to keep up with inflation.

    jimsf Reply:

    but its not that hard to figure out. I mean how hard is it to understand?

    Victor Reply:

    If You see the facts, Sure It’s not all that hard, But not everyone does, Some just don’t want to pay for It and were against It on that basis and don’t like the fact that their “side” lost in 2008. I think the term blinders might be seen as appropriate, maybe. The population is going up and they simply don’t care as they think freeways and the present gas tax(hasn’t been altered since the 90’s) will do just fine as they think freeways are cheap and that HSR is terribly expensive and that no one will ride on the rails, Plus they want government to be like It was in the 20th century with nothing new added and HSR is not only New, It’s a foreign idea. So to them HSR is waste, fraud and abuse central.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some people also do not want to see:

    “The reality is that the conservatives are unwilling to see how change is necessary. The U.S.A. was #1 since WWII, and as far as conservatives are concerned nothing need change for that to continue. The reality is that if the U.S.A. doesn’t change, then it is doomed to become a 2nd class country sooner or later.”–J. Wong

    I have some relatives who would qualify for this, including some in the age demographic that should be rail supporters, indeed, including one who is a mild rail enthusiast. He is also a muscle car fan. They came of age in Reagan’s time, and have taken to that “government bad, business good” philosophy. It has not helped in that relative’s case that he has seen some serious shortcomings in the state agency he works for. He has some horror stories about some supervisory people whom he says would have been fired if they had been in a private business. I won’t say what he says is untrue, but I also don’t think he knows about or wants to discuss some of the shenanigans that can occur in large corporations.

    And of course there is that perenial favorite, the group in “that difficult, in-between age.” :-)

  2. Daniel Krause
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 15:59

    It should be noted that Walters also chose to ignore the the fact that the San Joaquins will likely use the track initially to run express service on the new track for HSR until the HSR project is fully built out. In other words, all Central Valley cities will be linked to the new track and new stations. I urge all supports to flood the Bee (both Sac and Fresno) with letters about these gross distortions. Walter’s willingness to distort the facts is disgusting and he needs to be called on it beyond this blog.

  3. James Fujita
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 16:02

    Fresno population, estimated as of 2010, according to Wikipedia: 505,479.

    Sacramento population, estimated as of 2010, according to Wikipedia: 486,200.

    If Fresno is nowhere, Sacramento is even more of a nowhere.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    San Francisco’s population is close behind at 808,976. Sacramento has suburbs, so does Fresno. People from the suburbs want to go to places too and they might figure out how to find the station.

    jimsf Reply:

    And I ticketed so many UC merced students today too! I always forget that place is there, but, students are train riders. They love the train, good lord davis and chico, and slo cal poly ( we even have a direct cal poly bus) and now we go to UCLA/Westwood as well. oh and UC SBA.

    The younger people seem to not only like the train, but just expect it to be there as if without it, they would be stuck.

    Peter Reply:

    Speaking of UC Merced…

    I spoke with my managing partner today (who grew up in Fresno). I wanted to know if anyone in Fresno was talking about the selection of the first corridor. She said she had only read about it. BUT, she said that Fresno and Bakersfield, not Merced, deserved the first HSR segment because Merced got the UC. And she’s not even interested in HSR.

    There are apparently a LOT of pent-up emotions, bitterness, anger, jealousy, etc, going on between the different CV cities. That’s another way to put Merced’s “outrage” into perspective.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I remember attending in 2005 an exhibition in Long Beach where the Great Valley Center did a presentation on the different scenarios about the future of the Central Valley. They talked about even being the waste dump for the state and benefiting from “toxic gold”….

    Nevertheless, I know your partner feels. The Valley has plenty of prisons, but no beaches, and one (new) UC. Agriculture is hardly glamorous, and the housing bubble cratered much of the other economy out there. It’s like starving dogs fighting for a bone…they will kill each other instead of teaming up to save themselves.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The younger people seem to not only like the train, but just expect it to be there as if without it, they would be stuck.

    They’d walk across the street and buy a Greyhound ticket.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes lo and behold, the hsr system in cali is actually slated to serve most of the states largest cities which are in no particular order SAN RIV ANA LAX FNO SAC SJC SFC and points in between. Some train to nowhere huh.

    I swear that Dan guy, he isn’t that stupid, he can’t be. Which means what he is, is a liar. Cuz he knows better. And I swear I am so sick of these losers gettin up on tv and in the paper and LYING through their teeth with no shame. They really make me sick. They don’t even bother to make valid arguments. They just way whatever they want, make shit up, and lie to your face and it doesn’t even phase them. What kind of people are they? I think its disgusting and its why i have zero respect for anyone who votes republican because they give this behavior a pass in exchange for political expediency. There should be no playing footsie with these scoundrels. They deserve the same hard line they dish out. Oh and then the big sissies whine and cry and won’t go on interviews with certain hosts like rachel and keith, because ” ooooh they’re so mean and biased waaah waaaah waaah”

    Sickening. Isn’t it.

    Donk Reply:

    Hey, those Amtrak people really need to change the name designation of Union Station from LAX. This is already confusing, and will only get more confusing with HSR…

    Victor Reply:

    Then It would be UNO, Which is spanish for One or maybe ULA, Which some might confuse with UCLA, So what do You think It should be called? Oh and USC is already taken.

    thatbruce Reply:

    ‘LAUS’ perhaps?

    Peter Reply:

    And calling LAUS “LAX” won’t be confusing at all to travelers who arrive at the station to catch a flight at the airport, or who arrive at the airport to catch HSR?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If they must have a three-letter abbreviation, they could use QLA, the airport code for all of the LA-area airports.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Of course, the suburbs are going to be very important to the success of this train. The larger a net you can cast, the better.

    Basically, any city destined to receive an HSR station which doesn’t already have subway, light rail, commuter train, streetcar or a seriously beefed up bus system ought to start thinking about it.

    Joey Reply:

    Look at metropolitan areas and not just cities.

    Howard Reply:

    The Sacramento metropolitan area population is 2 million and the Fresno metropolitan area population is 1 million.

    tony d. Reply:

    That’s only because Sac Metro extends all the way to Tahoe/Nevada border. That’s ridiculous!

    jimsf Reply:

    if you count just continuous populated area is about like this. The sac area is larger but thats because its on the 80.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Either way, calling a city of 500,000 or a metro area of 1 million “nowhere” is patently ridiculous.

    Spokker Reply:

    Some people have called the Purple Line extension a train to nowhere, haha, so I guess the Central Valley is also nowhere using that logic.

    brandon from San Diego Reply:

    The Purple Line train to “no-where”? Wow! Incredulous. I wouldn’t label the Westside no-where. The extension will serve “The Miracle Mile” area of Wilshire, Beverley Hills, Century City, and Westwood/UCLA.

    Victor Reply:

    And possibly as the wiki states to Santa Monica, As in the subway to the Sea.

    Future extension
    Main article: Westside Subway Extension (Los Angeles Metro)

    Metro is now considering completing the subway to the Westside. The new project is called the Westside Subway Extension. One alternative for this corridor would extend the Purple Line west, to Westwood and possibly to Santa Monica. (This alternative is sometimes referred to as the “Subway to the Sea”). This project is in the draft environmental study phase (Metro is completing the DEIR), and the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) has not yet been determined.

    I’m sure Santa Monica would love the increased business, Some may also say It will increase crime I’d expect, But then the reasons vary, probably all over the place.

    Al-Fakh Yugoudh Reply:

    Population in the metro area doesn’t count as much as distance from Train station. Experience in Europe has shown that the farther the people are from the train station the less likely they are to use the High Speed train for short distances (they basically use it only for long distance travel).

    That makes sense. If I have to drive (or take the bus) for one hour to reach the HSR station in San Jose for example, to go to Fresno, I’ll probably be tempted to drive an additional couple of hours all the way to Fresno. However switching from car (bus) to train might still make sense to go all the way from SJ to LA. However even in the case of a long trip, one has to consider whether a viable airport is closer than a station. For example if one lives right next to LAX and needs to go to San Francisco, that person is more likely to catch a flight than to drive (or take transit) to the Union Station to catch a train.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In the CV, Sacramento urban area population (28th in US) is ~1.4m, Fresno (64th) is ~550K, Bakersfield (89th) is ~400k, Stockton (99th) is ~313k, Modesto (100th) is ~310k, Visalia (223rd) is ~120k, Merced (243rd) is ~110k.

    Urban area is a set of contiguous census blocks with density of at least 1,000/mi^2 (386/km^2), combined with all neighboring census blocks with a density of at least 500/mi^2 (193/km^2). Its defined without consideration of political boundaries. If the total population is overs 50,000, its an “urbanized area”, while if under its an “urbanized cluster”.

    LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana is ~11.8m, San Francisco-Oakland is ~3.2m, San Jose is ~1.5m,

  4. James Fujita
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 16:15

    Hanford HSR station needs a shuttle to the Sherman Lee Institute. Weirdest possible location for an art museum (if you want to talk about “nowhere,” the museum is on a farm), but still an amazing collection. Easily one of the best and a hidden gem of the Central Valley.

    Also of course, buses to Visalia, and connections to Sequoia. If it grows, convert the bus to a Coaster-ish operation. The tracks are right there where they want the station.

    jimsf Reply:

    Hey where is that huge underground garden… modesto? You know the old winery one….

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Forestierre Underground Gardens in Fresno. In the 1950s, highway 99 signs taunted you to See the Home of the Human Mole!

  5. Missiondweller
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 16:23

    There have been a number of theories/explanations as to why the CV was chosen rather than one of the two endpoints with higher population centers.

    I would argue that its basic game theory. If you were somewhat uncertain whether all the funding would be there to build the entire project you could do one of two things:

    1) Start at the major population centers, with the greatest ridership. This would provide the greatest “utility” for the dollars initially spent. However, if funding became a problem or cost overuns became an issue, it might be easier for politicians to just not finish the project and essentially use the completed tracks, either up the BA peninsula or LA area, as a independent commuter line.

    2) Start the building in the area that would show the greatest progress for the dollars spent as well as the stretch that is least likely to be independently funded if cost overuns become a political issue. Its a lot easier to justify the last legs of a building program that will have the highest “utility” rather than open stretches of farmland.

    Building in the Central Valley may be the smartest way to ensure the entire project is built.

    Overall, it shouldn’t matter where building begins. Ridership projections are based on the entire system being built and any comparisons or judgements made on a short stretch (primarily built as a test track?) have no validity on valuing the entire project.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I nominate that there might be another factor–political oposition, i.e. Peninsula NIMBYs vs. people who want the jobs and the faster travel access. Build where it’s easier first, both physically and politically, and you don’t have to worry about blowing your wad on lawsuits and you stand a chance to get the results as suggested by Mission Dweller.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    Yes I agree ..they chose the right section for starting the project ..Caltrain/Metrolink upgrades would not have show anything HSR for the public to see. We are going need this soild HSR section to bring in the overseas investment money that looks like a must for getting this built by 2020

  6. nick in the uk
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 17:09

    This may be a bit off track lol but here in the Uk our situation is similar. The first leg of our hs2 is to go from london to birmingham which some people against the project are saying is nowhere ie why would anyone want to go there. the fact that our motorway, rail and air infrastructure to Birmingham and points north is creaking at the seams doesnt occur to the deniers !

    So another similarity with California is that London to Birmingham is the first leg of the eventual y shaped network to Leeds and Manchester. This is costed at £30 billion which deniers quote for the first leg which is in fact suggested to be £17 billion. so just £13 billion out then. The FIGURE quoted by the govt also includes an additional 40% bias in case costs went up by that much so the real cost could in fact be lower. It is a rather naive treasury concept probably to try to prevent riskier projects being taken forward but doesnt seem to take account that no department in business or government underspends their budget !

    Also the right wing papers have had some comments against it and many bloggers seem to think all tickets will be £200 and the train will be full of fat cats. The fact that this hasnt really happened anywhere else does not seem to register !!!

    Finally some conservative party backers are threatening to withdraw support if the line goes ahead throught the admittedly scenic Chiltern Hills. According to some commentators hundreds of thousands of people will be adversely affected and the line will cut a swathe of destruction through open countryside – wonder how many critics drive on the adjacent motorway that was blasted throught the area a few years ago. One poor rich estate owner is distraught as the line will pass within 2 kms of his estate ! another car importer is very upset as are some people who work in construction !! NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY !!!!!

    I do however believe that anyone affected must be adequately compensated and that some link from HS2 to local stations must be constructed so that people in the Chilterns can gain benefit from the link if it is built through the area. It is notable that the line will enter the area in a tunnel, then follow alongside an exisiting busy trunk road and then follow the formation of a disused railway ! There is also the course of the former Great central railway which went from Birmingham to London but this has been widely broached and part of the line is now used by a steam preservation Railway.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “. . .the fact that our motorway, rail and air infrastructure to Birmingham and points north is creaking at the seams doesnt occur to the deniers !”

    “Also the right wing papers have had some comments against it and many bloggers seem to think all tickets will be £200 and the train will be full of fat cats. The fact that this hasnt really happened anywhere else does not seem to register !!!”

    “According to some commentators hundreds of thousands of people will be adversely affected and the line will cut a swathe of destruction through open countryside – wonder how many critics drive on the adjacent motorway that was blasted throught the area a few years ago. One poor rich estate owner is distraught as the line will pass within 2 kms of his estate ! another car importer is very upset as are some people who work in construction !! NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY !!!!!”–Nick in the UK

    Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!!!!!

    I do have to ask a question. Here in the US, some of us have noticed there is a generational aspect to this, that the people who want trains are either very old, currently over 90, or fairly younger, mostly under 60, while the ones who fight it tooth and nail are primarily between 60 and 90. There have been obersvations of this generational pattern going back 20 years at least, when the break points were at 40 and 70. The best explanation that seems to present itself is that the older ones remember what we had and wish it was still around, the younger set takes cars for granted and is otherwise unimpressed, while the group in the middle came of age when cars were very ascendent and, among other things, claims we are trying to bring back horses. There is also a supposedly “socialist” tinge to this, and reportedly this was one of the things Margaret Thatcher hated about British Rail.

    My question is, do you see a similar pattern in the UK? I’ve been told it is there as well, and some of what we have seen in internet links seems to suggest so, but others would argue differently. What do you see?

    Victor Reply:

    Lets see If My relatives break this or not:

    My sister in law is in Her mid 50’s, Doesn’t want It I think, She commutes by Fwy(from the Victorville area to the San Bernardino CA area).
    Her Youngest Daughter(My Niece) Doesn’t want It(same as Her Mom), She’s near 30(Does not commute far, Just to a neighboring city, Victorville to Hesperia CA).
    Her only Son(My Nephew) Thinks It’s a waste of money and definitly does not want It, He’s about 39 and He commutes by Fwy(from the Victorville area to the San Bernardino area).
    Her oldest Daughter(My oldest Niece) wants HSR and thinks It’s needed, She’s in Her early 40’s and She commutes to LA by Fwy.
    And then there’s Me, I don’t commute currently, But I used to do the same commute as My oldest Niece all the way into LA(Los Angeles) and I’m for HSR, Oh and I’m 50.

    Most of the Relatives lived out of state or in areas away from Los Angeles and only lived briefly near LA, Unlike Myself who was raised in LA County, Although I did live in Tulare for a Year or so back in the 60’s when I was a kid(I was 6 or 7yrs old then).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, I’ll take a stab at this, tell us if you agree or disagree:

    Your sister-in-law, in her mid-50s, is what I would consider a borderline case. People in that age bracket are in or close to the transition zone, and could go either way.

    Your younger niece and your nephew do not quite fit the normal pattern, but I have mentioned before that one does deal with individuals, too; not all will fit the pattern. Your nephew might be in the demographic that came of age in the time of the Reagan administration (more or less), and could be of the “government bad, business good” outlook.

    You and your older niece fit the younger demographic, currently under 60.

    If you are comfortable sharing (of course), could you tell us if this subject been the cause of arguments, or at least heated discussions, in your family?

    In any event, have fun.

  7. BruceMcF
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 17:13

    If you are serious about building the system, you build in the CV where you can (1) get a test track and (2) complete a first leg of Phase 1 (“Phase1.1”) to either SF or LA.

    Pragmatically, you get either CV/SF or CV/LA, no nimby’s will prevent “Phase1.2” from being built.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Most likely be CV/SF. Getting to LA is going to take some serious (read: expensive) engineering.

    Joey Reply:

    Getting to LA isn’t particularly hard. Once you’re through Bakersfield, you’ve got two not particularly brutal mountain ranges, a stretch of desert, and the San Fernando Valley, which isn’t incredibly built-up along the existing metrolink line.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Actually, CV/SJ would be pretty cool with the only problem those NIMBY’s in Gilroy. Once HSR gets to San Jose I think the NIMBY’s on the Peninsula will realize what they’re fighting and shut up.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    For minimum project risk, you’d proceed to San Jose and Sylmar in parallel, and then both would have to be held up to prevent a preliminary system from being set up and running before Phase1 is completed end to end.

    For a preliminary system reaching LA-US, tail tracks at LA-US that become through tracks when LA/Anaheim is completed seems a quite reasonable way to proceed.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    For minimum project risk, you’d proceed to San Jose and Sylmar in parallel …

    Uh, no. You’d go to Livermore and Burbank in parallel.

    Livermore (with a short BART extension, without the billions of gold-plated BART yard the agency seeks) involves, as we know, zero tunnelling and zero urban construction and zero construction along any rail line with meaningful amounts of traffic. It also would directly connect Phase 1 with 2/3 of the urbanized Bay Area (Tri-Valley, Oakland, San Francisco) while being a short HOT-lane-equiped hop from “downtown” San José, Capital of Silicon Valley. Getting to BART in Phase 1 (yes, and spare s all the crap about “tranfers kill ridership” etc, we know we’ve heard it) delivers much of the urbanised Bay Area at a comparatively low and definitely low construction risk price.

    Sounds like a nearly optimal use of Phase 1 resources.

    In contrast, a first phase via Los Banos, Capital of PBQD Wealth Transfer, would leave passengers stranded at San Jose Diridon Intergalactic, with incredibly slow and poor onward connections to San Francisco and East Bay destinations as well as the poor connections within Santa Clara County.

    Sounds like a way to guarantee a white elephant. (Note that I actually have spent nearly all of my working life in Santa Clara County and San Jose rather than just looking at the Bay Area via Google Maps or whatever from Sydney or whereever. It really truly honestly is a less well-connected and less useful initial destination than Dublin, believe it or not!)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    (with a short BART extension, without the billions of gold-plated BART yard the agency seeks)” … yes, placing the winning of a bruising bureaucratic-political fight with BART on the critical path is the perfect way to minimize project risk.

    Provide we first redefine “minimize” and “maximize” to swap places.

  8. nick in the uk
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 17:28

    oh and this just in if anyone is interested in the UK high speed rail plans :

  9. Elizabeth
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 18:35

    Here is our December board meeting preview with fixed links:

    morris brown Reply:

    Your comments:

    “3) The extra costs have escalated the price tag for current plans well above the current $43 billion estimate. How high exactly we don’t know.” is an understatement. ”

    Cost estimates for adding the electrical power run to about 30% extra from these numbers.

    Not only has this segment risen in cost, but we know from the Nov 4th, meeting that the estimated costs for the San Jose to SF segment are up at least 3 to 5 billion as well.

    Time to start talking about 50 – 60 billion estimates for phase one, and still no construction contract has been signed.

    Meeting Prop 1A requirements as been virtually ignored in these materials. On Nov 4th, van Ark spun this story that all he had to do was envision how completed segments would be achieved in the future, and that would be sufficient for the Legislature to fund construction.

    That is certainly not what Prop 1A demands. The AG office, at that meeting seemed to be going along with van Ark’s statements. That would usually carry a lot of weight.

    However, in this case, the AG office is defending the Authority on legal matters. The AG office is also providing legal assistance in dealing with land use matters, and they have deputies working essentially for the Authority in this capacity.

    So, the AG office, is a client of the Authority, and shouldn’t be at all considered the last word on this matter, which I suppose might well end up on court.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Our point is that van Ark is dealing with this cost problem by re-imagining what Phase 1. It won’t have as many passing tracks, it won’t go to Merced, it probably won’t go to Anaheim and it won’t even go from SJ to SF for awhile or San Fernando to LA for awhile.

    These changes are not necessarily bad changes. We just don’t want them to cover up what seem to be extraordinarily high costs of doing business.

    morris brown Reply:


    van Ark has made the statement that he will build the project and he has a $43 billion budget to work within.

    I think you are saying there are now obvious cost escalations and that he will alter the project in other ways, such has changing where it will go, such that the overall cost will stay within that budget.

    However, when you say it probably won’t go to Anaheim, under Prop 1A, that can’t be a possibility.

    Article 2. High-Speed Passenger Train Financing Program
    2704.04. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and
    of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this
    chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects
    the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and
    Anaheim, and links the state’s major population centers,………

    So Phase 1 is going to go from SF (TBT) to Anaheim, that is not a change that van Ark can even contemplate.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Use your imagination. As long as it is not officially cancelled, the HSRA can build in any order it wants to. If something is in 20th priority for funding, it can be effectively off the table without being actually off the table.

    Victor Reply:

    Besides a passing siding can be put in later on when more money is available, plus leaving space for It, Right now I’d imagine It’s the basics that are the most important thing to be done.

    morris brown Reply:


    There are ordering restrictions. Some may be more important than others, like the segment that uses the least amount of bond funds is one.

    Phase 1 corridor must be completed before other corridors can be started. This was made quite apparent in testimony before Prop 1A was sent to the ballot and Senator Yee made sure that SF to Anaheim was not going to be put anywhere except at the beginning of the project.

    Thus I never understood how the Governor could propose going from LA to San Diego using bond funds, before completing SF to Anaheim.

    Peter Reply:

    I doubt there will be any bond funds left over for LA-SD.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Certainly not, it will be to revenue bonding for that phase, and how fast it can proceed will depend on whether there is a regular Federal funding, eg out of an infrastructure bank, with an 80:20 match or better.

    Donk Reply:

    You forgot to factor in the escalating cost due to defense against baseless NIMBY lawsuits. Hmmm, I wonder whose fault that is…

    Peter Reply:

    Morris, you got it the wrong way around. The Authority is a client of the AG office, not the other way around.

    Regardless, given the complexity of the legal question involved, I’m pretty sure that the deputy AG’s are making very sure that their t’s are crossed and their i’s are dotted.

    Peter Reply:

    Let me rephrase. The legal question is not complex. Instead, it’s a very CONTROVERSIAL issue, and, as Morris stated, there’s a good chance it’ll be litigated.

    Dan S. Reply:

    No offense to Elizabeth and CAARD (and Morris! Hi Morris!) but does anyone with a slightly different bias want to take on the accusation that the cost escalation on this segment is due to overconstructing the viaducts so they can support Amtrak trains so that it would qualify as independent utility, as the calhsr web site asserts?  My reading of their web site shows a pretty big inconsistency. They first say that the costs have risen 25% since August. Their very next bullet point is that “a lot” of those costs are due to “beefing up” the viaducts to support Amtrak trains. But their own reference material that they provide shows that this segment was spec’d for this very contingency since at least 2009. So how is this contributing to a cost escalation in the last 3 months?

    brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Refuting their claims takes the eye off the purpose of HSR, which is to provide an alternative to building car-dependant freeways and land gobbling airports – both of which do not have adequate supply of space to enable, or sufficient funding.

    Each also mode also perpetuates America’s dependence on foreign oil and the need to send young American’s to go defend supply depots with their lives … And, who’s payment for supplies enriches our enemies and fills their pockets with funding to follow-through with bombing American gathering spots to enjoy our way of life – like lighting Christmas Trees.

    Elizabeth and her kind are lost – trying to be penny wise, but instread are being pound foolish.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    The cost estimates in August already included beefing up so we are a little lost as to where the extra cost has cost come from. We requested the release of an itemized budget last week but have not received it yet.

    We have been trying to have an actual conversation with the Authority for two weeks now. We have no interest in posting anything that is not accurate.

    The beefing up is a concern to us for several reasons. First, the beefing up generally produces not nice structures. Second, there are some serious issues with the plan to run San Joaquins, including the fact that there will be maintenance costs that the Authority cannot legally pay.

    Donk Reply:

    So you are opposed to them using the San Juaquins to ensure independent utility of the tracks due to the additional cost (and rightly so). But you are also trying to ensure that they do follow the independent utility clause, and will expose them if they do not. So what are you for? What is your solution?

    Peter Reply:

    They have none. They simply bring up issues, but have no solutions.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is a complicated question.

    The intention of the state law, and not a bad intention, was that you don’t build anything until you have enough money to build something. Borden to Corcoran is not something, as evidenced by the fact there is no intention of running high speed trains on the route. It is a good question as to what would be “something”.

    The whole federal grant program was flawed. They want “independent utility” but only gave parts of the money people requested. This works okay for upgrades to conventional rail but makes no sense for true high speed rail.

    The current fallback plan is a problem. You are only going to use it if high speed rail dies. You are not going to use them for San Joaquins and then make Amtrak go back to old tracks a couple of years later. You don’t upgrade service and then downgrade it.

    If it high speed rail dies, the state will be responsible for maintaining the tracks to a high standard.They are clearly not prepared to do this. The applications celebrate that Amtrak won’t have to pay BNSF as much money for track usage, but ignore the fact that the entire enterprise will be on their shoulders. And to be precise, it is the state’s shoulders as they will be the ones signing a contract with the feds.

    All the stations will have to be moved. They haven’t even done the work yet to see if this makes sense. In addition, you might not even be running these really heavy trains in 2020 or whenever the give up date would be. By that time, PTC should be in place and waivers might be available. Putting something in concrete now is a really bad idea.

    We think there are other ways to meet the feds requirements that don’t blow money and result in impactful structures. If the Authority would return our calls, we could talk…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Borden to Corcoran is not something, as evidenced by the fact there is no intention of running high speed trains on the route.” There is every intention of running HSR through Fresno. There is no intention to restrict the operation of HSR to that route, because the intention is to run them through to SF in one direction and LA in the other. If construsted as the design specifies, it will be a usable segment of that corridor.

    The question of whether its a white elephant if that intention is frustrated, or whether it rather remains a usable segment in an event that the LA/SF corridor is not constructed, is an important one, but on the design, the answer to that is the latter, it will remain a usable segment for high speed rail even if the system mandated in Prop1A(2008) is never built, as would be the case if there were a new Proposition that repealed Prop1A(2008).

    Peter Reply:

    I suggested that the Authority postpone constructing the aerials until the last possible moment. This way they give the feds the best chance possible to come up with extra money. That way, the heavier aerials are only built if no more funding materializes. I’m not sure what that would do to the construction schedule, though.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    See page 6 (19) of this document

    They have to start on aerials asap to meet fed deadlines.

    Page 4 (17) of the same document is interesting also. It has color codes for priority segments.

    Peter Reply:

    Oh well, it was worth a try.

    Jon Reply:

    Page 4 (17) is indeed interesting. It implies that the order of construction for Phase 1 will be as follows:

    1) Madera – Corcoran
    2) Madera – San Jose and Corcoran – Symlar/San Fernando
    3) Madera – Merced, San Jose – San Francisco and Symlar/San Fernando – Anaheim

    Then, Merced – Sacramento and Los Angeles – San Diego as Phase 2.

    In other words, Merced is still part of phase one but will be one of the last segments to be built. Also interesting to note that two of the segments considered for initial construction (SF – SJ and LA – Anaheim) have now been bumped to the end.

    I think this is a sensible construction plan, leaving the most controversial segments to last will allow the issues to be ironed out. And once HSR tracks arrive in San Jose and Symlar/San Fernando, politicians from SF and LA will be throwing their weight behind extending the tracks to their cities.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I agree except that I would put SJ- SF and Sylmar- LA ahead of Merced and Anaheim.

    Peter Reply:

    I have the feeling that Sylmar-Anaheim may be changed to Sylmar-LAUS quite soon if Pringle is no longer on the Board.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If Madero / San Jose is constructed, then Madero/Merced is in reality Wye/Merced, and the benefit of waiting until San Jose / SF is completed before starting Madero/Merced is not entirely clear.

    Peter Reply:

    No real benefit. Just the fact that per AB 3034, SF-Anaheim has to be prioritized, unless construction of other segments does not hinder the construction of SF-Anaheim.

    Jon Reply:

    There is nothing in the document (or what I wrote) to imply that Madera – Merced will be constructed before or after San Jose – San Francisco and/or Symlar/San Fernando – Anaheim. They are all grouped together in the same stage of construction.

    Jon Reply:

    But yes, I agree that LA – Anaheim and Madera – Merced should have lower priority than SF – SJ and Symlar – LA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you are going to beef up to accommodate diesels can freight be far behind? Build the whole damn thing to AAR standards such that if the hsr becomes a hopeless fiscal albatross for a bankrupt state it can be sold off to the UP or the Santa Fe.

    Peter Reply:

    “can freight be far behind?”

    Yes, it is.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Neanderthal FRA passenger is, for all technical and regulatory and civil engineering purposes, exactly the same as freight.

    Whether they run freight trains on the tracks doesn’t matter; the damage is already done. In fact, not running freight trains and earning minute amounts of incremental revenue just means that the shiny new FRA-freight-ready tracks would just sit idle and depreciating 99% of the time instead of 97%.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But if a freight capable Tehachapi detour could be built the revenue could be substantial as the Loop is a major bottleneck.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It actually makes some sense that the tracks would be sold off to BNSF. They would then have a grade separated route through Fresno and Amtrak trains could run on them. Interesting though.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    or leased out. This might cover maintenance.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But it essentially triple tracking an existing route that from the freight pov is not a priority.

    On the other the Tehachapi Loop is a wasteful operating challenge on a very busy line. Even Dan Walters would have to recognize that overall rail transport in California would greatly benefit from a major upgrade on this alignment.

    The Tehachapi detour has a significant east-west orientation, with the Route 66 line being a more important destination than a Sin City on the skids.

    Tejon is the proper north-south escape from LA but pathetic PB obviously feels it has neither the competence, nor the capability nor the cojones to tackle it.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I’m not saying this is a good use of money. I am saying that you might get to freight consolidation in Fresno. I’m also saying I can see why BNSF would be quite friendly about the whole scheme.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The rule of thumb that should come into play here is if this turns out to be the only money we get and this is all that is built, what segment would be the most useful and provide the most transport benefit.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Building a route into the Central Valley (or places outside the CV) doesn’t meet the criteria for the Federal funds. Thus, Pacheo, Altamont, Tehachapi and Tejon are all out of the running for the initial round of construction.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @synonymouse, on that rule of thumb, the one they selected is the most useful and would provide the most transport benefit, since as thatbruce noted, sections outside of the CV would get no funding and thus could provide no use and no transport benefit, and this is the segment of the three feasible alternatives that provides the most use and the most transport benefit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s what the Pelosi machine is for – if it(namely our trio of high seniority nannies in DC)can’t lean on LaHood for what is an obvious reordering of priorities, what good are they? Allowing the farce of a train from nowhere to nowhere is very poor politics for Pelosi. Time to pay attention to the basics. As I said the Don is slipping.

    Victor Reply:

    Lets see the cost of steel and copper going up, Aka China is buying all It can maybe?

  10. jimsf
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 18:53

    ah here it is Ill make this my first trip on HSR.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Why stop there? Why not have Huell Howser become the Authority’s spokesman in TV spots or documentaries. Why not have him “ride the rails” to California’s Gold?

    jimsf Reply:

    lol not a bad idea – andyeh thats where i heard about it too

    Victor Reply:

    An excellent idea indeed, But then He’s been bouncing up and down this state for Years on TV, Hopefully His program isn’t a PBS one or It will never be shown on KCET TV(28).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “an oasis in a modern-day desert of pavement”–from that underground garden site.

    That should tell us something about how we have been overpaving the land.

  11. jimsf
    Nov 29th, 2010 at 20:48

    There isn’t really a lot of “nowhere” left in california. Take a look at this list of our TOP 100 cities. With the sole exception of Redding, 99 out of the top 100 california cities are going to be within 50 miles or less ( or one hour or less) of a high speed rail station. Looking at the system in that perspective it makes a lot of sense. That’s put a whole lot more people a whole lot closer to high speed rail stations than they are to airports.

    Victor Reply:

    I know of a few places that are more than 50 miles away and I currently live in Yermo CA(along the I15 fwy) and shop in Barstow CA. from Barstow to Palmdale by road It’s between 83 and 104 miles one way(Google Maps), Yermo is about 12 miles beyond Barstow, Baker is even farther out(any farther out and It would be in Nevada) and is about 75 miles roughly from Yermo, Baker would almost certainly die If too much traffic went from the I15 to HSR(If HSR ever gets built in the High Desert).

    jimsf Reply:

    there are places but none of the “top 100” is all. As for Baker etc, they existed just fine in the 30s 40s 50s 60s and 60s with much less traffic on the freeway than today, so to cut back some on traffic… they should be fine anyway.

    jimsf Reply:

    luckily though, if the the del taco closes and the residents have to move away, they have homes that are ready to go at a moments notice…. Sensible people who plan ahead!

  12. jimsf
    Nov 30th, 2010 at 05:13

    Well, I see on the news this morning, we have yet another republican, explaining how they will not compromise on tax cuts for the richest americans, regardless of the additional debt and with no requirement that they be paid for, while meanwhile, being adamant that they will not vote to extend unemployment benefits to out of work americans, which expire today, unless they are “paid for” with unspent stimulous funds – (you know – the funds that create jobs)

    And even while being pressed over and over on this issue, the guy can just sit there and talk in circles about it. Absolutely amazing. And people support this? Amazing. Just amazing. Maybe its not real. Maybe my alarm didn’t go off and I’m still asleep.

    Al-Fakh Yugoudh Reply:

    I wonder how many Republicans know that with what the US spends every 3 months in Iraq+Afghanistan one could build the entire California High Speed Rail. As of today the adventures in Iraq+Afghanistan alone (not including the rest of the defense budget), if I’m not mistaken, have cost us $1.3 trillion, i.e. enough to build all the US proposed corridors. If one wonders why the rest of the world has HSR and we don’t the answer is right there: other countries are smart enough not to get involved (or at least get minimally involved) in these silly unwinnable donquixotic wars against elusive enemies, such as terror. Not surprisingly the Western European big state in the EU which is far behind in HSR is Great Britain, another nation that is always ready and willing to follow the US like a poodle in these wars. So if 10 years from now you’ll still be discussing where the next batch of HSR funding is hiding, you’d do best to check with the Pentagon first. That’s where America is wasting its resources. Frankly, after this Republican victory, I doubt will have a fast train any time soon in America. The only way to sell this project would have been to shape the train like a sherman tank and put a huge gun in front of it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    “…tank… and gun…..”

    How do you think they got the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, legislated?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ho, ho, ho, ho! It’s been done, it’s just that the technique may be obsolete in today’s conditions:

    What remains galling is that the conservative types seem to fail to realize that our highway system, with its enormous thirst for fuel (54% of total oil consumption in this country) is our logistical and strategic Achilles’ heel. We understood things like this in the WW II era, when we rationed gasoline (most people only got 4 gallons a week, later reduced to 3) to reduce auto use. This was mostly to reduce the use and wear of tires, which like all rubber products of this time, were made from natural rubber from Indonesia and other nations on the Pacific–and this rubber-growing region was in the hands of the Japanese. So we sidelined a lot of automobiles, part of the effort to get our boys home sooner.

    When will we relearn that lesson?

    Dan S. Reply:

    Totally predictable of course. American voters, congratulations. You get what you deserve.

  13. observer
    Nov 30th, 2010 at 08:51

    Are there incremental noise implications to running diesel/amtrak on ariels? Were those environmental impacts studied?

    will there be a link to watching the board meeting live? Or recording afterward?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Good point. You should presumably have to clear both the high speed rail project AND the San Joaquin project. For the San Joaquin project, there would be real questions about whether the environmental impact coming from all the steel and concrete required result in a net benefit.

    We assume it will be broadcast. It is taking place in the Sacramento City Council Chambers where most meetings happen and the technical bugs have been worked out. The link is usually posted the morning of on the website. There are occasional issues with this so we try and go in person.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I’m hoping that the designers of the aerials take a couple of hints from the Belgiums, and use the structure of the aerials to mitigate the noise of whatever runs along there.

    @observer: I think Disney only had one Ariel.

    Peter Reply:

    There are now many years worth of technical and operational experience with running trains on modern aerials. The necessary data should be easily available.

  14. Aaron
    Nov 30th, 2010 at 13:04

    Hi All,

    I heard the news last week and I was reading up on the HSR when I found this blog. Thought I could ask a question to the people who use this site. I understand the novelty and the progressive nature of this project, but given the condition that the State of California economically, is this project the best future? Are we chasing a few bucks and going to be left with a much larger portion of the project to fund. The estimated costs are upwards of $46 billion, do we bond for the remainder (California has no way to bond at this moment in time), do we tax our citizens, or do we saddle the rest of the nation with our project? By the way, I have tried to contact some of the planners who work on this project and they are absolutely irresponsible at returning calls or emails. I have the sneaking suspicion that they are mainly consultants who benefit from the progress of this project. Oh, also do any of you have any feel for the amount of work that will benefit our local economies? I understand it may bring a few jobs, but I am thinking this type of construction will be bid out to the lowest bidder, somewhere out of state or even better out of country.

    We have a broken water system here in the State that drives our economy. I am sorry to say that HSR is not going to bring any more economic stability to the state. I support the notion of stabilizing the economy and then in the moments of prosperity move forward with progress. In short, the HSR is wonderful idea given the conditions are right, and at this moment the conditions are not right.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    By your logic, we would still be in the Great Depression. Now is *exactly* the time to build this infrastructure, which is vital to building 21st century prosperity – we need to get off of oil. We built dams, bridges, and freeways to provide the basis of 20th century prosperity. Time to do it now. If we do nothing, we will merely prolong our economic malaise.

    HSR *is* economic stabilization. Your argument is for Hooverism. That didn’t work out so well the last time we tried it.

    The reason planners aren’t returning your calls is because your views are irrelevant, and were rejected by the public in November 2008. I would much rather they ignore you rather than wasting their time with your uninformed criticisms – their job is to design and build a railroad, not to spend their time dealing with folks whose arguments were disproved long ago.

    Aaron Reply:

    Hi Robert,

    Since you obviously have this figured out let me ask you for the details. Of the original cost, which is approximately $43 billion (deduct the amount the feds have kicked in), where does the remainder of the construction cost come from? The State is currently in a budget deficit of approximately $25 billion, how do we pay for this project? I apologize if I have not kept up on all the details of the project, but I have tried to keep as informed as I can.

    Let me also ask you other than SF, our public transportation in our individual cities is horrible. How do you intend or propose to move people efficiently and cheaply once they get to their destination?

    Lastly, my points are not irrelevant to myself and I could argue many others. Your assumptions about my intent of the calls leads me to believe that you only respect people with opinion that are in-line with your ideals. My calls and requests were for information on HSR. My request was this:

    What is the funding scheme?
    In elevated sections what is the design height proposed? I have read anywhere from 35′ to 60′.
    Are there any station designs available on the web?
    Why was the estimated ticket prices that were once on the web missing?
    Where will there be any service trains to Visalia, CA?

    I appreciate your comments and understand them. I in no way feel your opinions are irrelevant or should be ignored. I hope you would have the same respect for other.

    PS. I look forward to the HSR. I only want to ensure that it is going to be a VIABLE project. I am a professional engineer who works in public works projects. If you don’t ensure that the entire program is established (funding, environmental concerns, public perceptions, etc.) then your project is headed towards cost overruns, blown timelines and potential failure.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m not Robert, but most of your questions are answered on the Authority’s website.

    Los Angeles has pretty good connecting public transit already. Other cities such as San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield are in the process of improving their existing systems by a fair amount.

    The funding scheme is in flux right now. Now that the Republicans have taken the House, the likelihood of a goodly chunk of federal money over the next two years has dried up. There are other options, though. China, Japan, and South Korea have stated they are interested in funding CAHSR.

    The design height of aerials depends on the local constraints and requirements. They do range in height up to 60 feet in certain locations.

    There are concepts for some of the stations. Nothing concrete or final though, as we’re still years away from construction.

    The estimated ticket prices were likely removed because people were complaining that they were higher than they would pay on Southwest today. Ticket prices TODAY are kind of irrelevant to a discussion of ticket prices in 10-15 years.

    Finally, I don’t think Visalia is on the alignment. Any connecting services are not the responsibility of the Authority.

    I’ll leave discussing how the state’s current budget is not relevant to constructing HSR over the next decade to other people.

    Aaron Reply:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the reply. Greatly appreciate the answers.

    I have not used LA public transit in several years, but my experience was bad enough that I said I would never use it again. I talked to a few friend that live the in the Pasadena, Huntington Beach and Irvine area, and they all agreed that public transport in the greater LA Basin is not effective. I hope your improvements can live up to the expectations.

    As far as loss of funding and future investments by foreigners. If this project is slam dunk, why are there no investors named yet? Is it wise to venture out on a $46 billion project with a hope that the funding will be there?

    I personally think the ticket prices were removed because they were not founded on good estimates and they were intended more as a PR ploy, which backfired when some people did not think they were realistic. And yes, I completely agree that the eventual price in 10-15 years is more important (which will probably be significantly more than they stated and not competitive with airlines).

    It is too bad that Visalia cannot be connected in some fashion. They represent a significant population south of Fresno.

    Donk Reply:

    The LA public transit network is centered around Union Station, so if you are dropped off there, I would consider the public transit network to be great. Plus they are building new lines as we speak.

    However, it is unfair if you require HSR to have connecting transit when you don’t have the same requirement of Airports. LAX has no real connecting transit and does quite well.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Sure, LAX doesn’t have a lot of connecting transit, but the traffic both inside the airport and in the surrounding neighborhoods is horrible. The situation would be a lot better if they had a Green Line connection, a peoplemover, a Metrolink connection, or even beef up the existing Flyaway buses.

    The same is true of Cal HSR. Any of the stations can and should have connecting transit, even if that amounts to municipal buses lined up in front of the station to meet the trains.

    bixnix Reply:

    When people talk about L.A. improving their public transit, they really mean that L.A. County is improving their transit (through the L.A. MTA). L.A. County has been laying down new train lines and rapid bus lines for years, and now, through Measure R, will be accelerating the pace. Huntington Beach and Irvine are in Orange County, which has put its money into building bigger and wider freeways, and has no subways or light rail at all, and will not have any for the foreseeable future. Therefore, your friend in Pasadena is in luck as he has a pretty decent light rail (the Gold line) available. I take this line all the time, and it’s a good route and well used by people who work in downtown L.A.. For your other friends… well, maybe they’ll consider moving to an area that has mass transit priorities more in line with a city, rather than a suburb.

    Peter Reply:

    “which will probably be significantly more than they stated and not competitive with airlines”

    You’re assuming that airline tickets will remain as cheap as they are right now. The airlines have cut their costs to the bone and can’t cut them any more, really. As fuel prices go up, as they most definitely will, the airlines will have to make some really tough choices. Will they raise their ticket costs to reflect the new oil prices, or will they add even more fees? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet when it comes to airline fees.

    See here for a discussion of foreign investment in CAHSR. China especially badly wants to get into the emerging US HSR market.

    Visalia could, together with Tulare County perhaps, set up a connecting rail service to feed into HSR. The tracks already exist, and all they would have to do would be build the station and purchase the railcars, probably some DMUs. HSR might even offer some financing for this through the $995 million portion of Prop 1A meant to fund new and better transit connections.

    James Fujita Reply:

    About five years ago, Tulare County considered a “Cross-Valley” commuter train which would use the existing tracks and DMUs to connect Visalia with Hanford.
    The tracks are definitely there, and Visalia deliberately built its municipal bus station next to the tracks.

    It’s single track, and the Visalia tracks are in the middle of a street, with speed restrictions. But the promise of a high-speed train in the neighborhood would be an incentive to dust off the old plans.

    J. Wong Reply:

    which will probably be significantly more than they stated and not competitive with airlines

    Second Peter’s Reply, and add that the airline’s have figured out how to make money by limiting capacity, i.e., not adding seats or flights, supposing they could even add flights given the gate capacity at the airports. As the population (“demand”) increases over the next 10 to 15 years, they will not add seats (“supply”) at the same rate.

    The HSR ticket prices will be both competitive with the airlines and profitable.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    actully since we are a “donor” state the rest of the nation is not paying one cent for our HSR system. And as posted up the thread just 3 months of the middle east war costs would build Cali HSR..we have a terrible concept in this nation as to what is worth something and what is “waste”
    somethings I can see as not needed but not HSR or other items that when built last for 100 years or more.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I concur with Robert. There seems to never be a good time to build this sort of thing; speaking for myself, I’ve been waiting for this since 1973, the year we first got kicked by OPEC. We had “good times” (supposedly) until recently, and we still got the same arguments against this and other public works proposals. In fact, some of the arguments were even stronger than now, with talk of “market superiority” in meeting decisions and all that classic “supply and demand” talk of economists. Look where it got us–the public “demanded” more cars, and bigger cars, and the result was that awful oil shock that brought down the house of cards our economy has become.

    Of course, I am also of the opinion that the travel and transportation market has been rigged against trains and transit for decades–and can produce numbers to prove it–and some of those same arrogant economists have tried to say my arguments are irrelevent. That’s pretty funny when your gas taxes maybe cover only half the cost of the road system. And it gets worse–if we get a bunch of electric cars running, or even just more efficient cars, your road revenue based on gas taxes goes down, even though those cars use capacity just the same as a gas car. The whole auto-oil lifestyle simply is bankrupt, fiscally and physically. We need to get away from that, and that means we need more public transit, which includes trolley cars, branch line trains, intercity trains (i.e., Amtrak), and something we didn’t have in the old days, HSR.

    Another way to look at it is to recall WW II; nobody worried about deficits then, because we had bigger worries. I think we are in such a situation now in regard to oil. Something like 54% of oil demand is for motor fuel (48% gasoline, 6% diesel fuel), and the airlines draw another 6%. Electric cars still have range problems, and I don’t see alternative energy being practical for aircraft. Railroads, though, can be electrified easily, if not always cheaply; the first heavy duty mainline electrification was a tunnel operation on the Baltimore & Ohio in 1893, and trolley cars actually go back to the 1880s. There are no unpleasant surprises there, and considering the successful operation of HSR lines around the world, there shouldn’t be any there, either!

  15. observer
    Nov 30th, 2010 at 15:27

    Elizabeth – Prop 1A says that a the revenue generating use of the usable segment (while waiting for HSR to start I guess) would have to be non-subsidy operation (will require no federal state or local subsidy). Isn’t Amtrack subsidized – would it work to ‘lease’ or rent the track to a subsidized rail operation that is ultimately expense coming out of tax payer pockets?

    Also, once they run much heavier diesel operations on these tracks for whatever number of years, are there going to be costs associated with restoring the tracks to usable order for high speed rail operation? How much?

    Peter Reply:

    “would it work to ‘lease’ or rent the track to a subsidized rail operation that is ultimately expense coming out of tax payer pockets?”

    Possibly. There are legal arguments both ways.

    “once they run much heavier diesel operations on these tracks for whatever number of years, are there going to be costs associated with restoring the tracks to usable order for high speed rail operation?”

    Yes, most likely.

    “How much?”

    Not anything close to original construction costs. Leasing the tracks out should cover the maintenance costs.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I think this is going back to the ‘Usable Segment’ vs ‘Independent Utility’ semantics, and the type of train being subsidized (or rather, expressly not subsidized). AB3034’s verbage about subsidized operation is aimed towards the operation of HSTs, and not other, non-HS trains who presumably pay the access fees and meet the criteria set by the CAHSRA for operation over the CAHSRA’s tracks.

    Note that this line of argument doesn’t only apply to the San Joaquins over the initial section of track; it also applies to Caltrain and Metrolink services over CAHSR track.

    Peter Reply:

    “it also applies to Caltrain and Metrolink services over CAHSR track”

    Huh, I never thought of that.

    thatbruce Reply:

    This assumes that Caltrain, Metrolink and Amtrak are operating their own rollingstock of course. If they are operating (subsidized) services over CAHSR track using leased CAHSR rollingstock, then I think that the AB3034 clauses about subsidized operation might come into play.

  16. jimsf
    Nov 30th, 2010 at 19:13

    Am i the only one who thinks this is just hysterical. apparently a campaign to get tgv to the southwest.

    This green ad is analogous to cali. The state should be doing this type of publicity. I mean it even looks just like us.

    jimsf Reply:

    I posted wrong this is the funnier of the two. It just cracks me up lol.

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