Tracks Have To Go Somewhere

Dec 28th, 2010 | Posted by

Today’s LA Times has a good article on concerns among Central Valley farmers with the proposed high speed rail route. These concerns are nothing new; we’ve known for well over a year that farmers would prefer the tracks to stick as closely as possible to existing corridors and not go onto their land. Of course, the small towns along the route also don’t want the tracks in their communities either. The tracks have to go somewhere, so someone is going to be left unhappy – either cities or farmers.

Before taking a look at the article, let’s remind ourselves of a couple things. First, transportation infrastructure has previously been built through the Central Valley on brand-new alignments that divide up existing farmland – yet somehow farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole seem to have survived. The image below is of Interstate 5 in Kern County, near the town of Buttonwillow. I-5 was built through this area on a totally new alignment in the 1960s:

View Larger Map

On the other hand, most Central Valley towns grew up around the railroad. Here’s a shot of Hanford. The BNSF railroad tracks are highlighted in blue. A proposed bypass would be to the right (the east) of that alignment – you can get an idea of where it would be with the location of the proposed Hanford/Visalia station at the intersection of Highways 43 and 198.

View Hanford in a larger map

Keep these in mind as we look over this LA Times article:

By September, the only option left bowed east of Hanford into the nut and fruit groves Tos and his neighbors farm. Running a finger along an aerial map at his office, Tos shows how ground-level tracks and elevated viaducts would arc through squared-off farm fields at odd angles. “We’ve got all these parcels just the way we want them,” he says. “When you go diagonally through there, it just destroys” them.

Does it really? Look again at the image of Interstate 5 above. Those parcels have certainly been altered, and how they are managed was surely changed. But they’re hardly “destroyed.” They are still productive farmland, as anyone who’s driven through there has seen. Farmers would be compensated for the fair market value of the land that the CHSRA takes to build the project, and should work with local farmers to ensure that irrigation can be built underneath the HSR’s ROW. It is very difficult to accept the charge that HSR would “destroy” agriculture along its route.

Farm groups up and down the Valley are voicing similar complaints. Some of their allies, including the Kings County Board of Supervisors, have called for the train to stick to established routes, notably Highway 99. But that option was ruled out because of high construction costs and uncertainty about cooperation from Union Pacific, which controls tracks near the road.

This is an important point. Both farmers and cities would have their needs met, their problems solved, if Union Pacific wasn’t so deeply and irrationally hostile to high speed rail. Building along the Highway 99 corridor would still serve the downtowns of Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield. A station at Hanford/Visalia would still be possible, and would be quite close to central Visalia. Farm groups should direct their ire not at the Authority, but at Union Pacific, for this situation. Of course, it’s not the first time UP and its antecedents have screwed Kings County residents.

One problem for farmers, says Manuel Cunha, president of the 1,100-member Nisei Farmers League, is that rail officials are racing to start construction so they can secure billions in federal stimulus cash. But farmers are still in the dark about what would happen to them, he said.

Well, as I’ve explained before, the situation with the stimulus funding has upended the usual project timelines. Typically a route would be finalized and then funding would be secured. But the federal government’s deadlines for stimulus funding have forced an acceleration of that process, and with an understaffed agency, the Authority has had problems with its public outreach in the Valley.

Of course, those problems aren’t helped by some of the attitudes taken by locals. Consider Hanford, whose leaders were so opposed to a downtown alignment that they tried to keep CHSRA staff off of city property:

Trying to quell the unrest, the California High-Speed Rail Authority drafted alternative routes that would follow the existing tracks through Hanford. That upset the City Council, which said the plans were too disruptive in a downtown that promotes tours of its carefully preserved century-old buildings. At one point, Hanford threatened to bar rail representatives from stepping on city property. “We were very much against that” route, says City Manager Hilary M. Straus.

I’m not sure why Hanford was so opposed. One can preserve those old buildings as well as make room for new development. Instead they are going to have a station on the edge of town, sucking away money and customers from the existing downtown. Perhaps that’s the city’s intention, but it seems unnecessary. Still, given the fact that Hanford doesn’t want the tracks downtown, and that nearby farmers don’t want the tracks going through their land, someone is going to be disappointed here.

That decision should be done on the basis of what is best for the project itself. Both cities and farmers need to keep in mind that the Authority has a duty to the people of California to build a project that will attract riders, but also one that is constructed with the best use of available funding. If a bypass of Hanford or Corcoran is necessary, it would not be any more damaging to farmers than the construction of Interstate 5 nearly 50 years ago. And if going through those cities is necessary, it does not seem likely to be any more damaging than when the Highway 99 freeway was built through Bakersfield and Fresno.

More importantly, HSR is necessary to bring jobs to a part of the state that desperately needs it. The LA Times article devoted at least 1/3 of its length to this topic, showing how the dispute over where the tracks go is of secondary importance to the issue of job creation. It’s a lesson Peninsula NIMBYs would do well to learn:

By state estimates, the initial leg of high-speed rail construction from north of Fresno through Kings County to the outskirts of Bakersfield would create more than 100,000 jobs. That includes additional work funded by new state and federal pledges of $1.2 billion. [Visalia mayor Bob] Link says those jobs are a good reason to accept the chosen route and get started. “They have to take it through the Valley somewhere,” he says.

That’s a sentiment that resonates with job seekers as well as public officials struggling with the social ills of a region recently singled out for having one of the lowest standards of living and education in the nation.

“We have high unemployment and high poverty,” says Kings County Supervisor Tony Oliveira, a farmer and part-time economics professor. There is no comparison between the game-changing economic payoff of the rail project, he contends, and the modest adverse impacts on the huge agricultural industry. There are nearly 800,000 acres of agricultural land in Kings County alone, he notes.

Growers fighting the approved alignment “have a strong voice,” he says, “but I do not think they represent the majority of the people here.”

The Central Valley has been a “forgotten land” economically, says Oliveira, who has been at odds with other supervisors on the route issue. “We deserve our shot.”

I think this is the right approach to take. The Central Valley has too often been left behind in terms of economic development in California. It has high unemployment, and that acts as a drag on the rest of the state – reducing tax revenue while increasing state spending on the necessary safety net services that the unemployed and the poor deserve. Residents of the Valley, including Hanford and Visalia, deserve good jobs too. And HSR will help provide them, both in construction of the system and in bringing new jobs to the region, as we discussed in the most recent post.

As we saw with not only the construction of Interstate 5, but also with construction of canals and aqueducts, there will be impacts on both cities and farmland. The Authority ought to work, and is working, with farmers and city dwellers to reduce those impacts and find ways to ensure as many needs are met as possible during route selection, construction, and operation. Still, we must recognize that the tracks do have to go somewhere, and if cities and farmers both don’t want them, then one side is going to have to accept something they don’t want, for the good of the community, the region, and the state.

  1. anon
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 15:35

    Think you’ve hated on UP enough in this blog? UP isn’t “irrationally hostile” to high speed rail. Witness Illinois high speed rail. That’s over UP tracks, not just the right of way, and it’s going forward a whole lot faster than California HSR. UP is quite rationally hostile to HSR in the Central Valley, because it wants to keep it’s trains moving with a minimum of fuss. UP is a corporation. It’s purpose is to make money. If HSR disrupts its business, of course it’s going to oppose it. This doesn’t make it evil, or a company to be blindly opposed. It’s not supposed to perpetually work for the greater public good, to bow down before every random government demands; if it did, its infrastructure and business would be in chaos.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The Illinois situation with UP is subtly different from the California situation, in that UP in Illinois inherited agreements from SP that allowed for future passenger rail improvements along that ROW.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In Illinois if UP claims that their ROW is worth a gazillion dollars a mile, tax assessors all up and down the line start to drool. In California if UP says their ROW is worth a gazillion dollars a mile tax assessors all up and down the ROW go back to napping because Prop 13 froze UP’s tax assessment forever and ever and ever.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Illinois Situation with UP is also crudely different from the California situation, in that the Chicago / St. Louis project is a 110mph project on largely shared tracks and UP gets an increase in freight transit capacity without an increase in property tax liabilities in return for permitting the increased use of its right of way for passenger rail ~ on top of the fact that legacy rights in the corridor cast its legal standing to oppose the development in doubt, so it may as well negotiate the best deal for itself in the process of building the passenger rail infrastructure.

    The California situation is an increase in liability of indeterminate extent combined with the opportunity loss of a sale of right of way, in return for a cash payment, and UP might not be in the business of being eager to sell off its legacy right of way.

    shorebreeze Reply:

    I don’t think UP deserves all that much credit in Illinois, unless you count effective performance at procuring government money for their infrastructure. We’re getting no new frequencies out of the $1.1 billion improvement; just a promise of faster service and marginally better dispatching, along with an on-time standard that’s below what they’re currently delivering. UP have been awkward at every step of the way since they acquired the Chicago-St. Louis line in the 1990s, throwing several wrenches in the works of a project that was first studied in the mid 1970s. It’s unfortunate that the state didn’t just step in and acquire the line when Illinois Central offloaded it; we’d have had open-access infrastructure for all operators and not have had wrestle with the short-line and SP neglect or fight the UP awkward squad.

  2. James Fujita
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 15:42

    If UP weren’t such a jerk/ paranoid about HSR, the Hwy. 99 route would be perfect, at least as far as Hanford/ Visalia is concerned. Old, central Visalia would still be a little too far to the east to be a useful rail route, but the newer part of town is definitely growing towards the airport. And the 120,000 population of Visalia (that’s IN Visalia city limits, not “Visalia and vicinity”) would trump 53,000 in Hanford.

    But the Hanford station location is still a pretty good one. The town is growing, and putting HSR there would probably give developers/ city planners an excuse to build east. Build to the west and you end up swallowing Armona and maybe even Lemoore. But the HSR station would be a good way to contain horizontal sprawl.

    As for crops vs. towns, it seems like it would be a lot easier to move crops or cows than it would be to move buildings. In some places in the Valley, the situation is similar to San Juan Capistrano… buildings on both sides, very little room to expand. (Compare BNSF with UP in Fresno, for example)

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    The more recent than interstate 5 example might be the new Highway 41 cuts through Fresno/Tulare/Kings county farmland near my family’s ranches and I don’t recall anyone saying boo about the destruction of farmland.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    True – I chose I-5 because I assume more readers are familiar with that route than the Highway 41 project, although it too cuts through farmland. Some of this is a sense that farmers have no use for high speed rail (though their workers sure as hell do).

    flowmotion Reply:

    My understanding is that one of the reasons I-5 was built on the far west edge of the valley was to avoid the most valuable farmland (& powerful land owners).

    However, I’m sure far more valuable farm land is lost to urban sprawl than any particular roads.

    jimsf Reply:

    the farmers have been selling off their land in droves for years for a pretty penny, to developers.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    The I-5 through the sparsely populated West Valley was aligned there so that it would service Sac’to and the Bay Area equally well. Note the “miles-to” destination signs along the whole length. Sac’to and SF are always within one mile of each other.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Yep, farm workers sure as hell need high speed rail. It’ll solve their housing crisis, improve their work conditions, cater to their migratory habits and boost their children’s education.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s funny, my wife has been to Switzerland, and one thing she remembers was the sight (and, (cough), smell) of migrant farmworkers on the trains there. This also forgets our own history, in the “Great Migration” of black people from the south to the north from the late 1800s to the 1950s, riding largely on the Illinois Central and the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, and for some tiime, riding back and forth between jobs in the Chicago and Detroit areas and their families still in the South. One could hardly say that group was terribly prosperous in that time.

    Truth is, this sort of thing can benefit almost everyone and anyone.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    Or for housing tracts..A clean powered HSR is a huge step up from a freeway. The Eurostar I rode on had cows sitting right up against the ROW along with crops

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    The UP corridor actually does not serve downtown Bakersfield well. If a station were to be located along the UP in the vicinity of downtown (to the northeast), it would still be about a mile from Amtrak and well over a mile to the CBD. Additionally, it would be difficult to route trains from the UP corridor to the Amtrak station to provide the proper connection. So regardless of the intransigence of UP, I don’t think the SR-99 corridor would have served the project well as Bakersfield is shaping up to be the only transfer station for HSR and Amtrak in the CV, not to mention the fact that the core of Bakersfield’s downtown is in dire need of transit-oriented development.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s not going to be any conventional Amtrak in the Central Valley once HSR opens.

    James Fujita Reply:

    convention rail other than Amtrak, then.

    jimsf Reply:

    there he goes again.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s fair to say that the San Joaquin’s niche market will be shrunken even further by HSR.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Unless the response to the new high speed intercity rail is to provide more regional transport on the San Joaquin corridor, including additional stations, with convenient transfers at select locations to the HSR. After all, when gas goes above $5/gallon, the market demands may shift around a bit.

    James Fujita Reply:

    HSR is going to be a game changer, especially in the Central Valley.

    The hard part is going to be convincing county politicians that this construction project is happening, and YES, they need to start thinking ahead to local rail and bus connections.

    If Amtrak’s San Joaquin doesn’t survive, that will just leave a wide-open hole for something… DMUs perhaps, or “Central California Caltrain” or whatever to fill the gap.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    I’m not familiar with where Fresno Station is going to be at. Will it not have a direct connection to the current SJ Amtrak service? How are apart will they be?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It will be across the street from Chukchansi Park, paralleling G and H streets between Ventura and Tuolumne Streets. Page 2 of this CHSRA public meeting board has a good schematic of it. And it will be about 7 blocks southwest of the Fresno Amtrak station – this Google Map has a good view of the locations.

    So it won’t have a cross-platform connection to Amtrak service. Plans to unite the two rail corridors were abandoned a year or two ago. I suppose there will be some kind of direct shuttle – it’s a bit far for most people to walk, especially in the hot summer weather.

    jimsf Reply:

    I walked from the amtrak station to the holiday inn downtown once in the summer, I had to double check the street signs to make sure I was fresno and hadn’t accidentally gotten off the train in hell.

    James Fujita Reply:

    all the more reason to have an air-conditioned streetcar, light rail or shuttle bus connect the two stations.

    Not the first time that two major train stations in one city have needed to be linked together. From South Station Boston to Umeda Osaka.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Heck, it’s been the general theme of passenger rail in America.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    How many recall Parmalee Transfer in Chicago? Started out as a stagecoach line, connecting those seven stations, lasted into the 1950s–quite a bit of history there. . .

    Ben Pease Reply:

    I don’t remember any good connections from North Station Boston to Umeda Osaka – maybe the MBTA Red Line works better than the Orange or Green Lines. :-)

    jimsf Reply:

    That station development doc even has a circle drawn around the station area marked “walking distance buffer” if you walk beyond this boundary, they’ll have to call the paramedics.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Thanks. I see. 7/10ths of a mile a straight shot down arterial street Tulare.

    It’s a cross platform transfer if you embrace a broad definition of the term. Just kidding.

    Should be able to set up a decent bus transfer with signal priority and well designed terminals for the buses. Could even do a pretty cheap streetcar light rail system between the two stations.

    jimsf Reply:

    fresno brt

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I won’t actually say BRT is bad, although I prefer trolley cars.

    Of course, if you are going to use a bus, I would, as usual for me, go retro:

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    While we’re at it, what’s the status of an HSR station between Bakersfield and Fresno? Where would it be at?

    I think that a connection to conventional rail at Fresno is important as well so people could connect from the bay area to intermediate stops in the CV.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The proposed Hanford station is marked on the second Google Map embed in the post – it’ll be roughly at the intersection of Highways 43 and 198, just east of Hanford itself.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    A possible Hanford HSR greenfield station and downtown Hanford Amtrak are about 2.8 miles along a straight shot. Not the worst transfer in the world but doable. The connection could also be served by a low cost streetcar/LRT system.

    Also, Calif. HSR trains could “migrate” onto the conventional RR if they had a diesel loco to push-pull them or the conventional ROW was electrified like in every other civilized country in the world. TGVs in France migrate onto the conventional French network all the time and have even gone onto the non-electrified network (as little as there is of it in France) via diesel locomotive.

    This of course is what is planned for HSR south of LA Union Station and north of San Jose, mixing with conventional passenger rail and even limited freight.

    However, migration of CAHSR onto the conventional RR in the Central Valley no one has talked about. The HSR ROW will necessarily be built with “non-revenue” connectors to the regular railroad at various points.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Or a Hanford / Goshen / Vasalia Tram-Train system.

  3. Dennis Lytton
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 16:07

    I wonder is UP now feels emboldened by the new U.S. House to further stonewall HSR development.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I suppose that depends on how good Cal HSR is at getting camels’ noses under tents…..

  4. Dennis Lytton
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 16:10

    With regards to the footprint of HSR, it will be significantly smaller than either SR-99 or the I-5. Probably hardly wider than a two lane road through most areas.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    Its about 280-300 acres I have read..these farmers sell 2 or 3 thousand acres all the time for Tract housing and stripmalls..thou there was a good comment about the fact there is over 800,000 acres of AG lands in this area so HSR is just a tiny amount..if its makes the land harder to work, buy them out then resell it to someone eles when construction is over

    jimsf Reply:

    as soon as farmers see cash its amazing how quickly the grab it and go. The farmers in this state LOVE to complain about everything but their entire industry ( and I am a fan of california ag, its a huge source of pride for us) their entire industry is freakin subsidized to filth. So they can just shut up and deal with it.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They’re very subsidized.. many of these are large corporate farms.. these are not your little dust bowl farmers . California agriculture is big business and they will adapt to this tiny amount of land taken and the high-speed rail team will take measures to mitigate issues just like over in Europe or anywhere else with underpasses for the farm and irrigation equipment.

  5. Dennis Lytton
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 17:12

    Here’s a thought. Bakersfield should float a local bond to ensure that building of the line to the city with the station is commenced. To be paid back by the state as soon as they are authorized to release more Prop. 1 and other matches funds. Wouldn’t hardly cost Kern County at all.

  6. RG
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 18:43

    All these problems would be solved by forgetting about the whole HSR thing and by doing what WI and OH governors did. That is return the money back to the Feds for a better use of the funds, which, in my opinion, would be investing in urban transit infrastructure, such as BRT, light rail, commuter regional trains (Metrolink, Caltrain). That choice would improve traffic congestion, CO2 emissions and fossil fuel independence much more than the HSR line ever will, and at a much cheaper price. I don’t understand all this love for this train. California will never have the volume of passengers Japan has with the Shinkansen, therefore this investment is not justifiable on economic terms. It’s just a pet project that will cost a lot of money to CA taxpayers..

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    RG, I’m assuming you haven’t looked at my previous postings on this subject. Now, I’ve got to admit, I’m very much a railroad enthusiast, a bit of an amatuer historian, and a nostalgia hound. I have to admit, I like steam trains!

    Having said that, I also believe we have some serious problems with our fly-drive transportation system. It is overly wasteful of resources, and the only reason it looks as good as it does is because much of the cost is hidden in different ways. I’ve pointed it out here before, but it appears that your gas taxes and tolls pay for maybe half of what the road system costs, and that’s just on a cash-flow basis. If you include other costs such as deferred maintenance, compromised design due to budget constraints, and external costs such as the air pollution you mention, then the real cost of gasoline is about $7 per gallon; others have put it much higher.

    This country produces something like 10% of the oil in the world, a huge amount, but we use 25%, which works out to about a 65% import level. That is also about what we use for transportation. At that, 48% of the total oil consumption is for gasoline alone; diesel trucks consume another 6%. This means the highway system alone accounts for 54% of the oil used in this country. You could say the highway system is our Achilles heel.

    Does this mean I am against light rail, bus service, commuter rail service, and so on? Definitely not! In fact, I agree with you, we need all those to get us out of cars and off the oil diet. I’ve been following this game since the first oil shortages and embargoes of the early 1970s, and I’m as sick and tired as anybody of paying tribute to oil tyrants, kings, despots, terrorists, and companies, too. We need to change the “American way of life,” as defined by the old Dinah Shore TV jingle, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” And in making this change, we need not only those light rail lines, bus lines, commuter trains, and regional trains, but we need the high-speed jobs, too–and we will eventually need the rural connecting lines, too, such as the interurbans once were.

    I don’t think we have a choice in the matter. The oil reserve figure I’m familiar with for the USA is something like 134 billion barrels; the other side of the equation is that we use 7 billion barrels per year for all things. That works out to a 17 year supply, which isn’t all that long.

    Winston Churchill is supposed to have said one could count on Americans to do the right thing–after they had exhausted the alternatives. A problem with that is that one can run out of time before one runs out of alternatives.

    I hope we have the time.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Ah yes, the “we should spend the monies on urban transit rather than HSR” argument, which to me is a stalking horse argument for the road/oil lobby. If the money is diverted, you can bet it won’t go to urban transit, but rather roads, which the new governor of Wisconsin wanted, before being rebuffed by the Obama administration.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The sad thing is, it does not have to be an either/or argument.

    A properly designed high-speed rail alignment should also provide urban-transit service. For example: a “shared” HSR/Caltrain corridor along the SF Peninsula, a combined HSR/Metrolink line into downtown LA, and Anaheim, etc.

    Problem is, the CHSRA is just too inept to think about such things. And that is a shame, because the intraurban service provides most value-added. The LA-SF express is just icing on the cake.

    jimsf Reply:

    hsr is sharing the row to ana and the caltrain row, and is going to provide local and regional service in addition to express sf-la and their is existing transit in every single town where the hsr will stop and there is additional money from the hsr bond to improve those local and regional existing services. So there’s no problem.

    Alan Reply:

    Then I must be dreaming…all of these plans for HSR and Caltrain to share the Peninsula ROW,
    all of the planning documents…these all must be figments of my imagination…

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    More like plan to usurp Caltrain ROW:

    Majority of Caltrain runs still only go as far as 4th/King
    Caltrain loses express capabilities
    Inflexible track configuration, making difficult for Caltrain to turn around trains, or bypass blockage.
    No shared infrastructure (common platform height, signal system, integrated ticketing, etc)

    jimsf Reply:

    but nothing has actually been built yet and its years away so you have no way of knowing what will actually take place between now and then.

    Joey Reply:

    They are to share the same right-of-way — on completely separate tracks with completely incompatible platforms. This (a) effectively kills the popular Baby Bullet (and no, HSR with two stops along the line is not a substitute) (b) Denies any degree of operational flexibility and (c) As currently designed, prevents CalTrain from acting as an effective feeder service for HSR (cross platform transfer etc).

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    So perhaps Caltrain should stop dicking around and build the platforms and such to HSR heights? How much time actually lost with an all local (or pair of alternating locals) that accelerate faster and have a 50% higher top speed compared to the bullets, anyhow?

    Joey Reply:

    CalTrain’s sample timetable shows a loss of 10 minutes over the current Baby Bullet service, IIRC.

    jimsf Reply:

    of course its just a sample which means its meaningless.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    So it’s a ten minute loss? That doesn’t seem like much of a game stopper. How much of that is due to HSR rather than Caltrain’s 10tph plans however?

    Looking through and comparing the timetables myself, it’s actually less. #309 (I’m comparing current to their nearest departure equivalents on 2025 sample) departing Tamien at 5:56 leaves at 5:57 instead and reaches 4th Street at 7:05 instead of 7:02, a two minute loss in exchange for twice as many stops. #313 leaves 3 minutes earlier and arrives five minutes later for an eight minute loss. #319 leaves a minute later and arrives three minutes later, two minutes again. #323 leaves three minutes earlier and arrives 5 minutes later and #329 repeats the two minute loss. I assume a similar pattern applies to other Baby Bullets.

    If more expresses with faster service are desired in addition to all the other Caltrains, there’s no reason that they couldn’t contract with the CAHSR operator to run a few daily trains on the HSR lines branded as Caltrains Express and operating via Caltrain ticketing instead of HSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So it’s a ten minute loss? That doesn’t seem like much of a game stopper

    So … the public “invests” on the order for six billion dollars in a publicly-owned transportation corridor and … the result is that 75% or more of the users of the transportation system receive worse service?

    And you think this is a good thing? You clearly have a lucrative career ahead of you at the Peninsula Rail Program!

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Actually it is better service with most bullets running only a two minute time loss in exchange for more stops and most trains having increased speed. Again, I did have a question as to whether it was HSR that resulted in the baby bullet loss or the 10tph schedule. Personally, I would consider it a far greater service level to have many more trains available and less wait for the next one with generally improved service speeds and the retained option for an express that runs on dedicated tracks. What, after all, is the point of running a 125mph express next to a 220mph express?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, it’s both HSR and the 10 tph: HSR as currently conceived makes it impossible to do overtakes, and the busier schedule forces trains to run with a smaller speed difference.

    Second, there’s not going to be a 220 mph express next to the 125 mph express. HSR trains will be limited to 125 mph north of San Jose.

    jimsf Reply:

    where is the sample timetable?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However, since electrification means faster locals and faster expresses, they’d only need four crossovers ~ north of SJ, north and south of the Peninsula HSR station, and south of SFO ~ to have a limited stop express services that are as fast as the current baby bullet and with more stops, all at Caltrain platforms.

    With a 5min headway HSR corridor south of San Jose feeding into a likely 3min headway corridor SJ/SF, there is ample capacity for four Limiteds, four “south” Limited-Express and four “north” Limited-Express service per hour.

    There is, of course, little that can be done about the TJPA’s failure to seriously respect the mandate given to it by San Francisco voters to design the TBT as San Francisco’s HSR terminus, and both Caltrain and CAHSR simply have to live with the failure to take that mandate seriously.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    None of the “Spend it on local transit” people ever suggests spending money on shared-use options on the Caltrain and Metrolink corridors.

    J. Wong Reply:

    :-) The Authority’s view is certainly that HSR is not the icing, but is rather is the cake.

    KGB Reply:

    As you stated RG, it is your opinion and opinions are different than facts. If you delve into the planning documents that support HSR you may change your opinion based on fact. Until then your just spouting off an uninformed opinion. Your obviously looking at this site not for understanding but for outrage to support your opinionated, uninformed worldview.
    Goodluck with that.

  7. Brandon from San Diego
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 18:47

    Do not under estimate the farmer and their quest for an efficient size and shape to their farmable land. That is what that farmer was speaking to when saying that her will destroy their properties, which in some circumstances might bisect a property and eliminate efficient access to one side. Yes, their should be remedies to mitigate these situations, but until CHSRA proposes such, fear and concern will remain with the farmers. Further, they have thousands of supporters in the valley.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The LA Times is running an article on the state budget claiming that Jerry Brown will need Republican help to put a tax extension on the ballot. Could very well be the GOP will demand a re-vote on Prop 1A as the price of cooperation.,0,6267084.story

    Besides there will be a problem with independents and big city residents who will want to know why such a big-ticket item like the hsr is not on the chopping block along with welfare, mass transit subsidies, etc.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Short answer–peak oil, which not only means we need HSR, but all those other transit options, too, including bus, light rail, and other transit services. Whole change in the American way of life, actually.

    Question is, are the politicians smart enough to make the case that way? They have had chances, and will get another if that $5 gas comes around, but they seem to blow them every time.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The politicians only get clever when there is a movement pushing them that demands that they get clever. Stupid is the default setting with respect to the public good, simply because what the politicians are looking to by default is the short term political fall-out. It is up to civil society to create a short-term political fall-out for failing to pursue the public interest.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    HSR is not a partisan issue in California and has wide spread support…. Growing daily as more people learn about it. One reason for that is that HSR is cheaper than the alternatives… And we know doing nothing is not a viable alternative.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Au contraire, I see opposition to the current scheme blossoming.

    Bechtel’s FrankenRail creature needs to be put out of its misery. Peasants – grab your torches!

    The scheme was simply botched due to political machinations. PB was allowed to smother the Tejon-I-5-Altamont sibling in the crib. Now it is time for the electorate to do the same for the Damien Detour.

    The CHSRA out of fairness should have solicited competing proposals from the outset. Something like PB-Santa Fe on one side championing the Detour and Herrenknecht-UP on the other touting basically the Tolmach plan.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    PB was allowed to smother the” reckless gamble on a “Tejon-I-5-Altamont sibling in the crib.


    synonymouse Reply:

    Tejon may be a gamble, but a good one, whereas der Detour is a sucker’s game, wherein the shark is PB-Palmdale and the taxpayer is the rube.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    You are simply non-sensical. A response to you is a waste of band-width.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So you are confirming that Tajon is a high risk gamble of a massive budget blow-out, given the constrained alignment options do not leave substantial alternatives to avoid bad local geology for tunneling, but you find it more exciting for the CAHSR to take reckless high risk gambles with public funds.

    I prefer reckless high-risk gambles to be undertaken by the private sector, and have publicly funded projects pursue a more prudent course, but as long as you are honest and up-front that the thrill of the throw of the dice to either win small or lose big is what appeals to you, fine.

    synonymouse Reply:

    At best, which is via Tejon, hsr profitability is dicey. The Loopy detour is a stone loser, except if you are Bechtel or Palmdale, which gets a free gold-plated BART.

  8. jimsf
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 20:02

    correct me if I’m wrong but don’t farmers seem to become incredibly flexible once the government starts handing out compensation and subsidies?

    Donk Reply:

    They are trying to make a stink for public sympathy so that they can extract the maximum dollar amount for small strip of their land. They are whining on the outside but have a sinister laugh on the inside.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Inspired by Victor in the steel-vs.-concrete bridge commentary:

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    In France, the irregular shapes of farming properties made it easy for the SNCF to strike win/win deals with the farmers. It helped them to regroup parcels so that, in the end, the ROW separated different properties instead of bissecting them. The new straight property limits made farming more rational.
    This situation doesn’t exist in California. CHSR won’t have it as easy as the SNCF.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It is further complicated by the fact that 100% of Central Valley farming is irrigated. In addition, in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the surface irrigation water from the canals is supplemented by extremely deep wells. Re-jiggering all of this infrastructure is not simple. There will be some lots where trading land will work okay and others where it won’t. The gentle curves of HSR make it harder to try and go at diagonal or cut them in half. YOu will end up with a lot more stranded parcels.

    jimsf Reply:

    tracks will go over canals so water dist won’t be a problem and access points can be created to farmers can access land on both sides of the tracks. Its not that complicated. Further, most of them are going to just take the money for the land and adjust accordingly. We aren’t talking about huge swaths of land as the majority of hsr remains in the existing row.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    When diagonal is inevitable, the only solution is viaducts and they still need farmers’ approval. They also complicate the work for low-flying sprayer planes.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    I imagine they’ll build less viaducts than the the farmers probably need. Though big culverts are cheap enough. I picture high-speed sprayer trains….(and remember the old signs “do not flush while train is in the station”).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I had no idea that Interstate 5 was built on viaducts all the way through the Valley. Kewl.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s very difficult to grow things under a viaduct so that solution doesn’t do much for farmers.

  9. Donk
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 22:26

    I don’t agree with the Obama administration’s rationale for supporting the line in the CV due to the high unemployment rate in the CV. The choice should have been made 100% based on where the route made the most sense to start building for the project’s own good. At first when I heard that LaHood selected the CV, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling in my ass that maybe these people were actually smart and understood exactly what was best for the project. Instead, the decision was simply based on politics.

    Honestly, if the unemployment rate is like 18% somewhere, that means that that region cannot support its population and people should move elsewhere. We are never going to have the 2006 housing boom again, so those construction jobs are not coming back. And HSR is not going to solve the unemployment problem either, it will just be a drop in the bucket. Getting people to work is the worst reason to support the HSR project – it has many more long term benefits that are far more significant.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I agree that the Obama Administration is foolhardy to dump money into HSR hoping to use it as some sort of “stimulus” to employ a bunch of people in time for 2012. But with all due respect to Rep. Costa….I don’t think that is good politics has been the enemy of good policy here.

    First it’s true that the unemployment rate of the Central Valley is high. But part of that is due to seasonal employment patterns which affect heavily agricultural places like Imperial County, and Yuma County in Arizona. And not all the construction jobs are gone: instead what happened in the mid 00’s was day laborers who previously had been working in fields found work in construction and created a big shortage. Now, with construction at a standstill, these temporary laborers are fighting for what’s left, but since there’s less demand over all it produces very high unemployment.

    The HSR system, of course, isn’t going to singlehandedly turn the Central Valley economy around. But combined with such things as Yosemite, UC Merced, the CV can turn into a place that employs a lot of people, operating, building, designing, and maintaining the HSR system. And that’s to say nothing of other jobs created from demand elsewhere.

    If anything, be more suspicious of overbuilt construction decisions by PB, those help put lots of people “to work” with no real benefit.

  10. Brandon from San Diego
    Dec 28th, 2010 at 22:55

    Btw, I enjoy the images. They provide something that only words cannot.

  11. Peter
    Dec 29th, 2010 at 02:04

    The alignments through Hanford would have pretty much knocked out their new outside-downtown shopping center that they spent a lot of effort developing. It’s right next to the current Amtrak station, and the HSR alignments would have gone straight through.

  12. PeakVT
    Dec 29th, 2010 at 08:15

    For reference, here is a map of existing and abandoned alignments in the southern part of the Central Valley. All of the major alignments run on a diagonal.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    That’s a great map.

    One of the things to note is that virtually all of these were in place before the modern irrigation infrastructure was in place. My understanding is that early in the century, water was just taken from the various rivers through ditches and other low tech means. Over the century, more and more water was diverted upstream in the Sierras until there was basically no water flowing to most of the CV and the water for farming came from the various aqueduct projects over the last 40 years or so.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Thanks. I also made a HSR map for Cali and the Southwest, which you can find under my profile.

    While making the map, I always found it odd how rigidly the farms were laid out following the survey grid, (which was done before the railroads were built) despite the fact that the valley runs NW-SE here. One would think they would be a little more flexible, like the Canadians have been in southwest Quebec.

  13. jimsf
    Dec 29th, 2010 at 09:07

    Here comes the 5 dollar gas

    jimsf Reply:

    here is more with fun comments at the bottom.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    We will supposedly do the right thing, after we exhaust the alternatives–but will we run out of time first?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    We have long since run out of time to make relatively pain-free adjustments, but now that we are in the “this is going to hurt” territory, its more a question of the longer we delay, the more its going to hurt.

    If we had started the policy of gutting our industry in the 1960’s, we might have been facing an “out of time” scenario ~ since we waited until the 1980’s to start gutting our industry, and it took some time to get going with that policy, we will still be in a position to be able to respond when we finally get to a place where adjusting is less pain to “the important people” than not adjusting.

    jimsf Reply:

    apparently, gas is going to reach 5 per gallon cuz, you know, obama is a kenyan socialist traitor.

    James Fujita Reply:

    he’s not Kenyan, he’s Keynesian.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You can’t be both? {shakes fist} That darn IMF, preventing Kenyans from being Keynesians!

    James Fujita Reply:

    IF Obama was Kenyan, he COULD be a Keynesian Kenyan. But he’s not. He’s a Keynesian of Kenyan descent.

    – James “Japanese American” Fujita

    jimsf Reply:

    but the worst part is that he’s apparently a socialist which is why he passed giant tax cuts for corporations!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    In related news, there was a big deal made of the actual decline in the automobile population in 2009. However, if you try to search for something like “US auto scrappage rate,” the most recent information available is for 2009, the same year mentioned above. You can’t find anything, at least I haven’t, that addresses this with anything later than last spring, and with numbers no later than last year. Is this data being suppressed?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its annual data. This is the end of December. It would be odd if 2010 information was available yet.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    Maybe because so many people are living in them. :-(

    Ben Pease Reply:

    Sorry, that was kinda missing D.P.’s and Bruce’s points. Interesting data. Probably neither set of data would reflect cars being idle but still registered (we’re a 1-1/2 to 1-1/4 car family/couple, and the extra 3/4 car, the one with the poorer gas mileage, I start up more often to avoid the street cleaners than to take trips or run errands).

  14. dfb
    Dec 30th, 2010 at 17:19


    “I’m not sure why Hanford was so opposed. One can preserve those old buildings as well as make room for new development.”

    You have little empathy for the plight of the folks or towns in the path of the trains nor for the complexity of the issues related to local support for the trains. Hanford prides itself on its small downtown and would like to keep it that way for a number of reasons. As you’ve said many times (as a positive aspect of the HSR project) that the trains stations will bring development. Development pressure on its downtown space would not be helpful to Hanford’s goal of retaining its small downtown or at least retaining control over it. They want to keep Hanford, not have another Palo Alto.

    A station just outside town is a very reasonable alternative. Folks would still drive to downtown Hanford just like they will drive to the station on the outskirts of town. The price of land outside town is lower. More parking can be on-site. The mitigation needs of the project will be lower on the outskirts of town than if it went through downtown. Moreover, the engineers and designers have a blank slate with which to work.

    Please do not be blinded by your drive for progress. Otherwise we end up with a system done the wrong way similar to some of the freeways in SoCal (710?) or SF Bay Area (Embarcadero?). Progress means we improve as a state and society. You can still support progress and high speed rail, but please empathize more with the locals. Step into their shoes and try harder to understand why their concerns are valid. Otherwise you come off as belittling.


    synonymouse Reply:

    @ dfb

    If you haven’t figured it out yet the CHSRA is the freeway lobby diversifiying. (hint: PB ipso BigDig).

    The hsr foamers could care less about blight left in the project’s wake. Price of progress, the same motto that carried forth the Embarcadero Freeway. Don’t be old-fashioned – you’ll learn to love Brutalism.

    dfb Reply:

    @synonymouse: You are worse that anyone else on this board at twisting logic. Just because someone supports building major infrastructure such as HSR does not mean they are part of the freeway lobby.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Bechtel is a part and parcel of the freeway lobby and Bechtel is now the eminence grise of the CHSRA, so they are pretty much interchangeable.. If you don’t believe this just ask yourself the question: could or would any other company in the real world of California power politics have been hired to take virtual total control of this undertaking? Unthinkable to pick any other entity. Andy Grove said only the paranoid survive but he was being quite generous about the true nature of the top dogs.

    Bell lives. Rizzo & co rule, and show the way. He’s got more chutzpah than all the UC honchos put together. They demand endless bennies like richer pensions – he just took them. His mistake is that he got caught. He needed a better contract lawyer.

    Still when it comes to chutzpah you have to hand it to those sanitation workers in NYC, driving around their snowplows with the blades set too high to really pick up any snow. Just push it around.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I’ve never understood the “we want [insert name of small town here], not [insert name of other, presumably larger generic town] here” trope. I’ve visited plenty of small towns and they all looked alike to me. Centerburg, Ohio or Hanford, California, who can tell?

    Hanford looks like Hill Valley to me. (Old county courthouse? Check. Parking lot in the courthouse square? Check. Old movie theater? Check. Antiques store which used to be the mercantile? Check. Newer shopping centers on the edge of town? Check and mate.)

    If they built HSR in downtown Hanford, they wouldn’t tear down Superior Dairy. They’re not going to tear down the courthouse or the old movie theater.

    I’m all for preserving historic buildings, I’m opposed to mummification of downtowns. NIMBYs want wax museum downtowns.

    Life is change. Merle’s in Visalia is going to be The Habit Burgers (the old owner was no longer interested and allowed it to fall apart… who’s fault was that?). The old movie theater has been fixed up, but there’s a multiplex within walking distance. The old train station is a restaurant, but the new transit center down the street looks nice, too. You can have both old and new mixed together. You can reinvent the old.

    Oddly enough, I’m all in favor of putting the station on the edge of downtown, because I think Hanford will grow into it. Also, the Hwy. 198 crossroads location does make sense. Give it 10-20 years, the Hanford Regional HSR station will be downtown.

    But this “older is better” rhetoric is nonsense. It shortchanges future residents who are going to want new things while suffocating the towns you’re trying to preserve in amber.

    dfb Reply:

    James, I mostly agree with you. But ignoring the folks who currently live in Hanford, assuming the wants and needs of its future residents, is not a way to plan either. The current residents and city leaders are trustees for the future residents. Every decision they make has an impact on the future. Opposing a station downtown while supporting one at 198 is just one more decision. Allowing some parts of a city to remain preserved in amber while developing another section seems reasonable to me.

    btw: I’m not in Hanford or the CV. I just do not like the oversimplification of issues that are clearly complex. Nor do I like the attitude Robert takes to people who oppose some or all of the project.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Preserving things in amber is not a practical or sensible way to plan. Hanford has a fairly new Quality Inn downtown, new banks have replaced or renovated older buildings, and an old department store has been replaced by a new office building. New storefronts in old buildings.

    These things are mixed together with the older buildings. This mixture of old and new has clearly helped to keep Hanford’s downtown vibrant, and not a dusty museum.

    A growing economy requires both the old and the new to survive and thrive.

    A downtown station could be built in such a way as to not disturb the character of the town. Local community input should most definitely be considered.

    Ironically, a station outside downtown would have less of a reason to be old-fashioned in design.

    jimsf Reply:

    the more important reason to go with the highway intersection outside town is that its a regional station in a fairly rural area were the majority, probably 99 percent, are going to drive. In this case itll be more faster and more convenient to more people in the region than downtown hnf would be.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I do support the Hwy. 198/ Hwy. 43 location. However, I oppose the idea that downtowns must be essentially untouchable. This goes beyond Hanford to the Bay Area and the rest of the project.

    And I hasten to add, I hope that even in car-oriented areas, Cal HSR would lead to more people using alternatives to driving.

    This could be indirectly, with local transit planners rerouting buses to the train station or even paying for rail transit; or even directly, with Cal HSR working together with local planners to make sure that stations are designed for scheduled transfers, bus bays, room for expansion… of course I’m thinking beyond just Hanford here.

  15. James Fujita
    Dec 31st, 2010 at 14:59

    I can’t wait for Cal HSR to design a system based on our blogging preferences.

    It would be steam-powered per Lubic’s instructions. It would avoid every city in the Central Valley, per synonymouse. It would have 10 valhalla-sized dining cars for jimsf. It would have no transit connections anywhere (except maybe Union Station and Transbay Terminal), per Adirondacker’s wishes. It would zig-zag to avoid angry farmers with pitchforks, per Elizabeth and others.

    It would be the most bloated, unprofitable monster beyond any NIMBY’s dreams XD

    Spokker Reply:

    It would also look like a penis, per my wishes.

    James Fujita Reply:

    ah! I knew I forgot somebody.

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