Fresno Releases First Draft of HSR Station Plans

Feb 13th, 2011 | Posted by

The city of Fresno last week released a first draft of high speed rail station area concepts – the city’s initial effort to lay out the plan for the HSR station and the surrounding area. The station will be located along the Union Pacific tracks between Fresno and Tulare streets downtown, near the Fulton Mall. As you can see in the image above, the station and HSR tracks would be to one side of the UPRR tracks – either to the west or east – and would involve various amounts of transit-oriented development, as well as adding thousands of new parking spaces.

The HSR station design appears to be intended to act as a gateway for travelers to downtown Fresno, guiding them toward Mariposa Street and toward Fulton Mall just to the northeast of the station area. With Chukchansi Park nearby, the HSR station concept would help position the area as a new centerpiece of downtown Fresno. One question is how much density would be surrounding the station, with planners initially proposing a low-density model and a high density model. The high density model is shown below:

Over at the Fresno Bee, Tim Sheehan offers some insight on the draft plans:

The 20-page document, posted without fanfare on the city’s Downtown & Community Revitalization Department website, is “really just a first draft” of ideas that will serve as a launchpad for more detailed plans, department director Craig Scharton said.

The city of Fresno has quietly published a draft plan that envisions a high-speed train station downtown between Fresno and Tulare streets.

“Nothing is approved or officially adopted or reviewed,” Scharton said. “We just wanted to get some ideas on the size and layout, and the different conditions that could happen.”

The plans emerged last fall during a one-day gathering of engineers, architects and interested members of the public — one of a series of brainstorming sessions organized by city leaders to generate ideas on how to revitalize downtown Fresno.

The station does not appear to be an ARTIC-style mega-station, and while the external architecture is not yet determined, the station design itself seems to be a understated one, intended to not so much serve as a destination itself as a gateway to Fresno – and for Fresno residents, a gateway to the rest of the state.

That could change – this is just a very early draft – but I think Fresno should indeed go in that more modest direction. I’m much more a fan of the simple station designs, rather than turning every station into either a grand building or another place to show off Santiago Calatrava-style architecture (I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of his Gare do Oriente in Lisboa, Portugal, preferring something more like Madrid Atocha).

The goal of a station should be to provide a clean and comfortable place to wait for a train, with good traveler services, and help get people to the surrounding community easily. From what I can tell, Fresno is headed in that direction. It will be interesting to see how this develops, but they’re on the right track (forgive the pun).

  1. Alon Levy
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 11:47

    Is Fresno going to make sure the station and the surrounding developments don’t come with gargantuan parking structures?

    Peter Reply:

    Looks from the plans like they’re breaking it down into a number of smaller garages, with 500 to 900 spaces each.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Until Fresno develops streetcars, light rail, BRT and/ or commuter rail to bring people in from Clovis, Selma, etc. they are going to need parking garages.

    Even with light rail (and I’ve seen the transit proposals for Fresno), they will still want to have parking garages.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    If you think that’s bad, it’s nothing compared to San Jose. The recently released Diridon Station Area plan calls for 20k(!!) new parking spaces.

    Peter Reply:

    Say WHAT? FOR what?

    Peter Reply:

    Where do you get 20k new parking spaces from. I’ve just looked through the Staff Presentation, Staff Report, and Final AA and did not find anything about 20k new parking spaces.

    The presentation mentions 5200 parking spots, 3400 of which would be dedicated to HSR, but off-site from Diridon.

    Joey Reply:

    I assume it includes parking for the new football stadium.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    NOT including the new stadium.

    15k new parking spots for the (so-called) transit-oriented development around the station.
    5k parking spots for the station itself.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh wow … that’s rather depressing.

  2. Daniel Krause
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:24

    I have a different view of the station design. I believe Fresno and other Central Valley cities should focus on creating their station as landmarks, which will help provide more identity to these cities, which are stuggling economically. I would prefer to see a large station complex, potentially including shopping, museums, etc. that HSR users and other would find attractive. The HSR station gives these cities a one-time shot to create something dramatic. As Robert has said, these designs currently reflect a more modest approach, which may have to do with the lack of local funds to put into anything more ambitious.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s a good conversation to be having – instead of whether or not to build HSR stations, we’re discussing how to best design the stations. I much prefer this to the arguments over funding, route, and the rest of it!

    brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Me too. Plus, I like the pictures.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I much prefer this to the arguments over funding, route, and the rest of it!

    My pig is partial to Pervette, though Velvet Teddy has a porcine beautification role to play also.
    Let’s go shopping!

    wu ming Reply:

    i agree more with robert, the destination is the downtown fresno is trying to build, the station should be a way to welcome people coming and going, and perhaps tie the station architecture in with local aesthetics in a way that feels like home to folks in fresno, but not everything needs to be a destination in its own right.

  3. jimsf
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:34

    I think this is great. While the station itself is not grandiose. It needn’t be. ( First of all, it would be a waste of valuable dollars and second its not the most important part of the transformation puzzle) This design fits in nicely, it connect the two sides of the tracks together – chinatown and fulton mall and there is ample developable real estate in the area. Fresno is the center of the state. This hsr station will be the most central large station in the system. Fresno is situated to take full advantage of being about 90 minutes, to everything. I would not be surprised to see businesses relocating there and 300′ + towers start popping up throughout the 2020s.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    In Japan, they let the private railway companies participate in the development of stations and conceive of the land uses within the train station, etc. It creates a synergy between the HSR users and the uses at the station. A grand station need not be a big sink of tax dollars. Rather it can be a public-private partnership. Fresno need something big in their downtown. Like Robert, I am not necessarily in favor of a station design that is just some architect’s web dream. Many of the new designs are just getting too funky for my tastes and they do tend to waste a lot of floor space. I too am tired cold spaces that have an overemphasis on glass and steel with lots of concrete floors, etc. Rather, I favor the gradiosity of older sytle trains station, that are warm and create great spaces for the public to gather with the right balance of commercial. Fresno doesn’t need the gradest train station, but something significant and that qualifies as a landmark would be a real asset for their downtown economy IMHO.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I agree with Daniel. We need a middle ground, and I think we’re confusing “grand” with “over the top”

    A station can be moderate in design but still give people something to do other than wait for a train to arrive.

    jimsf Reply:

    I vote for something mediterranean-ish. or basically, something like union station in la.With the huge wood beams inside etc, large and open, grand, but warm and rich.

    James Fujita Reply:

    eh, I suppose Union Station style would be okay.

    I love L.A. Union Station but I also recognize that Mission style can go horribly wrong and this structure will be tall. I never really liked Santa Ana’s station.

    “Mediterranean-ish” is kinda vague and could include Italian renaissance as well as Spanish mission style.

    jimsf Reply:

    well, just throw some palm trees around it whatever they build.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I like Santa Ana’s station a lot. To each their own, I guess.

    Wad Reply:

    Union Station is too cavernous for what it is.

    Santa Ana, surprisingly, was a recent-generation interpretation of an old-style Mission look. The existing station was built in the 1980s, though it seems older.

    Santa Ana, and San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot, are both good to emulate. They’re visually appealing and much more human-scaled.

    wu ming Reply:

    union station is a really nice aesthetic model, although every place will have its own design constraints. i really like davis’ little stucco station as well, although it’s a fair amount smaller scale than any of these HSR projects. something halfway between mission and deco is the sweet spot IMO.

  4. jimsf
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:36

    Too large/grand a station there would be cold and off putting. This one seems have a warmer, more integrated and organic feel.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s a station, after all. That should be its first and foremost function and purpose. At least they didn’t decide to put a park on the roof…

    jimsf Reply:

    They wouldn’t need a park on the roof as its not a residential neighborhood short on open space.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s my big objection to Gare do Oriente. Atocha is very warm and organic. So too is LA Union Station. Oriente is a sterile, gray place. Seems really out of place in Lisbon, which is anything but gray and sterile.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Yes, LA Union is a perfect example of grand and warm. It is a sad state of affairs that anything grand is now generally assumed that it is cold and sterile. But it is understandable given that the vast majority of new large structures around the world are now typified by sterile architecture that often fall short on functionality toward the user.

  5. ant6n
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:54

    Probably could use more than one entry/exit.

    Like it. Curious how well they will integrate local public transit.

    I think it would be a good idea to put in accommodations for possible future regional/commuter rail along the corridor, centered at that station.

    Peter Reply:

    It would be integrated with BRT and with Phase II of their planned street car network.

    James Fujita Reply:

    the good news is that local public transit will have a chance to grow up alongside the high-speed rail line, since the local public transit has not been very impressive so far.

    Unlike CalTrain or even Metrolink, there will be no toes to step on, so to speak.

    Also, the high-speed rail platform will be elevated, so there will be room underneath if necessary. Of course, some of that space will be taken up with the Union Pacific, but they can’t take ALL of that room. Union Pacific will undoubtedly be as much of an obstacle for regional/ commuter rail as it will be towards HSR.

    In any case, the most important link would probably be towards Fresno State and Clovis, so new rail transit would be perpendicular to the tracks, not parallel.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Agreed, more entryways/exits is critical for shortening the distances pedestrians have to walk to various downtown destination. Of course to provide more entryways/exits to both sides, they would need more pedestrian walkways over the UPRR tracks, something not likely to happen. That is why I am leaning toward supporting the station location on the east side of the tracks, given the much higher density of downtown development east of the tracks.

    James Fujita Reply:

    in a weird way, Richard Mxyzptlk came up with what sounds like a great solution: a mezzanine.

    Put Union Pacific on the bottom level, and the majority of the station should be one level above the UP and one level below the high-speed rail platform. Pedestrian traffic passes from Japantown/ Chinatown to Fulton Mall area by passing through the middle.

    Joey Reply:

    He didn’t come up with it. That’s what the current plan calls for.

    James Fujita Reply:

    you know, you’re right, but the plans aren’t all that clear. he describes it so perfectly.

    Joey Reply:

    Just look at the diagrams. They’re usually much more meaningful than the text.

    James Fujita Reply:

    but I like the word “mezzanine”.

    Los Angeles Red Line stations have mezzanine levels, separate from the street level, where all of the ticket vending machines are, and where vendors would be if they had any in the L.A. Metro.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Probably could use more than one entry/exit.

    Category error alert! They’re building a Flight Level Zero Airline Terminal, not a “train station”. Reset your expectations, please.

    (Hey! Like grotesquely inadequate entry/exit and less than zero accommodation of pedestrian movement? Then you’ll just love the $4 billion SF Transbay Terminal clusterfuck!)

    James Fujita Reply:

    an elevated train station is not a new idea. and what do you have against pedestrian bridges?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I’m pretty uniformly in favour of elevated train stations, all things being equal.

    Any human who has spent any time walking (or riding a bike, or riding a wheelchair, or teetering on crutches, etc) on Planet Earth finds him- or herself pretty strongly prejudiced against forced detours over human-hostile transportation corridors.

    Spokker Reply:

    Ahhhh. That’s the stuff.

  6. James Fujita
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 13:15

    In case you’re wondering, here’s what the station area looks like now: Flickr.

    There is certainly room for a train station and even a grand entrance to the Central Valley. A Grand Central Valley Station, if you will.

    jimsf Reply:

    I like the existing one as well.

    I wish we could all stop calling fresno the central valley though. I know its a habit but its the san joaquin valley. Ok I’m being particular but being from the sacramento valley, I’m used to always having had the distinction made locally. The SV and SJV combine to form california’s great central valley but hsr will primarily only serve the SJV.

    James Fujita Reply:

    okay, so Grand Central Valley Station was a pun.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh I actually missed that last part of your post because my brian shut down after I read “gateway to the central valley” lol ( I mean fresno isnt really the gateway to any valley, its kind of in the middle of one right) Gorman and Redding are more, gateways to the central valley I guess.

    but grand central valley station is clever.
    of course the station in sac is already called “sacramento valley station” so fresno’s, if we wanted to stay on the same page, would be “san joaquin valley station” although that wouldnt be right either, because its really Sac and stockton which are sister cities who traditionally notate the dividing line between the two valleys, so stockton would be the san joaquin valley station. as stockton is the gateway, southbound, into the SJV and sac is the gateway, northbound, into the SV.
    I only get to point out these details because I have seniority (im the oldest here) having planted roots there back in 1964. ;-)

    James Fujita Reply:

    well, it won’t even be the only station in the San Joaquin Valley, Hanford and Bakersfield will be in the Valley as well.

    And I didn’t say “gateway,” I said “grand entrance”; not the same thing. Grand entrance because it ought to be big, and because it ought to be welcoming, and because it will be bigger than the Hanford station, and probably larger than the Bakersfield station, saying as it will serve a larger population.

    wu ming Reply:

    thank you. if there’s any grand central valley station, it should be sac.

  7. Richard Mlynarik
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 13:25

    Parking, yeah, like whatever.

    But how come nobody even mentions the limitless insanity (stilt-a-rail on acid!) of leaving all the stream trains (freight, whatever purely imaginary Amtrak is supposed to remain) at ground level, then building a 100% unnecessary circulation/security mezzanine nonsense level high (double stack freight clearance!) above that, then putting the Highly Secure HSR only tracks above that.

    In a world with even vestigial amounts of sanity, all the tracks would be grade separated in one move, the height of the structures would be minimized, the access time to and from all of the passenger platforms would be minimized, the ground level environment would be optimized for people (not steam train tracks), and there would be no need whatsoever for an entirely separate mezzanine deck (that’s what “the ground” provides, for free.)

    Compare this infinitely insane BS with, just for one example of many, what was designed and is in the process of being built right this minute in Valladolid.

    The entire ground level is being reclaimed for people; high speed and regional rail are integrated; and freight is both improved and removed from bisecting the city at ground level. (And of course nobody would even consider running trains at 350kmh right through the middle of the city, on any alignment. You’d have to be crazy to even suggest anything like that, right?)

    Meanwhile, in limitlessly stupid, sky’s-the-limit, cost-is-no-object PBQD California stilt-a-rail-land…
    the Central Valley cities will be lucky if they get something as bad as PB/Bechtel’s last non-integrated stilt-a-rail extravaganza … but with the bonus extra of 350kmh trains blasting through 20m up in the air at the same time as two-mile-long 15mph freight trains completely block city streets down below them. Integrated Urban Design. Win Win Synergy. TOD. CA4HSR Wet Dream.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    But, hey, as long as we get to replace one parking structure with TOD TOD TOD TOD TOD everything will be super awesomely urban and ready for Peak Oil! (Because, you know, Peak Oil Changes Everythign.) If only those backward Spaniards were English-speaking enough to learn from our uniquely qualified all-American transportation engineers and urban designers.

    James Fujita Reply:

    first of all, Union Pacific doesn’t want high-speed rail’s cooties. So you’ll never have high-speed rail and the Union Pacific side by side.

    Secondly, I can’t say that I would want HSR and UP side-by-side. Why ugly-up the view from the top floor of Fresno’s new station with double-stack, diesel container trains.

    Personally, I’m hoping that one level of the new Fresno station will be open access, so people who live in Fresno will be able to use the new station’s new elevated walkways to get from the Fulton Mall side of town to the redeveloping Japantown/ Chinatown side of the tracks.

    I don’t think that Fresno needs an ARTIC or a Transbay, but at the very least, I do think that Fresno deserves something special. A few shops would be nice. Kyoto Station might be too much, but how about half-Kyoto? A gathering place for downtown Fresno. The centerpiece for a new, revitalized Fresno.

    Finally, I’m starting to suspect that some of the people on this board have a fear of heights.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    first of all, Union Pacific doesn’t want high-speed rail’s cooties. So you’ll never have high-speed rail and the Union Pacific side by side.

    So put them on separate but same elevation immediately adjacent structures.

    I know: it required of me real intellectual stretch and an education from the finest technical institution in the world to have come up with this level of way radical out-of-the-box synergistic thinking, but just for you, I charge nothing this time. You’re welcome.

    Why ugly-up the view from the top floor of Fresno’s new station

    Right. Far better to completely screw the pedestrian, street level of the city forever.

    some of the people on this board have a fear of heights.

    And some have a limitless appetite for the toxic combination of cost maximization multiplied by little boy style excitement about Kewl Superexpressways of the Future.

    Besides, who needs to pay attention to the pedestrian environment of the tired obsolete Web 1.0 earth-bound level when jet-packs and gyrocopters will be the primary access means to the roof of the soaring structure?

    James Fujita Reply:

    I’m sure Union Pacific will thank us for upgrading their tracks for them.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Step back just a inch, OK?

    The proposal on the table is to spend what will surely be north of a billion of your earth dollars, per city, to completely redo the rail corridor running right through the middles of several Central Valley cities … and the result is that freight trains still run across and block every street, while the “upside” is that a massive 25+m tall structure is erected above it? And this is all completely OK because the only alternative would be the awful one having a side effect of an “upgrade” of the evil UPRR’s tracks? Heaven forfend!

    I honestly think you need to visit Planet Earth — at ground level, where the little people live, not just as an extraterrestrial tourist via Google Earth — and consider what this means and whether this is the best and most cost-effective outcome, especially for those little ant-sized smudgy pixels you may see in your aerial images that represent “humans”.

    If you should visit this planet, especially outside the North American landmass, you may notice that when more highly evolved members of the human’s engineering caste rebuild rail corridors through city centres, the results nearly uniformly tend to be ones that allow members of the other castes to move more easily around, across, to and from the train line. I gave one example, which you should feel to visit, in person or from the comfort of your web browser. There are scores of others, under construction or recently completed even as I write. Hell, you could even visit Reno, right next door to the Californian state on the western side of the North American landmass. I hope your telescopes are powerful enough to allow this.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Apparently, I need to include a potted bio in my responses. I have been to:

    Hong Kong,
    New York City,
    Washington, D.C.,
    San Francisco,

    Some more recently than others.

    But there is nothing “uniform” about train station design.

    Paul H. Reply:

    The reason why HSR has to be elevated is because the tracks have to go above two major freeways (180 and 41) through downtown Fresno (and also 99 just south of downtown). We would have an at-grade station, tracks side-by-side with UP if we could get them in at ground level, but its been determined that the cost of reconstructing all three of those freeways would cost more than just building an aerial structure through downtown.

    James Fujita Reply:

    you can’t have an at grade station anyways. what do we do with all of those at-grade streets?

    Victor Reply:

    Leave the streets on the ground, Where else?

    James Fujita Reply:

    and have people zip around the crossing gates at the theoretical high-speed grade crossings at the grade level station?

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Which alternative would be cheaper? Elevating HSR to clear the two or three freeways, or reconstructing the two or three freeways to allow a different configuration for HSR?

    Peter Reply:

    The latter would also only work if you can get UP to play ball, as they will fight any at-grade solution ANYWHERE near their ROW.

    egk Reply:

    Um. Couldn’t the trains go UNDER the freeways – as the freight railway now does? With the surface roads that need to be grade separated simply tunneled?

    Peter Reply:

    They could, but not with Union Pacific refusing to play ball with HSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..ya mean like some of the streets near the proposed Fresno station already do? Nah…..

  8. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 13:34

    Off topic, but of general interest for its ridership figures (up–again), the current of Hotline News from NARP:

  9. YesonHSR
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 14:20

    It looks like its above the UP tracks…there OK with that? how high up does air rights go or is it a city by city zoning issue?

    Peter Reply:

    They’re off to the side of the UP tracks, either to the east or the west.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Nope, the UP is not OK with that. Their letter lays it out very clearly.

    “UP reiterates its position once again: no part of the high-speed rail corridor may be located on (or above, except for overpasses) UP’s rights of way at any location. To the extent that the Authority ignores this position, its revised EIR is deficient.”

    They go on to say that even supporting piers must be completely off their right of way.

    Incidentally, I found the letter on CARRD’s website, not the Authority’s.

    Peter Reply:

    The letter was included and discussed in the relevant environmental documents. It’s not listed separately on the Authority’s site. No reason for it to be.

  10. Peter
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 14:42

    I’d personally favor one of the East Alignments. That would automatically place passengers closer to downtown, and would permit the construction of fast elevators or something similar at the ends of the platforms. This would allow passengers to more easily get to where they want to go.

  11. datacruncher
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 14:45

    I don’t think the station should be a grandiose centerpiece building but rather a good design that fits into the developing downtown area. Nor should be they be modest minimalist buildings either.

    However inside I think incorporating ideas like what Fresno did at their airport to create a sense of place thru public art would be a preference over steel/glass that could be located in any city. Here is a shot of the “Sequoiascape” Fresno included in an airport remodel, passengers pass thru this area walking between ticketing and security:

    James Fujita Reply:

    That’s a little bit too much Disney for me. And it looks fake and cheesy.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its not up to disney quality. But I can see what they meant to do. Its a nice change and itll work for fresno. Sort like palm springs airport, with the outdoor walkways and picnic tables and palm trees etx.

    James Fujita Reply:

    You’re right, it’s not up to Disney quality. It looks fake and cheesy, and it will look fake and cheesy unless Fresno is willing to pay Disney dollars.

    jimsf Reply:

    the main thing with fno hsr is theyd better damn well aircondition the whole thing, walkways and all. In fact I vote for fresno to be the perfect candidate to be california’s first domed ( a la logans run) fully climate controlled city.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Or like in the Simpsons Movie? No thanks.

    jimsf Reply:

    here it is

    James Fujita Reply:

    404 error

    Victor Reply:

    Let Me try:


    Peter Reply:

    No go.

    jimsf Reply:

    Here: fresno 2050

    datacruncher Reply:

    I’ve seen it upclose and the picture doesn’t do it justice. The quality of the trees is actually pretty good.

    Fresno spent $1 million for that setup and hired the same company that has done trees for Bass Pro, Paris and Mandalay Bay in Vegas, the LA Zoo, and more.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I wouldn’t say “public art” as I would say “regional branding”.

    What strikes me right off the bat is the ability to use trellises and vines to reinforce Fresno’s role in produces grapes. The benefit of the trellises is that they would provide shade and still let in enough light to give the station a dramatic, organic feel. The city might be tempted to ensconce itself in climate control…but what’s going to keep Fresno Fresno is warm air, sunlight, and SHADE. Bakersfield, meanwhile, we can just put that station underground and scatter fake oil drills everywhere. Daniel Plainview will love it, I’m sure.

    wu ming Reply:

    i like it, local flavor + more energy efficient methods of cooling than just ACing the hell out of it and shocking people once they exit the airlock. well-placed micromist could also smooth the transition from AC train to searing hot central valley summer.

    wu ming Reply:

    those are some fugly fake trees.

  12. Joseph E
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 14:54

    I’ve got to agree with the nay-sayers, this is a bad design.

    Either freight needs to be grade-separated thru the city (likely elevated), and the pedestrian access brought back down to grade level, or the freights need to be re-routed around Fresno (which as been the local plan for years, at least in theory).

    Building the HSR tracks two levels up is silly, and the access to the station looks limited.
    Oh, and why are there 4 tracks thru Fresno in the plans? Almost every train will stop at Fresno, so won’t 2 tracks be plenty?

    Fresno should also consider using more of the land for development, at high densities. Like at an airport, the parking could be 1 mile away, next to a freeway exit, and shuttles can bring people directly to the edge of the station (just below the platform, since it is now only one level up, and freights have been moved). If the parking is near the station, it will still be a long walk for people with luggage, whereas shuttle buses could get people just steps from the elevators/stairs, and then all that valuable land can be put to better use than long-term, airport-style parking.

    James Fujita Reply:

    almost every train isn’t the same thing as every train, so there might be some expresses that don’t stop.

    also, there might be trains that head for Fresno and turn around. I’d rather plan for future growth than plan for “two OUGHT to be enough (for now).

    and I honestly don’t see what people have against elevated walkways or elevated stations, since we all agree that the HSR tracks shouldn’t have grade crossings.

    jimsf Reply:

    In come cities, there is a reason behind elevating things in some parts. It showcases the city. We all know the difference between driving through a city on an elevated freeway, ( the james lick thru sf, the sta ma /la) that offers exciting skyline views, versus those depressed freeways ( the harbor thru la, or the 980 thru oak, )

    people zipping through fno in this elevated train are going to have spectacular views of not only the skyline but the snow capped high sierra/mt whitney. ( think san gabriels on a clear day)

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, I doubt they’ll be able to see much of the city, given that they’re going to be behind some sort of sound wall, if the trains actually go through at 220 mph. They may be able to build transparent soundwalls, though.

    jimsf Reply:

    sound wall? what? so it wont be open like bart aerials? Thats just stupid. The whole point is to be able to see this

    Peter Reply:

    The sound walls will be necessary. Trains going 220 mph are LOUD.

    Like I said, though, they may be able to build transparent soundwalls.

    They even have a version that’s not hazardous to birds (that birds can see).

    James Fujita Reply:

    transparent soundwalls would be fine. certainly at the station you’d want windows, not walls.

    Andy Reply:

    Wow – I want the contract to clean the transparent soundwalls for 400 miles – at taxpayer expense. This is just nuts. There is zero consideration as to whether any of this will be able to cover its costs – nd they are already assuming people will pay twice as much to ride the train as fly – and 3-5 times as much as driving.

    Peter Reply:

    Where are you (a) getting the idea that the entire route will have/need soundwalls, and (b) the idea that it will cost more than flying?

    Soundwalls will likely only be installed through residential areas, not through farmland or industial areas.

    How many times does it have to be explained that airfares are NOT going to stay “low”, if by “low” you mean “artificially low airfare compensated for by by being nickel-and-dimed by fees”. The airfares have to come up as fuel prices rise, same as the cost of driving will continue to rise.

    Spokker Reply:

    If Southwest and Jet Blue can offer inexpensive fares between LA and SF, why couldn’t a high speed rail operator? Why would operating a train be so much more expensive than operating a plane?

    Clem Reply:

    Because you have to clean and maintain 400 miles of transparent sound wall, among other things?

    jimsf Reply:

    cant the walls come just high enough to be at the bottom edge of the windows? to cover the wheel noise – and be coated with some kind of swedish space age foam to absorb noise ( with the added benefit of it not spilling your wine if you jump up and down on it?)

    Peter Reply:

    No. At 220 mph the main source of noise is not wheel noise. It’s aerodynamic noise, made by everything that disturbs the airflow, from the edges of the wheelwells to the top of the pantograph arm.

    jimsf Reply:

    Well a no view option is not acceptable.

    Spokker Reply:

    A no view option in Fresno would be preferred. By the way, can the trains handle the meth residue that tends to waft in the air in that area?

    Haha whoops I made fun of Fresno. Let’s spend a couple hours arguing about whether it was appropriate or not.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am not convinced that wheel noise will not pose a serious problem for the CHSRA. This is California, not Japan. Most of the hsr budget will be going to very handsome compensation packages both for management and to union platform employees. BART is notorious in this regard and the SF Chron this very day ran a very unfavorable story on the current Caltrain jefe’s paycheck. As the spoiled and sheltered offspring of the Pelosi political machine the CHSRA should
    sport a payroll as lucrative as BART’s. Bottom line is that precious little will remain for maintenance in the face of all that red ink. Flatted, solid wheels on corrugated rails at 220 mph? I suggest there will be plenty of steel on steel noise to complement the aerodynamic.

    James Fujita Reply:

    You’re half right. The elevated tracks will showcase views of the area.

    However: you won’t see Mt. Whitney, it’s way over on the other side of the Sierra. You can barely even see it when you’re in Sequoia National Park.

    Also, the Harbor Freeway is only depressed for a short while. There is an elevated section of the Harbor Freeway which is only for buses and carpools. And if you’re paying attention to the spectacular views, you’re not paying attention to the road.

    jimsf Reply:

    Thats why I have other people drive. Not whitney per se then, but you know, that whole cluster. You can see it over there.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I know I’m being nitpicky.

    Being nitpicky is the right of all sentient beings.

    And we abuse that right on this message board for all it’s worth.

    timote Reply:

    This and all other message boards ;-)

    In fact I think it is a requirement of message boards.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, right now they’re planning on only building a 2-track station, while maintaining the ability to add two tracks at a later time.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The cost of laying in a couple km of extra steel rail and installing four extra turnouts is so close to zero given the scale and “budget” of this concrete wank-a-thon that it isn’t even worth thinking about. In fact, it is may be more expensive (force mobilisation, paying the multiple spherical Amtrak employee “flaggers” mandated by 19th century FRA regulation, etc, etc) to do it after the fact than to eat the capital and depreciation and maintenance costs of laying extra unnecessary rail at the outset.

    Humans are really, really bad at simple order of magnitude reasoning.

    jimsf Reply:

    I knew you were from a different planet. The irresistible temptation is suggest it may be the 7th.

    Joey Reply:

    Because logic and reasoning are not allowed on Planet America.

    Bulbous Reply:

    Richard is right on this – people simply ‘forget’ to account nfor remobilisation/demobilisation of the workforce; extra safety/health (not sure what you guys call it over in the US, in Australia we refer to it as Ocuupational Health & Safety – OH&S) issues with working round the live railway; the fact that the hardware would be ordered at the front end, as opposed to placing an order for rails a couple years down the track (Get the savings up front with the large order, rather than pay full cost for a couple miles worth later); and so on….. returning later for work (especially if it is under a variation to contract) is like writing the contractor a big christmas party cheque, and you will pay orders of magnitude more for the privilege.

    All I can say with this is that large contractors (I work for one of the biggest in Australia as a civil engineer) will work tirelessly to expose and utilise holes in your contracts, but this is what we are supposed to do. If your contracts are prepared with proper oversight and done watertight, the contractor will have to produce the desired outcome. If you produce contracts that you wouldn’t wipe your arse with, don’t blame the contractor for maximising return and screwing the authority in the process…… Then make sure your project managers actually manage the project, and control costs, and you will be laughing……

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The way it works in countries that care about cost control is that the agency makes sure to not just oversee contractors, but also select ones that have a record of doing good work and not trying to extract maximum short-run profit from the public.

    Andy Reply:

    Is that why HSR has hired the supervising contractor who managed Boston’s “Big Dig”? I believe they were several hundred percent over budget on that one – and it leaks!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Meh. Those same people are in charge of Marmaray and other relatively cheap projects.

    Bulbous Reply:

    I agree, but doing the job as contracted, and doing the job perfectly according to the clients wishes are two different things. You cannot be marked down during tendering for completing previous works to contract and specification, therefore the original contracts and specifications need to be screwed down properly from the start by the client. I should have put “screwing” previously, as the client has recieved what it specified and asked for, for the agreed price. Outside spectators then have their own two cents about being screwed or not.

    I am hoping this project gets going, and going soon, but accepting cost blowouts as par for the course is mind blowing to me, as this shows poor management of the project, and that the authority has not done it’s own first principles estimating process properly. If your first principles process brings in figures that are well below contractors figures, find the discrepancy and fix it – don’t just accept the going rate for that work.

    Spokker Reply:

    About a year ago I wrote to an insider who is supposedly an engineer on the project. My question was about this issue.

    His private message to me: “I will say this: As a company, Parsons Brinckerhoff is not a construction company. It has absolutely nothing to gain by gold plating the project or doing anything else that would make it more expensive than absolutely necessary to do the job. We are a planning, design, and to a lesser extent construction management company.”

    I pressed for more in a second reply and he had this to say: “Overdesign does nothing for our profit as a company. There may be “overdesigns” forced on us by the cities and counties that we run through plus the very real fear in this business that if you do not consider every possible problem, even the very far-fetched ones, you will be crucified in court if anything goes wrong.”

    His message to me was longer than this but I picked out the relevant portions.

    I contacted him again recently about some other issues and he refused to provide any info. Sounds like the insider closed up shop.

    Clem Reply:

    Maybe he resents being quoted directly in a public forum?

    Spokker Reply:

    I should have probably not posted that. I fear the construction mafia may pay me a visit. They might be digging a hole in the desert as we speak.

    Joey Reply:

    The hollow cores of those aerials are really for bodies they need to get rid of ;)

    Alex2000 Reply:

    “concrete wank-a-thon” , “multiple spherical Amtrak employee”

    God I love reading Richard’s posts. Funny, and makes a good point to boot!

    I like the station plan, but it is good to know that there is someone out there who is basically
    pro-hsr, but is keeping the CHSRA’s feet to the fire.

    I demand more posts from Richard!

    Spokker Reply:

    He has given up on providing public input to the CHSRA. He just enjoys ranting.

    Alex2000 Reply:

    Well, I’ll take the rants then. He makes me smile.

  13. Roger Christensen
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 15:25

    Fresno’s Mariposa St. used to be faced by a grand domed courthouse that was the town’s major landmark. It was replaced in the 60s with a clunky honeycombed behemoth that today the city planning to spend $107 million to redo. It’s a shame passengers exiting the HSR station will not be greeted by the much missed dome. Perhaps a “landmark” station concept could be an homage to the historic courthouse dome.

    Victor Reply:

    Sounds like a good idea to Me, A Dome like the old courthouse would make the Station a landmark.

  14. Clem
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 17:54

    A couple of observations.

    Anybody can figure out using a train noise calculator that implements the FRA’s methodology for evaluating HSR noise that the level of traffic and 220 mph speed, even in a noisy urban environment, will cause SEVERE noise impacts within 400 feet of the tracks.

    That, or there will be a 12-mile speed restriction to about 150 mph through Fresno even for express trains that do not stop there.

    Then, the viaduct depicted in the renderings is far too short. The four-track section would extend for a considerable distance beyond the end of the platforms, providing enough siding length to exit from / merge on to the mainline without fouling express traffic. You would think that the Fresno people would have read Technical Memo 2.1.3 regarding station track layout. The Fresno station turnouts would likely have a diverging speed limit of 150 mph, and slowing down from / speeding up to 150 mph would take place on the platform tracks, over a length of nearly TWO MILES.

    That, or mainline track capacity will be severely reduced as trains foul the main tracks to slow into and accelerate from Fresno.

    Joey Reply:

    Most of the documents I’ve seen show 6000′ of quad tracking. Those documents were pretty old though – the requirement might have changed by now.

    Clem Reply:

    Here’s a picture from Taiwan. Imagine this structure plopped into the middle of Fresno. The quad track length is over a mile long. In California, with higher speeds, it will need to be longer.

    Joey Reply:

    Well, 6000′ is more than a mile, but point taken.

    Spokker Reply:

    A similar kind of structure in a more urban setting:


    It would be interesting to interview the people who live near it and ask them if they are going insane.

    wu ming Reply:

    given the levels of noise taiwanese are accustomed to when they aren’t next to HSR tracks, my guess is they’d barely notice it. it took me months to get used to the silence of CA suburbs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It will blend in with the elevated freeways in Fresno?

    JJJ Reply:

    Anyone who lives in Fresno is used to the 60 daily UP trains and the BNSF trains blowing their horns like it’s what powers them.

    PeakVT Reply:

    I looked at the beetfield stations on the LGV Est in GMaps and the end-to-end distance of the turnouts is slightly less than 6000 feet.

    Joey Reply:

    Huh. I’m measuring them at closer to 4300′ on Google Earth.

    PeakVT Reply:

    I haven’t tried measuring in GEarth. Here is the western turnout at the Gare de Champagne-Ardenne. I measured 5800 feet for this one.

    Joey Reply:

    And measuring for the second time I still get 4380 in the same place on Google Earth. How do you measure in Google maps anyway?

    PeakVT Reply:

    It’s a feature that you can add by clicking on “New!” by “My Profile”. A little icon is added at the lower left that brings up the tool.

    Joey Reply:

    Even in Google Maps, I’m still getting 4380. Where are you putting the eastern turnout?

    PeakVT Reply:

    Sorry, that was my bad. I measured to the eastern end of the crossover, which is just a little farther along. 4390 is what get now.

  15. JJJ
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 18:01

    Whats interesting is comparing expenditures on airports and train stations here. FAT/FYI sees around 3,800 passengers a day. This station is projected to see 4,500 a day.

    The airport has a rental car center, 2 restaurants, 3 stores, baggage claim, short/medium/long term parking etc.

    I like the proposal, but can you see all this fitting in there?

    Anyway, like others said, it is important that the station walkways be open 24 hours a day as a crossing point. And I’d like to see how the historic station will be used (restaurant space?)

    Peter Reply:

    You can skip the baggage claim (there won’t be any baggage cars on HSR), as well as the rental car center, most likely.

    They can easily fit the restaurants and stores into the complex.

    Joey Reply:

    Rental car facilities are actually quite common near HSR stations, at least the greenfield European type.

    James Fujita Reply:

    well, this won’t be a greenfield station by any definition.

    however, Los Angeles Union Station does have a small rental car desk inside. I’m not sure how it works, since there’s no “car rental yard” at the station, but at least a car rental desk could fit inside the Fresno station.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, a desk inside with a shuttle to the off-site lot might work.

    Joey Reply:

    Having a small rental car facility in Fresno shouldn’t be a problem. It’s not exactly prime real estate. Plus, they’re building so many parking structures already, what difference will it make?

    Wad Reply:

    In parking-constrained areas, a rental car agency will lease exclusive parking spaces and turn in and out cars based on demand.

    For Enterprise, the car-rental equivalent of Starbucks, it has so many locations in cities that its offices platoon cars by driving them between sites.

    JJJ Reply:

    Fresno + parking constrained = lols.

    Wad Reply:

    Lols now, sure.

    Southern Orange County, particularly Irvine, is parking-constrained at train stations. Irvine has the problem of two-way peak hour traffic with commuters taking trains out as well as workers arriving in the morning. These stations have had to add valets, and some office parks and companies are running their own shuttle bus systems.

    JJJ Reply:

    I suggest looking at the surrounding area with google satellite view. It’s pretty greenfield, there are enough empty lots that every agency could have their own.

    And Peter, how do you know there wont be baggage claim? Amtrak offer baggage claim in Fresno. The baggage people unload faster than it takes most people to get off.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The plan is to have the trains work like HSR abroad, which invariably doesn’t have a baggage car. Trains dwell at minor stations for 1-2 minutes, unless they’re being overtaken by express trains; it’s not going to give enough time for baggage unloading

    Joey Reply:

    In order to understand how HSR operates, you must first forget everything you know about Amtrak.

    jimsf Reply:

    actually our trains only dwell for two minutes or less most of the time as well and yes they get the bags off faster than the people get off.

    jimsf Reply:

    If they do not have checked baggage that wil be fine for some travelers but, a couple things to note.. a lot of people are connecting to long distance trips. If there is any kind of limit on carry on baggage, those people will be stuck using the slow amtrak trains to connect to their cross country trains out of sac or la, they won’t be able to utilize the hsr system to cut their travel time. We already have a problem with people exceeding baggage allowance by both weight and piece ( allowable is two carry ons plus a personal item, x 50 pounds each plus 3 checked bags free at 50 pounds each, for a total of 6- 50 pound pieces per ticketed passenger, ( include kids, so a family of four can have a total of 24-50 pound pieces, ) and in addtiion to that, each ticketed passenger can check up to three additional 50 pound pieces for 10 dollars per bag. ( making the allowable: 36 -50 pound pieces per family of four)
    Now thats not everyone doing that but as I said, we deal with these excesses daily at all stations, further, any bag over 50 pounds can be repacked, (sell them a box) so that creates an additional piece.

    And yes people use amtrak to move. they show up with stuff you wouldn’t believe packed in every imaginable kind of container. YOu’ll often see one person dragging 7 pieces of luggage down the platform.
    Basically what will happen is that hsr will only be for a certain crowd, making it the “elite train” that critics suggest it will be.

    Being in SF, I have large percentage of international travelers who are returning to LAX for their flight back to Sydney or Singapore or whatever, and they come in with 3 or 4 huge 70 pound bags which we then have to break down into 5 or 6 50 pound bags. etc. So these folks are not going to be able to use HSR either.

    In addition to that there are the elderly and disabled pax like the grandma who checks her 5 pound handbag from emeryville to fresno for instance. They are old and they need assistance.
    They too will be relegated to the slow trains.

    And finally, with the state having a say I wonder about this because, its my understanding, that while our national policy has strict limitations on point to point baggage. The state has actually asked us to bend and liberalize that policy to allow “short chekcing to unstaffed stations” a huge no no – within california because the state wants this extra service/amenity to be provided within california. They want more checked bag service not less… (again per the state’s point of view) So It makes me wonder. Because they are also a little ( and Im not saying this to be derogatory in case anyone is reading) but a little obsessed with the food service as well. I can’t see, if the state is involved in laying out the requirements- hsr not having food, baggage.

    Please do not argue with me on whether its right or wrong. I don’t care. What Im saying is that I will be quite shocked if they do a 180 and suddenly these things don’t matter because its going to be the same people in sacramento calling shots.

    don’t kill the messenger.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m sure there’s some official policy somewhere, but on every major train trip I’ve taken in Europe, no one has cared how many, how large, or how heavy the bags that anyone brought on the trains were. I’ve only ever heard conductors ask “whose bag is this” if it was blocking the aisle. If you can load it, you can bring it. Hell, people were bringing sleds on the train during our Amsterdam-Berlin debacle in December.

    If the elderly or disabled need help, they can easily get it. You don’t need a baggage car to help them. It will be even easier for them to get on HSR trains, in fact, because they’ll have level boarding, which currently doesn’t exist for Amtrak outside the NEC (that I’m aware of).

    About the dining car, it will simply depend on the operator as to whether or not it will be needed. Most HSR trips will be less than two hours, and a dining car will not be necessary. Again, I don’t really mind either way on that issue.

    jimsf Reply:

    blocking the aisles is a big issue for sure. And keep in mind that this is not europe or japan. I know from serving these customers all day that there is a difference. ?There just is. YOu’ll see.

    But, if the operator is willing to allow such a free for all, then more power to them. Perhaps that means we can bring pets, and livestock too! Because right now we turn that away as well.

    I guess its all the more reason to hope for at least a first class car on every train. or some all first and business full express runs or something. Otherwise its gonna be like spending 2:40 minutes on the 14 Mission in which case, I will still be at the airport.

    Peter Reply:

    Deutsche Bahn actually does allow dogs on their trains.

    I’m not sure what you mean with there being a difference in terms of customers.

    There will of course be a transition period of “What do you mean, I don’t check my bag on this train?” but they’ll become accustomed.

    jimsf Reply:

    I mean we are talking about a variety of demographics. Generally I find the euro crowd to be well versed in travel protocol.

    And it won’t be “what do you mean I don’t check my bag?” it will be
    “what do you mean I can’t check my bag”

    and believe there is a world no, a entire galaxy’s worth of difference in those two statements.

    as for dogs cats parakeets and what have you, oh and those mini service ponies, like I said as long there are first and business cars avail, the back of the train can be whatever free for all it need be.

    Peter Reply:

    In terms of passengers of different demographics, they’ll manage. It won’t be a big deal.

    Joey Reply:

    I know from serving these customers all day that there is a difference.

    HSR is a completely different type of service from what Amtrak offers. Of course you will see a difference – they’re catering to completely different markets. I would venture to say that the majority of HSR riders won’t even have ridden on Amtrak.

    As a side note, the Capitol Corridor doesn’t offer checked baggage.

    jimsf Reply:

    ok if you say so just pardon my skepticism.

    Actually though, what may happen is that the same people with baggage issues, will be same people with budget issues and if hsr is has a different price structure this may weed things out automatically as it does on the NEC, where most clients in my experience, prefer the regional price versus the acela price, leaving acela available for business travelers (since it packed as it is anyway) so things may naturally fall into place that way. Again I’m just speaking from personal front line experience, but as far as I can tell, more people in the shorter markets ( okj-fno mtz-mcd and so forth) will go with the fare that is 10 dollars less even it means a longer travel time.
    no doubt that hsr will be offering a lot of introductory fares to get butts in seats for the first couple years.

    jimsf Reply:


    yes I realize its different. So you are saying that the millions of current rail pax in cali who have flocked to exiting service, will not be switching to hsr? Cuz I was thinking they would be the solid base for it as those travel patterns have already been established.

    as for capitol corridor, no checked bags, but they serve primarily day trip and commuters, and those who are connecting to other routes are able to check their bags, we just put them onto other trainsets.

    I actually don’t even know if acela has ck bag service. Ive never even looked that up. hmmm. but if they don’t, one can still check a bag from PHL to WAS because itll just go on a different trainset.

    Now I have to go look up whether or not acela takes ck bags.

    Peter Reply:

    He said the “majority” of HSR riders won’t have ridden on Amtrak before. Hell, the times I’ve looked at Capitol Corridor to visit my friend in Sacramento for the day, I’ve decided to fly myself there (it helps when you’re a pilot) instead of spending over six hours on the train round-trip, with no guarantee as to when the train would actually get in.

    Joey Reply:

    I’m not saying that current Amtrak California passengers won’t take HSR (though a lot of the weirder ones probably won’t, regardless of whether or not they can check bags), just that they’ll constitute a minority of HSR riders, particularly once ridership normalizes (usually a few years into operation). Anyway, Amtrak California’s ridership base is primarily intraregional, whereas HSR will serve mostly interregional trips.

    As far as I can tell, the Acela does not accept checked bags. Anyway waiting around for another train to get there with your bags isn’t a reasonable thing to do if you’re on a schedule, which admittedly most Amtrak passengers aren’t, but many HSR passengers will be.

    jimsf Reply:

    I see hsr then, as being sort of this. But do we have 10-15 million of them a year who will ride?

    Joey Reply:

    Unlike Amtrak, HSR isn’t specific to a niche demographic. Business travelers will be a major part of HSR’s ridership, but not all, or perhaps even most of it. Why would HSR attract a significantly different crowd than air or car travel between regions?

    Peter Reply:

    HSR trains are not going to waste, yes, the word is “waste”, an entire car’s worth of potential seats that would be filled with paying passengers on a baggage car.

    Other than overnight trains, I don’t know of any trains in the first-world that have baggage cars. There are special cars in Germany for bicycles on many trains, but I can’t recall seeing any baggage cars.

    JJJ Reply:

    I cant seem to reply above, so Ill reply here:

    Joey, have you ridden the San Joaquin? Stations with baggage service do not have any additional delay. Really. Those bag people are fast.

    “Europe doesnt do it”

    So now we also have to copy what their systems lack as well? Ive traveled on many european trains,. Their baggage system in general sucks. They lack baggage racks, so the aisles get crowded, and unreserved seats gets stacked with them. It’s not good.

    “Baggage cars are a waste”.

    Who said anything about baggage cars? The san joaquin doesnt use baggage cars, it uses wasted space.

    “I fly rather than take the CC because of delays”.

    With 98% on time record, what delays are you talking about?

    Listen folks, one of the selling points about HSR is that it will be viable in 20 years when planes are way too expensive because they still use jet fuel and that costs too much (ever heard of an electric passenger plane?). But if HSR doesnt offer baggage service……then what? How will a family in Fresno that wants to take the train to LAX or Tijuana International deal with their billion bags?

    This isnt europe, and it isnt acela. The folks riding the San Joaquin and future HSR are not business people running to a meeting, they’re generally people visiting family. Seriously, has anyone ever seen someone wearing a suit on the San Joaquin?

    Peter Reply:

    Every Deutsche Bahn train I’ve traveled on had baggage racks. I can’t speak for the others.

    I flew (a Piper Arrow, I believe) because I could, I had more control over the schedule, and it wasn’t going to take 3 hours each way.

    The people taking HSR ARE going to be business people to a large extent, one of the reasons why it’s important for the stations to be downtown.

    JJJ Reply:

    Fair enough, I havent traveled DB. But I have been on trains in england, france (including TGV), switzerland (all of their types) and Italy. Luggage racks were rarer than ticket inspectors.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Stations with baggage service do not have any additional delay. Really. Those bag people are fast.

    HSR will have level boarding. The passengers aren’t going to be clambering up and down stairs. They’ll be using more doors. They are going to measure how long the train is in the station by seconds not minutes.

    jimsf Reply:

    Id say turn the original station into a ferry building/grand central market thing.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I mentioned the same thing a few days ago on another thread. But maybe also remodel the old Pullman shed into an open air farmers market with the old station having other types of shops.

    I ran across this history of the old Fresno SP station a few days ago. Interesting background:
    “The Southern Pacific Railroad Depot at Tulare and H Streets in downtown Fresno is an unusual departure from the traditional Southern Pacific architectural style. Evidence suggests that citizens of Fresno in 1888 rejected the original plans for the depot, which may explain why it was not constructed in the rectangular box style prevalent throughout the rest of the San Joaquin Valley.”

    So Fresno back then successfully stood up to the SP to get a better architectural design for the station. Hopefully that attitude of wanting something more than just a generic style returns to the area as the HSR station gets designed.

  16. bixnix
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 18:14

    Now maybe I’m not seeing this watercolor right, but it looks like it’s largely unprotected with only a canopy to keep rain off. If so, that seems inadequate. Up a couple of stories, it’d be quite windy and cold on days of bad weather. Kinda like the LA Green Line stations.

    Andy Reply:

    I’m sure they’d be happy for you to make a donation to enclose and air condition the structure to make it “adequate”. I’m guessing $10-20 million would do it – just for Fresno. You’ll need to write additional checks for other stations. It’s easy to propose to spend other people’s money – but in the end we all pay.

    bixnix Reply:

    I’ll suggest adding some wind blocking walls at the expense of views, and a canopy that covers more of the platform, from the rail to the exit. It looks like just a few more feet overhead would do it. It shouldn’t be too much money to make the station a more pleasant place in this way.

    wu ming Reply:

    fresno averages 45 days a year of rain a year (and that’s a pretty loose standard as the standard for “rainy day” is 0.1mm of rain per day), most of the year is pretty clear. heat is liable to be more of a nuisance than cold weather.

  17. Ben
    Feb 13th, 2011 at 19:26

    Robert Samuelson has a pretty awful editorial about high speed rail in the Washington Post.

    High-speed rail is a fast track to government waste

    Spokker Reply:

    “By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending.”

    This is after he criticizes Amtrak and mass transit for losing about a hundred per thousand passenger miles.

    Even if this were true, so what? Drivers should cover the full costs of driving and then some. The “then some” should go to transit to help mitigate the negative social effects of driving.

    The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, who Samuelson cites for the transportation subsidy information, has this to say on full social costs and benefits.

    Unfortunately, they “have not included analysis of the social costs and benefits of different transportation modes because of the difficulty of providing a value of these costs and benefits.”

    Oh well.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And the FHWA will show how wrong he is, without social costs. Federal spending is almost fully covered by gas taxes collected from all roads, including non-federal ones. State spending is not; local spending on gas tax-eligible highways is not; local spending on roads that are not considered highways and aren’t eligible for the gas tax isn’t even in this table.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    His usual BS about HSR..there will be 100s of comments telling him he is a fool..

    Ben Reply:

    What makes this column even more ridiculous was just last week, Robert Samuelson had an article deploring our dependence on oil.

    The United States, with just five percent of the world’s population, consumes 1/4 of the world’s oil and transportation is responsible for 72% of that consumption. I guess it is too difficult for some people to make the connection between auto dependence and dependence on oil

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Samuelson sounds like he could be bi-polar?

    PeakVT Reply:

    Columnists are never held accountable for being completely, totally, utterly wrong.

    JJJ Reply:

    Amazing link, thanks.

    And it’s true that naysayers in general are NEVER held accountable. For every project, someone stands up and shouts doom, but when doom never comes….nothing is done to that naysayer.

    “Dont build light rail, it will be a white elephant! No one will ride it! The 20,000 riders projection is insane”
    *40,000 riders in year one*

    ^Based on a true story.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Which system was that?

    James Fujita Reply:

    I’m not sure he’s referencing a specific system. It happens so often from Los Angeles to Denver to Houston to Phoenix to Minneapolis that it would be a trope if TV Tropes catered to rail fans.

    James Fujita Reply:

    EDIT: There is a whole TV Tropes page dedicated to rail critics:

    JJJ Reply:

    Phoenix was projecting 26,000, opposition said that number was unrealistically high, they’re getting 45,000 a day.

    Lynx light rail, projection was 9,600, opposition said nobody would ride it, they’re getting 20,000 a day.

    Charlotte was especially interesting, as the Reason Foundation and Wednell Cox were front and center arguing it would be a massive fail. The folks over at Duke Energy, clearly concerned that tax money would be wasted on a boondoggle (mmhmm), funded a campaign to cancel the tax being used to fund the line.

    You can read about it here:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One thing that stood out for me was that the system was first proposed in the 1980s, almost 30 years ago, and at least 20 years before actually opening. I wonder if the “generational” aspect that’s been mentioned here played a role.

    The other thing that stands out is the huge jump in actual ridership vs. what was projected. A friend of mine (former US Army intelligence officer, writer, and rail enthusiast) has commented that he thinks the demand for rail service at all levels has been suppressed for years by our “usual suspects;” jumps in actual ridership like this may bear him out.

    Wad Reply:

    It sounds like the stock phrase of the faculty of USC’s Reason Foundation School of Policy, Planning and Development.

  18. Brandon from San Diego
    Feb 14th, 2011 at 06:07

    Fresno’s population will be 3-5 million un 50 years. Something to think about.

  19. Scott Mercer
    Feb 14th, 2011 at 13:26

    Even with the limited funds, they could still make some kind of “iconic” statement with the architecture. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Just by adding some type of large “gateway arch” or large statue, the “landmark” part of the complex could be fulfilled for a relatively small amount of funds.

  20. romo
    Feb 14th, 2011 at 18:45

    I like Japan’s Kyoto Shinkansen station. The station connects to other train platforms (obviously), but also connects directly to a shopping mall.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Kyoto is an amazing station.

    It’s a bit too big for Fresno, but the basic plan makes sense. The Shinkansen is on the top level, where it can avoid streets and other rail lines, and commuter trains are on the other levels. There are a lot of shops, a department store, restaurants, a bus plaza, a hotel, a movie theater and other services. And a subway line underneath.

    People who live in Kyoto or in the Kyoto area gather at the train station for shopping trips and other outings.

    It is surprisingly modern for a city born in the 700s (and with ancient monuments still standing).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Fresno isn’t going to have a subway for the foreseeable future. It’s not going to have commuter rail either. A nice place right at the station for the buses if they every have buses might be nice. Could be converted for streetcars if they ever get streetcars back.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Maybe not a subway. But streetcars are in the plans. I wouldn’t count out a commuter train or two if the population continues to grow.

    And they will always have people who like to go shopping.

    JJJ Reply:

    Commuter rail would run on the BNSF, as it hits richer population centers.

    Joey Reply:

    Fresno is pretty compact – nearly all of it is less than 10 miles from downtown, well within range of Light Rail, particularly if it is built well. Commuter rail might happen if Fresno actually becomes a major employment center (like, really major) and the towns around it become suburbs, but it’s hard not to equate that with undesirable sprawl – if development is controlled properly, Fresno doesn’t have to expand that much.

    JJJ Reply:

    Fresno aspires to be like LA. The sprawlier the better.

    James Fujita Reply:

    What Fresno will look like in the future will depend greatly on transportation decisions made now.

    The growth so far has been in the sprawling direction, but there’s still time for Fresno to turn around.

    If Fresno’s leaders follow through on plans to build streetcars and BRT, the future will be a bit brighter. HSR may help convince them.

  21. Roger Christensen
    Feb 15th, 2011 at 00:40

    Not the best use of light rail, but I’ve heard that the more recent freeways have wide center medians built to accommodate future rail. The previous mayor had a streetcar proposal that was shot down by the City Council. The route was downtown to Tower District.
    It seems the current regime favors BRT.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Pretty much all of the freeways in the Fresno area are wide enough for light rail. Certainly one could build a light rail line up Hwy. 168, which makes a beeline for Fresno State and Clovis, or up Hwy. 41 from downtown Fresno to the River Park area.

    Whether this is a waste of light rail or not depends on how you feel about such projects as the Foothill extension of the Gold Line, which is clearly designed more for the future needs of the San Gabriel Valley than to their current situation.

    Fresno currently probably doesn’t need a light rail line, but I do wonder about what the future holds. Better to have these rights-of-way be available for future use than be converted to freeway lanes.

    JJJ Reply:

    The current regime favors nothing. It’s the standard downgrade cycle.

    Lets do light rail!
    Thats too expensive, we cant afford it, lets think smaller.
    Lets do streetcars!
    Thats too expensive, we cant afford it, lets think smaller.
    Lets do BRT!
    Thats too expensive, we cant afford it, lets think smaller.
    Lets….provide 20 minute headways on our two busiest bus lines…?
    Thats too expensive, we can only afford it with a federal grant.

    *meanwhile in city hall*
    Lets widen all the highway 41 exit ramps! Lets build new connectors on the freeway exchanges! Lets extend highway 180 until we reach nevada!

  22. Spokker
    Feb 15th, 2011 at 05:10



    swing hanger Reply:

    Mises Economics= Austrian School of Economics=libertarian in outlook. ’nuff said.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I wonder how the cost of oil wars figures into their calculations on the cost of driving. And the same for the regular cost of 30,000+ traffic fatalities per year in this country alone.

    Then there was that item about how “costs,” “profits,” and “losses” were needed for “moral” calculations. Tell that to the people of Europe who were accurately targeted in the Holocaust because the Nazis had IBM card sorters that could be made to behave like a computer with multiple card passes. These machines were provided by a corporation with an amoral leader who was very aggressive about profits and careful about following the law–but not much else. His firm continued to supply technical support through neutral Swiss channels virtually all through the war. This greatly aided the Nazis in that “final solution” of theirs. And it was all “legal,” following the laws of the USA, Switzerland, Vichy France and Germany as they existed at the time. Clever, crafty, legal–and still morally wrong!

    Not everything is measurable in money!

    Do these “libertarian” types even think about these things?

  23. datacruncher
    Feb 15th, 2011 at 14:05

    The FY2012 federal budget recommends $17.8 million for Fresno’s first BRT line. The route would leave the HSR station then head east on Ventura/Kings Canyon to the eastern edge of the city. That follows the path of what is the most heavily used bus route in the city.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Well, it’s not much but it’s a start (the BRT project, not the funds). Fresno needs to get seriously started on stuff like this or they’ll be unprepared when HSR gets started.

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