Eshoo, Simitian, Gordon Oppose Aerial Structures

Apr 18th, 2011 | Posted by

So the big announcement from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Senator Joe Simitian, and Assemblymember Rich Gordon is here and the gist is this: they oppose any aerial structure on the corridor, want tracks either at or below grade and fitting within the existing Caltrain ROW (without considering that the ROW has a variable width) and want to explore terminating HSR service at San José, although they are cagey in how they explain that. Oh, and they want to abandon the current EIR process.

I’ll add some details and analysis shortly, but I’ll post this now so you all can take a look before I get my thoughts organized.

OK, here are my thoughts:

Big picture: Nobody here is showing real leadership. Eshoo, Simitian, and now Gordon have all been cowed by a small group of NIMBYs into opposing an aerial solution which, as we’ve talked about before, works perfectly well for other Bay Area communities such as Albany and Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. These three elected officials do realize that large majorities of their constituents support high speed rail and clearly they’re trying to find a middle ground between the vocal yet unrepresentative NIMBYs, and the silent majority who actually matter.

Some of these proposals are worth considering, others might not be. But it’s unfortunate to see all three of these electeds basically giving in to the NIMBYs on some core points, and ignoring and even mocking the support for HSR that their constituents and the people of California as a whole have shown.

Let’s take a look at the details of the statement:

Since the passage of Proposition 1A in 2008, each of us has expressed our support for “high-speed rail done right,” by which we mean a genuinely statewide system that makes prudent use of limited public funds and which is responsive to legitimate concerns about the impact of high-speed rail on our cities, towns, neighborhoods and homes.

This is already troubling, because it frames HSR as having a negative impact. It actually has a positive impact on these communities, but nowhere is this acknowledged or mentioned. That impact includes things like reduced carbon emissions, elimination of diesel emissions, elimination of train horns, significant reduction of if not outright elimination of deaths along the rail corridor, and improvements that come from better, faster, even more reliable Caltrain service. By framing HSR as something that negatively impacts the communities, these three elected officials are showing they don’t really understand – or care to acknowledge – the important benefits HSR brings to their constituents.

To date, however, the California High Speed Rail Authority has failed to develop and describe such a system for the Peninsula and South Bay. For that reason, we have taken it upon ourselves today to set forth some basic parameters for what “high-speed rail done right” looks like in our region.

We start with the premise that for the Authority to succeed in its statewide mission it must be sensitive and responsive to local concerns about local impacts. Moreover, it is undeniable that funding will be severely limited at both the state and national levels for the foreseeable future.

This is simply wrong. For the Authority to succeed in its statewide mission, it has to deliver the promised project on-time and on-budget in a way that meets the needs of Californians as a whole. Yes, the Authority must be – and has been – sensitive and responsive to local concerns. But those concerns do not, and must not, trump the interests of the people of this state as a whole. A balance can be found. Unfortunately, the tone of this statement indicates no such balance is sought or achieved. The statement indicates they’re siding with a small, parochial group of people, who don’t even represent the communities in question.

Much of the projected cost for the San Jose to San Francisco leg of the project is driven by the fact that the Authority has, to date, proposed what is essentially a second rail system for the Peninsula and South Bay, unnecessarily duplicating existing usable infrastructure. Even if such a duplicative system could be constructed without adverse impact along the CalTrain corridor, and we do not believe it can, the cost of such duplication simply cannot be justified.

That’s an open question. Caltrain has not exactly been doing its part to ensure interoperability (hello, CBOSS!) and the HSR infrastructure includes tracks for Caltrain too. What the Authority is proposing is a second rail service for the region – which is exactly what voters mandated. HSR is NOT Caltrain, nor should it be Caltrain. It’s something different, serving a generally different set of riders, although there is possibility for overlap with the Baby Bullet service. Still, this strikes me as a misleading premise at best, one that does not fully articulate the complexity of the situation and certainly does not acknowledge the work that has been done to ensure Caltrain benefits too.

Further, HSR service from LA (and other points south) to SF, the Peninsula, and San José is not duplicative at all, and anyone who says so is being duplicitous.

If we can barely find the funds to do high speed rail right, we most certainly cannot find the funds to do high speed rail wrong.

This is a veiled threat. It’s also an empty one. Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon will not actually cut off funding to the HSR project. Will Eshoo actually cross Nancy Pelosi on this? Will Simitian cross Jerry Brown? Will Gordon cross the unions? I think not.

Accordingly, we call upon the High-Speed Rail Authority and our local CalTrain Joint Powers Board to develop plans for a blended system that integrates high-speed rail with a 21st Century CalTrain.

To that end:
• We explicitly reject the notion of high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco on an elevated structure or “viaduct”; and we call on the High-Speed Rail Authority to eliminate further consideration of an aerial option

I’m all for a sensible integration of HSR and Caltrain, and am open to a “blended” system. And I’ve always said that I don’t really care what vertical alignment is chosen there. I’m driven more by the ridiculous and indefensible criticisms of an aerial structure. If they want a below-grade solution, I’ve always been fine with that. But its proponents need to help find the money for it. Nowhere in this letter is that funding discussed.

• We fully expect that high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco can and should remain within the existing CalTrain right of way; and

Here’s the problem: the right of way is uneven. In some places it is clearly wide enough for four tracks side by side. In other places, like San Mateo, it isn’t. Imposing a “no widening of ROW” rule makes the at-grade and even many of the below-grade solutions impractical or very costly.

• Third and finally, consistent with a project of this more limited scope, the Authority should abandon its preparation of an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for a phased project of larger dimensions over a 25 year timeframe. Continuing to plan for a project of this scope in the face of limited funding and growing community resistance is a fool’s errand; and is particularly ill-advised when predicated on ridership projections that are less than credible.

So Eshoo, Simitian, and Gordon just called the people of California “fools”? The Authority is planning the system the people of California voted to build.

This whole bullet point is full of misstatements. Limited funding does require us to be thoughtful about how to build infrastructure. But the community resistance is still very small even if it’s growing – and tellingly, the statement totally ignores the clear majorities of the members of the community who still back the project. It’s as if those people don’t exist.

I’ve met with Senator Simitian to discuss this project. He saw the poll that became public last August – and I know Gordon is very familiar with that poll too. Both Simitian and Gordon have no plausible reason to write the huge numbers of HSR supporters out of this story. But that’s exactly what they have done here. It’s a huge slap in the face to their own constituents.

Especially when they make the false claim – and yes, it is a false claim – that the ridership numbers are “less than credible.” The Berkeley ITS report said no such thing. It said the numbers might be right and they might be wrong. But Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon are buying the anti-HSR spin put on that report. This is not just a slap in the face to their constituents, but a slap in the face to the people of California.

Within the existing right-of-way, at or below grade, a single blended system could allow high-speed rail arriving in San Jose to continue north in a seamless fashion as part of a 21st Century CalTrain (using some combination of electrification, positive train control, new rolling stock and/or other appropriate upgrades) while maintaining the currently projected speeds and travel time for high-speed rail.

If they can promise the latter objectives are met, then this can be explored. One key stipulation is that there be a one-seat ride from LA to SF. This “blended system” cannot require a transfer at San José. It is not credible for these three to talk about concerns regarding ridership and funding and then propose a system that would dramatically lower the ridership by forcing a transfer at San José. I’m disappointed that wasn’t acknowledged here. It will have to be, because a one-seat ride is essential. It’s not practical or workable to expect long-distance travelers to change to a commuter railroad to finish their journey into downtown San Francisco. Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon need to declare that option to be off the table.

The net result of such a system would be a substantially upgraded commuter service for Peninsula and South Bay residents capable of accommodating high-speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco.

All of this is possible, but only if the High-Speed Rail Authority takes this opportunity to rethink its direction.

Over the course of the past 18 months the Authority has come under considerable criticism from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Bureau of State Audits, the California Office of the Inspector General, the Authority’s own Peer Review Group and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. The Authority would do well to take these critiques to heart, and to make them the basis for a renewed and improved effort.

Why? Those criticisms, save for the Peer Review Group, have all been flawed (see here for an overview). The Authority is absolutely not bound at all to act on flawed analysis.

Frankly, a great many of our constituents are convinced that the High-Speed Rail Authority has already wandered so far afield that it is too late for a successful course correction. We hope the Authority can prove otherwise.

This is probably the most clearly, demonstrably false statement in the entire release. There is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. There is a small but vocal group of people who are complaining from a basis of NIMBYism. What of the clear majorities who still support the project? The Menlo Park residents who welcome grade separation, no matter the vertical alignment? The Redwood City residents who would welcome a mid-Peninsula stop? The Palo Alto businesses who would welcome a fast way to get clients to and from their offices to points around the state? The bias against HSR in this statement is really quite shocking to behold, and does their cause no favors.

An essential first step is a rethinking of the Authority’s plans for the Peninsula and South Bay. A commitment to a project which eschews an aerial viaduct, stays within the existing right-of-way, sets aside any notion of a phased project expansion at a later date, and incorporates the necessary upgrades for CalTrain – which would produce a truly blended system along the CalTrain corridor – is the essential next step.

If Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon want these proposals to be given serious consideration – which they deserve – they need to give serious consideration to the fact that huge majorities of their own constituents, as well as a majority of the people of California, want this train built because they see its benefits. It’s time we heard more from these three about the benefits of the project, if they want our trust in helping them craft a compromise.

UPDATE: It’s also possible that the tone of the release is intended as an act of appeasement – keep the NIMBYs happy while assuming HSR backers will be on board. Speaking for myself, I won’t mind the tone at all if the actual policy content is good for HSR. And if you look closely at what I’ve said, the only real concern I have is regarding San José. There’s a bright line there: no forced transfers, no termination of HSR service at Diridon. HSR must continue all the way to Transbay Terminal as originally intended. If Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon support that too, then there’s a lot of opportunity to collaborate here.

  1. Jack
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 10:50

    Sooo.. They pretty much want two tracks…

    thatbruce Reply:

    I want a pony. Oh, and decent co-operation between Caltrain and the CAHSRA.

    Seriously; the number of ‘OMG The Project MUST Be Stopped!’ calls coming out of the LA area, where it seems likely that the CAHSR trains will spend a far greater distance, gasp, sharing tracks with the dominant FRA passenger operator of the area than Caltrain even has, pales in comparison to all the sound and fury from the Peninsula.

  2. JTHJR
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 10:53

    If it means getting HSR completed, I am fine with taking caltrans from San Jose to SF, after a trip from Los Angeles.

    Joe Reply:

    SF is not satisfied with HSR ending in San Jose. It means cutting SF off from infrastructure that would support their business community.

    Does Nancy Pelosi want to end HSR at SJ after starting the new transbay terminal?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I don’t think the proposal is to end in San Jose. I think the proposal is for CHSRA to use Caltrain tracks north of San Jose, just like the TGV uses existing SNCF trackage in Paris or in other urban areas. From the passenger’s perspective, the trip ends in SF.

    This proposal could save a massive amount of money ($7 billion?) and have probably minor impacts on service levels. Isn’t anyone intrigued by the possibility? The CHSRA certainly is- this is why they are now proposed a phased implementatino.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I do not understand why it is so difficult for the foamers to grasp the politix here. The same cabal that torpedoed the Caltrain TBT tunnel in the early ’90’s is still very much in play here – Kopp, BART, PB and MTC. These are some devious, underhanded, ruthless bastards and they are committed to the BART manifest destiny laid out some 60 years ago. They have attempted to sabotage Caltrain at every turn even tho Caltrain is a superior solution to BART. Clearly PB was induced to infuriate and panic the Peninsula with threats of berms and aerials to drive the yuppies into the hands of BART, which will build PAMPA their 2 track.subway and seal the deal.

    Who is going to oppose the BART power play? San Jose loves BART – the only way they would get upset is if Altamont came back into consideration. As to SF – the machine is going to have a hard time coming up with the funds to complete the abysmally dysfunctional Rose Pak Memorial Central Subway.

    Clem Reply:

    When do you think BART will make this power play? It seems overdue, as true as it may seem.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    BART (ie the contractor mafiosi who are in full control of the agency’s capital budget) are busy with building to the San José (Capital of Silicon Valley, you know) Flea Market for the time being.

    Biting off the peninsula at the same time is a little more than they can chew, and would run the unacceptable (if remote) risk of some wrong contractor getting a piece of the action.

    So the way “forward”, as it has been since the 1960s, is to ensure that no substantive (ie game-changing) upgrades of any type are made in the Caltrain corridor until the time arrives when the third rail wide gauge sole-source vendor-captured 1960s-tech BART wonder-track can be extended — on viaducts where necessary, 100% grade separated, 100% redundantly — between Millbrae and Santa Clara.

    No hurry until then. The status quo is perfectly acceptable; change will not be tolerated and will not occur until they’re good and ready to bring in the correct sort of change.

    Caltrain on life support or worse is just fine. It’s not like that nice transportation corridor real estate is intended for public benefit anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I don’t see see BART making an overt approach at this point but others on the Peninsula calling for BART to supplant both hsr and Caltrain, ie, overturning Prop 1A north of San Jose.

    Budget austerity at both the federal and state level could throw the hsr back into the arena of local politics. The Peninsula has the financial resources to build BART north, especially when it resolves the blight issue for PAMPA once and for all.

    Mike Reply:

    Elizabeth, I think many here are probably intrigued by the possibility and look forward to the results of an analysis that will show what can be done with a phased implementation on existing ROW. But Simitian, Eshoo, and Gordon aren’t interested in actual analysis; they have already decided that whatever can be done with existing ROW and no aerial structures is what we can have — regardless of what that means for travel times, headways, Caltrain scheduling, safety, local street closure, ridership & fare revenue, and the 30-minute SJ-SF travel time mandated by Prop 1A. I would have no problem with their statement if they weren’t trying to prejudge the outcome. But they HAVE prejudged the outcome, which unfortunately only inflames things further when they could have served as a moderating voice for reason.

    Joe Reply:

    No, I am underwhelmed by the idea of running on Caltrain and diminishing the service. Also saddened at the number of deaths we’ll continue to see along ROW’s current grade separation.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Of course it’s worth a look. Nobody’s arguing otherwise. But it needs to be a genuine assessment in concert with all the other proposals, and be judged based on whether it is a cost-effective solution for both HSR and Caltrain’s needs.

    tony d. Reply:

    For once, I actually (gulp!) agree with Elizabeth. The Caltrain “Firebird” concept,
    with limited station closures. Rafael would be proud…make it happen!

    YesONHSR Reply:

    As long as its a one seat ride into the City..or it will never fly and if thats not the idea here its time SF powers put on the boxing gloves to make sure that those trains are in the basement of TBT sometime in 2020

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The proposal would be to use Caltrain tracks for a preliminary service. Caltrain tracks as they are now would not be a finished Stage 1, there is no way they would offer HSR 5 minute headways to the TBT.

  3. Jack
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 10:53

    • We explicitly reject the notion of high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco on an elevated structure or “viaduct”; and we call on the High-Speed Rail Authority to eliminate further consideration of an aerial option;

    • We fully expect that high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco can and should remain within the existing CalTrain right of way;


    MGimbel Reply:

    Do it my way, or don’t do it at all…

    Jack Reply:

    Wasn’t the all at-grade option studied and it was more expensive and challenging to sink all the road crossings that it would be to build aerials. I seem to remember that.

    Secondly I love:

    “If we can barely find the funds to do high speed rail right, we most certainly cannot find the funds to do high speed rail wrong.”

    Done Wrong to them is cheaper, better service for the entire state. Done right is more expensive and sensitive to morris brown wanting to grill in his back yard. Never mind the BILLIONS more it would cost.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …. the diesel fumes add so much to the ambiance…..

    Joe Reply:

    Chicago has sunken crossings, they are narrow and flood.

    aw Reply:

    Just close all the at-grade roadway crossings.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Have a read through Clem’s work on the subject. There are 104 total road crossings, 43 of which are at-grade. Closing ‘all’ of the at-grade crossings would leave certain cities with no nearby alternative to get across the tracks. It should come as no surprise that the cities with dense clusterings of at-grade crossings also tend to oppose any improvements to the Caltrain corridor, and thus make any efforts to replace an at-grade crossing a political nightmare.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Doing it “their way” as a “preliminary service” with HSR in the Peninsula the last stage to finishing Stage 1 would, of course, mean that by the time the design is finalized, the Peninsula NIMBY’s will have ceded much of the influence that the cities of the Peninsula presently have on the final design. A final design that need to get done to finish Stage 1 and open the door to extending the system north and south is going to be rammed through irrespective of how people in the Peninsula feel about it.

    Far better for the local impact to cooperate on the final design now in a serious way, without rejecting up front design elements that will be the best solution in many grade separation projects in the Peninsula.

    For political cover, one could reject design elements that would never get it through a final value engineering design, such as rejecting a full height walled infill the length of the Peninsula.

  4. Jon
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 10:59

    “Within the existing right-of-way, at or below grade, a single blended system could allow high-speed rail arriving in San Jose to continue north in a seamless fashion as part of a 21st Century CalTrain (using some combination of electrification, positive train control, new rolling stock and/or other appropriate upgrades) while maintaining the currently projected speeds and travel time for high-speed rail.”

    Very sneaky phrasing here. The sentence doesn’t even make grammatical sense due to a missing noun. It could mean one of two things:

    “Within the existing right-of-way, at or below grade, a single blended system could allow high-speed rail trains arriving in San Jose to continue north in a seamless fashion as part of a 21st Century CalTrain…”

    “Within the existing right-of-way, at or below grade, a single blended system could allow high-speed rail passengers arriving in San Jose to continue north in a seamless fashion as part of a 21st Century CalTrain…”

    One suggests termination of HSR in San Jose, which is nuts. The other suggests HSR trains sharing the existing Caltrain tracks to get to SF, which would make sense as an interim measure only. Lack of grade separation would reduce haul time by enough to miss the requirements of prop 1A. This not a long-term solution, legally or practically.

    Jarrett Reply:

    Jon, I think you’re absolutely right that “passengers” is the missing noun. Eshoo et al. are privately preparing their announcement in favor of the San Jose terminus once all of their specious at-grade proposals are deemed infeasible by the engineers and communities. At the same time, they’ll want money for upgraded caltrain service as a means to shuttle HSR passengers to San Francisco while praising it as an effective use of limited public funds.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The language of Prop1A/AB3034 mandates a non-stop travel time of 30 minutes between San Francisco and San Jose ( 2704.09 (b)(3) ) and a maximum headway of 5 minutes ( 2704.09 (c) ), preferably less. These two requirements are not achievable with the current Caltrain infrastructure, which means that to meet these mandates, the Caltrain corridor must be upgraded to similar standards as the rest of the CAHSR system.

    Once the Caltrain corridor has been upgraded to meet these requirements, it would make little sense to force passengers to change at SJ, especially when 2704.09 (b)(1) has that nifty wording regarding non-stop service between SF and LA.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Acceptance of the at-grade option for a preliminary service and deferring final design “til later”
    would put the cat amongst the pigeons, since completion of the preliminary service corridor would be electrification of the Caltrain corridor with selected Express bypasses, which would support substantially more frequent Caltrain service … which would start to drive up local pressure for additional grade separations.

  5. Jack
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:05

    To: Eshoo, Simitian, Gordon

    RE: HSR Funding

    Stop wasting time with meaningless press releases and spend more time working to get Funding restored to HSR and we can talk about tunnels and at-grade options.


    Future HSR Rider.

    Joe Reply:

    F’ yeah.

  6. Elizabeth
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:08

    It is very important to understand that there is not actually that much of a gap between what the CHSRA is actually pursuing and what Simitian et al want.

    The CHSRA has made it clear in the documents that we have gotten our hands on as well as public statements that are looking at a step 1 and step 2 phased approach on the Peninsula.

    Given the way the world works, it is actually incredibly unlikely that the CHSRA would invest additional billions ($7 plus) to put in extra tracks, aerials etc. You would most likely just live with step 1, which is what Simitian et all are proposing.

    The Authority wants to go ahead and get clearance for step 2 (the full shebang) just in case. This is also known as “landbanking”.

    The problem with this is that it puts the Peninsula in limbo forever more or less. There are several projects planned near the tracks (Samtrans transit village) and several more in the works which might not happen because the Authority has a cleared EIR that would wipe them out.

    The other problem with this is that it has widespread opposition and you may end not getting an EIR done.

    Simitian et al are proposing the “good enough” solution, which looks a lot like what CHSRA has the budget and inclination to do anyway. This has a chance of getting to the finish line.

    Jack Reply:

    Can’t anyone planning development around the corridor just move their plans back 100 ft? Seems reasonable to me.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Don’t you mean 0ft to 20ft? The corridor already exists, and is already 100ft or more wide through most of its length.

    Eric M Reply:

    “The other problem with this is that it has widespread opposition and you may end not getting an EIR done.”

    Yeah, maybe in your eyes, but the 2008 vote along the peninsula and subsequent polls indicate a strong support for the high speed rail system in California. Time to change your glasses Elizabeth!

    MGimbel Reply:

    What I find humorous, however, is the fact that Simitian is essentially saying there’s no money, but he’s still ok with building a below-grade system. How, in reality, is that a cheaper solution?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    What’s the cost difference between 4-track aerial and 2-track trench?

    thatbruce Reply:

    One is more expensive, unless one is BART, in which case it is way more expensive.

    Aerial should be cheaper (with berm being cheaper still) due to the number of stream crossings involved, which require the trench to go deeper in certain spots. You’ve also got the issue of maintaining service during construction, with it being cheaper if the existing service can be terminated for the duration.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And the difference between expanding a 2 track aerial designed to be expanded into a 4 track arial and expanding a 2 track trench into a 4 track trench is massive ~ remember, Stage One will not be finished until there are 5 minute headways to the TBT, and until Stage 1 is finished, Sacramento and San Diego will be left dangling.

    That may not seem an issue now, when the HSR is hypothetical, but once service is running, anything standing in the way of moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2 will be flattened.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    What I find humorous, however, is the fact that Simitian is essentially saying there’s no money, but he’s still ok with building a below-grade system. How, in reality, is that a cheaper solution?

    PAMPA never said below-grade. They want the Altamont alternative, which even CHSRA concedes is cheaper.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They want Altamont, or, failing that, a tunnel. (Correct response: sure, and we’ll even pay for the tunnel – and we’ll build low-income housing projects on it.)

    joe Reply:

    I suppose if magic fairy bridges appeared to whisk trains over the ecologically sensitive bay…it’s a non-trivial and very expensive venture.

    And of course it’s more expensive to operate two trains, one each to service SJ and SF to LA. Cost recovery requirements, unfair as they are, simply force the HSR to follow economic corridors and favor the “one train to rule them all” Pacheco alignment.

    As much as I was annoyed at the press stunt today, the focus on Caltrain did renforce the decision to use the Pacheco alignment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ecologically sensitive!

    joe Reply:


    and at least of us has a Ph.D. in ecology.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The older I get the more I’m convinced that degrees signal that you are good at going to school. Back in 2006 or so everyone was bemoaning how the financial sector was sucking Ph.Ds at an astounding rate and generating unheard of profits. That’s been working out swimmingly has it?

    Joey Reply:

    Do you have any sort of quantitative analysis which proves that having two termini will significantly increase operating costs?

    Because unless you do, you’re argument is pure speculation.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Qualify that to “having two termini with equivalent service levels at the termini” and, yes. Quantitative Analysis: running the same services to SF plus additional service to SJ will cost more than running just the first set to SF via SJ.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I want my unicorn to poop rainbows AND I want a talking puppy to be my best friend forever.

    For free.

    And that’s a quantitative fact.

    Joey Reply:

    Like I have said previously, I don’t doubt that Altamont would have somewhat higher operating costs than Pacheco. The question is how much, and how long it would take for that to rival the $10-$15 billion that Pacheco would likely cost us in the long term.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Altamont is going to be built for free? Keebler Elves building it out of pixie dust?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How much of your guesstimate of “how much Pacheco will cost us in the end” is driven by assumed cost of coping with Peninsula NIMBY demands? And is an appropriately larger bump added to your guesstimate of the cost of Altamont?

    Joey Reply:

    To both of you – that figure comes from the fact that Phase 1 would probably cost about the same under Altamont or Pacheco (reasonable, given the numbers that even the Authority has published). What’s included is the Altamont overlay (expensive even to get reasonable speeds) as well as the additional track from Chowchilla to Manteca which would have to be build in Phase 2.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How expensive it is to get the Altamont overlay up to 110mph ~ which is certainly a reasonable speed given the context ~ has a strong dependence on frequency of service. While not an option on the main trunk, on a commuter overlay an Express HSR gets up to 110mph fairly quickly, and so would transit bidirectional track quickly, making a single track section through the locales that are most expensive to get dedicated passenger rail double tracked a value engineering option.

    Substantial work on the Altamont overlay is, of course, a candidate for construction prior to completion of Phase 1, dependent on a separate line of funding, so the cost has to be considered at the same discount as the Stage 1 HSR. The cost of the track from Chowchilla to Manteca, OTOH, ought to be discounted to reflect its later construction date. Certainly the Federal government allocates nominal dollars, so projects applying for Federal funding need to budget in YOE dollars, but an assessment of actual economic cost and benefits still should be discounted to present values using a normal public finance discount rate.

    EJ Reply:

    Someone should have probably mentioned it was ecologically sensitive before they built a rail line, a freeway, and a high tension power line through it.

    Pacheco has major environmental issues or its own – objecting to HSR through altamont on environmental grounds is a silly canard.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The issue is not whether it is a silly canard, but whether it is a potentially effective ploy by Altamont corridor NIMBY’s. We can guarantee that it will be attempted as a ploy.

    And in that context, the fact that California did ecologically foolish construction projects in the past will be used to argue that it is all the more urgent to refrain from causing further damage.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Altamont is more expensive to run. Operations will require more trains.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The critical operating issue is seat utilization. Pacheco means running a lot of empty seats up and down the Peninsula (not a good thing!).

    Also, for the full build-out network (i.e. service to Sac, etc), it is Altamont that requires fewer trains.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Pacheco means running a lot of empty seats up and down the Peninsula.”
    Why? The empty ones are only empty for half an hour, and filling the bulk of these seats is a straightforward matter of finding the correct premium over Caltrain fares to do avoid excess demand for seats that are normally not there. 80% effectiveness in filling the seats that would otherwise be empty for 18.75% of the Express trip is 96.25% seat utilization.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    1. The additional round trip time of SJ-SF-SJ will be more like 90 minutes, possibly significantly higher due to inadequate terminal facilities and dead-heading overhead. (A 30 minute run-time is pure fiction anyway.) That’s a lot of time to have your 400kmh wonder-trains depreciating.

    2. There is quite close to zero demand for SJ-SF trips. Look at Caltrain’s origin-destination figures. Look at the fact that ALL PLATFORMS AT DIRIDON INTERGALACTIC STATION ARE NEARLY EMPTY AT NEARLY ALL TIMES OF THE DAY, including the peak of peak hour. And consider that the cheerleaders for San José (the Capital of Silicon Valley, don’t you know, even if nothing but Adobe is to be found anywhere near “downtown”) state vociferously that they want nothing to do with travelling to or from the Great Satan of the Northern Peninsula.

    3. The only way to effectively (cost effectively, operationally effectively, infrastructure effectively) interline SJ-SF-SJ trains into the Caltrain timetable as you appear to propose is to operate them on the same schedule as Caltrain express trains. This is the way that people who know what the hell they are doing (eg SBB) deal with sporadic long distance trains gluing up their optimized system of timetable+infrastructure. This is the only way that any of those empty seats (see point 2) are going to filled with any bums: Palo Alto and Mountain View and Redwood City are much bigger deals than San José (Capital of Silicon Valley, FYI) for intra-regional traffic. And now your 400kmh wonder-train is spending more like 120 minutes (fully accounted round-trip time) doing the run.

    4. Good luck with that “correct premium over Caltrain fares” fantasy land. That’s not the way the real world works. Let’s see, buy a ticket that’s good for any Caltrain service from SJ to SF, with an express-stops trip time of 50 min or so, or buy a “premium fare” 400kmh-HSR-wonder-train-only ticket, with an assigned seat, good on one booked train only, on trains that depart from different platforms — effectively in an entirely separate station — with no fallback if you miss it, with an optimistic trip time of 40 min? What to do? What to do?

    joe Reply:

    The less argumentative interpretation is the SF-SJ service is a by-product of running **one** train to LA and picking up ridership at both points, then expressing to LA-SD.


    My wife tells me she boards the train and waits for it to leave the station. I’ll ask her to wait on the platform to be counted and wave to you – at which bench are you sitting?

    BTW #4 is your way of running the short haul leg out of SJ to SF – why assign a seat for the short leg? Why even charge more than Caltrain? If HSR participates in the pass program, the HSR can get the fee.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    1. Its the same terminal facilities for either SF via Pacheco or SF via Altamont, so I do not follow your argument that the terminal facilities will add time if the trains got to either the central Peninsula or San Jose via Altamont versus if it got to San Jose versus Pacheco.

    2. “And consider that the cheerleaders for San José … state vociferously that” … this reads like foaming.

    3. I assume you are deliberately conflating the discussion of whether HSR can and should use an upgrade Caltrain corridor for a preliminary service with the target design for the HSR path to TBT when Stage 1 is completed in order to have something else to foam about.

    4. Aside from the fact that total trip demand for electric rail will be substantially larger in 2020 than at present, unless the economy’s fallen to ruin, you seem to arrive at a balanced assessment of whether there will be demand for tickets by collecting points that agree with your waiting conclusion, and ignoring the reasons why some travellers will prefer the HSR trip.

    thatbruce Reply:

    If the routing difference for SF to the Central Valley between Altamont and Pacheco is after SJ (ie, no divergent endpoints), then there should be no significant difference between the two in terms of seat utilization or number of trains required.

    If the routing difference for SF to the Central Valley between Altamont and Pacheco is between SF and SJ (ie, Dumbarton), then more trains would be required to service both SJ and SF via Altamont due to divergent endpoints.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If the routing difference for SF to the Central Valley between Altamont and Pacheco is after SJ (ie, no divergent endpoints) …

    The words appear to be English, and this appears to obey the rules of English grammar, but … ENGAGE THE DOUBLE-TALK GENERATOR!

    thatbruce Reply:

    Yes yes Manly boy, I used a number of conditionals there. I also missed one, being the assumption that both divergent endpoints (SJ and SF) would have the same level of service.

    Clem Reply:

    “more trains” than what? See, their whole analysis already assumes fairytale numbers of trains per hour. Splitting a fairytale number of trains per hour between two divergent end points still results in more than enough service to satisfy ridership demand on either branch, unless you doctor the ridership model to impose an unreasonably punitive penalty on longer headways. If foreign operations are any indication, nobody will care if there’s a departure every 30 minutes rather than every 15 minutes–the success of California high-speed rail does not hinge on that.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But if the business model is franchising out, its the actual trains required to provide the QoS guarantee contained in the winning bid that is at issue.

    I think that the real world Rapid Rail corridor SF / SJ / EastBay / Altamont until wherever it is finally possible to break through the NIMBY speedbumps and get up to Express HSR trunk line speeds is a no-way, no-how as far as getting 2:40 TBT/LAUS. So its Dumbarton Crossing to get there.

    From here, I see Redwood/San Jose as a lower risk proposition than tossing Pacheco aside and restarting from scratch for Altamont, with the opposite lawsuits, that the selection of Altamont was done improperly and it should be Pacheco, with the EIR/EIS clock being reset to zero and the exact opposite lawsuits, that the Altamont selection was done improperly, that Dumbarton Crossing environmental impact understates the economic cost and must be thrown out, etc. etc., … with a whole new fresh set of NIMBY’s, plus all the usual suspects who backed the Pacheco lawsuit for anti-HSR reasons conveniently forgetting their prior love for Altamont and now declaring with equal fervor why its Pacheco or Perish.

    thatbruce Reply:

    To provide the same level of service to a X number of terminus stations, you need Y services provided by Z trains.

    Increase X (terminus stations), you also increase Y (scheduled services), and to a lesser degree, Z (fantastically expensive pointy-nose things). The exact relationships between X, Y and Z are dependent on the expected service levels (I’ve assumed equal levels at each endpoint), and the timetabling used to meet those service levels.

    If you’re particularly creative with timetables and quick turnarounds, you can keep the increase in Z to 0, but if the expectation is that any train arriving at a terminus will dwell there for a significant amount of time before departing, well, Z will increase.

    Hence my assertion that two endpoints in the Bay area will require more trains to service them than a single endpoint in the Bay area would. Simple enough, yes?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    San Francisco is being required to build two terminal stations: an extra one short of downtown for the majority of Caltrain services carrying real regional passengers who are to be excluded from using the “Caltrain Downtown Extension” to the Transbay Terminal because far too many far too empty HS trains will be spending far too long gumming up 67% of that station.

    So, redo your oh-so-clever little X, Y and Z sums.

    Also, remember to account for billions of extra cost for completely unnecessary and intrusive build-out Santa Clara-Redwood City, Hillsdale-Millbrae and Bayshore-Mission Bay to accommodate unnecessary part-empty trains that shouldn’t be running at all but could instead have been conveniently sent off on uncongested and dedicated tracks to terminate in San Jos, Capital of Silicon Valley, without incurring any infrastructure cost or depriving real seat-filling peninsula riders from their goal of reaching downtown SF.

    Perhaps this term is buried in a secret Z’ parameter I missed in your masterful economic analysis? I admit it was hard to follow — all those big numbers and letters do make the head spin.

    thatbruce Reply:

    You’re being intentionally dense.

    Here is my assertion again in nice simple language, with just one conditional and none of the X, Y and Z stuff (all as relevant to HSR, ‘cus that’s what was being discussed) which got you so confused:

    Increasing the number of terminus stations will result in an increase in the number of trains required to service them, unless the number of services to one or both are reduced.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    unless the number of services to one or both are reduced.

    That’s one of the goals Richard is trying to point out. Instead of running four trains an hour through San Jose to San Francisco – with empty seats between San Jose and San Francisco – you run one very full train to San Jose once an hour and three very full trains to San Francisco once an hour. Or some variant like 6 very full trains to San Francisco and 2 very full ones to San Jose.

    20 minute frequency at San Francisco versus 15 minute frequency at San Francisco doesn’t make much of a difference. Once an hour at San Jose versus four times an hour an at San Jose might.
    … I won’t ask the obvious questions.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Elizabeth, you’re being disingenous. The Eshoo, Simitan, Gordon statement says “no aerials”, but CAHSR, while looking at track-sharing with Caltrain, must pursue grade-separation. That means aerials where appropriate shared with Caltrain. It’s pretty clear that trenching is not a cost-effective solution on the Penisula for either Caltrain or HSR.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Sorry Elizabeth, I don’t buy it.

    I think the issue here is that if the CHSRA does not produce the EIR for the second option, it will get nailed on its business plan because there will not be an identifiable way to reach the 2 hours 40 minute stipulation in the law. Now, I’m sure everyone involved realizes that the “good ’nuff” solution might be initially what is done, and then upgraded over time.

    But, if the second option is never given an EIR, then the only option the CHSRA has at that point is….muha… resurrect Altamont. (Cue all the feigned indignation and shocked facial expressions.)

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    It is all good if you over-look a, b, c, and d. That is all.

  7. Eric M
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:13

    “The other problem with this is that it has widespread opposition and you may end not getting an EIR done.”

    Yeah, maybe in your eyes, but the 2008 vote along the peninsula and subsequent polls indicate a strong support for the high speed rail system in California. Time to change your glasses Elizabeth!

    Jack Reply:

    Frankly, a great many of our constituents are convinced that the High-Speed Rail Authority has already wandered so far afield that it is too late for a successful course correction.

    I find it hard to believe there is a “great many” here.

    Eric M Reply:

    They are hoping the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, no grease at all.

    Mark Reply:

    It would be very interesting to see the results of a new poll if the question was phrased in something like the following manner: “Considering the current fiscal challenges faced at the local, state and federal levels of government, do you feel it makes sense to allocate funds for High Speed Rail at this time?”

    thatbruce Reply:

    That’s a rather open-ended question, as it does not state what would be obtained for the funding amount specified, nor when the funding is actually payable.

    Eric M Reply:

    How about “Considering the current state of unemployment and price of gas, do you feel it makes sense to allocate funds for High Speed Rail at this time which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide an alternate to driving any flying?”

  8. mike
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:14

    CHSRA should just call their bluff and propose an at-grade system with 110 mph operating speeds and 4 tracks everywhere but San Mateo. 4-quadrant gates would protect all grade crossing, with induction loops to detect trapped vehicles (i.e., similar to the NE Corridor grade crossings). In the event of a suicide, HSR operations would receive priority over Caltrain (given that the Peninsula is expressing a strong preference for reduced reliability). On the plus side, this layout would save a boatload of money!

    synonymouse Reply:

    The CHSRA owes its very existence to the Pelosi patronage machine; unfortunately for hsr there is another mule kicking in its stall – the holiest of holies, the biggest of the big dogs, in the machine’s pecking order that way trumps hsr and it is a four letter word that explains all about terminating in San Jose:


    Jack Reply:

    They don’t mention it, but they sure imply. “Duplication of Services” …

    Clem Reply:

    The California Public Utilities Commission will not allow new grade crossings with more than two tracks. Not gonna happen unless you close all the roads.

    Frankly this puts the onus back on the communities to look at the effects of underpass grade separations, which aerial viaducts are intended to avoid.

    Grade separation is very much a pick-your-poison proposition, and so far it hasn’t been properly framed. Maybe this will trigger some new thoughts?

    Joe Reply:

    Whatever they do, too many people die along the current ROW as designed.

    I’d favor adding crossings, underpasses to foster bike/foot traffic which should improve communities.

    mike Reply:

    The California Public Utilities Commission will not allow new grade crossings with more than two tracks. Not gonna happen unless you close all the roads.

    I’m sure this doesn’t matter, but technically these would not be “new” grade crossings – they would just be rebuilding existing ones.

    On a different note, I guess this partially explains the oddly placed Baby Bullet tracks…there aren’t that many places they can build 4-tracks if they have to avoid all grade crossings.

    YESonHSR Reply:

    I dont remember seeing any grade crossings where Caltrain has 4 tracks? the 4 track section near Bayshore is sealed…No I think what this group is proposing is Caltrain as it is today..mostly 2 tracks upgraded with all the needed bells and whistles for HSR. thou there is some areas where a 4 track may have to go in and that must be grade seperated unless the close the streets

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If its an ambit claim, a more politically sensitive intermediate Caltrain upgrade might be a grade separated four track section between a HSR station at Redwood and the next Caltrain Express station at Hillsdale. That would leave the Palo Alto / Menlo Park section alone except for electrification, and allow them to experience the need for grade separation before the final Peninsula Stage 1 HSR corridor is constructed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you have enough traffic to justify three tracks you have enough traffic to justify grade separation.
    ….not that the grade crossing would be open frequently enough to be useful.

    YESonHSR Reply:

    They dont want anymore tracks .they want as little change/construction as possible and are saying that this will work for bolth systems…Caltrain seems to agreed with them for an opening segment requirement..

    joe Reply:

    Cue the “useable segment” “HSR rail speed” chorus.

    A solution that speeds and improves service for th short term is a plus. A solution that chokes the frequency of SF trains – Caltrain and HSR – might not work for the House Minority Leader or State Gov.

    YESonHSR Reply:

    For an opening segment its probally fine..thou per this press release they dont what any future changes and even state that the authority stop the long range planning for this segment..guess they want all future growth at SanJose only or they dont care about future problems as it will be somebodys elses issue years from now

  9. Jarrett
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:18

    This is their logic:

    What they want: terminate HSR service in San Jose.

    How they will get there: oppose every single cost effective design measure along the Peninsula in the hope of making the grade separated corridor infeasible due to cost. This will force the HSR authority to terminate service in San Jose to avoid prolonged opposition and escalating cost. After all, they have a statewide system to build.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Which is mandated to terminate in a particular structure in downtown San Francisco. Ooooh, I know, dual-gauge the Transbay Tube and run dinkily-small HSR trains through them and down the east side of the bay. No?

    Jack Reply:

    What’s ridiculous is that the Cal-Train Coridor should have been the first to be built, existing right of way mostly straight…. Most benefit should things slow down.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’ve always believed this to be the case. The way the release is phrased certainly gives credence to that possibility.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Unfortunately, the way to defeat that is clearly to leave the Caltrain corridor on the ground, build a four and three track system, electrify it, speed it up to 110mph with quad gates, give the preliminary HSR service the slots they need and have Caltrain timetable around them.

    And call it a “preliminary system”.

    And then, the speed requirement for the “finished system” is completely locked in by the works finished elsewhere, and the construction of stage 2 can’t start until stage 1 is finished, which in the context of an already running system is a political dynamic that the Peninsula NIMBY’s can’t conceivably oppose, especially as people experience the gate crossing delays, and the whole damn thing gets rebuilt all over again on a faster plan.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you have enough railroad traffic to need three or four tracks, grade crossings aren’t a viable option, not in suburbia anyway.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes. If local politicians do not wish to learn from experience elsewhere, this would teach then with the experience of their constituents of the consequences of a high frequency rail corridor with level crossings.

  10. Joe
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:40

    US ended trans continental railroad at Oakland and SF was hurt economically, the port traffic shifted to Oakland.

    I see no reason SF would want to be to be cut off from HSR Terminus because NIMBYs along a 100+ rail corridor get upset. sF is the most transit friendly city in CA.

    Frankly, the politics split the bay area and would put both SF and the peninsula at an economic disadvantage.

    Eshoo will have to explain to the minority leader why SF has to accommodate NIMBYs

  11. Elizabeth
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 11:54

    Caltrain has posted a statement on their site, calling for a study of the feasibility of “joint use” tracks.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    The two should consolidate; CHSRA should assume services operated by Caltrain.

  12. morris brown
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 12:31

    You can view Senator making the announcement in Menlo Park (4-18-2011) on YouTube:

    (5 minutes)

  13. Alon Levy
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 12:39

    Is it at all clear what their position is on electrifying the Caltrain corridor, doing minimal upgrades (with ETCS rather than CBOSS, etc.), and running HSR trains through at lower speed? Grade crossings aren’t the greatest, but both the Mini-Shinkansen lines and the lignes classiques hosting TGVs have them, and it’s not a huge deal.

    If the goal is to increase political support for HSR by showcasing the difference between full speed and low speed, this will be an excellent phased approach. It also saves the most expensive improvements per minute saved to the end, which from the point of view of beginning service quickly is sound.

    Joe Reply:

    The goal is to build a cost recovery rail service, not accommodate a few NIMBY, too cheap to pay for a tunnel like Berkeley did for BART.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The difference between a 79 mph diesel loco-hauled Baby Bullet and the proposed nonstop HSR service is 27 minutes. Since HSR requires electrification and new signals anyway, which would also permit speeds of 110 mph with quad gates, the actual speed difference is much smaller. By the standards of what they’re proposing for Palmdale-LA, or what SNCF did with the LGV Sud-Est, it’s very tame and nonoffensive.

    spokker Reply:

    Baby Bullet won’t exist. Electrified Caltrain schedule is longer than Baby Bullet.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The electrified schedule assumes HSR takes over the central tracks and makes overtakes impossible, while also providing some extra express service. With shared tracks, the mediocre overtake opportunities still exist, so HSR can do at least as well as the Baby Bullet.

    Spokker Reply:

    Speaking of mediocre overtake opportunities, did you hear how they are establishing express service on the single tracked Metrolink San Bernardino Line?

    A non-express train is going to sit on a siding for 15 minutes, haha.

    There is also a test Pacific Surfliner express run from SD to LA that is consistently late (well, on time by non-express standards). It ends up sitting on sidings waiting for peak hour Coaster commuter trains to pass near San Diego.

    In contrast to Southern California, the Caltrain situation doesn’t seem that bad.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I hadn’t heard, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    LOSSAN needs some double tracking ASAP. There is alot of traffic in that area and it will expand further.

    Spokker Reply:

    Apparently such projects are ready to go but waiting for funding.

    joe Reply:

    HSR doing as well as the baby bullett is FAIL.

    Spokker Reply:


    BruceMcF Reply:

    He’s saying that the HSR doing no better than the Baby Bullets do would be a fail. Of course, with electrification the locals are also faster, so even with existing overtake, the result would be faster than a Baby Bullet. And in any event, as Alon said, this is not a finished service but rather a preliminary service which would via the frustration with the speed compared to what it could be ensure that the political opposition to full grade separation in the Peninsula will flattened like a house of cards in a storm.

    Part of the FAIL of that as a preliminary service that HSR running like a current Baby Bullet will continue to result in a seriously subpar Caltrain timetable in terms of gaps between services at local platforms.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, it would continue to mess up Caltrain local service… however, it’s possible to four-track RWC, the excuse being that it’s an HSR station so it needs to be bigger. That would allow better overtakes, allowing HSR to be faster while also maintaining decent local service.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If Redwood is four tracked, a live question for a preliminary service is how far the overtake can be extended north and south from there.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    Has the board approve that yet? If it doesn’t then the BB will stay.

    Peter Reply:

    Given that one of the reasons for maintaining low platforms for Caltrain is because they plan to keep the MPI and Bombardier rolling stock for Baby Bullet and Gilroy service (plus the newer EMD locomotives), it would appear that Baby Bullets are still on the menu.

    Emma Reply:

    It’s not a huge deal there because they have people who don’t cross at the last minute. I could show you dozens of video compilations dealing with this.

    Running the train above grade has many advantages. On top of that, it provides riders with a beautiful view at the bay on side and the ocean on the other side which could be a very good selling point. Terminating HSR in San Jose is absolutely not acceptable.

    Alex M. Reply:

    I agree with running above grade, but I have to make one correction. You might be able to see the bay from the train, but you most certainly will not see the ocean on the other side. There happens to be a mountain range in the way.

    jim Reply:

    their position is on electrifying the Caltrain corridor, doing minimal upgrades (with ETCS rather than CBOSS, etc.), and running HSR trains through at lower speed?

    They’re for it.

    It’s clear that there’s convergence on the notion that HSR and Caltrain should share tracks. The question is what does that mean. At one extreme interpretation, they stay Caltrain tracks, electrified and resignaled, but still the same tracks in the same place; Caltrain is the owner and prime user, HSR runs an occasional train along the tracks when Caltrain isn’t using them; speed limits on the tracks are 90-110mph. At the other extreme, they become HSR tracks, relaid, electrified, grade-separated, quad-tracked at stations; Caltrain may be the owner, but HSR is the prime user — Caltrain trains wait at the quad-tracked station for the non-stop HSR train to pass; speed limits are 125mph. These are the extreme positions, of course. There will be a compromise.

    What happened today is that a group of Peninsula politicians pushed for a compromise closer to the Caltrain position. Which should not come as a surprise.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Caltrain trains wait at the quad-tracked station for the non-stop HSR train to pass

    If they build a four track system the Caltrain locals use the local tracks and the HSR trains and the Caltrain expresses use the express tracks.

    speed limits are 125mph.

    No one ever seriously suggested anything else. Shouldn’t be a noise problem because electric trains are much quieter than diesels.

    jim Reply:

    If there’s at-grade crossings, then the speed limits will be lower. If all the existing at-grade crossings remain (Clem has a diagram of them), 90mph may well be the MAS.

    joe Reply:

    With existing ROW we’ll probably have more senseless deaths. I figure train frequency is going to increase the likelihood of accidents like the Charleston crossing crash on Friday.

    More trains will block street traffic. Castro St into/out MtView is bad enough.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Or Caltrain locals and expresses use the local tracks, except near Redwood and Millbrae where Caltrain expresses use the HSR as passing track.

    The main trunk HSR corridor can feed a maximum of 3 trains in 15 minutes … if there are at most 3 minute headways on the Regional HSR track shared by HSR and overtaking Caltrain expresses, all three can pass in 9 minutes, leaving a 6 minute window each fifteen minutes, with the location of the window able to be tailored to where the Express overtakes are required.

    That would allow local and semi-express in their local side alternative every fifteen minutes at each local platform and semi-express in their express side and express alternating every fifteen minutes at each express platform. With a FSSF layout, staging is straightforward, first any shoe fly tracks required to maintain access in a segment, then the fully grade separated S tracks, then move to the next segment. Then the Caltrain overtaking segments of the Express track, finally the HSR segments that HSR use to bypass Caltrain Express stations.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Switching moves eat up between 4 and 8 “slots” in typical cases. You want to keep them to a minimum.
    Building a two track railroad and then two one track railroads one either side is going to be more expensive than building a two track railroad ( the northbound side lets say ) and then another two track railroad. Either option is going to be more expensive than building a four track railroad all at once.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Building a two and three or four track railroad and then a two track railroad on one side may be more expensive again, and that is the alternative that provides effective Express overtaking to Caltrain without using the HSR corridor.

    For a straight clockface local/express system, the local Caltrain system needs Express overtakes on the opposite sides of Millbrae, which I take it is what is already in place, and an overtake in the vicinity of Redwood. For a preliminary service HSR to also overtake an Express would then require an HSR only section midway between those two.

    As far as switching on an electric 3 minute headway passenger rail possessing the rail through the switch for 12 to 24 minutes, Cityrail in Sydney does far better than that, and they are far enough from the ideal that I expect if they can do it, Americans can.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    a nice normal train traveling on nice conventionally signaled rail needs at least 4 “slots” to move from the local track to the express track or vice versa. Imagine a northbound on the local track, lets say it filled up collecting rush hour passengers at San Jose, College Park, Santa Clara, Lawrence and Sunnyvale. They want to express it stopping only at Redwood City and MIllbrae ( the same pattern as “local” HSR trains ) It can’t be in Sunnyvale at the same time as the preceding all stops local. The preceding all stops local has to have passed the switch the to express tracks – the one between Sunnyvale and Mountain View – before the switch can be thrown to let it switch to the express tracks. Can’t do that while the train is in the vicinity of the switch either. Can’t do that if there’s a train on the express tracks that will pass over the switch either. Can’t do it if there a train on the express tracks after the switch either – to preclude having a train switch on to the express tracks while they are occupied. Ya suck up four “slots” to make the switch. Easy to get to 8 on signal system that require an empty block in between trains. And no you don’t want to switch to the express tracks for two stations and then switch back to the local tracks for two stations so an HSR train can pass and then switch back to the express tracks etc….

    They get reused on lines with branches. The Peninsula isn’t going to have any branches until cars are banned. I suppose they could reuse them by starting a new local in the middle of the line but …..all trains must go to the Pan Galatic…. it’s obviously a very important place, so important it’s going to get a BART! station…..

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “And no you don’t want to switch to the express tracks for two stations and then switch back to the local tracks for two stations so an HSR train can pass and then switch back to the express tracks etc…. ”

    I prefer tick tock scheduling to station skippers, as tick tock schedules are dramatically easier on local transport trying to provide station connections. So I was referring to something more along the lines of Clem’s 4local, 2express tick tock schedule as contestant #3 here. Clem has a station overtake at Redwood ~ Express trails Local to same directional Island platform and leads Local out, to have Local to Express and Express to Local transfers ~ and Express overtakes with northbound and southbound services at either side of Millbrae.

    If no platform overtake, then a four track segment between Redwood and Hillsdale would
    allow a northbound local to act as a collector for the Express trailing it into Redwood and a distributor for the same Express leading it into Hillsdale, and visa versa for the southbound.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    After decades of dealing with the 40 minute gap I’d love contestant No. 3.

    Throw a HSR train or two in the mix.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    adirondacker12800, one appeal of contestant number 3 for HSR preliminary service is that the same tick-tock Express schedule can be put in four times per hour. That’s how tick-tock (takt) schedules work: if there are four locals per hour, and you design the Express overtakes to allow one Express service per hour to run, you can then just directly repeat that Express on the clock face one, two or three more times.

    So a tick-tock 4xLocal, 2xExpress automatically allows for two slots for Express HSR to run through to the HSR stations, though at the speed of a Caltrain Express.

    With full grade separation, the corridor can be upgraded to 125mph, but that would impact the Express more than the Locals, so either more stops would be added to Express service to tailor it to the existing two overtakes, or else the overtakes have to be shifted closer together. That’s another reason why the notion of a progressive series of incremental improvements is likely inferior to a two stage process, as its hard to reap the full benefit of the upgrade with an overtake system designed for the operating speed limits pre-upgrade.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Regarding the slots, I though you were saying four consecutive slots, not two consecutive slots times two tracks.

    In the preliminary stage, the express track are overtake lines, so there is no through traffic. On a tick-tock schedule, the natural place to put the switches onto the overtake line are after one all-services platform and before the next. That means that the chasing Express pulls into the platform after the local leaves. Even if the Express is late, the local cannot pull into the second all-services platform in advance of the Express, because it serves as a distributor for that Express from that platform. Designing the switching and signaling back onto the local track in advance of the all-services platform so that it is clear to the local before the earliest time the local can pull into the platform following the Express is straightforward.

    And all of that applies to the overtake using a through Express line, so the “slots” I was referring to were on the through Express line. The Express HSR trunk line can only ever deliver 3 trains per fifteen minutes. So with three minute headways on the Regional HSR corridor through the Peninsula, two consecutive open slots can always be scheduled into any fifteen minute period. With two and a half minute headways, three consecutive open slots can always be scheduled into any fifteen minute period.

    With a FSSF layout, additional capacity is available by making Caltrain platforms islands between the FSSF, where crossover switches between two local platforms allow wrong way running to increases capacity in one direction. That is obviously a rigid timetable if its use is built into the timetable, but it can be usefully used in recovery from extraordinary events.

  14. J. Wong
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 13:04

    What is the difference between aerials and berms? Does no aerials in fact mean no berms? And why oh why did the Authority take berms out of the equations? The berms in the Belmont/San Carlos section seem perfectly ok. And they’re getting berms in San Bruno too.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Aerial structures (generally, but there are exceptions) cost more to construct, are significantly louder and cost more to maintain.

    There are all positives from the point of view of people (such as, oh, just for example, HNTB, PTG, PBQD) whose private interests are very strongly aligned along the cost maximization axis.

    There can be some construction staging advantages to aerial structures in a constrained corridor with active (if miserably infrequent and unreliable) service: the footings and bents have a smaller footprint than

    Berms can be built incompetently — look no further than Caltrain, and whatever you do don’t look at the San Bruno clusterfuck. But generally, in an suburban environment, they result in a fairly optimal outcome, combining affordable cost with lower community impacts. When done correctly and sensitively, a landscaped berm is a well-behaved part of the build environment, no more intrusive than a fenced and sound-walled (which will be coming otherwise, guaranteed) surface line, vastly more permeable to cross traffic and cross pedestrian travel than a walled-off surface line, and supportive of truly friendly and useable community-serving stations.

    In an event approximately rational world, nearly every existing Caltrain grade crossing would by replaced by aerial structures (ie “bridges”), dozens of new crossings (vehicular or pedestrian) would be made possible by piercing under the raised tracks, nearly all of the between-crossings aerial would be on a landscaped berm, and stations would be largely aerial structures, allowing free flow of pedestrians and connecting transit across the site and directly to and from the platforms above.

    But our world isn’t remotely rational.

    VBobier Reply:

    Berms being elevated would also keep people from jumping from overhead and would be no worse than a Freeway Berm, Just narrower than a freeway, At grade would be ok too, But then to get the same benefits one would need the roads to go under the current right of way, Otherwise suicide deaths could be a problem.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You’d want to use Arials of some sort in the limited number of stretches of corridor through a town center. In the quite common setting where there is high traffic thoroughfare or the big box retailers fronting a high traffic thoroughfare on one side, and residential property on the other, wall infill on the thoroughfare side and berm down to the corridor edge on the residential side, with a low infill wall on that side if the height and corridor width requires is, would seem to be a reasonable design pattern ~ you can as easily break the sightline of the wall with shrubbery inside of the base of the infill wall as you can by planting trees/shrubs along the base of a plain berm.

    In the relatively few areas where the corridor runs through residential properties on both sides, a centered berm where possible is the ideal to aim for.

    How high is dictated by the requirements of underpasses/overpasses ~ some streets have more leeway to drop than others, sometimes a road overpass is required, or a grade separation has to integrate with an existing road overpass … intersections that are close together require an integrated treatment, while those that are sufficiently separated can be approached as independent designs.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    Berm = embankment = long artificial hill
    Aerial = elevated trackway, like what BART has a lot of (BART also has some embankments)

    I don’t see why elevated trackways are supposed to be so horrible.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Because its easy to photoshop an elevated monstrosity to scare people. When pumping up excuses for opposing the work, the excuses are selected for ease of conning people into buying them.

    Ken Reply:

    With regards to aerial structures, why not just make the rails at-grade, and make the roads as underpasses? Isn’t that much more easier to do? Why make it harder when you can just as easily make the existing roads go underneath the rails?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, everywhere that is easier to do, you do that. There are connecting streets, however, and other road connections at grade, so if it often not possible to get all of the required clearance with roads, so you raise the rail by enough to get the rest of the clearance.

    Most of the route is at grade in any event, the question is whether you bring the road entirely over or under the rail, the rail entirely over or under the road, or some partial elevation change on the part of both. The idea that the answer has to be the same for each grade separation is nonsensical.

    Putting the rail in a trench is rarely a winner, because a trench has a wider construction footprint than at grade or an aerial structure, and because of all the drainage that has to be respected.

  15. Walter
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 13:13

    As I understand it, state law MANDATES the construction of a system whose northern terminus is the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, and that can reach Los Angeles Union Station in less than 2:40. This means no stopping in San Jose and (probably) no sharing tracks with Caltrain.

    It makes me sick that a few rich assholes are prioritizing their ability to dine al fresco on their estates in Atherton over the state’s dire need for modern transportation. It would be awesome if they grew a conscience.

    Owen Evans Reply:

    I am not convinced that their ability to dine al fresco or the pleasantness of that experience would be negatively impacted by HSR at all, outside of a few years of dust and noise during construction. There might even be a net positive impact once the construction is complete.

    The PAMPA folks are simply reacting to the fact that something is being built close to their homes that they cannot control. Anything built that close to them, that is not built entirely on their terms, is not acceptable. Never mind the fact that it’s not their property that is being built on. That’s a minor detail.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The law doesn’t mandate that the system not open until 2:40 is possible. If the construction phasing is such that 4:00 is possible before they finish all segments, then it’s legal to run trains with the longer schedule while future phases are constructed. In reality, once 4:00 opens, 2:40 is all but inevitable.

    Remember: the LGV Sud-Est initially opened two thirds of the way through, enabling 4-hour trips from Paris to Lyon, helping provide the political momentum to round up the money to finish the line and cut trip times to 2 hours.

    joe Reply:

    One would do a requirement verification by analysis to show the 2:40 speed is obtainable given the speeds proposed fon each final segment. When completed in 202x the system can show, by demonstration, that 2:40 is possible…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Whatever. Opening a first phase between Palmdale and San Jose won’t make the line slower when it’s completed in full.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Correct, but the Authority cannot complete construction until the 2:40 time is achieved. Thus, once the bond money is all expended, and the federal grants are through, and there are still upgrades needed on the Palmdale to LA and San Jose to SF corridors are needed. In order to leave that as an option, they have to continue the EIR assuming both outcomes. Otherwise, the only solution to get to 2:40 is likely Altamont.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    The Authority is tasked with building a system that can do, hell or high water, 2 hours and 40 minutes from SF to LA. At some point, if you do phased implementation, it’s going to make more sense to use Altamont unless revenue service becomes so lucrative to bankroll the final upgrades on the CalTrain corridor and through Los Angeles.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Certainly using an upgraded San Jaoquin with suitable doubled headed Rapid Rail diesel locomotives for crash protection while the Wye to San Jose segment is being built is one option worth considering, but its far from inevitable. And it seems that at that stage, there’d still be matching funds available to complete the Wye to SJ segment.

    Its not as if the present situation in the House of Representatives is going to ride comfortably through a substantially younger and more diverse Presidential year electorate stung by another oil price shock, so those projecting the zeroing out of the 2011 HSR budget into the indefinite future would be making as big a mistake on the panic side as those who projected the $8b of the ARRA into an HSR future so bright, we’d have to wear shades.

  16. tony d.
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 14:13

    Whatever gets built between SF and SJ, complete grade separation should be a must with no compromise.
    Whether it means streets over/under tracks, pedestrian bridges, closing lightly traveled streets, full fencing, make the entire line grade separated.

  17. Joey
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 14:39

    In order to prove how many tracks are actually necessary, one must have an actual coordinated service plan.

    So far, neither the Authority nor Siimitian et al have done so.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    To be funded with Prop1a(2008) bond funding, the completed design will have to support 5 minute HSR headways. So two tracks are necessary for HSR.

    Four are necessary if there is are distinct HSR and Caltrain corridors side by side. Four most of the way with a few three track segments might be feasible with shared use of HSR by Caltrain Express services and alternating bidirectional track between two local platform tracks at local island platforms, but it would be rather a coordinated service that would be required to demonstrate that a specific proposed 3 track segment is viable … you can’t have them willy-nilly, because each introduces rigidities into the scheduling of locals.

    Certainly the alignment layout with the most operational flexibility is:
    | Express | Local | Local | Express |
    … with locals-only stations as islands in the middle and local/express stations as dual-island platforms for most efficient same-way transfer.

  18. wu ming
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 14:43

    perhaps it is time for some ambitious peninsula pols to start looking at primary challenges. if the general election peninsula electorate still supports HSR more than the NIMBY concerns of a handful of rich folks who live next to the tracks, it should be fairly easy to turn this into a decent primary election issue, given that 80-90% of any two bay area democrats running for office will be more or less identical.

    wu ming Reply:

    80-90% of the issue positions, that is.

  19. political_incorrectness
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 15:53

    What a waste of a press release. Essentially: nothing new.

    Rafael’s Firebird is looking very viable now.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, whatever. Four-tracking RWC and doing an overtake there is even more viable.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Clem’s clockface 2express/4local timetable relies on a station overtake at RWC and track overtakes north and south of Millbrae.

  20. spokker
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 15:57

    If they had said any track, any time I would have shit my pants.

  21. Richard A
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 16:27

    Forget Caltrain and the Peninsula. Run it up to Oakland and use the old Bay Bridge – retrofitted for rail only and arrive in SF that way. It has to be cheaper and faster than fighting NIMBY battles from San Jose north. I believe the lower deck of the bridge was rail once.

    wu ming Reply:

    seismically unsafe bridge + high speed rail: what could possibly go wrong?

    Richard A Reply:

    I said “retrofitted”. Besides the chances of an HSR train being on the bridge when the big one hits are as likely as the HSR going up the peninsula without a ten year delay for lawsuits. I arrived in California over thirty years ago and they were talking about taking the 710 freeway thru’ South Pasadena. A billion lawsuits later, nothing! Nada.
    We were going to replace John Wayne Airport in Orange County with El Toro. Convert the military base to a much larger international airport. Didn’t happen. The opposition came up with a proposition that tied new prisons and new airports into one ballot measure. Result? No new airport.
    Rich people never lose! Not why they can afford lawyers. Eminent domain only works with poor people.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Given that the first round of lawsuits has already substantially constrained the grounds for challenge, its implausible that works on the order of retrofitting the old Bay Bridge to be seismically safe will be cheaper than finishing the EIR process in the peninsula.

    MGimbel Reply:

    A major difference between this and the 710 project is that the ROW is already there.

    Alex M. Reply:

    It’s only the east half that’s seismically unsafe and it’s currently being replaced.

    Jack Reply:

    Do you think that Fremont, Pleasanton, don’t have their Morris brown’s?? Really?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The difference is that they — the yeoman citizenry and sterling democratic representatives of such transportation-forward cost-conscious jurisdictions as Fremont (all rail is EVIL … unless it’s BART), Pleasanton (rail is EVIL … unless it’s BART), Milpitas (ditto), etc, were directly on the payroll of the mafioso, whereas as far as anybody can tell, Morris et al are acting purely out of what they perceives to be their best (non externally financed) reasons.

    If you can honestly posit that Fremont’s city council spontaneously reversed itself to arrive at a position of NIMBY opposition to a non-BART, 100% non-Fremont/Alameda County-funded rail line just at the same time as PBQD was putting the screws on to sell a BART extension, well, I have a bridge or two to sell you.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Do you think that Fremont, Pleasanton, don’t have their Morris brown’s?? Really?

    Dumbarton rail project has already put out an EIR, without any kind of nimby opposition. Union City is even building a TOD project to go along with it. And Dumbarton has RM-2 funding — which is more than you can say about Pacheco.

    tony d. Reply:

    Maybe because there’s no one living on house boats out on the bay near Dumbarton?
    Yah think! Mythical Dumbarton rail wouldn’t have any effect on greater Fremont or Tri-Valley.
    Here’s a thought DE: try using your head when posting.

    Peter Reply:

    Dumbarton rail project has already put out an EIR

    Really? I was unaware they had even gotten past Scoping…

    Joey Reply:

    Neither did I, but then again, it WAS already funded … until BART decided otherwise.

    Peter Reply:

    My argument is simply that the opposition hasn’t materialized against Dumbarton Rail because they’re only in scoping, and the impacts are a lot less than they would be if HSR was being constructed…

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    I don’t see that HSR impacts are greater. If anything, they would be less.

    BTW, at the Menlo Park public hearings for Dumbarton rail, residents wanted a grade-sep for the rail line.

    Peter Reply:

    You’re seriously arguing that building an HSR ROWacross the Dumbarton and through Fremont would have less impacts than Dumbarton Rail, which requires hardly any upgrades other than replacement of the bridge?

    egk Reply:

    Altamont Corridor Project? Isn’t that undergoing or being prepared to undergo Environmental review as we write? Wouldn’t that have basically the same impacts as sending the whole project over Altamont? Do we see the NIMBY revolt against that? Nope.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Wouldn’t that have basically the same impacts as sending the whole project over Altamont?”

    In the Peninsula, NIMBY opposition is leveraged by support from those opposed to the project as a whole, and also by the greater attention it receives by virtue of the fact that it bears on the project as a whole. Both of those would be in play to the same extent if Altamont was on the main corridor.

    And the commuter overlay has much more design freedom, because it is off the critical path of the 2:40 TBT/LAUS requirement. There will still be a NIMBY outcry when a proposed corridor desing it set out, but with fewer bones of contention and fewer allies from outside the East Bay than if it was designed to serve as the main trunk.

    Joey Reply:

    Even assuming that the old bay bridge could be retrofitted for HSR (which would acually be low-speed, because of the sharp curves on the bridge, what do you do once you got to Yerba Buena Island?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s not stopping them from putting even sharper curves into the tunnel to Transbay.

    J. Wong Reply:

    ? Given that the line ends at the Transbay, the train better be going slow enough to stop, which means sharper curves will be taken at a slow enough speed anyway. And in the other direction, there’s no way the train could accelerate soon enough to a speed that couldn’t take the curves.

    Joey Reply:

    Don’t underestimate how fast modern EMUs can accelerate. A train very well might reach 60 mph by the time it leaves the platform.

    corntrollio Reply:

    What sharp curves on the bridge? Those curves are only there because of the temporary roadway being used for constructing the new eastern span? When the eastern span is done, there will be no sharp curves, just like before.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Bay Bridge Eastern Span replacement project removed the possibility of any rail restoration on the bridge. Some of the local transit activists – including, by the way, Richard Mlynarik – fumed and demanded that the bridge be built to host rail in the future, but amidst a factor-of-9 cost overrun, the powers that be decided against it.

    But if you win a multibillion dollar lottery, you should totally fund a second tube across the Bay.

  22. Tom
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 20:16

    All of you people continue to ignore the fact that HSR doesn’t pencil financially. Doesn’t matter if the tracks are up, under the ground, or sideways, the ridership numbers are bogus, the Authority is incompetent, and it makes no sense economically. We’re broke, people! There are schools in huge trouble. The state is on the brink of bankruptcy and all you can talk about are the details of a system that makes no sense. Moreover, the bond passed in 2008. That was a LONG time ago. We’ve had a financial crisis, a broke state, and a lot of fallout. Hard to believe it would pass again, given what people know today.

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah but it pens out and I have a really nice pen. Pencils are yesterday’s news.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Didn’t the financial crisis happen before the 2008 election? And hasn’t CA been in poor fiscal shape since Prop. 13?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    This rhetoric is kind of silly. Did the Hoover Dam pencil? Would you say the original transcontinental railroad pencil? Did the Korean War pencil?

    Does having 7/8th of Californians rely on $5 a gallon gas pencil?

    Don’t kid yourself. Alexander solved the Gordian Knot by slashing it in two. We can either build the infrastructure of the 21st century or we can fall into decay.

    Tom Reply:

    Dear Messiah — The law says it has to pencil. No state subsidies. It’s not rhetoric. It’s reality.

    joe Reply:

    When finished, the HSR system will cover costs – they do elsewhere.

    Meanwhile the citizens of CA may decide to put the in-progress system to good use. It’s just a law – we change them all the time.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The CAHSR does not seem to be required to limit the use of the corridor to the non-subsidy service that allows the designation of a usable segment ~ if some other service is willing to pay an access fee for use of the infrastructure as well, its hard to see how a judge is going to tell them they cannot take the money.

    Joey Reply:

    The law (Prop 1A, in this case), says that the trains must operate without subsidy (which they likely will, despite the Authority’s incompetence). State and federal money doesn’t have to be paid back. Whether or not paying back private debt would count as a subsidy (assuming that operating surplus was insufficient) is legal gray area.

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    …and you are talking to a bean-counter. The pencil argument is great for small-scale investments that can be measured by incremental impacts. But a project as big as HSR is going to cause disruption on a scale that isn’t your garden variety public works project. It’s going to take decades to know if CHSRA “pencils”. But will that make you hold back? You really want that as a standard for things like educaton, healthcare, criminal justice….and so forth?

    Even the longest journey begins with a single step….

    Spokker Reply:

    Well look, the single-tracked dinosaur train Pacific Surfliner covers 70% of its operating costs for LA-Santa Barbara runs. And this is info from several years ago. Today, Surfliner trains are starting to become overcrowded. With additional capital investment, these trains could probably turn a profit, unlike freeways.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Get them up to 110mph max speed, 60mph to 70mph transit speed, they’ll hit operating surplus. The odds of them turning a profit is, of course, much, much lower.

    VBobier Reply:

    Let Me guess No one rides on Trains… ;p

    Brsk Reply:


    The bond passed in Nov. 2008. That was after the Sept. 2008 crash, a year into the Great Recession (which started in Nov. 2007 in case you forgot) you moron.

    We just re-did the Bush tax cut cut giveaway; we’re not broke. Our politicians think the 1921-1933 model of how to drive an economy into a depression is a better model than the 1933-1960 model of how to build prosperity.

    The “ridership” issue has been proven concretely for over thirty years on over lines in over ten countries. HSR always attracts millions of riders and runs an operating surplus. Wake up the original “bullet trains” are all in museums now. Besides freeways and airports pencil FAR WORSE financially. Where are you getting the extra $100 billion to build those instead?

    You want a re-vote of Prop 1A? Go try & get signatures and see how far you get. Of course you won’t Tom because you know that you would lose BIG TIME. Try to tell people $5 gas, TSA lines and cattle-car planes, and brain-killing 5-8 hour drives are all good things.

    Tom Reply:

    We’re not broke, Brsk? Then why is the state’s credit rating practically junk? Why can’t the state treasurer sell HSR bonds? Why are we facing a huge deficit that Brown and his cronys can’t solve? Why are states around the country turning down HSR money? Why are the feds not funding any more HSR money this year? Why are our pension obligations breaking our backs? Why is S&P practically downgrading the USA’s credit rating? Why is the USA’s budget defict at 1.4 trillion on a 4 trillion budget? Come on Brsk. Who is the moron?
    Ridership in ten countries means nothing here. You can’t even get Amtrak to break even with the largest population concentration in the USA. The numbers and the competence shown by this Authority is really laughable. Get real.

    Spokker Reply:

    I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout all that, but…

    “Why are states around the country turning down HSR money? Why are the feds not funding any more HSR money this year?”

    Republican bullshit where our budget woes can be solved by cutting within the 12% of non-military discretionary spending. I would prefer to walk out of the Middle East today and put that funding toward transportation and infrastructure. Bombing Lybian civilians, even though that is not the intention, only breeds more future terrorists.

    “You can’t even get Amtrak to break even with the largest population concentration in the USA.”

    If you are talking about the Northeast Corridor, the trains do break even. Acela turns a profit. If you mean that rail capital must be paid back, then I would demand that freeway capital be paid back.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The capital gets paid back on toll roads. Median toll is in the neighborhood of 5 cents a mile. Works out to a buck a gallon in taxes if you want to go that route.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, if you cherry pick, you can find roads that can cover their capital cost with tolling. Of course, one thing the toll does is reduce the traffic compared to what it would be without the toll, so there is less capital to expend than there is for public freeways, and the existence of connecting freeways is part of the source of the effective demand for the tollways.

    VBobier Reply:

    The BONDS can’t be sold until there’s matching funds from somewhere, Be It Federal, Foreign or Private or a combination thereof.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And a TEA pot tooots it horn…were broke..yea maby becaues of billionare tax breaks and trillion dollar wars and 15million dollar bombs..We are building HSR here.. we dont have a teabagger in the statehouse that is a thief like Ohio/FLA…deal with it Nimbybagger

    joe Reply:

    “Then why is the state’s credit rating practically junk?”

    The St. Constitution requires CA pay it’s debts. It’s illegal to default.

    For the most recent year:
    Moody’s raised the State’s GO rating to A1 from Baa1.
    Fitch raised the State’s GO rating to A- from BBB.

    We’re even better off than Texas.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    SNCF is AA+ (top of three grades of high grade), but A- is not just better than junk, its two classes above junk, the bottom of the upper medium grade.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, you’re not – Texas is rated AAA by Fitch and Moody’s; California has the worst Fitch and S&P ratings of all states and ties Illinois for worst Moody’s rating.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I think he’s confused by some Texas education bonds that were recently rated as junk. However, I believe they were some form of revenue bond, rather than ordinary general fund bonds.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Oh look, another person comparing Amtrak to HSR.

    It’s true that we aren’t doing well financially. But I don’t see that as a reason to not build HSR. It will make money, after all, and as Amtrak California shows, Californians are very open to trains and alternative travel in general. Maybe you don’t know, but 3 of the 5 most popular Amtrak lines in the entire country are in California. This is why we can be confident that ridership will be high. It will destroy the SF-LA air travel market.

    Also, is $6 per gallon gas better than HSR?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It is if you’re David Koch.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    California is a state with a growing population and ~ as you note ~ one that has hobbled its ability to provide public infrastructure to support its population, creating artificial shortages in public financial resources that then result in very real shortages in public facilities to support private economic activity.

    A state with a growing population in that position, when face with an alternative between spending less on capital works that will generate an operating surplus, such as HSR, and more on capital works that will require operating subsidies into the indefinite future, such as roadwork, must refrain from the desire to spend big on the roadworks and restrict itself to the less expensive alternative.

    Spokker Reply:

    While HSR will generate an operating surplus, there is no ethical, moral or rational reason why it be required to. Those who choose to take a high speed train over driving will not capture the entire return generated by the price they pay for a ticket. Non-users will benefit partly because of decreased emissions and traffic. High speed rail riders will be paying above a 100% farebox recovery and getting a fraction of the benefit.

    Drivers on the other hand, pay far below 100% of what it costs to maintain an auto-centric lifestyle. Not only that, but the external negative effects to non-users, especially those who are low-income and non-white, whose neighborhoods have been specifically targeted for freeway construction, are not paid for.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Those who choose to take a HST over driving will not capture the entire return generated by the price they pay for a ticket, and by the same token will not be asked to pay the full cost required to cover the full operating and capital cost of the line.

    It is, of course, in theory an arbitrary exercise as to whether the justified subsidy is provided as operating or as capital subsidy, but in practice, oil free local common carrier transport will clearly require an operating subsidy until and unless we eliminate the massive operating and capital subsidies provided to cars. Since the US has not yet arrived at a stable institution for providing as much of that operating funding as required, and since there is no clear prospect of removing the current massive car subsidies in the face of oil price shocks and a transport system thoroughly addicted to car transport …

    … and since there is a long established precedent for Federal investment in capital subsidies for intercity transport …

    … it makes quite a lot of sense to focus the subsidy to HSR in capital subsidies and run the HSR services with an operating surplus.

    VBobier Reply:


    corntrollio Reply:

    The alternative to HSR does not pencil out. That’s the real problem.

  23. Miles Bader
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 20:50

    Given that many of the “demands” are not particularly beneficial to the populace at large, but will probably make the HSR system less efficient and less effective, this seems to be part of an attempt to nickel-and-dime the project to death: ideological opponents have realized that they can’t win a frontal assault, so they’re attempting to make the system less attractive by saddling it with a series of pointless and bizarre restrictions.

    The legislators involved should be ashamed of themselves for pandering to these nutcases.

  24. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 22:32

    Well, I got around to looking at the statement from Eshoo, Simitian, and Gordon, and several things stand out.

    One, as Robert has suggested, is that these politicians, as is often the case, are technologically ignorant, or at least “challenged.” Robert has mentioned several examples of this above; for me, one of the more interesting statements, simply for the choice of words if nothing else, was “We explicitly reject the notion of high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco on an elevated structure or “viaduct”; and we call on the High-Speed Rail Authority to eliminate further consideration of an aerial option.” Since when did anybody propose the entire 50-something miles between San Francisco and San Jose be on a trestle? Even the alleged warped geniuses at Parsons-Brickerhoff wouldn’t try to pull that off!

    The second thing that stood out was that overall, these politicians remind me of a state senator here, who would tell me, “You’re right, D—-, but we can’t do that. We would be voted out of office and then we couldn’t do anything at all.”

    They’re afraid of losing maybe 10% of their voting base, if that much.

    Winston Churchill had an opinion on that, in regard to a French politician he obviously didn’t care much for. His comment was, “He’s trying to figure out where his people are going so he can lead them there.” That’s not leadership, that’s being a robot, and a cowardly one, too.

    In short, as is typical of politicians (and people in general), they “want to have their cake and eat it too.”


  25. synonymouse
    Apr 18th, 2011 at 23:07

    Nice video of the Coast Starlight on the Loop:

    Pretty but I can’t see why in hell you would to go the long backwoods way when Tejon is available.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That seems to imply that a YouTube clip of someone mountain biking on a track somewhere near the Tejon Pass would prove that its not a place you’d want to put an interstate because ~ hey! look how that mountain bike trail would be unsuitable for driving at interstate speeds!

    Alex M. Reply:

    Now tell me how you would design a high speed railway over the tejon pass. 60 mile long tunnel?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Quantm scheme calls for no tunnel longer than 6 miles and evidently two to breach Tejon with both San Andreas and Garlock faults crossed at grade.

    Tehachapi is gnarly too and a whole lot longer. Plus Tejon is closer in to LA and the main north-south highway and accesses both I-5 and 99 routes north into the San Joaquin Valley. Tejon is the 21st century route and makes for a more viable hsr.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People on a moving train aren’t terribly concerned about where the highway is.

    Alex M. Reply:

    You actually make a very good point. I wouldn’t be opposed to the HSR going through tejon as long as it’s feasible and can handle 220 mph trains. Of course, I don’t live in palmdale and am not a real estate developer.

    VBobier Reply:

    Really Steep Grades on Tejon make Tejon impossible, Max for HSR is supposed to be 3.5%, Tejon is 6.5%-7.0%, Going over Tejon would be worse than Amtrak in terms of speed and It was rejected, Saying the CHSRA should do Tejon over a route that is more HSR compatible will do no good, As It’s just another useless and ineffective rant.

    Clem Reply:

    The alignment that syn mentions has a max gradient of 3.5% (see report. The speed issue that you and Alex mention is a red herring… long sustained 3.5% grades cannot be handled at 200+ mph uphill because the trains do not have enough power to sustain those speeds, and cannot be handled at 200+ mph downhill because of brake heat capacity constraints (the faster the train goes, the more potential energy it needs to dissipate during an emergency braking event.) In practice, any southern mountain crossing will be limited to ~150 mph on the downhill side. This is not a Tejon vs. Tehachapi issue.

    VBobier Reply:

    Red herring? Those are quoted grades that exist for the I5 freeway over the grapevine/ridge route, It’s not exactly a plunge, But It’s more than just a small hill that’s being climbed over, In any case I’ve quoted real facts, Now If You know where there is some better info online, Maybe You could share the link and let everyone else in on It??

    The new road, designed with an ideal grade of 6% (but with several 7% grades, including at Grapevine

    Ridge Route wiki

    The pass is sunny in the summer, spring, and fall, but is subject to severe weather and closure to traffic in the winter. The 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 between Grapevine and Castaic is sometimes closed by the California Highway Patrol,[10] generally because of the icy conditions combined with the steep grade of the pass, and the high traffic during the winter holidays.[11] The Highway Patrol is also concerned that one accident in the snowy conditions might force traffic to slow down or come to a complete stop, leaving hundreds of vehicles to become stalled at once, especially with the number of big-rigs that pass through.[12] Whenever there is such a closure, traffic must then either wait or endure a multi-hour detour between Bakersfield and Los Angeles (normally a two-hour drive).[9]

    Tejon Pass wiki

    BruceMcF Reply:

    synthomouse is quoting from the study that found that the Tejon Pass alignment was substantially inferior to the other one in terms of project risk if local geology turns out to be bad. That is, the alignment that he refers to exists, the purpose of doing the study he refers to was to determine how much leeway there was to make detailed modification of the route if the geology in a particular area turns out to be very bad for tunneling.

    There is very little leeway to make any modifications to the Tejon alignment that they found, while there is substantial leeway along the Tehachapi alignment. So the geological project risk for the Tejon Pass alignment is unacceptably high, given that there is an alternative available with substantially less geological project risk.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Synthomouse is quoting from the study that found …

    No he isn’t.

    There are such studies, but they’re not online (thanks, CHSRA!) and never have been, and some of them were commissioned by Palmdale not CHSRA, and I’m positive that you have not seen them.

    It’s possible that some day I may make the effort to dig out and upload some of this, but why bother when the whole “technical” undertaking (at PBQD porkistan just as in Rafael foamerland) takes place in a fact-free zone?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Hi Richard, hope you’re having a nice day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Significant sections of the Quantm route would be in tunnel and of course sheds could be deployed in areas where snow has been shown to be problematical. Tehachapi gets snow too and farther east and theoretically colder. Definitely much longer.

    Having a route paralleling I-5 would give better access in event of wrecks, incidents, maintenance, etc.

    A shorter route produces significant savings in construction, operational and mainternance costs not to mention faster schedules.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Would a 60 mile long tunnel work?

    thatbruce Reply:

    Until the next earthquake in the area, sure.

    VBobier Reply:

    I wonder Alex M. Would You want to be in the 60 mile long tunnel during an Earthquake? I wouldn’t.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ok, I didn’t see the pdf, My apologies, I’ve looked at the routes and they all require Tunnels to get to 3.5% max grade, I’ll only cover the ones in the south, As some of that pdf also applies to Northern California, but It’s a big pdf, They have been working alright, As that’s a lot of data there.

    1. I5-Grapevine 16 miles of continuous tunnels @ 2.5% and crossing the faults here would not be at the surface.
    2. East of I5 18 miles of tunnels @ 3.5%(6 miles max is mentioned though per segment and there would be extensive construction in a floodplain for Castaic Lake, With a section on the surface at the San Andreas Fault and at the Garlock Fault, the Garlock fault area could be either at the surface or trenched)
    3a. (Northern Section: Lancaster-to-Central Valley)SR58 Route(8,184m[5.08miles] of Tunnels), has a tunnel of 5.1 miles, previous alignment is 5.8 miles
    3b. (Middle Section: Lancaster to Palmdale) constrained due to existing development and transportation corridors.
    3c. (Southern section: Sylmar to Palmdale)SR14 route(13,722m[8.52miles] of Tunnels), Soledad Canyon route(8,365m[5.19miles] of Tunnels) saves 3 miles of tunnels over SR14.
    4. SR138/Palmdale has 3 tunnel options:
    a. 14.3 miles(Grade not mentioned)
    b. 12.8 miles @ 2.5%
    c. 10.4 miles @ 3.5%

    There are a lot of options and It all depends on how much tunnel each section requires to avoid steep grades and to be on the surface near a fault or a nearby body of water…

    No matter how It’s sliced, Tunnels seem to be the only viable way to keep the grades to 3.5% Maximum and that’s a lot of info in that pdf to go through, dang.

    Clem Reply:

    Dang, actual information kind of gets in the way of a clean argument, doesn’t it…

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep. But that was a nice pdf to link to, Thanks Clem.

    mike Reply:

    Wow, when is that document from? 2002? Very interesting.

    Quantm was forecasting ~5 miles of tunneling to get through Pacheco, ~5 miles to get from Bakersfield to Lancaster, and ~8.5 miles to from Palmdale to Sylmar (SR-14). In the latest AA it looks there is at least 15 miles of tunneling to get from Palmdale to Sylmar via SR-14. I’d love to know what changed…pretty sure it wasn’t the geography.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Property ownerships (not that they were changed, that they weren’t taken into account when that report was generated, as it was an exercise in topography ).

    mike Reply:

    On the positive side, SR-58 and SR-152 are much more sparsely populated than SR-14, so perhaps the Tehachapi and Pacheco crossings will see less “tunnel inflation” than SR-14 has.

    Eric M Reply:

    There is also the problem when changing power stations up the grades. One power station is not going to cut it with that steep of a grade for that long and common practice is to change power stations on the line where the line is level. So the inclines need to have flat line breaks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is clear that, contrary to PB’s version of conventional wisdom, Tejon vs. Tehachapi is no slam dunk; both have warts. But looking to the future Tejon is better for the hsr as it affords versatility and encroaches very little on other routes and modes. In aesthetic terms it is cleaner and more elegant and it can be done – Herrenknecht has mined worse.

    The issue merits revisiting – it might even be cheaper to construct. There is only one way to ascertain.

    Eric M Reply:

    It does not merit revisiting just because you keep saying it to yourself over and over again.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The slam dunk is because of the threat of a massive cost overrun in tunneling if the project has bad luck in geology which is far easier to avoid in the case of Tehachapi than in the case of Tejon. Its not the warts of each, its the unjustifiable recklessness of the gamble of public funds in picking Tejon.

    Clem Reply:

    Bad luck in geology has never caused a tunnel already under construction to be constructed along a different alignment. Or do you have an example? Once geotechnical studies indicate that it is OK to start construction, every tunnel is a game of Russian roulette. No slam dunk even at Tehachapi, the land of many tunnel alignments of which only ONE will be attempted.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You would still want to to go ahead with the Loop detour if Tejon costed out cheaper?

    There is also the “vision thing” involved here. Tejon would be a major engineering achievement forf California and an instant tourist attraction – the jewel in the CHSRA’s crown. You only need one good alignment and all the more reason to grab it for rail before some other mode claims it. Ther is some level of risk in every undertaking in life, but Tejon’s is acceptable. Conversely one should not assume, simply on PB’s word, that Tehachapi is without risk. Unpleasant surprises are a fact of life.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Eric M: That’s cause syno is stuck in a loop…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Herrenknecht has had to incorporate contingencies into his tunneling projects, some of which are bigger than those at Tejon. At the St. Gotthard they lost a whole damn mining machine in unanticipated soft material and had to pump in concrete to orovide a base to finally extract it.

    There is an excellent New Yorker article on Herrennecht and the St. Gotthard base tunnel from a few years ago. Unfortunately to get the whole thing you will have to go to the library.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    an instant tourist attraction

    I’ve seen the inside of many many railroad tunnels. They all look the same.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Tejon crossing would be today’s equivalent of the BART Transbay Tube – the public would be enormously interested. And if you could see at least part of it from I-5 every train passing would be an advertisement for the hsr. Not a pleasant comparison for the oil and highway lobbies.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Bad luck in geology has never caused a tunnel already under construction to be constructed along a different alignment …

    There are a ton of historical examples. The one that springs immediately to my mind is the Lötschberg, which catastrophically encountered deep alluvial stream bed gravel in 1908.

    More recently, the Hallandsås tunnel in Sweden came quite close to being abandoned, before being forced through at immense additional cost.

    Minimising risk through advance study and years of extensive exploratory advance excavation is always the name of the game in tunnelling. (And this is why an HSR tunnel between Redwood City and Fremont is a zero-risk undertaking, unlike pretty much every other proposed hole anywhere else along the proposed line, none of which lie adjacent to a freshly constructed large bore safety critical water tunnel.)

    Donk Reply:

    I finally figured it out. Richard Mylnarik is the Brad Pitt version of Clem from Fight Club.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Europe seems to have learned from previous bad experience ~ but bad luck in geology revealed by detailed advance work on the preliminary alignment has caused tunnels to be placed on a slightly different alignment.

  26. StevieB
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 00:03

    Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) clarified her position to say riders who wanted to take the high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco could just transfer to a Caltrain in San Jose according to the SF Gate. “We do not need to duplicate a high-speed rail system,” Eshoo said. “In other words, we have Caltrain now”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    She is correct, just substitute BART for Caltrain. Don’t get me wrong Caltrain is better but lacks the clout and bureaucracy and link to PB to 86 the CHSRA from the Peninsula.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, good grief, what about delays in transfers at San Jose? What about the loss of a one-seat ride?

    I guess the politicians and the NIMBYs really want to keep the 1950s “Ozzie and Harriet” atmosphere of the Peninsula (actually, not a really bad idea, I’m a nostalgia hound myself), so. . .

    I have an idea, which I’ve had posted here before. Reorganize Caltrain as a shortline railroad to handle the freight business and get UP out of the picture. While you’re at it, also establish a tourist rail operation in addition to the commuter service, using steam engines and authentic period cars, essentially making the Peninsula service a longer, faster, heavy-duty version of the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania. Haul the HSR trainsets behind locomotives to cover the gap between San Jose and San Francisco; maybe at least some of the times you could haul them behind one of the steam engines. The freight traffic might at least occasionally move that way too. Woo Hoo! As a steam engine fan, I love it!

    And for all I know, the residents of the Peninsula might like it, too! Those steam engines always sounded beautiful, with singing whistles and an almost living, breathing quality to their chuffing exhausts. They would fit right in with a 1950s atmosphere, would be a great economic boost to the tourist trade, and could even be “green!” It seems SP (in common with almost everything else in California) burned oil in its steam locomotives due to availability; in the old days, the oil was called Bunker C, or residual oil, or “heavy bottoms,” essentially the black goo that looked and smelled like tar at the bottom of the still after you had refined off the lighter stuff, like gasoline, kerosene, and the like. You wouldn’t want to use this today, but you could make like the Grand Canyon Scenic today, and burn used vegetable oil.

    The only problem might be that steam engines are rather expensive to take care of, requiring a lot of maintenance. One railroader I know called them “the working man’s friend” because of the manpower requirements in the repair shop. Still, if it booted ridership enough. . .and you charged a “steam premium” fare. . . :-)

    jim Reply:

    Well, that’s remarkable. Caltrain is high speed rail, eh? I didn’t know that.

    I hadn’t appreciated the full Caltrain-oriented view. I had assumed that the extreme position was HSR could run trains through on Caltrain tracks on a non-interference basis. The real extreme position is that HSR simply delivers passengers to Caltrain. Caltrain probably does better under that arrangement than it would do from getting trackage fees from HSR.

    Hard cheese on HSR, though. They lose a lot of passengers. But what does Caltrain care?

    Caltrain probably can get away with not electrifying under this scenario. Upgrade to 90-110 mph diesel. What will that take? Just resignaling? Clem, do you know?

    Someone above said that CHSRA has a mandate to run to SF. It doesn’t. It can’t extend to SD or Sacramento before it runs to SF. But nowhere is it required to reach SF. Inclusion of a city-pair in the line haul table doesn’t imply that city pair has to be served, just, if it is then the time in the table has to be achieved. There’s an LA-Oakland line haul time in the table, but no-one believes that CHSRA will construct LA-Oakland.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, and its the “it can’t extend to SD or Sacramento before it runs to SF” that kills the political prospect for Peninsula NIMBY’s being able to actually win on a “halt at SJ” proposal.

    Before they can do a serious business plan, they need a business model. Under an access fee franchise to operate trains owned by the franchisee, with the winning bid awarded on the basis of offered minimum Quality of Service and share of gross revenue, a preliminary service of up to four trains per hour operating through the Caltrain corridor through to TBT and a mix of Express HSR corridor and improved passenger rail corridor for a 4:00 or better SF/LA-Union service ought to attract bidders. If they get bidders, they get a non-subsidy service.

    Once they have a revenue stream, completion becomes a financial matter of when rather than if, determined by how much federal, complementary local and/or private investment can be attracted to the projects.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The “lets do incremental upgrades” crowd seems to be pushing for electrification of Caltrain as one of the first increments. ( though I suspect there is a subset that imagines everyone on the HSR train will hop on BART for the hour and half ride to San Francisco. ) Once Caltrain is electrified there’s no technical reason why HSR trains couldn’t go all the way to San Francisco. There may be regulatory reasons why it couldn’t but there will be standard guage track with 25kV/60Hz catenary over it, the trains could run on it.
    The only reason you would transfer to Caltrain is if there isn’t any catenary north of San Jose. Which means every HSR train would have to be met by a diesel train of some sort, doesn’t really matter what the logo is on the side, to express passengers to SFO and San Francisco.
    Either scenario three trains an hour at peak seems quite reasonable, to start anyway. How many Caltrain locals can you squeeze in between the expresses? Once it goes to four HSR trains an hour, how long are the sections of four track railroad…..
    Incremental upgrades means the Caltrain corridor will be a construction nightmare for a decade or so while they build a four track railroad around a very busy two track railroad. That’s going to be much more expensive than building it all at once-ish. Not to mention the traffic snarls while the unimproved grade crossings cope with many more trains. …. it’s not a viable alternative.
    They can fritter away a few tens of million dollars studying it in depth…. to come to the conclusion it’s not viable.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I don’t think I was talking about a series of incremental upgrades. I think I was talking about two upgrades, one to support the shared use of the corridor by the preliminary HSR services, and the second to complete the corridor, complete Stage 1 and expand Stage 1 services.

    “Not to mention the traffic snarls while the unimproved grade crossings cope with many more trains.” That would be reserved to those communities that refused to cooperate in the first upgrade. Those that cooperated would get full grade separation.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    My reading of this thesis is that if they force a transfer to a commuter line, they might as well not run trains. Lowest transfer penalty is 19 minutes, on timed Swiss intercity transfers; but if the transfer is thought of as to a connecting system, the range of estimates for the penalty is a factor of 2-10. In other words: making passengers switch to the Baby Bullet is equivalent to raising the line haul time by at least an hour at the low end, and of not running service at all at the high end.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Try explaining that to Desert Xpress

    Peter Reply:

    DesertXpress’ business plan assumes a transfer and states that the transfer penalty is acceptable. That doesn’t mean such a transfer would be acceptable for CAHSR.

    egk Reply:

    I don’t think people should have to transfer in SJ to go to SF, that is just silly talk.

    But it should be clarified that what the research says about transfers. It says that if by making the transfer the trip can be made at least 19 minutes faster, people will transfer. It doesn’t say that people will treat the trip as if it were 19 minutes slower (compared to other modes) because they have a transfer. (This accords with my own intuitions: I frequently made an IC-ICE transfer that cost me $10 and saved me 20 minutes)

    Applied to CAHSR that means that if you set up service so that a single transfer increases frequency by 20 minutes (by, for example, alternating direct and one-transfer service between, say SF and LA and SJ and LA via Altamont) or decreases total travel time be more 20 minutes (by having a local to express transfer in, say, Fresno) people will prefer to transfer. It doesn’t say that adding a transfer (that doesn’t change the trip time) will suddenly make the trip unappealing wrt. driving or flying.

    With a well designed interline service schedule with timed transfers you can serve a vast number of origin destination pairs with fast and frequent service. This should be the goal – California is much more like multipolar Germany than it is like unipolar France or Spain.

    jim Reply:

    I don’t think people should have to transfer in SJ to go to SF, that is just silly talk.

    It’s an opening bid in a negotiation. We all here are pro-HSR (except for Morris), so we tend to think how Caltrain can help HSR: we ask what Caltrain can do for HSR. But remember Caltrain is its own railroad, just like UP (a bit smaller, perhaps). Caltrain asks itself what HSR can do for Caltrain. For a while the answer to that was pay for electrification. But the Peninsula EIR keeps slipping and the timeline for HSR to electrify Caltrain keeps getting longer. And now, what HSR wants from Caltrain is getting greater (that’s what “phased implementation” implies). So Caltrain (with Eshoo as its spokesperson, as she was over electrification) is setting out a harder line.

    I don’t think the end result of this negotiation will be that HSR terminates at San Jose. But I’m sure that this little piece of theatre has gained CHSRA’s attention.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    As far as the time cost of a transfer, in modeling I have seen it is two minutes of travel time equivalent for each minute waiting for a connection, and a hit against the QoS advantage time premium for rail travel.

    If that hit against the time premium to rail is 5min and the effective transfer delay is 7min, that yields the 19min cost above.

    egk Reply:

    Remember sometimes the transfer doesn’t impose any delay – check out the Stuttgart to Frankfurt ICE schedule on any afternoon (1:17 minutes, with a transfer on the even hours, without on the odd hours).

    And I bet you are about right with 5 min for the mode-share relative hit. Meaning it is basically meaningless for journeys of an hour or more. It is possible to work up a schedule of a CAHSR service that serves EVERY CAHSR city pair (yes the 24×24) with half hour frequencies on average and near-optimal travel times by offering well thought-out one transfer options and only using about 12 trains an hour (total) (oh – and by going via Altamont).

    Jack Reply:

    Apparently she’s not aware that the law requires single seat from LA to SF. This is a blatant play towards the stop in San Jose nutjobs.

    As I said yesterday, stop with the ridiculous press releases that do nothing, and work on getting funding.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I’ve just re-skimmed AB3034, and a ‘single seat’ ride does not appear to be expressly stated or implied. The closest you get is section on timings for non-stop trains (2704.09) which the system must be capable of; not that those will be the expected service patterns. Which verbage are you referring to?

    Joe Reply:

    Failing to build a single seat system would be a classic example of building a system and failing the validation test. If one does not understand HSR connecting SF to LA requires one system.

    Blended, two systems, fails the primary objective of HSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Blended, two systems, fails the primary objective of [C]HSR.

    Indeed. That being “public-to-private wealth transfer maximisation“.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    This is just not going to happen… the city of San Francisco will refuse to go along with any proposal that stops high speed rail train in San Jose.. the congresswoman should be reminded we own one third of the right-of-way its our CalTrain too.. if CalTrain upgrades capable of high speed train sets using it to get to San Francisco is all the funding available for initial start up so be it ,but this nonsense stupidity and just plain selfish arrogance that high-speed rail does not need to come to the city will never fly.

    Jack Reply:

    Agreed, especially on the part of the project that should be the second easiest portion to develop behind the central valley.

    All this will die down once construction starts, can’t wait!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why worry about losing a few minutes transferring at SJ to Caltrain or BART. Many riders would have to transfer at the TBT anyway.

    Besides you are imposing a half hour penalty on all SF-LA passengers by forcing them to detour via
    Fresno, Bakersfield and the Loop instead of I-5-Tejon.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Stop lying about how long it takes to detour to the half million people in greater Palmdale.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Adding the transfer at SJ does not subtract the transfer at TBT ~ it increases the transfer on that trip from one or two to two or three.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Once you board BART at San Jose you would not have to transfer again at the TBT. Of course that brings up the question of which route would be faster, say, to Concord, via Fremont or via Daly City and the Tube. Interesting.

    Joey Reply:

    Only if the last leg of your journey is actually on BART. There’s a lot more than that in downtown SF.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    no no no Bruce, they are all going to get off at the Pan Galactic and wander over to the BART station so they can see the sights of Berryessa and stare in amazement at the skyline of Fruitdale….. and according to Syn see the wonder of the Transbay Tube.
    Just like people hop off northbound Acelas so they can transfer to PATH and see all there is to see in Journal Square. Which they get a really good look at except during rush hours because they have to transfer to the 33rd Street trains there (or at Grove Street) to get to Midtown Manhattan.

    VBobier Reply:

    So not going to happen syner…

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Nobody is going to get off a high speed rail train to finish the trip to SF..only idiots/nimbys want or think this would work..besides 200-300 people would fill a 4 car caltrain

  27. Donk
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 07:51

    All of this sets a really bad precedent for the project statewide. “You want to build a viaduct in our town?!? Well they ain’t buildin’ no viaduct over there where all them libruls live.”

  28. tony d.
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 10:55

    Stuart Cohen has to be the biggest idiot posing as a “transit advocate” alive!
    Let’s “simply” skip San Jose to run trains through the Altamont to avoid PAMPA?
    Yeah! Let’s deny service to Northern California’s largest city and $ilicon Valley so that some rich crybaby’s can get their way?
    I’ll take a Caltrain transfer at SJ/Diridon any day over that insane idea. &%$€# moron!

    Jack Reply:

    Not to mention Fremont, Pleasanton et al that will raise more of a stink than PAMPA….

  29. Tom Atkins
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 11:49

    I’m not from California, and I’ m sure this has been discussed. But why would you need Caltrain at all if you have HSR on the same tracks? Isn’t it implied that HSR would simply replace CalTrain in the San Jose to San Fran corridor, with BART eventually taking up the local traffic that doesn’t want to park in San Jose?

    Donk Reply:

    Tom, Caltrain serves all the local stops on the Peninsula. BART stops 1/3 of the way down the Peninsula and is a different gauge than Caltrain, and therefore the two are not compatible. Caltrain or some local form of HSR must remain to serve all the local stops.

  30. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 11:49

    Would someone remind me again why LA-SD is Phase 2 instead of Phase 1?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Just in case you aren’t joking:

    1) NIMBYs. PAMPA folks fight the idea of a big overpass. South Orange County fought an airport….

    2) Cost value. You can already get to San Diego via train in a couple hours (same as driving). Since air traffic is light between the two cities, it won’t generate the type of revenue (i.e. business class tickets) that would be poached from SF- LA.

    3) The railroads. You think the Union Pacific is playing hardball now? Just wait until the Authority pursues the planned route east to Ontario. World War III will look like a snowball fight.

    4) Amtrak, Joe Biden, and the unions. The Surfliner is already a profitable route for Amtrak. Right now, there is no thru service from LA to SF except the once a day Starlight. It’s much easier to propose something that doesn’t compete with a current product than one that does. You can’t take Amtrak from LA to Fresno to SF…so there’s conflict.

    5. Illegal immigration. Okay, so that’s a lie…but I’m sure it will get thrown in somewhere when HSR heads south.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Surfliner is already a profitable route for Amtrak.

    No, it isn’t. Check the Route Performance section in any monthly report.

    I believe your reason #4 – the rest are likely spurious. Everyone assumed the railroads would be on board until UP decided to seek rent, etc.

    VBobier Reply:

    1-3) I have No opinion on these.

    4) Yeah just Bus Service cause of capacity problems going North from LA to Bakersfield…

    5) I doubt any Illegal would get caught dead on a train as there’s nowhere to run to. But Yeah some idiot may try that angle.

    corntrollio Reply:

    Illegal immigration. Okay, so that’s a lie…but I’m sure it will get thrown in somewhere when HSR heads south.

    If you ever read the SFGate about HSR, you’ll see all kinds of people saying that HSR will bring in undocumented immigrants or that undocumented immigrants should be run out of town on HSR.

    corntrollio Reply:

    Sorry, that should say “If you ever read the SFGate comments section on articles about HSR.

  31. Andy Chow
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 13:17

    There’s a difference between what the HSRA wants (all the bells and whistles) and what’s necessary to have some form of HSR service to and from SF. What Caltrain, and what BayRail Alliance wants is a serious planning around what is necessary. HSR doesn’t have to end in San Jose and make people transfer. The media, and unfortunately, this blog often brush this alternative aside and keep on the drama of all or nothing.

  32. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 13:22

    1) NIMBYs. PAMPA folks fight the idea of a big overpass. South Orange County fought an airport….

    An airport is rather more intrusive (especially since we already had one) and Irvine was rather anxious to annex the land for more homes and businesses. There would be rather less NIMBY material with HSR (once they dropped the stupid dedicated plan), and I certainly haven’t heard NIMBY complaints regarding OCTA’s third track expansion and grade separations.

    2) Cost value. You can already get to San Diego via train in a couple hours (same as driving). Since air traffic is light between the two cities, it won’t generate the type of revenue (i.e. business class tickets) that would be poached from SF- LA.

    It’s slower than driving right now actually, especially with delays, and there would be plenty of business tickets that could be reaped from business travelers who currently drive. And, of course, volume of lower priced tickets certainly matters. The total ridership LA-SD is, if memory serves, significantly more than LA-SF.

    4) Amtrak, Joe Biden, and the unions. The Surfliner is already a profitable route for Amtrak. Right now, there is no thru service from LA to SF except the once a day Starlight. It’s much easier to propose something that doesn’t compete with a current product than one that does. You can’t take Amtrak from LA to Fresno to SF…so there’s conflict.

    The Surfliner isn’t a profitable route nor is it expected to be.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    That should be up above, in response to Risenmessiah

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    Uh, you are making my point. Even with the radical population explosion in South Orange County and a terribly overburned airport in John Wayne, the voters there overwhelming rejected the airport while it had excellent support up north. If that is not a definition of NIMBYism, I don’t know what is.

    Cost Value

    The issue here is that for private partnerships, they would want to see a verifiable market share to invest. Unless Amtrak stops the Surfliner, there’s no guarantee that HSR would be indeed fast enough to generate the business needed. With SF-LA there’s already a proven demand for business travel independent of another, competing train service.


    You have to remember that the Surfliner is not actually owned by Amtrak. It’s the State of California using Amtrak as a contractor. Therefore, given the demand on the route, it’s actually “profitable” for Amtrak because a) it’s not as if there’s another railroad that would want to operate the route and b) like many a transportation company, you can’t scale down that quickly to reflect lowered demand and c) as a quasi-government entity Amtrak is stuck with lots of fixed costs (like pensions) that stick around no matter what they operate.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Uh, you are making my point. Even with the radical population explosion in South Orange County and a terribly overburned airport in John Wayne, the voters there overwhelming rejected the airport while it had excellent support up north. If that is not a definition of NIMBYism, I don’t know what is.

    You’re missing my point however. An airport is rather intrusive on a wide variety of peoples. Upgraded rail lines are much less so, and there has not been NIMBY opposition to the grade separation and third track projects currently being performed by OCTA and Metrolink. Furthermore, even if built down to Irvine, it won’t affect much of the county that was opposing El Toro Airport to begin with.

    The issue here is that for private partnerships, they would want to see a verifiable market share to invest. Unless Amtrak stops the Surfliner, there’s no guarantee that HSR would be indeed fast enough to generate the business needed. With SF-LA there’s already a proven demand for business travel independent of another, competing train service.

    There’s already a significant amount of market-share for rail given the rather limited speed of Amtrak and as indicated by Metrolink ridership along such corridors. Furthermore, the ridership studies for CAHSR indicate more riders along LA-SD than along LA-SF. Quite frankly, it would be a better proposition for a private company than LA-SF given the lower capital costs. And just why would Amtrak run the Surfliner alongside of LA-SD HSR anyhow?

    You have to remember that the Surfliner is not actually owned by Amtrak. It’s the State of California using Amtrak as a contractor. Therefore, given the demand on the route, it’s actually “profitable” for Amtrak because a) it’s not as if there’s another railroad that would want to operate the route and b) like many a transportation company, you can’t scale down that quickly to reflect lowered demand and c) as a quasi-government entity Amtrak is stuck with lots of fixed costs (like pensions) that stick around no matter what they operate.

    The Surfliner is actually one of Amtrak’s core routes and they would be obligated to maintain it in the event that the state of California ceases to subsidize it (said subsidy is for additional trains upon the routes). Even with the state subsidy, however, Amtrak loses more money than it makes upon that corridor. There is no rational basis for stating that it is profitable.

    thatbruce Reply:

    : South Orange County fought an airport….
    An airport is rather more intrusive (especially since we already had one) and Irvine was rather anxious to annex the land for more homes and businesses.

    True about the City of Irvine, but the ‘already had one’ comment fails to account for the proposals to use the former El Toro Marine Base (est 1942) as a replacement for, not as a supplement to, John Wayne. The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, was the hiring of a commercial jet and flying it in low circles above nearby cities which were not beneath any of the historical or proposed flight paths.

  33. morris brown
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 14:11

    I keep reading here, that the proposal would have HSR passengers stop in San Jose and then transfer to CalTrain to continue to SF.

    To be clear, there are so many problems, with what is being proposed, that I don’t take this seriously.

    However, Simitian made quite clear that what was being proposed was legal under Prop 1A. Prop 1A clearly prohibits a passenger from having to transfer to complete a trip. That is not what was being proposed.

    What was proposed is that CalTrain would be upgraded such that HSR stock could seamlessly continue from San Jose to SF on CalTrain tracks ( no 4 tracks allowed).

    Quite frankly I think the objective is to make sure CalTrain survives and the objective is to get HSR funds to upgrade the CalTrain corridor, with only a promise that “someday”, it could be used for HSR. As Gordon stated, HSR coming to the Peninsula, is decades away.

    One billion for electrification is only the beginning of what would be needed. You are looking at $5 – 7 billion to grade separate the CalTrain corridor, and grade separations would have to be constructed with this now proposal.

    Overall, the objective is to make sure that any and all Federal funds made available to California, be accepted. Eshoo made that quite clear. California should not even consider doing what Florida did when they rejected the Federal grant. California must take any and all funds granted, regardless of whter they would be put to productive use or not.

    It is all about the money.

    Joey Reply:

    I am quite doubtful that HSR could be run at any service level without SOME quad-tracking. This may just mean a couple of sections of a few miles each, but capacity doesn’t create itself.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    Huh? There’s plenty of room if both Caltrain and HSR operate each every 30 minutes (most hours of the day). There may be some squeeze during peak hours (which Caltrain could cut some runs), but HSR frequency shouldn’t be that much different, since intercity service have demand throughout the day, and trains leaving LA at 5pm wouldn’t arrive to SJ until 7pm, which is after the top of the peak hours for Caltrain.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What about the trains leaving SF at 5 PM so they can arrive in LA at 7:40?

    YESonHSR Reply:

    Caltrain had a flyer at stations about a year/half ago that stated the current track system with electric power and new signal/control sytems is capable of 12 trains per hour

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    OOOO half as many as Amtrak and NJTransit manage between Newark and New York! Next they’ll telling you that they are going to get rid of the stairs on the train and raise the platforms so that there’s no climbing onto the train to be done. . .

    YesonHSR Reply:

    they actully said 12 per hour per direction..

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Did they say whether it was a regular schedule that is easily understood and used in the event that there are some people using the system, or whether it was one of those skip-station schedules put together by people optimizing while leaving service gaps out of the objective function?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In December there are 26 in 60 minute periods in peak direction between Newark and New York.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    As far as two HSR trains per hour, are you referring to a preliminary service or to the full Stage One?

    15 minute all-stations and at least two express trains per hour, as in Clem’s tick tock schedule is a reasonable foundation for Caltrain to build from.

    And asking Caltrain to cut runs in peak hour because that involves higher demand arrival or departure times for HSR is absurd.

    J. Wong Reply:

    We must destroy Caltrain in order to save it (Caltrain that is)!

    HSR would have upgraded the corridor benefiting Caltrain in the process.

    Also, you’re just pulling numbers out of your ass.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Eshoo apparently thinks HSR passengers should transfer.

    Anyway, the transfer-free option should be strictly better than full buildout, according to your beliefs. If HSR indeed incurs massive cost overruns and the ridership is low, then either the project will be abandoned (in which case it doesn’t matter what the first-phase plan was) or it will be completed and fail to draw more people in. If it fails to draw more people in, there won’t be any political pressure to finish the phase and grade-separate the Caltrain tracks.

  34. morris brown
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 16:28

    What Rep. Eshool writes here saying that “We cannot afford high-speed rail done wrong”, I would think everyone would agree.

    What she proposes is not doing it “right”; indeed this boondoggle needs to be completely killed; the sooner the better.



    Rep. Anna Eshoo in SJ Mercury.

    Eshoo: Opinion: We cannot afford high-speed rail done wrong

    Eric M Reply:

    Keep tapping those glass slippers Morris!!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I see him a more a ruby slippers type. After all he does think Atherton is as bucolic as rural Kansas.

    joe Reply:

    No we do not agree with the editorial title because we understand the NIMBY language and code words.

    Disagreeing with NIMBY’s is “done wrong”.

    This escalation is going to put a spot light on HSR and the nonsense double speak NIMBY’s use to oppose a statewide system.

    CARRD, the A stands for “Against”.

  35. Tony D.
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 16:54

    Perhaps Robert a future thread can sort out what the hell Eshoo and Simitian are really calling for/what they would like to see from SF-SJ. Here’s my take on things:

    1) Full HSR/Caltrain with quad-tracking, aerials: NO, or perhaps NOT AT THIS TIME.
    2) Upgraded Caltrain with majority double-tracking, with quad in certain area’s, for both Caltrain and HSR: YES, YES, YES!
    3) Upgraded Caltrain with double-tracking only from SF-SJ, with HSR transfers at SJ Diridon: NO, NO, NO!

    I think in the perfect world most here would like to see option 1, but the majority here (and on the Peninsula from SF-SJ) would like to see option 2 come to fruition. Option 3 should not be considered at all. By the way, anyone know how SF pols are taking this news down the way?

  36. James
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 17:07

    Come on guys, let’s step back and look. Rather than scrutinizing every detail Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon have said, look at the big picture. They purposely worded their press release very very carefully vaguely so as to not give away too much. Notice that nowhere in their press release does it clearly and definitely say that HSR MUST stop in SJ. Nope. But their announcement has another purpose: to help Caltrain.

    Like an earlier commenter pointed out, Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon are Peninsula folks. In a way, they need to represent Caltrain–and that’s what they’re doing. Caltrain originally thought that they’d get a good deal partnering with HSR: virtually free electrification and the modernization of the rail system. But like all of us have noticed, NIMBYs, lawsuits and a variety of other factors have pretty much slammed the brakes on HSR on the Peninsula. This means a couple things:

    A: HSR will not get built any time soon.
    B: Thus, Caltrain will not be getting HSR funds any times soon for electrification.
    C: And, since HSR is not being built any time soon, there is no point in electrification if it means you have to REDO the entire process after HSR grade separation. (Or not, depending on what the CHSRA decides)

    HSR is [unintentionally] keeping Caltrain at a very shaky point–to electrify or not to electrify? Siimply put: HSR is holding up Caltrain improvements–something that can immediately benefit the people here on the Peninsula (like me!). Moreover, Caltrain has realized that its existing infrastructure no longer supports its needs–we see that with their at-capacity timetable and the inability to support more riders during rush hour. Caltrain NEEDS infrastructure improvements to stay alive (fiscally), which means electrification (among other things). Essentially, what Simitian and friends want is just for Caltrain to be able to work out a way to electrify as soon as possible. They want the CHSRA to act and make up their minds about the Peninsula.

    It’s no coincidence that the same day they made the announcement, Caltrain released a statement saying that they’re studying the feasibility of HSR on the Peninsula.

    Just my two cents.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    with their at-capacity timetable

    I pulled out the schedule as of March 1957. Southbound peak had ten trains in an hour. Some of them may have been hauled by steam locomotives. Expresses made it to San Jose in 1:07 or so and the locals made it in 1:25, though there were no local trains during peak.

    Clem Reply:

    I would love a copy of this 1957 schedule to crank through my metrics. Please please please?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sent. It doesn’t include service available on the trains that did not terminate in San Jose. Best time on one of those was 57 minutes with a stop in Palo Alto.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    At that time trains didn’t take wheelchairs or bicycles. Riders could often start getting on and off the trains before the trains came to a full stop.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Speaking of 1957..what did these people do when steam engines and lots more freight trains rumbled thru town back then?? probally alot less ultra-senstive types back then lived by those tracks

    joe Reply:

    Towns lived and died with the railroad. They’d be fighting to have a stop.

  37. Spokker
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 17:26

    Eshoo and Simitian are near an optimal outcome, but I’m not sure they know why.

    Sharing tracks is great. That is getting closer to the optimal solution. Any track, any platform, any time to repeat Clem’s mantra. Treating CAHSR and Caltrain as two separate systems is insane. No fare gates, no secure zones, easy transfers, pedestrian friendly stations. That should be the goal.

    The no aerial demand is not rational. While the line should be at-grade as much as possible, it should be aerial where appropriate. I don’t think it needs to have four tracks all the way to SF.

    But I don’t think Eschoo and Simitian are advocating an at-grade alignment to make it the best project possible. I think they think this’ll kill the project.

  38. Jeff Carter
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 17:50

    The scheme that HSR customers ‘should transfer’ to Caltrain Baby Bullets can be tested right now using the tried and true air travel market between San Francisco and Southern California.

    ALL airline passengers travelling between San Francisco and southern California, (LA, San Diego, Long Beach, Anaheim, etc.) will be required to change planes in San Jose. If the forced San Jose transfer will ‘work’ for HSR then it will certainly work for the heavily used air travel market between San Francisco and Southern California, wont it?

    What better way to test their theory?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    No need to even compare to airlines…how about making everyone traveling from NYC to DC get off the Acelas and get on a MARC commuter train and lets see what happens to the ridership and the screaming..DC-Baltimore are not much farther apart than SF-SJ and MARC is way better than NO this moron idea about changing trains can be very easy to thown out with that comparsion

  39. Jeff Carter
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 19:08

    Caltrain is on an elevated berm through San Carlos/Belmont, by all rights, if we are to believe the anti-rail NIMBYs, why hasn’t San Carlos and Belmont self destructed?

    Does anyone care to answer this question?

    Morris? Elizabeth? Nadia?

    How many businesses have been destroyed?

    How many homes have been destroyed?

    Where is the urban blight?

    Where are the homeless encampments?

    Although poorly designed, (room for only two tracks, Belmont: center boarding, San Carlos: outside boarding, a signal with its own shoofly) the berm is not an atrocious eyesore. The risk of accidents is almost non existent.

    joe Reply:

    Jeff, after San Carlos had the improvement to caltrain’s ROW engineered, the mayor said local property values increased.

  40. Jeff Carter
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 20:02

    The big problems are: Anti-rail fear mongering and misinformation, poor information from the HSRA, local politicians kowtowing to the well organized NIMBYs, lack of organized pro rail forces to provide factual information, antagonistic relationships between members of the HSRA and members of the public. There are numerous critical reports from the state auditor, the legislative analyst, the UC Berkeley ITS, etc. yet no organized efforts to refute these (supposedly flawed) reports.

    Plans and documentation for the peninsula segment of HSR apparently advocate/show a huge aerial viaduct through much of the peninsula. The NIMBYs take all this and present it as an ugly freeway-like structure that raises 60+ feet in the air and over 100 feet wide. They constantly cite the above referenced (flawed) reports.

    So as the well organized NIMBYs present their fear mongering point of view, more and more naïve constituents are led to believe the NIMBY misinformation and they go to express their fears to their elected representatives. There are no organized efforts to present HSR as a less obtrusive project, or to make a badly designed HSR project into a well designed project.

  41. Spokker
    Apr 19th, 2011 at 20:19

    Warning: don’t advocate for grade separation because it will improve safety. This will have the unintended consequence of eroding support for rail in places where grade separation is too expensive or irrational to pursue. There are already plenty of comments that Caltrain is a killing machine on various articles about Caltrain and HSR. No need to feed into this bullshit.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    This is all too true ~ Save Our Rail in Newcastle in NSW has been fighting a developer-inspired effort to cut the Newcastle CBD rail corridor to open land for development (how people will get to the developments not, it seems, a matter for any concern), and the trumping up of the evils of the level crossings on an all passenger corridor of under 3 miles with from four to six services in either direction through the day is part of the rhetorical campaign.

    joe Reply:

    “Warning: don’t advocate for grade separation because it will improve safety. ”
    The woman who died in the rental car? Why isn’t preventing that senseless death important.

    Spokker Reply:

    “Why isn’t preventing that senseless woman’s death important.”

    Fixed for you.

    Grade separations are desirable if conditions are correct, but by no means should grade separation always be desired. The safety improvement over an at-grade crossing is marginal even at speeds up to 110 MPH.

    At the end of the day, I just think it’s ironic when people call a railroad crossing a killing machine while they cross the street every day.

    Spokker Reply:

    And about that death, investigators are looking at whether heavy traffic played a role, which is a good reason to grade separate a railroad, but you never stop on the tracks if you don’t have room to get to the other side. You don’t block the intersection either.

    It was probably poor driving skills that did her in.

    Joe Reply:

    Traffic backups will get worse. My joy is the Castro crossing in MTV near the station. Those crossings need to be under/over passes when increased train traffic will create long delays along alma/central expswy.

    Ironically PA has underpasses for Caltrain on both roads leading to Stanford including the local HS which has had too many Caltrain deaths and accidents with children. Why no improve grade separations there?

    Spokker Reply:

    Here is another car accident that was covered near my hometown.,0,6728280.story

    I’m not saying the accident didn’t receive enough attention. It did. But the difference between this car accident not involving a train and the Caltrain accident is that, for the car accident, there will be no demands for a lengthy investigation, there will be no cries to reconfigure the street, there will be no demand to grade separate the residential street (if not for the tree that killed the driver, he would have ended up on the sidewalk or possibly someone’s home! Let’s see a train swerve and kill you in your own home while you are talking a shit). Gadflies won’t be writing letters to public agencies about the travesty of it all and the corruption inherent in the system.

    The big bad public railroad agency are called murderers for the train vs. car accident. But if you try to criticize the driver in the car crash, well, he was some1’s son and how dare u judge him!111

    The train was no doubt delayed for 3 hours and no other trains were allowed to pass. After car accidents, there are usually some lanes open to accommodate existing traffic. Traffic isn’t even told to use other streets while a 3 hour investigation figures out the obvious.

    Train accidents in which the victim is at fault = must be stopped at any cost and those who stand in the way are evil, murderous thugs.

    Car accidents = fact of life. No blame allowed. You aren’t allowed to judge.

    Spokker Reply:

    Apparently, at this intersection when a train approaches the light for “trapped” cars turns green. The only way you could remain trapped is in the intersection itself is blocked.

    The blame for the intersection being blocked is on drivers as a whole. The blame for sitting on the tracks lies on the driver.

    Caltrain or the design of the intersection is not to blame. Heavy traffic is a fact of driving and cannot be used as an excuse for unsafe driving.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah, so fuck that lady then. You’re a sociopathic twerp, you don’t need to keep repeating yourself.

    Spokker Reply:

    One of the characteristics of a sociopath is a general lack of empathy, but it is not the only one. Of the 15 of so traits listed here, I can be said to embody only one of them under very specific circumstances (lack of empathy for people who get hit by trains?).

    If you wish to go through them all I would be happy to do so.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    EJ, Spokker may have gone over the top here (which he does with some regularity), and I can’t say I’ve read the accident report (there seems to be no link to it directly, but context reveals an all too common accident). However, I will side with Spokker, largely because I’ve seen enough accidents and/or their aftermath, including actually watching a car get hit by a train at low speed because the driver ignored lights and went around two stopped cars to try to beat the train!

    That clown was lucky the coupler hit his station wagon where it did; in so doing, it just pushed his station wagon out of the way. If it had hit further forward, the steel fist that is a coupler would have come through a window and impaled the car. If it had come through the front door window on the passenger side, it would have come right through the window, missing any steel at all, and smacking his wife in the face.

    Oh, and according to the accident report in the paper, he was 61 years old, which I would think is old enough to know better than to pass stopped cars at a grade crossing.

    Truth is, like the profitability argument, rail proponents must deal with a double standard, with rail having to live with being the accused at fault even if the “accident” victims’ blood tests reveal drivers to have been in the stratosphere.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    This is something of a sensitive subject for me. I spend a lot of time on the road as part of my job, and have done so for many years. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had, mostly because the other driver was inattentive (this even predates cell phones), and have had accident damage to my car due to the other fellow’s true recklessness.

    Driving as much as I do, and in all kinds of weather, has also made me angry with some road (or grade crossings) being labelled as “dangerous.” Bah! Dangerous is being in combat with other people trying to kill you. Dangerous is going into a burning building, which may have suffered enough structural damage that collapse is imminent. The same applies to rescue workers going down into a coal mine following some accident there, where you may have to deal with not only a roof collapse, but in some cases fire, a poisonous atmosphere, and sometimes an explosive atmosphere. Those are things that are dangerous.

    But a curvy highway? It just lies there on the ground, like a rug. Same for things like grade crossings, and you just understand you have to give a train (or other traffic at an intersection) plenty of room.

    These places, and the act of driving itself, are not necessarily dangerous, but they can be extremely unforgiving of error. In short, you–you–can prevent accident and injury while driving, and usually quite easily; you might not have a chance at all in combat, in a fire, or in a mine.

    That’s an important difference in my book.

    Spokker Reply:

    My last job was one that had me driving all over Southern California in the company vehicle, and many of my destinations were places I’ve never been to. One day I would be going to Santa Clarita and on another day I’d be headed to Temecula. If I totaled the vehicle, it would be my ass, and not being familiar with an area would not be a valid excuse, nor would “the intersection was not designed properly.”

    Danger is a fact of driving, from unfamiliar areas to intersections that aren’t quite up to your own standards. Every time you get behind the wheel, it’s time to focus on nothing else but driving. And even when you do everything right, you could still be found on the side of the road dead due to another driver’s actions.

    This is what everybody must understand before they receive their license. Driving is no Sunday drive.

Comments are closed.