Joe Simitian, “Great Train Robber,” Working to Destroy High Speed Rail

Apr 29th, 2011 | Posted by

Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani today called out her fellow Democrat, Senator Joe Simitian, who has emerged this week as a significant threat to the high speed rail project. In a statement released this afternoon she accused Simitian of being the “Great Train Robber” for his apparent effort to take HSR money for Caltrain, risking the HSR project itself in the process. From Galgiani’s statement:

Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, author of California’s voter approved $10 billion high speed rail bond, today strongly condemned efforts to redirect the bond funds to non voter approved projects. This amounts to a bait-and-switch effort by certain interests to take money away from the high-speed rail system, and use it to cover shortfalls in funding the Caltrain commuter rail system on the San Francisco Peninsula,” said Galgiani. “It is highly suspect that the same few wealthy communities on the San Francisco Peninsula who want to stop the High Speed Rail project, would cynically work to divert the money to meet their existing obligations to the Caltrain system.”…

“Mr. Simitian is trying to syphon $1 billion of high-speed rail bond money for the Caltrain system in his district and proposes to make it legal under Proposition 1A by running one High Speed Train. This is the Great Train Robbery,” stated Galgiani. “Californians voted for a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, not a piggy bank for legislators.”

According to Galgiani’s release, her concerns were sparked by Simitian’s comments at a legislative hearing yesterday:

Yesterday, in a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 2 hearing on the bond allocation to match Federal funds for the first segment of High Speed Rail, Senator Simitian told the executive director of the High Speed Rail Authority, “I don’t want to see an EIR completed for a project that will never be built.”

“Senator Simitian has continually criticized the High-Speed Rail Authority while failing to recognize the shortcomings of the rail system in his own back yard. Simitian should fix his own system, not tell the HSRA how to build theirs,” said Galgiani.

When talking about the authority’s proposed phased system, Simitian, chair of the Subcommittee, also said, “We’re saying there is a (one) phase and then you’re done.” He added, “If we run one High Speed Train from San Jose to San Francisco, at any time of day, we will comply with Prop. 1A”

That statement by Simitian is beyond the pale. He has been trying to occupy a middle ground, supporting high speed rail while seeming to be responsive to NIMBY concerns (for no understandable reason; he is termed out next year). But by threatening the project like this, Simitian is going too far. It is inappropriate for him or any other legislator to make threats like this.

Further, Simitian is basically trying to undermine the core premise of the project in a very fundamental way. He is clearly implying that SF to LA is an option, that a token one train per day would satisfy the Prop 1A requirement.

I’ve got news for you, Senator: Californians did NOT vote for a single token train. We voted for a true bullet train service, with numerous trips per day from SF to LA. We voted for it because we understood that because of rising gas prices, we needed high speed rail to move people around the state. Simitian is suggesting that he override the wishes of California voters merely to satisfy a very small number of NIMBYs in his district, people he isn’t willing to stand up to.

Here’s the background, for those of you new to the story. In November 2008, a clear majority of Californians voted to build a high speed rail system that can carry passengers from SF to LA in 2 hours, 40 minutes, using bullet trains like you’d find in Japan, Spain, or France. They also appropriated $10 billion in bond funding to get started. Voters wanted a true system that would provide fast train service all day long, from downtown SF to downtown LA while serving high-population communities along the way. That was the entire point of doing high speed rail.

However, after Prop 1A was approved, a small group of wealthy people living near the proposed HSR route in the Palo Alto area started to flip out. They didn’t want the trains in their backyards – even though the trains would use the Caltrain corridor, which has been carrying passenger trains for 150 years. Although the Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted to endorse Prop 1A in 2008, although 60% of voters there approved the project, and although a poll last year found that despite NIMBY whining residents there still supported the project by large margins, elected officials began to start chickening out. Palo Alto city councilmembers began criticizing the project, even joining a frivolous lawsuit against it.

Now, Senator Simitian appears to have succumbed to the vocal minority of NIMBYs. Last week he joined Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Assemblymember Rich Gordon to propose “blending” HSR with Caltrain. That’s an idea worth exploring, but Eshoo immediately began suggesting that the HSR trains stop at San Jose instead of going to San Francisco as promised. Eshoo was rebuked by Nancy Pelosi for that suggestion and she backed off.

But Simitian’s new argument, that we only have to run just one train a day from SF to LA to satisfy the law and the will of the voters, would effectively mean trains stop in San Jose and not San Francisco. Again, I hope he checked with Nancy Pelosi before trying to undermine the project.

Why would stopping in San Jose, or running just one train per day to SF, be a problem? Not only would it violate the law, not only would it be a big “fuck you” to the people of California, but it would destroy the HSR project’s viability. The project by law cannot rely on government operating subsidies, and so it needs to get a lot of riders to make ends meet. That’s also a good goal because the more people that ride the train, the fewer carbon we emit, and the less we spend in gas.

Simitian’s proposal, which includes limiting the Caltrain corridor to two tracks forever, would cripple high speed rail. It would mean an artificial and permanent limit on the number of trains that could go from LA to SF – all because Simitian won’t tell the NIMBYs that they’re wrong and don’t deserve to be prioritized over the rest of the state.

Galgiani’s criticism is motivated by this concern, and her statement matches what other sources have told me about what Simitian is doing. Basically, he is now demanding that the proposal he, Eshoo and Gordon made last week is an ultimatum. He’s taking high speed rail funding hostage, and will destroy the project if he doesn’t get his way – and that way would undermine the project anyway.

Galgiani’s anger is entirely appropriate. Simitian is way out of line here. His “blended” proposal is worth considering, but it is totally inappropriate for Simitian to demand that it be accepted, without study, or else the project lose funding and collapse.

In her statement, Galgiani vowed to fight the Great Train Robber:

Galgiani responded, “Senator Simitian essentially put a gun to the Authority’s head and said, do it my way or no way. Well, I’ve got news for him. This is not Florida, this is California. Proposition 1A is a voter mandate, and if we have to, we’ll sue.”

Right the fuck on. Good for Galgiani. But it’s not enough for her to stand up. We need to stand up to Simitian too. You can contact him here – or by phone at the numbers below. Keep in mind that calling during work hours on Monday is best (calling on a Friday night or the weekend would be pointless):

Phone: (916) 651-4011

Palo Alto District Office
Phone: (650) 688-6384
or (408) 277-9460

Santa Cruz District Office
Phone: (831) 425-0401

We cannot, and we will not, let Joe Simitian destroy high speed rail.

  1. VBobier
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 19:51

    What type of assholes are they electing up there? I didn’t vote for 1 HSR train a day, that’s Outright Fraud & Waste, Simitian should be recalled, Oh that’s right He works for Rich Snobbish Assholes…

    Simitian and Lowenthal must be in cahoots with each other, As the both made It to the public enemies list as far as I’m concerned…

    joe Reply:

    For the three counties for which these Reps serve, Prop 1A passed ~60-40 Yes.
    i.e. Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

    SF’s newspaper will pants them in print.

  2. Andy Chow
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 19:57

    I really don’t know what Galgiani has been smoking. Prop 1A is really a permission to do something, while still subject to other laws and still have to recognize other people’s and community interests. It also means that you may not do what you originally intended. You can’t sue to force a community to accept something they are not ready, and I don’t think HSRA or any other government agency should work like that. (there have been many freeway projects that got stopped because of local opposition.)

    I think you are way too deep into the drama of politics and have forgotten about the policy and transportation. HSRA’s currently plan is a distraction for Caltrain, and is putting Caltrain’s service at risk (by hurting Caltrain’s chance at getting dedicated revenue.) Simitian at least wants to set a realistic course for the Peninsula (even though we can’t expect him or any other politician to know what is technically possible or not possible), but now Galgiani is throwing a tantrum, which isn’t helping HSR.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Well as long as his course is to ensure that high-speed rail gets at least two trains per hour to the city of San Francisco and that they run in at least 35 to 40 minute time frame than I would say this is acceptable for startup program and possibly much longer. If he’s twisting words by saying high-speed rail is still coming to San Francisco was to take an hour to hour and 10 minutes to travel that route then that is not high-speed rail. The two are 40 minute thing is really starting overblown as even the authorities proposed timetable only had them in the early morning and late afternoon peak rushes every thing else is about three hours.. all this politics is getting confusing though .. I’m sure he willmake a statement about this… and if it is true about one train its time for the city to get the gloves out.. and that includes our senator Mark Leno who is the ultimate chair of the financial dealings of the Senate

    VBobier Reply:


    Elizabeth Reply:

    He is not talking about one train a day. The discussion was about whether every train needs to meet the timeframes of Prop 1a to be “legal” or just one train. It is an absurd discussion. Many of the trains will not be expresses and will not make it. Indeed, the ridership forecasts used 2:55 to indicate a blend of express and non express.

    The discussion over semantics has been holding back moving towards a deal and Simitian was trying to move everything forward.

    joe Reply:

    It’s on like donkey kong.

    Californians Advocating Responsible Rail and other semantical gimmicks are failing the test. People see the actual limitations, changes and root cause selfishness and it’s not working. Californians are not stupid.

    The SF Chronicle will have a field day covering this issue and it will not be sympathetic coverage like the San Mateo newspaper.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    So is Galgiani wrong? This isn’t semantics. It matters a great deal what Simitian actually said.

    Clem Reply:

    Galgiani is wrong. Listen to the hearing audio. She was there, but you don’t have to take as gospel her extremely distorted interpretation of what was said.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    What’s more amazing is that Galgiani does not know what is in the bond measure she authored:

    “Mr. Simitian is trying to syphon $1 billion of high-speed rail bond money for the Caltrain system in his district and proposes to make it legal under Proposition 1A by running one High Speed Train. This is the Great Train Robbery,”

    I don’t know what she means by this — as far as I know, Sen. Simitian isn’t trying to carve out any HSR bond money for Caltrain. But regardless, proposition 1A already dedicates $1 billion in funding for improvements to local railroad systems that can serve as feeders to HSR. It would be perfectly legal under 1A to spend up to $1 billion of 1A funds on Caltrain.

    Then there is this threat from the Assemblywoman:

    “And if we have to, we’ll sue.”

    With all the hyperventilating this blog does over the PAMPA lawsuit “delaying” HSR, I’m sure we can look forward to similar condemnation of Galgiani.

    VBobier Reply:

    Simitian is the problem as He wants to stop the project and get rid of Caltrain, I mean 1 HSR Train a Day? I saw and heard this idiot, Nay Jerkwad say that… 1 HSR Train is not regular Service It’s Fraud. Period.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    I really don’t care about whatever he says 1 train a day or whatever. The fact is that it is possible for HSR and Caltrain run on the same tracks, and that it isn’t up to Simitian or Galgiani to set the train timetable. Neither of them are engineers or planners.

    joe Reply:

    Nor are these reps the head of a political machine that can muster the state’s resources to choke off San Francisco.

    Hey CA look at me! I’m kicking some HSR ass and dictating how the project is engineered in my district.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Andy, the only people ever asked to recognize anyone else’s interests are the majority of Californians and Peninsula residents who voted for this project. We keep being told we have to change everything and undermine much just so that we can make a very small elite happy.

    Fuck that.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    I really don’t give a shit about people like Martin Engel and some other obvious NIMBYs, and unfortunately it is people like you that like to put people either you’re for HSR/HSRA or against HSR/HSRA. I support HSR, but I, and many others, don’t like to see how HSRA is progressing with the project, and I am particularly disappointed with all the soap-opera style drama over semantics.

    Also, people who voted for high speed rail may have a different interpretation of what HSR means, and if somehow HSR is seen as a something different then they have the right to oppose it. In that same election people voted for Prop 8 as well. Does it mean that people over time wouldn’t change their minds up about Prop 8?

    Of course HSR money should fund something that would support HSR, which is what Simitian’s proposal is about. The only difference is that Simitian’s plan is it is supposed to be fundable and buildable, and usable in a realistic timeframe. Some of you who wanted every 4 tracks has no funding, no implementation plan, no timetable. Other than sending a message implying that we shouldn’t spending any money on Caltrain to sustain and improve service, or creating drama, I don’t know what insisting that will do to help transportation?

    joe Reply:

    We should support rail projects and Caltrain needs modernization BUT not by re-purposing HSR funding or diminishing the intent of the project.

    Simitian dropped the reasonableness fig leaf and exposed his true intentions.

    He went full-metal-jack-ass on the HSR executive while exploring how parsing the Prop1A syntax could help him get HSR to legally meet the prop while undermining the system’s mandated timetable.

    He wants to constrain the architecture of HSR to a bare minimum – unilaterally.

    Unfortunately, what he wants for his district impacts the HSR architecture and will negatively impact his peers. This is a legitimate debate about the capacity of HSR.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    “Creating drama”? Simitian is the one saying that the CHSRA must promise to never, ever even study more than 2 tracks on the Caltrain corridor. That’s a very damaging thing to propose and would seriously undermine the HSR project by throttling its ability to operate trains into San Francisco, which is essential to ensuring high ridership and financial stability.

    You know what else has no funding? Caltrain. But you don’t see me calling for it to be gutted. I’ve strongly supported sustaining and improving it, and have offered several ideas here on the blog, and personally to political figures along the route, for how it can be provided with stable long-term funding.

    I don’t understand why some rail advocates feel the need to turn on other projects. We need to stick together here. The forces arrayed against us want desperately for us to fight each other, to undermine each other. They would love nothing more than to play divide and conquer. Why give them that satisfaction? That was what happened in the 1990s and look what happened – Caltrain faces collapse.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    I am not going to try to parse every word Simitian may or may not have said, because I don’t think these words are important. Therefore I think Galgiani’s reaction is immature.

    I am not against 4 tracking if it is something that it would be built over a period of time given a demonstrated demand. What I am against is putting 4 track as a requirement for HSR service.

    As to Caltrain, people like me and others fought and successfully preserved service this year. It will be again up to us that will secure dedicated funding to operations. Some of you here apparently don’t value Caltrain much. I am not asking, expecting, nor counting on Galgiani to help save Caltrain. I personally find her calling us trying to steal HSR money insulting.

    I am not turning against HSR. What I am against is high drama over HSR on either side of the issue. I appreciated Simitian call as a way to depoliticize and de-emotionalize the issue. I prefer to see the phasing scenario analyzed and debated constructively to move on. There’s no disagreement with that from you so that isn’t an issue. Again it is not up to the politicians to design the system.

  3. morris brown
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 21:04

    Let me also mimic Andy Chow comment:

    “I really don’t know what Galgiani has been smoking”

    Galgiani is a puppet of the Authority and has been so from the very beginning. She even sounds like vanArk at times. The other day in her comments, she talked about how well all the different interests in the Central Valley were getting along and coming together. Who is she kidding? Its really civil war in the Central valley.


    Now this 2sd term Assemblywoman attacks a member of her own party, a 2sd term Senator after 3 terms in the Assembly and one of the most powerful members of the legislature.

    Doesn’t sound like a very good game plan to me. Why doesn’t she also go after Feinstein and Pelosi who ran off with $400 million for the TBT in SF.

    joe Reply:

    Why indeed?

    Probably because the NIMBY fight against HSR is democratically unpopular within the three counties that are impacted. It’s a losing position when put to popular vote.

    Eric M Reply:

    “Galgiani is a puppet of the Authority and has been so from the very beginning”

    So now, if someone supports the project, they are a puppet? Get over it. People want this project to happen and the voters spoke!!

    morris brown Reply:

    The Daily Post today (Saturday 4/30/2011), ran a front page story on this issue and they had a one word response from Senator Simitian in response.

    Simitian replied in response “perplexing” — he refused to say more.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe he’s learning to STFU.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    HE can be more perplexed if we find out he tried to kill this project and 3000 people show up at his office

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    For supporters, next Thursday would be a great day to show up at the Capitol. That is the next hearing, of which Simitian commanded van Ark to attend even though van Ark is due to be in the Authority board meeting at the same time reporting on numerous changes in the scope of the project.

  4. Elizabeth
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 21:07

    Nobody is proposing one train a day.

    Everyone (including the Authority – see Exhibit A – reintroduction of the Grapevine) is trying to figure out how to deliver the spirit of Prop 1a and stay within the letter of the law, given that the original project is $65 billion+, clearly unobtainable. Is there a way to deliver 90% of the benefit with 50% of the cost? If not, the whole thing is dead. If so, there is a chance.

    Simitian is trying very hard to find a way to save money. The Authority is actually proposing almost an identical thing. The key sticking point is whether the Authority must get environmental clearance for a much more expensive project, even if they never really think they would need it.

    Tony D. Reply:

    $65 billion +? Seems like there’s a lot of other people smoking here as well! Please don’t tell me you’re coming up with that outrageous number based on the eventual interest paid on the bonds? That’s completely dishonest! Kind of like saying a house bought for $900k really costs $1.5 million after total interest is added. Welcome to the world of credit!

    Joey Reply:

    $65 billion is the number that CAARD’s analysis came up with for the Authority’s current plans. It’s impossible to say it’s accuracy, but it was not just pulled out of thin air.

    joe Reply:

    If I take the HSR estimate of 43B and multiply by a factor of 150% – a heuristic one gets from popular texts on mega projects, I can reproduce the CARRD “estimate”, rounded or 64.5%.

    It’s not pulled out of thin air.

    Now If I were to take Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)’s current data that construction projects are being bid 30% under projected costs, I can estimate HSR will cost < 43B.

    Brian Reply:

    Until Elizabeth comes clean and shows us her work you are just guessing how she came up with that number.

    If indeed her “secrecy formula” is just multiply everything by a random number out of a book (and I don’t think that is what she did) then it is a laughingly amateur number not worth discussing. Especially since CA HSR is not a “mega-project” but a standard vanilla HSR system.

    joe Reply:

    I’m not guessing about how CARRD did their estimate. I don’t care.

    It is very easy to produce a seriously sounding cost estimate by doing an analysis of HSR’s cost estimate.

    Brian Reply:

    How do you know it wasn’t? Elizabeth refuses to show her numbers. It is a completely non-transparent number. She may of made it up for all that she has shown the world.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    I’m not understanding why the very same people who are so interested in CARRD’s numbers are so disinterested in the Authority’s.

    I followed the link to CARRD’s breakdown of the $65 billion and these two statements stand out.

    There is no reason that the Authority could not release their working estimate for capital costs.
    to which we (CARRD) suggest that they (HSRA) update their cost estimates to reflect the different alternatives being considered.

    Robert, any chance you could get the updated cost estimates from the Authority and do an article on it?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not understanding why the very same people who are so interested in CARRD’s numbers are so disinterested in the Authority’s.

    Because discussing the Authority’s numbers wouldn’t be as much um …. fun.

    Brian Reply:

    The Authority shows their work when they announce a number unlike the untransparent CARRD. As the Authority is doing serious value engineering right now I would be interested in how the numbers change with the design changes they are making.

    Of course this means the $65 billion number, even if it was ever accurate, is now out of date and hence inaccurate.

    Joey Reply:

    joe and Brian – a breakdown of the $65 billion estimate is available on CAARD’s website. Like I said, I’m not saying it’s necessarily correct.

    Brian Reply:

    No those documents do not show you how they got from the Authority’s numbers to $65 billion. They just show the final results with a link to the Authority documents. Are the steps in-between are a “black box”. Go ahead and try and follow the numbers. The numbers aren’t there.

    joe Reply:

    CARRD’s estimate is one-sided.

    Current CA Bay Area road/bridge construction projects are being bid about 30% below the projected estimate.

    Considering the FED inflation target is 1%, and we’re cutting spending at the St and Fed level, there isn’t a chance in hell we’ll see a recovery in construction for the ARRA construction.

    Alex M. Reply:

    I didn’t vote for 90% of the benefit. I voted for 100%.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    You voted for a $9.95 billion bond. If you thought that would pay for 100%, you’re an idiot.

    tony d. Reply:

    You’re an idiot for even suggesting he thought that! A drunk one at that.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    The key sticking point is whether the Authority must get environmental clearance for a much more expensive project, even if they never really think they would need it.

    Never really think they would need it?!?!?!?!?!? That’s a really leading statement…. For initial construction the Authority may not need quadruple tracking, but they will ultimately have to do it to reach the level of service contemplated by the AB 3034. No environmental clearance just ensures that the CalTrain ROW would be abandoned in PAMPA for Altamont….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The costs of throttling high speed rail will be far greater than the cost of building four tracks.

    The problem here is Simitian’s demand that four tracks never be built. That is totally unacceptable. We should not screw and limit transportation for the next 90 years just because a small group of people in 2011 threw a tantrum about four tracks.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    Give me a break. If the two track HSR is so successful that an additional two tracks are needed, engineers and planners will eventually come up with a plan that the politicians will accept. If that means buying up properties, it could happen too. By that time the community would’ve already seen the benefits of HSR and there would be few doubts (people don’t doubt as much about BART or light rail extensions).

    Also, whatever environmental clearance you get today on a 4 track project isn’t going to be valid 10-20 years from now, if not later.

    Freeway builders back then built narrower freeways but eventually got widened as well, and how you want me to believe that things don’t work that way???

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Andy, BayRail Alliance (formerly Peninsula Rail 2000) has wanted fully electrified, quad-tracked, and grade separated Caltrain for over 20 years. Now we have the opportunity, as a region and state, to do that, so we why are you joining the voices that are screaming no?

    Has BayRail now denounced fast, frequent, local and express rail service? Have you abandoned grade separations because horn noise, traffic congestion are good, and the lives of a few handful of teens a year aren’t worth cost? No aerials/berms and no right-of-way takes, plus cheaper = no grade separations = horns, congestion, & more suicides & accidents. That is the Simitian plan.

    Why this change of heart? Please enlighten us.

    Clem Reply:

    I can’t speak for Andy, but I think I know where this is going. Pumping a huge amount of traffic through two-track bottlenecks requires matching the average speed of trains. Speed differentials cause trains to catch up to each other and kill the hourly track capacity, so you want to minimize them to the extent possible. Since HSR by its very nature requires very high average speeds (they want something in the range of 90 – 100 mph, will probably get about 60 mph) the result is that local commuter service must be discontinued (local service runs at 30 mph). BayRail Alliance has never advocated quad-tracking of the corridor. BayRail Alliance has always advocated modern, cost-effective LOCAL commuter service, exactly of the sort that will be threatened if HSR is allowed to dominate and dictate the peninsula service pattern.

    Peninsula residents are rightly asking what’s in it for them. If you don’t give them frequent, modern peak-hour local service as part of this phased implementation deal, then you haven’t come up with a good answer to their question.

    It’s all about balance and mixed, integrated operations–something the HSR purists know nothing and care nothing about.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    HSR purists? Really?

    The only thing I insist upon is that the system be built as intended and as voters approved. We need fast, frequent service from SF to LA at 2:40. I’m wide open as to how that looks in practice on the Peninsula. I have strongly supported preserving local commuter service as well.

    But Caltrain appears to have decided, along with some local electeds, that it’s too much trouble to coordinate with HSR. True, CHSRA’s outreach hadn’t been great, but it has been improving significantly. But Caltrain, facing a serious crisis, decided to throw HSR under the bus in order to win the love of the local electeds and to ensure the NIMBYs didn’t turn on them too.

    I’ve always been open to balance and mixed, integrated operations. Always. It is the NIMBYs who are not, and now Simitian has thrown his lot in with them. No good can come of that, because our side – the pro-HSR side – will never, ever accept anything that throttles the future capacity of the project.

    Clem Reply:

    The pro-HSR side is expending entirely too much energy defending a level of capacity (both in terms of trains per hour and in terms of total travel time) that is unrealistic and results in massive costs and impacts that are completely avoidable.

    You know very well that I count myself as a high-speed rail supporter. That said, high-speed rail done right is NOT 12 high-speed trains per hour in each direction flashing through the peninsula at 125 mph doing SJ – SF in 30 minutes flat. That will never happen–whether they build for it or not!!

    If those requirements are not compromised and made more realistic (as in, consistent with practices in the rest of the world) then the local opposition will only harden, something that I don’t believe is in the interests of the statewide project. This is no time to shoot the moon.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    5 minute headways are not an average of 12tph, and describing 5 minute headways as if they are is misleading.

    There is nothing wrong with a preliminary system which allows substantially less ~ there is quite a lot right with that, since it allows the expensive capital investment in the first parts of the HSR corridor to be completed to start paying their way sooner, without waiting for the entire corridor to be built to spec.

    Either California’s economy collapses under the pressures of the series of oil prices shocks in the decade ahead or it doesn’t. No point planning assuming catastrophe is inevitable, so assume it doesn’t. 2tph or 4tph with inflexible scheduling will by 2025 be a constraint on the ability to tap the full revenue generating potential of the corridor.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    All this grinding of teeth about what’s going to be built… the real answer of what’s going to be built goes straight to the bottom line.. the greenback. And there isn’t a whole lot of that..So the authority and CalTrain will build and fight for what ever they can get their hands on and thats what high speed andCalTrain is going to look like for many years and there certainly is not $ billions available to be spent on the peninsula..

    Andy Chow Reply:

    My issue is not the vision but HOW to get there. So far the vision laid out by HSRA does not have a path (a very tough path at best). If there’s no realistic path (waiting for another 15-20 year isn’t an option), then it is a distraction. I’ve heard people saying that we can’t do this or that on Caltrain to improve service because “someday” HSR is going to tear everything down and anything we spend on Caltrain would be a waste.

    You and I’ve heard some people saying BART should replace Caltrain or stuff like that. That’s a distraction too. They don’t want to see any significant improvements because “someday” BART is going to tear down everything.

    What I support is a realistic path. Some of the issues, especially grade separations, needs to be analyzed and implemented on a local basis. Over the years Caltrain has done good work to engage with the local communities on that. HSRA has done just the opposite by coming in with a “mandate” and start telling the local communities.

    Engaging and working with the communities will take a long time, especially considering the funding we can realistically expect (just look at other rail projects). If we can incrementally improve Caltrain and phase in HSR, we can demonstrate early success so we can fight to complete the vision one piece at a time.

    I’ve never said no to any of the non-underground alignment scenarios (except replacing the existing berm in San Carlos/Belmont with a structure, which I don’t think it is necessary nor justified). What I prefer to see is to de-couple the grade separations, track addition, and electrification/signal improvements and implement them incrementally. There are plenty of grade separations that can be done cheaply and quickly. Electrification will also benefit Caltrain and allow HSR to operates even if we can’t get everything else done. People have doubts today about Caltrain/HSR, but there would be fewer doubts in the future if they can take improved Caltrain/HSR service even if we don’t have everything else done. If people have fewer doubts, we can get the rest of the improvements done more quickly.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I heartily agree get something up and running.. people will see what It can do and it’s not some monster.. that will have more consensus for additional tracking if warranted.. I like your example of the BART and the ability of that system to get taxes passed even at 66 2/3 vote level shows that people this .. all the naysayers and BART haters aside people still want the system.. high-speed rail can also create that kind of loyalty once it’s up and running and people see what it can do

    Andy Chow Reply:

    Of course BART also has a record of having under-performing rail extensions. Some people buy BART because they see how BART performs in the busiest part of the system. However that popularity will will decline as the ridership gain is less than expected and the operating deficits start mounting.

    That’s why I don’t support overbuilding anything. Once you overbuild and ridership come less than expected, it will hamper future expansion of that systems, and possibly other forms of transit. As for the 4 track vision, you got of people who for whatever reason don’t think it is necessary, on top of the impacts. I am not against total 4-tracks per se but it should be phased given demonstrated demand.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But it would be irresponsible to wait until the demand is demonstrated to start the EIR process ~ and that irresponsibility is precisely what Smitian seems to be proposing here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ….well the civil engineers at the PRR figured that the tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersye would be adequate through 1960 or so. The short story is that in the late 70s they realized that new railroad tunnels would be a good idea. They were going to start digging them this year. But they won’t. So new tunnels, at best, won’t open until 2025 or later. 40, 50 years after planners started to predict that they would be needed. They have had the demand for them for 15 years.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    But it would be irresponsible to wait until the demand is demonstrated to start the EIR process

    On the contrary — it would be irresponsible to waste time and money on a study that would then sit on a shelf for several decades. By time demand reaches breaking point, a 35-year-old study would be hopelessly out of date, and easily challenged in court.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    See above. NJTransit suddenly needed more capacity than was available months after the Midotwn Direct service opened instead of a decade after it opened. If you wait until demand is at capacity you are a decade or two too late.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    I’m sorry, were we talking about the Peninsula or Manhattan? You seem to have the two confused.

    BTW, too many here have the mindset that added capacity means all trains still have to terminate at the TBT. The Bay Area is multipolar, with other destinations besides SF. Like the East Bay, which has more population than either SF or South Bay. Building for 12tph to TBT is a lot more expensive compared to running some trains to Oakland.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not two track HSR under discussion, its two track Caltrain with a capacity to support from two to four HSR at Caltrain Express speeds.

    Smitian is objecting to far more than proceeding to build a four track system in the Pensinula if there is not demonstrated demand to justify the construction ~ he is objecting to proceeding through the planning process to be able to build it if the demand justifies the construction.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    @ Elizabeth

    So I take it from your silence Elizabeth you are refusing to ever show your work on the $65 billion cost estimate. Are we just supposed to trust your numbers without ANY supporting documentation shows how you turned the Authority $43 billion into $65 billion?

    Except a link to the ARRA applications, as if those somehow show your assumptions and calculations, you have not provided ANY documentation, nor been transparent at all in how you came to that number.


    BruceMcF Reply:

    All I get from this is that you got Smitian’s back, for whatever reason.

    The point of value engineering to get a preliminary service up and running is to be able to afford to finish the full fledged corridor. Its not just 2:40, its 5 minute headways on the HSR corridor: two HSR trains per hour is not 5 minute headways, and so if its the FINAL configuration, it has to be done without Prop1a bond funding.

    So, sure, Smitian, find another source of funds for your 2tph per plan, and go ahead if you want, but CAHSR has to plan for a TBT terminus to a HSR corridor to plan to finish Stage 1, and a TBT terminus to an HSR corridor has 5 minute HSR headways from LA-Union to the Transbay Terminal.

    Which, Elizabeth, is precisely the kind of detail you would be delving into to criticize the CHSRA … but oddly, Smitian proposed to flout Prop1a(2008) and you’re down with it.

    One wonders whether Clowns Aiming At Rail’s Destruction is the accurate spelling out of the acronym after all ~ very little that CAARD has done in the past year has contradicted it.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    CAHSR has to plan for 5 minute HSR headways from LA-Union to the Transbay Terminal.

    And that plan calls for the invention of a quantum superposition device, allowing multiple trains to occupy the same platform at once. (Now you know why the TBT is so expensive!)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    NJTransit was about to build a 6 platform stub end terminal, of a radically different design, until recently. With a straight face they proposed running 26 trains an hour into it. No one laughed.

    peninsula Reply:

    (c) Achievable operating headway(time between successive trains)shall
    be five minutes or less.

    That’s precisely what Prop 1A requires with regard to headway. Nothing more. Key word: Achievable. What Simitian proposes is that a 5 minute time between successive trains be achievable (not operating at all times, half times, or specifically between hours of 7:00am and 8:am, (or any other parameters you may want to tack on) but ACHIEVABLE.)

    A 5 minute time between successive trains is achievable with two trains. Its the time between two trains. Period. (And if it can be achieved between the hour of 2am and 3am, it passes 1A.)

    Why don’t you show us where Prop 1A says the system shall operate at all times at 5 minute headway. If you don’t like the wording of Prop 1A, maybe you should talk to your headchearleader Kathleen ‘Snookie’ Galgiani, Maybe she can sue to get it repealed for you.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 21:14

    In other news, the April 29th edition of NARP’s “Hotline News” has some California items:

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Also in other news..Cheveron posted a 6.2 BILLION dollar 2Q profit..nice and the US is “broke” per the “Reason ” is maby looking for a nice gift donation

  6. peninsula
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 22:33

    Lets see… She accuses Simitian outrite of attempting to syphon HSR funds for Caltrain improvements.. CHSRA INSISTS ADAMANTLY (along with all of Robert’s minions here) that CHSR will – without question – run through Caltrain row – so Caltrain row is getting rebuilt with HSR funds – no matter what – because CHSRA says so – NOT because Siimitian has anything to do with that.

    And so when Simitian suggests a way of keeping the remodel smaller – SAVING BILLIONS to the project and to the state of california, while still honoring the Prop 1A law, freeing up BILLIONS that could go elsewhere – like to her own CV backyard – that’s somehow Simitian trying to “rob” HSR. Wow. Twisted.

    I wonder what it is exactly she thinks CHSRA is ENTITLED to that they’re being robbed of? Any amount of land grab they well please? As much slothful sucking up of real estate along the Peninsula as their greedy little bellies can hold? Like a great big smorgasboard? Unlimited access for her redevelopment buddies and all you can eat building projects for her union buddies? She’s got a really interesting perspective on who’s getting ROBBED by WHOM.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If Smitian proposed that, it must have been previously. Not having the planning and EIR finished in the event that demand justifies the work will cost California billions in lost transport benefit, since if the demand does justify the work, that is billions of dollars worth of demand when its been capitalized.

    You’ve turned the “run on Caltrain” upside down. If there is no plan with approved EIR detailing how the final, 5 minute headway, TBT/LA-Union in 2:40 corridor, then no Prop1a(2008) bond funds can be spent on building the preliminary system in the Caltrain corridor. Smitian’s proposal of “preliminary phase forever” implies that any effort to release bonds to fund the preliminary phase works, to save Caltrain from collapse, would be subject to challenge.

  7. William
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 03:07

    I am okay with the phased approach of SF-SJ CAHSR as long as it doesn’t preclude the completion of a build-out, 4-track right-of-way as planned by CAHSRA. The problem with Simitian’s proposal is that he suggest a 2-track infrastructure is enough forever, without leaving rooms for the second pair of tracks to be added later.

    CAHSR had always plan to share their tracks with Caltrain, and that’s one point Caltrain insists as a condition of using its right-of-way. The problem they need to solve now is both systems need to be integrated as much as possible, i.e. platform height, station design, etc…

    I think CAHSR and Caltrain should be run and owned by the same government owned company, or grant CAHSR a full voting seat in the PCJPB, and assign a share of fund CAHSR needs to provide to Caltrain. This may promote these two agencies to work together.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Totally agreed. This is a sensible comment. Phasing is fine, so long as it does not preclude future expansion. NIMBYism is a temporary condition on the Peninsula. By 2020, when property values have crashed due to prolonged recession and the high prices of oil, the public will clamor for expanded rail and nobody will care anymore what a few obstructionists have to say.

  8. rafael
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 03:44

    FYI –

    in principle, it would actually be possible to operate *up to* 8tph Caltrain plus *up to* 8tph HSR each way during Caltrain’s peak periods on essentially two tracks in the SF peninsula, subject to the following constraints:

    a) corridor operations based an integrated timetable based on a *minimum* time separation of 2.5 minutes and alternating Caltrain and HSR departures from SF and SJ, respectively

    b) a single signaling system (preferably ETCS-based)

    c) a common platform height and car body width for both services

    d) Caltrain and HSR operations *both* based on proof-of-purchase ticketing

    e) HSR fares based on a flat amount plus a variable amount based on total distance traveled

    f) full-length (400m) dead straight platforms at the following *Caltrain* stations: Millbrae/SFO, San Mateo, Hillsdale, RWC, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara/SJC

    g) agreement that these station *not* count toward the 24 HSR station limit in AB3034

    h) new bypass tracks at Hillsdale and RWC stations

    i) a general speed limit of 90mph during *peak periods only*

    j) high acceleration Caltrain rolling stock

    k) peak period Caltrain service featuring *multiple* service patterns: SF, SJ, a stop at a designated overtake location for the subsequent HSR train (either Hillsdale or RWC) plus exactly three (3) intermediate stops on either side of it (total 9 stops), with total SF-SJ travel time of about 60 minutes

    l) peak period HSR service featuring *multiple* service patterns: SF, SJ, *no* stop at the designated overtake location (either Hillsdale or RWC) plus exactly one (1) intermediate stop on either side of it (total 4 stops), with total SF-SJ travel time of about 50 minutes

    m) some form of reliable, for-fee broadband internet access for both Caltrain and HSR customers to mitigate impact of constraints (k) and (l) on ridership

    n) off-peak speed limit of 125mph and operation of some small number of express HSR trains each hour (if there is real-world demand). Caltrain locals would typically be overtaken by multiple HSR trains at different stations (e.g. at the existing bypass locations Bayshore and Lawrence)

    o) additional constraints to protect the tracks against excessive maintenance overheads due to freight traffic, if any

    p) financial mitigation for UPRR and its SF peninsula customers for constraints (o)

    – adequate capacity for both services at much reduced infrastructure cost
    – multiple HSR train per hour each way at multiple SF peninsula stations (i.e. reduced traffic and parking impacts, increased real estate values in additional communities)
    – reduced land use (i.e. avoiding eminent domain takings)

    – some *tertiary city pairs* not served by Caltrain during peak periods (at least not with acceptable same-platform transfer times)
    – *minimum* peak-period SF-LA travel time of 3 hours even
    – systemwide constraints on technology and planning for both services
    – requirement maintain and operate both infrastructure and trains with Swiss levels of precision
    – multiple stop patterns will confuse some passengers (though there will be an app for that)

    Biggest obstacles:
    – bad faith between Caltrain, CHSRA and TJPA planners
    – self-interested resistance from Parsons Brinkerhoff et al. plus CBOSS consultants
    – regulatory red tape from FRA and CPUC on UPRR’s behalf
    – deadlines on federal HSR grants already awarded
    – continuing NIMBY, oil industry and GOP opposition to the very concept of electric HSR

    morris brown Reply:


    Welcome back after quite an absence. So refreshing to have a response with some real meat and without 4 letter profanities.

    Simitian’s proposal used the vague term “upgraded” CalTrain tracks (2 tracks only was fundamental)., and must live within the existing CalTrain ROW. Does your model, which seems to have about 4 times the “through put” for HSR live within that constraint? Certainly vanArk has never even come close to admitting that such a model can work, and continues to say “HSR needs it own set of tracks”.

    Finally, those pushing Altamont with the possibility of “split traffic between SF and SJ would argue, your model would work much better in that context.

    Welcome back — please stay around.

    Owen Evans Reply:

    Rafael mentions new passing tracks at Hillsdale and Redwood City so that would seem to violate the “2 tracks only” issue. However, I can’t imagine there’s any way to deliver a satisfactory HSR service on the caltrain tracks without adding at least a few three- and four- track segments to allow passing.

    This also sidesteps the issue of grade separation. Even a two-track solution would still have to be grade separated to get trains over 110mph per FRA rules (and common-sense safety.) Though a two-track grade separation could be built with fewer retaining walls there’s no guaranteeing that this would be satisfactory to PAMPA either.

    When Simitian talks about “upgraded” Caltrain tracks, is he talking about the existing tracks, exactly as they are, plus electrification and NOTHING ELSE? Or is he open to full grade separation with some passing tracks? I see what you mean by vague.

    Nadia Reply:

    Eshoo/Simitian/Gordon have made it clear that if cities are amenable, and they WANT either an aerial or four tracks – then the authority can work with them. However, in places where that is NOT acceptable, the authority must work with the communities to find a more balanced solution – and if that means no aerials and only 2 tracks in the toughest spot – they supports that.

    @Raphael – welcome back! With quad tracking in the certain places where it fits (or where it would not impact homes) – what do you think is an achievable schedule?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Which communities? HSR supporters are systematically excluded from these discussions. Simitian is now responding only to the NIMBYs, who do not speak for their communities – whose values and goals are not shared by their communities.

    So let’s be honest here. You are saying the Authority should work with the NIMBYs. That’s a reasonable thing to ask. But at least use the proper terms here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    what do you think is an achievable schedule?

    One that doesn’t require the use of Star Trek warp drives so that two trains can be in the same place at the same time? Or less snarky: At what service level does the two track section in PAMPA lose rush hour service because you can’t stop trains on the two track section?

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Unfortunately, the Eshoo/Simitian/Gordon statement said NO viaducts at all. It would be good if they could at least clarify that they mean in only controversial areas. For example, SJ is actively purusing an elevated option (though they are looking at subway for now to satisfy some loud folks in the downtown). They are likely to for elevated. The statement is way too inflexible, especially in terms of locking in a design forever. As for the two track versus four track, engineers should be determining what is feasible to operate a functional and profitable HSR system (and Caltrain system), not politicians. Really, these folks have no clue about the engineering requirements.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ….engineering requirements….

    Hickory striped overalls and cap? Good relationship with the fireman and conductor?….

    VBobier Reply:

    Wrong type of Engineer.

    Clem Reply:

    Really, these folks have no clue about the engineering requirements.

    Nor do the CIVIL engineers who are calling all the shots. They’re really good at designing the rebar configuration for an outrigger bent, but when it comes to figuring out train service patterns there’s nobody home.

    Service planning drives infrastructure.
    Service planning drives infrastructure.
    Service planning drives infrastructure.
    Repeat 1,000 times, and clear the room of civil engineers.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Even you have to admit the politicians plan is not sufficient to run an expanded Caltrain system and a fully functional HSR. It is really upseting that we always have to fall in to these either/or patterns (i.e. caltrain advocates are ready to throw HSR under the bus). I’ll repeat again, Caltrain does not get improved and it continues to languish without HSR money. Take your pick, shitty Caltrain service without HSR, or great caltrain service along with HSR service. If Simitian et al fuck with the project enough and the feds throw their hand up and zero out the HSR project, you can forget about Caltrain improvements beyond minor things for the next generation. And that is bad for the residents of the Peninsula as well even though they continue to fail to see that the current situation is unacceptable.

    Clem Reply:

    Simitian isn’t “fucking” with the project. He is trying to come up with a reasonable compromise for the peninsula, something that Galgiani et al. don’t understand. To them, Caltrain is nothing more than the terminally ill title-holder of 700 prime acres of rail corridor real estate.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    I believed he was constructive last week. Now I don’t. He acted like a bully at the hearing and it was offensive (I was there btw). He strongly and continually emphasized a cost effective, scaled-back project that once built, can never be upgraded again. His analysis of how we could meet the letter of the law by running one HSR train at full speed really infuriated me and I reminded him at public comment that the intent of the voters is to have fast trains at all hours. This stance translates as primarily a two-track system (and probably not fully grade separated), hence Gagiani’s perception that this is really a Caltrain project using HSR funds. I think it is a fair assessment. Without four tracks on a large portion of the corridor, it will not work well. Simitian can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, without grade separation the Authority will not be able to meet the 30 minute Prop 1a requirement between SF-SJ. Now mabye he is taking a hard line as a negotiating tactic, but whatever he is up to, I have to take as a very serious threat to the viability of the project. CA4HSR is open to creative solutions, and have even supported the idea of an initial phase that limits construction. We were on the cusp of reaching out to him to look for commonground. But then Thursdays bully session happened and now we feel the viability of the project is at stake. Simitian, by saying this HAS TO BE the only phase, crossed the line into being a bully rather than somone who is looking for reasonable compromise. I hope his final position become more reasonable.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    He acted like a bully at the hearing and it was offensive

    Oh dearie dearie me! Poor lad!

    YesonHSR Reply:

    He was politely rude to put it old-fashioned arm-twisting job.. he is the one thats neesds to come up with the facts and figures that this will work for the entire state.. and he needs to apologize for being so arrogant at that meeting.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    @Daniel —
    Simitian’s been in office since 2004 and you’re only now “on the cusp of reaching out to him to look for commonground?” Ummmm…..

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    @Arthur –
    I was talking specifically about the Eshoo/Simitian/Gordon proposal. In fact, we have had discussions with his office at various points.

    VBobier Reply:

    Definitely not politicians. Yeah, I agree that these folks have no clue about the engineering requirements.

    rafael Reply:

    Previously, I had suggested a version of this idea with a number of bypass sections, each containing at least 2 Caltrain stations (cp. my post “Caltrain Firebird”). It was severely criticized because it would have required termination of peak-time service at several tertiary Caltrain stops.

    At the top of this sub-thread, I sketched a solution scenario that would retain peak-time Caltrain service at every station between SF TTC and SJ Diridon. It is impossible to interleave two services with different end-to-end travel times on a dual track mainline without any overtake locations. However, the existing ones at Lawrence and Bayshore are too far from the center of the line (roughly, San Carlos) to permit high aggregate throughput capacity. For daytime passenger service, you want a train to stop at stations only. However, it makes no sense for Caltrain to overserve a single mid-line overtake station, so I suggested two based on ridership statistics. At maximum capacity, both Hillsdale and RWC would be served by 4 Caltrains per hour each way during peak periods. HSR trains overtaking at Hillsdale may or may not stop in RWC and vice versa.

    Everywhere else, a dual track mainline with two side or one island platform is sufficient *as far as the timetable mechanics are concerned*. In practice, there’s more to it than that: distributing boarding/alighting along the length of the trains, managing pedestrian flow on the platforms and inside the cars, providing sufficient platform width to accommodate passengers waiting to board and of course, providing extra platform width to safely let some trains run through stations at speeds of 90+ mph. All of these additional issues are solvable, though.

    So yes, there would be a little bit of quad tracking at two mid-line stations but not in Atherton-Menlo Park-Palo Alto. However, the political upside of that would be just a fringe benefit. The real value lies in maintaining or improving Caltrain service for most peninsula communities, offering a number of them direct access to statewide HSR service without massive new parking structures and above all, cutting overall construction cost.

    You’d still need full grade separation to meet the 2h 40m SF-LA line haul time requirement in AB3034 during off-peak hours. However, making do with a dual track mainline means that planners for the individual projects would have a little more room to play with. In particular, some secondary roads could be grade separated using single lane offset underpasses (i.e. tracks at grade). For each travel direction, these feature a 90 degree right turn at the tracks, a ramp parallel to the tracks to a hairpin turn under them, followed by a ramp back up and another 90 degree right turn. Total width of two rail tracks plus two traffic lanes plus retaining walls and emergency access: ~60 feet. In almost all locations in the SF peninsula (e.g. Churchill Ave in Palo Alto), PCJPB already owns enough land to permit this concept or a variation on it.

    jim Reply:

    to meet the 2h 40m SF-LA line haul time requirement in AB3034 during off-peak hours

    But any operator wishing to run a non-stop LA-SF service would want to do so during peak hours: leave one terminus between 6AM and 6:30AM, say, and arrive at the other between 8:30AM and 9AM. Similarly during the evening peak. There’s no point (except for complying with the letter of the law) to run a non-stop train at hours when it won’t attract additional ridership.

    rafael Reply:

    Yeah, but that whole “complying with the letter of the law” thing is sort of critical for getting this project fully funded. IF – big if – that happens, the service will anyhow evolve to meet real-world demand. Personally, I’m not convinced business – let alone leisure – travelers will stay away in droves just because SF-LA takes 20 minutes longer during peak periods.

    For one thing, Silicon Valley is in the South Bay, so travelers boarding there would only suffer a fraction of that. For another, door-to-door travel times would actually be lower for many peninsula residents, so some of the SF boardings lost would be compensated for. The balance might well be mitigated by implementing reliable broadband internet access for the entire route, in spite of any surcharge due.

    Note that there might well be some demand for lunchtime express HSR service. Just look at e.g. the Southwest schedules for the Bay Area-LA basin market: demand for medium-distance travel evidently isn’t all that concentrated in morning and evening peak periods. The phenomenon is much more pronounced for commuter traffic.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I agree Rafael that this two hour and 40 minute travel requirement is a red herring.. a three-hour Los Angeles to San Francisco run will more than be acceptable and fully profitable with high ridership… this is the United States to travel between two cities in three hours 400 miles apart by trains will be like science fiction come true and it will be extremely popular so to save 3 or $4 billion on the peninsula and they can do the proposal.. fine go for it but I dont like the way it’s being locked in as this will be set in stone forever and the infrastructure requirements need never change.

    joe Reply:

    “Yeah, but that whole “complying with the letter of the law” thing is sort of critical for getting this project fully funded.”

    The law also defines the intent of the system which is to compete with and reduce airline traffic between these cities – the airlines concur.

    “Personally, I’m not convinced business – let alone leisure – travelers will stay away in droves just because SF-LA takes 20 minutes longer during peak periods.”

    Really? Adding 20 minutes to get from SJ to SF during peak periods would diminish the value of the final leg and put SF at a competitive disadvantage. Why establish corporate HQ in SF offices when SJ is far closer to LA in terms of clock time.

    It’s really easy to compromise when you negotiate away other people’s assets and interests in the name of being reasonable.

    Clem Reply:

    Joe, peak-hour local commuter service will not be negotiated away, and that is exactly what is implied by 30-minute SJ-SF run times during the peak on a system that has any less than four tracks. If there is going to be a less-than-four-track compromise, part of it will necessarily be longer SF-SJ run times. That will involve compromise and negotiation– and it’s really easy to compromise when you negotiate away any semblance of good local rail service in the name of being reasonable.

    Recall that even by the CHSRA’s inflated ridership estimates, peninsula commuters whose trip both originates and terminates between SF and SJ will always outnumber HSR passengers.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A more realistic Transbay-Diridon Intergalactic run time, including two intermediate stops, is under 45 scheduled (scheduled, not unachievable unrealistic PR stunt) minutes. That’s perfectly acceptable from any number of perspectives.

    Circa 26 minutes, at exactly the same speed as above, is an even better number from every possible perspective: that’s conservatively the time, including two stops, between the service-clogging appearance of a HS train from the Altamont line onto the Caltrain corridor and its termination at Transbay. Less time and distance gumming things up is better for everybody, without exception.

    30 minutes SF-SJ was and is never going to happen. It’s both unfeasible and undesirable, from all of service planning, urban environmental, and economic points of view. Consider it rather in the the context of a systematic and outright fraudulent plan of over-promising, over-building, over-inflating for no valid public policy reason, in a way that is the entire raison d’être of some organizations.

    joe Reply:

    The *additional* travel time between SJ and SF is very important to SF interests.

    The Cities are going to compete for business travelers and corporate offices. Adding 15-20 more minutes (30 minute round trip) maybe be perfectly acceptable to you both, it’s got to be acceptable to SF – what are they getting for that compromise and compromise with whom?

    So far the negotiation has not involved that key stakeholder – The City. When it has, opposition has melted.

    If they can flood a scenic valley in the Sierras for water, they may muster the political will for four tracks along the low-rent corridor of the Peninsula.

    I fully expect the HSR compromise to involve more than the HSR factors. I will involve federal funding and state funding for current and future projects and jobs.

    The HSR opposition is political so the compromise will be political. A fair balance for a few rail front homes vs the State will need to be proportional – I say it will start with a free mural on the sound wall.

    Let’s see how the Chronicle covers HSR and Peninsula NIMBYs. I bet a lot less favorable than the San Mateo newspaper.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    If I were San Francisco, I would be much more concerned that the Transbay Terminal is not included in the first phase (also known as the only phase likely to happen).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Dear Joe,

    If mythical “San Francisco interests” were rational capitalist brave titans of industry and were really concerned about performance of the rail transportation corridor heading south out of their imperial city, they’d care first and most about the quality and service of the commuter trains that deliver their serfs to them. There are always going to be twice as many people on those as on the flight level zero airline surrogate trains.

    The second thing they’d care about is finessing the politics in the hinterlands south of the City and County of San Francisco border (turns out they can’t be ignored! Or have their towns disappear a dam reservoir even. Imagine that!) so that the train corridor does in fact get improved, rather than shat upon, with full justification, by the little people. “Everything for me and worse than nothing for you” doesn’t have the best track record as a negotiating tactic.

    Not that considering engineering reality or serving the needs of human beings, or providing a balanced and attractive service, or simple economics will ever intrude into the sloganeering (NIMBY! Obstructionist! Build baby build!) of choo choo fan boys.

    Clem Reply:

    Joe, the same business interests depend on local peninsula rail service delivering workers to their workplaces– not just for the occasional business meeting, but every day, day in, day out, morning and evening. San Francisco interests aren’t dumb; they know it will take a carefully crafted balance of local and long-distance services to best serve residents and businesses.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It is impossible to interleave two services with different end-to-end travel times on a dual track mainline without any overtake locations.

    It sure is. The express HSR train leaves on the hour and the local leaves as soon as possible after it’. It takes the express a half hour to get to the other terminal and the local gets there in less than an hour. You can’t run three trains though. I suspect two trains an hour is not what you had in mind. We don’t know what you have in mind because we haven’t seen a schedule.

    Clem Reply:

    We don’t know what you have in mind because we haven’t seen a schedule.

    Exactly right. Rafael, it’s time to show us a timetable, otherwise we’ll have no other choice but to assume you’re blowing smoke.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Have you asked VirginRail and SNCF what they would be willing to bid for a franchise operating under those constraints? Payments to Caltrain for lost capacity is an operating cost, and its coming out of the franchisee’s profit, if there’s a franchise system.

    joe Reply:

    l) peak period HSR service featuring *multiple* service patterns: SF, SJ, *no* stop at the designated overtake location (either Hillsdale or RWC) plus exactly one (1) intermediate stop on either side of it (total 4 stops), with total SF-SJ travel time of about 50 minutes

    Van Arck’s comments indicated a 30 Minute travel time is needed between SF and SJ to meet total SF to LA trip requirement. It would be nice if the rest of CA just gave the peninsula all of the travel time slack but that’s irresponsible.

    Peak period is also peak demand so this compromise is going to slow HSR, reduce competitiveness with alternativ forms of transportation. It puts SF bound traffic at a disadvantage.

    rafael Reply:

    There is actually no legal requirement that SF-LA be feasible in 2h 40m during peak periods, just that it be possible at all. Running some number of express HSR trains off peak and/or on weekends would technically satisfy the law. In this case, CHSRA and Parsons Brinkerhoff are merely interpreting AB3034 in a way that suits their respective interests.

    joe Reply:

    No legal requirement at all. And no legal requirement to accept less either.

    it is a big deal to add 40 minutes to a peak hour round trip – not for you – but for people choosing between HSR and air travel. For those impacted in SF – the added 40 minute tax is worth asking them to concur with your awesome compromise.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, but not having the 2:40 for morning arrival in advance of 9am Start of Business is financially idiotic. The morning arrival is when the express trip is most valuable.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    People who need to get to work by 9am are mainly commuters, not long-haul intercity business travelers. Sunday evening and Friday afternoon is actually the most valuable time slot for SF-LA.

    Clem Reply:

    You seem to have thought about this in sufficient detail to produce a timetable. Let’s see it! Because if the proof is in the pudding, then your timetable is the pudding. What you have provided is only a description.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    in principle, it would actually be possible to operate *up to* 8tph Caltrain plus *up to* 8tph HSR each way

    No it isn’t. It’s not feasible (regardless of principles), to turn that number of trains in San Francisco.

    And the “in principle” is crazy, because it’s more than twice the traffic the corridor will ever support.

    a) corridor operations based an integrated timetable
    b) a single signaling system (preferably ETCS-based)
    c) a common platform height and car body width for both services

    Well there’s a shock. Somebody please alert The World’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, who all just so happen to work for CHSRA and PCJPB, but who are all utterly ignorant of all of the above.

    d) Caltrain and HSR operations *both* based on proof-of-purchase ticketing

    100% desirable, but 100% irrelevant.

    e) HSR fares based on a flat amount plus a variable amount based on total distance traveled

    100% irrelevant.
    f) full-length (400m) dead straight platforms
    Dead straight is neither feasible nor desirable, driving up costs and impacts for no technical or operational reasons.

    at the following *Caltrain* stations: Millbrae/SFO, San Mateo, Hillsdale, RWC, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara/SJC

    Maybe, maybe not.
    400m regional trains are unlikely to operate any time soon, if ever. (150m, perhaps doubled to 300m, is a more useful and realistic Caltrain/regional train length. (That permits capacity- and flexibility-improving double-berthing at 400m HS platform tracks that have a mid-platform scissors crossover.)
    Starting out with less-overbuilt stations (always passively providing the possibility of future expansion) is better for everybody.

    h) new bypass tracks at Hillsdale and RWC stations

    Adequate only for Caltrain, and not adequate for reliable operations. You need to think harder.

    i) a general speed limit of 90mph during *peak periods only*

    Correct! At all times of day. 200kmh on the peninsula at any time is neither feasible nor desirable.
    Train arrival times and service patterns that vary oddly with the time of day are not desirable or useful.

    j) high acceleration Caltrain rolling stock

    More rocket science.

    k) peak period Caltrain service featuring *multiple* service patterns: …

    Unnecessary and more or less undesirable.

    l) peak period HSR service featuring *multiple* service patterns: …

    Nutty and unnecessary.

    m) some form of reliable, for-fee broadband internet access for both Caltrain and HSR customers to mitigate impact of constraints (k) and (l) on ridership


    n) off-peak speed limit of 125mph and operation of some small number of express HSR trains each hour (if there is real-world demand). Caltrain locals would typically be overtaken by multiple HSR trains at different stations (e.g. at the existing bypass locations Bayshore and Lawrence)

    Neither feasible nor desirable.

    o) additional constraints to protect the tracks against excessive maintenance overheads due to freight traffic, if any
    p) financial mitigation for UPRR and its SF peninsula customers for constraints (o)

    The only feasible or desirable freight solution is termination. Along with liquidation of all PCJPB consultants and employees.

    The non-rocket-science, zero innovation, lowest impact, most community benefitting, most realistic, and cheapest route to peninsula corridor rail operations has been been obvious and widely disseminated for years.

    Done. Solved.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Just to get this straight, the timetable that we’re talking about should be based on the following assumptions, right?:

    – 160 km/h top speed

    – 70 km/h top speed in and within 1.5 km of SF 4th and King

    – Regional trains lose 90 seconds from top speed for acceleration, deceleration, and dwell (a FLIRT loses about 25 seconds for acceleration according to YouTube videos of the speedometer; other regional trains are worse)

    – HSR trains lose 150 seconds from same (assume a constant 0.5 m/s^2 acceleration and deceleration, which is within the capability of anything with at least 22 kW/t, and 60 seconds of dwell; if you want an out-of-the-box N700, make it 120 seconds)

    – 300 mm cant + cant deficiency

    – San Bruno not fixed, but the other curves on Clem’s to-do list straightened to 160 km/h

    – ETCS enables 110-second headways at top speed

    – Turnouts require 10 seconds of additional schedule slack

    – Local trains stopping at overtake stations leave and rejoin the mainline tracks 20 seconds before and after stopping, at a speed of 75 km/h

    – 7% schedule slack on all trains

    Tell me it’s not a fantasy and I’ll work out a timetable with these parameters soon.

  9. Ben
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 06:48

    Robert– you have a lot of readers on this blog. Why don’t you recruit some good progressive candidates with a clear commitment to high speed rail to run in the state legislative races next year? With redistricting and the top-two primary system, this could be a real opportunity to elect people who won’t waiver in their support of high speed rail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m in active discussion with a lot of candidates for the state legislature in 2012 about HSR.

  10. Clem
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 09:37

    To Robert, Morris, and everyone at the polar extremes of the peninsula HSR debate: Simitian never said or implied that the blended system would stay on only two tracks.

    From the actual hearing audio posted by Morris, at a little before the 14:00 mark:

    Van Ark: Again, if you take two tracks, and you run a service on two tracks, we talk about a thing called headway. Headway is the safety…

    Simitian (interrupts): I apologize, but just to be clear: I don’t think you see the phrase ‘two tracks’ in the statement here.

    All that Simitian proposes is to stay within the existing ROW boundaries, which is not the same concept (however much some folks might want to conflate the two) as two tracks only. Within the existing ROW bounds there is plenty of space to build some fairly significant facilities to enable overtaking trains.

    Nobody with an ounce of technical sense is proposing to run both Caltrain and HSR on two tracks.

    morris brown Reply:

    Clem, I agree fully.

    The very vague term “upgraded” CalTrain tracks is the key. Just what does that mean? Certainly Simitian did mean to say, that whatever happens, you stay within the existing CalTrain ROW and no aerials.

    I would be very interested in your evaluation of what Rafael has written. I presume Rafael’s input was done with the aid of some fairly sophisticated modeling system, something I know nothing about.

    Clem Reply:

    I presume Rafael’s input was done with the aid of some fairly sophisticated modeling system

    I would presume that only after he’s shown us an actual timetable. This is NOT rocket science.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Do your worksheets support plugging in 8 trains an hour? At least we’d be able to look at the graphs and see all the places the overtakes would happen…. I’m sure ten trains an hour would be interesting. Ten an hour, at peak, between Caltrain and HSR is conceivable a few years after opening….

    Clem Reply:

    Yes. But it only supports two service patterns with the same top speed at this moment. Perhaps a more generic worksheet would be useful for people to understand intuitively what is and isn’t feasible.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Also, a 4Local, 2Ex tick tock implies capacity for 2HST/hr automatically in the open Express slots ~ but the platform overtake at RWC implies quite a long local dwell if there are two trains in the Express slot. A northbound overtake from a RWC HST platform through to a tailing point move after Hillsdale Caltrain would allow an Express HST skipping RWC trailing the local in to run through the HST platform and into the express overtake, while the All-HST-Stations behind stops at the HST station. That is a shorter dwell, and with the benefit of transfer both ways, has some benefit to offset the cost. It seems that HST and local moving out in parallel via overtake lines could see the HST in advance of the local by the Hillsdale overtake.

    Its still locked to the next overtake opportunity to the local being chased, but seems open to (arriving in sequence northbound to RWC):
    Express trailing EHST trailing local
    ASHST trailing EHST tailing local
    Express trailing EHST trailing local
    ASHST trailing EHST tailing local

    … which on my left hand and the thumb of my right seems 6HST/hr. At 2.5min headways, fast switches, common direction island platforms (even split height if needs must, 1 foot of rise at 10:1 is only 10 feet along the axis of a quite long platform on the HST side, and the transferring local passengers will already be on the HSR platform when the HST arrives), the local dwell is extended five minutes, minimum.

    So how much time do the locals gain in electrification, and if a coffee break at RWC is the cost, can they wear it?

    And as far as how it works southbound, I am not going to spend time on nutting it out if it doesn’t work northbound.

    If the dwell is spread over the local stations between RWC and Hillsdale, and

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I’ve seen the 2Ex & 4Local tick tock schedule, but I was under the impression it was a diesel schedule. What does electrification do to it?

    Eric M Reply:

    But it still comes down too, as it should, that all grade crossings should be eliminated along the peninsula. That is something the people against the project do not want: disruption.

    joe Reply:

    What do people living in the impacted cities think?

    I bet most residents WANT the at grade crossing removed so they can get around town easier. Most residents do not live near the tracks, will not be negatively impacted and would welcome the reduced congestion.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Ok I should have read ahead. I see you do see it is impossible to run HSR/Caltrain sufficiently on two tracks. Glad that is cleared up. But on the point about Simitian leaving it open for expansion of track, this is technically true. However, Simitian has also been pounding the drums of doing it cheaper with limited scope. His true intent is clear. It is going to be a primarily two track system, probably something like Caltrain’s 2004 plans for electrificication. Galgiani’s right, Caltrain has their fingerprints all over this proposal.

    Clem Reply:

    The bottom line is that HSR on the peninsula won’t be done as a big bang construction project.

    Phased implementation means picking the low-hanging fruit first, i.e. those targeted capital investments that result in the greatest measurable improvement in service (both HSR and local) as measured by some set of quantitative service metrics. Service Planning is about evaluating the bang that you get for the buck of each individual incremental improvement.

    There are some improvements currently proposed that have no marginal value to service, for anyone. Those should never be undertaken. Every cent spent on this corridor should be traceable to some resulting improvement in the quality of the service provided.

    Service planning drives infrastructure. Not the other way around.

    And yes, Caltrain has their fingerprints on this. You know, like, it’s only their corridor and stuff.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Then why does he refuse to allow the CHSRA to even study anything other than his own plan? We’re totally open to working with Simitian on finding a sensible phasing approach – but not if he says future expansion is out of the question.

    Clem Reply:

    “His own plan” does not exist. He says so himself. He has only provided guidelines, and we are yet to see what is or isn’t possible within those guidelines. What if there were a reasonable compromise solution that fits within the ROW, doesn’t involve lots of stilt-a-rail, and preserves reasonable local service? Until proven otherwise, it’s not reasonable to continue pursuing the CHSRA’s mandate-driven big bang approach, which rides on very simplistic assumptions sketched on the back of a napkin nearly a decade ago. (They’re in the statewide program EIR.)

  11. Jeni
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 10:32

    Clem, I’m glad we can finally see some middle ground in this comment thread. As a regular reader of this blog (albeit a rare commenter), I’m very disappointed at both the pro-HSR and anti-HSR folks. The pro-HSR folks (like Robert) are only lauding pro-HSR stances and constantly bashing the anti-HSR NIMBYs–nowhere do I see collaboration as a means of mitigation. Vice-versa for the anti-HSR NIMBYs. Why can’t you two work together?

    Pro-HSR folks know that there are NIMBYs in the vicinity of HSR tracks–you know that. In order to build a system, you will have to work with their concerns (Not trashing them and their respective state representatives). You have to; we already know that NIMBYs are more than ready to file suit against the project (which, if continued, is worse off for the taxpayer and reputation of CA than just stopping the entire project. Sorry, but it has to be said).

    Also, stop jumping to conclusions, Robert. I love your blog, but you’ve jumped to false conclusions way too many times (the case with Eshoo was embarrassing and flat out wrong). While I love some of your insightful posts, the occasional false claim makes you seem foolish–it makes your blog less attractive, and more polarizing. Is that what you want?

    Gordon, Eshoo and Simitian have done a tremendous amount of work for the constituents of CA and for the HSR project. If you get them on the wrong side, HSR will very well be gone for at least 50 years.

    NIMBYs- I’m sorry if this breaks your bubble, but HSR is getting built. Pop. There is a legislative mandate to do so, and there is enough support in the California for the project (er, HSR in general), that repealing 1A will be nearly impossible. Work with HSR advocates to get a system that works–or at least works better. We’re on Planet Earth, not Planet Magical Utopia. You shouldn’t have to file lawsuits and produce lame yard signs to achieve your goals. You shouldn’t have to wait years before your representatives finally take it upon themselves to mediate the two sides. You should be taking collaborative action.

    So rather than swearing at Simitian and insulting him, and rather than filing costly lawsuits, let’s actually work together eh? That phone call you’re going to make to Simitian’s office? Make suggestions, not insults. Please.

    My two cents for sanity. -JH

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m sorry, what exactly are you talking about with Eshoo? She called for HSR to stop at San Jose. I made sure that was known to Nancy Pelosi’s office, which promptly told Eshoo to walk that comment back. Eshoo did so, and Pelosi’s office made sure that Eshoo’s clarifying statement got around to all the reporters in the region who cover transportation. So that certainly wasn’t a false conclusion. If you can point to other false conclusions, by all means do so – or you can retract the statement.

    You’re setting up a false dichotomy, and painting people who are simply defending what voters approved – including 60% of the Peninsula – as somehow being extreme. We’re not.

    We have no obligation – none whatsoever – to work with NIMBYs. Their stance is illegitimate. They believe that because of their wealth, they have a right to dictate terms to the rest of the state. They would destroy this project if they could, but if they can’t, they’ll happily gut it and put so many restrictions on its construction to render it unable to cover its operating costs.

    However, we have always supported collaborative discussion about how HSR gets built. If even NIMBYs are willing to work with an open mind, that’s fantastic. But they’re not. So we pro-HSR folks come off looking like the bad guys because we won’t do as we’re told by a small and unreasonable elite. It’s like Congress – NIMBYs are like Republicans, obstructing everything and defining “compromise” as forcing their opponents to accept their demands almost entirely.

    That’s just not going to happen. We will fight to make sure it does not happen. Look at my post from last week regarding Simitian. I welcomed his collaborative approach and said nice things at the time. But as I have told him personally, we will never accept any actions or statements that call into question or seek to undermine the viability of the project. He crossed that line this week, and it is important that he understands he has done so.

    joe Reply:

    “We have no obligation – none whatsoever – to work with NIMBYs. Their stance is illegitimate. They believe that because of their wealth, they have a right to dictate terms to the rest of the state. ”

    Are NIMBY’s that wealthy and powerful within their communities? Joe sez no.

    Think about the NIMBY’s – they live near the rail and busy roads. That’s low end property.

    I aspire to live in Palo Alto and might consider a home on a busy street next to the rail line becuase I just may be able to squeeze into the town. That does not make me representative of the city nor does that make me a sympathetic party to a Palo Alto resident who might want to have the at grade crossings removed so they can get around the city and might enjoy a new underpass for bikes and a station for rail travel.

    A Stanford emeritus professor, however prestigious to most, is a plebeian compared to Antherton’s patrician wealth. Anyone worried about the impact of an at grade crossing or dust from construction on their property is by default, not a well off resident of these cities.

    Why wouldn’t the Peninsula residents want to fix the rail crossings and what is it to them if some undesirable property near the legacy tracks have to be taken to build a better California?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually, the Caltrain corridor often provides a substantial tree break against a busy road ~ there’s lots of Caltrain corridor with a main drag on one side and a leafy suburb on the other.

    However, it is quite true that properties along the rail corridor ought to have considered transport corridor development risk ~ anybody with their eyes open can see that the current transport system will last until it collapses, and then we’ll have to do something else.

    In the wider scheme of things, living in a community with walkable/bike-able access to oil free transport will be worth more additional property value than any loss that those homes closer to the rail corridor relative to homes further away, but people are funny about focusing on invidious social distinctions and ignoring the big absolute threats to their standard of living.

    VBobier Reply:

    Nimbys do not matter to Me either, They lost the election in some cases and can cooperate if their in the way or If they protest unlawfully, Be arrested for trespassing if their on Caltrain or HSR property, Bender in Futurama said It best: KMSMA… Others might say the Nimbys can go to Hell, The CHRSA should buy the parcels out at fair market value and if they are still not willing to sell, Proceed to eminent domain as fast and as legally proper as possible. Simitian and Lowenthal keep Your slimy hands off of the CHSRA…

  12. tony d.
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 11:29

    Welcome back Rafael!

  13. Elizabeth
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 11:50


    We are missing the forest for the trees. The Authority is reintroducing the Grapevine , the one that skips Palmdale.

    Why? Costs and impacts for the Bako-Palmdale – Sylmar route have escalated by billions and they have tried but failed to get them down.

    This introduces some time savings. Where would you spend it?

    a) engineering Grapevine tunnels to slower speeds to save $$$
    b) slowing down express trains that will be traveling at grade through Fresno etc
    c) slowing trains from 125 on the Peninsula
    d) going to San Jose via Altamont

    This will be discussed at this week’s board meeting. Two notes for attendees:

    1) The meeting will be in Sacramento, not San Jose as previously announced.
    2) The main discussion of this item has been put in the operations committee which is WEDNESDAY at 2:30. Members of this committee are Umberg, Burns and Hartnett (new member from RWC).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like they introduced redesigning Transbay?

    synonymouse Reply:

    My take on Tejon is that seismic and geological requirements will be the primary consideration and that will determine operating speeds.

    Perhaps reducing stilts will lead to steeper gradients that will cut operating speeds. It will be interesting to see how they propose to link Bako to Tejon. Sure would be nice if they could save money by utilizing property already belonging to the State(99?).

    YesonHSR Reply:

    99 is a good idea until you get close to Bakersfield..all the sprawl is south of downtown and its wide..they may have to swing clear around and nix a downtown station..I guess if this Tejon thing gets any wings this will be the next big drama issue

    datacruncher Reply:

    I remember a debate years ago about where to place a Bakersfield station. That was back before the BNSF alignment for Fresno-Bakersfield was selected.

    Kern County government was pushing for a site north of Bakersfield and west of 99 near 7th Standard Road. That would be west across 99 from the location of the Bakersfield Airport. It was the City of Bakersfield that pushed for a downtown station. Kern County operates the airport and saw that airport site as allowing the airport to become the LA satellite airport that Palmdale has never become.

    That old county preferred site would not work now unless the tracks south of Shafter swung toward 99 then somehow followed 99 south.

    But if they went south from Shafter using a western edge of Bakersfield route, the station could actually be only 1 mile or so from CSUBakersfield. It would not be a downtown station but still close to a potentially larger Bakersfield destination/activity center.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The whole downtown station thing for the Valley cities is way overblown.. very few people in these cities use public transit they want to use their car to get to the train station and they want to park it safely without fear of being stolen .so an outskirts train station would be very acceptable with alot of these people .. using it much like an airport.. and instead of flying /driving would instead take the train to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    MGimbel Reply:

    It’ll be interesting to see what the city of Palmdale has to say about this. However, Santa Clarita now has the opportunity to have its own station.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yea Magic Mountian!!! or what ever its called these days

    synonymouse Reply:

    Has anybody every considered the notion that Metrolink upgraded commute service might be a better match for Palmdale’s genuine transit needs. Ultimately LA will require a better iteration of BART – standard gauge, ocs, non-proprietary.

    If there is anybody coming out of this controversy smelling like a rose, it is Van Ark, who is showing some real smarts. I doubt he is as pessimistic as I about the current scheme but I am sure he perceives the flaws and recognizes that it has been hyped. He is covering his keester. If, after all the options are re-laid on the table, and once again the same heavies muscle thru the current scheme, he can say, when the disappointments start piling up, that they had their chance and now they have to lie on the bed of railroad spikes they laid out for themselves.

    Furthermore some powerful interests, like Disney, will have to chose the option they prefer. If they say they don’t like any, they will paint themselves as anti-environment obstructionists, definitely not pc and not good pr.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Has anybody every considered the notion that Metrolink upgraded commute service might be a better match for Palmdale’s genuine transit needs

    FRA Amtrak steam-train passenger rail technology is never the answer to any public need. (Contractor and employee “needs” are a different matter.)

    Killing two birds with one stone (LA-Sylmar-Palmdale regional and LA-NorCal inter-regional, exactly as with Tracy-Livermore-Fremont-SJ/SF regional plus SoCal/Sacto-Bay Area inter-regional) is far and away the best solution, all other things being equal.

    Massive cost and/or risk differentials are things that might not be equal.

    Beyond that, it is impossible to imagine, if the costs of rebuilding the LA-Palmdale route to post-19th-century standards should be determined to be too high for even the cost-is-no-object, $65-billion-is-peanuts CHSRA, that regional governments could possible choose to undertake even a fraction of the project by themselves.

    Winston Reply:

    It’s not that bad of a project to rebuild the existing UP ROW to modern passenger rail standards. The problem is that the UP owns it and doesn’t want to sell. The problem is building a second rail line in that valley that doesn’t encroach on the existing UP one. Were UP to decide that they didn’t want to send trains along that route then buying it and upgrading it to modern (non-FRA) standards would be quite doable. As it stands, a good express bus system is probably the best transit option for that corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    Metrolink owns all of the track up to Palmdale. The problem is that the route has far too many tight curves to have any reasonable speed increase without rebuilding the route entirely. Don’t believe me? Open up Google Earth some time.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Exactly. AOL.

    Winston Reply:

    The worst curves here seem to have a 1000′ radius or so. The Germans manage to get tilting DMUs around the same curves at 65 mph. This means that by eliminating FRA regulations, buying European equipment and making modest track upgrades (going to 5″ superelevation on 1000′ radius curves) Metrolink could have a service that is about as fast as driving on CA-14.

    Clem Reply:

    eliminating FRA regulations

    Might as well abolish the laws of physics, while you’re at it…

    Joey Reply:

    European cant deficiencies (near 12 inches) are far above what the FRA will allow under ANY circumstances, even with tilting (and yes, this accounts for the new regulations). Reverse curves would probably make full superelevation impossible in many places.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    12in. cant deficiency are not inside the new regulations, but OTOH the 5in. can deficiency Winston mentions would appear to be less than the 6in. Winston mentions.

    If 1,000ft is about 6deg, then flat track at 3in. cant deficiency is 27mph through the curve.

    At 6in. of cant deficiency its 46mph and 53mph through 3in and 6in superelevated curves. So, yes, the Germans can get through a curve 12mph to 19mph faster than that, but its a substantial reduction in the time footprint of the curve section ~ the 19mph from 27mph to 46mph has a bigger impact on transit speed than the 19mph from 46mph to 65mph.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    steam-train passenger rail technology is never the answer to any public need.

    Even China, the land of cheap labor gave up on steam years ago. Diesel has it’s place on lightly populated obscure branch lines….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Especially if they can be used by Rapid Streetcars operating at trolleywire voltage in the streetcar section and on a diesel module on the branch line.

    Its a module so that if the heavy rail corridor is 1500VDC or 25kVAC, they install those modules instead.

    Winston Reply:

    I’m glad that they’re looking at the Grapevine again. Saving 30-50 miles is a very good thing, and it allows a bunch other cost savings. The only one of the things you suggest that seems unreasonable on its face is slowing trains from 125 on the peninsula. It shouldn’t be that hard to build a decent high speed line on the Caltrain ROW. Caltrain only runs 6 trains per hour peak and I can’t see it needing to run more than 10 per hour in the next 30 years. Similarly, it’s hard to see HSR needing more than 10 trains per hour. While a full 4 track ROW would be nice, you really can schedule it such that you can get away with several 3 and even 2 track sections (in fact you could probably get away with all 2 tracks except for as little as 10 miles of 4 tracks, but that would be very delay prone). By being careful with the design of the peninsula (and by reaching agreements with Caltrain on a schedule and platform heights) the peninsula should be more doable than many make it seem.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Santa Clarita also better taps the well-heeled market to the west – Ventura and Santa Barbara

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The extra five minutes it would take to drive to Sylmar is going to keep them at home?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Must be pretty miserable driving five extra minutes in the kind of car people in a “well heeled” market is able to drive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and it allows a bunch other cost savings.

    It constrains the final the route to one option which allows for a much greater risk of encountering really expensive time consuming solutions.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Ah, but if you think like that, you’ll not be spending any time at the craps table. And won’t be buying your daily lottery ticket.

    Clem Reply:

    While a full 4 track ROW would be nice, you really can schedule it such that you can get away with several 3 and even 2 track sections

    Let’s see that! Timetable please!

    Winston Reply:

    Let me work on it a bit more. What I have is just the result of playing around with a spreadsheet using average speeds and a uniform station spacing. Once I add actual station locations ect, it will get worse, but not that much worse (I think). If I can carve out a bit of time, I’ll draw up something useful.

    Joey Reply:

    Interesting fact: Clem provides some very useful timetabling tools in this post. Of course, you will have to tweak the spreadsheet if you want more than two service patterns, but I think it beats starting from scratch.

    Owen Evans Reply:

    Agreed, studying the Grapevine is a good thing – but let’s put to rest here the notion that it will save 30 minutes as some on here have said. The report says “At least a 7-9 minute travel time savings.” and elsewhere says “approximately 10 minutes faster.” That implies that we don’t know exactly what the time savings are, they are likely to be in the 7-10 minute range.

    Basically what they’re saying is that they originally thought the Palmdale route would be cheaper, more constructable, and less risky, but after further analysis on that route, now they’re not so sure, and would like permission to do the detailed analysis on the grapevine to confirm or refute their initial assumption.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    I see a huge problem with the Grapevine. Unless you can get a good chunk overland running at top operating speed, you are at the risk of a Gotthard Tunnel project just for high-speed rail. That to me is very unfeasable where as a few tunnels less than 10 miles long are more practical than a straight 40-50 miles of tunnel.

    Donk Reply:

    Elizabeth – why would speeding up the train by 10 minutes mean that you have to slow it down somewhere else. Why not shoot for a 2:30 run time?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Option f.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Elizabeth

    I would direct the savings to incorporating Sacramento in the starter route. People have reason to go to the State capital from LA. This is a solid market.

    All the more reason to shift to Altamont.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People going to Sacramento won’t be going over Altamont, not from places south of Modesto anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Via Altamont presumably gets you farther north, closer to Sac. I am thinking I-5-centric with Modesto preferably on that UP 110mph upgrade. But even with hsr going 99 Sac is worth the expense of an extension from the start.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, but there happen to be several million people east of Modesto who would use Altamont to get to Sacramento if that option were available.

    Alex M. Reply:

    As someone who lives near Sacramento, I would love to that that leg of the project sooner rather than later.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It just goes to show how crappy was the back of the napkin planning that they moved north out of LA into the San Joaquin Valley and failed to serve the state capital, straight ahead. Incredible.

    Alex M. Reply:

    But it’s not incredible. I can totally understand why SF-LA is the first planned phase. The SF and San Jose stations will serve the whole Bay Area, which has about 7 million people. The Sac metro area has about 3 million people. Basically, SF-LA serves a whole lot more people than Sac-LA, and we need this first phase to be as successful as possible in order for the other phases to be built.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, imagine heading toward the second and fourth largest urban area populations in the state, instead of the sixth. Shocking!

    joe Reply:

    Coastal CA has high tech firms with HQ and R&D centers needing easy access to lower cost areas for manufacturing.

    Too often San Jose based firms establish a manufacturing capability in the burbs of Portland and fly to their facility.

    HSR will connect our coastal business centers and each other and to the central valley.

    tony d. Reply:

    Looks like LA has given up on Palmdale Airport being an eventual replacement for
    LAX; hence the massive expansion planned at LAX and this Grapevine announcement.
    And NO, HSR won’t be revisited through the Altamont to SJ; hence our discussion re: SF-SJ HSR/Caltrain.

    Clem Reply:

    Heh… just like HSR won’t be revisited through the Grapevine to LA…

    MGimbel Reply:

    You never know. After the staff decided to reopen the Grapevine vs. Palmdale alignment debate, anything can happen.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Here’s my off the cuff and over the top take on the CHSRA move to revisit Tejon. Strictly my personal opinion and you are free to poke holes in it:

    Rights of way, in particular good ones, are now rare and difficult to acquire. In the Bay Area with BART the CHSRA has already had the experience, when it comes to ROW’s that it might use or could use or want to use at some time, BART either already occupies them, is building on them, has claimed them, or in the case of the SP ROW on the Peninsula, is privately and quietly scheming, plotting, machinating to lay hands on it.

    Now shift to Tehachapi and look around. See any potential claim jumpers? In double negative bad English – not hardly. As they say, that speaks volumes.

    Shift again to Tejon. Close-in to LA, under considerable development pressure, and featuring perhaps only one good alignment for rail. Now all it would take is for some other mode to want this desirable corridor. Not even that – just a party who places an impediment or impediments enroute that either is difficult, expensive or just damn impossible to get around. And it is lost for good.

    So I am suggesting that at Tejon the CHSRA, maybe unconsciously, is being motivated by an urgency to grab what it needs and grab it fast.

    Interestingly, assuming this restudy is dead serious and not going through the motions for the record, if there already are other suitors they just might be flushed out of the woodwork.

    Again just my opinion. Flame on at will.

    tony d. Reply:

    Cmon Clem, you’re smarter than that (I think). Major apples and oranges here. Whether HSR goes Grapevine or Palmdae,
    LA is still served directly. A pure Altamont only to the Bay Area would skip San Jose and Silicon Valley, and the
    power brokers here won’t let that happen (thankfully), no matter how much you foamers cry about it. Look, you’ll
    one day get your overlay, so stop torturing yourself.

    Joey Reply:

    All evidence suggests that San José would be served as well under Altamont, albeit with slightly slower and less frequent trains.

    tony d. Reply:

    OVERLAY! OVERLAY! Repeat a hundred times, then rinse.

    joe Reply:

    Yes SJ is served well, just less frequently, and slower.

    Owen Evans Reply:

    As Elizabeth suggested above, it’s entirely possible that CHSRA might take the ~10 minutes saved by using the Grapevine route, trim a couple minutes off elsewhere, and instead come up with an Altamont via San Jose route that still meets the 2h40mrequirement.

    I think a route with BOTH “detours” – Palmdale and San Jose via Altamont – would be best; problem is, it’s not legal. If the law could be changed to make a total trip time 2:55 or so legal instead of 2:40, those extra 15 minutes would have a pretty small impact on ridership, and would allow for both full service at San Jose, as well as an easy and logical connection to both LA and the Bay Area for trains to Las Vegas.

    joe Reply:

    Splitting service over Altamont means Caltrain’s electrification and at grade improvements piggybacking with HSR, and as advocated by the local state and fed reps, would NOT happen below the NIMBY cties. No blending.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Not true. Prop 1A provides a separate $950 million fund for conventional “feeder” service improvements. That’s quite sufficient for SJ-Redwood City upgrades (minus the Diridon Pangalactic, minus the “iconic” bridge).

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Really even these three politicians from the peninsula would not want that now that CalTrain would get electric upgrade faster.. I think I read somewhere in their pressrelease it did state Pacheco

  14. synonymouse
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 14:47

    Hopefully and theoretically once the two route alternatives are laid out more concretely some decent comparisons can be made.

    But if one were to add an I-5 express line(no stops until Livermore) to Tejon I suggest one would be approaching the half hour figure.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Leading to generations of people saying, “imagine building the rail line in the Valley and not going to where the people live! What were they thinking?”

  15. morris brown
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 15:39

    On another front, Senator Alan Lowenthal’s SB-517 billing was heard on 4-26-2011 in the Senate T&H committee.

    Senator Lowenthal SB-517 which would remove control from the Authority, of the High Speed Rail Project, and place it under a different agency. Strong endorsement from many groups with only the Authority and Californian’s for High Speed Rail speaking in opposition

    I have posted the audio/visual for this (about 28 minutes) at:

    This bill passed through the committee and will be next heard in appropriations on May 9th.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes yes yes isn’t it interesting the same four or five people show up every time there is something that’s against the high-speed authority or the project in general??.. Simply amazing .. so wait we have an Nimby from Menlo Park, your neighbor, we have the TRANSDEF know it all that thinks he can choose how entire Bay Area transit should be done.. the councilman from dear old Atherton.. and of course lawyers!! So we change the entire project for a small group of people that have the time and money to hang out at the Senate in the capital every day?? This is what’s wrong with this bull shit.. 6.5 million people voted yes on prop 1A.. it’s not to be damaged by four people.. and I’m glad that Daniel Krause was there to speak up for Californians for high-speed rail.. and it is insane at this point right when you break ground to do something as large as a huge shift in the organization just to satisfy a bunch of malcontents… oh yes love the PCL fake green Sheanne.. worried about open grasslands being destroyed by a clean electric train.. and probably getting lots of funding from Palo Alto Menlo Park etc. etc.

    VBobier Reply:

    Existing ROW can’t always do HSR, Even a Model Railroader would know that unless the curvature of the track is broad enough, the train could go flying off of that curve when It’s too tight, Also there is track separation at high speed to think about, If there is a tilt HSR train like the Acela(Think Body by Bombadier and undercarriage from the TGV) It needs a certain amount of room so as to not impinge on a neighboring track or set of tracks.

  16. morris brown
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 17:46

    I previously posted an audio only transcript of the 4-28-2011 hearing regarding the Smitiian/Eshoo/Gordon proposal along the CalTrain ROW on the Peninsula.

    It has received quite a bit of attention.

    The full audio/visual has now become available and I have posted it now on YouTube also. It is in 2 parts: The content is the same; this has video as well as the audio. About 32 minutes for each part.

    Part I

    Part II

    synonymouse Reply:

    For your Saturday amusement O.T. but pertaining to PTC this is one long-ass Amtrak:,57553,57553#msg-57553

    adirondacker12800 Reply:


    YesonHSR Reply:

    Wow that’s a big long train.. I did not know Autotrain had that many passenger cars .. looks like there’s almost 18 and that’s not counting the auto carriers. It remindes me of the Canadian I rode in 1999 it had like 15 sleeping cars and three dining cars and five coaches!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, 40 cars sure beats the 24 of the PTC test train today.

    Eric M Reply:

    Now if they can add some car trains like the Eurotunnel to the CA system, we will definitely be in business.

    Joey Reply:

    Speeds in the Channel Tunnel are limited to 99 mph, and I’m not even sure the car shuttles operate that fast. High-speed auto carriers are an entirely different deal, though I’m not saying it’s impossible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    99.4193908 or 160 kilometers per hour. :)

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Unfortunately it’s impossible. The Eurotunnel shuttle’s loading gauge is very wide as it must accomodate heavy trucks. Each train is in fact two trains. One with semi-open one-level cars for trucks + a “club car” for the drivers, who are not allowed in their trucks after parking on board. The other is composed of duplex cars for light trucks and private vehicles, including motorbikes. The first and last cars contain the access ramps. There is one toilet for every 3 cars. The fare is per vehicle, with a limit of 9 adults, and varies according to season or time of day. The Shuttle’s ridership was 7.5 million in 2010.
    The Swiss have planned wide loading gauge on the line using the St Gothard Tunnel. Their aim is to totally do away with long-haul trucking. Trucks will only be allowed to use roads if no other choice is possible.
    The French have been talking about doing that for 50 years and nothing has ever been done. Do you know who is the biggest trucking operator in France? It is SNCF, through various companies belonging to their group. They must be ashamed of it since the name “SNCF” is nowhere to be seen on the trucks they own.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    An interesting tidbit about the Autotrain is that it requires (or used to, perhaps still does) dedicated equipment, due to just those great lengths you’ve seen. Seems that a regular passenger car brake control valve (i.e., something like a D-22), while it works nice and smooth for a normal train, has problems when the length stretches out beyond 25 or 30 cars, one of the problems being sticking brakes.

    For this reason, cars assigned to the Autotrain have had a freight car control valve fitted. It works reasonably well and avoids the problems of sticking brakes in long trains, but it handles differently from a passenger control valve in that application is slower, and some other things are different, too. Generally speaking, you should not mix the two types in one train, and so the Autotrain has dedicated equipment.

    It also has made things interesting for engine crews assigned to this train. Partially because of the train’s great length, and partially because of those freight brake valves under the cars, the engineers have to use extra skill in avoiding problems with slack action. Although the Autotrain’s route is very gently graded as it follows the coast, it is far from level, and this does require controlling the train to keep speeds down on the descents. Those slow-acting brake valves, however, require the locomotives continue to work as the brakes go on to keep the train stretched out. There are places where the engineers have to start brake applications while the train is still running uphill.

    None of this will apply to the HSR trains you’ll see in California (we hope!), but at the same time, I think it speaks highly of the personnel at Amtrak that they make things like this work as well as they do.

  17. Emma
    Apr 30th, 2011 at 23:57

    Is there something like an expiration date for the NIMBYs? There must be a point in the future when they finally shut up and stop trying to derail a project that was approved by referendum. The sooner we begin construction, the better.

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