Peninsula NIMBYs Admit They Just Want to Kill HSR

Apr 27th, 2011 | Posted by

It’s refreshing when HSR critics stop beating about the bush and just come right out and say what we all know they really believe. So I give credit to Atherton mayor Jim Dobbie for telling the truth in this Wall Street Journal article:

“We have many houses close to the railroad in the multiple millions in value,” said Atherton Mayor Jim Dobbie. “We just hope the project dies.”

That’s a perfect, succinct statement of what the “debate” on the Peninsula is really all about. Wealthy people with homes the envy of the rest of the state telling Californians suffering from $4 gas prices that the project voters approved in 2008 should just die in order to protect their high-value asset. It’s a stunningly elitist statement that says the rich are more important than everyone else. Simple as that.

Usually Peninsula NIMBYs are more careful than this, couching their self-interested opposition in bogus claims about ridership numbers, funding, or enormous cost overruns. Their usual trick is to mobilize public assumptions that nobody rides trains in America, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. But I guess when you’re talking to the Wall Street Journal, sometimes the rich feel right at home and let their guard down.

It’s also nice to see that there are more folks getting organized to support HSR on the Peninsula:

Such strenuous opposition to a high-tech rail line from the capital of high technology strikes some proponents of the system as ironic. “The success of Silicon Valley and California as a whole has been an ability to embrace innovation,” said Scott Klemmer, a Stanford University assistant professor who is a member of the group All Aboard Palo Alto. “It’s a real shame that we’re seeing a baseless fear of change in our own backyard.”

Well said, Scott. Silicon Valley thrived by embracing innovation and technology, not by holding back when innovation threatened some rich man’s property values. Happily, he speaks for the majority of his neighbors, and not for the small but vocal minority of NIMBYs who have been allowed to dominate the conversation by local elected officials.

Let’s hope Sacramento and Washington DC hear voices like Scott’s, and properly ignore the rich NIMBYs.

  1. political_incorrectness
    Apr 27th, 2011 at 23:28

    They have finally admit, they are just protecting their own self interest. I like that there is a YIMBY group around in Palo Alto that can bring some much needed counter-arguments from the same piece of land.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The worst thing is that the NIMBYs’ property values will almost certainly go up when HSR gets built. Being near a station always increases property values. Being near a rail line but not near a station can hurt property values, but the rail line ALREADY EXISTS — grade separating it and eliminating diesel trains and horns from it is going to help property values, period, end of story. Only the very few people who will actually have parts of their property taken — a tiny number, since most of the corridor is wide enough for four tracks, and most of the rest can take land from the adjacent roads rather than from people’s houses — will have their property values hurt at all.

    The NIMBYs are just afraid of change. I understand that — I hate change — but I also use my brain, and recognize when change is going to help me. I’m glad a YIMBY group is forming.

  2. YesonHSR
    Apr 27th, 2011 at 23:54

    [Edited by Robert – no need to suggest we get violent, especially when the NIMBYs are such a good job undermining their own cause.]

    Spokker Reply:

    This is my favorite 50 Cent track as well.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Before everyone goes PC ape dear old friend said this when some other chick tried to steal her husband..I still love it!! even more so for aholes of the type spoke about in this posting!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “ dear old friend said this when some other chick tried to steal her husband..”–YesonHSR

    Out of curiosity, how did that soap opera turn out?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    She chased her off!!

  3. Bryan
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 00:10

    There are already train tracks there! It’s not like they’re bulldozing new tracks. Who cares if the trains are high speed or low speed caltrains? The high speed ones go by faster and are gone faster. Plus, we’ll get grade separations for better traffic flow and fewer accidents! The tracks are already there, people!

    thatbruce Reply:

    Pampered PAMPA does not like change.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And with grade separations comes then end to horns at level crossings.

    wu ming Reply:

    if PAMPA loves the old trains so much, we can still blow horns when going throiugh their communities, for old time’s sake.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Someone from the historical society can go down the station twice an hour and light a diesel fuel bonfire too! Small one, just enough to give the station that historical scent and maybe just a bit of haze.

  4. Anthony
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 00:39

    Yeah the Bay Area has some of its on “Elites” which have gotten rich of PC’s and the Internet and they can’t be bothered with us “regular” folk that just want some choice in how we get around our cities and state. What a shame, too bad California’s growing population is not White and Rich, but Brown and generally poor and rather have rail and for them to have skyrocketing property values which should have gone down with the foreclosure nonsense anyway.

    They do let their guard down often, you see the Opt Ed section of the WSJ, the GOP often lets the world know how they really feel.

  5. Alai
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 01:44

    In an ideal world, if there were a way to accurately measure any decrease in property values caused by the project, I would be happy for the owners to be reimbursed (upon the sale of their properties). Of course, any similar increases could be captured as well.

    The same could be done for many other projects, from zoning, to changes in street configuration, to your neighbor’s putting a second story on their house.

    Of course, no such method exists, and the idea is moot. It’s just some people who figure they can be enough of a nuisance to get a deep-pocketed organization to compensate them for not selling before the bubble popped.

    Spokker Reply:

    “Of course, no such method exists”

    How about a differences in differences estimator?

    They do this to measure the effect on home prices of incinerators and coal plants and stuff. For high speed rail, the idea would be to control for the fact that home prices near the tracks are already depressed due to Caltrain (or already inflated due to being close to a station, we could probably control for all this stuff and more). Then you can extract the true effect of the HSR project on real home prices.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Only if they have to refund any payments when the benefit of property with access to a oil free electric transport corridor offsets the earlier impact of having a construction project taking place next door.

    Donk Reply:

    Why would you reimburse someone who bought property near a 100 year old rail line? Obviously the rail line is going to expand ad the population expands.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Why? Nobody has a right to asset appreciation. It is not government’s job to subsidize someone else’s investment. Real estate values fluctuate. That’s the nature of the beast. Government’s job is to do the greatest good for the greatest number, and not spend its money bailing out the rich.

    joe Reply:

    What about the hypocrisy that Menlo Park offers. Facebook will add thousands of jobs and additional traffic on 101 but the City opposes development elsewhere and isn’t a supporter of HSR.

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 04:52

    Off topic, but interesting–at least one person at CATO is upset with someone who should be one of their darlings. . .

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Nearly $2b subsidies for businesses other than oil and gas, and only some $100m’s for oil and gas? No wonder Cato is upset ~ he got the numbers turned around.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Apparently some of the people at Cato aren’t aware that their job is to shill for powerful kleptocrats, and actually believe the ideology which they were sold. The kleptocrats have always known that the ideology is bullshit, and their record of dispensing pork to their friends is clear and unparalleled — the ideology is just an excuse for taking power and money away from people who aren’t the kleptocrats’ friends. Many of Cato’s employees seem to understand this, and write transparently dishonest, hypocritical screeds shilling for whatever the latest scam is.

    But then some of them seem to actually believe the ideology, and every now and then they notice that the people bankrolling them don’t….

  7. Andy M.
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 06:01

    “That’s a perfect, succinct statement of what the “debate” on the Peninsula is really all about. Wealthy people with homes the envy of the rest of the state telling Californians suffering from $4 gas prices that the project voters approved in 2008 should just die in order to protect their high-value asset. ”

    Aha, but don’t you know that if the rich get richer at the expense of everybody else, that money will eventually perocolate throug the system and we’ll all benefit. But ask the rich to make a fair share of the sacrifice and we’ll all be poorer in the end.

    I’m surpised that this stuff still needs explaining


  8. James
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 06:48

    There is an election for San Mateo County Supervisor — I noted in one of the candidate statements that he opposes HSR and disqualified him immediately.

    Anyone know the position on HSR for all the candidates?

    Reality Check Reply:

    @James: the anti-HSR group “Community Coalition on HSR” has summarized the each of the Supervisor candidates’ position on HSR on their Website. They say they sent each candidate this letter and asked them fill out this questionnaire. They have posted each candidate’s response to the questionnaire.

    It’s a mail-only election — ballots must be received by the registrar’s office by May 3.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Ugh. What a flawed, biased, bullshit-laden questionnaire. Wish I’d seen it earlier. At least Richard Holober and Gina Papan gave decent answers.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Burlingame is doing an online (probably unscientific) survey to gage people’s (residents??) opinion on HSR:

    Results can be seen here:

    Quick Summary below:

    High Speed Rail Survey
    As of March 14th, 862 residents took the time to review the survey and share their opinions on High Speed Rail. The comments ranged from complete support of HSR Authority’s current proposed plan to opposition to the building of the entire system. In between the two opposing points of view on HSR, alternative plans were suggested. A number of respondents identified more than one of the options for placing the HSR tracks in Burlingame.
    Quick summary of the responses —
    Q1. Please indicate any of the following options to build high speed rail through Burlingame that you are comfortable with:
    Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
    Elevated 7.3% 63
    Tunnel 59.7% 514
    Covered trench 49.0% 422
    Open trench 13.9% 120
    None of the above 27.4% 236
    {Actual total number of options selected =1,355}
    Answered question 861
    Skipped question 1
    Q2. The Burlingame City Council has taken a position of support for high speed rail only if built in a tunnel, or covered trench. Do you agree or disagree with that position?
    Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
    Agree 73.7% 635
    Disagree 22.0% 190
    Don’t know 4.3% 37
    Answered question 862
    Skipped question 0
    Q3. Please describe your level of awareness about High Speed Rail’s plan for building high speed rail in Burlingame.
    Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
    Little or no knowledge 3.3% 28
    Some limited knowledge that there has been some concerns raised 2 5.9% 223
    Well aware that our city council has been advocating for below grade options that will minimize sound and visual impacts 70.8% 610
    Answered question 861
    Skipped question 1
    Q4. Any other thoughts you would like to share about the High Speed Rail project.
    Answer Options Response Count
    Answered question 563
    Skipped question 299

    Peter Reply:

    Uhhh, yeah, it’s unscientific. It’s about as reliable as Gilroy’s paper’s “PulsePoll” that NIMBYs cite as proof of large-scale community opposition to HSR.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s especially unscientific given that anyone from anywhere in the world can submit a response to the survey, and there’s no control on that.

    VBobier Reply:

    I wonder how much of their site is just Total Garbage to be hauled off to the landfill as Garbage?

    thatbruce Reply:

    The 7th question is a ‘the devil is in the details’ question. Both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are correct answers for those for or against HSR.

    The question is ‘If high-speed rail proceeds on the Peninsula, are you willing to use the ownership rights that Caltrain has in the right of way to insist that the project be constructed only in a form that is acceptable to each local community through which the project will go?‘.

    The details bit is that solutions that are acceptable to each local community may not be constructable, especially if adjoining communities have incompatible solutions that they are acceptable to them (eg, one community insists on an elevated solution to avoid rebuilding all their roads and will not accept the extended construction hassle associated with a deep tunnel, and their neighboring community insists on a tunnel without any road closures during construction ).

    Personally, I’d answer ‘Yes’ to the modified question of ‘If High-Speed Rail proceeds on the Peninsula, are you willing to use the ownership rights that Caltrain has in the right of way to insist that the project be constructed in a form that is acceptable to the majority of local communities through which the project will go?’ .

    Alan Reply:

    Considering that a larger share of funding for the ROW purchase came from statewide Prop 116, it’s a bit arrogant to suggest that the Peninsula has the right to veto use of the ROW for HSR.

    It also completely ignores the fact that San Francisco county–also a joint owner of the Caltrain ROW–is strongly in favor of HSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    San Francisco county–also a joint owner of the Caltrain ROW–is strongly in favor of HSR.

    There’s a thought. San Francisco could ban diesel trains. Or close down the ROW. If they don’t want to let the upgrade happen – let ’em take BART at Millbrae.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Here is some further information about prop116 expenditures. Page 3 has the expenditures for PCJPB of:

    $13,000,000 Caltrain in San Francisco Co.
    $19,000,000 Caltrain in San Mateo Co.
    $21,000,000 Caltrain in Santa Clara Co.
    $120,000,000 PCJPB Right of Way Acquisition. ( 56% of the 1991 $212million purchase price )

    Of historical and currently relevant interest, the wording of 116 also had: 99622: (b) Preliminary engineering and feasibility studies of a high speed passenger rail link between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, five million dollars ($5,000,000).

    James Reply:

    Many thanks. That made the decision a little easier. Ballot will be dropped by today. (I don’t trust the post awful, and drive past the election office in San Mateo anyway.)

  9. observer
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 10:16

    Elizabeth – is CHSRA using this federal “job years” definition to pad their job creation numbers?

    aw Reply:

    This is a tempest in a teapot. I’ve wondered what the precise definition of “jobs” is when these numbers are cited. I’m glad to see a clarification that it means job-years. I assume this is approximately equal to man-years, a term I’m more familiar with.

    It is not inflating the numbers. It stems from the press and press release writers being lazy/hazy/fuzzy.

  10. VBobier
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 10:20

    For those that want HSR like Me I’m reminded of the lines from the Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote, The impossible dream and being willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause and HSR seems to be something worth fighting for in politics, I know not all may agree with Me on this, But the rich nimbys have declared war on HSR, We should not stand around on the laurels of 2008. Something should be done. I want HSR to succeed, I may not be able to do much beyond what I’ve been doing, But It is something at least.

  11. Ken
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 11:10

    There is a point where the rich will too start feeling the pinch of higher gas prices. They may not feel it at $4/gal, but sooner or later they’ll start feeling the pain at $5, $6/gal as it begins to eat away their wallet in various ways. The normal folk are already feeling the pain not only at the pump, but in other indirect ways like higher food prices since delivery trucks uses gas too. Those that own businesses that deals with trucking will soon switch their thinking that going rail isn’t such a bad idea after all.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Progressive trucking companies already use rail for all long-haul segments and have focused on best execution of short-hauling from the nearest intermodal yard.

  12. renostreetcar
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 11:30

    Pretty soon we’ll be doing this in CA!

    Ken Reply:

    Thanks for posting the video, very beautiful and moving PR especially for a country ravaged by such a natural disaster.

    One day, I wish we can make an ad like that where people are cheering the train as it passes by every city.

    And did you notice how refined the train operators are, wearing hats and white gloves like pilots? Awesome. This video should be shown at NIMBY meetings.

  13. Jeff Carter
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 11:43

    I posted before it is worth repeating here… I was at a “Save Caltrain” in Burlingame meeting last night and there was some anti-HSR talk and talk of just letting HSR use the existing upgraded/electrified tracks…

    The perception I have is that there is not much HSR advocacy out there, nor accurate facts. On the other hand there is a mountain of anti-HSR rhetoric, fear mongering, lies, and misinformation; at least here on the Peninsula. There are numerous anti-HSR groups here spreading their despicable, self-serving, lies and misinformation. The frequent dispersal of the numerous, appalling, lies, eventually sways some of the unassuming public to their contemptuous side. These groups mask their fear mongering ideals under the guise of ‘doing HSR right’ or ‘responsibly’ or ‘saving’ the Peninsula cities from ‘destruction.’ Their version of doing HSR ‘right’ equates to HSR only in a tunnel, or not at all. They present HSR as an ugly 80 feet to 100+ feet wide ‘freeway’ that towers up to 60+ feet in the air over Peninsula towns, cutting down thousands of trees, and taking of thousands of homes and businesses. Sadly, my Burlingame City Council (as have many other City Councils on the Peninsula) has succumbed to all the fear mongering and has become disinterested in any constructive discussion of reasonable/practical options for HSR (and Caltrain).

    Unfortunately the CHSRA doesn’t help much, as public relations seem to be lacking regarding HSR on the Peninsula. The CHSRA also seems to have little interest in cost containment. While they have taken a stand against ultra expensive tunnels, they are still promoting high cost aerial structures and some trenching/tunneling in areas where such structures are not necessary. Also in reading these blogs, (such as Clem’s ‘Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog’) I get a definite impression that there seems to be no interest in compatibility with other rail systems such as Caltrain. There are some brilliant suggestions in Clem’s blog but the political hierarchy (and CHSRA) is not paying attention.

    The bottom line is that an elevated structure 30 feet above the current tracks in Burlingame/San Mateo is quite unnecessary other than making HSR as costly (i.e. profitable) as possible. The stretch of ROW from the southern end of Burlingame to Downtown San Mateo does present a challenge as the ROW narrows down for a mile or two.
    The option of raising the tracks and lowering the cross streets as was done in Belmont/San Carlos, and Laurie Meadows/42nd in San Mateo is a reasonable compromise, an opportunity that has not been rationally explored.

    BTW, the Belmont/San Carlos Grade separation was the subject of similar heated debate, some 10-15 years ago, so much so, that it was put on the ballot and approved by the voters. We heard the same arguments about elevated tracks destroying the neighborhood, disrupting businesses and homes, yet Belmont and San Carlos have not self destructed and businesses have not been destroyed. Belmont and San Carlos are thriving communities even with the grade separation, the naysayers were proven wrong.

    I have previously, on this blog; pointed out the Hillcrest grade Separation in Millbrae (which goes under the tracks) does not block driveways for 400 feet from the track centerline as some, including the CHSRA have claimed. This type of grade separation is another option that has not been logically studied.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The bottom line is that an elevated structure 30 feet above the current tracks in Burlingame/San Mateo is quite unnecessary other than making HSR as costly (i.e. profitable) as possible.


    Grade separation is necessary, over the medium to long term.

    The tracks going up is the only way to do this, in nearly every circumstance along the corridor, because the result is the best for the adjoining neighbourhoods and since putting the tracks underground is not going to happen for any number of reasons, only some of them economic. More routes across the tracks (ie under the tracks) is better than no routes through a ground level sound-walled impermeable barrier. Stations above grade (eg Belmont … close but not done quite right, sigh) are many times more convenient for users and in fact have a smaller footprint than stupid ill-conceived hard-to-access monstrosities of Caltrain-cretin-conceived misdesign such as Bayshore or California Avenue. (Can’t get there from here! Please allow an extra five minutes of detour time to get to the train platform. Service is our profession!)

    30 feet elevation above existing tracks is not necessary, but 15 isn’t going to do it.

    BS stories about leaving the tracks at grade being an acceptable or even desirable outcome is just as bad in the deliberately misleading sweepstakes as the crap CHSRA is putting out. Stop it.

    VBobier Reply:

    So do You think 20′ or somewhere short of 25′ would do for clearance?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Just interstate-standard road surface to underside of bridge structure clearance requires 17 feet (5.2m)
    Then there’s bridge structure, rail substructure, etc, which is at the very least circa 1.5m. So we’re talking 7m or 22 feet-ish.

    I did “mis-speak” a little, though. 15 feet above existing rail height might indeed be adequate in a number of locations. Existing rails are rarely at existing surrounding ground level.

    VBobier Reply:

    I was just asking what the clearance would need to be between the road and the bottom side of the raised up row overpass, But that’s good enough, 17′, Sounds better than 30′ or even higher still, Heck even 22′ isn’t much more than 17′.

    Reality Check Reply:

    30 feet elevation above existing tracks is not necessary, but 15 isn’t going to do it.

    Ok, but what about the tracks going up, say, 12 feet, and the road(s) dipping down 8 feet. Or whatever blend seems optimal (to create reasonable truck clearance, etc.) on a crossing-by-crossing basis?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Worst of both worlds. An ugly environment underneath; an ugly pedestrian environment for a considerable distance to either side of the dip; ongoing maintenance (flooding) problems (dedicated diesel pump installations are required for each such water trap); loss of all potential urban frontage (store fronts, even driveways) for a considerable distance to either side of the dip; etc.

    All for no gain. Putting the tracks up an extra five feet makes things much nicer at ground level.

    Compare for example Howard Avenue in San Carlos (pretty much an OK-by-Caltrain-standards, if not altogether Done Right, job) with hideous messes like Holly Street or Harbor or Ralston or (ugh), 42nd Street in San Mateo. All of those bad ones would be much nicer if the tracks were five feet or so higher (which would negatively affect nothing in the suburban environment) and the road five feet less depressed.

    Do it right! For everybody. No stupid half-and-half mis-measures.

    Nathanael Reply:

    For purposes of flattening out vertical curves, of course, it might be best to dip *some* roads by a few feet, as the railroad should be kept pretty flat and the existing road heights are all over the place. (Though it still requires pumping or at least special drainage work every time you have a “dip.”) Obviously as many sidewalks and roads as possible should be kept at grade with clear drainage.

    joe Reply:

    Paly’ Oregon Expressway and Embarcadero pass under Caltrain tracks. The tracks do not go up X feet. There’s Alma Expressway parallel to the tracks and works just fine.

    Nadia Reply:

    You might be interested in a map we made to see what would happen if the train went through at grade and the roads were depressed in Palo Alto. We used the information in the AA to estimate what would be a “full take” (shown in yellow) and what would be a “partial take” (shown in blue).
    We looked at 3 intersections in PA – Churchill, Charleston and Meadow.

    This map was reviewed by HSR engineers and they agreed with our analysis. It was subsequently presented at a PA city council meeting.

    You’ll note there are a lot of takes in Churchill because there are a number of flag lots that lose road access.

    The totals we came up with counting only those 3 intersections:

    83 Full Acquisitions (here’s the breakdown with their zoning description)
    58 R-1 + 11 R-2 + 12 RM-15 + 1 RM-30 + 1 CN

    42 Parcel Impacts
    39 R-1 + 1 PC (Alma Plaza) + 1 RM-15 + 1 School(Paly)

    StevieB Reply:

    Is building underpasses with at grade tracks as you described acceptable to the community of Palo Alto?

    Nadia Reply:

    I couldn’t possibly answer on behalf of the community – but if I had to guess – I’d say no.

    Palo Alto generally prefers a trench (preferably covered) – though I know that is expensive.

    If the Authority really moves to a two track system – then perhaps there are new solutions.
    Based on today’s discussions in the Senate, it will be interesting to see how the Authority reacts during the discussion on phased implementation at the upcoming board meeting.

    Spokker Reply:

    No aerials because it is subjectively ugly. No underpasses because of property takes. These people are very flexible, I’d say.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The property takes described seem to have been selected based on proximity to a depressed road, without taking into account the existing access locations and possible modifications to the properties’ access. (eg, driveway right where the depression starts? the driveway can also be depressed the small amount. doesn’t work with deeper depressions of course).

    As an easy example, consider the northern set of parcels at the intersection of Palo Alto and Alma. Putting the tracks below-grade at this location is exceedingly expensive due to the stream crossing slightly to the north. The three properties highlighted would all be impacted in a road undercrossing,, but no takes would be required if the current on-street parking was retained at the existing level as one-way access to the three properties highlighted (wider if you start the depression on Alma slightly further south at Hawthorne and bridge over).

    Or for something cheaper, terminate the western direction of Palo Alto Ave east of Alma, run Alma elevated over the tracks to be aligned with Sand Hill, and have one lane of Alma (heading north) be retained at-grade for a one-way access road to Palo Alto.

    The existing trees in the parks immediately adjacent to this crossing would keep any aesthetic nightmare contained to just the closest property.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or three houses at 4 million a piece is 12 million and they get to move away from the smelly noisy diesel trains.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    If you take account of the construction impact then the auto underpass alternative could be better overall. A trench doesn’t magically happen, the more dirt you dig the more dirt trucks you have to bring.

    I think the property takes could be reduced with underpass alternative by realigning and closing of of some of the cross roads. Since closing roads for through traffic is already practiced in Palo Alto for traffic calming, it should be an acceptable method to reduce impacts.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s quite a few parcels, Could You make one that shows an elevated Berm or Pylon w/4 tracks? I think everyone would like to know what the alternative might be like.

    Nadia Reply:

    We would have liked to, but we couldn’t get any straight answers from the engineers on how the staging of the shoo-fly tracks would work. Since Caltrain and Freight must continue to run, where do you put the temporary tracks? Would they be allowed on Alma given that it is a main artery that would need to be used for emergency vehicles, etc.

    Near the Churchill intersection, for example, you’d take out at least 16 homes along Mariposa street for 4 tracks NOT counting the need for construction clearance and shoo fly tracks….

    Joey Reply:

    Ideally, a structure would be built two tracks at a time with the shoofly tracks occupying the side that wasn’t being worked on. I’m not sure this is technically possible though, given the realities of construction equipment. It might be possible with an aerial structure but not with retained fill.

    VBobier Reply:

    Lets see with fill that would require some sort of retaining wall setup, If fill is being used & shoo fly tracks too and all within the existing right of way, then You’d have to cut down/remove trees & put up 3 sets of retaining walls, 2 for the side opposite of the shoo fly and the final wall for completing the ROW on to an elevated confined berm within the ROW. Of course this means that the center retaining wall would be there forever once the outer 2 are fully in place and the trains are running.

    Oh and on the recording on YouTube It seems Caltrain and HSR can not just share 2 tracks as their speeds are vastly different, HSR could do the SF-SJ segment in 30 minutes on 2 tracks to meet the Prop 1a travel time, But with Caltrain doing 5TPH(Trains Per Hour) and with only 2 Tracks the using the current capacity would be only 6TPH and so HSR would as is only have 1 HSR train per hours and Simitian had mentioned 1 HSR per day would meet the the specs for Prop 1a, Since Prop 1a does not say how many trains are to be run per day or per hour or per anything time wise, But It was mentioned by one group that 1 HSR train per day is not what the voters of California expected when they voted for Prop 1a in 2008. It seems to get above 6TPH more tracks are needed in the 50 mile Caltrain corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    What you say is correct, but how is that relevant to the question of incremental grade separations. The idea is that it would go 2 CalTrain tracks at grade -> Construct two-track structure -> transfer operations to structure -> construct 2nd structure over previous at-grade tracks. You start running HSR trains AFTER grade separation, not before.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Joey: No I didn’t think HSR would run before grade separation, Sounds too complicated, But whatever, Last night I was sleepy, so take that post w/a grain of salt, I meant well. The 2nd paragraph is in regards to running HSR on just 2 tracks within the existing ROW, elevated or not and not going to 3 or 4 tracks, ever, That doesn’t seem possible to Me and It was mentioned that curves would need to be made HSR compatible and the speed of 124Mph was also mentioned, Although I’d rather see 165Mph max Myself within the corridor as It looks like some are trying to straight jacket HSR into using Acela type trains within the 50 mile corridor, If so ok, But the Acela type train would have to also do at least 220Mph on the longer straight sections.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ah the smell of FUD so early in the morning is bracing.
    16 houses at 4 million a pop is 64 million dollars. If they are so close to the tracks that they would have to be taken for construction they probably aren’t worth 4 million dollars. It would give the residents the chance to move away from the smelly noisy diesel trains. Be a nice place for a greenway between the high school and Peers Park don’t you think? They could put in oh dunno a small forest….

    joe Reply:,-95.677068&sspn=63.640894,135.263672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Alma+St+%26+Churchill+Ave,+Palo+Alto,+Santa+Clara,+California+94306&ll=37.435451,-122.150856&spn=0.007948,0.016512&z=17

    Look at the map and tell me why PA needs to keep the Churchill Crossing?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    School bus access and emergency vehicles?
    Go a little bit farther south to Oregon and Alma and try to figure out why they are getting bento out of shape over a grade separation.

    joe Reply:


    Why maintain the Churchill crossing? I commute to / from that area since 1991 and it’s a redundant / not useful crossing. It’s three short blocks from Embarcadero’s major crossing. That has a light for Paly’s HS and revised shopping center.

    Make Churchill a pedestrian / bike underpass for the high school and if necessary re-engineer the Embarcadero.

    How many Play HS suicides happened along crossing area?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Maintaining the crossing could have to do with the number of cars which travel that stretch of Churchill. I recall reading somewhere – maybe in Stanford’s expansion plans – that it was a significant amount. You can’t just shut down streets here and there any more than you can borrow a lane of road at will.

    egk Reply:

    That is really the least creative way of dealing with the underpasses known to man: “Lower every lane of every street within X feet of the underpass.” One could easily maintain driveway access to many, if not all, of the properties by only lowering some lanes and by closing (and not lowering) certain streets.
    You know, like they did at both the Oregon Expressway underpass and the Embarcadero.

    Joey Reply:

    Driveways where the change in elevation is only a couple of feet can also probably be maintained by modifying the driveway.

    joe Reply:

    Much a do about nothing.

    Palo Alto has 3 affected at grade crossings.

    1. Alma’s terminus which merges with El Camino – not near any homes. Easy.

    Palo Alto has 3 crossings that already route traffic under the tracks.

    2. Stanford’s Palm / Dr. University Ave a major underpass
    3. Embarcadero – a major underpass
    5 Oregon / Page Mill expressway another significant underpass.

    4. Is the Churchill crossing which is 3 short blocks from Embarcadero. Close it to car traffic.

    6. The Charleston crossing at grade which I think needs to be engineered. ONE!

    7. San Antonio which is an major road and overpass.

    So the Palo Alto issue has to do with really ONE crossing at grade that needs to be mitigated or closed. I say it needs mitigation because it’s useful.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Joe: What happened to the crossing at East Meadow and Alma?

    joe Reply:

    Here’s a pedestrian underpass designed when there was Old Mill Shopping Center and no San Antonio Stop. Now it’s a minor Caltrain stop with underpass.

    Is this so horrible?,+Mountain+View,+Santa+Clara,+California+94043&layer=c&sll=37.407222,-122.106944&cbp=13,38.91,,0,10.56&cbll=37.406453,-122.106245&hl=en&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=San+Antonio&ll=37.406514,-122.106342&spn=0.00415,0.009645&t=h&z=17&panoid=tzzryW_185VpqLWZ8ZG_Gw

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Yes it is horrible… As it ‘blocks driveway access’ for hundreds of feet, if not thousands of feet… or even for miles in each direction…

    joe Reply:

    : )

    VBobier Reply:

    No, But I can see why the CHSRA wanted to put in an elevated 4 track ROW, Problem is to elevate the ROW and expand to 4 tracks from 2, Means interrupting Caltrain service, Sounds like a Temporary Bus line may be needed between converted segments and their respective stations, Berm or short Pylon. BTW Nice link, Thanks.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Nah, they don’t interrupt existing service. They build temporary tracks like they’re doing at San Bruno now, and what they did Belmont to San Carlos.

    VBobier Reply:


    Joey Reply:

    Such structures are usable, but unwelcoming to pedestrians (read: your riders).

    J. Wong Reply:

    I think the idea is 15′ above ground level with the roads dipping down 5′ like San Carlos and Belmont. Really, given the concern over “takings” I don’t see why smaller aerials with road dips are not seen as the ideal solution! At 15′ the aerials doesn’t “hulk” over the surrounding landscape, and can be designed to be visually attractive. And with only 5′, much less frontage is required. Palo Alto and the other Peninsula cities are missing a clear opportunity here.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’ve always advocated what You said, The road going under and the tracks going above, Just not by how much, Some freeways do have underpasses with a limit of under 20′, But just what is the right optimal height?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I’ve always advocated what You said, The road going under and the tracks going above …

    Right. just lovely. Everybody needs this, at every road or pedestrian crossing up and down the line. Simply delightful.

    People need to get out in the real world some time and look around.

    VBobier Reply:

    So what’s wrong wit that? It sounds like appropriate thing to do, Down in Los Angeles County on Rosemead Blvd the 4 lane highway goes under the tracks there, In other areas the highways goes over the tracks, So I see no actual problem, It is a form of separation of the railroad from the street, It seems to be the most cost effective option there is to getting rid of grade crossings.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Each of those road-under-crossings costs a significant amount (usually more than raising the road incidentally). This is affordable if there is only one road crossing to be dealt with in say a mile of track. When you’ve got 10 road crossings to deal with in a mile, it becomes cheaper to raise the tracks.

    VBobier Reply:

    Then that amounts to about the same thing, the tracks being over the roads/highways and not having any at grade crossings, That is still a good idea.

    Joey Reply:

    But by raising the tracks, you minimize impacts to the properties around the tracks and make the whole thing more pedestrian-friendly.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    No, raising the tracks will impact, err destroy properties for one half mile on each side of the tracks.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Not if the tracks are raised and the roads lowered. No way the grade separations in Belmont or San Carlos require a 1/2 mile, more like 500 feet.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ok that’s just to the north of 4619 Rosemead Boulevard, Rosemead, CA between Evansport Dr on the south side of the tracks and Acaso Dr on the north side of the tracks. Google Maps view of the Rosemead Blvd underpass that is just north of 4619 Rosemead Boulevard, Rosemead, CA This is a Hospital closest to the underpass, I see no real reason this can not be done along the Caltrain ROW or almost anywhere else for that matter.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I see no real reason <a href="this[!!!] can not be done along the Caltrain ROW or almost anywhere else for that matter.

    Sorry, I thought you were serious, and even a resident of planet earth. You’re beyond my help.

    VBobier Reply:

    Of course I’m serious, I was only advocating for separating the roads from the tracks, Whether It’s raise tracks or what, It does not matter to Me how this is done as long as the two are separate, Unless You’re against this very concept?

    thatbruce Reply:

    Its the nature of the grade separation which RM is pointing out. Essentially, the example that you’ve showing is for a busy main road, has little, if any, support for pedestrians, and in general looks like crap. There might be a few major roads alone the Peninsula where one could get away with this sort of grade separation, but for the majority of quieter streets, its not the best example of a road underpass that you could have found.

    The essential problem to be solved is to grade-separate rail and road in a manner that retains the access that there is currently, for all that pass over the crossing. That includes pedestrians.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Try the Pacific Avenue overpass being built in Tacoma for an example of an access-improving grade separation. :-)

    Alex M. Reply:

    There’s no reason to be rude, Richard.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes Jeff one of the main fearmogers against HSR is right on your city council in Burlingame and organized this crap in town from the signs to that silly rally and more

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Actually the entire City Council is pretty much on the same page. They endorsed the ‘boondoggle rally’ they were behind the silly ‘story pole’ fiasco. By placing the ‘story poles’ on the west side of Burlingame station, this created the impression that HSR would cut a swath through town on the west side of the station and Caltrain ROW.

  14. Ken
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 11:59

    What’s so hard about just laying HSR tracks on the freeway? Isn’t that much easier to build with existing infrastructure (i.e. the Interstate) than trying to deal with these NIMBYs?

    Alex M. Reply:

    101 and 280 are too curvy and don’t go near city centers, for the most part. And we are building with existing infrastructure. It’s called the Caltrain corridor.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The automobiles make too much noise then they ride over the ties.

    Joey Reply:

    I feel like we’ve been over this before, but we’ll do it again. Ignoring the fact that taking freeway lanes is almost politically impossible, freeways are generally poorly suited for HSR because of the tight curves which would limit speeds (think: cars go 65 mph on freeways, but HSR is supposed to travel 125 on the peninsula).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed. There exist a few freeways which are straight enough and flat enough for high speed rail, but not very many, and those are known as the “hypnotic” freeways where people fall asleep at the wheel, so the design has been avoided for many, many decades.

  15. synonymouse
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 12:20

    @ Ken. They are not at all interested in using 101 as a ROW for hsr. I have to assume that Caltrans is quietly but adamantly opposed.

    Kvetching about nimbys in PAMPA will get nowhere. It is their place and they have a right to protect it. PB is vastly more inflexible and anti-commonsense than all the Ritchie Riches in PAMPA. Look at the glaring stupidity and cavalier waste of the Palmdale-Tehachapi detour.

    Advice to Peninsula nimbys: concentrate less on killing hsr and more on getting rid of PB. Meantime call for a RICO style investigation into how San Jose and LA-Palmdale hijacked the route planning. That will get the attention of the patronage machine right away.

    If you indeed want to get rid of hsr on the Peninsuila you have to cozy up to its natural enemy, BART. One you have a two-track BART subway in, for instance, PA, the CHSRA is aced out and will have to find another route. BART sux, but in retrospect, given PB is everywhere, the Peninsula should probably have given up on the SP and stayed in BARTD in 1962.

    Alex M. Reply:

    How is BART the natural enemy of HSR? They serve totally different purposes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary BART’s imperial ambitions and chutzpah are enormous. BART has already succeeded in occupying a great many of the ROW’s that the CHSRA could or would use. It would love to add the SP ROW to its route map – BART considers the Peninsula to be an integral part of its territorial manifest destiny.

    As far-fetched as it might seem I could see BART having lust in its heart towards Pacheco. Indian broad gauge to Monterey?!

    Alex M. Reply:

    It’s Bay Area rapid transit. Not Bay Area/Monterey Bay rapid transit. And why in the world would BART ever go through Pacheco?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Some of them fantasize about BART going to Stockton. If it can go to Stockton why not Sacramento which is just as far. If it can go to Stockton why not Monterey.

    Jon Reply:

    If Santa Clara County joined the BART district then BART to Gilroy would certainly be on the table. It’s no more far-fetched than BART to Antioch, currently under construction…

    Alex M. Reply:

    That’s eBART, which uses DMUs.

    Jon Reply:

    The intend to convert it conventional BART in the future. The DMU plan was just to get ground broken ASAP.

    I’m not justifying BART to Gilroy at all, but the point is that the scope of BART is defined by politics rather than practical considerations. We have BART to Antioch (and, for that matter, Livermore) because they are areas of Contra Costa and Alameda Counties who pay the BART tax but don’t yet have BART service. If Santa Clara County joined the BART district, BART’s scope would change accordingly.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    How about the huge areas of San Francisco County that are not served by BART and have paid several orders of magnitude more in BART taxes over the last four decades? Huh? How come Livermore — Livermore!!!!! — counts but not anywhere in San Francisco?

    BART extensions are pure corporate welfare efforts, massive private to public wealth transfers engineered by some of the least ethical and most corrupt corporations and criminal political bagmen you could ever chance to meet. They have less than nothing to do with “repaying” taxpayers or with providing “transportation”. 100% scams with no redeeming value.

    Jon Reply:

    Because the environmental hurdles to build BART under (say) Geary Street are much greater than those required to blast down a freeway median, or a freshly purchased Union Pacific ROW. Contractors don’t want uncertainty, they want solid contracts.

    I get the impression that somewhere at BART HQ there’s a Dad’s Army style expansion map with arrows pointed at the corners of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties (and into any other county they can con into paying for an extension.) San Francisco doesn’t figure into their plans because it’s already been ‘done’.

    I used to live in the Richmond on 38th Ave, you don’t have to tell me how annoying it is.

    Alex M. Reply:

    @RM I don’t think BART would be the best thing to use for a true SF subway system, if one is ever built. I’m sure even people in the Outer Sunset use BART sometimes, which is why they’re taxed.

    Wow, I had no idea BART extensions were so evil. I’ll make sure to feel super guilty next time I ride BART.

    Nathanael Reply:

    BART extensions *are* pretty evil. But only because they’re bad design and very expensive. Currently BART is crowded through the central tunnel and empty out on the edges. So BART wants to build massive extensions of the uncrowded sections even further out. And BART construction costs 3 or more times what HSR construction would, because nothing on BART is standard, not even the track gauge….

    If BART were taking even a semi-rational approach to extensions, they wouldn’t be evil. And they’d also be obsessing over building a second Transbay Tube.

    Instead, it seems to be a quixotic obsession with extending a broad-gauge third-rail system as far as humanly possible, and the riders be damned. Very odd.

    Alex M. Reply:

    BART is great, but yeah, going to Stockton is a bit much.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Better served by a Super ACE

    Joey Reply:

    Even better served (and costing less) by building over Altamont to begin with.

    Clem Reply:

    Yesss! Another Altamont fest!

    Alex M. Reply:

    Let’s not go there…

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    The issue of BART replacing Caltrain came up during Wednesdays Save Caltrain meeting in Burlingame. I pointed out the astronomical cost of BART and that BART does not have monthly passes and can’t provide Baby Bullet/express service. The same person that advocated BART; cited Caltrain amenities such as eating/drinking on the train and additional amenities such as a café/parlor car/bar car, something we would never see on BART….

    After the meeting, the guy asked me if I had been on the New York City subways (which I haven’t), he said the NYC subways have 4 tracks/passing tracks that allow for express service and BART could do the same thing… So now we can add even more billions to the astronomical cost of BART replacing Caltrain!!!

    Nathanael Reply:

    If BART were standard-gauged and rewired to take overhead power outside tunnels…. well then it might have a bright future and be worthy of expansion.

  16. Alex M.
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 12:33

    What I don’t understand is how the super-rich on the Peninsula can stand having the current slow, noisy, diesel-burning, horn-blowing trains going near them right now. They should want faster, quieter, more efficient trains going near them, but apparently that’s a little too hard for them to understand.

    Robert Reply:

    If you read the comments on Palo Alto online, I think the sentiment amongst these people is, in addition to stopping HSR, to have caltrain shut down entirely.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Some of them see no reason to leave home and don’t. Partly the reason why they see no need for HSR….. imagine someone wanting to go to Los Angeles…or for that matter San Francisco.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ha! You’re probably right, but I suspect more of them imagine that cheap gas will be here forever. Those who really see no reason to leave home ever don’t tend to wind up on the Peninsula, but instead on vast estates in the countryside.

  17. Ken
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 12:59

    I really don’t understand the rich people’s thinking. Surely they are rich enough to have visited HSR countries like Japan, France, and Germany right? Why are they so against them?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The liberal affluent on the Peninsula aren’t inherently opposed to hsr, actually generally sympathetic. The hangup is PB, which makes political decisions first and then does the requisite engineering spin.

    But political decisions can be altered. Jerry Brown today killed the $300+ million new death row at San Quentin. That will prove very popular in Marin.

    Similarly PAMPA can get Jerry’s attention by complaining about the half hour lost at the Tehachapi Detour which PB is trying to make up by insisting on overbuilding hsr on the Peninsula. Keep pounding at the flaws in Prop 1A and see if it can be changed to make the hsr project more palatable and viable.

    If not play the BART card.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Jerry Brown today killed the $300+ million new death row at San Quentin. That will prove very popular in Marin.

    Excellent move! Should prove popular with California taxpayers everywhere and certainly well beyond Marin!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And it will save the state lots of money because keeping them in prison for life is cheaper.

    VBobier Reply:

    I can hear It now, Someone is going to be complaining about all those out of work Lawyers and Attorneys…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Still your lunatic obsession with the unbuildable Grapevine route? You really aren’t pragmatic, are you?

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    If we were in the real world, Europe, Japan, etc. it might be fine, but we are in the ‘inflate HSR at all costs’ fantasy world of PB and CHSRA. Over engineer, overbuild, make customer hostile, pour as much concrete as we can, is our motto!!

  18. Nadia
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 13:54

    Newsflash: Van Ark was at the Senate today responding to Senator Simitian about the proposal. After much back and forth with a CEQA attorney representing the Authority, Van Ark and Simitian, it seems that the Authority has conceded that if they redefine the project from SF-SJ they do NOT have to build to the 2035 specs as long as they meet Prop 1A. Van Ark conceded that the time constraint of 2 hrs 40 minutes would technically be met if the system had the capacity to run a single train from LA to SF (though obviously not the ideal) – and thus it is not a real constraint….

    Also, it appears at the board meeting next week, the staff will recommend that they re-study the Grapevine.

    Not sure how quick the video will be up – but there were some very tense moments. Including Simitian asking Van Ark if he plans to be at the budget hearing planned next week and the week after on Thursday (the same day as the board meeting). Van Ark refused to commit to coming saying he had to talk to his board. After 3 times of asking the same question, Simitian reminded Van Ark that he is requesting about $200 million dollars and it would behoove him to show up.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If they’re going to waste time re-studying the Grapevine, it’s proof that idiots like Richard Tolmach have caused them to waste taxpayer money. Seriously, people need to get this sort of obsession out of their heads and learn a little bit of engineering — just a little! — before opining on it. This sort of insane advocacy of nonfunctional, highly risky proposals is the sort of reason amateur railfans get a bad name among pros.

    Simitian is an asshole, also. Did he deliberately schedule the meeting opposite a meeting Van Ark *had* to be at?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    There is no point in restudying the Grapevine. It probably has more mileage in tunnel unless there is a way to get more of the track at grade through the Grapevine which does not look likely. Also, you are missing a 600,000 person metro area that could be connected to the LA Basin by other than auto and commuter rail. Also, you have to look on what Burbank will do without all the intrastate flights? Adding a 600,000 person market would allow for more long-hauls to Burbank instead of the short-hauls.

  19. synonymouse
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 14:16

    @ Nadia

    You’re not s***ing us now, are you? Go on – make my day. I just can’t believe they are going to revisit Tejon.

    If that is true and Van Ark is the one responsible, I will have to say his credibility has taken a quantum leap in the right direction. Flexibility and a can-do attitude can turn this thing around

    California does indeed need improved passenger rail. The next step is to bury the hatchet with the UP and explore that offer to upgrade to 110mph on its various lines in the state. Sure would like to see the Francisco Chief back on the schedule.

    Nadia Reply:


    I’m not kidding. You were the first one we thought of when we heard the news. :)

    Senator Fuller (Bakersfield?) asked Van Ark why the agenda for next weeks BOD meeting mentions possible route changes. Van Ark said the materials will be posted over the weekend and the board doesn’t know yet, but that staff will be recommending they take another look at the Grapevine (in addition to the other options).

    Here’s the blurb I think she was referring to from the agenda:
    “Operations Committee Report
    The Operations Committee will report to the Authority Board and the Board will consider and take action on the following matters:
    ‐ Central Valley – Los Angeles Basin Mountain Crossing (see the May 4th meeting agenda and materials for greater detail)”

    Rich Tolmach testified that if they are going to be reducing the scope of the project in some areas (like SF-SJ) then they should reconsider Altamont because it could achieve their new reduced scope objectives.

    Jon Reply:

    Wow. A few immediate thoughts-

    1) This will affect initial construction, as the segment through Bakersfield would have to be modified for a Tejon alignment.
    2) DesertXpress will be pissed. They’ve staked a lot on a connection to CAHSR at Palmdale. If the route does change, they’d be wise to study connecting to CAHSR at San Bernadino instead.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Tejon route can still go via Palmdale.

    Another question is whether Sac can be in on the starter.

    Jon Reply:

    Sure, but why would you? Bakersfield to LA via Tejon and Palmdale is just as long as Bakersfield to LA via Tehachapi and Palmdale. The only reason to do Tejon is a more direct route excluding Palmdale.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I wonder if they are thinking of following 138 after crossing the range..might be faster as they could run 220 thru there..this will be interesting to see what they are proposing and why…and this would be the only way Palmdale/Lancaster can stay on the route the mountain segment seems shorter

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale is presumably a political necessity. But versatility at both ends is the great selling point of Tejon. It accesses both I-5 and 99 on the north and various entrees to LA are possible over the long term on the south end.

    Here’s a wild one for those who know more than your truly. Upside of Palmdale is that you could still run service from the north to the east. Ergo a new San Francisco Chief via Tejon to Palmdale thence back to the Santa Fe main to the east. From the map the historical SF Chief took off to the east at Mojave.

    I rode it in February of ’71, not realizing that I had just missed the end by a few months. My question is whether the greater mileage of Tejon east would be offset by the much faster sped of the hsr. Another interesting issue is whether the CHSRA Tehacahapi line would feature a track interchange with the UP at Mojave.

    Donk Reply:

    I am completely confused. Are you proposing to use Tejon AND Palmdale?!? After all your ranting about how we need to take the most direct route?!?

    It seems to me that your justificaiton for this ridiculous idea boils down to you being a train nerd. Who gives a shit about the SF Chief? What does that have to do with anything?

    synonymouse Reply:

    My initial impression was that any Tejon alternative would have to pass the Palmdale politicaltest. But it appears that that the scheme to be studied will be the fastest and the most direct. Fine and dandy.

    My contention about Tehachapi is that its passenger traffic potential is being way overstated. It will prove to be grossly underutilized in relation to its construction cost and its high cost of maintenance and operation due to the extra route mileage. Remember there is no train at all currently and where has been the public pressure to nudge the UP into allowing at least token service to LA? Very limited demand.

    Tehachapi is a bottleneck which should be remediated but for freight and passenger both. Amtrak service to the east via an interchange at Mojave would be a very nice plus and enjoy good ridership.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Man somebody is going to have to clean up the mess around here after Synonymouse finishes pissing all over himself. Hopefully Robert has a mop….

    synonymouse Reply:

    very funny, but hopefully I have many years to go before the Depends endgame. But it is encouraging that there appears to be a new light of realism and practicality leaking into the PB-CHSRA fuhrerbunker.

    Nadia Reply:

    @Syn You can hear what they discussed at about the Grapevine 40:45 in this audio clip:

    thatbruce Reply:

    Ah, so thats what Tolmach sounds like (39:25 is when he starts, commenting on the need to get off the Caltrain ROW before SJ. separate issue).

    The relevant questions regarding a restudy of an alternative route via Tejon/Grapevine are ‘is this true and why is an alternative route between CV to LA being considered now?’. The (paraphrased) answers are ‘yes, and the alternatives we’ve been working on are perhaps more complicated than we thought’. There is an emphasis on retaining investigation into the existing alternatives.

    In a way, I’m glad that Tejon is getting another look, as any result will provide a more definitive answer as to the broad routing between the CV and LA than vague conspiracy theories. On the other hand, I’m worried about spending significant money on evaluating or constructing Tejon as the existing geologic studies of the area strongly trend towards the fault junction having a very large potential for a future (spectacular) deformation, higher than other passes in the area. Perhaps all of those studies are wrong and all those who have studied California geology (including myself) will have wasted their time ;).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Knowledge is power and foreknowledge is perhaps the most powerful of all. So it is worth it to do the in-depth geology of the mountain pass alternatives. Perhaps it will drive the definitive stake thru the heart of Tejon – to a round of riiotous applause from the foamers – on the other hand, it might rough up the geologic case for Tehachapi. You have to wonder why the freight rr’s have never tried to work on this bottleneck.

    Seismic risk analysis is a crap shoot whereas adding extra route mileage is a very tangible and quantifiable liability.

    William Reply:

    The only advantage of Tejon pass is its direct distance being shorter, on all other categories such as constructability, cost, ease of repair after earthquakes, etc, are all inferior to the Tehachapi route. Think of this, are we willing to spend $10 Billion and 20 years just to dig a tunnel through Tejon? or $2~3 Billion and 3~5 years on Tehachapi route?

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d rather use the less expensive route, Besides extra ridership isn’t a bad thing and what does the Tejon route take in time vs the route that goes via Tehachapi, Palmdale and near to SR14?

    Clem Reply:

    Tejon saves approximately 10 minutes.

    Clem Reply:

    To amplify with a link… The run times were analyzed way back in the dark ages of 2004, and are now buried in the seventh sub-basement of the CHSRA website. Go to
    Library -> Library Topics -> Archived Materials -> Statewide Program EIR/EIS (oh! That’s where they put this trifle of a document!) -> Statewide Technical Reports -> Operational Report -> Appendix B.

    Do note that these run time simulations do not include emergency braking heat capacity limits, which in reality can impose speed limits on long and steep downgrades. From that standpoint, Tejon is better because (a) it doesn’t rise quite as high (1150 m instead of 1250 m for Palmdale) and (b) it’s a single shot, up-and-down, rather than up-down-up-down for the double mountain crossings via Palmdale.

    So the savings may actually be more than the unrealistic pedal-to-the-metal 10 minutes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The actual cost of the mountain crossing needs to include anticipated difference in maintenance and operation expenses which will be incurred 24/7 after trains begin running. A shorter route keeps on paying dividends.

    And it would be encouraging for Tejon partisans if experienced tunnelers like Herrenknecht et al were to state their interest in the project. If they know any tricks as to saving money on what appear to be 2 back to back sizeable tunnels this would be the time to make the case. This would be a plum of a contract in high profile Socal. Would I be way off to envision 8 mining machines going at it at the same time? Maybe 3-5 years? The study should make for interesting reading.

    And could the hsr make use of the 99 ROW south from Bakersfield?

    On another front China’s hsr faces some real problems, one surprise being operating costs:

    ks Reply:

    Critics are already comparing China’s HSR to US projects. Here is one outrageous comment:
    “China’s technology of the future has become a boondoggle of the present, piling up debt and resulting in the arrest of the minister of railways. Maybe it’s that last part we should be copying.”

    William Reply:

    Gotthard Base Tunnel takes 20 years to complete, and its length (58km) is comparable to Tejon tunnel, and it costs $10 Billion in 2010 US dollar.

    Hsuehshan Tunnel in Taiwan is ~15km long and it took 15 years to complete, at the cost of several people’s lives and $3 Billion US dollar, also due to unforeseen ground condition.

    All long tunnels in the world suffers from unpredictable ground conditions. A 3~5 years construction time frame only happens in ideal situation, i.e. no surprises. Gotthard had its TBMs stuck for months because they dig into types of ground originally predicted to be avoidable.

    I remember in the original Quantum report, only when changing the grade requirement to 3.5% there is a marginally acceptable route through Tejon. And that is with 2 pairs of >15km continuous tunnels.

    Clem Reply:

    Incorrect. 3.5% is a perfectly reasonable grade for HSR, and the Quantm alignment through Tejon has a total of 18 miles of tunnel with no single tunnel longer than 6 miles (10 km).

    William Reply:

    Thanks, Clem.

    I found this document in CAHSR explaining why it choose SR58 over I5 alignment:

    Less routing constraints: Quantm found only one option for I5 compared to many more for I58
    Less tunnel/shorter tunnel: 37km/8km vs 21km/5.5km
    Serve Palmdale: more people asking for Palmdale alignment than I5

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    EMUs can climb steeper grades than 3.5%. The actual limit is actually set by what engineers call “the puke factor”.

    Clem Reply:

    Grades by themselves do not induce motion sickness; only vertical curvature does that, and the vertical curvature limits are set independently of maximum grade. The actual limit is set by the tractive effort available for restarting from an emergency stop, on the grade, with low rail adhesion, with a certain portion of the traction packs out of service. It is purely a train performance thing.

    Alex M. Reply:

    That’s a lot of tunnel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    How many miles of tunnel are envisioned for the Tehachapi alignment? And what is the charqcter and magnitude of the other civil works needed for Tehachapi. I suggest that when all is computed they will be roughly similar both in amount of work involved and cost. The big difference will be in route mileage and collateral cost of maintenance and operation and travel times.

    Think of the hsr starter line as a sort of pilot for a new tv series. You need more drama, extra punch. Tejon has that high profile impact – if you ask the average man in the street which way to go they will say Grapevine. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if there is only one good alignment – we are only building one.

    Tehachapi is a freight route with a strong easterly orientation. I could certainly see upgrading this bottleneck in conjunction with the UP. You should go diesel and dual mode – freight and passenger – on Tehachapi. I assert that the actual passenger potential on this route is being sorely overestimated and some of that potential is going east. You should certainly interchange with the UP at Mojave so that Amtrak can reintroduce long haul passenger service from the Bay Area and the Valley to points east.

    If you want a passenger only, ultimately electrified route select Tejon. I certainly hope that the CHSRA will see its way to seriously dope out the Quantm route this time. That extra 10-20 minutes saved will prove invaluable down the road.

    Joey Reply:

    Somewhat unrelated, but do you know if the runtime simulations are still available anywhere?

    Clem Reply:

    Appendix D of the same document. Drill down as indicated above.

    thatbruce Reply:

    it’s a single shot, up-and-down, rather than up-down-up-down

    That comparison implies that Palmdale is at the same elevation as LA and CV, which isn’t quite the case. Its more like UP-and-DOWN vs UP-and-along-and-up-and-DOWN (from LA).

    Donk Reply:

    Just last month they were talking about using the Metrolink ROW from Palmdale into LA, and now they are going back to Tejon?

    I can’t wait until we start hearing the Castle Expert-types from Palmdale start complaining about this. Re-opening the debate about both Altamont and Tejon is really opening up a can of worms though, I don’t see how any of this is ever going to get resolved.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I will bet this new alternative still uses Metrolink up to Palmdale and Lancaster and then turn left and runs along Highway 138 to Tejon and over the pass .. now let’s see how they get it to Bakersfield..

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Agreed. I don’t understand what this accomplishes except creating more problems.

    Donk Reply:

    Another note – back when they decided on the Palmdale routing, this was back during the housing bubble when everyone was moving out to Palmdale and it was when LA was still planning on expanding Palmdale Airport into an International Hub for LA.

    If they re-evaluate the routing now, the case for Palmdale will be weakened since Palmdale is now forclosure central and the Airport is basically dead and will probably be replaced by Ontario.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I just glanced at the board documents and if I read it right it looks like they want to study the Grapevine route with a station at Santa Clarita.
    “Approve a conceptual study of the Grapevine corridor between Bakersfield and Sylmar with a
    potential station at Santa Clarita which would include working with stakeholders (agencies,
    landowners, tribes, and other interested parties) in this corridor. The purpose of this study would
    be to determine if a feasible Grapevine alignment alternative could be identified for potential
    inclusion as part of the Authority’s and FRA’s project EIR/EIS environmental review processes.
    If a feasible Grapevine alignment is found, this would be brought back to the board for approval
    before detailed environmental analysis is conducted.”

    Nathanael Reply:

    The waste-of-time study exists because so many people are agitating like Syn and Tolmach. I can tell you in advance what the study will find: a feasible Grapevine alignment alternative without excessive construction risk does *not* exist, unless there’s a massive change in technology I don’t know about in the last 5 years.

    The purpose of this study would
    be to determine if a feasible Grapevine alignment alternative could be identified for potential

    That says it all. They really don’t expect to find one, because unlike Syn and Richard Tolmach, they actually read the first studies. Like me, they’d actually like to find one, as it’s a faster route, but they’re pretty sure they won’t, and even if they do, they’re not committing to using it.

  20. Ken
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 14:27

    I have a thought. Wouldn’t it be much easier for pro-HSR groups to band together to buy the NIMBYs homes? We don’t have to say we’re pro-HSR, we’ll just act like regular homebuyers and negotiate a price with them like “I really love your home and want to buy it, but I heard there’s a rail a comin’…”

    They might rather just sell their home to move to another state thinking they got a great deal on a soon-to-be-a-lemon home, and continue on living with their car loving lives somewhere in Arizona or something, only to shoot themselves in the foot when they realize their home values that they sold tripled in value due to HSR.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Have to know exactly which people are the NIMBYs first. I think only a few of them have had their addresses tracked down personally.

  21. ProudPANimby
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 16:28

    Ken, please come by and make me an offer. I share the ROW fence. The ROW is 80 feet wide adjacent to my nearly paid for home. CAHSR states they need 100 feet to accomodate the HSR and CALTrain. I figure after they build the berm the new fence line will go through the master bedroom. The home was worth $1.2mill in 2005 before we did some major renovations and mods.

    Contact me offline at proudPANimby&

    Ken Reply:

    Yeah, “you figure” LOL. What’s wrong, you think big brother is just going to take your precious bedroom away like marching into your room like the Redcoats in 1776? LOLOLOL.

    Seriously, I can’t believe you really think in such scare tactics. If you’re so scared, why don’t you just move to Arizona? California’s clearly not for you. There are better places to live, no? :p

    ProudPANimby Reply:

    Ken, I’m not worried about big brother marching through my home, The Bill of Rights articles ii,iii,iv would allow me some protection against the redcoats. I do believe there are some other unquantifiable issues, atlest in my case. History. I was born in California sixty years ago and I’ve maintained a Palo Alto address since 1962, my wife since 1956. California is clearly for me.

    Besides that. HSR is too expensive. The interest won’t be paid off in my life time, let alone my grand children’s.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    You can stop the Teabagger BS about high-speed rail not being paid off in your grandchildren’s lives unless they’re also their 60s its a 30 year bond.. so your the perfect stereotype of those against high-speed rail.. you very clearly knew that you were buying a house next to a railroad.. no one grabbed your arm and forced you to sign that paper.. besides the way things are going its probably going to be a two track electrified what are you whining about?? Disable that BS propaganda filled website and put some real truth in it.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Oh it needs to be paid off? Then what about our freeways? They don’t?

    Ken Reply:

    Well, apparently the CA that you used to love isn’t what you love anymore. Why continue to cry, moan, and whine about it? You clearly have enough money to just sell you home and move elsewhere.

    This is why you selfish NIMBYs don’t get any sympathy from the rest of California. Waaaaaah, now I have to fly first class on a commercial airplane instead of taking my precious private jet because of high gas prices! Waaah, now they’re taking away my master bedroom in my fifth home, I have no other place to sleep that my other four big mansions that I have in Miami, Denver, Saint Maarten, and the Swiss Alps. Waaaah, I don’t want high speed rail, it’s gonna cut into my shares of stock that I own from oil companies, waaaaah, feel sorry for me, me, and only meeeeeee!!!

    So tell me, Mr and Mrs oh-I’m-so-rich I get to live in Palo Alto. Have you ridden on HSR in Japan, Germany, and France? I’m sure you do with your shopping sprees in Paris and Marseilles. Oh wait, that’s right, you own a Centurion Black AMEX, you just let hire a chauffeur to drive you around because you don’t want to mess with the idea of mingling in with the “poor folk” who take the TGV! My, bad, sorry for my selfishness in not thinking from the perspective of the uber-rich mindset.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    What’s the length of the segment of the ROW that borders your property?

    Alex M. Reply:

    I’m sure the trains that go by there currently are annoying enough, eh?

    StevieB Reply:

    You built your master bedroom 10 feet from the Caltrain ROW? Looking at the satellite maps of Palo Alto I see one house that may be that close to the ROW. What do you think of at grade tracks with underpasses built for the three grade crossings in Palo Alto?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It reads like PPAN is saying they say they need 10ft and he/she is adding an additional amount “for the berm” in order to get an amount that will hit his/her master bedroom.

    That makes a certain kind of sense ~ hitting your house is a lot more dramatic than taking 10ft from your backyard, so if the Authority says they need to take 10ft from your backyard, adding an extra allowance on top of that “for the berm” makes it more dramatic. So if you were aiming for drama over truthfulness, that would be the way to go.

    OTOH, it might be that we have the sole house in PA actually built within 10ft of the ROW border.

    thatbruce Reply:

    On a related note, what is the minimum distance permitted between an approved structure (or extension to an existing structure) and the current Caltrain ROW, say in the city of Palo Alto?

    (I’m not sure whether the Caltrain ROW property line would be treated any differently from other property lines in this context)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s a railroad it more or less boils down to “they can do whatever they please”

    thatbruce Reply:

    What about those who aren’t Caltrain but have approved structures on property abutting the Caltrain ROW ?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Contact me offline at proudPANimby&

    A .com would be online.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    So wait – you bought at the top of the market, sunk lots more money into renovations, are almost certainly underwater (or at least have lost value along with everybody else in America) and are blaming a project that hasn’t even been built yet.

    Fuck off. You deserve no sympathy.

    joe Reply:

    Yet a UK Study done in German concluded adding a HSR station adds permanent GDP growth to the local economy. rents and home values increase compared to near by towns.

    A NIMBY near the tracks ought to fight FOR a HSR station so they can reap the benefits. Home prices are stabilized and increase – the station provides more access to work.

    That’s according to one of the first of it kind, controlled study of HSR economic impacts on towns in German.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And is there a road on the other side of the Caltrain line opposite your home? And have you checked the plans (hint: the plans involve taking land from the adjacent road before even considering taking houses)?

  22. morris brown
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 16:51

    Today (4/28/2011) Senator Simitian had a committee meeting and spent almost the total time talking to vanArk about getting HSR through the Peninsula on 2 tracks, without Aerials and having the Authority stop work on the present EIR.

    I have posted the audio at:

    It is over 1 hour in length.

    Clem Reply:

    Thanks for posting this Morris. Very interesting.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Did VanArk say that the FRA would make the FLA money picks in 2 weeks?? cant seem to find it now ..

    VBobier Reply:

    It seems that the CHSRA has only 19 employees and that from what I heard they’d like to employ another 37 employees as It seems a lot of needed positions are unfilled currently. Tejon was mentioned as an alternate for an EIR, Not as a realignment at this time and that there could be lawsuits if the alignment were changed to Tejon from what was already decided for the southern end of the route. Also in addition to Palo Alto, Menlo Park & Atherton(PAMPA), Pico Rivera was mentioned, Although I’m not sure what Pico Rivera has to do with the PAMPA cities in the Caltrain corridor, As Pico Rivera is next to Whittier CA and last I looked since I’d worked nearby at one time, Pico Rivera is not between Los Angeles and Anaheim, Nor is Pico Rivera between Los Angeles and Palmdale, Not even close, If Pico Rivera is on a proposed route extension to San Diego to be built later on, ok, Of course that’s way down the line at the moment, All the same It still sounds strange.

    StevieB Reply:

    The tracks to Anaheim go through the southern area of Pico Rivera. Tracks to San Diego could possibly pass through northern Pico Rivera. The Pico Rivera city council passed resolutions supporting obstructionist state legislature bills.

  23. Richard Peterson
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 19:14

    Every one in Palo Alto hates the elevated structures, and the Deep Tunnel and trench is very pricy, so her is a better solution, lets just do a Blended system allong the existing Caltrain tracks running from San Jose to San Fransisco, lets have the High speed train run on the caltrain tracks sharring with the caltrain, and this will enable Caltrain to get their electrification, However, Caltrain going have to elliminate their baby bullet service and let the High speed rail take over that service and Caltrain does the regular run, San Fransisco and San Jose are only 50 Miles appart, so theres no reasion to have a train traveling at Faster Speed, 80MPH is Enough on the blended system.

    thatbruce Reply:

    At ‘only’ 50 miles apart, the HSR trains need to run at an average of 100mph to meet the mandated timing of 30 minutes between SF and SJ. But beyond that, a blended grade separated system with as many passing tracks as you can fit in would be good.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If “everyone in Palo Alto hates the elevated structures”, I guess it’s ’cause they’ve never seen decent elevated structures.

    You have a lot of crappy elevated highway designs in that area, don’t you? Someone should take you on a trip to visit nice elevated railway lines.

  24. Spokker
    Apr 28th, 2011 at 20:45

    So does van Ark wish he was back in France or what?

    joe Reply:


    France, it’s a cake walk compared to the US. There’s no union or general strike to contend with as he moves on HSR. He has state government unified under one party and behind HSR, a President favorable to HSR and ARRA funding.

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah that’s what I’m saying.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I suppose you’re being ironical as SNCF unions are known for being the most militant and strike-prone in the world.
    As for our president’s being favorable to HSR, well, he is in his own way. The only condition is that it must make an operating profit and pay exorbitant tolls (the highest in Europe) to pay for construction cost loan interests and track maintenance. Apart from that, it’s a cakewalk.
    Conditions will probably change next year as Sarkozy is likely to lose the election. His popularity is now down to 19%. Our next president will either be green-socialist or Front National.
    – Socialist platform: abandon the notion of profitability for public services. Regularize all illegals. Extend the right to vote and be elected to non-European foreigners living in France. Tax all speculators and remove loopholes which allow the richest to pay no taxes. Lower gasoline tax. Phase out nuclear electricity.
    – Front National: secede from Europe. Expel the illegals, give French citizens priority for jobs, free health care, subsidized housing. Oblige foreigners to respect French law and customs.
    What is the Front National’s transit policy? Nobody knows. Their platform is rather simplistic and considered racist and anti-muslim. They are our version of the Tea-Party.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m sure the German Empire EU will have some things to say about the biggest province leaving.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I suppose you are speaking in French terms, where the dominant region is not considered a “province”? Using anyone else’s terminology, that would be the “second biggest province”: for reference, Germany is by *far* the biggest state in the EU, especially measured by population, but I believe even by land area. (Well, actually, maybe if you count stuff like French Guiana and Polynesia France is larger, I suppose, but I bet the Front National would get rid of them.)

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Back in France?
    Roelof Van Ark is from South Africa. His native language is Afrikaans but he also speaks English, like all educated South Africans. I don’t know if he can speak any French at all. I wouldn’t expect him to go “back” to France!

    spokker Reply:

    He used to work for Alstom, which is a French company.

  25. Jeff Carter
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 04:25

    While we are Google mapping grade separations, check this one out.

    FACT: The grade separation at Hillcrest Blvd. in Millbrae uses less than 200 feet on each side of the track bed. From Hemlock (which runs parallel to the tracks), to the track bed is 187 feet. The track bed itself is 73 feet wide, (good enough for 4 tracks), from the east side of the track bed to Aviador is 172 feet. Hillcrest dips below the track bed by 17.5 feet; the track bed itself is 5 feet 4 inches. No driveways are blocked, no homes are disrupted.

    The Hillcrest/Hemlock grade separation, which is supposed to be wide enough for four tracks, can be seen here:,-95.677068&sspn=45.553578,57.744141&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=600+Hemlock+Ave,+Millbrae,+San+Mateo,+California+94030&ll=37.602767,-122.391057&spn=0,0.000881&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=37.602901,-122.390885&panoid=CNOYwaEU6MjF-daz3IBw_Q&cbp=12,29.56,,0,5

  26. Reality Check
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 06:20

    San Jose OK’s preliminary plan for ‘Grand Central Station’ of the West

    “… development of a world-class transportation hub is among the city’s top priorities.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …well… Calling it the Trenton Transportation Center of the West doesn’t have the same cachet.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Really more of the Newark Penn Station of the West, surely?

    joe Reply:

    Call it the Tumble Weed Station in honor of Richard and those who think San Jose isn’t a destination of interest.

    Joey Reply:

    It will be quite a wonderful place. Between the massive parking lots and bland condo blocks, why would you not want to go there?

  27. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 11:39

    The draft transportation bill. For high speed rail (granted, including less than 125mph routes too):

    “(1) $4,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2012;
    “(2) $4,967,000,000 for fiscal year 2013;
    “(3) $6,002,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;
    “(4) $7,242,000,000 for fiscal year 2015;
    “(5) $7,532,000,000 for fiscal year 2016; and
    “(6) $7,867,000,000 for fiscal year 2017.

    There’s also a NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION AND FINANCE FUND which looks like it might be an infrastructure bank if I’m reading it right. Highways are going to get 33+ billion per year. It also amends the law to permit states to impose congestion tolling on bridges, highways, etc. in cities of one million or more.

    Joseph E Reply:

    “It also amends the law to permit states to impose congestion tolling on bridges, highways, etc. in cities of one million or more.”

    If this happens, it could be a huge game-changer. Congesting pricing in Los Angeles could be a great way to pay for maintenance of our crumbling freeways, while expanding the Metro transit system, without another sales tax increase. Of course, a gas tax increase would work too, but congestion charges are more fair and better counteract the negative externalities of congestion in a big city (the gas tax is important due to all the problems with imported oil, but congestion is even a bigger problem in cities), and it won’t be affected by the switch to electric and hybrid vehicles.

    Along with state AB710, which limits parking minimums to 1 car parking spot per residential unit near transit routes, California could see a real shift to transit-oriented development, and people switching back to 1 car per family lifestyles instead of the current 3 or 4 cars per family insanity.

    Jon Reply:

    To be precise, the bill permits tolling in “urbanized areas” or 1 million or more. That is significant for cities like San Francisco, which is a city of less than one million but exists as part of a much bigger urbanized area.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Nosing around the web this is the White House version…I was all excited till I found out..thought this is what Micas commitee had come up with.

  28. Reality Check
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 13:30

    Just saw this on the pro-Altamont TRANSDEF group’s Website: [New] Briefs filed in HSR Challenge … it seems the most interesting meat worth reading begins with Section III C on page 5 (PDF page 8) of the so-called Atherton II brief. In it, the self-identified “Altamont Advocates” make their case for why the HSRA is still thumbing their nose at the points raised in Atherton I and continues to be improperly and illegally jamming Pacheco through while sandbagging Altamont. Makes for interesting and troubling reading:

    While the Court found Respondent’s consideration of alternatives in the prior FPEIR/EIS
    to be adequate, changed circumstances, and specifically the inability to use the UP ROW, should
    have caused Respondent to reopen its consideration of alternatives. Respondent did so, but in
    such a crabbed and niggardly manner as to violate CEQA’s requirement that an EIR consider “
    … a reasonable range of alternatives that could feasibly reduce a project’s significant
    environmental impacts.”

    tony d. Reply:

    What a bunch of bull shit. “Crabbed” and “niggardly” manner? My prediction:
    Sac judge will rule in favor of proponents, hold the CHSRA at gun point and force them to change the primary
    Bay Area routing to the environmentally superior Altamont alignment, complete with billion + dollar
    Dumbarton rail bridge (or tunnel). How’s that for sarcasm!

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Really just more were just busy money work for the lawyers!!..

  29. Reality Check
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 13:37

    This link for the Atherton II brief should work better.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont remains the undead because it has very strong selling points.

    Perhaps the initial error that favored Pacheco was drawing a line between then center of Sf and the center of SJ and concluding that was the center of Bay Area population, In reality the virtual center of Bay Area population is considerably farther to the east, favoring Altamont.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Sigh. The initial error was rejecting the Second Transbay Tube outright.

    Dumbarton is a seriously problematic route. Altamont is not, and indeed would have strong selling points if not for the Bay Crossing issue.

  30. morris brown
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 14:39

    Galgiani on the war path:

    Attacking Simitian:

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Good he needs it.. he was very politely demanding and arrogant in that video… you will build high-speed rail “MY” way or he won’t fund it.. though I don’t understand the one high-speed rail train to San Francisco statement she’s making.. it appears with his plan that there may be just enough track availability to run one or two trains an hour up to San Francisco.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The “one train” reference is referring the part of the “Sen. Simitian vs. van Ark” committee meeting recording where Simitian pushes van Ark to admit that if only one HSR train per day on a 2-track corridor shared with Caltrain & freight can achieve the end-to-end SF-LA timing in Prop. 1A, then that’s good enough to comply with the law. This is in the greater context of Simitian saying HSRA shouldn’t study anything more than the bare minimum to comply with 1A — which Simitian contends is never going beyond phase I of having essentially a two-track system on the Peninsula fitting entirely within the existing Caltrain right-of-way’s footprint.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Assemblymember Galgiani makes some serious allegations that Senator Simitian is blackmailing the Authority to get some operating funds for Caltain. She also insinuates that the Senator Simitian is responsible for Caltrain’s woes.

    Unless there is something happening behind the scenes, everything he has done seems to be to get the Authority to spend less money on the Peninsula so that they will have enough money to build the rest of the system.

    I am truly puzzled and somewhat disturbed. If the Assemblymember wanted to express frustration that Simitian is making life hard for the Authority, that would be one thing. But this is another…

    MGimbel Reply:

    That’s politics…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s exactly what Simitian is doing.

    VBobier Reply:

    For once I agree Elizabeth…

    peninsula Reply:

    CHSRA is adamant that HSR goes through the Caltrain row whether its done big or done small. So Caltrain row is getting remodeled on CHSR’s dime either way. (ie: speaks to Galgiani’s honesty…)

    Now, Simitian is insisting that it be done small – saving BILLIONS to the state of California and thereby freeing up BILLIONS for the build in HER central valley neighborhood. Now why do we think it would be that Galgiani is so interested in having the CHSRA buy up hundreds and hundreds of acres of pricey Peninsula real estate that aren’t necessary? And overbuiding galore? Could it be that her “interests” are DEVELOPERS and construction unions? I think Galgiani’s constituents needs to be quizzing her now on why she thinks it better to invest BILLIONS more than necessary way out in the Peninsula.

    Galgiani ought to be a little more discreet – her ulterior motives are showing.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    So Assemblywoman Galgiani insisting that Sen. Simitian follow the letter and intent of Proposition 1A (the bill that she authored and the People of California PASSED in 2008) is reason enough to slander Assemblywoman Galgiani and call her corrupt?

    Keep on being classy “peninsula”

    Maybe she actually wants a first-world state with first-world infrastructure for her children and grandchildren. Maybe Assemblywoman Galgiani’s constituents in Merced County actually want the trains to take them to San Francisco and Los Angeles quickly, conveniently, and reliably. Just like Prop 1A promised, but Simitian’s “Palo Alto process” scheme wouldn’t deliver.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think you’re right. Assemblywoman Galgiani would like to actually have high-speed trains to SAN FRANCISCO. The obsessed on the Peninsula don’t seem to understand that — people from the southern half of the state want to go to SAN FRANCISCO quickly. Not so much Palo Alto, not so much Oakland, not so much San Jose. Any proposal which destroys the fast train route to SAN FRANCISCO is not acceptable.

    VBobier Reply:

    Simitian ought to be ashamed of this scheming of His, Shame on Him… 1 HSR Train a Day, Once every half hour, Nothing less is or would be acceptable.

    VBobier Reply:

    1 HSR Train a Day, NO, Never as in It’s unacceptable. Once every half hour, YES. Nothing less is or would be acceptable.

  31. Elizabeth
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 18:29

    We have posted Galgiani’s statement on our website.

    materials for next board meeting are also up:

    happy Friday.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Per CARRD’s website about being confused, I believe the main message that Galigiani is trying to express here is that when HSR funding finally comes to the SF-SJ section, they are proposing to use HSR money to fund a dinky Caltrain upgrade program, hence robbing HSR money. It is a valid point. If Simitian et al view the HSR program as a minor upgrade forever and ever, then yes, essentially HSR funds are being used to fund a Caltrain upgrade that will be insufficient to operate HSR as should be (if it all).

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I think that’s exactly what got her mad is that Simitian is busy trying to lock this in place as the final work to ever be done on the San Francisco San Jose section.. of course no one knows whats going to happene in 2035.. years down the road.So he is probably just doing this because he wants to get all these people off his back and wants high-speed rail to get up and running.. and if popular the upgrades will go forward at a slower pace and probably needing additional studies which in the long will end up costing more for all of us but it will take enormous weight off his head.. strangely people I would think should be screaming about this would be my city of San Francisco politicians and our state Sen.Leno.. they are strangely quiet I guess they don’t want to play the big bully just yet..BTW Sen. Leno is the chairman of the fiscal committee thats over Sen. Simitian and Lowenthal so I wonder if he can overrule any kind of holds these people put on any kind of high-speed rail money which also may be one of representative Galgianis fears that withholding money will delay the ERI for the entire project and the federal funding for the Central Valley including possible Florida funds to reach Merced.. that may be where some of her anger is coming from.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hopefully Sen Leno will kill Simitians and Lowenthals crap and any worthless holds, Sounds like sabotage to the project in the making.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    But this same upgrade is precisely what HSRA itself is proposing. The argument is about whether statue forces you to do the 9 billion project, when the 3 billion project might do fine.

    We have still not seen a single joint operating schedule. Everyone needs to calm down.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Lots of interesting stuff on the authority’s website… looks like that phase 1 SF_SJ is just basically electrification and signaling systems and very limited grade separations mostly upgrades probably to the four quadrant gates and initial service to fourth and King…. the LA Crossing is even more interesting stating the route would be from Bakersfield Sylmar over the Grapevine eliminating Palmdale and the entire antelope Valley section and connecting at Santa Clarita with Metrolink… it appears the reason is that the route along the state highways from Palmdale into the San Fernando Valley are looking to be very complex and very expensive so that’s what they’re looking for the Grapevine alternative once again.. no mention how they get from Bakersfield to the Grapevine .

    synonymouse Reply:

    This amounts to a fair and honest smackdown: Tejon vs. Tehachapi. Let’s see all the dimples and warts. Obviously the costs are looking comparable and the taxpayers deserve an accurate accounting of the pros and cons, not just the immediate political benefits to local interests but the impact on the viability of the CHSRA over the long term.

    Apparently even China, with its non-union plentiful labor, is finding operating costs are an issue. Extra mileage costs and has been insufficiently factored in heretofore into the CHSRA estimates.

    The question of track interchange at Mojave with UP & Sante Fe lines east brings up the whole issue of interface with Amtrak and its equipment. This is important as Amtrak is likely to be the default operator of the CA hsr as private operation is just not going to happen on this slow route and the BART-TWU management model is hopelessly exorbitant. So if you are going Tehachapi think compatibility with Amtrak from the outset.

    Foam and fulminate all you like but there are not going to be aerials thru PAMPA. If trenching is deemed to be too expensive(maybe not)the solution is to flush Prop 1A and terminate at San Jose. Transferring to Caltrain or BART is adequate – the riders are going to have to transfer to some other mode at some point anyway.

    Of course the best course is to go Altamont to LIvermore thence via Dumbarton to SFO, midway between both SF and SJ. You might even be able to attract a private operator.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    HSR not serving San Francisco is NOT an option… they will simply come up he CalTrain ROW in some form of upgraded CalTrain .. but the high-speed rail system will serve the city of San Francisco under all circumstances!

    VBobier Reply:

    Probably using modified Acela type trains, If the 4 tracks up on a low berm stay within the existing ROW and the tracks recurved as much as can be done within the existing ROW, Then I’d think they should use modified Acela type trains that can do at least 220Mph out where they can and 165Mph at most in the Caltrain Corridor would be ok, But not 1 HSR Train per day? That’s not regular service by any definition, That’s Fraud and Waste, Simitian is a DINO.

    VBobier Reply:

    that should be: “But 1 HSR Train per day? That’s not regular service by any definition,” Simitian should be ashamed, I’d love to see Him Recalled, But I know, His rich paymasters won’t allow that.

    Clem Reply:

    Synny! It’s being de-stilted and Grapevinified! What can possibly be next, Altamontification?

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am hoping for a civil and acceptable solution to the Peninsula conundrum. I am concerned that
    there is a point where the local political figures like Simitian may conclude the situation is hopeless and rue the day they ever supported Prop 1A.

    If push comes to shove they do have some options. Personally I suggest they remind Galgiani & co. of the nuclear option of a Ring the Bay “grassroots” tsunami.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “This amounts to a fair and honest smackdown: Tejon vs. Tehachapi. Let’s see all the dimples and warts. Obviously the costs are looking comparable”

    Well, except for massive potential for enormous cost overruns and non-buildability via Tejon, but hey, the study will show that. AGAIN. And let me bet in advance that you won’t believe it. AGAIN.

    VBobier Reply:

    It should be Phase one: Grade separation, Phase two: Electrification, Not the other way around, Or am I missing something?

    Joey Reply:

    The idea is to be able to run a minimum amount of high-speed trains on the corridor from the start with minimal changes to the configuration. So electrification first, grade separation later. Though I doubt that it will be possible without additional tracks in some places (in which case grade separation would be done concurrently with electrification in those areas).

  32. Michael Mahoney
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 18:51

    First, on the level crossings, the EIR said that every single level crossing would be separated, a bit over 600 level crossings from SF to LA. If CHSRA were to try to close off a level crossing, no matter how much sense it might make on the ground, they would be accused of reneging.

    Of course, they could have chosen a route that had fewer level crossings to begin with.

    Second, on the WSJ article, my linking skills are insufficient to bring up the illustration, but it presumably came from HSR and purports to show a stretch of line. About in the middle there is a road intersection adjacent to the track and what appears to be an underpass. Is it 17 feet? It looks lower in the picture … HSRA trying to make the berm look less gigantic?

    Also, the ROW is four tracks, presumably combined HSR and Caltrain — either two tracks for each system or mix and match. But on the right, under the trees, at grade, you can see two more sets of tracks. What’s up with that? An extension of the Diridon light rail system?

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Of course, they could have chosen a route that had fewer level crossings to begin with. ”

    There aren’t any. There are too many freaking roads in California already.

    Nathanael Reply:

    To be more specfic, there are so many roads in California that it’s practically impossible to draw a line from SF to LA on a map without running into a gazillion road crossings which need to be grade separated.

  33. datacruncher
    Apr 29th, 2011 at 19:14

    If I’m reading the materials for the board meeting correctly it looks like a lot of changes are being considered in the Valley segment. The changes include replacing much of the aerials along the entire segment with at-grade that includes vehicle/pedestrian over/underpasses.

    They are now looking into at-grade stations in both Fresno and Merced and eliminating large sections of the aerials in those cities. Also looks like they are settling on the UP West alternative for Fresno.

    North and south of Hanford they are looking at a slight ROW shift, as well as alignment shifts at Corcoran, Allensworth, Shafter and Wasco. Many aerial sections along there will now be at-grade.

    Lots of interesting changes discussed.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Looking a little closer, one of the bigger problems at Fresno that had aerials being considered was crossing Freeway 180. Looks like that would now be accomplished using a 1.5 mile trench from the Roeding Park area under 180 into downtown Fresno.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Fresno doesn’t have the same shallow underground stream / drainage problems as the Peninsula. Trenching sounds eminently effective in that area; good to hear this plan.

    Of course, the at-grade-downtown plan DOES involve substantially more property takings in Fresno. But apparently Fresno is OK with that. Which proves that they’re not being run by NIMBYS.

    Clem Reply:

    Looks like the grownups have finally taken charge. What a refreshing agenda packet, for once!

    VBobier Reply:

    Well at Grade is what HSR should be, As I think that’s what was envisioned originally, If possible & with no grade crossings at all, Underpasses can be built that don’t take up much more room than the original road, It’s been done & without taking a single parcel as has been shown, Overpasses can be done too, Nothing is impossible.This is going to cost money and so does any other project of this scale, Private interests have never done anything on the scale of a mega project, And NO the Panama Canal was not originally a Government Project, It became such after the US bought the project from France, If someone says that they know of lots of projects besides a Building or two that haven’t been utter private failures, Like the Milwaukee Road. Speak up, cause I can’t HEAR Ya…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Private interests conquered Hawaii — does that count as a megaproject?

    Anyway, my real point is that any private interest big and powerful enough to do a megaproject is actually so big and powerful that it is effectively a government. Not a democratically elected government, just a private tyranny. I’d rather that democratically elected governments did the projects.

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