Memorial Day Open Thread

May 30th, 2011 | Posted by

Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend (if you’ve got one!). Lots of Californians are out on the roads and at the airports this weekend. And 3-day weekends like this are a great reminder of how HSR would help people enjoy their time off by letting them have more of it. Driving from SF to LA (or vice versa) takes half the daylight hours – so roundtrip, you’d lose an entire day of your weekend if you drove. One could fly, but adding in airport security time and travel time to the airports, you’re looking at 4-5 hours anyway. High speed rail will serve more city centers, making the stations more conveniently located for more people. That brings down travel times and, by 2020, travel costs (since air travel will be more expensive than it is now, as will driving).

California’s tourist industry should be one of the strongest supporters of high speed rail and other passenger rail systems. Their future depends on sustainable, affordable travel being developed to serve the key destinations of this state.

  1. Jack
    May 30th, 2011 at 11:09

    A one hour train ride to (hopefully) Valencia for a trip to Six Flags would have made an awesome weekend. The idea of LA being 1.5 hours away instead of 4.5+traffic, movie premiers, awesome concerts, conventions in Anaheim (e3 etc) can all be done in a day!

    Every time I think of the opportunities of HSR, especially for Fresnans who live smack in the middle of things, I can’t help but think why we didn’t build this thirty years ago?!?!

    Build, baby build!

    Spokker Reply:

    I took Metrolink from Orange County to Six Flags once. I’m surprised they don’t have a bus that goes from Newhall to the park. You have to transfer at McBean.

    Wad Reply:

    When the transit center used to be at the Santa Clarita station, you could take a bus to Magic Mountain. The time I took it, people rode the Metrolink train up and crowded the bus for a full standing load.

    The bus arrives at Magic Mountain, one person gets off.

    The bus leaves full.

    Then it arrives at Wayside (Pitchess Jail). The entire bus clears out and runs empty to Castaic.

    Spokker Reply:

    Transit orientated jail?

    Wad Reply:

    Not in Santa Clarita. Like everything else, the main entrance would be a country mile away.

    The jail, though, was at one time the busiest destination for Santa Clarita Transit outside of a transit center. Busier than Magic Mountain, College of the Canyons or even the Town Center Mall (which used to be a transfer point before McBean was built).

  2. John Burrows
    May 30th, 2011 at 11:18

    When we talk about the future of HSR in California the dates we seem to use most often are 2020, 2030, or at the outside 2035.

    Last year I was in Chicago and rode a number of times on the EL. Couldn’t help but notice that for a 119 year old transit system it seems to be doing it’s job just fine. If CAHSR becomes operational in 2020, it would be 119 years old in 2139. I would not even want to attempt to predict what California will be like in 2139, but in my admittedly not impartial opinion CAHSR will have played a big part in what California has become, and will still be there—doing what it was expected to do.

    Jack Reply:

    NIMBY’s will be fighting Maglev extensions because Flying Cars are good enough.

  3. James McDonald
    May 30th, 2011 at 11:48

    They say that the trip from Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station should only take 25 minutes on the California High Speed Rail. I’m betting it might really take 30 to 45 minutes. Still it’s going to be a great achievement. The CA High Speed Rail is going to change so many lives and make vacation time wonderful. It currently takes 2 hours just to get from Lancaster to Los Angeles Union Station on the Metrolink.

    Alex M. Reply:

    No, it almost certainly will be 25 minutes. The times must be precise because of the mandated 2:40 time requirement. Why would it take longer? Road crossings? ;)

  4. Fremont
    May 30th, 2011 at 14:11

    Add me to the chorus. My family and I are leaving tommorrow for Disneyland and the idea of getting on the train and stepping off in Anaheim 3 hours later seems too good to be true. My kids will probably be out of the house by the time it is reality but it is the right thing to do. With all the baseball and hockey lately I have been daydreaming about a “Bullet Train Series” where the Giants play the Angels. Or maybe the San Jose Sharks can walk from the Shark Tank to the Diridon, get on the train, and then walk off next to the arena for a game with the Ducks. Can’t wait to see some construction.

    Alai Reply:

    There’s a lot of potential cross-promotion there. You could sell tickets to the train+game. If there is sufficient demand (and I suspect there would be) run one or more specially-decorated baseball specials, especially LA->SF if they take you right to the stadium. Maybe even have autograph signings and such en route.

    Wad Reply:

    The Giants and Angels did meet in the World Series in 2002.

    Or, Bay Area fans will come to L.A. to watch real NBA basketball. :> (And I don’t mean the Clippers. They already have two Clipper-caliber teams. :> Soon to be one. :>)

  5. Emma
    May 30th, 2011 at 14:53

    If we had HSR today, I would have taken a trip to San Francisco. For sure.

  6. Jesse D.
    May 30th, 2011 at 14:55

    It’d be nice to have a 6 hour round trip to see a friend in San Diego and not the 20 hour round trip by car.

    And I don’t even own a car, so it’d take even LONGER. The quickest round-trip from Modesto by Amtrak is 18 hours. Slightly faster than a car, but costs lots more.

    Even if the HSR costs $150 round trip, it’d still be a lot faster for the dollar.

  7. Alon Levy
    May 30th, 2011 at 15:08

    I took a day trip to Providence yesterday to scout apartments. The train took nearly 3.5 hours to do a distance of less than 300 km. Fortunately, it happened to be on time.

  8. wu ming
    May 30th, 2011 at 16:35

    i’ve got a conference in socal next month, that HSR would make a whole hell of a lot easier. cap corridor to sac, HSR to LAUC, metrolink to the university, letting me work on my presentation and collect my thoughts instead of locking myself in a car for a day’s long grueling drive down (and back up) 5.

  9. political_incorrectness
    May 30th, 2011 at 17:14
    #9 Gotta love the WSJ repeating the same FUD that has gone around.

    wu ming Reply:

    that’s the whole purpose of FUD. you plant it somewhere, then everyone else can report on the reporting, without taking responsibility for evaluating the merits of the original story.

  10. datacruncher
    May 30th, 2011 at 18:10

    I wonder how bad traffic delays on I-5 in the SJ Valley were this weekend.

    Per CalTrans:
    I 5
    JCT OF SR 58 (KERN CO) 24 HRS A DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK THRU 10/20/11 – DUE TO

    joe Reply:

    If we had HSR I’d be vacationing in Sacramento – just kidding.

    LA to to NorCal traffic is bad

    As usual 101 N is backed up S of Gilroy 152 for traffic heading back form Monetery to the Bay Area and slow from Gilroy 152 North to South San Jose/Coyote Valley.

    peninsula Reply:

    due to construction. how long will the delays be on HSR due to contruction… about 10-20 years…

    joe Reply:

    Nice one Bevis.

    Meanwhile HSR will enter into a MOU with Spain on best practices. No word yet on the LAO’s attendance or even a clue about the meeting.

    On Thursday, the California High Speed Rail Authority is expected to enter into a memorandum of understanding with officials from Spain to share information about best practices for establishing a railway.

    The next day, members of the authority and the Spanish Trade Commission will convene a conference in San Francisco to discuss economic opportunities from high-speed rail. Spain has over 2,300 miles of high speed rail lines built or planned to be built, a network that trails just China globally.

    Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

    Jack Reply:

    If you just drop your crusade we could be on this thing by the end of the decade.

    Spokker Reply:

    No one person is holding up HSR in CA.

    In fact, I wonder if CHSRA’s own incompetence is doing more harm than NIMBY’s.

    joe Reply:

    How so?

    HSR’s competed for and won a disproportionate share, based on population, of federal funding. We’re the only project in the US right now.

    NIMBY’s succeeded in what? They pushed HSR into the Central Valley where it’s going to be impossible to divert funds away from a building a HSR compatible track and test segment.

    Spokker Reply:

    I didn’t say NIMBY’s succeeded in anything and you have a strange fixation on winning federal funds as a measure of success.

    I’m glad we are starting in the Central Valley and I’m glad the feds stayed strong on starting there, but you act like getting federal funds automatically means it’s a good project.

    Peter Reply:

    Right, I mean look at BART-to-San Jose, it looks like they’re getting federal funding…

    joe Reply:

    I have a “strange fixation on winning federal funds as a measure of success”

    On what planet do you come from?

    The national academy of science and engineers has a strange fixation of winning federal funds is a as a measure of success. They’re silly – right?

    “I act as if”…

    The project’s been highly competitive for money a very very important indicator. They’re able to show a credible plan for construction and capability to execute within tight timelines.

    Does that mean it’s a “good project” I haven’t a clue because you make little to no sense.

    Why not lay out some criteria and tell us how to measure “good”.

    Spokker Reply:

    You act as if because there’s federal money to be had that California has no choice but to pursue it. You used this to blast the LAO, as if not taking the money is not an option.

    If the project were another freeway and not a rail line, I wonder if receiving federal money at any cost would be your big talking point.

    Spokker Reply:

    A good project is one that builds close to the right amount of infrastructure for a reasonable cost. This project is seriously lacking in the cost effectiveness criteria in some areas. The CHSRA rightfully got their wrists slapped for LA-Anaheim (shared track is back on the table) and they are planning four tracks all the way up the Peninsula, which is not needed in any reality I’ve experienced.

    We’ve got an overbuilt station planned for San Jose and a poorly designed station planned for San Francisco.

    There is next to no coordination between the CHSRA and other agencies. What coordination there is has been haphazard and awkward, to put it lightly. Caltrain has no idea what they are doing when it comes to HSR and their own electrification plans.

    The Central Valley is about the one area where the CHSRA and the feds are getting it right. I’m glad they are starting here while the troubled spots are worked on.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    which is not needed in any reality I’ve experienced.

    you have to get out more.

    Alex M. Reply:

    You’ve said that you live in southern California, so how would you know whether or not the peninsula needs four tracks?

    Spokker Reply:

    There are plenty of Google Maps tourists making comment on this project. Don’t pretend I am the first.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @Spokker you’re right, constructions should start in the Central Valley, but you’re wrong about 4 tracks not being needed on the Peninsula.

    We’re going to need 4 tracks so the Peninsula won’t be a bottleneck. That said, there are likely some places (e.g., San Mateo) where 4 tracks are not feasible, but everywhere there’s room for 4 tracks, it should be put in.

    Spokker Reply:

    The four track configuration is designed to handle unrealistic service levels that were designed to justify the pouring of lots and lots of concrete.

    Either the CHSRA wises up to engineering reality or fiscal reality, but the point is that we’re going to be seeing a lot of the gold-plated stuff toned down by the time the shovels hit the dirt if anyone is paying attention between now and then.

    I mean, if we can achieve a more cost effective phase 1, wouldn’t you like to see some funding go toward phase 2, if that is possible? Those in power could say, “Look, we kept costs down. On to phase 2!” with a triumphant glee.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    whats unrealistic? all sorts of pretty pictures – the yellow areas on the charts are the places you need four tracks.

    Spokker Reply:

    You will need four tracks in some places, yes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You need them in most places. Between 2020 and 2040 having four tracks makes service much more reliable. Where do you need four tracks in 2040? How much is it going to cost to build four tracks in 2040, assuming you can get approval for four tracks in 2037. There’s going to be lots and lots of people around who remember what it was like to build the two tracks in 2017. They’ll fight tooth and nail arguing that 3:05 is good enough, just let the HSR trains and the Caltrain express trains go as fast as the Caltrain locals. Of course while they are building it the trip time will be 3:15 due to the construction delays.
    I’ll be dead in 2040 so I don’t have any plans to go between SF and LA, other people will.

    Spokker Reply:

    What will the demand be in 2100? 2500? 3000? Build six tracks. No, wait, eight. Plan for skyscrapers lining El Camino Real until the end of time.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Fine build something that’s inadequate the first time a train is delayed. Then spend a few billion fixing it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The whole point of the partial four-tracking plan is that it’s relatively easy to add two more tracks in the future as demand increases.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not easier or cheaper than building four track in the first place. Four tracks isn’t going to caost twice as much as two tracks but two tracks twice is going to cost a lot more than four tracks once.
    Using reasonable projections you need four tracks on most of the route. Build four tracks along the whole route and the railroad is much more flexible when sh*t happens. It will happen. And the capacity is there if the demand materializes.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The middle ground is to ensure that nothing is built immediately adjacent to the ROW (whether in the peninsula or elsewhere) which would make a future expansion of the ROW to the required 4-track width be cost-prohibitive. That assumes that the local cities aren’t irrationally against a functioning high-capacity transit corridor.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, in inflation-adjusted dollars it’s cheaper to do four tracks once, if the demand is there. However, in discount rate-adjusted dollars, it may not be, and the demand may not even be there. It’s a cold economic calculation that neither of us has an answer to.

    The reason I think it could be better to build just two tracks now is political: there’s NIMBYism now, but later when trains are actually running it will be easier to both convince locals that four-tracking is good and to ram it through the courts if they refuse.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And the political consensus in 2035 may be that they don’t want to go through another round of construction chaos and making it from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 3:05 is good enough. The HSR and Caltrain express passengers will just have to live with going slow.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s the matter? Not convinced that real-world proven timetable simulations actually apply to real life?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Timetable simulations don’t apply to real life because in real life …. real life happens.
    Things that your Swiss precision timetable doesn’t allow for. And RM freely admits his really really cool web based timetable simulator doesn’t allow for things like real life.

    Spokker Reply:

    The project needs to be designed under the assumption that there will be operational discipline.. Discipline greatly increases the capacity of a railroad. We shouldn’t adhere to the FRA/Amtrak culture of “it’ll get here when it gets here.”

    Real life happens in Japan, and if the train is even one minute late the operator is given 40 lashes.

    I kid, but yes, real life happens, but real life doesn’t happen enough to justify four tracks the entire way up the Peninsula.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The project needs to be designed under the assumption that there will be operational discipline..

    Be sure to pass the memo around to the passengers who won’t really care about whether or not the train keeps to it’s schedule as they have a medical emergency. Or the idiots blocking the doors with their bikes because they haven’t heard about this thing called Muni up in far far away San Francisco. Sh*t happens, you can’t switch the locals onto the express track to get around the problem if there is no express track.

    Joey Reply:

    Obviously you can’t build around a timetable with zero tolerance for error. But schedules typically have 7-10% padding (sometimes more) built in from the beginning and extending some of the four-track sections (which may constitute more than half of the corridor, but that depends on the specifics) a little more in the areas where it’s easy wouldn’t hurt either.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh, and did you miss the part where Richard built Caltrain’s own timetable using the generator?

    Spokker Reply:

    “Be sure to pass the memo around to the passengers who won’t really care about whether or not the train keeps to it’s schedule as they have a medical emergency. Or the idiots blocking the doors with their bikes”

    Because those things don’t happen anywhere else in the world where railroad operations are a fine art?

    In the US, when shit goes down that causes a train to be late, nobody really cares. The attitude is, “we’ll get there when we get there.” There is no effort on the part of society to say, “Hey, this train is important. Let’s get it moving as soon as possible.” This belief is universal among passengers who hold up trains to train staff that despise passengers and their jobs to train managers that don’t know what they are doing to third-parties that deal with the train but would never, ever ride it in a million years.

    Let them build four tracks and run their 4 HSR trains per hour (once they realize 9 was over the moon), and they still won’t care. The culture must be changed first.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In the US, when shit goes down that causes a train to be late, nobody really cares.

    You really do have to get out more. Someplace with these things called express trains. Which also implies these things called local trains.

    Joey Reply:

    Europe? Asia? Perhaps someplace where these “express” and “local” trains follow logical stopping patterns useful for something more than unidirectional commutes?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Incompetence? The agency is always going to be blamed for such things, even though it’s impossible for them to get it right 100% of the time. They have a huge project, tiny staff, and inconsistent funding to even keep the lights on. Schwarzenegger wanted the private sector to pay for it all, and now he and that idea are in tatters. Current Governor is facing the same ol’ same ol’ in the Legislature. It’s just a matter of time.

    Spokker Reply:

    The CHSRA deserves praise as well as condemnation for good and bad actions it has taken.

    VBobier Reply:

    And certain cretins in the Legislature & the LAO need to be condemned for their actions.

    wu ming Reply:

    luckily, HSR was smart and didn’t run it along the 101 corridor through the peninsula, as some NIMBYs were pretending to advocate for, so whatever construction-related delays on side streets abutting the 150 year old train tracks will not affect major regional traffic patterns.

    Joey Reply:

    Construction impacts are hardly the biggest problem with using 101.

    wu ming Reply:

    true, but that was the red herring jack was lobbing out like a slow pitch softball.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I just found this in a news search. 16 mile backup? What a way to spend the holiday.

    Northbound I-5 is reduced to one lane from just north of Highway 43 to just south of Stockdale Highway, causing a 16-mile traffic backup. Southbound I-5 is reduced to one lane two miles north of Highway 58, causing a nine-mile backup.

    joe Reply:

    Anyone remember about two years ago when HW 5 was closed in both directions (Thanksgiving’s Wednesday) due to downed power line. I do.

    wu ming Reply:

    i remember when it got closed due to flooding. 80 too, one new year’s day storm.

    Donk Reply:

    Well at least there are multiple lanes on a highway. If one track goes down on a rail system you are SOL. One suicide or one downed power line and they shut it down both ways for at least 3 hours. Once I was on the subway in LA and it was raining (!!!) so they had to shut down one segment of the subway and people had to take buses instead. I can’t imagine that CA rail officials will have a good strategy in place when something goes wrong.

    snogglethorpe Reply:

    Any reasonable rail system (not that the U.S. has many of those…) is multi-tracked.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Doesn’t do you any good when the problem is with the overhead catenary, as frequently happens on the NEC and recently stranded a friend of mine at King’s Crossing for six hours trying to take a train north in England.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    … and 12 lanes of a super highway don’t do you any good when there’s burning wreckage from a 25 car collision with a gas tanker scattered all over them.

    There will always be some rare cases where an entire corridor is made unusable, but they’re probably much rarer on a well-run rail line than on a highway, simply because the rail line is run in a highly-organized fashion by professionals, rather than the slightly organized chaos of a typical road…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sure, but some systems are more resilient than others. For example, poles and gantries are more resilient than headspans.

    Joseph E Reply:

    Even in Los Angeles, Metro manages to run trains both ways on one track all of the time for construction or problems. It causes some delays, but usually does not shut down service. And Metrolink operates some routes almost entirely on single-track railway.
    Fortunately, HSR will be 2 tracks and grade-separated, so there will be few things that could shut down the system.

    Wad Reply:

    True. The shutdown was likely a police action — nine times out of 10, someone left something behind and police treat it as a bomb scare.

    There are enough switches for trains to run around a mechanical problem.

    Joey Reply:

    Shutting down one track for maintenance is common practice. It may even need to happen to HSR at some point in time, though most maintenance will probably happen at night.

    Peter Reply:

    They’ll close both directions on major freeways for fatal/big accidents, too. Having more lanes doesn’t help when all lanes are closed.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    It doesn’t help when all lanes are just jammed, either. I’ve been on a road with 12 lanes, and had plenty of time to count them; you can guess why.

    That was the last time I ever drove down to Washington, DC, and I will never drive there again if it is at all possible to do so.

    elfling Reply:

    I’ve had it closed for a brush fire.

  11. Reality Check
    May 31st, 2011 at 03:10

    State’s high-speed rail draws Spaniards’ attention

    Despite the hammering California’s high-speed rail project has taken lately, outside players appear to be as interested in it as ever […]

    Still steaming from the Legislative Analyst Office’s hatchet job on California’s high-speed rail project, Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston (Merced County), is demanding to know how it was put together.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Again, one of the interesting things is that the comments are overall positive. There is support, and it has some strength, for HSR.

    One of the things that stands out about the naysayers is that they seem to have no faith in or respect for their government, nor in their fellow citizens. It’s as if they are saying we haven’t done anything right since Eisenhower’s time. Sure, we’ve had some serious errors, but some accomplishments, too, and much has been on the public dime.

    More and more, I’m becoming convinced the HSR naysayers, and the anti-rail crowd in general, is mostly a bunch of old crabs who still want to live in the future as it looked in the 1950s, not the real 1950s (when we had a lot more in the way of trains and transit).

    They also apparently can not or will not account for the oil situation.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If you can make yourself believe that the moon landing was faked, it becomes a lot easier to believe that there have been “no accomplishments since Ike”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The moon landing was makework for aeronautic engineers. It didn’t provide any benefits in terms of research, or resources, or future technology; it was just there so that the US could say it had won the space race.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    What’s rather interesting is the level of ridership on Madrid-Barcelona despite higher fares and longer trip times than air (namely, the lowest ticket price for AVE is 168 dollars on a 2:50-3:20 journey, and $198 on 2:40 while air prices start at 74 and reach a maximum of 144 on direct flights which last 1:10).

    On the other hand, I wonder if HSR boosters make it out to be far more than it actually is. Air passengers between Madrid and Barcelona hit a peak of 4,744,620 in 2006, declining to 3,497,696 in 2008 (first year of AVE service), 2,942,406 in 2009, and picking up in 2010 a bit to 3,084,048. One problem is that the AVE line opened up alongside the global economic collapse, which could be a major player in the ridership decline. At best, it seems like a 35% modal share via capture, which really isn’t that impressive (although including previous mode share from longer train times, it would be about 45% mode-share).

  12. StevieB
    May 31st, 2011 at 05:12

    Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani sent a letter to the Legislative Analyst requesting information on the LAO report on HSR. The letter starts asking the following.

    1) The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has the authority to request audits of state
    agencies. Which legislative entity requested the report conducted by your office?
    2) Which local transportation agencies were consulted during the course of your
    3) Caltrans recently submitted applications for federal high speed rail funds.
    Competing for funds these applications were in direct competition with requests
    submitted by the High-speed Rail Authority. Which division or divisions within Caltrans
    were consulted during the course of this study?

    Peter Reply:

    Nice, spank them.

    Jack Reply:

    So whip it, whip it good *rocks out*

  13. D. P. Lubic
    May 31st, 2011 at 06:18

    Interesting editorials on oil addiction and on the history of Amtrak (last two items on page):

  14. dave
    May 31st, 2011 at 14:04

    Sadly, even though I support funding this project ASAP. I always have this on the back of my mind saying NO!


    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Part 4:

    Part 5:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some choice we have (at least as you see it)–go broke paying for the future we need, or go broke paying the price of oil addiction.

    I think I’ll take my chances with owing ourselves, even in spite of the problems some like Richard, Synonymouse, and Spokker have highlighted. The alternative looks worse, including spending money to fight oil wars.

    You might say, or more properly I would say, we are in a war that dwarfs WW II, and there is no real way to defeat this enemy, known as Peak Oil. Like WW II, this is a war about survival, but the enemy is not one we can really conquer in the normal sense. That is something that is missing in all these debates, all the arguments from the NIMBYs and Reason and Cato and the LAO.

    At the same time, to learn to go beyond this requires something of a war mindset. That includes not worrying too much about money at this stage. We only finished paying off the last of the WW II bond issues a few years ago; can you imagine the result if we worried about money back in the 1940s? Would the reduction in debt have been worth the possible other result? I think I would know your answer, and I think it would be in agreement with mine.

    The problem is, we should have gotten cracking on this back in 1973. We have wasted almost 40 years. Yes, 40 years! I just hope we have enough time. Otherwise, Canada or New Zealand start to look too good.

    This isn’t meant as a joke, nor a comeback–you sound like a rail supporter, and you sound serious, which is more than I can say for some of the critics. But I have to ask, what alternative might you propose that would balance your money worries and the construction of an oil-free transportation system?

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