San Francisco Needs to Step Up and Fight

May 8th, 2011 | Posted by

Note: see updates below for more info about who does – and doesn’t – support terminating at Transbay.

It’s been a busy few days, but it’s time to go over the events of last Thursday, where a California High Speed Rail Authority board meeting and a State Senate hearing on the project both created a lot of news. The three main outcomes:

1. The CHSRA board rejected delayed decision on a phased plan for Caltrain

2. The CHSRA board began exploring whether they could or should fund a Phase II segment instead of San Francisco-San José, thanks to Simitian’s embrace of the NIMBYs

3. The Grapevine route study will go ahead.

Michael Cabantuan’s article, linked above, gives some excellent insight on outcomes 1 and 2. It also shows just how much of a threat to San Francisco’s future Senator Simitian and his NIMBY friends now pose – because what I didn’t realize is that their “two tracks forever” plan, like the very similar phased plan the board rejected delayed, would terminate tracks at Fourth and King, instead of the Transbay Terminal:

The phased plan, which could cost $2 billion to $4 billion versus the $6.1 billion projected for the true high-speed system between San Francisco and San Jose, shares similarities with a recent proposal released by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park. That proposal would use the Caltrain tracks, but also ban construction of elevated tracks and not allow future construction of separate tracks for the high-speed trains.

Both of the cheaper plans would end high-speed service at Fourth and King streets.

This is insanity. Eshoo in particular is way off the reservation here – she’s deliberately undercutting Nancy Pelosi, who as Speaker joined Senator Barbara Boxer and a host of other local electeds to break ground on the Transbay Terminal project last year – which Pelosi and others billed as the “first high speed rail station.” Pelosi already once had to force Eshoo to walk back her attack on SF HSR when Eshoo floated the idea of terminating in San José.

Jerry Brown, as Attorney General, already ruled that terminating in San José is illegal. Eshoo and Simitian might also want to be aware that their governor also ruled, while AG, that Transbay must by the terminus of the project.

The Transbay Terminal project is a huge piece of San Francisco’s future. Costing well above $1 billion, it is designed to bring travelers from across California to downtown San Francisco, boosting businesses and creating lasting jobs through the connections enabled by sustainable transportation. Yet Eshoo and Simitian are willing to risk it just to appease a small number of NIMBYs living near the tracks.

At the meeting, board member Lynn Schenk from San Diego also suggested that the Authority explore using some of their funding to start building some of the Phase II tracks – toward Sacramento or San Diego – instead of the SF-SJ route. This should serve as a clear warning to San Francisco: their plans and projects are being jeopardized by Peninsula NIMBYism.

It’s time for San Francisco’s elected leaders to start exercising leadership. It’s absurd that a small number of NIMBYs, who don’t even represent the views of their communities, could succeed in destroying plans that San Francisco leaders have been working on literally for decades.

Here’s what they need to do:

1. Rein in people like Anna Eshoo and Joe Simitian. Make it clear that SF will never accept a throttled or gutted HSR system.

2. Ensure that leaders in Sacramento – including Governor Jerry Brown – are fully aware of, and will oppose, the NIMBY strategy to destroy the HSR project. The “blended” plan is only one element. SB 517 is another piece. This bill would fire everyone on the CHSRA board and replace them with HSR skeptics who would do the NIMBYs’ bidding, no matter the effect on San Francisco.

Of course, the NIMBY plans shouldn’t be opposed merely because they’ll screw SF. The NIMBYs are perfectly happy to leave Caltrain as a loud, polluting, unsafe corridor that divides communities, facing persistent financial weakness because they can’t expand their infrastructure to handle more trains (which bring in more revenue).

But SF leaders haven’t been fully engaged in this fight. It’s time for that to change.

UPDATE: There’s some discussion in the comments about the CHSRA board’s stance on going to Transbay. They know full well that Transbay has to be the terminus. Of course, the system will open in segments, and if 4th and King is a stop while the tunnel to Transbay is being built, that seems fine. But 4th and King cannot be an indefinite substitute for Transbay either.

There is also discussion about whether Simitian and Eshoo want to stop short of Transbay. Everything I’ve heard suggests they do, and Cabanatuan’s article says that as well – and he is an excellent reporter. If we’re wrong, I’ll happily make that correction. But it should be noted that “two tracks forever” doesn’t really help Transbay, because it slashes the number of riders who will use that station, perhaps by as much as half.

UPDATE 2: David DeBolt of the Palo Alto Daily Post tells me he spoke to Simitian, who said that he does indeed support terminating at Transbay. Apparently Michael Cabanatuan got that wrong in his article. So there you have it.

  1. Jerry
    May 8th, 2011 at 17:30
    #1

    Write on.

  2. YesonHSR
    May 8th, 2011 at 18:28
    #2

    They have been strangely quiet.. preferring I think to let the high-speed rail Authority and the Peninsula cities hash it out and waiting to see if any type of plan starts developing that will result in San Francisco being eliminated from the first phase implementation.. at that point I think you see a lot of action. For the authority unfortunately they have a senator from the very NIMBY cities controlling the purse strings and will until 2012 though I think you’ll see a whole lot of noise from San Francisco if Simitian or anyone else on that committee withhold funding for high-speed rail to continue moving forward with the planning. My Sen. Mark Leno needs to be more aggressive though I don’t know he may be doing things behind the scenes ..

    YesonHSR Reply:

    BTW TransBayterminal and all of downtown are in his distric.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And so is Californias for High Speed Rail!!

  3. morris brown
    May 8th, 2011 at 18:28
    #3

    @Robert:

    I suggest you actually listen to the Board meeting item 5. They took no action and decided to review at the next meeting on the pahsed approach.

    Link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovvM_RSLI24

    I think your conclusion will eventually prove correct, but to say, as the article did, that they took action is not correct.

    Tomorrow the Senate appropriations committee will hear Lowenthal’s SB-517

    StevieB Reply:

    The article is technically correct when it says, “The authority board told engineers and planners Thursday not to study a phased-implementation plan”. The staff recommended phased implementation be started and the board said not to move forward with the plan until there is clarification on the intentions of Simitian et.al.

    Chairman Pringle pointed to the letter demanding no elevated track on the peninsula and how that would contradict sections that only have an elevated option currently. San Jose would have difficulty without elevated track into their station. Belmont is studying development under an aerial alignment and feels it would increase connectivity through the corridor by allowing streets underneath.

  4. synonymouse
    May 8th, 2011 at 18:32
    #4

    San Francisco chose to throw its money away on a badly conceived subway. They will have to concentrate on funding that turkey.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It seems to be San Francisco’s hobby. They’ll have four by 2020.

    dcranston Reply:

    4 badly conceived subways? Or 4 subways? Or 4 turkeys?

    SF needs more rail, but not badly conceived rail.

  5. joe
    May 8th, 2011 at 19:15
    #5

    I disagree with the assumption NIMBYs want to preserve Caltrain – they want to end it.

    “The NIMBYs are perfectly happy to leave Caltrain as a loud, polluting, unsafe corridor that divides communities, facing persistent financial weakness because they can’t expand their infrastructure to handle more trains (which bring in more revenue).”

    New development in the peninsula relies on Caltrain and alternative commute options for a compliant Environmental Impact Report.

    NIMBYs like the Mayor of Menlo Park, want more Cash for traffic mitigation for projects OUTSIDE city boundaries, scale the project or kill the project outright. The same City subsequently WANTS development in their city boundaries so they get revenue from the development.

    A colleague says his city, Menlo Park only knows one thing – development.

    They oppose the existing Palo Alto Stanford Hospital expansion as is…defined — hey the Mayor says Caltrain my go away. MP however will approve the massive FaceBook expansion within Menlo Park.

  6. Jeff Carter
    May 8th, 2011 at 19:23
    #6

    The PENNIMBYs are scornful of San Francisco anyway, because Quentin Kopp is from San Francisco.

    The PENNIMBYs also claim that HSR will run in a tunnel throughout San Francisco, so HSR will not effect or destroy any neighborhoods in SF.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Jeff,

    Judge Kopp had actually been the member of the Authority that took specific actions OPPOSED to the Transbay Terminal.

    In general, the people I have spoken to are strongly in favor of the Transbay Terminal as that would also extend Caltrain service to the downtown. If it looked like Transbay might not happen, you would lose some support on the Peninsula.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Elizabeth

    MTC has clearly and carefully planned for BART Ring-the-Bay. In order to supplant Caltrain BART has to knock off hsr as well. This is a tough decision for BART: Altamont would funnel business to BART at LIvermore and free up the Peninsula for Ring the Bay but piss off San Jose.

    So the trick is to placate San Jose, either by keeping Pacheco and terminatinfg at San Jose or devising service to San Jose via Altamont. I’ll pick the latter because I believe Pacheco will prove discouragingly expensive for the CHSRA. Should be very interesting to see how the pols will dance around this.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Pacheco’s gonna be cheap compared to Altamont, because, for starters, Pacheco requires less negotiation with Union Pacific.

    If BART pops up with several billion for Altamont, of course, that would make the difference.

    Joey Reply:

    Not a lot less negotiation. Depends on which alignment is chosen as well (both for Altamont and Pacheco). And it’s not particularly expensive to build HSR through farmland anyway.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Pacheco’s gonna be cheap compared to Altamont, because, for starters, Pacheco requires less negotiation with Union Pacific.

    That’s certainly an interesting theory.

    It’s relation to actual geography and cadastre in the State of California on Planet Earth is a little hard to grasp, however.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    I am aware of Judge Kopp’s position on the Transbay Terminal. That does not change the fact that there are anti-HSR people on the peninsula that just hate San Francisco. They see HSR as only benefitting SF.

    Also in reading these blogs, some plans call for most Caltrains only serving 4th and King and NOT serving the Transbay Terminal.

  7. Elizabeth
    May 8th, 2011 at 19:34
    #7

    Robert,

    I think you have this story backwards and you should get it corrected.

    Everything I have heard is that Simitian/Eshoo etc have ASSUMED Transbay would be part of the plan.

    Eveything I have heard is that the Authority does not want to do Transbay. It is expensive, they do not have the money for it in the $43 billion and they don’t think it is that important. In addition, there appears to be lasting anger that the Transbay Terminal people were able to “take” $400 million from the Rail Authority.

    Indeed, the reason that phased implementation is being supported by the Authority is that they can defer Transbay and still try and claim compatibility with Prop 1a.

    There was a very direct conversation during the hearings on Thursday regarding this. Both Simitian and Lowenthal asked some very pointed questions.

    It is the Authority, not the Peninsula, that is trying to back away from the commitment to the Transbay Terminal.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    VanArk specifically stated goal is to get to the translate terminal in that video.. there’s is no money right now with the phased-in blended system. I’m all for getting anything built that will start revenue service to San Francisco by 2020 even if that means stopping at fourth and King for a few years and hopefully during that time the tunnel will be under construction.A I’m sure the authority is not planning to fund the entire amount of the total and is expected the city and maybe even the state/ CalTrain to come up with funding. As far as this Prop1A requirements as long as the goal is met to get to TB there will have fulfilled it even if it takes a few years after service starts.. it seems a senator from Palo Alto Menlo Park is able to twist around words to suit his idea of what prop1A requirements are and how they are met

    Elizabeth Reply:

    “Phased system” is the Authority’s concept. It conveniently lets them do what they actually want to do in the first phase or two and then put everything else in a later phase and say with a straight face that they have every intention of getting to the rest eventually.

    Clem Reply:

    Is their dislike of Transbay why they have planned a ridiculously long 5-mile station approach, starting in Brisbane, with four operationally redundant new tunnels?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    What tunnels are you refering to?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    And are those tunnels in phase 1 of the new phased approach?

    Clem Reply:

    Four new tunnels to expand the existing tunnels 1 through 4 to four tracks. I might be mistaken–maybe the AA shows one massive continuous (and superfluous) tunnel.

    Joey Reply:

    I believe they were planning one continuous tunnel (actually two parallel tunnels). The old tunnels would connect only to 4th and King, and the new ones would connect only to Transbay.

    Clem Reply:

    I guess they didn’t get the memo about placing the 4th & King / Transbay crossover as close as possible to the end of the line. The reason I say these tunnels are operationally redundant is that train speeds will be reasonably well-matched in that section, so that throughput on two tracks could be close to 20 tph in each direction. It’s hard to imagine how (a) there could ever be that much train traffic, and (b) if there were that much train traffic, how they could possibly turn it all around at the terminals. Building this wet dream of a tunnel has no added value as far as rail service is concerned.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If there is that much train traffic, they won’t turn it around at the terminals, they’ll run it through the second Transbay Tube to Oakland. ;-)

    Joey Reply:

    Incidentally, they are planning a grand total of 19tph in Phase 1 (10 CalTrain + 9 HSR). They would both run to both terminals, with CalTrain getting somewhat less service to the TBT. Of course, this is ridiculous – CalTrain can be served quite well with an optimized 6tph schedule and HSR will likely not exceed 4 for the next 20 years at least.

    Oh, and the design of the TBT precludes any extension of tracks under the bay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If there’s a second tube, then there’s no reason ever to use Pacheco.

    joe Reply:

    No, if there’s a second tube the service would loop from SJ to SF and then Sacramento.

    “E. Northern California Route

    Present plans show San Francisco as the northernmost terminal of the “main line”, with another branch route from Merced through Stockton to Sacramento. Yet another branch is shown, up the East Bay from San Jose to Oakland.

    “… a continuous line running from San Francisco through a tube under the Bay (or alternatively, on the Bay bridge) to Oakland and then to Sacramento (See Figure 2) is preferable. While not inexpensive, this solution would have the distinct advantage of connecting San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland with direct, fast service to Sacramento.”

    Joey Reply:

    And this would be running on magical new dedicated tracks built by pixies?

    There is ZERO chance that you’ll be able to run non-compliant HSTs on UP’s tracks.

    Where are you quoting from anyway?

    Mike Jones Reply:

    Why should the Authority be keen on the Transbay, it was only added to the CAHSR project to fund it. The concept of the Transbay as a Caltrain extension was fine, but by the time HSR starts running the much more commodious 4th & King site will have much more practical connections, including Caltrain to the Transbay (plus 3rd St. to Union Sq./Chinatown/North Beach and Muni Metro all the way along the Embarcadero).

    The Transbay will hardly function as a regional hub with no direct rail connections, not even all Caltrain services will make it there. And quite why it is assumed that East Bay bus users all have to be dumped in the Financial District defeats me. Buses running along Mission could drop-off on-street with much better effect in the evening and at weekends- on their way to HSR at 4th & King.

    Mike Jones Reply:

    BART is the 4th & King site’s Achilles Heal, not that the Transbay is that good at it either. A BART branch from Civic Center to 4th & King would be a nice and practical (?) solution. The SOMA/HSR line?

    synonymouse Reply:

    But if BART replaced Caltrain and hsr they would not have to serve 4th and King at all.

    But the best approach is Caltrain sans hsr to the TBT.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you can take an electric Caltrain train to the TBT there’s no technical reason why you can’t take an HSR train to the TBT. There might be political ones but no insurmountable technical ones.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The problem is that the CHSRA demands overbuilding the Peninsula to compensate for the Tehachapi fiasco.

  8. Alon Levy
    May 8th, 2011 at 19:38
    #8

    Can someone explain to me why electrification of 50 miles and HSR facilities at a couple of stations suddenly costs $2-4 billion?

    Clem Reply:

    Millbrae alone is planned as a half-billion hole in the ground. A station in RWC would require grade separating from Woodside Rd to Whipple, if the current insane plans for incompatible platform heights are upheld. This is the cost-is-no-object plan done on the cheap, which ain’t exactly cheap either. Whatever happens, you can be sure that concrete-maximization will occur.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh… I was under the misconception that they were going to use legacy stations north of San Jose. Apologies for the blithe assumption of competence.

    Clem Reply:

    Please recall the CHSRA’s approach to station design. They’re not about to get religion one sunny morning…

    Alex M. Reply:

    Broken link.

    VBobier Reply:

    It doesn’t look like a link, But a failed attempt at Bold type, In short Clem used an A like so, A in this case is not a link, It just looks like one, Instead of a B.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I think this is what Clem is referring to.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    When they convert the current two track at grade low platform station to a four track elevated station are the passenger going rappel from the train or will they be building a new station at that location? How about the current two track at grade station that remains at grade but gets four tracks? Just let the passengers leap from the high floor train to the current parking lot? The current platforms are where the new tracks will be. How about the current two track station that remains more or less the same. Just let the passengers hoist themselves into the train or perchance they’ll put in new platforms? Every last Caltrain station is going to have major changes made to it.

  9. Clem
    May 8th, 2011 at 20:15
    #9

    Describing the Simitian idea as “two tracks forever” is incorrect, as he himself pointed out to van Ark last week. Nowhere have Simitian et al. said anything about two tracks. They have only asked that the corridor not be expanded beyond its current boundaries, which are generous indeed. The Chron got this wrong, although it makes for great blog fodder.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Even the current boundaries issue has been qualified as “substantially within”.

    Clem Reply:

    i.e. occasionally outside the boundaries, but only when absolutely necessary.

    VBobier Reply:

    I think mainly for broader curves, Where possible that is.

    Joey Reply:

    The curves that would restrict speed the most are the ones no one in charge seems to care about fixing.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, THAT would be fine. That’s very different from “Stay within the current boundaries period!”. The plan was always to expand beyond the current boundaries only where needed, just because property acquisition is a pain.

    morris brown Reply:

    Simitian’s proposal clearly stated that work on the present EIR be stopped, and that no 4 track option be studied and included as an alternative. This is a key disagreement between he and the Authority (vanArk). He had a long exchange with the AG about whether this was legal under Prop 1A, and finally got her to admit they didn’t have to study a 4 track option at the present time.

    So, Clem is right he didn’t say “two tracks forever”, he did certainly say, only 2 tracks to be an option for the present. I must say, vanArk came back last Thursday with the section of Prop 1A, that says, passing tracks must be included at stations.

    As Clem points out, the implied $1.5 billion to be a cost for “upgrading” the CalTrain corridor and make it usable for both HSR, CalTrain (don’t forget UPRR), doesn’t come close to being reality.

    Simitian is a formidable foe. He can be considered a CEQA lawyer, and he has an advanced degree in urban planning. You are not dealing with a typical untrained Senator in dealing with such issues.

    Rumor is very strong that LaHood is going to tell us all about when the Florida funds are headed tomorrow.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    If Simitian has an “advanced degree in urban planning,” he should be even more ashamed to be such a tool for the anti-rail lobby. He doesn’t have the usual excuse of profound ignorance.

    It’s very sad to see the depths to which the U.S. has fallen…

    joe Reply:

    Dishonest.

    Anyone suggesting limiting the EIR to two tracks isn’t about killing HSR along the Peninsula is being dishonest.

    Either NIMBY or rail fanatic wanting to kill the Pacheco to favor the Altamount alignment.

    Clem Reply:

    he did certainly say, only 2 tracks to be an option for the present

    Umm, are you sure? He specifically backed away from the phrase “two tracks”. Whatever he said, make sure to parse it carefully… the man knows how not to paint himself into a corner.

    Whatever anybody says, there’s no way that HSR + Caltrain will work on only two tracks. You would have to compromise so badly that either or both of the services would be unrecognizable. A more reasonable compromise is to quad track 3 or 4 stretches of the corridor (certainly more than half, by length). There are reasonably elegant ways of doing this without messing up PAMPA and downtown San Mateo.

    The CHSRA’s current four tracks all-the-way approach will only work if someone figures out how to grow money on trees.

    VBobier Reply:

    He also said 1 HSR train a day, That’s NOT acceptable in this universe. Nor is stopping HSR at San Jose for that matter, LA to SF is mandatory in Prop 1a.

    Clem Reply:

    Stop right there, he said no such thing (or at least not in context). Simitian said that if 1 HSR train a day did the SF-SJ run in 30 minutes that would be sufficient to satisfy the law. The many other high-speed trains operating alongside Caltrain would have to take longer than 30 minutes because of slow Caltrain traffic on the line at peak times. As an educated guess, they would probably have to do SF-SJ in 40 to 45 minutes, with the trains slowed to a top speed of 100 mph.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ok.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    All these politics to just save 10 minutes, and all these billions that don’t exist to save 10 minutes.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    The Caltrain system is already partially 4 tracks and the 4 tracks can be expanded without much difficulty. If the phase 1 can essentially complete all the low hanging fruits and allow HSR service to be operated on a reasonable speed, it ought to be supported.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    Just to clarify that the existing 4 tracks can be expanded a few more miles.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I think there are a lot of terms being thrown around, with everyone having different definitions. To one person, a “4 track system” means 4 tracks everywhere minimum. To another, it means in some places. So if someone says no 4 track system, they could be referring to 2 tracks or simply saying that it would not have to be 4 tracks everywhere.

    Simitian in remarks last week at the Senate hearing very clearly stated that he does NOT mean two tracks everywhere.

    VBobier Reply:

    Passing Tracks sounds like a loophole one could drive a semi through, Here and there.

  10. Risenmessiah
    May 8th, 2011 at 20:37
    #10

    I find this type of post to be irresponsible, Robert. Obviously, there is a political dynamic in Eshoo and company speaking out against the great Nancy Pelosi. You have to realize that redistricting is going to shake things up and the Peninsula crowd feels vulnerable. Unless Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House again, there’s no reason to assume that the political weight of San Francisco is going to overcome the sort of fratricide. Note that both Harris and Newsom skipped town for Sacramento rather than cast their lot with the City by the Bay.

    Moreover, the fact is that the Authority and advocates need to focus on the task at hand: Fresno to Bakersfield. If that doesn’t work, then the rest of this is irrelevant. HSR will get to Transbay…if it gets anywhere at all.

    joe Reply:

    Redistricting?
    2008 election results from the three counties forming any potential district: Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo – 60-40 Favored HSR Prop1A (San Mateo was 61-39).

    NIMBYs clout?
    They live along rail road tracks – that’s not the power base of a City. Homes near 101 and Caltrain tracks are cheaper homes, less desirable.

    Minority Leader Pelosi.
    Pelosi has power – she’s the minority leader NOW. She raises money and supports a progressive caucus. Di-FI and Newsome are state pols but former SF mayors.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I would say the Authority needs to focus on both Fresno to Bakersfield and Merced to Fresno.

    The 2009 business plan estimates about $8.1 billion for the two segments (trains not included).
    CARRD estimates about $15.6 billion for the two segments (trains not included).

    If cost estimates come in anywhere the CARRD numbers there will be trouble. So lets hope that CARRD has leaned way too far toward the worst case scenario and that “value engineering” really does work. And also lets hope for $1 billion tomorrow.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Costs for those sections look to be coming down, with the elimination of the Fresno aerials. We look forward to getting the Authority’s cost estimates for the new alignment.

    We would also assume that a Grapevine alignment will lead to a station on the west side of Bakersfield, which will eliminate all the tracks through Bakersfield which will be huge savings.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They should commit to Tejon and build out Fresno to Bakersfield before north from Fresno. At least it will be contiguous with the mountain crossing, which should now take precedence over all else.

    The argument would be that the intent of Prop 1A(viability) is best observed by constructing the essential mountain first, rather than any peripheral. Inflation is always more likely than deflation therefore you can always make the case the most expensive should come first.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    rather than any peripheral.
    Everything not Fresno-Bakersfield is on a branch

    Donk Reply:

    They are not even close to constructing this part yet. So wouldn’t it make sense to build what is ready to go now?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fresno to Bakersfield connects two cities and is easier to defend politically. So you have some token construction underway.

    But without the mountain crossing no hsr, not even diesel Amtrak to LA. So the challenge is to find enough funding to do Tejon and start working on it even if it means incremental. Even essential improvements in LA to accomodate hsr.

    The worry about laying track north of Fresno is that not enough funds might be left over to do Tejon. Once you have Fresno to LA, even diesel Amtrak, there is demonstrated patronage and demand and the momentum is underway.

    Crap out on the mountain crossing and you’re dead in the water. Accomplish the most essential, the most difficult, the most expensive first and at the best price.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    how do you incrementally bring a tunnel into service? Have the passengers burrow to the surface themselves?

    thatbruce Reply:

    I think that syn is referring to constructing a tunnel in increments as funding becomes available, and using its continued incompleteness as the stick to get further funding for the next section. The same logic applies (and is going to be used) for the system as a whole.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The grants from the Federal government require two stations. They don’t let you build tunnesl to nowhere anymore.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is a sizeable piece of new trackage with at least 2 major tunnels and probably some interesting earthworks, aerial and general civil engineering in a number of locations. So it is reasonable teo assume it would be broken down into multiple contracts. The feds would have to recognize that as a practical matter the various contracts would not be completed simultaneously.

    Now if you did the I-5 freefield loop east to Bako and Fresno you could start full hsr service Livermore to Fresno maybe quite a bit in advance of thru service to LA.

    Donk Reply:

    This sounds great in concept, but they need to start construction by 2012. Not gonna happen with those tunnels. So there is no point in debating where these initial funds are being spent. Lets focus on getting the Palmdale/Santa Clarita route done next, in parallel with the route into the Bay Area.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The studies on the mountain crossings from Bakersfield to LA are going to take a long time, and frankly none of the detailed environmental impact statements are going to be ready in time to use any of the money currently available from the Federal government, all of which has time limits.

    Unfortunately, not even the San Fernando Valley to LA section is going to be ready in time to use the federal money, though that would be a logical place to put funding as well.

    Of course I agree that Bakersfield-LA is crucial, so I hope that those sections progress quickly.

    Nathanael Reply:

    They’re studying a Grapevine route, but it is still likely to be impractical.

    datacruncher Reply:

    “We would also assume that a Grapevine alignment will lead to a station on the west side of Bakersfield, ”

    Maybe, but maybe not. Looking at the old Bakersfield-LA study, it showed the route running thru downtown Bakersfield to the UP alignment east of the city then south along a Hwy 184 alignment to Wheeler Ridge then over the Grapevine.
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/d43ec27c-3b97-4131-b74b-8b2ad25081d2.pdf

    I think it is too early to predict where politics and planning will result in a Bakersfield station location.

  11. MGimbel
    May 8th, 2011 at 22:20
    #11

    Michigan’s getting $200 million:
    http://www.detnews.com/article/20110509/METRO05/105090361/1409/METRO/Michigan-to-get-$200M-for-high-speed-rail

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Such a pointless waste of money.

    Alan F Reply:

    No, it is not. The Chicago to Detroit corridor has been at risk because NS has stated that they don’t have enough freight traffic on the Kalamazoo to Dearborn MI line to justify maintaining it to more than 25 mph speeds. The line has been hit with 60 mph slow orders on some segments as the tracks deteriorate. NS has agreed to sell the 135 miles of tracks to Michigan. Amtrak already owns the 95 miles from around the Michigan state line to Kalamazoo and has been upgrading it in incremental projects over the years as funding allowed to permit 105 mph speeds. Funding has already been awarded in Chicago and Indiana which will reduce trip times for all the Michigan service and Amtrak east coast bound LD trains.

    For a comparatively modest investment, the Chicago to Detroit corridor can be improved to 110 mph max speeds and trip times reduced from over 5-1/2 hours to around 4 hours. Not electrified true HSR, but significant improvements connecting 2 of the largest US metropolitan areas with trip times faster than driving.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I’m not really against this upgrade or St. Louis Chicago route but there sure were a lot of silly little ones that may have not been much but added are up worth another hundred or 200 million that California should have recevied .. also the equipment funding for the Midwest its something they should be doing just as California has bought alotof our own equipment and yes I see we’re getting some of that to.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is a really important one. Actually, a lot of the “silly little ones” were important too; Washington State is building a really valuable line out of a lot of “silly little” upgrades, and the ones chosen in NY upstate New York and Connecticut, for instance, are going to be extremely valuable for passenger rail service.

    The big waste of money was the “rescinded” money, which goes straight into the pockets of the Koch Brothers, basically, in the form of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the superrich. :-P

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Good news about the St. Louis & Detroit projects—they’ll bring trip times to ~4 hrs (and possibly improve frequency—not sure about that), building support for more rail investments in the region in the long term

    Bad news—investments can’t really be leveraged towards future improvements—Paris-Lyon started at around 4 hours, but the French had already lot of LGV to start out with. Future phases of the midwest network will have to start from scratch.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, improvements on the Detroit-Chicago corridor *could* be leveraged towards future improvements. If the stars aligned and the border insanity went away (which unfortunately seems very unlikely, with even so-called Democrats in DC demanding a harsher and more hostile border with Canada) it would be the basis for the Chicago-Toronto and Chicago-Niagara Falls-Albany routes.

    Even if that doesn’t happen, improvements on the Michigan part of Detroit-Chicago should help create greater demands for improvements on the Illinois and Indiana parts, which can be leveraged for *every* Chicago-eastwards project.

    I’m much more skeptical about Chicago-St. Louis, simply because UP has a nasty record of failure to deliver on that corridor.

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s never a waste of Money, It gets an ally in Congress, Why should California hog all the money? Sure We could use It, but since the project is a multi Year project, There are always possibilities down the Track and given enough Government money, Private money will then start to be offered as the Risk will lowered.

  12. MGimbel
    May 8th, 2011 at 22:23
    #12

    And California will receive AT LEAST $213 million:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/BAQK1JD2N3.DTL

    Clem Reply:

    Ouch… that hurts. California applied for the entire $2.4 billion, so we’re batting AT LEAST .089

    It looks like the Northeast Corridor is going to vie for a big slice of the federal pie, going forward. Not good for us.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART and MTC are not at all interested in seeing Caltrain extended to the TBT. They killed it before. BART won the power struggle then and I believe it is winning it again.

    Altamont makes a lot more sense, for the same reasons Tejon rose from the dead. More bang for less buck. You don’t have to cross any mountains to get to Livermore and BART will be there by the time hsr is up and running. Why blow a fortune on the Peninsula for BART level speeds?

    Tony D. Reply:

    Altamont “More bang for less buck.” Do you have any proof for such nonsense? Or did you just pull that one out of your rear?! (probably so) And the “mountains” (if that’s what you want to call them) east of Gilroy are the same #$%& topography as what’s found between Fremont and Tri-Valley. Lastly, for the upteenth time, Tejon rising from the dead is a completely different animal than some hypothetical Altamont rising over Pacheco. But go ahead, keep torturing yourself.

    Joey Reply:

    Phase 1 Pacheco and Altamont would likely cost more or less the same (the CHSRA pegged Altamont at $300m more than Pacheco). You’re correct about the mountain crossings.

    That being said, Altamont does offer a lot more bang for your buck in the long term. Firstly, you get Tri-Valley (and maybe Central Valley) commuter service, which is already needed but not really served (ACE doesn’t count). No need to build an overlay. Now, Altamont really starts to shine when Phase 2 gets built. Firstly, you have about 75 miles less track to build in order to get to Sacramento (about $4 billion at the CHSRA’s inflated prices). Once you do get to Sacramento, you have incredibly fast travel times between Sac and most of the Bay Area (1:06 for SF and 0:49 for SJ express).

    All that, and you have actually saved money over Pacheco.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    49 minutes to get from Sacramento to Fremont, change to the BART train to San Jose and then make every last local stop between Fremont and San Jose?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not good for us, either. If the Caltrain planners are only half as bad as the people who came up with Gateway, then Richard is too nice to them.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    It was Northeast corridor funding day… 300 million peanuts for us

  13. MGimbel
    May 8th, 2011 at 22:25
    #13

    And the Northeast gets nearly $800 million:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703864204576312003444463150.html

    VBobier Reply:

    I could only read part of the story, So I Googled It & I found a more complete story Here.

  14. Brandi
    May 9th, 2011 at 06:22
    #14

    California got $300 million to build 20 miles north towards the wye.

    http://www.fra.dot.gov/roa/press_releases/fp_DOT_57-11.shtml

  15. Eric M
    May 9th, 2011 at 09:42
    #15

    Anyone else see it that the board members from southern California, Pringle and Schenk, are trying to get much more done in southern California, ie LA-SD before anything else? The way they were talking at the meeting, they sounded happy enough to immediately stop work in the bay area. Sounds a little fishy to me.

    Peter Reply:

    Regionalism on a political body? Never! Stop the presses!

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is a sound case for spending a lot of money in Socal. It has the population and it has the smog. And it suffered the worst in the transit massacre of the 40’s and 50’s and has a lot of catching up to do. There is considerable pent-up demand, especially if gas prices remain high.

    It makes more sense to blow money on LA-San Diego than hsr on the Peninsula, where Caltrain or BART can handle the job reasonably well.

    EJ Reply:

    Not to mention that LA – San Diego is the busiest US intercity rail corridor outside of the Northeast and it badly needs major upgrades – like double tracking and replacing numerous bridges that are nearly a century old.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The NIMBYs are a really humungous problem on the coastal line from LA to SD, unfortunately. It’s built on an essentially bad ROW on crumbling sand, and improvements require eminent domain takings from very very expensive beachfront land. There’s a reason the Phase II plan for HSR involves going inland.

    The LA area has been “doing good” when it comes to local rail transit; and LA Union Station is part of Phase I. Spend the money there and on the northern and southern approaches thereto. It appears that a solution which is OK with everyone can be figured out; there don’t seem to be as many full-court-press NIMBYs there, and more people who are rationally trying to come to a reasonable “best practice” solution.

    Spokker Reply:

    Just to make things clearer to those not familiar with LOSSAN but are reading this for whatever reason.

    Los Angeles to Laguna Niguel is essentually double tracked. In Orange County, the OCTA has done tremendous work on the right of way (Fullerton-Laguna Niguel), removing bottlenecks and bringing it up to a state of good repair. This is Metrolink owned ROW and it shows. LA-Fullerton is basically BNSF and they do whatever they do.

    The problems start in South Orange County around San Juan Capistrano. The station at San Juan is a single track station. From then on it’s sidings and single track stretches. This doesn’t matter much between San Clemente and Oceanside because the train traffic is less dense and they can hit 90 on the way to Oceanside. I would still love to see the beachfront ROW improved, though.

    However, once you reach Coaster territory, you have a lot a single tracked sections where commuter rail and Amtrak are competing. Try being a Surfliner trying to get out of San Diego in the morning while Coasters are being crammed through the canyon. It’s like a salmon swimming up stream. That express Surfliner is constantly late because it’s sitting on sidings shortly after it leaves SD while the dispatcher is giving priority to the Coaster.

    So I just wanted to give a more complete picture of LA-SD on the LOSSAN Corridor.

    Something similar happens North of LA, where you are hauling ass between LA and Chatsworth and then you are hauling significantly less ass thereafter. But it’s not quite as bad and there is less train traffic.

    Joey Reply:

    You’d probably want to cut off the beachfront sections with tunnels (current alignments being single-track and having no room for another track) in San Clemente and Del Mar, but apparently NIMBYs oppose that too… o_O

    You’d also probably want to tunnel under UTC (with a new station).

    Tony D. Reply:

    You are more than entitled to your opinion (even if it is in the extreme minority and makes no sense!). By the way, looking forward to the LAO report on new highway and airport construction.

    Spokker Reply:

    It would make a lot more sense to upgrade LA-SD than spend the money on HSR right now. It’s basically the closest thing to a Northeast Corridor outside of the Northeast Corridor. Bringing the run time down to two hours alone would be a game changer in Southern California. They would need to order even more rail cars that take a decade to actually build for some reason.

    If it were a choice between spending $43 billion on HSR and upgrading current lines, I’d upgrade the current lines in a heartbeat.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which airports are they going to enlarge to provide similar capacity?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Well, with all the NIMBY bitching and problems up north, it makes perfect sense.

  16. James
    May 9th, 2011 at 10:56
    #16

    May as well add the new San Mateo County supervisor to the NIMBY list. Dave Pine is on the record calling for HSR to end in San Jose and use a combined approach to San Francisco.

    http://www.davepine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/High-Speed-Rail-position.pdf

    (No, I did not vote for him.)

  17. Matt in SF
    May 10th, 2011 at 16:49
    #17

    This project is doomed. The easiest corridor to build HSR on should be the existing Caltrain corridor where you already have most of the right of way, you already have operating passenger and freight rail, you already have tons of public transit connections, and you have high population density with an ecologically-minded, transit-friendly populace that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop 1A.

    I mean, seriously, who is for HSR anywhere in the U.S. if not the people in the Bay Area?

    This “blended” plan is bullshit. “Deferring” SF until phase 2 is bullshit. Selling the electorate on a HSR system that Kopp et al never had any intention to build was bullshit. HSR is never going to happen in FL or NY or the Midwest or Texas and now I doubt it is going to be built in CA.

    Thanks for setting back HSR another generation Simitian-Eshoo. Of course, they don’t care as they all have SUVs and staff to drive them around.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    seriously, who is for HSR anywhere in the U.S.

    The people in the Northeast who have been waiting patiently for it since 1965.

  18. Nadia
    May 10th, 2011 at 16:54
    #18

    Press Conference video of Mac Taylor of LAO:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA9zxZN40kU

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