Will Governor or Assembly Stop Senate’s Attack on High Speed Rail?

Jun 1st, 2011 | Posted by

The California State Senate today voted to pass SB 517, Senator Alan Lowenthal’s attack on the high speed rail project, by a 27-16 26-12 margin. Senator Darrell Steinberg, President Pro Tem of the Senate, backed the bill, helping ensure its passage. His spokesperson Alicia Trost hailed the bill’s passage as a way to “mend, not end” the state’s high speed rail project.

This is not a good bill. In fact, it is a very bad bill that is actually designed to destroy the project. Why Steinberg and other Democrats went along with this nonsense is a good question, because it now falls to the Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown to save the high speed rail project and stop this attack dead in its tracks.

Here’s why. Senator Alan Lowenthal has had it in for the high speed rail project for a long time. He is a concern troll at best, who has never really bought into the idea of HSR and instead seems to want to use the billions in state and federal money already approved for the project instead for commuter rail upgrades that won’t connect San Francisco to Los Angeles – which is after all what voters said they wanted when they passed Proposition 1A in November 2008.

Sen. Lowenthal knows that Californians would never vote to repeal Prop 1A and knows that Governor Jerry Brown is no Scott Walker and would never be so stupid as to reject HSR funds. So Lowenthal’s game has been to instead kill HSR by a thousand cuts. And one of the cuts is to stack its board with project critics.

There’s nothing wrong with the current California High Speed Rail Authority board. Several of its members are brand-new, and since Roelof van Ark was hired as CEO over a year ago, the project’s planning, operations, and outreach have significantly improved. Van Ark and the CHSRA board are implementing the recommendations made by the peer review group and have been responsive to legislative oversight. Under the board’s leadership the project won approval by California voters, including $10 billion in funding, and won about $4 billion in federal funding.

So there’s no reason to change the current board. Then why does Lowenthal want to do exactly that? Because the board was set up to be independent of political influence. And he wants to subject it to political influence – his influence. He can’t kill the project, he probably can’t defund it, but he might just be able to put a bunch of people on the board who share his skepticism, and who won’t feel motivated to carry out the will of the people on this project.

SB 517 would specifically undermine the project in the following ways:

1. It puts the project under the control of the Secretary for Business, Housing and Transportation. Sure, that is an appointee of Governor Jerry Brown. But that also introduces an unwieldy structure that would make oversight, planning, and project implementation much more difficult.

2. More importantly, SB 517 would specify certain categories of people be appointed to the board – and these categories have been chosen to undermine the overall project:

SEC. 3. Section 185020 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:
185020. (a) There is in the Business, Transportation and Housing
Agency the High-Speed Rail Authority.
(b) (1) The authority is composed of 10 members as follows:
(A) Five members appointed by the Governor, with the advice and
consent of the Senate. Of the members appointed by the Governor, one shall be an engineer with experience in the planning and design of large transportation infrastructure projects; one shall be an
economist with background and experience in the field of transportation economics; one shall have background and experience in the field of environmental protection or the study of ecosystems; one shall have expertise in project financing; and one shall be an attorney with experience in dealing with the legal issues associated with procurement strategies and construction issues associated with large infrastructure projects.

Here are the problems with each of these members:

“engineer with experience in the planning and design of large transportation infrastructure projects” – not sure what someone who has built a big freeway project can bring to this effort. This person doesn’t have to be an HSR expert. In fact, HSR expertise appears to be unwelcome on Lowenthal’s preferred board.

“an economist with background and experience in the field of transportation economics” – this one is a HUGE problem. As we’ve seen with some of the “reports” on HSR, the field of transportation economics is full of old-school freeway builders, people who do not see the value to HSR. The discipline is deeply hostile to rail. On that basis alone this provision is a threat to the project. More importantly, there’s no good reason to have such a person on the board anyway. I am guessing Lowenthal is thinking of Samer Madanat, an anti-HSR transportation economist from the UC Berkeley Institute for Transportation Studies, which published a flawed study attacking the HSR project in 2010. Madanat, or someone like him, would not be able to help the project get funded or built, as transportation economists have no experience with that work. I have no idea what they would be able to help accomplish other than undermining the very case for HSR.

“one shall have background and experience in the field of environmental protection or the study of ecosystems” – this one is the worst of them all. This is tailor-made to put Gary Patton, a virulent anti-train activist, on the board. Patton has been trying to make the argument that high speed rail is somehow bad for the environment. Of course, HSR itself is environmental protection. By taking as much as 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, HSR will help the state meet its AB 32 goals and fight climate change. And as we know, there’s hardly a bigger threat to the environment or to ecosystems than climate change. So there’s no good reason to put someone with this kind of background on the board – unless the goal is to fuel the fire of NIMBYs and others who are making a deeply misleading argument that HSR is somehow environmentally unfriendly.

The other two categories for the board seem equally superfluous, but the above are particularly objectionable.

3. SB 517 would take away power from the governor and give it to the Senate. The Senate would have to confirm the governor’s appointments, and the Senate would even have to confirm management-level hires by the Authority. The Authority’s independence and effectiveness would be severely compromised, in order to allow Lowenthal to dictate who goes on the board and therefore what policies they will pursue.

4. By firing the current HSR board (even though they have done nothing to deserve it), Lowenthal would significantly weaken and undermine the project right at a crucial moment. A massive change like that which Lowenthal proposes would be very disruptive, and bring planning work to a halt. That would almost certainly mean California would not be able to meet the federal stimulus deadlines. That means $4 billion has to be given back, and that means the Central Valley route is dead – opening the way for Lowenthal to raid the Prop 1A money for non-HSR purposes.

Even if issues 1-3 were resolved to our satisfaction, point #4 is itself reason for SB 517 to die a quick death. It is as much an attack on high speed rail as was the rejections of HSR funds by Scott Walker, Rick Scott, John Kasich, and others. HSR supporters, environmentalists, labor unions, and legislators should come together to reject this unnecessary, dangerous, and damaging bill. Hopefully the Assembly will kill SB 517 for us. If not, Governor Jerry Brown will have to veto it. This bill cannot be allowed to pass further in its current form.

  1. trentbridge
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 21:15
    #1

    Game over. It’s a power-grab – pure and simple. Democratic politicians wanting to get their control over a big pot of gold. What’s going to stop them? Logic? Reality? Hardly – the building of California’s High Speed Rail would result in a wonderful means of transportation BUT all these greedy politicians will be TERMED OUT before this happens.. Think they really care about that? No – are you kidding? We don’t have leaders with vision anymore – we have political hacks trying to make a career out of carving up the pie before they leave the stage. Say goodnight!

    joe Reply:

    The Gov might not want to have his Board appointments reviewed by the Senate every 4 years. He might also use this as a way to attack growing CA gov’t which is what this law proposes doing.

  2. Gianny
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 21:24
    #2

    Politics are soo screwed up now…it goes for both parties. Its a relentless attack on HSR now. They might finally kill it.

    joe Reply:

    This could backfire on Dems in the Central Valley if HSR as planned is stopped. They’re going to be blamed for high unemployment and treating CV as 2nd class citizens.

    datacruncher Reply:

    The ARRA grant scoring/selection criteria made a big deal of both short-term and permanent job creation in Economically Distressed Areas (EDAs). ARRA was about job creation not just transportation or other types of projects.

    In all of California’s ARRA apps (including SF-SJ and LA-Anaheim) it said the CV was the area most in need and the CV would garner the most benefit in permanent job creation from the project.

    But the LAO says negotiate moving the money to another section like SF-SJ or LA-Anaheim because the state might not be able to finish the project. That means if funds were moved the Valley section might never be built.

    Why should the Feds let California keep the ARRA money when the key EDA job-creation selling point (the SJ Valley) might never see any benefit?

    The money grab going on is risky for the Dems in many ways if they don’t include the SJV.

    Spokker Reply:

    Starting in the Central Valley was a great thing when the feds were showing a strong commitment with yearly rounds of funding for HSR. Now HSR funding has been reduced for one year and zeroed out the next. This doesn’t bode well for future completion of the project. However likely it was that the project would be completed as advertised, it is now less likely than before.

    We must ask the current administration why it was so important to punt on its supposedly important national HSR network and what they are doing to secure funding.

    datacruncher Reply:

    But if California won’t show commitment to including the SJV in HSR, why should it get to keep ARRA funds they said would help that region? Other states will start asking about fairness in the ARRA selection process which California’s congressional delegation may not be able to stop.

    Proposing using ARRA funds only for SF-SJ, LA-Anaheim, etc is a politically risky money grab if alternative proposals do not include the SJV like the mountain connections to it. It could result in no money for any California project.

    joe Reply:

    I have seen such machinations since “Pinky & the Brain” was taken out of syndication.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    We must ask the current administration why it was so important to punt on its supposedly important national HSR network and what they are doing to secure funding.

    Not true. The Administration surrendered additional FY 11 spending as part of a budget negotiation in April. So far, the President’s published budget proposed a total expenditure of $53 for both Amtrak subsidies and HSR over six years…that’s not exactly …. running….away….from….it….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Obama is gambling that he will get re-elected in 2012 and that Democrats will retake the House at the same time.

    He might just win that bet.

    If so, then the lull in HSR funding will be temporary.

    Alan Reply:

    “Obama is gambling that he will get re-elected in 2012 and that Democrats will retake the House at the same time.”

    Dear Lord, let it be so…

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    If the U.S. defaults, then it is game over. Although in most scenarios, the Republicans have a lot of crap coming down the pipe for their actions.

    Peter Reply:

    If the U.S. defaults, it doesn’t matter if we build HSR anyway, because the whole world economy will be effed.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    That’s not much of a gamble given the state of the GOP, but I rather doubt he’ll start demonstrating hints of a spine. He couldn’t push crap through without greatly watering it down with the 08 majorities.

    Peter Reply:

    “He couldn’t push crap through without greatly watering it down with the 08 majorities.”

    Like healthcare reform?

    joe Reply:

    “ARRA was about job creation not just transportation or other types of projects.”

    Yes, the ARRA award served multiple purposes. The CV needs the economic help desperately. The Gov could use the economic stimulus which will bring in increased tax revenue.

    This coastal, Dem attack on the project and funding will hurt the CV. Doing this and making disparaging remarks like “train to nowhere” runs the risk of splitting the party and damaging the party base in the CV.

    The CV is growing faster than the coastal areas. The Bay Area will see a congressional district shift towards the CV. It’s bad politics.

    Sen. Lowethal wants to cut down the fruit tree to reach the apples on the top branch.

    wu ming Reply:

    indeed. conversely, coastal dems standing up publicly for the central valley segment will earn dems significant respect in an area that knows in its bones that everyone looks down on them and doesn’t want to lift a finger for them (whether true or not, that’s the sentiment).

    joe Reply:

    We hang together or they hang us separately.

    Clearly building the CV segment and running true HSR service on that segment will anchor the system and it will be built outward. We need to pull together.

    e pluribus unum</i/

  3. Wad
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 21:25
    #3

    He can’t kill the project, he probably can’t defund it, but he might just be able to put a bunch of people on the board who share his skepticism, and who won’t feel motivated to carry out the will of the people on this project.

    In other words: sabotage.

  4. morris brown
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 21:49
    #4

    @robert:

    the vote was 26 -12 … There are only 40 State Senators.

    You wrote

    “4. By firing the current HSR board (even though they have done nothing to deserve it), ”

    Did you view Senator Yee’s remarks?

    Mike Reply:

    I didn’t; what did Yee say? (Not that anyone should, in general, give a rat’s ass what Yee babbles about … but since you brought it up I am curious)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I didn’t, and Yee is nuts if he thinks that SF – where he wants to get elected mayor this November – wants the project undermined like this.

  5. Paulus Magnus
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 21:56
    #5

    tl;dr
    Everyone panic, something happened that wasn’t 100% pure unmitigated support for HSR no matter what.

    Joey Reply:

    I honestly can’t see anything in the bill that constitutes a true threat to HSR.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You forgot “even if it is signed into law, which is unlikely.”

    Spokker Reply:

    The California state legislature getting anything productive done is less likely than achieving a true HSR line in this country anyway.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Fire the entire current board and replace its management and it’s going to be very fucking difficult to build the ARRA-funded segment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    according to the dark conspiracy theories it doesn’t matter who sits on the board. It’s all going to be built by HBPB – HNTB, Bechtel, Parson and Beezebub

  6. Reality Check
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 22:05
    #6

    ALSTOM Delivers First 3rd Generation Duplex TGV Train set to SNCF

    This event marks the introduction of a new generation of double decker railway equipment designed to meet new requirements in terms of interoperability, comfort, operations and total cost of ownership. The new trainsets, derived from previous generations of Duplex TGVs, take advantage of 30 years of experience in very high-speed railway equipment, which has resulted in a proven, safe architecture. The many shared components will help to reduce development, manufacturing, operating and especially maintenance costs.

    The trains will run at up to 320 km/h on the railroad networks in France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. They feature signaling equipment compatible with all the aforementioned European networks and traction equipment suited to all currents encountered in Europe. Some of the trainsets will have modifications to allow them to travel in Spain; the Duplex TGVs sold in Morocco use the same platform.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    CHSRA’s World Class consultants, in their infinite American wisdom, have written their Advanced American High Speed Specifications to exclude TGV Duplex or derivatives. (High level platform entry is required.)

    After all, when it comes to passenger rail transportation there is no absolutely no need to know about anything other than what can be found at NY Penn station.

    Reality Check Reply:

    But if what Richard says about TGV Duplex (or derivatives thereof) already being excluded is true, then doesn’t that really suck pretty hard?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    He does.. He cannot. just believe that we are so stupid and don’t march to his anal orders

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Heh. It’s more like Robert’s flock than Richard’s troops.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And you..are

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Reply:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 12:29 am
    I would love to build a high-speed rail link next to Lowenthals house… he’s such a Streisand liberal Jew.. how nice??? It’s okay if it doesn’t bother me and I have lots of money.. let’s stop the little games on here. .. its the truth.. lived in LA for years and understand their brains and what they do and what they play and what they want.. I can’t wait to hear responses

    YesonHSR Reply:

    comment on this

    BruceMcF Reply:

    As a comment: this is offensive and should be removed by a site moderator.

    Clem Reply:

    I’d go one step further and ban this troll once and for all. It isn’t the first time this happens, far from it, and I’ve yet to read a single value-added comment from this person.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    See yout web site .. you arrogantPOS

    Joey Reply:

    If that’s not trolling I don’t know what is.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Why should it be removed??? Don’t they have Jews in ohio??.. Since I slept with one for like seven years I’ve know more than you… now to try and get a real high speed rail program in that stupid Republican state.. that’s why you hang out on this blog because in no way in no shape or form in hell will Ohio ever have in this word what we are going to build here in CALIFORNIA

    Spokker Reply:

    You don’t win friends with salad.

    wu ming Reply:

    WTF? is this your comment or are you quoting someone else?

    Winston Reply:

    Where is this specified? The only document I’ve seen gives a range between 610 and 1346mm.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    CARRD acquired and posted technical docs. Try their website. http://www.calhsr.com.

    Winston Reply:

    That really isn’t an answer. In which document is the spec in question listed?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Answering would ruin the FUD.

    Clem Reply:

    Technical Memo 6.3 describes the selection of the single-level, high-platform EMU trainset architecture.

    Winston Reply:

    Thanks, that was helpful. Having read the memo, I can understand why the Authority likes a ~4′ platform height. The Duplex seems like the odd man out in terms of platform height and likely involves other design compromises that French engineers had to make to get it to be short enough to operate within the French loading gauge. I would expect that given the generous loading gauge that CA’s HSR line is being designed to it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem to raise the floor height by 3 feet.

    Doing what every country in the world that isn’t France does doesn’t seem like an example of ignoring world wide best practices, it looks like minimizing risk and avoiding vendor lock-in.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Having read the memo, I can understand …
    Congratulations! A career with The World’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals — who all happen to be employed by PBQD and live in the US of A, God’s Own Country, Home of the Free and Land of the Brave — is in your future!

    The Duplex seems like the odd man out in terms of platform height and likely involves other design compromises that French engineers had to make to get it to be short enough to operate within the French loading gauge.

    Well, that’s interesting news. Thanks for sharing your technical insights.

    From another perspective, the Duplex might seem like “the odd man out” by being the only double deck design in operation aside from the not-ambiguously-successful Shinkansen “MAX” designs.

    I would expect that given the generous loading gauge that CA’s HSR line is being designed to it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem to raise the floor height by 3 feet.

    Good God.

    Why not raise it by 10 feet and fill the underside of the trains with express fruit iceboxes also?

    Incontrovertible facts: high level platforms plus multi-level trains imply train doors only at the extreme ends of cars. Train doors at extreme ends of cars imply extremely uneven passenger density and congestion on station platforms.

    There are engineering solutions that mitigate these incontrovertible problems. Why not at least allow them to be explored?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Quick somebody tell SNCF that you can’t put doors in the middle of bilevels

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In5PUfyaE60

    Clem Reply:

    Richard, I can see the door argument for a commuter train where dwell time accumulates because of frequent stops, but I don’t see how it applies to a train that stops very infrequently. For HSR I just don’t see the problem with a traditional architecture with vestibules at the end of cars.

    Single level trains also have better cross-wind aerodynamics, which as you certainly know is a very important aspect of safely operating at very high speeds.

    One of the key differences between Europe and the USA is that Europe doesn’t yet have a level-boarding mandate. All European high-speed trains have entry steps. ALL of them without exception.

    joe Reply:

    Does this door layout create a congestion problem?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/markturner/2876122729/

    Winston Reply:

    The TGV duplex is a unique design. If it had so many self-evident advantages one would think that at least one of the half dozen or so other operators of high speed trains would be clamoring for them and other manufacturers would be building them. Just because you think a technology is really kewl doesn’t mean that anyone who thinks differently is an idiot.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But I thought the PanGalactic was going to be the Grand Central of the West. . .

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Duplex TGVs were designed to solve SNCF’s specific problems:
    – saturation of LGV trunk lines
    – ever-increasing tolls, harming profits.

    In 2010 SNCF made €2.16 billion profit after paying €3.7 billion in tolls.
    Tolls are paid per train, whatever the length. 18-car duplex TGVs are great toll savers. The rider/driver ratio is also higher.
    Without duplex trains SNCF would have had to hire more drivers and pay more tolls as well, thus severely reducing profit. No profit means no reserves to buy competitive rolling stock, leading to even less profit. A vicious circle.

    CHSR will enjoy a far more relaxed business atmosphere. The deregulation has opened European HSR to cut-throat competition. It’s cut costs or die. There will be no such pressure in California. CHSR will own its market, and occasional subsidies won’t have it brought to the EU justice court for anti-competitive practices.
    Cost-cutting probably won’t be CHSR’s prime preocupation and a train designed to reduce labor costs might not be the unions’ first choice.
    Then, there is the FRA. Duplex TGVs make large use of aluminum-sandwich panels in order to have the same weight/axle ratio as single-level rolling stock. The FRA is known to prefer all-steel construction.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The FRA is known to prefer all-steel construction.

    They prefer non-wooden construction. Less chance of it catching fire when the boiler explodes.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Duplex TGVs were designed to solve SNCF’s specific problems:
    – saturation of LGV trunk lines
    – ever-increasing tolls, harming profits.

    There’s no reason to believe these are SNCF-specific issues.

    For long distance traffic, the market effect of increasing frequency much below a train per hour is pretty much negligible, so it makes perfect economic sense to minimise the cost per passenger by increasing the number of passengers per train and the number of passengers per staff member and the number of passengers per station platform slot.

    For a well-optimised system, especially a new build, there should be a careful balance between infrastructure (ie right-sized construction and right-sized fleets) and operations, and again putting more people on each train is an obvious and well-explored and proven aid to this aim. Moreover, we already know that we have a catastrophically (and entirely self-inflicted) bad station capacity issue in San Francisco; minimising the number of trains per passenger into SF is absolutely critical and should be near the top of the entire system design priority list. (Implies Altamont also!)

    Given that CHSR is de novo construction, and given that HS trains will not be placed in service until a decade or more from now I think there are very compelling reasons to consider only operating double-deck long distance trains from the start: most of “off the shelf” trains being delivered today will be superseded by then anyway.

    I also think that the advantages of lower-level boarding for double decker trains are very much worth pursuing, rather than absolutely excluding as our World Class American Rail Consultants have chosen to do on our behalf.

    In particular, the layout ofBombardier’s IC200 train (yes, I know this is a vmax 200kmh train, because that’s what the client ordered) is a real eye-opener for what can be done in the double-deck EMU with upper-level gangways (like those of Amtrak Superliners or California Cars) and well-placed, well-spaced lower-level entries. With a Californian loading gauge it’s even easier.

    It’s insane for our CHSRA’s Class Consultants to be outright excluding promising high-capacity train designs so far in advance of station or rolling stock procurement, and for no better reason than they’ve never ventured beyond NY Penn Station. (They also outright exclude Talgo’s single-level trains, for no valid reason, with no operating concessionaire input.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    PS to avoid having to wade through German and tons of other links, here’s a link to a schematic of the IC200 train layout (or at least I hope it is.)

    Miles Bader Reply:

    CAHSR has the luxury — unlike France — of designing a system from scratch, so of course they should pick things like platform height based on best practices. In other words, high platforms. They certainly shouldn’t allow the initial provider of trains choose the platform height for the system!

    If Alstom wants to compete, and thinks a dual-level TGV is their best shot, they’ll adapt it to fit.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If Alstom wants to compete, and thinks a dual-level TGV is their best shot, they’ll adapt it to fit.

    Have you ever seen a TGV Duplex? On the web, even? Good God.

    PS Alstom “wants” people to buy the AGV design into which they’ve sunk so much money and time. They’re not having a hell of a lot of success, all told. Their biggest HS customer (you know, the people who have to deal with running the trains) wants more TGV Duplex.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Are you saying that the TGV dual-level design can’t be adapted to high-level platforms? [The “classic” TGV design clearly can’t be used as-is anway, since it’s locomotive-based.]

    Dual-level HSR is clearly compatible with high-level platforms, as demonstrated by the Shinkansen MAX trains.

    Anyway, if Alstom is so desperate to sell their design, that seems to make them even more likely to be willing to redesign the vestibule/stairway area to accomodate the customer’s requirements…

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    TGV Duplex floor height is 1.02 m
    Ceiling is 1.95 m
    Total height is 4.00 m

    Clem Reply:

    Does that make the lower deck 93 cm tall?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I should have checked before copy/paste from a site I was directed to by Wikipedia.
    Floor height is obviously wrong.
    Last time I travelled on TGV Duplex, I boarded from a rather low platform and car floor was still lower than the platform. It can’t possibly be 1.02 m.
    There are all sorts of platform heights in France, except for subways and suburban trains where they are always level with train floor.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When I boarded a Duplex, I thought the boarding height was 550 mm, based on the UIC standard.

    Eric M Reply:

    And they just lost out on Eurostar to Siemens too

    Winston Reply:

    If the Duplex is so clearly the only way to go why aren’t other HSR trains low platform. It seems that just about everyone who builds HSR opts for high platforms unless they have a real compelling reason (such as France’s short loading gauge) not to. Besides, all other things being equal it should be quicker to load and unload single level trains reducing dwell times.

    joe Reply:

    Besides, all other things being equal it should be quicker to load and unload single level trains reducing dwell times.

    The same argument was used against the A380 – too long to load and unload the double decker airplane.

    I’m not so sure that dwell time for disembarking and loading is an issue the A380 and less so for trains.

    Remember you don’t have to be seated when entering or leaving a station when on a train.

    And if dwell time is an issue – you have a great problem, a car load of paying customers.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Remember that the dwell-time at an intermediate station for a well-run HSR system, can be like 30 seconds. The speed of loading and unloading is certainly something that at least merits attention.

    [I notice that the Duplex TGV also only has a single door per car, which is of course also going to have a negative impact on dwell-time.]

    joe Reply:

    I’m attentive. Let’s think about it.

    How much longer will it take to unload passengers? Each car is unloaded in parallel so the worse case is a full car is unloaded for single and double decker design.

    I appreciate the 30 seconds dwell metric for say a commuter line but don’t get caught in a mathematical artifact. If it takes 100% longer, the train can recover that 30 seconds by the next stop.

    Trains have wider asiles, more exit doors and you can stand to disembark prior to arrival. It’s not like flying into DCA.

    My only experience was in the medium distance trains in Paris to the outlying areas – they had two levels. Not a problem to get into or out of a car.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Anyway, the point is not that the D.TGVs can’t work — obviously they work fine on a busy line — and of course dwell time is one among many issues. But it is still an issue, especially on extremely busy networks (Tokaido Shinkansen).

    The main thing, I think is that there’s nothing so unambiguously great about the D.TGV that CAHSR needs to cater to its peculiarities. I don’t know why Richard attempting to portray what seems to be a pretty reasonable design decision (high platforms) as some sort of fatal error. It clearly is not.

    Joey Reply:

    Low (circa 2 feet in our antiquated units) platforms make the most sense for bilevel equipment, be it commuter or high-speed, allowing the most efficient use of space (i.e. longest proportion of traincar with two levels) while maintaining even door spacing. The physical size of the bogies means that single-level equipment tends toward high (circa 4 feet in our antiquated units) platforms, though a few low-floor single-level commuter trains do exist.

    Honestly I’m not convinced either way on the issue.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The TGV has long dwells, on the order of 5 minutes. It’s the (predominantly single-level) Shinkansen that has dwells shorter than a minute.

    Spokker Reply:

    Alon, the more you talk about the French high speed rail network, the less I want to see it replicated in the United States.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Honestly I’m not convinced either way on the issue.

    Neither am I.

    But absolutely excluding, by ill-informed fiat (that goes without saying with CHSRA: they’ve also outlawed trains passing platforms at more than 80mph, designed their own special turnout standards, and measure everything in furlongs, and so on and so on), a design possibility that offers very real advantages shows, well, technical ignorance, poor judgement, a complete disregard for systems engineering, and carries more than a whiff of vendor shoeing-in.

    More passengers per train and per crew member and shorter dwell times are significant advantages. Ironically, they’re most compelling if you buy the CHSRA consultant’s self-serving, hyperbolic, alternate-reality over-prediction of ridership and train frequencies and implied station throughputs…

    Something else somebody should consider is that two separate 150m double-deck trains carry the same number of passengers as one 400m train, yet can occupy the same 400m platform independently, separated by a mid-platform crossover. This is potentially another major operational capacity win at critical Transbay, where (due to entirely self-inflicted engineering “decision”-making), there never can be the 450m long platforms that would enable this for two 200m single-deck trains.

    Moreover, and this of course where I’m mainly coming from, mandating high platforms effectively (quibble all you want, but this is reality) mandates separate and unequal and UNSHARED HSR/Caltrain and HSR/Metrolink infrastructure and operations and stations, increasing costs to the public by many billions of dollars while providing far worse service, forever.

    So yeah, I don’t think the high floor HS train is very cut and dried at all.

    And remember: if CHSRA’s World Class consultants decree something, it’s wrong.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    mandating high platforms effectively (quibble all you want, but this is reality) mandates separate and unequal and UNSHARED HSR/Caltrain and HSR/Metrolink infrastructure

    No it doesn’t

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I’ve never seen crowds at TGV doors, even when the train was full. It’s very different from subway or suburban trains at rush hour when hundreds of people try to get in or out at the same time.
    Boarding a TGV is much more leisurely, except it can take time to get to your car when the train is 1/4 mile long.

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker: it’s debatable for CalTrain, as they will be getting a new fleet anyway. Adopting a low platform height would make the transition smoother though, as this is about the same floor height as Bombardier’s bilevels. Metrolink is a different matter though, as they’re likely to be using their existing equipment (as well as their recently-ordered CMS cars) for a while, so mandating high platforms does effectively exclude Metrolink.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @adirondacker12800:
    (high platforms == CAHSR not sharing infrastructure with Caltrain or Metrolink)
    No it doesn’t

    He’s referring to the platform edges; a high-level HSR platform can’t be used by a low-level train, and high-level-only trains can’t use low-level platforms. What’s worse in California is the quaint CPUC rule that limits the height of platforms where freight is using the same tracks.

    For Caltrain, the branch is small enough to be able to get a waiver allowing for freight trains to pass high-level platforms. ‘Done Right’, Caltrain uses equipment with the same floor height as CAHSR, and all the platforms along that branch are the same height allowing for any train to use any platform. With Caltrain already going the UIC equipment route, there is the faint possibility that this might actually happen, even with the planning staff that they have.

    Metrolink however is a much larger operation, and runs its trains in areas where it isn’t possible to get the same hypothetical CPUC waiver. That leads to either Metrolink having two fleets, one of which is the same floor height as the CAHSR equipment and restricted to the lines where shared operation with CAHSR is occurring ( the other being a continuation of its existing FRA fleet), or the HSR-shared sections have separate platforms, likely with separate tracks. Let’s go pour some concrete.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ack. The Northeast, SEPTA in particular, is lousy with railroad stations that are little more than a patch of asphalt with a bus shelter. They are served by trains that go to stations that have high platforms. Slowly but surely the low level platforms are being converted to high level platforms. Maybe what California needs is a planner from SEPTA A ticket agent from SEPTA would probably have enough experience to explain it all.

    If the Metrolink cars can’t go to the stations along the line that’s been upgraded for HSR, send them to the lines that haven’t been upgraded yet. Or lease them to FrontRunner or sell them to Music City Star or … there’s a thriving market in used railroad cars.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The argument Caltrain used for the waiver is that it needs double-decked EMUs, and there’s no FRA-compliant solution. The idea is that if Caltrain had said it wanted a single-deck EMU, the FRA would’ve told it to get M8s. Caltrain might still be able to get away with a bait-and-switch, but to be completely in the clear, it needs double-deck trains, and the available European products tend toward low platforms and boarding to the lower deck, rather than high platforms and split-level boarding.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    double-decked EMUs, and there’s no FRA-compliant solution.

    How many double deck 25kV MUs are there? If they coulda used M8s they also coulda used ALP46As and anything that can run in North America. Though by the time Caltrain gets around to placing orders Metro North will probably be running UIC compliant M12s and NJTransit/AMT/SPETA will be running TRAXX 4-somethings instead of calling them ALP52s

    Caltrain might still be able to get away with a bait-and-switch,

    Caltrain isn’t going to be able to order whatever they offered as examples by the time they place they are issuing RFPs. Not unless the vendor brings people out of retirement and has stored the tooling for a decade or so.

    Joey Reply:

    There are enough double-deck MU solutions offered by Bombardier, Stadler, Alstom, etc. All of them are low-floor and all of them are non-FRA compliant. Also we generally want to avoid locomotive-driven solutions, particularly for CalTrain.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    All of them are low-floor and all of them are non-FRA compliant.

    Which must as news to Metra Electric. That run to platforms an Amfleet could serve if they wer inclined to put track connections back in.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Caltrain couldn’t ask for loco-hauled double-deckers either – the FRA would point out to the ALPs and bilevel coaches used by the LIRR and NJT.

    The MTA has expressed zero interest in UIC-compliant stock. It only asked for a waiver from the PTC requirement on the grounds that the LIRR’s existing signaling should be good enough. It may or may not discover the world of Talents and Coradias when the PTC mandate goes into effect; I’ve learned not to ever trust the competence of the people whose idea of how to reduce staffing on commuter rail is to equip conductors with smartcard readers so that they can check tickets faster.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why should the MTA express interest in UIC compliant rolling stock before they have a signal system that the FRA would let them use with UIC rolling stock?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The MTA is arguing that its present-day signal system is PTC.

    Joey Reply:

    Why on earth would you want anything to do with Metra’s single-door gallery cars? Unless of course your goal is to absolutely minimize passenger flow.

    Joe C. Reply:

    The TGV has long dwells, on the order of 5 minutes. It’s the (predominantly single-level) Shinkansen that has dwells shorter than a minute.

    I take it this is because the TGV is operated like a Flight Level 0 airline, with non-stop, point-to-point travel and aggressive yield management. While the Shinkansen is operated like a (very long) commuter rail network with through-routing into urban areas, and standardized fares. There’s a clear emphasis on capacity, maximizing utilization, and putting butts in seats.

    Alon, the more you talk about the French high speed rail network, the less I want to see it replicated in the United States.

    Toss me into this camp as well. While the Shinkansen was the first high speed rail system, I think time has borne out that it’s also one the best designed and operated ones as well.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Yup. The shinkansen is an excellently designed system; they could do far worse than simply rollow its lead.

    Concerning capacity, I think while dual-level trains can be advantageous in certain situations, they’re not some kind of panacea, especially considering the additional complications they add.

    [Note that the 8-car version of the N700 shinkansen, which is the same length as the TGV Duplex (200m), actually carries about 10% more passengers than the TGV Duplex. This is presumably due to its greater width, which allows adding an additional seat, but I think it illustrates the point.]

    Of course, the TGV Duplex as-is isn’t acceptable for other reasons, so even if they get a train from Alstom, it isn’t going to be that one.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I find it amusing how people get worked up in such a lather over high vs. low level boarding. The problem is simply solved by building rolling stock with both high and low level boarding, such as KNR’s Nooiro EMU (Hitachi A train design)- an engineering solution not more concrete!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCtCEVsiZD0&feature=related

    Peter Reply:

    Americans with Disabilities Act ties the hands of any new rail operation, mandating level boarding. Caltrain and Metrolink have been able to get by without level boarding by being grandfathered into the system, but that won’t work for HSR.

    Therefore, even brilliant engineering solutions such as the Nooiro EMU would not work in the U.S.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Trains like that exist, sure, but they’re not common, and they tend to reduce the number of available doors at a given time. See for example the discussion of the Omneo on Caltrain-HSR Compatibility.

    Joe C. Reply:

    San Francisco’s Muni Metro (light rail) has had it as well for quite some.

    But as noted above, the ADA requires level boarding for new systems, and it isn’t an optimal solution. In any case, not having level boarding on a new system would be insane, as it costs almost nothing and improves boarding and alighting dramatically. Nobody wants to walk up and down steps with luggage and/or children in tow.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Boarding a Duplex TGV from a high platform would be very inconvenient. You’d need several steps to get down to train floor level.
    The floor of a high-speed bi-level train has to be low, otherwise you end up with cars 18 ft tall. The air drag would be enormous, not to speak of stability and vulnerability to side winds. The air drag for a Duplex is just 4% higher than for a single-level TGV.
    The traditional US over-wheel floor is totally unsuitable for fast trains.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Who says high speed rail needs duplex (other than possibly Alstom’s marketing department)? Only France runs them. In Japan the double deck shinkansen are being phased out.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The floor of a high-speed bi-level train has to be low, otherwise you end up with cars 18 ft tall.

    which must be news to the operators who have duplex cars that run to high platforms in the 14 foot range.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “Who says high speed rail needs duplex (other than possibly Alstom’s marketing department)?”
    Alstom wants to sell AGVs, not bi-levels. The Duplex was SNCF’s idea. In short, it told Alstom: “if you don’t want to build them, we’ll ask Bombardier”.
    That’s why I said in an earlier post the Duplex didn’t make much sense in California because it was the answer to specific SNCF problems: saturation of trunk lines, heavy fees paid “per train” and not “per passenger”, impossibility to add more cars to trains that already are 1/4 mile long.
    In my opinion, duplex trains in California would be the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Richard doesn’t agree and thinks what saves money and staff is good anywhere and not only in France.

    Rolling stock selection is nothing urgent, anyway, and there is time for CHSR to wait and see. The new Duplex are designed for use outside France, and SNCF intends to run them in Germany, Italy and Spain. That will tell whether or not the duplex solution is valid outside France. As none of these countries have the saturation problems SNCF has to face, I have my doubts.
    The fact Morocco chose duplex is no valid indication. The motivation was purely financial: piggy-backing on SNCF’s order just saved them millions.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Alstom developped the AGV on its own, with no input from the SNCF. The two companies had collaborated to create the 1st and 2nd generation TGVs (they jointly own the name “TGV”) . Then relations cooled (or froze). Alstom lost bids, including a large one for 600 duplex suburban trains, won by Bombardier. Alstom even lost its high-speed monopoly when Eurostar (a branch of SNCF) chose Siemens which was 15% cheaper. French business papers talked of the “cold war” between Alstom Transport and the SNCF.
    Now, Alstom Transport’s CEO has resigned to become CEO of De Beers (South Africa) and the atmosphere seems to have changed. Guillaume Pepy, SNCF’s CEO recently declared “there is no war between Alstom and the SNCF”. I hope this marks the end of hostilities and Alstom will start again making trains that companies want, and not trains that its CEO thinks they should want.

    joe Reply:

    Given that CHSR is de novo construction, and given that HS trains will not be placed in service until a decade or more from now I think there are very compelling reasons to consider only operating double-deck long distance trains from the start: most of “off the shelf” trains being delivered today will be superseded by then anyway

    I agree but as a sad observation; developing countries often fail to leap frog technology but instead copy existing, less efficient infrastructure. I’ve seen this documented for energy use and ecological considerations e.g. building lighting – designing a building for incandescent and not florescent lighting.

    We’re acting like a developing county, but you knew that.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    USDOT Announces New, Historic Uniform High-Speed Rail Design Standards to Help U.S. Manufacturers to Compete.

    LINK

    Bi-level trains have to be “designed to accommodate entry and departure from low-level platforms.”
    That settles it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The specs are for American “high” speed rail. There are American “high” speed cars running around all over the US and some stations in Canada that can serve low and high level platforms – Amfleets. . Just because it can go to a patch of asphalt by the side of the tracks in Fumbuck doesn’t mean it can’t go to the “high” speed station in Chicago.

    swing hanger Reply:

    “The standards will ensure that newly manufactured cars can be used with the current passenger locomotive fleet, either alone or with existing bi-level cars, and are designed to accommodate entry and departure from low-level platforms.”

    These are not true high speed rail cars (i.e. distributed traction, which is the world standard)- note the requirement to be able to be used with current passenger locomotive fleet…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    These aren’t high-speed rail cars of any kind. The design speed is supposed to be 110 mph.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Actually, 125, and I understand they have run that fast quite regularly, and still do.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amfleet

    http://www.trainweb.org/amtrakpix/locoshots/amfleet1/AMFLEET1.html

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I forget whether I’ve had this up before, but thought it would be of interest here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LRC_(train)

    http://www.amtrak40th.com/archives/lrc-on-train-89

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J-7nEyXIr0

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Amfleets can do 125, yeah, but if I’m not mistaken (and I may well be) the specs for the bilevel cars say 110, on the model of Superliners.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s interesting, in that the Superliners are intended for use anywhere but the NEC, which means they run on lines with grade crossings, which are limited to 110 mph, while the NEC has had 125 mph running for decades now, and (relatively) recently upgraded to 135 with Acela services.

    Much as we may hate it, this is designing for the world as we currently have it, and seem to be stuck with for a while; certainly that was the view available 30 and 40 years ago. Who would have thought there would be a serious attempt at 220 mph railroading then? And in America?

    Superliner specs, according to Wikipedia, were for 100 mph; new design might be for 110:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superliner_(railcar)

    A personal note: those Amfleets were the only cars I’ve gotten motion sickness on while riding a train. I think it was due to that soft air-bag suspension they use. Soft spring rates are important for really high speed stuff, but they are too soft for operation on other roads that might not be maintained to the high-speed standard, and that included the former B&O line from Martinsburg to Washington. The result is a lot of roll, sort of like an old Cadillac with those soft springs that wallowed about on anything like a mountain road.

    It’s interesting to note that the B&O had a reputation for setting its car springs up harder than normal for just this reason; seems that clearances were so tight in some of those ancient tunnels that a car with soft springs could sway enough to touch the walls of the tunnel, which would be a little hard on the car and the tunnel.

    Karl Nystrom, the engineer who designed the Milwaukee’s Hiawatha cars, noted that conventional trucks of the 1930s and before were fine up to about 85 mph, but running faster than that put a lot of demands on truck design, and required that softer spring rate. He also noted that those high-speed cars bounced and swayed too much when they went on some branch line. He recommended what would amount to dedicated cars for high-speed service, and that they were not to run on branches. Probably no surprises there, even for today.

    Peter Reply:

    According to page 95 (out of 580) of the PRIIA Bilevel Spec 3 document, the new bi-levels are also meant to be 125 mph cars, not 110.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, its been 125mph, max 50% weight unloading standing on 7in superelevated track, compliant with 5in can deficiency since last year. AFAICT, this spec being announced is a more detailed version of the one from August last year.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Who would have thought there would be a serious attempt at 220 mph railroading then? And in America?

    DP after you get done reading the articles from the 60s in the Popular Science and Popular Mechanix about the Metroliners and the Shinkansen you have to read the articles about Maglev. Everybody “knew” that conventional trains would never go faster than 125….

    aw Reply:

    Bruce, the FRA press release is from last August, probably released at the same time as the NextGen Bilevel spec.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Everybody “knew” that conventional trains would never go faster than 125….”–adirondacker12800

    There you go, tickling those brain cells again. . .as I recall, a problem with running over 125 mph, at least at that time, was maintaining adequate adhesion in a consistent manner. To run that fast, particularly with a locomotive-hauled train, required an enormous amount of power (and still does), but anti-wheel-slip technology wasn’t anywhere near what it is now. I understand there was a lot of other development work required, too, into things like pantograph design, and of course at the speeds we would be looking at today, maintenance of everything–track, wires, and equipment–had to be to a much higher standard than was typical for even what was high speed service then.

    Maglev was one considered option; do you also recall the Aerotrain, which was for a time a rival to the TGV?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%A9rotrain

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU_xXw2_1-U

    The footage, particularly at 2:20 and just after (well dressed passengers boarding for a demonstration run, and some speed runs using JATO bottles for additional acceleration) remind me of something that would have been cooked up for “Thunderbirds.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VvsxaaFNAs&NR=1

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Doggone it, now you got me tickling my own brain cells:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbirds_(TV_series)

    Interesting to note, based on this article, that the producers of “Team America” were at least partially inspired by “Thunderbirds.”

    A couple of other Gerry and Sylvia Anderson productions; I have to say, it looks like they had a ball:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercar_(TV_series)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireball_XL5

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    as I recall, a problem with running over 125 mph, at least at that time, was maintaining adequate adhesion in a consistent manner. To run that fast, particularly with a locomotive-hauled train, required an enormous amount of power (and still does), but anti-wheel-slip technology wasn’t anywhere near what it is now.

    Which one of the reasons why the Japanese and the PRR/Budd went with distributed traction.
    Every “knew” that you couldn’t go faster than 125 even though the Japanese, the PRR and CYC already had. I can’t find the video. Someone from Budd in the cab of a Metroliner telling the interviewer that the Metroliner IIs would be capable of 160…. and they had already pushed Metroliners up to 154 if I remember correctly. Through Princeton Junction…..

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More brain cell tickling going on (and I’ll have to take the time to actually see this myself)–but for a long time the French held a world rail speed record of about 208 mph, set in 1955 as a research project. And of course, we have this wonderful tool now called the internet, and look what’s here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AyPGkMoGE0&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpLf4M5OXeQ&NR=1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHWjelxe_MU&feature=related

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I just looked at part of the 1955 documentary, and did that pantograph have a job! There are times the arcing is so bad the pantograph looks like it’s on fire, and at the end of the run, its collector strips have a pronounced sag in the middle.

    The locomotives from the 1955 speed tests are still around:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVvKAdvEZdU&feature=related

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    minimising the number of trains per passenger into SF is absolutely critical and should be near the top of the entire system design priority list. (Implies Altamont also!)

    It implies no such thing (and I’m in favor of Altamont). If there are enough people going to Diridon Transdimensional to warrant sending a few trains there per hour via altamont, then there will be enough people disembarking there to justify terminating a few trains there via pacheco. It’s not like they’re going to be short on platforms. Putting a wye in isn’t the only way to reduce the load at the TTC.

    There’s plenty of good reasons to prefer Altamont, reduced train frequency at TTC isn’t one of them.

  7. morris brown
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 22:18
    #7

    @Robert again:

    You write:

    “That means $4 billion has to be given back, and that means the Central Valley route is dead – opening the way for Lowenthal to raid the Prop 1A money for non-HSR purposes.”

    How in the world is any Prop 1A funds going to be diverted to non-HSR purposes?

    Absolutely illegal under Prop 1A. Any Prop 1A funds for construction also need matching funds to be spent

    If anyone might be diverting funds from being used for HSR purposes, it is the Authority itself. The current proposal in the Central Valley is to build tracks without electricity , signaling systems, PTC etc. If built as proposed, and without further additions, they will not usable HSR tracks.

    This a point the LAO made, which you don’t want to acknowledge.

    joe Reply:

    Actually the LAO didn’t make the point you claim they made. They found nothing _wrong_ i.e. non compliant, with starting in the Central Valley.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How in the world is any Prop 1A funds going to be diverted to non-HSR purposes?

    By claiming it is for HSR purposes.

    The current proposal in the Central Valley is to build tracks without electricity , signaling systems, PTC etc. If built as proposed, and without further additions, they will not usable HSR tracks.”

    “This a point the LAO made, which you don’t want to acknowledge.” Citation? I didn’t recall that, and after skimming it again just now, don’t see it. I believe that joe may be correct, in which case you are either lying or remembering something that never happened.

    joe Reply:

    Listen to the Author’s own words. The Report’s Primary Author claims the CV segment is only “risky” in that if no more funding were to come, we’d have a less useful segment than building a new commuter line in uhhh Lowenthal’s district.

    He doesn’t claim the CV project is non-compliant. He also asks if the State could back away from matching funds. The LAO does not claim the project does not qualify for funds.

    Nadia sez:

    For those interested in actually hearing Eric Thronson of the LAO discussing his recommendations this week see the 28th minute in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/derailhsr#p/u/2/PrrtUtgFumo

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s cause Morris is a Kitty and We all know they can’t keep anything straight.

    morris brown Reply:

    My statement “This a point the LAO made….” was meant to point to the LAO’s request for a delay in further funding, because without further funding, the project as going forward would result in construction of tracks, which are certainly not needed for anything other than HSR, because existing tracks for conventional rail currently exit there. Thus the risk of building something completely useless.

    I agree the LAO didn’t comment on non-compliance with any Prop 1A legality with the plan.

    I don’t find the current plan compliant legally with Prop 1A, and I am not a lawyer, but lawyers have looked at this and agree the current plan is not legally compliant, since Prop 1A requires full funding for “usable HSR segments”. That funding is certainly presently not in hand. If more funding appears before contracts are let and the missing elements can be added to what is currently planned, then the plan become compliant with Prop 1A.

    Please note again the the AG ducked answering this legal question at two board meetings.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If anyone might be diverting funds from being used for HSR purposes, it is the Authority itself. The current proposal in the Central Valley is to build tracks without electricity , signaling systems, PTC etc. If built as proposed, and without further additions, they will not usable HSR tracks.

    This a point the LAO made, which you don’t want to acknowledge.

    My statement “This a point the LAO made….” was meant to point to the LAO’s request for a delay in further funding, …

    Well, only you know what it was meant to point to ~ it seems the best laid plans of mice and men aft gay aglay, and the gap between the claim made and the purportedly intended claim is further evidence.

    joe Reply:

    was meant to point to the LAO’s request for a delay in further funding, because without further funding, the project as going forward would result in construction of tracks, which are certainly not needed for anything other than HSR, because existing tracks for conventional rail currently exit there. Thus the risk of building something completely useless.

    You’re confused beyond hope.
    A core ARRA requirement is that the project MUST have stand alone utility if it were to never see another dime of funding. The Feds approved the HSR CV segment.
    Game, Set, Match. It’s a stand alone useful project.

    I don’t find the current plan compliant legally with Prop 1A, and I am not a lawyer, but lawyers have looked at this and agree the current plan is not legally compliant, …

    Yet the LAO didn’t try to correct this obviously non-compliance with Prop1A. Why? Think deeply….
    the LAO knows the State can repurpose the Prop1A funds and knows it’s within their existing power. Theres’ no Theodosian Wall.

  8. John Burrows
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 22:41
    #8

    So if current board members can stay on until their replacements are chosen, when might that be? If Jerry Brown ends up at odds with the Senate over the 5 members that he appoints then what are the chances that any of them would be replacing existing board members in the near term? Also as new members are appointed, who do they replace first?

    But was the intent here malicious? Decisions are by a 5 to 4 vote, and 2 members will be from organized labor. Even if some members are questionable in their support of the project, seems to me that as long as there are 5 votes that’s all it will take.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Also— How many of the present board might be reappointed?

    joe Reply:

    His appointments to HSR Board will have to be confirmed. Not like a Judge which is for life but for a short period of time. It guts the HSR Board’s independence.

    John Burrows Reply:

    In partial answer to my q

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why would the Governor sign that law that would take away power from himself?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    What are you talking about? SB117 moves the authority into the Dept. of Transportation, meaning they become directly accountable to the Governor.

    joe Reply:

    Hey Otis: His appointments will need Senate approval and HSR budget falls under the Legislature’s annual review.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Except his appointments to the Board would have to be approved by the Senate plus half the board would be appointed by the Senate.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    You may want to actually read the bill before commenting further. The Senate appoints 2 members of a 9 member board. That number is the same as what they’re allowed today.

    Drunk Engineer makes a valid point. This bill gives the Governor more power over the Authority, not less. Think about it. Is there more power in a) being able to appoint a CEO who can then go rogue, or b) being able to control a CEO (and his agency — not an insignificant detail) who has the gov’s approval as well as the Senate’s?

    morris brown Reply:

    I don’t see how anyone can conclude SB-517 gives the governor more power than currently. The Governor’s appointments are to be with “advice and consent” of the Senate. Currently he appoints 5 members without any supervision. SB-517 also specs out the qualifications of these appointments.

    joe Reply:

    —Clip and Save—

    We agree.

    —Clip and Save—

    This Law weakens the Gov’s powers and dictates the qualifications his appointments must meet – for example the previous appointments made by Arnold would not have qualified.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The law would fire all of Arnold’s appointees, giving Gov. Brown a fresh opportunity to put all his own people in.

    That hardly weakens Brown’s powers.

    The fact that the Senate has to confirm is irrelevant, as the chamber is held by Democrats.

    joe Reply:

    Back again Otis?

    The fact that the Senate has to confirm is irrelevant, as the chamber is held by Democrats.

    Thanks for agreeing with us – the new law weakens the Gov’s powers.

    Joey Reply:

    joe: the implication is that the senate would have little reason NOT to confirm any of Brown’s appointees.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hey Drunk, get Your bill straight, SB117 is not about HSR at all, It’s SB517 and yes I called My elected Assemblywoman Connie Conway and urged Her to oppose this piece of crap that Alan Lowenthal has put up. Besides SB117 has already been voted on back in March 2011, It’s old news…

    SB 117

    An act to amend Section 10295.3 of the Public Contract Code, relating to public contracts.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s a damn good question isn’t it. Especially when the bill takes away Brown’s power over a project he has supported for over 30 years.

  9. MGimbel
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 22:54
    #9

    I wouldn’t go as far to say Lowenthal is trying to kill the project – rather, he’s a control freak and would prefer everything be done his way. I think in is his own strange state of mind, he still wants there to be a high-speed rail project, just a project where every decision and advancement related to the planning process is made under his supervision and/or approval. All in all, I believe Lowenthal is basically looking to say that he first saved the project, then built it. Of course, he doesn’t care about the fact that he’s doing more harm than good. In his mind, everything he’s doing is in pursuit of building the project HIS way. I really don’t think he’s trying to kill the entire project – rather, get rid of the current planners and bring it under his jurisdiction. Of course, this may kill the entire project in the process.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I very much think he is trying to kill HSR. These bills are just one facet of that strategy. He has been working behind the scenes to undermine support for the project for several years now.

  10. Alon Levy
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 23:01
    #10

    Off-topic, I used Wikipedia’s list of rail accidents to come up with a ranked list of countries/blocs by accident rates. The US is the least safe – and the list includes India. China is the safest.

    Dan Reply:

    interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if China/India ranked better than expected due to underreporting, but there’s probably something we can learn from Japan & EU… do you have any conclusions — i.e. what makes the rail system safer?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have a few ideas, which boil down to good corporate culture. In Japan people learned to trust the schedules, as a result of which the railroads are pressured to be completely reliable; the few accidents that do happen are often the result of overspeeding to make up time. In the US, people don’t care as much – the idea of “on time” is the same as it was in the 1950s, and the railroaders are overzealous of their traditions.

    For a more concrete example, take platform heights. Japanese platforms are very high, and European platforms are increasingly medium-height, in order to discourage people from stepping onto the tracks. American platforms are low, in order to protect railroad workers hanging from the side of a car. The only way the US achieves even half-decent safety is by making bad compromises on performance, for examples slow approach speeds and loud horns.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the idea of “on time” is the same as it was in the 1950s

    I wish we had the same on time performance as in the 50s. Things started to fall apart in the 60s.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The input data is likely flawed, in that the English Wikipedia, bastion of western culture that it is, doesn’t always cover non-western events with the same level of detail as western events.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    The “mainline rail only” restriction also seems pretty stupid, as such categorizations are often very fuzzy, and don’t transfer well between countries. In particular, Tokyo’s “subways” and “railways” are in many respects (equipment, operating practices, schedules) exactly the same as each other — and indeed are heavily interlined (using equipment from both) — except that the subways are underground.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know. I’m pretty sure the Japan list is reliable, though.

  11. political_incorrectness
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 23:24
    #11

    With the Senate voting supermajority which can override a veto, that is quite concerning. Unless the State Assembly did not vote this in majority, then there is a chance. (I am assuming you have to have bills from both the Assembly and Senate before it can reach the governors desk?) If it does not have an override in the Assembly, then Brown will probably veto the bill. At this point, I would not take the supermajoirty for granted. It definitely shows there is alot of power hunger at that level. I think the point of making government bigger and possibly killing the project might sway some but not many. Did the CV senators vote for this bill?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So, the Senate voted to increase the Senate’s power. I’m shocked, shocked, that a branch of government would vote by a large margin to increase its power.

    Whether the Assembly will vote to increase the Senate’s power and leave its own power unchanged is a more open question.

    There are other measures folded into the core proposal, angling for the support of those who support those measures. Folding the CHSRA into a department without changing the make-up of the board and without placing it under Caltrans does not seem like it would be a big disruption. Disclosure of financial conflicts seems like something that is the norm.

    So the Assembly could amend the bill by stripping the duplication of the peer review group and the Senate confirmation of Governor appointments to the board, and send it back.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hopefully this will be the case at the very least or they’ll vote NO and put this trash SB517 in the shredder, As It’s Garbage. Oh and just in case I called Governor Jerry Browns office and made them aware of SB517, Other people should too, It needs to be vetoed, If It gets that far that is. I mentioned that to a live person, that It needs to be vetoed if It gets to the Governors desk…

    J. Wong Reply:

    Yes, some senators who may have voted to pass the bill might not if it came up for override. That is, they voted for it knowing it would never be signed by the Governor.

    VBobier Reply:

    Assemblywoman Connie Conway’s office(34th) has never heard of SB517 when I’d called and asked for Her to oppose this crap from soon to be ex-Sen Alan Lowenthal.

  12. John Burrows
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 23:26
    #12

    In partial answer to my questions above—I guess the hope would be that appointments and confirmations to the board would be complete by Jan 1.

    J. Wong Reply:

    This would assume that the law is passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor. Probably not going to happen.

  13. Peter
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 05:53
    #13

    OT

    Just in case we needed more proof as to how serious Teabagging governors are about cutting costs: NJ gov. takes state helicopter to son’s ballgame

    MGimbel Reply:

    Compare that to Gov. Brown, who flies across the state on Southwest with a senior discount.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Those flights are very savvy decisions. It’s not the accessible it provides, but the idea that he lives in the same space that you do.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    At least he flies commercial like the rest of us get to. If he is getting the cheapest fare possible, good for him.

    VBobier Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more, Good for Him.

  14. joe
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 08:45
    #14

    The LAO us a useful tool for rail opponents and those seeking to eliminate HSR funding..

    “At the urging of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the rail authority asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for more flexibility about where and when to build the initial “operable” segment. The LAO went as far as recommending that, “If the state can’t win a waiver from the federal government to loosen the rules and the timing for using high-speed rail grants, it should consider abandoning the project.”

    http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/californias-bullet-train-road-bankruptcy

  15. Arthur Dent
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 09:03
    #15

    “There’s nothing wrong with the current California High Speed Rail Authority board.”

    This is a Cruickshank classic. Anyone want to join him?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Excellent argument you have there, except where’s the argument part?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    What’s with the recent rash of people who want others to do their thinking for them.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, if there had been some thinking invested in your earlier comment…

    joe Reply:

    He’s in the “Collect Underpants” phase.

    three phase plan is as follows:
    Collect Underpants
    ?
    Profit

    Alex M. Reply:

    Umm… do you expect us to make your argument for you?

  16. Emma
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 13:20
    #16

    This is happening because people look away. You gotta have permanent active input from society to keep the project alive. Otherwise, politicians will neglect it or repeal it.

    The laziness of American society is to blame. At the same time, it really makes me wonder why they want to do this. This is the same Senate that plans to pass single payer and that wants to speed up the development of renewable energy. Do they want to speed up the project? What is their plan?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Guess which ones get them votes.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Why not a fact-finding junket to Spain, Japan,and China so state senators can see “first-hand” how High Speed Rail should be run?

    In what way does this bill help CAHSR fulfil it’s mission? It doesn’t. It inflicts more chance for political appointees to gum up the plans – questioning decisions already made or choices already explored. If a Democratic US President and Vice President who personally endorsed this project can’t get the California Democrats to support this – as is – so we get it built -then it plays into the hands of the Republicans who want it dead! Public transport = socialism = wasted money. Passage of this bill sends the message that the Democratic State Senators are lukewarm supporters of High Speed Rail and would easily settle for commuter rail projects IN THEIR DISTRICTS. You think the LOA didn’t know which way the wind was blowing when he wrote his report?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I suspect the countries involved would gladly pay all the bills for such trips….

  17. Stuart
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 14:55
    #17

    How did Lowenthal get appointed chairman to the Select Committee On High-Speed Rail in the first place? Better question, how do we get this low-life removed?

  18. morris brown
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 16:13
    #18

    From the Authority board meeting today 6/2/2011. Here are links on YouTube to:

    Link Central valley resident’s public comments: (50 minutes)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcQKjE1cHR8

    Link vanArk’s lengthy executive report. (45 minutes)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ibbsMLttw0

    Jack Reply:

    Must not have been good news for you Morris if the only slam you can come up with is “lengthy”

    Jack Reply:

    You know listening to this, commenters should be required to thumb through the reports on the website before they are allowed to speak, 90% of these questions are answered there.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    NEWSFLASH!!!

    Some people have to make a living, and actually do physical work, and they don’t have time to spend hours upon hours or even days reading through the archives here or on the CHSRA website. Not everyone works in office/dot-com cubicles with the free time to do such research.

    Jack Reply:

    I imagine you would make the time if a large infrastructure project was going to “destroy” and “decimate” and entire county. This isn’t the 1920’s… we live in a digital world where info is EASILY accessed. Twenty minutes and a google search brought me answers to most if not all of the complaints that were brought up.

    You have to educate yourself, you can’t expect people to hold your hand.

  19. Matt Korner
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 19:49
    #19

    Hopefully, this blog and the C.H.S.R. Authority Web site will keep people apprised of pending legislation because my State Senator voted in favor of the bill. Now, my only recourse is to see that she doesn’t get re-elected.

    I prefer that this project proceed with as much steadiness as possible. Public support for these large infrastructure investments always wanes right before implementation, but Big Oil and other moneyed interests need to be prevented from gaining any traction in their attempts to stop competitive electrically-operated trains from being introduced in this country.

    I’d also like to see this blog publish the ayes and nays.

    Spokker Reply:

    “but Big Oil and other moneyed interests need to be prevented from gaining any traction in their attempts to stop competitive electrically-operated trains from being introduced in this country.”

    Surely those interests are working in the background, but this bill doesn’t have their stench on it. Democrats are also in support of this legislation and I hope it has the desired effect.

    We need more capable board members with specific expertise and if the project is sound, it will hold up to scrutiny.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The ayes and nays weren’t up yet when I posted this last night, but they are now:

    http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0501-0550/sb_517_vote_20110601_1256PM_sen_floor.html

    It was almost a straight party line vote. Guessing Steinberg just said “vote aye” and everyone did so, most not really knowing wtf they were voting for. Doesn’t mean all 26 yes votes are solid yeses, or that they wouldn’t mind if the bill died in the Assembly or got vetoed by the governor.

    And if it is vetoed, it will not be overrode by the Senate. The legislature rarely ever holds veto override sessions. I spent the last 3 years urging them to do that to Arnold Schwarzenegger and they never did. Sigh.

    morris brown Reply:

    On the vote on SB-517. The final vote was 26 -12.

    Two Senators didn’t vote.
    Emerson -R
    Rubio -D

    All the rest of the Democrats voted Yes.

    Two republicans joined them.

    LaMalfa and Harman.

    Jack Reply:

    Any way we can get Governor Brown’s opinion on this issue?

  20. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 2nd, 2011 at 20:17
    #20

    Came across this in a discussion on Railway Preservation News, and thought it might be of interest here, and as a reference item:

    http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/safety/bridgefinalsafetyrule2010.pdf

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …now if we could convince the states to inspect road bridges once a year……

  21. political_incorrectness
    Jun 3rd, 2011 at 16:44
    #21

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/06/legislature-votes-to-tighten-u.html So, Galgiani wants to create a new department. It looks like Lowenthall’s bill has gotten completely turned around?

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