If You Like the Status Quo, Oppose High Speed Rail

Aug 3rd, 2011 | Posted by

California’s unemployment rate has been above 11% for the last two years. Places like Manteca having been hit the hardest – San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate is 16.7%. The damage was done in 2008, when the economy shrank by 3.7% in the 3rd quarter and by a shocking 8.9% in the 4th quarter. And the recent debt ceiling deal that will slash a whopping $2.5 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years ensures this Depression will last for some time to come.

Looking at those stats, it’s really difficult to imagine why anyone would prefer the status quo, why anyone would argue against strong measures to produce economic recovery. Unfortunately, too many people became convinced that the last 30 years of boom and bust – where recessions appear to have come and gone like a fierce winter storm – are the norm. After three years of Depression, it ought to be clear that recovery isn’t just magically going to happen. We have to make significant changes to the way we do things in this state and this country. The status quo is unacceptable.

But because a lot of people refuse to face the new reality, we get things like this piece of HSR denial in the Manteca Bulletin from managing editor Dennis Wyatt. Wyatt’s argument is that HSR is something California can’t afford, and that if we just sit around not spending any money, somehow we’ll have economic recovery. Nowhere at all does Wyatt explain that HSR would provide a massive economic stimulus to California, particularly to the Central Valley and including San Joaquin County. Wyatt doesn’t realize it or doesn’t care, which is bizarre considering the aforementioned 16.7% unemployment rate in his home county.

As is typical for pieces of HSR denial, Wyatt never once considers the cost of not building HSR – including dependence on oil. And he doesn’t list out the financial benefits. That leads him to make a false assumption that merely improving commuter rail would help California and that nobody will ride bullet trains from LA to SF, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

Is high speed rail in its present form worth mortgaging California’s future?

Wyatt opens with this, without realizing California long ago mortgaged its future to suburban sprawl and automobile dependence. Manteca has been hit harder than almost any other place in the state by that bad deal. When gas prices hit $3/gallon in 2006, it made the long commute to the Bay Area too expensive for people who had flocked to Manteca, Tracy, Stockton, and other nearby cities. The result was a decline in home sales, a decline in home values, and a huge foreclosure and jobs crisis from which the region has still not escaped.

High speed rail is one way Manteca and California as a whole can essentially refinance that mortgage on better terms. Oil dependence was a key cause of the Depression. HSR not only provides immediate economic stimulus in the form of construction jobs, but it can help bring jobs and businesses to places like Manteca. By being within an hour’s commute of San Francisco, it can offer space for tech companies and startups looking for affordable rents while enabling workers to live in the desirable coastal cities. And for those workers who might want a more affordable single-family home, HSR would help Manteca do that.

Wyatt grasps this – to a point. His argument is that the state should invest in upgrading ACE but not in the SF-LA system:

If high speed goes forward, does it make sense to put in a Los Angeles to San Francisco component first? Does it pencil out as effectively or have as high of economic returns as doing high speed rail along heavy commute corridors such as the Inland Empire to the Los Angeles Basin or the Northern San Joaquin Valley to San Jose and even Sacramento?

This is a symptom of early Depression-era thinking, of people who haven’t completely reoriented their mindset to the new reality. Wyatt basically accepts that we can’t spend any new money and that we just have to suck it up and deal with it. That’s not how you get out of a Depression. You have to do things radically differently. And that includes doing a lot of things at once. ACE needs to be upgraded, absolutely. And HSR between LA and SF needs to be built too. It’s both, not either/or.

Wyatt’s argument boils down to the absurd and evidence-free argument that nobody will ride bullet trains in California:

The Los Angeles to San Francisco route can’t count on such a high concentration of potential day-to-day users that could keep ridership up and fare costs down to give high speed rail a fighting chance of at least covering operating expenses.

Vacation traffic is subject to economic ebbs. High speed rail projections for LA to San Francisco have relied on substantially cutting into passenger counts on the heavily used air corridor between the two cities. While there is substantial travel, there are extremely few who make it a five-day-a-week habit.

Nobody’s talking about daily commuters between LA and SF. What people ARE talking about is shifting over a lot of the people who make various kinds of trips between LA and SF during the day. When I worked at the Courage Campaign I flew from NorCal to SoCal about once a month for business. Lots of people fly regularly for all kinds of reasons. Every plane I was on was packed. Because HSR is competitive door-to-door from downtown SF to downtown LA, and because it offers a better travel experience than a plane, there’s every reason to believe people will ride it.

After all, that’s what the evidence from the Madrid-Barcelona corridor – once the world’s busiest air route – indicates. The Acela has a majority of the air/rail market share [thanks Alon] on the Northeast Corridor.

Ultimately, Wyatt’s argument falls on its face because if he were right, nobody would fly between LA and SF.

He continues anyway:

The real question is whether Los Angeles to San Francisco really is the best use of limited funds to boost the state’s economy.

And is it as effective as an Altamont Commuter Express or Inland Empire high speed rail system would be at reducing air pollution by getting a significant number of vehicles off the freeways?

HSR between SF and LA probably wouldn’t get as many cars off the road as those two other routes. So? We build all three. If you like this new Depression, then yeah, define your choices narrowly. If you don’t, define your choices broadly. And of course, getting cars off the road is NOT the same as an HSR system penciling out or boosting the state’s economy.

On the economic benefits, I am guessing Wyatt never read the US Conference of Mayors report showing the Green Dividend from California HSR. The study found it would generate $10 billion a year in new business sales and wages. In a Depression, you just cannot turn down that kind of stimulus.

The infamous bullet trains in Japan aren’t filled with executives moving from one part of the country to another. They are mostly rank-and-file workers.

Huh? Infamous? The Shinkansens are regarded as a marvel of both engineering and ridership. The trains are hugely popular in Japan and for nearly 50 years have been a model for the rest of the globe. And if they’re moving mostly rank and file workers, then it shows the HSR system can do the same in California.

The aftermath of the crash increased scrutiny on high speed rail. Despite all of its promises, it isn’t generating the fares needed to make it work on its own. The fares are out of the reach of the very people it supposedly is targeting. Toss in the factor they may not be able to secure additional bonds due to the economy and you understand why China may have to bail out the system.

This is ignorant stuff. The fares are high because the Chinese government wants the bonds repaid quickly. That’s a political choice, since the government floated the bonds to the railway builders. Beijing could simply redefine the terms of the loans to bring down fares if they wished. This is not an argument against HSR but an argument against using too much private sector financing to build it.

California can’t afford to bail out a high speed rail project once it is in place. There are too many other critical needs for dollars ranging from education, freeways, safety net services, water storage/flood control, prisons, and more.

Again, this is pre-Depression era thinking. We need to fund all those needs. And if the state and federal government currently don’t have the money, we can go get it from the rich, who aren’t doing anything useful with the huge amounts of wealth they are sitting on. If you define your choices as narrow, then your future will be narrow as well.

Even if it is a given that the cost of building it will be an investment that won’t be paid back, a high speed rail system must stand on its own in terms of operation and maintenance.

The best way to prove it can be done is to move forward with a less ambitious project on a heavily traveled commuter corridor.

This is nonsense, since a commuter corridor and the SF-LA corridor are by nature very different travel markets. You don’t judge the success of SF-LA flights by the success of Stockton-SF flights.

Wyatt’s column is just a collection of anti-HSR talking points. It’s a shame that Manteca residents don’t have a newspaper editor who has their interests in mind, who isn’t willing to do whatever it takes to address the economic crisis that San Joaquin County has been mired in for years now.

We know HSR will be a success, as the evidence clearly proves this. And we know that ACE is worth investing in too, and we also know we don’t have to choose between the two. Depression era thinking requires us to be bold, to determine what we need in order to get out of the crisis, and to figure out how we get there. We need people who can tell us how to do something, not spout off reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t be done.

  1. Howard
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 00:20
    #1

    If the Manteca Bulletin editor Dennis Wyatt thinks that Fresno and Bakersfield are “nowhere”, where does he think Manteca is. To read a small Central Valley city newspaper editor repeat the same disdain for some of the largest Cental Valley cities that comes from coastal snobs is both shocking and funny. What does he think of his own home town? Does Mr. Wyatt think that by repeating the accusation that a train to Fresno or Bakersfield is a train to “nowhere” that he can persuade coastal snobs that a train to Stockton is where they should move the money too?

    Alan Reply:

    Wyatt seems like a very bitter man. Stuck in Manteca, editing a two-bit paper that’s part of a dying industry. And a lazy journalist as well.

  2. Reality Check
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 00:38
    #2

    What’s nice about Altamont HSR is that it also serves a huge and severely-congested commuter market so poorly served by ACE now … all while also reducing HSR build-out system route miles and substantially out-performing Pacheco in serving the Bay Area – Sacramento/Stockton travel market … while also avoiding the Caltrain ROW through PAMPA and more effectively/efficiently serving SJ and SF with direct/dedicated trains without competing with Caltrain for SF-SJ corridor ridership.

    Clem Reply:

    That’s right, Phase 2 to Sacramento is only half as long under Altamont, i.e. twice as likely to be built.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And San Jose is off on a stub making it more likely it never gets built. Just like BART is good enough for Oakland, BART will be good enough for San Jose.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oh, I thought SF was off on a stub too with Altamont. Either SF & SJ are both on stubs, or they’re both not on stubs. Anyone who differs is welcome to define “stub.”

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This from the upstate NY character who didn’t know that Milpitas lies between San José (the Capital of Silicon Valley! renowned even among the most geographically ignorant!) and Fremont.

    I’m still trying to think of one correct piece of information “adirondacker12800″ has ever posted, and I’m still drawing a blank.

    I guess it’s a step up that he knows that “BART” and “Bay Area” are somehow connected.

    William Reply:

    Richard, I have to assume that you don’t live anywhere near the South Bay, and don’t want San Jose to be “put on the map” despite its numerous high-tech companies, and don’t want San Jose to and/or Gilroy have a liveable downtown.

    I challenge you to come up with one point why Pacheco is better than Altamont, a good debater should be able to see what’s other side’s main points are.

    Clem Reply:

    I challenge you to come up with one point why Pacheco is better than Altamont

    You know, we really need to create an Altamont FAQ if people think of this as a challenge!

    William Reply:

    Please enlighten us on positives you think of Pacheco alignment, then you’ll see why South Bay residents continue to support Pacheco alignment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Enlighten me. How do the trains get between San Jose and Fremont without using the Dumbarton Crossing.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh I know I know!!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please tell me you’re being sarcastic and you know that Dumbarton is for getting from Fremont to the SF branch, not to SJ.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not being sarcastic. there’s all those lovely proposed schedules that avoid four tracks south of Redwood City by diverting the trains between San Jose and Fremont someplace other than the Caltrain ROW. How does one get from San Jose to Fremont avoiding the use of the Dumbarton Crossing?

    Winston Reply:

    There are a couple of different ways you can get to San Jose if you’re using an Altamont routing. One is to upgrade the entire Caltrain ROW for HSR and connect trains to it in the middle. However, another approach is to use one of the other rail routes between San Jose and Fremont, specifically, they are to use the Former Union Pacific line that BART is using to get to San Jose or to run parallel to UP’s Alviso line through the swamps north of San Jose. Richard favors the line BART is using, which is also the best suited to commuter rail. Personally, I like the Alviso alternative as it runs through a mixture of nothing and industrial wasteland and is also shorter than the route BART is using. All of these eastern options have the advantage of avoiding upgrades to Caltrain south of Palo Alto and provide somewhat faster travel between San Jose and points east.

    Joey Reply:

    Hey, if we have a chance of switching to Altamont we have a chance of stopping BART to SJ.

    I mean, I’m not sure there’s a chance of either but it’s worth a try.

    Reality Check Reply:

    BART-lusting VTA, SJ, SVLG (nee SVMG), MTC and the Diridonistas recognized the Altamont threat to SJ BART well over 10 years ago. That’s in very large part why they launched an all-out (and ultimately successful) arm-twisting campaign to get the HSRA dump the then-preferred Altamont alternative for Pacheco. Diridon personally told me he would oppose HSR if the route wasn’t switched to Pacheco. He said “why would I travel north if I wanted to go south … it makes no sense!”

    Caelestor Reply:

    Who said the Dumbarton crossing was a bad idea? I think it makes a lot of sense.

    Under an Altamont alignment, SJ trains would just use the ACE right-of-way.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Using the ACE ROW means it’s going to take 1:57 to get from San Jose to Tracy. I suspect there will be a bit of new ROW required.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Not when the train is going 125 mph. And yeah, you’re going to use some new ROW, just like Pacheco.

    Joey Reply:

    The ACE ROW isn’t good for anything, not even “upgraded” commuter service.

    Caelestor Reply:

    I should have clarified. I proposed that HSR trains from SJ would use the ACE row up to Fremont, where it would then run to the Central Valley on a new high-speed row. Unless, of course, there’s a better solution.

    Joey Reply:

    That particular (UP-owned) right-of-way has a lot of sharp curves, and travels through a lot of ecologically sensitive areas too. The only reason it’s used today is because it was built before there were regulations about that sort of thing. I think it would be better to use the ROW that BART currently plans to occupy, or, failing that, just route it next to 880 (taking a few office parks and single-story warehouses along the way of course, but is that a big deal?).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Dumbarton isn’t between SJ and Fremont. You might as well ask how to get from Boston to New York without going through Albany.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It is if you plan on getting from Fremont to San Jose via Redwood City. If you don’t go that way you avoid building four tracks south of Redwood City but you have to build two tracks between Fremont and San Jose…. through where? What municipalities?

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker12800: If you’re too lazy to read my comment above, I’ll say it again. The ROW that BART currently plans to occupy wouldn’t be a bad idea, but if that proves unavailable, there’s still 880. Most of the route is surrounded by low-density industrial uses or office parks, so in places where land acquisitions would be necessary, it wouldn’t be expensive or difficult.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    sounds good to me, what towns does it go through?

    Caelestor Reply:

    That’s like asking what towns HSR goes through in the Central Valley.

    Joey Reply:

    Fremont, Milpitas, and San José

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Joey Reply:
    August 4th, 2011 at 6:52 pm
    Fremont, Milpitas, and San José

    Thanks.
    Good it’s where I’ve always thought it was, Milpitas that is.
    The places some of the proposed schedules RM has posted on the Caltrain-HSR Compatiblity site ahs them going.

  3. Rene
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 00:48
    #3

    The bond market is currently not as accessible to the general public as the stock market.

    If high-speed rail bonds were available in denominations amenable to monthly investment by general public, those people interested in supporting high-speed rail could easily fund it.

    Example:

    $100/month * 48 months * 10,000,000 people = $48,000,000,000

    For example, the lowest denomination available in the Build Mass Bond is $1000. That denomination is not small enough for the average person to make a monthly investment with part of a paycheck.

    Software similar to that used by Kiva could be used to make administering small denomination bonds more cost effective. Or, an exchange traded fund available in small denominations based upon high denomination high-speed rail bonds could be created and traded over the stock market.

    The advantage of a national participation loan market similar to the way Kiva operates would be that we would not have to rely on government to issue bonds for funding revenue-generating infrastructure projects.

    An exchange traded fund based upon high-speed rail bonds has the advantage of not having to wait for a new national participation loan market to be created.

    People who are not interested in supporting high-speed rail could invest in something else.

    If separate high-speed rail trains carried light-cargo for companies like FedEx, UPS, etc., high-speed rail could generate more revenue in addition to passenger fares. These companies could save on fuel costs by not having to use in-state air transport.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Could the trackage take the extra weight? You would have to roll in wear and tear and scheduling issues. I dunno know if it would be worth or not. Actually the UP or the Santa Fe would have a better handle on this than anybody.

    Remember the Santa Fe planned to run freight over Tejon and AFAIK with steam. With electrification, certainly, you could -”theoretically and hypothetically” – run some freight LA to Sac via Tejon and the I-5 racetrack.

    But please don’t mention freights to the Chandlers or any nimby’s around Wheeler Ridge.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Cars carrying airfreight containers wouldn’t be heavier than passenger cars. Alstom and Siemens are ready to build UIC-compliant (17t/axle) freight trains specially designed to allow fast loading/unloading of airfreight containers. The yellow trains currently used by La Poste and Fedex are a mediocre makeshift solution. They are just ordinary TGVs without seats and can only carry parcels, not containers.
    Fedex-La Poste’s CAREX project is far more ambitious and aims to replace all short-haul freight planes by HSR. A special rail terminal would be built at Paris CDG freight terminal from which containers from planes would be loaded on trains to all European destinations. Unfortunately, the realisation of this project has met two obstacles:
    - In the UK, the trains would have to stop at London because of the British narrow loading gauge.
    - Germany invokes technical and regulatory problems. Maybe because it would give an edge to DHL-DB’s foreign competitors.
    Without the participation of at least one of these two big countries the project can’t take off. It’s a pity, because apart from reduced CO2 emissions, HSR would also accelerate delivery. Fedex planes often have to sit idle (and unproductive) at Paris CDG while German airports are closed because of noise regulations. That’s a problem HSR won’t have.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Andre:
    In the UK, the trains would have to stop at London because of the British narrow loading gauge

    Or they could build these to the UK loading gauge like the Eurostar/373 sets.

    Germany is probably engaging in a bit of tit-for-tat over the long timespan involved in certifying the ICE sets on French rails.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    We’re certainly in for a long tit-for-tat exchange between former national rail companies in Europe.
    This is the imposture of “competition” ; everybody agrees to competition when it comes to make inroads in what was once a protected market, but don’t you dare just looking at my home market.

    This reminds me of the joke of the two arab scums from the banliueue chatting :
    - Women, all whores, except for my mother!
    - You’re so right! all whores, except for my mother!

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    You’re right. The CAREX project is another victim of the DB-SNCF fight for European pre-eminence. All pan-European projects more or less suffer from it. French and German governments have tried to persuade them to collaborate, with no visible results. It seems to go against their internal cultures.
    Regarding the UK, insufficient width is not the only problem. There are height limitations and only a fraction of rail lines are electrified.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I like that–the bond market to open to the rest of us. That could be a key!

  4. Alon Levy
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 04:23
    #4

    The Acela has a majority of the market share on the Northeast Corridor.

    No! The Acela doesn’t have a majority of anything; Amtrak has a majority of air/rail travel on the NY-DC and NY-Boston routes.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks for that, corrected the post.

  5. trentbridge
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 07:44
    #5

    This has never been an economic argument for conservatives. It doesn’t matter what the ridership projections are: it doesn’t matter what the environmental benefits are: it doesn’t matter what the social benefits are. This HSR is SOCIALISM. It is transport for the MASSES. In other words, if you can’t afford a $250 lastminute airfare round trip from LA to SFO then you shouldn’t be travelling at (my) expense. I don’t want one single tax dollar to be spent on making your life better. I want to keep all my money to spend on me!

    Jerry Reply:

    And good morning to you too.

    Alan Reply:

    I think he was being cynical. Of course, the other side of the argument is why should the masses pay the cost of the aviation system? If the wealthy had to pay the full cost of the airports, ATC, and so on used by their flights, they wouldn’t be going anywhere either…

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oh, and let’s not forget the US Essential Air Service (EAS) airline service subsidy program — which includes California airports such as Crescent City, El Centro, Merced and Visalia.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Yes – I was being cynical. I live in Orange County where conservatives are found in large numbers.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Except in France and Germany, where the TGV and ICE were initiated by center-right governments.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Beta Magellan

    European Right = American Left.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    That’s the image seen from America. The French tax system actually favours the rich for fear they would otherwise flee the country. Examples:
    Liliane Bettencourt, majority owner of L’Oreal, world’s biggest cosmetics group, manages to practically pay no income tax because she has no salary to declare. Salaries are far more heavily taxed than capital to encourage investment.
    French oil firm Total pays no tax at all in France, just like GE pays no tax in the U.S.
    State-owned companies like La Poste (postal service) or SNCF are registered as commercial groups and the state only has minority representation on their boards (7/18 for SNCF). They finance their investments without state intervention. La Poste has its own bank (La Banque Postale) and also a very successful website (Boursorama) where you can buy or sell stock of any French or foreign company.
    A NYT journalist once remarked France was the only country where he had seen a socialist-voting post-office clerk advising an old lady on which stock to buy and which to get rid of.
    Amtrak and CHSRA are socialist in comparison, and vulnerable to electoral fluctuations. That could never work here in France. Our politicians and company executives are not virtuous enough to resist the temptations offered by such a system. We would have favoritism, rigged bids and huge cost overruns.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What’s the VAT on L’Oreal or Total products?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    VAT is paid by the buyer and not by the seller. It’s the most anti-social tax because it is equally paid by rich and poor. The 65% gasoline tax is the most anti-social of all because it affects the poor more than the rich. The less affluent regions or suburbs, abandoned by transit companies, are 100% car-dependent. Cars are devouring a larger and larger part of families’ budgets. Rich Parisians, on the other hand, can brag about not owning a car.
    The millions of French people who are persuaded the poor are feeding the rich would be very surprised to learn their country is considered socialist.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Corporate income tax is paid by the buyer too. While I’m not thrilled by sales taxes they are difficult to avoid, are not amenable to loopholes etc, are cheap and easy to administer and audit.
    There’s three important things when it comes to real estate, location, location and location. Part of the reason the cheap places to live are cheap is that they have lousy transit options.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The trouble is that these places with low real estate costs are no longer cheap to live with current gasoline tax, and it can only get worse. Families who took advantage of low real estate costs and bought a house on a 25-year loan are now stuck there. Their punishment is double: the rising cost of gasoline makes living there more and more expensive and their house is losing value at the same time.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The very poor don’t own cars, the almost very poor don’t own real estate.
    And .. um um stuff, yeah stuff, happens when you make a risky investment.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Which is what the Europeans would classify the Democrats as.

    Steve S. Reply:

    Indeed. From an European (or Australian) perspective, our political parties are center-right and far right…

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I should note that I am a conservative and support HSR (although the Authority does seem to be doing it’s best to lose my support for their implementation).

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The problems with the Authority are really an indictment of the Schwarzenegger years. It’s difficult to build it up now because finances are so tight, but I really think slowly but surely people’s opinions will change give the Governor’s support.

    Alek F Reply:

    This is another narrow-minded, shortsighted viewpoint. Don’t you think your tax dollars not paying for other “socialist” projects? Public school, U.S. Mail… just to name a few. Or – did you forget that you, the taxpayer, have been heavily subsidizing the highways and airports for decades! And don’t forget: the cost of subsidizing highways and airports is much-much higher than subsidizing the railroads. (perhaps, you must think – only railroads are “socialism” while airports and highways are not!)

    But as far as travel here, let’s be objective: You have a choice: to subsidize HIGHWAYS (something that creates pollution, congestion, and degrades quality of life), AIRPORTS (with their Nazi-like rules, enormous crowds, and humiliation & chaos at the terminals, and extremely uncomfortable, often-stressful flights), or HIGH-SPEED RAIL (the most energy-efficient, pleasant, relaxing, and environmentally-friendly way of commute). I think it’s important for people to have a choice.

    But those who oppose HSR often forget (or choose to ignore) where their tax money is spent. You call is “socialism”, but I call it “giving public a choice of decision” which way of travel to choose. I prefer high-speed rail. It’s the only safe, reliable, environmentally-friendly way of travel.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    You are really bad at identifying sarcastic strawmen.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    You mean,
    airplanes aren’t mass transportation? Airlines never benefit from subsidies? Fares won’t never ever change? Even with oil at $200 a barrel?

  6. Drunk Engineer
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 09:47
    #6

    Places like Manteca having been hit the hardest – San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate is 16.7%.

    And how the crap is a Pacheco routing supposed to help those folks?

    Alex M. Reply:

    I think that’s what upgrading ACE is for. Pacheco for Norcal-Socal trips, upgraded Altamont for commuter rail connecting the valley and silicon valley.

    Joey Reply:

    So why not be able to do both (and more!) with the same infrastructure?

    Clem Reply:

    Because building two of everything is more profitable to the builders than one. Three would be even better: Pacheco, Altamont Overlay, and something like a San Joaquin Overlay, with a dual-level terminal in Sacramento, and tail tracks to Redding for unlimited train storage.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont is simply a better route, which is why it is today the primary exit to the south from the Bay Area. BART is mucking things up by being in the way. Expropriate what parts of BART you need. Rip it up, dual gauge it, whatever is necessary.

    Alex M. Reply:

    I guess it’s possible if you quad track Altamont…

    Joey Reply:

    Certain parts of it. Using 150 mph trains for the long commuter runs makes sense (something like the Javelins in the UK). Traffic is low enough that you could avoid quad-tracking the difficult (i.e. tunneled) sections and probably only have to worry about the tri-valley area and Tracy-east.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    With an stretch upper, upper limit of 8tph of inter-regional trains coming over Altamont (hard-to-justify 4tph SoCal-SF, 2th SoCal-SJ, 2tph Sacramento-SJ), and with a non-stupid choice of operating practice and equipment, there’s no need for quad-tracking anywhere except at stations, ie except as every high speed station would be configured everywhere else on the system.

    That would mean Tracy, Livermore, Warm Springs, and Redwood City. Absolutely no problem. In fact, it might only mean Tracy and Livermore, since the line split between SJ (mainline) and SF (stubby mcstubby branch line oh noes!) means vastly less timetable pressure from the inter-regional expresses (splitting mainlines approaching areas with many stations and with terminals always improves overall system capacity) and more possibilities for creative infrastructure cost/schedule optimisation.

    A handful (2-4tph) of regional runs can be slotted into that level of traffic without breaking a sweat, especially as
    (1) there will be empty (and hence sellable for intra-regional travel) seats on trains east of Livermore (“Change here for BART to all points in the East Bay and Tri-Valley express bus connections”), reducing the total train demand in the first place;
    (2) very few stations means trains do not catch and need to overtake each other constantly (the exact opposite of the SJ-SF Caltrain line);
    (3) the Hwy 680/580 HOT lanes, yet more freeway widening courtesy of your tax dollars are in place, further reducing demand and enabling better non-rail connections; and
    (4) train speeds east of Livermore (grades, tunnels) will be fully compatible with non-exotic (200kmh, not 350kmh) commuter equipment, meaning uniform and regular train flow and no overtakes except at stations.

    So, no quad-tracking anywhere on the Altamont lines except right at the stations where there would be extra tracks anyway. (And obviously at the SJ-SF junction.) BFD.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont needs to be studied creatively as it has many pros. Van Ark has to be aware of this and Tolmach has made the point on the record. That’s also the general thrust of the
    argument of the Manteca editor.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Also, because San Jose.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Oops that was meant to be a reply to Joey…

    Joey Reply:

    Again, Altamont serves San José.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, but LA-SJ service is better under Pacheco.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Yeah, but not enough better to offset the benefits of Altamont for SJ and everyone else.

    William Reply:

    Nor does the Altamont is good enough to override the Pacheco choice

    synonymouse Reply:

    Serious competition from the airlines on LA-SJ. Remember you want to detour these folks thru the Fresno, Mojave, Palmdale, yada yada.

    Altamont & Dumbarton serves the center of the Bay Area much better.

    jimsf Reply:

    HA! That argument is completely bogus. And I’ll be you don’t have any earthly idea why do you?

    jimsf Reply:

    air service between intra cali markets could not possibly be any any more inconvenient than it already is. Nobody who has the unenviable task of having to get down to southern california by plane is ever actually destined for anyplace anywhere near LAX. The beauty of hsr that everyone continues to miss, isn’t about how it gets you there or even how fast it gets you there, but the fact that it can get so many people from many places to so many other places that are closer to where they want to be, and still do it fairly quickly. That is the reason for high speed rail. The state knows it. I know it. current train riders know it. Nobody else seems to be able to grasp it.
    I’m correct and that’s the reality.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Serious competition from the airlines on LA-SJ.

    Disagree, flying remains inconvenient.

    detour these folks thru the Fresno, Mojave, Palmdale

    Fresno is big enough that it makes sense to stop there. They’ll take the train, there’s no airport nearby.
    Mojave is up in the air: it all depends on whether Palmdale is worth serving or not.

    Altamont & Dumbarton serves the center of the Bay Area much better.

    Definitely agree.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Jim you are money and you don’t even know it!

    Just wait until later this year when Metro’s Expo Line opens. That is going to demonstrate exactly what you are saying.

    Alex M. Reply:

    If you think Fresno is a detour, you slept during your geography class.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, but the SJ power brokers want service to LA; they don’t care about Sacramento.

    William Reply:

    Again, Altamont would serve San Jose at reduced frequency, require a new Bay-Crossing bridge to make it time-competitive for SF-LAX route, cannot travel at 220mph until reaching the central valley, cannot serve downtowns of Altamont corridor cities due to community opposition.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    It is a never ending debate, just like the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement in Seattle.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The underlying problem with the entire CHSRA route scheme is that, the reams of paperwork and the years passed notwithstanding, there was a rush to judgment. In virtually every instance they selected the weaker of the alternatives. Thus the controversy that won’t go away.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Again, Altamont would serve San Jose at reduced frequency

    Altamont would probably not serve SJ at reduced frequency, considering the SJ-Sacramento service that would replace the current ineffective ACE. If anything, SF would get less service, but some people have argued that the TTT is poorly designed to have too much service anyway.

    require a new Bay-Crossing bridge to make it time-competitive for SF-LAX route

    Yep, but that bay-crossing bridge has to be built anyway. Too much congestion along the Transbay Tube and Bay Bridge.

    cannot travel at 220mph until reaching the central valley,

    Neither can Pacheco.

    cannot serve downtowns of Altamont corridor cities due to community opposition.

    Nobody cares, because you want to serve employment areas, which are along the freeways.

    jimsf Reply:

    serving employment areas within a region is the job of metros and regional rail. HSR is for connecting all regions together. Honestly must I explain everything?

    Caelestor Reply:

    You do realize that the biggest market for any mode of transportation, especially rail and air, consists of business workers, right? Besides, it’s not like the downtowns are absurdly far from the proposed stations, so the entire region is connected anyway.

    jimsf Reply:

    wrong.

    jimsf Reply:

    in california tourism and leisure will drive hsr more than business travelers.

    jimsf Reply:

    and hsr isn’t being built as commuter rail. its for inter regional travel.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Actually, I think you have to look at the beach to understand how Californians will embrace HSR. On the one hand, wealthy people love to live near it and build wherever they can. But because it’s publicly owned, everyone still goes there and acts as if they own it. I think HSR is going to be a microcosm of the state as far as usage, patterns, and the like.

    I mean, arguing which station is going to busier, Anaheim or San Francisco, misses the point I think. The whole state is going to use it, and like the beach, for vastly different ends.

    Joey Reply:

    require a new Bay-Crossing bridge to make it time-competitive for SF-LAX route

    Which apparently (that is, according to the Authority) doesn’t make it any more expensive than Pacheco.

    cannot travel at 220mph until reaching the central valley

    And? Average speed matters more than top speed, and the Authority’s own numbers (and these were assuming a rather unoptimized route through Altamont) said that Altamont would be 2 minutes faster to SF than Pacheco.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    For the record,

    Unemployment figures in agricultural areas are not comparable to urban ones unless they are seasonally adjusted. Given, the urbanization of the Central Valley however, it is true that many people will argue that those areas were hard hit even among non-agricultural workers.

    Fair enough, but again, this editor is thinking back to the way it was in 2006, when Manteca was destined to be yet-another-bedroom-community-of-the-Bay Area (YABCBA). That’s utterly crazy. Sure, BART may dream of going to Modesto…but the fact is the majority of people who will work in the Bay Area in the future are going to live…in the …Bay Area.

    So in short, Pacheco may not help this guy…but neither is Altamont….

  7. Reality Check
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 13:35
    #7

    Cardoza: Planned transportation cuts will lacerate California

    A Republican bill reauthorizing the nation’s Surface Transportation Act would cut the current level of funding for highways and mass transit by almost a third, adversely delaying critical transportation projects and hammering California’s weak economy, says Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

  8. William
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 13:39
    #8

    Not again, round XXX of Pacheco VS Altamont…..

    William Reply:

    The so called “Pacheco people” (including me) actually supported Pacheco+Altamont, not just Pacheco alone. Just that the priority of Phase1 should serve SF-LA market “through” San Jose.

    Caelestor Reply:

    The thing is that a lot of people support Altamont only, because Pacheco has its fair share of issues.

    wu ming Reply:

    exactly. first pacheco, then altamont. and improved rapid rail on the capitol corridor, ACE, and socal commuter lines. not either or but rather both and.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No no no. Once the grand and glorious Altamont is built no one is never ever going to have the inclination to improve anything anywhere.

    Caelestor Reply:

    And is that a bad thing?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It is if you are in Davis and want to get anywhere

    Caelestor Reply:

    Davis is only 15 minutes from Sacramento, where you can hop on the train.

    jimsf Reply:

    you’re obviously not familiar with the yolo causeway. and two, why would all those peopple, and davis is a busy place, want to forego having direct service to the bay area from walking distance of of downtown and a major UC campus to have to drive and park or take a bus the other way through traffic into downtown sac to catch a train?

    Caelestor Reply:

    I’ve been along I-80, I know how congested it is. Who said you had to drive or take a bus into Sacramento? There are train tracks that can be effectively used to take people along I-80 into the central hub at Sacramento, where they can then take a high-speed train to Socal, the South Bay, and the Peninsula.

    If you want SF service, just take the bus, at least you just can sit back and relax.

    jimsf Reply:

    you’re nuts. Lets dismantle 2 decades of investment in a very popular and successful — and expanding – rail corridor and put everyone on the bus instead. Are you a tea party member by chance?

    Caelestor Reply:

    Did you not read my post? I never said to dismantle the tracks. In fact, I said that the tracks should be utilized for better commuter service into Sacramento. Service into the Bay Area is more problematic because the section between Martinez and Hercules is EXTREMELY slow. Also, it’s not even a one seat ride! If you’re willing to build a second Transbay Tube and a new rail bridge from Vallejo along I-80 across the Carcinas Strait, then fine. But do you really think that people care enough for it to be ever built?

    And don’t use ad hominem attacks. What makes you think I’m Tea Party? I will be attending a pretty liberal university in New York this fall.

    Justin H Reply:

    Long term, the optimal alignment is Pacheco-San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland-Vallejo-Sacramento. Second transbay tube needs to get built anyway. Carquinez bridge cost immaterial — would be less than a tenth of the cost of the tube.

    Details:
    * Tube should enter Oakland from the Alameda side, with trains stopping at multimodal West Oakland Station (HSR, commuter rail, BART all lines), at 5th and Mandela. Call it “Midbay” instead. Beats SF station because BART and HSR are in the same station. Tube continues under Mandela, emerging at the maze (Amtrak rerouted thru this tube in order to have parallel platforms under Mandela at Midbay Sta.).

    * HSR follows Amtrak route to Richmond, then BNSF ROW to Willow Ave in Hercules, then viaduct above/beside I-80 to Carquinez, running between the two bridges (where the 1927 span was), utilizing existing piers. Then tunnel and viaduct to new station built on large lot at corner of Solano and Curtola Pkwy in central Vallejo, joining existing ROW. HSR access point for the entire North Bay, lots of potential for TOD and rail buildout, especially connection to SMART.

    * Follow existing ROW thru American Canyon to Fairfield, maybe have some trains stop there. Hard to reach the Fairfield/Vaca folks otherwise. Trains would not be going that fast thru there anyway. Southbound Fairfield ridership would be very high, hordes of Fairfield/Vaca commuters currently dying in the I-80 strangulation.

    * Straight surface tracks the rest of the way to Sacramento, maybe a tunnel under Davis if they want to pay for it.

    Ultimately, the two biggest choke points for the Bay Area are Pacheco and the I-80 corridor. This route clears both of them. Altamont is the only other outlet, but Altamont offers no way to string together SJ-SF-Oak, no way to connect the North and South Bay. The Bay Area is aligned along a North-South axis; HSR should pass thru the area along this axis.

    Massive capital investment upfront, profitable hsr section thereafter. Permanent solution to Northern California’s most challenging transportation problems.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    I’m sorry, what planet did you say you were from?

    Justin H Reply:

    Drunk Engineer, do you get satisfaction from firing off insults like that? Would you do so in a public setting? What kind of person are you? If you want to criticize my suggestions, be my guest, all the better for me. If you think that’s not worth your time, then just ignore it.

    Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a second.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Justin,

    Why do you think Pacheco is a chokepoint? Last volumes I looked were 20,000 a day as opposed to Altamont which is 120,000. I don’t remember the exact ratings but Pacheco was close to an A and Altamont close to an F.

    Justin H Reply:

    Elizabeth, what I mean is that, if you look at the terrain, Pacheco is the only viable southern route out of the Bay Area toward Southern California. The South Bay is bottled up by mountains, and Pacheco is the bottleneck. There’s Altamont, but for people in the South Bay that means going north in order to go south. Pacheco gets less traffic because drivers from the South Bay can just take 101 all the way Socal, but hsr riders have to get to the central valley one way or another.

    Joey Reply:

    Altamont only adds 10 minutes to SJ-LA journey times. Not nothing, but not huge either.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Justin, if there’s a standard-gauge Transbay Tube serving Transbay Terminal, there’s no reason on Earth to build any other HSR alignment into San Francisco. Altamont-through-Oakland is superior in every way except for the sticker shock of the tube. There’s service to the main center of the East Bay, rather than just a connection in Livermore or Pleasanton; the EIR-projected travel time from LA to SF is 2:31, and is less vulnerable to slowdowns due to Caltrain curves and Dumbarton Bridge woes. Those few minutes are also critical for SF-Sac service, because it is short and therefore the marginal value of a minute is higher. Going to the EIR again, this option was projected to have the highest ridership.

    Even for commuter integration, it’s superior to going with Caltrain. Caltrain electrification costs are low and Caltrain could pursue those upgrades on its own; the problem would be the San Francisco S-Bahn tunnel from Transbay to 4th and King, which would have to be paid for locally. But conversely, it would pay for a relief line to the existing BART tube, which is near capacity.

    jimsf Reply:

    but the next tube isn’t being built until 2050.

    Joey Reply:

    One of the virtues of building an effective transportation network is phasing things in a way that makes sense, not just using a timeline that some politician came up with before knowing all of the alternatives.

    jimsf Reply:

    espeically when its only an 1:10 to richmond where they can take bart which disperses them to nearly any part of the bay area they want.

    Joey Reply:

    If intermediate stops are as important as you say then it should be no problem to keep the existing service and speed up travel times to Sacramento from the lower 3/4 of the Bay Area via a different route.

    jimsf Reply:

    If intermediate stops are as important as you say then it should be no problem to keep the existing service and speed up travel times to Sacramento from the lower 3/4 of the Bay Area via a different route
    there is the problem of hsr is going via pacheco.

    although those folks can still use it to get to santa clara co from sac. and cc to bky okj hay etc.

    Here’s the thing. Anyone here who actually believes there’s a chance of canceling bart to sjc and freeing up the row for hsr is as nutty as Michele Bachmann. Its not going to happen. Nor is anyone going to run hsr via 680.

    Theres a saying about accepting things you can’t change. The older you get the more you see the advantage of that wisdom. please people for the love of god. get over it.

    Joey Reply:

    although those folks can still use it to get to santa clara co from sac. and cc to bky okj hay etc.

    Sure, but given dismal trip times, most are going to drive in all but the heaviest traffic.

    jimsf Reply:

    The trip times aren’t dismal. they are competitive with driving. I can’t tell you how many times its taken me in excess of three and up to four hours to drive from sac to the bridge. Traffic will only get worse. cc is very popular and has a very high csi. The thing that customers are asking for ( and I just attended this customer service meeting yesterday) what passengers want is more personal attention, more help with bags, more assistance and they one otp. No where did faster trip times come in. In fact the most glaring problem is that nationwide we are cutting staffing and increasing ridership but the surveys and focus groups call for more personal services, assistance, check baggage service, food service improvements etc. Just what I say on here all the time. Of course how would I know what they want, I only talk to thousands of them personally every week.

    Joey Reply:

    But honestly. Let’s say that we’re looking at the SJ-Sac market and that, hypothetically, Altamont has been built. People have the option to take the CC, and get lots of assistance with baggage, other service, etc, and get there in 3 hours (if they’re lucky), or deal with their own luggage (unlikely to be more than one bag for all but a few travelers) but get there in under an hour via Altamont? Which do you think the vast majority of people will choose?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would you go to Sacramento if you want to get to Fairfield? Or Berkeley?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Fairfield That would be the town that lies lies between Monterey, Milpitas, Wichita and Lake Placid, right?

    jimsf Reply:

    because you lost your compass. ( excuse me, “gps” for the younger set)

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Fairfield? Fairfield?? Oh, my.

    Fairfield averages ~200 roundtrips per day. Given the choice between Fairfield service, or a 1hr SF-SAC HSR link, I think the choice is pretty clear.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hmmm. According to the Amtrak report for 2010 Suisun-Fairfield has 171,381 passengers a year. And San Jose, third largest city in the state, capital of Silicon Valley, navel of the universe has 202,512. Hmm.

    jimsf Reply:

    Oh good my favorite!! hmm.

    I support pacheco because..
    -Its the one that has been chosen and the one that will be built.
    -because with pacheco and altamont commuter we get improved rail service in two corridors instead of one.
    -Pacheco brings service close to the sns mry area
    -pachecos nimby problems are far less than altamont nimby problems would be.
    -There won’t be any dumbarton crossing for a couple of decades or more if ever at all.
    -I want bart to go to san jose.
    -the people who discount the reasons I listed get on my nerves.
    -pacheco is chosen and will be built
    -I support the current route map of the entire system. Including palmdale and hopefully as far east t0 riverside and SNB as possible as well.

    Reality Check Reply:

    -Its the one that has been chosen and the one that will be built.
    -pacheco is chosen and will be built

    Better check for echoes.

    -pachecos nimby problems are far less than altamont nimby problems would be.

    Really? How do you figure?

    Altamont bypasses PAMPA, SJ Gardner, Morgan Hill/Gilroy and the Los Banos dairy farmers. It also ameliorates impacts between RWC and SF as well as operational headaches at Transbay and Mission Bay.

    With Altamont, you have NIMBY noises coming from Tri-Valley cities/neighbors that (speculating here) do not seem as potent/vociferous as they seem more easily mitigated/avoided as those along the far more densely-populated/trafficked Caltrain corridor. Perhaps surprisingly/wishfully, but I don’t foresee too much hardcore opposition coming from reusing the existing Dumbarton rail corridor … which is largely still operable on both sides right up to the actual bay crossing. (For example, Caltrain is currently unloading and storing about 150 carloads of ballast along Chilco Street in Menlo Park.)

    William Reply:

    The NIMBYs in the Caltrain corridor cannot actually do a thing if all the works are within Caltrain ROW, where PCJPB has the sole control and doesn’t subject to any city rules. Since two out of three PCJPB members, SFMuni and SCVTA, still strongly supports HSR on Caltrain corridor, there’s little change NIMBY can stop HSR on Caltrain even if they can convince SamTran to go against it.

    While SJ Garner is making some noise, San Jose city is still a strong supporter of HSR, and the I280/CA87 routing has been selected to appease the Gardner residents.

    Livermore and Pleasanton, two biggest cities in Altamont corridor, had come out against HSR going anywhere near their downtown, heck they even wanted to move ACE station away from their downtown locations. Also, Altamont HSR is on a completely new ROW, which is much easier to stop, given the current attitude of the Altamont residents, as compare to Caltrain corridor.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The NIMBYs in the Caltrain corridor cannot actually do a thing if all the works are within Caltrain ROW

    Wrong. The NIMBYs can continue what they have been doing whether everything fits in the ROW or not (insisting it be in a trench, or not elevated in areas where the ROW is already on berm, questioning decisions, reports, etc.). That said, it doesn’t appear “all the works” can or will ultimately fit within the Caltrain ROW. Since Altamont eliminates HSR from SJ-RWC and substantially cuts the number of HSR operations RWC-SF, it greatly reduces the areas and extent to which “things” won’t fully fit in the Caltrain ROW. Remember NIMBYs don’t need to “win” based on any legal merits … they only need, in any way possible (eg. concern trolling, lawsuits, etc.) to cause enough delays, doubts, cost escalations and bad press to weaken project support enough to have suffer a gradual death by thousands of cuts big and small.

    One of the most disappointing thing for supporters, I suspect, is that the HSRA and its consultants have made the job of critics (both HSR supporters and foes) so damn easy.

    William Reply:

    NIMBY can keep insisting, but short of laying on the tracks they cannot stop a thing. No current argument is saying HSR will be louder, worse than Caltrain, because if that argument actually goes into court, and actually data being presented from other country, the NIMBY will lose.

    The 4-track full-build out will not happen until much later. By then there would be enough support for HSR for expansion along the corridor to drown out the NIMBY, and this time will have actual operating environment to back up pro-HSR arguments.

    Joey Reply:

    -because with pacheco and altamont commuter we get improved rail service in two corridors instead of one.

    Why is this better? It costs A LOT more and you’re not serving that many more people.

    -pachecos nimby problems are far less than altamont nimby problems would be.

    As above, proof? As far as I can tell NIMBYism would be about equal.

    -I want bart to go to san jose.

    You must really hate San José.

    -the people who discount the reasons I listed get on my nerves.

    I can’t speak for others, but when have I ever discounted those reasons (other than as listed in this post)? I just think that Altamont’s benefits outweigh them?

    Including palmdale and hopefully as far east t0 riverside and SNB as possible as well.

    I fail to see what this has to do with Altamont vs Pacheco.

    Clem Reply:

    The median value per square foot of residential real estate serves as a nice indicator of NIMBY fervor.

    Pleasanton: $330
    Livermore: $250
    Fremont: $330

    Palo Alto: $750
    Menlo Park: $640
    Atherton: $900

  9. jimsf
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 15:48
    #9

    this is tired.

    Walter Reply:

    Altamont is dead. Please, nobody engage whiny Peninsula folks on the issue. It will only add to their illusion that it is a going concern. Those who argue against Pacheco in August 2011 missed the boat.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    What about those of us who are pro-Altamont and non-Penninsula?

    Tony D. Reply:

    What about you?

    Winston Reply:

    It depends. If the folks in the Authority want to get something up and running between SF and LA then running the the Dublin/Pleasanton BART via 580 has to look pretty attractive compared to slogging through Gilroy and San Jose.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Walter, they are going to arguing about in 2091.
    Foamers love to spend weeks speculating on what would have happened if Hurricane Diane hadn’t hit in 1955. Which then leads to what would have happened if the DL&W had merged with the Nickel Plate instead of with the Erie. If that had happened and the Lehigh Valley had merged with the CNJ and Reading … there would be high speed trains hurtling across the Poughkeepsie Bridge today…

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

    Tony D. Reply:

    Walter and AD12800 nailed it! Let’s stop engaging with the constant whining of the Altamont-only foamers and stick with the reality at hand. Arguing, debating with those in complete denial of the current situation is a waste of time and silly. (I know, I know…”but re-opening Grapevine means there’s hope for Altamont bla bla bla, spit, spit, spit..”)

    Clem Reply:

    Dissenting opinion must be squashed! The A-word is disturbing the tidy order of our little echo chamber!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The time to dissent about it was much earlier in the process

    http://www.ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/flowchart/

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Where on that chart does Congress allocate $30 billion?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s not part of the process is it?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    You’re sounding more and more like a simple troll, Clem…

    Joey Reply:

    Take a leap, and then maybe you will make it across the sarchasm.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Er, the sarcasm is exactly what sounds trollish (it’s a verrrry typical response of trolls when challenged)…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You know, of all the distinguishing characters of actual trolls – Synon here, Mixner Get Real on The Infrastructurist, etc. – sarcasm is barely even on the list. Let’s just say that there’s an enormous difference between someone who’s sarcastic and someone who posts just to disrupt.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Not just sarcasm, a sarcastic riff on ‘elp ‘elp I’m being oppressed.

    Anyway, I don’t actually think Clem’s a troll, I think he’s merely using trollish language towards other disingenuous ends; various types of abusers tend towards the same methods.

    jimsf Reply:

    clem no one is squashing anything. have your opinion. My point is that its an exercise in futility and wouldn’t it be more fun to talk about other stuff.

    Joey Reply:

    Since obviously no constructive criticism will ever get through the political machinery, we should probably just abandon the CEQA and let people build whatever they want.

    jimsf Reply:

    thats a leap. the discussions have already done been had and decisions made.
    You know i’ve noticed this about our culture in the past two decades…. this fundamental shift away from being able to accept things we don’t like.

    use to be debate, disagreement, compromise, decision, and move on. Now, everyone is a one man empire with heels dug in no matter what. Its the aftermath of the “me generation”
    Take the offspring of the me generation, spend a decade letting madison avenue reinforce the “you super special and you derserve it ” message, then bring in the amazing universe of personal tech that is akin to having a magic wand and a genie to us pre tech folks, and now what we have is a nation of people who simply can not compromise nor accept anything they dislike. We see the result of that in congress and in the last decades worth of elections.
    The people have become as unmanageable as behive do on a Georgia summer day.

    Joey Reply:

    I was more commenting on the fact that stories I’ve heard suggest that participation in the process yields no results if politicians have already decided what they want.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes well everyone feels that way when we don’t get the outcome we like. Unfortunately, one, the companies and other players that they seem to listen too, are also their constituents just like we are and two, in infrastructure matters they are probably going to listen to the people who are in the business and not the armchair quarterbacks in the blogosphere and three, they tend to listen to whomever makes the most noise ( hello tea party havoc) and it unfortunate, and rather odd I think, that americans do not have any interest in infrastructure matters. Something that used to be a source of american pride. The new americans don’t have any such pride in these matters. ( dams bridges and so forth) its very odd.

  10. Derek
    Aug 4th, 2011 at 15:56
    #10

    High-speed rail to get $336 million more from feds: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20088100-54/high-speed-rail-to-get-$336-million-more-from-feds/

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Now just a matter of getting the orders together to make sure the money is being used up.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The headline is misleading. All the money is going for non-HSR Amtrak corridor cars — in California, at least. See Feds announce $68 million grant to buy rail cars and locomotives in California

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Not only that, but ridiculously overpriced railroad cars.

    jimsf Reply:

    The “california cars” for whatever reason, are very popular with caltrans and the riding public. so no doubt we are getting more of them.
    This is interesting though”
    The grants also will allow California and other states to buy newer U.S.-built locomotives capable of operating at higher speeds than current Amtrak trains. Bronte said the new engines will be designed to pull trains along at up to 125 mph.
    On the San Joaquin corridor through the Valley, “we’ve been working with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to move to higher speeds, hopefully 90 mph,” Bronte said. Those speeds would depend on the installation of modern signal and control systems along the line

    Gee whiz beaver, I wonder why they are buying locos for 125mph operation in the coming years…. hmmm I just can’t think.

    Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/08/03/2488072/caltrans-to-get-68m-to-upgrade.html#ixzz1U7HwYDV0

    jimsf Reply:

    and not just 125 but.. specifically 125 on the san joaquin route. hmm. I can’t even imagine what the thinking might be behind it. I wonder.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Overpriced, FRA-compliant, tank-on-wheels, Amtrak piece of crap that duplicates a planned HSR.

    Geez, now who’s clinging to the Status Quo?

    jimsf Reply:

    like it or not as of now and for the unforseen future. regular american railroads is all america is going to have.

    and I think you missed my point. Its been discussed here more than once that there can be an interim use of the construction segments at higher speeds while we wait for full operation which is still a decade away.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Hmmm….. some sort of intermediate speed type thing with wheels that could run on fancy new tracks until there was a sufficient route in service to justify the acquisition of nose bleed expensive dedicated high speed intercity trains …. Sounds like a wild idea. I’m not surprised nobody else thought of doing that except the visionaries of Amtrak.

    Oh hang on. Others did.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RENFE_Class_120_/_121
    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serie_114_de_Renfe
    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serie_104_de_Renfe

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_395

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-shinkansen

    http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regina_(tåg)

    http://www.bombardier.com/wps/portal/en/transportation/media-centre?docID=0901260d80113d84

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:101_029_MNE.jpg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V250_(train)

    http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:WESTbahn_KISS_bei_Sulgen.jpg

    etc
    etc
    etc

    etc.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They aren’t nose bleed expensive compared to BART cars.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Believe it or not the next installment of my blog post about Amtrak California and the Initial Operating Segment was a proposal to have Amtrak California buy the current fleet of Cascades Talgos at a discount and then give Washington State some money to buy new ones. The priority would be to buy enough trains to serve the IOS San Jose- Bakersfield. No word when Robert’s going to put it up….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cascades Talgos? You mean trains that due to FRA regulations have to carry a deadweight locomotive in the back and, since the locos are so heavy and have high center of mass, are limited to the cant deficiency of non-tilting TGVs?

    jimsf Reply:

    I dont think the single level ( as much as I prefer them and especially talgo sets from purely aesthetic / nice interior perspective) will work in the valley. They don’t have the capacity in a short train set. And I caltrans like the double deck cars. thats what Ive always heard. Believe me I have asked may people many times “why do we do this” and “why do we do that” and the answer is always that we do whatever the state wants. So if anyone has an issue with amtrack california services, you should directed your concerns to caltrans not amtrak. NO disrepect and just trying to be funny but… we are the states bitch.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I know. I think the Cascade sets should replace existing Amtrak California trainsets. Ridership is almost identical, and it will be give passengers the ability to taste new amenities on trains. In fact, I would go so far as to only put it on the putative San Jose to Bakersfield IOS and gauge that against other San Joaquin services.

    jimsf Reply:

    Everyone likes those talgos. but I heard it was determined that as I said – caltrans wants double deck cars for capacity versus length etc. or some such thing.

    Joey Reply:

    Why? It’s not like any of the stations (or anything else) are particularly length-constrained.

    jimsf Reply:

    Please direct your questions to the california department of transportation rail division. Would like the number?

    jimsf Reply:

    I do have to tell you thought that public loves those cars. So what can you do? They do surveys of EVERYTHING at caltrans and then they work like mad to do what the passengers want right down to and including what kind of beer and wine to stock in the lounge.

    Ot the public this is good service to the tech folks, its irrelevant. But in superamericaland, the consumer demands what they want. And what they want is checked baggage, personal assistance, low fares, plush carpet in muted tones curtains, a quiet car, heineken, and chicken wings.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Challenging the FRA is like trying to ammend the Constitution at this point. Also, the equipment could be redistributed for LA-Santa Barbara service in the future. The equipment will still be needed to connect the smaller cities although I think it would be best to go with the DMUs for that.

    Joey Reply:

    You know what would make them even more popular?

    If we could buy more of them, because they weren’t overpriced.

    jimsf Reply:

    please take that up with caltrans then. perhaps you can ask caltrans why they prefer this particular car. Amtrak doesn’t care what kind of car we use. The state picks them out, pays for them and says “use these.”
    email sacramento and ask. then let all of us know what they said.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Gee whiz beaver, I wonder why they are buying locos for 125mph operation in the coming years…. hmmm I just can’t think.

    For the train a day to Redding?

    jimsf Reply:

    at this time, the extra cars are needed to add more per train to meet existing demand.
    nothing for redding yet as UP is the main obstacle there just like on the coast.
    The higher speed locos are for sjq as according the what I read, bnsf down the valley is working with amtrak to upgrade for higher speeds.

    William Reply:

    Also the first locomotives and cars were in service in mid-1990s, and in need of major overhaul or replacement.

    Any chance of a more aerodynamic cab car designs?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Any chance of a more aerodynamic cab car designs?

    What do you believe would be gained by this particular slapping of lipstick on this particular pig, in your professional engineering opinion?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It would make them look more like BART cars?

    jimsf Reply:

    anyway congress laid out what has to be bought ( and a bunch of other goals) in the PRIIA

    William Reply:

    Richard: A simple answer of “no, no chance” or “no it won’t help” would suffice.

    jimsf Reply:

    IO think the locos will be built by GE. at least I know were getting GE locos nationally. So Im assuming those will be the ones cali gets. but Im not sure.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    At the speeds in question, aerodynamics beyond 1960s-era streamlining is a waste of money. The dominant term for acceleration is power-to-weight ratio rather than track resistance; the dominant term in noise emissions is wheel-rail interface rather than aerodynamic drag. It’s an issue only for energy consumption at constant speed.

    This design is enough for 200 km/h. No need for special Shinkansen noses.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Cleaning up the underside of the train has a larger aerodynamic payback than playing nose styling games.

    And then there is all the FRA junk glued onto the sides. And the big voids between old-style separately coupled cars. And the crap on the roof.

    Most of the pointy nose stuff one sees on regional (and even metro) trains around the world is mostly about styling (I admit I like it) and about providing the first sacrificial level of deformable crush ahead of the driver cabin. Fluid dynamically, the vehicles are still encrusted bricks.

  11. jimsf
    Aug 5th, 2011 at 17:02
    #11

    Everything you ever wanted to know what congress wrote into law about the rail cars

    the goal was apparently to create a nationwide standard for bi level cars that can be used by any agency anywhere in north america in order to reduce costs and streamline the process.

    Joey Reply:

    Since you seem to know a lot about Amtrak, why do they always insist on locomotive-driven consists instead of looking into multiple units (diesel or otherwise)?

    jimsf Reply:

    In the past, the railroad started with a hodgepodge that was turned over by the freight railroads. then what little new stuff they got on a shoestring budget was mostly purchased long ago before anyone expected any kind of real rail resurgence.
    now that rail is on the rise, congress has decided to dictate to amtrak what they will buy and how they wil use it. Amtrak itself has little to zero power, and is prohibited by law from lobbying. and is subject to the whims of congress and the various state partners. amtrak provides staff and the ragtag fleet it inherited and some stuff they bought in the 70s and early 80s.

    americans have yet to demand the things that we on this blog would like to see, in fact, americans have recently decided that they want the country to be dismantled. and that is what they are going to get.

    thatbruce Reply:

    My pappy, if he ever rode a train, did so in a locomotive-hauled train, and that’s good enough for any of you who ever feel the rare need to sit in a filthy train. Ayup, and uphill both ways to work too, in the driving snow!

    jimsf Reply:

    if you don’t like what’s going on in america you can only blame the americans who voted for the people who make the decisions. Americans don’t want to pay for anything, anymore and they want everything to be dismantled. If there are americans who don’t want that to happen I wonder where they were in the 2010 elections. Oh yeah, they were to lazy or uninterested, or hungover, to vote.

    jimsf Reply:

    if all those young people and minorities who came out for obama in 08 had bothered to show up last year the country wouldn’t be being held hostage by a bunch of inbred hillbillies. The damage being done now is going to take decades to repair and all the progressives’ ideals have been relegated to the bottom of the trash heap.

    There’s no excuse for the lack of responsibility shown in the lack of democratic voter turn out.

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