The Cost of Doing Nothing is At Least $100 Billion

Aug 10th, 2011 | Posted by

As people pore over the Draft EIR for the Central Valley HSR section, the usual suspects are beginning to scream “omg too expensive!” Nobody should be surprised to see anti-HSR legislators like Senator Alan Lowenthal and Republicans attacking the new cost estimates:

We really need to re-examine what we’re spending and what we’re going to get for it,” said Sen. Alan Lowenthal…

State Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, said he is preparing legislation that would ask voters to reconsider the project in June 2012. Voters authorized $9 billion in bonds for the project in 2008, although most of those bonds have not yet been sold.

“This thing is well on its way to massive cost overruns,” La Malfa said. “The costs are starting to escalate and we need to take a time-out.”

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hit back hard against such thinking:

“Our country is so short sighted — our highways are jammed … and we are spending so much wasted money hauling people in airplanes for 300 miles or less, which is terribly inefficient,” he said. “I am a big big fan of high speed rail, you have to look at things other than the raw numbers of how much it costs. How much does it save?

“If you could take a train from Sacramento to L.A. to San Diego, that would be wonderful, instead of the inefficient San Francisco to Los Angeles flights that happen every day,” he went on. “It would be so short sighted to walk away from the bonding capacity — you have $10 or $12 billion in bonds — because of costs.”

Senator Reid, still the most powerful man in the US Senate, clearly gets it. So too does Nancy Pelosi, the once and future Speaker of the House. And of course, President Barack Obama gets it as well.

One reason they get it is they actually look at the whole cost picture, rather than just one half of the equation. We know HSR isn’t cheap. But the alternatives are even more expensive, as the Draft EIS highlights explain:

Statewide, over the next two decades, California’s HST system would alleviate the need to spend more than $100 billion to build 3,000 miles of new freeway, 5 airport runways, and 90 departure gates to meet the transportation needs of a growing population. In fact, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to grow at a rate higher than any other region in California. Four counties – Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern – are projected to grow by 72% by year 2035.

In other words, not building high speed rail is the most expensive option of all. Those who suggest we kill HSR because of concern about costs are actually saying we should do the option that is WAY more expensive, and won’t actually help us build a sustainable transportation system.

Further, building HSR generates significant economic benefits that the critics never, ever acknowledge. Its green dividend for California could be as high as $10 billion a year just for Los Angeles alone.

If people are going to discuss costs, they need to discuss the full range of cost concerns, from the cost of doing nothing to the green dividend we’d been sacrificing without HSR. If people aren’t willing to include those figures, they’re not engaging in an honest debate.

  1. Derek
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 17:33
    #1

    “our highways are jammed”

    HSR isn’t going to fix that problem. We need to stop kidding ourselves.

    Widening the interstates also won’t fix that problem, because “if somebody stays home, or if you add capacity to the road, there’s somebody there waiting to use that space. Well you should expect the same thing to happen if somebody gets out of their car and gets on the bus, it’s bringing up a little bit more room on the roads, and there’s somebody out there waiting to use it.”

    We can eliminate traffic congestion simply by allowing good old-fashioned supply and demand to choose the price that eliminates the shortage of freeway capacity. It wouldn’t cost much to bring FasTrak to the interstates between LA and the Bay Area, and it would permanently eliminate traffic congestion, if priced correctly. This is why the SR-91 express lanes in Orange County “generate net social benefits of at least $12 million per year, compared with a scenario in which the lanes had been built but drivers did not pay to use them.”

    Now that we know that express lanes bring more net benefits than regular mixed-flow lanes, how does HSR compare? This is the question we really should be asking, because the construction costs are only part of the equation.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    HSR isn’t going to fix that problem. We need to stop kidding ourselves.

    Actually, it should do so in SoCal with Metrolink’s OC and AV line upgrades as well as LA-Bakersfield. LA-Riverside probably won’t do too much thanks to design issues and the full possibilities won’t be around since upgrading the LOSSAN South corridor would have the ability to divert far more traffic.

    Altamont would also be able to divert a lot of highway traffic along the I-80 corridor, but San Jose crapped all over that one.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Paulus,
    What the hell do you have against San Jose/Silicon Valley anyway? Does your ex hail from the South Bay or something? Were you layed off from Cisco Systems? Read my post at the bottom; I can express some of the same thoughts as you WITHOUT crapping all over a particular municipality.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Paulus is correct. The majority of commute traffic into San Jose is from the East Bay, along the I880/I580 corridors — i.e. areas that Altamont address very well.

    And BTW, the proposed BART extension bypasses the “golden triangle” area altogether.

    Joey Reply:

    The City of San Jose lobbied quite hard to assure that Pacheco was chosen. Many of us are not happy with that outcome. Some suspect BART interests may have been involved, as a standard gauge rail line from Fremont to SJ would obviate the need for BART in that corridor.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s never too late to do it right… See SETEC aligmnent map, or better yet, take a fly-through in Google Earth using the KML file. This is an alignment that was strenuously not studied by the CHSRA.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It would appear that route is longer than the current alignment between Fresno and San Francisco. Also, I suspect it would be slower because it would not be able to shoot across to Pacheco, but instead continue to buttress BNSF’s ROW to Modesto and spend a whole lotta time in the Altamont Pass.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s longer, but the average speed is higher. BNSF’s ROW in the Central Valley is prime high-speeed territory: straight, flat, and with stations that can easily be skipped. Pacheco loses a lot of time going at medium speed on the Peninsula; in addition, the climb to the pass itself is steeper, so the speed is limited to 220 km/h versus 240 in Altamont-as-studied and 350 in SETEC’s Altamont.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s faster, but only a few miles longer (i.e. in the noise). The CHSRA’s Altamont alignments were already a couple of minutes faster than Pacheco per their own official data, and included some significant curves with speed restrictions. The SETEC alignment is much more direct and could probably save 5 minutes over Pacheco to SF (although Pacheco to SJ would be about 5 minutes longer). Sounds like a wash until you consider that this alignment would halve trip times to Sacramento from SF or SJ, compared to Pacheco.

    The other nice thing is that it can be kludged to meet up with BART in Livermore, as an interim “Phase Zero” solution that will become increasingly important given the lack of funds and rising cost estimates. But I rehash…

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Here’s the problem, I think, with Altamont. (And it’s a real problem.)

    On paper it really doesn’t matter perhaps how you enter the Bay Area from the Central Valley. But from a practical point of view, we really want stations to serve locations that will support high traffic. If threat the needle as you propose, then all we get is SF, SFO, and Stockton. Sure we get Livermore, and Red Wood City, but you have to think using connection transportation just how long it would take to get there.

    I say this because outside of the City itself, population is clustered in places like the Diablo Valley, Santa Clara County, and other suburbs. To make an Altamont alignment relavant, you need to two other things: BART to Ring the Bay, and an extension into SF building a second tube, a stop in Oakland, and at the Oakland Airport.

    Because of the revenue associated with passengers making a connection at SFO to HSR, you can be pretty f***ing sure SF will not go for this. Although I will concede that if it were possible, I would make Oakland the location of the Bay Area’s major airport because of fog issues which are well known to denizens of the Bay.

    Pacheco, while seemingly more work for the same thing, solves a lot of these problems even if it is in an unwieldy way….

    Joey Reply:

    I’m not sure I follow you. Neither Altamont nor Pacheco serve Oakland directly, but under Altamont, you get much better service to most of the East Bay, connecting at Livermore or Fremont. Altamont still serves the Silicon Valley, just with slightly (less than 10 minutes depending on the alignment) service. So where are these “stations that will support high traffic” that exist under Pacheco but not under Altamont?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Tom,

    Altamont still serves SFO.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So where are these “stations that will support high traffic” that exist under Pacheco but not under Altamont?

    GILROY, of course. Gilroy! GILLLLLLL-ROY!

    THe Gateway to the All Important Vital Monterey Peninsula.

    “Predicted” by the highly ethical professionals at PBQD, Cambridge Systematics and MTC to see over 5800 boardings per day. (More than Millbrae. Or Stockton, Modesto, or Burbank for that matter.)

    You can’t make this stuff up. Oh hang on, I guess somebody can …

    Clem Reply:

    I think there’s either an omission of San Jose, or an insinuation that any Altamont alignment cannot and will not serve San Jose. Either way, Tom never mentions San Jose, which sort of undoes his whole theory of how to make an Altamont alignment relevant.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Perhaps, there is some divergence of opinion here. It is true that you could backtrack from the Altamont Corridor south to San Jose and then continue the HSR line as anticipated north to SF. My understanding though is that there is a strong contingent of people who want the Altamont option to include bypassing San Jose “Capital of Silicon Valley” and instead connect the Peninsula via. Dumbarton.

    The latter poses some real problems because by cutting off Santa Clara County completely there’s no way to mitigate the parking needs of almost one-third of the Bay Area’s population without connecting BART to VTA or seriously upgrading CalTrain. And moreover, there’s no VTA service currently to Palo Alto which is the most important location for an HSR station potentially on the whole system.

    So the “figleaf”defense is to instead wrap around San Jose and thread Altamont. My response to this again would be…why? If you are going to Altamont, it would seem much more expedient to head north to Oakland, link up with the stadia, airport, BART, Amtrak and then drill the next tube that everyone knows is needed across the Bay… BART could then extend down to San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and everyone would be (in theory) able to connect to HSR within an hour from anywhere in the Bay.

    Plus, going through Oakland has the added benefit of putting stations closer to the parts of the region that still have land left to build new housing and will actually grow over the next fifty years as opposed to the South Bay which is all but built out.

    Joey Reply:

    Apparently you have never heard of the concept of running some trains to one destination and others to another destination.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Read the EIR and familiarize yourself with the project before embarrassing yourself further. Nobody ever proposed “cutting off” San Jose. You are spouting complete nonsense.

    Peter Reply:

    Same as the discussion with the Merced-Fresno EIR. Just because you study something and even certify the EIR for it doesn’t mean you have to build it right away, or even ever.

    Joey Reply:

    Except that Silicon Valley has about 20x as many people as Merced as well as powerful lobbying interests. Yep, just as likely to be neglected.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Not to mention billions of dollars already committed to the Fremont-SJ corridor. If the VTA prefers BART technology, that’s their problem.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Tom,

    I don’t know anyone who thinks San Jose should not be served. As far as we can tell, San Francisco was told that they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont and San Jose was told they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont.

    Peter Reply:

    “Yep, just as likely to be neglected.”

    Not the point. The point is that EIRs often study things that are never built, or that aren’t built for decades. Look at the Warm Springs BART project. They had completed the EIR for it a LONG time ago. Then it took them like 15 years or so to finally begin construction. On a highly modified project.

    Joey Reply:

    So? Things take time to fund and build. If we can put the money together for the entirety of Phase 1 under Pacheco, we can do the same under Altamont (with both terminals), at least according to the Authority’s numbers.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Drunk Engineer:

    Read the EIR and familiarize yourself with the project before embarrassing yourself further. Nobody ever proposed “cutting off” San Jose. You are spouting complete nonsense.

    Elizabeth:

    As far as we can tell, San Francisco was told that they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont and San Jose was told they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont.

    This is exactly what I am talking about. I don’t know without a show of hands who thinks “Altamont” is code for “Dumbarton” and who thinks it’s code for “going north to head south”. None of you, however, have addressed my original points.

    I don’t know that many people who going south to north use the 580 to go back around to Santa Clara County or the Peninsula. And my guess is part of Altamont’s allure is its proximity to the Bay Bridge. If the Bridge ever suddenly collapsed…I’d be very curious to see how many highway travelers (not commuters) kept going on I-5 to get the City as opposed to turning off at 152….

    Joey Reply:

    Maybe because we’re all unclear on what your original points are. As it is, it seems that you believe that Altamont would serve San Francisco or San Jose, but not both. The scenario most of us are talking about involves splitting the tracks in Fremont, enabling trains to travel to SF or SJ.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    So let me get this straight: If Altamont was currently selected, it would contain a fork at Fremont which would send a separate train down to San Jose and one across Dumbarton to head up north????

    So what you are saying is…the next time Elon Musk needs to get more cash from venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road instead of getting on a plane and taking a cab to Palo Alto from San Jose international or SFO, he’s going to take the EXPO Line downtown to LA Union Station, ride HSR up to Redwood City or Diridon and take a cab because he’s all about the environment?

    Not to mention the fact that if you have LA – San Jose trains and LA – SF trains the rolling stock won’t be always interchangeable because demand on the LA – San Jose line is going to be lower than SF.

    Keep in mind though the EIR presented in February 2011 does not include Dumbarton in the Altamont study. (Perhaps it’s in the text, but no diagrams point to it.) Therefore, I hope you all understand…I think Pacheco makes the most sense because it assures us we aren’t building a second Bay tube with Prop 1A or a new Dumbarton Bridge or…. but it does allow Altamont to be added to the system later once all the other questions are settled like:

    1) What do we do with the Capitol Corridor?

    2) Just how far is too far for BART expansion…Reno?

    3) How deep do we want to dredge the Port of Oakland?

    4) Is a boondoggle by definition “gold plated”, or is there a species of boondoggle that is not?

    5) Will anyone buy the electric version of the Fiat 500?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I don’t know anyone who thinks San Jose should not be served. As far as we can tell, San Francisco was told that they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont and San Jose was told they should support Pacheco because they might get cut out with Altamont

    Nobody has ever once for even a millisecond talked about “cutting out” San José. the Capital of Silicon Valley, from California HSR. It’s pure, unadulterated straw man.

    The deal behind all of this is that San Francisco would get PBQD’s Central Subway ($2 billion of public money to disappear without trace, resulting in WORSE and more costly Muni service) in return for San José, the Capital of Silicon Valley, getting PBQD’s BART extension ($8 billion of public money to disappear without a trace.)

    That’s all there is to it. PB and allied consultants come out $10 billion or more ahead. The public gets absolutely and completely reamed. SF and SJ end up with white elephants they can’t afford to operate or maintain and which carry less than half “predicted” (by EXACTLY THE SAME PEOPLE DOING CHSRA PREDICTIONS!) ridership.

    Altamont HSR = non-BART rail Fremont-San Jose = no dice.
    Pacheco HSR = higher HSR cost (= good for PB and friends) + BART Fremont-San Jose (= $8bn for PB and friends) + 1.5 mile SF Central Subway (= $2bn for PB and friends.)

    It’s a very very very simple and straightforward deal.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Tom McNamara write: I don’t know without a show of hands who thinks “Altamont” is code for “Dumbarton” and who thinks it’s code for “going north to head south”. None of you, however, have addressed my original points. …

    Tom, it’s impossible to “address points” when what you’re talking about is something that exists in your imagination.

    If you want to talk about concepts like “Altamont”/”Dumbarton/”San Francisco”/”Millbrae”/”San Jose”/”airport”, please provide yourself with a rudimentary understanding of what is really on the table in the consensual reality shared by other humans.

    I’m sure it is of personal interest to you what you imagine words like “Dumbarton” might be “codes for”, but it is quite a stretch to seek to engage others in a guessing game as to the state of your personal model of reality might be.

    If you want others to pay attention to your imagination, I’d advise taking up novel writing.

    Joey Reply:

    Tom: What you want is the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIR. I think the 2008 volume 1 is what you want.

    And yes, what we are proposing is that some trains go to SF via Dumbarton and some to SJ. Sure, demand to SJ would be lesser but why on earth would this render rolling stock incompatible?

    As for the crossing, like I said, Dumbarton. Before you go off about the cost of a new bay crossing, I would like to point out that the Authority predicted in that same 2008 document that Altamont including tracks to SF and SJ, as well as a new high bridge over Dumbarton, would only cost $300m more than Pacheco. Alternately, if you want to avoid ecological impacts to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, recently bored water tunnels under Dumbarton mean that the geology down there is very well known, meaning that boring new tunnels for passenger trains would be much easier and cheaper than it would be normally, though that wasn’t a factor at the time that the EIR was published.

    For the record, a new crossing from Oakland to SF would be MUCH harder, as that crossing is much wider and much deeper.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    If you want to talk about concepts like “Altamont”/”Dumbarton/”San Francisco”/”Millbrae”/”San Jose”/”airport”, please provide yourself with a rudimentary understanding of what is really on the table in the consensual reality shared by other humans.

    As this thread demonstrates, there is no consensual reality shared by other humans. I don’t have a problem with that, in fact, I assume that given a forum like this…there’s lots of misconceptions between parties.

    In sum, all I was saying was this: What’s the purpose of Altamont if you are going to backtrack through Silicon Valley? And if you don’t, why wouldn’t you go north instead and drilling another transbay tube?

    Now I know you assign lots of nefariousness to the powers that be, and I understand that. But if we used SETEC, you don’t even get a connection to BART in Livermore. Meanwhile, you think that Southern California is going to sign off on a “San Jose spur” to prevent it’s 2 million souls from needing BART?

    I mean, you can talk about “my imagination” all you want…but you have to put stations adjacent to where people want to actually travel from and to. Lost in this debate is… Fremont is not the crown jewel of an HSR system. People will want to go to Palo Alto and take HSR to … Palo Alto. (or Anaheim or…. Merced). The less HSR serves those places either by quick connections or by having a station…the less people will use train. Period.

    Joey Reply:

    All indications suggest that we’re not going to see a station in Palo Alto anyway (RWC is much more likely), though really, if it were designed right (even under Pacheco) we wouldn’t be locked into any particular set of stations along a shared-use corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh, and if you’re really too lazy to look at the document I linked, I’ve compiled a list of facts you might find interesting:

    Altamont (SF via dumbarton and SJ):
    
Cost: $12.7 billion
    
Express travel times:

    SF-LA: 2:36

    SF-Sac: 1:06
    
SJ-LA: 2:19

    SJ-Sac: 0:49

    Pacheco:

    Cost: $12.4 billion

    Express Travel Times:
    
SF-LA: 2:38

    SF-Sac: 1:47
    
SJ-LA: 2:09
    
SJ-Sac: 1:18

    For the record not all of us favor the SETEC alignment. There are a number of ways you could get through the tri-valley area.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Just a couple things before I look at the EIR:

    The issue with rolling stock is that some trainsets, like Talgos used on the Cascades are articulated. You can’t just detach a car and then add as you see fit. I don’t know how prevalent that is, but because of the energy conservation (I believe) associated with articulated cars, I wanted to point that out….

    I know that it is harder to cross the Bay between Oakland and SF but I think it’s commonly accepted the tube for BART is at capacity and that one way or another we need more capacity there. On the flip side, with the population at build out around the Bay to the South of Altamont, the only reason to veer that direction is to serve downtown San Jose and Palo Alto and SFO, which may in the future have fewer people than places to the north that are currently empty.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Tom,

    1. Nobody (except trolls with strawmen) is talking about splitting individual trains in Fremont. Ask yourself: does BART split trains at Bayfair, West Oakland, Daly City, San Bruno, MacArthur or Lake Merritt? Do automobiles divide themselves in half at the 101/680 interchange? Rail lines have these things called “junctions” which enable whole trains, all in one piece, to travel in one direction or another, depending on where the warm bodies inside the trains are destined.

    2. There’s not going to be another SF-Oakland transbay rail tunnel. Period. Even if it could be afforded (it can’t), even if there weren’t a somewhat plausible alternative (dedicated transit lanes on the $6+ billion Bay Bridge), THERE IS NO PLACE IN SAN FRANCISCO FOR THE TUNNEL TO GO. Look at a map, then look at actual structures (= 20+ storey buildings) that existing in actual San Francisco here on Planet Earth in 2011. It doesn’t even count as a pipe dream. It’s beyond a straw man: it’s active deceit to posit its existence in our reality any time after 2003.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    which enable whole trains, all in one piece, to travel in one direction or another, depending on where the warm bodies inside the trains are destined.

    And miss out on the BART ride to San Jose? They are all going to disembark in Fremont and get on BART.

    Joey Reply:

    Tom: HSTs, regardless of whether or not they use jacobs bogies (articulated) are typically only used in 200m trainsets. If you need more than that, you couple two of them together. They don’t just add and subtract cars.

    And Richard: Mission to 7th might still be viable, but it would be limited to 2 tracks the whole way (including stations) unless you want to stack (you probably don’t). This probably means it would be limited to regional trains, i.e. between the CalTrain corridor and points in the East Bay.

    Peter Reply:

    “Nobody (except trolls with strawmen) is talking about splitting individual trains in Fremont”

    For once there’s something I can agree with Richard on. The plaintiffs in Atherton I and II are indeed trolls with strawmen.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I must say, this is very entertaining. Robert should start doing podcasts with each of us from time to time….

    As a tender aside, Richard, I’m not sure what the presence of skyscrapers above ground has anything to do with the availability of space underground. I’m not an architect, and I realize buildings have foundations, but I think some engineers agreed you could build the Central Subway UNDER Market street and end in Chinatown. I recognize you might be worried they will strike, oil, water, or end up in China itself. But I’m pretty sure we have a good twenty miles or so before we hit the Earth’s mantle and bore through the crust. (This is not designed to give PB any ideas…)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Tom, you’re right that it’s possible to build very deep underground. The problem is that it raises costs; this explains the high cost of the Central Subway, as well as new lines in global cities with large preexisting subway networks.

    To be more precise, it’s fine to build tunnels deep underground with a TBM, but everything that’s not done with a TBM, such as stations, should be done close to the surface as possible.

    In other words, yes, it’s possible to build a second tube, but it’s going to be ungodly expensive even independently of the generally high construction costs of the Bay Area. If such a tube has to feed into Transbay Terminal, then it’s going to be even worse: Transbay would be forced to be a deep underground cavern, and its costs would be comparable to those of East Side Access or the now-euthanized ARC cavern.

    VBobier Reply:

    Like You & whose Army is going to change away from Pacheco? Altamont is just never going to happen as the primary route, Nor is repeal, the losers in 2008 still to this day don’t have the money or the votes to make It so, give up, surrender, Your position is hopeless, not to mention pathetic and extremely boring…

    Joey Reply:

    You think I support Altamont just for the hell of it? Let me explain something to you. I used to be a Pacheco guy. I honestly thought Pacheco was the better choice, and I argued that point repeatedly on this blog. But I did listen to the other side. And over time, my opinion started to shift. I started to see the benefits of Altamont. I started to see that it would get us a lot more use out of the same infrastructure. I started to realize that it would save $10-$20 billion in the long run. I started to realize that it could form the foundation of a truly integrated rail network.

    And maybe you’re right that this is a hopeless battle. But don’t talk to me like I’m a common troll. I have considered both sides of this argument carefully. And I don’t deny that Pacheco has some benefits (faster service LA-SJ, serves the Gilroy/Monterey area, etc), but I believe that they are far outweighed by the advantages of Altamont.

    joe Reply:

    I know from Fresno to the City of San Jose there isn’t going to be a NIMBY attack against HSR. Gilroy is in favor and the run into San Jose is undeveloped up to 85.

    The Altamont route I am sure there will be opposition beginning in the tri-valley onward. Then it has to cross the bay.

    Joey Reply:

    There have been grumblings in Gilroy as well as San Jose, and then there’s PAMPA. I have concluded that there will be NIMBYism on either route, and that it’s too difficult to judge the scale of it to decide which route would have more. Though Clem firmly believes that high property values in PAMPA relative to other places are indicative of large amounts of NIMBYism.

    joe Reply:

    Grumblings in Gilroy? I suppose so. People grumble about the garlic festivle and the weather.
    Will Gilroy sue the CAHSR like PAMPA did? No.

    Gilroy is spending city funding to study alignment options and make recommendations to CAHSRA.

    Are property values along Caltrain high? Relative to the locality, no. If NIMBYism required PAMPA prices, the term would not have been coined previously.

    Clem Reply:

    Tri-valley opposition will pale in comparison to PAMPA, especially if the SETEC route is selected. As you can see on the map, this route does not traverse downtown Pleasanton or Livermore, and sticks mostly to freeway and power line utility corridors that are already impacted but not developed. Where are the rows of million-dollar homes on this route?

    Peter Reply:

    So much for “follow the lights”. What is the point of this alignment? How does it serve the Tri-Valley area in any way shape or form?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont is a natural transportation corridor in an area where there are only a handful of alternatives. Local nimbys will have to deal with the inevitability of freeway expansion for the indefinite future. Rail row’s have a much smaller footprint comparatively and while they producde some noise there is no air pollution.

    The same observation applies to the Grapevine aka Tejon. The Chandlers are not powerful enough to stop I-5 expansion as the decades roll by.. The principle was established in the Constitution that you cannot impose an embargo on a natural transport corridor. Denial of passage would be interpreted as the ultimate toll.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    ^synonymouse, when you’re right, you’re very right.

    Although I could still see there being issues going through Fremont to Dumbarton, that’s probably unavoidable, and since there’s already something of a gash due to the pipeline it might not be that bad. Still, the ROW interrupted in places, either requiring tunnels or property acquisition.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It’s rather amazing: Mr. Synonymouse thinks that “Altamont is a natural transportation corridor” yet routing it through Tehachapi is a huge boondoggle. Pacheco is a waste of money, but Tejon is the answer to all our problems.

    I get it, I get it, the only solution is using the ROW on I-5. That way we serve as few people as possible and we get the best system money can buy circa 1990. Sis, boom, bah….

    Peter Reply:

    Clem, I think people are expecting NIMBY resistance to an Altamont alignment that actually serves people in the Tri-Valley area. SETEC doesn’t serve Livermore or Pleasonton, ergo, no NIMBY resistance. Also, no service for the “lights” the alignment is supposed to follow.

    joe Reply:

    In the Tri-Valley you don’t have pampered NIMBY liberals, you have your red meat Tea Party.

    Clem Reply:

    Is that supposed to be scary?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    And how would this alleviate congestion by connecting to BART in Livermore…

    …oh wait….it doesn’t… :)

    jonah Reply:

    But Altamont still goes through Menlo Park… a fancy part at that!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    But Altamont still goes through Menlo Park… a fancy part at that!

    In a trench. More than likely a covered trench. Below grade all the way from Fremont to Redwood City.
    About as disruptive once built to “fancy” Menlo Park as is the Hetch Hetchy Bay Division water pipeline currently being relaid in a parallel corridor).

    And to forestall the obvious bleating:
    Trenching two tracks and no stations in an unused rail corridor (Redwood City-Bay) = simple.
    Trenching four tracks and stations in an active rail corridor barely (and often insufficiently) wide enough for the final configuration (San Jose-San Francisco) = extraordinarily (ie impossibly) expensive and disruptive.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Tehachapi and Pacheco are secondary alignments, deserving of rail service to be sure, but they are not the premier routes for the starter hsr project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think Tehachapi or Pacheco is secondary. If Altamont is built, there’s no reason ever to build Pacheco, unless maybe the Monterey Bay area undergoes a population boom. And if Tejon is feasible then there’s no reason to build over the Tehachapis; if Desert Express gets off the ground it should use Cajon to reach LA (it could be cheaper than Palmdale-Sylmar) and Cajon-Tejon to reach SF, eating the 140 km extra distance it would impose on LV-SF.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I also favored Pacheco initially but came to appreciate the reasons that Altamont is the default entree into the Bay Area. Professional planners should have been aware of this all along.

    The costs of the mountain crossing could yet be the undoing of Pacheco.

    Spokker Reply:

    I was initially ambivalent between Pacheco and Altamont because, quite frankly, I didn’t even read about the debate and was more focused on the LA-area stuff. But once I did I realized Altamont was the proper choice.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Soon after I started following this blog, I realized I had to educate myself about Pacheco-vs.-Altamont. What did I do? Go through old blog comments. Probably not the best choice, but ultimately what sold me on Altamont was the ease of going from San Francisco to Sacramento. That was it.

    Not that it matters at all–I’m just a non-Californian who finds the whole debate and challenge of building a megaproject interesting.

    Tony D. Reply:

    If HSR is to serve as an alternative to air travel between Bay Area and SoCal, then routing through Pacheco was the obvious choice for direct service to SJ and SF. If HSR is to serve solely a commuter purpose, then Altamont is the better choice. In it’s current form, it’s Pacheco Pass hands down. If this project somehow becomes commuter in nature (due to rising costs), i.e. regional HSR serving Bay Area/Central Valley and LA Metro, then I’d support Altamont from SJ to Stockton.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    If HSR is to serve as an alternative to air travel, then faster trips between the lion’s share of locales, LA Basin and SFO/Oakland should be prioritized, which means Altamont. Taking away car trips, however, is even more important than stealing marketshare from airlines, and so Altamont is the obvious choice of preference.

    Joey Reply:

    If HSR is to serve as an alternative to air travel between Bay Area and SoCal, then routing through Pacheco was the obvious choice for direct service to SJ and SF. If HSR is to serve solely a commuter purpose, then Altamont is the better choice.

    What’s with the tunnel vision? Shouldn’t we try to get the most use out of the infrastructure we build, rather than focusing on a single purpose just because that was how it was originally conceived. Pacheco is better for Bay Area-SoCal service and only Bay Area-SoCal service (and by Bay Area I mostly mean San Jose). But nevermind the commuter market, for any hybrid of markets you want to serve , Altamont wins quite quickly. It’s not like Alatmont offers bad Bay Area-SoCal service, even for San Jose. And in addition to the commuter market you mentioned you’ve also got the Bay Area-Sacramento intercity market, for which Altamont would serve the lower 3/4 of the Bay Area quite well.

    joe Reply:

    Paulus sez: “Taking away car trips, however, is even more important than stealing marketshare from airlines, and so Altamont is the obvious choice of preference.”

    Airlines want to offload short haul, low profit trips for more profitable travel. They waste space on SFO/LAX trips.

    thatbruce Reply:

    LA CV
    CV Sacramento.
    CV Pacheco SJ SF Oakland Altamont CV Sacramento.

    Easy. Also solves that annoying capacity issue at the TBT, assuming there’s a few extra $$ for ‘urban renewal’ in downtown SF and another transbay tube.

    Tony D. Reply:

    @Joey above,
    “Tunnel Vision”? Did you even bother reading my post above? As HSR is currently envisioned under Prop. 1A, as a relief for air traffic between NorCal and SoCal, Pacheco Pass makes perfect sense and is (quite frankly) the chosen option for this vision; it’s the current reality. However, if (again, big if at this point) this project becomes to expensive and somehow a HSR commuter version replaces the air traffic relief, then routing through Altamont from SJ to Stockton makes even more sense. Again, as a Gilroy resident, having a HSR stop for intrastate travel would be great. But if it’s not to be, I can live with conventional Caltrain to Gilroy AND still having to fly Southwest or drive The 5/101 to SoCal. Long story short, I’m trying to compromise with some of you Altamont only posters (that’s the Democrat in me).

    Joey Reply:

    My point is that Altamont serves the N-S intercity market nearly as well as Pacheco, so there’s little reason not to choose it given the additional use you’d get out of the infrastructure.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Add me as another Altamont convert. I first learned about CAHSR back in 2007, when I read in the Merc that Pacheco had been chosen over Altamont. Cool, I thought. Of course, back then I supported BART to SJ.

    Then I did some more research and realized that Altamont is operationally better. Pacheco is fine for serving Bay Area-LA as Phase 1, but Altamont’s true strengths emerge in Phase 2 with the implementation of Sacramento-Bay Area HSR service (no, the Capitol Corridor will not work). Also, you get Caltrain East and ACE upgrades for free. What’s there not to like?

    Unlike other people, though, I don’t think Pacheco is a dealbreaker itself, since CAHSR, despite its flaws, is still a worthwhile project to be built. Where I will draw the line is if Caltrain service gets screwed. Fortunately, I made a reasonable Pacheco Phase 1 schedule involving minimal construction that can please everybody.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What Caelestor said. My recollection of my views is as follows: I heard of CAHSR in 2007 or early 2008, and thought it was great. I read that there was a debate over which pass to cross, but I didn’t know the two passes were separated by hundreds of km; I thought it was regrettable that the alignment did not make it easy to commute from Stockton to San Francisco, since at the time I’d checked commuter flows and seen that San Joaquin County had the largest commuter flows into the Bay Area, but I didn’t think it was that important.

    I started caring about technical debates on this blog around the time Prop 1A passed – either a little before, or just after. As I recall, I thought Altamont was somewhat better than Pacheco, but Pacheco had many redeeming features. Nowadays I think the same, though I’ll concede fewer redeeming features of Pacheco; this is partly the all-but-guaranteed selection of RWC over Palo Alto, which would’ve been a better stop location, but partly an evolution in my own views toward more radical rejection of agency justifications.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh good. another pointless argument about altamont vs pacheco. I thought I was going to miss my daily dose.

    Joey Reply:

    If it matters that much to you, try finding a blog where no one cares about technical details. You’d probably be happy there.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    I thought this was the blog where no one cares about technical details.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Altamont means *much* less efficient operations.

    Sending half the trains to San Jose and half to San Francisco is staggeringly awful for operational efficiency, as is well documented. The Altamont fanboys don’t want to talk about that. But that route doesn’t work anyway, because there’s no reasonable way to cross the Bay with an Altamont route, which they also don’t want to admit.

    Altamont was killed by “fatal flaws” mostly relating to the impossibility of a Dumbarton crossing satsifying environmental requirements at reasonable price — anyone quoting cost estimates from *before* this was figured out is quoting inaccurate cost estimates. For the cost one might as well build a second Transbay Tube (which is a perfectly good idea, really) — and all for a less efficient route. The alternative iss the “round the south end of the Bay” route, but that one isn’t nearly fast enough, even though it does have the advantage of not splitting the service.

    joe Reply:

    We can eliminate traffic congestion simply by allowing good old-fashioned supply and demand to choose the price that eliminates the shortage of freeway capacity.

    Hey, $200 a ride down 680 will reduce congestion. Problem solved. We’re all riding toll roads perfectly priced to reduce congestion – we shall live and work for the highways and the perfect society.

    Derek Reply:

    If the road is filled with people willing to pay it, then what’s the problem?

    joe Reply:

    I have a choice between California keeping up with Asia and Europe’s infrastructure and the derived benefits of HSR or embarking on a grand libertarian experiment where we avoid any cost over runs with rail by taxing our roads until drivers either leave the roads ands reduce congestions or leave the state.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What the hell do you mean by “Keeping up”? It’s not a race. It’s not as if countries that decided to keep up with the US in the 1950s and 60s and ram superhighways through cities did better than countries that decided to keep their cities intact. Infrastructure is not the military; it’s good or bad based on local merit, and what other people do is useful insofar as it indicates costs and benefits; there’s no international competition here.

    Derek Reply:

    At some point, the revenue from the toll will justify spending billions to widen the freeway. Doing so earlier than that would be premature.

    Reality Check Reply:

    State OKs over $200m for South Bay transit [SJ BART] and road projects [highway widening]

    More cash for widening 880 and 101 (and more competition for BART & Caltrain riders):

    The commission earmarked $40 million for the 10-mile BART line from Fremont to the Berryessa area of San Jose, $71.6 million to add carpool lanes on Interstate 880 between Milpitas and San Jose, $84.9 million for merging lanes on Highway 101 from Palo Alto to Mountain View and $10 million to rebuild Kato Road in Fremont along the path the BART extension would take.

    Los Gatos resident & SVLG head Guardino (longtime huge SJ BART and therefore Pacheco Pass HSR lobbyist) managed to get himself appointed to the CTC, and remains totally in the tank for SJ BART:

    “The state may be broke, but it has not broken its commitment to help fund the vital Silicon Valley BART extension,” said Carl Guardino, head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and a member of the California Transportation Commission.

    And more on Peninsula Hwy 101 widening (disguised as “auxilliary lanes” since “widening” is out of favor):

    Officials Break Ground on Highway 101 Auxiliary Lanes
    The new auxiliary lanes will span from Menlo Park to East Palo Alto in an effort to relieve congestion.

    Brief freeway closure scheduled for Sunday on Highway 101 in Palo Alto, Mountain View

    [...] workers will replace utility lines in preparation for a “U.S. 101 Auxiliary Lanes Project,” which aims to reduce traffic congestion by adding auxiliary lanes between Highway 85 in Mountain View and Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto.

    That project will cost $102 million and is expected to be completed by 2014, according to the VTA’s website.
    [/blockquote>

    Joseph E Reply:

    “At some point, the revenue from the toll will justify spending billions to widen the freeway”.

    On many highways, the tolls would reduce traffic enough that there would NEVER be any need to widen the highway. Much of the “demand” for highways is due to the fact that they are “free” for the user. If highways had to pay a 10% rate of return to their investors, after financing costs, property taxes and maintenance costs, the tolls would likely be $1 per mile at peak hours. I believe that’s what toll roads cost in the places where they are self-supporting. Once you start paying $900 a month for a 40 mile round-trip commute, a place closer to the city starts to make a lot of sense.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Infrastructure is a national security issue. The better the infrastructure, the better suited your economy is to grow. The more it grows, the more you can afford troops, weapons, and technology.

    The French didn’t build nuclear power and then HSR because they touched their inner socialists…it was because they pulled out of the dollar when it was still out of the gold standard and didn’t want to reinvest it once the Saudis demanded to be paid in US currency for oil transactions. The French wisely said, we have to be able to go it alone and build infrastructure that allows us to do that. Doesn’t mean they don’t support the EU, the euro, etc. etc. They just realized courtesy of Dien Bien Phu that the colonial period was indeed over. The US still hasn’t gotten that memo.

    Derek Reply:

    “The better the infrastructure, the better suited your economy is to grow.”

    Yes, but diminishing returns says each additional road you build, the smaller the return on your investment.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I said “better”, not “more”. The Interstates were certainly good investments. Grand Coluee Dam, Erie Canal.

    It’s not about having the most infrastructure, it’s about having the best….

    Nathanael Reply:

    Some Interstates were good investments. Others, not so much.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    France’s economic growth over the last 20 years isn’t exactly the world’s best. It turns out that infrastructure megaprojects do far less to the economy than rules that make it easy to start a small business.

    Also, the Interstates were a good investment for highway builders, GM (what’s good for which was good for the US at the time and vice versa), and people who wanted to live in racially segregated suburbs. For the general population, they were a disaster of urban destruction, pollution, and public funds.

    joe Reply:

    “It’s not a race. “

    “Keeping up” with Asia and Europe on infrastructure isn’t claiming we’re are racing for the sake of racing.

    The economic arguments for CA’s HSR system are real. The rest of the world is deploying HSR technology.

    What’s there to nuance about the need to maintain and modernize infrastructure?

  2. Alon Levy
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 17:49
    #2

    Not only that, Robert, but also the same social causes that are driving up the cost of HSR are also driving up the cost of doing nothing. The relatively high costs of at-grade HSR come from the same place as the $100 million/mile pricetag of adding one lane to the 405; future risks of cost escalation, for example a general increase in construction costs coming from an unusually good economy (say, one with positive economic growth), would act one-to-one to inflate the cost of building the alternative. Just as high costs should not be an excuse to downgrade projects, so should they not be an excuse to give up on rail and go back to roads.

    joe Reply:

    What new road construction?

    On the Peninsula expanding highways would be dreadfully expensive like the 405 project.

    Alternatives like expanding street capacity would meet NIMBY opposition. CARRD NIMBYs would not want Alma Street expanded for more auto traffic. It’s along the Caltrain ROW.

    Additional runways at SFO are bayfill construction if allowable. Converting peninsula Military Moffett Field to a civilian airport route jets over NIMBY PAMPA. Doh.

    HSR opponents want to do nothing, stall growth, lose jobs, and leave the NIMBYs alone. That’s the future where they think they are better off with the status quo. They own homes in a desirable area and deserve those location benefits.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The new road construction that will be required if the state cancels HSR, of course.

    joe Reply:

    Required as in mandated ? I agree new capacity os necessary but if we can’t do HSR, we can’t do the NEW construction either.

    We can’t maintain our roads and bridges with present budget so the New stuff is competing with the wearing out stuff.

    The option, doing nothing is the most likely if HSR fails.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What Robert says when he talks about doing nothing is expanding roads and airports to meet the capacity on existing means of transportation. Doing literally nothing is the most likely, but it involves brutal congestion costs. It’s almost certainly better than squandering multiple tens of billions of dollars on more freeways (i.e. pollution), but there are a lot of unpriced externalities there. California can’t price highways any more than it can construct infrastructure on a low budget.

    joe Reply:

    I agree with both and am very worried about the loss of opportunity if we don’t make investments. CARRD doesn’t acknowledge that choice / problem exists and harps on why HSR isn’t perfect. I’ll point out that the NIMBY’s home base of operations is one such congested place that will choke on cars and lose value as business look elsewhere. Genetech is probably a good candidate to jump.

    The talking points used to foil HSR also undermine any NEW construction of significance. If they work on HSR, they’ll be used over and over to reenforce CA doing nothing.

    There is a alternative universe where CA doesn’t make significant transportation investments and we suffer greatly.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Companies are already moving abroad to countries with saner transportation policies (well, saner policies on other things too, to be fair, but transportation is noticeably one of the reasons).

  3. D. P. Lubic
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 18:27
    #3

    Not mentioned in any of this so far is the cost of what we are doing now, in deferred maintenance, in environmental impacts, in things like unfavorable trade balances for oil and oil wars that are driven by our oil addiction, which in turn is driven by our auto-centered lifestyle. This has to change–and will. The difference will be whether we change to our advantage and make this work for us, or whether we have the change forced upon us–and if that happens, our future will look less like Mad Max and more like Haiti.

    It certainly won’t look like “Star Trek” or “The Jetsons.”

    HSR by itself won’t do this, but we do need it with a bunch of other things, including local transit services, conventional intercity rail, and all the rest, very likely also including localized agriculture (again).

  4. Jerry
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 18:39
    #4

    Robert I agree. But. I’m waiting for someone to say that your figures are way wrong and the true cost of doing nothing is more like $200 Billion.

  5. peninsula
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 19:11
    #5

    $100B figure based on what HSR ridership? Because if its replacing a certain amount of freeway and airport usage, there must be some associated level of HSR ridership assumed. What are the calculations they used to come up with $100B?

    Secondly, $100B versus the $60? $80? or so billion this CAHSR will cost? Over what time period? And how much more capacity for economic productivity do those roads carry? Considering California freeways are used by millions more than HSR will be, the amount of goods and services that will be carried on roads, the flexibility to get people and goods, on their own schedules and routes, to where they actually need to be? What is the productivity calculation on that $100B?

    Walter Reply:

    I’m going to assume that your questions aren’t rhetorical and that you’re actually open to the idea that, given the right answers, maybe this train thing is worth it after all. If that’s not the case, feel free not to waste your time reading.

    Based on what ridership? One might presume that the CHSRA’s cost-saving projections are based on their own ridership projections. You might find them inflated, but unless you think that Californians won’t get on high-speed trains like people in the rest of the developed world do, you might be surprised.

    Over what time period? The report mentions other road/air infrastructure that won’t be needed in a post-HSR California. Call it 2050. At that point (assuming growth continues), we’ll have the option to beef up regional and intercity rail or continue with those projects that otherwise would be needed sooner. Either way, we have this to look forward to: http://reut.rs/iFhH5S.

    How much more economic productivity do those roads carry? No one advocated ripping out existing freeways. They carry lots of delicious and valuable products. They will continue to do so with HSR.

    The next question is missing some parts of speech, but if I understand correctly, the worry is that HSR won’t get people to where they need to go when they need to be there. Obviously, at present, California’s road network is orders of magnitude more extensive than its passenger rail network. Continuing this trend is, however, optional. We can try to pave our way out of the congestion that the next 25 million Californians will bring, or we can give them better options, such as extending HSR to new urban areas as needed, and expanding connecting transit within established urban areas ASAP.

    If you believe gas will be $4/gallon in 2050, global warming is fake, and Southern California can build enough roads to outpace traffic when another 15 million people live there for less than $60 billion, HSR is definitely a bad deal.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Will gas even be available in 2050? That is a very real question people should be asking when mulling alternatives.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Yes. Higher oil prices means alternate means of oil production, such as F-T synthesis, become more attractive.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    What price? 2 times current, 3 times current, 5 times current. How will airlines fare at prices twice current already high levels. I am very aware of F-T synthesis and its associated problems especially when using coal as feedstock, like the sheer amount of input energy required in comparison to regular oil drilling and the environmental disaster that it represents. Look at the problems with Tar sands oil to get an idea of some of the issues with Coal Fischer – Tropsch. If we choose to use Natural Gas, we then need to also worry about long term availability.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    What price? 2 times current, 3 times current, 5 times current.

    Hardly, it’s cost-effective at lower prices than current.

    How will airlines fare at prices twice current already high levels.

    It would be about 145-150ish if memory serves for air travel between LA and SF at 200/bbl oil, but American society would have a catastrophic economic collapse for other reasons at oil prices of that level.

    joe Reply:

    $150 per trip. That’s a 2011 fare at today’s oil price.
    Try again.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    150ish one-way, not round trip.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. One way anytime on SW is 159.00

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    And how many people pay the much higher anytime fare instead of the wanna get away fare?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not catastrophic – just lower growth than the usual. The US did okay in the summer of 2008 amidst $140/bbl oil; it was in a deep recession, but that was caused by the housing bubble rather than oil prices. The financial crisis began after oil prices had begun sliding, both coming from the worsening world economy.

    joe Reply:

    “The US did okay in the summer of 2008 amidst $140/bbl oil; ”

    Did we? That price for a short period of time was okay because Americans economically sprinted and did not fully incorporate the impact of that high oil cost on the economy. At 140/bbl farmers were having the diesel stolen out of their field pumps.

    Peter Reply:

    At $140lbbl airplanes at general aviation airports had the fuel drained from their tanks overnight by thieves.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, you did. $4/gallon gas is not that big a deal, and the longer it continues, the more people adapt. Nor is it that expensive by the standards of gas-taxed Europe.

    joe Reply:

    Aslon

    I’m sorry but the 4.00 gas prices and future shock-worries have driven up demand for housing near work centers and devastated car dependent extra-burbs.

    2-3 month price shocks don’t indicate the impact of a sustained price increase.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    There are very smart people out there who feel otherwise. It is in fact highly debatable if shale oil is even net energy positive. Tar sands are just barely, at about a 3:1 ratio and oil shales are considerably worse as they are not in fact fully developed oil but kerogen and a great deal of heat, pressure and upgrading must be applied to bring it anywhere near the consistency of light sweet crude. Check out theoildrum.com sometimes for education on the matter.

    Why is it that there is no commercial oil shale development if it was economic? In any case, these technologies are very slow and hard to bring on stream in comparison with regular oil and implies some measure of future scarcity and hardship where supply is concerned. Rail, high speed or otherwise is best able to deal with this kind of environment as it can naturally be powered by electricity of which supply options are more diverse and cost effective in comparison.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The EROEI of tar sands is improving, as oil companies are finding new techniques to harvest energy more cheaply. Wikipedia claims an EROEI of 6 as of 2006, expected to improve to 9 with further efficiency measures by 2017.

    Now, this doesn’t mean the transportation status quo is good. Oh, God, no. It’s not even good at present oil prices, as most developed countries outside North America are realizing. However, what it does mean is that expecting $200/barrel oil to turn uncompetitive transit lines into gold mines is overoptimistic.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    I have heard much lower numbers than an EROEI of 6. It is very difficult to believe they can get anywhere near that given all that is involved re mining/ in-situ processing and the associated heat inputs and waste processing. 9 is pie in the sky stuff and not even worth a second of consideration. I consider theoildrum a much better source of detailed technical information on these matters than Wikipedia and 6 is nowhere near what is suggested there.

    $200 oil or even $100 is already turning formerly uncompetitive transit lines into “goldmines. Wh”en the economy further contracts, that process will accelerate. Have you noticed that transit use has been increasing at a rate that is outpacing VMT growth in the last few years? Do you see that trend reversing?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wikipedia is sourcing its claims to Canada’s National Energy Board. Maybe 1.5 or whatever numbers are being peddled by Life After the Oil Crash is the pie-in-the-sky number for the apocalyptic romantics and should not be considered?

    There’s an enormous difference between “transit use is outpacing VMT growth” and “uncompetitive lines will become goldmines.” A good rule of thumb is that if a line’s speed and frequency profiles are such that it’s uncompetitive in France and Germany, with much higher gas prices than the US, then it’ll remain uncompetitive in the US no matter what. The most you can hang your hat on is that higher gas prices mean that the argument that HSR in the US is facing cheaper gas than in Europe won’t hold.

    joe Reply:

    Than god extracting oil from tar sands isn’t harmful to the land or surface or subsurface water.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Or the sea level, or the air… I’m not saying tar sand extraction is desirable; I’m saying it’s economic if the oil companies are not externality-taxed, and therefore governments should take special precautions to limit extraction. With any luck, the Canadians will vote more strategically next time and deny Harper a majority government, which he has purely because of Lib/NDP vote splitting.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Price and the environment are two different issues. At current oil prices, it’s economic to exploit tar sands and even oil shale, and indeed Suncor, Syncrude, and the more established companies are rapidly increasing production in Alberta. The reason it took so long is that oil companies had been burned once in the 1980s, losing money on oil shale after oil prices came down, and this time wanted to be sure oil prices were indeed permanently high.

    The fact that this amount of production is enough to drown low-lying floodplains is not by itself going to make oil companies not engage in it; it’s just going to make them spend more money on FUD against climate change science. It’s up to us, by which I mean people who have basic empathy and/or are not employed by the pollution industry, to advocate for restraining carbon emissions.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Or take advantage of it better. We could fund HSR, freight electrification, and better mass transit by reopening off-shore drilling in CA with a 25-30% dedicated severance tax for instance. Minimal environmental risk as well.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, and when we have a spill the insurance will do what exactly? Compensate people for environmental damage like ruining an ecosystem?

    What’s the deal with taking a bad environmental decision like off shore drilling and making it conditional on doing something sensible?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It’s a good source of revenue and high paying jobs with a fairly minimal risk of spills and environmental damage. Everyone keeps having this absurd idea that major spills are some sort of guarantee and will happen constantly.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    As you probably know, the reason we have no more off shore drilling permits and the Coastal Commission is because of a horrific oil spill that happened in the 1970s…California’s Chernobyl if you will… The reason I think it’s pointless to drill more off the coast of California is very simple:

    Oil is now a global market, and there’s little reason to believe that the West Coast sees any of it. It’s the same with drilling in Alaska. Even if you discount BP’s awful record in the Great White North lately which PBS exposed not so long ago…the oil under ANWR would be going to China more than us. I’m told that because of shipping lanes and production times that when Alaska and California don’t produce enough raw petroleum on their own that the next easiest place to ship it in from is Iraq…

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Where the oil goes is irrelevant (although really, on and off-shore oil produced in CA tends to stay in CA for refining). If it is cheaper to send it to China and import an equivalent amount of oil, then it’s all to the better, we make more money that way. More supply in a global market makes it globally cheaper, it doesn’t matter where the oil goes. We reap the benefits even if it all goes off to China or elsewhere.

    thatbruce Reply:

    And what happens when those sources of oil (which would take several years to come online) become exhausted, just like current sources of oil are showing signs of doing so? All that is achieved by further drilling is putting off the problem of oil exhaustion a decade or so.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Do note that my proposal was “Tap them now, tax the hell out of them, and use the revenue to reduce oil use via HSR, electrification, and mass transit.” The alternative, of course, would be eventually tapping them simply to use them in the normal fashion, without using it to support non-oil transit.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Where the oil goes is irrelevant

    .

    No, no, it’s not. Every drop of oil that leaves our shores come back as an import which has to be transported ($) and adds to the trade deficit. I have no problem selling to the Chinese, Brazilians, India if we were a net exporter or at least doing SOMETHING to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. But we’re not.

    To make matters worse, the refiners won’t even build a conduit across the Colorado River so that the Western oil network (Alaska, Hawai’i, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada) can routinely pump their gasoline back and forth to the rest of the country. So if we don’t have the space for it in the Golden State….ANWR oil ends up on China’s shores any-freaking-way.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    No, no, it’s not. Every drop of oil that leaves our shores come back as an import which has to be transported ($) and adds to the trade deficit. I have no problem selling to the Chinese, Brazilians, India if we were a net exporter or at least doing SOMETHING to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. But we’re not.

    Uh, you do realize my proposal involved precisely that, the use of oil funds to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, right? And if we export it with transportation costs and import at transportation costs, it’s going to net the same or as a positive to our trade balance (since, if it were cheaper/more profitable to ship it to US without import from elsewhere instead, they’d take that option), so it is, in that respect, irrelevant.

    To make matters worse, the refiners won’t even build a conduit across the Colorado River so that the Western oil network (Alaska, Hawai’i, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada) can routinely pump their gasoline back and forth to the rest of the country. So if we don’t have the space for it in the Golden State….ANWR oil ends up on China’s shores any-freaking-way.

    So don’t use pipelines, use rail cars instead. AARs been running stories on that the past few weeks actually, using freight rail to transport oil instead of pipelines.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I would submit to you that such a severance tax would be better used to fund agencies in the state have a conservation mission because there is really a diminishing returns effect for such a program. What we could do instead that would be really sneaky is force people to pay an extra fee on their car registrations to travel highways between urban areas and use that to fund HSR. (We already use gas taxes to fund mass transit…) Or another fun one, charge a tax on passengers flying between cities wholly within California as part of their passenger facility charges… that would also bring in some dollars….

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    And just to address your last point Paul: It is not cheaper to ship oil by anything other than boat. Rail lines between Arizona and California are so thoroughly congested already we don’t need to make the problem worse.

    joe Reply:

    Paulus Magnus’ awful value system. It is stimulating to suggest we develop small quantities of high risk oil sources because it’s cool.

    California does not have an oil severance tax – it has been defeated every time we proposed one so the amount of money raised by drilling off shore for oil is $0.00. If it were Texas, we’d raise 1 B a year on existing oil production.

    I say tax what we produce now. Prove there’s the political power to tax big oil.

    Paulus can’t qualify the ecosystem services coastlines perform such as cleaning water and providing fisheries. Nor does he know what environmental damage and loss from a spill off our coast will produce but Paulus has done “the math” and it’s all good.

    There’s insurance.

    I think someone’s played too much World of Warcraft.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Never played WoW I’m afraid, only a brief trial period in EVE as far as my MMORPG experience goes.

    And yes, I’m aware that there is no current oil severance tax. I am positing opening up the new fields only alongside such an oil tax, preferably by voter initiative. I wouldn’t necessarily throw it on existing production so as to avoid potential industry harm. It’s also more likely to pass and gain the political support if you restrict it to such new developments, and afterwards you can try and build it up for existing oil extraction.

    Paulus can’t qualify the ecosystem services coastlines perform such as cleaning water and providing fisheries. Nor does he know what environmental damage and loss from a spill off our coast will produce but Paulus has done “the math” and it’s all good.

    I believe you meant quantify. In any event, the negative potential is fairly marginal, representing a brief major local downturn in tourism and fishing in a year with a major Santa Barbara-level spill. It’s a minimal risk level and the benefits far outweigh the potential costs. Certainly the 70,000 bbl that seeps out around Santa Barbara every year from natural seepage doesn’t seem to cause such a major issue. It might even be environmentally beneficial by reducing such natural seeping and acting as reefs and nurseries for marine life.

    joe Reply:

    The negative potential is fairly marginal, representing a brief major local downturn in tourism and fishing in a year with a major Santa Barbara-level spill.

    Certainly the 70,000 bbl that seeps out around Santa Barbara every year from natural seepage doesn’t seem to cause such a major issue.

    Yes, and trees emit Volatile Organic Hydrocarbons, i.e. they pollute.

    There’s no reason to link oil extraction tax with off shore drilling and the risks associated with spills. CA needs to follow TX and tax current oil extraction.

    Joseph E Reply:

    It’s interesting to note that the economy in oil-importing countries (i.e. US, Japan and Europe) is doing poorly again this year after oil spiked above $100, after collapsing in 2008 after a summer of $100 a barrel oil. Some people claim that high commodity prices are a cause of economic bubbles, not an effect, but was the economy really at all bubbly this spring? Perhaps the high oil prices this time are due to the bubbles in China? At any rate, there seems to be a temporal correlation between spikes in oil prices and global recessions: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7977

    Alon, note that although Europe survives and people keep driving with $8 a gallon gasoline, that price is largely tax, which does not leave the domestic economy. In the USA, on the other hand, $100 dollar a barrel oil means that we are losing $365 billion a year from the economy. Certainly, raising the gas tax to $3 or $4 a gallon would not destroy the economy. But if gasoline cost $8 due to $300 a barrel oil, and US imports held steady at 10 million a day, that would mean the US economy would lose $3 billion a day, or $1 trillion a year, due to oil imports. That’s not sustainable, and so I believe we will never see oil sustained over $200 a barrel in the next 10 years. People with find alternatives (transit, electric cars, fewer miles traveled, bikes, walking, natural gas, coal to liquids) or the global economy will contract enough to destroy demand.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The economy is doing poorly because of austerity, not high oil prices. Israel, which has no oil production, is actually overheating with inflation, since it never went for austerity, recovered from the recession very quickly, and now has an emerging housing bubble. And the UK’s slide back into recession tracks the new Conservative government’s austerity plan very closely, and began while oil prices were still lower.

    joe Reply:

    In fact, austerity economic policies help keep oil prices low.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Only if everyone engages in them. If only some countries do, then the party-poopers who like their GDP growth positive drive up oil prices for the rest.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Synthesized oil is a massive, massive waste of energy.

    If it gets to the point where that’s being done on a significant scale, any place which has gone “all electric all-renewable” will economically crush any place dependent on oil.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    You can try to tout freeway expansion all you want, it might work in the CV, but the metro areas are already at capacity. Supply and demand pricing would definitely eliminate traffic jams, but a possible consequence could be stifled economic activity due to fewer trips being taken by people. I would definitely like to see a trial of a demand based cost for a freeway with electronic tolling on the on ramps and off ramps. Charge on a per mile basis, if a segment ahead is congested, charge a cent or two more. Practical alternatives will need to be provided though. We simply do not pay enough in gas tax to cover transportation needs. Quite a few issues will need to be solved in that time.

    joe Reply:

    “Charge on a per mile basis”

    So we’ll allow the government to track us and bill us. How efficient.

    We buy tracking devices for each of our cars, inspect and regulate them, install tracking stations and create a new bureaucracy to audit, bill and fine us.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Cars have odometers in them. Very very easy to determine how many miles they have been driven.

    VBobier Reply:

    At least until the odometer rolls over…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In 2017 your odometer reads 89,887. In 2018 it reads 09,887. How many miles did you drive?

    Peter Reply:

    80,000 miles backwards.

    joe Reply:

    Oops, I just drove to Montana and cannot be taxed for mileage accrued out of state.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You mean just like you can’t be gas-taxed for driving you did on gas tax-ineligible urban streets?

    thatbruce Reply:

    If you were to be taxed on mileage traveled, it would be based on the state the vehicle is registered in, not the state (or country) the vehicle is driven in. Easiest way for the state to enforce this is to base it on the odometer readings made when the vehicle gets smogged, as there is already the reporting infrastructure in place for that.

    joe Reply:

    Are urban roads ineligible? The proposal I disagree with is taxing based on odometer readings.

    Far easier to tax gasoline than install a complex mileage based tax infrastructure.

    And would I pay a tax to CA when I ride on MTs roads? On what basis does CA get to collect tax for road usage in a different state?

    If we’re taxing an odometer – I can foresee awesome ways to cheat and enforce the law. Or JUST TAX GASOLINE.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are urban roads ineligible?

    Yes. State laws vary, but federally it’s illegal to spend gas tax money on unnumbered roads. So when you see factoids like “the highway system recovers X% of its costs in gas taxes,” remember the actual percentage is much lower, because the gas taxes are levied on all driving while the spending is restricted to eligible roads.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Gasoline in Manhattan is expensive. People from the suburbs don’t buy gas in Manhattan. Not many Manhattanites own cars. So there are people merrily driving around Manhattan that pay gasoline taxes to New Jersey and Connecticut. People with Pennsylvania plates or even Delaware are paying taxes to New Jersey to drive in Manhattan.

    Reality Check Reply:

    NY Times: In Auto Test in Europe, Meter Ticks Off Miles, and Fee to Driver

    Hooked up to the Internet wirelessly and to GPS, the system tabulates a charge for each car trip by using a mileage-based formula that also takes account of a car’s fuel efficiency, the time of day and the route. (Driving on busier thoroughfares costs more than driving on less-traveled roads.) At the end of each month, the vehicle’s owner would receive a bill detailing times and costs of usage, not unlike a cellphone bill, although participants in the trial did not have to pay the charges.

    Governments in car-clogged regions of Europe, Asia and even the United States have shown an eagerness to explore such systems, but they face a nagging challenge in placing them in private vehicles. Even in environmentally conscious places like the Netherlands, voters and politicians often vehemently oppose the programs, citing privacy concerns about the monitoring of drivers’ whereabouts and the introduction of what amounts to a new type of tax.

    Derek Reply:

    Yes, when the first person is delayed by a second, economic activity will be stifled. But that one second of delay for one person doesn’t justify spending billions to expand the freeway.

  6. Tony D.
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 19:39
    #6

    Robert,
    I’m one of the biggest fans of HSR and dream of the day I can jump on a train in Gilroy and travel to either south to LA or north to SJ/SF. However, at some point we advocates have to start asking serious questions about the chances of building the system as now envisioned.

    If (and I’m hoping at this point it’s still a big IF) no further funding will come from the feds, private or foreign anytime soon, perhaps we should start advocating commuter HSR for the Bay Area/Central
    Valley and LA metro. I can’t imagine spending upwards of $12 billion for Merced-Bakersfield HSR infrastructure…AND THAT’S ALL WE EVER GET! I’d much rather see those funds go towards 1) electrifying, grade-separating Caltrain from SF to SJ (I can live with conventional Caltrain to Gilroy in the interum), 2) HSR ACE commuter rail from SJ to Stockton (yes! this coming from a huge Pacheco Pass supporter) and 3) HSR Metrolink in the LA metro, perhaps from Palmdale (future DesertXpress connection) to Anaheim. This scheme would to more to get cars off the road and be a sure money maker from the get go. Plans could still be implemented later to connect NorCal/SoCal via the Central Valley with true HSR, perhaps using revenue bonds from the two HSR commuter networks.

    Again, I’m still a huge supporter of the current vision, and if it happens that would be awesome. However, I’m starting to scratch my head if it will ever become reality.

    On another note, could we leverage the current bonding capacity of $12 billion and split it $6 billion + between Bay Area/Central Valley and LA/SoCal? Probably would require another voter referendum. Just curious.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If Bakersfield-LA is built — and frankly I believe that the cities of the Central Valley, the cities of the LA Basin, and the state of California will come up with the funds for that if necessary — you have a viable and functional system immediately.

    You’re thinking awfully NorCal. NorCal seems to be the area which is causing trouble, you know. The Central Valley and LA seem to be pretty nearly on the same page right now….

    The trouble with your funding proposal is basically that longer hauls are more profitable than short hauls. You can’t generally fund a long-distance system with revenue bonds from a short-distance system; you can generally do the opposite.

  7. HSTSheldon
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 19:44
    #7

    And I guess we assume everything will just continue as it has the last 50 years regarding oil availability. In case anyone is wondering, there has been no appreciable increase in oil production since about 2005 akin to the increases of previous years, despite the highest real prices ever recorded. It is clear that there is a production problem and every passing year makes the issue clearer.

    How do you propose to have cost-effective intercity state transport when you rely on inefficient jets flying 400 miles using increasingly scarce petroleum based fuel? Now remember, for a jet to match what HSR trains can already do where fuel efficiency is concerned, it must at least triple its existing efficiency. Do you see any technology on the horizon that can achieve such a feat. I dare say it is impossible!! Those pesky laws of physics always intervene. How about getting them to run on electricity then since increasing efficiency to the required level is out of the question? Again, we run into trouble!! Boy, they just seem to be tough nuts to crack.

    Similar story though less acute for automobiles. Rail transport, of all the motorized modes is the best suited for an environment where chemical fuel availability is restricted. That is a very powerful basic fact of physics and wishing it away does not change the reality.

  8. Beta Magellan
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 19:56
    #8

    Everyone here’s missing the obvious solution: do nothing, learn to cope with overburdened, outdated infrastrucutre. Sure, there’s the cost of lost time, productivity, and so forth, but at least it doesn’t involve public funds.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’d put the chance of California tolling the Interstates and developing an organization-before-concrete philosophy toward highways at even less than the chance it will be able to build HSR significant below budget.

    VBobier Reply:

    I don’t think Interstates are allowed under current Federal Laws to be toll roads, California highways and such that are just short of Interstate status, sure. But a toll road won’t work if there is another highway nearby to get to and from the same destination without using the toll road. Some will not be able to pay the toll cause of their income level and so will either take other roads or if their able, move away. I’d personally stay away an Interstate if It became a Toll road as My income is $830.40 a month as I’m a Disabled Person(Through no fault of My own) who gets SSI and I’m at 74% of poverty now at least Federally($674.00), As I get some from the state of CA($156.40), Oh and before someone out there thinks “Oh He could get Food Stamps”, No SSI recipient in CA gets Food Stamps cause of a CA Policy known as Cash Out which is/was $10 in Lieu of Food Stamps which was supposedly ended in 1992 by order of Governor Pete Wilson back then, but to this day the USDA and the SSA embargo Food Stamps cause as far as their concerned nothing has changed and it never will so long as CA supplements the Federal SSI Benefit which CA can not withdraw by law and prior court decisions. Congress could fix this, but so far won’t, but then Congress also won’t raise the maximum SSI savings/liquid asset amount from $2000($3000 for a couple(Not changed since 1989 for either amount!)) to $5000($7500 for a couple), although some Members of Congress have been trying…

    But I digress, toll roads are not always a good idea, raise the gas tax as It’s too low as is the tax on the wealthiest people in the USA, everyone pays the gas tax, even I, to do otherwise is being irresponsible in the extreme.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @VBobier:

    You can have Tolled Interstates, but these were either grandfathered in, or are non-chargeable (no Federal funding). Adding tolls to existing free Interstates need Congressional approval.

    Jack Reply:

    Beta, the cost of an outdated infrastructure will be the weakening of California’s global competitiveness. That is huge, and maintaining our ability to compete globally is definitely an important use of public funds.

    Don’t forget the rest of the developing world (China, Brazil, India, Taiwan, Korea) is investing everything they can in their infrastructure. They are making this investment because it’s what it’ll take to compete in the 21st century!

    I’m sorry if i use the word “compete” so many times, but I really believe that is the key.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Oh, I agree with you guys—I was just trolling/extrapolating from current trends in infrastructure.

  9. RickS
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 21:14
    #9

    Like TonyD, I’m starting to wonder if a scaled down version is going to be needed to get this project started. One of the mistakes the Authority has made is that the first section to be constructed should be Bakersfield to Palmdale. That section is the real “gap” in the current statewide passenger rail network, and if we filled that gap in Amtrak would be able to run trains from LA to SF in about 6 or 7 hours. That’s not great time, but it’s better than nothing, which is about what we have today. The HSR opponents wouldn’t be able to attack Bakersfield to Palmdale as a “train to nowhere”, because it would clearly have value even if nothing else were ever built. It would allow us to get some high speed track alignment built, and then we could work our way north from Bakersfield at a more reasonable pace. Fewer relocations would be required, reducing the negative outcry from property owners that we’re seeing in the CV. It’s probably too late now, unless we want to delay the start of construction by at least two years, but that’s what we should have done first. Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The gap should indeed have priority but Tejon is much shorter and should prove also faster and cheaper to construct.

    At Tejon the PB engineers have an opportunity to finesse a superior alignment for the 21st century.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    prove also faster and cheaper to construct.

    You have cite for that?

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Of course not. Who needs a citation if you make broken record arguments.

  10. John Burrows
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 22:14
    #10

    Not sure if this falls under “green dividend” or not, but CHSRA estimates that high speed rail will save our state over 12 million barrels of oil per year once the system is operating, and since we import nearly 300 million barrels yearly from other countries, this would lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

    Twelve and a half million barrels is not much compared to almost 300 million, but at $100 per barrel it amounts to $1.25 billion per year, and $62.5 billion over 50 years— It could end up being way more than that.

    We may or may not have to bring in more electricity to meet this increased demand on our power grid but none of it would be generated by imported oil and with the possible exception of British Columbia it will most likely all be produced in the USA. This could prove to be a real business opportunity for out of state energy companies—With ENRON in mind, not necessarily a good thing for California.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You wish it were only 300 million.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I wasn’t very clear on this but by “we”, I meant California—California oil imports for 2009 were around 285 million barrels.

  11. Justin H
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 00:49
    #11

    The blogger and multiple commenters are posting on various kinds of economic dividends that HSR critics are overlooking. What we need is an authoritative and impartial estimate of the total net economic value of the project, including not just the green dividend but all forms of increased efficiency long term. This estimate must also include the actual value to the customer of each ride taken, which by definition exceeds the price of the ticket. No doubt the total economic value would be incomparably higher than the investment, as is the case with other components of our transportation infrastructure. We spend so much time pointing out various kinds of direct and indirect economic benefits, without ever fully capturing it all. This needs to be quantified so that we can discuss this issue objectively.

  12. joe
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 05:46
    #12

    “What we need is an authoritative and impartial estimate of the total net economic value of the project,”

    Impossible. The cost estimate is going to change and that is an objective property of any large project.

    If cost is rising because risk is not identified priced and managed, it’s a problem. If the cost rises due to adding requirements and refining early designed, as is the case now, then it’s not a out-of-control project.

    Derek Reply:

    Then when the cost estimate changes, put it into the spreadsheet to recalculate the total net economic value of the project.

    joe Reply:

    The impartial authoritative way to allocate resources in a society has a name, it is called is authoritarianism. I’ll pass on rule by excel.

    A political debate, hot and messy, and election of representative in a representative democracy is my preferred way to solve problems, messy but representative of a larger majority of the people.

  13. Justin H
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 09:36
    #13

    Robert, I would be grateful for a glossary link. It would be nice to pick up all the acronyms and technical terms in one go.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s at the top.

  14. Tom McNamara
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 11:42
    #14

    This one is for Morris and Synonymouse:

    American Airlines parent AMR files papers to spin off American Eagle

    Under a nine-year agreement between AMR and AMR Eagle, AMR would continue using American Eagle services to feed passengers to American throughout American’s system. However, “American could withdraw from Eagle and re-bid up to 12 turbo prop aircraft per year beginning in 2012,” the two companies said in their announcement, “and a specified number of jet aircraft up to 40 per year beginning in 2014.”

    Looks like the airlines are getting on board HSR….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Your link doesn’t work.

  15. Paulus Magnus
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 11:44
    #15

    San Diego County gets $25 million, plus another 25 from Prop 1A funds, for PTC on LOSSAN

    What I find interesting is that they can do for 50 million what it takes Caltrain 200+ million to do up north.

    morris brown Reply:

    Interesting is they say they will use Prop 1A bond funds to match. Now the Governor vetoed using any of the 950 million from Prop 1A for project outside of the HSR project. So just where is the $25 million going to come from?

    The CalTrain $251 million PTC project just doesn’t make any sense. Metrolink with 500 miles of track and much more complicated than CalTrain is estimating $125 for their PTC.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    As far as I’m aware, none of the vetoed funds were going to improve feeder lines as they were supposed to (instead being programmed as regular capex). This, on the other hand, would.

  16. morris brown
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 11:54
    #16

    China stops work on all HSR projects:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8694622/China-stops-work-on-all-high-speed-rail-projects.html

    China to slow its high-speed trains
    http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fgw-china-trains-20110812,0,6171709.story

    James Reply:

    China is in such a mad rush to catch up on all technical and military fronts, they must be employing every engineer above room temperature. They want fighter jets, stealth jets, passenger aircraft, cruise missiles, fast attack ships, an aircraft carrier, a manned moon mission, a massive hydro-electric project, an AWACS system, plus all of the industrial activity churning away…. Airports, and miles of HSR lines.

    How does it go? Pick any two…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_triangle

    Eric M Reply:

    Could be interpreted another way as a quote from the story:

    “We will suspend for the time being the examination and approval of new railway construction projects,” said a statement issued by the State Council

    Doesn’t mean they will suspend projects CURRENTLY underway.

  17. morris brown
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 13:56
    #17

    the Atlantic:

    California High Speed Rail Project to Cost More Than Expected

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/08/california-high-speed-rail-project-to-cost-more-than-expected/243481/

    The last paragraph:

    “As Reihan says, this is a national embarassment. Not just because it’s hard to believe that voters would have passed this particular $80 billion rail initiative (this is about half of California’s annual budget–as if the United States had voted to adopt a $2 trillion highway bill). But because this is no way to run a policy process.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The EIR estimate is 25% over the 2009 Business Plan estimate: $10 billion at the cheapest for Merced-Bakersfield, compared with $8 billion in the 2009 plan. And so far the amounts suggested for the tendering that’s about to go out are more in line with 2009 than with the EIR. It’s not $80 billion; it’s not even $65 billion, since CARRD estimated Merced-Bakersfield would be $15.5 billion.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is not actually right.

    The 2009 plan costs had inflation and the maintenance facility ($600mm -$1 bn). You have to add these back in. The low cost is $12.2. It is a 50% increase.

    The other sections all have the same things going on – more aerials and tunnels than in 2009 budget. The $65 billion budget basically pretended transbay didn’t exist and that you only needed two tracks the entire peninsula and that the caltrain stations wouldn’t need to be rebuilt.
    $65 billion is low, if anything.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    And the high cost is $17.2 bn btw.

    Also, we have noticed that 6-8 miles of urban tracks in Bakersfield have been moved to Bakersfield- Palmdale section. Not sure if this is reflected in price estimates or not.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    And (sorry about the multiple emails), we had assumed we were going to be on high side because our numbers were done before the value engineering took place. We are surprised to see the costs so high. Hopefully the appendices (not yet posted) will shed some light.

    mike Reply:

    This statement makes no sense. The “value engineered” alignment came in $3.6 billion below the CARRD estimate. Even if we throw out $600 million for the HMF, that’s still $3 billion lower than CARRD predicted. But you’re “surprised” that the costs are “so high” despite being $3 billion lower than CARRD’s estimates? This implies that CARRD is intentionally over-inflating its estimates…

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s still better than more Freeways and/or doing nothing while watching the states population grow, I mean where is this new population supposed to live at? Not the Peninsula or in Los Angeles, nor out where I live due to a lack of water, So that leaves only the Central Valley, So We either spend whatever money is required now or regret not spending the money later on. Cause with more people living in the Central Valley the cost will go up for any option, bar none. And the clock is ticking, get it done, starting in 2012. Also there is the cost of maintaining more Freeways, can Caltrans handle more load? as their already understaffed due to budget cuts that are well known and undeniable, although I wouldn’t doubt some would try.

    Spokker Reply:

    You can never be sure about anything. You’d think with the Internet and all it would be a simple matter to ask for clarification. Maybe the people in charge could go on some kind of chat program and answer questions for an hour.

    But they’ll just ignore your emails for two months.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Elizabeth: Is CARRD preparing a comparison between previous plans and the current EIR?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It could, but honestly, why?

    The reality of it is that there are options for Fresno – Bakersfield which cost around $6.3 billion. Once the projects starts going, all the data will be adjusted to account for what we learn once we break ground. There will actually be precedent to address the other segments.

    joe Reply:

    The other sections all have the same things going on – more aerials and tunnels than in 2009 budget. The $65 billion budget basically pretended transbay didn’t exist and that you only needed two tracks the entire peninsula and that the caltrain stations wouldn’t need to be rebuilt.
    $65 billion is low, if anything.

    o Bookkeeping all Caltrain benefits as costs on HSR’s books, improved stations, ROW and track, is not reasonable.

    o Glad to see CARRD is advocating we price HSR with 4 track – that’s a good way to reenforce our commitment to our children in 2035.

    o Let’s be honest: These added features are increased benefits, increased capabilities and an improved HSR thus the accusation that HSR is Over Budget is not true. It’s added requirements and thus the project in 2009 and now are different and shouldn’t be misrepresented as a project with a growing cost – it’s a project with growing requirements and costs.

    o As HSR runs along the Peninsula, it will interesting to see if CARRD will help low costs reasonable by advocating against expensive trenching.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you call increased benefits other people call scope creep. It’s an easy way to pretend costs haven’t gone up; if you read Demographia on the construction costs of the Interstate, which I recommend you don’t, you’ll see Wendell Cox twist into pretzels trying to minimize and justify the network’s cost overruns.

    Increasing the scope is justifiable, if there is a proportionate increase in benefits. This is sometimes the case; for example in the opposite direction, look at how every light rail proposal that gets downgraded to a bus or a legacy commuter line ends in a ridership disaster. But other times, it is not, and the scope should not be excessive; the main class of examples is again in the realm of light rail, where best practice is to keep it at grade, as Calgary did, while viaducts and tunnels tend to produce huge costs with marginal increase in benefits.

    joe Reply:

    Creep is a another word. Mission creep, feature creep. Add requirements and you add have to budget/funding.

    Creep and value can be subjective. What is the benefit to me of a trench in PAMPA? I drive there daily and can get similar benefits from a slightly elevated alignment and underpasses (as is the case for some crossing in Palo Alto). YMMV.

    The increases in cost estimates to date are not due to poor risk management, identification and mitigation.

    Changes to design, prior to construction, don’t have as significant impact, early in design changes are better than those during construction.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, creep is a word. What’s your point? That it’s not a problem?

    And, yes, if costs increase because of a trench in PAMPA, that’s scope creep. In this case it’s scope creep that can be blamed on NIMBYs, but it’s still scope creep. The issue is that the increasing use of viaducts and tunnels in the Central Valley is not due to NIMBYs; at best, it’s due to fears of NIMBYs, which led the HSRA to plan alignments without takings, no matter how cheap the land is.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Serious question: how much inflation is there going to be by the time the Bakersfield-Merced section is built? Since it’s the first to be built, and current inflation is 1-2%, you shouldn’t expect the YOE cost to be significantly higher than the 2010$ cost.

    thatbruce Reply:

    With the Feds recently promising to keep interest rates low for the next few years, the hope is that inflation won’t suddenly increase during the lifespan of this construction segment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The economy will first need to recover for there to be nontrivial inflation.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Construction costs don’t particularly track Consumer Price Index or inter-bank interest rates.

    Caltrans Construction Cost Index (1972-2011): http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/oe/contract_progress/

    Project costs, especially on mafioso consultant-rigged mega-projects, don’t track anything aside from “I can’t believe we got away with that yet again! Wahoo! Ka-ching!”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Um… are they masking massive cost increases by talking in terms of 2010 dollars instead of 2006 dollars, then?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon, I don’t know and haven’t looked so I have no opinion.

    I was just pointing out that commercial lending rates doesn’t necessarily correlate with fluctuations of public infrastructure project costs.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I wonder if they are using CPI figures, perhaps unintentionally, for their X year estimates. It could certainly come in handy for making a later triumphalistic PR release about costs actually being lower than expected in contrast to higher than expected costs.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Construction costs *do*, however, track general economic conditions. And they’ve been coming in under budget nationwide on rail projects (ask Denver, ask Seattle, ask LA). (NY seems to have its own unique problems, which need to be fixed, but can’t be generalized from.) I’m sure, from reading the documents, that CHSRA has NOT reduced its estimates based on the post-2008 drop in heavy construction costs. In other words, its cost estimates are high.

    Eric M Reply:

    “As Reihan says, this is a national embarrassment. Not just because it’s hard to believe that voters would have passed this particular $80 billion rail initiative (this is about half of California’s annual budget–as if the United States had voted to adopt a $2 trillion highway bill). But because this is no way to run a policy process.”

    That has got to be the lamest excuse. Lets say my personal budget is $100,000 after taxes and I want to buy a $50,000 car. OH NO, that is half my budget!! In the real world, things can be financed. Even better, if I want to buy a $500,000 house, OH NO that’s 5 times my budget!! Guess I can buy the house because my yearly budget is not enough to cover the price of the full house. REALLY, you can’t take the total cost of the system and compare it to our YEARLY budget. It doesn’t work that way. Just like buying a house for the first time, you finance it over time. But even better for the rail system, you don’t need all the money up front for the whole system at once since it will be built over the next DECADE!!

    Stop spamming lame articles Morris!!

    Eric M Reply:

    Correction:

    Guess I CANT buy the house because …..

    joe Reply:

    ..the rent is too damn high.

  18. StevieB
    Aug 11th, 2011 at 16:28
    #18

    Bloomberg, Schwarzenegger who chair Building America’s Future fund say America must invest in High Speed Rail. From the report released Monday:

    A global consensus has emerged that high-speed rail is the transport of the 21st century: a high-speed, high-capacity, and low-energy solution for the high-tech, low-carbon economy of the future. To stay competitive, countries large and small are investing now to build true high-speed rail.

    The report cautions that throwing money at less than high speed rail is risky and that the NEC and California are the areas that call out for high speed rail.

  19. Emma
    Aug 12th, 2011 at 11:23
    #19

    I’m so tired of this. California High Speed Rail is bashed from all sides and we don’t have a single PR firm that can combat all the lies spread about the project. We need a healthy ad campaign that reminds Californians of the benefits of HSR.

    It’s just frustrating to see how journalists blindly accept NIMBY opinion as fact and spread it all around the state. Once the lie is planted, it is hard to get rid off it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Here’s a thought: instead of contracting with a PR firm to lie about what the contractors who run the public agency have done, how about instead developing a good project; with a believable budget; including realistic contingencies and accounting for historically proven optimism bias; based upon realistic, pass-the-giggle-test demand models; in active conjunction with real rail operators; using only Not Invented Here standards, models and especially contractors; in accordance with a clear, achievable, realistic and strategic implementation phasing plan?

    Or one could just choose to shoot the messenger, follow a know disastrous model of paying a crew of systematic scammers who have failed to deliver anywhere remotely near on time or on budget on every single mega-project with which they’ve been involved, and keep digging a deeper hole. Less work, <a href="more profitable.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Either they’re in touch with your doctor, who is concerned that your blood pressure isn’t high enough, or they’re continually clueless about what running a large infrastructure project entails. The state has people on its payroll with experience in running in-house large infrastructure projects, and getting those people to talk to the CAHSRA would be a good thing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    based upon realistic, pass-the-giggle-test demand models;

    Like the models SNCF came up with that more or less agree with the models the Authority has been using?

    jimsf Reply:

    things aren’t done that way in america. and will never be done that way. everybody knows that. you just have to get over it. Its like moving to san francisco and complaining about fog.

    joe Reply:

    But historically things were far, far better. We didn’t have rigged requirements and contractors making money off of public projects.

    We had strapping entrepreneurs who were given freely public land, made unilateral decisions about our infrastructure, ran the rail industry and our State directly as Governor.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m delighted to find another octopus fan here. Though, to be frank, I’m less enamored with regular cephalopods nowadays, preferring more terrifying creatures vaguely based on them instead.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Ok, as an avid diver, I have to guess you’re alluding to Humbolt squid … or what?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Humbolt squid

    Reality Check Reply:

    Humbolt squid (I’ll get the f*cking link right eventually!!)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, not that. I’m talking about a creature that makes you go insane just watching it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Here’s a thought; how about you stop personally spreading lies, Richard? That would help! CHSRA’s numbers have all been in line with what SNCF et al have estimated, so you’re just blowing smoke. (Caltrain, now… there’s another matter, and I can see what the CHSRA has distanced themselves from Caltrain.)

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