Would Grapevine Alignment Save $4 Billion?

Sep 28th, 2011 | Posted by

So claims a report in the Bakersfield Californian:

Building a high-speed train route over the Grapevine instead of through the Antelope Valley could save up to $4 billion, according to a July progress report released Wednesday.

A conceptual study identified more than one feasible alignment over the mountain pass, prompting engineers on the project to propose a more in-depth study of the Grapevine proposal, originally rejected in 2005.

But missing from the conceptual study, as of July anyway, was a close look at what effect a Grapevine route would have on the project’s overall economics.

“More detailed analysis of ridership and revenue figures is required to complete the analysis between the Grapevine and Antelope Valley Alternatives,” engineers with Parsons Brinckerhoff wrote in the July update released Wednesday by Bay Area critics of the project.

Unfortunately I can’t find the report on the sites of either CARRD or CC-HSR, so I can’t provide the details. Still, the PB quote is entirely sensible. If you save $4 billion in construction costs but give up even a dollar more in lost ridership revenue from cutting out Palmdale and the Antelope Valley, then it’s a bad deal.

As we know, HSR critics never acknowledge the benefits and revenues of the project. In order to even be HSR critics, they must consistently deny those realities for their ideas to hold together. If they acknowledged HSR had benefits, then they would not be able to sustain their “omg it’s too expensive and nobody will ever ride it” attack.

A Grapevine alignment faces political and legal challenges in addition to the financial questions. Palmdale has sued to block further study of a Grapevine alignment and Metro has come out against a Grapevine alignment, preferring to preserve the Palmdale route that voters approved in 2008. DesertXpress was counting on a Palmdale alignment to plug their project into the SF-LA route, which could lead to Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get involved.

The CHSRA board will decide later this fall whether to proceed with further study. We will see what comes next for the Grapevine alignment.

  1. Paulus Magnus
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 21:29

    On the other hand, if lowered costs make it far more likely to be built in the first place, then the lost revenue might be justifiable.

  2. morris brown
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 21:40

    Robert wrote:

    “If you save $4 billion in construction costs but give up even a dollar more in lost ridership revenue from cutting out Palmdale and the Antelope Valley, then it’s a bad deal.”

    That is one truly amazing statement.

    The Palmdale lawsuit was dismissed by the judge. It was filed in Federal court and the Judge ruled that it was not a Federal issue. I don’t know if they have or will re-file in state court.

    At the Bakersfield City council meeting tonight, 3 speakers got up, objecting to the project, andasking the council to pass a no-confidence resolution. Also there was asked for more time to reply to the 30,0000 page EIR.

    View at:


  3. Alon Levy
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 21:41

    I’m surprised, Robert. This is amazing news: it means an IOS is within grasp, making it much easier to construct the line. I’d have expected you to run this story with a more positive headline, like “CAHSR could cost $4 billion less than expected.” It’s not every day that we see such a possibility to save money.

    As for Palmdale, meh. Although is projected to account for a fair chunk of the ridership, most of this ridership is low-revenue commuter traffic; worse, commuter traffic has a stronger peak than intercity traffic, so it requires more equipment per train-km and expensive split shifts.

    As for Desert Xpress, it’d be a serious argument if its plans to be in operation by 2012 were on track, but since it’s still scrambling for money, it should be cut from this consideration. If going through Tejon saves $4 billion, then Desert Xpress should be able to scrounge $4 billion from whoever was going to give CAHSR the money and tunnel through Cajon.

    And what Harry Reid wants or doesn’t want is irrelevant until he finds the extra money, instead of letting DiFi reduce HSR funding to $100 million and call it a win.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I don’t think it is sensible to make long-term decisions based on short-term considerations. If Palmdale is the difference between the system breaking even and not, then it’s not worth the up-front savings. If Palmdale is the difference between connecting Vegas to LA and not, then I don’t believe it is worth the up-front savings.

    Further, I have a hard time believing that the Grapevine would be all that cheaper in the end. There’s a lot more tunneling there, through some wacky and seismically active terrain. Tehachapi is a more straightforward construction project with less tunneling. We all know that tunnels are ripe for cost overruns.

    I prefer to change political realities to suit the ideal project, rather than change the ideal project to suit political realities. In an era of major political flux and change, that still strikes me as the right move, especially considering the other points I made in this comment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But Palmdale is not the difference between breaking even or not. Intercity railroads live in a world of passenger-km, not passengers; Palmdale-LA looks pretty small there, and, on top of it, commuters tend to be attracted to commuter passes (=lower fares) and are too peaked.

    And besides, who says there will be a net ridership loss? The most important service gap right now, LA-Bakersfield, drops from 54 minutes through the Tehachapis to about 44 minutes through Tejon. Moreover, since ridership takes time to build up, being able to open faster means higher ridership in each of the first few years.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s why I want to see an analysis of ridership and revenues. If it proves you right, then I’ll be willing to support a Grapevine alignment.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Agreed. I actually would expect that Palmdale would make such a small difference in ridership and revenue that the Grapevine alignemnt *would* look better — in fact, if it’s constructable, the slightly faster Grapevine route might completely outweigh the benefits of the Palmdale alignment on ridership.

    But it’s important to actually do some kind of study of the question!

    It’s also possible — though unlikely — that the state of Nevada might kick in $4 billion to direct the line to Palmdale, in which case of course one does it.

    James in PA Reply:

    Desert Express can continue to either Riverside or go through Palmdale and head west along SR138 across the flat land to meet the HSR near Quail Lake near Gorman. Then Desert Express will still have the advantage of a connection to Nor Cal and So Cal. Let the commuter train continue to run between Palmdale and LA through Santa Clarita. As part of the offset, use some of the $4B reduced cost and cut a tunnel in Saugus and make other improvements to speed up the Santa Clarita commuter so it does not have to crawl around the tight curves.

    Spokker Reply:

    Screw Palmdale if it means $4 billion in savings (plus the bump in revenue for shaving off those precious minutes). Palmdale sure as hell isn’t going to generate $4 billion in revenue.

    Andy Reply:

    100% agree. This is Intercity Rail, folks, not a commuter railroad. It’s an alternative to short-haul airlines. It’s all about the fastest possible route from LA to the Bay Area. Metrolink can independently service Palmdale and its commuters.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Argument by Adjective isn’t very compelling.

    There may be excellent and overwhelming reasons to not run LA-Bakersfield via Palmdale. “Bite me, commuters! High Speed Trainz rule!” isn’t one of them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Forgive them Richard. They think that you can’t run trains with different logos on the side on the same tracks.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Over time it just might. That’s why I want to see them run the numbers.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There was a previous ridership model done for the program level EIR by Charles River. They found the Grapevine had about 5% higher ridership and revenue. http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6588 On PDF page 99 they do the comparison.

    It is a little apples to oranges as commuters are not directly accounted for. Looking at commute and intercity, I would say Grapevine still comes out a little ahead with passengers and more ahead with revenue.

    For those of you interested in the ridership forecasts, this is an interesting study to read.

    jim Reply:

    The actual quote from the paper:

    This indicates that an alternative via the Grapevine may save
    between $1B and $4B in capital cost.

    I agree with Alon that if the Grapevine puts an IOS within reach even of a constrained Federal program then it’s worth pursuing. Birds in the hand are worth more.

    But we don’t yet know that the Grapevine will produce sufficient savings to bring an IOS within greater reach.

    I’d add that an IOS even just to Palmdale, while not as good as an IOS to the San Fernando Valley, is still an IOS.

    Derek Reply:

    “Although is projected to account for a fair chunk of the ridership, most of this ridership is low-revenue commuter traffic; worse, commuter traffic has a stronger peak than intercity traffic, so it requires more equipment per train-km and expensive split shifts.”

    The above statement assumes that ticket prices won’t vary according to demand. Let’s hope this is false.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not necessarily. Varying pricing based on demand also means making things more convenient for commuters; it’s possible to price the hell out of peak-hour commutes, but then you can forget about the extra ridership Robert is hoping to extract from Palmdale.

    Derek Reply:

    It’s always a tradeoff, ridership versus profits.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nobody takes Acela from Manhattan to Newark, for that matter nobody takes a Regional. They take NJTransit. NJTransit pays Amtrak for the use of it’s infrastructure. … they aren’t going to let the Metrolink express to LAUS use the tracks for free.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Excuse me, but are there any plans on the horizon for Metrolink-branded service on HSR track? Does Metrolink even have money for the equipment?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The tracks aren’t going to be there for years and years and years. Gives plenty of time for Metrolink to decide what it wants to do. I suspect that NJTransit will have a few ALPs of one flavor or another laying around they would be willing to lease cheap along with some broken down Comets so Metrolink could test the waters. Or use while their order is fulfilled.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    ALPs? God help us all.

    And MBTA would probably run trains with a few cars deadheading in the back, with one conductor per two in-service cars so that doors can be opened manually.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Okay they can order up some TRAXX2Es or whatever Bombardier is building that week. Be their luck they would be building some ALP45s for Toronto to bridge them over while they electrify.
    In front of the closed cars and the open cars with too many conductors you may have noticed the diesel locomotive under the catenary. An option Metrolink could use.

    Joey Reply:

    If they’re investing in new equipment to run on dedicated tracks they might as well put it into new EMUs.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The above statement assumes that ticket prices won’t vary according to demand. Let’s hope this is false.

    The world doesn’t always work according to community college microeconomics.

    You missed your train. Your ticket is no good. Buy a new one.
    You arrived early for your train. Your ticket is no good. Wait for it.
    Your Vaterlandssicherheitsdienst-issued ID does not match. Your ticket is no good. Buy a new one — assuming should we deign to release you from indefinite detention for Attempted Unauthorized Travel.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, to be fair, you can have peak pricing without requiring people purchase a ticket for a specific train. For example, see the practice on any urban or commuter rail system with peak pricing.

  4. Clem
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 21:47

    The Palmdale alignment is the only one where trains going from LA to SF head away (!) from San Francisco for a portion of their trip. When high speed is the whole point, that seems more than a bit counter-productive.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The time penalty was what, 12 minutes? If you pick up a big amount of riders, it’s worth it. To me this boils down to the ridership and revenue analysis.

    Joey Reply:

    Certainly, but that means not drawing any conclusions until that analysis is done.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There are numerous ancillary issues in Tehachapi vs. Tejon.

    The Santa Fe’s general plan for Tejon is at last vindicated. Apparently the last scheme dated to 1923 and was related to the Kern County oil boom of the era. They simply did not have enough money but then they could not have predicted SoCal’s explosive growth. No matter, the Santa Fe had correctly identified the superiority of the Grapevine route.

    The Tejon hsr alignment is closer in to LA, parallels the primary freeway north and is readily accessible. It should effectively be all-weather. It is physically removed from Tehachapi and provides a more reliable alternative to the existing Loop line. If the hsr paralleled the UP line a big fire in the area, for instance, would put both out of action.

    Re: Palmdale, all you have to do is ask which routing a private entrepreneur would prefer. Palmdale needs a BART to LA, regional mass transit, automatically entailing subsidized fares. Anathema to a for-profit operator. Not to mention the degraded schedules occasioned by a major detour.

    And as far as LV is concerned imho any California pol spending our money on any iteration or variation of DX, etc. to enable our bozos to blow the welfare check, the Social Security check, or the rent money in Sin City ought to be flogged thru the fleet. Legalize casinos in the Golden State. And gerbils.

    Peter Reply:

    Honestly, I don’t think anyone other than you and D.P. Lubic care what the Santa Fe wanted to do in 23 B.C.

    It bears no relevance to what HSR is looking at doing today.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Legacy is very important. Had they built the Tejon line at that time the picture for hsr would be very different today. Similarly had SF approved the subway bond issue of 1937 we would have rail on Geary today.

    And you guys trot out the New Deal of 10 years later to justify blowout infrastructure spending.

    Peter Reply:

    Could-haves and should-haves are irrelevant.

    All that matter now are here-and-now, will-be, and should be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And had Robert Moses drowned in childhood, many American cities would have stayed significantly more intact than they are now. So?

    ladyk Reply:

    Seconded, CaHSR’s goal of 2h40m SF-LA is borderline impossible as it is. 12 minutes savings are very good news. More so when in this case potentially $4b can be saved. Diversions and curves are generally bad for HSR, which should be a spinal system. Twisting the spine to cater to regional politics is the major reason why for example Germany’s ‘high-speed system’ is not high-speed. What Palmdale needs is a good regional connection to the basin.

    VBobier Reply:

    Here’s a thought on the 2h40m SF-LA time, push the speed of the CV part of line up, start at 220mph and go faster to make up the 12 minutes… Raise the speed in the CV, if needed, as the TGV can do this, so the CHSRA should be able to do so too.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    220 miles per hour is already pushing the technological state of the art as it is.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s not a very good thought, however.

    Speeding up the fast sections is far more expensive (both per mile of work, by number of miles of work required, and by the amount of extra operating energy required) than speeding up the slowest sections.

    That’s why some people tiresomely and hopelessly bang on and on and on about cheap — or negative cost — things like terminal turnback times, train door configuration, station escalator configuration, fare gates, curves in San Bruno, interlocking configurations, turnout geometries, signal block lengths, etc, and reach for their revolvers when somebody suggests that if only the trains were to run 10% or 20% faster precisely where is is hardest to run faster then there’d be no need to worry about anything else.

    To give you a concrete example to think about: upgrading 100 miles of track to 220mph from 200mph — which might involve heroic engineering and/or realignments, and definitely involves more than 30% higher train power — will save a grand total of less than 3 minutes of travel time (less than 2, in fact, once lengthy acceleration at high speeds are included.) On the other hand, I can name about 50 different ways off the top of my head to save 2 minutes of trip time, none of which involve more than a couple miles of track, and most of which involve no extra infrastructure cost at all.

    Joey Reply:

    Feasible in test runs is different than feasible in revenue service. The power (as Richard said) and maintenance requirements for running significantly faster than 200 mph are large enough that it’s rarely worth it. Especially when there are so many other places you could save more time for less money (and actually reduce operating costs in the process).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Twisting the spine to cater to regional politics is the major reason why for example Germany’s ‘high-speed system’ is not high-speed.

    There’s a far better lesson to learn from Germany, and one I’ve mentioned here many times before:

    The highest average speed inter-city trip in Germany is the Ausbaustrecke (upgraded legacy line, on an 18th century alignment) Berlin-Hamburg, despite “only” having a 230kmh. It spanks trips that involve dedicated high speed track. The reason: less time spent at slow speeds!

    And as I’ve said many times, I’ll take Germany’s integrated, coordinated, nation-serving compromise network (complete with what Important Businessmen think of as “detours” and what tourists and train enthusiasts deem to be unacceptable numbers of stops — stops that make connections!) over isolated technical stunt prestige projects anyway. It’s far from perfect, but it’s closer to an ideal engineering/economic compromise than others achieve or seek to achieve.

    “Run trains as fast as necessary, not as fast as possible.”

  5. James Leno
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 21:52

    It just makes so much sense to connect the CAHSR system with DesertXPress. I’m against the Grapevine alignment just because of that.

    I don’t just see CAHSR trains pulling into Palmdale so people can transfer to DesertXPress trains. I see DexertXPress trains pulling right into SF, LA, SD, and SAC, and travelling non-stop to Vegas. That’s a huge selling point for both systems. A Grapevine alignment would kill that idea, and that idea is worth way more than $4 billion over the life of the system.

    Clem Reply:

    Then pay up!

    The Grapevine alignment will be selected as surely as shit flows downhill on a 3.5% grade. The era of political make-everybody-happy gerrymandering of the route is finally coming to an end.

    James Leno Reply:

    LOL Shit doesn’t flow. It clumps.:-)

    If it meant I’d get to charge CAHSR to go to Victorville, or DesertXPress to get to Palmdale, I’d pay the $4 billion now to get back that value over the life of the system.

    Walter Reply:

    When California High-Speed Rail is up and running, DesertXpress might just be able to find the cash to build over the Cajon Pass. That will be a faster ride to Vegas for about 90% of greater LA and a MUCH faster trip for the Inland Empire and San Diego.

    Spokker Reply:

    Enough with Vegas. I hope it implodes.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    This. There is no value to CA to aiding travel to Las Vegas. If we are going to promote entertainment and gambling, let’s promote it in state.

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe DesertXpress could cut a deal with Metro, where DesertXpress pays for Victorville to Palmdale, and Metro pays to upgrade LAUS to Palmdale, and the two can then share tracks between LAUS and Palmdale.

    Maybe DesertXpress can run express trains to Palmdale, where the passengers continuing to Lancaster can switch to a DMU.

    RisenMessiah Reply:


    Lots of visitors to Las Vegas come from … Asia. No high speed rail connection between Las Vegas and Los Angeles means even more Asian airlines and travelers are going to bypass L.A. on the way to Sin City.

    That hurts the region, because Asian visitors are big draws not only for Orange County’s theme parks…but also Universal Studios and other parts of L.A. County.

    And unless California wants to legalize gambling and open containers…there will be a market for Las Vegas from Southern California.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Even more visitors to Las Vegas come from SoCal.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Right, and that market won’t dry unless we legalize gambling, change our zoning laws, and permit open containers…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Doesn’t matter, the point is that nearly all HSR-serviceable travel to Vegas is local.

    Whether this market remains strong depends in part on whether Indian gambling expands in California.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I would love to know how you came to assert that. Right now the only two Asian carriers at McCarran are Korean Air and Philippines Air. With the advent of the 787, you are just ensuring that more Asian passengers connect through Seoul to Nevada than than Los Angeles which has a phenomenally large Korean population itself….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What international airport would people connect to Desert Xpress from – LAX? People who’re bent on going to Vegas and don’t mind connecting in LA would want to use Ontario, right next to the LA Basin foot of Cajon.

    Or maybe they’re just going to stay in LA for a few days for the hell of it (great, let’s make travel to Vegas harder – that’ll make people decide to travel to LA). Or maybe they’re going to go to Macau, which is growing to eclipse Vegas. You never know.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Who gives a damn about random Koreans flying into Vegas? HSR isn’t going to make them suddenly add stuff in the LA Basin to their to do list. And quite frankly, I, nor anyone else criticizing Desert Xpress, care about Las Vegas getting direct international flights. It’s about California dollars, which Vegas is absolutely dependent upon, being wasted on an external parasite economy.

    RisenMessiah Reply:


    The Crenshaw Corridor is already funded for construction. By the time HSR reaches Union Station in Los Angeles, the LAX to LAUS link through could be complete.

    It’s not about the Koreans…it’s about the fact that Korea and Japan are going to start doing a lot of one-stop flights through to inland Chinese cities, India, south east Asia that all underwrite the cost of their transcontinental flights to California. However, if there’s no DX, this demand might be enough to cost LAX landing fees and the region tourism dollars from passengers that opt to do Las Vegas instead of LA and Las Vegas.

    Donk Reply:

    What does the Crenshaw Corridor have to do with anything? It is not a route that is intended to be the LAX-LAUS link. The route is a $1.2B political giveaway to Yvonee Braithwait Burke, and is completely useless in the overall scheme of things in the LA transit system. The flyway bus will still be the preferred route from LAX to LAUS when HSR is built.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Connect. The. Dots.

    Crenshaw is designed to end at Wilshire. That means now downtown, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and USC riders can all take light rail to the airport.

    I recognize that there’s a lot of frustration over its preferential treatment. But does that mean the downtown connector is a political giveaway to Jan Perry and Speaker Perez?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    People do not fly to particular airports, they fly to particular cities. If anything, Desert Xpress means additional trips to Vegas that would not have been otherwise taken. But the idea that people are going to make two or three transfers (to people mover, to light rail, to HSR) just so they can land in LA and head to Vegas is absurd. They will simply fly directly or transfer to another plane.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    This is really a hell of a lot simpler than you are making it out to be:

    There’s LAX, SFO, and LAS. There’s a Japanese or Korean airline that flies one-stop flights from California to City X in Asia. Someone is going to get this new traffic enabled by the 787 (or maybe even the A380). If we don’t build DX, or don’t allow it happen, there’s a subsection of travelers out there that might snip out California from their vacation and head straight for Las Vegas. Is it sizeable, maybe not. But international passengers are spend much more than domestic ones.

    In addition, every domestic slot you free up at SFO and LAX is another one you don’t have to build that simultaneously opens up new destinations and possibilities.

    Meanwhile, Californians are going to Vegas until they stop allowing open containers. Arizona has Indian casinos that are for all intents and purposes urban. Canadians and snowbirds love them, but it’s not Vegas.

    Donk Reply:

    To RisenMessiah

    Actually, there are no plans for the Crenshaw corridor to go to Wilshire.

    Also, the difference with the Downtown Connector is that it is a critical component of the system. It is also eligible for Federal funding, since it has real value. LA County residents are footing the entire $1.2B bill for the Crenshaw corridor. And Mark Ridley-Thomas et al want us to throw more money at it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, not really. First, “is it sizable, maybe not” sounds like one of those silly sotto voce things journalists do whenever they report on a policy they viscerally dislike but can’t find a reliable quote against, or when they feel like doing horserace reporting instead of policy reporting but can’t find any actual horserace news.

    Second, if HSR is going to lead to more California-bound travel, the effect of freeing slots at LAX and thus reducing landing fees should be vastly larger than any nebulous effect of someone deciding to include LA on a trip to Vegas just because there’s HSR.

    Third, the likeliest scenario is the opposite – i.e. international travelers to California will decide to include Vegas on their trip. The reason is that there are many more California-bound travelers than Vegas-bound travelers. There may be just two flights from Asia to Vegas, but there are many to Los Angeles and San Francisco. California has many more attractions than Vegas, which is just about gambling and Elvis impersonators.

    On the other hand, my suspicion is that DX is going to do to Vegas what the Joetsu Shinkansen did to Nevada – that is, shrink the number of people who stay overnight by making a day trip feasible and comfortable. On the third hand, this will be better for Vegas than for Niigata, since in Vegas the hotels are just loss leaders for casinos, which will keep getting a steady stream of Californian travelers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Vegas, which is just about gambling and Elvis impersonators.

    You forgot about the hookers. cheap booze and all you can eat buffets. All things that make Las Vegas the number one convention destination in the US.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s a convention destination because the convention centers are loss leaders for casinos, just like hotels. If your convention goers don’t gamble, then forget about hosting there. I was told at an AMS annual meeting in San Francisco that the AMS only did its annual convention in Vegas once, and subsequently the convention centers either demanded huge rates or refused outright to host an AMS meeting.

    Hookers may attract Californians, but Asians can get the same in Thailand at vastly lower prices.

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    Crenshaw was conceived as going directly to Wilshire, but the project was priced too high to do that. The downtown connector is useful for Metro operations, but won’t exactly blow people away with ridership. Sure a Pasadena to Santa Monica nonstop would do well, but a Long to East L.A. one?


    DX isn’t going to be 220mph. It’s still going to be a two and a half hour ride from L.A. to the Strip. Also, my real voice is not sotto voce…it’s quite gravelly.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    American Mathematical Society? Sounds like a party hearty crowd to me. Ones who don’t have to be told that the house always wins. Just because you don’t like gambling, hookers, all you can eat buffets and Elvis impersonators, doesn’t mean the attendees of other conventions don’t find them fascinating.
    Las Vegas is an adult amusement park, it’s too bad you didn’t find any of the rides to your tastes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Look, all I’m saying is, all these things in Vegas are just ways to get you to come over and gambl. Except maybe the prostitution biz, and that’s only an appeal to people who don’t live right next to Thailand and Cambodia.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I know that Las Vegas is the garden spot of the universe and that no one in their right mind would ever want to leave… there’s two million people in Greater Las Vegas who might get the urge to go to LA or SF now and then. Or even Bakersfield. Especially considering many of them are Southern California transplants with friends and relatives back in SoCal.

    Indian gambling doesn’t attract the same people as splashy Las Vegas hotels. The people on the late night buses to Foxwoods etc. could go to the Racino at Yonkers or Aqueduct. Some of them do but there’s a market for both.

    HSR from LA doesn’t attract people who are in Iowa. But people in Iowa love to go to conventions in Las Vegas so Las Vegas accommodates them. There’s going to be Californians interested in the same conventions. Going to the Indian Bingo hall doesn’t do them any good.

    I’d love it if there was an HSR station in McCarran. I can get to McCarran cheap and non-stop. I’d trade an HSR leg for loitering around in hub airport while I change planes for LA or SF. There’s a lot of secondary air markets in the East and Midwest where you can’t get to LA or SF non-stop but you can get to Las Vegas non stop. Makes Bakersfield and Fresno the remote terminal of McCarran as well as SFO.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, there’s a reason you can’t get from secondary cities to LA or SF but can get to Vegas: the fares to LA and SF are higher, so Southwest doesn’t serve as many destinations from those cities as it does from Vegas. Hollow out the LA air market by building HSR to replace short-hop flights and you can expect to see Californian landing fees drop, allowing both more long-distance flights and more low-cost flights to secondary American cities.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One of my options from lovely Albany International Airport to destinations in California is to fly Southwest to Las Vegas and change planes. Does Southwest get lower landing fees in California if the flight originates in Nevada?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, but presumably the LA-LV travel market is heavy enough Southwest can turn a profit with the current landing fees. Remember, Southwest is for the most part not in the business of having people change planes; a huge majority of its passengers fly direct.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or it might be that there’s a lot more people in and around the Capital District that want to go to Lasw Vegas than want to go to destinations in California. I can actually get lower fares to LAX than to LAS. Probably has something to do with less full flights in the middle of the day. …not that I would even think of taking a trip with 2 stops and a plane change.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    The idea is to get people into fast, clean electric trains and out of fuel sucking short-hop flights and autos. The traffic is there on I 15, I 5, CA 99 and between all the airports from the Bay Area to LA and on to Las Vegas. Who cares why people are going to all the differrent regions? Just get them connected with HSR and give the public a choice on how to get there! The public will vote with their dollars, just like in France, Japan, etc….

    James M.

  6. Drunk Engineer
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 22:20

    If you save $4 billion in construction costs but give up even a dollar more in lost ridership revenue

    Ow! The stupidity! It Hurts!

    Derek Reply:

    Maybe he meant lost profits, not lost revenue.

  7. Donk
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 22:24

    If it really is $4B cheaper, then we would be out of our minds to not build through the Grapevine. The only way we should do Palmdale is if Harry Reid can come up with the cash to pay for it.

    BTW, 12 minutes is a significant difference in travel time. Everyone talks about what a small percentage 12 is of 2:40. But what if you are traveling from Fresno to LA or Bakersfield to Anaheim?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s still faster than driving and you don’t have to drive through LA.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Altamont’s over $10 billion cheaper, but you’re never going to hear the BART-boys breathe a word about that.

    Tony d. Reply:

    I knew some strawman would bring up Altamont. It would save $10 billion? Why not make it $100 billion since you’re throwing numbers out of your rear (LOL).

    Clem Reply:

    It’s no strawman– the same logic that favors Tejon/Grapevine (fewer route miles, faster trips, lower cost) will eventually be applied to the Pacheco/Altamont question. Some day, somebody will realize that phase 2 isn’t just a dotted line on a map and that a quaint conurbation of THREE million people at the northern end of the valley can be served more cheaply, much faster and much sooner via Altamont.

    Don’t take it from a few cranky blog commenters… let the laws of finance and cost/benefit run their due course, as we are about to observe in this first southern California example. It is indeed a delicious spectacle.

    Donk Reply:

    If it actually is $10B cheaper for Altamont, then that decision is also a slam dunk.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, we build to BART in Livermore – then stop.

    Peter Reply:

    What “BART in Livermore” are you referring to? BART to Livermore is even less likely to be built than HSR.

    joe Reply:

    The Leader advocates an alignment over Altamont and connect HSR to BART at Livermore and thereby servicing the Bay Area at less cost – seriously.

    Probably also less costly to built to Sacramento – from an Altamont alignment .. or some other out-of-scope benefit I’m not aware of.

    Joey Reply:

    Given the CHSRA’s current pricing, the track from Chowchilla to Manteca could cut $4 billion off of Phase 2 if Altamont were chosen. You also avoid building the Altamont commuter overlay, which could vary from a couple of billion for reasonable upgrades to several billion for the envisioned 150mph overlay, and you avoid having to build dedicated track and costly curve realignments to speed up the CC (and that’s assuming that you don’t want to do anything about basket-case speeds between Oakland and SJ). Maybe you can subtract a few billion for BART to Livermore (which only makes sense with Phase 0 Altamont), and $10 billion seems like a reasonable estimate, though you could go higher or lower depending on the specifics.

    For reference, I am assuming that Phase 1 Pacheco and Phase 1 Altamont (SJ and SF via Dumbarton) are about equal in price, which is supported by the CHSRA’s own analysis.

    Clem Reply:

    Joey’s right on the money!

    synonymouse Reply:

    I do not how it is possible for the CHSRA to not revisit Altamont. They already came out and said it is their legal responsibility to locate the best alternative.

    Clem is using the right adjective – gerrymandered. It is patently unethical, as well as bad business practice, to screw the State to benefit two pets. In the CHSRA’s tale of two cities(SJ & LA) it is the best of times for those 2 and the worst of times for everybody else.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Speaking of stupidity..

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Yeah we save $10 billion on HSR and then end up spending another $20 billion on BART ring the bay plus another transbay tube.

    The only place you want BART and HSR to compete for ridership is on the Peninsula because that is where you are most likely to find people using both systems for purposes other than commuting (SFO, Palo Alto, San Francisco etc.) If everyone had to take BART to get to HSR in the Bay Area…that’s a death wish for freeway medians everywhere….

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Was this revealed to you in a vision?

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    No mind altering substances here, Richard:

    If you stopped HSR at Livermore and/or Palmdale and declared victory you would be making a tactical error on the scale of Valerian in A.D. 376.

    You know why….because there’s no Cal Train service to Livermore. Now you have to build the Quentin Kopp Memorial Viaduct all the way around the Bay and Beyond(tm) because everyone will need to get onto BART to connect to HSR. This include people transferring from SFO. Tracy would want BART, Cloverdale would want it. You would have seven-eight-nine million mouths all feeding at the same trough.

    Instead of blowing up the Death Star, you would be putting a forcefield around it.

    Ditto for Southern California. If you stop in Palmdale, you are ceding control to Metro for ever and ever and ever.

    Joey Reply:

    No one is suggesting that we stop at Livermore permanently. It simply makes a reasonable place to end the initial segment as phased construction is unavoidable. An indirect connection to SF would generate a lot more ridership a lot sooner than starting in the CV.

    Clem Reply:

    BART ringed the Bay? Then run HSR across the Dumbarton, up 101 to SFO, and then join the abandoned bayshore cutoff… shazam!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Right on, Clem.

    Truth is I think BART has already won the Ring the Bay Battle what with MTC piling on board. Too bad, as Caltrain is a much better tech. But going up against BART is famously like taking on Intel – many have tried and many have died.

    Clem do you know more details about the several feasible alignments thru Tejon PB has identified? Don’t want to be a wise ass, but isn’t it interesting that only a little while ago we were told only one existed, and then just and only maybe.

    Joey Reply:

    I used to believe that BART wanted to ring the bay, but planned track geometry at Santa Clara suggests otherwise. My guess is that it was on their radar when they did SFO but isn’t anymore.

    Joey Reply:

    Under any reasonable plan most of the Bayshore Cutoff (at least the difficult parts) should be just two tracks anyway.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m pretty sure Richard doesn’t think HSR should stop at Livermore. It’s cheaper because Altamont/Dumbarton is about even with Pacheco on Phase 1 cost and is then much cheaper in Phase 2 when it’s time to connect to Sac.

    joe Reply:

    I’m pretty sure that’s where it will stop if designed to give, what? “80% of the benefit with 20% of the cost” or whatever moniker was assigned to that project killing side-show.

    We can’t take a 100ft swath of farmland without a lawsuit but a new HSR capable bridge over NIMBYs in the East Bay the bay to the Pennisula is somehow cheaper and less controversial.

    Belmont would sue. Not all of NIMBY San Mateo is placated by Altamont.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, tunnel, not necessarily bridge. (Remember, it’s been geologically studied because of the water tunnel.)

    Second, the reason to bag Pacheco is not that PAMPA is whining about it. As far as I care they can bulldoze everything south of San Francisco except for the immediate Stanford campus. It’s that Altamont is technically better given that Sacramento exists.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The biggie comes from not shovelling $8-10 billion at PBQD and Special Friends to build a separate and redundant 1960-subway-technology rail line from Fremont to Santa Clara via the San José (Capital of Silicon Valley) Flea Market.

    Milpitas: it’s not just a river in Egypt. Or something like that.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    As opposed to VTA’s turn of the century technology streetcars?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    As opposed to an HSR line from Fremont to San Jose that could be used by commuter trains.

    There’s already precedent for using new HSR ROW for commuter rail – namely, the Tohoku Shinkansen alignment is also used for the Saikyo Line between Akabane and Omiya, as a mitigation built by JNR to mollify community opposition to the Shinkansen. The lines run in parallel rather than sharing track, but that’s because in Japan the Shinkansen runs on a separate gauge, and on top of that there’s too much traffic on both lines to permit mixed traffic, neither of which is the case in California.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    You are going to connect the Bay Area’s most populous County and City to CAHSR by CalTrain and Capital Corridor trains that will somehow be unmolested by HSR using their right of ways?

    Let me guess, we bypass all of the Central Valley and allow connecting service on the San Joaquin?

    Even if Altamont and Tejon were the alignments…BART is still going to ring the bay and …well something is going to happen in Southern California.

    Peter Reply:

    The Nuremburg-Ingolstadt Neubaustrecke is also an example of brand new HSR ROW used by commuter trains…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You are going to connect the Bay Area’s most populous County and City to CAHSR by CalTrain and Capital Corridor trains that will somehow be unmolested by HSR using their right of ways?


    Alon Levy Reply:

    You are going to connect the Bay Area’s most populous County and City to CAHSR by CalTrain and Capital Corridor trains that will somehow be unmolested by HSR using their right of ways?

    Let me guess, we bypass all of the Central Valley and allow connecting service on the San Joaquin?

    Jesus Christ, when I detail a precedent for what I’m proposing, can you actually check what the precedent is before thinking I hold a let-them-transfer-to-Caltrain view?

    To clarify, what’s happening between Tokyo and Omiya is as follows: the Tohoku Shinkansen splits from the Tohoku Main Line near Akabane, and goes to Omiya on a separate alignment. On the same alignment, a new commuter line, the Saikyo Line, provides service to Akabane, and then proceeds south to Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya on the former Yamanote freight line. What I’m proposing is that, if Altamont/Dumbarton is desired and cutting out the sprawl hell that’s San Jose is not an option, then HSR trains should reach San Jose on a new line, to be used by both modern commuter trains and HSR. This obviates the need for BART to SJ, which is one of the reasons Pacheco was selected.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Oh no,

    I don’t think you were proposing a let-them-eat-Caltrain solution.

    I meant:

    If you construct Altamont to Dumbarton, the only real loser in that mix is Santa Clara County and San Jose’… You could of course years after getting capital from operational revenues build the extension you are talking about…but you are still putting it in the hands of the JPAs that own those right of ways….by the way they are different JPAs who don’t necessarily feel the need to help each other.

    That’s a bailing wire solution for San Jose, which opens the door to VTA filling in the gap. (Or trying to)

    I know this idea isn’t muy popular, but I think there’s probably a way to fuse HSR and BART using the CalTrain right of way. Even though I realize the voltages are not the same, I imagine somesort of converter could split the current and then allow BART to run on top and HSR below. (This would only need to be done between Milbrae and Santa Clara of course).

    Joey Reply:

    There is no reason to run BART anywhere south of Millbrae or Santa Clara, given that you could run off-the-shelf, relatively inexpensive, HSR-compatible, modern commuter rail instead. This is mostly for reasons other than technical incompatibility but just because I can: You seem to be aware that HSR and BART have differing track gauges and power voltages/delivery methods, but you seem to be neglecting the fact that BART also has 100% unique signaling, loading gauge (matters for platforms even if you aren’t stopping), and platform height, not to mention that anything non UIC-compliant (BART) is forbidden under CalTrain’s waiver and that is not likely to change.

    Joey Reply:

    Fremont, I meant south of Fremont.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry about the outburst.

    But, I only know of one place in the world where they’re contemplating a decked commuter line, and that’s in Central Tokyo, where there’s no room for widening the ROW by two extra tracks, and even then the double-decked length is 1.3 kilometers. The Peninsula, where there’s room for four tracks for nearly the entire corridor, isn’t in the same situation.

    The base Altamont alternative includes both SF and SJ. As far as I’m concerned, if nothing is built to SJ, it’s a good thing; SJ is a wasteland that needs way too much sprawl repair before any transit can succeed there. But if SJ is included, there’s nothing wrong with hosting some commuter trains on the high-speed track.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    “SJ is a wasteland”

    Oh no, that’s Alviso.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh no, that’s Alviso.

    You mean that ancient alignment that the CC trains go through? No one in their right mind would build a new line through there. Perhaps you’ve heard of Milpitas…

    Tony d. Reply:

    If you really think Altamont (with massive tunneling, property takes and new bay bridge) would be $10 billion less than Pacheco, then I got a bright orange bridge just north of SF to sell yah!

    Joey Reply:

    The CHSRA itself predicted that Phase 1 Altamont (SJ +SF via Dumbarton) and Pacheco would be about equal in cost. The difference is in the additional infrastructure you have to build (or don’t) in each case.

    Donk Reply:

    This argument about having a HSR/Conventional rail corridor replace the BART corridor between Fremont and SJ is pointless. There is no way to stop BART to San Jose. So it is either BART only or both BART and HSR.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Dude that’s like telling people the world is round!!!!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or just BART. If BART is good enough for people in Oakland ( to get to Transbay ) why isn’t BART good enough for people in San Jose ( to get to Fremont )

    Joey Reply:

    The way I see it, the chances of revisiting Altamont and the chances of stopping BART to SJ, however desirable either would be, are both small at this point. But if we’re fighting for one, we might as well fight for the other too.

  8. political_incorrectness
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 23:37

    12 minutes in time savings on express trips makes trips under 4 hours to San Diego feasable. With SFO delays, imagine who you could accquire going to SD. I think definitely the question is, will the smaller capital cost and lower travel times from every other destination create more ridership versus going through Palmdale? You would lose the Palmdale-SF travel market since they would pay higher fares than the Palmdale-LA group. I think this leaves some questions of what is the impact on the bottom line and would it cause an increase in potential fares?

    Eric M Reply:

    The only problem that might arise from saving 12 minutes on the Grapevine is the peninsula might say, “since you saved 12 minutes there, you can now run slower trains here and still get 2:40”

  9. JJJ
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 00:18

    Let’s build them both!

    Altamont and Pacheco too. And an under-the bay tunnel.

    And one straight up the coast.

    And one straight up the east side of the sierra nevada.

    The more HSR lines the merrier.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Many a true word is spoken in jest.

    When SNCF was peojecting the HSR from paris tzo the Channel Tunnel they were looking at two variants, an easterly variant through lower Normany, and a western variant through Lille.

    When they picked Lille, the folks along the other line were very disappointd and there were protests. Now, 15 or 20 years later, that other line is also being built.

    Andy M. Reply:

    oops, sorry, I got my East and West mixed. Otherwise the argument stands

    JJJ Reply:

    Not in jest sir, how many highways connect LA to SF? We need as many HSR lines, if not more.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s ridiculous. You’re comparing highways supporting local, regional, and intercity trips to HSLs supporting only intercity trips. You’re also neglecting the fact that a single pair of high-speed tracks has more passenger capacity than 101 and I-5 combined. Under the current scheme we are unlikely to ever have enough traffic to justify more than one.

    joe Reply:

    The regional traffic into/out-of LA and SF came AFTER the highways were built.

    Any how key benefit of HSR that’s proven by controlled study (UK researchers) in German is HSR stations help anchor home values in towns with stations because HSR provided access to more employment opportunities. aka commuting.

    BTW HSR out of Fresno promises to be a shorter trip to the Peninsula than Gilroy/Caltrain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not a net benefit – it’s more likely a movement of benefit from nearby regions not served by HSR to regions served by it. Compare for example the intense development that’s sprouted around most Shinkansen stations with the neutral or negative experience with overall regional development in the Tohoku and Joetsu regions.

    joe Reply:

    I do no know your example.

    You can publish an essay or paper to refute the UK findings about HSR economic benefit in Germany.

    There is not a fixed, static amount of economic activity. HSR does not shift/move/transfer a fixed economic activity away from city X to town Y.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In Japan, it looks like there was.

    Look for the link yourself – I posted it both on my blog and on this blog. I believe on my blog it’s in the post called Every Time You Justify Infrastructure on Competitiveness Grounds, a Kitten Dies. If you can’t find it, I promise I’ll hunt down the link and post it later today.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The detour through Lille was a no-brainer. Its conurbation of over 2 million inhabitants (counting cross-border Belgians) made the stop worthwhile. If you look at the map, you can see it’s just a detour and trains never turn their backs on their destination, as is the case for Palmdale.
    In the nineties, gaining a few minutes between Paris and Calais was unimprtant because Eurostars were terribly slow once they reached England.
    Some think the new direct line should start at Paris CDG airport TGV station and not at Gare du Nord. CDG has 4 runways and could relieve the pressure on Heathrow which has only 2.
    I’m not sure the London airport authorities would relish the idea of St Pancras becoming a terminal of Paris CDG.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If they really want to serve CDG, they could just start the line to Calais north of the LGV Nord/Interconnexion Est merge. Serving only CDG is stupid; Londoners who are willing to travel hours to the airport already have Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton, with shorter and cheaper connections to the Central London train stations.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I personally think the line shouldn’t be built at all. West Picardie just needs better links to the existing line. Unless a new line has a strategic interest I don’t understand. The test will be how much money private companies are ready to invest in it.

    Joey Reply:

    Weren’t they also looking at La Defense, or was that a separate project?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Big business is pushing for it but it remains to be seen whether they are ready to put their money where their mouth is.

  10. Arthur Dent
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 00:53

    “Unfortunately I can’t find the report on the sites of either CARRD or CC-HSR”

    It’s at CARRD, Robert, under Resources”, Progress Reports. It’s filed under July Progress Report, just like the article said.

    My knee-jerk reaction was to follow your lead, but on second thought — shouldn’t you have written that you couldn’t find it on the HSRA’s website? It’s odd that the same people you love to hate so much are the ones you expect to carry the transparency ball.

    Peter Reply:

    They haven’t had ANY of the Progress Reports available on the HSRA’s website.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Thanks for making my point.

    Peter Reply:

    Wait, that’s not true, I just remembered they used to be included as part of the operations committee materials. I’m not sure about them now.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Posted on their website? Where? And why the change in policy? They need to shift their transparency out of reverse gear.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, they were posted on the website. I don’t know why they stopped posting them.

    Nadia Reply:

    You’re right – used to be. Then over a year ago they stopped. We have been hounding them about it, asking for stuff through Public Records Requests but to no avail. We continue to encourage them to put this stuff on their website.

    If people on this website think the Authority ought to post this stuff instead of CARRD – by all means, let them know. While your at it, you might also encourage them to post the Technical Memos (which has been an ongoing struggle that Clem knows well).

    We should NOT be the repository for this kind of information. If they want to improve their image, this is an easy fix.

    Perhaps if they read this blog and hear you echo the sentiment, they’ll listen.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    You have a good memory.

    For a brief period, a slightly altered version was being presented at ops committee meetings. Then last summer it went down to 6 page summary and then ops meetings went to quarterly-ish

    March 2011 report http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/232/21f58cbd-8338-4ce7-8783-9d340aa1b852.pdf

    July 2011 report http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/232/278/0d134405-d762-44fb-b0e4-92b1fa7619a6.pdf

    We have also posted a link to the PB contract if anyone is curious what they are supposed to be doing. http://www.calhsr.com/uncategorized/chsra-program-manager-progress-reports-through-july-2011-now-available/

    If you think the Authority should post this information on their site, tell them http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/contact.aspx

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, I just saw it. Either it wasn’t there yesterday, or it was there but I misread “2011” as “2010” and thought CARRD hadn’t bothered updating that section for a while.

    Personally, I looked through the CAHSR website first. But yeah, it makes sense given what we know of the HSRA’s machinations that it’ll only be available on CARRD’s website.

    William Reply:

    No, I don’t think they should give progress reports to anyone outside of the agency. Public should get info from the board meetings and public work-group meetings.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    California law disagrees with you.

    The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No, I don’t think they should give progress reports to anyone outside of the agency. Public should get info from the board meetings and public work-group meetings.

    Your Public Comment is acknowledged, Mr Blackwell.

    Moving on to Agenda Item 2: Authorizing the Executive Director to enter into contracts and disburse funds as he chooses, for a time period to be determined? Roll call? The motion passes unanimously.

    Next item: Motion to adjourn. Objections? Unanimous. The next meeting to be held at a time and date of the Chair’s choosing. or as requested by the Executive Director. Thank you for your attendance.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 03:44

    News on Federal finance; USDOT in defensive mode, distributing available money as quickly as possible to avoid a hostile Congress from taking it back; construction actually under way for semi-fast track in Illinois:




    Check out the comments on the last one; California has at least a couple of supporters in Illinois.

    VBobier Reply:

    Allies are always welcome.

  12. Risenmessiah
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 08:05

    Robert took the bait on this article and here’s why:

    Bakersfield doesn’t think the downtown station is worth it. Unlike the rest of the Central Valley, they make more on oil and water banking(pistachios). They don’t really care about anything except expanding the Tehachapi Loop with federal support. So when they leak data that suggest the Grapevine is substantially cheaper and doesn’t threaten downtown or their Loop…well there you go.

    One thing that synonymous and company always ignore is that having HSR and the I-5 are parallel heightens the risk that a big snowstorm could paralyze travel. The elevation of the Tejon Pass is higher (and for a longer period of time) than Tehachapi. Now of course, supposedly HSR will bypass all this in a tunnel…but that would be like a Mont-Blanc sized tunnel I would think and not save 4 billion…

    LA Metro, meanwhile, is going to not use as much of its sales tax monies on the project if the Grapevine is selected. And one would bet they will make sure that 4 billion savings vanishes when there is no money for Burbank’s station or catenary south of Union Station. Most of the Bay Area-based posters forget: there’s no BART or MTC like organization in Southern California. It’s the equivalent of Muni uber alles…

    Moreover, you can predictably bet that this leak happened because the federal loan guarantee is probably going to be released soon for Desert Xpress.

    So go ahead take the bait and your eye off the ball. The Californian, Metro, and PB all know what they are doing. And yes, I have noticed CARRD hasn’t seized on this like dog’s rubber chew toy yet….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Bleh. Too many people talk about redundancy where they shouldn’t. The best-run HSR lines in the world are not redundant. On the contrary, they’re full of single points of failure. They just maintain the tracks and the infrastructure really well to avoid service outages. JR Central is seeking an alternative to the Tokaido Shinkansen, but that’s after 50 years of operation, is only going to open in 15 years, and is required for speed and capacity and not just redundancy. Elsewhere, there are no plans to introduce alignment redundancy to any other Shinkansen lines.

    LA Metro is not doing anything to help CAHSR through Palmdale, either. 30/10 includes nothing that feeds Burbank or Sylmar, even though Burbank is the natural terminus of the Orange Line. Nor does it have anything approaching $4 billion to spend on HSR; it’s saving extra money for additional lines like the LA-Santa Ana interurban.

    And Desert Xpress can use Cajon. Not as nice for Bay Area-Vegas access, but better for San Diego-Vegas and Inland Empire-Vegas.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I’m not talking about redundancy. I’m talking about the fact that it’s going to be one costly tunnel if you want to prevent snow delays through Grapevine.

    Secondly, you can well imagine that 30/10 hasn’t happened yet because there’s going to be some provision about how local sales tax dollars should and can be used on HSR. By starting the project in Fresno, it’s the worst nightmare for MTC and Metro because Fresno has no rail maintenance costs and will gladly drop money into the project. And as long as Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader, I’m going to guess 30/10 does not happen without the Palmdale alignment…

    And as far as Cajon goes: BNSF cannot give that up. It is the single most important choke point for them, and even so, it’s vulnerable to snow too. You would have to doubleback slightly and even then it makes great access for the Inland Empire (with 4 million people) and makes crappier access for Los Angeles and Orange County (13 million people).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’d think that trains don’t run punctually above-ground in snowy areas

    Anyway, do you actually know that Reid isn’t going to allow 30/10 unless he gets the Tehachapis? Has he made any quid pro quo statements? Has the loan stalled in the Senate while going forward elsewhere? In other words, do you know something I don’t, or are you just hoping that some power broker will step in and demand what you want?

    Finally, Cajon can be tunneled. And, going by highway distance, it’s a little shorter from LAUS than the Tehachapis; the breakeven point on distance is around Burbank.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Obviously HSR run in snowy areas…the question is does a main line run through a remote area that could receive enough snowfall that it takes a day or so to clear? That’s why the Grapevine gets closed. It’s not because the snowfall is impossible to drive in, it’s that it can get a lot of it at once and then it is a long time before plows can get there.

    The issue with Reid is that DX wants a federal loan guarantee to begin construction. Metro wants federal loans to begin construction. Given that Reid is the Joe Biden of the Western United States, the third Senator from California…what do you think he wants?

    Cajon…tunneled? I thought this was about saving money?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, it does. Niigata is one of the snowiest places in the world. The mountain passes used by the Shinkansen lines are also very snowy, and occasionally snow leads to major delays. (Before you crow about how it proves that redundancy is required, check the average lateness of the Tokaido Shinkansen.)

    DX and the LACMTA both want federal loans, but from different sources. DX is seeking them from the FRA, which is unavailable to Metro. If there’s an infrastructure bank then they’ll both be competing for funds. But whatever happens, in what way does Reid have power over 30/10?

    And Cajon would cost money to tunnel under, but the $4 billion in savings could pay for it. (To say nothing of the fact that Victorville-Palmdale is at a minimum about $1.5 billion.)

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    To answer your question about Reid:

    It is usually not a good idea to go against the Senate Majority Leader, ever.

    But more to your implied question…the problem with 30/10 is that it is not viewed favorably in non-urban areas and Los Angeles’ political representation in Washington is going down not up. Moreover, there aren’t that many areas where a 30/10 will work.

    Yet, if the 30/10 idea was expanded to include non-urban ones in “purple states” you bet the idea would gain currency. The reason it hasn’t is simple: rural Democrats are dying off and no one in L.A.’s delegation wants to get thrown out of the treehouse by suggesting they split the baby.

    The Senate however, has Jon Tester, Bill Nelson, Claire McCaskill et. al who can’t appear to be currying too much favor with the urban bloc and need a good example of the idea’s benefits for their constituents too. Enter Desert Xpress….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’re not going against the Senate Majority Leader. He’s said nothing about 30/10, CAHSR, or anything else you’ve mentioned.

    The last three paragraphs are your own speculation for how LA could try to leverage support for 30/10 with Desert Xpress. Meh. Reid isn’t especially popular, and if he’d had any power over CAHSR, he’d have used it to fund Desert Xpress already, and the Senate would’ve included more than $100 million for HSR in FY 2012.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    It’s not exactly speculation.

    The Senate is dominated by smaller states who tend to have very um, parochial tastes. 30/10 will only apply to a few states as Villaragoisa envisioned it. However, if there’s a way to make it appeal more broadly, it’s got more juice. The Republicans however, aren’t against the idea of infrastructure bank officially, they just want states to do it.

    It’s crucial to note that HSR and rail travel ended up in the culture wars because in every state in the Union has people that drive or fly. And infrastructure projects for that stuff flies through. It’s rail that (for good reason) tends to be concentrated in dense, urban locales that makes it a hard target.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, it’s exactly speculation: “if there’s a way to make it appeal more broadly,” plus the other embedded if that makes DX a broader appeal. I’m still not seeing it, sorry.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Tejon is LA’s Los Banos or Palmdale is LA’s Altamont…..

    Joey Reply:

    Palmdale might actually generate ridership. Los Baños generates zero.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wait until the developers are done with it.

    joe Reply:

    Thank goodness we can maintain and repair a system so we don’t need redundancy but what about the inevitable earthquake in LA near the awesomely maintained HSR line?

    Put another way – I am not impressed with single point of failure systems which often fail to account for confounding events like earthquakes with tsunami and widespread, term disruptions. No, the fact they don’t think redundancy is necessary isn’t a design feature, it’s probably based in exceptionalism and arrogance.

    Who could have thought they’d need long term backup power in that not-so-unlikely circumstance?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When the Big One hits, if the biggest concern is HSR traffic to and from San Francisco then it’ll be a monument to the success of American earthquake engineering over the past 40-50 years. In Japan when they had the earthquake, Shinkansen service to Tokyo was far from the biggest priority; try a nuclear disaster.

    James in PA Reply:

    If the tunnel near Gorman is sliced by the fault, stop the trains in Grapevine and bus the passengers across to a train waiting in Santa Clarita. The cost of a continental plate crushing a rail line is what, a 30 minute bus ride while the line is rebuilt for a few years? If we are going to live on a fault line, we will also have to live with occasional inconveniences.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Previous Grapevine route alternatives all included a downtown Bakerfield station. I would assume that was still part of this new Grapevine study unless there is a document stating otherwise.

    The previous Grapevine routes went thru downtown Bakersfield just like Tehachapi.

    The previous alternatives then curved in east Bakersfield to follow Highway 184 to Wheeler Ridge and then over the Grapevine via alignments near I-5 or the California Aqueduct.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, a downtown Bakersfield station is going to be included, without a doubt.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    And how, pray tell, does that save $4 billion? I know what the possible answer is, but that alignment is not what people think of when they think of the Grapevine. That would require having the right of way slide back from east to right before descending into L.A. Otherwise, you would bisect Santa Clarita.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I don’t know for sure but I believe the 4 billion is even if you go through downtown. Number could be very different if you had express trains go directly south from wasco/shaftner and local trains use existing trackage.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In order to achieve 3.5% Tejon will be tunneled. We have to assume the CHSRA is already including the costs of the bores in its comparative estimates. So most of the higher elevations would be covered and sheds are always a possibility in daylighted areas.

    I believe the absolute height of the two passes is quite similar. Tehacahapi is to the east and presumably a little colder and is definitely more remote. The longer the route the greater the exposure to dangers such as fires. That would favor Tejon as well as being closer to firefighting resources.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Using Google Earth, I estimate a tunnel through Tejon is 50 miles long. A similar option for Tehachapi is more like 25 miles. The longest railway tunnels on earth are only beginning to approach 35 miles in length. And they are associated with underwater construction so far, like the Chunnel.

    And the Gotthard Tunnel under construction, which will be opened in 2016 and would be 35 miles long…is approaching $10 billion in cost.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nobody is discussing a single Tejon base tunnel, except Synon. The Tejon option that PB studied involves 3.5% grades and a similar tunnel length to the Tehachapis.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Quantm route envisions 2 significant tunnels. I would have to assume this option is on the CHSRA short list.

    Two other advantages of Tejon. It is more versatile in that it can proceed north equally well via I-5 or 99. Secondly it has resale value and is thus a less risky undertaking. I suggest both class ones would be interested in it. Another route into LA is always a desirable acquisition. It is possible to live with grades when a lot shorter is factored in. Thus Donner over Feather River.

    I suggest that ultimately the construction costs might surprise and come in cheaper. This is a high prestige project, practically right in LA, and the heavy hitters should come out for this one.

    I wonder if they would split up the tunnels into separate contracts or keep them as one?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If they electrify and get distributed traction so that they can climb the grades, maybe. But in that world there wouldn’t be any need for HSR – people would just ride fast unicorns everywhere.

    Joey Reply:

    Even with the 2% option the longest tunnel is about 25 miles with Tejon (with a few shorter tunnels of course). Tehachapi gravitates more toward more, shorter tunnels with the longest being about 8 or 9 miles.

    Clem Reply:

    Nothing like a fact-free discussion!

    The longest tunnel over the Grapevine, per the Quantm study from 2005, is 6 miles. All the tunnels across the Grapevine add up to 18 miles. The new and unpublished Quantm study is presumably even better than this because they actually took an honest look at this option rather than finding a way to eliminate the alternative as they did in 2005.

    As a comparison, back in 2005 we had:
    Grapevine: 18 miles of tunnel
    SR58 – Palmdale – Soledad Canyon: 10 miles of tunnel
    SR58 – Palmdale – SR14: 13.5 miles of tunnel

    That was before NIMBY explosions that added more tunnels to the Palmdale route. It’s very easy to imagine that Palmdale now has more tunnel miles planned than the Grapevine.

    BTW – Pacheco has 5 miles of tunnel, vs. SETEC Altamont 8.3 miles

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Where do you get Pacheco at only 5 miles?

    Clem Reply:

    From the Quantm 2005 study referenced above. I imagine you have a better number from the near-decade since then? I may have got it wrong.

    Clem Reply:

    From the 2010 Quantm study of Pacheco (PDF page 75):

    Pacheco refined program alignment: 7 tunnels, total 8.8 miles, longest 4.33 miles
    Pacheco close-to-152 alignment: 7 tunnels, total 8 miles, longest 4.33 miles

    So in summary, Pacheco and Altamont have about the same amount of tunneling (between 8 and 9 miles) and the same longest tunnel length (a bit over 4 miles)

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Note the sentence” will require extensive building in Castaic Lake Floodplain…Yeah um…build the train on the replacement to the St. Francis Canyon Dam that flooded L.A. in 1928…. But we get two reasonable sized tunnels!!!

    Clem Reply:

    having HSR and the I-5 are parallel heightens the risk that a big snowstorm could paralyze travel

    I-5 is typically paralyzed because of blowing snow, low visibility and slick pavement. None of these factors will bother a high-speed train one bit. The Grapevine is no Donner pass!

  13. morris brown
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 08:22

    New Poll show that

    62.4% would vote to stop California’s high speed rail (HSR) project


    California Voters Disapprove of How Sacramento Spend Their Tax Dollars, Voters Sour on High-Speed Rail

    Our recent research revealed that of California voters, a sizable majority (66.4%) of Californians disapproves of the way that California’s state government spends their tax dollars.

    When asked how they would prefer that state government spending was prioritized given limited state funds, voters overwhelmingly selected Education, Public Safety and Health/Social Services. High-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco ranks last.

    There is plenty of detail on this poll, which clearly shows that the project should be killed and killed now. It is veryin interesting to note, that of those polled, those who knew the most were the most opposed to the project.

    The full analysis is at:


    Robert keeps pointing to a Feb. “push” poll” paid for by the CHSRA, that showed a 70% favorable response to the public. This poll say over 60% want it stopped.

    Peter Reply:

    What else do you expect from a Republican pollster and political consultant?

    trentbridge Reply:

    It’s a really pathetic poll. The leading questons are:

    1) In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way that California’s state government spends your tax dollars?
    2) Question: As you may know, the State of California faces a severe budget deficit. Legislators in Sacramento are making difficult decisions about how to spend limited funds. If you had to prioritize spending for the State of California, which of the following expenditures would
    you say are the three most important? Pick three.

    So the people polled are “reminded” that tax dollars are involved and then told that California has a severe budget crisis and has limited funds to spend. Talk about poisoning the well.

    Whoever paid for thispoll made it very clear what result they wanted.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Speaking of strawmen..wont this guy ever give up with his anti-HSR bull shit?

    J. Wong Reply:

    No, probably not even when we’re taking the Bullet to LA if he doesn’t keel over first.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “The more they know about HSR, the more they oppose it”.
    Is it “the more they know” or “the more they think they know”?
    Of course, this poll is a caricature. It could be translated as:
    “Do you want HSR even if it means your children will have no teachers, old people will die unattended and law and order can’t be enforced?”
    Still, the mere fact that this kind of poll is possible shows there is a big PR problem with CHSRA. I even think that if SNCF had had such a crappy PR policy the TGV would never have been built.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Probolsky poll had 62.4% vote Yes in answer to their question. This is how the question was phrased.

    Question: Voters passed Proposition 1A in November 2008, authorizing the State to issue new debt in the form of bonds, up to nine billion dollars to help finance high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. When the State takes on bond debt, it can cost up to double the borrowed amount in interest and principal to pay it back. The Proposition required that the bond funds must be matched by funds from the Federal Government or private sources before they can be issued. So far, the Federal government has committed three billion dollars, so the State can issue an equal amount of bonds for high-speed rail. The original construction cost estimates have doubled from 33 billion dollars to 66 billion dollars. With only six billion dollars committed, the project faces at least a 60 billion dollar shortfall. If an election were held today to stop the proposed high speed rail project in California, would you vote yes, in favor of stopping California’s high speed rail project or no, against stopping California’s high speed rail project?

    So the question was not simply to ask if the respondent was opposed but instead carefully phrased to emphasize negatives in order to obtain the response desired.

    Mike Reply:

    Exactly. It would be quite interesting to know who paid for this poll. Too bad that reporters on the HSR beat are only interested in writing stories that spank the HSR Authority — the fact that some HSR opponent spent big money to get a statewide poll showing big opposition to HSR would be an interesting opening to an article about the network of anti-HSR organizations in California and their various motivations.

  14. Ben
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 13:35

    Gordon Gekko/Mitt Romney is just bitter because you can’t strap your dog to the roof of an Amtrak car.

    1) Amtrak’s ridership is nearly 6% higher in 2011 vs. 2010. Amtrak has been setting ridership records every month for the past two years.
    2) Americans are driving less. Vehicle miles traveled has decreaesd by almost 1.5% this year.
    3) Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is a profitable route. How much profit has the Beltway earned residents of Maryland/Virginia? The highway trust fund has needed bailouts of $7B – $8B each year for the past four years.
    4) As Sen. Lautenberg pointed out, last year we’ve spend more federal money on highways than we’ve spent on Amtrak in its entire 40 year history.
    5) We spend over $300B on foreign oil every single year. Passenger vehicles are responsible for 60% of our oil consumption. Intercity passenger rail is a way to reduce the hundreds of billions of dollars we give to petro-dictators each year.
    6) Highway congestion costs the US economy $100B each year, or approximately $750 for every US commuter (http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/184105-report-traffic-congestion-costs-billions-weighs-on-the-economic-recovery ).

    Romney: Amtrak a ‘classic example’ of unnecessary government spending

    By Keith Laing – 09/29/11 11:37 AM ET
    The Hill


    The GOP presidential candidate says Amtrak should be privatized to save taxpayer money.

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday that the federal government could rein in spending if the national passenger rail service, Amtrak, was not national anymore.

    Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, penned an op-ed Thursday in the New Hampshire Union Leader laying out solutions for controlling federal spending, which he wrote “has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history” under President Obama. New Hampshire, of course, holds a crucial early primary that Romney hopes to win.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Amtrak and the Post Office: the two most annoying creatures to the business-class Republican.

  15. William
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 16:30

    One question about the terminology: Is “Grapevine” the description for the whole mountain pass that I-5 takes through the Tehachapi mountains, or just the South Climb from the LA Valley? What about the Tejon pass, is it just the North climb from Central Valley?

    Clarifying these terminologies have some importance in discussing the alternatives, as CAHSR had studied a route that follows I-5 on the North climb, but switched to CA-138 to reach Palmdale.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    The option you mentioned is usually embraced by some because it would include a divergent route through Palmdale.

    It is true however that the Grapevine itself isn’t fifty miles long but by car the span of high elevation is almost that long….

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Er “The option you mentioned is usually NOT embraced”… sorry

    Joey Reply:

    When people here talk about routing HSR via the “Grapevine” or “Tejon” they are usually talking about the entire route, not just the portions through those particular geographic features. And I’m pretty sure no one has cared about the hybrid route for a long time.

  16. trentbridge
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 18:27

    From the BBC News:

    French President Nicholas Sarkozy is in Morocco to oversee the start of construction on a new TGV high-speed rail link. The line will connect Casablanca with Rabat and Tangiers.

    The agreement between France and Morocco to build the line was signed during Mr Sarkozy’s first state visit to the country in October 2007.

    The project’s budget is estimated to be $4bn (£2.5bn) and the trains are due to start running by 2015.

    The Moroccan government says the project will further enhance economic relations between the two countries. Officials also hope the 350km (219-mile) rail link will boost infrastructure.


    Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express.
    Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express,
    they’re taking me to Marrakesh.
    All aboard the train.
    All aboard the train.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    It was also planned to power the line with solar electricity but this will have to wait. Not for technical reasons but because of the Polisario front and the presence of Al Qaeda in the desert. The planned solar plant would have a huge footprint and guarding it would require an army.

  17. Andrew
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 19:00

    I’m all for I-99 and Pacheco and other indirect routes needed for connecting more Californians and making the whole system as convenient as possible. Nevertheless, the Antelope Valley detour is unjustifiable. Serve AV with a decent-speed commuter line; people making long-distance trips can easily transfer at the intersection with HSR. The Palmdale hsr loop is an extravagance that delays other folks all up and down the line, and will put San Diego out of hsr reach for many people up north. Moreover, Bakersfield-LA via Tejon strikes me as an ideal IOS. As for the DX piggyback, this is a non-issue; DX connects much better via Cajon, as Walter and others have said. In any case, the DX is not in the interests of Californians in the first place, and we should not make any sacrifices for its sake.

    Joey Reply:

    Pacheco is in fact more direct if you live in SJ. For SF it doesn’t matter. And how exactly do you count that as “serving more people”? For Pacheco you get Gilroy, the Monterey Peninsula (sorta, though it’s pretty far from the station), and maybe the lower peninsula (though all indications are that the station will be RWC anyway). For Altamont you get the Tri-Valley area and nearly the entire lower East Bay, not to mention adding Modesto, Merced, and Tracy to Phase 1.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Tejon saves a whole 12 minutes. Someone in San Diego considering their options to Sacramento is isn’t going to decide that 3:55 is acceptable but 4:07 isn’t and drive instead.

  18. synonymouse
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 22:40

    A consistent minimum savings of 12 minutes 24/7 is significant, especially when you consider the reason for the time savings: much shorter route mileage. Lower initial cost of construction, lower maintenance cost, lower operating expenses. Less wire to energize.

    With I-5 the schedule would be even faster. I suspect 12 minutes is very conservative.

    Ultimately I wonder if the real but tacit issue here is that Tejon real estate is much more valuable than that of Tehachapi and that the hsr is being relegated to the ghetto so to speak. Those Tejon tunnels have considerable intrinsic value, as they are close in to LA, on a major physical bottleneck. They could be diverted to other uses, as obnoxious as that would be to rail people. For instance, as toll truck tunnels. I believe the original Pennsylvania Turnpike did use some converted railroad tunnels. Sounds over the top but my point that these tunnels situated at the Grapevine are much more valuable than in the Tehachapis. Perhaps Disney, the Chandlers, etc. feel the guvmint would be grabbing a considerable asset on the cheap and resent it.

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