Despite “Train-to-Nowhere” Rhetoric, “Valley First” Approach Moving Forward

Dec 26th, 2011 | Posted by

The following article was published in the December issue of Californians For High Speed Rail’s e-newsletter The High-Speed Rail Advocate. While many of the arguments in the article have been expressed previously, given the continuation of the “train to nowhere” rhetoric, it seems timely to summarize many of the benefits of a “valley first” approach and to add some analysis. The entire newsletter is available on our website.

 

With the generally positive reaction to the Draft 2012 Business Plan by transit agencies such as Caltrain and LA Metro, and from Governor Brown and state lawmakers (including project critic Alan Lowenthal), it appears efforts to shift federal HSR funds from the Central Valley to the Bay Area and Los Angeles region are finally over [update: this conclusion may have been a bit premature as there does still appear to be some efforts from leaders in the Los Angeles region].  However project skeptics are still claiming it is a “train to nowhere” and using this argument in attempts to convince lawmakers to send the federal HSR funds back to Washington. Fortunately, Governor Brown continues to express his strong support publicly for moving forward with construction in the Central Valley first.

Given the continued challenges to get sufficient support from stakeholders and lawmakers to move forward with the project in the Central Valley, below is a summary of CA4HSR’s views on merits of the “Valley First” approach.

Technical merits of starting in the Central Valley:

  • Lowest cost to build, so initial pot of money will be stretched the farthest of anywhere in the state, greatly building momentum for the project.
  • “Train to Nowhere” claim is hogwash – Fresno and Bakersfield metropolitan areas are very large. The Hanford station will also serve the rapidly growing Kings/Tulare Counties. As a whole, the Central Valley is project to have 12 million people living there in coming decades. Twelve million people certainly deserve a $6 billion investment in improved passenger rail service, even if it turns out that it is only to speed up Amtrak in the interim until HSR is finished statewide.
  • If HSR construction is slowed for a period of time due to a slowdown in funding, Amtrak’s San Joaquin trains will still be able to utilize the HSR track and significantly speed up service in the Central Valley. Currently, travel in the Central Valley is problematic. Flying is very expensive and Highway 99 is congested and treacherous. By speeding up San Joaquin trains in the interim, travel within the Central Valley will vastly improve. Furthermore, more train travel in the Central Valley will help to reduce air pollution. Even if HSR is put on hold for an extended period of time, something we feel is unlikely to happen, speeding up Amtrak service by 45 minutes is essential for the Central Valley’s economy, environment, and quality of life.
  • Test track, which needs to be built first, must be constructed in the Central Valley because of its flat and straight terrain..

Political merits of starting in the Central Valley:

The Initial Construction Segment will take approximately five years to construct. During that five-year span, when we are spending over $6 billion, there will be massive political impetus to find additional funds from a variety of sources (including private and public). The reason this impetus will be so strong is precisely the fact that the large urban areas (Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento) desperately want to participate in the HSR project, as they understand the myriad of benefits. The political brilliance in starting in the Central Valley is to drive the search for more funding. Once construction starts, California will find ways to continue to construction unabated. In other words, construction will never stop until the system is complete (extensions will likely make it a 40-year process of non-stop construction).

If we start in the large urban areas, politicians will end up spending the first pot of money on commuter rail upgrades. With these projects complete, the powerful urban interests will likely be happy enough to conclude that we got what we wanted, so what is the point of fighting hard for more HSR money. Parochialism reigns in California and you can bet that Central Valley will just be forgotten once Caltrain and Metrolink are upgraded. Conclusion: HSR money gets spent on so-called “HSR preparation” project, but true HSR never shows up.

The same argument can be made (politically speaking) about filling the gap between Palmdale and Bakersfield first. If we use the $6 billion on that project, Amtrak will be happy and we have an improved Amtrak service. Under this scenario, one can envision great pressure to use future funds to upgrade Amtrak rather than extending HSR track. Again, true HSR never materializes.

The point is, if we start either in the urban areas or fill the gap first, HSR can easily be dropped. But if we start in the Central Valley, HSR can’t be easily abandoned. Starting in the Central Valley gets us over 100 miles of true HSR track. Once that happens, there is no going back.

Tags:
  1. synonymouse
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 12:05
    #1

    The Valley First approach is tantamount to constructing the TransContiental Railroad starting at Promontory and proceeding east and west.

    Thoroughly boffo and eccentric therefore quintessentially Moonbeam.

    Honestly you would be better off cutting everybody a welfare check. The money would be more wisely spent.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Even the NdeM had the smarts to start the electrification at Mexico City thence to Queretaro. It was not even orphaned but that did not save it from political change of heart and plan. Borden to Corcoran can be sold to the scrapper just as easily and quickly as the NdeM cantenary and locomotives.

    The class ones won’t touch stilts.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So they started building BART at the Ferry Building and worked their way out to the ‘burbs?

    synonymouse Reply:

    When they did BART they built everywhere, pretty much simultaneously. Too bad they didn’t take 5 to reconsider the stupid gauge decision.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know what order they opened BART in, but rapid transit usually opens line by line, maybe with short outbound extensions thrown in later. The IRT opened the first subway, then the rest of the network (spread from 1918 to 1920), then edges like extending the Corona Line to Flushing and Times Square. The Tokyo subway is an even cleaner example – most lines take just 2-5 years from the first segment to completion. If I’m not mistaken, BART opened the core network first, and only then worked on the extensions one by one.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    http://www.bart.gov/about/history/history.aspx

    Jon Reply:

    The first BART line to open was Richmond to Fremont. An apt comparison with HSR, if you think of the Transbay Tube as being like one of the mountain crossings between the CV and the Bay Area, or between the CV and the LA basin. But it’s also correct to say that BART construction was greatly accelerated compared to HSR and the wait time for service to SF much lower.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    We should distinguish a situation in which the entire system is built out but some parts open earlier, as was the case with the original BART network or the Dual Contracts or (almost) every individual line of the Tokyo subway, and one in which lines are built in phases.

    Brsk Reply:

    Thank you for your honesty Synonymouse. We now know that:
    1. You hate Gov. Brown, and will probably oppose whatever he endorses, and
    2. Think that welfare checks are a far better investment than passenger rail (unless it fits your particular steam foamer fantasy).

    Knowing that, we can judges everything else you say accordingly.

    FWIW, that’s for the heads up that Promontory was the location of a 500,000 person city with good highway access in the 1860’s. I never knew that! So similar, Fresno and Promontory, so similar.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the courts require them to wire, they will be lucky to have enough for Borden to Corcoran. 500,000 cons in Corcoran?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t have an opinion about Brown, but I think that unemployment benefits and a guaranteed minimum income are a better investment than infrastructure, yes. I’d rather live in a country without poverty than in one with good infrastructure for people who are lucky enough to not be in penury.

    (Not that it’s either/or – one requires on the order of $250 billion per year when the economy is not in a recession, the other requires on the order of $50 billion a year – but I just want to make that statement of principle.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of course I agree with Alon (and I’d note that “conservative” Milton Friedman — who most right-wingers don’t actually pay attention to these days — backed a “guaranteed minimum income”).

    Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a country which is getting neither; no infrastructure, poverty everywhere, no health care, etc…. the problem must be considered political, given that practically *everything* is being done wrong, wrong to the point where the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt would shake their heads at the stupidity of our rulers (Republicans especially but also many Democrats). A large part of it is the US Senate, a larger part is the state of the media.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Syn, look at the history of the railroads in England, which all started in the countryside and worked their way TOWARDS London. Or you could look at railroad access to New York City, which worked exactly the same way.

  2. Jack
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 12:24
    #2

    While I strongly supported the LA-Bako section as the first start I understood the EIR was not near being complete. Syn you fail to take into account pressing factors such as the federal gov’t deadline. If your going to build it, you have to start somewhere why not the CV. You bring desperately needed jobs, the lowest amount of opposition (despite was Morris & Pals pay for).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Political decisions can be changed by politicians. That’s their job.

    StevieB Reply:

    In an absolute monarchy political decisions can be changed on the whim of one man in seconds. In our ideologically divided representative democracy political decisions take months, years or even generations. The Central Valley is necessary for a complete system and is the first ready for construction therefore build while politicians decide where and when to fund additional construction.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Who’s going to operate and maintain and secure the orphan trackage? And pay for it?

    And you really don’t think Borden to Corcoran cannot be scrapped, just like the Milwaukee Road, electrification and all?

    And of course will the lackey judiciary bend over so far as to allow no overhead and still be compliant?

    The default presumption is that bids will come in artificially low. What if it goes the other way.

    It is naive to think public opinion can’t turn sour on transit. When they laid Key System tracks on the Bay Bridge did they imagine it would only survive a lousy 20 years>

    It is possible to refocus on the mountain link, CHSRA willing and motivated.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well I guess You’ll be out there with Morris & two pickaxes, all by Yourselves then. When the 1st section of track in the CV is laid, yer both finished, cause nothing will stop HSR then, not even dynamite.

    StevieB Reply:

    In four years when plans for connecting to Southern California are ready then the Central Valley will be completed and ready for testing trains. If the Central Valley segment is not built now then it will be four years of waiting for construction in the Tehachapis with necessary construction north to follow several years later. Your plan is certainly one of years more waiting while nothing to show for it.

    Howard Reply:

    Why can we not all agree that Bakersfield to Los Angeles should be the second construction segment and get to work building the first section between Bakersfield and Merced now, before we lose our funding. If the entire California and Northeast Corridor political leadership and congressional delegations united behind getting more High Speed Rail funding for both corridors, the money could be found for a second segment from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. A Initial Operating Segment between Merced and Los Angeles would be profitable by filling in “the gap” and serving Northern California with a transfer to San Joaquin’s and Altemont Commuter Express in Merced (with trains to Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re missing is that the money that’s going to Fresno-Merced could make the difference between having enough money to get to Sylmar and not having enough money. At the original budget, before the 2012 Business Plan, the project was missing about $4-5 billion in federal money to get to Sylmar, assuming all north-of-Fresno money could be reprogrammed to go south. This happened to be exactly the amount of money in question in one of the failed Obama jobs bill proposals. Of course, with the overrun $5 billion is no longer enough, but then again with the prospective Democratic takeover of the House in 2012 the possible federal funding is higher as well. In other words, being able to cut Merced out of Phase 0, and now also being able to move to Tejon, could make the difference between IOS and no IOS.

    Jon Reply:

    Right now, construction is only funded up to Avenue 17 (I think) in Madera. The section from Avenue 17 to north of Chowchilla cannot be constructed until the San Jose – Central Valley EIR/EIS is complete as the wye decision will be made in that document, and the choice of wye affects the north-south alignment through Chowchilla. You could build from Merced to just north of Chowchillia, but why would you build two disconnected lengths of track? So whether the next construction section is north or south of the current ICS will likely depend on whether the San Jose – Central Valley or the Bakersfield – Palmdale (or Bakersfield – Symlar) EIR/EIS is completed first.

  3. Roger Christensen
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 13:31
    #3

    A very welcome post. Daniel. Attended a family Christmas function in Fresno yesterday that got so heated that I was nearly expelled from the table. My cousin is a right wing trucker who just bought a massive home near the row in Madera Rancho area and it was hard to cool the rhetoric.

    Last week, Daniel, you were seen in a local Fox news clip interspersed between Kevin McCarthy and shots of derailing trains. Pretty gaudy.
    Can’t wait for groundbreaking!

    StevieB Reply:

    How do you make international flights if you live in Fresno?

    JJJ Reply:

    Fresno has an international airport.

    StevieB Reply:

    Fresno (FAT) is an international airport if you are flying to Guadalahara. Suppose you wanted to fly to Europe or Japan.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You can shop around. You can take HSR to Millbrae, hop on a BART shuttle to SFO, and fly from there. You can take HSR to Ontario. Or you can take HSR to LAUS and hop on a timed express regional train to LAX.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You see, this is where your agument fails:

    All one has to do it hop on a turboprop to LAX or SFO. The ticket counter and security lines at FAT are no where near what you will encounter at LAX or SFO. Your bags are checked through so you don’t have to drag them onto the train, then onto ligt rail then into a busy LAX or SFO terminal where 1,000 other poeple are standing in line just to check in. Oh yeah, and then there is the security line as I mentioned.

    Fresno already has better international service than Ontario, so that argument is a bust. Don’t expect Ontario to get more international service because of high speed rail either. International traffic will continue to concentrate at LAX. Fresno in its own right will continue to have expanded service that will within 20 years be equal to or better than what Ontario has today.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Ontario’s decline is probably the single biggest reason to abandon HSR in the Inland Empire and have it stick to the LOSSAN corridor from LA to San Diego. There’s nothing out there.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Except for the 2 million people in San Bernandino County and the 2 million people in Riverside County.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Those turboprop flights are going to get fantastically more expensive. If they even continue. Airlines have been cutting them all over the place, and where they remain they’re single-provider monopolies. The fuel costs alone mean they’re not economical for the airlines most of the time; and the fuel costs are going UP.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Last week, Daniel, you were seen in a local Fox news clip interspersed between Kevin McCarthy and shots of derailing trains. Pretty gaudy.
    Can’t wait for groundbreaking!”

    Sounds like something to see, and good for a laugh! do you have a link?

    morris brown Reply:

    @D. P. Lubic

    “Sounds like something to see, and good for a laugh! do you have a link?”

    Glad to accommodate you

    See:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7oqOGvONTY

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just as I thought–good for a laugh, with the crazy leaning train sequence from “Unstoppable!”

    I don’t bother watching TV (am too poor and too cheap to pay for cable, and can’t get any signal where I am at all), and if this Fox News sequence is any indication, it’s no wonder those who watch this service know less about the world than those who watch no news at all!

    A wag on some website said watching Fox News made you dumb. I didn’t really believe it until I saw this. Maybe the Surgeon General needs to shut the operation down as a public health hazard.

    Seriously, where does Fox News get off calling itself news? Where do they get the gall to call themselves “fair and balanced?” And that nonsense about “killing it in the crib, or keeping it on life support forever?” That’s pure editorializing, doesn’t belong in the news broadcast as such.

    And egads, even Amtrak manages an operating surplus on the Acela, which many people, including some here, suggest is the worst example you could have of high speed service in the world.

    If I were an employee of this service, I’d be embarrassed to admit it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Rx to Morris Brown:

    Complete termination of ingestion of Fox News, to be exchanged for a National Public Radio supplement; primary diet to be technical literature and history on railroads, and a heavy diet of history in general. Recommend also a true study of economics, with heavy seasoning of cost accounting and cash flow, with a strong transportation component. This exercise needed to arrest further brain deterioration.

    VBobier Reply:

    Are ya sure that He won’t have an allergic reaction to this? ;)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sheesh, it gets worse the more I look. . .

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBpZisdm5bo&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GowSyF0G-o&feature=related

    I used to think the talk of Rupert Murdock being dangerous was overly dramatic or something; my opinion has been greatly changed, he is at least as bad as his critics have claimed. . .no honor, no honesty at all, not with this stuff. . .

    VBobier Reply:

    Some videos, Now If only I could get My relatives to look at these and open their eyes, their being lied to and then they spout It’s about Obamas policies ruining, yada, yada, yada…

    3 of them like HSR and 1 does not, the 3 who do like HSR are female, the 1 who doesn’t is male(My Nephew), Their all Republicans, just not informed or willing to think for themselves. I think they take Fox News as gospel for the most part, outside of HSR, which they rode on in Europe, My Nephews a Truck Driver, He’s never been outside of the US, Unlike His 2 Sisters and His Mom.

    Of course right now I’m sick with a cold that My Youngest Niece gave to Me for XMAS, lovely.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ah, that’s bad, but you love her anyway. . .get well.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Maybe point out to them that Fox News lied to them about one thing… and that they should start thinking about whether it’s lying to them about other things too.

    (Because it is.)

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Recommend also a true study of economics, with heavy seasoning of cost accounting and cash flow, with a strong transportation component. This exercise needed to arrest further brain deterioration
    ***********

    Sounds like you should heed your own advice.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “A wag on some website said watching Fox News made you dumb. ”

    There are actually scientific studies proving that watching Fox News is correlated with being more ignorant than not watching any news. Two such studies, I believe. You can find them if you Google.

    Not surprising given that Fox News is actually a disinformation outlet serving the interests of a few 1%ers. (The repeated lies of Fox News are even easier to Google; Media Matters is but one of many places cataloging them.)

    morris brown Reply:

    @Roger Christensen

    Daniel’s 10 seconds on Fox news:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7oqOGvONTY

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    LOL. Straight to HSR homerville.

  4. Alon Levy
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 15:20
    #4

    What you’re missing with your list of advantages is that the purpose of infrastructure is not to build the maximum length of lines on a map (why build CAHSR, anyway, when for the same money we could build in West Texas?). Bakersfield-Merced is a test track for the technology, but it’s not too useful for people who don’t live in Bakersfield, Fresno, or Merced; this is why the administration wanted Orlando Airport-Tampa as the first segment, since it would be used by tourists and showcase the technology to a larger swath of the country.

    Lacking anything with the ratio of tourists-to-population of Florida or Vegas*, California needs to orient its first segment around ridership. And this means LA-Bakersfield, the missing piece in California’s rail network as well as the first intercity segment connecting to California’s biggest city.

    It’s too late to have made the EIR for that go faster than the EIR for the other segments, and the 2012 deadline really is an issue, but California can still plan around LA-Fresno. This means breaking ground on Bakersfield-Fresno, doing the EIR to LA as soon as possible, and then reprogramming money to filling in the gap.

    *Of course there are plenty of tourists in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but also plenty of residents.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    California needs to orient its first segment around ridership. And this means LA-Bakersfield, the missing piece in California’s rail network as well as the first intercity segment connecting to California’s biggest city.

    .

    No, for a couple of reasons:

    1) There is already service on Amtrak from Oakland to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight. Although there might be demand on a L.A. to Bakersfield link it would still be very slow and not help the ridership argument. Fresno and Bakersfield are not next door… A hypothetical one hour ride to Bakersfield from to L.A. still would be be preceded by a two to three hour ride to Fresno. Add in the four hours it takes to reach Oakland and you still have a seven hour journey or so from “Bay to Basin”. Obviously that can be incrementally improved, but the damage to public perception would be huge. Promising high speed rail and giving something akin to the Soviet Union would deflate a lot of enthusiasm.

    2) The earliest track (where designers will make the most mistakes) needs to the easiest to fix. Hence the flat terrain of the CV is nearly perfect for designers because in the event that they do something wrong, they aren’t boring a new hole into the mountain. If anything, the most complicated sections should be done last so that there is enough institutional memory to help reduce costs in those sections….

    Jack Reply:

    I’d like to think that 100B buy us enough research to avoid mistakes during constructions…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Giving the engineers lotsa money did not help BART, probably helped to engender broad gauge.

    Adult supervision required.

    Joey Reply:

    1) The San Joaquin, even with the transfer to a bus in Bakersfield, saves about 4 hours compared to the Coast Starlight (for Bay Area-LA). Plus more than one train per day is much better than just one. Plus there is probably enough of a market for LA-CV that you could start running high-speed trains immediately, rather than having the tracks sit mostly dormant for half a decade.

    2) Building high speed track is a well understood practice if you bother to stick your nose across either ocean. Such “mistakes”don’t happen with minimal competence.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes.

    1. The Coast Starlight takes 12 hours to get to Oakland. 7 hours Bay to Basin, with much better frequency and reliability, is a big improvement – it’s roughly the same average speed as the Regional, or the French express trains that the TGV replaced. It’s better than what you’d get cutting off Bako-Merced, too, since it would eliminate the need for a connecting bus from LA to Bakersfield. On top of that, showing people the difference between high speed (LA-Fresno) and low speed (Fresno-Bay) on the same ride could help create momentum for completing the project, as was the case with the LGV Sud-Est.

    2. The earliest track needs to have the least depreciation. Tunnels are actually better for that than flat track, because they have proportionally less depreciation – civil infrastructure lasts approximately forever, whereas trackbeds, trackage, and system elements depreciate faster. For what it’s worth, the oldest infrastructure on the Tokaido Shinkansen is a few WW2-era tunnels. They didn’t make mistakes then, when the technology was new, and the engineers on CAHSR shouldn’t make mistakes now, when the technology’s been built 40 or so times.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    1. You can’t upgrade LA to Fresno for the amount programmed to Merced – Bakersfield. You might get Bakersfield to Palmdale and complete the missing link…but again that is a waste of money if you trying to showcase speed.

    2. Although I understand the point about depreciation, I would counter that it’s important to have the ability to increase capacity. In that regard, Merced – Fresno is the ideal place to start because you have no idea what ultimate demand will be and when you complete it, you can pretty easily add capacity to match demand on the total system in say 2050.

    I’ll keep on saying it: if you look at BART’s biggest problem it’s that it can’t expand capacity easily because the whole system funnels underneath Oakland. At least in this case, if we keep the “stilts” to a minimum it should be easier to expand as demand warrants.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. You can’t build anything useful for the amount programmed to Merced-Bakersfield. If your belief about the world is that there won’t be more money in 2013, you might as well throw in the towel.

    2. I don’t understand. How is a two-track line from LA to Bakersfield a capacity problem? If what you’re saying is that four tracks will be needed, then ask yourself how come every single HSR line in the world is two-tracked, and only about one and a half have a problem with it.

    BART is neither here nor there. There are plenty of multi-track regional lines, because regional travel sometimes needs all that capacity.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    1. Total speculation on your part. Even if bids come in widely over budget, Fresno can chip in a lot of money through indirect means like paying for grade separations.

    2. You are focusing too much on the track and not enough on technical enhancements. The reason not to build the tunnels and viaducts en masse first is that you learn not only cheaper and more efficient ways to do things over time but also because the design of said tunnel may be obsolete in future years. It’s much cheaper to fix something on open track than inside a tunnel.

    3. Every other country that has HSR has a unitar— just kidding — different population distribution than the US: Taiwan, Japan, Korea, UK, France…Spain…. all have their capital at the head of the transportation network both for political and demographic regions. The US isn’t like that, so high speed rail networks will have more redundancy than what you might see outside the US because travel demand patterns will change over time. Plus, once there is service to Vegas, HSR traffic from the Bay Area will surge through Tehachapi.

    Now I know, you are going to say… you forgot Switzerland and Germany, and China. Given the state of Chinese HSR, I’ll just say that Germany and Switzerland are hybrid systems where HSR shares common track. I don’t think every route HSR uses in those nations is only double tracked.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. What am I totally speculating about? If you interpreted “you can’t build anything useful for the amount” as my suggestion that costs will run over, then try again. I’m not saying that costs will run over, only that the ICS by itself is not a useful train service, and that’s why the IOS is larger.

    2. You misunderstand just how future-proof HSR tunnels can be. Japan’s HSR tunnels need trains with especially modified noses, but that’s purely due to speed increases since the 1960s. The limiting factor to speed on LA-Bakersfield is the grade, not the tunnel profile or the train’s top speed.

    As for cost, generally real costs increase over time rather than decrease. Far from learning to do things better, cities are now spending $250 million per kilometer on simpler subway tunnels than those they built for $150 million per kilometer in the 1970s.

    3. Don’t think of the US as a country; think of it as more like the EU, within which there are multiple countries or blocs of countries. California is more analogous to a country, and is a lot like Japan in that it has a single dominant city, a strong second city, and a population distribution that’s fairly linear. (If you’re uncomfortable admitting LA’s dominance, then think of California as Italy.)

    What you’re trying to say about multi-track legacy routes hosting HSR is neither here nor there. The only person who believes that LA-Bakersfield can be used by non-HSR traffic is Synon, and he too will admit that special construction for that is needed. The studied Tejon alternatives have grades too steep for freight, in order to reduce tunnel length. In its brand-new form and higher speed, LA-Bakersfield is like the German HSR tracks, which are double-tracked just like HSR tracks in other countries.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    1. The ICS is useful for what it will become… a way to leverage BART & ACE expansion.

    2. Yeah, and you don’t think that we will have other adjustments for speed and motion in due time?

    3. You are just making my point more. In France and Japan “all roads lead to Rome” because Tokyo and Paris run the show in every regard. In California, Los Angeles has political heft, but it’s been steadily losing its economic muscle. By 2050, San Francisco will be the undisputed political, economic, and cultural of California again. And this is coming from a born and raised Southern California who lived for nearly a decade in the City of L.A.

    Joey Reply:

    1) BART and ACE? How many commuters do you expect to board at Bakersfield and ride the train for 4 hours to reach SF?

    The ICS has almost zero value by itself. Running a number of otherwise slow FRA runs that could be counted on your fingers is like hammering a nail with a pile driver – the fact remains that the ICS will remain 95% dormant until one of the endpoints is reached.

    2) We are rapidly approaching the upper limit of what is economical with steel-wheel-on-steel-rail technology (and don’t take Chinese concept trains with >200% the power draw of anything else to mean otherwise). Future speed increases are unlikely barring conversion to maglev.

    In any case, where did the idea that we would need to modify this infrastructure at any point in the foreseeable future come from? Is there any precedent whatsoever for this? If there is determined to be some actual chance that speed will increase in the future (which as above I seriously doubt) then all that needs to happen is a minor increase in curve radius – a tunnel is still a tunnel regardless of how fast a train is traveling through it (of course with a sufficient aerodynamic profile).

    3) LA will continue to be the bigger region for quite a while even if trends are changing (and I have no confirmation that they are). If we are looking at where to build first, we are only looking 15 years into the future not 50. That doesn’t change the fact that connecting to either end point would make the infrastructure an order of magnitude more useful until the rest is finished.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The trends aren’t changing; LA is outgrowing the Bay Area. Of course most of the growth is in the Inland Empire sprawl, but it’s still more than the Bay Area is seeing.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    1) BART does not want ACE to go to Bakersfield. That is just hyperbole on your part, Joey. It probably does want to serve Merced and Modesto by cutting off Stockton and using a new ROW through the 120 freeway to link up with Livermore, Fremont, and Santa Clara. The underlying concept is that BART wants more riders and to do that it needs to leverage ACE into something that will drop more riders from there onto its system.

    The ICS will allow a trial run of traffic between Merced and Bakersfield. What it doesn’t do is impinge on Metro or BART’s ability to get more customers. If the line stops in Merced and Bakersfield for a little while, then Metro and the MTC can divy up the rest of the map in the mean time and finish Bay to Basin once their conquest is complete.

    3) The single biggest driver of population growth in the 2010 Census was Hispanic births. Curiously, the one place where that did not occur was Los Angeles. It’s not hard to figure out why: as we get further away from 1986 the number of families enabled by political amnesty decreases. Once it peters out, that’s it for population growth. Los Angeles has nothing other than this to sustain its growth. It’s biggest employers are moving away, and international trade can’t soak up the excess. Don’t get me wrong, L.A.’s not going to blow off the map… but it’s no New York City.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Also, my guess is that BART wants San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Joaquins Counties to join… but only wants Stanislaus and Merced to partner existing members of ACE….

    Joey Reply:

    1) I never meant that BART wanted ACE to Bakersfield. My point was that it’s intercity distance, not regional/commuter (though ACE already carries people way too far for it’s peak only schedule).

    Also what’s this “trial run” business? If all you’ve got to start with is the Central Valley segment, all the service you can justify is a few Amtrak (etc) runs. And if that’s all you can run, then the infrastructure is vastly underutilized and depreciating (not to mention having to carry obese FRA locomotives). If you connect to LA to begin with, you have the demand to run semi-frequent electrified regional services at 200-250 km/h (I agree with Richard – buying very high speed trains should be done as late as possible, and regional trains are useful elsewhere/have high resale value). Leeching ridership off of Metrolink is only a problem if you consider agency turf to be absolute (and this type of turf battle is a problem that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later if we’re ever going to have decent transit).

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You give a bunch of reasons for “no” yet the real reason is to build something in the middle of nowhere then declare “we can’t let all this money go to waste”.

    We get it. Nice try with the lie.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Alon

    Mostly concur but you are going to need that Fresno-Bako money for the mountain crossing.

    Redirecting and “repurposeing” the money is possible if there is the desire.

    VBobier Reply:

    That Won’t happen & You know It syno, Hell would have to freeze over 1st5 & I don’t see that happening, so dream on buddy boy, dream on, cause It ain’t gonna happen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, you’re right. But in light of stimulus deadlines and other political immovable objects, something shovel-ready needs to be built while we’re waiting for further funding in 2013. On top of that, Fresno is much bigger than Merced, so it’s not so bad to connect LA (or even just Santa Clarita) to Fresno in one go.

  5. Carthel Stephens
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 18:26
    #5

    All this bull about the benefits to the central valley is just that. BULL! Your planned route will require most valley residents to travel over 50 miles on these congested surface roads just to go to a station that is using the high speed train. Speeding up Amtrak will not change this. Communities on the train route may reap some increase in income, but as the trains do not spend much time in the station, we will just be funneling the cash travelers may spend to communities at the ends of the routes.

  6. morris brown
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 19:53
    #6

    Gilroy council tried of spending funds on HSR.

    http://www.gilroydispatch.com/news/san_martin_county/article_12e38e88-3030-11e1-935e-0019bb30f31a.html

    Joey Reply:

    It’s understandable that communities are tired of spending their own money to plan things correctly in light of the Authority’s incompetence.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Which of course means we should reward incompitence and continue to spend at will on this incompitence because it means jobs and economic expansion and a cool train.

    What an epic fail.

  7. elportonative77
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 20:04
    #7

    Forty years for one state high speed rail project. Nice, I’ll be in my 60s by the time this is done. Is there any way to speed up construction?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    LOL. You’re kidding right?

  8. morris brown
    Dec 26th, 2011 at 21:24
    #8

    Just out in the LA Times — Apparently Amtrak doesn’t want to use the ICS tracks. A change in their position. If they don’t want them, where is the “independent utility”?

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bullet-train-20111227,0,2904247.story

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Amtrak is just expressing some concerns. Sky is not falling and plenty of time to work out details.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Seems more like an ongoing agency turf battle.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Amtrak is probably frustrated that the Authority is giving them the cold shoulder as far as being the operator of the system. But equally so, I don’t think anyone wants CHSRA to tie their hands so early in the project.

    Still, the attitude toward CalTrans is mystifying. Schwarzenegger was very concerned about the influence of unions, but if CAHSR becomes BART 2.0… then it will be “worse” in that regard than if CalTrans ran it.

    One idea might be to have a “Rail Commission of California” (RCC) that has a board and a President (like the UC system) but individual “chancellors” to run high speed rail, Amtrak California, and cross-county systems like Metrolink and BART).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Arguably, it’s a good thing Amtrak doesn’t want the ICS; if it did, it might try to pull some strings to make sure the rest of the project stalls, since an IOS wouldn’t be open to it.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Good point, Alon. I hadn’t thought of that. Once the “IOS” were built and put into operation, Amtrak would have to go back to its current line. But I think it is the potential for use that matters, not whether Amtrak would actually use it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And, after having put some effort and at least some cash into California’s truncated iteration of hsr Amtrak would understandably want to be in the running for any future full scale operations. This brings up once again the conundrum of the CHSRA’s ultimate management model. Amalgamated and/or TWU want it a big BART belonging to them, not the BLE. They would not like the Caltrain model at all, which was an Amtrak concession until recently.

    I’d really like to see the CHSRA claim one of the class ones would buy the orphaned trackage. But that would just draw more attention to this one huge pr gaffe.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Once the IOS opens Amtrak will be abandon it’s route south of the northern terminus and concentrate it’s efforts on hauling people to the northern terminus from points north of there.

    Joey Reply:

    I am as critical of starting in the CV as the next person, but this proves that, once again, Amtrak has no clue, if they’re really suggesting that faster service, at the expense of stations with less than 100 boardings per day, would actually harm ridership.

    JJJ Reply:

    Ive mentioned this a few times. Amtrak cant use the HSR tracks because they do NOT have stops at places like Wasco and Madera. And if the line is on stills, you cant just do what Amtrak does in Stockton and stop in the middle of the street.

    What I can see, best case scenario, is Amtrak offering the current 6 trains a day via BNSF tracks + new express trains a day, but theres no way theyre abandoning half the stops on the San Joaquin. Those new express trains would have to be funded elsewhere.

    Some of you, like Joey, seem to forget that Amtrak California is about providing inter-city transit to as many places as possible, and that includes servicing 100 riders a day in small towns where Greyhound won’t stop.

    And remember, every 100 people you abandon in Wasco is 100 people not getting on at Emeryville (example) for their return trip.

    We’re talking about a train here, not an airplane. It’s not all about terminus-terminus travel.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You mean CalTrans.

    I would guess all this means is that Fresno to Bakersfield will be a separate rail service and that the San Joaquins will append at Merced until Phase 1 is complete.

    Once we get HSR from LA Union Station to SD I see a similar fate for the Surfliner. It will run from SF to LA along the coast but most trains will turn around before making the full journey: Monterey for SF and Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo for LA….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wasco got 18,044 boardings and alightings last year. That’s a bit under 50 a day. 25 people arriving and 25 people departing. Run a 12 passenger bus three times a day to the Bakersfield HSR station and you have more than enough seats to serve the demand. If you want to do it with a train that’s half a car once a day. But but but you’ll sputter it not just for Wasco it’s for places like Madera that won’t have an HSR stop either. Madera had 20,031 boardings and alightings last year. That’s a bit under 55 a day. Since you can’t board half a passenger lets call it 56. Or 28 passengers arriving and 28 departing. Or dAnother 12 passenger bus to the nearest HSR station takes care of the demand. Add up all the low use stops that won’t have HSR, how many trains a day get filled? Or does the two car train run once a day, half empty?

    JJJ Reply:

    Again, you forget that fact that trains serve local service. Someone going from Wasco to Madera does not want to ride a bus to Bakersfield, a train to Fresno, and then another bus.

    And for those that do want long distance travel, the local San Joaquin allows people from Madera and such to access the HSR they need to reach SF, SD and LA.

    The San Joaquin is not going away.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I thought they were going to Oakland or Sacramento

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Given the already prevalent nature of Amtrak busses in CA, why not simply switch those lower ridership stations to buses? The ridership gains of making San Joaquin service faster than cars, plus the possibility of increased frequency, far outweigh any losses that such a transition would have.

    JJJ Reply:

    Amtrak California is not allowed to run a bus network.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Then run buses not as part of Amtrak California.

    JJJ Reply:

    Can’t do that either. The big bus lobbyists made sure a law was passed banning the state from taking on customers just wanting to use the bus. Cant have the government competing with the always amazing private sector.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Then either let the private operators run buses, or run buses that connect to HSR.

    Serious question: how many of those potential riders in Wasco and Corcoran are traveling to other minor stations, and how many are traveling to points for which HSR will be a serious option, such as the Bay Area?

    JJJ Reply:

    Station pair ridership is important, but always hard to come by online. I don’t know. However, from personal experience, theres a lot of intra-valley travel, as people around here don’t go very far. For some, going to las vegas is the big “leaving California!” trip.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Is this really true? Do you remember name or number or anything salient about legislation so I could find it?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I meant as connecting to HSR stations, like Amtrak already does in CA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If there’s enough room (and friendly regulations) to run regional service, then by all means they can keep local trains on the BNSF line. There’s just no point in running intercity service.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And enough demand. No point in running empty trains around.
    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/CALIFORNIA10.pdf

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    11.2 million “boardings + alightings” per year statewide = 5.6m million passengers a year = ~15k passengers/day = fewer people than use just any half way useful single urban bus line daily.

    Howard Reply:

    ACE could run a limited stop express service on the IOS to Bakersfield from San Jose. The extended ACE service would only have new stops in Modesto, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield. Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno and Kern counties could join the Altemont Commuter Express Joint Powers Authority.

    Joey Reply:

    ACE is funded only by San Joaquin, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties. Running over the Altamont Pass might not be a bad idea, but you picked the wrong organization to run it.

    Howard Reply:

    “Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno and Kern counties could join the Altemont Commuter Express Joint Powers Authority” and fund the extension. Next time please read the entire comment before responding. ACE could also run express Oakland to Bakersfield trains through the Altemont Pass.

    Howard Reply:

    ACE could also run express Sacramento to Bakersfield trains on the IOS. ACE has been wanting to expand to Sacramento and Modesto for a while.

    Joey Reply:

    Sorry about that, but bringing that many counties into a commuter rail JPB to run one intercity run per day just seems like the wrong solution. Especially considering that ACE doesn’t even own any of the tracks it operates on.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    True, but I would be surprised if VTA, BART, Stanislaus, and Merced Counties join ACE.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    wouldn’t

    Peter Reply:

    Umm, if Santa Clara County is part of ACE, then VTA is, too.

    StevieB Reply:

    The important feature of the Amtrak article is in the last paragraph.

    Michael Murray, a spokesman for the federal agency that insisted on a backup plan for the high-speed track, said the state’s proposal meets the requirement.

    Independent utility was required by the federal grant and it has been met. No one wants to run Amtrak on the high speed rail track.

    Alan Reply:

    Another hack job by the Times’ Ralph Vartabedian…obviously Morris’ BFF, but one of the least competent reporters I’ve seen in years.

    The article fails to mention a key point: It’s not Amtrak’s call about whether or not to operate on the ICS. They’re just the contract operator. Caltrans calls the shots.

    It also fails to mention that Fresno and Bakersfield will still be served directly, the Hanford station will be just out of town (and closer to Visalia) and the only station which could lose service–Corcoran–might be accommodated with a temporary station on the ICS.

    jim Reply:

    It’s not Amtrak’s call about whether or not to operate on the ICS. … Caltrans calls the shots.

    And is presumably the ventriloquist.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So you are implying that Caltrans should dump Amtrak in favor of, say, Veolia, if Amtrak won’t shut up and play nice with the LaHood-Brown orphan mini-hsr layout?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe they could take up a collection amongst the Fresno faithful to lease some SMART doodlebugs and run them back and forth between Borden and Corcoran a couple times a day

    synonymouse Reply:

    Public opinion has turned against the CHSRA and hsr has become a laughing stock. Vartabedian is simply cranking out copy that appeals and agrees with the majority readership.

    The CHSRA is its owns worst enemy; it has repeatedly made some exceedingly poor decisions and Borden to Corcoran ranks right up there at the top. They just gifted the opposition with the “nowhere to nowhere” label.

    The mountain crossing is an entirely new rail service. It does not modify or conflict with any existing operations. The hang-up is the CHSRA’s inertia – it needs to get serious and call in our DC congressionals to repurpose the $6bil to Tejon. And certainly look into the possibility of using the tunnels to secure private loans to bolster the funding.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    The more I think about it, the more I think completing the Bakersfield-LA link should have come first. It might not have produced the test track that seems essential if there ever is hsr service in California, but it would certainly have independent utility. It would allow the San Joaquins to run through to LA.

    In fact, it could allow running the Coast Starlight through the valley to LA and possibly shortening that train’s running time considerably. (As for the coastal communities, they could be served by a resurrected Daylight, maybe one with a northern terminus in Emeryville rather than S.F.)

    I suppose there are a lot of obstacles to doing what I describe, but it may be worth considering.

    As for San Francisco, I think the Prop 1A money will run out before the line makes it to Fourth and King, so TBT or TTC will most likely be the Grand Central Bus Station of the West. Once the bond money is spent, there is no longer any priority for Phase 1. If there are any scarce federal dollars available after that, or private funds, there may be a reluctance to spend or invest them in an expensive extension from 4th and King to TTC.

    Of course, if politics drives the decision-making, anything could happen.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Peninsula is rich and can well afford to tax itself to pay for an upgraded and electrified Caltrain if it is so motivated.

    BTW watched a CSPAN interview with Eric Schmidt last nite which taught me something new:
    Google keeps a record of Internet travel by ip address for about a year. fascinating

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Excuse me, but what about LA-Bakersfield makes it an inadequate test track? Why do trains have to be tested on dead-straight full-speed at-grade track but not in a tunnel?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Speed.

    Foreign conglomerate does not want to demonstrate how great train is by navigating close turns and tight spaces. Instead, they want to show how FAST they are. That’s what developing nations want who are the ultimate market for HSR.

    Saudis, Canadians, Brazil, Russia, Australia, South Africa, etc. These guys want the train that will keep them in the running with the competition. Why did Airbus build the A380 and Boeing respond with the 787????

    Joey Reply:

    Perhaps you’re forgetting that the ICS will not be electrified. Nothing high-speed is going to run until one of the end points is reached.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I don’t think so. I think it will be per the business plan.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    To Alon, I said “‘seems’ essential.” Maybe it isn’t. Anyway, if the emphasis moves towards the bookends, by the time hsr is ready for the Central Valley maybe they’ll be ready to replace the rolling stock with something newer and faster that arguably is more in need of testing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What makes you think they aren’t going to test them in the tunnels? There’s minute by minute updates on the tests of ALP45s over on Railroad.net. They are gonna plotz if someone manages to get a picture of it at Penn Station New York.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I believe the San Joaquin service is a joint venture between Amtrak and the State of California. It is not equivalent to Caltrain where Amtrak was the operator.

    Peter Reply:

    I actually think that Alan has a point. Look at the Capitol Corridor for example. The rolling stock is owned by Caltrans, and administration is provided by BART, of all organizations. The only things Amtrak are the name and the operator.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But this is not the Capitol Corridor, but a much longer haul. I believe Caltrain is a better analogy for the orphan trackage as Caltrain is under government ownership not UP or Santa Fe.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But BART running the Capitol Corridor trains tells a lot about its imperial pretensions. You guy consistently underestimate invidious BART.

    Peter Reply:

    BART doesn’t run the Capitol Corridor. The CCJPA does (forgot to mention that level before). BART simply provides administrative support.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    BART is a member agency of the CCJPA, so it doesn’t just “simply” provide administrative services.

    Peter Reply:

    True, but BART staff DO provide administrative support.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The San Joaquins is a state-sponsored service. You can ask JimSF about this. CalTrans even owns the rolling stock with some exceptions.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But the State owns neither the real estate nor the improvements of the San Joaquins route, but Caltrain does own its physical plant.

    Joey Reply:

    This is how the entirety of Amtrak California is set up.

    jim Reply:

    Right now, it’s joint. Roughly speaking Caltrans covers about half the losses on the three corridors and Amtrak covers the rest. But post-2015, Caltrans will be responsible for covering the entire loss on any California corridor service. Amtrak will offer only the services that Caltrans is willing to pay for. If Caltrans isn’t willing to pay for an express San Joaquin along the orphan CHSRA trackage, then Amtrak won’t provide it.

  9. paul dyson
    Dec 27th, 2011 at 10:35
    #9

    With the PRIAA legislation taking effect in ’12 California has to find another $20 million per year operating funds for the state corridors. The State budget next year will propose more or less eliminating the Caltrans Division of Rail. Rail planning will go to the highway department. By the time the ICS is built there may not be any Amtrak California to run over it, and almost certainly no funds available to operate additional trains or buses.
    From the high hopes of 2008 it’s hard to see a worse outcome for passenger rail. The policy missteps and fiascos keep following one on another. The best policy that the CHSRA and its supporters can come up with is “build a track to nowhere” (there’s no money for trains) and hope we can blackmail the feds into giving us the money to finish the job. That’s the gist of Dan Krause’s commentary. Fortunately there are still some folks willing to take on LaHood and his puppet Szabo and even at the eleventh hour try and rescue something from this wreckage.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It will be even worse if and when house republicans get an audit of the CHSRA up and running. It will be a circus and “nowhere to nowhere” will be featured in the big ring. Amtrak is actually doing the CHSRA a favor if it can smother Borden to Corcoran in the crib.

    And at least one of hsr’s “friends” is certainly celebrating the fiasco. What a coup for BART if both hsr and Caltrain go down in flames. It gets the Peninsula as a trophy and remains at the top of the Bay Area funding food chain.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think there ever was a threat to BART’s funding supremacy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The CHSRA is a direct competitor for operating subsidies and capital improvement grants, for which both entities have a virtually insatiable appetite.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Paul, what is there to rescue if we sent the money back as you hope to do? Nothing. If we return the money, the feds, being burned, will give up on California for years and years and all incremental improvement will grind to halt. HSR funding has brought more funding to incremental Amtrak improvements in CA than in recent memory. Can’t you see that HSR has already helped in bring new capital money to incremental improvements? Your position is one of total pessimism. You act like the Tea-Party will dominate congress forever and that $6 billion is all we will ever get for the next 100 years. Please. Action is rewarded. California has received a bulk of the HSR funds because we took a bold step to endorse HSR while other states did not. Pessimism will never bring any funding to Amtrak, HSR or otherwise. Your comment about blackmailing the feds is ridiculous. Why is lobbying for additional rail funds in th future blackmail, when we do the same for highways, airports, etc. all the time? Also, I find your characterization of the Central Valley and its millions of people as nowhere troublesome (you know that train service will either connect or run through beyond the ICS). That rhetoric is not only wrong, it is same rhetoric as the Reason Foundation and other anti-rail zealots (and TRAC, which actually does advocate for a train where there are very few people – the I-5 corridor).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Believe it the three crones in DC can rescue these funds for the mountain crossing if they put their minds and backs to it. They have no sense of emergency as yet.

    Nowhere to nowhere is a pr disaster – only the Valley will see it as anything else. They are too close to the scandal to appreciate its full impact in the eyes of auslanders who will be paying for it.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Lobbying to swtich funds to BAK-LA (or Palmdale) is highly unlikely but I suppose possible. Still much environmental/engineering work to do. More likely scenario is the Mica and a bunch of politicians along the NEC will be chomping at the bit and will be successful in getting funds for various NEC upgarde projects labeled “HSR-Ready.” Or the House will just eliminate much the funds and override Mica’s desire for any HSR-Ready projects.

    Unfortunately you are probably right – many urban-coast dwellers simply view the millions of people in the CV as irrelevant, and it is offensive.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Have you considered the possibility that they are right?

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    I think you can read my arguments for while I strongly believe a “valley-first” approach makes sense. That is why I posted the article. You don’t have to agree my conclusions, but I spend hours and hours everyday considering these issues.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Have you considered the tactic of thinking fewer hours per day but having higher quality thoughts?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … many urban-coast dwellers simply view the millions of people in the CV as irrelevant, and it is offensive.

    Damn straight. Sounds exactly like the viewpoint of HITLER would have.

    PS What’s the combined population of the LA basin, SF Bay Area and San Diego region again? The only person I could imagine ignoring DEMOCRACY and MAJORITIES would also be … HITLER.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is where California has to throw its weight around as a net contributor to the Federal budget. Besides the need for the mountain crossing is clearcut, especially if a case for dual-purpose, passenger and freight can be made. Besides the tunnels have independent utility and inherent value and the existing rail route is thoroughly inadequate and not responsive to an easy upgrade. Otherwise the class ones would have improved it years ago.

    There are numerous solid arguments in support of the mountain crossing that even a conservative repub can recognize.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And this could be a first for the US, not only an innovation in terms of hsr but a genuine base tunnel.

    paul dyson Reply:

    Dan: It’s not that the CV is irrelevant, there is simply not a large enough population base to support a self-contained service that will cover operating costs. There is no value in spending all the money constructing a non operating railroad. I am not supporting sending funds back except as a last resort. I AM supporting redirecting funds to projects that give value to the taxpayer. I have no doubt that, given the will, we can find 100 yards of “shovel ready” project between LA and Sylmar that we can claim as ground breaking while we play catch up with EIRs and engineering. A few years ago we had a completed EIR for the LAUS run through tracks, but no money. It should not take too long to resurrect that.
    I am pessimistic if the best that HSR supporters can come up with is cheerleading for the ridiculous policies of CHSRA. The world has changed since 1A passed, just try raising private capital for any type of long term investment when the banks are pooping their pants every day worrying about Italy and Spain. “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present”. Even if the dems come back they will be dems that are far more cautious about printing money. You have to figure out what will work, what kind of program can be “sold” in this new environment. Just asking for a blank check won’t work. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion”. (Quotes from Abe Lincoln, who had something to do with building railroads). Or as Ernest Rutherford said, more or less: “We have no money, so we have to think”.
    And enough of the implied name calling. I’ve been a socialist all my life.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is no doubt but what, with the size and seniority of the California delegation, the funding can be saved for our State. But everything about Borden to Corcoran is redolent of stop-gap and off the cuff. Not the way to proceed.

    It is really up to Van Ark to do damage control and put the revised plan on Brown’s desk for rubber-stamping. Far from being a hands-on type at this age he seems to have not take any interest in the gruesome details f the hsr project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    he being Moonbeam

    VBobier Reply:

    And the state of CA has a place on a Satellite today. I think It’s an emergency channel.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Central Valley has more people than most states and the population will grow to over 12 million.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re pulling a bait-and-switch on three fronts. First, 12 million is a figure for the entire CV, from Bakersfield to Sacramento; we’re not talking about Sacramento’s travel needs here. Second, the ICS is about now, not about 2040, unless you believe that nothing else will be built. And third, most states don’t need HSR, certainly not as much as LA (only the second biggest city in the US, no big deal if it’s served last).

    Outside HSRA flak brochures, Bakersfield and Fresno are small, sprawly cities. They’re large enough to be intermediate cities on an HSR line anchored by larger metro areas, but by themselves they don’t justify HSR. And if you don’t believe me, think whether France would’ve built the LGV Nord so early if it could only connect to Lille and not also to Brussels and London.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Yes we are talking about Sacramento’s travel needs and this is the crux of the mistake that is being made when judging the utility of an IOS and/or an interim Amtrak service. People traveling from/to Sac will feel receive a 45-minute shorter travel time within the CV, a large difference (shortening the Sac-Bak trip by approx 15% and shortening the Fresno Bak trip by approx 40%). Whether it is through-service of Amtrak trains traveling on legacy tracks an then on HSR track or an IOS with transfer in Merced, the rider will benefit greatly and ridership will increase significantly, especially since flying is not really an option. And that is why the 12 million number is relevant. And are you saying IOS is not until 2040? Come on, that is an extreme assumption. Fresno has over 1/2 million people within the city limits right now (million in metro area) and it is growing fast. Lyon in France has under 1/2 million while the metro area is about 50% larger than Fresno’s at 1.5M. With Fresno’s growth rate, it is quite fair to compare Fresno to Lyon. Yes Bakersfield is less, but still over 300,000 in city limits and growing. Most states don’t need HSR. Maybe. And that is becaue they have less people (and less density) than the Central Valley. I really don’t get all this resistance to starting in the CV amongst rail-advocates. It is really perplexing given short-term provisions along with the fact that it is going to be a significant chunk of the statewide HSR infrastructure.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is this the day when people take everything I say to mean the opposite of what it says? No, I’m not saying the IOS is not until 2040; I’m saying that the ICS is for 2016 and needs to be justified based on the population distribution of 2016, and by 2040 the entire Phase 1 system will be there. The IOS is not the ICS – it’s only for when the CV is connected to either the Bay Area or the LA Basin.

    The Amtrak usage subtracts more value than it adds. FRA trains are not going to give you much improvement. You’d get the level of improvement of the Empire Corridor since the New York Central days, rather than that of the TGV, Shinkansen, and other gamechangers. Bako-Fresno shuttles are a better option, but even they are not up to the task; do you really want to prioritize connecting a small string of CV cities over connecting to Los Angeles?

    Also, I’ve never been to Lyon, but I frequently travel to Nice, which is a smaller city with much less transit. Its single tram line gets 90,000 daily users, and there are more under construction; its local TER line gets about 40,000 daily users, the same as Caltrain. Its downtown street layout reminds me of San Francisco: its tram runs in a transit mall, traffic speeds are low, and the many shops are oriented toward pedestrian travelers. My parents say there’s easily available underground parking, but walking around, I did not see the parking garages and striped parking stops that characterize American cities. Many downtown streets are pedestrianized, with cops patrolling on Segways rather than driving their cars over pedestrians. Any comparison between that and the Fresno depicted in JJJ’s blog is insulting.

    Normally I tend to be dovish on connecting transit, but that’s for competition with air and long-distance driving. When you’re connecting two cities that are 200 km apart, it absolutely matters whether the cities look like San Francisco or like, well, Fresno. (And no, TOD isn’t going to change that, not by 2016.)

    JJJ Reply:

    Alon said:
    “do you really want to prioritize connecting a small string of CV cities over connecting to Los Angeles?”

    Of course not, bit that doesnt mean you want to ignore the small string of CV cities. Places like Madera, Corcoran, Wasco etc arent modern sprawl, theyre essential communities needed to house the agricultural employees that are necessary to keep this country fed. Bypassing them won’t do anyone a favor.

    Could these small communities, on their own, sustain transit? No. But we still need people to live there to till the fields…and the folks doing this kind of farmwork are generally very poor, ie, the kind that most need transit.

    Also note that for all these small cities, the people talk about “going shopping in the city” and that means Fresno. It may be sprawl, but its the only place in the region (besides bakersfield) to find most major chains.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    it absolutely matters whether the cities look like San Francisco or like, well, Fresno.

    It’s California where every adult knows how to drive. Zipcar or cheap cabs solve the lack of mass tranist problem.

    Joey Reply:

    JJJ: since when was anyone talking about bypassing the CV cities? Isn’t the discussion at hand about where to start construction?

    paul dyson Reply:

    Dan, There are currently two trains a day between Sacto and Bakersfield. There is no rolling stock available for additional frequencies and you would have to negotiate with the class ones (and pay them) for addtl slots. There are no funds to operate additional trains and they will need subsidy. Yes there will be time saving benefits, which will help a few dozen, maybe a few hundred a day. To spend $6 billion on them is a waste of resources.

    JJJ Reply:

    Joey, its about bypassing the CV cities if the only train service is via the IOS, which would be Bakersfield-Fresno non-stop.

    paul dyson, from what I understand, AmCa has the right to run a 7th (and maybe 8th?) train at any point, no negotiation needed. Funding is the problem, the 7th daily was scheduled to begin service in 2012, using old passenger estimates. Currently, passenger numbers are well above estimates, meaning the demand exists.

    Joey Reply:

    JJJ: Madera I can see the case for – it’s got almost 60 000 residents and even more around it. But Cocoran? Wasco? Does 16 000 or even 22 000 residents justify a stop?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    12 million? Are you sure you didn’t post this at 4:20pm? We’ll be lucky to see 25 million north of the San Joaquin River and 25 million south this century.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Assuming the numbers in Wikipedia are correct it’s already 6 million between Sacramento and Bakersfield.

    Clem Reply:

    Of which 3 million are in the Sacramento area, which isn’t even on the HSR map.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … so using Altamont doesn’t get you Sacramento too?….
    Someday Sacramento is going to have HSR service.

    Clem Reply:

    Nobody except crazy people in the blogosphere advocate for Altamont. And yes, it would get you Sacramento service sooner and better. But don’t listen to the crazy folk.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sacramento will get service someday, but not in Phase 0, or for that matter Phase 1.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Phase 1 ends when the bond money has been spent. Does anyone believe that the bond money will last until all of SF to Anaheim is built?

    Peter Reply:

    Using foreign languages in your posts would be more effective if you spelled them correctly.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You realize this argument is somewhat of a paradox, right? If you are worried that PRIIA standards will make the San Joaquins and other Amtrak California services insolvent, why wouldn’t you support a Central Valley approach that would generate much more revenue and cover its costs?

    It would seem that this would dovetail nicely with using more existing resources to shore up the Surfliner and Capitol Corridor and attract more financing to the CV. Sure the immediate future looks bleak because of several reasons, but that does not diminish the need of government to look long term….

    paul dyson Reply:

    Who says it would cover it’s costs? What will the track charges be to use the ICS? It’s supposed to be self supporting according to 1A. Amtrak currently has a sweetheart deal for track charges based on the 1970 legislation. Why would they switch from BNSF to a more expensive option? In any event public money has already been spent on upgrading the BNSF tracks. More stranded investment? Would a notional 45 minute time saving, much of which may evaporate transiting to and from BNSF tracks, generate so much more revenue when the trains are already well loaded? Of course not.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would the track charges be higher? They can have Amtrak pay to use them or they can sit gathering rust and no revenue.

    VBobier Reply:

    Who says It won’t? Where are Yer facts? The State of CA has facts to back them up that are accepted by everyone who is in the Rail Biz and such, except a few nimbys who think they can stop the project and/or redirect Federal Money from the DOT which has said No to any and all such redirection, period.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Look if the Surfliner, state subsidy, and Capital Corridor as a whole can break even, why wouldn’t you jettison the San Joaquin and replace it with HSR when the time comes?

    It will ensure better, more frequent service, and won’t be reliant on federal funding to keep it running…yet you are trying to tell me that because we let ARRA money go to a long term project we have screwed the pooch when it’s not as if redirecting this money would solve the structural deficit….

  10. Paulus Magnus
    Dec 27th, 2011 at 10:37
    #10

    Question: Given that Phase 1 won’t be completed until 2033 and even Bay to Basin won’t exist until 2026, what, exactly, is the utility of the CV as a testing track?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Also, the effect of passenger rail on air emissions is pretty negligible. Freight rail and emissions regulations are how you clean the air.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    what, exactly, is the utility of the CV as a testing track

    It’s an carefully controlled multi-decadal experimental program to determine the exact rate at which Fine American Concrete depreciates under Unique California Conditions.

    StevieB Reply:

    A test of the trains is necessary before any operations. The Central Valley is where the test track will be built. Therefore the Central Valley segment is of necessity.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It’s a decade before you have any need for trains or for their testing. Furthermore, there is absolutely no need for a California test track. Or do Siemens, Alstom, Mitsubishi, etc. not test their trains at all in development, hmm?

    Seriously, assuming any degree of sanity on the part of those purchasing (yes, yes, we know Richard), the train sets will be off the shelf with some minor interior changes and the like. There is no need for us to have a dedicated test fifteen years in advance.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Actually, I’m the one advocating quasi-unique trains. Srsly. Remember procurement of high speed trains is at least 15 to 20 years away, and all of today’s “proven”, “state of the art” trains will be obsolete and in the process of being replaced.

    The high speed fleet ought to be low floor boarding double deck EMUs from day one. Souped-up versions of the basic configuration of competing designs for the Swiss 200kmh intercity (yes, I know 200 is less than 350, and that’s largely irrelevant) contract are clearly the way to go for a “green field” new start rail system like CHSR.

    You get level boarding, good passenger circulation (ignore TJPA’s and PBQD’s insane station “designs” for the sake of argument), low dwell times via adequate and evenly spaced doors, high passenger capacity, good maintainability (minimal under-floor or roof-mounted equipment, ready access to technical bays), and lower operating cost per seat. Inter-car connection is via a continuous upper level (like, gasp, Amtrak double deck coaches.)

    There’s no downside at all, other than the fact that legacy rail systems made the mistake of building their platforms too high. and tons of upsides.

    So I don’ think California should purchase “off the shelf” trains for its highest speed trains, because, for legacy historical reasons, nobody else is operating the best HS train configuration. SNCF comes closest with TGV duplex, but the door capacity is inadequate.

    Besides the initial tranche of train purchase will be for lower top speed (circa 200 to 250kmh, not 300+) trains for regional service for whatever initial operating system is built. Those can be existing designs or relatives of such (Bombardier Swiss intercity double decker EMU derivative, Bombardier Regina single deck EMU derivative, Stadler regional/intercity double EMU, Siemens or Stadler’s unchosen Swiss intercity offering, Talgo’s very promising but unbuilt “Talgo 22” concept, Talgo’s single deckers, any of CAF’s several regional EMU offerings, Alstom TGV Duplex, etc, etc, etc.)

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I think think the T700 from Taiwan is about as close to off-the-shelf as we could get. But there’s no reason we can’t improve on others’ ideas. Boeing and Airbus are so busy selling planes that Europe and Asia want they have neglected the US. It’s pretty much the same I think for Alstom and Kawasaki….

    Tim Reply:

    I couldn’t agree more about pursuing bilevel HSR trainsets… capacity benefits aside we need to create a rail system in California that is accessible by all passenger trains (which are almost universally in this country, aside from the NEC and Chicago, bilevel). When the new “fast” diesel locomotives and Superliner II (125 mph) coaches come into service in the next few years, it is important that they don’t get shut out of the new HSR stations / converted legacy stations. This also has the bonus of doing away with the ridiculous differing platform height nonsense on Caltain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Who needs the overweight Superliners and the even more overeweight locos hauling them on high-speed track?

    Joey Reply:

    If you want to mess up schedules for trains with a non-trivial number of riders, by all means, mix in a few FRA-compliant once-a-day lucky-to-arrive-on-scheduled-calendar-day Amtrak runs.

    Tim Reply:

    Remember the fun “Blended” segments on Caltrain and Metrolink tracks that are a part of the current plans (or in the minds of peninsula politicians) for the initial service plans. That coupled with the fact that the ICS will probably serve as an express route for Amtrak California for at least a couple of years = more advantages to low platform boarding. As for in the future, yes it would be stupid to have Amtrak and CAHSR share tracks in the high speed segments, but is still makes sense, at least operationally, to have all trains have access to all platforms.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    It will in any case be a customization for California, as it is everywhere; Siemens Velaro exist in various incarnations, all slightly different (for Spain, for Germany domestic, for Germany international, for Eurostar, for RZD, etc.). But if there is a well-proven platform, chances for really bad developments are small.

    The Swiss Twindexx trains do have double-wide doors (around 1.20 m wide or so), allowing two persons passing at the same time. The number and width of doors per car in the TGV Duplex is adequate, considering that the length of the carbody is way shorter.

    What is important with bi-level cars and efficient passenger flow is to have sufficient vestibule space, allowing the passengers to spread out a bit, and also, if the entrance is at the lower level, have sufficiently wide stairs to the upper deck. Assuming that the California loading gauge will be bigger than the standard UIC, that should be achievable.

    VBobier Reply:

    I dispute that, CA does indeed need a test track for HSR, As HSR Trains are custom made to match the terrain/altitude of where their intended to run at for Maximum performance, without a test track there You would have no guarantee that the train will run as specified in the contract.

    Joey Reply:

    You don’t need to buy high speed trains until you have a segment of high speed track connecting to one of the endpoints to run them on. At which point you can test them on that track.

    Clem Reply:

    Just like my car is custom made to match the terrain / altitude where I live. The process of tuning and acceptance testing alone ate up 6000 miles! I finally have it dialed in to Maximum performance now.

    Clem Reply:

    That’s exactly right, and by the same token when you buy a Lamborghini you have to buy a race track with it. A test of the car is necessary before any operations. The mortgage on the race track is a real bummer, though.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yep, they are just going to have the train roll off the RORO ship at the port take the keys and start selling tickets.

    Clem Reply:

    No, they’ll take it to Pueblo, CO and run it in circles for months upon months. If a 220 mph test track is even needed, that’s where it belongs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then just plop it down on the tracks and start selling tickets even though they haven’t checked to see if the super duper totally tubular ERTMS version 2.6.47a is working or that the brakes survived the trip back from Pueblo. What’s a crash here or there

    Joey Reply:

    Apparently they don’t test trains and tracks in non-revenue service before putting letting passengers ride on them on the east coast.

    Clem Reply:

    Reductio ad absurdum: the Central Valley track must be built because it must be acceptance tested.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    But is the test track to test the trains or is it to test how well the contractors can build track?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That test could (and should) be done anywhere. There’s nothing special about 350 km/h track there.

    Joey Reply:

    If your contractors are so unreliable that you can’t trust them to build functional track without first pricing it than you’re doomed from the start.

  11. morris brown
    Dec 27th, 2011 at 16:31
    #11


    Democrat Nelson to retire from Senate

    http://news.yahoo.com/democrat-nelson-retire-u-senate-203953867.html

    Control of the Senate after next years election is very much in doubt. Here we see a Demo seat being vacated and most likely falling to the GOP.

    Robert keeps pitching the current lack of any further funding for Calfiornia’s HSR project is short lived and that next years elelction will change all of that. Not likely … not likely at all.

    Tony d. Reply:

    You really think folks are going to vote GOP after all the bull shit they’ve put our country through? Yeah, keep protecting the rich, stonewalling Obama and raise my middle-class taxes..but don’t worry, I’m stupid and will still vote for yah! (Sarcasm)

    Tony d. Reply:

    By the way, what about the House and those radical, insane assholes known as the Tea Party? Can you say “Nanci Pelosi, Speaker of the House!”

    synonymouse Reply:

    But a Ron Paul victory in Iowa will bolster the hard line on federal budget cuts.

  12. William
    Dec 28th, 2011 at 01:14
    #12

    There is a simple reason on building Central Valley segment first: CV segment has the fewest number of alternatives and cities served will not change from one alternative to another.

    Also, building CV segment first can help CAHSRA build up some political capitals in resisting extra cost items in both Bay Area-CV and CV-LA segments. For example, a CV segment can force SJ to drop the tunnel, and even 87-280 viaduct alternatives, by threatening to switch to Altamont if cost cannot be reduced, unless SJ is willing to pay for these extras.

    It can also force LA to drop its insistence in CAHSR serving Palmdale, unless LA is willing to pay for the extra cost.

    SJ and LA had been CAHSR supporters since the beginning, but this also makes these supporters’ demand of expensive options to be paid by CAHSRA harder to resist unless CAHSRA has some political capital of its own. A CV segment will provide this political capital.

  13. morris brown
    Dec 28th, 2011 at 05:17
    #13


    China blames 54 officials for bullet train crash
    Chinese government says design flaws caused bullet train crash, blames 54 officials

    The rail ministry’s reported debt is 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion). Analysts say its revenues are insufficient to repay that. That has prompted concern the ministry might need to be bailed out by Chinese taxpayers.

    Yes, yes indeed all HSR projects pay their own way.

    This be what CA taxpayers will be asked to do, if we continue to build the HSR project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What percentage of that debt is HSR construction, versus past operating losses? In Japan, more than 80% of the JNR debt was operating losses rather than Shinkansen construction, and the Shinkansen portion of the debt was transferred to the JRs rather than wiped by the government. In France, too, RFF is saddled with past operating debt, and although the government has avoided a write-down so far, it’s probably not going to keep paying for operating losses from the 1970s with operating profits from today.

Comment pages
1 2 3
Comments are closed.