A Surprise In The Upcoming Business Plan?

Jan 26th, 2012 | Posted by

Yesterday Ed Goldman of the Sacramento Business Journal wrote about his meeting with CHSRA Board Chairman Dan Richard – and he includes an interesting hint about the revised Business Plan that Governor Jerry Brown wants to see:

I ask him if the new-and-improved business plan that Gov. Jerry Brown wants on his desk any minute now will have any surprises in it. “Yes, there’s a very big surprise,” Richard says, calmly removing his classes and rubbing his eyes. And that is…? “I think it will surprise everyone that we’ve actually listened to our critics for a change,” he says with a fraction of a smile. About what, specifically? “We simply can’t ignore urban areas when we build this thing,” he says.

Cryptic, no doubt, but potentially significant. What exactly is Richard saying here? Critics of the project may hope he’s saying that the money will be moved from the Central Valley Initial Construction Segment to the ends of the route, investing only in upgrades to existing rail service that could at some future time be used by high speed trains.

That is what Senator Alan Lowenthal has been gunning for since at least 2009, and it would mean essentially abandoning the high speed rail project. While upgrading urban rail is a very good idea, high speed rail’s promise is connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco via the Central Valley, providing a new form of transportation that can give travelers an alternative to flying and driving that they don’t have. It’s a choice that, as we’ve seen around the world, will likely prove very popular with Californians, create jobs, and provide a significant economic boost by saving money on oil.

If building better urban rail in SF and LA is the key to getting intercity high speed rail, well, wouldn’t that have happened by now? Metrolink has been around for 20 years. The Pacific Surfliner (originally the San Diegans) have been operating since the late 1970s. The passenger rail service now known as Caltrain has been in operation for nearly 150 years. Those are all very valuable, successful services that can and should be improved. But they haven’t helped produce statewide high speed rail.

That’s because the problem is the gap between SF and LA. The main gap lies between Bakersfield and Palmdale through the Tehachapi Pass. But even if that were closed, a lot of new track still has to be laid in the Central Valley and through the Pacheco Pass to connect the Bay Area metropolis to the SoCal metropolis.

In short, the key to California high speed rail is track in the Central Valley. Starting there makes sense because once that gap starts to get filled in, then you get the political momentum to connect that track to the Bay Area and to SoCal.

If you do it the other way around, however, and build better tracks in SF and LA, you do nothing to address the gap problem. Instead you’re deferring it to an uncertain future. Worse, by caving to the “omg you can’t build in the middle of nowhere” bullshit, you’re actually making it harder to eventually close the gap because the precedent has been set that building outside the urban areas isn’t a good idea.

There are other practical problems too. Could high speed service within the Bay Area or SoCal generate a profit? Neither the Surfliners, Metrolink not Caltrain do so. Nor should they have to, as the purpose of passenger rail is to connect people rather than make money. But Prop 1A forbids a state operating subsidy and more significantly, one of the political arguments against the Central Valley section is that it won’t attract enough riders to be successful. Never mind the fact the CHSRA has no intention to just operate a Central Valley-only system; the Initial Operating Segment would connect either to the Bay Area or SoCal.

But an urban-only rail system would have an even more difficult time generating ridership to be profitable. That’s because the universe of choice riders is likely much smaller. Around the world, in places like Spain, many of HSR’s riders switched from planes. And in California, spending less than 3 hours on a train from SF to LA would be a far more attractive option than spending 6 hours in a car, unable to use one’s digital devices.

Within urban areas, however, the choices are different. Nobody flies between SF and San José. A bullet train connecting those two points could save you 30 minutes over driving (perhaps more at rush hour) but that’s not as great a savings over driving between SF and LA. Perhaps there would still be enough riders to pay the operating costs of urban HSR, and I’m willing to be convinced if there are ridership projections indicating that’s the case. But based on what I can see, it doesn’t look promising.

In short, moving the money to the urban areas looks to be more risky than the current plan.

Now it’s not at all clear that’s what Dan Richard was intending to say. The federal government hasn’t signaled a willingness to move its share of the funding away from the Central Valley. And Richard may have been indicating a desire to fund upgrades to rail in the urban areas, perhaps with the $950 million in Prop 1A earmarked for rail systems that connect to HSR. That’s a good idea.

Prop 1A requires a federal or private match for any of the $9 billion that is directed to HSR, but perhaps the CHSRA has found a way to spend some of that money in the urban areas while also proceeding as planned in the Central Valley. I would be quite strongly supportive of this too.

But as of right now, it doesn’t seem like moving the money out of the Central Valley entirely makes any sense. I hope that’s not what Dan Richard has in mind. We will find out soon enough.

  1. Andy Chow
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 20:23
    #1

    If there’s no scheduling constraint I would rather fill the gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale. That by itself will create a direct rail service between the Bay Area and LA. The Bay Area connection can be fulfilled by the current San Joaquin route and/or the Altamont route. Once that corridor is established then it can be upgraded overtime.

    Since that portion of the project is not ready for construction, the rest of shovel ready projects will be helpful for the eventual system, but none of them would create a usable intercity service. If that’s the case, why not spread the investments around? If some of that investments result in higher ridership for Caltrain and Metrolink, it would be better off than sinking everything in the Central Valley and have a low ridership service.

    Early success help push for future successes, and early failure will doom the rest of the project. I think a sound investment strategy is to push for early success, and improving Caltrain and Metrolink can deliver ridership results.

    Tony D. Reply:

    “If some of that investments result in higher ridership for Caltrain and Metrolink, it would be better off than sinking everything in the Central Valley and have a low ridership service.” Pure gospel! Again, just my opinion and out of the box thinking, but split the $10 billion between Bay Area/CV and SoCal. $5 billion apiece for both regions. Get a 30-year “concession” from private investors to bump the $5 billion to (say) $6-7 billion each (if we could keep the current Fed funds already landed, even better!). You could then electrify, upgrade Caltrain, ACE and Metrolink. Once these systems are completely modernized and providing real revenue via high ridership numbers, start planning the final HSR link in the Central Valley. Starting out-in versus in-out; I just don’t see a problem with this approach.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s how the NEC was upgraded to 300 KPH service in the 80s….. all the money Metro North, NJTransit and SEPTA were making financed it all.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @adironadcker; you and I should start a consortium to sell Irony-o-meters to the readers of Robert’s blog.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..and if they call right now they can get a sarcasm detector, free with their order.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “real revenue via high ridership numbers”? Just what the hell are you smoking? There’s no way any kind of money invested in Caltrain or Metrolink will result in high ridership or real (i.e. non-subsidized) revenue. And “private investors” on a commuter line? What possible return could they expect to guarantee a return on investment?

    Tony d. Reply:

    Have proof/facts backing up your claim that modernized commuter networks won’t attract riders, generate revenues? Proof/facts that private investors/companies won’t invest in modernized commuter networks? You imply none of this is true for modernized commuter rail, yet somehow everything will be fine with the CV ICS to nowhere? I don’t think I’m the one that’s smoking here..

    Peter Reply:

    They may attract more riders and more revenues, but no profit (which is what private investors are looking for).

    J. Wong Reply:

    Proof? Where’s your proof? BART attracts riders, but it’s still a subsidized system, and their capital costs are funded by Federal grants. And where has any private investors ever invested billions in commuter networks?

    Tony d. Reply:

    So then why do you support the current HSR scheme? (This ought to be good..)

    J. Wong Reply:

    Because I want to take a fast train to L.A.

    As far as profitability and investment, I’d be perfectly happy if it was gov’t run. It’s only Prop 1A that has the profitability requirement, and the possible lack of 92% investment by the Fed’s that might mean that private investors would be given an opportunity to invest, but not in a commuter network. HSR is not a commuter network.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Fair enough. I’d like a fast train to LA to, but I now feel we should be concentrating in the urban areas and making a connection between North/South later. Let’s just agree to disagree, ok J?

    wu ming Reply:

    you’re free to disagree, but you lost that vote fair and square. if you want to repeal it, it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money to put it on the ballot, and even then you’ll probably lose (again).

    thatbruce Reply:

    People invest in the governments responsible for commuter lines/transit projects through municipal bonds, and people also invest in the private companies charged with operating these commuter lines/transit projects, even if the ticket price is government-subsidized.

    You need to remember that the private companies who operate these lines get paid first, and frequently, they get paid per trip (as set by the government-set timetable), while the income to the sponsoring government entity is per passenger. This makes for a reliable (but modest) return on the investment in the private operating company.

  2. Clem
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 20:28
    #2

    It seems that you are saying that “independent utility” at an early stage is dangerous for HSR because someone could come out and say that it’s good enough, stick a fork in it, call it done and forget the rest. Building something unfinished before running out of money, on the other hand, would create a clear and present need for more money because we would be reluctant to write off the sunk cost. Do I have that right?

    J. Wong Reply:

    “It seems that you are saying that “independent utility” at an early stage is dangerous for HSR because someone could come out and say that it’s good enough, stick a fork in it, call it done and forget the rest.”

    Yes.

    “Building something unfinished before running out of money, on the other hand, would create a clear and present need for more money because we would be reluctant to write off the sunk cost. Do I have that right?”

    No. It isn’t a question of sunk costs. Building in the Central Valley arguably gets us closer to HSR than anything done at the ends.

    joe Reply:

    I suggest the “mandate” every chunk of Fed money build a useful, self-operating segment limits the ability to build and connect regions.

    There have been unlimited opportunities to upgrade urban transportation – just do it – but no progress so the plan to repurpose HSR for local projects is bait and switch.

    EJ Reply:

    “No. It isn’t a question of sunk costs. Building in the Central Valley arguably gets us closer to HSR than anything done at the ends.”

    Hardly – the CV is the easy part. All the engineering challenges and most of the NIMBY opposition is toward the ends. Once you’ve got the ends upgraded, I’d say connecting them with a line that goes through mostly rural and farm areas is something that might actually attract private investment.

    Peter Reply:

    “Once you’ve got the ends upgraded”

    … then you STILL have to overcome the major engineering challenges of mountain crossings.

    EJ Reply:

    I guess I was thinking of them as part of the “ends.” Though admittedly that’s only partly true.

    EJ Reply:

    And the initial CV segment doesn’t address mountain crossings either – sure it’s the longest bit, but it’s also by far the easiest both politically and from an engineering standpoint.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “it’s also by far the easiest both politically and from an engineering standpoint

    which is why we should start with it. At some point while it is still being constructed, the Authority will be ready to start on one or both of the mt. crossings, and will go to the Fed’s to figure out how to fund it. Either or both will get you the IOS. With the endpoints, you will still need the mt. crossings and the CV segment before you get an IOS.

  3. Tom McNamara
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 20:37
    #3

    I’m betting this is a sucker punch move to propose a two-track solution between San Francisco and San Jose. However, the real reason for that is Richard wants BART to replace CalTrain, so as a result, by the time HSR arrives on the Peninsula HSR is only going to need two tracks….

    joe Reply:

    He’s in your head man. Next you’ll suggest his scheme to have one ring of BART around the bayarea is written in elvish and only readable when the business plan is white-hot.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, a common hobbit hearth-fire will do just fine to read that.

    Peter Reply:

    You’ve been smoking too much synonymouse recently. Some fresh air might relieve that.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I’m serious. This observation comes 100% peyote free.

  4. joe
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 20:38
    #4

    The article sez stuff about Dan Richard and his analogy to google earth that I found interesting and maybe insightful but then it was hard to verify.

    This isn’t Richard’s maiden voyage on the dangerous seas of public transportation. He was board president of the Bay Area Rapid Transit district for 12 years, where he helped secure the financing for $4 billion worth of capital improvements (mainly seismic retrofitting and the system’s expansion to San Francisco International Airport ). He began his career at NASA “when I was a kid of 22,” he says. There he worked for years on a planet-mapping project that, once its rudiments were released to the private sector for development, became Google Earth.
    “Government had the resources and researchers to lay the groundwork for this,” he says, “which is why I believe in public/private partnerships. Google Earth didn’t spring forth from the brow of Zeus. Neither will high-speed rail.”

    This story doesn’t jib with the on-line history of Google Earth’s roots.
    Given his bio here:http://fresnochamber.com/fresno-chamber-of-commerce-event-to-feature-the-new-chairman-of-high-speed-rail-dan-richard/

    e received his Juris Doctor degree from McGeorge School of Law before he began his career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He followed this by becoming an advisor to the Chairman of the California Energy Commission and then serving Governor Brown during his first term as the Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary and Deputy Assistant for Science and Technology.

    He’d had left NASA in the 70’s or ’82 at the latest given Brown lef toffic ein 82.

    So I don’t see how Dan did anything to bootstrap Google Earth if he left government and served in Brown’s First term in Office.

    So wikipedia Google Earth had seed funding from the government in the 90’s and did get bought by The Google but the innovation is fast, reliable and low cost data retrieval. The GIS with web services were also 90’s innovations.

    WTF?

    thatbruce Reply:

    He’s probably alluding to the Landsat program started in the ’60s, and launched in the ’70s. This ongoing program provides the basis and history for today’s more modern presentations of satellite-sourced geographic data, of which Keyhole/Google Earth are one of the more popular of many.

    joe Reply:

    Possibly. Landsat evolved from the lunar survey’s for Apollo.

    The part I don’t get is the physics of moving people isn’t hitched to Moore’s Law.

    The cost for processing Landsat in the 70s was about 5M of computer equipment and required custom software.

    Moore’s Law made Google Earth possible. How does that translate to rail or any transportation infrastructure?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Network effects. Look ‘em up. They don’t follow Moore’s Law but they do follow an exponential law.

    This applies to California because it has very little north-south intercity transportation right now; building a backbone between SF and LA will leverage the mass transit systems of both SF and LA.

  5. synonymouse
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 20:53
    #5

    It doesn’t matter where you build Stilt-A-Rail no segment of it will be profitable. It is 2 BART’s connected by secondary routes. The long distance is too slow and devious and the 2 BART’s will be characterized by subsidized low commute fares, catering to local political exigencies. If Pacheco sticks around it will terminate in San Jose and it’s BART from there.

    This move would appear to require more money at a time when less money is probable. Four more years of Obama will not translate to a bigger US budget. A bitterly divided GOP will hone its ideological attack on stimulus projects. The wealthy and Wall Street will become withdrawn and combative when it has to cope with non-Romney. In Europe Hollande will rumble with Angela Merkel. No-default is Europe’s TARP. I’ll go with default. Hollande wants to sell state property and erect “Pink Palaces” on the sites. That would high-rise public housing, which we learned long ago are gang banger hog-heaven. Be happy you are here.

    VBobier Reply:

    Who gives a rats ass about BART, BART isn’t a part of HSR, Caltrain and Metrolink, sure, Yer off topic Syno, but You just about always are when You mention BART, go find a Blog about BART will Ya??? Yer lucky this isn’t My blog…

  6. paul dyson
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 21:28
    #6

    Robert, you just don’t get the politics do you. The bookends will not tolerate all this money going to the Valley where it will sit idle for 5 years or more. The majority of the people live near the ends, so they have to see something, anything, of benefit to keep support for the whole. The idea of putting all the money in the proposed ICS is pure brinkmanship; we know it’s bloody silly on its own but it will force the feds and the state to find the money to make it into something useful. Well, I could be wrong, but I think the bluff has been called. You see, the High Speed brand is so tainted now that that the President won’t even mention it.
    We could end up with any combination of construction projects. Perhaps a shorter ICS, or single track only, with lots of grade seps on the Peninsula and L.A. to Sylmar, plus double track the latter. We have $3 billion of projects in So Cal alone for corridor upgrades, most of which are along the HSR designated route. I predict there will never be HSR on the peninsula, but HSR trains will run at conventional speeds to SF. Ditto the last 20 miles to L.A. Forget 2hrs 40 mins. That was the Achilles heal all along, you can’t “visit” all those intermediate cities and still make the time, not without demolishing them in the process. Anyway, we don’t have the electricity for 220mph, 150 – 180 is much greener. Life’s a long song….

    paul dyson Reply:

    I know, heel. I don’t know how to type ancient Greek.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paul,
    What do you mean by “conventional speeds to SF”. 79mph? 125mph? All that was ever planned was ~125mph, so what change are you forecasting on the Peninsula?

    paul dyson Reply:

    If you feel that way why bother? Gas prices are more or less tracking inflation and cars are more fuel efficient than ever.

    Nathanael Reply:

    No. Gas prices are on average exceeding inflation substantially, with a massive overlay of enormous booms and busts. *This* I’ve been following.

    Of course, given government inaction, that will just drive people to electric cars. Only congestion and the unpleasantness of driving (you can’t use your iPod or iPad or Android or Kindle!) will drive passengers to trains. That’s happening.

    paul dyson Reply:

    Probably 100mph with a couple of intermediate stops. Depends on the schedule of the local trains and how much has been spent on addtl passing tracks, if any.

    Jonathan Reply:

    are you talking average speed, or maximum speed? You sound as if you haven’t read CSHRA’s proposals for the Peninsula.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “they have to see something”? The vast majority of people in the metro areas will see nothing whether construction starts there or in the Central Valley because most of them don’t ride the damn train. And nothing is going to change that unless gas hits $6 a gallon.

    Tony d. Reply:

    BART enjoys over 300k riders daily on electrified, completely grade separated system. Caltrain a little north of 40k on an archaic diesel network that isn’t grade separated. No proof or facts, but I have reason to believe that modernizing Caltrain will take tons of folks off of 101 and 280 between SJ-SF. Same could be said for ACE/580 and Metrolink/LA freeways.

    joe Reply:

    Tony;

    Caltrain recovers 67% of operating costs at the fare box. That’s far better than MUNI or VTA. It’s used. On that basis alone it should be modernized. Re-purposing HSR funds for Caltrain improvements is fail if they don’t design to a 2035 capacity.

    Going forward with HSR compatible system with grade separations will save lives, allow trains to run faster and lessen traffic disruption. It will help obtain electrification funding. Sadly even this kind of improvement is opposed by CARRD.

    BART’s been developed as a Colonial transit system that depends on car/parking at the suburban stations to walkable downtown offices.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    What do we oppose?

    joe Reply:

    Sign.

    Re-purposing HSR funds for Caltrain improvements is fail if they don’t design to a 2035 capacity.

    Going forward with HSR compatible system with grade separations will save lives, allow trains to run faster and lessen traffic disruption. It will help obtain electrification funding. Sadly even this kind of improvement is opposed by CARRD.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    BART’s been developed as a Colonial transit system that depends on car/parking at the suburban stations to walkable downtown offices.

    .

    The parking lots were a savvy move, because you can always build higher density stuff there later, but you have reserved the space in advance. It seemingly encouraged sprawl and car commuting but it’s not as if the jurisdictions were going to zone those areas accordingly to prevent that.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “No proof or facts”: Here’s a counter-fact: BART from Millbrae/SFO has not taken tons of folks off of 280. In fact, as others here have noted, the actual ridership fell well below the projected ridership for those stations (Millbrae/SFO/San Bruno/South SF/Colma). The fact is that no matter how fast BART or Caltrain is, it is still very hard and time-consuming to get to the stations for those living in the suburbs, or to get to work for those making the reverse commute. The only way that will change is more TOD.

    Peter Reply:

    Or useful connecting transit.

    Derek Reply:

    “Forget 2hrs 40 mins. That was the Achilles heal all along, you can’t “visit” all those intermediate cities and still make the time…”

    Only local trains will visit all of the intermediate stations. Express trains will bypass them. I’m surprised so few Californians know this.

    Peter Reply:

    I missed the “visit” part. Paul Dyson should know better.

    paul dyson Reply:

    By visit I colorfully meant that the route passes through, stop or no stop. Just the fact of having to build the longer route and then have bypass tracks at these stations or slow the trains down through the stations for safety is enough to kill 2/40. Otherwise you have to go at even higher kw guzzling speeds between the urban areas to make the schedule.

    Derek Reply:

    If they do it right, the trains won’t have to slow down much: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMOmd3YpQK0

    And remember, these are electric trains, so they can accelerate much more quickly than diesel trains.

    Peter Reply:

    Even slowing to 300 km/h going through Fresno and Bakersfield should lead to a significant noise reduction, and would only cost 2 or three minutes total travel time.

  7. jimsf
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 21:34
    #7

    In spite of all the media hoopla and hearsay and specualtion, I’m positive the construction will begin on sked and in the valley for the ics. But the next construction segment needs to be chosen and announced in conjuction with this to calm the fray. I also think a two track hsr only on the peninsula and the elmination of caltrain replacing it with bart between santa clara and milbrae will be the eventual outcome.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    I don’t know why these days the idea that Caltrain would somehow be replaced by BART still exist? It’s basically a conspiracy theory no different than the one suggesting Obama was born in Kenya.

    I don’t recall that in recent decades (from the 60s when governments at all level started to subsidize transit), a publicly funded rail system was closed, torn up, and completely rebuilt by a “rival” publicly funded rail system, as if we don’t have enough areas currently without rail service that deserve new rail investments.

    BART-SFO line didn’t kill Caltrain north of Millbrae. More riders use 4th & King today than Millbrae. People reading this blog should know better about transit financing to know that BART the transit agency isn’t going to an out-of-district area and build a rail line for free.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    CalTrain is a nice system for the ever shrinking market of people who live on the Peninsula and work in the City or even San Jose. But if you work in Oakland, god forbid you mention that BART makes more sense.

    Back in the days when SamTrans was solvent, at least you could maintain the fantasy of not being part of BART, now however….

    Peter Reply:

    The fact that SamTrans IS in difficult financial straits is a convincing reason for why Ring-the-Bay ain’t going to happen. San Mateo County is not part of the BART District. It would have to come up with funding for the extension on its own. While it could attempt to pass a tax measure, good luck convincing voters in the County that they would be better off with an extended shutdown of Caltrain in order to replace the entire infrastructure with BART. That just won’t happen.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    good luck convincing voters in the County that they would be better off with an extended shutdown of Caltrain in order to replace the entire infrastructure with BART. That just won’t happen.

    Of course not. That’s a straw man argument.

    What will happen over time is that Cal Train wither away and die because

    1) There will mysteriously be no money to extend tracks to TBT, even though there will a nice passageway from Montgomery Street to TBT underground and maybe the Central Subway….

    2) Peninsula cities will keep putting the heat about the four track nonsense, but because that piece and LA-Anaheim will be the last to be upgraded, it will be moot point by the time HSR gets around to electrifying the corridor.

    3) BART’s going to continue to extend its tentacles wherever else it can.

    4) The UP will go along with it in all aspects, as in insisting on CBOSS to make sure no other trains get to use the track, but also because HSR ultimately gives me more capacity on the existing freight lines.

    5) The MTC will line up the vote to have Santa Clara and San Mateo (and San Joaquin and Solano) join BART at the point in which gas prices are high, but so is traffic and congestion. The idea would be that those counties will welcome BART with open arms akin to what LA did with Measure R….

    Jon Reply:

    The UP will go along with it in all aspects, as in insisting on CBOSS

    Nope. UP don’t like CBOSS because it’s not natively compatible with their own PTC control, V-ETMS. In the PTC plan they submitted to the FRA they note that in order to get CBOSS working with V-ETMS “The scope of the safety analysis […] is effectively tripled” and “such an effort is unprecedented for vital safety systems as complex as PTC.”

    Caltrain are developing their own PTC system which is incompatible with both UP and HSR. It’s utter insanity.

    Peter Reply:

    And they will fail at doing so after spending tens or hundreds of millions on development cost, and will end up installing ETMS or ERTMS.

    Jonathan Reply:

    At Auckland, NZ prices, ETMS would be cheaper than likely cost-overruns on CBOSS.

    Acquiring radio frequency is a whole different ball-game. In a sane world, Caltrain would collaborate with CSHRA in acquiring frequency for .. well, not GSM-R per se, because by the time iit’d be deployed, they could get a 20-year-old standard (based on GPRS) rather than GSM data. But collaborate on acquiring frequency for whatever the _then_-current standard is, when they’ll actually deploy.

    Jon Reply:

    That said, the bulk of your argument is correct. UP will be forced to go along with whatever happens because there is a provision in their contract with PCJPB that states that freight service can be abandoned if there is a need for a “significant change in the method of delivery of Commuter Services”. That means BART.

    I’m expect the first step in ring-the-bay will be a BART extension from Santa Clara to Palo Alto, going underground at the city boundary a la Berkeley. (Why Palo Alto? Because it’s the northernmost city in Santa Clara County, who are still in love with BART.) Next to BART will be two standard gauge tracks for Caltrain to run express between Palo Alto and Diridon, with an underground Caltrain station at Palo Alto. Then San Mateo pass a sales tax and BART gets extended from Palo Alto to Millbrae, again with two standard gauge tracks alongside, and Caltrain is replaced by HSR. Palo Alto underground Caltrain becomes a HSR station.

    An alternative scenario would have BART extended to Redwood City, and the HSR station located there. This would closer match existing plans but would require some funding from San Mateo County, who will be wary after the BART to SFO fiasco.

    joe Reply:

    CalTrain is a nice system for the ever shrinking market of people who live on the Peninsula and work in the City or even San Jose.

    Hey Tom; I lived in SF and worked in the peninsula and used Caltrain. So did my Wife who also worked on the peninsula. It’s quite popular to “reverse” commute.

    Companies even help reverse commute.

    Today Google picks up workers from SF locations and drives them to The Google-Plex for free. Facebook promises the same free “reverse Commute” service to keep the EIR workable for Menlo Park. These free commute perks will eventually end as the companies, like all, mature and their employees get a free transit pass for Caltrain so the can get picked up at the Caltrain station.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “These free commute perks will eventually end”. Really? And how, pray tell, will people get to Caltrain when they currently conveniently get picked up in their own neighborhoods by the bus? Oh, yeah, they’ll spend another 40 minutes getting to the Caltrain station. And they won’t have Wi-Fi on the train.

    It will be a long time, if ever, before companies like Google and Facebook stop their bus service to San Francisco.

    joe Reply:

    J Wong;

    The free commute currently offered to and from work and the outlying areas isn’t permanent. It’s unusual in a historical context. More common are free transit passes and shuttles from the station.

    I moved to the MTV area in 1991 and watched the turnover in the Valley for 20 years.
    The buildings at their core were built by the previous stars: SGI and Netscape. Facebook is reusing and expanding SUN’s old campus in Menlo Park.

    Google and Facebook are vulnerable – the barrier of you switching off Google to MS services and BING is minimal compared to historical software/hardware transitions.

    I know people who live in SF and work in the area, MS employees do it, Stanford employees and genetech. I did it. It’s not hard, you just have to live near the right bus-lines or Muni – heck maybe even a BART/Caltrain combination which wasn’t an option in the 90s.

    My spouse prefers Caltrain and her wifi to the car – she works on the way in and we car pool home.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Yes, it isn’t permanent and will cease if ever the corporations that offer it decide it isn’t worth it any more. But there is and will continue to be a lot of pressure to offer it because Caltrain isn’t a convenient option. Even worse, the service has locked in it’s continued existence because employees have purchased homes in those neighborhoods so served. For example, Glen Park has not had a significant reduction in house prices because of all the Google employees who with their Google stock could afford to purchase there. Switching to Caltrain would be very difficult for them.

    That said, it could be made easier to switch but it would require coordination between multiple transit agencies. About once or twice a week I take Caltrain, but it is easier and cheaper for me to drive to 22nd Street and park than it is to walk 15 minutes to Balboa Park to take BART to Millbrae and then transfer to Caltrain mostly because the schedules are not coordinated. The baby bullet is faster getting down the Peninsula than driving, but then you lose all that getting to your work, which even with Caltrain shuttles, isn’t as convenient as driving.

    Marc Reply:

    CalTrain is a nice system for the ever shrinking market of people who live on the Peninsula and work in the City or even San Jose.

    I bring this up periodically, I’m afraid, but an examination of the ridership data indicates quite clearly that during morning peak, 66% of CalTrains passengers are going someplace other than San Francisco. 4th and King is the largest single destination stop, but more passengers in total commute to either Palo Alto, Mountain View, Millbrae, Redwood City, or Menlo Park. I do a reverse commute from Oakland to Palo Alto using a Transbay bus and CalTrain (thanks to a Go Pass from Stanford), the soutbound trains are usually standing room only from Hillsdale to Palo Alto. Much of this is may be due to various incentives (and shuttles) provided by large employers near these stops, but these incentives stem from county pressures on these employers to cut auto trips and parking, and won’t be going away any time soon.

    By the way, it’s quicker for me to take a bus, walk from Transbay terminal to 4th and King, and ride CalTrain, then taking BART from Oakland to Millbrae and transfer to CalTrain…

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Tom: Caltrain is a functioning, cost-effective service with high farebox recovery.

    Why in God’s name would any sane person spend the tens of billions needed to replace Caltrain with BART? BART capital cost is more than 2x electrifying and grade-separating Caltraiin, yet the speed is less than half what an electrified, grade-separated Caltrain can achieve.

    Oh, and BART can’t do overtakes or express service. Caltrain can.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its not conspiracy theory. I’m not into conspiracies. Its just a simple matter of bart eventually doing what it has always intended. To ring the bay. And once the southbay segment is done, you can bet that the next step will be for bart to propose finally filling the last remaining gap in the system. First Santa Clara county will vote to extend bart from santa clara up to the county line where the rest of the jobs and congestion are.

    blankslate Reply:

    You say “finally filling the last remaining gap in the system” as if it is just some tiny gap. It is not. Millbrae to Santa Clara is 32 miles. The extension from Fremont to Berryessa – 9 miles above ground – will take at least 5 years of construction after over 10 years of planning. The extension from Berryessa another 5 miles to Santa Clara is not funded and has no timetable but will probably be 10 more years. At this rate of about 5 miles every ten years, it will take another 60 years to get from Santa Clara to Millbrae, so we may see BART ring the bay by 2088.

    Peter Reply:

    Especially if significant tunnel segments are planned. The tunnels through San Jose are expensive enough on their own.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    We don’t know whether the political attitudes will change when Berryessa opens. If that portion is not successful (which is almost certain) and that going downtown doesn’t seem to provide much more benefit, then that would be the end of story.

    But if somehow the environment and political attitude change significantly in favor of transit and BART, BART could still ring the bay and keep Caltrain. BART could go down Stevens Creek or El Camino, and have a bunch more stations a mile or less apart. Caltrain would then do just fine with the ridership from the developments around the stations. In New York, two parallel subway lines can run a few blocks apart. Here we have 101 and 280, 280 wasn’t built to replace 101.

    The reason that I dislike the talk of the conspiracy is that it serves nothing but a distraction for Caltrain. Caltrain is going to stick around no matter what and needs to be funded and upgraded. The conspiracy is an excuse to do nothing, and that doing nothing is not an acceptable option.

    In San Francisco, Muni got rid of the B-Geary streetcar (which was well-used) because that corridor was supposed to get BART. Well for the next 50+ year, it is all bus-only. If people knew it back then, they might have kept the streetcar. The Peninsula made the right choice in the 70s to save the Southern Pacific or otherwise we would have to stick with buses or BART around the other side of San Bruno Mountain.

    Clem Reply:

    If the conspiracy is an excuse to do nothing, how do you explain that nothing of substance has been done in the past two decades in a transit corridor with a large, affluent population and a dense concentration of jobs?

    How do you explain that the HSR business plan pegs the additional cost of keeping Caltrain around at roughly 5 billion dollars?

    The conspiracy is just in our heads?

    Peter Reply:

    $5 billion has got to be cheaper than the cost of replacing it with BART. Or of building the additional lane miles between SJ and SF to prevent the already-existing gridlock on Peninsula freeways from getting worse if Caltrain shut down.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Who the hell cares about “cheaper”?

    Certainly not the contractors who control BART and profit mightily from its expansion.

    Clem Reply:

    $5 billion has got to be cheaper than the cost of replacing it with BART

    Nonsense. The rest of the budget already includes building a four-track 100% grade-separated rail corridor with all-new stations. The $5 billion is the additional premium for (a) building viaducts and grade seps while Caltrain is still operating, (b) building a tunnel under Millbrae, and (c) building four new tunnels into San Francisco alongside the existing ones.

    The way they did the numbers it would be far cheaper to build a 2+2 track HSR+BART between Santa Clara and Millbrae. Which says a lot about how they did the numbers…

    Peter Reply:

    Shutting Caltrain down for a number of years in order to construct HSR is a non-starter. Pretty much everyone knows that. Including the CHSRA.

    joe Reply:

    Clem;

    Stanford’s Richard White explained, unintentionally, why nothing has been done for public transportation in these affluent areas over the past 20 years. He said, and I think it’s a major bias, that even local buses and trains predominately used by the poor.

    I don’t think White’s a bad guy. I see him as a typical legacy professor who lives locally and isn’t very attuned to life out side of The Farm.

    Clem Reply:

    That doesn’t explain very well why the average household income of Caltrain riders is north of $100k.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Isn’t 100k “poor” in the context of the Peninsula?

    wu ming Reply:

    san mateo county median household income: $85,000
    santa clara county median household income: $86,000

    $100,000 isn’t rich on the peninsula, but it’s above median.

    joe Reply:

    Clem;

    Prejudice isn’t rational. Dr. White really claimed poor people ride public transit My two cents on why the system hasn’t been upgraded.

    I’m not sure what the Caltrain mean/median/mode income for Caltrain but possibly over 100k, a surely the other divide is age.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Maybe it’s because those whose incomes are over $100,000 can choose to live where they want to, and they aren’t choosing to live right next to where they work.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    The conspiracy has been successful that many of the projects that would dramatically transform the corridor has been delayed. I don’t think it is all on the conspiracy, but part of it was (especially in the 90s when SamTrans was in bed with BART).

    I just think that the conspiracy should be treated as a conspiracy, not something serious. Why don’t these folks stick their head out and call for a ballot measure if they think their solution is that popular? If not then these folks are no different than birthers, who want to discredit Obama but has nothing to offer and don’t want a real debate.

    I still find the idea to replacing one public funded rail system with another to be perplexing since we as a society don’t have enough transit money to go around, and if we do, that somehow one has to replace another but not complement another (a lot of cities build a new route somewhat parallel another to provide additional capacity, serve new areas, or provide new links). LA is planning a second subway through downtown to do just that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The end of the B was immediately occasioned by Urban Removal on Geary, but the underlying cause was Muni’s decision shortly after the end of the war to bustitute. A major factor was the carmen’s union refusal to drop two-man operation.

    Historically the loss of the B broke the union and opened the way for the lease-purchase of St. Louis PCC’s that saved the last 5 lines clustered about the Twin Peaks Tunnel, too narrow for buses.

  8. jimsf
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 21:59
    #8

    “all those intermediate cities” ? If Im not mistaken, the tulare/kings is not a given and still very much optional. That means only 3 stops between the bay area and socal. FNO BFD and PMD and that only adds a couple of minutes per stop. Further, the 2:40 is for the express trains which will run and these are the ones that will compete for the sf-la air market. The rest of the trains will compete for all the rest of the markets/city pairs and any given trip time between countless city pair combinations will be under 90 mintues for the most part.

    VBobier Reply:

    An express train, yeah that sounds like the one that goes like a rocket almost. I once saw an N Scale model TGV HSR Passenger train whip around a layout at the Alhambra Model RR club, their track laying on the layout was superb with super broad curve radiuses(the club is built in a former bowling alley building and uses most of It for the huge layout), as they had the throttles wide open for this one train and It didn’t derail even once. I’d sure love to ride on the CA equivalent one day, It would be a blast.

  9. Paulus Magnus
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 22:12
    #9

    That’s because the problem is the gap between SF and LA. The main gap lies between Bakersfield and Palmdale through the Tehachapi Pass. But even if that were closed, a lot of new track still has to be laid in the Central Valley and through the Pacheco Pass to connect the Bay Area metropolis to the SoCal metropolis.

    In what strange universe do you reside where daily trains from Bakersfield to Oakland mean that connecting Los Angeles to Bakersfield does not mean a connection from the Bay Area to Los Angeles? Sure, a tunnel or bridge might be necessary to get into San Francisco proper. But it does not require one bit of track laid in Pacheco to do so.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Hit the submit button by accident.

    Could high speed service within the Bay Area or SoCal generate a profit? Neither the Surfliners, Metrolink not Caltrain do so.

    None of them are high speed either, so their lack of current profit is entirely meaningless. But a high speed Surfliner would generate a profit. Furthermore, two of them are commuter railroads, which are explicitly subsidized fares by their nature.

    But an urban-only rail system would have an even more difficult time generating ridership to be profitable. That’s because the universe of choice riders is likely much smaller. Around the world, in places like Spain, many of HSR’s riders switched from planes. And in California, spending less than 3 hours on a train from SF to LA would be a far more attractive option than spending 6 hours in a car, unable to use one’s digital devices.

    Seriously? The second busiest rail line in the nation is LA-SD and driving is looking at three hours thanks to congestion and expensive gasoline by 2020. You honestly don’t think that there are any choice riders among the hundreds of thousands using the 5 and 405 every day? Hell, look at the Authority’s own projections: LA-SD has far more riders than does LA-SF.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well It will just have to wait, as the money isn’t there until after 2013 at the earliest, now if Gov Brown and the Democratic part of Legislature that supports HSR can smooth out things on the LOSSAN corridor for HSR between now and then with the Coastal Commission, then maybe some track upgrades could be made to make HSR there a reality sooner than much later, once the money is available again from the DOT, Until then, I think We all need to wait and see what the CHSRA has in mind and/or up their sleeve.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh & the money from the DOT will not be moved from the CV to the Ends, not unless the DOT agrees to this & so far they never have.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The second busiest rail line in the nation is LA-SD

    It’s the second busiest Amtrak line in the nation.

    Emma Reply:

    Umm duh. Why do you even have to mention that. Nobody was talking about light rail or subway or even BNSF.

    blankslate Reply:

    Yes but there are commuter rail lines (e.g. Metro North/LIRR/NJT in New York, Metra in Chicago) that have similar distances/operating purpose as the Surfliner with far higher ridership

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I suspect the only ones with higher intercity ridership than the Surfliner are NEC subsets, like New York-New Haven.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The number usually bandied about, for the number of passengers who ride the NEC, is 100,000,000 a year. Amtrak ridership along the NEC is just over 10,000,000. That 10,000,000 doesn’t include passengers who are riding the long distance trains. Or the passengers who are using services on the branches like Empire Service or Keystone Service…. or the Springfield Shuttle or the Lynchburg line or…

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Per our earlier discussion:

    The bang for buck on Surfliner improvements is not that great because of what needs to be done south of Anaheim. Merced to Palmdale won’t be cheap, but you could cut a seven hour train journey in half. With LA-SD you could also cut the time in half but most trains aren’t going to do that because the travelers between LAUS and SD isn’t that lucrative to avoid stopping elsewhere on the route.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Stopping at a few additional stops is not the end of the world and will not greatly slow the Surfliner past a point of competitiveness. Two hours for an all stop(the number of which is limited or perhaps even nonexistent by then as LA-SD commuter trains take over the slack) and 90 minutes for express/limited trains is quite worthwhile and competitive and should, by virtue of being one of if not the largest transportation corridors in the country, be quite profitable.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Nice orange-colored glasses.

    There’s not enough connecting transit at present to really provide the oomph in ridership.

    Case in point, a little while ago I looked into a family vacation in San Diego. My plan was to stay at the hotel my wife’s uncle manages in Old Town. Then, I ingenuously thought, we could use the Surfliner to head up to LA without having to mess with traffic if we wanted to go to Disneyland or Universal Studios…etc. I had it all planned out….

    Then my wife, who is an SD native put the kibosh on staying in Old Town. Could I do the same thing in Mission Beach? Or in Coronado? Nope. And even though I can connect from the Surfliner to Disneyland for a day trip, can I do it for Knott’s or Newport Beach? Nope.

    I use this analogy because if you look at the feeble pace of rail development in “South California”, it calls into question why a faster Surfliner would have much of a greater impact than the current Surfliner?

    Who exactly, is in a big hurry to get between downtown LA and Horton Plaza on a weekday morning other than bureaucrats and tourists? Enlighten me….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The Surfliner needs investment to make it run on time. Lack of reliability is preventing revenue growth. 50% of route in San Diego County is single track. Who is in a hurry? What an odd question. If no one were in a big hurry we’d still have horses and buggies. If nothing else, shorter jouney time would improve rolling stock utilization.

    Nathanael Reply:

    SD is actually building a very good local urban rail system, hitting all the right locations. Though they really need to get to Balboa Park. Most of the other key locations are already planned, if not under construction.

    LA has a comprehensive and effective local urban bus system and is building a solid urban rail system.

    Orange Country, nope.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paulus: if LA-SD is such a great idea and so potentially profitable, fine. Fund that _regional_ line out of _regional_ sales taxes. Don’t try to steal Prop 1A money, because it’s explicitly not available for that purpose.

    Nathanael Reply:

    A high-speed Surfliner is technically impossible. The land takings involved are prohibitive.

    Hence the inland route plan.

    Nathanael Reply:

    To be clear, a *higher-than-now* speed Surfliner is possible, planned, and under construction. The expectation is that as soon as the route is double-tracked and the worst slow zones fixed, the ridership will explode to the point where they can’t run expresses.

    At which point another route will be needed for end-to-end SD-LA traffic.

  10. Mark
    Jan 26th, 2012 at 23:32
    #10

    Richard is likely talking about the MOU that is floating around at SCAG and MTA and SANBAG and other RTPAs. That MOU addresses the Financial Plan and siphons off $1B for improvements in Southern California for upgrades to Metrolink and Amtrak on corridors that are both future HSR routes and direct feeder routes.

    Cruickshank keeps fixating on the LA to SF market but he should start looking at Southern California as a state of its own. The rail options between major destinations are slow because our rail infrastructure is old and in need of upgrades. LA to San Diego is a major corridor that has two options — a 3 hour car drive or a 3 hour train ride. Upgrading the track with double tracking and whatever else is needed would create a trip that likely clocks in at less than 90 minutes. That would be a huge draw and create economic growth that is stunted by the invisible time barrier between SD and LA.

    How about San Bernardino to Los Angeles? That is a two-hour drive in rush hour and a 90-minute train ride on Metrolink. Metrolink starts up express service to cut the time to 60 minutes and that service ignites with ridership. What do you think a 40 minute train trip would do?

    Palmdale to LA is a mess with a two-hour car ride or a two-hour train trip. If you could run a train between the two under an hour, can you imagine the ridership growth and conversion of long-distance car trips to rail?

    I agree that closing the gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale has to be closed, regardless if we use HSR or another program to do so. It should be a State priority and expressed as such.

    Let’s see how this plays out. But this unyielding viewpoint that we have to start in the Central Valley to force everyone to keep pushing the project forfward is like getting pregnant to keep a man. Wow, that sounds like terrific public policy and tax investment…

  11. Emma
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 00:30
    #11

    Oh man. They better be announcing that they start with the ends (SF, SJ, and especially LA-SD). It is the more rational approach that will help us to get sooner to our goal. It will providing more revenue while it is in construction. Central Valley is just expensive and connects nowhere to nowhere for more than $60 billion. We can build that section later on and guess what, we will have the money for that once people see how well the HSR is doing at the endpoints.

    J. Wong Reply:

    What HSR at the endpoints? Sinking money into the endpoints does not get HSR because an urban, commuter environment forces trains to run at non-HSR speeds. And there’s no way very many people are going to pay much money to ride just to get to San Jose 30 minutes faster.

    VBobier Reply:

    Just like I said, HSR on the ends only would be Gold Plated Transit, nearly worthless & HSR in name only.

    blankslate Reply:

    I can’t believe you guys think Gold Plated Transit is “nearly worthless.” A train from SF to SJ 30 minutes faster would be a godsend to hundreds of thousands of Silicon Valley commuters (whether or not they are actually on the train). A non-operational “test track” in the CV is useful to precisely no one.

    VBobier Reply:

    Not useful? Now there’s a big LIE, as the ICS it is useful for Amtrak-California in the interim & once completed for HSR as that is where the High Speed in HSR will be at, not on the Bookends where if one is lucky, will only get up to 125Mph max, not 220Mph or faster like with real HSR, so the Bookends are nothing but Gold Plated Transit by themselves without the CV ICS(later to be the IOS when completed or at least a part of the IOS) being built 1st. The money as far as History is concerned has not been moveable, If some in power unwisely look a gift horse in the mouth and want the DOT money to be redirected, It goes back to Washington DC and that’s that until at least 2013.

    Tony d. Reply:

    So then its all about Amtrak California over Caltrain and Metrolink (really?) and the need to travel 220mph instead of 125mph. Pretty sad that this is what its all come down to.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “A train from SF to SJ 30 minutes faster would be a godsend to hundreds of thousands of Silicon Valley commuters”.

    No, it wouldn’t. It would be too expensive and very few would ride it.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Got proof few would ride it? (of course you don’t)

    Tony d. Reply:

    You know what’s actually to expensive and very, very few would ride it? THE DAMN ICS IN THE CV!

    J. Wong Reply:

    I don’t know what the deal is with this “independent utility” concern. Just because a segment could have independent utility outside of HSR doesn’t mean it is a better choice. Look, no one will travel on the ICS in the CV by itself. I admit that. But there will be no HSR without it. On the other hand, the initial HSR operations could be implemented without either of the last legs into L.A. or S.F. And in the end, that’s all I care about: Getting HSR.

    Peter Reply:

    The current plans that are being looked at would NOT have Caltrain traveling any faster between SF and SJ than they do already.

    EJ Reply:

    Look, I realize that to HSR fanatics all other rail transit is worthless garbage, but in reality people do pay more for upgraded commute times all over the world. And the endpoints will need to be upgraded for the full system anyway.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well yes the endpoints will need to be worked on, but not before the crucial link known as the CV is built. I’m not against rail transit in any form, I’m just against taking money for HSR from the CV…

    EJ Reply:

    “I’m not against rail transit in any form”

    Yes you are. That’s why you call it “Gold Plated Transit,” when you use an insulting nickname for something, it’s because you oppose it. Don’t be stupid.

    “but not before the crucial link known as the CV is built”

    Rational people would build the parts of the system that will have independent utility before the parts that don’t – the CV is the least useful on its own. Yes, i know there are people who say otherwise, they are professional liars and their assertions don’t pass the smell test.

    StevieB Reply:

    Los Angeles to Anaheim and San Francisco to San Jose segments will not be high speed and will not offer riders improvement as stand alone systems to generate an operational profit. The segment with the most independent utility is from Bakersfield south over the mountains to the Los Angeles basin. Closing this glaring gap would do the most to improve rail between the northern and southern regions of the state.

    There are currently inadequate funds to build from Bakersfield to Palmdale so that is precluded. What funds are available are enough for the segment connecting Bakersfield to a viable operating railroad once Palmdale is constructed. Build what is possible now and work on funding to Palmdale. Once the regions are connected a concession can be sold providing funds for further construction. Building at the endpoints eliminates this opportunity for private investment and halts further construction.

    EJ Reply:

    That’s an even better talking point salad than what Robert regularly whips up. So, build something less useful than even the palmdale – bakersfield segment, then private capital will step up to create basically current Amtrak California service through the Central Valley?

    StevieB Reply:

    Private capital will invest when it can make a profit which will happen on a Merced to Palmdale operating segment. Service will close the biggest gap in the state rail system at a salable speed. The private capital concession fee will be used to extend the system to San Jose providing even more profit for private investors. More private capital from a second and third sale of the concession at the ends of the terms is used to further extend the statewide system.

    VBobier Reply:

    You miss My point there by a long shot, EJ, The point is I like Trains, not a waste of HSR money spent in the wrong area, there are two areas to start HSR in, the CV and the Bakersfield to Palmdale section to the south, then You build on the ends for a unified system, not an uncoordinated excuse for a system that makes HSR look bad to the voters, one wants max return, the CV and the Mountains gives that. After a while of 125Mph max in the urban areas, people would say is this It? And detractors who’d be against further expansion & spending, would say, yes, this is as fast as it gets. Leaving out the fact that it’s out in the countryside where the truly fast HSR tracks are to be found, like they are in other places in the world. As the urban areas due to their being already heavily built up over nearly the last 100 years would be very expensive indeed to get HSR tracks built that could do 220Mph between stops.

    So You really want to build 1st on the ends Mr Multi-Billionaire? You tell Me, where is the money going to come from before 2013? Hmm?? Where??? I’m sure people would really like to know… Heck, the EIR’s for the end areas aren’t even ready yet due to a finite CA State budget, I’d love to build out on all segments at once, but about $6 Billion only goes so far & It’s already obligated, so priorities have to be established, 2nd priority is the Bakersfield to Palmdale section when the $15.5 Billion is available… ;p

    Matthew B Reply:

    Where are you getting that $60 billion for “nowhere to nowhere”? $60 billion is the majority of the system costs, a disproportionate amount of which would be devoted to tracks in urban areas on either end of the line. I imagine $60 billion would give you Los Angeles basin to the Bay area, but not LAUS to SF Transbay unless some value engineering took place.

    thatbruce Reply:

    $60 billion also happens to be ‘about’ what the system’s current costs are in present-day dollars, vs the scary $98 billion in YOE dollars over the next few decades.

    Still higher than originally promised, or what it should be given decent, cost-smart planning.

    Peter Reply:

    They can’t start with LA-SD. AB3034 requires SF-Anaheim be completed before any Prop 1A funds are applied to any other corridor, unless the Authority can show that putting the money towards the other corridor won’t delay SF-Ana.

    Hence why Sacramento is looking for other ways to fund an initial connection to Merced (likely by means of improving the San Joaquins). I believe that’s also part of the rationale behind improving LOSSAN, as well.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Part of the rationale for improving LOSSAN, but having read the original LOSSAN studies, the original plan was always to improve LOSSAN *and* build the inland high-speed route. I’ve explained why before: the ‘improved LOSSAN’ would have enough ridership to fill up entirely with locals, and four-tracking and realigning to allow high-speed expresses to pass the locals would be prohibitive. Hence the plan to send the expresses inland on a high-speed route.

    thatbruce Reply:

    They can’t start with LA-SD.

    AB3034 funds can’t be used for LOSSAN between Irvine and University City directly. You could make an argument for the CAHSRA expending funds on the Anaheim to Irvine and University City to SD sections based on opportunity costs (eg, minor funds to ensure that a new grade separation being constructed now is done to a 4 track width vs having to reconstruct a 2-track width separation at a later date at a much greater expense), or to ‘eligible recipients for capital improvements to intercity and commuter rail lines and urban rail systems that provide direct connectivity to the high-speed train system and its facilities‘ (2704.095 (a)(1)).

    Tony d. Reply:

    Emma’s on point! ;) great post.

  12. JJJ
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 00:56
    #12

    “We simply can’t ignore urban areas when we build this thing,”

    Last I checked, Fresno was an urban area.

    Fresno: 510,365
    San Francisco: 805,235

    Perhaps what he means is that the Fresno plan will be rerouted. Instead of going along 99, which will require demolishing many buildings, and even moving all of 99 (real dumb), how about a station downtown (at the proposed location), then swinging onto 180 east, and then north on any of the n/s roads?

    I’ll draw some maps for it this weekend.

    Worst case scenario? The station is moved from the current planned location (site of a 100+ year old rail depot) a mile or so east to Chandler Airport. Still close to downtown….but almost no urban issues.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Really? Fresno now on par with 7 million+ Bay Area and gazillion+ LA Southland?

    joe Reply:

    Fresno is an urban area. It is larger than Milwaukee which is 594,833 and was deserving of HSR funds to connect it to Madison, 233,209.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    To connect Madison to Milwaukee where there’s an existing train system that gets you to Chicago faster than driving.

    joe Reply:

    I disagree that the motivation is to connect the State Capitol, Madison, to Chicago. I think most Wisconsin residents would agree that was no the goal.

    Rather the HSR project was to connect the Capitol and major academic and intellectual center (U of WI) to Milwaukee, an old industrial and largest population center in WI.

    WI is not populous and compares in population to the CV of CA. What’s reasonable for WI is somehow boondocks for CA. Clearly the issue isn’t population but as CARRD says social-economics. That’s also euphemism for ….

    Peter Reply:

    It was mainly a stepping stone to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Chicago to Minneapolis. There’s eqaully rational routes that go through Iowa.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But the Iowa routes don’t hit large intermediate population centers.

    Going through Milwaukee and Madison made sense. Just like going through the population centers in the Central Valley makes sense for California.

    blankslate Reply:

    You are shooting yourself in the foot by comparing to Wisconsin, who are choosing to spend HSR funds to on a line that goes directly to the largest city in the state. That is exactly what the “bookends” crowd is recommending for CAHSR. The WI equivalent to the current CAHSRA proposal would be track from Green Bay to Osh Kosh, or something.

    wu ming Reply:

    the central valley has about 6 million. comparing fresno to the bay area is apples-oranges. either compare fresno with SF, SFO, SJ or gilroy, or compare the central valley to the bay area, but not a city with a region.

    fresno has half a million in the city, and a million in its metro area. visalia is 125,000, and has a metro area of 450,000. bakersfield is 350,000 and has a metro area of 800,000. palmdale is 150,000 with a metro area of about 500,000. those are urban areas, quite equivalent to those in the bay area.

    obviously socal is much bigger than anything in nor cal. the bay is not as big relative to the valley as it assumes it is.

    joe Reply:

    Right, and the CV is adding population relative to the BayArea which loses a Rep and overall the districts show a shift to the CV.

    The HSR system would help focus population and development along a transportation corridor that connects the CV to Coastal CA.

    And the CV is about as populous as Wisconsin which as 5,654,774 residents.

    blankslate Reply:

    The “Central Valley” is not a metropolitan area, it is a 300 mile long valley with several metro areas in it. Your 6 million figure includes the Sac metro’s 2 million, which is irrelevant as it is not one of the CV cities planned to be served by Phase 1. Here are 2010 populations of some relevant MSAs:

    SF-Oakland-Fremont – 4.3m
    San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara – 1.8m
    Bay Area Total – 6.1m

    Fresno – 936,000
    Bakersfield – 839,000
    Visalia – 442,000
    Hanford-Corcoran – 153,000
    Merced – 256,000
    Madera – 151,000
    CV Total – 2.8m

    blankslate Reply:

    To clarify, comparing “city only” populations of SF vs. Fresno makes no sense at all, we should compare metro areas. By that measure SF is 4x as large as Fresno.

    wu ming Reply:

    sac through merced isn’t irrelevant, it’s part of the region, slated for stage 2, and will be connected via a new san joaquin feeder service the moment the stage 1 is up and running. nearly every single urban center in the central valley is on either stage 1 or 2, possibly all of them if you don’t count redding and chico/paradise as meaningful urban centers. the san joaquin valley, the capital area, and antelope valley are the fastest growing areas in the state, and will be where most of CA’s population growth will center in the next several decades.

    the claim was that fresno was tiny compared to the entire bay area, which was comparing apples to oranges, and is part and parcel with the intentionally misleading rhetoric of “a train to nowhere” that will connect, by your own numbers, a minimum of nearly 3 million people, and will eventually be part of a network that connects them to nearly everyone else in the state.

    the central valley is not tiny, and its cities are not small. it will exceed the bay area in terms of population in the next decade, probably. building this segment first, especially given the depression in the central valley construction industry and the still-depressed cost of land at the moment, makes a lot of sense.

    quite frankly, it is beyond irritating to hear all of these voices who spent years throwing everything but the kitchen sink at trying to stall or block HSR construction in the bay area suddenly feign outrage that anything is being built in the central valley.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Quite frankly, it is beyond irritating to hear all of these voices who spent years throwing everything but the kitchen sink at trying to stall or block HSR construction in the bay area suddenly feign outrage that anything is being built in the central valley.”–Wu Ming

    That’s because that crowd is largely the “choo choo trains belong with the horse and buggy” bunch.

    Ironically, I’ve just been working on an audit on a horseman (racing horses), which involved some time at the local race track. Those people love their animals, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them would like the idea of the horse and buggy coming back–bigger market for horses, of course, but also to them, nicer part of a life gone by, sort of like some of us with steam locomotives. I wouldn’t blame them at all–my mother loved horses, too, even though she was never able to own one, could only ride them on a local riding trail (and she loved dogs, cats, birds, and all the rest, too)–and she thought horses were more intelligent and more loyal than a dog.

    Of course, horses have their own “pollution” issues, and that’s all I’ll say on that subject!

  13. Peter
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 04:50
    #13

    I’m sure that morris brown’s blood pressure will explode with this statement, but AB3034 only forbids subsidizing for trains planned or operated by the Authority. It says nothing about other trains such as Metrolink, Caltrain, or Amtrak San Joaquin.

    “The planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor or usable segment thereof will not require a local, state, or federal operating subsidy.”

    I know that morris brown will argue that that includes any passenger service that the Authority “plans” to have use the tracks, but that seems like a very unrealistic interpretation to me.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I doubt that’s the legislative intent. I think the point is that Mr. Ashburn wanted a system wherein it wouldn’t be co-opted by Amtrak and BART/Metro. However, the interpretation may be allowed IF the subsidized system is eventually replaced by HSR that has full operating cost recovery.

    Peter Reply:

    In other words, track-sharing with subsidized trains is illegal? That would be a ridiculous result.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    That’s no accident. There was a lot of chagrin in certain circles over how much of the stimulus got diverted to Amtrak. The collateral effect to CalTrain and Metrolink is just incidental as far as what the goal is to avoid subsidies to Amtrak….

    Peter Reply:

    AB3034 and Prop 1A were passed well before ARRA had even been thought of. The wording of AB3034 has nothing to do with ARRA stimulus or subsidies to Amtrak.

    In fact, ARRA requires that tracks built with ARRA funds have “independent utility”. That means that an alternate use MUST be possible if ARRA funds are used.

    You’re high if you think that track-sharing is illegal.

    Peter Reply:

    AB3034 and Prop 1A were passed well before ARRA had even been thought of. The wording of AB3034 has nothing to do with ARRA stimulus or subsidies to Amtrak.

    In fact, ARRA requires that tracks built with ARRA funds have “independent utility”. That means that an alternate use MUST be possible if ARRA funds are used.

    You’re high if you think that track-sharing is illegal. Maybe you’re still smoking that synonymouse we were talking about above. ;)

    Peter Reply:

    Uggh, sorry for the double-post.

    Curse this Caribbean internet.

  14. Brandon from San Diego
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 06:24
    #14

    Robert and all,
    There is nil of a chance that the Federal funds already approved for the project will be moved out of the Central Valley!!!,

    NIL

    Instead, what the CHSRA Board Chairman is very likely speaking to is a list of options being presented outlining project variables and associated costs….. For known segments of the system. That probably includes design options on the peninsula.

    Peter Reply:

    Or he’s speaking of planning to use future non-AB3034 funds on upgrading Metrolink and Caltrain, without an AB3034 match. This would remove the need to meet the requirements of AB3034.

    Clem Reply:

    A song and a promise. That will do wonders, I bet.

    Peter Reply:

    How would it be different from the current business plan?

  15. Derek
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 07:45
    #15

    Maybe they’ll ditch the IOS and jump straight to the Bay to Basin one-seat ride. Because who wants to spend part of their high speed trip on the bus? This would help eliminate the “nowhere to nowhere” argument.

    VBobier Reply:

    Good Luck there, but we’ll see what the CHSRA says soon enough, one way or the other.

    Paul H. Reply:

    IOS-South won’t require any bus trip. HSR to Merced then a passenger can get on a San Joaquin train to either Sacramento or Oakland, or possibly a ACE train to San Jose. I think the Governor should announce IOS-South as the plan moving forward, it makes the most sense in terms of moving people from the LA Basin to Northern California.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Google Maps says the drive from Merced to San Jose is 115 miles and 2:11 minutes. Lets just say the bus would do it in 2:30 – from the time you step off the HSR train until you are walking away from the bus with your bags. How long will the train take to get from Merced to San Jose?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Two complications.

    1) The Amtrak station is across town so you are likely getting on a bus at least to get there.
    2) There are very limited number of Amtrak trains. Only 2 to Sacramento (as per agreement with UP) and I think 6 to oakland. This limits your service dramatically.

    This is why all the connecting service is currently planned to be buses.

    JJJ Reply:

    Amtrak is allowed a 3rd daily train to Sacramento with their UP agreement, which was originally scheduled to begin in 2012, before the recession took the money away.

    Peter Reply:

    IOS-South would more likely have the transfers between HSR and Amtrak San Joaquin occur in Fresno at the joint HSR/Amtrak station.

    Also, Sacramento is exploring how to improve connectivity to the IOS as early as possible, before HSR gets around to extending all the way to Sacramento. Who knows what their studies might come up with.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    In Fresno you have the same situation where the Amtrak train station is across town. The only place they meet up is Bakersfield. They could meet up in Madera if there was a HSR station there instead of Merced

    Peter Reply:

    I was assuming that an interim solution would be implemented where Amtrak San Joaquin also stop at the Fresno HSR station, and use the new tracks between Fresno and Madera. It can’t be very expensive, especially given that the Fresno station will be at-grade.

    Peter Reply:

    Also, it’s less than .7 miles from the existing Amtrak stations in both Fresno and Merced to their respective HSR stations. That’s what, less than 5 minutes on a shuttle bus?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Unless you have a fleet of them it’s more like an hour between the time the first passenger gets on the bus and the last passenger gets off the bus. If they can do it with a bus or two… it’s a bus or two of people….

    Peter Reply:

    Meh, they’ll work it out.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    For people who live in upper San Joaquin it may be okay but that is not competitive with flying for people who are traveling between the Bay Area and LA or Sacramento and LA.

    Peter Reply:

    No, really? That’s why the ENTIRE system needs to be completed.

    wu ming Reply:

    perhaps you should stop trying to stall the bay area segment, and then things would be completed faster.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    You mean Elizabeth is doing this single-handedly? Oh, cf course, a right-wind cabal made up of the LAO, the Peer Review Group, and the Auditor, to name but a few of its members, with perhaps some help from the CHSRA’s various public outreach teams, has been stitched together, no doubt under the guiding hand of a Peninsula coven of witches, code-named “CARRD,” who cleverly fabricate the documents that somehow find themselves in the CHSRA’s files and then force their release through mean-spirited incantations that invoke the Public Records Act.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Elizabeth is most certainly trying to stall the project, along with a lot of other people. It doesn’t require coordination or conspiracy to try to stall a project.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Or perhaps a herd of people walking.

    Paul H. Reply:

    There will be a spur off the BNSF line to the proposed HSR station in Merced. It’s already being planned for.

    J. Wong Reply:

    HSR to Merced then a passenger can get on a San Joaquin train to either Sacramento or Oakland, or possibly a ACE train to San Jose.

    Amtrak currently runs a bus between San Jose to Stockton that connects with the San Joaquins there, which is faster and less transfers than taking it to Emeryville and transferring to a Capitol. They also run a bus connecting Stockton to Emeryville.

    Derek Reply:

    “IOS-South won’t require any bus trip.”

    IOS-North would, unless the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee gets their way:

    BE IT NOW THEREFORE RESOLVED that on this day, January 26, 2012, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee strongly recommends that the development/construction of a passenger rail link between the Bakersfield and Los Angeles stations be of the highest priority for the installation of any state wide rail system, whether this be high speed rail or conventional rail.

  16. John
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 09:26
    #16

    Feb 2 meeting agenda is up.

    Closing the loop is the only real item:

    Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report for Bakersfield – Palmdale

    Tim Reply:

    And so it begins…

  17. Emma
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 13:32
    #17

    Here is why I think we might not need the LA-SJ section by 2033. This is more than 20 years from now. Airlines already have found ways to provide affordable short-distance flights while making a profit.
    By 2033, we might, no, we will have a completely different market. Most cars in California will be either Hybrid or Plug-in EVs and new, more efficient planes will be designed for shorter distance flights.
    Check this out:
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/features/greener_aircraft.html

    “Teams from The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, Calif., Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, Calif., and Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, Calif., have spent the last year studying how to meet NASA goals to develop technology that would allow future aircraft to burn 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998 (the baseline for the study), with 75 percent fewer harmful emissions; and to shrink the size of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.”

    In the next 20 years, we will see about 3 new generations of planes. The 3rd generation being the one that will actually compete with HSR and I have a feeling it might be superior.

    Regarding cars: There is more and more money spent into developing robot-driven cars which are superior to the irrational human mind in finding the optimal traveling speed and route thus effectively reducing traffic congestion which is mostly caused by people either driving too slow or too fast.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/science/10google.html?pagewanted=all

    JJJ Reply:

    3 new generations of planes in 20 years? Thats insane. Look up the development time of the 787, and then note that Boeing has no (public) project in development right now.

    If they announced a fuel efficient 797 TOMORROW, it wouldn’t arrive at an airline until 2020. And by airline, I mean a foreign one.

    There are no signs that Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer etc have a fuel efficient plane lined up.

    joe Reply:

    and
    1. Certification is a huge barrier to innovation.
    2. The efficiency goals are ambitious and the topics of research, not product development.
    3. The airspace is packed.
    4. The rest of the world is using trains for short haul travel so the market for aircraft to compete against this solution is limited.

    If you look at SpaceX, they established a product line of Merlin liquid fuel engines and put one in their falcon rocket, 9 engines make a falcon 9 and 27 a falcon heavy lift. The savings is in the product line, validate the engine and incrementally improve the engine. It’s mass production applied to space flight.

    Aircraft are already mass produced, the physics of flight is pretty much understood so the advances will be in materials (lighter) planes and engines – better fuel combustion efficiency using simulation and more tolerant, robust engine components.

    Jonathan Reply:

    The volumes Space-X is dealing with are not mass production. Their manufacturing runs are not mass production. What _is_ different about Space-X is that they’re building rockets from standard components, and they’re designing and building them like aircraft, not like munitions.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    There is no way any vehicle that has to lift itself, passengers, and fuel will ever beat an efficient surface vehicle on fuel effficiency terms. Gravity is cruel!

    Tony d. Reply:

    Good stuff Emma. As someone who advocates one day closing San Jose Mineta Airport and relocating commercial operations to Moffett Field, this development is encouraging. For the record, I believe Boeing is currently working on an upgraded 737 that will feature many of the same technologies as the new 787.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The 737 — the workhorse of airplanes.

    No good for short hauls, mind!

    Paul H. Reply:

    What a load of rubbish. The entire airline industry will see a major consolidation once fuel costs skyrocket due to oil production decline… That much is very obvious already. Short-haul flights will no longer exist, and California likely won’t have built bay-to-basin yet, so you can see the predicament we are in.

    Emma Reply:

    Now that is rubbish. Didn’t they say that the world economy will collapse when CFCs got banned? It turned out that the industry adapted to new alternatives within months.
    If the price for gas would skyrocket, auto companies wouldn’t go bankrupt. That’s downright false. They would simply switch faster to alternatives. Same thing with planes. Especially planes!

    Virgin Atlantic is already testing bio fuel planes. And while the argument that cars are the biggest polluters might stand, it is FACT that planes only contribute to 2% of all carbon emissions. And those 2% are mostly caused by military planes.
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/02/virgin-atlantic/

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You have far less than no idea what you’re talking about.

    This is what the future looks like.

    Got 14 terawatts to spare?

    Paul H. Reply:

    That star on the oil extraction graph should be right at the peak, by 2013 there will be an oil shortfall, meaning we are entering the decline side of the graph. Yeah, the quicker we build HSR the better at this point.

    Paul H. Reply:

    Sorry Richard, a second look at that graph and I realize thats a Fossil Fuel extraction graph, not an oil extraction chart, which is probably correct that we are still on the upswing side of it. But in an exponential growth economy, we’ll reach that peak in a decade or two, so still in all of our lifetimes.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Uranium and thorium!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Biofuels do a lot less for the environment than their advertising would make you think, and have a much worse effect than anything else on food prices.

    Trains are one of the alternatives people would switch to if the world fought CO2 as aggressively as it fought CFCs. The switch didn’t happen overnight for CFCs – there were conventions and protocols, and a CFC peak a few years later, and a slow decline in CFC concentrations in the two decades since. With carbon, it would necessarily be slower and involve more visible changes in technology, since the magnitude of the problem is larger.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The economy won’t collapse, just like it didn’t collapse when CFCs were banned.

    The *airline industry* will collapse. It’s never been profitable in the first place. People will switch to ground transportation. Like trains.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    I find Emma’s post to be totally preposterous. She expects a lot of technologies that may or may not happen; it would be foolish to count on their happening.

    Artificial intelligence has been MUCH more difficult than what many people had expected in the 1950’s to 1970’s. Both hardware and software are much advanced over what was available back then, but artificial-intelligence progress has been much slower. Has anyone succeeded in writing chatbot software that can pass the Turing Test? Most such software flunks rather miserably. Artificial vision isn’t all that great, either.

    Automatic driving would require very good AI, including artificial vision, to function very well. It may also be a liability nightmare, something that ambulance chasers would love. It also wouldn’t be a very good solution to traffic congestion, something which is a result of too many cars in one place.

    As to electric cars, I’d be surprised if they ever get much driving range between recharges. Batteries’ energy density just aren’t that great compared to combustible fuels’ energy densities.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Once they figure out the Heisenburg compensators we don’t need roads, planes, better batteries. Just flit gleefully across the Ether….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Spaceships use warp drives. What flies through the ether is byakhee, and those are only reliable as a mode of transportation if you’re willing to go insane in the process.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Across not through…. Have to figure out the dilithium crystals first.
    …but if you have a repilcator next to the microwave why bother with having something transported form a warehouse somewhere, just replicate it…

    jimsf Reply:

    and if you’re fresh out of dilithium crystals you can substitute a tbsp of Mrs. Dash.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When you see the yellow sign, you won’t think it’s so easy. The Old Ones only come once every few thousand years, when the stars are right. But if you blow the wrong whistle in the wrong time of year, the byakhee will come, in all their terrifying, mystical glory. The smart would run. The not so smart would try to figure out whether they’re exactly crows, moles, vampire bats, or ants, and get devoured.

    Emma Reply:

    And yet you are wrong because Google’s robot-driven car is already on the highways, merging correctly, calculating the routes, and finding the optimal speed. This is not 1999 anymore where we were telling ourselves that some things are simply impossible.

    I didn’t even know whether I should respond to this because you’re obviously trolling around, living in denial about current advances in research. It’s just a matter of time until these technologies go mainstream and by this I mean it will take LESS than 20 years until we see new technologies hit the market that have an answer to all your doubts and questions.
    Also: Ever heard of Tesla Motors? That would be a good start. They already offer batteries with a 460 mi range. The only disadvantage is the fact that such cars are almost twice as expensive. Not to mention that 90% of the time people use their cars, they don’t drive farther than 90 mi a day which is well in the range of current EV battery charges. Again, how can you even assume that batteries won’t make such advances in the next 20 years?? Use your red herring somewhere else.

    Emma Reply:

    On that note, Hulu offers the “Revenge of the Electric Car” for free (of course with ads).

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/322022/revenge-of-the-electric-car

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And yet you are wrong because Google’s robot-driven car is already on the highways, merging correcty, calculating the routes, and finding the optimal speed.

    Except when it doesn’t and it crashes into things.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    I’ll still believe it when I see it for both technologies.

    Automatic driving is still in an experimental stage. It is not exactly fit for everyday duty on roads where it has to mix with other cars and pedestrians and street signs and traffic lights and the like. But if it gets good enough for that duty, and I think that it may one day do so, one will know when some people start discussing restricting manual driving. I once read a science-fiction story, Isaac Asimov’s “Sally” in “Nightfall and Other Stories”, about automatic cars where manual driving was outlawed as needlessly dangerous.

    As to electric cars, tell me when they get cost-competitive with gasoline cars. Are there enough envirosnob early adopters to create a big market for them? As to range between chargings, what’s the track record so far? Charging time? But a plus I can think of is maintenance — much less mechanical complexity. How are electric cars so far on maintenance?

    Furthermore, technologies that make automatic driving easy will make it much easier to do construction work, like constructing rights-of-way for high-speed trains. So high-speed trains will still be valuable.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Most of the maintenance in an electric car should be the same or less than it would be for a gas car. Tire changes and maintenance, suspension, body, and interior maintenance don’t normally care what kind of power is running a car. Electric motors are simple and can be made quite trouble-free; at the same time, you get away from oil changes, filter changes, coolant changes, and most mechanical mechanical maintenance (such as belt changes) simply because an electric car doesn’t have those systems. The electronics would be relatively simple and reliable as well; your own modern gas car has a flock of computers in it, and they are normally pretty trouble free (although !!@#$%^&!!! to fix when something does go wrong).

    The big, big question mark is the battery. Most batteries suffer some sort of degradation of their interior components over time, and should be changed out on a regular basis. The cost may have gone down, but the last time I checked, a replacement battery pack for something like a Prius was $1,500.00–about as much as an engine. I don’t know how long those batteries last, but if the classic time of about 5 years is right, that’s a lot of money to have to plunk down when it come time for a change-out, even if it works out to only $300.00 per year. Of course, said batteries are usually recyclable, even our old lead-acid types that are still used as starter and auxiliary batteries in cars today.

    I’m personally of the opinion that some variation of capacitor storage might be a better way to go–quicker charging times, and you shouldn’t have the internal material degradation that is inherent in at least some battery types.

    synonymouse Reply:

    electric car – no plugs, no timing, no timing belt, no radiator, no gas tank, no fuel pump, no water pump, no valves, no rings, no fuel injection, no muffler, no torque converting trannie. Where do I stop?

    Jerry Reply:

    No anti-freeze.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I nearly forgot–brake maintenance or change-outs should be less, as an electric car, like a current hybrid, would make use of regenerative braking.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Kohn-Nerode battery. :-) Watch for it.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Loren: see more about the Google self drive car for yourself.

    I’ve driven behind and alongside it on crowded Hwy 101 in heavy traffic. The last time I saw it, it was jammed with 5 people and appeared to be driving well. I understand they’ve let it drive up and down the length of Hwy 1, and that it does just fine.

    Wired just ran a big self drive story: Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here

    Nathanael Reply:

    Electric cars are live and they’re going to take over very quickly.

    Robot cars — yeah, Google’s appears to work, but you haven’t factored in human psychology. Robot cars won’t be allowed on the road on a mass scale until they’re *ten times better* than people. Maybe *a hundred times*. This is unfortunate, but it’s the same reason nobody will allow fully automated trains to have grade crossings.

    The software and hardware for fully automated trains to detect obstructions in their paths is actually pretty much perfect, and has been for at least a decade. Yet they’re not allowed to have grade crossings. Anywhere.

    Think about that and then ask yourself, when are robot cars going to be allowed on the road?

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Airlines already have found ways to provide affordable short-distance flights while making a profit.”
    No, they haven’t. Where do you get this fantasy? Are you referring to some specialized market? Because short-distance flights are not affordable, and airlines are not making real profits.

    The entire airline industry, netted out over its entire existence, has lost money.

    It’s only going to get worse, too. Demand for air travel — DOWN due to the TSA. Jet fuel prices — UP due to long-term trends. Cost of new airplanes — UP. Flyability of old airplanes — DOWN….

  18. Peter
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 15:21
    #18

    OT: Spanair ceases all operations.

    Anyone know how many flights they flew on the Puente Aéreo between Madrid and Barcelona?

  19. Reality Check
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 15:49
    #19

    NY Times: Deep Conflict Looms Over Billion-Dollar BART Extension to Livermore

    Proponents put the cost of the proposed extension at $1.2 billion. It is more than a rift between the suburban mouse and the city mouse. It is a fundamental disagreement over how scarce funds for public transit should be spent: expanding the 104-mile BART system or maintaining what already exists. The transit agency needs $7 billion over the next 25 years for track maintenance, station upgrades and a fleet of new train cars, BART officials say.

    […]

    If voters approve the 1 percent sales tax, that could effectively force BART into building the extension, to the dismay of Mr. Radulovich and other critics who believe that system will fall into disrepair if more money is spent on what he called boondoggles.

    “When you’ve got a house where the roof is failing, you don’t take out your savings and build an addition,” said Jeff Hobson, deputy director for TransForm, a transit advocacy group. “We feel like it’s nutty to go ahead and plan for more multi-billion-dollar extensions.”

    But supporters from Livermore say that BART owes them an extension, because they have been paying taxes to support the agency since its inception.

    “The citizens feel that they paid for it and it’s only fair that they get it now,” Linda Jeffery Sailors, the former mayor of Dublin, said.

    […]

    But Mr. Radulovich called the freeway station an anachronism from an era when BART catered to commuters driving from the suburbs to catch the train. Downtown stations encourage housing to be built nearby, requiring less car use, he said.

    “We have all this logic of prior commitments and it’s predicated on this sprawling pattern of growth,” he said. “That’s not the way the region is growing anymore, so why are we building these extensions as if it were?”

  20. Reality Check
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 15:57
    #20
  21. Reality Check
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 16:02
    #21

    Tracy Press column: Tracing Tracy Territory: What’s after high-speed rail?

    If that Altamont line could somehow be established — the stretch between Tracy and Livermore is already being considered as a possible first phase — it just might become part of a north-south passenger-rail network, especially if the proposed high-speed route through the Pacheco Pass is put on hold.

  22. Reality Check
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 16:10
    #22

    Gov. Jerry Brown: Bullet train will keep U.S. out of Third World

    Gov. Jerry Brown is on a mission to prevent the United States from becoming a Third World country, and he says the solution is a high-speed railroad in California.

    “We’re not going to be a Third World country if I have anything to do with it,” Brown said in a Friday morning interview on KCBS-AM in San Francisco. Fourteen countries already have high-speed rail, but the United States does not.

    […]

    During the interview, Brown fired back at critics, saying the rail line will be cheaper than roads and airports in the long run.

    “This thing is going to be a lot less than some of the critics have said,” he said, adding that “this will transform Central California.”

    […]

    “Just like Lincoln can built the transcontinental railroad during the Civil War … you’ve got to think big,” he said.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s a lot of hyperbole, even for Brown.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember, Lincoln made sure the Transcontinental Railroad was built, but he couldn’t manage to get a rail route from the north side of Baltimore to the South Side….

    …let this be a lesson to those trying to do urban sections first.

    morris brown Reply:

    Here is the full text of what Brown said on KCBS this AM.

    Text of the Gov. interview.

    Text of Gov. Brown’s interview on HSR
    KCBS radio 1/27/2012

    Q. Let me ask you about another hot-button issue… You mentioned in your State of the State speech the other day… High Speed Rail. This thing looks the numbers keep spiraling away from the State. Are you still of the mind that this thing can be built and the State can pay for it now.

    Gov Brown: First of all, this thing is going to be a lot less than some of the critics have said.
    Secondly, all of the major countries of the world have High Speed Rail. There are 14 others. We are not going to be a third world country if I have anything to do with it.

    We are the premier place of innovation, new patents, venture capital and new technology. This will transform Central California. It will be much cheaper than just building more roads , or building more airports or more runways.

    This is a 100 year project, just like Lincoln built the inter-continental railroad during the civil war or build the Panama canal or the Suez Canal under Britain . You gotta think big and this is a, I think, a pillar of the entry of California into being a great power, not only in own country but throughout the world.

    ————

    Note in bold, the reference to the Central Valley. Sure sounds like he expect the funds and construction to stay in the Central Valley.

    morris brown Reply:

    The LA times has an article on Gov. Brown’s comments on KCBS.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/01/jerry-brown-high-speed-rail-california.html

    Gov. Jerry Brown: Bullet train will keep U.S. out of Third World

    synonymouse Reply:

    Once the patronage machine achieves a lock on the 2/3 majority California will certainly be one of the PIIG’s, if not straight to the third world.

    Jerry and Nancy’s guys are already talking a state-run health service that would by one estimate cost around $250bil. With that magnitude of social spending subsidies for Stilt-A-Rail will indeed be low on the list of priorities.

    Rumor is that Germany wants Greece to cede control of its own budget. I could see that coming to the Golden State.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You don’t understand anything, do you?

    A state takeover of all health insurance (single-payer) would, at one stroke:
    (1) Reduce paperwork overhead from 20-30% to 2-3%
    (2) Cut medical costs statewide (yes, doctors would get paid less)
    (3) Improve the profits of every single business in the state massively (no need to provide health insurance, which often costs more than wages — really)
    (4) Increase the ability of workers to change jobs (no need to worry about health insurance)

    And oh yeah! — people would be healthier (less contagious disease, etc.) because nobody would be afraid to go to the doctor due to lack of insurance.

    California would start on a boom very quickly if the massive deadweight cost of health insurance was lifted off of private business.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sounds great except for the all the unemployed paper pushers you would create.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Dan Richard was also saying yesterday he still supports starting in the Valley.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/01/27/2700689/new-hsr-chief-defends-the-plan.html
    “Dan Richard, appointed to the authority board last summer by Gov. Jerry Brown, told a Fresno Chamber of Commerce audience Friday night that the Valley is a crucial backbone to connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco rail service. He added that he opposes shifting $3 billion in federal money from the Valley to start construction in other parts of the state.
    ……..
    “There are a number of people who would be just as happy to give that money back, and there are people who would say, ‘Let’s take it out of the Valley and put it in other places,’ but I oppose that,” said Richard, who acknowledged that he was originally skeptical about building first in the Valley.

    “This is the place to start building.””

    Tony d. Reply:

    There’s obviously two “Dan Richards” working for the CHSRA, because that sounds nothing like the Richards that was quoted in the Sac Biz Journal. Maybe he just wanted to get out of Fresno alive. FWIW, saying you still support building in the valley and saying “it’s going to be built in the valley first!” Are two different animals.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Not necessarily two different Dan Richards. It could be on Dan Richard who acknowledges that Federal dollars and concomitant Prop 1A money has to be spent in the Central Valley, as the Feds approved.
    But that same Dan Richard may also acknowledge the political reality that some money has to go to the large population centers, for metropolitan/commuter rail, sooner than 2030.

    The key question would be: where would that money come from? The $950m of Prop 1A funds for non-HSR wouldn’t go far. That’s what, three-and-a-bit miles of BART, in YOE dollars?

    datacruncher Reply:

    That is the interpretation I see from the comments from both Brown and Richard.

    Somewhere a little money will go to the north and south ends so those bent out of shape about starting in the Valley get something. The question is where is the money coming from and for what projects to appease the Bay Area and Southern California.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Bent out of shape? Oh boy! It just makes sense to start in the highly populated urban areas and later connect the two via the Central Valley by 2030. But I digress; you keep asking where the money’s going to come from for the commuter urban areas…where in the hell is the money going to come from to get beyond the ICS and to make that true, electric HSR? (hence my support for a bookend approach)

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Datacruncher:
    more precisely, where are the $950m in matching funds, required to unlock the $950m of Prop 1A funds, going to come from? And is SoCal really going to get to gobble all of the Prop 1A Regional Funds?
    That may pacify Southern Californians opposed to the CV ICS, but won’t do anything for NotCal naysayers.

    jimsf Reply:

    It will be where the building starts. And after that, getting trains through brom bfd to socal will be the next top priority. Watchh and see.

    synonymouse Reply:

    100 years from now they will be using the Detour’s tunnels to grow mushrooms.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’ll be using to get from Bakersfield to San Bernandino. The northern set of tunnels along with the southern set under the Cajon.

  23. Peter
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 17:51
    #23

    OT: Sonoma and Marin Counties to get their train after all

    PressDemocrat: SMART repeal effort falls short

    Marin Independent Journal: SMART opponents submit petitions, await fate on Monday

    Opponents submitted less than 6000 signatures from Sonoma County, and an unknown number from Marin. It’s unlikely that they obtained enough signatures to even meet the lower 15,000 signature threshold they thought they needed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    From the article on the PressDemocrat: “We thought we needed 19,000 to 20,000 to make the 15,000,” said John Parnell of Novato, founder and co-chairman of RepealSMART. “Of course, the thing that disappoints me the most is people won’t have an opportunity to vote on the tax.”

    People had the opportunity to vote on the tax, they voted to approve it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Meanwhile, another repeal of a recent voter mistake is continuing with full force.

    jimsf Reply:

    drag him out of the capitol and put him in the stocks!

    Nathanael Reply:

    1 million signatures to recall Walker, 800K to recall Kleefisch, and every single Republican state senator is up for recall, including the “bright red district” Fitzgerald.

    Should be fun. Walker’s campaign staff is currently getting indicted for crimes ranging from stealing donations intended for charity, to soliciting sex from underage boys. That gang can’t be removed soon enough.

    wu ming Reply:

    expect some more whinging from synonymouse.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Looks like he’ll have to ride the “doodlebug” after all.

    Peter Reply:

    I’d rather hear his whinging than crowing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    SMART is talking 79mph. That’s BART top speed, grade separated. I know how many autos there are around here, the Northbay, and who’s driving some of them – frenetic yuppies, assorted drunks and punks, road-raging hardhats, ritchie riches who know they own the world and the road.

    Just a matter of time before Darwinian selection intervenes and we will running our own real world version of the Pueblo survivability test site.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Oops, I forget soccer moms texting.

    Peter Reply:

    Meh, Caltrain does 79 mph through grade crossings, too, and very few accidents occur, even with twice as many trains as SMART plans to run at full buildout.

    Those that do happen occur because people don’t know that they can’t stop on the tracks. And that if they get trapped on the tracks, they have to get out of the car.

    Claiming that drivers in the North Bay are stupider than drivers on the Peninsula, especially in light of the existence of PAMPA (whose demographics are quite similar to the North Bay), is pretty stupid.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Oh yeah.

    In due course we will test the structural integrity of the doodlebugs.

    Peter Reply:

    If the track record of other trains with CEM are any guide, it will be better than FRA trains…

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is what you can anticipate with SMART, only substitute 79mph for 55mph and a semi loaded with gravel or the like for an SUV:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/01/28/national/a175248S03.DTL

    Peter Reply:

    You know, an example where the light rail train does not derail and no one on the train is killed or even seriously injured does not exactly help your case.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Remember Amtrak in Nevada last year?

    Peter Reply:

    Not sure what you’re trying to prove by bringing that up, other than that FRA-compliance offers no protection…

    synonymouse Reply:

    SMART is dumb.

    **** doodlebugs

    **** freight and NCRA-NWP

    **** Doug Bosco and his plan to mine gravel somewhere in Mendo over the dead bodies of local environmentalists.

    **** Sucka Rosa to San Rafael, when most of the traffic is south of there.

    **** 79mph in congested urban areas w/o grade separation. The Sacto light rail concept is exactly what I have in mind for SMART.

    Peter Reply:

    Wow. I guess you finally lost your cool?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    What this incident should tell us is that drivers are often pretty lousy. This is news dating back to steam and Model T days, and even before. “Cures” would be grade-separation and better-trained drivers; both approaches were advocated at least as far back as the 1930s, and a higher standard for driver licensing (and periodic retesting) would do well to reduce traffic accidents in all situations. However, both cost money, and the usual bunch of cowards that makes up the political class would hate to inconvenience the motorist by making sure he or she really knew something about cars and driving.

    If my relatives are any indication, the worst complainers about regular retesting are older drivers. I have to say I don’t comprehend the reluctance of such people to periodic driver testing to a high standard. If you are a decent driver, you should be able to ace such a test more easily as an older driver because of your experience. It should also be a point of pride to be tested and pass to a high standard. After all, that’s what we do with commercial and military pilots, and they have excellent safety records in an operating climate that is both more complex and much less forgiving of human error.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uLwV8oXLHg

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCSCqZ7Ps7Q&feature=bf_next&list=PLCE3406E13D71F48E&lf=results_main

    synonymouse Reply:

    The crossing gates in the sad Sac fatal light rail wreck may have been down for quite a while:

    http://www.altamontpress.com/discussion/read.php?1,69051,69065#msg-69065

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just did a little looking up at SMART’s site, and two things that stand out is that it costs more than it should (no surprise there, we Americans are apparently idiots at cost control). I would like to know how its director gets paid $346,000 per year; I would take the job at half that rate and feel like I was being paid to play baseball (or model trains). Best thing I saw was the advertising slogan, “You approved it. We’re building it.” That’s something the CAHSRA should steal.

    Other than the cost problems, I don’t think the critics have much (i.e., noise concerns). Cost is certainly something we in America need to address–but how?

    Something lighter in tone, and I be Syn will like it–a musical tribute to the Flying Yankee of the Boston & Maine, a “motor train” strongly patterned after the Pioneer Zephyr of the Burlington, and undergoing restoration in New England.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJbZI1_G5VA

    There is a derailment photo in the slide show, suggesting even back in 1935 that Budd built a sturdy product. It was classically stylish, too. Wish we had the sense to build things that looked as good today.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Found some other footage on the Flying Yankee:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=5V1ig5FWS4w

    There are steam engines in this too; what stands out, even for me, is the contrast in the sleek look of the motor train and the smokey steam trains. I knew about this contrast, and yet for some reason it looks particularly sharp in these images from New England.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    In a semi-related manner, two items on clean energy, and how members of the public, including sensible Republicans, are backing it, despite the propaganda favoring the fossil fuel business, etc.:

    http://getenergysmartnow.com/2012/01/27/pounding-the-wedges-home/

    http://grist.org/politics/clean-energy-is-a-wedge-issue-that-favors-democrats/

    http://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/memo-democrats-get-behind-clean-energy-asap.html

    Now if only we rail promoters could get more respect; wonder if we will have to wait for more human dinosaurs to die. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And speaking of propaganda, one of our current favorite versions of Snidely Whiplash may be in trouble again. Seems some more people from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (which includes Fox News) have been arrested, apparently the hacking scandal also involved police bribery. This reportedly could have repercussions in the US, due to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:

    http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/01/28/413971/breaking-five-more-arrested-in-news-corp-phone-hacking-scandal/

    http://thinkprogress.org/media/2011/07/11/265932/murdoch-fcpa-record/

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh, Just deserts, delicious even…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Woo! I’ve said since the 1980s that sensible everyday Republicans should abandon their party; glad to see that some are beginning to realize that their party leaders do not always have their best interests at heart.

  24. calwatch
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 18:38
    #24

    Yesterday the obscure San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee passed a resolution declaring Bakersfield to Palmdale should be the highest priority for any rail system, be it conventional rail or high speed rail. Also we found out where Dan Leavitt landed – he now works for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Committee under Stacey Mortensen. The SJRRC runs the Altamont Commuter Express.

    calwatch Reply:

    Regional Rail Commission.

  25. jimsf
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 19:37
    #25

    bnsf wants to operate sjq service and hsr.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Link?

    EJ Reply:

    Ignore the troll. jimsf has been commenting on this blog for years, his entire interest is trains that connect directly from his house to specific destinations he wants to go. It gets boring after a while.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And did youPAY to join CAHSR like we did??? NOOO did not think so

    wu ming Reply:

    are you seriously calling jimsf a troll?

    jimsf Reply:

    first, yes, as a voter adn taxpayer Im interested in the route to make sure that not only me, but th elargest number of californians cant get the the largest numbers places ( regions and city pairs) with the system. ( which is why I support the current plan)

    And two, I work at a location which is an amtrak and bnsf crew base and per a recent meeting and discussion with management, bnsf is interested, and has been for a while, in bidding on the san joaquin operations and eventually hsr. And the discussion was about theemplyee buy out process and how amtrak employees will be given the option to be granfathered into the bnsf contract or bid to other regions and remain on the amtrak payroll. And all the usual stuff that goes with that.. benefits, seniorty rights and so forth.

    As you know, all amtrak lines are eligible to be up for bid now by other operators. BNSF already operates other passenger rail and is interested in running more passenger rail.

    When you consider how much of the hsr line is along the bnsf row inthe valley. Its al starts to make sense.

    VBobier Reply:

    BNSF getting back into Passenger trains and into HSR too, now wouldn’t that be a hoot.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You know, Warren Buffet seems like a pretty smart guy. His Berkshire Hathaway bought a major stake in BNSF. I wonder how he’s influencing them?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Buffett doesn’t influence his managements unless they screw up.

    He does, however, only buy companies whose management style he already likes.

    BNSF, a few years back, got Matt Rose as CEO. Matt Rose said “Hey — why don’t we eliminate all our slow orders and make the Amtrak trains run on time? It doesn’t cost that much and it’s great public relations.” So he did.

    That tells you the sort of attitude which Buffett wanted. :-)

    wu ming Reply:

    interesting. thanks for the tip, jim.

  26. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 27th, 2012 at 23:28
    #26

    Keeping an eye on the competition (in this case, from Great Britain)–a motorists’ association’s attitudes to speed limits revealed in a government inquiry by a “Select Committee:”

    http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/the-association-of-british-drivers/

    http://manchestercycling.blogspot.com/2012/01/to-its-logical-conclusion.html

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    It’s not a government inquiry, just a regular session of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee. The US equivalent would be the House of Representatives transportation committee.

    The UK government has proposed increasing the motorway speed limit from 70 mph to 80 mph.

  27. jimsf
    Jan 28th, 2012 at 15:26
    #27

    Tony d. Reply:January 28th, 2012 at 2:51 pm So then its all about Amtrak California over Caltrain and Metrolink (really?) and the need to travel 220mph instead of 125mph. Pretty sad that this is what its all come down to

    Uh hello. Yes that is what it comes down two. The purpose of high speed rail is not to upgrade urban commutes although that is a side effect of the overall finished system. The purpose of high speed rail is simple (though a surprising number of people can’t seem to grasp the concept)
    The purpose is to tie the major regions together. The San Diego Area, The OC, Greater LA, The IE, The antelope Valley, The Central Valley (sacramento and san joquin valleys) and the great bay area. The current plan has the benefit of offering the greatest number of city pairs to the most people in the most regions as possible, while offering trip times that beat driving and flying in all but the furthest flung city pairs (sf-sd) The current plan puts hsr rail access closer to more people than the airports they currently access. And the added benefit is that is also creates fast commute services within the regions and between adjacent regions. And no its not about caltrain and metrolink. caltrain and metrolink should working on their own improvements as they see fit. What californians voted for was statewide interregional connectivy. The voters understood this even if half the people on this blog don’t, 9 or at least pretend that they don’t because they have personal ideologies which forbid it)

    Tony d. Reply:

    You know Jim, there’s still a part of me that’s with you on all of this. I’m still 100% pro-HSR! But unless we hit the funding jackpot with more fed funds and massive private investment, I believe we’re sending precious funding into the black hole known as the CV ICS. Worst case scenario: status quo for our current commuter networks and Amtrak California gets some nice rails to travel on. :(

    J. Wong Reply:

    Planning to fail is what it is by arguing that we start at the endpoints.

    Tell me, what do you think the odds are that there will be absolutely no further Federal grants? If it’s 50/50, that sounds like a good bet to me.

    wu ming Reply:

    this is so obvious i’m amazed it needs saying. but them i’m one of those benighted inland californians living in “nowhere.”

  28. jimsf
    Jan 28th, 2012 at 17:06
    #28

    Tony d. Reply:
    January 28th, 2012 at 4:04 pmYou know Jim, there’s still a part of me that’s with you on all of this. I’m still 100% pro-HSR! But unless we hit the funding jackpot with more fed funds and massive private investment, I believe we’re sending precious funding into the black hole known as the CV ICS

    The sky will not be allowed to fall. i wish everyone would just relax. Just because the nation is political and financial hard times is no reason to panic, give and throw in the towel. the state wants this, the people involved want it, and the behind the scenes players want it. its going to happen. there is no doubt. It won’t happen over night. no one ever promised it would. Look at the calecott tunnel fourth bore…. how long has that taken? Look how long from conception to completion the I-5 took. BART was conceived in the 50s and didn’t open untill the 70s with only a “train to nowhere” segment. EVen after that it was a proven success until after the 89 quake and into the boom era of the 90s. 40 years from conception to success. Everyone needs to stop hyperventilating. There are too many people with too much gain. remember california will be entering its next boom period around the time that the next segment is due for construction. During good times, californians always put transportation at the top of their list. state and local coffers will be full and people will have compete amnesia about the long gone recession. ( just as they have amnesia about everything else) I’m not an optimistic person in general, but this I know about californians, .. forward ho. we won’t be stopped. just be patient.

  29. jimsf
    Jan 28th, 2012 at 17:15
    #29

    (typos ugh ..”EVen after that it WASN’T a proven success until after the 89 quake and into the boom era of the 90s. 40 years from conception to success.”)

  30. jimsf
    Jan 28th, 2012 at 18:57
    #30

    VBobier Reply:
    January 28th, 2012 at 6:28 pm
    BNSF getting back into Passenger trains and into HSR too, now wouldn’t that be a hoot

    I guess they already are back in the passenger business. bnsf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They host a lot of passenger trains run by other people, but the only one they run themselves is the BNSF Line in Chicago. The Metra system is extremely legacy-like, and BNSF and UP have both inherited commuter lines operated by predecessor railroads, which they still run today; I do not know how much public funding Metra doles out for those lines, but in either case they’re tiny compared to the volume of freight revenues those companies have.

    jimsf Reply:

    they also operate sounder up north and they want to bed on san joquin operations as well ( thus my previous comment about the conversation about our job options)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, you’re right.

    Do you know if the Sounder is operated under contract in the same way the BNSF Line is, or is it operated by a more open bid, like Metrolink and Caltrain?

    jim Reply:

    Yeah. One of the consequences of PRIIA 209 is going to turn out to be that Amtrak can lose its corridor services. Others have always been able to bid on them, but in most cases Amtrak subsidized them so no-one else was likely to want to run them. The San Joaquins, for example, cost $76M/yr to run, ticket revenue is a bit over $31M, Caltrans throws in a bit over $33M and Amtrak absorbs the other $11M. But once PRIIA 209 kicks in, the States will be covering almost all the losses (there’s a cap on how much Amtrak overhead they’ll have to pay for). So there’s an opportunity for BNSF to try to undercut Amtrak. On the San Joaquins, the State will have to come up with $45M/yr. BNSF can guarantee the subsidy will never be more than $40M and, if it can keep costs lower than Amtrak (not really that hard) win. They can probably do the same on the Cascades, too.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I suspect Amtrak will remain. The reason is that Amtrak offers ticketing. BNSF doesn’t want to get into *that* business. Sounder was doing its own ticketing anyway.

    If BNSF bid on the San Joaquins, whichever agency is sponsoring them would have to pay upfront for its own ticketing system for them, and that would probably outweigh the savings. So I bet they’ll consider it, then decide to stick with Amtrak.

    Unless, of course, they get a bid for providing ticketing from an agency which already has a ticketing system.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Note that the services which have been “transferred” from Amtrak in the past have been transferred to agencies which already had their own ticketing (NJT, mostly).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yet NJTransit operated trains – the Atlantic City Express Service – reservations and ticketing are provided by Amtrak.

    joe Reply:

    Alon, I recall the Caltrain rep (at a Gilroy mtg in 2001) compared their fare recovery rate to Chicagoland’s METRA, which was not 100% but closer to Caltrain’s ~67%.

  31. Andrew
    Jan 31st, 2012 at 15:04
    #31

    “Within urban areas, however, the choices are different. Nobody flies between SF and San José. A bullet train connecting those two points could save you 30 minutes over driving (perhaps more at rush hour) but that’s not as great a savings over driving between SF and LA”

    I disagree. Caltrain and Metrolink have the potential to get much more ridership than the entire HSR system, if money is spent on speed and frequency increases (which might come from the HSR program). Although HSR is not a commuter train, i.e. the vast majority commuters will use commuter trains on regular track which might be shared with HSR, not on high speed trains, improving commuter rail in the Bay Area and LA is badly needed.

Comments are closed.