Steve Lopez Still Doesn’t Get It

Feb 4th, 2012 | Posted by

In his Los Angeles Times column last Wednesday, Steve Lopez invited readers to weigh in on the high speed rail project. I wrote a detailed response for him and despite emailing the column to him, it appears he didn’t read it or any of the other points made by HSR supporters. At least, that’s the conclusion I’m drawing from his newest column on HSR, which repeats many of the same “nobody will ride trains in California” skepticism that flies in the face of the available evidence.

One of the main problems with Lopez’s column is that it follows the common but deeply misleading approach of presenting the issue as the people versus the government, with the newspaper on the side of the people. It’s a convenient fiction, but has the effect of silencing the large number of people who do back the project. Watch how Lopez dismisses HSR supporters:

Readers by the hundreds weighed in after that column. Many of them were still passionate about moving ahead, while others insisted it’s time to give up the dream. And quite a few couldn’t believe Gov. Jerry Brown is still pushing the project despite the state’s staggering financial burdens.

That one short fragment of a sentence – “Many of them were still passionate about moving ahead” – is all that Lopez has to say about HSR supporters and our arguments. He feels a journalistic obligation to note that we exist, but that’s about it. He is clearly throwing in his lot with the skeptics, even though HSR backers marshaled some compelling points he chose to ignore.

Instead Lopez, siding with the critics, gave credence to some absurd ideas that fly in the face of evidence:

I told [CHSRA Board Chairman Dan] Richard I’d heard from lots of readers who worried that we might be investing in a railroad whose technology is outdated, if not obsolete, when it’s finally finished. High-speed, computer-programmed driverless cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. And then there are cheerleaders for high-speed Maglev trains, a magnetic levitation system that’s already in use in Shanghai, among other places.

So, actually, high-speed driverless cars and long-distance maglev trains remain the stuff of science fiction – nobody has ever made them workable. And the cost of building them is far, far, FAR higher than the cost of building traditional, proven, successful steel wheeled bullet trains. It’s ironic that Lopez can’t bring himself to deal with any of the arguments made by HSR backers, but he treats fanciful and extraordinarily expensive gadgets as some kind of realistic alternative.

But what’s driving Lopez’s skepticism is the same thing that drives every other piece of HSR skepticism: a belief that Californians, unlike everybody else in America and the world, won’t ride bullet trains:

But will enough drivers get out of their cars in 2033, or give up on air travel? Will millions of people who don’t live near a high-speed station, and can’t easily get to one because of heavy traffic and inadequate regional transit, ever ride the bullet?

We know the answers to these questions already, but Lopez simply did not bother to look them up. Drivers are already getting out of their cars. Vehicle miles traveled is in decline. A recent study found that car use in LA has declined by 2% and in SF by 4.8%. Californians are buying less gas. As I explained to Lopez on Thursday, this is part of a long-term shift away from driving that has car companies scared to death – a shift that Lopez hasn’t heard a thing about. Maybe he should go ask people whether they’d rather sit behind the wheel in traffic or sit on a comfortable train seat with their BlackBerry or iPad.

As to getting to a bullet train station, the inconvenience of getting to LAX hasn’t stopped people flying to and from that airport. In fact, LA Union Station will be one of the easiest places to get to for Angelenos, sitting at the center of the region’s transportation network. By 2030 Union Station will be the hub of an extensive rail network.

We don’t know what jet fuel will cost, or how long airport security check-in will take in 2033. High-speed rail folks say the projected cost of a train ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco — a trip of 2 hours and 40 minutes — will be 83% of the cost of a plane ticket. But like everything else, that’s speculative.

We actually have a pretty good idea of what oil-based fuels will cost in 2033. Oil market analysts, such as those at Deutsche Bank, project the price of oil will have $100/bbl as a floor, with regular spikes well above that amount. Even the $100/bbl floor assumes demand destruction and development of alternatives, such as high speed rail. There is no rational argument anywhere out there that jet fuel costs will come down in the future, but there is a lot of evidence that it will continue to rise.

As to whether people will ride HSR, there’s nothing speculative about that at all. The facts are in and they are clear: people will choose trains over planes when given the choice. Riders have flocked to HSR from planes around the world and in the Northeastern United States. Japan and France, Spain, Russia, Taiwan, even the Amtrak Acela. And California compares favorably to those globally successful routes.

While there may well be reasons to be skeptical of HSR, and reasons to look closely at the project’s price tag, Lopez’s reasons just don’t stand up to scrutiny. In the end he’s just another reporter who refuses to drop his outdates, obsolete preconceptions and look at the world around him, look at the evidence, and draw conclusions based on what he sees rather than what he assumes.

Lopez concludes his article with a strained effort at trying to convince readers he isn’t really biased against HSR:

Some of us who want to be believers need a lot more convincing.

And I’d like to believe Lopez has an open mind about this, but if he continues to pretend that HSR supporters don’t exist, if he continues to ignore the considerable weight of evidence that shows his concerns and assumptions are totally unfounded, then it’s going to be hard to convince me Lopez is anything but a project skeptic.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 22:23
    #1

    Our main problem was and remains ignorance. Take a look at the comments that follow, particularly the “agin’ers.” We’ve been ’round and ’round on this blog, about how the road system doesn’t pay for itself, and there is a possibility the air system may have the same problem. On top of that, both systems rely on cheap petroleum, and we have an idea of where that’s going. We know this here, because we’ve taken the time to study it and discuss it; I very much doubt anybody here (with one or two exceptions) relies on only Fox News, or for that matter, MSNBC, for all their information. Yet, how many of the others, including Mr. Lopez, have taken the time, or have even had the luxury of the time, to properly study this?

    And I’ll have to admit–the very idea that Americans aren’t all blindly in love with cars was something hard for me to imagine years ago–and I’m a rail supporter, and may have been among the first to observe the generational shift. If you hadn’t seen the patterns develop, you wouldn’t guess it, although you might wish things were different yourself. And if you haven’t seen the patterns develop, you would be a skeptic, too. You wouldn’t even believe it if someone told you about it. I know, I’ve gotten just that reaction of disbelief when I said younger people weren’t car-crazy anymore, at least not to the extent past generations were.

    I just wish there was some way to speed up the process; I don’t know that we have the time to wait for enough of our human dinosaurs to die off first.

    slackfarmer Reply:

    I’ll never forget the feeling of freedom and exhilaration when my friends started to get driver’s licenses and cars. I was chomping at the bit to drive myself, and of course, had to get my driver’s license as soon as allowed (it’s still 16 in CA, right?). Compare this to my nephew — who grew up in SoCal and is now in college in Ohio. He still doesn’t have a driver’s license and doesn’t want to bother with it. He knows he’ll likely have to learn to drive when he graduates from college and gets a job, but for him it’s just a hassle.

    While my views on cars have changed over the years (with kids of my own now I look first to safety, utility and gas milage rather than horse power), it’s still hard for me to grasp the concept of driving as a chore rather than a treat. And if I hadn’t witnessed that mindset in my younger relatives and employees I might not believe it. On the flip side, I doubt today’s teens and 20-somethings will ever really understand what some Beach Boys’ songs are about.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I was probably early in that trend — I’m in my 30s and I considered driving a hassle. I’m getting an electric car (I have to — I live in a non-walkable suburb of a small town in a rural area with terrible intercity transportation *and* I have to make intercity trips nearly monthly), but I’d rather not have a car at all.

    But the shift was happening during my age bracket. Most people my age thought getting their own car was great, with a substantial minority feeling the way I did; the numbers have been tilting towards my point of view more and more among younger people.

    I credit electronic technology. The early adopters of handheld gadgets, among the people I knew, were exactly the same people who didn’t want to be driving. Now, of course, practically everyone has adopted handheld gadgets.

    I have enough perspective to have enjoyed a relaxing country drive — and detested a gruelling expressway drive and a gruelling crawl through city traffic. The latter two are much more common, though.

  2. Donk
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 22:37
    #2

    So basically what happened was the Lopez got a bunch of comments back from readers resembling the comments following an LA Times article. We all know what the intelligence level is in newspaper comments. I bet every other comment had the word “boondoggle” and every 4th comment was racist.

    VBobier Reply:

    And the letters supporting HSR were shredded, as they don’t fit the preconceived & bigoted ideas of this sad example of a reporter and/or of the reporters editor & the editors view on HSR…

  3. swing hanger
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 22:38
    #3

    I’m sick of the perennial American fascination with gadgetbahn solutions and expensive modes like maglev, usually in conjunction with the tired “railroads are 19th century tech” meme (then again, with Caltrain, you can understand where they’re coming from). As D. P. Lubic says, the biggest battle is against ignorance. I wish these people would buy a plane ticket to Western Europe or Japan, ride the railway systems there, and enlighten themselves. Heck, even go to the NEC, if they don’t have a passport, heh…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    You know what else is 19th century tech? The automobile. And the airplane. (OK, the airplane first flew in 1903, but it was based on 19th century tech.)

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    What technological innovation DOESN’T have older antecedents in the last few centuries? Radar? I mean, I know a lot people watch Star Trek n’ all but….

    Peter Reply:

    I think the point is that saying that HSR in 19th century technology is stupid.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Outside of electronics and aviation, there really haven’t been any big breakthroughs in technology since the late nineteenth century—our electricity is overwhelmingly comes from thermal sources driving steam turbines (1884) that drive electrical generators (1820s-30s). If we need to make something turn we use either an electric motor (DC 1886, AC 1888, with a long gestation period going back to Faraday in the 1820s) or an internal combustion engine (mid-to-late 1800s). If you want to turn some wheels to go somewhere, they’re either going to be lined with pneumatic tires (1887) or use flanged steel wheels on steel rails (cast iron 1768, wrought iron 1820 steel in 1857, which other sorts of rail and groove schemes going back to antiquity). Aside from home entertainment, most of your home appliances rely on electric motors, heating elements (1800s), fluorescent lamps (1895, widespread commercial application in 1904), incandescent lamps (1879), a refrigerator that’s a descendant of ammonia-cooled ice maker (1856, with the Kelvinator being developed in 1914-18). With the important exception of communications technology (and to a lesser extent aviation), we’re still reliant on nineteenth-century technology.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Manhattan project – 1945

    http://inventors.about.com/od/astartinventions/a/atomic_bomb.htm

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    That’s a big oversight (wrote this before coffee)—but nuclear power still provides less than 15% of the world’s electricity and it’s still by heating steam to drive a turbine.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Nuclear is the great equalizer – the elite enclaves of economic royalism and social apartheid are not exempt. That’s why Iran craves it so bad.

    Global warming takes too long and is not scary enough to worry the realpolitickers.

    missiondweller Reply:

    Uh no.

    Iran wants it because they plan on “wiping Israel off the map”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Along with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, big chunks of Iraq, Turkey.. from the fallout. What’s a little strontium 90 in the milk supply of Teheran… They may be crazy but they aren’t stupid.

    VBobier Reply:

    The top Mullah is full of HATE for America and Americans in general, why? Cause We followed International law on heads of state and We allowed the former Shaw in for Medical Treatment, Iran has never recognized any such rules.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Pro-tip: that bad translation was discredited years ago.

    Jerry Reply:

    @VBobier
    The ‘hatred’ is about more than the Shaw getting medical treatment.
    It also includes the CIA overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.
    (Dr. Mossadegh was the Prime Minister and Time Magazine Man of the year for 1951).
    The term ‘blowback’ came from that overthrow. It of course, as always, involved – oil.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Jerry: Yes that did happen, but that was a different administration, back in the 50’s no less, sure It was stupid, heck it was paranoia supreme. But that’s history now, it’s like they expect those who had nothing to do with it to be guilty cause of who their ancestors are, that’s just wrong and crazy as that’s revenge and it will not lead to a good ending, they have what they wanted, no US involvement. The Iranian Government doesn’t recognize that the gulf is International Waters and have said so since 1979.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The US has never apologized to Iran for ousting the democratically elected Mossadegh in order to preserve access to oil for large Western oil companies. Of course the US has never compensated Iran for the remainder of the Shah’s rule (which was much more brutal than the earlier portion).

    Just because Americans have the memories of gnats doesn’t mean people in other countries forget this sort of thing.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ahmadinejad’s exact words were, better translated, “The regime occupying Jerusalem will disappear from time.” The context was that Ahmadinejad was approvingly quoting Khomeini saying that three regimes would disappear: the Shah’s Iran, the USSR, and Israel. Besides the fact that one of those three regimes was in his own country, he was also using an expression that refers to time rather than space – in other words, annihilation of the regime, rather than of the people.

    Now, in contrast, both the US and Israel routinely make threats of invasion against Iran. In early 2007, all three then-major Democratic candidates said they would not take any option off the table, explicitly including war, in trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel is now making overt threats. Somehow, that’s considered more acceptable than predicting that Israel will disappear, a belief that’s shared by many mainstream Israelis.

    Jerry Reply:

    Thank you.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well We can all hope that neither event will transpires as many lives would be lost.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am sure they do, amongst other things.

    Everybody wants to rule the world – we are going to need all those parallel universes so all the righteous can have their own world in their own image.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Depends on your point of view. The public switched telephone network is 19th century technology. This whole Internet thingy was an outgrowth.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No. Circuit-switching phone technology is the exact analogue of this: suppose you need to drive from San Francisco to LA. Circuit-swiching means someone has to set up *a completely dedicated road route*, just for you. Packet-switching is not simply an “outgrowth” of that’ it’s a whole different technology.

    Someone should clue in all you liberal-arts types. The transistor, and the follow-on of VLSI, define technology of the last third of the 20th century. The transistor is, arguably, the most significant invention of the 20th centruy. There is just *no way* to make a cellphone with thermionic valves (also known as vacuum tubes). They’re just too big and heavy, and suck far too much power.

    The transistor radio was as revolutionary a device, in its time, as the cellphone, and nowadays the smartphone.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And packet switching was brilliant — although it’s essentially an abstract mathematical invention. Packet switching defines the Internet. Read the early RFCs and you’ll find they’re still thinking in circuit-switching terms as late as the 1960s; the arrival of packet switching is what changed expensive, dedicated lines between computers into THE INTERNET.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Beta, you left out hydropower generators — which are even OLDER than most of the things you mention.

    But you also left out photovoltaic technology. Admittedly there are some very old versions, but development of practical silicon-based photovoltaics is an entirely 20th century technology — entirely post-WWII, I believe (though I don’t have the dates on me). It’s going to hit its stride in the 21st century.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Hydropower generators = electric generators = nineteenth-century tech.

    At the moment photovoltaics aren’t a meaningful source of electricity—in Germany, where the industry’s heavily subsidized, they’re generating about 3% of the total electricity there. I agree they have great potential, though.

    The main point of the post was to try and demonstrate how stupid the “nineteenth-century” technology meme is with respect to trains—in large part we’re still living in the nineteenth century. Of course, many of the people who claim HSR is a nineteenth-century technology want to cling to their nineteenth-century incandescents. And some also want to speed the construction of new thermal plants—a fully nineteenth-century technology—rather than waiting for aneutronic fusion reactors so we can finally convert charged particles into electricity directly.

  4. Emma
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 00:17
    #4

    “those at Deutsche Bank, project the price of oil will have $100/bbl as a floor, with regular spikes well above that amount.”

    That’s pure non-sense and you know it. It’s already at $100/bbl. Unless a miracle happens and it starts to rain oil, there is no way in hell that the price of oil will be $100/bbl. make that at least $200 / bbl. The government and oil companies are lying to us regarding peak oil. Anybody who bothers to look up some basic statistics will see that we have reached peak oil years ago. It’s going down from that point. Oil will become more expensive. $8/gallon will be the new reality in the United States by the end of the decade.

    But it’s also nonsense to assume that we will use 2000s technology in 2033. Assuming the oil industry doesn’t manage to derail progress, cars won’t need oil by that time. Regarding planes we are talking about 2 generations here. Unless manufacturers invent a revolutionary niche model e.g. super tiny EV planes they might be behind HSR.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Read the DB report in its entirety if you can find the original — it’s good. You’ll like it. They describe $100/bbl as a FLOOR, with prices oscillating wildly, and an average-over-the-course-of-a-year price much higher than that.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Electric cars will be all over by 2033, but they’ll probably *still* be too expensive to have the same number of cars per person which the US currently has.

    Even if they are cheap enough, most younger people don’t *want* to drive — it’s a chore. And legal robot cars are still a long way off — it’ll probably take multiple generations before the paranoia about them settles down. (If it does, we’ll be able to build HSR lines with grade crossings.)

    Planes will be *well* behind HSR, because electric commercial planes require batteries with *extraordinary* energy density. Commercial flight is in trouble.

    jimsf Reply:

    robot cars? Im still waiting for the robot that cleans my house. Where’s all the stuff they promised us!!!

  5. Emma
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 00:35
    #5

    We are always talking about the impact of HSR on traffic. But do we have numbers? I just don’t understand the praise and readiness to spend $100 billion on this while our public transit network, which combined would take at least 10x more cars off the streets than HSR, doesn’t receive a penny of additional funding. To me, HSR is nothing if it doesn’t have the surrounding infrastructure that “feeds” the network. Spending $68 billion of those $100 billion on the Central Valley makes as much sense to me as building HSR on the moon when you could be building it between actual….. you know… cities.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    “you could be building it between actual….. you know… cities”

    First, it’s not $100 billion for the Fresno-Bakersfield segment.

    Second, Fresno and Bakersfield are real cities (I have lived in Fresno) and the train between Fresno and Bakersfield will have more than enough passengers, and even more once people in big cities start to commute to the CV for much cheaper housing.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    Also, if you look at standard highway planning costs in CA, you will see that costs are substantially higher for equivalent freeway development. The Authority has a study they posted on equivalent modes in lieu of HSR. Even at the alleged $100 billion cost, the numbers are equivalent even for adding even one or two lanes to I-5 all the way from LA to SF and a lot cheaper than a brand new freeway of several lanes.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Most of I-5 would be fairly cheap to add an extra lane or two to, it’s the 5 and 405 etc. going south where there is major demand and major expense to add additional lanes. However, the Authority doesn’t plan on doing anything there for about 30 years.

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, you are simply wrong about the cost of adding an extra lane to I-5 going north out of LA or south out of the Bay Area. Simply wrong. Go look up how outrageously expensive it actually would be.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Why in the world would they commute to the horribly polluted CV on an extremely expensive (for commuting purposes) train instead of Riverside or San Bernadino or other cheap SoCal areas (assuming, of course, that you don’t simply see an increase in permitted density in currently high priced areas)?

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    It is amazing how little Berkeley and Oakland have changed over the last 50 years. Off of the Cal campus, the buildings are all the same. It’s like Prague or Warsaw under Communism. It’s not that the existing buildings and neighborhoods are architectural gems. In many cases, they’re not. The land underneath is much more valuable than the buildings on top.

    As more and more people and businesses move into California, they spill over the mountains to occupy farms and deserts. There is little to no movement to re-build, with higher density and more enlightened urban planning, in the existing developed areas. One wonders if this will change at some point.

    joe Reply:

    Peter;

    I don’t know the east Bay but my experience in SF area is the opposite – I walked across the SF Mission daily to Caltrain and saw massive gentrification and in-fill from the mid-90’s to now.

    South, the in-fill in Menlo Park and MountainView, SunnyVale along the VTA and Caltrain is impossible to miss. San Antonio Caltrain used to be Old Mill Mall but is now 3 story town homes and condos which some 1st floor commercial space. Mountain View has 260+ units opening next to Caltrain replacing old lumber yard.

    Most peninsula cities rely on in-fill construction for revenue. Menlo Park for example. They are anti-growth above a threshold but like a frog in a pot, they do not object to gradual in-fill.

    HSR to CV cities can help increase urban density by anchoring the cities with non-autombile centric transportation. There’s been recent news about increased demand for transit centric residences in urban “hell-holes”.

    joe Reply:

    Cost of living is less in CV cities and they offer public services.

    Ave worker can afford a home for a family, at least that’s why my co-workers commute from the CV areas, why I moved from SF to Gilroy.

    Most polluted cities – Los Angeles is top for ozone. It’s about a wash.
    http://www.stateoftheair.org/2011/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

    Riverside / San Bernardino is noted for it’s horrible public transportation.

    Time Magazine
    Percent of working-age residents near a transit stop: 77%

    Median wait (minutes) for any rush hour transit vehicle: 16.3

    Percent of jobs reachable via transit in 90 minutes: 8%

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did you just cite the Brookings ranking?

    Andrew Reply:

    @Emma

    In the long term, the development of the local transit networks will depend on there being a backbone connecting the whole system. The high speed trunk lines will shift the whole paradigm in favor of transit.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    This is why Minneapolis and St. Louis are waiting for HSR from Chicago to start building their light rail networks and why Denver—which has next to no chance of being connected by HSR to any other major city—isn’t bothering with transit expansion at all.

    JFH Reply:

    I’m hoping that your comment about Denver is sarcastic, but if not: Denver is bothering quite a lot with transit expansion. The project is called FasTracks, which will add a combined 122 miles of light rail and commuter rail plus 18 miles of BRT to the metro area.

    I believe that transit can be built in either way, local or regional first then the other will follow, but sadly I do agree that the Denver area won’t likely be connected to any other major city by HSR, at least not in my lifetime.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    It was a completely sarcastic reply—St. Louis and Minneapolis already have LRT and are the latter city’s also in the process of expanding its network (I think St. Louis is looking into it as well). I realized after posting should have also thrown in Honolulu as well—which already has a higher transit mode share than a lot of continental cities with rail and is currently building a Skytrain-style ALRT line.

    Local transit development and HSR development have no effect on one another, and I can’t think of an example where HSR alone sparked big improvements in local transit: even in Lille, the poster child for HSR-oriented development, much of VAL was running before Gare de Lille Europe even opened.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Minneapolis is trying to build HSR to Chicago and to Duluth simultaneously with its light rail network. St. Louis is trying to build HSR to Chicago simultaneously with its light rail network.

    Denver is just too damned far from any other big city to build a serious high-speed rail network, although they’ve been talking about a line to Ft. Collins.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Right now, “HSR to Chicago” = “Second Empire Builder to Minneapolis plus some double-tracking and speed increases” (Duluth’s also Amtrak+, but I honestly can’t imagine it needing anything more thasn that). Unfortunately, the closest Minnesota has to real HSR development—the Zipline to Rochester, didn’t get any state funding this year.

    All the efforts to get HSR to St. Louis are on the Illinois side of the border—there’s really not any coordination with St. Louis’s transit plans. Ignoring Amtrak+ (which is also essentially an Illinois-only project), right now the only serious talk about HSR centers on getting from Chicago to Urbana.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    In the long term, the development of the local transit networks will depend on there being a backbone connecting the whole system. The high speed trunk lines will shift the whole paradigm in favor of transit.

    Feel free to try to name one place anywhere on the planet where this imaginary scenario of yours — rather than its precise opposite — has played out.

    joe Reply:

    Uhh

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

    Jon Reply:

    As a Yurp living in California, I find the local and regional transit systems to be adequate, while the long distance transportation systems are practically non-existent. I find that not being able to travel outside of the region I live in is the biggest inconvenience to not owning a car, and reckon a lot more people would be willing to give up their cars if they knew they could jump on a train to visit friends in LA or their family in the central valley. Local and regional transit also needs investment but they are starting from a better position than Amtrak California. YMMV.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know how California is, but in New England I’ve found the situation to be the opposite. Except along a few relatively busy bus routes, there’s no usable transit in New Haven and Providence. I just blew $30 each way on taxis to a convention in Warwick, for three days straight. In contrast, intercity trains are usable; I take trains to Boston, despite the MBTA’s general suckiness.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It is quite the opposite in California. Both the Bay Area and LA, as well as San Diego and Sacramento, have really quite good local transit. (I can’t speak for Fresno or Bakersfield, where it may be awful, and I know it’s bad in Orange County.) But the intercity transit is a lot worse than you’re used to on the Northeast Corridor.

    I’ve noticed the cruddiness of local transit in the New England cities between Boston and New York, myself. Boston proper is actually pretty decent, and of course so is New York City proper, but Connecticut and Rhode Island (and anywhere else in Massachusetts) not so much.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The buses in Rhode Island are vaguely useful if you’re going downtown. From the same convention in Warwick to downtown Providence the trip is 45 minutes on a bus, including walking time at both ends (on barely walkable streets at the Providence end and completely unwalkable ones at the Warwick end), vs. about 20-25 minutes in a taxi. However, since I live on the East Side rather than downtown, the buses are a lot less useful to me – they’d take 3 times as long instead of twice as long, and involve either a long walk uphill or a transfer penalty. It’s more than twice the added hassle for the same or slightly smaller monetary saving.

    Nathanael Reply:

    London, England. Trunk intercity railway lines seriously predated local subways.

    Though you could argue that the presence of local streetcars (in mixed traffic) predated the trunk lines.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The London Underground was built in order to connect the train stations, which were built in what was the suburbs in the 1830s, with the City of London. But subsequent lines were built without much regard for train stations – they served them, but the main goal was to offer commuter trips. And subsequent cities built their entire rapid transit systems without much regard for intercity rail. In Tokyo, just one subway line serves Tokyo Station, and in Singapore and Hong Kong, there’s no and very little intercity rail, respectively.

    Peter Reply:

    Berlin’s brand new Hauptbahnhof was built with poor access for anyone not on the Innerer Ring of S-Bahn. People in the western part of the city (with its focus on the U-Bahn) have an especially difficult time getting there.

    jimsf Reply:

    get done what we can get done now. Cv is most ready. Next, most rail advocates seem to support filling the BFD-PMD gap. combined with PTC being implemented. You have the ability to run a one seat ride at 90mph on existing track, and 125 on the hispeed track and you continue to build the ridership. You can possible run trains all the way through to la and if not, then you have a connection at PMD. Then you decide whether to do PMD-LAX or SF-SJ-CV NO matter how you do it, you have to be patient. Starting over and trying to put LA-SD first is not politically possible and even it were, it would take another decade to start construction. Its a step by step plan. It takes time and patience. This is how things are done in the Us like it or not. Its nto going to change. SO be patient and be supportive and one day HSR will be up and running. Its the constant fighting backpedaling and negativity is just what opponents wish for. The project is going to play out step by step as planned.

    Derek Reply:

    “We are always talking about the impact of HSR on traffic. But do we have numbers?”

    Yes, we do. HSR will have zero effect on traffic, and here’s proof:

    “Two University of Toronto professors have added to the body of evidence showing that highway and road expansion increases traffic by increasing demand. On the flip side, they show that transit expansion doesn’t help cure congestion either.” http://dc.streetsblog.org/2011/05/31/study-building-roads-to-cure-congestion-is-an-exercise-in-futility/

    There are some very good reasons to build HSR, but congestion relief isn’t among them, despite what the HSR advocates will tell you.

    jimsf Reply:

    HSr is not for congestion relief. Its to provide more mobility to more people and add capacity for a growing population. Its faster than driving and more flexible than flying.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ah, the Cairo of the day after tomorrow.

    I realized why I see Fallen Angels as Cairo, that’s where LA’s PCC’s went.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People on the train don’t care if the highway is backed up. Or in other words road congestion isn’t their problem.

    Nathanael Reply:

    What adirondacker said. The effect of HSR on traffic is to go whizzing past it, laughing at it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You keep quoting one study as if there has been no other research on the subject.

    Another point made by the author of the linked study is that separate research shows that the presence of transit is correlated with much higher support for congestion pricing.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Emma, you appear to almost need remedial reading lessons. What you’re trying to say is: Let’s take Prop 1A money for HSR and spend it near San Diego, where Emma lives. But that’s illegal: LA-SF has priority over other corridors. That’s just how Prop 1A is drafted.

    I’m sure there are lots of people here who’d support LA-SD rail link. But not at the expense of HSR, which is what you repeatedly ask for.

    VBobier Reply:

    Sure I’d love LA-SD, but like You said & I read the ballot language originally & it did say LA-SF, Not LA-SD. So We start in the CV as that’s where the DOT money is, which can’t be moved to LA-SD anymore than Prop1a money can Emma… It’s a done deal, don’t like that Emma? Tough.

  6. Responsible_Thought
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 00:51
    #6

    This is a very well-stated piece, and I got the same impression when I read Lopez earlier today.

    As for the project price tag, while we are waiting for the Governor’s plan, I am just wondering what I am not seeing the $100 billion figure. The 2012 CA HSR Authority Biz Plan, in the chapter on capital costs, says “$74 million to $87 million per mile” is within the standard international ranges. But we can connect LA to SF for what the plan says is 590 miles. This means that we are talking about around $50 B or less — for the physical infrastructure, anyway. I will still support HSR even if it is a lot more money than that, but am hoping that’s closer to what we will see the Governor come up with.

    it is really not that hard to display an itemization of major project cost categories: land; project development costs (this includes everything related to acquisition and development construction of the right of way); infrastructure (tracks including footings, platforms, tunnels, crossings); electric and power systems; and financing and debt service costs. Of course, there would have to be different chapters for project alternatives, but it could still be done more clearly than has been laid out. I would really like to have a debate on the specific costs, because I think rail supporters will be able to disprove both the 2012 budget and the NIMBYists.

    StevieB Reply:

    $65 billion is estimated present construction costs not including a built in $16 billion contingency pool and the remainder is cost increases due to inflation over the length of construction.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The standard international ranges go down to under $40 million per mile in France (with much less tunneling) and about $50-60 million per mile in Belgium.

    VBobier Reply:

    So what? We have Earthquakes and unstable geology to deal with, plus Farmers, City Folk, stuff to move or to avoid like power lines, etc, all that drives up costs, plus Europeans use the Euro which is about 1.3 times more in value currently, meaning It takes 1.3 US$ to make 1 Euro currently and It’s been at 1.43 before…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nobody is comparing European construction costs in Euros to American construction costs in dollars, not without doing currency conversion.

  7. Neville Snark
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 02:52
    #7

    Maybe the LA-area HSR fans should pay Mr. Lopez a visit. It’s amazing how much more effective a face-to-face confrontation can be. Instead of thugs with guns, you could be good citizens armed with facts.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And let us consider the old-fashioned way of communication, as stressed by the late Omar Ahmad, former mayor of San Carlos:

    http://www.ted.com/speakers/omar_ahmad.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper.html

    http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Tribute-to-Mayor-Omar-Ahmad-Shahed-Amanullah-05-11-2011.html

    Found out about him from his obituary here; I never met this fellow–but I have to say I wish I had. . .

  8. Paulus Magnus
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 06:48
    #8

    So, actually, high-speed driverless cars and long-distance maglev trains remain the stuff of science fiction – nobody has ever made them workable. And the cost of building them is far, far, FAR higher than the cost of building traditional, proven, successful steel wheeled bullet trains.

    Google has had a fair degree of success with driverless cars actually, although I don’t believe the fever dreams of its proponents will hold true in terms of societal impact. And if you discount the fact that a supermajority of its length is in a tunnel or 40+ meters underground, the Japanese maglev line is probably comparable in cost to CAHSR as of the latest budget plan. Not to mention of course that the Authority’s “we’re so special and need dedicated everything” attitude gets rid of all the advantages of conventional HSR.

    StevieB Reply:

    Google is not an automobile manufacturer so if you define success as an experimental car and a patent then you are correct but Google will not be making any driverless cars.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Right…and Google isn’t a cell phone vendor. And Apple isn’t in the music business.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    If the concept is proved, it is easily licensible to car manufacturers, just like they do with Android for phones.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Android is free.
    From the home page of the Open Handset Alliance

    Welcome to the Open Handset Alliance™, a group of 84 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Together we have developed Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.

    http://www.openhandsetalliance.com/

    VBobier Reply:

    Got a spare Factory? Driverless cars are a long ways off & as has been noted so well, as research is still needed on making computers that see as well as Human drivers do & that’s the main stumbling block & until that’s solved and It hasn’t been as reported Here(Google Bombed: Autonomous Toyota Prius Rear-Ends Vehicle in Urban Testing), none can legally drive on US Highways as only Nevada has made them legal to be driven on public roads according to the wiki, where are You going to get the money for the needed freeway expansion & such? Hmm? I’m sure We’d all like to know…

    We’ve long known that the worst feature in the modern car is the distractable, unpredictable person behind the wheel. Google set out some time ago to ameliorate the problem, but its solution — outfitting cars with computers to drive themselves — might not be so sound. We’ve just got word that one of Google’s autonomous Toyota Prii has been involved in a rear-end, at-fault collision.

    Another Website Here has a story up on How Google’s Self-Driving Car Works

    Google’s fleet of robotic Toyota Priuses has now logged more than 190,000 miles (about 300,000 kilometers), driving in city traffic, busy highways, and mountainous roads with only occasional human intervention. The project is still far from becoming commercially viable, but Google has set up a demonstration system on its campus, using driverless golf carts, which points to how the technology could change transportation even in the near future.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh and yes a Human was at fault in the 1st case, but then the computer was in manual mode.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The real problem with driverless cars is public acceptance.

    It was very hard to get people to accept driverless *TRAINS* — which are stuck on tracks, and are frankly perfected technology. We still can’t get grade crossings authorized on routes with driverless trains.

    Given that situation — and the fact that every road except a freeway HAS grade crossings — I expect driverless cars will be legally restricted to going at less than 20 mph (so that if they hit someone, it’s not fatal) for pretty much forever, or until humanity gets over its robot phobia (which is not going to happen in one generation, or two, or even three). There might be special exceptions for freeways within a generation.

    But you won’t see driverless cars on an ordinary road at full speed for a very, very long time, apart from special “experimental projects” like Google’s. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets banned due to hysteria.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Hmm, 6 hours in the car even if you’re not driving versus 3 hours on the train where you can get up and walk around versus a 2 hour flight with all the rigamarole of getting to the airport, going through security, waiting to board, squeezed into a tiny seat. Plus it could be longer in the car with traffic even assuming a higher density available to driverless cars (and that would assume all the cars on the road were driverless). It seems like a very long shot that driverless car technology would have much of an impact on long distance travel.

    Brian Reply:

    I would like to see how well a driverless electric car could handle 220 mph. Reminds me of that Onion parody proposing high speed busses as a cost saving alternative to Obama’s HSR plan. I love their little visualization of the operation and mayhem caused by re-appropriating the right side shoulder as a “high speed bus lane”. Anyways if Altamont is chosen over Pacheco maybe San Jose can be alternatively served by a high speed bus service from San Jose connecting to HSR in Modesto. Considering the twists and turns along Route 152 those busses will probably have to slow down to about 150 mph. Not serious about that but it’s fun to visualize. Just trying to think of a “practical” application for such a novel new technology.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    For those who haven’t seen the Onion piece:

    http://www.theonion.com/video/obama-replaces-costly-highspeed-rail-plan-with-hig,18473/

    And someone who is trying to build the real thing:

    http://www.superbusproject.com/

    Interestingly, Hollywood had a “prediction” on this, in the form of a movie called “The Big Bus,” in 1976:

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

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    We would need better staff members on our railroad:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_3ufnH7nPU&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWiyIugH3xY&feature=related

    Brian Reply:

    I was thinking about The Big Bus too. One of my favorite movies! I know it never got the respect it deserved in it’s own time but I got to say it’s a great movie and fun to watch for some very interesting scenes. I always get a kick out watching that huge nuclear powered bus motoring along 2-lane back country undivided highways. As if they wouldn’t try to keep it strictly on the interstates!

    swing hanger Reply:

    The form factor reminds me of Supertrain. Syno would like that, it’s (really) broad gauge ;)

  9. BMF from San Diego
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 07:36
    #9

    Please don’t talk about PRT…. Moving latrines

  10. Paul Dyson
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 10:46
    #10

    What is Lopez failing to “get”? 1A promoted a project to be running by a certain date and at a certain cost. Neither will happen. We are on the third or fourth attempt at a business plan. Barely a week ago the Governor stated that he wanted to “redesign” the project so that it gives “value” during construction. What do you expect the average layman to think or to believe? And on a side note, do you really believe that the TSA will keep their hands off of this?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Not that I want to think that this will turn out to be a replay of the MTA sagas of the 1990s…but by your logic Measure R was a gigantic waste of time and money because it’s building out transit options that reflect L.A.’s population density 20 years ago…

    So why both with connecting the Orange Line (or Red Line) to Burbank. Instead we should be investing in moving sidewalk technology to help inner city denizens increase the mobility in places like Koreatown, Hollwyood, and Santa Monica?

    I don’t know what you expect Brown to do: he’s gassed every single Arnold sympathizer on the HSRA board. He’s brought in heavy hitters from the local transport community. Would you prefer he dance as well? Do we need Villargoisa to start talking about how this will be good for “America” and “La Raza” as well?

    synonymouse Reply:

    He’s brought in a guy from PG&E, who’s going to be providing the juice for hsr. Now what kind of conflict of interest is that?

    VBobier Reply:

    You’d see conflict of interest in no matter whom was chosen Cyno.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Measure R builds out the Wilshire subway and the Regional Connector and completes the Expo Line. The rest is crap but these projects are good.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paul, you should get your facts straight. TSA has very, very little authority over Amtrak.
    All they can do is inspect passengers attempting to board Amtrak trains, _with the support of local law enforcement_. And that’s only because of a court case which ruled to allow TSA inspections of subways in (if memory serves) New York.

    There is no a-priori reason to fear terrorism on CAHSR any more than fearing terrorism on Metrolink or Caltrain. None whatsoever High-speed rail is not fuil of kerosene; it cannot be crashed into buildings; and it’s not in crowded subways underneath New York. And the first time TSA turns away a passenger for declining a search, the ACLU will file a lawsuit. And the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is not going to find sufficient public-interest reason to discard Fourth Amendment rights.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Get my facts straight? Odd response since I did not quote any. Just an opinion that the TSA will find a reason to expand its mission. Just as you have security checks for Eurostar so there will be those who will say they are necessary for tunnel and viaduct rich HSR with 500 plus pax per train.

    jimsf Reply:

    TSA presence in the hsr system will likely be a random board and search and random showing of presence at stations. Just like they do now on amtrak and bart. It wont be a cattle herding process like the airport because there’s no point to that.

    blankslate Reply:

    There is no point to most of the things they do at airports either, but they do them anyway.

    jimsf Reply:

    Airport security is different. YOu cant access a plane once its in the air so obviously you are going to screen people as they bored as that is where an evildoer will gain access. You can argue about the screening methods but once a plane is secure an en route, if youve screen out the bad stuff, then no one can access the plane again util its on the ground.

    with a train the point of attack could be anywhere as there is access to the train and infrastructure for the duration of the trip so screening at boarding is pointless.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Thank goodness Amtrak Police (who have primary jurisdiction on Amtrak) have pushed back against overreach by both the TSA and the Border Patrol.

    Railroad Police Law may help CAHSR — it will have its OWN police force which can shoo away any other would-be police.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Thank goodness Amtrak is the kind of railroad whose main informational screen at Providence Station is about its K-9 unit rather than, say, about where the trains go; thank goodness it herds everyone through just one access point at Penn Station; thank goodness it makes people queue single-file at South Station for 5 minutes and has police officers walk past the file with trained dogs before letting everyone board.

    jimsf Reply:

    you cant blame that on amtrak. talk to you representatives about that. Amtrak just does what its told to do with the money its given. I don’t know a single amtrak employee who thinks any of that, or anything else we do for securty, is a good idea. On the front lines we know its all a waste of time and money. As a ticket clerk and I can tell you that the last thing we want to do is inconvenience you. We want you in and out and on your merry way as quickly as possible. They have stuck clerks like me with what is essentially police and tsa duty. Im not a cop im not a tsa agent. quit making me enforce security policy. Im a clerk I sell tickets and do accounting, make reservations, and do travel planning. No one is in favor of all this nonsense except congress and the people whos budgets get enlarged.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    I love the part in the K9 video where the policewoman says, “Sometimes people just come up to me and hug me.” Gets me every time.

    VBobier Reply:

    TSA is Federal, This is State of CA Jurisdiction, TSA at this point doesn’t worry about something that doesn’t cross an international border, only airplanes that could be diverted by force.

  11. synonymouse
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 10:57
    #11

    Don’t expect anything different from Moonbeam. From todays’ SF Chron:

    “What friends are for: Gov. Jerry Brown has nominated the daughter of state Democratic Party boss and longtime friend John Burton to one of those $40,000-a-year, part-time commission jobs that often go to well-connected politicos.

    For Kimiko Burton, it’s a seven-year appointment to the State Personnel Board, which meets twice a month.

    She’ll have to juggle her time between the commission and her $205,000-year-job as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco.

    It’s the latest in a series of local and state appointed jobs for the younger Burton.

    “Kimiko has spent her entire career serving the public and exercising sound, reasoned and impartial judgment,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup. “We think she is uniquely qualified to take on this role.

    Burton is not the first well-connected appointee to the personnel panel. President Richard Costigan was legislative affairs secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before the Gubernator put him on the board. Burton replaces Will Fox, Schwarzenegger’s former deputy chief of staff.

    As for what the commission does?

    Well, according to the Personnel Board website, it was set up to “ensure that the state’s civil service system is free from political patronage and that employment decisions are based on merit.”

    We kid you not.”

    It should come as no surprise that Brown has picked a Pacific Graft & Extortion and BART operative to head up CHSRA planning.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/04/BA311N2U5G.DTL#ixzz1lXEFfHIK

    Nathanael Reply:

    I don’t really give a damn about patronage if the patronage appointees are *competent*. She sounds like she is.

  12. synonymouse
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 11:18
    #12
  13. synonymouse
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 11:19
    #13

    drop that apostrophe in payolas

  14. jimsf
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 12:07
    #14

    So as it stand now, as far is EIRs etc, which segments, after the CV, are furthest along/most ready for construction next?
    BFD-PMD?
    SJC-MCD?
    LAX-ANA?
    SFC-SJC?
    PMD-LAX?

    IMO LAX-SFC takes priority over LAX-ANA

    My vote would be roughly for

    1 MCD-BFD
    2 BFD-PMD and SJC-MCD concurrently
    3 SFC-SJC and PMS-LAX concurrently
    4 electrification
    5 LAX-ANA
    6 MCD-SAC
    7 LAX-SAN

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    By LAX you mean LAUS, right?

    jimsf Reply:

    ( yeh union station is code “lax” )

    Peter Reply:

    Jim, most of use don’t know Amtrak codes.

    wu ming Reply:

    sounds good to me, although if we could wangle SAC-MCD earlier in the process (which would entail raising additional funds, i know, i know) i’d be even happier.

    jimsf Reply:

    yeh its a short easy section.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Electrification should occur before completion to the endpoints. That way we’d have a usable ISO before final completion.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. Fresno-Bakersfield
    2. Bakersfield-LA (via Palmdale, Santa Clarita, or wherever), incl. electrification and systems

    Under Altamont, what is left is to push as far north as possible, and go west to Livermore, then Pleasanton, then RWC/SF.

    Under Pacheco, it’s probably better to electrify and do some upgrades to SF-SJ first and only then do Fresno-San Jose. Maybe throw in Fresno-Merced as an intermediate step.

    Emma Reply:

    I have been reading some information about LOSSAN. It seems like there has been a plenty of research and planning regarding what needs to be upgraded in order to run HSR-lite at 110mph and up. But I am struggling figuring out whether they are still working on the EIR or whether the whole thing is shovel-ready.

    From what I have read all LOSSAN is missing is political will. LA-IE-SD is just too ridiculous to work, having more than 90% of the track above grade.

    Donk Reply:

    The LAUS run-thru tracks was basically abandoned 10 years ago. What they need to do is figure out a plan for Union Station and just go with it. Not a quadruple-decker space ship, but something this is simple and functional.

    It is a shame that they blew $400M on the Transbay Terminal, which won’t even be used until 2030 or something. There has also been a lot of talk about Anaheim ARTIC and San Jose Intergalactic. We all know that they are going to continue to blow cash on those stations, when the only one that would that would actually lead to real improvements in travel times in the shorter term would be LAUS.

    Every time I take the train from SD back to LAUS, the approach around the LA river into the stub end station from the north is painfully slow. They also frequently have to park the train along the river and wait for the station to clear out. I would guess that the LAUS run-thru tracks would cut off 5-10 min of travel time and increase on-time performance by at least 5%.

    Maybe now that LAUS is owned by Metro, there will be more motivation for this to happen.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You should join RailPAC and help us get this done.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LAUS platforms are currently being remodeled by Metro.

    I have not heard what the current state of the run-through plans are, but last I heard, the plan was to have high platforms just east of the Gold Line for HSR, followed by low platforms east of that for Metrolink/Amtrak, with a pair of run-through tracks for HSR and a pair of run-through tracks for Metrolink/Amtrak. (The plans have changed… repeatedly.)

    The main arguments regarding the run-through tracks have been about what buildings to fly over and knock down in order to get a proper southern approach to LAUS, so I think Metro may have realized that the various plans were all the same from the south side of the 101 northwards, and started work on the station before an actual run-through tracks plan was finalized.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LOSSAN finished a “major investment study”, but broke the improvements up into separate projects for “project-level” EIRs. *SOME* individual projects in LOSSAN 110mph are finished, SOME are shovel-ready), *OTHERS* are are still going through EIR

    LA-IE-SD is supposed to be the super-express track after LOSSAN is fully double-tracked and completely packed with local trains. It’s a perfectly reasonable idea, assuming LOSSAN is fully double-tracked and completely packed with local trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LAX-ANA is approximately as ready as SFC-SJC and PMS-LAX, which is to say “not very ready”.

    (I’d subdivide that into Palmdale-Sylmar and Sylmar-LA, myself. Sylmar-LA is far more ready than Palmdale-Sylmar. LA-Anaheim is in about the same state as Palmdale-Sylmar.)

    Electrification is completely ready, just awaiting a reason to do it.

  15. joe
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 13:48
    #15

    I don’t hold much hope that the LA Times will get much right let alone HSR. It’s too much of an investment to report.

    It is far cheaper to work off Conventional Wisdom – i.e. prejudices rather than facts. Just post a question and field answers from readers. It’s cheap and fast.

    The LA Times is trolling for traffic – eye balls for Ads.

    There is absolutely a correlation between declining readership and declining quality of reporting in the LA Times. It’s driven by debt and management, not competition from the internet.

    The LA Times is saddled with debt from a leverage buyout and consequent cutting talent to save costs.

    How much time does a reporter have to produce a story – how many are left?

    LAYOFFS
    http://laist.com/2012/01/31/former_la_times_employee_warns_of_layoffs.php

    Ed Padgett, a third-generation L.A. Times employee, received his pink slip via phone call at the end of 2011. He “listened in shock last December to an HR woman’s voice explain he was being dismissed for ‘safety violations, dishonesty and suspicion of sabotage,'” writes Mikulan. Having been at the paper for over 39 years, Padgett filed a grievance through Teamster Local 140-N. He was fired the day before his union was to ratify a new contract. As a union activist and blogger, Padgett’s Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20-Year Club site has chronicled Times working conditions and its financial decline.

    and MORE LAYOFFS and DROPPING CIRCULATION?
    http://fryingpannews.org/2012/01/31/la-times-layoffs-sabotage-and-suicides/

    Padgett is no ordinary Times employee, but a union activist and a blogger whose Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20-Year Club site has chronicled working conditions at the Times, as well as its financial decline. This has made him a lightning rod for disciplinary actions – and the recipient of insider news. A well-placed staffer, he says, recently told him that between 20 and 25 writers are about to be terminated.

    “You’ll be hearing about it soon,” he says.

    That news, if true, underscores problems the country’s fifth-largest paper has been having, including plunging circulation.


    “Circulation has been way down,” Padgett says. “I asked a guy in the circulation department how many papers don’t get sold and he said, ‘At least 25 percent,’ without blinking an eye.”

    BUYOUT & BONEHEAD & BANKRUPTCY

    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/tribune_company/index.html

    The Tribune Company, a media giant that publishes The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times and operates several television stations, filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, less than a year after the company was acquired by Sam Zell, a Chicago real-estate magnate, for $8.2 billion.

    After initially refusing to do so, Mr. Michaels resigned on Oct. 22. His resignation followed by days the exit of another top executive at the media company, Lee Abrams, Tribune’s chief innovation officer, who left after sending a sexually explicit memo to the entire company.

    FRAUD?
    http://allmandlaw.com/bankruptcy/creditors-demand-that-tribune-employees-payback-money-to-bankruptcy-estate

    A few years before its bankruptcy filing, the Tribune Co. paid hundreds of employees for their shares of stock and other compensation, including bonuses as part of the now maligned $8.2 billion leveraged buyout orchestrated by Sam Zell. The creditors in the Tribune bankruptcy are now filing legal claims against 200 current and former Tribune employees saying that the payments were illegal transfers of assets.

    According to the bankruptcy law, debtors are not allowed to transfer assets illegally before filing bankruptcy. Creditors in the Tribune bankruptcy have contended that Tribune knew that the Zell buyout would send the company into bankruptcy and because of this fact those payments to employees were fraudulent. If the bankruptcy court agrees that the asset transfers to employees were fraudulent, employees named in the lawsuit will be forced to repay the money to the bankruptcy estate so that it can be distributed to creditors.

    THREE YEARS AND STILL IN BANKRUPTCY AS OF 9/2011
    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/240884/20111101/judge-rejects-tribune-cos-plan-to-exit-bankruptcy.htm

    Tribune Co., the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers, suffered a legal defeat Monday night when a judge rejected its plan to end its three-year stay in bankruptcy.

    Nathanael Reply:

    When are they going to run out of cash? There’s only so long you can bleed a bankrupt company, usually…

  16. jimsf
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 18:21
    #16

    Merced to Sacramento… Does this seem to imply that in conjuction with local agencies that addtional fuding for merced sac could be available. As in ACE wanting to expand its regional reach and elctrifying and working with the cahsra on the route and station locations in the sac-skn-lod-mod-mcd region?

    Clem Reply:

    Probably easier and cheaper to build than ten miles of tunnels through Pacheco Pass…

    joe Reply:

    http://youtu.be/RdopMqrftXs

    jimsf Reply:

    LOL

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Thing is the bus will get you from San Jose to Fresno faster than toddling along the existing track through the Altamont pass.

    Clem Reply:

    Who said anything about a bus? BART will get you from Livermore to the SF financial district (or poor old San Jose) in a right little jiffy.

    jimsf Reply:

    The point of ACE is expanded ace for that region it isn’t instead of pacheco. Its just that ace can go to sac on a shared upgraded line so ace and hsr can share a high speed row just like caltrain and hsr.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Any meaningful upgrade of ACE would require increasing the cant deficiency on the line—however, this is a maintenance nightmare for any railroad that runs heavy freight (like UP) so it’s impossible to improve travel times for passengers without carving a new right-of-way. If you’re going to be carving a new ROW, why not let it use better-performing non-FRA-compliant trains? And if you’re going to be running non-FRA-compliant trains, why not hook it up with the big non-compliant high-speed rail network the state of California’s elected to build?

    jimsf Reply:

    Im just referring to what I read, where basically it appears that ace want to work with hsr to share row to sac so that ace can branch out north and south of stockton.

    jimsf Reply:

    as a regional partner
    ,a href=”http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/256/264/e3c1ef7f-6a4c-480b-8350-8a11b25665d8.pdf”>according to this is all im saying.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You should delete the word “deficiency” after cant. Cant deficiency does not cause maintenance problems for slower trains; what it causes is a larger mismatch in speeds, and at the upper end it also requires tilting trains. Cant is what imposes minimum speeds for maintenance reasons.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    BART has to be in Livermore or San Jose for that to happen.

    Emma Reply:

    For some reason I have a feeling that Merced-Sacramento will not struggle to find funds.

  17. jimsf
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 18:22
    #17
  18. Keith Saggers
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 21:52
    #18

    The Olympic Javelin is a planned high-speed train shuttle service announced as part of the successful London 2012 Olympic bid. It is an integral part of the plan to improve public transport in London in readiness for the 2012 Summer Olympics, an area of the bid that was initially regarded as being poor by the International Olympic Committee.

    The service will run for the duration of the games, between St Pancras International station and Ebbsfleet International station, via Stratford International station, which is within the planned Olympic Park.

    At St Pancras there will be interchange with the Underground and with trains to/from the Midlands, Scotland, and the North of England. For track capacity reasons, Eurostar trains, which have never called at Stratford, will continue not to do so during the games, so spectators arriving from the Continent will change at Ebbsfleet It is expected that over 80% of Olympic spectators will travel to and from the venues by rail. Services to the Olympic Park are planned to offer a total capacity of 240,000 travellers per hour, some 25,000 of which will use the Javelin service.

    During the Olympics a service of eight trains an hour is planned between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet, calling at Stratford, replacing the highspeed service. Two of these would be extended to Ashford and one to Faversham. Between 11pm and 1am the service between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet would be increased to twelve per hour
    wikipedia

  19. jimsf
    Feb 5th, 2012 at 21:59
    #19

    @Keith
    this is just the kind of thing that the pea brained naysaying assbackwards conservative(tm) tea party folks and their ilk, can’t wrap their tiny little very small brains around. Having world class infrastructure in place, helps you compete on the global stage for all kinds of stuff that makes the economy go. (investment duh)

    VBobier Reply:

    What? They have brains? OMG, I’d thought zombies didn’t need them…

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