Two Consulting Firms Found Florida HSR Would Be Profitable

Feb 9th, 2012 | Posted by

Florida Governor Rick Scott killed the state’s high speed rail project shortly after he became governor in early 2011. Even though the private sector consortium that was planning to build and operate the system pledged to cover cost overruns, Governor Scott preferred to listen to his right-wing allies in the Reason Foundation and killed the project, citing cost overruns as well as the possibility the project wouldn’t generate enough ridership to cover its costs.

Turns out he was lying about that too. The Tampa Tribune obtained a report from the Florida Department of Transportation that showed their initial HSR route from Tampa to Orlando would have generated enough ridership to produce annual profits in the $30 to $40 million range:

According to data from both consulting firms hired by the state, the project, which would have given Florida the nation’s first high-speed rail line, would have been a fiscally sound decision.

The firm of Steer, Davis, Gleave projected Tampa-Orlando ridership of 2.5 million and a $9.1 million deficit in 2016, the first year of operation. By 2026, though, the high-speed rail would be carrying nearly 5 million passengers a year and generate an annual surplus of $31.1 million, according to the firm.

The projection by Wilbur Smith Associates was even rosier. The firm estimated 3.6 million riders in 2016, producing a $17.6 million operating surplus. By 2026, Florida’s high-speed rail would carry more than 5 million riders and produce a $44.8 million surplus, according to its analysis.

The state used the information from the two consultants to come up with a midrange estimate: 3 million passengers and $4.3 million surplus in the first year, and a ridership of nearly 5 million and an annual surplus of $38 million by 2026.

Critics of Florida’s HSR system, like most critics of California’s proposal, rooted their concerns in a belief that nobody will ride it, especially when there’s (chronically traffic-choked) Interstate 4 as an alternative. But two independent assessments are pretty clear that those claims are not rooted in evidence. Florida HSR would have been as successful and profitable as the other HSR routes around the globe.

Governor Scott had to basically ignore this evidence when making his ideologically-driven decision to kill the project:

“The governor thoroughly explored all of the issues surrounding High-Speed Rail, especially ways to lessen the financial risk to Florida, but he ultimately reached the same conclusion that California is now reaching – that the concept just isn’t going to be able to pay for itself,” Scott’s communication director Brian Burgess said in an email.

When making his decision a year ago, Scott relied heavily on a January 2011 Reason Foundation policy brief, whose project director Robert Poole Jr. served on Scott’s gubernatorial transition team.

Using comparisons with overseas high-speed rail projects and one envisioned for California, the report by the libertarian group said it was likely the project would cost significantly more to build than estimated and that the state could be on the hook for significant operating subsidies for years.

In other words, that was bullshit. There was never any evidence for the Reason Foundation’s claims. The FDOT report, citing the two independent analyses, makes that very clear.

Still, it’s no surprise that a right-wing ideologue killed the project anyway. What is surprising and disturbing is that there are Democrats in the California legislature who are willing to ignore similar evidence showing California HSR will generate riders and profits and instead reach the same conclusion that a right-wing governor did.

  1. Jerry
    Feb 9th, 2012 at 22:54
    #1

    Even though Gov. Scott was a jerk we were lucky to get their money. Now CA has to get the CV project going.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed.

    Alan F Reply:

    There were other beneficiaries from the $2.4 billion of Florida HSR funds. CA and the Mid-West got enough additional funding to place a combined order for 130 bi-level corridor cars. Amtrak and NY state got $450 million for the NEC in NJ and $294 million for the Harold Interlocking Bypass in Queens. NY State got $58 million for the NYC to Albany part of the Empire corridor which may have helped get the Poughkeepsie to Schenectady section leased to Amtrak from CSX for Amtrak to control and upgrade to 110 mph speeds over more of the corridor. IL got $186 million for the Dwight to Joliet section of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor.

    The unfortunate part was that there is not $2.4 billion for Florida HSR and $2.5 to $4 billion available for the CA HSR, NEC, and other corridor projects.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak and NY state got $450 million for the NEC in NJ

    Why would NY spend money improving track in NJ?

    Alan F Reply:

    I compressed the 2 grants together as they are both NEC projects. Amtrak got $450 million for the Morrisville PA to New Brunswick section of the NEC to increase Acela speeds to 160 mph and upgrades to the switches and tracks on the west side of Penn Station in NYC. NY State, well MTA/LIRR really, got $294 million for the Harold Interlocking Bypass in Queens, although Amtrak owns the tracks and will obviously be involved in the bypass project.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well 160Mph is more like it, maybe not as fast as 220Mph, but a danged sight better than 79Mph. Of course out here in CA the rails need to be built almost from scratch in places like the CV and in the Mountains between the CV and Palmdale CA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The top speed on the NEC south of New York is 135. The 135-to-160 speed upgrade would cut the one-way travel time by 100 seconds minus additional acceleration time.

    Peter Reply:

    Wasn’t one of the main purposes of this upgrade to replace the ancient catenary?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes. on hot summer days it’s going to increase the speed limit from 80 to 160.
    The catenary sags when it’s hot out. Sagging catenary can’t cope with 135 so the speed limit, between NY and DC, will be lowered to 80.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Yes, the labelling of those upgrades as “160mph” was a bad attempt at marketing.
    The real impact is from not having to _lower_ the maximum speed on hot sunny days, when the PRR catenary stretches and sags.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I disagree. An open, successful Florida HSR would create more political will to build out other lines, and also reform FRA rules to be in line with UIC regulations at least where HSR is concerned.

    joe Reply:

    Agreed. While I enjoy the added money – building HSR in multiple localities undermines political attacks on the CA HSR system.

  2. Drunk Engineer
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 09:45
    #2

    Here’s the problem: with CHSRA going 3x over initial cost projections, Gov. Scott could say “See I told you!” CHSRA dysfunction is going to make it that much harder for other states to develop HSR.

    Matthew B Reply:

    Right, there was a change in accounting to year of expenditure, which wasn’t an increase in costs. We’re really talking something like a factor 1.9 in moving from the initial estimate to a very conservative estimate of costs. I expect that a system could be built with a budget somewhere in the middle. The 3X cost overrun lie is a good one, though: it takes too long to explain the differences, at which point uninformed observers switch off. At this point I think there’s no way we’ll see a system that expensive, simply for the reason that funding will be dripping out of the pipe too slowly. That will give a very strong motivation to value engineer the project to fit the funding. In the meantime, there’s enough funding to start in the CV, which I personally support.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I love this term “value engineer”, as if non value engineering is ever acceptable. Any non value engineers should be fired from a project. Oh, that’s the same people who are now doing the value engineering and getting paid for it all over again. Isn’t it great being a taxpayer!

    Tony d. Reply:

    Excellent points Matt B!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Okay, so $65 billion in todays dollars, plus the leg to Sacramento at $15 billion (or more) in today’s dollars, plus the leg to San Deigo at $20 billion (or more) in todays dollars.

    $100 billion, in todays dollars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The proposal was and is for San Francisco to Anaheim. If you want to move the goal posts go right ahead.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    So you want to live the lie then?

    Peter Reply:

    Florida was essentially done with environmental review and design. The likelihood of any further overruns at that point was practically non-existent. Plus, the builder/operator was willing to cover any and all overruns, as well as any operating shortfalls.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You know what Peter? That might all be true, and even I’m inclined to believe it.

    But the political reality is that PBQD=CHSRA has utterly poisoned the well, nationally, for decades.

    I hope everybody concerned dies in a fire.

    StevieB Reply:

    “”High speed rail is coming to California. We will not be dissuaded by the naysayers or those that think that high speed rail is not the next generation of transportation,” said United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood at Los Angeles’ Union Station.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “My Pants Just Went To High School In The Carlsbad Caverns!!!” said Zippy the Pinhead.

    StevieB Reply:

    Ray LaHood’s opinion carries more weight. $3.5 billion more.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You could build Quantm’s 2 six mile Bear Trap Canyon tunnels plus OPB 20 miles base tunnel right up to LA’s front door for our one(1) month trade deficit with China:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/46339978

    synonymouse Reply:

    And have some billions left over.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or a month in Iraq. What’s your point?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Free trade does not work, unless you are China, which is basically practicing mercantilism and get s away with it.

    Poking money-bleeding holes in the Tehachapi boonies is more important than Mars exploration? Barack is dumber than the Grinch.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Mercantilism… you mean like what the US practiced between the War of 1812 and the Polk administration, and again between the Civil War and WW1?

  3. Paul Dyson
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 10:28
    #3

    The problem with these independent consultants’ estimates is that they don’t have any skin in the game. If they are wildly wrong they still get their fee from their client.
    Anyway, $30 to $40 million EBITDA on a $3 billion investment is not going to pass any investment committee that I’ve ever been in front of.

    J. Wong Reply:

    And PBQD does have skin in the game and look what you get here.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    No, they are contractors, not “at risk” investors. “professional people have no cares, whatever happens, they get theirs”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is futile to “value engineer” when the most valuable options have been a priori ruled out due to political diktat. How do you value engineer the innately dysfunctional?

    What you do is invest the minimum and cut your losses. Unfortunately this violates the Prime Directive, which is to spend as much money as possible. Catch-22, Jerry.

    Peter Reply:

    Cool, so you can do Star Trek impressions, too?

    VBobier Reply:

    Naturally Cyno can, He’s a Romulan after all.

    StevieB Reply:

    Two independent consultants estimates are more legitimate than the ideologically biased Reason Foundation estimate that Gov. Scott relied upon to make his decision.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And throw in some little white lies to the Florida Supreme Court. IOKIYAR

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I would have been glad to see the Florida system built in preference to California. Smaller, fewer technical difficulties, has utility after Phase One, if successful lots of tourists to take the image back home and spread the word. My objection is the continued use of the term “profitable” which is also a lie, of some indeterminate hue. A $30 – $40 million operating surplus on a $3 billion project is not profitable. In layman’s terms a profitable enterprise is one that pays for itself and produces a surplus. Calling HSR “profitable” is a bit like a family saying,yes, we’re doing fine, we just can’t make the mortgage payment.

    StevieB Reply:

    As a high speed rail line has an operating life of over 100 years the Florida system would eventually pay construction costs with the operating surplus. The proper analogy would be a family saying, we are doing fine, we have a house to live in and are making the mortgage payment but it will take years to repay the loan.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Oh dear.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    No, it just gets deeper into debt as the interest piles up

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Steel on Steel at 200mph. 100 years you say?

    Magical.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Why not Sobering? Of course, rail will need maintenance and eventual replacement but 100 years for the civil works and the REALLY EXPENSIVE ITEMS like tunnels etc. is a reasonable expectation. As has been discussed before. Rail technology is very long lived. Rail and ties (sleepers) are chicken feed in comparison to those costs. They are certainly more long lived than asphalt or concrete over large surface areas.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I don’t know about 200 mph wear, but I can tell you there is track on a branch railroad right down the street from my house with rail in it rolled in 1917; it’s just getting replaced now. Until a year or two ago, the track in Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor had rail in it dating from 1944, and a siding leading to a heating plant had rail with “Scranton 98″ rolled into the sides–as in” Scranton Steel, 1898″–and for all I know, the rail in that siding may still be there.

    Two miles from my house are a stone railroad bridge built in the 1890s; only about a dozen miles away is a steel bridge over the Potomac built in 1912 which carries long and heavy trains. Another bridge–the older of two–in Harpers Ferry dates to 1892, and a newer bridge alongside it dates to 1930. Truly ancient structures are near Baltimore–Carollton and Thomas viaducts, built in 1829 and 1835 respectively:

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

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

    All of these are still in use, along with countless other older structures, large and small. That includes a number of tunnels and bridges on Amtrak’s NEC.

    We’re going to have something notable up in Martinsburg this week. The shortline railroad, Winchester & Western, will be placing the girders of a new bridge over US Route 11 just south of town. This is for a new line–a spur from that branch that runs past my house to a cement plant. It’s not every day you see a new railroad bridge and a new railroad under construction, even if it is just a spur!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    By the way, I’m secretary and treasurer of a group attempting to restore the railroad station in Duffields, W.Va. Send money!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The station has been around a little while–since 1839. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    As you can see, it needs a little bit of work. . .

    http://keyboardsforchrist.com/Duffield.jpg

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7155/6567215465_b0f7eb7fc3.jpg

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let’s not forget the Canton Viaduct, which Acela trains cross at 200 km/h every day. And the speed limit is set by curvature, not the age of the viaduct.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thanks, Alon, I knew about this bridge, but had forgotten its name and location. It certainly adds to the argument that rail infrastructure can hang around a long, long time.

    Somewhere–and again, I can’t remember where–I saw something about a new BNSF line under construction. Among the notable features were the roadbed being built like a road, with a layer of asphalt that made it easy for trucks and the like to move along the right-of-way before the track went in (the asphalt serving as a sublayer below the ballast), and that its bridges were built with a life expectancy of 100 years.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh, and speaking of tunnels, the tunnels used by the Pennsylvania Turnpike were blasted in the 1880s when the New York Central started working on a line that would compete with the PRR Main Line; the project was abandoned, but most tunnels were reused when the Turnpike was built in the 1930s and most of those still carry traffic today.

    The most expensive parts of rail construction just don’t depreciate, or depreciate far more slowly than most accounts assume. What needs to be replaced more often is the cheap bits – rails, ties, catenary poles and wires, signaling.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Catenary structures the Reading and teh PRR installed in 1915 are still in use. Some of the converter equipment they installed in the 30s was still in use until recently. The stuff at Lamokin just got rebuilt.

    Jerry Reply:

    At Paul Dyson on “profitable” or “return”.
    Your “profit” or “return” is based upon $$ alone.
    A $30 million return on a $3 billion investment is .001%, or about the same as on some savings or checking accounts.
    Your approach however, ignores the “return” of taxes to the government (the people) from the HSR employees during those “ten” years. (That return goes on, and on.)
    Also, the “profit” or “return” includes less carbon emissions during those 10 years.

    Jerry Reply:

    The investment pays for itself in more ways than one.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    To date, there is no source of investment for this other than the government.

    Private investors might invest on rail to run on a track that was built on the backs of taxpayers, but you really shouldn’t expect them to come with money to build the corridor. You’ll die waiting.

    StevieB Reply:

    Private investors will purchase a contract to run trains for a fixed length of time at a discount to estimated farebox receipts. The investor monies of the initial operating system will be used for construction of additional segments.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    LOL. Yer funny.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You are making an order of magnitude error. $30-40 million on $2.7 billion is 1.1-1.5%, not 0.001%.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Jerry, of course it’s based on dollars, that’s what profitable means, to most of us anyway. The private sector will not invest for a 1-1.5% return. So HSR proponents should stop claiming that a system will be profitable and that it will generate cash for future expansion because that is simply not so. IF the taxpayers make a gift of the system so that there are no interest charges and no depreciation then there may be cash available from operations which can be spent on expansion. You may be able to convince yourself that the other benefits and indirect economic stimulus make the whole effort worthwhile, and I tend to agree with a lot of those points. It’s just wrong to tell people it will “pay for itself” or be “profitable” or that private sector investors will be “lining up” without the initial free money from the taxpayer.

    egk Reply:

    @Paul Dyson – profitable

    IF we as todays taxpayers choose to spend some money on infrastructure (that will be there LONG past any reasonable timeline for return on investment in the private market), we hope to be leaving future generations not with a liability (operating subsidies extending to the end of time) but rather with an asset (operating profits extending till the end of time).

    When people say “it will make a profit” they mean this. They mean you won’t have to put another taxpayer dollar into the system. They mean that you are not building something your kids will have bo subsidize and that will therefore always be undercapitalized (like Amtrak).

    In the particular case of Florida, of course, Gov. Scott’s professed fear was that he was going to be building a liability for the state by accepting the federal dollars and building the system. That makes sense, but was, the reports say, not true. He would have been building an asset.

  4. Jon
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 11:42
    #4

    Off-topic- BART caves in to the ‘Keep BART on I-580′ crowd

    This presentation shows two stations, ‘West Livermore’ and ‘East Livermore’, both in the freeway median. The resolution by the board is to study a phase 1 extension to the West station. The West station will presumably at Isabel Ave, and the East station presumably at Greenfield Road with a connection to ACE.

    Why does this matter, aside from the fact that it’s an incredibly stupid waste of transit dollars? Because it makes it less likely there will ever be a ‘Phase 0′ connection between BART and HSR or Super ACE in Livermore. The Super ACE project, which appears to have made no progress in the past year, would not connect to either of these station locations.

    jimsf Reply:

    livermore does not want downtown oakland to have access to downtown livermore. They want to keep things as they are. Simple as that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people in Downtown Oakland that they are afraid of, have a wide selection of cars they can steal to get to Livermore.

    Peter Reply:

    So much for the Livermore BART argument for Altamont.

    Clem Reply:

    That was an awful quick dismissal. Adding another station to the end, veering to the south of the lab along Vasco to meet the SETEC alignment, is not a crazy idea if Altamont is resurrected. And I wouldn’t count it out just yet. The transportation-industrial complex arm of BART has less incentive to support Pacheco because

    (a) the San Jose extension is now past the point of no return, and no longer needs protection of Fremont – SJ turf
    (b) Pacheco HSR gums up the ring-the-bay plan between Santa Clara and Millbrae

    And more incentive to support Altamont because

    (a) phase zero Livermore transfer would goose ridership and butress justification for the new extension, maybe even accessing some “blended” HSR money and
    (b) leaves a clear shot through PAMPA for eventual ring-the-bay

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well-put, Clem. I can’t imagine BART planners are not aware of the upheaval at CHSRA and that a re-think involving Altamont could happen.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Synonymouse, if the heavens parted and they went for Altamont – but keeping Palmdale and away from Tejon – would support it?

    Clem Reply:

    He sure would support the northern portion ;-)

    synonymouse Reply:

    yes

    Jon Reply:

    Nah, not gonna happen. Here’s why (rough numbers):

    Pacheco:
    Chowchilla – Gilroy (phase 0, transfer to Caltrain for SF and SJ): 84 miles
    Chowchilla – San Jose (phase 1, uses Caltrain tracks for SF): 116 miles

    Altamont:
    Chowchilla – Livermore BART (phase 0, transfer to BART for SF and SJ): 111 miles
    Chowchilla – Redwood City (phase 1, uses Caltrain tracks for SF and SJ): 144 miles

    Yes, I know you save money in Phase 2 by using Altamont because you’ve already built Chowchilla to Stockton. Doesn’t matter. No-one is thinking about Phase 2 right now. CAHSR just want to connect LA to SF before the money runs out, and getting to Phase 0 and Phase 1 with 30 miles less track will remain a very attractive proposition.

    Clem Reply:

    Pacheco – Gilroy: 10 miles of tunnel
    Altamont – Livermore: 4 miles of tunnel

    Pacheco – Gilroy: 2 hours from Gilroy to SF 4th & King
    Altamont – Livermore: 57 minutes from Livermore to SF Embarcadero

    Phase 2 matters. Gilroy – Redwood City is parallel and redundant to Chowchilla – Tracy, and we shouldn’t build redundant infrastructure if cost is of any concern at all.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If Gilroy-Redwood city is parallel and redundant so it US101. Let everybody use I-5 instead.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Have you finally managed to locate Redwood City on a map?

    Well done!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    See using copy and paste works so much better.

    joe Reply:

    “Pacheco – Gilroy: 2 hours from Gilroy to SF 4th & King”
    “Altamont – Livermore: 57 minutes from Livermore to SF Embarcadero”

    Hilarious. real vs imaginary.

    You assume Caltrain makes every stop and runs on the current ROW and unimproved grade crossings vs a non-existent BART extension.

    Clem Reply:

    Suppose Caltrain searches under couch cushions and finds enough money to electrify all the way from SF to Gilroy– the SJ to Gilroy part of that being rather doubtful, since there’s no “there” down there. On the plus side, that enables a one-seat ride (blended with Caltrain) from the day HSR reaches Gilroy. Run time from Gilroy on UPRR’s track will be about 40 minutes. Run time from SJ to SF *in peak hour Caltrain traffic* will be at best 50 minutes.

    So we’re still looking at 90 minutes to get to 4th & King (still some distance from the densest part of the city), compared to:

    an extra 9 minutes to reach Livermore via HSR, compared to Gilroy
    a 5 minute transfer to BART (less, if cross-platform)
    a 57 minute all-stops ride to SF Embarcadero BART. BART could *easily* offer skip-stop express service from Livermore to Oakland, so that’s a worst-case.
    it drops you off right in the heart of San Francisco.

    90 > 71

    So, your best-case Pacheco electrification blend-a-licious scenario still sucks compared to an all-stops BART service from Livermore to Embarcadero.

    I’m not saying you’d want it that way forever, but it’s by far the quickest way to achieve Bay-to-Basin connectivity in the initial stages of the HSR project. Did I mention it involves less than half the tunneling as Pacheco, and gives you half of the Sacramento branch “for free” ? Laugh if you must!

    Tony D. Reply:

    Clem,
    There might not be no “there” down here, but there’s always heavy traffic volume on 101 during the commute hours (Gilroy, MH, Coyote Valley into SJ/SV). I’d say improved Caltrain service (electrification would be nice) would do wonders to get more folks off of 101. I could now care less about going over Pacheco Pass to CV/LA.

    Clem Reply:

    I don’t mean to slight Gilroy, but the census data is pretty stark, as is the dwindling train ridership. There is simply no way to justify the capital investment to electrify south of San Jose.

    One could say the same thing about 101 widening, or even a BART Livermore extension, but I’ll give you one guess about which project MTC will fund dead last…

    egk Reply:

    Clem – do be fair. If sensible minds intervene and the Altamont Corridor project is pursued early – connecting the CV via Altamont to SJ, then electrifying south to Gilroy makes sense, to serve both the commute market and as a feeder to the HSR to Sacto/LA for the both Gilroy and the whole Monterey bay catchment area [apparently worth altogether 7000 HSR passengers a day!]

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You don’t electrify for 7000 riders/day.
    You run buses.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Buses! Egads you’d have to run 5 or 6 an hour for 7,000 passengers a day.

    Joey Reply:

    A bus line carrying 7000 passengers a day? Unheard of!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    All the (unelectrified) branch lines in Germany that Hajo Zierke gives as examples for good rail restoration carry a few thousand passengers per day. For the record, the line I’d be most interested in (not for personal use, but for construction that would be technically and politically simple without the FRA), Providence-Woonsocket, should optimistically get 5,000.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon, you’re preaching to the choir here. I’ve only been on about how much better our corner of the planet would be if we did anything passenger rail related half as well as Germans do them for a couple decades now.

    Now add in North American “planning” and construction costs and North American operating inefficiency and North American massive overstaffing. And add North American track ownership and the North American legal environment.

    “Buses” very quickly becomes the only answer in this environment, unless your goal is to maximize cost and minimize overall social benefit (there being thousands of better social goods to purchase than rail engineering company’s services.)

    William Reply:

    Let me attempt to grade Altamont & Pacheco alignment in terms of technical and political values:

    Altamont:
    Technical: A
    Political: C
    Save on full system; Alignment away from downtown Tracey, Livermore, Pleasanton serves less people and discourage TOD; Cities along the alignment do not want HSR to go through their cities; introduce complex service pattern in the initial North-South service by having separate train serving SF and SJ

    Pacheco:
    Technical: B
    Political: A
    San Jose support Pacheco as it brings the most benefit to it, all North-South trains in Phase 1 has to go through SJ; Gilroy is also on-board and supporting Pacheco; Pacheco serves the most people with fewest amount of stations (San Jose & Gilroy); practically no opposition on alignment between SJ and Merced

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Let me attempt to grade ≥..

    You get another “F”. Must Try Harder. Must Pay Attention In Class.

    joe Reply:

    Yet he picked the correct answer, while you failed again.

    Clem Reply:

    Your grading of Pacheco seems to have omitted the political implications of building a four-track railroad through some of the most expensive real-estate in the country.

    Also, the “complex service pattern” required to serve the megapolis of San Jose, under an Altamont scenario, is no worse than the “complex service pattern” required to serve the 3 million people in the Sacramento metro area, under a Pacheco scenario. Branching works, every day, on HSR networks around the world. It will in California, regardless of alignment choice.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Building it through the most expensive real estate in the country, most of which the counties already own. Might want to check these out:
    http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2009/01/caltrain-right-of-way-maps.html

    Clem Reply:

    I’ll have to read up on that blog. Nice find.

    William Reply:

    @Clem, I don’t think constructing in the Caltrain corridor is particular hard, as the corridor width suggests. Even connecting at San Jose and just electrify the Caltrain corridor would be an “okay” choice.

    However, Altamont requires the creation of a completely new rail corridor, which, in my view, is harder to push through local oppositions, than the already-existing Caltrain corridor.

    One branching is a must have to serve Sacramento, why introduce a second? HSR branching is common in Europe, but not so much in Asia, and most branching is from smaller cities to large one, which doesn’t require high frequency of trains, but this won’t be the case for CAHSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    don’t think constructing in [any active rail corridor in the US of A] is particular hard …

    Then you’re not thinking. At all. Not even a remote approximation of “thinking”.

    joe Reply:

    No wonder your a quitter – you think duplicating 1800’s era construction is too hard.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I know for a fact that duplicating 1800s work practices is too hard.
    You volunteering for coolie duty, Joe boy?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s only hard in California. Even SEPTA, yes that SEPTA, manages to bring projects in, on time and on budget.

    Clem Reply:

    Look no further than New York state for how easy it is to lay additional tracks on existing right of way! Piece-of-cake-on-time-on-budget-nimbys-dont-matter-one-whit, right?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    On the other hand

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/nyregion/port-jervis-train-service-returns-after-3-months.html

    ahead of schedule and under budget.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    All the rules change when it’s restoration of service after a disaster. The reconstruction of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis was faster and cheaper than any new Interstate bridge is.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s politically very hard. Much harder than it ought to be, but there it is. What are we on, the third Bay Area program EIR? Just wait until it gets to the project level, if ever.

    It’s also very expensive. The CHSRA itself has accounted for more than five billion dollars (in 2010 dollars!) of extra expenses attributable solely to the presence of Caltrain, and how that complicates construction on the peninsula. I happen to think those numbers are crazy, but they’re right there in the business plan. These are included in the $65 billion (2010$) total.

    egk Reply:

    > HSR branching is common in Europe, but not so much in Asia, and most branching is from smaller cities to large one, which doesn’t require high frequency of trains

    Oh you mean like the “branching” that exists in northern France between trains going from Paris to London on the one hand and to Brussels/Rotterdam/Amsterdam? Don’t know wich of those counts as your “small city”. Or the “branching” in Germany between trains traveling from Hamburg/Hannover to Frankfurt/Stuttgart on the one hand and to Nuremberg/Munich on the other.

    CAHSR will have high ridership so the issue of “branching” is a non-issue. There will be connections from SF and SJ to LA at more than hourly frequencies no matter what. And – as HSR schedules worldwide show – rarely is more than twice hourly service something that is done. Even the heart of the French line – Paris-Lyon – one of the highest ridership lines in the world – has only basic hourly and with twice hourly service at peak times.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You keep confusing the LGV Sud-Est with Paris-Lyon. Paris-Lyon consists of trains that only serve Paris and Lyon; Paris-Marseille trains do not stop at Part-Dieu – at most, they stop at the airport – and then there are the trains serving Lille-Lyon, Paris-Toulon-Nice, Paris-Geneva, and other markets making heavy use of the same infrastructure.

    All of this branching comes from the fact that French train stations are usually terminals, or at any case difficult to have trains skip at even moderate speed (except for Lille-Europe). A French approach to California HSR wouldn’t even try to make LAUS a through-station – instead, it would have through-trains skip LA and only serve the region with a stop in the Valley, Orange County, or the Inland Empire.

  5. J. Wong
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 16:21
    #5

    O.T. From Assemblymember Fiona Ma’s August Newsletter:

    CALFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL HAS STATSTICS ON ITS SIDE
    By Benjamin Schneider, District Intern
    Despite a pessimistic outlook from some, statistics from a variety of sources consistently point to one conclusion: high-speed rail is a logical choice for California. This claim can be supported with statistics from three different angles. First, is the “sparks effect,” a “If you build it, they will come” approach as, demonstrated by the high-speed rail networks of Europe. Second, is the consistent increase in rail travel both in California and Nationwide in recent years. And third, is the many ways high-speed rail fits into the vision of a more sustainable California by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    Despite Amtrak’s role as a scapegoat for people unhappy with government waste, its ridership has consistently increased over the past 5 years. 2010 saw an unprecedented 10% increase in passenger traffic (American Thinker). In California, the capital corridor also saw a 10% increase in ridership in 2010, as well as San Joaquin Valley with a 13% increase (SF Chronicle). These lines correspond to sections of the proposed high speed rail route. If an increasing number of Californians are willing to ride these inefficient, slow trains then comfortable high speed rail should be an easy sell for existing riders. Historically, improved systems lead to increased ridership.
    The “sparks effect” was coined in the 1920s when railway electrification began. Statisticians found that not only do electric trains go faster; they also correspond to higher ridership the convenience of speed, or the novelty and comfort of a new technology. Whatever the reason, the sparks effect continues to be applicable with the latest generation of rail technology: high-speed rail. According to the global non-profit magazine Miller-McCune, when the London to Manchester trains decreased travel time by 26%, ridership increased 27%.
    High-speed rail is not only a convenient innovation; it is also a major part of “Vision California,” California‟s plan for more sustainable transit-oriented growth. Another goal of Vision California is “zero waste” in rail building and construction. The High Speed Rail Authority’s goal is to power the entire system using zero emissions compared to the 337 pounds emitted by a solo car trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
    These statistics clearly show that high-speed rail makes sense for California. Now the question is whether The California High Speed Rail Authority can deliver in an efficient and cost effective way.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.

    Do you assclowns really think everyone riding commuter rail today is going to ride HSR instead? That will be one hell of an expensive commute. Must be millionaires popping up left and right in the CV.

    William Reply:

    Let me ask you a question, do you want people to be able to move between regions easier or harder? If your answer is easier, then you should support HSR. If not, than don’t support HSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    All of them are going to switch to HSR.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    joe Reply:

    Palo Alto Home Prices and Home Values
    Zillow Home Value Index
    $ 1,245,300

    Then try comparing daycare and summer camp between the CV and Palo Alto. It’s about 480 for a week of summer camp 9-3:30.

    Ypu’d have have to be a millionaire to NOT have a 1 hour HSR trip and telecommuting vs million dollar homes post housing bubble crash.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You guys are really reaching now.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Its going to be built on my dime jackass. I get to have a say in the matter whether I support it or not.

    Brsk Reply:

    You did have a say. Prop 1A, 2008, you lost. Moving on…

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You mean the BS ballot initiatives that pimped this to the uneducated electorate with a $33 billion price tag? That lie? You know the one where opponents said this would cost close to $100 billion but supports insisted it would not? That initiative?

    I got news for ya.

    The party ain’t over sparky. It’s just getting started.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    He probally does not even live in California..and yes sober the party is just getting started…construction will start late this year .

    J. Wong Reply:

    Commuters? Are you suggesting the only people who ride the San Joaquin’s are commuters? That’s really brain-dead. The article suggests that many of those that ride the San Joaquin’s will switch to HSR as well as people who want to travel to the Central Valley but don’t ride the San Joaquin’s because they are too slow. Seems quite reasonable to me.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You’re assuming they are willing to pay the HSR premium to do so. If that is the assumption, the ridership numbers are even more inflated than once thought.

    joe Reply:

    Premium?

    The cost of living in Palo Alto is far more expensive than a 1 hour HSR ride 2-3 times a week.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    What does everyone live in Palo Alto?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Do you not understand the difference between commuter and intercity rail?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Yeah I do, do you understand inflated ridership forecast?

    BTW… Some of your buddies clearly don’t. They think HSR will capture it all.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Robert..why do you let this wing nut troll “sober” post insults?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The same reason he let’s you post?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I was told not to..and edited…and you?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    This whole project is an insult.

  6. Drunk Engineer
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 21:50
    #6

    The revised Bay Area-CV EIR, released last month, makes no mention of the so-called blended approach. So the CHSRA continues its policy of saying one thing in public, but doing something entirely different in the plans.

    On Thursday, Feb. 9, the Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee came out swinging against the document, which Burt said abandons the blended approach. Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie called the authority’s new position “duplicitous at best.”

    “We’re back where we were a year ago on this and we thought this thing was dead,” Burt said.

    J. Wong Reply:

    An EIR is not a plan. It’s a worst case scenario of possible impacts.

    Peter Reply:

    The plaintiffs LOST on the issue of whether every new development had to be taken into consideration for the revised Bay Area-CV Program EIR.

  7. jimsf
    Feb 10th, 2012 at 21:58
    #7

    Sobering Reality Reply:
    February 10th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    You’re assuming they are willing to pay the HSR premium to do so. If that is the assumption, the ridership numbers are even more inflated than once thought.

    People are already willing to pay a premium. I know because I sell the tickets. For instance out here in the valley the prices are being bumped up far in advance on firday and sunday travel to and from the bay / La / and valley cities and there is no shortage of people walking in at the last minute and pay ‘a” and full “y” fares. what I think is steep amount of money for trip from merced to richmond, like 40 bucks one way…. and ridership continues to grow. So yes people will pay. they are already paying. Just like they continue pay at the pump when gas hits 5 bucks which it did in sf a few years ago.
    Further, its most likely that in commute markets, and hsr is inter regional but designed for commute patterns within regions, fares other than a simple walk fare are likely to be available.

    Currently there are tickets, and multi rides, multi rides are 10 ride passes, discounted by about 40 percent, and monthly passes, which if used on a 5 day a week basis cut the cost nearly in half.

    There will be senior discounts, aaa discounts, half pice child fares, and on and on.

    What do you even know about railroad ticket pricing sobering? Ive been a ticket clerk for 10 years. guess what. People pay.

    Brsk Reply:

    No fair Jim! You can’t use reality and real-world hands-on experience in these conversations! That’s cheating! How are all the armchair critics supposed to compete with real-world hands-on experience?

    That takes away all the crotchety “I hope everybody concerned dies in a fire.” fun away from the haters. What will they do to feel better about themselves then?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, don’t you know, the critics will say Jim SF is an Amtrak employee, and he’s biased, and he wants to make sure his paycheck keeps coming, etc., etc., but guess what–that doesn’t change what he says about his customers. In fact, because he is in the position he is, he knows more about travel out of his station than anybody. Kind of like me–I’m an auditor for the State of West Virginia for the unemployment agency, and I want my pay, too (and could use more of it), but I have business owners asking me for information about this tax, the payroll, treatment of subcontractors in regard to this (i.e., who is and who isn’t legally a subcontractor), rates and how they are set, etc., etc.–in short, they come to me for some answers, and Jim has some of them, too. . .and so does SR in air service.

    I wonder what’s eating SR. He sounds awful cranky at times, and there’s no need for that. I dare say the same of Richard and Syn as well, and that’s sad for those two; they are (or were) rail enthusiasts or “foamers,” as am I, and likely plenty of others here, too. They should be among friends, should feel welcome and comfortable here. Why do they act so hard? Clem, who does a lot of the things they have tried, including constructive criticism, doesn’t come out as a crank or a crab; why do they?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You really are in for a surprise then.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    What a stunning and fact filled rebuttal you have there.

    joe Reply:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/02/10/air_travel_is_a_tough_business.html

    “As we’ve seen before, airlines are constantly going bankrupt and cumulative earnings across the history of American passenger aviation are negative $33 billion.”

    iskander Reply:

    Don’t forget some airline companies don’t buy and own their planes any more

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    A blog oupling airlines that no longer exists in with those that remain shows the ignornance of the blogger. Besides, that about equals the passenger rail losses in the last decade. What’s your point? Other than perhaps HSR will suffer the same fate as all other passnger rail in the US.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It will be interesting to see the effects upon ridership and revenue when the Surfliners move to reserved seating and variable pricing in the next couple of years.

    I really do wish they’d prioritize LA-Bakersfield as the first segment however, there’s a ton of demand for that (admittedly, looking at it on an anecdotal basis)

    jimsf Reply:

    I’m not very familiar with surfliner plans but I do know that most clerks agree that a flat rate fare is better than all this fare bucket stuff. All the yield management does is piss off the the public because so many of them don’t understand why they are paying a different fare. Its confusing. They often think we are ripping them off. We all hate it. But management never has and never will listen to the front line when it comes to figuring out how to keep the riders happy. They seem to use some other method that involves shooting test monkeys into space in rocketships or something. It was management who purposely ruined the business class implementation on the san joaquins too.

    I have no doubt that hsr will be a huge success. People DO ride trains and they want to ride trains more and more.

    Give them a fare structure they can understand.
    Give them food and a business class option.
    Give them at least hourly service with and easy to understand clock face schedule.
    Run the trains on time.
    And get them as close to as many destinations as you can.

    If you do that, hsr will be overflowing with passengers no matter what you charge.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I rather like the flat fare system myself and would prefer it simply be raised than the variable fares, but that’s the eventual plan. This spring they’re planning on doing different prices based on the day of the week. Hopefully any move to variable pricing will be less stupid than the NEC’s, which seems to have all trains with the same price.

    Page 15

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not exactly true that all NEC trains have the same price. My understanding of the model is that every train has a limited number of base-fare seats, and the weekend trains usually fill up and require most passengers to buy the more expensive seats. I had to pay $92 for Stamford-Providence one Sunday, when the base fare is $49. The system is very similar to airline fare buckets; the difference is that the fare for each bucket is consistent, rather than constantly changing based no what day of the week you reserve the ticket and other airline tricks.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    How’d they ruin the business class on San Joaquins btw?

    egk Reply:

    > Give them a fare structure they can understand.
    > Give them food and a business class option.
    > Give them at least hourly service with and easy to understand clock face schedule.
    > Run the trains on time.
    > And get them as close to as many destinations as you can.

    amen. And make it faster than driving. That’s about all you need to make money.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Yield management may work if there are one or only a few trains per day. As soon as flexibility becomes a market advantage (for intercity travel, that starts at about a train every hour), it is highly annoying. This is considered to be the reason why the attempts to introduce yield management in Germany failed miserably, and got the CEO at the time, Mr. Mehdorn, fired. Anything restrictive is poison in a dense and efficient system.

    Another item to introduce would be network passes, valid on all transit systems involved, including all the local systems as well…

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Give them a fare structure they can understand.
    Give them food and a business class option.
    Give them at least hourly service with and easy to understand clock face schedule.
    Run the trains on time.
    And get them as close to as many destinations as you can.

    The airlines used to think like that. The reality is the pax didn’t care about, well, any of those things other than price.

Comments are closed.