Does the Blended Plan Conform to Prop 1A?

Mar 26th, 2012 | Posted by

As news spreads of both the blended plan and the upcoming business plan’s efforts to distribute more of the Prop 1A money to urban areas sooner (including Caltrain electrification), some HSR opponents as well as longtime supporters are raising questions about whether those proposals conform to Proposition 1A, the voter-approved initiative from 2008 that authorized construction of the high speed rail system and $10 billion in bond money to build it as well as improve other connecting rail services.

The Los Angeles Times examines the issue but is seriously compromised by Ralph Vartabedian’s typical anti-HSR bias (seriously, what is is going to take for the LA Times to fire his biased ass?).

The mandates in the law are considerable. They require that any initial segment has to use high-speed trains. Money for each operating segment needs to be in hand before construction starts. Passengers must be able to board in Los Angeles and arrive in San Francisco without changing trains. As many as 12 trains per hour are supposed to run in each direction and the system has to operate without taxpayer subsidies.

Instead, the rail authority has agreed to run fewer trains at slower speeds on tracks shared with commuter rail systems, Amtrak and freight trains. In the early years, passengers will probably have to transfer trains to get from one end of the system to the other. The concept, known as the blended approach, was pushed last year by Bay Area politicians, who fought the original plan to run high-speed trains through the region on 60-foot high viaducts over local neighborhoods. The idea has attracted support in Southern California as well.

The problem is that, as I understand it, the California High Speed Rail Authority has NOT neutered the project forever, which is what Vartabedian implies. The Authority still plans to run up to 12 trains per hour from SF to LA without transfers. The difference is that may not necessarily be the schedule on the very first day of revenue service.

I’ve expressed my own concerns with compromising the project on many occasions over the past four years on this blog. In fact, the very first post on this blog back in March 2008 was a post expressing concern that the project not be built in pieces. I’m no fan of transferring at San José and I am very much supportive of the original goal of true bullet train service from downtown SF to downtown LA.

Of course, that won’t happen all at once. The project will be built in phases. And the blended plan is, to me, acceptable as one of the phases in the project’s development. Joe Simitian and the Peninsula NIMBYs would like it to be the last phase, but that will not and should not be the case.

The question that will almost certainly wind up before the courts is whether Prop 1A prevents bond money from being spent on phased construction. Opinions clearly differ, but I don’t believe it does. As long as the ultimate goal is the kind of SF to LA single seat bullet train service promised voters in 2008, then Prop 1A seems to allow phased construction.

But it’s not an open and shut case. As is becoming clear, Prop 1A was a poorly written law that contained too many compromises to appease the right. Its supposed safeguards are now threatening a sensible approach to a phased project.

There are other issues. Quentin Kopp, former chairman of the CHSRA board and the man who helped get the project through the 2008 vote, has raised a series of concerns about the new business plan and the blended plan in particular. First, from the LA Times article linked above:

Quentin Kopp, an architect of the project when he was a state senator and chairman of the rail authority, believes the design changes do not meet the law and is not what was envisioned by the Legislature.

“These guys at the rail authority have been pretty clever,” said Kopp, who is also a former state judge. “I saw it coming.”

Mehdi Morshed, former executive director of the CHSRA under Kopp, echoed the concerns:

Mehdi Morshed, a former chief executive of the rail project, said the reduction in the number of trains represents a major setback. The blended approach may reduce the number of train departures to as few as two per hour at peak times, while the law calls for up to 12 trains per hour.

“Why would we spend billions of dollars to get two trains per hour?” Morshed said. “We were telling people the system would have essentially unlimited capacity. If you don’t have frequent service, you are not going to have a profitable system.”

Again, if the CHSRA is still working toward the same goal that Kopp and Morshed were working toward, just using a different path, then I think the Blended Plan is workable. After all, that plan should be a temporary compromise designed to help wait out the Peninsula NIMBYs as Father Time thins their ranks and as soaring gas prices eventually destroy NIMBYism as a political force there. Still, Morshed’s and Kopp’s concerns here are serious and deserve to be addressed.

Kopp has also raised other concerns about parts of the Blended Plan, as Steven T. Jones reports in the SF Bay Guardian:

But Quentin Kopp, who launched the high-speed rail project as a state legislator in the ’90s and until recently served on the project’s board, said this latest agreement doesn’t help Transbay Terminal (which he has derided as little more than a real-estate deal) and it represents a violation of Prop. 1A and other high-speed rail provisions.

“Here’s a pot of money and everybody wants to steal from it,” said Kopp, who has criticized recent changes in the high-speed rail plan, such as San Francisco-bound passengers having to transfer to Caltrain in San Jose rather than coming directly into San Francisco and how Caltrain’s tracks limit how many trains can run per hour, hurting the overall project’s financials. “It’s hardly the project that was envisioned.”

Kopp is referring to the Caltrain electrification proposal, which Jones also reports would be partly funded by federal New Starts grants. Some of Kopp’s concerns likely stem from his ongoing battle with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, but those concerns still deserve serious consideration as do the others he raised above.

Vartabedian reports that the Attorney General’s office was asked to issue an advisory opinion on some of these issues, but it is not yet available (which leads him to make baseless conspiratorial innuendos). Even once that is produced, it seems likely that this dispute will wind up in court. Kings County is already using the Prop 1A argument as a basis for a suit against the project.

Personally, I am hoping for big Democratic wins on the federal level this November so that significant levels of federal funding will be delivered to the project, helping ease some of these issues. And once trains are operating between the Bay Area and LA via the Central Valley, the rest of the state will stop having any tolerance for remaining Peninsula NIMBYs who want to throttle service and speeds.

  1. joe
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 21:20

    Me too. I am hoping for a change in 2013.

    I think the question about the legality of blended is if the blended route can be shown, by analysis, that a train can make the sf/la trip within the time requirement. Not daily, but that the design does not preclude the possibility.

  2. synonymouse
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 21:23

    Prop 1A was poorly written in that it failed to require that the best route be chosen and that the dominant criterion was that it would constitute the fastest, most direct and cheapest alignment between San Francisco and Los Angeles. And that this route scheme would have to be placed before the electorate for approval before beginning construction.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    It was deliberately written to require service from SF TBT to LAUS via San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale, and that’s what we approved. The route was defined prior to the election, we did vote for exactly this. And it works for me.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But you want to see something built. If you a BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything – moving the goalposts is a good thing.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its what I voted for too. That’s why all this hogwash about how the voters were tricked or whatever is such bs. How stupid can people be?

  3. adirondacker12800
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 21:46

    The Authority still plans to run up to 12 trains per hour from SF to LA without transfers.

    And no trains to Sacramento? It’s 12 trains an hour between Fresno and Bakersfield. Some of them, when the system is fully built out, will be going between Sacramento and Los Angeles. Someday there might even be one an hour between Sacramento and Las Vegas. Or San Francisco and Las Vegas.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    It requires the achievable headway of 5 minutes, not any particular number of tph.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you can’t run trains closer than 5 minutes apart that means a maximum of 12 an hour. If 2 of them go to Sacramento that mean the maximum you can send to San Francisco is 10. There’s never gonna be 12 an hour at San Francisco.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If you have 10 tph available to come from LA, and 2 tph from LA going to Sacramento, you have ample capacity on the Sacramento corridor north of Wye for 2tph to be coming from Sacramento.

    And its not a 12tph requirement ~ its the capability to allow a train through each five minutes.

    That is, in operation, the schedule could be a schedule staggered to place the trains into serving peak destination and origin travel demand times, and be 2 trains in an off peak half hour and six trains in an on peak half hour.

    The Blended Plan is clearly a Phase of Stage 1, but Stage 1 can’t be declared finished and revenue generated by the operations turned toward San Diego and Sacramento until there are 5 minute HSR headways SJ to TBT. Since 2:30 headways are feasible on shared Express tracks each way, and shared Express tracks each way would have ample capacity for a Caltrain Express to follow an SF/LA express limited from SF or from SJ, shared Express tracks in a four track layout could clearly be part of completing Stage 1.

    But the Blended Plan can only be an interim step toward completion of Stage 1.

    Matthew B Reply:

    If there’s sufficient demand that overwhelms the system, which would be fantastic news, there will be money for upgrades so that express trains can pass locals at more places, etc. This would be a good problem to have, and one that could be overcome when we get to it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Sufficient demand that overwhelms the system” is the “trains per hour” simplification of 5 minute headways.

    Headways are not an average interval, they are a minimum permitted interval. Even if there are only five trains per hour, if you want three of them to arrive or depart in the same fifteen minute time frame, then 5 minute headways must be supported.

    Why 5 minutes? Why not 4 minutes or 6 minutes or 10 minutes? There could be a technical discussion whether 5 minutes is an appropriate ceiling to set on the minimum headway … but in any event, that was the ceiling on the minimum headway that was voted on and passed, so that’s the standard that has to be met.

    Now, waiting until there is actual transport demand to require, say, four trains arriving in San Franciso in a particular twenty minute period in the morning and four trains departing San Francisco in a particular twenty minute period in the evening is fine, …

    … its just that until that headways requirement is checked off, then the LA/SF route is not yet finished, which under Prop1a holds up the diversion of revenues from the HSR system toward construction of either the Sacramento or San Diego sections.

    Mind you, if California comes up with an alternate source of revenues, then pragmatically it could go ahead and build those sections ~ its tapping into revenues from work funded by Prop1a bonding that requires that the full LA/SF route be finished first.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I think you’ve exactly got it. You do not HAVE to run 12 tph, you just need to be ABLE to run with a minimum headway no greater than 5 mins, e.g. at a time when you have scheduled Caltrains not to be in the way.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s two “be able to”. Actually need to be able to, and “some Judge said you have to do it to comply with Prop1a”.

    On the latter, there’s lots of speculation but since no judge has ruled on it, its just speculation.

    Under the Blended approach, the Express Ltd can leave San Francisco before the HSR corridor curfew lifts, so getting the Express Ltd to LA-US at 8:40am should be feasible. And when it is leaving the real commuter peak has not yet started ~ having to have a half hour interval between services at 6am in the morning is no big sacrifice for a regional rail service with heavy commuter share of total patronage. The two trains prior to the LA/SF Morning Express Ltd are Semi-Express services, Express/Local then Local/Express … it passes the Local/Express at the Redwood Express bypass and the Express/Local at the southern SF bypass.

    While tick-tock schedules are nice, and an ability to operate a tick-tock schedule alongside half hourly Express Ltd service in the morning peak and every second hour through the day is a benefit of the completion of the system through to SF, coping with clearing a path for, say, three Express Ltd’s each way each day with some departure from a high frequency regular tick tock schedule is certainly feasible, if there are enough Express passing loops in the Blended sections for each service you have to pass.

    jimsf Reply:

    that seems complicated and unnecessary.
    only 3 train types need.

    express. express is non stop. as in sf-la nonstop.
    limiteds. limited stops. big stations only. sfc sjc fno lax only
    locals. all stops.

    3 departures per hour,

    700a express
    720a limited
    740a local

    then start over again.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you want three of them to arrive within a 15 minute period your minimum headway is 7 minutes and 29 seconds.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Unless that is perceptibly within a 15 minute period, in which case 7 minutes plus would not make it.

    But if it was “within a 15 minute by a second or two to satisfy some arbitrary legal requirement”, 7:29 would work.

    thatbruce Reply:

    There’s never gonna be 12 an hour at San Francisco.

    Only 6 platforms, so unless they’re all short trains and/or something amazing (non-American main-line train-handling practices) is happening with getting the trains turned around and out of there, 12 tph isn’t going to happen.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and some of the trains leaving Los Angeles will be going to Sacramento…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And so will some of the trains leaving Sacramento will be going to San Francisco.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not with Pacheco. Unless you assume that once the 24th HSR station is built in California nothing anywhere will ever be upgraded ever again.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, current state of the art signalling for HSR is a train between every 3 and 4 minutes. So, with appropriate signalling technology, it would be possible to get 15 to 20 tph _over the High Speed Line_; off-the-line, things may be different, but 3 minutes between trains is easily feasible (and does not even need communication-based signalling).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Depending in part on speed ~ which is why 2min~3min headways for mixed HSR and Commuter Express traffic depends in part on the signalling and in part on the speed at which they are travelling.

    How strictly the 5 minute headways are to be interpreted is also something that depends in part on how a judge rules ~ would an HSR corridor with 5 minute headways feading into a shared corridor with 3minute headways be allowed, because it can squeeze two of the HSR trains closer together and open up an interval for a local train to run, does it have to be able to maintain a 5min interval between the HSR trains, which in a mixed use line would mean headways 2:30min and below.

    As we’ve seen with Kopp, there’s no telling what crazy way a Judge may interpret things.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The HSR train leaves San Jose for San Francisco at :00, the Caltrain train leaves at :05. which it can do because the HSR that would have been coming in from LA decided to go to Sacramento. The one that would have been coming in at :20 decided to go to Las Vegas….

    I dunno what the headways are on Shinkansen, but they run 12 an hour. If they could run more they wouldn’t be contemplating spending a few trillion yen on a Shin-Shinkansen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They run 12 per hour at rush hour. The minimum headway is 3 minutes on Tokaido and 4 on Tohoku/Joetsu, but then the train ahead is an express and the train behind is a local.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No problem from the machine judiciary. They take their marching orders from Pelosi.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The question is whether one looks at technical headways or operational headways. Technical headways are determined by the signalling technology used, and are fixed, and can not be undercut. Operational headways depend on the kind of trains following each other, and the scheduling requirements. The shortest operational headways can be achieved with uniform rolling stock; the more diverse the performance envelope of the rolling stock becomes, the bigger the operational headway will end up (and it won’t be constant; it will vary depending on the kind of service following each other.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Practical headways, I expect ~ those are, of course, a lower bound that apply to all operational headways.

    At very high speeds, the headway between trains is meanly determined by the braking performances of the trains. In conventional operation, the distance between the rear of the leading train and the front of the following one must be at least as long as the maximal stopping distance of the following train. This distances is calculated taking into account minimal service brake deceleration. In spite of the division of the track in short block segments, and high performance interlocking and radio block center (RBC), practical headways are not shorter than 3 minutes. (Emery 2009: 1)

  4. Tom McNamara
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 22:23

    Does the blended plan comport with Prop 1A?

    Probably not.

    Does that matter? Not really. Once Simitan and pals disburse the bonds, the fur can fly and court injunctions will have everyone at each others’ throats again. Dan Richard might as well enter the next Board meeting announcing he has reached “peace in our time”.

    This grand bargain has about as much staying power as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

    Mike Reply:

    Yes, a flurry of court injunctions would be hugely damaging. It seems that the Gov is aware of this (he’s actually no dummy, and the upper levels of state government are full of people who have been dealing with construction-related litigation for ages) and I believe he alludes in the LA Times article to a test case before bonds are sold. Which makes a lot of sense: get it into the highest possible court, one that is selected by the Governor not by the antis. At least that way the Gov can ensure that there won’t be a mess of conflicting opinions and injunctions for every Superior Court in the state. At least with respect to the issues brought in the test case; the antis will certainly lodge additional suits on other complaints, but if the Gov’s team does their homework then all of the truly significant issues will be settled in the test case.

    Jim Reply:

    Note the timeline. The Revised Business Plan comes first. Then the request to appropriate the funds for the ICS. Then there’s a test case on the bookends. Suppose the court finds that the proposed bookend work is not compliant with Prop 1A? Then Brown and Richard turn to Simitian, Eshoo and whoever was the other one and tell them we tried to implement your idea, but the court wouldn’t let us. We’ll come up with another Revised Revised Business Plan. In the meantime work progresses on the ICS.

    Peter Reply:

    No, you’re going to need a request or an appropriation in order to challenge the bookend approach. Otherwise, the plaintiffs won’t have standing.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I dont think there is a problem with funding the Blended approach for reasons discussed here. And the blended system benefits almost everyone so anyone objecting would probably be rather unpopular (and e.g. the SF-based Calif Supreme Court may appreciate better Caltrain and HSR service themselves). AND Jim and Peter are right that the sequencing will mean that ICS is probably underway before plaintiffs have standing. I appreciate Robert giving us a topic (like Mike Meyer’s Coffee Talk lady) but I am not worried about this.

    Peter Reply:

    Exactly. Appropriations for the “bookends” are still years away, while the ICS will likely begin construction late this year/early next year.

  5. Clem
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 22:26

    This is a good summary of the camel’s-nose-under-the-tent theory of Caltrain electrification.

    The problem with the blend is that it can support at most 4 trains per hour, with 45-minute run times rather than 30 minutes as promised. You’d probably terminate another 4 per hour in San Jose. These limitations are related to the great distance (50 miles) over which HSR and commuter traffic are mixed together. There are other possible routes that do not suffer quite to this extent.

    But quick, let’s change the subject. I close with some photos of the very latest European EMU hardware, hopefully coming soon to a peninsula near you:,5777234,page=all

    Tim Reply:

    Two points: With the MTC using its power to help ram through Caltrain electrification (with some people at the Peninsula being worried about losing “local influence over Caltrain decisions”)… one has to wonder if the MTC, borrowing a phrase from synonymouse, goes full BART Vader and forces a merge of the two agencies. That way BART gets Ring-around-the-Bay and Caltrain gets steady funding… forever (plus the political clout as being a part of the empire). Integrated fare structures can only be a good thing. Second, I still have a funny feeling that given the realities of Buy America and the cost of an “Off-the-shelf but still needs to follow US rules” EMU, Caltrain will end up with an EMU that is more FRA-like than anything. Should we just bite the bullet and standardize ourselves to NEC style trains? In a worst cast scenario, we could buy some Nippon Sharyo gallery EMU’s built in Illinois that are both bilevel and high boarding (because platform commonality is a must). It will be interesting to see now that big players are involved in the future of Caltrain… not just the people who tend to make some of the strange decisions that run it currently.

    To upstage Clem… Here’s some NA EMU action lol

    synonymouse Reply:

    Caltrain looking like the South Shore? I like it.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Clem: I like the pictures. Meanwhile, if the requirement is as follows, could that not be achieved by the first train of the day south from SF, and by clearing out the schedule in front of any later trains? It seems sustained speeds of 110 mph could achieve the requirement assuming a slow exit from TBT.

    “The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics: … Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall not exceed the following: … (3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes.”

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I meant the above as a reply/question to Clem. To Tim I would respond that it sounds like a great idea to merge BART and Caltrain.

    Mike Reply:

    The management of the services may get merged so that, for all practical purposes it looks like one system to the outside world, but the agencies themselves won’t get merged. Their structures, funding and political bases are too different. It would be a huge hill to climb to merge the agencies, and it’s not obvious or certain that there’s any additional benefit compared to just merging the management of the services. It actually could make things worse, and you wouldn’t find out until its too late.

    jimsf Reply:

    That’s how I understood from way back before voting as well. That the travel times needed to be possible which doesn’t mean every train meeting that travel time. It was very clear.

    Clem Reply:

    Accounting for all the curves, existing and future, an Alstom AGV limited to 125 mph will do SF Transbay – SJ Diridon in 34 minutes with no margin. Pulling it off in 30 minutes, still with no margin, requires top speeds of 135 to 140 mph.

    With a 125 mph limit, look for scheduled non-stop SF – SJ in the 38 minute range (departure to departure)

    At 110 mph mixed with Caltrain traffic it looks more like 45 to 50 minutes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The four stop Baby Bullets make it in 57 minutes and the five stop Baby Bullets make it in 59 minutes. I’m going to make an assumption that making a stop with a Baby Bullet eats 2 minutes. Eliminate the 4 stops on a 4 stop Baby Bullet and it should be able to make it in 51. So the train with a maximum speed of 110 is going to make more or less the same schedule as the train with a maximum speed of 79?

    140 MPH trains go through the 90 MPH curve at 90, 125 MPH trains go through the 90 MPH curve at 90, 110 MPH trains at 90 and 79 MPH trains at 79.

    Clem Reply:

    Originating at Transbay. Departure to departure, including 2 minutes of dwell at San Jose. Under those assumptions the fastest Baby Bullet would be scheduled at about 62 minutes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The express to or from Los Angeles is going to stop in Hillsdale? For that matter the local is going to stop in Hillsdale?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    oh, and the super-express that makes it between SF and LA in 2:40, will it be stopping in San Jose?

    Clem Reply:

    Could you please repeat your point as a statement, not a rhetorical question, preferably in the active voice? I’m not understanding whether or how you disagree with any of my figures. Maybe I’m dense.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Since you are asking for opinions I’m going to vote for dense.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    an Alstom AGV limited to 125 mph will do SF Transbay – SJ Diridon in 34 minutes with no margin.

    As one sees here. Strangely consistent! “No margin”, of course, being entirely unrealistic.

    With a 125 mph limit, look for scheduled non-stop SF – SJ in the 38 minute range (departure to departure)

    As one sees here.

    At 110 mph mixed with Caltrain traffic it looks more like 45 to 50 minutes.

    As one sees here.

    Peter Reply:

    That way BART gets Ring-around-the-Bay and Caltrain gets steady funding

    That’s not how it works. To be eligible for BART funding, you have to be part of the BART district, and have to pay BART taxes. San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties opted out of the BART district. Hence why they have to find money on their own to fund BART extensions into their counties. Slapping a BART sticker on Caltrain would not give Caltrain its funding.

    Peter Reply:

    Gah, only the first line was supposed to be in blockquotes.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    How do I do blockquotes on here, do I add my own html BLOCKQUOTE tab?


    BruceMcF Reply:

    How do I do blockquotes on here, do I add my own html BLOCKQUOTE tab?

    If that above displays as a blockquote, and if that’s what you did and it worked, then yes. Oh the joys of a comment board with no 5min edit period for comments.

    Tim Reply:

    That;s what I am advocating… having San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties joining the BART district to fund Caltrain like it were another branch of BART.

    jimsf Reply:

    I like that kawasaki one.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Those Nippon Sharyos are heavy, FRA-compliant monsters—I doubt Caltrain will be looking into getting those. It’s probably easier to outfit a non-FRA trainset for higher boarding.

    When I lived in Hyde Park I preferred the old Metra Electric Highliners to the new ones—their upper levels felt less cramped.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Also had extra doors for quicker boarding/offloading, which the new ones don’t because of tightening FRA rules.

    BrianR Reply:

    I got to say that one thing that’s nice about the Nippon Sharyos (and gallery cars in general) is their spaciousness. I get the fact that they are too heavy and lack the correct amount of doors for quick boarding/offloading but I like being able to go “upstairs”, have your own seat and a bit of “your own space” while commuting.

    The thing I hate the most about Caltrain’s Bombardier cars is that practically all the seats are facing seat pairs. It’s a little bit too close for comfort for me to have to directly face and rub knees with strangers on a daily commute. I hope the seating arrangement on those future EMU’s will be predominantly in groups facing one direction.

    I don’t know the seating counts between the gallery and Bombardier cars but the gallery cars always seem more efficient in terms of being able to pack people in without it seeming awkward and cramped. I always get the feeling that seating capacity is wasted on the Bombardier cars. I also don’t like the fact that every Bombardier car has a restroom on it and sometimes it feels like you are traveling in a mobile latrine with no means of escaping the unwelcome toilet chemical odors or worse things than that. At least not every gallery car has a toilet and if it does, the cars are compartmentalized. Minor details I know!

    For the new EMU’s I think Caltrain should adopt the higher platform level boarding with 2-pairs of doors at both end vestibules above wheels. From there you are entering on a “mezzanine” level to access either the upper or lower levels. I remember riding on a train from Paris to Versailles with that similar arrangement. Pretty typical arrangement I guess. I think a gallery car variation on that theme would otherwise be ideal if not for the fact it wastes seating capacity. One function in which the gallery cars are clearly superior is for the bicycle cars. You can at least keep an eye on your bike and not worry about it getting stolen. Fare inspection is also easier for the conductors. I know bicyclists make up a smaller percentage of ridership but maybe some of those modern european EMU’s could be custom designed with a “gallery car variation” (perhaps 25% of the fleet). It would be nice to be able to incorporate some of the nicer features of the gallery cars in a modern EMU design. Just my own personal bias of course.

    William Reply:

    Most of the rolling-stock order in the world are customized to some degree: the more “options” you added on or changed from generic, the more cost needed to be added for development and integration.

    I am sure you can tack a pretty nose on FRA-compliant rolling-stocks, just has to pay for it.

  6. Drunk Engineer
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 22:27

    Maybe the problem isn’t the law, but the CHSRA decisions. It’s a lot harder to meet the Prop 1A requirements with CHSRA routing trains through Pacheco, and using the slowest route across the Tehachapis.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Pacheco and Altamont are basically even on time. If you complain about a detour, direct your complaints to the LA County interests that are pushing Palmdale.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont and Dumbarton come much closer to Oakland and the East Bay in general and Altamont places more and desirable emphasis on Sac, a vastly more important ridership generator than Fresno.

    The utter domination by the Triumvirate of LA, Fresno and San Jose of the CHSRA should never have been allowed and needs to be rectified.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sure. It doesn’t make LA-SF any faster. The EIR says it’s 2 minutes faster, and that makes assumptions that are not particularly tenable right now (UP line access between Chowchilla and Manteca, high speeds across Dumbarton).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Exactly right ~ despite the tendency to let the tail wag the dog, its first and foremost a system to connect the regions of the state to each other, the two largest urban populations in the two most populous regions are LA and SF, and the binding envelope constraint on the transit time is LA/SF travel time.

    A single line will not run through an area with the population of the Bay Area spread along both sides of a Bay with the main destination at the extreme end of the outer peninsula without requiring complementary Express Rail service somewhere.

    And one of the substantial benefits of the Altamont corridor is that since its a purely hypothetical notion at this point, people are able to sketch out how it will play out without any real world constraints imposed by NIMBY opposition, and then compare it to a real world project under planning. Swap positions, go back in time and see to it that Altamont is selected as the preferred rail corridor, and whatever will have been done with the Altamont plan by now would also make the hypothetical Pacheco corridor look appealing by comparison.

    jimsf Reply:


    Neil Shea Reply:

    But syn, look what we all voted for. It has a time target for SJ-LA that does not allow for detours to Stockton, but it is silent on Bay-Sac (which has service already; and have you been to Sac recently? there’s much more to do in LA). It requires the line go through Fresno and Palmdale. I have friends in Fresno and am looking forward to transferring at Palmdale to Vegas. So it’s all good.

    Andrew Reply:

    Metrolink can bring people from Palmdale down to the I-5 corridor to a station there. Routing HSR through Palmdale is a waste of money and time.

    As for the Blended Plan, also a waste of time and money. Anyone who has experienced the Shinkansen gliding on elevated track through Tokyo and Kyoto knows how little disruption the trains create. Grade crossings (at much slower speeds) with bells, signals and traffic / train interaction are a far greater disruption.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Pacheco and Altamont are basically even on time.

    No longer the case with the blended option. With Pacheco, trains don’t reach the HSL until after Diridon, compared to Redwood City with Altamont.

    Let’s say the time penalty is 15 minutes for a blended SF-RWC, most of that can be gained back by avoiding the Palmdale dogleg.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and the blended option doesn’t get you 2:40 between SF and LA.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, not yet the case with the blended option. And an Altamont form of Blended Option would itself require more time than the Altamont corridor when completed ~ indeed, if the Altamont version of the Blended Option ran on the Capital Corridor to San Jose then the Caltrain Corridor to SF, it’d be even longer than the Pacheco form of Blended Option.

    The Blended Option is an interim route. Once services are operating SF/LA, the relative capacity of NIMBY’s to put up roadblocks to actual completion of the route will drop dramatically.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The blended option is not what’s causing the Peninsula slowdown. The difference in top speed is not large: 100-110 mph vs. 125. The problem is that they’re not straightening curves, particularly San Bruno, and this is what’s forcing trains to take a hit to travel time.

    These little hits to travel time are exactly why I’m skeptical Altamont is still faster. If you believe trains will not be able to run at full speed in the CV through intermediate stations, then forget about making up time by running at full speed between Chowchilla and Manteca (Pacheco is shorter than Altamont, but Altamont can sustain higher average speed because more of it is in the CV). Forget about running at high speed on Dumbarton and through the East Bay, etc.

    Clem Reply:

    Top speeds have nothing to do with it. Average speeds are what cause problems with blending. The average speed of HSR was planned to be 95 mph (30 minutes!). The average speed of a Caltrain express is 50 mph. The average speed of a Caltrain limited is 40 mph. The average speed of a Caltrain local is 30 mph. Those speeds might increase slightly with EMUs, but some of the benefit will no doubt be invested into making additional stops.

    The greater the average speed differential and the longer the “blend” distance, the worse it gets. That’s why blended HSR will average only about 60 mph on the peninsula.

    Curves are almost irrelevant, although I know I’ve harped on that issue in the past.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Would 4-tracks between Redwood City and San Mateo help with this? Isn’t the ROW large enough to support this now without any eminent domain?

    J. Wong Reply:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the blended plan didn’t include 4 tracks where they can do so without explicitly arousing the NIMBY’s by actually expanding the ROW. The NIMBY’s will be aroused anyway because they realize that HSR will eventually be 4-tracked down the entire Peninsula so they don’t want HSR at all.

    Clem Reply:

    The blended plan already assumes some sort of overtake, probably mid-line. It is totally unworkable on 2 tracks, unless HSR is slowed to 45 – 50 mph average speed. Life in the slow lane.

    The ROW is theoretically large enough although Caltrain is trying to make it narrower by selling key pieces of land to a private developer.

    Peter Reply:

    Sell key pieces for a pittance and then buy them back for a lot more than they were sold for? Sounds great to me!

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s so California! Makes Rizzo look amateurish.

    Meanwhile JetBlue captain needs his shop steward:

    Peter Reply:

    Dude, that’s so everywhere. California is not special.

    thatbruce Reply:


    I missed that. Caltrain is selling off parts of its ROW?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Leasing, at the very least.
    Samtrans, the blithering idiots, are trying to sell a developer a 99-year lease for ground San Carlos where the shoo-fly tracks for the existing San Carlos grade-separation were laid. Needless to say, this will wreak total and utter havoc with any attempt to quad-track through the San Carlos station.

    Clem’s blog goes into this in some detail, with graphics showing catenary masts intersecting the transit-oriented development. At

    Alon Levy Reply:

    With appropriate four-track passing segments, HSR could run at 100 mph without slowdowns except for curves and stops. That’s our exercise for Altamont HSR. Pacheco’s the same, only it requires more passing segments, in areas with shriller NIMBYs.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    You are way over-complicating matters. HSR on dedicated tracks is 20 minutes to RWC, vs 30 minutes with today’s BB.

    Clem Reply:

    We are revisiting the well-trodden ground of where four tracks will be needed.

    jimsf Reply:

    put four tracks everywhere the row is wide enough for four tracks and only double track the sections that require actual property taking, which is very little.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    four tracks everywhere. Now what was the question again?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the good burghers of PAMPA don’t want 4 tracks through town, Caltrain along with HSR could just cal the two tracks through town “express” tracks and discontinue the stops. Run frequent shuttle buses between Redwood City and Mountain View. Arrange the schedule so that none of the trains are in the crossing at the same time, maximizing the time the gates are down.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Sure ~ if you have 110mph grade crossings, but are running non-stop, that sounds good. :)

    Then straighten out the Bruno Curve and let the train speed up a bit more after it either stops or bypasses Redwood and hits the grade separated section.

    BrianR Reply:

    I agree with that in concept except for the fact it will mean Caltrain will lose a lot of ridership. Palo Alto being a high ridership station has justifiably enough earned itself a number of “special privileges” and leverage other lower ridership station stops like Lawrence could never obtain.

    If it was purely about moving trains through the system as quickly as possible communities with just 2 tracks would be put on a warning that making station stops on those 2 tracks is a scheduling liability and their service may need to be cut back to avoid bottlenecking the system. In reality it’s more likely Caltrain would cut service to Lawrence than Palo Alto, despite the fact Lawrence has 4 tracks and station stops there never affects the express tracks.

    If the “bus-bridge” alternate approach to local stops was designed and marketed more like a BRT system maybe people would be more accepting of it think now we are gaining something almost like light rail and think of it as an improvement. For short distances it would be an improvement assuming it can run at higher frequencies than Caltrain could. It would have it’s own utility besides just timed transfer connections to Caltrain. Definitely not an improvement for longer distances.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, a preliminary operation along the corridor as it is provides a better foundation for a fight to straighten the San Bruno curve ~ indeed, not only will the HSR have a lot more clout once it has an service in operation, but in advance of that, Caltrain will itself gain something if it electrifies and becomes a more appealing service along with the tailwinds of the coming decade of oil price shocks.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s a simply outstanding plan!

    So they way to do things right is …

    First to do them deliberately wrongly, thus building “a better foundation” for doing them over, slightly less wrongly, the second (or perhaps third or fourth) do-over time.

    In fact, the worse you fuck up, the better a foundation you’re preparing. At last, the Transbay Terminal “engineering” and “architectural” “design” “competition” are explained! Brilliant!

    You have a bright future in US public works contracting ahead of you, my lad.

    BrianR Reply:

    this might be tangentially off-topic but I thought it was interesting since it concerned Pacheco (specifically VTA and Caltrans “modernization” plans for SR 152, the “Pacheco Pass”).

    Guess I hadn’t been paying attention enough to the VTA’s “road building side of things” but this was news to me although a few years old. I love the graphic of SR 152’s proposed bypass of Los Banos. How more literal can you get than that! Makes me think a kindergardener drew it!

    If the Pacheco HSR route is actually going to happen I hope the planning and construction of these two projects is coordinated where possible to minimize environmental damage. Maybe they could share alignments in some areas.

    If the final decision will be Altamont and Dumbarton that’s all the more justification for upgrading SR 152. Maybe the VTA and Caltrans can launch an express bus service to better connect Gilroy and Los Banos to the CV HSR line. And these can be really nice buses! A step above the regular highway bus the way BRT is a major step above your regular transit bus service. Something beautiful like a modern version of this:

    That bus was specifically designed by Kaiser for Santa Fe’s bus subsidiary (Trailways) to serve the SF to LA route. If I was alive back then I would gladly chose to take that bus over the train just for the novelty factor (and for the fact it looks incredibly cool!).

    joe Reply:

    Caltrans recently fixed the 156/152 interchange. That bypass replaced a stop sign and alleviated a major backup between SF/SJ and LA.

    The bus would ba about a hour to Los Banos, the headway frequency isn’t clear. I would not ride it, by the time it made it to the HSR line, I’d be better off driving down HW-5.

    Meanwhile the VTA runs the 168, commuter express bus, from Gilroy’s Caltrain to San Jose’s station, and the more frequent local bus, VTA 68.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Here’s that bus in action in an old Pathe clip:

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Guess I hadn’t been paying attention enough to the VTA’s “road building side of things”

    HSR through Los Banos was always intended as a highway project. The HSR is just to greenwash it.

    Peter Reply:

    Which is why the VTA study is on hold, right?

    datacruncher Reply:

    Current studies are looking at car/truck tolls of $2-$4 to cross Pacheco Pass as a financing source for the highway construction. Takes the route back to 1857 when the first toll road over Pacheco was built.

  7. Neil Shea
    Mar 26th, 2012 at 23:12

    I went back to the text of Prop 1A which is instructive. In particular:

    “2704.09. The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this
    chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics:
    (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating
    speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour.
    (b) Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall not
    exceed the following:
    (1) San Francisco-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes. …
    (3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes.
    (4) San Jose-Los Angeles: two hours, 10 minutes. …
    (c) Achievable operating headway (time between successive trains) shall be five minutes or less.”

    A couple observations:
    * I did not find in the text anything about 12 tph, only this about “achievable operating headway”, so the specific number of trains to run is an operating decision. I see no technical reason why they could not run two HSR trains 5 minutes apart on the Peninsula or a HSR followed by a Caltrain for that matter.
    * The 30 minute time SF-SJ requirement may be an issue, as well as the requirement for trains that can travel 200 mph.
    * The SJ-LA 2 hr 10 min requirement was spelled out, but no Bay-Sac time was. A number of folks here have wanted to prioritize Bay-Sac performance over SJ-LA, but that is not what we voted on.

    Elsewhere it is similarly clear that we voted on service corridors including:
    “(B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno.” and
    “(D) Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station.”

    1A gives no permission to plan or construct corridors that do not include San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield or Palmdale, no matter how many commenters here might prefer omitting one or more of those cities.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    CHSRA staff did not believe Palmdale service was required by Prop 1A.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I know they were studying that which is confusing. The plain language of 1A seems to require it.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Palmdale is eligible for Prop 1A funding, not required.

    Peter Reply:

    The “plain language” of Prop 1A stated that all the routing discussed in Prop 1A was subject to environmental review, giving the Authority the leeway to select routes other than Pacheco and Antelope Valley/Tehachapi.

    thatbruce Reply:

    The only reference I’m seeing to routing dependencies on EIRs in the actual bill is:

    (4) Nothing in this section shall prejudice the authority’s determination and selection of the alignment from the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area and its certification of the environmental impact report.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Some wording from AB3034 that is being used for Palmdale’s inclusion or exclusion is:

    (2) As adopted by the authority in May 2007, Phase 1 of the high-speed train project is the corridor of the high-speed train system between San Francisco Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union
    Station and Anaheim.

    I think the phasing plan referred to is this one, which has a route from San Francisco, San Jose, Altamont OR Pacheco, Central Valley, Palmdale Los Angeles and Anaheim.

    (3) Upon a finding by the authority that expenditure of bond proceeds for capital costs in corridors other than the corridor described in paragraph (2) would advance the construction of the
    system, would be consistent with the criteria described in subdivision (f) of Section 2704.08, and would not have an adverse impact on the construction of Phase 1 of the high-speed train
    project, the authority may request funding for capital costs, and the Legislature may appropriate funds described in paragraph (1) in the annual Budget Act, to be expended for any of the following high-speed train corridors:
    (A) Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno.
    (B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno.
    (C) Oakland to San Jose.
    (D) Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union
    (E) Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside to San Diego.
    (F) Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim to Irvine.
    (G) Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the
    Altamont Corridor.

    AB3034 does give the CHSRA the authority to plan and initiate construction within any of the corridors listed, notably (E), (F) and (G) which do not mention the cited anchor cities of San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield or Palmdale, as long as the system as a whole is advanced and phase 1 isn’t slowed down. Best not to suggest (A), (C), (E) or the Oakland portion of (G), as they aren’t in the phase 1 routing.

    By the same token, AB3034 doesn’t grant the CHSRA the authority to construct outside the referenced phase 1 corridor or the sub/additional corridors listed above. They don’t have to construct to the cited anchor cities right away, but at some point they need to.

  8. Kenb
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 00:04

    The DXpress may be getting a loan soon from the Obama Administration. This means that there will be another fragment of a potentially successful hsr line. Yes, I consider LV to Victorville to be a fragment of a route and not a viable self-sufficient one. This means, after several years, and billions of dollars spent, there will be various disconnected sections of hsr in California, and no completed line. Yes, there will be some upgrades of existing trains, and increases in ridership, but nothing that can come close to demonstrating the true impact that these trains can have.

    If the Tehachapi route is going to have to be, than maybe CHSRA, DX, and the Obama Administration should coordinate together to get one of these routes completed in the shortest amount of time. That would have to be DX from LV to LA. After the Bay Area segment is under construction, make LA to Palmdale the next priority. The DX could be completed LA LV in a few years and the Victorville gamble can be avoided. That train could have enough impact to be a game changer for hsr, and CHSRA can get its biggest missing link (LA – Bak) completed sooner rather than later.

    BrianR Reply:

    I was thinking of that too. I was also thinking of the fact there’s a difference between getting a loan from the federal government and getting actual funding. Maybe the fact the government is expecting (in theory) to get paid back for the loan so they seem to be more generous in terms of the total amount. As the news article stated if the DesertXpress can’t pay back the loan, the line reverts to government ownership.

    Still I would of expected the federal government to set some terms on the loan, such as a clear commitment that the private funders are obligated to extend the line from Victorville to Palmdale to connect with Metrolink and/or HSR. If it’s just their private funding they can do whatever they want (park & rides if they please) but with government loans there should be conditions.

    If DesertXpress didn’t last long and went bankrupt after starting service imagine if Metrolink just extended their commute service from Palmdale to Las Vegas. It could be a no-frills operation but might work; running as a lower frequency service east of Palmdale with one intermediate stop in Victorville.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why, yes ~ the authorization is whatever interest subsidy is required (sometimes none, if the loan is at the Federal Government’s cost of funds), and the cost of the loan guarantee. So if the cost of the loan guarantee plus interest subsidy is, say, 5%, that means that $1 in authorization can support $20 in lending. If the cost of the loan guarantee is 1% and there is no interest subsidy, that is $1:$100.

    But the borrower has to have the ability to repay, so that is not a Federal share of funding, only the Federal government helping with finance.

  9. Donk
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 00:08

    When the legislature votes to approve the sale of bonds, will they approval the sale of bonds for all three sections (CV, LA-Palmdale, and SF-SJ) or just the first section (CV)? If the main legal questions are with LA-Palmdale and SF-SJ, and they only vote for the issuance of the bonds for the CV (which enables them to spend out the ARRA money), then I would think this would be good enough to at least start construction. Once they start construction there is no turning back.

    Mike Reply:

    Technically speaking, the Legislature doesn’t “approve the sale of bonds.” What they do is to appropriate bond funds for expenditure on a specific construction project. So I would expect the Leg to appropriate construction funds only for the estimated cost of the ICS, and maybe not even the full amount (i.e., deferring appropriation of some amounts until later years), and NO construction appropriation at this time for the bookends (unless, maybe, some bits of the LA County bookend package are already environmentally cleared, fully engineered, and ready to go).

    FWIW, there is, I believe, a “bond committee” of some sort that is established by Prop 1A, and that committee (I’m not going to look up the language right now, but I believe it includes the Treasurer, Director of the Dept of Finance, Sec of BT&H, maybe the Chair of the Public Works Board) approves the sale of bonds. Then the Treasurer tries balance a whole bunch of factors, such as cashflow needs and market conditions, to decide when to actually sell the bonds.

  10. Donk
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 00:10

    What happened to all the naysayers on this blog? I haven’t been following the blog too carefully lately, but I haven’t seen a single post from CARRD, Morris, Sobering Reality, Peninsula etc in the past few weeks. Is this like when the rats scurry to higher ground when they sense the flood coming?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Dissidents don’t get far in Jerry Brown’s California, which so resembles Vladimir Putin’s Russia with its one-party de facto regime, suppression of critics, media control, cronyism and corruption.

    Van Ark recognized the fiasco potential in the current hopelessly politicized CHSRA scheme, sandbagged with so many deviations, compromises, dumb-downs. When it became apparent that Tehachapi had even more downsides than were obvious he tried a hailmary, but no receiver.

    In maze tests 100% of lab rats preferred Tejon to Techachapi escaping from LA to higher ground.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So why hasn’t the Комитет государственной безопасности​ come knocking on your door? Maybe you were expecting the OGPU or NKVD?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Or the Cheka, given his steam-Foamer side. In-perioid, at least as much so as the NKVD.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Donk, I thought you said the naysayers had gone away–and look who you get right off—

    Actually, it is interesting. Sobering Reality is or was on moderation, but it is curious that we haven’t heard anything from the others for a little while. It could be they’re exhausted (a variation of what you suggest), or it could be they’re just busy and haven’t had the time (makes sense for Elizabeth at CARRD, and perhaps Peninsula, too, but less so for Morris).

    Watch’em all come back now. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And in an off-topic but (maybe) related item–after weeks or months of demonizing the thing as the Obamabile, Fox News debunks its own criticisms of the Chevy Volt:

    Wonder what the explanation is for that?

    Donk Reply:

    Yeah it really is strange that CARRD has been so silent. If they truly were for responsible rail design, they would be chiming in. But the more likely case is that they are just NIMBYs who now feel that they got their way, since there will only be 2 tracks thru Atherton.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I don’t think it’s strange at all. I’d be surprised if they _weren’t_ quiet.
    The “blended” plan exposes CARRD’s pretense of being “for HSR, only HSR done right” as what many have said it is: anti-HSR. Nadia’s comments in Joe Simitian’s meeting in Mtn View only reinforce that interpretation.

  11. Kenb
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 00:15

    I’m afraid the Antis may have their one last shot here. The project could be killed due to legal technicalities with prop 1A. Put it in the hands of the courts and out of public opinion.

  12. Andy Chow
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 02:36

    An important point I think is that there’s was no intention that HSR would be built in a single phase, so the question is whether these elements altogether would meet the intention of 1A. I think they do, even the blended approach.

    The blended approach itself doesn’t preclude future grade separations and other upgrades. It just doesn’t impose it without community input. If you have an initial HSR system and turns out that it is more successful that thought, the community would value HSR more and be willing to explore options to enhance capacity. The Kopp/Diridon approach is a lot of arrogance and plan a lot of stuff that they don’t have money or a need for. I don’t see Kopp is helpful in pursuance of HSR. Perhaps if he wasn’t on the board at that time, there might not be those “requirements” included in Prop 1A that has turned some communities to be against HSR.

    So far I don’t think 1A requirements is mandating complete 4 tracking or mandate 100% grade separations on the Peninsula. Considering that, blended system is consistent with Prop 1A, even though this early investment package won’t get there in 1 shot.

    Secondly, HSRA needs the flexibility to leverage available funds. If somehow Prop 1A were to be interpreted that every segment has to meet the requirement in 1 shot, then it would be very difficult, and very inefficient, to build it. Much of the matching funds have timing restriction. If the funding is available and the construction cost is relatively low, what’s wrong to get some of the construction done, especially when there would be interim use out of it. If HSRA has to wait, cost would go up and the matching funds would disappear. I don’t think voters intended HSR to be so restricted that it would be impossible to build. Obviously those who are complaining, including Kopp, are not doing so in good faith, but wanting to kill it by making the project impossible to build.

    Tony d. Reply:


  13. John Nachtigall
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 09:30

    While I respect Mr. Cruinkshank’s passion for the subject matter, I think it is quite telling that even a great supporter of the project can not say that he is 100% sure that the current buisness plan does not violate the law. I think part of the problem is the ad-hoc nature of the discussion. Rather than take each point in turn, the comments and discussion seem to whipsaw between different points at different times without a complete analysis.I would suggest a follow on article were you discuss each point in turn and I think the conclusion you will come to is that it violates the law. you may not like the law…you may wish it was not so specific…but it violates the law.

    1. For example, the one argument above is that this is “just the beginning” to paraphrase. I am willing to bet that the revised buisness plan does not even include the original vision of 200+ mile per hour trains with 1 seat service from SF to LA. They will exclude this to keep the costs low and the whole program more palitable to voters. How can you argue this is “just the beginning” if the plan does not even include this vision? As a practicle matter how can you talk about this vision when we don’t even have the money to build the compromised “blended” approach. Just like San Diego was suddenly put in the undefined “Phase 2” now true high speed rail will be lumped in there.

    2. The law was clear it was for high speed (200 mph) trains and that funds would be used for that but the initial segment is not eletrified and the rest of the money to be used in this 1st round benefits all trains that are not high speed. This is a clear violation, there is not even an argument that these upgrades will allow trains to move at 200 mph, not even a fig leaf…they are clearly just ignoring the law beacuse it is inconvinient. This is not a pot of money for any train service, it is a pot of money for high speed rail, it should be spent on that or nothing at all.

    3. Supports defend the ridership numbers to the death, but if you can not run enough trains at the right times even if people are lining up (which is still in question) to get on you wont get the numbers. if your IOS predicts 10 million passengers a year that is over 27000 per day (assuming equal riderside on 365 days which is suspect). At only 2 trains an hour and most people wanting to travel during the day (not at 1am) you really only have 10-16 trains to get that 27000 people on. Per wikipedia (thank God for Wikipedia) even the buisiest route in the world in Japan only has a 1300 seat capacity. This comes up short which will make operating revenue come up short which violates the provision to support itself.

    4. The time requirements and end point requirements are clear and are also ignored.

    I am sure other that have more knowlege than me can point out other inconciencies.

    My point is this…regarless of if you support or do not support the train, we should all support the rule of law. While I appreciate that there is some bend in the interpretation of law, in this case it seems clear that these plans do not comply with either the spirit or more importantly the letter of the law. I suspect the Attorney General has said the same thing or they would have released his opinion to the public to try and end these arguments. If you belive the law is flawed, then change it, but until then it should be followed, even if it does not acheive your ultimate goals.

    The plan has drifted too far from the law and no longer follows it. If the choice is breaking the law or no spending we should choose no spending. Why make the courts say it when even the supporters can’t defend it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Rule of law? The CHSRA is a 100% political phenomenon – it is a welfare program concocted by the Pelosi patronage machine. Laws in California are simply a means of enacting and enabling Party policy. The judges are running dogs; they will do whatever Pelosi orders them to do to build this thing.

    And whatever level of taxation required to bankroll it- and all the other “BART’s” in the State – will be imposed.

  14. Tony d.
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 09:50

    To simply answer the questions of the thread title, I say yes! The final product of Prop. 1A is still the same, only that it will be built in segments rather than as a whole. Yes, building the entire system all at once would be great, but the funds aren’t all there. So building in pieces toward the ultimate goal makes perfect sense and is legit. To try and suggest that the blended plan is “illegal” is outrageous and a complete reach by opponents.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The legal quibbling will be over whether all the money required to set up the interim route is totally kosher under Prop1a.

    If all the details pass judicial review, then no dramas. If some of the details do and some of the details don’t, then the ruling on what is legit and what isn’t will then be available to guide the reformulation of a plan that will pass judicial review.

  15. jimsf
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 10:40

    Doesn’t seem like capacity would be an issue for the first few years anyway. once la-sf opens with a 2:40 express travel time, one nonstop la sf on the hour and one local all stop on the half hour should suffice. the nonstop should be all first and business class trainsets and designed to steal the air market share ( nonstop downtown to downtown with unrivaled on board comfort for the price of a coach air ticket) and local all coach basic local service on the half hour for the price that just undercuts the cost of driving.

  16. William
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 11:39

    I know that Prop 1A specifically says no Los Banos HSR Station. Does Prop 1A prohibit a Los Banos HSR station from being built, with other sources of money?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Of course not.

    Quelle surprise!

    Next you’ll start asking yourself who’s been hoovering up land in Los Banos.

    (Well, it’s unlikely that you would. But it’s possible that somebody else might.)

    The Prop 1A language Los Banos throw-away was what was determined to be just enough to get an endorsement from the dimmer bulbs at the Sierra Club..

    jimsf Reply:

    lol serves the sierra club right. Ive had it with them thinking they are in charge of california’s politics.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Meh, it’s hard for me to hate the Sierra Club, as I had many happy trips to their ski lodges as a kid… :]

    But I’m guessing much of their membership belongs to that weird “slightly well-off 1970s liberal” demographic which in its own way (“if it’s a Volkswagen bus, it’s OK!”) worships driving as much as any redneck…

    jimsf Reply:

    exactly. self rightous dirty hippies turned elitist buttholes. Gifts from god here to save us from ourselves.

    joe Reply:

    The Sierra Club opposes HSR.

    BrianR Reply:

    @ Miles,

    I think you’d be very hard pressed to be find anyone in the Sierra Club driving (or approving of anyone driving) a VW bus these days. Obviously it’s all about the Prius and the Leaf these days. With those people it’s major “SMUG ALERT” time. I love that South Park episode BTW. One of my favorite items in that book ‘Stuff White People Like’ is their mention of the Prius. The author said something like “white people like the Prius but because it makes them feel like they are doing good by not doing anything at all and the more they drive the more they think they are helping the environment”.

    I also love that Family Guy episode when Quagmire gives Brian a serious piece of is mind saying “driving a Prius doesn’t make you Jesus Christ!” Overall I am all in favor of hybrids and think they are a great idea but I got to say the insularity and smugness of their owners is incredibly annoying. In terms of perpetuating sprawl, bad planning principles and so on these cars and their owner’s are just as much a part of the problem as anything else.

    With some people I know that drive the Prius I feel like telling them “it’s okay to walk sometimes – you don’t need to substitute an easy 3 minute walk with driving your Prius because you feel so guilt free about it!”

    Jim Reply:

    It becomes an interesting question as to whether any of the Authority’s trains could stop at one if someone built it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Will they necessarily be the Authority’s trains? Since operating the trains can be done at a profit, franchising the service is an option, and it would be the franchisee’s trains stopping.

    If part of the franchise agreement was that the franchisee buys the trains, then you could well say that Prop1a did not directly fund the train.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Stilt-A-Rail Mojave to Tehachapi run a profit? Palmdale to LA?


    Wait until you see the TWU compensation package and work rules. Make BART to SFO look like UPS.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    UPS is unionized. Has been since some bitter strikes in the 70s.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not big on understanding the difference in the economics of labor intensive industries and capital intensive industries, are you syntho-mouse?

    Peter Reply:

    Nah, he just slots everything into his personal narrative. He probably even has internal theme music for his thoughts.

    James Reply:

    Laura’s theme.

    synonymouse Reply:

    UPS is well-known as super hard-ass on its employees whereas BART is known to be run by its unions.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Born Free, as free as the highways, as free as the byways, …

    Jonathan Reply:

    Synonymouse private-internal Leitmotifs? *Shudder*

    “Drive, Tagny, Drive!”

  17. Reality Check
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 14:48

    O/T: California cities most densely populated in U.S.

    Matthew Reply:

    Sure, if you draw the lines right, you can make any place look more dense. Or less dense. This is more about the peculiarities of political/statistical boundaries.

    StevieB Reply:

    That sneaky Census Bureau is making the country look more urban.

    The nation’s most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., with nearly 7,000 people per square mile. The San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose, Calif. (5,820 people per square mile) and Delano, Calif. (5,483 people per square mile). The New York-Newark, N.J., area is fifth, with an overall density of 5,319 people per square mile.

    They are also making California most urban by using state boundaries to draw the lines.

    Of the 50 states, California was the most urban, with nearly 95 percent of its population residing within urban areas. New Jersey followed closely with 94.7 percent of its population residing in urban areas. New Jersey is the most heavily urbanized state, with 92.2 percent of its population residing within urbanized areas of 50,000 or more population. The states with the largest urban populations were California (35,373,606), Texas (21,298,039) and Florida (17,139,844). Maine and Vermont were the most rural states, with 61.3 and 61.1 percent of their populations, respectively, residing in rural areas. States with the largest rural populations were Texas (3,847,522), North Carolina (3,233,727) and Pennsylvania (2,711,092)

    Matthew Reply:

    Can you justify using these boundaries? State lines may as well be arbitrary, as far as economic and social interests are concerned. Even the article talks about how the NYC numbers include a lot of empty open space on Long Island and upstate.

    Only a person living their whole life in a cave before seeing these numbers, would think of NYC as being less densely populated than San Jose. Anyone who’s visited both will know better.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Standard density is people over area, and when you average over a region, this gives the most weight to the geographically largest parts, rather than the most populated. The New York region contains a lot of very lightly populated suburban and exurban land, but most people don’t live in it, so their mental image of the region excludes it. From the point of view of the average acre of dirt, however, San Jose really is denser than New York. It’s a subtle fact that it’s not the same as from the point of view of the average human.

    Matthew Reply:

    Yes. But as a human, I am more interested in the view of a human, not dirt. If someone came here from a foreign country and asked to see the most densely populated city in the country, would you honestly send them to San Jose or New York City?

    StevieB Reply:

    Are you talking about Manhattan or Staten Island or the entire five boroughs because the densities are very different.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    According to the article in the above link the density of San Jose’s Urban Area is 5.820. Staten Island, New York City’s least densely populated borough has a density of 8,030. So yes you could send them someplace more densely populated than San Jose and one of those places would be Staten Island.

    Matthew Reply:

    Well, when a tourist visits NYC, they typically go to Manhattan (70,000 people / sq mile) but the most populous borough is Brooklyn (36,000 people / sq mile). Very few go to Staten Island, I imagine, unless they are trying to sneak into a phantom meeting with Coca-Cola executives.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The only reason I’d ever send someone to San Jose is if I really hated that person.

    BrianR Reply:

    By extension should I assume you hate everyone in San Jose too?

    Or are you just the type that says “I am sorry” when you meet people who inform you they live in places less enchanted than where you currently live?

    Matthew Reply:

    I’m with Alon on this. San Jose seems to be a place where a bunch of people with too much money tried to build what they thought a city should look like. So you end up with a bunch of fancy new buildings, squares, public spaces and even light rail, all of which turn out to be hideously under-supplied of the only thing that matters in cities: people.

    San Jose is a shining example of cargo-cult urbanism run amok.

    joe Reply:

    San Jose also includes sections of the undeveloped, low density Coyote Valley.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What Matthew said. They are fooling around with the lines.
    You get odd results if you compare the San Francisco-Oakland MSA to the NY-NJ-CT CSA. It may be even worse than that comparing the San Jose UA – which lops off the garlic farms in Gliroy – but includes the dairy farms of Sussex Co. NJ, Pike County PA and Litchfield County CT in the NY CSA.. and the potato and duck farms of Suffolk County NY.
    The San Jose UA may have a density of 5,820 per square mile but it’s a subset of the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA, which as near as I can tell is Santa Clara County and San Benito County. The density of Santa Clara County is 1,381 and San Benito is 39. They are comparing apples to oranges.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yes, the density of metro Los Angeles is the same as Staten Island

  18. Eric
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 16:17
    I can’t find anything in the ballot language referring to 12 trains per hour.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s supposed to be designed for a per-direction headway of 5 minutes, though.

    The fact that they won’t run trains that frequently is about as relevant as the fact that they won’t run non-stop express trains on a 2 hour 40 minute schedule between TBT and LAUS.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Exactly, it’s not there. It says 5 minute headways. Later when we aren’t constrained with track sharing (when my town of Palo Alto and the rest of the Peninsula has 4 tracks) and when demand warrants they will be able to run 12 trains or more in the peak hour.

  19. James
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 17:49

    Off topic: (this may have already been posted)

    Bullet train to Vegas a gamble
    By Michael Blood
    The Associated Press
    Appeared in print: Monday, March 26, 2012, page A1

    “When somebody comes and tells me I will build a system that pays for itself, I’m suspicious,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, which questioned ridership potential in a report last year. “There is no high-speed rail system in the world that operates without subsidies.”

    thatbruce Reply:

    If you use the same standards for ‘no subsidies’ to trains as is applied to road and air transport, ignoring all capital costs except for vehicles, most HSR operations operate on an operational cost-recovery or profit model. If you utilize the common comparison double standard, where accounting for rail operations includes the full capital cost of the corridor, while road and air operations pretend that there are no or fractional costs for the infrastructure that they use, there are still HSR operations world wide which operate at a profit and do not require a subsidy.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    “There is no high-speed rail system in the world that operates without subsidies.”

    Sure—as long as you ignore the ones which do operate without subsidies..


  20. jimsf
    Mar 27th, 2012 at 19:04

    What will start of construction look like? I guess since merced fresno is further ahead than fresno bakersfield, construction would start out here on one of the avenues south of merced. what does that actually entail? just bulldonzing a dirt row. or laying tracks or what. and why does it cost so much to level a path with a bulldozer anyway?

  21. BrianR
    Mar 28th, 2012 at 02:28

    Today I got an email distribution from ‘Friends of Caltrain’ and I thought one of their quotes was kind of puzzling.


    The MOU mentions “potential” passing tracks for future investment. The passing tracks were as an option in Caltrain’s capacity analysis. Without passing tracks, the corridor can carry 6 Caltrains and 2 High Speed Rail trains per direction per hour at peak.  With passing track, the corridor can carry up to 4 High Speed Trains.  By comparison, on the busiest passenger rail corridor in the country, Amtrak runs one express Acela and 1-2 local trains per peak hour per direction between New York and DC.


    Generally ‘Friends of Caltrain’ is supportive of the MOU for electrification but seems to have become part of that “2 tracks now and NEVER EVER more” mentality. Based on that I am not sure why they are making comparisons to frequency of Acela and Amtrak “local” service. Amtrak’s “local” service on the NEC is more similar to what would be provided by the CAHSRA than Caltrain local service. It seems to me they are trying to imply even those limited additional passing tracks needed for the blended solution would be “excess capacity” too. I assume they are aware that the NEC being the busiest rail corridor in the country does have 4-tracks.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding this but I feel like they are not making an apples to apples comparison between the service frequencies and infrastructure needs between the NEC and Caltrain/HSR blended system. I also thought New Jersey Transit shared some of Amtrak’s NEC trackage south of New York. How many trains per hour is that? I’ve been to Newark Penn Station and it seemed to me like there were more than 3 trains per hour each direction.

    BrianR Reply:

    FYI – the 2nd paragraph in the above message (between the things) is the quote I was referring to from ‘Friends of Caltrain’.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    The Following letter appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and the Palo Alto Daily Post on Monday March 26, 2012.

    The anti-HSR lies and propaganda continue to be spread by these jackasses… This leads otherwise uninformed citizens to question the project and express concern to their elected representatives.

    “So, thousands of Peninsula families and businesses continue to face the cold specter and threat of imminent eviction by high-speed rail eminent domain takings.”

    Total bullshit!!! No wonder we get so many people attending meetings such as the Simitian hearing and City Council meetings, calling for an end to the project (and Caltrain electrification). This also leads to a dip in public support for HSR.

    Letter: Peninsula families still face high-speed rail threat

    Published in the San Mateo Daily Journal, March 26, 2012, 05:00 AM


    Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission made an agreement with the High-Speed Rail Authority that benefits only San Francisco and San Jose, and does nothing to protect Peninsula families, businesses or their tax base from high-speed rail eminent domain “takings” in the near future.

    So typical of these big cities and high-speed rail. This agreement to “electrify” Caltrain as part of high-speed rail’s new “blended rail” scheme violates Proposition 1A, and does not mandate nor legally require high-speed rail to give up any future “four-track HSR alignment” on the Peninsula.

    If Caltrain/MTC or high-speed rail cared about Peninsula families, the agreement would have legally required high-speed rail to stop environmental review/study of a four-track alignment, and mandate high-speed rail to forever stay within Caltrain’s existing two-track right of way. But, it doesn’t.

    So, thousands of Peninsula families and businesses continue to face the cold specter and threat of imminent eviction by high-speed rail eminent domain takings. This “deal” satisfies only powerful big cities, while Peninsula families/businesses remain collateral damage.

    Mike Brown

    Reality Check Reply:

    Jeff, as a Burlingame resident, what do you know about Mike Brown? He’s probably the most prolific anti-HSR letter-to-the-editor writer on the Peninsula going back for years now. What’s his deal? Does he live on or near the ROW? Does he or his family own land on or near the ROW? Just curious what’s energizing this guy to be such a driven and dedicated long-time anti-HSR letter writer.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Reality, Sorry, I don’t know a thing about him, although I have seen anti-rail letters by Mike Brown from San Mateo. So it is questionable where he actually does live. Maybe he is a good buddy of Morris Brown and Martin Engle?

    Peter Reply:

    There’s one Mike Brown living here, and one living here. Neither location is near the tracks.

    However, there are a number of “Michael Brown”s living close to the tracks: here, here, here, here, and here.

    All this information is publicly available from, by the way.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak runs one express Acela and 1-2 local trains per peak hour per direction between New York and DC.

    And one between New York and Harrisburg. And the NJTransit trains between Trenton and the SEPTA trains between Trenton and Philadelphia. And the NJTransit trains between New Brunswick and NY and the ones between Dover and NY and Montclair and NY and Long Branch and NY. Up to 26 an hour at the peak of the peak between Secaucus and NY.

  22. Emma
    Mar 28th, 2012 at 10:24

    Is there any possibility that CHSRA is only holding the Business Plan 2012 back because they are too afraid about our reaction? Maybe, oh maybe they do tread this website and think “oh damn, maybe we should rethink that part again.” You know…

    David Reply:

    I’d assume a couple of days before the board meeting Thursday. It will be front page news when released.

  23. Emma
    Mar 28th, 2012 at 10:57

    12 trains per hour would have been embarrassing, unsustainable and sheer madness. Back when I lived in Essen in NRW, Germany, the highest frequency of high speed trains was around 1 every 15 minutes. But that was solely because they were heading towards different directions and just happened to stop in Essen. So you could really say it was more of a 30 min frequency per HSR line. I think even if demands peaks, we wouldn’t see more than 3 trains per hour per direction. 12 trains per hour per direction is laughable when we can’t even manage to provide 3 buses per direction per hour without heavy subsidies. I don’t know any possible scenario where 12 trains per hour would be viable except if you pay $600 per ticket.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I think Emma has a good point, that a couple trains per hour would meet demand in many cases. By comparison on some of Southwest Air’s busiesr routes (e.g. OAK-LAX) they depart about once an hour with up to 138 passengers. Now of course with HSR you don’t just get to go one place, you go to most destinations (CV, Burbank, downtown LA, OC, etc.).

    Meanwhile however if folks who live in the CV were commuting into jobs in downtown LA and San Jose you’d probably need several trains for the rush hours.

    jimsf Reply:

    The central valley will actually get realy good service this way since all trains ( except express) will service FNO HNF and BFD.

    southbound they get all the trains from tbt, 4th, sj, plus sac.
    northbound they get everything from san diego and la bay bound and sac bound.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    coupla trains an hour because Los Angeles is so much like Essen. As is San Francisco

    Emma Reply:

    Well the population density is clearly higher and you cannot see it as a single city. Essen is in the center of the Ruhrgebiet which has 5 million people. It’s a corridor for all trains that want to travel east of NRW. I tell you even during rush hour, 1 trains every 20 mins will be more than enough.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Barcelona/Madrid route, which is a lot closer analogue to the SF/LA route than anything in Germany, has three peak Express Ltd services at half hour intervals starting 6:30 ~ 0630, 0700, 0725 ~ an Express at 0600, 0640 and 0705, and a local at 0605 and 0800, so its four departures in the first hour, three in the second, two in the third, and then one an hour alternating local and express until the frequency starts building again at 3pm.

    Starting 1525 there are four hourly Express Ltd services with Express and Local service in alternate hours, and then an evening mix of Express and Local services until last train out before curfew. One overnight conventional train leaves after the last HSR out and arrives in Madrid before the first HSR from Barcelona the following morning.

    So “typical frequency” is 1 train per hour, evening peak is 2 trains per hour, and morning peak is 4 trains per hour.

    Now, take a fully built out system, curfew lifts at 6am: in the first hour would you want to send more than a train or two out of San Francisco? Of course you would ~ you want to send the Express Ltd to San Diego first thing, then the Express to Anaheim, then the Local to Sacramento, … pretty much as fast as you can. Then you want to send another fast train maybe fifteen minutes after the Sacramento local so it can lead out the Anaheim local. That’d be:
    0600 depart Express Ltd LA/SD
    0605 depart Express LA/Anaheim
    0610 depart Local Sacramento
    0625 depart Express Ltd LA/SD
    0630 depart Local LA/Anaheim

    … the Judge Kopp notion that it would keep running 12tph up and down the corridor all day seems awfully naive, but the notion that it would never makes sense to ever run more than two or three trains in any given hour of the day seems nearly as naive.

    BrianR Reply:

    Out of that 12 trains per hour figure aren’t at least 6 of those Caltrain local service?

    Yes, I can see that 12 HSR trains an hour would be ridiculous, however:

    Caltrain already has 5 departures an hour at it’s most frequent rush hour schedule and they would aim to increase that to 6 tph with electrification. It seems reasonable enough in the future there would be be demand for 4 HSR trains per hour operating simultaneously as Caltrain along the same ROW utilizing as much express trackage as can be provided. Combined together 10 tph (HSR + Caltrain) doesn’t sound so crazy. It’s not that far off from 12 tph.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Out of that 12 trains per hour figure aren’t at least 6 of those Caltrain local service?


    Yes, I can see that 12 HSR trains an hour would be ridiculous, however:

    Congratulations! Some people — none of them employees of CHSRA or Caltrain or their consultants — have been saying that (a precise phrase that comes to mind being “crack-smoking delusional”) for, oh, nearly a decade now.

    All it takes is the most tangential contact with the real world (real services, real routes, real corridors, real markets, real cities) to understand this.

    “The real world” of course, is not sufficiently profitable for PBQD, so an alternate reality must be manufactured.

  24. Responsible_Thought
    Mar 28th, 2012 at 22:01

    Still haven’t seen any supported LEGAL argument as to exactly how spending the Prop 1A money on the blended system violates the statute. None of the arguments here or elsewhere is a careful statutory interpretation that is both objective and in furtherance of the intent of the specific statutes and laws at issue.

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