What is the Future of Rail in California if High-Speed Rail Does Not Proceed in 2012?

Mar 5th, 2012 | Posted by

The following article was published in the March 2012 issue of Californians For High Speed Rail’s e-newsletter The High-Speed Rail Advocate. The entire newsletter is available on our website.

Killing the HSR project by deciding not to move forward this year will not only necessitate construction of pollution-increasing highway and airport expansions, it will dramatically alter how HSR will be built in the future in California. Since HSR will have to happen regardless if we move forward now or not, due to population growth and environmental realities, I thought it might be useful to consider how a delay in developing a HSR system will change the nature of HSR permanently in California. It should be noted that the scenario I believe likely will be a greatly inferior one to the current proposal that prioritizes access to Central Valley cities. Rather than serving as a tremendous economic catalyst for our mid-sized Central Valley cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, as well as the growing Tulare County cities, these urban areas will continue to be isolated from the large economic engines located in Sacramento, the Bay Area, and the Los Angeles region by building HSR later. Additionally, environmental consequences will become much more severe by waiting to build HSR in terms of air pollution, global warming, sprawl/loss of farmland, and human health.

Minimal and Insignificant Improvements to the State Rail System for the Next 20+ Years

If we drop HSR now, after almost $1 billion in planning and a huge federal commitment of funds and time, our federal partners will have little inclination to work with California to improve intercity rail for at least 10-15 years. And why would the federal government want to work with California after being burned? In fact, in addition to the unspent federal HSR money California will have to return, the FRA will likely ask for a several hundred of millions in refunds of money we have already spent on planning as well as other costs associated with cancellation of the project. These refunds would have to come out of the state’s depleted general fund. This situation will leave us not only missing out on all the short- and long-term jobs and a further deterioration of our general fund, it will also cause the federal government to avoid funding California project for several years in the future as our governance system will be perceived as too risky to invest in.

After a decade or so, the federal government might be willing to fund small projects again, such as incremental improvements to Amtrak’s San Joaquin line. Such improvements will only come online within a 15- to 20-year timeframe and will only lead to minor time savings and to insignificant ridership increases (when compared to increases in transportation demand in the Central Valley). The 45-minute decrease in operating times that the Initial Construction Segment of the current HSR project will provide for the San Joaquin trains will not be achievable with these incremental sets of improvements. Additionally, we will be stuck with a bus connection to Los Angeles. This path is very underwhelming and will simply contribute to an ever-increasing congestion fiasco. Furthermore, the closing of the gap between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Basin will simply not be affordable without a HSR project to leverage large amounts of funding. Ironically, our friends over at RailPAC criticize the HSR project because it does not start by closing this gap, when the HSR project is the only feasible way to close the gap.

HSR Will Eventually Be Built, but Will Likely Go Down I-5, Continuing the Isolation of Central Valley Cities

Even if we cancel HSR today, it will become clear to the next generation that HSR is an absolute necessity and pressure created by massive congestion will compel the state to finally proceed. However, I don’t see HSR gaining the political strength to proceed for at least 20 years, potentially upward of 30 years. Remember, it has taken us 30 years to get the point we are today after the last effort to build HSR in California between Los Angeles and San Diego was cancelled in the early 1980s. If the massive effort and political capital already expended in today’s effort to build HSR fails, the result will be gun-shy politicians for decades to come who will be unwilling to touch a new HSR project. Rather, the aforementioned San Joaquin upgrades along with commuter upgrades will likely be all the state political system will be capable of.

When the time finally arrives to start another effort to build HSR, the conception of how we configure the system will need to be greatly altered due to the terrible land-use trends that exist in the Central Valley in terms of land consumption for sprawl. Over the next 20+ years, notwithstanding the temporary slowdown in development due to current economic situation, sprawl will continue to encourage larger and larger urbanized areas near the ROW required to bring HSR to city centers. Due to this, land costs will explode and impacts on residential neighborhoods and businesses will greatly increase, making HSR a much more costly and politically difficult proposition. Additionally, the memory of a failed effort to bring HSR to city centers in the Central Valley will make it politically difficult to attempt to construct HSR to the cities.

This is why the likely scenario is that a rebooted-HSR project will likely go end up going down the Interstate 5 corridor, which is already being promoted by various organizations and individuals. To be clear, while I see this is the likely scenario if we punt now, I think it is a tragic scenario for the environment and for tying the rapidly growing population centers of the Central Valley to the economic engines of the state. I have always held that the I-5 corridor is an absurd alignment because it bypasses population centers of the Central Valley. It is essentially people-free. Downtowns will continue to languish, sprawl pattern of land-use will continue, and ridership will plummet on the HSR system. It will also hurt businesses that could greatly benefit by relocating to the Central Valley in search of cheaper land costs, rents, etc.

However, for all the reasons mention above, we will likely have to accept this vastly inferior HSR system if we hold off building HSR. HSR will happen but there are massive costs to system efficiency and economic development by taking a risk-adverse stance now and hedging on moving forward. There are also the environmental costs of waiting 25 to 30 years to build the project. While we dither today, we will still have dramatically increase plans to widen freeways and expand airports. There is simply no way to avoid this reality. Pollution will continue to increase, asthma rates will continue to soar, and many additional deaths from automobile accidents will occur because we let fear get the better of us today. The world rewards boldness, and if we lack courage now, our children’s or grandchildren’s generation will end up with a necessary but less effective and transformative HSR system in California.

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  1. synonymouse
    Mar 5th, 2012 at 20:55
    #1

    I-5 is an excellent alignment and will not harm the valley cities and towns one iota.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    @syn Forgive me but that’s crazy, why would you bypass 4m riders? Among the vocal opponents there are many supporters there who await the renewal of connecting their cities to the major coastal job sites

    blankslate Reply:

    The 4million can ride an upgraded 110 mph san joaquin to connect at the endpoints in Stockton/Bakersfield, or take a bus or drive to the nearest HSR station on I-5.

    blankslate Reply:

    By the way, how many of this “4 million” would have roughly equivalent access to an I-5 alignment as a 99 alignment? Bakersfield, Stockton, Tracy, Manteca, Modesto… that’s more than half of it right there, no?

    jimsf Reply:

    can you read a map?

    The i-5 alignment, which refers to i-5 from los banos to tejon, is no where near the same access as the east side alignment. All the city centers are situated on the east side alignment from merced southward, and the section between merced and sacramento haven’t been determined yet and no one is talking about that.
    Furthermore, the majority of growth in the merced to bakersfield corridor is directed to the east sides of those cities, from the 99 up into the foothills.

    From stockton to sac 5 or 99 is somewhat equal and sac isn’t part of the 4 million.

    blankslate Reply:

    If we are only talking about Los Banos to Tejon then I guess we can add Merced to the list of cities for whom I-5/99 makes no difference.

    I maintain that Bakersfield is on that list. The Bakersfield station is going to draw from the entire metro area, and for the vast majority of these people driving 15-20 miles to an I-5 station is no more difficult than driving 5-10 miles to a downtown station. Also, it would reduce the pressure to build a massive commuter parking lot in downtown Bakersfield, which is probably a good thing from an urban planning perspective.

    Brsk Reply:

    God forbid you have something that attracts people located IN downtown Bakersfield! That would ATTRACT people downtown! The horror, the horror!

    Putting it downtown and upgrading local transit means residents could drive or take transit and visitors could walk or transit to downtown destinations (conference centers, offices, hotels). Hell developers could actually build on some of the many empty lots downtown. What a concept!

    But you want it 20 miles out where everyone HAS to drive. Brilliant thinking!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    People don’t build TOD next to airport runways, any more than they do next to high speed train lines.

    Again, here’s Segovia’s HSR station. Spanish planners have, of course, forgotten more about locating rail and bus lines than you’ll ever know … and they don’t thread high speed tracks through conurbations.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    C’mon Richard, that snark is dopey even for you. Airport runway = zero resemblance to HSR lines.

    Note that the typical Japanese HSR station is smack-dab in the middle of the city—and of course the Japanese have forgotten more about HSR than Spanish planners will ever know…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No Miles, I meant what I wrote. TOD and 350kmh go together like kindergartens and fireworks factories.

    And good luck with that selling that Japanese urban development model to North America. (And yes, I know well that you’re thousands of times more familiar with it than I am. It would be outvoted ten to one, regardless.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Isn’t one more or less one unbroken conurbation from Tokyo to Osaka?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, not really. There are strings of towns that are pretty close to each other, but also big gaps in urbanization, on account of the lesser amount of sprawl. It’s nothing like New York and Philadelphia, which are probably one contiguous sprawl today.

    None of this means trains slow down through every intermediate city, though.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’d hazard a guess that Middlesex or Mercer county are busy trying to figure out a way to cobble together museum money, farmland preservation money and watershed protection money to buy up the last farm and make it into a museum…. Give it a few years before the southern suburbs of Hartford begin to blend into the northern suburbs of New Haven giving one big gash of suburbanization from Wilmington to Hartford.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No need to wait a few years – just look at population density maps with a cutoff of 250/mi^2, which is what Richard Florida uses to compute megaregions. Because of Japan’s lesser amount of sprawl, the same methodology separates Tokyo from Nagoya and Osaka, even though local geographers would consider the entire Tokaido-Sanyo belt to be one megaregion.

    Incidentally, even in Jersey, a surprising amount of the NEC passes through open countryside – e.g. everything between New Brunswick and Trenton.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Everything between New Brunswick and Trenton was countryside back in the 50s.
    I’m assuming whoever put this stuff in Wikipedia got it from Census data, for the towns the NEC passes through:

    New Brunswick 9,293.5 per square mile (3,585.9/km)
    North Brunwick 3,018.3 per square mile (1,165.6/km)
    South Brunswick 923.5 per square mile (356.6/km)
    Plainsboro 1,951.6 per square mile (753.5 /km)
    West Windsor 842.4 per square mile (325.2/km)
    Lawerence 1,317.0 per square mile (508.5/km²)
    Trenton 11,101.9 per square mile (4,286.5 /km2)

    The least dense township in Mercer county is Hopewell with a density of 277.1 people per square mile (107.0/km²). I’m just going to assume that we can agree that New Brunswick to Newark is one unbroken conurbation…. and that the swamps politely called the Hackensack Meadows are never goin to be very populated.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    @Richard:
    Ok, maybe you were really thinking “people don’t build TOD next to 350+km/h HSR lines in places where the train runs at full speed and rarely stops, especially in areas with active NIMBY movements and a cranky suburbanite population”—that, at least, would be more defensible.

    But what you actuallysaid was “people don’t build TOD next to HSR lines”, which is of course demonstrably (and hilariously) false.

    [and note that even on a 350km/h line, it's perfectly reasonable to simply slow down a bit when running through city centers to reduce aerodynamic noise. If the area is judged to be promising for future development, that might be a better option than building a greenfield station to avoid noise complaints.]

    Jon Reply:

    Segovia has a population of 55,000. Hanford also has a population of 55,000. So why are CAHSR planning to blast through Hanford at 350 km/hr rather than have a park and ride station on the outskirts?

    Oh wait, they’re not.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The population is an utter non sequitur.

    Non-stop 350kmh trains don’t blast through the station near central Zaragoza (population: irrelevant), they take the peripheral bypass line outside the city.

    Non-stop 350kmh trains don’t blast through the station in central Lleida (population: irreelvant), they take the peripheral bypass line outside the city.

    No train will run through the city stations of Valladolid, Córdoba, etc, etc, etc at 100mph, let alone over 200mph.

    Meanwhile, in California, America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals are all set to tear a new one in in Fresno, Bakersfield, Gilroy, Merced, Manteca, Stockton, etc.

    No city — or village — anywhere in Europe would for a minute tolerate something as bat shit insane and as hostile to the urban environment as 300+kmh trains (remember, a Flight Level Zero airline) in their centres, and nobody would be as bat shit insane as to propose something to stupid.

    Noisy heavy industrial processes — steel mills, airports, coal mines, very high speed train tracks, oil refineries — don’t mix with the sort of urban development and pastel-hued TOD renderings with Festival Marketplaces and Vibrant Street Life you people imagine are going to be springing up in the quaint hamlets of the Central Valley.

    jimsf Reply:

    in what world is the equal access?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s roughly a 50 mile drive from Fresno to I-5. Or more or less the same amount of travel between San Jose and San Francisco. Or the same amount of travel from Palmdale to Burbank.

    blankslate Reply:

    Yep, Fresno would be on the small list of cities that would be affected by the difference between I-5 and 99. But there aren’t 4 million people in Fresno – 4 million refers to the entire San Joaquin Valley from Stockton to Bakersfield.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why bother to build in the Central Valley at all? Everyone can take BART or Caltrain to San Jose where they transfer to the shuttle bus to Fresno or Bakersfield? Or take Metrolink to Santa Clarita where they transfer to the shuttle bus to Bakersfield or Fresno.

    blankslate Reply:

    Because it’s between the Bay Area and Southern California?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it’s good enough for the 50 mile trip between Fresno and the HSR station why isn’t it good enough for the 300 mile trip between San Jose and Santa Clarita?

    blankslate Reply:

    Look, I was only responding to a claim that an I-5 alignment would “bypass 4 million riders” as if HSR provides zero benefit to a city unless there is actually an HSR station with the city’s name on it. The truth is that once the HSR system is built, everyone who lives within 100 miles of it (which is what, 99% of the state at full buildout of Phase 3?) will have vastly improved options for taking a train somewhere.

    The “4 million riders” claim is hugely inflated. It includes:
    - Cities that would have precisely the same access with an I-5 or 99 alignment, like Stockton and Manteca
    - Cities that would have better access with I-5 like Tracy
    - Cities that would be just slightly inconvenienced by having to drive 5 or 10 more miles to the station, like Modesto and Bakersfield
    - Cities that would be more inconvenienced and relegated to connecting service on San Joaquin or a shuttle bus, like Fresno, Merced, Hanford and Visalia

    Lumping these all together and saying that you are “bypassing 4 million” is vastly oversimplified, not o mention inaccurate.

    Even the cities that get the worst end of the stick here would have improved rail service, like I said above. Consider Fresno. With HSR Phase 1, they can now take a 2 hour ride on San Joaquin to connecting points near Stockton or Bakersfield, then ride HSR for less than an hour into LA or SF and arrive by train. That is so much better than the situation today, with a five hour ride involving a bus connection to reach either of those places.

    To be perfectly clear: HSR on I-5 would be worse for Fresno. I am not denying that! All I’m saying is that the degree to which it would be worse is overstated, and the “4 million” number is overused and inaccurate.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fresno would not fare anywhere nearly so badly with an I-5 hsr alignment as claimed. At or near the north base of you would construct a high speed half grand union with a line off to the east to Bako. All-new, all-hsr.

    Service from LA to Bako via Tejon would be faster than via Tehachapi. Service from Tracy and Sac south on the I-5 median hsr line would be essentially express and very fast to Bako. Not many minutes lost there. If you lay in new hsr trackage from Bako to Fresno, then LA to Fresno is superb and Sac to Fresno still pretty fast.

    As far as the 99 corridor goes, at some point in the future, the State is going to have to approach the class ones about electrification. I doubt they will be able to meet pollution requirements without it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Should read north base of Tejon

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No with HSR Phase 1 they go to the station in downtown Fresno and get a fast one seat ride to Ananheim or San Francisco and all the stops inbetween.

    blankslate Reply:

    In the paragraph you are responding to, I was talking about a hypothetical version of Phase 1 that uses an I-5 alignment. You are talking about Phase-1-as-planned, which would certainly provide more immediate benefits from Fresno’s perspective, as I said above.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s BS Cyno, It will be a nearly useless endeavor then, just what You want, so that HSR can be killed once & for all time.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I fail to see how an I-5 alignment is the end of the world. There’s always going to be compromises, and no project is going to be perfect. Besides, the whole freaking point of HSR is service between the Bay Area and So Cal. Stop trying to turn HSR into some sort of Central Valley economic revitalization project.

    jimsf Reply:

    The whole point of hsr is most certainly not bay area – socal. Who told you that?

    The purpose of ca hsr is a statewide core high speed network that connects the states regions to each other bringing the most access to the most people.

    It will connect all the major regions, the san deigo area, the inland empire, the la basin, the high desert, the san joaquin valley, the sacramento metro region, and the bay area so that as many californians who are paying for it, as possible will have easy access to as many other californians who are paying for it, as possible, with a single ticket and a single seat. and thats what this system will accomplish.

    It most certainly is not about taking people from san francisco to la.
    Taking people from san francisco to la does nothing for the future of the states well being.

    Peter Reply:

    You beat me to it. Well said.

    jimsf Reply:

    I don’t know why its so hard for some people to comprehend. i do think there are some who “go as fast as possible for the sake of going as fast as possible” as in, “peel out of transbay terminal at 220 and maintain 220 till you hit the breaks at laus… as if we are building some kind of carnival thrill ride. ( young people…. sheesh., energetic, but oy!)

    Peter Reply:

    If you wanted to go as fast as possible for the sake of going as fast as possible, you’d take an airplane.

    I believe the French run a lot of point-to-point non-stop trains, but others, such as the Germans, have very few non-stop HSR trains. The Germans are even beginning to realize that there’s not much point in running anything faster than 250 km/h when their trains are stopping every 60-70 km. Hence why the ICx replacement for ICE 1 & 2 is supposed to top out at 250 km/h (ICE 1 & 2 can hit 280 km/h)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    She doesn’t need to be told. Everyone knows the Central Valley is filled with Nobodies who live Nowhere…..

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Amanda

    It is hopeless to talk reason with the cheerleaders – their minds are gung-ho closed.

    What is truly ironic and what had obviously become transparent to Van Ark is that the Tejon punch-thru route makes it easier to implement both and/or either the closed circuit BART-type system model or the Amtrak-FRA rr interchange model.

    You could go closed-system electrified Bako to Santa Clarita with transfers to Amtrak-FRA-diesel at either end or Amtrak FRA hybrid thru running. If you build out full hsr on I-5 north to Tracy, Sac, etc. that makes the closed system much closer to self-supporting in the interim until the full build-out of electrified hsr thru LA can be accomplished.

    Trying to go the godawful Tehachapi roundabout either closed circuit electrified with transfers or FRA diesel or hybrid thru running will be much slower. I suggest Van Ark had recognized the need for speed that Tejon would have provided to make an interim “blend” more workable.

    Paul H. Reply:

    Tejon is over. Get over it.

    jim Reply:

    Not necessarily. Everyone follows the plan until they can’t. Then they come up with a new plan.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Hope you are right, but they will be looking for a replacement for Van Ark who is safely technically uninformed and malleable Nathaniel Ford?

  2. Tim
    Mar 5th, 2012 at 22:17
    #2

    Ignoring the ramifications of “giving back FRA allocated HSR funds”, I don’t see how the state’s intercity supported rail system would not see expansion and improvement in the next 15-20 years if CAHSR were to die tomorrow. The gap between Bakersfield and LA will be filled in; with HSR or otherwise… & if the HSR project were to somehow die, I personally feel that 110 mph FRA service standards (maybe 125 mph?) would be upgraded to / impressed upon the San Joaquin and Coastal Lines ASAP. Granted, this would not be the same as true HSR (by any stretch of the imagination), but the continual improvement of rail in CA will not stop just because of a death of HSR. As for your conjecture about HSR running down the I-5 corridor… So? I’ll have to agree with synonymouse on this one but I don’t feel it would harm ridership too much as long as the San Joaquin Corridor was significantly upgraded to 110/125 mph FRA speeds.

    In another totally different tangent… Maybe CA is reserving the I-5 corridor for MagLev trains of 300+ mph for the future. Just a thought.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    @Tim, I think you’re dreaming. Even 110/125 mph requires many grade separations which are very costly, think $Billions. Would you close the Bakersfield gap with non-HSR capable track? Of course not, and either way it’s $Billions there too.

    Now, how much upgrading has occurred on intercity track in the last 20 years? Previous little. To Daniel’s point, don’t expect Federal help if we throw these billions back in their face. Which Calif elected leader is going to stick out his/her neck if we kill this now? And don’t expect China to loan money if we don’t even seize the opportunity in front of us to get the first 130 miles built.

    So where were the resources supposed to magically build all the track/grade seps that you describe as existing?

    Tim Reply:

    Well considering the 110 mph FRA standards requires “only” quad gates… I don’t see how that is not a reasonable/cheap upgrade to be completed in the next TEN/TWENTY years. That said… my conjecture was not against the HSR project per se; I was just saying that IF the CAHSR project were to die tomorrow, I wouldn’t be too worried about continued investment in the CA Amtrak system in the future.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I see your point. I don’t think it needs to die though, with $2B for the bookends I think even my senator Simitian is going to have trouble foiling my governor on this one

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much does a quad gate crossing upgrade cost? How many of them have to be installed between Sacramento and Bakersfield?

    Tim Reply:

    No idea (I haven’t fully researched it yet)…. but I can guarantee that it cost less than a fully grade separated HSR I.O.S. in the valley

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Your guarantee is absolutely worthless and horribly wrong.

    Quad gates cost in the range of $200-300,000 per installation. To replace every single one of California’s 12,561 grade crossings (in 2004, there are fewer now) with quad gates would cost 2.5-3.8 billion dollars, far less than the 6 billion dollars for the ICS and the 33 billion it would take for an IOS.

    Tim Reply:

    Proving my point?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Sorry, I had a complete failure of reading comprehension there. I thought you had it backwards, with IOS cheaper than upgraded crossings. Mea culpa.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and when everybody in the Central Valley except for hipsters and the carless decide that it’s just as fast to drive what’s the cost per new rider?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Quite a good deal has been done actually, largely thanks to Prop 1B and local measures.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Mostly between LA and San Diego… which is still really, really weak. Some between Oakland and Sacramento. If you count SF-SJ as intercity, then there too.

    Very little has been done elsewhere on intercity rail service. The San Joaquins are a desultory effort (yet very popular nonetheless).

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    Just because freight track if upgraded to, say, class six standards is capable of supporting 110 mph or faster speeds, this doesn’t necessarily mean that passenger trains running at such speeds can integrate well on the existing freight train network. Slower-running freight trains still would need to get into passing sidings and be in the clear to allow passenger trains to pass by. This has the potential to adversely affect overall freight train operations. Are the freight railroads going to relish the thought of passenger trains adversely affecting their freight operations, negatively impacting their bottom lines and diminishing service for and to customers? Think about it. The better idea is right-of-way exclusive to high-speed passenger train use.

    What’s more, without dedicated HSR track, the likelihood of the Bakersfield-to-Los Angeles gap getting completed is slim to none. The freight railroad in question would have to give its blessing to even allow this to happen in the first place. Even if granted, speed would still be a delimiting factor. The line through the Tehachapi Mountains is long, relatively steep and circuitous. A tremendous upgrade of the existing corridor through the Tehachapi Mountains would be necessitated. Additionally, the presumption is the remaining 14 miles of single-track line would have to be double-tracked. While this may benefit the freight trains that operate over the pass, double-tracking would be a costly undertaking not to mention a tremendous engineering challenge and all to allow how many passenger trains access and at what operational speeds? I don’t see it. Once again, the better idea is right-of-way exclusive to high-speed passenger train use.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Are the freight railroads going to relish the thought of passenger trains adversely affecting their freight operations, negatively impacting their bottom lines and diminishing service for and to customers?

    Which is why they simply don’t sign contracts giving passenger trains slots if they feel it would be detrimental to their business. The state can’t force them to allow increased traffic.

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    Even The Economist in July 2010 weighed in on this. (See: http://www.economist.com/node/16636101)

    “But the problem with America’s plans for high-speed rail is not their modesty. It is that even this limited ambition risks messing up the successful freight railways. Their owners worry that the plans will demand expensive train-control technology that freight traffic could do without. They fear a reduction in the capacity available to freight. Most of all they fret that the spending of federal money on upgrading their tracks will lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the industry watchdog, to impose tough conditions on them and, in effect, to reintroduce regulation of their operations.”

    “Their main complaint, however, is that one Amtrak passenger train at 110mph will remove the capacity to run six freight trains in any corridor. Nor do they believe claims that PTC, due to be in use by 2015, will increase capacity by allowing trains to run closer together in safety. So it will cost billions to adapt and upgrade the lines to accommodate both a big rise in freight traffic and an unprecedented burgeoning of intercity passenger services. Indeed, some of the money that the White House has earmarked will go on sidings where freight trains can be parked while intercity expresses speed by.

    “Federal and state grants will flow to the freight railroads to help them upgrade their lines for more and faster passenger trains. But already rows are breaking out over the strict guidelines the FRA will lay down about operations on the upgraded lines, such as guarantees of on-time performance with draconian penalties if they are breached and the payment of indemnities for accidents involving passenger trains. The railroads are also concerned that the federal government will be the final arbiter of how new capacity created with the federal funds will be allocated between passenger and freight traffic. And they are annoyed that there was little consultation before these rules were published.”

  3. Neil Shea
    Mar 5th, 2012 at 22:37
    #3

    Great piece Daniel, I think you’re spot on. In particular it’s a great point about our friends at RailPAC fighting the best chance for closing the LA-San Joaquin gap.

    That’s obviously the next step building on the momentum of the CV and work on the ‘bookends’ — I won’t be surprised if China loans $20B for that next year after ICS construction is underway. Even before the line is electrified and HSR equipment is sourced, that gets us darn close to a decent, fast single seat transitional/conventional service from Anaheim-LAUS-Burbank-Palmdale-Bakersfield-Fresno-Merced-Stockton-Pleasanton-Fremont-San Jose-SF. I think things will snowball forward from there, as gas passes $6 and people welcome even a non HSR alternative.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d accept Chinese money, after all $20 Billion is $20 Billion. And yes I like Daniels piece too, even if it is a bit disturbing.

  4. Paulus Magnus
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 06:44
    #4

    Explain to me how a cancelled HSR means no significant improvements to conventional rail network for 15-20 years, but an enormously expensive HSR network soaking up billions of dollars every year for the next 15-20 years doesn’t?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Also, of course, why it is dependent on state and federal funds to improve rather than local funds like Measures M and R.

    joe Reply:

    Sounds like Feudalism: Locals taxed above and beyond the current burden to improve the private rail road network.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Do you ever have comments that aren’t complete and utter nonsense?

    joe Reply:

    And are you replying to yourself again?

    If the Feds and State don’t contribute, I see no practical way local economies will tax themselves to provide “significant improvements to conventional rail network”.

    Also, there is no cap on rail spending – just as the Defense Highways system didn’t soak up all the money for local roads, HSR isn’t going to soak up all the money for rail.

    County by county ad hoc taxes are not going to create a state wide network – that’s feudalism, decentralize the control, funding and planning of rail. It’s worse than confederacy which at least would put the state in control.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Again, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about with your comments on feudalism. Furthermore, it is disingenuous to suggest that it will not soak up all funds for rail improvements when under Schwarzenegger it did precisely that with ARRA applications.

    jimsf Reply:

    no. the point you are trying to make- per local funding – is wrong. don’t singleout the feudalism comment to try to hide that.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paulus,

    Ah, I see you are beginning to appreciate the true significance of having a BART-monster in your local region!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember, Paulus, if California rejects funds, *it’s not getting any more federal funds*. Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio discovered this. Wisconsin may get funds if Walker and his cronies are firmly booted from power, but then again it may now.

    Local sources are practically tapped out in California, except in the CV and Orange County, where they haven’t seemed inclined to come up with much in the way of local funds. State funding could build stuff…. but the state seems to have a Prop 13 problem, and until that is repealed or the state starts a Bank of California to allow improved borrowing and money-printing, I wouldn’t count on it.

    jimsf Reply:

    There is now way that local taxes are going to pay for investment in a statewide network. Local measures fund local rail/transit and road improvements.

    We have a state government back by federal dollars to invest in statewide projects.

    Merced for instance isn’t going to vote to … uh raise money to upgrade 5 miles of bnsf track to 110mph with local dollars because it wouldn’t solve any problems.

    Its a ridiculous suggestion.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    LOSSAN and the other groups can fund their improvements easily enough (there isn’t really a statewide network ATM), they can also cooperate to link up, such as the LA-BFD rail connection. If counties in the San Joaquin don’t care to tax themselves for improvments, unlike LA, OC, and San Diego for instance, that’s their own problem. There is no reason that SoCal should pay for something that doesn’t benefit them and isn’t wanted by those it would benefit.

    jimsf Reply:

    which leaves you without a comprehensive statewide network. as in, what we have now. The whole point of building hsr, with prop 1a, was to have a statewide network that connects all the regions and does so with faster travel times than driving and more convenient access than flying.

    Inother words you’d rather just keep doing things the way they have been done and aren’t interested in a statewide high speed network If thats the case you don’t need to make arguments. just say

    “im not interested in a statewide high speed network that connects all the regions to each other”

    and we will all believe you. just tell the truth.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    A high speed rail network connecting the state is a luxury, not a necessity. As the incompetence and corruption of CAHSRA increases, it’s value necessarily decreases. Don’t confuse nice to have with need to have.

    jimsf Reply:

    state parks, freeways, car pool lanes, state beaches, community colleges, medical, bridges, all our luxuries, not needed for survival. so what. If you don’t want high speed rail then say so. No need to make arguments for why, when the arguments are a matter of opinion. Like many californians, I am willing to pay taxes to support certain such luxuries. I happen to like this one, maybe you don’t. There are others things I pay for that Id rather not, but its a package deal when you live in a democracy. You win some you lose some. Whining about the ones you lose is pointless.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Paulus Magnus has listed a number of serious issues with the CHSRA which simply aren’t going to go away but which will literally be set in concrete with the rush to build out.

    The scheme will require large subsidies in direct competition with local transit agencies. Essentially you are looking at 2 or 3 regional quasi-BARTS’s connected by quasi-Amtraks on secondary alignments. There will be great pressure for below market rate fares, especially from Palmdale to LA and the high-end SF to LA ridership will fail to materialize due to too many stops and the circuitous route. Who in SF wants to be routed thru the Valley towns and the Tehachapis to go to LA?

    There is no hope to cope with the corruption and incompetence because it is being encouraged by the triumvirate of LA, Fresno and San Jose dominating the CHSRA. Van Ark’s defeat over Tejon ratifies the commitment to zero compromise.

    The significant question remaining unanswered is how much interchange with real, existing rairoads will there be. That will determine which unions will predominate. My gut feeling goes with the closed system paradigm. The management model was decided from the beginning as public service welfare. Thus the non-negotiable and irrational wandering route map. Guaranteed to be non-profitable.

    There is nothing to do for it but detach. This thing has taken on the same inertia as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – it will simply have to play itself out over the years.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    will fail to materialize due to too many stops and the circuitous route.

    Just how much time do you save by cutting stations? And it’s not BART, just because there’s a station there doesn’t mean every train has to stop.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Tejon-I-5-Altamont would probably cut a half hour off the travel times. The only way we would have a concrete comparison would be if the alternative alignments had been engineered out. Of course they weren’t and they won’t because of the very high likelihood the results would be very unfavorable to the existing PB-CHSRA route scheme.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I say it would probably make the trip to Bakersfield or Fresno 45 minutes longer. And probably cut the ridership of the line in half.

    synonymouse Reply:

    LA to Bako via Tejon would be faster.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    LA-to-Bako would be slower. I can make unsupported assertions too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    From the Wikipedia entry for Bakersfield:

    Bakersfield lies approximately 100 miles (160 km) north of Los Angeles (about a 1½-hour drive on I-5 and State Route 99) and about 300 miles (480 km) southeast of the state capital, Sacramento (about a 4½-hour drive on State Route 99).

    See any mention of Palmdale, Mojave, Tehachapi or route 58?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The trains, in normal operation, won’t be on the highways.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It’s termed a “dogleg” for a reason.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you are going to Palmdale or Las Vegas from Burbank it’s the most direct route short of using a helicopter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Where does Prop 1A authorize construction of an hsr to Las Vegas? Palmdale lies east not north.

    Straying so far from the stated objective is one big reason so many voters have turned against the CHSRA.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paulus Magnus writes:

    here is no hope to cope with the corruption and incompetence because it is being encouraged by the triumvirate of LA, Fresno and San Jose dominating the CHSRA. Van Ark’s defeat over Tejon ratifies the commitment to zero compromise.

    I don’t know what planet you live on, but this year, on this planet, CHSRA is headed up by a former BART director and East Bay resident who lists BART-to-SFO as a major accomplishment.

    Not San Jose anymore, but if anything that reinforces your point.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    That was synon, not me. I’m all for LA lording it over the rest of California as is right and proper.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Each member of the triumvirate has a non-negotiable demand:

    LA = no Tejon
    Fresno = no I-5
    San Jose = no Altamont

    Richard is a BART-MTC operative. = Ring the Bay and kill Caltrain finishing the job started in 1991.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Paulus: oh, sorry, my mistake. But I trust you are “enjoying” the prospect of a BART-like-soak-up-all-funding monster on your, so to speak, doorstep. Share and Enjoy.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You’re just making shit up again, syn. As usual I stopped reading after the second sentence made up of total lies.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Say what – were you alive when Heminger, Kopp and Willie Brown killed the TBT Tunnel and replaced it with BART to SFO? Did you ever hear of BART to San Jose?

    Richard worked(s) for PG&E, whose biggest power customer is BART and was on the BART board forever. Loves BART to SFO. Now what do you think in his heart of hearts he thinks of Caltrainm?

    Puh-leez

    Nathanael Reply:

    LOSSAN is not successfully funding even the projects it has.

    Brsk Reply:

    Nathanael, are you bringing reality into this conversation? That does not please the hobby-horsist like Syno, Richard, et al! They have their hobby-horses and they want to ride! Reality is such a bummer! In their perfect worlds:

    Syno world: Tejon fixes everything! LA, Fresno, and SJ burn! BURN!
    Richard world: Killing all US transit engineers fixes everything! Kill! KILL! KILL!
    etc.
    etc.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Dear Brsk,

    Good old Synonymouse was proven right about Tejon (and I was proven wrong.)

    Unless I’m missing a lot of your ace prognostication, the score seems be by “Syno world” 1 : “Brsk” 0.

    synonymouse Reply:

    IMHO, all three members of the triumvirate ruling over the CHSRA are not that much interested in hsr per se. They are a lot more fixed on regional transit than intrastate. Thus they are more fixed on low commute fares for locals than hsr making money express SF-LA.

    What they want, like BART, costs money; it doesn’t make money. There is nothing inherently in this desire but it really advocates a sort of pre-hsr rather than the real express high speed thing. The problem is that the voters were looking for something more on the performance order of a maglev, or other contemporary tech competitive with air.

    We do not enjoy the luxury of an existing nationalized, electrified rail network as in Europe. I suggest that creating a TEE before a true hsr is not politically feasible in California. Better to go for the real thing in one stroke. A budget starter via Tejon, I-5, and Altamont achieves the overall objective of hsr, impressing rather than offending along the way and is the only approach that would permit the private operator model with some hope of breaking even.

    Even if one only is able to construct a mountain crossing Tejon is superior in every respect and significantly more economical now and in the future.. The Punch-Thru has a better cost-benefit ratio than the Roundabout.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Indeed. But why are their costs several times those of more demonstrably more successful infrastructure authorities elsewhere?

  5. jimsf
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 08:34
    #5

    All the arguing over should this and should that is so pointless and boring. The bottom line is this. The plan and the route including the cities served, was all on the ballot, and it passed. Having been give a yes vote, the state has proceeded with the next steps, and details. The plan is in place and this is how its going to be built. There isn’t going to be a switch to TEJON FOR fuck sake. Nor altaomont. So just quit whining about it, all of you who are continuing to beat that dead horse.

    If you support high speed rail in california, then you should be talking about what can be done to make the best of what is being built and all of the great opportunities it presents…. tons of creative ways to make the most of each station area etc.

    If you are mad because you are just ideologically opposed, then just say so and quit pretending by using tired fake arguments.

    If you are disappointed because you aren’t getting the project done your way – and we can argue the merits until the cows come home, accomplishing nothing- then GET OVER IT. Sometimes we don’t get our way.

    We are getting what we are getting. So either take your marbles and go home and quit bothering people. Or get on board and lets look at how to make the most out of this. No more crybabies. you win some you lose some.
    THere is a ton of opportunity to be creative all along the route, especially at each station area.

    Its time for post on this topic. Some of us are still excited about all the possiblities. Al the places we can go, all the things that can be built, all the opportunities this creates for the cities served. Now is the time to focus on that….

    Unless you just want to come on here and cry about not getting your ways. Holding your breath and stomping your feet isn’t going to make the train go over tejon. or altamont, or down the i-5, or kill it. Its just annoying. and boring.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Don’t lose your cool. Synon has a number of bees in his bonnet. Tejon is one. Using HSR money to subsidize construction of new lines for (joint? hahaha!) use by freight lines is another.

  6. jimsf
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 09:00
    #6

    Robert please. how bout some stories on something like say, “what are the cities planning” A city by city rundown from each on their station area development plans.
    That would be interesting, while still giving everyone plenty to complain about.

  7. Pecos
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 09:04
    #7

    I was just in Paris for he first time and was completely blown away by the amount of rail transportation available. Tracks going in every which direction. And Americans wonder why the French aren’t all overweight from eating so much bread and cheese, it’s called not owning a car because you don’t need to. 80 euro gets you a monthly metro pass, waaayyy cheaper than driving. There’s also plenty of farmland to feed everyone, not just vineyards either. We’ve got things bass-ackwards and are trying to keep it that way.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    It’s amazing, isn’t it, what many other countries have done. So many options and very convenient. Whether you’ve really traveled or lived abroad is often one of the biggest factors between rail/transit supporters and opponents. Seeing is believing — and the list of countries in which to see quality integrated transportation systems keeps growing, it’s hardly just Japan and France anymore. The U.S. is the outlier.

    egk Reply:

    !! hear hear !!

    At a conference in Paris this week. Flew in to Frankfurt, visited friends in Heidelberg; had a leisurely breakfast, (and then again on the train as it was included in my first class 89 euro ticket to Paris), worked for three hours on the train in a nice compartment. Got to Paris in time for Sunday lunch. Headed back tomorrow, maybe I’ll take the 3pm train, maybe the 5pm depending on whether lunch goes long – I didn’t book the 59 euro ticket in advanced so it’ll cost me double that – but sometimes seeing old friends for a few extra hours is worth 50 bucks.

    High speed rail simply increases the quality of life.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Here’s the problem.

    Step 1: European/Asia trains and public transportation are kewl!

    Step 2: ???

    Step 3: Therefore we should pay three times as much to get something a quarter as good.

    I’m in absolute agreement with the Step 1 business.

    But I’m missing whatever it is in the middle lets grown up, supposedly rational human beings get from that to actively seeking out the fucked up Step 3.

    jimsf Reply:

    let me guess. your way is the good way right?

    Peter Reply:

    It’s likely the cheaper way…

    jimsf Reply:

    so?

    jimsf Reply:

    IF it could have been done a different way it would have. Not politically possible though. We have the process we have like it or not. We get the compromises we get because that how it goes. So lets move on from complaining.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Not politically possible though.

    It was in Florida until Rick Scott came along.

    One thing that Robert failed to mention is the CHSRA’s constantly climbing estimates and proposals for massive viaducts through San José have a good chance of preemptively foiling any attempt to build greenfield HSR in the rest of the US.

    jimsf Reply:

    why? other state’s aren’t capable of evaluating their own needs?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Florida has been yanking itself around since 1976

    http://www.floridabullettrain.com/content/history.htm

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Florida HSR was projected to cost somewhere around $20 million per mile and was structured in such a way that most risk (potential cost overruns and operating losses) would be absorbed by private partners. It was a very safe investment for the state (i. e. taxpayers) and garnered bipartisan support pre-Tea Party.

    California HSR started in the realm of $60-70 million per mile—that’s expensive, but perhaps understandable due to difficult mountain crossings. Estimates have now doubled to something like an average of $140 million per mile, which signals to critics that HSR is always inordinantly expensive and, worse, that initial projections aren’t to be trusted. Furthermore, California’s system is being funded in such a way that does put the state at risk of eating any cost overruns, opening up the possibility that taxpayers will be paying even more than advertised.

    If I were a myopic (read: knows next to nothing about what goes on beyond US borders) state legislator with a little knowledge about HSR best practices in planning, funding and financing, my only reference for how high-speed rail networks are built would be California. And it’s an example that would scare me off of even thinking about HSR again.

    jimsf Reply:

    First who cares what other states do? This is the ca hsr blog, what matters is our state. In fact, better for us if other states don’t build hsr. Other states, especially new york, florida, and that big craphole texas, are our competition. The last thing I want to do aid and abet them.

    joe Reply:

    jimsf is right and FL’s project is dead and the investors burned badly. Lots of luck attracting investors next time FL – that is why CAHSR can’t send back ARRA funding and then claim to “build HSR right”.

    Florida’s project was a really safe investment for Florida because it was mostly a free gift from the federal government which offered to pay for the majority of the project’s costs. Hello Swing State, and retiring the Shuttle Program is destroying the Space Coast Economy.

    FL is flat which resulted in low cost per mile estimates for rail construction.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    FL is flat which resulted in low cost per mile estimates for rail construction.

    And the California Central Valley — an inland sea little more than two centuries ago, and one of the most astonishing grassland and wetland systems the planet possessed — then would be …?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And it’s an example that would scare me off of even thinking about HSR again.

    well do to the wonder of term limits California legislators rarely if ever think about things in the long term.

    FL is flat which resulted in low cost per mile estimates for rail construction.

    Helps that the ROW is already prepared too. They were going to use I-4 for the section proposed. I-4 was laid out with the expectation that there would be HSR in the median someday.

    Nathanael Reply:

    What adirondacker said. When you’ve already built an entire ROW, boy, does construction get cheap.

    Actually, Florida HSR looked *overpriced* considering that over half the civil work was already done!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Florida had a grade-separated ROW; that’s the biggest difference. Although California has two suitable preexisting ROWs in the CV, they both have tons of urban grade crossings. It costs money to separate them, and even more money to elevate the tracks in certain areas (e.g. Fresno).

    Jonathan Reply:

    jimsf,

    no, let’s complain like hell, and hope that eminent rationality and win/win sitations, when expressed positively and clearly and non-disparagingly, will embarrass the powers-that-be into forgoing their more egregious mistakes.

    I seem glimmers of hope that that may be happening with Caltrain’s CBOSS.

    But if CSHRA decides to grant one single penny of Prop 1A funds to BART, I’m going to start writing representatives, and putting together a lawsuit.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Peter,

    Richard’s way does seem to involve cutting off the hands of people less smart than him, and who disagree wiht him. (I’m not exaggerating here, regretfully.)
    Cutting off hands is rarely a good way to make progress — unless you’re an Ayatollah or a Stalinist.

    Peter Reply:

    Oh, I wasn’t arguing in favor of the way he comments (he’s a flaming asshole in that respect), but he’s right about a lot of the technical issues.

    thatbruce Reply:

    We have deeper pockets in the US to be filled with bakeesh.

  8. Rick Rong
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 10:16
    #8

    What is your source for the following statement: “In fact, . . . the FRA will likely ask for a several hundred of millions in refunds of money we have already spent on planning as well as other costs associated with cancellation of the project.” Are you saying there is a legal obligation to return the money? If so, what is it based on? If not, then sure, the feds might ask for the money to be returned, although I doubt they would ask for something that could so easily be refused.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ask Governor Christie of New Jersey what happens when you cancel a project. And how much it costs to fight the lawsuit the Federal government brings against the state.

    jim Reply:

    Any federal money received and spent on a state project that the state decides to no longer pursue has to be returned. The most recent case was that of New Jersey over the ARC funding. In the ARC case, New Jersey sued claiming that the feds were partially responsible for ending the project and eventually settled for paying less than the feds claimed. In California’s case, the failure of the legislature to appropriate matching funds can scarcely be blamed on the feds.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    If the state doesn’t appropriate the funds, there won’t be any federal money spent. The state has to spend its money first and then get the federal share. As for Governor Christie, I don’t see what that has to do with any agreements between the feds and California.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Federal Government doesn’t subscribe to the theory of California Exceptionalism. One can expect California to be treated the same way as New Jersey. That’s how Jabba the Governor becomes pertinent.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You can also ask Scott Walker of Wisconsin about returning money to the Feds. If you don’t build the project which you agreed (with the Feds) to build, you have to return *all* the federal money. The Feds might just be willing to settle for slightly less than all of it.

  9. blankslate
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 10:27
    #9

    In the past 20 years the Capitol Corridor has gone from a starter line of 3 round trips per day with about 80% on time performance and 30% cost recovery to 16 round trips per day with 95% on time and 50% cost recovery. End-to-end running times have been reduced by 20 minutes. All this happened without a statewide HSR program. So I do not believe that rail improvements will cease for 15-20 years if CAHSR dies.

    jim Reply:

    It isn’t “if CAHSR dies.” It’s if California welshes on its deal with USDOT. The ARRA money can’t be reallocated. The date by which it had to be has passed. If California belatedly decides it doesn’t want to do this, then that money, which other states could have used, will simply evaporate. This will not make USDOT happy and will create distrust. At the moment USDOT’s rail shitlist contains New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio. If California decides not to pursue HSR, it will go to the top of that list. And won’t get any federal rail money for a long time.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Probably about 20 years of shitlisting. Wisconsin may get off the shitlist quicker if its current government is decisively removed from power, because the new government will be able to claim total lack of continuity with the Walker imperial regime. New Jersey may likewise get money when its governor leaves, for similar reasons.

    Florida, which has shown no signs of repudiating convicted felon Rick Scott, isn’t going to get anything unless it puts its money on the table first. SunRail got funded because it wasn’t going to be run by the state, it had local funding, and the state completed its part of the required activities in advance in a binding fashion before the federal government committed to anything. Meanwhile, the FEC Amtrak rerouting is now guaranteed to have no federal support; the federal reaction was, “Fine idea! You pay for it”.

    California does not want to be on the “untrustworthy” list.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Florida doesn’t have recall provisions, unlike Wisconsin. A Democratic legislator proposed to enact them last year, but the Republican state legislature opposed it, since Scott would be certain to be replaced with Alex Sink. (Scott’s approval rate is considerably worse than Walker’s – 25% vs. 40%.)

    Spokker Reply:

    I didn’t know the United States Constitution expressly authorized the executive branch of the federal government to maintain a blacklist of states that don’t play ball with the Department of Transportation.

    Considering that California is a donor state, and the proposed system isn’t even an interstate system, what exactly is the allure of federal involvement? These problems can be avoided with a little bit of original thinking.

    joe Reply:

    Oh please. I think Abe Lincoln started that tradition of maintaining a list of non-cooperative and black-listed states.

    The Executive Branch can rate the likelihood of a partner to make and maintain the commitment.
    FL and WI, rate not so well.

    The DOT or EPA or any funding agency can ask reviewers or internally assess the qualifications and track record of a proposer and use that in determining their suitability and dependability.

    In fact WI’s Walker declined HSR funding and then resubmitted a request to get some of that same money back for the previously approved and funded rail work – DECLINED.

    Spokker Reply:

    What efficiencies do you hope to achieve through U.S. DOT mandates on the California high speed rail project? Does the rampant, increasing and unrelenting opposition in the Central Valley foster animal spirits in supporters in supporters or something? Do pleas to start at the ends where needs are greater fall on deaf ears?

    What is the benefit of federal involvement?

    joe Reply:

    What interest does the Federal Government have in maintaining transportation?

    Crack a history book.

    Spokker Reply:

    Also, what are the benefits of the uncertainty over future funding that the executive branch cannot guarantee and might not ever come up with?

    Spokker Reply:

    Finally, the reason I asked because it sounds like cronyism and maybe even intimidation. Before, we saw that if Lowenthal doesn’t play ball on HSR, he should be denied influential positions by senior Democratic leadership despite being just another damn Democrat anyway. State “untrustworthy lists” sound just as creepy.

    They are probably your fantastical delusions, however, that Pelosi would punish Lowenthal for his position on CA HSR, as if that’s the most important issue right now. Or maybe she’s that vindictive. I don’t know.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It doesn’t explicitly authorize a Department of Transportation either.

    Spokker Reply:

    What seems to happen is that we send them the tax revenue and they send most of it back with strings attached, and the strings are these big heavy chains that have been sprayed with Liquid Ass.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you think that if California cancels HSR, all the federal taxes it sends to Mississippi (justifiably) and Montana (non-justifiably) will come back?

    Spokker Reply:

    Not at all. I’m simply wondering what the benefits of federal involvement in California’s high speed rail project are.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The feds have money. California doesn’t.

    Spokker Reply:

    I understand the “this is the system and we have to work within it” mentality, but I wonder why guys like joe and Nathanael seem to revel in it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because it’s partially a safeguard against politicizing every single big-ticket item. In Switzerland, they’ve solved the problem by doing everything with binding referendums. In the US, it’s all too common for planning to be done on an election cycle because of the two-party system, and this means that long-term planning can be done only with some mechanism that discourages the sort of grandstanding that the Teabaggers revel in. It’s not going to stop hardcore wingers, but could repel some people who are only mildly partisan.

    jim Reply:

    Personally, I’d welcome defederalization of transportation policy. Federalization brought us the Interstate Highways, which have been a disaster in all sorts of ways. But for California, with its dysfunctional revenue-raising system, defederalization would hurt badly.

    joe Reply:

    Yes I revel in it.

    The Civil war settled the debate – we are not a Confederacy of States.

    There are downsides to a Federal Gov’t and the Constitution- like the US federal Gov’t ending segregation – civil rights laws and etc. Horrible.

    Transportation between States is a key Federal responsibility – a long tradition going back to Cyrus the Great’s Persia and the Roman Republic.

    But I am tempted to see Mr. Richard Myxlplyx appointed as our Transportation Czar.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Amtrak’s definition of on time is a lot more flexible than that of a passenger who times themselves to the schedule.

    Jonathan Reply:

    or has connections to make!

    blankslate Reply:

    The definition is within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival at the endpoint. I’m not familiar enough with other definitions in use but it doesn’t sound that flexible to me.

    Having ridden the CC daily at several points over the past few years, the on-time performance is real. Because of schedule padding at the endpoints, I basically plan on arriving 10-15 minutes before the scheduled arrival and this actually happens at least 95% of the time. I’ve been late a couple times but considering several 100s of rides that’s to be expected.

    OTOH, every other Amtrak route I’ve ever ridden has been pretty dismal in this regard.

    I agree the schedules should have less padding and be tightened up, but progress is progress.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The definition is within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival at the endpoint. I’m not familiar enough with other definitions in use but it doesn’t sound that flexible to me.

    Metrolink, and a lot of foreign operators, use within 5 minutes. Now consider that 95%+ of Metrolink trains are on time and the Surfliner is less than 75% on time…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Metro-North uses 5 or 6 minutes, I forget which. SBB uses 3 minutes, and, moreover, counts missed connections and weights trains with more passengers (e.g. rush hour trains on lines nearing capacity) higher; its OTP is about 90% by that standard.

    But you’re missing a lot of schedule padding. Amtrak takes 10 more minutes to do Providence-Boston than Boston-Providence, and there’s also a lot of padding on northbound trains just south of Providence. I’ve been on trains that sat on the tracks for 10 minutes and made it on time. Despite this, a little more than half the trains I’ve taken since I started counting last May arrived at my destination late – usually by just a few minutes, sometimes by well over an hour.

    The padding practice in Switzerland, by the way, is 7% across the board, rather than huge pads near terminal stations.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Speaking of huge pads near terminal stations, Amtrak’s #3 Southwest Chief has an extra 30 minutes between Fullerton and Los Angeles (a 30 minute travel time). Never have been able to figure out the rationale behind putting the padding there rather than sprinkling the minutes around earlier. OTP won’t change, but you’d increase customer satisfaction by not having the train be late for intermediate stations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s all about making up time to juke the OTP numbers. If the train has a delay two hours before it reaches LA, then it can only make up time using the padding in the last two hours. If the train has a delay right after leaving Chicago, then it can make up time anywhere, but only the arrival time at the terminal counts for OTP purposes. This creates a strong incentive to do all the padding right at the end.

    Of course, customer satisfaction is best when sprinkling the pad around. The same is true for minimalist infrastructure planning, since sprinkling around allows the train to get on time not only to the terminal but also to connection points and single-track chokepoints. But the institutional incentives are for terminal-only padding.

  10. Caltrain Rider
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 13:03
    #10

    FROM: March 2012 CHSRA Board Meeting Open Thread

    Richard Mlynarik Sez: “ It’s six mostly useless trains an hour running on a customer-hostile “schedule” shat out by developmentally challenged simians that is the problem. “

    What is useless about it?

    Customer-hostile schedule?

    I ride the bullets just about every day between Palo Alto and SF. My schedule varies; mostly I am on the 4:09pm other times I may be on the 5:33 or 6:14 bullet. I find the current schedule fairly useful. Some co-workers hate the poor service to stations such as Hayward Park, Belmont, etc. Occasionally I will work in the Palo Alto office and the co-workers there find the CalTrain mostly useful.

    Sure CalTrain can be much better but is it really the doom and gloom crap service that you so often rant about?

    I keep hearing that ridership is increasing, so there must be something good about CalTrain.
    Do you actually have a better service option to offer for CalTrain?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What is useless about it?

    Crazy service patterns.
    No coordinated express/local service.
    Vastly too high operating cost to deliver the level of customer service.
    Inability to tie with local feeder timed-interval service

    I keep hearing that ridership is increasing, so there must be something good about CalTrain.

    I hear the sun rises every morning. Therefore 1 + 1 = 7.

    Do you actually have a better service option to offer for CalTrain?
    Of course. Anybody of moderate intelligence, given an hour’s thought, could come up with
    http://www.pobox.com/users/mly/Caltrain-Timetabling/Hillsdale-200704/Hillsdale.html

    It’s possible to do a bit better with a bit more thought.

    So, what are your ideas?

    Feel free to contribute.

    This isn’t rocket science. It’s just copying what people who know what they’re doing — who aren’t Americans — and who deliver the service and deliver massive, cost-effective service increases according to careful strategic plans, are already doing every single day.

    My schedule varies; mostly I am on the 4:09pm other times I may be on the 5:33 or 6:14 bullet.

    You can’t even see the problem, can you? :09? :33? :14?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Conflating a periodic function with a (not-necessarily-even-monotonically) increasing function does nothing to raise the level of discourse. Innumeracy is such a sad thing, especially from those who know better.

    Clock-face is a feature. It has downsides; it means that — unless you have _incredibly_ fortunately-timed routes — you have idle capacity sitting around waiting for an hourly schedule. I seem to recall someone with a name like yours griping about that (okay, mostly about how US-practice is to leave the diesel prime-mover running.)

    But there’s no real upside to a clock-face schedule unless (a) you run to time, and (b) all the connecting infrastructure runs to the same clock-face schedule.

    You might as well rant about the inferiority of vi, when used on non-cursor-addressable terminals.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Thanks for sharing!

    I’ll let the entire continent of Europe know they’re all on completely the wrong track with all that predictable and coordinated transit nonsense then.

    Palmerston North and vi (but only on “non-cursor-addressable terminals”) shall be as shining beacons unto them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …non cursor addressable terminal… ? Like the teletypes in the Smithsonian?

    if you can’t say it with ed is it worth saying?
    http://www.gnu.org/software/ed/ed.html

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, a little more sophisticated than an ASR-33 (though I have logged in on one).
    I was thinking a Decwriter III or IV; typical early-80s VAX operator console.
    Or a 1990s workstation which, ugh, had a non-cursor-addressable terminal-emulator, where you had to use ed to configure system far enough to get X11 up. I think I’ve posted an ed-command here already.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    X? X? So you can use your mouse? Next you’ll be wanting bold and underline, color and graphics….

    Nathanael Reply:

    Get a clue. Jonathan pointed out that clockface scheduling has no benefit unless (a) you run to time, and (b) connecting transit runs to a clockface schedule too.

    In other words, he’s saying, focus on running on time, first….

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The people who run the most successful and most heavily used rail (and every other mode, integrated) transportation network on the planet have a nice slogan: “Run as fast as necessary, not as fast as possible.”

    They clearly need to take lessons from Amtrak and Caltrain instead. God damned worthless ignorant foreigners.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Actually, I’m saying you need to do both.

    And Richard knows that full well, as he explicitly says that below. He’s being disingenuous and obnoxious.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Dear Jonathan,

    You not only don’t know what I think, but choose not to understand what I write.

    Please refrain from putting words in my mouth. It’s unhygienic. Didn’t your mother teach you that?

    Thanks.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Richard, you can bring your own opinions but you don’t get to bring your own facts.

    It is a fact that you asserted one of the benefits of clock-face scheduling is integratiing that clock-face schedule with other local public transportation services. In the case of Caltrain, that would include VTA light rail; SamTrans buses; Muni; VTA buses.

    It is a fact that you agreed that time-keeping is important to a clockface schedule.

    Those were my points. You are being disingenuous. That’s a facyt.
    I concede that obnoxiousness is in tne eye of the beholder.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not sure this is right. Clockface schedules’ benefit for coordinated transit is mainly because the hour is a Schelling point – otherwise they could just as well run things with a pulse every 47 minutes. The main benefit for riders of not doing so is that the schedules are easier to memorize when they’re simple. Zurich runs trams and buses at intervals that are divisors of 60. This isn’t because of connections, but because it’s easier to remember “the bus comes at xx:x5″ than to remember a pattern that repeats every 9 minutes at rush hour and then slowly switches to 13 minutes in the off-hours. I timed myself to a 10-minute bus for a year; I couldn’t time myself to a 13-minute bus, let alone 9-to-13-minute service.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Clock face schedules… Memory schedules… Blah blah blah….

    I’ve had this argument many years ago with some fellow Caltrain advocates. Their argument was that the first train leaving San Jose at 4:40 am (which now leaves SJ at 4:30) should be leaving at 5:00 am to ensure a *memory schedule* as it will increase ridership, at least according to them. However in real life it would decrease ridership on that particular train since the train would be totally useless for customers who start work in San Francisco at 6:30 am.

    Oh, you wont need a schedule/timetable… Well we heard that with early BART service and they didn’t have published schedules for many years. However, people wanted to know when the train was coming and when it would reach their destination and insisted on having BART publish schedules.

    Then there are those abbreviated timetables that nobody likes. For instance: Then every 15 minutes at the same times each hour until… Samtrans used to do their timetables like that but people hated them, so Samtrans went to publishing the full schedule on individual timetables.

    Clock face might make sense in coordinating connecting transit, but other than on El Camino, transit is pretty much non-existent.

    Peter Reply:

    Also, any other station along the route wouldn’t have nice and clean departure times. It would be 5:07 a.m. or 5:11 a.m.

    blankslate Reply:

    Then make the next departures 6:07 or 6:11, 7:07 or 7:11, and so on and so forth.

    blankslate Reply:

    That’s not clockface. It does not mean that trains depart exactly at 5:00, it means that if the first train is at 4:40, (or 4:37, or whatever), the next trains are at 5:40, 6:40, etc. (or 5:37, 6:37, etc). If you add capacity, it would be at 5:10, 6:10, 7:10… (or 5:07, 6:07, 7:07)

    Clockface is a relationship between the departures from a given station, not pinning one specific departure to a specific time.

    Also, I agree that you still need to publish a timetable and it would be a mistake to assume that clockface frees an agency from that responsibility. But most passengers will not feel the need to consult the timetable after attaining a minimal level of familiarity with the system. That makes them feel comfortable with the system very quickly, and reduces the psychological barrier to riding transit. It’s extremely annoying to use a system for years and still have to check a schedule any time you deviate from your typical daily routine.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The deal is that you show up at :07 (or :37) past the hour, any hour of the day, any day of the year, and a train will be there that takes you to any station.

    Not “:07 past the hour at peaks, but you’ll have to change trains twice because we only run insane skip-stop trains that skip your destination at peak hours, but :13 and :42 past the hour off-peak, and only :19 past the hour on weekends and select public holidays.”

    The deal is that if the train arrives at :11 (or :16 or :41 or 56) past the hour, the three bus lines that serve the station will be waiting right down at the bottom on the stairs from the (barrier free) platform. You don’t have to wait 43 or 21 or 59 minutes depending on the phase of the moon.

    The model of memorizing a timetable, having one usable train an hour, and being total screwed if you work late or miss a train or miss a connection is only one some sort of self-loathing slack-jawed yokel could advocate as anything to be emulated.

    Copy what works! This isn’t rocket science. (Hell, even BART does it right. Imagine!)
    This is how successful, customer-friendly, effective, rapidly-growing, attractive and cost-effective public transportation networks and public transportation providers work. (Hell, even the French are finally getting with the program!)

    “Olde Tyme Commuter Railroading” or “Useful Public Transportation Service”: pick at most one.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Wrong on one point. Being “screwed if you work late” is orthongonal to having a clockface schedule, whenever trains *are* actually running.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s diagonal, rather than orthogonal. In principle you can do a peak-only clockface schedule (e.g. the WES), but the German and Swiss clockface reforms also included regular off-peak service – at worst every two hours on long-distance lines, every hour on regional branch lines, and every 30 minutes on commuter lines.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    (Hell, even BART does it right. Imagine!)

    This “netgraph” (a very cool synoptic timetable overview presentation, showing primary interchange nodes with arrival and departure times, with each line representing one train per hour) 2012-BART-Netgraph was made using the same software as these ever-so-slightly more complex examples.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Blankslate, Richard, and Peter have already said most of what I want to say. But let me add a complication: there is a practice in Germanic Europe that’s related to on-the-hour times, and this may be what confused you. Namely, timed connections at major stations are done on the hour (or with a 15- or 30-minute offset) in Switzerland. Thus, trains serving the Zurich-Basel-Bern triangle leave on the hour, and take just under an hour, so that they can continue to their next destination and leave on the hour. However, it doesn’t have to be this way – in the Netherlands, the connections occur at xx:58 rather than xx:00.

    However, this is distinct from a clockface schedule. One can have one without the other – a clockface schedule without timed connections (for example, BART), or hypothetically timed connections without a clockface schedule (maybe if the patterns repeat every 40 minutes, or are purely ad hoc). But this isn’t too relevant to Caltrain, a single line that doesn’t have any other rail links to connect to. Those pulses are important for complex, multiply-connected networks. Networks with one trunk line and a lot of connecting buses should write an optimal schedule for the trunk line and then just do the connecting buses’ takts based on what needs to connect to the relevant stations.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …the Clockers were called the Clockers because they left on the hour every hour…..

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    “take just under an hour, so that they can continue to their next destination and leave on the hour”

    in theory. in practice trains usually arrive some time before hour (or half-hour), dwell and then depart some time after hour (or half-hour). The times vary according to capacity constraints of the station (i.e. when you have more trains than available tracks, they have to arrive/depart in succession with necessary minimum headways). So for example IC from Romanshorn to Brig arrives at Zürich HBB at xx:51 and departs at xx:02 or arrives at Bern at xx:58 and departs at xx:07.

    “the connections occur at xx:58 rather than xx:00.”

    um, that has to be a typo, because in real life operations, the two minute difference is pretty meaningless

    “a clockface schedule without timed connections (for example, BART)”

    Actually, there is a timed cross-platform transfer between Fremont-Richmond and Pittsburg/Bay Point-SFO lines in Oakland in both directions and theoretically a down-the-stairs timed transfer between Fremont-Richmond and Pittsburg/Bay Point-SFO northbound and Fremont-Daly City southbound trains at 12th St. Oakland City Center.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    in practice trains usually arrive some time before hour (or half-hour), dwell and then depart some time after hour (or half-hour).

    Graphically illustrated: http://www.pobox.com/users/mly/SBB/20110407-anab-Zurich-HB.pdf

    (This is a platform occupany diagrams generated from the public timetables. I made a pile of others, poke around in http://www.pobox.com/users/mly/SBB/ Smaller examples are clearer, but less impressive.)

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    For those of us who’ve never seen one before, how do we read them?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Paulus,

    The vertical axis are different platforms tracks (“Gleis” in German.) Horizontal is time, with vertical rules on the half hour. The “[" symbol is a train arrival, the "]” is departure. Between them “[...]” the train is dwelling on the platform (usually; it might also have gone out of service and/or a different train came into service. Inter-regional and long-distance trains are marked in red, others (S-Bahn mostly) are black.

    The information is approximate because I’m working from public timetables, not the real internal schedule data, and there are some inconsistencies in the public web version that don’t matter except to people writing programs like mine, in other words to nobody. So some can’t get assigned a platform (I shove them into a mythical track 0) and some departures don’t match up with arrivals, but the general action comes across.

    Looking across a platform track you can see how heavily the platform is used (occupation factor). Trains can dwell because they don’t need to depart (goes with “run as fast as necessary, not as fast as possible”), because they’re waiting for scheduled connection with other trains (and buses and trams and ferries and funiculars and aerial trams and …), for schedule recovery purposes, or because they’re turning back (which is somewhat slower than through-running, usually.)

    Looking vertically your eye can generally spot the “takt” connections, where the brackets line up above each other. This means trains are sitting at platforms while passengers make their connections. Every hour and half-hour in the example of Zürich HB — you should perceive the trains “straddling” the half-hour lines. A simpler example like Biel/Bienne might be clearer. (There are almost 1500 daily arrivals and departures at Zürich HB!)

    And again if you poke around with the arrival and departure timetables for individual stations (which I scraped to generate the train-only diagrams), you can see just how many connections there are, with buses and trams and ships all timed to the connecting trains, progressively arriving around the takt (“pulse”), and departing one by one after it.

  11. Tom
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 14:02
    #11

    Problem solved, run the HSR down the 101 along the coast, thru Paso, Santa Barbera, Malibu and down PCH to Santa Monica and into LA.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Have you ever ridden that route? The mountain crossings would be much, much more involved and expensive.

  12. datacruncher
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 16:41
    #12

    If this scenario happened I think HSR construction would end up on the planned new Eastside Freeway thru the SJV rather than I-5.

    The planned Freeway 65 along the Sierra foothills from Bakersfield to Sacramento would be mainly a new freeway ROW purchase from Exeter (near Visalia) to Lincoln. The route skirts the eastern growth areas of Fresno, Merced (near the UC campus), Sacramento, etc.

    Caltrans and the SJV counties/cities are already planning Freeway 65. It is part of the growth scenarios being produced for the region.

    The reality of politics and funding to build two projects from scratch could result in a single eastside 65/HSR corridor becoming the compromise route not I-5.

    jimsf Reply:

    I grew up on highway 65 in yuba county. I suggested this 65 route here once and the suggestion flopped. I suggested it for the reasons you mentioned…. the majority of growth in all of these communities wil be directed to the eastside and up into the hills because that is the more desireable area to live and it doesnt eat up ag land. One of the most desirable places to live per locals is between 500 and 1500 ft elevation. “above the fog – below the snow” as they like to say in these parts. A lot of the lakes and other recreation are in this zone as well.

    jimsf Reply:

    “bucolic” at 1200 ft east of highway 65

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Yeah….no.

    1) Why do we need another freeway when we already have the 99?

    2) You do realize of course, that even though the foothills are very desirable from a real estate broker’s point of view, they aren’t guaranteed to even have water because of the lineage of rights outside the major cities irrigation districts. A much better solution is just not to develop west of the HSR ROW period. Also, encouraging wildcat sprawl with a freeway makes no sense given that in Fresno for example, your most valuable land for agriculture is also the most valuable for real estate…..

    jimsf Reply:

    well im more familiar with the sacramento valley(northern california) than the san joaquin valley. Its a completely different animal. I finding that out now that I live the sjv. el dorado placer yuba and butte co’s are spectacularly beautiful places to live with ample water. in fact, water is yuba county’s largest export. ( or yuba is the largest water exporter … i forget which it is)

    jimsf Reply:

    but one of the reasons for an eastside freeway is well, just look at la and the bay area, as growth occurs in corridors, parallel freeways are constructed so the new populations dont have to traverse through the muck to get to the nearest freeway. That’s why we have the 280 paralleling the 101, the 580 paralleling the 880 in Oakland, the 210 “foohill” Freeway paralleling the 10 and so on. There has been steady growth in the sierra and folks coming down the hill would be served by have a freeway to take them north and south without having to schlepp all the west to the nearest 99 access. If I’m not mistaken, the interstate system actually using a specific kind of numbering to indicate such parallel freeways – the 5 /405 /605 for instance, the aforementioned 10 /210 and the everpopular 15 /215

    jimsf Reply:

    also with teh 99 clogged with trucks… and believe me its bad… a parallel freeway, as is done on the 580 in oakland for instance – is usually cars only trucks are banned. ( the trucks are relegated to the 880) So everyone east of halfway between the two – 99-65 can choose the new, truck free, and very pleasant 65 foothill freeway ( or sierra freeway, or whatever they decide to call it)

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You do realize, (not to overuse that term) that the parallel freeway design was the byproduct of desire to separate different racial groups? Realistically, I wouldn’t wish that stratification on anyone and a way better solution IMHO is to have “pearls on a string” where each major train depot threads a smaller constellation of cities and suburbs.

    jimsf Reply:

    well whatever about that. I mean, the fact is, people wanted closer freeway access and they still do. Im all for hsr, and I hope it reduces the need for more freeways, but its use will have more to do with population growth pressures. There will still always be a a majority of the pop. in ca, who will want freeway or at least expressway access.

    Highway 65 south end at porterville

    and another view

    and highway 65 at the north end in yuba county. notice how much room caltrans left for expansion.

    jimsf Reply:

    that last link didn’t work.. again 65 yuba co

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sometimes it’s cheaper to put in a wide median than it is to put in all the stuff you have to put into a narrower median, like guard rails and or Jersey barriers.

    jimsf Reply:

    “jersey barriers” hahaha, something invented by new yorkers no doubt.

    Jonathan Reply:

    is that aspirin between the knees??

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    From Wikipedia: The Jersey barrier was developed at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, United States, under the direction of the New Jersey State Highway Department to divide multiple lanes on a highway.

    Jonathan Reply:

    some people have no sense of iron-y.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Agree with it or not, the new SJV regional planning calls for a new eastside freeway. Its hidden in the plans for higher density and smart growth but it is there.
    http://www.valleyblueprint.org/preferred-scenario.html

    If HSR is not built near downtowns like Fresno, Merced, etc. (downtowns are my preference) then I can easily see the freeway builders co-opting the HSR plan as part of an eastside “transportation corridor”.

    Thinking HSR would simply be moved to I-5 doesn’t look at events developing in the SJV today.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Possibly. I suspect the new eastside freeway will end up getting killed by the greenhouse gas law, though. The era of freeway building is over, the builders just haven’t noticed yet.

  13. Beta Magellan
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 17:55
    #13

    Additionally, environmental consequences will become much more severe by waiting to build HSR in terms of air pollution, global warming, sprawl/loss of farmland, and human health.

    All of which can be addressed better by measures such as having a meaningful price on carbon (i. e. a lot more than the $18/tonne planned for 2013, the $15 in Europe, and the $1.89 in the northeast, better land use policies and aggressive travel demand management. None of these comes with a nice shiny piece of infrastructure running photogenic rolling stock, but they’ll do more to actually improve people’s everyday lives.

    On the other hand, HSR’s effect on pollution will be marginal at best, and its relationship to sprawl will largely depend on how local power-brokers and planners behave. It’s a great way to get from one city to another a couple hundred miles away quickly, but that’s about it.

    jimsf Reply:

    sprawl will depend on local power brokers’ behavior with or without hsr. No local populations are going to vote to give up that local power.
    and having an alternative for fast simple travel in the 50-400 mile range that is faster then driving and more pleasant and convenient than flying, is alone, worth the price.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Oh gawd, not another “let’s price carbon” argument. :-)

  14. Reality Check
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 19:15
    #14

    Old news, but from a different source:
    Since they must, council chooses [Gilroy HSR] station locale

    Reality Check Reply:

    Fixed URL

    Clem Reply:

    Noise shouldn’t be an issue, according to David Early, founder of DC&E Consulting that conducted the high-speed rail visioning study. Because it’s going so fast, he explained the bullet train has an “otherwordly sound” that makes it quieter than the average train.

    “It’s so well engineered that it’s more of a swoosh sound,” said Early.

    What a bunch of pathetic, ignorant clowns.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps “otherwordly sound” being referred to is what we customarily associate with BART. In that case the Daly City to SFO trackage is a downright extraterrestrial auditory expience.

    Otherworldly is an adjective that could be applied to the CHSRA phenomenon in so many respects.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Obviously “expience” should be experience. Perhaps Freudian slippage towards “expiation”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just how noisy are fast trains?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Just how noisy are fast trains?

    Just what is a Google?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not the one claiming it going to stop the hens from laying and generally create havoc.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    http://www.jrtr.net/jrtr22/F48_Technology.html

    Summary: 70-75db @300km/h, 25m from track centerline
    (including noise abatement)

    [The data is from about 10-15 years ago, and the tech has changed since, though there are laws that require them to keep noise below 75db.]

    For comparison a “5m from a large busy road” is about 80db.

    However a major point about railways is that the sound pattern is very different than a road. I live near the Tokaido shinkansen, and find I rarely even notice it; a nearby large road is much more annoying because (unlike the shinkansen) the noise is constant. The shinkansen by contrast is an occasional quick burst of noise, of a not particularly annoying character (despite Clem’s snark, the type of noise is important).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The FRA’s noise model gives rail a bonus of 4-5 dB precisely because people find the noise less annoying.

    By the way, maglev does not get a bonus – it turns out people find its noise as annoying as that of a highway.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “By the way, maglev does not get a bonus – it turns out people find its noise as annoying as that of a highway.”–Alon Levy

    That’s weird, I’ve looked up videos of the Chinese maglev, and what stands out about it is how it sounds pretty much like a regular train, at least to my ears. Is there something the microphones aren’t picking up?

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC2sEdaaIU8&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqAJemM6xYs&feature=related

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How many people have heard a mag lev line and an HSR line so they can form an opinion?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    What noise does maglev have, other than the same aerodynamic noise that normal HSR has, minus pantograph noise / wheel-squeal (the worst!), etc?

    [Note, this is a question—I no idea, really, though it's clear enough that maglev does away with many sources of noise that exist on conventional rail.]

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It could be just the aerodynamic noise, perhaps modified for the shape of the nose or something. Of course maglev is quieter than conventional rail at the same speed; I’m talking purely about the bonus. In other words, what I’ve read (no link – sorry) is that if maglev and conventional rail emit the same noise, e.g. because of different speeds or different distances from the track, then people will find the maglev 5 dB more annoying.

  15. Reality Check
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 19:22
    #15

    First HSR tracks go through Fresno
    Start of construction, still not fully funded, may be pushed back to 2013

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Dude, you seriously need to learn how to make your links work. And stop with the link shortening.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Wikis and blogs are for people who can’t write bare HTML. ;)

    Reality Check Reply:

    Fixed URL

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s not a fixed URL. Cut the fucking creepy goo.gl BS.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Reality Check:

    FTFY: Fixed URL.

  16. Reality Check
    Mar 6th, 2012 at 19:25
    #16

    High-Speed Rail Board Chair Clarifies State Bonds Timeline

    As part of this year’s budget process, Governor Jerry Brown is expected to ask state lawmakers to approve $2.7 billion in voter-approved state bonds. They would go towards the first phase of track in the Central Valley. In a recent interview with Capital Public Radio, High-Speed Rail Authority Board Chair Dan Richard suggested that amount might go up. “It might. It might well. But I think at this point, that makes sense,” said Richard.

    Richard said the extra bond funds would be for regional rail projects in the Bay Area and Los Angeles that would benefit high-speed rail too, thus completing the project less expensively and more efficiently. After the interview aired, Richard sent state lawmakers a letter clarifying his comments: Any extra bond funds for the regional projects would be asked for in future years, not this one.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Fixed URL

    Nathanael Reply:

    Thanks for linking to an actually helpful article.

  17. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 7th, 2012 at 14:37
    #17

    In other news:

    From Oregon, Amtrak getting more passengers, who like not having to drive:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/03/amtrak_gaining_popularity_amon.html#incart_mce

    In a somewhat related article, Oregonians aren’t buying as much gasoline:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2012/03/gas_prices_aside_oregon_seems.html

    Back to California, questions about why gas prices are high (and some really crazy comments):

    http://discussions.latimes.com/20/lanews/la-fi-gas-prices-questions-20120306/10

    J. Wong Reply:

    Passengers commuting from Salem and Oregon City to downtown Portland and it’s cheaper than TriMet!

    J. Wong Reply:

    and faster!

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