High Speed Rail Isn’t A Commuter Train

Apr 16th, 2012 | Posted by

In the wake of the new California high speed rail business plan, which calls for sharing tracks with other passenger rail services in some urban areas, some are charging that this means the service will merely be “commuter rail” in those urban areas, according to the Voice of OC:

Political reality is scaling down California’s proposed Anaheim-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project and transforming it into a faster commuter train system in urban areas, according to critics of the system’s latest business plan….

But officially changing the business plan to include the “blended approach” drew a strong reaction from former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, once a member of the High-Speed Rail Authority board.

“I call it the great train robbery,” Kopp told the Los Angeles Times, “because they plan, if they can get away with it, to take money out of high-speed rail and bestow it on to commuter rail systems.

“This isn’t high-speed rail,” he said. “High-speed rail runs on dedicated tracks.”

This has been Kopp’s concern for many years now, and it’s a concern I’ve shared. One of my criticisms of Senator Alan Lowenthal is that his opposition to the HSR project is driven by his desire to use the $9 billion in voter approved bonds to simply upgrade urban passenger rail alone and ignore the core purpose of the HSR project, which is to bridge the gap between the Bay Area and Southern California with bullet train service.

But I disagree with Kopp that what is happening under the new plan is a great train robbery. The plan still calls for starting construction on true bullet train tracks between SF and LA in the Central Valley. Governor Jerry Brown has made it clear that this work must be funded and the funds cannot be redirected to urban commuter trains. What the plan does say is that HSR will be built in phases (as was always planned) and that its initial services will resemble European HSR systems which often share tracks in urban areas but use dedicated tracks between urban areas. Over time, as new funding is found, the urban tracks will indeed be upgraded to help carry more bullet trains faster to their ultimate destinations, again as is often the case in Europe.

It’s also similar to the way the Interstate Highway System was built. I can remember my first trip to Arizona in 1984, when Interstate 10 ended on the western edge of Phoenix. One had to use surface streets to get downtown or to the other side of the city where Interstate 10 resumed. It wasn’t efficient but it was workable, at least until the freeway was finished through central Phoenix (and at considerable expense).

I would love nothing more than to build dedicated tracks from SF Transbay Terminal to LA Union Station and Anaheim all at once. In fact, I think the US federal government should fund such a major infrastructure project in states across the country as part of our efforts at economic recovery and energy independence. But until that happens, a phased approach that involves a blended use of urban tracks is a sensible way to proceed, preserving the core values of the project while enabling construction to begin this year.

  1. VBobier
    Apr 16th, 2012 at 22:52

    The blended approach at least gets the ball rolling.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    One possibility no one has mentioned is that Kopp is worried that once CalTrain is electrified and Metrolink grade separated that the urban agencies will abandon their support of the project.

    After all, if you build the requisite tunnels at Pacheco and Tehachapi, what you could see is hybrid diesel-electric locomotives with light Talgo trainsets effectively give SF to LA service. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the next shoe to drop….

  2. nobody_important
    Apr 16th, 2012 at 23:08

    Sharing tracks also means Japan will be unwilling to provide financial support and rolling stock. They’ve said they only want dedicated tracks. I don’t see why that’s a problem though, it’s not like just because they run their equipment on dedicated tracks means it wont work on shared tracks.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The annoying thing about this is that not only does the Shinkansen share track on the Mini-Shinkansen, but also the rolling stock Japan is offering California is the E6, precisely the train that runs on Mini-Shinkansen lines rather than only on dedicated track.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Alon Levy:

    The annoying thing about this is that not only does the Shinkansen share track on the Mini-Shinkansen (lines)

    Where in Japan do Shinkansen trains, the ones that run on 4’8.5″ gauge track, share track with non-Shinkansen trains, the ones that run on 3’6″ gauge track?

    The ‘Mini’ aspect of ‘Mini-Shinkansen refers to former 3’6″ lines that have been regauged to 4’8.5″, without changing the loading gauge, track curvature or grade crossings. As a result, the Mini-Shinkansen trains need to be smaller in cross-section than Shinkansen trains, but they still run on Shinkansen-gauge track.

    There are instances where Shinkansen-gauge track shares a corridor with non-Shinkansen-gauge track, but no instances in regular service where the tracks themselves are shared.

    orulz Reply:

    Sure, there are. The Akita and and Yamagata Shinkansen definitely share tracks with local trains. The tracks were re-gauged to standard gauge. The local trains that share the tracks along the way are all standard gauge trains.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I’m having trouble finding references to standard-gauge non-Shinkansen equipment, with the rail fan’s photography of equipment and manufacturer’s brochures citing a gauge of 1067mm (3’6″). I have found references to some instances of dual-gauge track around Akita Station, however, so I guess the point of Mini-Shinkansen trains sharing track stands, at least for short distances. Guess I need to visit Japan again to be sure (its not a junket, it’s research ;) )

    Leroy W. Demery, Jr. Reply:

    “Standard-gauge non-Shinkansen equipment” in Japan:

    This comes in two categories.

    First, several large “established” private-sector operators use standard-gauge tracks. These are generally the ones that were licensed and built as tramways (e.g. Keikyu, Kintetsu).

    Second, equipment used for “local” service on the two lines in Northern Honshu that have been regauged for “Mini-Shinkansen” service (Akita Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen). This stock appears virtually identical to 1,067-mm gauge stock used for similar service in the same area (design features are very likely to be identical, except for the standard-gauge trucks).

    There are, as “thatbruce” notes (at least in part), no locations where full-size shinkansen stock shares track with “non-shinkansen” stock – nor is this likely to occur in the “foreseeable future.”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, here’s some material on the Mini-Shinkansen:


    The Japanese certainly have been busy with a number of things in the railway field, including gauge-changing trains, high-speed narrow gauge, and most unusual of all, a “train on train,” a concept to load narrow gauge freight cars inside (!) a standard gauge Shinkansen for fast freight service through the Seikan Tunnel:



    California’s efforts almost seem pedestrian by comparison.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Photographic confirmation of dual gauge iron at Akita–look at the track in the foreground:



    From the last link above:

    (The Jingūji–Mineyoshikawa section consists of two 1435mm tracks and one dual-gauge track)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh, the full-size Shinkansen trains don’t share tracks with anything except other (not necessarily full-size) Shinkansen trains. But California isn’t going to get a full-size Shinkansen. The Japanese bid is JR East’s E6, which is a mini-Shinkansen train, running at full speed on the Shinkansen track attached to a full-size E5 train and decoupling to run at low speed on Mini-Shinkansen track.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s a problem because Shinkansens are built using very lightweight structures, with no more crashworthiness than an airliner. Run that into a semitrailer at a grade crossing, and you’ve got a problem.

    TomW Reply:

    [citation needed]

    When trains and semis collide, it’s always the semi that comes off worse.

    thatbruce Reply:


    You’ve missed Clem’s point. Here in Amerika, we have trains that are essentially rolling slabs of heavy steel. These ones go through semi-trailers, most of the time with only cosmetic damage, and the basic structure remaining intact.

    The Shinkansen trains, along with most High Speed trains, are built from far more light-weight materials. These crumple when they hit semi-trailers, usually doing a better job of protecting their passengers than the FRA behomoths, at the expensive of more severe damage to the first unit of the train.

    Go search for train collision videos that only involve light-weight rail vehicles operating at higher speeds.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However, assuming that the semi has not actually turned onto the rail corridor and gone some way up the track ~ why collide with it in the first place? If the PTC requires a crossing closed signal to proceed without the service brakes being engaged, and the level crossing gates are those kind with the suspension cable behind that lock into a post at the other end, which can stop a semi before it gets to the track …
    … how many semi / train collisions are we expecting to occur?

    Part of the financial calculus in the strategy of protecting the passengers with crumple zones that, in essence, deliberately destroy the lead unit when a collision occurs, is the process of ensuring that a collision is much less likely in the first place.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I believe the Mini-Shinkansen lines have grade crossings.

    nobody_important Reply:

    So we’re not doing grade separation anymore?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The bullet train corridors will be all grade separated, but in blended operation, it’ll be as grade separated as the passenger corridor its sharing.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Naw, with all the cost optimization, it’s now fake trains towed behind semis on I-5…

    Miles Bader Reply:

    But any realistic HSR will be built using light-weight materials, not some nutcase FRA battle-tank…

    So it seems like either:

    (1) They’ll make sure to fully grade-separate any blended system (or use some other method to make grade-crossing accidents unlikely, e.g., I dunno some sort of super-intense crossing barriers)

    (2) JR is being overly cautious about collision standards, and HSR-grade equipment wouldn’t actually be a significant issue

    (3) The issue isn’t “collision strength” at all, but concern that grade-crossings increase the chance of e.g. derailment, which would toast anything (and indeed FRA-weight equipment probably fares worse)

    (4) There would be issues, and the other manufacturers aren’t being cautious enough…

    Clem Reply:

    I’m not sure what you mean by realistic. Can you find the TGV high-speed train in this picture? (hint: because it just hit a dump truck at 85 mph, it may not look like you’re used to…)

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Looks rather well actually. No derail either.

    Incidentally, it’s worth considering that, in the past twenty years, only four grade crossing incidents resulted in rail passenger fatalities (well, 5 if you count truck striking the train). One was of a passenger dying two weeks later from injuries sustained bouncing inside (Burbank), one was a steel coil overmatching any FRA regulations (Portage), and the other two were when the train derailed and slammed into stationary freight cars nearby. Seems like that’s the only real hazard involved with grade crossings.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I’m not sure what you mean by realistic

    I mean, which performs well enough to deliver acceptable acceleration etc.

    Can you find the TGV high-speed train in this picture?

    What do you intend to illustrate with that picture…?

    Hmmm…. the TGV has a similar weight / length to the Shinkansen, and in the pic, it seems to have survived the collision handily, despite its light weight, so …. are you trying to say that there isn’t any real issue, and that point (2) is the right one…?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    (argh unclosed tag and stupid blog interface…)

  3. Roger Christensen
    Apr 16th, 2012 at 23:09

    So…when the initial valley segment is completed (2017?), the plan is to move Amtrak unto the new tracks. Wasco, Corcoran, Madera stations are nixed. Amtrak runs 125mph and 45 minutes are saved from the San Joaquins. This is the plan until the IOS opens. The authority priortizes Palmdale.

    Are we to assume that Amtrak will continue to Palmdale while we wait for completion to the San Fernando Valley and the start of IOS? This could mean that the Rail Gap will be closed before the IOS. Right?

    Jon Reply:

    Nope, the heavy Amtrak diesel trains would never manage the steep grades and unventilated tunnels on the mountain crossing.

    The business plan stated that if they decide they can operate Merced – Palmdale as an IOS without losing money, they will do; otherwise they will wait until Merced – San Fernando is complete.

    Roger Christensen Reply:


    BruceMcF Reply:

    It does seem like it would require more modern diesel rolling stock, and catenary and an electric locomotive for the Bakersfield / Lancaster / Palmdale leg. But then, with more modern rolling stock, they could go even faster on the Express HSR corridor segment between Bakersfield and Merced.

    dejv Reply:

    Standard trains can be pulled by standard electric locomotives that have big enough power and outsourced enough emissions to be able to work steep grades in long tunnels. The locomotive change can take as few as 15 minutes (just change of locomotive) or down to 5 minutes (when train also changes direction). The trainsets then can continue to be used after commencing of full HSR system for long periods of time for limited services – the service that needs high power neither for frequent fast acceleration nor for real high speeds, or for through running services to areas where more gains by uprades are not worth the expense.

  4. ericmarseille
    Apr 16th, 2012 at 23:28

    It alll depends on whether CAHSR will be able to ensure downtown SF to downtown LA in less than 3h30

    Less than 3h30 : garanteed success, no matter how “blended” the approach
    More than 3h30 : mmmm…

  5. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 16th, 2012 at 23:33

    Of course, 65 billion for commuter rail would be a damned sight more useful…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not if the people who build it have the same cost control as Caltrain, the MBTA, or the LIRR.

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 03:46

    “This isn’t high-speed rail,” he said. “High-speed rail runs on dedicated tracks [and only on dedicated tracks].”–Q. Kopp

    How do guys like this get into power?

    Donk Reply:

    Seriously, you think a guy who served on the CHSRA for so long would at least know that HSR runs in shared tracks successfully in several countries. The dedicated HSR approach sounds great on paper, but was just not practical politically and financially to get the ball rolling on this. Kopp really must be a fool if he doesn’t realize the political and economic realities of this thing.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Yes, indeed. HSR trains can run on non-HSR legacy track, at legacy track speeds. But then it’s not HSR. and that is Koop’s point.

    Clem Reply:

    Kopp has always carried the water for the concrete lobby.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Aha ~ I thought he owned a stake in a high grade limestone quarry.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Kopp is not happy that an upgraded Caltrain to the TBT will undermine his precious BART to SFO.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I think you’re on to something there

    Jon Reply:

    I suspect you’re right. The track diagram for the Caltrain Blended Operations Analysis shows the two existing outside Caltrain platforms removed, and replaced by a new HSR center island platform, plus two new outside Caltrain platforms. Can you think of how that will fit in Millbrae Intergalactical? Nope, me neither. They’re going to demolish this part of Kopp’s pet project and rebuild it.

    Jon Reply:

    Y’know, looking at that diagram I’m wondering if the plan isn’t to take the two most westerly BART tracks for the two northbound standard gauge tracks, and use the two existing standard gauge tracks for southbound trains. BART would be left with the one track on the far east of the station, and would retain the cross-platform transfer to the northbound Caltrain platform. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this.

    Clem Reply:

    Interesting idea, but I don’t think you need to take two BART tracks. I would do it like this.

    Jon Reply:

    Your plan is better, for sure. I’m just trying to interpret the track layout in the diagram. They say the Millbrae layout assumed is a reflection of current CAHSR plans for the station, but given how long it’s been since anything was published on the SF – SJ section, that could mean anything.

    There is no need to eliminate two BART tracks, however they might decide to do it anyway so that they don’t have to deal with getting a waiver from CPUC GO-26D, and so that they can use the center island platform as a HSR-only paid area with one set of fare gates.

    If/when HSR comes to Millbrae I expect BART will run all trains using the current off-peak service pattern, as the number of people wanting to take BART from Millbrae to downtown SF will be reduced, and the number of people wanting to take BART from Millbrae to SFO will increase. That means a one-track terminal station would be perfectly adequate.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would they need fare gates?

    Jon Reply:

    I didn’t say ‘need’, I said ‘want’. They are planning on having separate HSR paid areas at all HSR stations.

    Jon Reply:

    Actually I didn’t say ‘want’ either. But you get my drift.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are planning a lot things that will never be. Why do they need fare gates? Not that you know of a good reason to have them.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “Kopp is not happy that an upgraded Caltrain to the TBT will undermine his precious BART to SFO”

    How? You’re saying people will wait for BART, take it to Millbrae, then wait for Caltrain to take it downtown SF? Versus waiting for BART and taking it directly to downtown SF (and yes, I know the line goes out through Daly City, but since you’re just riding in a single seat, you will barely notice).

    thatbruce Reply:

    About the only thing that could get people to take (upgraded) Caltrain or HSR on their trip between SFO and downtown SF is the replacement of the current BART ‘shuttle’ between SFO and Millbrae with an extension of the SFO Airtrain service. The empire-building history of BART suggests that this is not likely, and that BART will continue to operate the ‘shuttle’ to ensure that it is useless for timed connections (the number of times I’ve been waiting in the BART tunnel just north of Millbrae as they wait for the northbound Caltrain to leave…).

    Jon Reply:

    Do they seriously do that? That’s insane.

    Matthew B Reply:

    Bart works quite well to connect SFO to San Francisco, but I’ve never needed to take public transport south of SFO. I highly doubt anyone would take Caltrain/HSR to the city from SFO. In Frankfurt, for example, nearly everyone who connects from FRA to the Hauptbahnhof takes the S-Bahn despite the fact that the ICE also goes the same route.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Kopp is not happy that an upgraded Caltrain to the TBT will undermine his precious BART to SFO.

    The problem with this statement is: It’s already faster to take CalTrain from Milbrae to SF than BART. And it even costs less. Of course, if they extend the AirTrain all the way to Milbrae (which would cost a pretty penny), then it’s completely feasible that BART to SFO is ruined.

    Eliminating BART at Milbrae, I think, has more to do with making Ring the Bay much more difficult to accomplish than dismantling BART at SFO.

    Clem Reply:

    Who said anything about eliminating BART at Millbrae?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Nobody said anything about eliminating BART at Millbara until Tom did.

    Its reading a suggestion that Millbrae will have to be rebuilt as if it says Millbrae will be rebuilt without the BART line and platforms, when there was zero in the original to suggest that reading.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I think he was referring to the southeast part of the wye west of the airport – the branch between Millbrae and SFO, not the branch between Millbrae and San Francisco.

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 04:43

    Off topic, but in the spirit of lifting spirits with some heritage stuff, as we recall what we used to be, and hope to shoot for again–and this time, this is for the diesel fans–Union Pacific No. 942 at Orange Empire Railroad Museum:





  8. Brandon from San Diego
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 06:46

    I agree with Kopp.

    jimsf Reply:

    I would rather see a full system too. But clearly americans can no longer pull of such things, the country having devolved into into a morass of fear and ignorance. If we can’t even build a railroad anymore, I doubt our country will ever pull of any feats of greatness again. I had hoped that californians still had what it takes to buck the national trend but we have been infested with whiny babies too, and left to rest on our crumbling laurels.

    joe Reply:

    Two things to count on: One, never underestimate the conservative minds’ selfishness and two, the conservative movement is predicated on changing viewpoints to accommodate that selfishness.

    I naively hope that the system we put in place starting today is expanded and improved well ahead of schedule.

    Once a system is in place San Diego and OC will demand HSR run 220 MPH into every damn neighborhood between them and where they want to go.

    And remember CA is the only state moving forward with HSR. IL thinks StLouis service at 155 MPH is HSR.

    Europe is committing economic suicide with austerity economics and cutbacks.

    What we have now is what is needed now to start the project – it is a compromise in an over constrained political environment.

    The HSR project requires a business plan & etc. – that constraint forces the State to devise ways to spent limited funds to build usable facilities. – even the ARRA money had this constraint.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Once a system is in place San Diego and OC will demand HSR run 220 MPH into every damn neighborhood between them and where they want to go.

    Nope. Thanks to their genius design, it is actually slower to take the 220mph train from OC to SD than it is to take the Surfliner.

    Donk Reply:

    Exactly, instead of throwing billions into the LA-IE-SD dedicated line, all they need to do are some relatively simple improvements to the Surfliner corridor – how about LAUS run-thru tracks, triple tracking to Fullerton, double tracking everywhere else, grade separations everywhere, and tunnels at Del Mar and UTC. This will get us a better product than LA-IE-SD at 1/20 the price, and 20 years sooner. Maybe electrification will be possible if they throw in the San Clemente bypass and figure out what to do with Leucadia/Encinitas.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    LAUS run through is funded thanks to the recent MOU between SCRRA and CAHSRA and the Fullerton triple tracks should be finished this year. Grade separations are a waste of money. The money spent on them would be better used on tunnels and electrification.

    Maybe electrification will be possible if they throw in the San Clemente bypass and figure out what to do with Leucadia/Encinitas.

    Tunnels for the Tunnel Throne!

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The MOU I have seen funds grade seps and improved safety at grade crossings. Is there an updated one?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It is item Ana-LA-C01, in the section labelled operational/capacity improvements.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There are $3.5 billion of projects on the list. Who gets to decide what happens (if any of the money comes through)?

    joe Reply:

    The LAO decides. They are after apolitical.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Electrify as much as they can, and use dual-mode engines to get across the NIMBY gaps of San Clemente and Del Mar.

    jimsf Reply:

    The problem with that is that you leave all the inland empire and i 15 corridor people without an hsr ride to the rest of the state and you deny the rest of the state access to the ie and 15 corridor. These are major regions of the state and should be included without having to transfer to commuter rail as part of a full comprehensive hsr system. it may take a while to get it built but an hsr system that only goes a few places is of no use to most of us. we want full access to wherever we want to go in the state.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and it makes it a lot cheaper to build HSR to Palm Springs and then onto Phoenix. Someday even farther off in the future it means they, the people in the Inland Empire, San Diego, Palm Springs. can bypass LA when they are going to the rest of the state or Las Vegas.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It would make more sense to simply extend from Vegas to Phoenix.

    joe Reply:

    Not to my pocket book.

    That expansion is up to tea bagging Arizona to figure a way to cofund a project that will allow passengers to carry concealed weapons.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    LA to Phoenix via Las Vegas?
    600 miles instead of 400 miles. Hmm.

    Andrew Reply:

    Median of I-10 between Indio and Phoenix was born for this. Phoenix is more than twice as big as Vegas.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Crazy talk. Pure crazy talk.

    It takes almost seven hours to drive from Phoenix to Vegas. Even running a line through Yuma, San Diego, Orange County, LAUS, Palmdale, and Vegas would be an improvement.

    Arizona Department of Transportation has already identified an abandoned right of way from the Hyder Amtrak crash of 1993 to use for HSR. Union Pacific claims they want to “improve” it in the near future to deal with added demand. Sound familiar?

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Tom, yeah sounds like the UP alright, Hope Arizona can keep the UP monster at bay for a while.

    Donk Reply:

    I am all for this, but realistically the IE will not and should not get built out until these much cheaper improvements are done first. Maybe they can start working on improvements to the San Berdoo Metrolink line, in parallel with LOSSAN. But no new track until they finish upgrading existing tracks.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Which implies that it would be a mistake to make improvements to the Surfliner corridor wait on CHSRA LA-SD project phasing.

    Given that the Surfliner will connect to the Initial HSR service before the Bay to Basin is even completed, the Benefit/Cost evaluation of improvements to the Surfliner are going to take a jump upward many years before construction of the Express HSR corridor to SD can start.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    That’s a bit of Trojan horse, Jim.

    If Desert Xpress is connected at Palmdale, then nearly everyone will be able to take commuter rail connections in both the north and south to HSR. Plus, it’s not as if anyone living north of the San Joaquin River (you) wants to encourage any more population growth to the south of it.

  9. J Baloun
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 08:08

    SF Examiner article on SFO and HSR.


    High-speed rail could free up valuable space at SFO
    By: Will Reisman | 04/16/12 6:10 PM
    SF Examiner Staff Writer

    “While the state’s high-speed rail project is expected to redefine how people travel on trains, local officials are banking on the plan having an equally important impact in the skies.”

  10. jim
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 08:15

    The planning so far for HSR has taught us two things:

    1. At US construction costs, mountain crossings are appallingly expensive. If one wants Spanish HSR, one needs Spanish construction costs. We may be willing to pay to bring HSR into LA; Seattle and Pittsburgh, perhaps, not so much.

    2. At US construction costs, greenfield tracks through cities are appallingly expensive. Both the California planning and Al Engel’s ill-fated NEC Vision have showed that. It may well be that cities in which HSR service may or may not stop will have to have greenfield tracks through them (so that the non-stops can run at speed), but through cities that are mandatory stops, there’s a strong argument for running on electrified, upgraded legacy tracks.

    Andrew Reply:

    For example (re #2), SF station should be at the existing Caltrain station. It’s silly to push the line thru to Mission and Folsom where it connects with nothing.

    Andrew Reply:

    I meant Mission and Fremont.

    jimsf Reply:

    it connects with bart and muni and its in the heart of the financial district. ( its a 3 minute walk to bart – I walked it)

    VBobier Reply:

    Well by law HSR has to go where HSR is supposed to end at, no more, no less, so drop the wishing for HSR to stop south of the TBT, It’s the law, as You’d need to change Prop1a or do another AB law to override Prop1a, If that’s possible that is.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Don’t you mean Transbay Terminal South?

    I’m reasonably sure that the train is supposed to go a station called Transbay Terminal, and there’s this spot at 4th and King I heard there’s a convenient connection to both the Judah and 3rd Street light rail, which connects to BART.

    I heard there’s supposed to also be an underground Transbay Terminual South platform on the Caltrain line, one stop before the Transbay Terminal Main rail platform.

    jimsf Reply:

    No there is is a place for a pedestrian walkway sufrace and planned underground from tbt to bart – which again is only a 3 minute walk. NOBODY in the right mind wants to transfer to muni for 8 blocks to get downtown. The train belongs where they plan to put it.

    joe Reply:

    I agree. A Muni transfer is as usfel as the kindle fire I am presently using to post this comment.

    I road the J Muni to connect to the N to get to Caltrain to ride to Palo Alto.

    I think J Wong is in Glenn Park and any resident in Noe Valley or Glenn Park would agree it does not make sense. To use Muni to connect between 4th King and mission/Market.

    I elected to drive to 22nd St and Park. Or I literally walked to 22nd from Upper Noe Valley.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Has the underground pedestrian tunnel been locked in, or is it still “proposed”?

    jimsf Reply:

    I don’t know if its locked in, but even if its not built its realy not necessary as it is a very pleasant attractive mid block surface passage. Actually more pleasant than some underground tunnel would be—- unless they can build and underground walkway that includes retail.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, the ideal would be something like the the passage in Sydney from Town Hall Station through tp the Queen Victoria Building. I never bought anything when walking through the QVB itself, since the retail was far too inner-urban upscale for me, but they had a very good smoothie outlet in the connecting walkway.

    But if going to the Sydney Airport from Newcastle, I liked the pedestrian subway between the intercity terminal platforms and the through suburban platforms because it was all Disabled Access slope ramps on both sides, so it made it easy to go with a rolling suitcase.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    because it was all Disabled Access slope ramps on both sides, so it made it easy to go with a rolling suitcase.

    The No-Stairs concept has been around for a while.


    Jon Reply:

    Clearly you’ve never tried to get to the 4th & King by transit during rush hour. The circuitous light-rail journey from downtown takes 20 mins on a good day or 30+ mins during rush hour traffic or a Giants game. And don’t even think about trying to get there by bus. Not good when you’re booked on a specific HSR train with a non-refundable ticket. Transbay is a reliable 5 min walk from reliable BART, and walking distance to most of the financial district. Not to mention the fact that it will be the terminus for a slew of Muni lines, and more will run down Market St a block away.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Well, when they build the Central Subway you’ll be able to take an LRV straight down 4th to Market.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No dedicated Market Street Station


    Jon Reply:

    All that means is that I’ll be sitting on an LRV waiting for traffic to clear at the north side of the 4th & King intersection rather than the east side. Yes, although the Caltrain station is on the north west side of the intersection, the T-Third LRV stop is on the south side, and is not planned to be moved. There is transit signal priority installed at that intersection, but it’s disabled, because the poor drivers would have to wait too long.

    In other words, the new Muni light rail line has every chance of being just as unreliable as the old one. Although the new route will be more direct, the 5 minute walking transfer between Powell St BART/Muni station and the new Union Square Muni station will eat up that difference for anyone who’s not coming from Union Square or Chinatown. And yet somehow it’s unconscionable to have a similar 5 minute walking transfer from Transbay to the far more reliable and extensive BART system at Embarcadero. Go figure.

    Donk Reply:

    Huh, there seriously is no connection between the Central Subway and BART?

    Jon Reply:

    There will be an underground walkway, but it’s a five minute walk platform to platform as the new Station is located more than a block north of the existing Powell St station. You also have to leave and re-enter the Muni paid area.

    jimsf Reply:

    leave the muni area and enter the bart area.

    joe Reply:

    Minor note, the Bercy Station in Paris is a one block walk from the Bercy train station.

    I have mininal experience with euro rail but that 1 block walk struck me as weird and it was not easy to navigate on a tight schedlue to ride from Venice to Paris and take the subway to Lyon to get a TGV ride.

    Infinite money man. Perfers some dedicated walk way or tunnel to connect TBT to BART/MUNI.

    Jon Reply:

    Nothing wrong with a short walk from the mainline station to the subway station – that’s the case the world over. In fact, my point is that Transbay will have a connection to BART via such a walkway and will not ‘connect to nowhere’. My problem is with the argument that 4th & King has better connectivity than Transbay because it is directly on the T and N lines.

    The vast majority of people using HSR in SF will be either business travelers headed to or from the financial district, or residents of San Francisco and the East Bay headed to or from their homes. For business travelers, Transbay is far superior as they probably will be within walking distance of their destination and won’t need to transfer at all. For residents, the five Muni lines and four BART lines going through the Market St subway provide far better connectivity to San Francisco and the East Bay than the N and the T, both of which are slow surface lines at that point where they 4th & King. And while you could take the T through the central subway to Union Square and transfer to BART there, it involves a five-minute walk to transfer, precisely the same sort of walk that some people claim means ‘no connectivity’ at Transbay.

    So given that most residents will need to get to one of the four main Market St subway stations at the start and end of their HSR journey, why terminate at 4th & King and make them wait for an unreliable LRV, travel three stops and then walk five minutes, when you could terminate at Transbay and skip the LRV journey altogether?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nothing wrong with a short walk from the mainline station to the subway station – that’s the case the world over.

    …all over the world it sucks…. spoilt rotten by the interconnections between modes scattered all over the Northeast.

    joe Reply:

    Short walks are okay but not so okay for connecting with baggage and of course less so when you are traveling and under duress to get a reserved seat on a TGV.

    We were late arriving and rush with luggage to enter Paris Metro.

    Wife still digs me for us skipping breakfast in Paris and rush to a train and eat later in Eindhoven.

    Jon Reply:

    Okay, but what we’re comparing here is:

    Option 1 (Transbay to Embarcadero): A five minute walk
    Option 2 (4th & King to Powell using Central Subway): A wait for an LRV + a short LRV journey + a five minute walk

    I’ll take option 1 any day purely for the lack of uncertainty over the timing of the connection. To accommodate people with baggage, they can and should use airport-style moving walkways in the connecting passageway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s going to be a big bus station teetering over it

    synonymouse Reply:

    The CHSRA mountain crossing will be inordinately expensive due to stupidity and political corruption.

    Palmdale: sue, sue, sue, for mitigation bennies to the max. You’ve got Moonbeam and his construction goons over a barrel as they have committed to stay away from the Chandlers’ kingdom no matter what. Take them to the cleaners like PAMPA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You forgot the part about the black helicopters and the Nancy Pelosi mind rays.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Those black helicopters better have union operators

  11. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 08:53

    What I don’t get about the whole dedicated nonsense: why in the world did they choose steel on steel if they were going to do dedicated everything? Maglev makes far more sense in that situation.

    Eric M Reply:

    Because if we built Maglev, the cost would be $300 billion from SF to LA

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Not true. Even at the cost per kilometer of the Chuo Shinkansen, which is 60% tunnel and runs 40m underground for 100km, you’re looking at only 162 billion. Given that there would be much less tunneling involved, it would be significantly less than that for California.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maglev is conceptually antithetical to the Amtrak-TEE collection of 3 BART’s connected by second rate lines thru the boonies that the Triumvirate of LA, Fresno, and SJ insists on.

    Andy M. Reply:

    As far as I know, all Maglev systems currently on the market are proprietary. Once you chose a system, you are locked in with that manufacturer forever.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Just like BART. And CBOSS.

  12. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 12:31

    Interesting “action alert” from the Midwest High Speed Rail Association today:

    Action Alert: Locomotive Procurement

    The House of Representatives is expected to begin work on the Transportation bill again this week. We are hoping they will fix a provision in the Senate bill that will have a negative impact on the upcoming locomotive purchase by California and Illinois.

    House leadership is working to pass a bill with few policy changes that can be easily conferenced with the Senate’s MAP-21. The exception will be a provision related to the Keystone pipeline, which will draw a lot of political and media attention.

    Our concern is a seemingly innocuous provision contained in MAP-21: Section 35203(d) HIGH-SPEED RAIL EQUIPMENT. — The Secretary of Transportation shall not preclude the use of Federal funds made available to purchase rolling stock to purchase any equipment used for ‘‘high-speed rail’’ (as defined in section 26106(b)(4) of title 49, United States Code) that otherwise complies with all applicable Federal standards.

    Here why this is a problem. Today, passenger locomotives are largely adaptations of freight locomotives. A new, passenger-specific design would be much lighter and accelerate faster, increasing average speeds, reducing fuel consumption and reducing wear and tear on the tracks.

    The states, through the Next Generation Equipment Committee, have specified that new locomotives be capable of cruising at 125 mph, forcing a new passenger-specific design. If Section 35203(d) is contained in the final bill, a manufacturer could offer an old design and undercut manufacturers who are willing to build the new passenger-specific locomotives that we need.

    Representative Matsui (D-California) and Representative Hultgren (R-Illinois) are circulating a sign-on letter to request that this provision be removed from the final bill.

    Please click here to ask your representative to join sign onto the letter.

    Click here to see the letter.

    s/Rick Harnish
    Executive Director
    Midwest High Speed Rail Association
    4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60625

  13. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 13:07

    High-speed rail could free up valuable space at SFO

    Small, inefficient flights between The City and the Los Angeles area account for 15 percent of all domestic travel at the San Francisco International Airport. With the option of traveling between the two cities in just two hours and 40 minutes on high-speed rail, travelers may start eschewing the short flights, a development that would open up more gates for lucrative international and trans-continental travel at SFO.

    “There is no question that international travel brings a much higher economic benefit to the region,” said Charles Shuler, a spokesman for SFO. “And with high-speed rail, we’ll be able to reduce the number of short-haul trips to the Los Angeles Basin and introduce more international flights.”


    Along with reducing air travel to Los Angeles, high-speed rail also could reduce connecting flights to SFO from Central Valley cities such as Fresno and Modesto.

    “A plane with 30 people from Fresno takes the same slot as a 400-person jumbo jet from Beijing,” said Jim Lazarus, public policy director at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “High-speed rail will eliminate that problem, and allow for a higher frequency of large planes to land at the airport.”

    A functioning high-speed rail system also could reduce congestion and delays at the airport. Since the hub provides so many trips to the Los Angeles region, the rest of its air travel must be squeezed into a relatively tight time slot, a precarious situation that has contributed to SFO’s woeful on-time performance rate.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It’s not likely to reduce the number of flights; FAA studies found that in the NEC it just reduced the size of the aircraft making the flight. I do think the major advantage for LAX and SFO will be getting traffic from the CV, though I think it’s more likely to be induced traffic rather than taking the place of transfer flights.

    Jerry Reply:

    Another interesting statistic from the SF Examiner article is that 27.16% of flights are delayed at SFO.

  14. Andy Chow
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 13:48

    As for the interstate highway comparison. While freeways in urban area could be built at a later date, it is also possible that it wouldn’t be built at all for many good reasons. Freeways through downtown areas contribute to the downtown decline and utilization of transit in many cities, with neighborhoods close to downtown got separated and downtown land being converted to parking. Freeway planners drafted additional freeways through SF but most of them got shut down.

    Cars can travel on freeways at high speed and local streets at low speed. A good HSR system should have dedicated tracks outside of urban areas for high speed and use existing tracks/corridors in urban areas.

  15. joe
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 16:48


    The LAO is the 4th Branch of our State’s democratic republic form of government. Providing a check against Tyrants by unilaterally steeping into public debate and declaring right from wrong.

    OR the LAO is an Asshole^10

    datacruncher Reply:

    The new LAO report is at

    joe Reply:

    The Legislative Analyst’s Office report released late Tuesday may give the Legislature political cover if it decides to ax the polarizing rail line as it begins debating whether to approve high-speed rail Wednesday.

    Political cover from a political LAO playing Politics with CA’s Legislatures’ business.

    If I were a DEM on the Issa Committee I’d sopena the LAO and ask who they have been in contact with as they drafted their reports. I

    VBobier Reply:

    So would I… But with ISSA there it would probably get squashed flat…

    lex luther Reply:

    the LAO is non partisan, and isnt opposed to the train. thats why the LAO recommends that the legislature provide funding for more planning. IT IS however opposed to starting construction on the HSR without guaranteed funding. the LAO wants guaranteed funding before anything moves forward.

    Say for instance that Romney wins in november. the HSR is dead without federal dollars and Romney will kill all funding for it. If construction began using the first 6 billion, the HSR would stretch from madera to bakersfield and just stop. in that case it really would be a train to nowhere

  16. lex luther
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 17:16

    The non-partisan LAO today recommended that construction funding for the HSR not be approved


  17. lex luther
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 17:18

    here is the government link to todays LAO report on HSR


  18. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 18:42

    Mike Rossi: High-speed rail’s latest plan answers the financial questions

    Over the past half-year, I have spent incalculable hours analyzing, refining, questioning and scrubbing the analytical model that is the basis for determining whether or not the high-speed rail project is a wise investment for California. If the foundation were not strong enough to make a business decision to invest, I would say so. However, I am convinced that the Business Plan we have put before the people this month does represent a strategy that will be in the best long-term economic interests of the state and its residents.

    In all the scenarios calculated, including a 30 percent reduction in revenues and a 30 percent increase in expenses, high-speed rail will require no operating subsidy. Using three different levels of credible and realistic ridership assumptions, at different points in time, this project will surpass a break-even point on even the worst-case scenario.

    I have spent my whole career in finance: analyzing, reviewing and approving risk transactions. As a result of this experience, I can say this plan represents a credible, reasonable and transparent approach forward.

  19. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 18:50

    Issa zeros in on bullet train

    Meanwhile, Central Valley farmers and environmentalist groups from the San Francisco Peninsula have objected to the project’s proposed route and have filed lawsuits to get it changed.

    In his letter, Issa wrote that the federal government already has spent more than $3.6 billion on the California project and may be asked to foot the bill for half of the entire cost.

    The documents Issa identified in his letter appear to include material also being sought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

    Claiming it was being stonewalled in its quest to learn about the California project, Judicial Watch filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government in February.

    The letter from the lawmaker and the lawsuit suggest that Republicans will try to exploit the bullet train controversy in their campaign to unseat President Barack Obama, observers said.

    In California, criticism of the bullet train hasn’t split along party lines.

    But nationally, federal spending on rail is a partisan issue, with Republicans bitterly opposed, said Richard Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation and a bullet train critic.

    “House Republicans smell blood now,” Tolmach said. GOP lawmakers have killed rail projects in the Midwest and Florida, and criticism of California’s project “is bound to flare up in the national election,” he said.

    joe Reply:

    Idiot who single handedly chashed away the Women vote with his all male birth control reviw now sets his sights on HSR.

    Where can I send flowers?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    federal government already has spent more than $3.6 billion on the California project and may be asked to foot the bill for half of the entire cost.

    So? People in California pay Federal taxes.

    nslander Reply:

    More than our share, in fact.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah they killed rail projects everywhere else, but not in California, to the Repugs not 1 inch…

  20. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 18:59

    Excerpted from a recent Palo Alto Daily Post (not available online) story:

    Menlo turns up legal heat on [high-speed] rail
    Council objects to plan to add tracks

    Menlo Park City Council has decided to take legal action over the high-speed rail authority’s plans to add two tracks to the existing pair of Caltrain tracks.


    But, as the Post reported Friday, the rail authority’s statewide environmental impact report still calls for four tracks on the Peninsula, not two.

    “The council’s main concerns are that all of the EIRs thus far have focused on a four-track system and that none of the EIR versions have adequately considered or analyzed the ‘blended’ system set forth in the new business plan,” said a statement from Menlo park Public Works Director Chip Taylor. Taylor issued his statement after council decided to take action in a closed session on Monday.

    The city’s action will be in the form of an appeal of a suit that Atherton and Menlo Park filed in 2008.


    joe Reply:

    An uninformed but reasonable understanding of the EIR is that a 2 Track EIR should easily be within the scope of the 4 track EIR.

    What MP objects to is the blended approach and an EIR for that. That is they are opposing the use of HSR to fix Caltrain.

    Meanwhile both MPs facebook expansion and Downtown expansion are a go.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @joe, you might be right, but what’s your basis for claiming “MP objects to the blended approach and an EIR for that” and “opposing the use of HSR to fix Caltrain”?

  21. Reality Check
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 19:13
  22. Tom McNamara
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 21:35

    I can remember my first trip to Arizona in 1984, when Interstate 10 ended on the western edge of Phoenix….


    What were you doing as a toddler in Phoenix back in the 80’s? Have you been a Giants fan that long?

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