HSR Critics Out Themselves As HSR Opponents

Apr 1st, 2012 | Posted by

You would think that a plan to build high speed rail that is $30 billion cheaper than the previous iteration and provides desperately needed post-oil travel between California’s metropolitan areas sooner would be one that HSR critics would embrace.

Instead, the usual suspects are lining up to attack Governor Jerry Brown’s revisions to the high speed rail project – even those whose ideas are the core underpinnings of the proposal:

“We are a matter of weeks away from various budget deadlines,” state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said Saturday. “When the cost estimates are up and down and up and down by orders of magnitude here, I think folks are going to want to make sure we spend some time to understand how reliable are these figures, and what’s the basis for the new estimate.”

Simitian, chairman of the budget subcommittee considering high-speed rail, said the authority “seems to have been listening and making an effort to be responsive.”

But the Legislature, he said, is unlikely to appropriate funding as quickly as Brown hopes.

“I think we’re going to have to look past the June 15 budget adoption date,” he said.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said legislative approval of the plan on Brown’s time frame would require a “heroic effort.”

“It’s the biggest capital project in the history of the state, and it should be done properly,” he said. “Given that the numbers have bounced around so much, it’s a lot to ask.”

In launching these attacks, these supposed critics are revealing themselves to in fact be opponents of high speed rail. If they wanted simply to improve the project, they’d be praising the effort and pledging to hammer out the details. But by instead denouncing the plan, they’re tipping their hand and showing the public that their actual goal is to kill high speed rail.

In fact, as Californians For High Speed Rail Executive Director Daniel Krause pointed out, the governor’s plan includes things Simitian helped create – namely, the blended plan that allows trains to serve LA and SF more quickly by using existing tracks:

“A core tenet of this plan – the blending of HSR and commuter rail – was an idea generated by Senator Simitian, along with Assemblymember Rich Gordon, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to reduce costs and impacts. As a result, the plan is much better because of this dialogue.

“Given the months of dialogue and negotiation with lawmakers, we are baffled by recent statements by Senators Joe Simitian and Mark DeSaulnier’s indicating a desire to delay the decision to fund HSR in the state budget.

“While certainly the details of the plan need to be reviewed, we strongly oppose any attempts to delay the HSR funding vote by Senators Simitian and DeSaulnier. These Senators have a deep knowledge of this plan as they helped to craft it. Pleading ignorance about a plan they have helped to create gives the impression they are playing politics with California’s future. We urge them to move forward without delay.”

Krause is right to argue that Simitian and DeSaulnier are working to undermine the project by using these delaying tactics. And they’re also making it clear that their intention isn’t to improve the project but to undercut it.

That’s not the attitude that California legislators ought to be taking. High speed rail is an important part of California’s transportation future. If Senators Simitian and DeSaulnier see ways it can be improved, they ought to work collaboratively to pursue those changes, just as Simitian did with his blended plan. But instead these two are signaling they might join the Tea Party Republicans in dealing President Barack Obama a big political blow in an election year by trying to kill the high speed rail project.

  1. Tony D.
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 15:53

    What the hell is Simitian talking about with this “up and down and up and down” crap?!! Or DeSaulnier’s comment of the estimate “numbers have bounced around so much?” The cost estimate went up ($98bil) and it went downt ($68bil). They both took the $98 billion price tag as gospel, but are now questioning the $68 billion estimate? Simitian and DeSaulnier are proving with each passing day that they are nothing but piles of @#$% feces!

    So how do the other senate Dems feel about adhering to the will of California voters and appropriating funds by June 15?

    God I hope they don’t screw us over…

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Haven’t you been keeping up with the news? The CHSRA’s own estimates go up, then down. Apparently Richard Mlynarik’s oblique reference to Orwell’s 1984 went over your head. “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” But given the quality of your posts, including yours of April Fool’s Day, 15:53, one shouldn’t be too surprised.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Who are you to judge the quality of posts Mr. Wrong?!

    Tony d. Reply:

    By the way, Quoting, referencing a Richard Mlynarik post to make a point? Says a lot about you Ricky; enough said.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    I guess you still don’t get it.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Whatever you say Ricky. Go ahead and re in kind (its probably important for you to get the last word in).

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    Rick: you have it wrong.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Haven’t you been keeping up with the news?

    Yes, the Mercury News, in fact:

    “We are not sitting here saying that we ‘saved’ $30 billion,” rail authority chairman Dan Richard said Saturday. By using existing railroad rights of way, he said, “We can deliver high-speed rail, as the voters voted for it, for $30 billion less than if we had to build our own system the entire length of the way.”

    Neil Shea Reply:


    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Mercury News article quoted in the previous CHSRblog post.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    He’s seems to be talking about a YOE estimate is higher than a constant cost estimate, costs after you’ve done more detailed planning go up after you find out conditions are worse than you expected, or you’ve increased the scope of works to pander to some NIMBY oppositions with the support of politicians like Smitian, and they go up faster the more you are forced to rely on outside contractors for planning work, and costs go up as timelines slip because of the delaying tactics of politicians like Smitian …

    … and costs go down after you look around to find a more cost effective way to solve those problems.

    If costs went up and up and up and up, with no down, until the legislature gave up and appropriated all the Prop1a money to bogus “HSR” projects that were all local transport infrastructure with no inter-regional HSR component, that seems like it would suit him just fine. So what’s he complaining about is the “and costs go down after” part of the process.

    Michael Hsu Reply:

    There are 6 million californians living below the poverty level today (2012 figures). Instead of high speed rail, why not give each poor californian a used car? Let’s say $10,000.00 USD per poor californian (for buying a used car – not for buying lottery tickets). It’ll only cost taxpayers $60 billion dollars. Hey, isn’t that the same as the cost of this new high speed rail? Which is better in terms of freedom and mobility – a used car that can take the poor people everywhere they wish to drive to, or a rail system which has only a limited number of stations?

    Nathanael Reply:

    When the poor Californians can’t afford gas, and when the cars are stuck in traffic, it’s clear the high-speed rail system is better.

    Now, giving every Californian outright CASH would probably be a good investment — we need to spread the wealth around to get the economy going. Hey, with the cash they might even get together and start their own railroad project! But no effing way should we give them useless rattletrap clunkers which will break down the moment they need them.

  2. Tony D.
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 16:11

    Robert or anyone,
    Can you post contact information for both Simitian and DeSaulnier. Need to let them both know that we disapprove of their true colors.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What’s a google? And what’s an “electoral district”?

    Tony d. Reply:

    Damn I wish we could all be as smart (ass) as you Richard! (Sarcasm). Yeah; Google and electoral district, bla bla. I was suggesting that perhaps Robert could post the contact info as an update for easy one stop shopping (that obviously went over your head). My apologies for the headache.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The price went up to $98 billion. The project was cut in half, leaving the difficult stuff ’til later, and still costs $68 billion. Whether you support it or not you have to agree that those people managing and promoting it are constantly handing guns to their enemies and sticking targets on their own backs. ICS with zero transportation value? A fistful of business plans? Out of control consultant spending? With friends like these in charge who needs enemies?
    I’m barely hanging in there as a supporter in the hope that we can actually get some transportation value out of what is built. I am not interested in “true” high speed rail, just solutions to mobility problems. To solve most of those in a green way we don’t need super speed (220mph) with its enormous cost and electricity consumption. One day some one will explain to me where the power will come from, especially when you want to run all those peak hour trains. The Chinese of course will burn more coal. What should we do?

    joe Reply:

    I disagree. You have to be willfully blind to attribute the resistance to CAHSRA.

    First the critics say the project is expensive and gold plated and can be done cheaper. The critics say 4 track is nuts and should be blended and build gradually.

    Well we have a less costly approach …

    Now it’s not legal. The costs change to much. It timeline to spend the ARRA funding is too tight. It’s bullshit to delay HSR.

    I’m glad you admit a lack of interested in “true” HSR – that not running 220 MPH saves electricity. You’ve decided less fast service is the best thing. I like 55 MPH highways. It’s not gonna happen.

    Realistically slower service capacity means more oil burning planes and cars. Electricity in CA is natural gas, hydro-electric, nuclear wind and solar. Not so much coal.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s not that 2tph (vs 9tph, or whatever) of HS traffic is unreasonable or unrealistic.

    Anybody with a clue — ie those outside the agencies — has know that the outrageous and unprecedented traffic and passenger levels “predicted” by the agency were rent-seeking outright fraud since forever.

    So, hooray for that.

    The issue that you can’t use an “analysis” of “benefits” based on a squillion trains per day and a zillion passengers per year to justify a very different (if less alternate reality) project. Not unless you change the law to ram through whatever the hell you like just because it’s in somebody’s financial interest to like it, that is.

    joe Reply:

    Flip-flopping (TM) arguments have no justification. The folks that want to keep disturbances low in their neighborhoods should just say so and not fabricate excuses to sound less selfish. There is no satisfying solution, just busy work to delay the project.

    News flash – opponents have a financial interest.

    One consequent of invalidating all analysis / benefits and data is you are done finished. You oppose the project on grounds of fraud on the part of all parties.

    Rent seeking contractors are bad and the public sector is bad. All is bad.

    You’ve made your contribution – nothing is possible.

    Game Over.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm? As far as I can tell, HSR probably will save electricity, if implemented sanely.

    HSR isn’t as low in energy usage as the best slower-speed railways, but given the numbers I can find, but on an energy per seat-km basis, properly implement HSR is (1) still quite competitive with lower-speed railways, (2) more efficient than buses on the highway, (3) much more efficient than FRA-penalized incompetent American railways, (4) much more efficient than POVs on the highway (while still being 3 billion times fast of course), and (5) vastly, insanely, more efficient than air travel.

    Moreover, most people travelling the entire distance between SF and LA are going to opt for something that isn’t horribly slow, and it’s hard to do worse than a jet airliner for fuel efficiency…

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Less fast service, say 170-180mph. Look at the curve of energy consumption vs speed and look at how much 220 you have to do to make an arbitrary schedule. You can accomplish most your goals at High Speed rather than super speed (220mph). Communications is the game changer. With wifi etc an extra 20 – 30 mins on the train is acceptable if you can use the time productively. In any event domestic business travel in these corridors is static, and you won;t convert those making connecting flights unless the transfers are super convenient.
    Remember also the energy saving is dependent on high load factors. You have to move people, not empty seats.

    joe Reply:

    I’m glad that 170-180 MPH is okay with you that’s a legitimate personal preference. I’d be glad to debate the merits of speed limits on a built system.

    I’m the kinda of driver that understands when folks drive 50-55 in the right lane – legal and safe and saves on gas. The physics are simple – but we build cars and roads for faster sustained performance.

    Build a HSR line to achieve 220 MPH and we can debate the electric savings and maintenance of running 170. Maybe give folks on those trains a ticket rebate or demonstrate increased capacity at less than 220 MPH speeds.

    IMHO, building a system that is less time competitive with airlines undercuts the project and rail in general.

    For a business day trip the 20-30 minutes might be the killer – one less hour that day to do face-to-face work and return home at night.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I’m glad that 170-180 MPH is okay with you that’s a legitimate personal preference …

    Bluff body drag, a matter of personal preference. Let the market decide on the velocity-dependent exponent! “2” seems way too pre-Web 2.0.

    joe Reply:

    Another strawman for the troll.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    It’s a great point that maybe a slower speed HSR could save 10-15% of the energy used at 220 mph, but taking that plane flight uses maybe 900% more. So we can certainly talk about fine tuning later but for now many of us would like to have an alternative to the huge energy squandered by flying.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    If your prime concern is to beat air travel times you should build the I-5 route. That market is static and will in any event gravitate to the closest airport or rail station. It costs far more to build to 220mph standards because you have to build it straighter, and you end up taking out more neighborhoods and real estate in general. If you believe that the priority is to link together the state’s cities, especially the CV where alternative travel modes are minimal, then a lower cost 300kph train does the job perfectly well. And operationally the savings are far greater than 15%. Of course if your objective is to have the fastest Lionel set and enjoy bragging rights you shouldn’t expect taxpayers to fork out. You’re going to end up with a Concord on steel wheels.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, I see – we choose between either an I-5 alignment or run trains at 170 MPH. Plus 220 MPH is childish. Interesting but what if we refuse to play by your rules?

    The other view point is the 220 MPH exceeds the efficiency of air travel, does not use oil, and is fasst enough to compete with air travel.

    Plus – the final speed is not mandated to be 220 – HSR is engineered to run at 220.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you are truly concerned about you energy use, stay home.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Paul Dyson, you’re simply wrong; I’ve read through the detailed market analyses from the CHSRA. Try doing so! The conclusion is that running at 220 through the CV captures both the end-to-end air market *and* the market from the CV cities, whereas your options capture only one or the other. This makes the CHSRA plan more cost-effective. Particularly more cost-effective than doing both, a 300kph local and an I-5 express.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Joe is spot on, on the speed point ~ the 3hrs are to capture single day transport markets that 4hrs do not capture nearly as effectively (since fixed path intercity transport, whether airport to airport or rail requires getting to and from the intercity transport nodes) and 6hrs do not capture at all.

    If electrical power becomes sufficiently large share of the operating costs, its quite feasible to organize fewer full speed trips with higher cost tickets and more slower speed trips with lower cost tickets. However, not building toward the capability for 3hrs SF/LA when its possible with current technology would be a serious design specification failure.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Paul, don’t use YOE dollars, even if the CHSRA is legally forced to use YOE dollars due to a recently passed Republican bill in Congress.

    YOE dollars are MEANINGLESS. They are an inflation prediction, and we all know how accurate those are (not at all).

    Jonahtan Reply:


    ’m barely hanging in there as a supporter in the hope that we can actually get some transportation value out of what is built. I am not interested in “true” high speed rail, just solutions to mobility problems.

    Sometime you should take some time out and read Prop A1. Or, if you already have, thank you for making it pellucidly clear that you oppose the HSR goals of Prop 1A, and that you want to spend any available HSR funds on local rail systems. (Local ones, perchance?).

    joe Reply:

    Stop with the bullying Richard.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Richard isn’t being a bully Joe; he’s just being his miserable, NIMBY-self. Its actually quite humorous!

  3. yoyo
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 17:25

    As a registered voter in his district and resident of Palo Alto, I just sent him an email expressing my unhappiness. It’s odd that he’s such an anti-rail zealot.


    Neil Shea Reply:

    Thanks, me too.

    Eric M Reply:



    David Reply:

    I will be sending a letter to my Senator (DeSaulnier) when the plan is released, I’ve already sent him one letter. I think a letter has more impact than an email.

  4. William
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 17:38

    I don’t think the cost-estimate ever went down for a complete phase-1 system. The new figure is most likely the cost for an intern HSR system with just the CV spine part full-HSR, instead from SJ to LA.

    Clem Reply:

    Less, for less.

    Nathanael Reply:

    These are all bullshit YOE numbers anyway.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    If the CHSRA puts out a funding plan as the law requires we’ll know for sure.

  5. Tom McNamara
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 18:25

    Oh to think I said as much ten days ago:

    Simitan is not going to vote for the bonds anyway. His comments at the hearing make that pretty clear. This proposal is dumb, because it’s not really feasible. CalTrain can’t break even because SF and the Peninsula are job centers now and need to be connected to somewhere else to get excess workers. You can add as many bells, whistles, glowing lights, to the trains… it doesn’t matter.

    It is a waste of the bond money, and it won’t happen because once it’s clear that Simitan isn’t interested in such a bribe, BART will take the money back and move full speed “ahead” on Ring the Bay and Silicon Valley.

    Gee what a surprise. Simitan won’t vote for these bonds, either because he wants to win his race as County Supervisor or because he knows if the tunnel is built to TransBay, it’s only a matter of time before the Peninsula is quad-tracked.

    DeSaulnier doesn’t want to vote for it because it gives Cal Train newfound life and blows $1.5 billion that could be in BART’s pocket.

    Lowenthal’s not going to vote for it because…he wants cap and trade to go for expansions at the port…or something…maybe…

  6. Tony d.
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 19:30

    Funny how the NIMBY, naysayers are all of a sudden stressing “the law” as a means of trying to thwart this project. Calling it a reach is an understatement. Anyhow, you guys have already poisoned this thread, so have at it! Its all yours! I’ll save the intelligent discussion for the next thread topic.

  7. David
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 20:19

    I’d imagine the cost is even lower considering the original $100 billion had factored inflation into the costs. So what’s the cost without inflation?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Unfortunately, we haven’t heard a constant-dollar quote yet.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Now out on Pages 3-7 to 3-10 of the Draft Revised 2012 Business Plan

    Base year Fiscal 2011 dollars
    IOS: Low: $26.9b, High: $31.3b
    Bay to Basin: Low $41.3b, High: $49b (cumulative)
    Finished Phase 1: Low $53.4, High: $62.3b (cumulative)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Aweseome. Thanks.

    These are really perfectly decent numbers for a trunk line with multiple mountain crossings.

  8. Jack
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 20:43

    Wow, just wow. Let’s just hope the previous story a few weeks back about their votes don’t matter as we have enough else where to get this done pans out…

  9. Responsible_Thought
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 21:48

    First: Supporters need to at least give them some space, even if it looks like pandering to the opposition. After all, it’s their obligation as Legislators to take their time.

    Second: I refuse to believe they not have enough time between now and June 15 to make a decision. This project has been studied to death. They need to specifically explain to the public why the revised plan presents too many unknowns not to act by June 15.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Agree about giving them some space to do their job. Coming out of the gate attacking them may not be helpful.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Even liberals are losing interest in hsr – their understanding never went beyond the sloganeering stage anyway – because they are becoming more aware of the high costs of construction, operation, and maintenance. The recognition is slowly seeping in to the general public that it is a souped-up Amtrak, not a maglev or anything revolutionary Buck Rogers. Not breakthrough competitive with air travel times. Just a more intensive, more expensive application of traditional railway tech which will require constant maintenance and high paid labor. No talk of driverless operation.

    They see transit fares going up and are aware that all transit services are losing money and require permanent subsidy. They know that in the real world the CHSRA will be competing with urban transit systems for funding. Some Democrats would simply rather spend what money is available on welfare and social services. The cheerleaders will just have to get used to that – social spending is more popular than hsr with many voters and the pols have nothing to lose by deferring any decisions on hsr, because these voters are burned out on the hsr hype.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s no conflict between spending money on social services and spending it on infrastructure.

    The conflict is between spending money on blowing people up in Afghanistan, spending money on handing it to very rich failed businessmen, and spending it on useful stuff.

    I prefer useful stuff; 99% of Republicans in Congress and about 50% of the Democrats appear to prefer blowing people up and giving money to very rich failed businessmen. However, I suspect the majority of the public also prefers useful stuff.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Indeed, spending money on useful stuff is complementary with spending money on social services, because the real limit on how much money that can be spent on social services is the productive capacity of the economy ~ money is just tickets to ride, and if the ride can only take 200 people an hour, handing out extra tickets only works up to the point that you are handing out a total of 200 per hour.

    Nathanael Reply:

    A wise economic point. Where did you go to economics school? They seem to have taught you better than the average economist.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Even at 50%, IMO you’re vastly overestimating the number of Democrats who think this way. HSR appeals primarily to a small number of technocratic or good-government types, who fortunately include Jerry Brown. However, this is a thin slice of the Democratic coalition, which is why both Clinton & Obama have given lip-service to HSR as a minor initiative only.

    Also the huge political obstacle for California Democrats isn’t “social services” (which have been cut to the bone), but pension fund obligations owned to their political base.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’ll see your California Congressional delagation and raise you the Congressional delegations from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. Throw in Illinois because Chicago is going to be the hub of the MIdwest HSR system.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Wait, I’m not clear: are you saying you’re *less* cynical or *more* cynical than me about Democrats?

    Anyway, good-government types include Wisconsin and Minnesota Democrats. And in Illinois and the Northeast you don’t *need* to be good-government to realize that passenger trains are good politics…. so adirondacker’s political analysis is right.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Yes, mouse, it’s a passenger railroad. Glad you’ve reached a solid conclusion, at last. Be honest – Conservatives wouldn’t support a souped-up Amtrak, maglev, or “Buck Rogers” technology if it involces public financing. Any more than they support healthcare coverage for all unless the “beloved” market place i.e. insurance companies can carve out an unhealthy profit margin for standing between people and healthcare providers. Yes “it will require constant maintenance” as do planes, roads, and everything that’s basic infrastructure or involves machinery that has moving parts. And don’t planes requires “high paid labor” i.e pilots? When you talk of a driverless operation, are you referring to the Republican Party?

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Sorry Synonymouse but true HSR is not a souped-up train of any kind ; true HSR is a totally different experience ; the comfort, the seating room, the bar car, the landscape going by like crazy : It’s no Buck Rogers thingie, it’s not a regular train experience, it’s not a plane experience, it’s wonderful in its own right : it’s the real HSR experience.

    swing hanger Reply:

    As ericmarseille says- HSR is a different universe from (especially) Amtrak or Caltrain- Americans who board an HSR train for the first time will experience something akin to a Model T driver getting behind the wheel of a Mercedes SLK for the first time.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “Real HSR experience”? 1983 Rheingold would be an improvement on extant US passenger train. Acela not necessarily excluded.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    1983 Rheingold? It will have gone skunky by now if not rusted through it’s can.


  10. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 1st, 2012 at 22:30

    In view of a recently passed date (April 1), and of some critics’ ideas of alternatives to rail that include self-driving electric cars, I thought it appropriate to bring in some material from a website I normally don’t much care for, Inhabitat:



    Linked from above:


    Emma Reply:

    I’m telling you by the time HSR is up and running, probably 90+ % of all cars in California will be electric or Hybrid-electric or use an alternative fuel source.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And all of them will be as inefficient as today’s cars for the 90%+ of the time that they are parked.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I pity someone who spends 2.4 hours a day in their car….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Lots of people spend more, but its meant to be an average for the private motor vehicle fleet.

    Brian Reply:

    By 2023 the majority of the autos on the road will be ones manufactured, purchased, and already on the road today. The average age of the private vehicle fleet is 15 years and climbing. That 15 years average means that for every new car bought in the last year there are an equal number of 30 years old cars still on the road.

    Unless there is some revolutionary and cheaper car that changes everything, the cars bought in 2011 will be on the road in 2041. Decades after after HSR blended phase 1 is built. Likely after phase 2 is built.

    Any average-person-priced electric cars built in the next 10 year we also not be able to make in Bay Area to LA area on one charge. If you need to rent a car to get there, and pay tolls on the highway, why not take the train?

    flowmotion Reply:

    Brian — I wouldn’t be so sure of that. More stringent smog testing in the 1990s eliminated a huge number of 70s & 80s vehicles where the tune-up costs exceeded the price of the vehicle. Greenhouse gas regulations could easily nudge older cars into the junkyard.

    And, despite “cash for clunkers”, there are still tons of inefficient body-on-frame SUVs which were sold in the cheap-gas years of the early 2000s. Once gas goes into the $6+ range, most of these vehicles will be retired for good by the owner.

    Also, your figures seem suspect, or draw the wrong conclusion. How often do you see a 30-year-old (e.g. pre 1982) car driving around? Rare, unless you are visiting a car show. (Perhaps there’s a lot of Model T’s throwing off the average.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    The reason there will be more and more old cars on the road is that most people won’t be able to *afford* new cars. Look at the nasty economic trends.

    I mean, that could be reversed by taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor, and that *could* happen before 2023. Wanna bet on it?

    Anyway, assuming that doesn’t happen, what do all these people who can’t afford new cars do? Either they buy old cars, or they keep old cars, or they get rid of their car.

    So the number of cars being retired is entirely dependent on how many people are in a position to get rid of their car. This means, more trains == more cars retired, fewer trains == fewer cars retired.

    I don’t think there will be enough trains by 2023 to retire vast numbers of cars in the US. Yeah, I’m a pessimist.

    Emma Reply:

    “Unless there is some revolutionary and cheaper car that changes everything, the cars bought in 2011 will be on the road in 2041. Decades after after HSR blended phase 1 is built. Likely after phase 2 is built.”

    Apple iCar?

    Derek Reply:

    If electric cars came with low rolling resistance steel tires and ran on steel roads, didn’t have to carry around their power source, and could be linked together so they didn’t have to push aside so much air per passenger, then they might be as energy efficient as electric trains.

    Emma Reply:

    I see what you did here. I’m not saying that I’m for cars. In fact I would prefer a future where public transit is dominating and reaching out to every corner of America’s cities over a future with electric cars and plug-in stations everywhere.

    Electric car or not, the problem will remain the same: traffic congestion. And there is only one cure for it. Efficient, on-time public transit. But, we all know how the current Congress feels about it. So I’m putting my money on when the Democrats under Pelosi are ruling.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But HSR works well in environments where the large majority of local trips are by private vehicle, so moving ahead with HSR does not require waiting until the country is ready to plow through obstacles to sustainable local transport … in other words, while it is a critical part of a sustainable integrated transport system, in the right corridors with the right population sizes the right rail travel time apart, it does not require a sustainable integrated transport system to already be in place in order to succeed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And anyway, LA, SF, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento all have substantial on-time public transit. Not as much as they should and not as efficient as it should be, but enough to get started with.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A point for holding to the fantasy that all of France is a public transport paradise and that’s why HSR works is the argument that Fresno and etc. does not have substantial on-time public transport, so there’s no farebox revenues except from the urban core of SF to the urban core of LA.

    Distracting people living in outer suburbs and rural areas from the substantial benefit they will receive from the system is an important part in maintaining political opposition to the project that is in the interests of main funders but against the interests of a large number of core constituents.

    Derek Reply:

    “Electric car or not, the problem will remain the same: traffic congestion. And there is only one cure for it. Efficient, on-time public transit.”

    No, there is no evidence that increasing public transportation impacts road congestion.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, but its asking the wrong question. The question is not whether congestion can be eliminated, but whether the negative impacts of congestion can be reduced, and that is something that there is ample evidence that effective public transport can help with.

    If you give road space away for no cost other than the inconvenience of other people using it, people will use it up to the point where other people using it is too inconvenient. If you want uncongested streets, charge people for using roads during high demand periods. If you want people to have access to an area despite traffic congestion, provide effective public transport. If you want both ~ people to have the option of using non-gridlocked roads and to have access to the area despite that reduction in motor vehicle use ~ then do both.

    Indeed, since its the price on the use of the road during high demand periods that is doing the work, not the revenue collected, you can kill two birds with one stone by imposing congestion fees and directing the revenue toward provision of improved access via more effective public transport.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People who are using transportation that doesn’t use the road are blissfully unconcerned about road congestion.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Indeed… I take the train about 95% the time for my over-walking-distance travel—but the 5% of the time I use bus or taxi is far more memorable, because it’s almost always far more painful…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, there is.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just stumbled across this, and it’s interesting for its historical perspective:


    Nathanael Reply:

    Romney is unbelievable. I have no idea what he really believes because Mr. Etch-a-Sketch will say whatever he thinks his current audience wants to hear.

    For a laugh: http://www.etchasketchmittromney.com/

    Reload to get different quotes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The quote about “nobody likes laying off someone” and “I like firing people” is disingenuous. Romney said he likes firing people as a metaphor for firing the insurance company; that he chose that particular one tells you a lot about how he thinks about everything, but he did not ever say he likes firing employees.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The magic self driving cars never get stuck in congestion. They all communicate with each other and when traffic is heavy they just pull over to the side and wait their turn.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    I’ve seen forecasts for 2030 electric car/plug-in market shares going from ~1% to ~35%. In 2009 Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology estimated 24% market share in 2030 and that’s with electric cars accounting for almost two-thirds of 2030 car sales (pdf).

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is actually fairly likely to happen, though it’s more pessimistic for driving than it looks at first: what will happen initially is that people with disposable income will get electric cars (which have higher capital costs than gas cars) while people without disposable income will just get rid of their cars.

  11. Reality Check
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 00:15

    Ok, let me just apologize in advance … this is really pretty lame as far as such things go:

    Rail authority’s ‘new vision’ includes old technology
    Proposed high-speed rail system to use catapults on the Peninsula

    The catapult will stand at a “launching station” in San Jose’s Diridon Station. Tomlinson said passengers would be equipped with parachutes and launched 4,000 feet into the air en route to San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, where a giant net will await them. According to the revised business plan, tickets would cost $225 per ride, with an extra $80 for those who wish to video-record their flights. Every passenger will also have to sign a waiver before boarding the catapult.

    Emma Reply:

    I can’t see this happening because the EIR would be far too difficult. We might disturb essential migration paths for birds, not to mention all the gulls. The G-forces have to comply with federal rules, too. I think I’ll stick with the High speed bus proposal.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s always the option of Maglev SJ to TBT with Maglev “shell trains” with built in track that the HSR rolls onto and then proceeds as a Maglev along the corridor. I wish I had thought of that for yesterday ~ I’ll have to wait until April 1, 2013 to use it.

  12. John Nachtigall
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:55

    While I agree that some critics will be against this project no matter what, I also think that supportes are painting them all with too broad a brush. As mentioned a few days ago there are critics of this “blended” plan that have been long time supporters of the HSR project.

    Of you cut through all the BS, the major issue is simple. Does this plan conform to the law that was passed? No reasonable person is expecting the HSR system to just “appear”, but the problem with this plan is that it does not conform to the law and the promises that were made.

    There is a catch 22 inherent in the plan. If you think that the blended approach will be the final word then it violates all kinds of parts of the law probably most importantly the time requirements as well as the single seat ride and other provisions. If you think it is an “intermediate” step then they are pouring billions into tracks and upgrades that it will not use in the final system (because they will have to come back and build another set of dedicated tracks) and this is also against the law because there was a very small amount that was set aside for anything other than the HSR system and this plan exceeds that.

    You can’t just ignore the law when you don’t like it anymore. I realize that with the current political situation building the HSR in the image of the law would be most likely impossible, but given the options of not building or ignoring the law you have to pick not building…the ends do not justify the means.

    On a seperate note, I don’t understand why supports like this plan anyway, it is not HSR. It is really “faster” regular rail. But all future HSR systems will be compared to this one (assuming it is built) so if it fails because it is not really HSR then it will doom all future projects. Why supporters are willing to risk that for HSR all over the country I don’t understand. As it stands now this project, as currently imagined, is nowhere near the original vision and has very dubious value.

    I can easily get a non-stop flight from LA to the bay area. Under this plan in 20-30 years I will be paying 20% less to get a on a train with a connection and the travel time will be well in excess of 2X the time when you count in the time waiting for the connection. This makes no sense to me. Why build a system 20-30 years from now that can’t beat the current system.

    No single seat ride

    David Reply:

    I assume that the connection happy plan will only be implemented in this phase, just so that it can immediately function as rail to LA and San Francisco. I think they’re relying on the second phase extension to San Diego to connect it in a one seat ride. At least I choose to believe that. Because it makes no sense to build HSR from San Diego to OC with LA being the only non HSR section all the way up to Merced. And same for SF.

    joe Reply:


    The law i.e. Prop1A, has terms for spending funds which are dependent on interpretation. Opponents interpretation is often unreasonable – the Prop was not intended to make it difficult to find matching funds to build the system. The Prop is not a plan for construction.

    I have no idea what oil will cost exactly in 20-30 years but with 7 B people and climbing, an industrialized China, and cars cars cars, it would surprise me greatly if Oil was not 3 or 4 times the cost per barrel in 2042.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    First, the HSR corridor is “true” HSR ~ just like in France’s original HSR corridor, it appears that the “true” HSR is being built in usable segments so that each extension shortens the trip time substantially.

    Second, a well-designed Blended Plan in appropriate segments doesn’t violate any single seat ride requirement or transit time requirements ~ a High Speed Rail can perfectly well operate on an shared Electric Express Passenger Rail corridor, though of course not at 220mph … and the plan never required operating at 220mph through the central LA or west bay peninsula sections. Indeed, since France already had the Electric Express Passenger Rail corridors into their biggest cities that California lacks, they have operated with the “Blended Plan” from the outset ~ operate on a main passenger corridor through the big city and then run onto the Express HSR corridor once you get outside of the city.

    The 20-30 yr time frame and the “connection happy” system is talking about two different things ~ the “connection happy” system is one possible initial operating service, and whether the HSR runs along conventional rail corridors on the balance of the trip for the initial operating service, or it has a connection somewhere in the middle, the idea that its the 20yr plan to still be running the temporary start-up service is a serious misunderstanding of the point of an initial operating service.

    Jonathan Reply:


    what“shared Electric Express Passnger Rail Corridor”? Clue-by-four time:
    HSR trainsets cannot operate on the same tracks, at the same time, as FRA-compliant trains, due to FRA regulations. How are you going to get all the FRA-compliant trains off the Metrolink end of the “blended” tracks so that HSR trainsets can run on them? Does Jerry Brown have enough clout to drag the FRA into accepting current word-best-practice, quantitatively engineered, safety metrics?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They can’t under today’s regulatory scheme, who knows what it will look like in 2017 when there’s PTC everywhere.

    Clem Reply:

    The FRA seemed awful picky about mixing “alternate-compliant” rolling stock with freight train traffic, at least here on the peninsula. Why would they demand time separation, even for the tiny risk exposure from encountering two daily freight trains?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Who said anything about time separation? By 2017 PTC systems all over North America will be merrily inter-operating with each other all over the place.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does Jerry Brown have enough clout to drag the FRA into accepting current word-best-practice, quantitatively engineered, safety metrics?

    Probably, but he may not need to.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Indeed, reading the SFGate article in advance of the release of the plan, there wouldn’t seem to be any basis for any of the above confusions about the proposal, except for people who get their information from unsourced supposition and hearsay:

    The so-called “blended” system would still move travelers from Los Angeles’ Union Station to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes at speeds up to 220 mph, as voters were promised when they authorized the bullet train system four years ago, Richard said.

    Eventually, riders will not have to change trains when riding between San Francisco and Los Angeles, he said.

    “Every step of the way, we will be connected to something and be able to improve service in the intermediate level while building out” a bigger system, Richard said of the “blended system.”

    However, the SFGate article seems to bury the lede, putting this at the end:

    Critics say the numbers still won’t pencil out, although they hadn’t seen the revised proposal.

    Those who know that the numbers won’t pencil out in advance of seeing the numbers, clearly clearly are just opponents looking for any basis they can find to justify your opposition.

    Its clear that some opponents are just attempting to compose plausible sounding sound bites, since they contradict themselves from one thought to the next:

    Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, Assembly Republicans’ point person on the high-speed rail issue, said the authority’s changing plans should lead lawmakers to block the sale of the bonds for the project.

    “The entire high-speed rail project needs to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

    … so the argument is that because the HSR Authority changed its plans, the HSR Authority should go back and change its plans! In programming, that’s what they call an infinite loop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … so the argument is that because the HSR Authority changed its plans, the HSR Authority should go back and change its plans!

    Yes, because then, when presented with the changed plans they can complain it’s not what they were told about before they asked for the changed plans. Another chorus of complainers, who have been patiently waiting in the wings, will then chime in with complaints about how much all of this is costing. the done right people can complain that it still hasn’t been done right and needs more study. It’s multi-layer infinite loops.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Hi John, I’m not sure why you say that. Are you opposed to opening up usable segments within 10 years while continuing to build the HSR mainline over 5 more years? Are you opposed to spanning the Bakersfield-LA gap in the next phase? I think this plan will be designed to get usable service up as fast as possible, and to provide the longest possible single-seat rides (including to SF) as quickly as possible.

    flowmotion Reply:

    This point was made yesterday, but Prop 1A has two key requirements for bond spending:

    – “would advance the construction of the (HSR) system”
    – “would not have an adverse impact on the construction of Phase 1”

    That’s right, 1A outlines various specs for the HSR system, but it does not even require that this HSR system be constructed!

    It’s almost as if they anticipated a “blended plan”. Which is reasonable, given the fact that a $9B bond was always going to be a drop in the bucket.

    Mac Reply:

    John….You are SO right. This new plan does not adhere to Prop 1A no matter how much the proponents dream that it does.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, but here’s the secret of the “blended plan”….

    …if you upgrade the Caltrain or Metrolink with two tracks, and the final system requires four tracks for capacity reasons, and you add the additional two tracks (rather than ripping everything out and starting over), then the two-track upgrade wasn’t wasted.

  13. DavidM
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 08:55

    The board meeting has been moved to April 12 in San Francisco.

    Seems there’s another David… I’m the one in DeSaulnier’s district.

  14. John Nachtigall
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 09:00

    I am opposed to ignoring laws…even ones you don’t like. I have 2 points.

    First, what they are proposing is not compatible with the law. If you read the law it is clear that money should be spent on high speed trains, not on making tracks with faster regular trains. While I agree the blended approach is rational and a good compromise (assuming you want rail service), it is not actually allowed by the law. They are supposed to spend the money on high speed rail and a little bit on systems to connect to that rail, they were not supposed to spend the money on making slightly faster regular rail (which is what this does).

    Lets assume this plan goes forward. Richards says that “eventually” we will have single seat service within the time prescribed by the law. When is that? 20 years? 30 years? 150 years? And when it does the money spent on the blended approach at the bookends will not help towards building the dedicated tracks that were the original plan.

    My second point is that in 10-20 years when/if this is losing money we will all have to listen to the supporters complain that the blended system is not “true” high speed rail and all systems should not be judeged on the sucess or failure of this proposed system.

    It is disengenous. Basically supporters are making a devils bargin. They are compromising on the original vision of the system and ignoring the law just so they can say the “won” when in reality all we are getting is a 70 million dollar system in 20-30 years that is less capable then existing transportaiton systems (airplanes) today.

    Derek Reply:

    The law doesn’t say how fast the trains must run on the peninsula.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The law does say you have to make it from SF to LA in 2:40. How can you do that with a stop (or 2) in between and at max 110 on the peninsula?

    Peter Reply:

    At full build-out it has to do it in 2:40. The law says nothing about times prior to completion of full build-out.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It does give a time requirement on the peninsula actually. 30 minutes between SF and SJ if memory serves

    Derek Reply:

    You’re right, 30 minutes. But as Peter mentioned, this plan would not be the full build-out. It’s just an interim phase.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The full build out is the blended system now.

    Derek Reply:

    What about Sacramento and San Diego?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They’re Phase 2, same as before.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Now, when you say “this plan” … which plan would that be, the “priority upgrade” to Caltrain, the ICS, the IOS using the ICS, the HSR IOS, the Valley to Valley, the Bay to Basin or the finished Phase 1 using the Blended Option?

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Everyone should take a look at Streets and Highways Code section 2704.08(c) to see exactly what a “funding plan” is supposed to look like. It pertains to a corridor or usable segment, which I guess could include the so-called “IOS,” but not the so-called “ICS.” It is supposed to identify which corridor or usable segment the CHSRA is asking be funded. It is supposed to contain some other things as well, including a certification that all project level EIRs have been completed.

    joe Reply:

    Is HSR a street or highway?

    Rick Rong Reply:

    No, it is not. But that is where the Legislature, and the voters, put the provisions dealing with the funding plan. Here is a link that will take you to AB 3034, most of which was on the ballot as Proposition 1A:


    Scroll down to Section 9 and this is what you will see:

    “SEC. 9. Chapter 20 (commencing with Section 2704) is added to
    Division 3 of the Streets and Highways Code, to read:

    “Article 1. General Provisions

    “2704. This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the Safe,
    Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.”

    So yes, although HSR is neither a street nor a highway, most of the important language that deals with it is contained in the “Streets and Highways Code.”

    And here are links to some of those same sections but as contained in the Streets and Highways Code:



    Nathanael Reply:

    Depends on which law you’re looking at. I believe HSR is legallly a “post road”, for instance, like every other railroad in the US.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    30 minutes between SF and SJ in 30 minutes is an average speed of 96 MPH. The express trains need to do that, not the ones that make stops.

    Clem Reply:

    They most likely won’t, short of some major curve remediation.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Keep pushing for the curve remediation. That could actually happen.

    Clem Reply:

    By the way, what is the average speed of the Acela Express that goes non-stop from Newark to Philadelphia? Then compare to 96.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    95, 81 miles in 51 minutes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …weekday Vermonter does Newark-Trenton in 31 minutes which works out to 94 MPH.
    Newark-Trenton is handy to keep in mind, it’s 48 miles from Newark to Trenton.

    Emma Reply:

    In a perfect world, we would have Maglev running from San Diego to Eureka. I’ll be happy with any realistic proposal. There is still room for improvement once the system is making real revenue and once we get private money out of politics.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Maglev sucks as far as throughlining with the conventional rail system goes, so there’d be no way to run a tram-train from the Eureka terminus through onto the North Coast Light Rail system. And if there’s no Eureka tram-train, its obviously not a perfect world!!!

    AFAIR The Island seemed to have Maglev from Vegas to LA, but then again it was a dystopian vision of a system in which a wealthy few turn out to be wiling to do anything it takes to get what they want`, so Maglev fits right in.

    Back in the real world, IMV this seems to be one of the most realistic proposals to have come out of the CAHSR. After all, I’ve been arguing for a “Blended Approach” between San Jose and the San Francisco TBT for years now.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Nonsense. A perfect world would have steam powered maglev so it’d still be wrong.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    it is telling that the travel time is not described in the new draft plan (page 5-12) just the number of trains per hour.

    My argument stands, no matter how much you want it you have to meet the law. They are calling phase 1 complete after the blended plan is done. You have to hit 2:40 big trip and all the small trip times from the law when phase 1 blended is complete or you are not meeting the law

    Emma Reply:

    I see your point and there is a lot of truth in it. But I still don’t see on which side you are. I think the law is the problem requiring standards that couldn’t be met by a $43 billion proposal in the first place.
    Just to give you a more extreme example. Imagine Congress passed a $2 billion funding bill to design rockets that must reach the speed of light. The law would be flawed because there is no way on earth $2 billion would have been enough to meet the requirements in the law.

    And yes, I rather have them call Phase 1 complete and move on to something more realistic. I have been a supporter of the blended approach for a while and -$30 billion seem to prove my point although I still think we can squeeze out more.

    peninsula Reply:

    “the law is the problem requiring standards that couldn’t be met by a $43 billion proposal in the first place.”

    Peter Reply:

    You have to hit 2:40 big trip and all the small trip times from the law when phase 1 blended is complete or you are not meeting the law


    No, you don’t. Only portions that are built with Prop 1A bond funds have to meet ANY of Prop 1A’s requirements. If you don’t use any of Prop 1A’s funding on upgrading Caltrain (except for Prop 1A’s connectivity funding that doesn’t have any trip time requirements) or Metrolink, you don’t have to meet trip times for those segments. It was set up this way specifically to enable it to be built in stages.

    Peter Reply:

    And as long as you are not handicapping the Merced-Burbank IOS time-wise so that it could never meet Prop 1A’s time requirements, you’re in compliance with Prop 1A.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1) There will not be any part of the final blended line that did not get at least some money from 1A. For example, the whole line will be covered by the collision avoidance system and that will be 1A money so every portion will have 1A money
    2) There is nothing in the law that specifies what you just stated. It simply states what the times must be. They did this to prevent exactly what is happening, using the money to build a “not” high speed rail system.

    Everyone keeps using the “stage” argument but I think that misses the point. Even if I grant that nothing needs to meet anything until it is all built, in the plan presented yesterday they said they were done when the blended phase was done. So in 2028, when there is a single seat ride from SF to LA, they have to be able to meet the provisions of the law. If they are not even planning on doing that how can you argue they are following the law?

    Peter Reply:

    But that’s the thing. Money is appropriated in stages. Once the Prop 1A money runs out, which will happen quite soon, definitely prior to completion of Bay to Basin, are you arguing that any future funding will be hobbled by the same restrictions of Prop 1A? As in, nothing can be built that doesn’t comply with Prop 1A, even though Prop 1A only applies to the $9.95 billion in bonds?

    Rick Rong Reply:

    What do you mean, “Prop 1A only applies to the $9.95 billion in bonds”? Are you suggesting, for example, that the limit on the number of stations can be ignored after the $9.95 million has been spent?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So, 500 years from now when they want to build an HSR station in Chico they won’t be able to because Prop 1A limits the system to 24 stations?

    Peter Reply:

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, Prop1a also applies to revenues generated from works financed in part by the $9.95b in bonds. And since, absent a catastrophic economic depression, the system will generate ongoing operating surpluses, at least some of which will flow back to state coffers, works that hope to leverage that revenue stream also have to respect Prop1a.

    Peter Reply:

    Yes. I wasn’t thinking about Phase 2.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    On your first point, the Blended Approach doesn’t in and of itself change the speed in those sections.

    In particular, in the Caltrain section, if the corridor is fully grade separated and they fix the San Bruno Curve, then it will certainly be possible to meet the transit target with Express track designed for 125mph operation.

    And a preliminary service [i]doesn’t[/i] run on track designed for 125mph and [i]doesn’t[/i] benefit from full grade separation because it is running on the [i]existing[/i] track, there’s also no problem, because the existing track already exists, doesn’t require Prop1a money to continue existing.

    So if the Prop1a money goes toward works that comply, and a service runs before the system is completed on track that doesn’t comply with Prop1a requirements and also didn’t receive Prop1a money … there’s no problem with that.

    On the “what if it loses money” ~ the only way it is going to lose money is if the trains go out with low load factors, and the solution to that is run as many trains as the passenger demand can bear. If its franchised out to a private operator, there’s no reason to accept a bid that risks losing money for the state. If it underperforms expectations of the winning bidder, then minimum service requirements might be an issue that is raised when the franchise comes up for renewal, but at those transit times, there is some daily service frequency that is going to generate an operating surplus, which would therefore be a profit for a private franchisee, assuming it does not overbid.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Except the current “blended” proposal does not run on existing track. Look at the Peninsula.

    The current “blended” proposal has $750m-odd of Prop 1A HSR money, spent on electrifying your so-called “existing” track; and ~$750-m-odd of MTC, state, regional, and other federal funding to “match” the Prop 1A money. Except the allegedly “matching” money seems to be spent on:
    * Caltrain EMUs;
    * an HSR-incompatible, bespoke, unique-in-the-world signalling system which pays a premium of a few hundred million dollars, solely to be able to open grade-crossing gates in front of trains stopped at a station adjacent to a grade crossing — and based on a design which was a decade late in reaching service goals!
    * track upgrades which are NOT to 200km/hr regulatory standards

    Moreover, despite repeated assertions here by people who should know better, Caltrain’s stated costs for electrification (excluding trainsets) are in fact dominated by the overhead catenary system, _not_ by traction-power substations.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think it’s dominated by wire, not labor. You can disassemble the catenary and reassemble it over a relocated or improved track for a fraction of the cost of building new.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In the “appears to be” CBOSS, is that an inference from other things, or the MOU, since I don’t see CBOSS specified in the MOU.

    I hadn’t seen any earlier to CBOSS actually having a feature missing from existing systems, but is it the case that the feature cannot be added to existing systems, or just that it has not?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You may opposed to ignoring laws but the patronage machine running the State could care less. They just fix the laws, the courts, whatever, to enable what they want.

    I don’t even think the loyal opposition, Harking and LaMalfa etc., are even that much motivated. They are just looking busy for their constituents, just like Simitian, Lowenthal, DeSaulnier and company. Nobody really cares that much whether hsr works or not. Brown, in particular, does not seem to have a clue. The Tehachapi Roundabout, with $2bil, 50 route miles and a half hour travel time in the balance, is practically slapping him in the face, and yet he remains oblivious. He is just having fun playing with his choo-choo train set drag racing the UP thru the Tehachapis.

    The hsr phenom is like the space program or the Super-Collider – after a while the pols lose interest and the funding dwindles because their involvement and understanding was always superficial. The programs go on for years on inertia and just keep accumulating like plum-appointment commissions and panels.

    trentbridge Reply:

    The patronage machine running the state is a solid majority of registered Democrats. As of Jan 2, according to the Sec. of State there were 7,430,000 Democrats and 5,171,000 Republicans. Deal with it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So how come this super powerful cabal didn’t make the law to their liking in the first place?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    They had to give the appearance that democracy was still intact, duh…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    but that would be the beauty of it, convincing the peons that they want, need, crave and will vote for the plan.

  15. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 09:56
  16. Paulus Magnus
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 10:02

    Draft Revised Business Plan

    Summary of changes

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It’s official, IOS-South won.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    no surprise, lot more people there and close the gap

    Nathanael Reply:

    And it has more YIMBYs and fewer NIMBYs than IOS-North, too. Really it was the only logical way to go.

    Jon Reply:

    Also, full kudos to Tom McNamara for predicting the Unified Northern California Railway and interim San Joaquin operation on the ICS. Very cool.

    This project is looking less and less like a statewide BART and more like how other countries went about HSR. The main added challenge we have here is that the legacy rail infrastructure is not owned by the state, and there is currently no sense of a ‘statewide’ rail system. This plan moves us a lot further forward to such a system.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I’d like to thank the Academy…

    …but actually someone else first mentioned ACE being extended to Merced, I think it was “Howard”. Once I read that, the bells went off as far as the relationship to ACE/SVJRR and BART…

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think this was made possible by the PTC mandate following Chatsworth. Without that, it seemed impossible to share track between HSR trains and anything which already existed. With the PTC mandate, the entire picture changed.

  17. mike
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 12:17

    On p. 2-35 from the business plan:

    “The Authority will also make a new decision on the Network Alternative for connecting the Bay Area with the Central Valley.”

    Is this for real, or are they just going through the formality of re-certifying their previous decision on Altamont vs Pacheco?

    Jack Reply:

    Why would they spend 1.5 B on Caltrian and then run the line up the other end. I think the latter.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Because they would still be running trains to San Jose when using Altamont?

    Jack Reply:

    uh hu…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, and if they are only running the occasional train to San Jose, and its off the 2:40 critical path, then the electrification would about do it south of Redwood. The MOU doesn’t explicitly commit to anything that isn’t usable either way. That puts the main East Bay station somewhere in Fremont instead of in San Jose, and San Jose either uses the BART to get there, the Caltrain to catch the HSR all-stations at Redwood or the occasional San Jose service. East Bay inland can catch existing services to Fremont instead of San Jose, North Central Coast need to get through to San Jose or Fremont to catch the HSR, which swapping the Gilroy route onto the Capitol Corridor and running the Capitol Corridor through to Salinas would do.

    And of course all the shadowy powers behind the scenes that the dramatists here love invoking will be pushing mightily one way or another on what is a 52:48 call either way to win the day for their various nefarious ends.

    Tony d. Reply:

    No. San Jose/Silicon Valley would have a direct HSR line via Altamont as well. Don’t try to sell us short. Besides, there are no immediate plans to construct a billion dollar plus HSR bridge or tunnel through Dumbarton (maybe in the future).
    I do like the idea of Amtrak/CC running south to Gilroy and beyond.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    /Silicon Valley seems like it would have pretty much the same, unless they were to try to bring the HSR corridor across on the causeway. Not all that much difference whether the main station is in Fremont and the secondary station station is in Redwood, or the main station is in San Jose and is in Redwood. And if other trains can use the Dumbarton tunnel, then there’ll be a way to get to Fremont.

    San Jose would have “a direct HSR line”, though it would not get near as many services on that direct HSR line through the day as it would on the main trunk corridor.

    egk Reply:

    Minor point: SJ might not get as much direct to la service on an altamont scenario. But it would get more direct Sacramento service. And more San joseas go there than la anyway, so that might not be all bad (and, if French, German, Italian and Spanish hsr practices are any guide, the altamont scenario would have higher overall frequencies to everywhere, when connecting service is considered)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And this is where you get to the framing of the project and the assumptions about how much the transport system ten to twenty years from today is going to look like today’s transport system.

    If you assume that building the Pacheco Pass alignment is going to turn NIMBY’s on the commuter overlay version of the Super-ACE, one the “mid-HSR” Super-ACE is done then SJ would get both direct service to Sacramento and all of the services would go through San Jose. And of course if the commuter overlay is driven by regional clamoring for it, it has the prospect to be a substantially better corridor for intra-regional transport than a corridor designed to get trains from LA to SF in 2:40.

    If you assume that ten years from now is pretty much like today except with proportionally more people all around, the commuter overlay could stay on the drawing board indefinitely, with Northern California making do while revenue bonding from HSR operating surpluses going to the San Diego corridor for an extended period. And then that frames the issue as a fight for frequency by SJ and proximity by the north Central Coast versus proximity for the southeast bay and proximity and frequency for the inland east bay.

    Tony d. Reply:

    By the way, electrifying Caltrain from SJ-SF still makes sense even with Altamont HSR alignment serving SJ and SF (future Dumbarton).

    Tony d. Reply:

    Yes! By the way, Congrats Paulus for IOS south. I’ll take modernized Caltrain as a consolation prize any day over nothing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Jack, here’s a mysterious analogy to ponder: why would they spend money on Caltrain rolling stock and then not run it to San Diego? Or, why would they electrify Caltrain storage and maintenance tracks that won’t be used by HS trains? Weird, huh?

    (Or legitimately mysteriously, why would they waste hundreds of millions on Caltrain consultant pork-fest signalling that will massively increase HSR costs?)

    The incremental cost of electrifying Caltrain beyond Mountain View (which is where demand craters) is low, almost down in the noise given the extreme and typical bloatedness of this project budget. (The incremental operating cost of running too many mostly empty trains to SJ is another matter — a larger fraction of a smaller number.)

    The legitimate reason for not electrifying beyond PA/MV (which was on the cards at one time) is that VTA defunded its voter-approved commitment to Caltrain electrification and gave everything to PBQD’s BART extension, just as SFCTA is throwing everything and more at PBQD’s Central Subway. The wonderful “new” Other People’s Money for Caltrain is really just back-filling the broken local commitments. It’s sure nice of the whole entire population of State of California to volunteer so willingly to fund these local projects, isn’t it? (When I repave the driveway of my house I’m going to demand that Prop 1A bonds pay for it as an essential bikeway nexus to HSR in SF.)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I didn’t see where in the MOU it specified that the PTC referred to was CBOSS. Which page was that?

    Mike Reply:

    It doesn’t refer to CBOSS in the MOU; the MOU talks about “Advanced Signalling System” and PTC. Even Caltrain hasn’t been using the phrase CBOSS lately.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Hence the question ~ since Caltrain didn’t have any money to implement their electrification plan, I wonder whether part of the discussion behind the MOU was that the CHSR was not committing to CBOSS.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You save great big gobs of money by not running a four track railroad between San Jose and Redwood City. But unless you build HSR tracks between Fremont and San Jose you are just shifting around where the empty seats will be running.

    mike Reply:

    If it wasn’t clear from Richard’s post, electrified Caltrain is critical to the “blended” plan. You wouldn’t want to mix electric and diesel – very different performance characteristics, and diesel won’t be able to use DTX. But if you’re going to electrify Caltrain, you have to do it all the way to SJ Diridon (Cahill), or even Tamien. That’s true even if HSR doesn’t merge in until Redwood City.

    joe Reply:

    No it was not at all clear from Richard’s post/rant.

    I do understand he objected to “other people’s money” being spent on Santa Clara’s section.
    Also that same construction paid for with other people’s money isn’t relatively expensive (so why is it that bad to do?). The objection is either a matter of Principle or Principal.

    Plus extending BART to San Jose (to enable part of his HSR-Livermore-BART = Bay Area) is now bad.

    And he has a driveway.

    Clem Reply:

    I am savoring the Pacheco Paranoia. Prediction: it will never be built.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Looks like you may be getting your wish Clem! As a former Gilroy resident, I’d be happy with Amtrak/CC as a consolation prize. My opinion: I think more folks from Gilroy and the Central Coast would be happier with greater transit connectivity to the Bay Area than to LA/SoCal. Amtrak/CC, perhaps later being electrified, will work.
    Been looking over the plans for the Altamont high speed rail corridor. If this is what eventually comes to favor, expect ACE to be fully upgraded/modernized between Stockton and San Jose first before a Dumbarton crossing (tunnel or bridge) is even considered. SF bound passengers in the interim would either have to transfer to BART in Livermore or to Caltrain in San Jose. But yes, long-range plans should call for a direct Dumbarton crossing for straight through HSR service to SF.

    joe Reply:

    The CAHSR removed all dependencies between the Alignment lawsuit by Antherton and developing the CAHSR business plan & etc. It’s off critical path for the current work.

    I don’t see this as a step backwards – the lawsuit demonstrates the difficulty in getting an alignment approved. If CAHSRA wins the lawsuit and continues, they would have cleared a significant hurdle – No?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If CAHSRA wins the lawsuit, then given the fact that the Super-ACE corridor hasn’t been tested in court, it would give Pacheco the inside track. If CAHSRA loses the lawsuit, and loses it on grounds that are peculiar to PAMPA, then that would give the Super-ACE corridor the inside track.

    If CAHSRA loses the lawsuit on grounds that are common with Super-ACE, it goes back to the political race to see which region can be flipped from NIMBY to YIMBY first.

    Clem Reply:

    I think the issue isn’t with CEQA. I have no doubt that the CHSRA will re-certify Pacheco and eventually come up with a lawsuit-proof EIR, and be able to clear construction of San Jose – Merced. The issue of whether to actually build it, when better and cheaper and more phase-able alternatives exist, is orthogonal to CEQA. Delaying this segment to the mid 2020’s provides plenty of time for them to come to their technical senses, no matter how slowly.

    As for Caltrain electrification being the camel’s nose under the tent, I’ve got news for the peninsula: the nose got chopped off the camel.

    Brian Reply:

    As for Caltrain electrification being the camel’s nose under the tent, I’ve got news for the peninsula: the nose got chopped off the camel.

    What does that even mean? In English please.

    Clem Reply:

    Sorry if that was a bit cryptic. It used to be that Caltrain improvements were a package deal that came with Pacheco, and a lot of local stakeholders (including Caltrain itself) were on the Pacheco bandwagon because of the Caltrain improvements. Now that a deal is shaping up to electrify Caltrain by 2019 and build Pacheco in the mid-2020’s, the package deal has been un-bundled. Once the Caltrain bit is done, the whole Pacheco vs. Altamont question becomes much less tainted by agency interests.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But the Pacheco vs. Altamont question will still be decided in favor of Pacheco, because UP and the Pacheco NIMBYs will make sure of that. And even the Peninsula NIMBYs, once they realize where the tunnel will come out….

    Now, go back to the Second Transbay Tube plan instead, and you might be able to assemble a serious YIMBY coalition.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What is UP’s role in this, again? Pushing the alignment further west, so the Wye is further west and the travel time a smidgen longer, I can see that one. Other than that, I’m not sure how I see that the Super-ACE alignment interferes with freight flows.

    Would they be concerned that with the HSR “almost there”, they might face of sovereign intervention forcing them to reconfigure their tracks to allow the HSR to run through on the cheap?

    Donk Reply:

    I think what Clem is trying to say is “I could get a hell of a good look at a T-Bone steak by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.” – Tommy Boy

    Clem Reply:

    Advice for every steakholder. (is camel even any good to eat?)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It depends on whether its a young camel raised for meat or an old camel that has been out working in the desert for years.

    There’s probably a colorful analogy associated with that different lurking around somewhere, but since it would only be appreciated by camel herders, its probably normally expressed in Arabic.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Better is a subject of some dispute, but I hadn’t seen the phase-ability argument. What is the phasing of the Super-ACE that doesn’t entail using UP track? Or is that a reference to locking a partial build of Super-ACE to a BART station?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Prediction: it will be built or else the Altamont Corridor will be built ~ either of which is better than the third alternative, which was to lose the whole project while fighting over a secondary detail. I’ve seen cycle racers do that, play cat and mouse on who is going to lead out the other until the peloton catches up.

  18. Mac
    Apr 2nd, 2012 at 20:10

    The plan says that they will improve the Metrolink system in So. Ca (but the WILL NOT electrify it)
    In order to electrify beyond LA/Anaheim, they will need to go with the “full build plan” for Phase 1 which they stated could be complete by 2033 for $92.4 billion. The devil is in the details

    Nathanael Reply:

    Interesting. I hope this means reconfiguring the northern corridor from LA Union to the San Fernando Valley to make room for quad tracks and future electrification. Or building the run-through tracks to go south from Union Station.

    Peter Reply:

    They can electrify Metrolink between Burbank and LAUS without Metrolink having to run electric trains. Diesels run just fine beneath catenary…

  19. Reedman
    Apr 3rd, 2012 at 10:57

    Perhaps the blended system needs to use dual-feed locomotives (diesel and electric power), like those used in New York City.


  20. DavidM
    Apr 3rd, 2012 at 10:58

    Anyone know what this is about?


    This bill would also impose certain requirements on the High-Speed Rail Authority with regard to the high-speed rail element of the plan and implementation of projects on an incremental basis by the authority, including preparation of an incremental high-speed rail development program, as specified, by December 31, 2013, which would be incorporated into the authority’s business plan.



    This planned hearing is in response to the Sacramento Bee’s investigative report on the use of peer review panels and issues with conflicts of interest and transparency.

  21. Eric
    Apr 3rd, 2012 at 11:07

    Joe Simitian needs to learn what an order of magnitude is.

    nslander Reply:

    Does the fact he doesn’t understand that surprise you? I mean, its SOUNDS like thing a smart person would say, which is all a gasbag politician needs.

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