$1 Billion Private Investment Proposed for HSR Maintenance

May 4th, 2012 | Posted by

For the last four years there have been regular indications that the private sector is very interested in participating in the California high speed rail project. Many critics and reporters have dismissed that interest, in part because no firm commitments have been made. Of course, the public sector hasn’t made a firm commitment either, so it makes sense that private investors are waiting. That doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or that solid investment proposals don’t exist. They do. But as with many investment proposals, they often wait in the background until the time is right. In the case of the HSR project, that means a clear sign that the public sector intends to move forward.

With the California High Speed Rail Authority’s adoption of the Madera to Fresno EIS yesterday, one of those possible private investors decided to step forward:

Now, a businessman touting a possible site for a train-maintenance station near Chowchilla is dangling such an investment to the agency.

“We are convinced of the viability of California,” said Ed McIntyre, a partner in the the proposed Gordon-Shaw heavy-maintenance facility site. McIntyre told the authority’s board today in Fresno that he and his partners are prepared to commit up to $1 billion in private-sector investment through development of their site.

McIntyre said that in addition to an estimated $668 million to build the heavy-maintenance facility — a station planned to be located somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley to service trains for the statewide train system — his group is also willing to build a maintenance-of-way facility, where crews would be based to maintain the tracks and right-of-way. Together, the two facilities would add up to a commitment of about $1 billion.

“To those who want further study or planning … I think we’ve planned enough,” McIntyre told the board. “I encourage you to move forward” with approving the environmental impact report for the Merced-Fresno section of the system.

McIntyre is speaking for a lot of other potential investors when he says that HSR is viable. All the studies indicate this is the case, notwithstanding those reports produced by NIMBYs and project opponents. The business case for investing in HSR has long been known – a 2010 UBS report indicated that HSR was a sound investment but that the primary risk was governments would stop supporting it, rather than any concerns about ridership.

This investment proposal won’t be the last to materialize. Many more are waiting in the wings to see whether the state legislature will follow through on the commitment voters made in 2008 to get this project built. It’s a cliche, but this news shows that if we build it, they will come – “they” being both riders and investors.

  1. VBobier
    May 4th, 2012 at 12:26

    A $1 Billion Private Investment, now that’s very good news indeed.

  2. California Taxpayer
    May 4th, 2012 at 12:54

    With Chowchilla being located at the wye, this would be a good place to put it. Its also ground zero for unemployment.

    Now, let us hear the valley republicans mouth off about it and kill the jobs.

  3. Tony d.
    May 4th, 2012 at 13:46

    WOW! Good news indeed! Hopefully, or perhaps, the tip of the iceberg in terms of private investment.

  4. James in PA
    May 4th, 2012 at 15:41

    More private investment hopefully means more investment by people motivated to use investment dollars efficiently. As opposed to some government ‘decision makers’ who spend OPM like there is an endless supply.

    “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money”
    Would Everett Dirksen even recognize the Republican party today?

  5. Reality Check
    May 4th, 2012 at 16:32

    This video very starkly illustrates how mainstream rail is in Switzerland as compared to, say, California:
    At home on the move – our new campaign

    synonymouse Reply:

    Switzerland? You mean the place where they don’t soil their pants at the very thought of a base tunnel?

    How about a bazillionaire buying out the Tejon Ranch and donating the ROW to the CHSRA?

    Oh, jeez, come to think of it – the Chandlers are bazillionaires and putative “private investment” – why don’t they just donate or sell the ROW to the CHSRA, since there’s oodles and scads of lucre to be made.

    James in PA Reply:

    Yea. If they sold out to the deep CHSR pockets they could afford to buy a wonderful mountain-top ranch…

    joe Reply:

    The Swiss would soil their Laderhosen.

    Eric M Reply:

    Lederhosen is a German tradition

    VBobier Reply:

    Some Swiss are of German ancestry, some are of French and some are of Italian, so what’s Yer point?

    Eric M Reply:

    That just because parts of another country/area speak German, it is more of a German/Bavarian tradition.

    Matthew B Reply:

    Lederhosen isn’t even worn throughout Germany (although Bavarians tend to only wear it for special occasions). Much of the rest of Germany views Bavaria as another country. It’s something like Germany’s Texas.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    First, it is “Lederhosen” (meaning leather pants, because they are made of leather/suede).

    Second, Lederhosen are traditionally used in Bavaria (Germany) and Tyrol (Austria), plus to some minor extent in other Austrian regions. Swiss DO NOT wear Lederhosen. I am not aware of even one traditional Swiss costume using Lederhosen. Swiss costumes’ pants are more likely made of linnen (weekday costume) or wool or wool/linnen mix (sunday costume).

  6. ProudPAnimby
    May 4th, 2012 at 17:04

    A billion dollar maintenance facility on a (very) possibly orphan track. I wonder how his investors feel about the risk?

    J. Wong Reply:

    I doubt that he will start construction until plans and funds are allocated for the Bakersfield-Palmdale segment, at which point there will be no orphaned track.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Great, yet another syno, Morris, lex Luther clone…

    lex luther Reply:

    a clone? the same can be said for yourself

    synonymouse Reply:

    Now Moonbeam is up to more nonsense; he wants to build a pipeline version of the Peripheral Canal to ship NorCal water to LA. I guess he has mind-melded with Mayor Villa. First he bent over for the Chandlers over the Damn DeTour and now this:


    Why doesn’t he just move the capital from Sac to LA? How could Mega-Meg be any worse than this Alzheimers poster boy?

    In the same story are the two tax increase initiatives which would impose austerity on the little people: one initiative “would raise taxes on all but the poorest Californians” and the other “would increase the state sales tax”. Yeah, to give the bureaucrats at UC another raise or give the prison guards 3 months of vacation instead of two.

    Ordinarily I would not vote for Romney, opportunistic Bloombergian tycoon that he is, but he has found an ally in Moonbeam, who ticks me off so much I will vote for Romney to get even.

    trentbridge Reply:

    I have one problem with your post:

    1) Alzheimers is not an appropriate subject for your political diatribe. It’s a serious diseaase with no known cure that destroys the lives of the people that suffer from it and the caregivers that have to cope with such victims. You should be ashamed.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You’re right but then the establishment torques the issue in their own way – like the way they hid for years Reagan’s worsening impairment. You know the effects were already in play when he was in office but the handlers tried to camouflage it.

    Brown is clearly showing the sublte signs of age impairment – he just pitches out arbitrary decisions right and left that are redolent of “no hands-on”. The lobbies(Tejon Ranch #1) are running him. Stubborn, self-righteous, and blindered – let’s call it “oldzheimers” to not offend the touchy. Jerry and Quentin are a pair.

    Hey, cut me some slack. I’m 67 and guess what I have to look forward to.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Wow…younger than I would have thought…

  7. California Taxpayer
    May 4th, 2012 at 18:01
  8. lex luther
    May 4th, 2012 at 18:06

    If private dollars go to fund this, IM ALL FOR IT, however I wonder what they want in return

    Nathanael Reply:

    Perhaps a portion of the operating profit.

    There’s a sad history here. Last time the US funded railways, it did so through private companies, which ended up with ownership and control over the railways. The private companies milked as much money as they could, and ended up unpopular and disliked, leading cities and states to tax them heavily, leading the federal government to impose rate regulation, and leading to a movement to provide free (socialist) government highways as an alternative.

    Let’s not do that again, please. World experience shows that an elected government should be firmly in control of passenger transportation.

    …But actually, let me look at his proposal more carefully. He’s proposing to build rail maintenance facilities — capital construction. I think he plans to rent the facilities to the CHSRA, and I think he also plans to rent them to other operators of trains in future; I think he sees a growing future in rail. That’s a perfectly decent proposal, we understand how to negotiate rental of properties, though I still think owning outright is usually better financially.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed lets not be doomed to repeat History.

    lex luther Reply:

    if it only costs a billion dollars to build, I’d say the state should just go ahead and pay for it. a maintenence yard would be crucial to HSR if it is built out as planned, and putting something like that in private hands gives too much power of a public transportation system to a private company.

    VBobier Reply:

    So You’d act like Governor Scott of Florida did? Refuse the money? Yer pathetic, 1st You say Yer all for it, now Yer not, well they say a Tiger can’t change its stripes, but of course Tigers are noble creatures Yer more like a Weasel, so be gone Weasel…

    lex luther Reply:

    lol keep the insults coming

    J. Wong Reply:

    I think the plan is they’ll build the facility and lease it to the authority.

  9. California Taxpayer
    May 4th, 2012 at 18:10

    omaha chicago i-80 hsr

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    From the article, which doesn’t call it HSR:

    “and possibly at speeds of up to 100 mph.”

    Nathanael Reply:

    This project is held up by the presence of Republicans in control of the legislature and executive of Iowa; they fear that being seen to actually build passenger rail will damage their “cred” with their oil backers, or something. Part of it (Moline to Iowa City) is actually fully funded but can’t get the final state approvals necessary.

    The study for the route to Omaha got funded, though; apparently the Republicans running Iowa are OK with funding *studies* as long as they don’t result in actual *construction*. (Please, Governor Branstead, prove me wrong.)

    The route is excellent — it goes through every major city in Iowa except Cedar Rapids (which is half an hour from Iowa City), it already has ROW, and it has minimal freight. Illinois is already building 80 mph service to the eastern end of the route at Moline.

    This isn’t HSR. But the population of Iowa is really too low to support a huge amount of service, so it’s not worth going more than 100 mph. This is pretty much exactly the right route for Iowa; add a branch to Cedar Rapids, and you’ve provided all the intercity rail Iowa will need for 50 years at least.

    joe Reply:

    The proposed route is based on research that focused on large population areas, minimal environmental impact, the shortest length and the lowest cost of upgrading current tracks. More than 1 million people would be in proximity to this route, far more than others considered, Martin said.

    A million people – It’s like connecting Fresno and Bakersfield. You know a train to Iowa nowhere.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s connecting Omaha to Chicago and taking Iowa along for the ride like connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles takes Fresno and Bakersfield along for the ride.

    joe Reply:


    Google’s engine tells me Fresno Ca (City) population is greater than the Pop of Omaha.

    Omaha is in Douglas Co NE with a Pop of 517K. Fresno Co pop is 933K.

    This would a a train from Chicago through nowhere to nowhere.

    Thinking a bit more…I propose we decertify any State whose population is less than the Fresno-Bakersfield “Train to Nowhere region. If that region is too depopulated to justify a train line then certainly statehood for similarly irrelevant populations is absurd.

    % states have less than 1 M people including my former Home State of MT.

    I’d merge MT ND SD and WY into the State of Outback.

    VBobier Reply:

    The same would also apply to any new unconnected section of Interstate Highway too, as that would also be nowhere to nowhere.

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    “This isn’t HSR. But the population of Iowa is really too low to support a huge amount of service, so it’s not worth going more than 100 mph.”

    I don’t know. The article isn’t very clear, but I think the route is supposed to be on a mostly new alignment. So if you’re already building new tracks wouldn’t it make more sense to build them to
    a higher speed standard and run “true” high-speed trains, even if the populations on the route
    are quite small?

    For what it’s worth, Botniabanan in Sweden was built for 250 km/h max speed even though there are no cities above 100 000 inhabitants on the route.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m almost certain it’s on the existing Class II line that passes through Des Moines, the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    There’s an official-looking website:
    This is the old Rock Island Line, a mighty fine line in its heyday. A good thing about the midwest is that, for any city pair, there’s usually a legacy rail line that’s fairly direct, which serves several small cities on the way, and can be upgraded to 110 mph service for a couple $Billion.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    .. a mighty good road too…


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, my, how many people have covered that song over the years?

    From 1934, recorded by John Lomax, with a bunch of prisoners in the south:


    Leadbelly, who would have had to have been the influence for the later famous version by Johnny Cash:


    Lennon and McCarthy!


    D. P. Lubic Reply:



    And of course, an old CRI&P publicity flick:


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Darn, mis-typed, should have written Lennon and McCartny. . .

    Which brings to mind–one of the arguments against HSR and rail in general is that America “doesn’t have a rail culture like Europe or Japan.” This is despite all sorts of evidence, ranging from standard time to those train songs like these.

    I know some of the reasons for this sort of thing, but it still amazes me that some of us are either ignorant or have a deep desire to bury our real history.

    Is honesty that hard to come by from the opponents?

    Spokker Reply:

    Lenin and McCarthy.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, a mighty find road in its heyday. According to the Wikipedia Machine, that was the crown jewel when the Rock was trying to lure Union Pacific into a merger with the Rock in the 1950’s / 1960’s but rivals among both the granger lines and the Class I’s got it tied up as an Federal Commerce Commission case until the 70’s. The Rock let the line decline, both the corridors and the rolling stock, while waiting for the merger to go ahead, and by the time that the merger was approved, UP wasn’t interested any more.

    And in the end, when the Rock was liquidated in the early 1980’s, the liquidation paid off all creditors in full, and UP ended up with much of the Rock except for the original Rock Island Line (across the Mississippi River bridge between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa), which ended up divided between the Iowa Interstate Railway and CSX.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The article “isn’t very clear”???

    It would use what she called the Iowa Interstate Railway line that parallels the Interstate through Davenport, Iowa City, Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Omaha, she said

    Seems clear to me that its an existing alignment they’d be using, not a new alignment.

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    Fair enough

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    This follows on the Chicago-Detroit service, and the coming Chicago-St.Louis service. Passenger rail corridors are popping up all over the country. True, many are going to be 110 mph to start with. But by the time California’s system is finished, they’ll be closer to the California system in performance. Folks who think California’s HSR project will die in Bakersfield aren’t paying attention to all the activity elsewhere in the country. California’s project will be supported, funded and built, just as the others will be.

    joe Reply:

    The winner is Chicago.

  10. California Taxpayer
    May 4th, 2012 at 20:26
  11. Tom McNamara
    May 4th, 2012 at 23:11

    My take on this is somewhat different…the Gordon Shaw facility is not compatible with the hybrid alignment approved by the Board. I think the purpose of this offer was to make public what probably was already offered a long time ago. Now they just want to make the Authority to look foolish for not picking the Avenue 21 alignment for the wye, even though that is not very likely because of UP’s resistance and the amount of demolition in Chowchilla.

  12. D. P. Lubic
    May 5th, 2012 at 06:52

    Off topic, but something to see anyway–a partial view of some video clips, apparently by a BNSF employee who goes by the name of The Event Recorder.

    The first one could be an advertisement for commuter rail, perhaps HSR, too:


    Like Edward Hopper and other artists of the “ash can school,” this fellow sees things worthy of observation that others miss. This is the real key to artistry in any field, at least in my opinion:


    There’s one in every train:


    Have fun, even if some of it is a touch train-nerdy. . .

  13. Reedman
    May 5th, 2012 at 10:10

    A bit off topic:

    Amtrak has a strict no-pets policy: service animals only, no pets in Thruway coaches, no pets on trains, no pets in passenger areas.

    If CAHSR has this policy, it will be a real detriment to ridership. If CAHSR wants to draw people off the airlines and out of their cars, it needs to accomodate their furry friends.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Hell no. Keep your yapping rodents at home. Not to mention that those who are allergic will be disinclined to ride if they have to be exposed to all those pets.

    VBobier Reply:

    My cat Grace is no Rodent, She’s a member of My family & She loves Me very much. Go get some shots then, unless Yer scared of a needle like a little baby.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Cats are awesome. Dogs can go in a blender.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Did you know other people are allergic to cats? Fuck _them_, sez Paulus Magnus. What a sincere little Fascist you are.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, well they better not get near Me or My car, try as I might to remove it, there’s cat hair in there on the cloth seats, it’s a constant battle, but then I have a long haired cat. Oh and My Nephew says He’s allergic to cats, says His eyes water when He comes in contact, My eyes watered before I ever had a cat, so I’m not so sure He’s really allergic, but He won’t change His mind on that or HSR, He doesn’t want HSR either, His Sisters and Mother do, but He doesn’t and their all Republicans, go figure. I still love them of course…

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    I love cats but pets on trains is a bad idea. Unless you want to operate trains with some baggage areas, or use the express package versions – la poste – to allow people to ship pets, which could be an option.”
    Or some runs could be dubbed “pet friendly” with a designated carriage complete with live pet hotel staff.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Cats are not fascist! The fascist loves the dog. Cats are for wimpy liberals.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Liberals: Proof that someone can be born without a sense of humor.

    joe Reply:

    Blender jokes: Proof some people lack sense.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’ve never seen a Republican try to tell a joke, have you?

    StevieB Reply:

    Mitt Romney’s joke about his father as president of American Motors closed a factory in Michigan moving all the production to Wisconsin which was a “very sensitive issue to him” when he later ran for governor of Michigan is amusing.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have. With the caveat that my social circle is about 95% Democratic-or-left-of-Democratic, I’ve heard members of the other 5% tell jokes, some of which were good. Same as with everyone else, really.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yeah they got ’em rolling in the aisles


    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m talking about humans.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    In the UK, pets are allowed on urban/commuter trains, and for the most part on intercity. Not a big deal.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    That’s the UK. A small civilized country.

    Spokker Reply:

    I say fill the cabin with peanuts and bring on the cats.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    As much as we all love pets, there are too many issues with allowing pets. Safety and cleanliness being the main issues. The general pubic can not be trusted to bring only clean healthy pets on board. The last thing you want is trainset infested with fleas biting passengers. No one wants to sit in pet hair either. People can not be counted on to properly restrain their pets in the company of other animals as well. The US in not a properly civilized country. There are too many wild cards.

    No pets. No smoking.

    joe Reply:

    “People can not be counted on to properly restrain their pets in the company of other animals as well.”

    Biggest reason against: People don’t social their pets and haven’t a clue when they own a dangerous, uncontrolled pet.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What are the pets policies on the TGV, ICE, and Shinkansen?

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    some policies here

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    ICE policy

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Those pet policies remind me of the ones the private railroads used to have, including charging fares for them. Other pets could be and were handled as checked baggage (in suitable carriers or cages, of course). Some roads–the ones I know about are the B&O, the Pennsylvania, and the Southern, and likely others–had “horse-express” variations of baggage cars, which included an openable end and also collapsible horse stalls, in which to handle those creatures, many of which were prized and valuable racing animals.

    ATSF example:



    B&O variant, recently listed for sale through an equipment broker. Check out the additional images that show the end doors, the interior, and the floor plan:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not too surprised about the resemblance to old practices. There hasn’t been much innovation in the field of pets, so there’s no reason to significantly change the policy.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Except that here, we’ve decided to eliminate the pet handling problem by eliminating the service. . .

    A difference between then and now may be that some people will want to bring or ship some exotic stuff, like lizards, snakes, and spiders. “Snakes on a Plane,” anyone?


    This reminds me of a business owner I once had to audit. She was a lawyer, and some years before, had been a prosecutor in Charleston, Kanawha County, W.Va. That jurisdiction is big enough that some of these attorneys can specialize to a certain degree; this prosecutor dealt with child molestation cases.

    She told me that in her time in that service, that she kept a tarantula in a cage as part of her office decor. Now, these large spiders eat live food, namely crickets. This lawyer said she named the crickets–after her opponent lawyers. . .

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In one of those links, it notes that the “not allowed except guide dogs under strict guidelines” applies in a number of European countries, as well.

  14. datacruncher
    May 5th, 2012 at 10:43

    I noticed that the Gordon Shaw site is not on the hybrid alignment. Looks like the site sits about 3 to 4 miles off the adopted route.

    With the hybrid alignment chosen, Gordon-Shaw (like Castle) would need additional track to be built from the Phase I route to the proposed HMF site. Fresno and Shafter HMF sites both sit on the main line.

    But now that this offer has been made I wonder if Stewart Resnick might put out a similar offer for Shafter. Resnick’s Paramount Farms offered to donate the Shafter site but owns another 1,000 surrounding acres that could be developed to support the HMF. A billion dollar offer from him would be his pocket change.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I think the “offer” was made long ago on Gordon Shaw and they simply came forward at the meeting to make the Authority look foolish. There’s no way Gordon-Shaw happens without building the stub of which you speak.

    I don’t think Resnick wants to abandon all that land just yet. He’s hoping more trade missions to China will perk up the demand for pistachoes…

    datacruncher Reply:

    I think Resnick may be ready to start development of some of it.

    The Shafter HMF site is supposedly just north of where 7th Standard crosses Santa Fe Way and the BNSF tracks. There is currently a 2 million sq ft Target Distribution Center located there.

    Pistachio prices may pick up but the adjacent land is already developing. How long will Resnick wait for those trade missions?

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Well with castle at least merced is allowing for row in a new cross town connector. Castle also get the line that much further north.

    I doubt these guys have time or motivation to go through such a charade just to make someone look foolish. They are developers and they know that hsr will bring economic growth to the region. Thus the support.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I know what you are saying, but realize that it’s the equivalent of someone offering $100 billion to build the whole system as long it serves Barstow.

    Think about it, would you subject everyone to such a condition just to get it built? Probably not. And that’s the problem if you look at the fact that the Board effectively voted to make Gordon Shaw irrelevant by selecting another route for the trains through Madera County.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “would you subject everyone to such a condition just to get it built?” That’s precisely what they did at Tejon, conversely, as in “not built”.

    The Chandlers owe Palmdale a billion.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Its nohwere near the equivalent of serving barstow. Its a short spur. There’s no reason any of the HMF sites have to be right on the mainline.

    Castle makes sense because there is a row available, its an industrial location, the city backs it, and it brings the system further north.

    Madera makes sense because it has an offer, its located at the top of the ICS, and its located stratgically at the wye, a central operations location at full build out.

    I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Wait a minute— I said it would be the equivalent of offering $100 BILLION in exchange for running it through BARSTOW.

    I’m also not reading much into it. The land in question has water rights and an assessed value that they can borrow against. The HMF would allow them to borrow money at appraised value that is much higher than currently assessed, build the project without paying much in taxes…hold the water rights off the market and then sell the rights to someone else in the area and have the Authority pay to use the facility (and in effect the mortgage).

    But for whatever reason, they didn’t do it (yet).

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    well 100 billion gift as long as it runs through barstow. would be an awesome deal then.

    VBobier Reply:

    Why Barstow CA? It’s not even close to anything, except for an underground river that ends out in the desert… And I should know, as I live 12 miles beyond Barstow…

    Paul H. Reply:

    The spur to Gordon Shaw from the Hybrid Alignment (@Ave 21) is nothing compared to the spur that would have to be built to Castle from the Merced Station. We may see private investors in both Merced and Fresno counties match or beat the Gordon Shaw money to develop the HMF, at which case a likely winning bid could get close to $1.5 billion.

    VBobier Reply:

    Then let the bidding commence, the higher the better I say…

  15. Peter
    May 5th, 2012 at 13:28

    Been out of the loop for a few weeks, has the Authority’s rebuttal of the March CC-HSR bs report been addressed yet, or the fact that Stuart Flashman is appealing the most recent Atherton lawsuit?

  16. James in PA
    May 5th, 2012 at 22:43

    Come, let us reason together…


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The opposition keeps making itself look sillier and sillier, at least in the comments section. These stood out to me:

    “If transportation were deregulated and unsubsidized, small airstrips would probably adequately fill in these kinds of markets.”–Death Rock and Skull

    “Yep. In fact the cost of aircraft might come down to the point where almost anyone could own one and no one would need to stuff themselves into a giant tin can full of recycled air.”–Warren T.

    “More people buying private aircraft would definitely bring costs down. But I think the price of aircraft manufacturing is dictated more by technology than regulation. Personal aviation will not approach the cost effectiveness of airline travel.”–Death Rock and Skull [Where do people come up with these weird names?]

    I got nooz for DR&S–aircraft are a bit more complex than automobiles, and a lot more fragile, too; they have to be kept very light for obvious reasons.

    Then there is the question of flying the thing. People have enough trouble running automobiles in two dimensions. Adding a third dimension, with its attendant requirements in things like depth perception, and well, I don’t think the average motorist is up to the job. (This is despite the observation of a WW II bomber pilot, recorded by the late Bill Mauldin of “Willie and Joe” fame, that driving was more complex than flying because you were continually correcting course in a constrained space and that you were also very close to other vehicles).

    Sheesh, in driving, all you have to do is follow the course of a road and observe speed limits and traffic signals. It shouldn’t be rocket science, but we still kill 36,000 people per year in that activity. That’s more than double the total number of murders (about 15,200) in this country in 2009.


    James in PA Reply:

    While we wait for the promised ‘reason’ to be fully expressed, the rest of the world will leave us at the station…


    James in PA Reply:

    The world’s rail systems move the entire population of the planet 380km each year. Boondoggle?!

  17. Reality Check
    May 5th, 2012 at 22:47

    Hill bill targets HSRA subcontractor conflicts of interest

    Since the California High-Speed Rail Authority has no way to verify whether its consultants have real or perceived conflicts of interest, according to the Bureau of State Audits, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will amend a proposed bill to require all subcontractors to file statements of economic interests.
    The statements will help bring greater transparency to the rail project, he said.

    Hill intends to amend Assembly Bill 41, which closes a loophole that has allowed members of the rail authority to receive thousands of dollars from special interest groups while voting on issues that impact the same groups.

    The amendment would require consultants to list business relationships and sources of income. AB 41 is currently being considered on the state Senate floor.

    Hill decided to amend the bill after the Los Angeles Times reported last month that a transportation expert hired by the rail authority to ensure the accuracy of ridership forecasts worked for the company that prepared the estimates and has a close relationship with a top executive at the firm.

    joe Reply:

    I’ll all for exposing conflict of interest including the ones for the anti rail lobby aka oil and road interests.

    Consultants advising on HSR – pro or con – should be asked to divulge their business relationships and sources of income. The UC of Berkeley review for example – what other income related to transportation consulting does that group receive?

  18. D. P. Lubic
    May 5th, 2012 at 23:43
  19. joe
    May 6th, 2012 at 07:38


    Blocking Environmental Progress

    Transportation infrastructure has historically been a major source of carbon emissions and ecological destruction around the world. No matter how “eco-friendly” a transportation project, it always comes with a high carbon and resource cost, as a result of both construction and the traffic it enables.
    [Attacks on HSR carbon emissions pay on this fact]

    In parts of the country where aging roads and railways already shoulder high traffic burdens, however, and where those original projects never had any sort of environmental impact reduction in mind when they were built, it can actually be environmentally beneficial in the long-term to construct a smarter transportation grid.
    [BUT, building a smarter transportation grid can reduce environmental impact with today as a baseline.]

    An emphasis on government austerity when it comes to these sorts of initiatives not only condemns the outdated infrastructure of the U.S. to disrepair, it also dooms any chance of implementing newer, more efficient ways for people to get around and reaping the environmental benefits.

  20. Joe
    May 6th, 2012 at 15:23


    San Jose is the third fastest growing city in the USA and has the highest median income of the 5 cities in this yahoo list.

    One more reason to build HSR to Livermore, right?

    Spokker Reply:

    San Jose is like the the most urban ghost town I’ve ever seen.

    joe Reply:

    I hear you but in the 20 years I have been around; San Jose is filling in. The trend is to build infill and enough is happening to place the city 3rd interms of growth in people with a growing economy.

    In the next 10 to 20 years the city is only going to build up more near the light rail and bus lines.

    Spokker Reply:

    What growing economy? I think we are all sitting around and dreading the day when they tell us that this is the new normal.

    Peter Reply:

    San Jose first needs to fix light rail system before it can expand it. Anything else is a waste.

    GoGregorio Reply:

    The problem with the light rail system is that it doesn’t really go anywhere that people want to go. Which gets to San Jose’s greater problem: lack of destination. There really isn’t a lot of demand to travel anywhere in San Jose other than home and work, and currently most residences and places of employment are difficult to serve by transit.

    Since you can’t really pick up the rail and reroute it, building more office and residential spaces adjacent to light rail stations (and not in office parks or single family homes, like exists now) is one of the best fixes for the system.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The problem with the light rail system is that it doesn’t really go anywhere that people want to go.

    Exhibit A: Diridon “not yet dead” Memorial Hyperdimensional Spaceport.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Santa Clara county did two things right. The built the expressway system overlay well in advance of the silicon valley boom – good foresight – without that expressway system overlay traffic would be gridlocked across the valley. Those expressways are generally great for getting across the valley while avoiding the 101/17/880 etc.
    twok they put in the light rail – even though its difficult to cover that much area, they put it in well in advance of future increases in density along those corridors. They are the right corridors.

    The alternative would have been to wait until it was too late to build the expressway system and wait until it was too late to built the light rail corridors, and then get criticised for not planning ahead, and having to shoehorn those systems into an overbuilt grid.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If there are any two things that you could name that make rail (light rail, high speed rail, commuter, heavy, hybrid, olde tyme, hustorical, futuristic) work, it’s ultra low density office parks and an expressway system.

    the light rail – even though its difficult to cover that much area, they put it in well in advance of future increases in density along those corridors.

    You’re quite simply divorced from all reality.

    Here’s VTA rail as it exists on Planet Earth:

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Just because its not your way doesn’t mean its wrong. And my point was that the valley will continue to increase in density along those corridors- in otherwords, advance planning.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s not advance planning. That’s “this is what we inflicted on ourselves and it’s not practical to redo it, so we had better make the best of it.”

    The expressways seriously blow and contributed to Santa Clara’s ridiculous sprawlgasm.

    GoGregorio Reply:

    It’s the wrong way if you identify a miserable farebox recovery ratio (15.2%) and daily ridership per mile (780) as bad things. Basically, by all of the important metrics, VTA light rail is the worst in the nation.

    And looking at the photos Richard posted above, Cisco is sadly seen as a success, relative to the other stations. Stations along the Tasman-Mountain View portion of the line are lucky if they see 200 boardings a weekday.

    This is a design failure; Santa Clara County’s office parks are extremely difficult to be served by public transportation, especially rail. And VTA just built the rail lines near where the jobs were, not near where the actual ridership could be.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    I lived in the santa clara valley and the expressways most certainly do not “blow” they are quite useful for getting across the valley quickly. Had they not built them the large streets such as stevens creek, el camino, and others would be more unbearably choked with slow traffic.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, if they had actually engaged in some “advance planning” they would have zoned for less sprawl, and not needed the expressways to begin with.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    I lived in Fremont in the late 70s just prior to the start of the boom. In those days, the American dream in the form of a fuax spanish mission style stucco clad, wet bar-sunken living room inclusive tract home for 65k had reached the height of vogue. It was the peak of what an american could strive for. We used to drive across miles of farmland on a two lane highway to frontier village ( which I can’t even find anymore as its been swallowed up) and no one at the time was thinking of sustainable communities and high density. At that time people were still fleeing the rotting cities. The post war way of life was reaching its peak ( again note the wet bar and sunken living room) So its ridiculous to say they “should have planned for x” when “x” was nowhere on e the radar and “x” was considered to be undesirable. It wasn’t until the 90s that “urban” cam back into vogue. I lived through the transition from the 69s to 70s, then the 70s to 80s, then into the 90s, I remember it clearly.

    Once Urban came back into vogue in the US in the late 90s, cities including san jose began to move more in that direction.

    Even LA with 10 million people, had practically no skyline, and a deserted downtown until the last decade. And only just now are people starting to move down there. 15 years after the new urban came back into vogue

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    With BART poking its head into Santa Clara County, I think it would be good to consider if a different routing of BART through the Santa Clara Valley would be serve more riders, than just running alongside Caltrain to Santa Clara and stopping. I would prefer BART to loop from San Jose to Cupertino, return to cross Caltrain around Mtn. View, then follow 101 to Millbrae or SFO. I have no idea how that would be accomplished.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Bart along the 85 to cupertino and sunnyvale.

    Peter Reply:

    Ooohh yes, because BART doesn’t blow through enough of the Bay Area’s transportation funding already.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    You may not like bart, but I guarantee you the bay area would support such a route

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    One word: stadium.

    J Baloun Reply:

    Is BART spending comparable to Boston levels of spending? Downtown is more walkable after the Big Dig.

    Peter Reply:

    Just because there is support for something doesn’t mean it should happen. Popular opinion is a very stupid way to make transportation decisions. Actually, it’s a stupid way to make any decisions. Just look at Prop 8, or Prop 13, for that matter.

    By the way, your alignment is exceptionally wasteful, it would be a lot cheaper to extend the existing Vasona Light Rail line to 85, and have passengers use that to connect to BART and Caltrain at Diridon.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    except the popular opinion of people who vote and pay taxes is exactly how we do things in a democracy.
    So if you don’t like popular opinion, you don’t get to overide it, you have to change it. So if you can make a good enough argument, and posses media and leadership skills, you can do that. Popular opinion as we will find out in november is the only that matters.

    Peter Reply:

    You’re missing the point. The VAST majority of transportation decisions are NOT made by popular vote. The only decisions made by popular vote in CA are those concerning funding.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    BART costs insane amounts, lately $200m – 400m per mile for construction. Then the rolling stock costs about double, meaning more billions to renew the cars. Largely because it is non standard so each contract is a custom one-off. No support for express service or initiating service before all grade seps are paid for and built. Replacing the standard-gauge Caltrain corridor with non-standard BART would be incredibly foolish.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How in the hell can you build up around the light rail stop when the light rail stop is in the middle of a damn expressway? That’s not Transit Oriented Development, its Sprawl Oriented Transit.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Peter: It appears VTA’s Burns have taken the horrible misnomer for POP (“honor system”) literally:

    VTA Admits Problem With Light Rail Fare Evaders

    Spokker Reply:

    They should have a saturation rate of at least 10%, which means 1 out of 10 riders are checked, and it should be more random. At that saturation rate Metro in Los Angeles sees about a 1% fare evasion rate. I don’t know if it’s sufficiently random in LA.

    A habitual fare evader should not be able to evade the fare indefinitely. Fines are designed to make up for those not caught.

    San Jose has a very low farebox recovery (12% as of 2008 to give one data point), so I wonder how useful these efforts would be.

    Spokker Reply:

    Looking at the report, it looks like VTA just sucks. They are worse than Muni.

    Peter Reply:

    VTA does exceptionally well at doing everything exceptionally poorly and wrong.

    joe Reply:

    Boarding and fare collection slows down transit systems. If I ran the zoo, light rail/bus drivers would not have any responsibility to worry their beautiful minds about fare collection, or as little as possible given whatever fare system was in place. Instead I’d have aggressive ticket inspection, though with smaller fines. [referencing this]http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/07/BA3P1OEMFD.DTL

    How does the VTA suck? It’s not structural but a simple fix – more fare inspectors. How hard can it be to hire some addition VTA workers to check tickets?

    joe Reply:

    Cut the 200 fee. MUNI’s $100 is too high. Make it an easily enforceable fee and have the inspectors work in pairs to get the cut and runners.

    “If you are caught riding VTA’s light rail without a ticket, it’s an expensive lesson—more than $200. But as we learned, under the current culture, getting a citation is a long shot.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    200 dollars versus evading the fare. Make the fine ten hours of community service. There’s lots of floors to mopped, leaves to be raked….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    0.9%? That’s, like, enough to raise SJ to the present-day density of LA (inc. the Santa Monica Mountains) in 43 years, and then onward to the present-day density of SF in another 84 years. Score!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Keep in mind that their urbanized area is denser than metro New York…..

    joe Reply:

    Yes this mocking small number puts the city in 3rd place in the US on this list of fastest growing cities. Today it is the 10th largest in the US and 3rd largest in CA.

    Obviously, it’s an unimportant place compared to say Walnut Creek or Livermore.

    As of 2011, Providence’s population is 172,163 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of -0.85 percent.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Providence has twice the population density of SJ, and has a lot of walkable neighborhoods. The train station’s immediate area is urban renewal hell, but hop the river and you get to places built for humans.

    And you know what? HSR-wise, Providence and SJ are probably in the same position. They’re not enough by themselves to build HSR to; try the big city 70-ish km to the north. If you can serve them on the way then by all means have all trains stop there – they’re both big enough to deserve this. But don’t fuck up a huge market like SF-Sac just in order to put them on the mainline.

    Livermore is in the same position as New London – a city that just happens to be on the way.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Hmm, let’s see, in your comparison Sac is NYC, the “huge market”. And San Jose is not a metro area of 2m, the largest city in NorCal and 3rd largest in the state, with the strongest regional economy in the state and arguably the nation — certainly adding more jobs than any other metro in California; rather it is Providence. One difference to consider is that all presidential candidates do come to the South Bay, regarding it as an ATM.

    I’m not understanding what is in Sacramento that is more important than including Silicon Valley — including many of the states most successful companies and their employees — in the link to SoCal.

    joe Reply:

    In the comparison by Yahoo- San Jose had a much larger median income of the 5 top cities.

    You “fuck up a huge market” which is supposed to be SF to SAC by servicing San Jose – HSR from SF to SAC is a pet rock project for train fanatics.

    egk Reply:

    But SJ-SAC is a LARGER TRAVEL MARKET than SJ to LA. What do you all have against a fast SJ-SAC connection in addition to the fast SJ to LA connection? I’d think being at the apex of fast rail connections to both SAC and LA would do more for SJ development than being one of many stations on a line… (no, SJ will not be skipped – don’t you all keep telling us there are millions of people there and billions of dollars worth of jobs? Why wouldn’t we build the cheap 17 miles of track to serve them??? Why, there is even an entire project devoted to doing just that, among other things)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why wouldn’t we build the cheap 17 miles of track to serve them???

    Because it’s even cheaper to say “let ’em use BART”

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Through I was, for over a decade, an advocate for the “cheap 17 miles of track” to bring HS to SJ — in fact I always said it should have been the very first HS track constructed in the state — there’s simply no way anybody responsible — or sane — could advocate that any longer.

    SJ is getting a BART line, running in that exact corridor. The BART line will serve four stops within San Jose, not just the out-of-the-way Diridon “not yet dead” Memorial HyperGalactic InterDimensional Center on the wrong side of the elevated freeway, but also Berryessa (the SJ Flea Market), Alum Rock, and “downtown” San Jose.

    The only rational thing to do would be to site a HS/BART transfer station where the lines cross over each other. Yeah, it will cost a small fortune, but a small fraction of the the $3 to $4 billion CHSRA plans to spend alone on adding HSR to Dirdon Memorial MegaSpacePort InterNexus.

    The BART ride from Fremont to Dirdon Memorial HyperPlexical is supposed to be less than 18 minutes. So BART from HS/BART interchange to “downtown” SJ will be less than 15 minutes travel time, say 20 minutes including a down-the-escalator transfer to the BART trains that are supposed to run every six minute (six minutes!!!!! … talk about empty empty empty services) on this line.

    There are no significant destinations of any sort (other than a sports stadium) anywhere near Diridon Memorial MegaXtreme SuperModal, so nearly every HS passenger to that location would have to transfer anyway. Transferring to BART in Fremont and riding the four stops to “downtown” SJ will be as fast or faster than overshooting on an HS train and then having to transfer anyway and ride back eastwards.

    So no, there’s no longer any way under any circumstance that HS trains to San José, the Capital of Silicon Valley, can possibly be justified by anybody who isn’t directly on the take from the constructionb mafia. They’ve made their BART bed, they’re getting over 100 times the rail service their “city” can possibly justify already, they’re getting far more service than far more significant (Oakland! Berkeley! Walnut Creek! San Ranom!) trip generation locations, they can sleep it it. BART is what they wanted, BART is what they’re getting, so why not use the guaranteed-empty BART trains going to SJ for something?

    Joe Reply:

    I like Connecting BART to HSR in san jose but you have a error in your map. You are using the rejected Altamont alignment.

    Clem Reply:

    Fiscal and political reality will eventually sink in. There’s plenty of time in the latest plan (more than a decade!) to ponder ever increasing congestion on the 580, 680 and 880 corridors, and develop a plan for what to do about it. Such as un-rejecting Altamont.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    San Jose raised the $$ for BART so they are building it, in large part to import the many workers each day from the east bay who are stuck on I-680. Regional/commuter service. Different from interregional HSR service.

    But I do love the romanticism for those very exciting important places of Fremont, Berkeley and San Ramon. But tell us, why have you dropped Livermore Intergalactic from the plans? I loved when you then noted that there is no there there.

    Meanwhile Clem you are right a lot can happen in the next 10+ years. But interregional HSR is certainly not the solution to the 880, 680 or 580 corridors. Oakland and Berkeley are already minutes from TTC by BART. And I work each day in Pleasanton/Dublin and I can tell you there is no there here either.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    San Jose raised the $$ for BART …


    Just like the Camorra raise money.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    The county voters twice voted for taxes, and got federal and state matches. I guess that’s what you call the Camorra. Of course Gray Davis did give 3/4 B of state money — I can understand you’re jealous, your Central Subway could have been completed by now eh.

    Now, I assume that you’ve consistently called for no further expansion of BART anywhere. That is certainly sensible. At this point we should link BART and Caltrain/HSR in San Jose and never expand BART again.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    and got federal and state matches


    Just like the ‘Ndrangheta.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    How do you figure sac sj is a larger market the sj to la? i seriously doubt it.
    Whats the most popular city pair on ccjpa? sac-sjc? Unlikely. Certainly no one making the 3+ hour daily commute between sac and sjc. SO that leave occasional business travel plus leisure travel, and neither sac nor sjc is a tourist destination.

    egk Reply:

    Looked at the 1995 American Travel Survey for the SJ metro area.

    People may not be making the daily commute, but there are many people making the weekly commute or visiting relatives, etc (and remember, most people drive to wherever they are going). The ATS also tells us that the vast majority of trips taken by San Joseans are non business trips, most of these to visit relatives.

    If you want to check yourself the CAHSRA June 2011 Ridership and Revenue Model has all you need (Look at Table 4.1 and 4.3. Use a calculator and you will find ta da! the most popular metro region pairs within CA are:

    LA-SD with about 175,000 daily trips between them. (remember to add!)
    SF Bay-SAC with about 82,000 daily trips
    SF Bay-LA with about 70,000 daily trips.

    Note: hese are old numbers (factored to 2000) and Sacramento has grown almost 20% since then (compared to 3% for LA), so the SF Bay-SAC numbers are likely that much higher now.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    sf bay -sac is not the same as san jose sac.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people who moved from Iowa to Sacramento… I’d be willing lay good odds that they don’t go to San Jose when they want to visit their relatives.

    Peter Reply:

    The term “occasional business travel” is a little deceptive. While a particular businessperson may travel occasionally, there are a LOT of businesspeople out there, and, taken together, they travel a LOT.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    dirondacker12800 Reply:May 8th, 2012 at 4:17 pm
    The people who moved from Iowa to Sacramento… I’d be willing lay good odds that they don’t go to San Jose when they want to visit their relatives

    and is it just a coincidence that des moines looks scarily similar to sacramento….

    egk Reply:

    No SF Bay SAC is not the same as SJ-SAC, it is more extreme for SJ-SAC
    (here direct from the ATS in millions of annual trips):

    from\to los angeles/orange sacramento
    san jose 1389 2662
    oakland 1460 615
    san fran. 1558 1542

    (missing wrt the above numbers are the trips from the east bay that are < 100 miles)

    And Sacramento gets just about 50% of its in-migration from other places in California – mostly the Bay Area. What is more "10% of the migrants from the Bay Area continue to work there"

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In my comparison, LA is New York. Duh. There’s no real East Coast equivalent of Sac, and hence no real East Coast equivalent of Altamont.

    SJ is a metro area of 1.7m. City size is just a matter of how much the city could annex. Jacksonville is the third biggest city on the East Coast, behind NY and Philly; it does not make it a more important HSR destination than Boston or Washington. If you look at measures like urban area size and CBD size, then Providence is the perfect comparison for SJ. Providence actually looks bigger from the train station, but that’s only because there’s no freeway between it and the CBD.

    Unlike Providence, SJ is rich, yes. The East Coast equivalent, wealth-wise, is roughly Westchester and Fairfield Counties. They are served because they’re on the way, and still Stamford has half the Amtrak ridership that New Haven has. And New Haven’s Union Station area isn’t even all that walkable.

    The point here is that service to a medium-size satellite metro area is useful, but not necessary. It depends on whether it’s on the way (and of course SJ’s existence is an argument for Pacheco, just not one that overwhelms Sac), and on what connecting service it would get if not served.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s no real East Coast equivalent of Sac, and hence no real East Coast equivalent of Altamont.

    Providence and Boston are a rough equivalent of Sacramento and San Francisco.
    Altamont is getting from Providence to Boston via Worcester and Lowell.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    SJ-Sac is the same distance via I-80 and Altamont. Ditto SF-Sac unless there’s a second tube, and if there is, then Altamont becomes better than Pacheco even if we ignore Sac. Oakland has a bigger and denser CBD than SJ, and much better transit connections to secondary destinations like Berkeley.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hartford to Boston via Lowell is shorter than Hartford to Boston via Providence. Build the high speed line through Worcester and Lowell and people in Providence can get to Springfield faster. It means people in Billerica can go to Woonsocket!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s just not true, unless you have to follow Interstates. Make your Hartford-Providence route se Route 6 instead and it’ll be shorter.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They aren’t going to Providence they are going to Boston. And they’ll be able to get to Nashua, Manchester and Concord so much faster! And North Woonsocket!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Um, where does North Woonsocket figure into this?

    Clem Reply:

    Woonsocket is a retrenchment to things familiar, to obfuscate a shaky knowledge of Bay Area geography and keep us West Coasters off balance.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I deny ever being anywhere near Woonsocket

    Alon Levy Reply:

    By Wyoming standards, I’m practically next door to Woonsocket. By Rhode Island standards, I’ve never been anywhere near it, and almost certainly won’t ever be.

    But: when the original Vision map wanted to put an HSR station in Woonsocket, it was ridiculous. Even in Rhode Island, it was ridiculous – there’s a very clear economic center to the state, and Woonsocket ain’t it. (For what it’s worth, even Providence Station is inconveniently just outside its margin. Alas, fixing that involves downtown viaducts and knocking down a building or three.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Being just outside the center of downtown isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s rather common on the NEC. Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia. Even Penn Station New York. South Station, North Station, Union Station. Trenton, Metropark….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    True. That said, from ground level Penn Station feels like part of Midtown. Of course you can’t walk from there to most of the CBD, but that’s a matter of the CBD’s size. Providence Station feels disconnected from the CBD.

    You’re right it’s not that critical for intercity service – though ideally there shouldn’t be a freeway in the middle, as is the case for SJ.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    And Pacheco is getting from Providence to Boston via Amherst.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The wily denizens of Providence would figure out that there are these things called buses and use those.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    I suppose San Jose has a few wily denizens of its own.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes they’d be able to figure out they could take BART to the HSR station in Fremont.

    joe Reply:

    Providence has negative pop and economic growth – let us extrapolate as you did with San Jose, a city that is growing despite a bad national economy.
    You did the math on how long it will take for San Jose to match LA…
    How long until Providence disappears?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Providence does not have negative economic growth. The metro area’s per capita income growth last decade was twice the national average. SJ’s was negative, because it got pummeled so much in the 2001 recession.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Don’t confuse things by introducing “facts”.

    PS Another close Providence/San José analogy is political. Perfectly legitimate business advocate Buddy Cianci, meet perfectly legitimate business advocate Carl Guardino.

    joe Reply:

    I use the tubes and find this.
    Economy Providence, RI United States
    Unemployment Rate 13.30% 9.10%
    Recent Job Growth -0.12% -0.12%

    1910 223,326 +27.2%
    1920 237,595 +6.4%
    1930 252,981 +6.5%
    1940 253,504 +0.2%
    1950 248,674 −1.9%
    1960 207,498 −16.6%
    1970 179,213 −13.6%
    1980 156,804 −12.5%
    1990 160,728 +2.5%
    2000 173,618 +8.0%
    2010 178,042 +2.5%

    It’s exactly like San Jose.

    joe Reply:

    San Jose Population

    1920 39,642 37.0%
    1930 57,651 45.4%
    1940 68,457 18.7%
    1950 95,280 39.2%
    1960 204,196 114.3%
    1970 459,913 125.2%
    1980 629,442 36.9%
    1990 782,248 24.3%
    2000 894,943 14.4%
    2010 945,942 5.7%

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let’s look at per capita income, as a percentage of the US (numbers from the BEA):

    Santa Clara County:
    2000 183.34%
    2010 145.27%

    San Francisco County:
    2000 187.73%
    2010 175.75%

    Providence County:
    2000 88.7%
    2010 96.2%

    Rhode Island:
    2000 97.29%
    2010 105.15%

    RI is a high-unemployment state (P.S. so is CA). It is not a low-growth state.

    Incidentally, national income growth was 4% in real terms over the decade. So if your income expressed as a percentage of the US declined by 3.9% or more (which is not the same as 3.9 percentage points) then you had negative income growth. Strictly speaking this assumes everyone had the same inflation rate; this is true of the Bay Area, but the Northeast had slightly higher inflation, though not enough to compensate for its faster-than-average income growth.

  21. lex luther
    May 6th, 2012 at 17:38

    thats because san jose is really a super size suburb

    James in PA Reply:

    The mercury is stunting its growth.

    Spokker Reply:

    It was crazy when I went there. I was in downtown on a weekday afternoon and I was thinking to myself, “Where the hell is everybody?” I felt like I Am Legend.

    joe Reply:

    In 1995 I said the exact same think about Noe Valley cadtro to 24th St. DEAD on a weekend. You could roll a bowling ball to Church St and not hit a soul.

    I moved thete. BEST decision ever. It grew popular snd I had it made.

    So San Jose is growing. Even the State Univ Just upgraded conferences and wlil need to upgrade sports facilities.
    49ers new facility is near San Jose. Job growth did not stop in the recession like it did in the East Bay.

  22. Spokker
    May 6th, 2012 at 17:48

    It does seem like construction of at least the Fresno-Merced segment is basically a foregone conclusion at this point.

  23. Richard Mlynarik
    May 6th, 2012 at 18:22

    Fascinating, Joe, just fascinating.

    Especially in light of the fact that Church Street in Noe isn’t a commercial corridor, that the dot-com bubble was in full hyperventilation at the time, and that I had recently bought real estate a couple blocks away and so, in this as with everything else you parp on about, I’m about 100000 times as familiar with the facts.

    I’m also missing the bit about Noe Valley demanding and receiving $10 billion of Other People’s Money. Or styling itself the Capital of Silicon Valley. Or making $2 billion of Redevelopment Agency cash disappear without a trace.

    Just fascinating, Joe. Fascinating.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Richard, San Jose’s predicament is no different than Los Angeles’. They built all their infrastructure around sprawl only to find out that in the 21st century that had its limits.

    What I think you keep dancing around is the alternative doesn’t make nearly as much sense as you think it does.

    Routing HSR through Altamont would blow up BART’s “Plan de Reunification” to link the entire Bay Area. While it’s easy to scoff at this, I don’t because BART’s grade separation is a huge advantage in that it takes pressure off existing freight rail corridors to serve Oakland and the other ports.

    No one wants to say it, but it’s the strength of the SF-Oakland Bay Area that will keep the region prosperous over the next 100 years, not the strength of SF as a financial hub, Silicon Valley as a tech center, etc.

    HSR, combined with upgrades in Stockton for existing legacy track and BART enhancement and expansion is really three cloves of the same shamrock.

    If you don’t believe, go down to L.A. and see how hard they are fighting to expand MUNI eque light rail a few miles while having their commuter rail 100% dependent on diesel and highly dependent on freight railroads for trackage.

    No one is going to mistake San Jose for Paris,

    joe Reply:

    No one wants to say it, but it’s the strength of the SF-Oakland Bay Area that will keep the region prosperous over the next 100 years, not the strength of SF as a financial hub, Silicon Valley as a tech center, etc.

    No one knows the next 100 years but I’m curious what you imply the core cities SF-Oakland will continue to do with their port that will outlast finance and technology.

    The next earthquake on the Hayward fault is going to trigger within 100 years and the bayfill’s mud substrate will liquify – the ocean is warming/expanding and rising as land bound ice melts. The ports will be underwater – we’ll need new ones and rebuild parts of BART that will be underwater.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Short answer: export food.

    Unlike any other commodity, food always continuously has to be shipped and created. Metals, iPads, Nikes, not so much.

    Oakland is positioned to be what New Orleans is to the Midwest, the gateway for food exports to places like Australia and Asia who are going to need food to support population growth.

    The issue with tech and finance is that in the Bay Area it’s all head no body. Intel’s biggest plant is in Oregon, PIMCO and Pacific Life (world’s largest municipal bond trader and life insurance entity created by Gov. Stanford) is in Newport Beach. Oh and the world’s largest pension fund (CalPers) is in Sacramento.

    Eventually, using infrastructure improvements like HSR, the Bay Area can get PIMCO, CalPers to relocate and they will be able to get companies like Apple and the like to move their headquarters to Market Street. But, make no mistake, your empty tech campuses in Santa Clara county aren’t going to start processing chicken feed. That’s why just the other day Walnut Creek pitched an office redevelopment to LucasFilm.

    Joe Reply:

    Export food would make CA the equilavelant of The King of the Two Sicilies or Egypt under the ottomans or Byzantines. It is a low dollar economy for a colony. I don’t see much of a future given my life in Montana and Idaho and seeing what an Ag economy does for a State. Simplot starting making silicon chips which helped ID create jobs. Food industry jobs are low paying. Kings County is a good example.

    CA Bay Area has very smart people, very tolerant culture. The future is education, knowledge based economy. Key is a quality of life with good public transportation.

    Walnut creek might draw LucasFilm, he quit on building a campus in Marin this year. I disagree it is part of silicon valley.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The low wage jobs are already there in the San Joaquin Valley packaging the food. The difference is the capacity of the ports in Oakland to transport it. The Port was the first to be completely containerized, something often overlooked.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think the Bay Area wants to be South Louisiana. The port doesn’t even sustain a city – the biggest port there is located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, not supporting a real city around it. I suppose that with San Francisco’s tourism the region could always have that as well, and that would make it exactly like New Orleans. But then New Orleans is one seventh the size of the Bay Area, and a lot poorer at that.

    The Bay Area is strong in tech, finance, tech, pharma, tech, engineering, and tech. Those are really high up the food chain. The companies in China that overwork and underpay employees making iPhone parts are barely breaking even; the big profits go straight to Apple.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    You got it backwards, but I am not dismissing your comment. At the risk of sounding like Ron Paul, fiat money system do strange things to people. Apple is a good example wherein the value of the company isn’t in its assets, but in the POTENTIAL for market share.

    It’s a bizarre world we live in, but stock prices have almost zero to do with actual wealth and hard assets, and everything with market share.

    Now, it’s easy to laugh at Suddern L’siana today, but understand, once the the US currency shell game ends (and it will within 15 years), real wealth and real assets (land, raw materials, etc.) is going to make a comeback. And the US, California, etc. can either be prepared for this transformation or it can get obliterated by it.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Apple is a good example wherein the value of the company isn’t in its assets, but in the POTENTIAL for market share.

    Uh, no. Check the P/E ratio again. If anything, it’s undervalued.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Again P/E ratios are nothing but a construct. No one buys stock on earnings, but the potential for earnings.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s nothing that prevents land and raw materials from producing wealth now. The problem is just that they’re not worth all that much, not with the mix of goods the US has to offer. It’s purely a matter of relative prices of goods and services: most economic production is manufactured goods, and high-value services like finance and tech, and so a region that wants to be persistently rich needs to be able to produce them.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    It’s much simpler than that. With the US-China currency manipulation game being played, there’s no ability for the market to find equilibrium. We just keep printing more dollars and the Chinese just continue to export more and more. Once this game of three-card monte is over, though, look out below.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    If you don’t believe, go down to L.A. and see how hard they are fighting to expand MUNI eque light rail a few miles while having their commuter rail 100% dependent on diesel and highly dependent on freight railroads for trackage.

    I’m not terribly sure what your standard of comparison it is when you refer to over 50 miles of light rail and 9 miles of subway while also lengthening BRT as “a few miles.” As for Metrolink being diesel dependent, what of it? Double and triple tracking, quite frankly, add far more utility than does electrification. As for being dependent on freight railroads for trackage: Everyone is. The difference is that in some locations, such as the Bay Area, freight traffic has dropped to minimal or nonexistent levels, while the manufacturing base of the LA Basin and the Ports of LA/LB continue to support a heavy volume of freight rail traffic.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Under present FRA regulations, or for that matter any reform that does not allow barely-modified European imports, the only reasonable-quality, reasonable-price trains legal in North America are EMUs. Even under optimal regulations, getting mildly high-performance trains would require new DMUs; the current diesel locos accelerate too weakly to be useful for frequent-stop commuter service. And if Metrolink needs to buy new trains, it might as well do it right and get EMUs.

    The other issue is that LA is not acting to preserve space for multi-tracking e.g. the San Bernardino Line.

    Spokker Reply:

    But if you go to downtown Los Angeles during regular operating hours, there are actually people walking around.

    joe Reply:

    Strawmen are your bread and butter.

    24th st from Casto to Church is business and store fronts. Try google street view.

    Church is not commercial but I did not claim it was.

    Castro and Church are Parellel so rolling a ball from castro to church would be along the intersecting 24th St

    Other people’s money. Thats all you have is libertarian dogma about how stuff has to work.

    That god the J line was built with money from Noe Valley.

    San Jose is getting HSR. Any positjve news about San Jose is troll bait for you.

  24. Andrew
    May 6th, 2012 at 20:01

    Would anyone on this blog happen to know the fabric composition of traditional Swiss pants (Sunday costume)? I just thought this might be a good place to ask.

    joe Reply:


  25. Tom McNamara
    May 6th, 2012 at 20:22

    Speaking of Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills PTA is showing all the other cities how NIMBYism is done with this anti-subway Youtube video:


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The safety incidents cited sound rare and unusual.

    If the explosive vapors and/or toxic fumes are potentially that bad, it seems a greater risk is to keep that school and those kids where they are.

    If you want to fuss about the routing, ask if that original routing is the better one. Ask if the accusations of influence by the business people involved have compromised the project.

    To bring up this “It’s for the children” business sounds awfully phony. The commentors following the above story seem to get this.

    It’s also notable that comments are disabled for some reason at the YouTube site.

    The combination of all of this makes the opposition look silly. Now instead of having steam engines burning down barns and making cows go dry, we have worries about poisoned kids and blowing up the school. Never mind that auto accidents kill more people than murderers do by a factor of two, never mind the costs of car dependence.

    This could be a blessing, and not one that’s disguised much either. Instead, this effort makes the opposition look sillier and sillier.

    Unfortunately, it seems my wonderful country is indeed descending into madness, or at least dementia, along the lines of Alzheimer’s or something similar.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    DP: They have oil wells on said school property. This is classic NIMBYIsm, they’ve got no actual leg to stand on here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …well the steam engines did burn down barns, fairly regularly set the crops on fire and caused brush and forest fires until they figured out spark arrestors….

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    its going to cut a….SWATH!!! gasp!

    I do agree though that it makes sense to stay under Sta Ma. If the developers want direct access build a 1000 ft underground walkway. problem solved.

  26. Richard Mlynarik
    May 7th, 2012 at 10:07

    This “billion dollar” number is curious, don’t you think?

    It’s about three times what a HSR maintenance facility costs anywhere else in the world.

    After all, we’re talking very simple construction here: a green field, a 400m x ~50m light industrial building (like any warehouse anywhere in the world), standard concrete base dropped below rail level), standard industrial cranes, standard light industrial store rooms, standard light industrial on-site worker facilities, standard light industrial access road.

    This stuff pretty much comes from Ikea and snaps together.

    The only rail-specific stuff (bogie drops, underwheel lathes, electrical test equipment) comes in a big crate on a ship, and costs exactly the same in Merced as it does in Valladolid.

    If I were a betting man, I’d wager a couple hundred thousand that the “billion dollars” is all about an entirely fictitious valuation of land: agricultural tracts once destined to be flipped to subdivisions and meth factories (not working out so well at this minute) now “valued” per-square-foot at rates comparable to Pacific Heights in SF, and generously “contributed” as most of an altruistic “billion dollar” commitment to the People of California.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    I already brought this up earlier in the thread. I know you think I say a lot of stupid things, but alas, my comment is almost identical.

    I’m also not reading much into it. The land in question has water rights and an assessed value that they can borrow against. The HMF would allow them to borrow money at appraised value that is much higher than currently assessed, build the project without paying much in taxes…hold the water rights off the market and then sell the rights to someone else in the area and have the Authority pay to use the facility (and in effect the mortgage).

    McIntrye is a donor to Obama, which leads me to think that this could be taking a page out of the Chicago Transit Investment strategy Rahm Emanuel is peddling around these days.

    That said, I don’t know that the Gordon Shaw site is such a bad idea given where it is and that even though you need a little stub or “mini wye” to get it on and off the tracks operationally it might make sense being below the real wye but not by much.

    But please, wizard of West Tasman, tell me and the rest of us what you are thinking here. It might not be as sexy and cause celebre as TransBay, but I’m sure you have ideas….

    Matthew Reply:

    On a side note, I would love to shop at your Ikea.

    “Ikea: we give you [almost] everything you need to build a rail yard! Using only an Allen wrench!”

  27. Tom Rubin
    May 7th, 2012 at 12:01

    Let’s stop and consider what is being proposed.
    The discussion re private investment in CA HSR has, to date, focused primarily on the operation of the trains — as in, OK, we’ll make a capital investment in building the rail system and then we plan to get our money back, and a profit, by charging for rides. If this is feasible, if the numbers work out, has been debated back and forth for some time, but, let’s not get into that here — what is important is that the concept is that the private sector investors will get their money back through the fares paid by riders.
    What we have here appears to be different, a private sector investment in a vehicle maintenance facility and a track maintenance facility. How will the costs invested in such facilities be made back?
    Well, I suppose it is possible that part of each HSR ticket would be allocated for these two cost items, and part of that would go to these investors, but that is not a financial model I have ever even seen proposed, let alone implemented.
    What the proposers may have in mind is something different: namely, they would enter into a long-term agreement with the CA HSR Authority — we’ll build the facilities, maybe even do the maintenance work, and you pay us for that.
    That would be a rather common type of contract.
    The question then becomes, what are the terms? If the terms are, we get paid $X for each major overhaul and $Y for each inspection of a rail crossing, with no guarantees on the quantity or timing of when that work might be done, then the proposer would be taking on a major share of the risks, which, IMHO, would make it a very good deal for CA HSR (assuming the prices are in the reasonable range).
    … and such a bad one for the proposer that I can see no way that it would ever be made.
    If, at the other extreme, we agree to build the $1 billion of faciliteis and, once finished, the CA HSR Authority agrees to pay us a fixed amount each year (say, $100 million, just to pick a number), beginning in this specified year, no matter what — then I would say that this is a very bad deal for the State and very good one for the proposer — so bad for the State that, in normal circumstances, I doubt that it would ever even be considered. However, this being CA HSR, I have learned from long experience to not make such assumptions.
    I think we need to know a whole lot more about the specifics of this proposal before it is possible to evaluate it in any meaningful manner.
    Tom Rubin

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