Buses Aren’t An Alternative to High Speed Rail

May 31st, 2012 | Posted by

Over at the Houston Chronicle there is a particularly absurd post suggesting that buses are a great alternative to high speed trains.

First, the set-up is particularly revealing:

I’m back from my California trip – beautiful state, beautiful weather, completely dysfunctional government. For example, even with massive fiscal problems it’s still trying to build a vastly expensive high-speed rail line from San Francisco to San Diego. On a related note, a private group is exploring building a Houston-Dallas HSR line with no subsidies of any kind. I’m totally okay with private efforts. I’m probably even okay with a little eminent domain to get the right of way at a fair price. I hope they can make it work.

For this guy, whether HSR is effective or not isn’t the point. Ideological opposition to public sector funding of projects is. And California is building high speed rail in part because of “massive fiscal problems.” As we learned 75 years ago with the Golden Gate Bridge, infrastructure is a good way to get out of a Depression – especially when that infrastructure saves travelers time and money and builds lasting value.

But his point is mostly that buses can do what HSR does so there’s no need to build trains at all:

Here’s a great alternate perspective on HSR: a TED talk on the value of perception and psychology vs. economics and technology. Go to the 6:12 point to see a great example of the Eurostar train, where they spend a vast amount of money to reduce travel times by 40 mins, when for 90% or 99% less money they could have improved the experience instead and actually gotten higher rider satisfaction. I believe the absolute same principle applies to bus vs. rail, whether intra- or inter-city: spend 1% or 10% of the same money improving the bus service and get higher customer satisfaction than the rail line would generate. (hat tip to Karl)

And Greyhound is doing just that, learning from Megabus and upgrading their service with wifi, power plugs, and nicer seats with more leg room. With that kind of service option available at say $30 one-way within the Texas Triangle, how many people do you think would pay $150+ to go on HSR? On second thought, maybe nobody should mention this possibility to the Texas HSR group… ;-)

Yeah, this is ridiculous. Show me a bus that can travel 220 mph. (And no, The Onion doesn’t count.) Trains are popular because they provide something buses don’t – high speed, comfortable, direct service between city centers. High speed trains usually serve downtown stations and have tracks that get them quickly through the urban area and out to the rural areas where top speeds can be achieved.

Buses, on the other hand, have to slowly navigate urban streets and all their stoplights to get to the freeway, hope the freeway is clear and not jammed with traffic, and then get to the rural interstates where the top speed for a bus is probably 65 mph. That assumes there’s no traffic on the rural interstate, which as anybody who’s driven Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley on a holiday weekend knows is not necessarily a given.

HSR lines around the world have high ridership and cover their costs precisely because they provide vastly superior service to buses. There’s just no contest here.

Besides, someone already tried to operate a bus between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It shut down service just one year after it had started. Even with $10 fares it wasn’t getting riders. Yet the California high speed rail ridership studies indicate it will have no problem generating riders, just as the Amtrak Acela has no problem getting riders even in the face of competing bus service.

So no, buses are not an alternative to high speed trains. Buses are fine, they have a role to play in intercity travel, but as a supplement to trains, not as their replacement.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    May 31st, 2012 at 23:24

    The single comment that was up when I looked at this post was interesting, including an opinion that a new line be built what I recall is “in the middle of nowhere” (Central Valley and Mojave Desert) to improve the overall existing system:

    bjturon 5:34 PM on May 31, 2012

    You make a good point about improving the overall quality and service of a means of transport as an alternative to costly infrastructure projects to reduce travel times, but you miss the real reason for building HS-1.

    The real reason for HS-1 is not the reduction in travel time, but the need for more rail capacity to the Continent. With HS-1 now in place DB will soon be running both high-speed trains and freight trains through the Chunnel to Britain. They may even run overnight “hotel trains” as well.

    Before HS-1 the Eurostars had to use a slow and congested Victorian commuter line into Waterloo, with the new line to St. Pancras not only are the trains faster, but there is room for many more, dramatically increasing the number of destinations available in Europe with direct rail service.

    The need for capacity was what made the original Shinkansen and TGV lines economical, and it should be asked is cheaper to build a new airport for London or build this new rail line? The cost of proposed Thames Airport rivals that of California’s high speed rail project. Just expanding Chicago’s O’Hare will cost $15B.

    If you can replace short-haul flights with trains, you can expand the overall transport capacity. This is why Lufthansa has a deal with the German railway DB to have direct transfers between trains and planes; it allows the airline to use its airport slots for more valuable long distance and international flights. United Airlines has an identical deal with Amtrak at Newark Liberty.

    With this said, what California should have learned (may be too late now) is that using existing tracks is a good way to keep costs down while you build the most important link, which for California should be a new railway connecting the Central Valley with the Mojave Desert, thus connecting the state’s existing passenger rail infrastructure, just as the Channel Tunnel connected London and Paris before new high speed tracks where built in England.

    For example this would mean upgrading the existing tracks from San Francisco to San Jose, in the Central Valley, and from Palmdale to LA. These segements could then be connected by two new HSR lines over the mountains. Travel time SF-LA would be likely 4 hrs, same as London to Scotland. If Virgin Trains can work with that there, they could likely work with that here. Virgin is an excellent example on how investment in both infrastucter and service can dramaticly grow ridership.

  2. Derek
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 00:05

    That assumes there’s no traffic on the rural interstate, which as anybody who’s driven Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley on a holiday weekend knows is not necessarily a given.

    Traffic congestion is a sign that the price of accessing the road is below the optimal level. That’s easy to fix.

    Besides, someone already tried to operate a bus between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It shut down service just one year after it had started.

    Others are still running.

    joe Reply:


    Even the transport economists who advocate congestion pricing have anticipated several practical limitations, concerns and controversial issues regarding the actual implementation of this policy. As summarized by Cervero:[121]

    “True social-cost pricing of metropolitan travel has proven to be a theoretical ideal that so far has eluded real-world implementation.

    Derek Reply:

    Tolls thin traffic in Bay Bridge carpool lanes

    Toll changes on the Bay Bridge have cleared out carpool lanes and improved traffic speed when the bridge is most congested, a study by UC Berkeley transportation researchers has concluded… the region’s first congestion-based toll – a $6 charge during peak commute hours and $4 at other times – delivered time savings for drivers of as much as 16 minutes on some bridge approaches, according to the study.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Even if you charge for the interstate, the speed is still less than 80 mph, and buses at 80 mph are pretty uncomfortable rides already.

    “Ordinary speed rail” in this country is 79 mph.

  3. swing hanger
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 01:15

    Intercity buses have a role to play- as a downmarket option for intercity travel. That’s how they are marketed here in Japan. There should be a choice for the traveler- airlines, HSR, buses, and personal automobiles. For some reason it seems everything has to be an all or nothing issue in America, not one of providing the freedom of having choices, as in a balanced transportation policy.

  4. joe
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 06:27

    From the work we [CARRD] have done on ridership, the single most important factor in market share is travel time.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This isn’t quite right; every study shows that reliability / on-time performance is the single most important factor.

    But travel time is certainly the second most important.

    Nathanael Reply:

    …and of course HSR, travelling on passenger-exclusive tracks, is going to be very reliable, as opposed to anything which is caught in mixed traffic.

    joe Reply:

    Economist Duncan Black

    One thing you can do about this is institute congestion pricing, tolling at peak hours specifically so that some people change their route or the timing of their trip. Alternatively, if there are other routes – say a SUPERTRAIN – which don’t really experience congestion, you can equivalently subsidize that uncongested route, pricing below marginal cost. In practice, given that the marginal cost of providing an additional person a train trip is about zero, this would actually involve giving trips away or paying people to ride it.

    Also, roads don’t actually pay for themselves. Neener.

    HSR can relieve congestion.

    Congestion pricing is not as simple as charging a toll – the toll has to benefit those being taxed.

    Opposition To Congestion Pricing Is Likely Completely Rational
    I don’t really agree that congestion prices have to be perpetually ratcheted up to be effective, but I do think that urban econ dorks need to acknowledge that opposition to it is likely to be completely understandable.
    Yes, in theory, since congestion is an unpriced externality, if we price it correctly we can both reduce the amount of excess congestion and make everybody better off. But that’s only true if all of the toll money collected is somehow distributed back to the affected people,

    Transit Subsidies
    Cool liberal urbanists talk about congestion pricing for drivers a lot, but I think lost too often is the fact that transit subsidies, as in lowering of per trip fares, help to reach the same result.

    Building better public transit and connecting that service to HSR for inter-city travel can relieve congestion both in and between cities.

    We’re beginning an empirical study in Menlo Park – Facebook will give free bus rides to workers to reduce congestion – MP thinks it will work and Palao Alto has required this from Stanford for years.

    Subsidized Transit and free buses relieve congestion when the subsidy or bus service to paid by private companies to accommodate growth but apparently this does not hold for a pubic investment – we need congestion pricing for the public.

    It makes perfect sense if the outcome is to limit public transit and grow your city tax base with private interests.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Except of course for the segments of the journey to and from the HSR station

    Nathanael Reply:

    …in LA, San Diego and Sacramento, San Jose, and *with any luck* San Francisco, it will be possible to take urban rail with exclusive ROW to the HSR station. So, not an issue.

    If Fresno and Bakersfield start having local traffic jams maybe they can implement some bus lanes or streetcars, too.

  5. jim
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 08:11

    Their timing could have been better:


    Peter Reply:

    I was wondering when these guys were going to get shut down…

    VBobier Reply:

    Me too, about time, their the worst drivers, short of drunk drivers that is, those buses have a poor safety record and deaths linked to them, no terminals either and I doubt their licensed to do business either.

  6. Reedman
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 09:41

    What China discovered (unexpected/unintended consequences) when it implemented it’s HSR system, was bifurcation:
    1) HSR attracted airline passengers. Also, LSR options dropped when HSR was introduced.
    2) Because of 1), people who couldn’t afford HSR were forced to use buses.


    Elizabeth Reply:

    Express buses, particularly the newer ones with amenities like wifi and nice seats, can absolutely compete for certain passengers in certain conditions.

    In NY – DC, they get both the cost-sensitive consumer as well as people traveling to and from the DC burbs. For people who live in Bethesda for example, they would rather have the one seat ride to downtown Bethesda than take the train which goes to downtown DC, from which it is either a metro connection or long car/taxi ride home. If you have luggage, the bus might take a little longer door to door but it is easier and the “business class” buses are quite comfortable.

    Greyhound has just introduced Greyhound Express, a similar type operation. Right now it dumps people in what I have been told is a lousy location but they are trying to move stop to LAUS.

    This service or one like it could do very well competing for CV customers against IOS service, especially if the HSR plans move forward to eliminate the lower cost San Joaquin.

    For example, Bakersfield to LAUS via HSR will be a train trip to Sylmar, a 15 minute connection to a bus and a 37 minute bus ride through traffic to LAUS for a total of 1 hour 49 minutes.

    The Bakersfield Greyhound Express is $9 for next day tickets and could give a one seat ride in 2 hours and 8 minutes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Bakersfield to LAUS via HSR done stupidly is 1:49. Done mildly intelligently, once there’s a connection to Sylmar, the trains can go directly to LAUS on electrified legacy track.

    The business class buses exist only when other options do not. People in the Northeast don’t take them – the business class takes Amtrak. In areas with actual HSR, people from the middle class up take HSR.

    joe Reply:

    Express buses, particularly the newer ones with amenities like wifi and nice seats, can absolutely compete for certain passengers in certain conditions.

    In NY – DC, they get both the cost-sensitive consumer as well as people traveling to and from the DC burbs. For people who live in Bethesda for example, they would rather have the one seat ride to downtown Bethesd

    I am skeptical that this is sincere and not just a distraction but let’s think about it.

    Would CARRD support a bus system in place of HSR?

    Replace diesel Caltrain with Hybrid express BUS service and save literally a billion+ by not upgrading the legacy system and grade crossings. No property seizures.

    Turn the busy Palo Alto/Stanford rail station into a regional/express and local bus terminal.

    It’s pretty easy – just buy more VTA buses. Our VTA is deploying new express buses with added comfort, A/C, free wi-fi and hybrid power that put’s out 1/25th the particulate pollution of the current fleet.

    Just expand that program and coordinate with SamTrans and Muni to run a fleet of new buses along the old Camino Real (Market/Mission to Guererro to San Jose Ave that transitions to El Camino Real that transitions to Monterey Road and terminates in Gilroy). It would replace/integrate the 522 and 121 and 168 with the 22 and 68.

    Regional and express buses would go to the CV, Sacramento and LA Via Pacheco and Altamont. It would cost a fraction of the HSR system.

    Would it not be nice to have people pay a $20-40 ticket be able get to SJ/Peninsula/SF in comfort.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    “Compete with” be the only substitute for

    A healthy transportation system offers many different choices. I am still stating that on the basis of lower cost and one seat ride, that an express bus could garner a decent market share in the bakersfield to LA “common carrier” market, especially if CHSRA insists on the current routing and phasing.

    joe Reply:

    Amtrak runs an express bus between Bakersfield and LA.
    5872 Bus
    Departs: 8:35 AM Mon Jun 04 2012 Bakersfield, CA (BFD)
    Arrives: 10:45 AM Mon Jun 04 2012 Los Angeles, CA – Union Station (LAX)

    Only problem is Amtrak requires a train segment to ride that bus out of Bakersfield.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    A bus that attracts a fair number of riders… including some I suspect from the data who buy a ticket but only use the bus portion.

    Greyhound is trying to compete for this business with new express service http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/05/04/greyhound-express-gets-upgrade/

    Anyone know how this is going?

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know about that service but…intercity bus use is increasing.

    I know VTA runs buses that compete with Caltrain service and they seem to have this symbiotic relationship – you get more riders given the options. At least that’s what we hear from the caltrain users and our experiences.

    The San Martin station has bad PM southbound connections but the VTA express 168 out of of San Jose Caltrain fills those gaps and carries Caltrain riders that take the AM train inbound.

    The 522 is an alternative option in the peninsula. Both service the PA station and run parallel to each other.

    Nathanael Reply:

    People are desperate enough that they’ll take intercity buses. Because intercity driving sucks, and intercity flying sucks, so intercity buses… suck less.

    Ask the people on the buses. Most of them would prefer to be on trains, if the trains existed, if the trains were cheaper, etc.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If they decide to deposit people in the Valley and force them to connect to a bus or train to get to Downtown LA, they deserve to have to listen to an hour of criticism by Randall O’Toole. (More than an hour I wouldn’t wish on them even then.) All I’m saying is that with the currently proposed phasing, the extra cost of electrifying to LAUS and running trains through is peanuts on paper and negative in reality.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The dump them in San Fernando and make them take a bus is the official plan for the IOS adopted by the board, enabled by a ridership model that rewards such actions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would they get on a bus when there will a Metrolink train across the platform?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    1) They are planning on 4 hsr trains an hour and there is limited Metrolink service on the Antelope Valley line.

    2) They want to go to other parts of LA, other than LAUS.

    You can see proposed schedule for trains and buses here: http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/IOS-Schedule-from-California-High-Speed-Rail-2012-Business-Plan-Ridership-and-Revenue-Forecasting-3.pdf

    You can see how many of each bus HSR thinks it will need on page 2 (pdf page 3) of the operations report: http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/431/fef25ce4-056f-4262-9a2e-ca3c8fb15724.pdf

    And no, it is not a typo… CHSRA thinks that there will be 254 buses to and from San Fernando every day just for the IOS passengers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    1) they could run shuttles that meet the HSR train.
    2) Your 1:49 minute scenario was to LAUS not other places

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Unlike other stupid decisions (Pacheco, Diridon Intergalactic, Tehachapis), this plan is easy to fix. String catenary over 40 route-km, grade-separate one junction if Ventura County traffic warrants it, and mail severance pay to all involved in the dump-them-in-the-Valley plan. We’re talking very low nine digits, and if it’s done before they start buying buses and renting depot space, it’s a net cost saver.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That is a fine way to proceed, and once regulatory approval is gained, will make for a fine business plan. But the approval of the ICS is with reference to a plan to establish an Initial Operating Service, and resting that IOS on regulatory approval for Blended Operation is a substantial regulatorty risk.

    If that regulatory approval is forthcoming before progress on the third construction segment is well advanced then, certainly, set aside most of the buses to a Plan B that turned out not to be necessary.

  7. Elizabeth
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 10:17

    For those of you who had asked, we have pulled out the relevant pages from documents to show why we think the blended system does not make the requisite travel times http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/CARRD-Blended-system-travel-time-documentation1.pdf

    Full article on the issue and the Authority’s acknowledgement that there is NO substantiation for their travel time claims is here http://www.calhsr.com/business-plan/the-blended-system-can-deliver-2-hour-40-minute-travel-times-fact-or-fantasy/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Of course a blended system can’t make the requisite travel time – it’s an intermediate step; the full step may or may not be built subsequently, depending on demand. Everyone knows this, except HSRA flaks who pretend otherwise to be nice to Palo Alto. It’s no different from a non-blended phased system: a non-blended LA-Bakersfield Phase 0 would also have independent utility and so satisfy the 1A requirement, but although it’s the strongest Phase 0, it’s possible (e.g. if there’s no future funding because of a political shift) that nothing else would be built.

    1A has a lot of stupid requirements in it, but “Build nothing until you have funding lined up for everything” isn’t one of them.

    rick rong Reply:

    Prop 1A requires requests for initial appropriations for a corridor or usable segment to be preceded by a funding plan that, among other things, identifies “The sources of all funds to be invested in the corridor, or usable segment thereof, and the anticipated time of receipt of those funds based on expected commitments, authorizations, agreements, allocations, or other means.” There are other things that the law requires be included in the funding plan. See Sts and Hwys Code sec. 2704.08(c). Whether the law will be followed is another story. Whether someone will sue on the basis of non-compliance is yet another story.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is not a problem. The “blended plan” appropriations for the “blended” Caltrain segment of the corridor are not intended to come from high-speed rail bond money, so they’re not subject to the Prop 1A requirements. The later fuinding for the Caltrain segment, which will involve bond money, will be done when the funding sources have been identified.

    Meanwhile, the other useable segments which are getting bond money already have their sources of funding identified.

    Peter Reply:

    Remember, there are a lot of people who thing that anything that is labeled as HSR in California will forever be required to meet Prop 1A’s requirements…

    Peter Reply:

    “think” not “thing”

    rick rong Reply:

    and then there are those who interpret Prop 1A in such a way as to render important parts of it illusory.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you want to achiever “the requisite travel time” start with the fastest mountain crossing.

    Of course we know travel times are of tertiary concern in the CHSRA scheme of things. Of primary importance is to provide Palmdale with a pseudo BART to LA. Villa is calling the shots, not even Moonbeam.

    Meantiime, the Bay Bridge debacle is finally getting some attention:


    This is the Pelosi Machine’s baby.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Two things

    1. Travel time
    You say “of course the blended system can’t make the travel times”. We say “of course it can’t make the travel times.”

    The issue we are raising is that the Authority is claiming that the blended system can make the travel times and getting support for the blended system being the FINAL plan under that meme.

    Here http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Travel-Time-Page-Agenda_Item_2_-_Board_Briefing_Revised_Business_Plan_pp_presentation.pdf is the slide from their April board meeting presentation.

    It says blended, not eventual full build out. When asked directly in legislative hearings, Dan Richard has continued to assert that the BLENDED system makes 2 hours and 40 minutes.

    And now it turns out the claim that it will make 2 hours and 40 minutes is essentially opinion – and an opinion which makes no logical sense.

    2. Blended vs full build out
    The major change in the biz plan was that the blended system was chosen to be the final buildout. Now, nothing is final till the fat lady sings but the $68 billion number is based on the idea that you will not build beyond this.

    Peter Reply:

    Eh, “final buildout”, “blended system”, these are all temporary terms.

    What the system looks like in 40-50 years may look nothing the way the business plan describes it. Do you think the “Final Revised Business Plan” is the final business plan that HSR in California will ever have?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m pretty sure the Authority is just lying to Palo Alto to get it off its back. The response I’d make – “At current funding rates you will all be dead by the time we grade-separate and quadruple the tracks through your city” – will grate the all-important over-60 set, so the PR flaks figure it’s better to just pretend.

    That said, the extra time cost of the blended plan, defined here as track-sharing on SF-SJ and Sylmar-Anaheim and retention of grade crossing, is small. The major threats to the 2:40 travel time come from forced intermediate stops, lack of curve fixing, possible slowdowns through Fresno and Bakersfield, the use of the more easterly BNSF alignment in the CV, and station throat compromises. In addition, the blended plan builds tracks on the correct-but-assumed-away-in-1A belief that trains will run more local, and this compromises the travel time of phantom LA-SF nonstop trains.

    The only way in which the blended plan critically compromises 1A goals is that it makes the 12 tph rule impossible to achieve. This is perfectly fine, though – the HSRA can defensibly say that it has plans for how to build to 12 tph, that the components are being built to be retrofit later to support such frequency (which isn’t really true of Transbay, but that’s a separate discussion), and that if demand supports such frequency it can build it out of operating profits.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The only way in which the blended plan critically compromises 1A goals is that it makes the 12 tph rule impossible to achieve.

    No one ever suggested that there would be 12 trains an hour in San Francisco. There is going to be a branch to Sacramento which will absorb some of those 12 trains an hour.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, the blended plan allows 4 tph into San Francisco, so unless there’s a rationale for giving Sacramento 8 tph, it’s a violation.

    Second, a reasonable blended plan would also be blended between Sylmar and LA for as long as possible, and that’s on the trunk line. That said, a judge who has a clue what he’s ruling on – for example, a judge who isn’t Antonin “Health Care is Like Broccoli” Scalia – should agree that it’s legal to start with a lower-capacity system as long as it’s relatively easy to increase capacity later if traffic demand merits it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The rule is five minute headways. Wouldn’t 5min headways and 12tph imply all trains stopping the same stopping pattern, metro subway style?

    Peter Reply:

    Isn’t the rule “capable of five minute headways”?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, that’s was my question. I had thought the rule was capable of 5 minute headways.

    If a judge rules that 5 minute practical headways meant for whatever rail vehicles happen to be operating, no sweat.

    If a judge rules that 5 minute practical headways means HSR to HSR, then there has to be 2:30 practical train headways on the Caltrain corridor to meet that condition. That may be a constraint that the DTX cannot meet.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    capable of 5 minute headways and capable of 2:40 minutes between SF and LA. The two don’t have to happen at the same time. So the 4″45 AM express to the other end could be the one train a day that makes it in 2:40. The rest of them could be running with a theorectical 5 minute headway and the slowest one running in 3:15.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If there are passing sidings at every station that some trains skip, then 12 tph is possible with a mixture of stopping patterns, as is practiced on the Tokaido Shinkansen at the peak. The LGV Sud-Est has 10 tph peak with a variable stopping pattern, but there are only two intermediate stations, and nearly all trains skip them.

    joe Reply:

    Of course a blended system can’t make the requisite travel time – it’s an intermediate step;

    Attacking the blended plan for not meeting the final system’s time requirement is a de facto an all or nothing proposition.

    This argument undercuts Palo Alto’s demand that the EIR be redone for blended service only. Now I know that the HSR EIR must include a design that supports the time requirement.

  8. Peter
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 14:42

    OT: Caltrain Board agrees electrification funding

    I’m confused. I’m not finding any other reference to this. There was no PCJPB Board meeting today, when/where did they “agree” to this?

    VBobier Reply:

    That date most likely is just todays date, as other articles also show a date of 06/01/2012…

    Reality Check Reply:

    The JPB approved the MOU during their May 3rd, 2012 meeting. The item entitled “AUTHORIZE APPROVAL OF HIGH SPEED RAIL EARLY INVESTMENT STRATEGY FOR A BLENDED SYSTEM MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING” begins on page 4 (PDF page 7) of the May 3 meeting minutes … and ends on Page 8 (PDF page 11) with:

    A motion (Kalra/Kniss) to approve the HSR early investment strategy for a blended system
    MOU was approved unanimously.

  9. Reality Check
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 14:51

    Gov. Jerry Brown plans to fast-track high-speed rail through courts

    Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to fast-track the $69 billion high-speed rail project through the courts by easing legal scrutiny under the state’s landmark environmental law, this newspaper learned today.

    The proposal, which the Legislature would have to approve this month as part of launching construction on the state’s biggest-ever project, does not change the California Environmental Quality Act in any way but has two major ramifications for the bullet train and state.

    First, it virtually takes away the final bullet in the chamber that project opponents were hoping to use in a last-ditch attempt to kill high-speed rail: a court-ordered injunction halting construction.

    Under Brown’s proposal, the train foes would have to prove in court that the project causes a major environmental problem, as in wiping out an endangered species or damaging extremely valuable land. Usually, they would have to convince a judge only of a minor problem with the project — for instance, that the state did not adequately study the impacts of moving a road to make way for the tracks.

    Project opponents on the Peninsula and beyond have repeatedly used this tactic successfully in the past few years to delay planning on the project by complaining of minor issues — and Central Valley farmers are expected to file a similar CEQA lawsuit today.

  10. Peter
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 14:54

    Also OT: Gov. Jerry Brown plans to fast-track high-speed rail through courts

    Apparently, CEQA challenges to HSR will only be allowed if the project would cause a significant environmental problem. Minor technicalities will not be permitted to delay the project, such as was the case with the Atherton cases or the lawsuit that will likely be filed today against the Merced-Fresno Project EIR.

    I’m kind of conflicted on this one. CEQA is a very important law, and HSR is a very important project. I’m ok with losing some parts of CEQA, though. I also don’t think CEQA would take a permanent hit on this, as any other exemptions to CEQA, as does this partial exemption, would need approval from the Legislature.

  11. Alon Levy
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 15:48

    OT: at the risk of trolling, why even put the SJ station at Diridon? For much less than the multilevel edifice they could build a cutoff that gives SJ a station closer to downtown, like this. Are they not doing it because the viaducts in question are still too expensive, or what?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are assuming that “downtown” is an actual downtown.
    Penn Station isn’t “downtown”, when it was built “downtown” was on Wall Street. Most of Park Avenue was still called Fourth Avenue.
    30th Street isn’t downtown. Penn Station Newark is quite a hike from the epicenter of downtown Newark. Union Station DC sux when it comes to walking anywhere. But that’s partly because of the hike you had to take from the last car in the train.

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know –

    But hey extend the VTA 902 light rail terminus another 0.3 miles or 2 blocks into the new station. It is so close, so make it connect.

    There is also a free VTA shuttle, DASH, which connects the station to downtown in a loop.

    …and treat a HSR ticket as a bus transfer.

    joe Reply:

    terminal, not terminus.

    Peter Reply:

    DASH is mostly freaking useless.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Completely OT

    If you transfer from one VTA bus to another (ie 522 to 22 or 22 to an east-west bus), do you have to pay a second fare? For light rail, you have two hours but I can’t find anything on VTA.


    Peter Reply:

    Nope, you need to buy a Day Pass or pay for each bus you board. If you have a Clipper card you just tag on to each bus and it only will charge you the max for a Day Pass.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Oh my.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s actually not a bad policy at all.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    I lived in NY when they made transfers free to the buses from the subways.

    Peter Reply:

    It saves money for those people who only need to take one bus each way.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A tariff based on unlimited rides (on any type of vehicle and any number of vehicles) for a limited time is the ideal for every (sub)urban transportation network in every part of the world, with almost all ticket sales occurring off-vehicle.

    In VTA-land, that would mean a basic ticket was good for Caltrain, VTA bus, VTA rail, etc, for 90 minutes, or for 24 hours, or for 3 or 7 or 30 or 90 or 365 days.

    But what they have isn’t actively bad, especially given the impracticality of most transfers on their “network”.

    The NYMTA policy of a single free transfer (and only rail to bus, for no valid reason) policy is no better.

    Note that VTA used to sell books of day passes, but MTC’s inexplicably-as-yet-unindicted head Steve Heminger, in his stalwart effort to maximize the profits of defense contractor Cubic in every way at all times, outlawed all Bay Area transit systems from selling non-Cubic-profiting multi-ride tickets.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The NYMTA policy of a single free transfer (and only rail to bus, for no valid reason) policy is no better.

    If you have an umlimited MetroCard you can make as many transfers as you please. With a single ride you can swipe on the bus and then get a free swipe when you transfer to the subway. While ou can swipe to get on PATH you pay a PATH fare. MetroCard isn’t any good on MetroNorth, the LIRR, or NJTransit any part of NJTransit. I’m not in the mood to go look, pay per ride is probably good on the suburban bus systems, some of which are frequent and heavily traveled. Maybe even unlimited ride.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Richard, the New York policy is that transfers are free bus-to-bus (and have been forever), bus-to-subway, or subway-to-bus. What’s not free is transferring a second time, or transferring to a vehicle operated by another agency, including MTA-owned commuter rail but also PATH and the JFK AirTrain.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    I went to one of the San Jose planning meetings and made similar suggestions. It did not go over very well. There is something really broken about the process that there is no way to make anything other than very minor modifications to the project.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    If we’re going all hypothetical, and if SJ really merited dedicated HS service (it doesn’t), and it SJ really merited any sort of underground rail construction of any type anywhere (it doesn’t, and never will), the least stupid thing to do would have to build the bat shit insane PB-promoted PB-designed PB-shilled PB-profiting Santa Clara-SJ Cahill-SJ “downtown”-SJ Flea Market-Fremont Warm Springs BART tunnels to a larger size and the tracks to a narrower gauge.

    HS could have through run Altamont—Warm Springs—SJ—Santa Clara and Caltrain could have through runWarm Springs—SJ&mdash&Santa Clara—SF.

    “Bigger tunnels” = more cost. “Bigger trains” = bigger underground stations = more cost. Hooray! Everybody (who designs or digs holes, that is) wins! Score!

    But “not BART” = “not iron-clad 100% guaranteed to be a 100% PB-controlled project”, so no dice.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Richard is on to something. Sounds simplistic but that’s precisely what is behind BART primacy.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon: Downtown NIMBYs of San Jose. Witness the furore from the proposal to put the trains in an existing railroad trench. Not only would the viaducts be expensive, but I’m sure the friends of the “Guadalupe River Trail” would freak out, too.

  12. ProudPAnimby
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 17:02

    High Speed buses as an alternative to HSR gains White House Support. Sez the Onion.

  13. Reality Check
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 17:12

    Criticism greets new high-speed rail CEO
    Jeff Morales to lead state High-Speed Rail Authority after serving as executive of agency’s top contractor

    “The Rail Authority claims it conducted a nation-wide search just to end up with an executive from its biggest contractor?” LaMalfa asked in a statement. “How can we expect this insider to provide an independent review of the project, when he helped write the plan that’s already doubled the cost to taxpayers?

    “Moving forward, how are we to know where the Authority stops and Parsons Brinckerhoff begins?” he added.

    Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based rail-watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, voiced a similar concern. Her group was among the first to criticize the rail authority’s ridership projections and cost estimates (the price tag for the system increased from about $43 billion two years ago to $98.1 billion earlier this year before coming down to the current level of $68 billion). Parsons Brinckerhoff, she said, was the primary agency responsible for the initial low-balling of the cost estimate. The fact that Morales served as a high-level executive for the rail authority’s highest-paid contractor should disqualify him from the position, she said.

    “It’s always been a major concern with this relationship. Who is running the show? Is it PB or is it the state of California?” Alexis said. “Now, that’s an even more difficult question to answer.”

  14. Reality Check
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 17:16

    High-speed rail facing legal challenges
    Two farm bureaus plan to file suit today

    Madera and Merced county farm bureaus said they plan to file a lawsuit today in what is likely the most significant challenge to the project yet.

    “We feel the High-Speed Rail Authority has not listened to our requests along the way,” said Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau. “If they’re going to shove this project down our throats, then we’re going to shove this lawsuit down theirs.”

    lex luther Reply:

    and so it starts. the anticipated lawsuits. unless the CHSRA can get an exemption from CEQA, they will most likely be stuck in limbo for awhile. and now with jeff morales at the helm, the CHSRA have made themselves an easy target for the GOP because in truth, his appointment stinks. too much conflict of interest there.

    joe Reply:

    Hudson: That’s it man, game over man, game over! What the fxxk are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? –
    – Aliens 1986

    Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to fast-track California’s $69 billion high-speed rail project by easing legal scrutiny under the state’s landmark environmental law, this newspaper learned Friday.

    Under Brown’s proposal, train foes would have to prove in court that the project causes major environmental problems, such as wiping out an endangered species or damaging extremely valuable land. In the past, opponents on the Peninsula have delayed planning for the project by convincing a judge of minor problems — for instance, that the state did not adequately study track vibrations. And Central Valley farmers Friday filed a lawsuit with a similar strategy in mind.

    Specifically, the proposal would give judges the power to allow construction of the line to begin in the Central Valley later this year even if opponents win a court case against the project. Instead of halting construction with an injunction, the rail authority could start building while fixing whatever problems the judge finds.

    In addition, the proposal would prevent opponents in the Bay Area from suing over a newer plan to run high-speed rail along the Caltrain corridor on two tracks, as opposed to the older four-track plan.

    lex luther Reply:

    but it does not stop a judge from issuing an injunction. that being said, if a suit was brought before a conservative judge, i wonder what would happen

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 19:50

    In other news, if you could call it that as it has become so routine, the Repubican-Right again reveals both how mean-spirited and how stupid it has become:

    Young people should get beat because they’re dumb, they have a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism:


    The fun part, I am old enough to remember the debates about lowering the voting age. I still think it makes sense; if you’re old enough to fight in the service of the country, and possibly die in the the service of the country, you should be able to have a say in the destiny of the country.

    Then there is this bozo and his unfortunate choice of words–hrrumph, why would anybody say we should throw acid on women, even if said in jest?


    Didn’t their mothers teach them better?

    lex luther Reply:

    and think progress is a source of objective journalism? thats like saying fox news is fair and balanced.

    Spokker Reply:

    Did it happen or not? Did they say it or not? I am skeptical of both statements, but tell me why Think Progress is wrong. Just because it’s on a source you don’t like doesn’t mean it did not happen. I’d research it but my Internet connection is shit tonight and packets are dropping all over the place.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sorry about your internet connection, Spokker, I know how frustrating that can be. Surprising how we get spoiled with new toys!

    As far as anything happening, no, no one is beating anybody up, or throwing acid, it really is just two guys shooting off their mouths. At the same time, though, if you are in a public place, if you are a public figure, it’s not a bad idea to be a little diplomatic; you might need those people you are insulting.

    We also have some real kooks in our society. Remember the business with the congresswoman who got shot a year or two ago? Her assailant clearly had problems with his head, but at the same time, the campaign material with Gabby Gifford in a bulls-eye or whatever it was, and other things going on there at the time, certainly didn’t help matters. Who knows what effects such a poisonous atmosphere can have? Who knows what effects of such an atmosphere can be even on a normally logical, clear-thinking populace over time?

    Such statements also can reveal how little these people think of others who disagree with them, and how, if given power, they would ride roughshod over any opposition. Don’t think it can’t happen; we’ve had a history of that before.

    Let us also remember that a true monster can be personally very charming. Supposedly Hitler was like that! And haven’t we had at least one serial killer who was, until he was found out, a popular and well-liked Boy Scout leader? Talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing!

    Perhaps the best advice is be careful who you vote for, and hope you have decent alternatives to pick from.

    And finally, as disappointing as some of the opposition may be, let us recall they are still fellow Americans, fellow citizens, and that they love this country at least as much as we do.

    Spokker Reply:

    Jared Loughner had zero political affiliations and it’s hard to guess where he stood because his thoughts were so incoherent. Even the conspiracy theory guys didn’t like him. Any attempt to connect that shooting to the political atmosphere is going to fall flat on its face.

    Spokker Reply:

    Anyway, here’s what I think. Nobody in Washington is beating up anybody else. Nobody is throwing acid at anyone else. That shit is for jilted lovers that never opened a fucking newspaper in their lives.

    This is manufactured controversy.

    Spokker Reply:

    And there was a time when a legislator would take a cane and beat the shit out of you. Those times are over.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Those times are coming back. Mark my words.

    The Republican who recommended throwing acid on women really said that. You think they’re kidding? You think they’re exaggerating?

    Well, what are you gonna do when you discover that they aren’t?

  16. synonymouse
    Jun 1st, 2012 at 21:05

    Douchetown Assessor closer to indictment:


    Wonder who he crossed or maybe he just got greedy and did not take care of the bosses.

Comments are closed.