Sierra Club and NRDC Oppose Governor’s CEQA Plans for HSR

Jun 12th, 2012 | Posted by

In a move that shouldn’t come as any surprise, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have come out against Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to limit the ability of lawsuits to stop or delay the high speed rail project:

Since June 5, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have sent letters to the governor, stating that his attempt in the Legislature to water down the California Environmental Quality Act represents a major threat to environmental protection statewide.

“This proposal sets a dangerous precedent, that, if applied here and to other large scale public works projects, will throw the state back to an era when bulldozers and engineers trumped clean air, clean water, wetlands and natural habitat and the public interest with abandon,” the Sierra Club letter stated.

While I understand the concerns these organizations are raising, I disagree that the governor’s approach is creating any kind of “dangerous precedent.” In fact, the true danger to the state’s environment comes from the current way that CEQA is used and abused. Rather than serving as a tool to promote smart planning and help the state build projects that will help the environment and the climate, CEQA is often abused by NIMBYs and others to harass environmentally friendly projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment.

That status quo isn’t working. And because of the failures of CEQA, demand is growing for various exemptions and carveouts to be granted from the law. If CEQA was providing a sensible planning process that helped expedite good projects and stop bad ones, then there wouldn’t be any need or justification or demand for things like what the governor is proposing. If nothing is done, pressure will continue to build for simply exempting projects from CEQA review. That’s not what is being proposed in the case of HSR, but it will happen in more cases.

Environmentalists should stop defending a failed and flawed law, and instead work to improve the state’s planning and environmental review process. We don’t live in an era where defensiveness works any more. You have to propose a better alternative. California’s environmental groups should begin working on ways to fix CEQA, or else watch as it collapses without a viable replacement.

    1. Tony d.
      Jun 12th, 2012 at 20:27

      Jerry Brown’s response should be “Go @#$%& yourself!” Seriously, CEQA as it now stands has more to do with obstruction than protecting the environment. Clean water? Yeah right, it’s all about I don’t like a certain project, therefore I’ll try to hold it up in the courts as long as possible. I thought the Sierra Club was smarter than this? (I guess not!)

      joe Reply:

      LUCAS Ranch and the NIMBYS who held up that project exemplify what is wrong. The land will be developed for housing rather than the mixed development Luacs planned for his expansion. Environmentally it will be worse, not better but Lucas was thwarted by the law and wealthy neighbours wanting a pristine backyard (free), not environmental concerns.

      The CEQA doesn’t stop development – it has a threshold under which the entire Sierras can be developed piece by piece – ad hoc. It distorts, doesn’t protect land from development.

      CEQA is vague which leads to lawsuits – the statue needs to define terms and reduce litigation over interpretation of the law.

      CEQA is misued to tie up project sand a prime example is Palo Alto and Menlo Park suing CAHSR and seeking to block the project over the question about proper notification in the South Country impacts to traffic.

      YesonHSR Reply:

      CEQA has been hijacked by Rich Nimbys Fakes that could give a damm about the Earth….They just want to drive thru it with their 90,OOO $ Landrovers AND they think they are just..So give up your cars fakes..that and that alone will solve a huge amount of “Sierra” problems

    2. joe
      Jun 12th, 2012 at 22:00
      Overview: The Enterprise picks up two survivors of a war-torn planet who are still committed to destroying each other aboard the ship.

      Instead of calling a truce, the two beings begin to blame each other for the destruction of the planet and a physical brawl ensues. As the two aliens fight, their innate powers radiate, cloaking them with an energy aura that threatens to damage the ship. With no other choice, Kirk sadly allows the two aliens to chase each other down to their obliterated world to decide their own fates, consumed by their now self-perpetuating mutual hate.

    3. joe
      Jun 12th, 2012 at 22:17

      though as Robert Cruickshank notes, it’s not at all clear that any transit project, whether it’s the Westside Subway Extension or California’s larger high-speed rail project, will actually benefit from recently passed legislation. Cruickshank does, however, claim that “a precedent has been set,” and he seems optimistic that transit will soon get expedited CEQA reviews.

      Richard Mlynarik, a “technical” transit advocate who’s had some less-than-satisfactory experiences with California transit planners, is, as always, less sanguine. In a comment on Robert’s post he writes, in his characteristically colorful style:

      Good God you people are making this complicated. This is a way for politically juiced stadium and strip mall developers to get what they want sooner and more profitably. […]

      But feel free to believe this has anything to do with [transit-oriented development] and choo choos and Overturning the Oil Paradigm. Your overlords thank you (not in any concrete fashion, but it’s the thought that counts, right?) for your work on their bulldozing shopping malling behalves.

      How colourful.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      Well, at least we know somebody else is reading this site. . .

      Jack Reply:

      No one but us Train Foamers

      VBobier Reply:

      That is so not true, lurkers could be anyone from anywhere & until a lurker posts here, You can’t say it’s just the people who post here, as You could be right or wrong, just saying that’s all.

    4. Jack
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 00:03

      Build, Baby, Build!

    5. Reality Check
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 00:54

      ‘No document exists’ on bullet train’s speed, lawsuit claims
      Peninsula-based opposition group leader sought data, received none

      joe Reply:

      Birthers meet HSR.

      Where’s the birth certificate huh?

      “Instead, the rail authority’s promises are backed up by “verbal assertions based on (the) skill, experience and optimism” of project engineers, the rail official wrote in response to a request for public information.”

      Brady said he suspected that there is no written material on the topic because it’s simply not possible for the reconfigured train to go fast enough to comply with the law.It would be illegal for the state to spend money on the project if that’s the case, he contends.

      Peter Reply:

      I was amused when reading through the most recent filings in the Kings County lawsuit that the AG’s office pointed out that the arguments are the same as those in Morris Brown’s ill-fated lawsuit. You know, the one that was dismissed as premature. You know, the same as this one will be on Friday.

      Also, “Peninsula-based opposition group leader”, aka Kathy Hamilton, is the same Kathy Hamilton who “reports” for the SF Examiner. Aren’t “journalists” supposed to be neutral reporters of the facts?

      joe Reply:

      Funnier how Kings Co. birther attacks on HSR performance undermine the Peninsula’s attempts to permanently limit HSR capacity.
      The Rail Committee has asked the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which made the deal with the Rail Authority, to limit the design option for tracks on the Peninsula to a “blended system.”

      VBobier Reply:

      I doubt that will go anywhere outside of a dusty file cabinet…

      Nathanael Reply:

      Journalists are not really supposed to be neutral reporters of the facts (ask any British journalist!). The “neutral reporter of the facts” idea was a bullshit invention of Hearst as an excuse to retain his newspaper monopolies.

      Journalists are, however, supposed to (a) report the facts honestly even when the facts are in opposition to their views, and (b) openly disclose their biases and viewpoints. Further, there should be multiple news sources with *different* clearly defined biased points of view. (As there are in the UK, where major newspapers are openly known and understood to be associated with particular political parties, or even factions within those parties.)

      Nathanael Reply:

      In the US, we have a serious problem with newspaper monopolization, a serious problem with journalists hiding their biases, and an additional problem with some journalists just lying outright or refusing to report things they don’t like.

      VBobier Reply:

      Yeah all in the name of circulation these days, Newspapers are a dying breed and the “Journalists” there are now mere shills for the sales department. I’d rather trust NBC, CBS and with a grain of Salt ABC(Disney), Fox I would not trust as their News is tainted(Rupert Murdoch said Fox News isn’t real News, as seen Here on youtube), everything else about Fox is ok, just not their News as Fox News Admits Manipulating the News

      But then a sucker/dumb jackass is born every second…

      Nathanael Reply:

      Honestly the TV news is worse than the papers, even ABC/NBC/CBS. Fox “News” is of course merely a propaganda outfit.

      I’ve resorted to getting my news from foreign press, local free weeklies, and the Internet.

      VBobier Reply:

      She’s just interested in selling that dying product, a Newspaper…

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      So Joe and Peter…are you saying you think it will make it in 2:40? If I was a supporter I would find it a bit embarassing that they are ready to kick off a 68 billion dollar program and the don’t have a single scrap of paper that supports compliance with one of the strongest parts of the law.

      I work making medical devices. You are not allowed to “assert” anything, you have to prove it (for the obvious reason that peoples lives depend on it working). I find it lazy and embarassing that they do not take enough pride in their work to do the same.

      I suspect (as do others on this blog) that they can’t meet the requirement. They state it, but they left it out of the buisness plan and refuse to explain how they are going to meet it with the blended approach. Again, all signs they have no intent to comply.

      They continue to ignore the law as written…it will catch up to them at sometime.

      adirondacker12800 Reply:

      So you are arguing that they can’t build anything until they find a contractor who will be able to have all of the tracks, catenary, signals etc erupt simultaneously between San Francisco and Anaheim as a train load of revenue producing passengers glides in from the sky?

      Paul Druce Reply:

      To be fair, we did manage to switch most of the US over to standard gauge in what, one day, two days? So the precedent exists.

      adirondacker12800 Reply:

      Most of the South. The North and West were already using standard gauge or Pennsylvania Gauge. There was a lot of preparation done beforehand.

      Paul Druce Reply:

      So all we have to do is prefab all the train stuff and set it up overnight.

      adirondacker12800 Reply:

      No prefabbing, everything has to appear magically all at the same instant. The limestone has whoose out of the mine, turn itself into portland cement as it flies through the air, collide with precisely the right amount of aggregate and water over the forms that assembled themselves just moments before and then set before the rails fall onto the ballast and ties that were flying behind the cement water and aggregate.

      VBobier Reply:

      Sounds like some want Mickey Mouse to build HSR by way of magic…

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      I wonder if Mickey’s improved with practice at wizardry since 1940; that’s been long enough, maybe he could pull that off. . .wasn’t quite up to the ability to control things so well then. . .

      thatbruce Reply:

      There’s a solution to BART right there.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      I work making medical devices. You are not allowed to “assert” anything, you have to prove it (for the obvious reason that peoples lives depend on it working).
      As, to be sure, will be the passengers lives if the trip ends up being 2:50. Consider the circulation blocked by the twisted knickers of outraged HSR opponents. And the elevated blood pressure!

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      BruceMcF I suspect you don’t think they can hit the time requirement. But I also suspect that you think that would be ok because the “greater good” would be a HSR system. Of course this is all just conjecture, because you are always careful not to actually state if you think they can make it or not.

      Obviously no one dies if they miss by a few minutes. They will, however, be in violation of the law. So lets carry this argument out.

      1. They do a complete build out of the blended system. They were perfect planners, the feds pony up the money, and it is 68 billion spent and 2028 when they are done. [as a side note in this perfect world I am wealthy and dating several supermodels]
      2. Low and behold, the best the express can do is 3 hours flat, they miss the requirement by 18 minutes or about 11% (2:42 = 162 min..18/162 = 11%)

      Now what? They are in obvious violation of the law, but we have spent all the money. What is the legal relief?

      BruceMcF Reply:

      I suspect that there is a substantial amount of confirmation bias in your suspicion.

      I suspect they can make the time requirement with some expensive works in the Caltrain corridor to ease some curves that should be eased anyways, and if they go around Bakersfield on an Express bypass. They claim they can make 30min SJ/TBT, but I am skeptical whether that includes an operating allowance without additional works.

      But clearly, due to Gov Schwarzenegger the Prop1a(2008) funds do not extend as far as they would have done with a 25:75 match, and meeting the Prop1a(2008) requirement on works not funded by Prop1a(2008) would be a moot point. So long as the Prop1a(2008) funds are directed to works that are in line with a 2:40 design, the remaining legal question for your Californians to hammer out is whether surplus operating revenues from works funded by Prop1a(2008) funds inherit the Prop1a design envelope constraints.

      In (1), if its 3hrs flat because of work they have not done, why would there be legal relief to seek? Anybody who read the Prop1a(2008) official guidance knew that the Prop1a funding would not be complete funding for the corridor. The fight would be between Sacramento, the Inland Empire and San Diego, who would want it to be declared close enough to release revenue bond funding for Phase 2, and interests along the original corridor who may want revenue bond funding to be dedicated to additional Phase 1 works until it meets the Prop1a(2008) transit time.

      That will be a political decision to be hammered out by the California state legislature, more or less within the constraints set down by court decisions. The obvious logroll would be to pony up additional funding and do both.

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      The blended approach is the “final” plan. There is nothing in the plan after that.

      Under your logic you can just always claim the system is “unfinished” and never have to meet any requirements. That argument is no more reasonable than those who say it has to be constructed overnight. At some point (according to the law it is actually 2020) you have to say you are done and can be judged against the requirements. You can’t have a plan that never says done…that is just not a plan.

      Your other argument that the other 75% of the money does not have these requirements is just as invalid. It is obviously not possible to spend the 25% from Prop1A on just the “compliant” parts. There is ample case law on this but the easiest example is highway funding. Highways are only partially federally funded, but all highways meet federal standards (the most viable being the speed limit) because once you accepted that money the whole system had to meet the requirements.

      The law intent is clear and it was sold as a HSR system with operating requirements that were clearly spelled out. Now that it is expensive or hard to meet those requirements you can’t just ignore them.

      Before they start they need to show they can meet the requirements and comply with the law. You would not build a house without knowing the plans comply with the building code, the HSR is no different.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Under your logic you can just always claim the system is “unfinished” and never have to meet any requirements.

      Well, no, “my logic” clearly does not permit that.

      Are you perhaps someone who always and unfailingly finds fault with everything that the CHSRA does, and so has me confused with someone who always and unfailingly supports everything that the CHSRA does?

      What the Prop1a(2008) requirements on this front are in fact will be decided in a court ~ in the terms of the early 1900’s American institutional economist John R. Commons, by appeal to sovereign authority. I would certainly find the final decision reasonable if they directed that an operational plan to achieve 2:40 had to be available. Whether that is with or without an operating allowance, and if with, what operating allowance would be required ~ somewhere in the range of 7% to 5% would be reasonable on a dedicated corridor, and on a shared corridor that has been cleared of conflicting traffic to allow a flyer service through ~ I don’t have the faintest idea. I am neither a lawyer nor inclined to play one on the internet, and so my view of the legal system is the outside-in view of the regularities of behavior in an important social institution.

      However, there will still be the points that you people who seem to want the corridor to spring full grown out of the forehead of Zeus seem to constantly neglect: there is clearly no requirement that the time be met before beginning HSR operation, and there is clearly no requirement that every service meet those time requirements.

      So if, for example, they have to “clear the corridor” of interfering traffic to negotiate the Caltrain corridor in the required time ~ which may be required in both the tunnel and in the present Caltrain Corridor ~ that’s certainly within the Prop1a(2008) design envelope.

      And if meeting it requires completion of a series of grade separation upgrades on the Caltrain corridor, then beginning operation before those upgrades are completed is fine.

      The “but blended operation is the final design objection” is a clear red herring. The Caltrain corridor sharing track through the present San Bruno curve complex is blended operation. So is the Caltrain Corridor with an express viaduct flying over the curve complex. A claim that they can’t meet 2:40 without that express viaduct, or some other means of easing the San Bruno curve for higher speed operation, is clearly different to claiming that they can’t make 2:40 without a a dedicated HSR corridor through the Caltrain corridor. So those works would quite clearly fit within the frame of a “blended operation” plan.

      As far as capacity, obviously there are capacity constraints in blended operation, but they are not binding for the coming two decades.

      Tom McNamara Reply:


      I think as long as the final build-out of the system accomplishes the 2:40 guarantee then expenditures are valid.

      What is possible is that some of the Prop 1A purchases slated to go to local transit authorities will be blocked because it would not operationally allow that speed. But the Central Valley track shouldn’t be affected and should be able to go forward unless the parties seek an injunction. (I doubt they will because they would lose on appeal).

      That would though, probably require PB to “push the button” an amend the IOS to Merced to Palmdale, which again, is probably sufficient.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      That does sound a possibility. EG, even in a first after curfew morning run with the Caltrain tracks clear of traffic, a 30min TBT/SJ run may be impossible without an overpass or fix of the San Bruno curve, which might be the basis to challenge using anything but the general purpose Prop1a bond funds on work in that segment.

      Elizabeth Reply:

      According to the schedule in the ridership report, 2 hrs 40 minutes was only achieved by blowing through San Jose in 25 minutes. One possibility is that while the reports say Transbay they really mean 4th and king. Regardless, I don’t think the time is achievable even with full system. Since 2009, there have been multiple sources of slowdowns, from downgrading speeds in gilroy from 220 mph to small route changes to incorporation of comments from intl operators that the schedule padding was unrealistically low.

      Beyond the legal implications, the practical issue is that you have a route that is too long, spends too much time in urbanized areas and will give you one train an hour at 3:15 if you are lucky. Ridership is very sensitive to time changes in this range.

      While there have been a lot of conspiracy theories about oil and air industry fighting this project, the only money I’ve seen is local residents and farmers and pro transit. Why should those that oppose transit spend any money when they can count on the process here to sabotage the project?

      joe Reply:

      “According to the schedule in the ridership report, 2 hrs 40 minutes was only achieved by blowing through San Jose in 25 minutes”

      2:40 is not an operating requirement.

      2704.09. The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to
      this chapter shall have the following characteristics:
      (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue
      operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour.

      (b) Maximum express service travel times for each corridor that shall
      not exceed the following:
      (1) San Francisco-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 42

      “from downgrading speeds in gilroy ”

      The station location in Gilroy is still TBD and so the alignment.

      Beyond the legal implications, the practical issue is that you have a route that is too long,

      ..and can connect to the DX rail system in planning.
      …and this tool long route services cities whith the wrong demographic makeup. The CV cites along HW 99. You forgot CARRDs demographic analysis of the “too long” route.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      the practical issue is that you have a route that is too long, spends too much time in urbanized areas and will give you one train an hour at 3:15 if you are lucky.

      That exaggerated hyperbole at the end undermines the credibility of the whole claim. Its like that laughable jobs impact report that CARRD signed on to that assumed no productivity gains whatsoever and no self-insurance benefits against oil price shocks whatsoever in order to arrive at an attention grabbing conclusion that did not hold water when subjected to scrutiny.

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      There are several time requirements in the law. Not just the 2:42. But setting the others aside for a moment, lets just talk about the 2:42.

      As you can see from the discussions, many people, people who are far more knowledgable than me, think they are not going to make it. So why do you think they are going to hit it. They have no studies, no data, no report, not even assumptions…just the “gut feel” of anonymous “experienced” engineers.

      Peter Reply:

      John, was I making any claims on the time issue? Please don’t try to put words in my mouth.

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      read my reply….I was asking if you believed they could make it…I did not say you were making claims.

      So the question remains…Do you think they will hit 2:42?

      joe Reply:

      John Nachtigall: writes: “If I was a supporter I would find it a bit embarrassing that they are ready to kick off a 68 billion dollar program and the don’t have a single scrap of paper that supports compliance with one of the strongest parts of the law.”

      Let’s not go all birther here so please be precise.
      What would the scrape of paper say and who writes it to whom for what purpose and what level of review?

      If you build medical devices that maintain human life then you need a piece of paper from the FDA certifying the device for use – that’s done after it’s been built and tested.

      What’s the missing “certification” necessary for the HSR business plan at this point in the process and what requirement compliance review is necessary prior to starting construction on a segment?

      Is it impossible for the current construction to ever meet the time requirement? No. They have a credible business plan to construct a system capable – when finished – to meet the time requirement in a demonstration test.

      It’s possible. Certainly the CV segment which is designed to be HSR compliant would uncut claims it isn’t possible.

      Challenges to the performance requirement reinforce the full build EIR and make final design compromises to the HSR system in the peninsula “illegal”. How can we limit HSR to 2 tracks – that could put the time requirement in jeopardy.

      BTW My understanding from below personal communication is that the process assuring medical device software is pretty lame.

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      First. just to put your mind at ease, the FDA is obsessive about safety (which includes security). One of the reasons that it takes twice as long to release a device in the US as opposed to Europe is meeting the requirements for testing including software security. My company (although not my division) makes internal pacemakers and ICD units (those were our units they were holding up in the picture and our GM they talked to). If hacked they could shock you to death. We use beyond military grade security with multiple layers of redundant controls and checks to ensure it never happens. Is it possible…sure it is. But it has never happened so far and we are making sure it never does. No one is going to hack your pacemaker anytime soon, so feel good about that. (and going wireless did make our job harder…we did it anyway for the patients and the doctors)

      Back to HSR. To answer your question, the scrap of paper (lets be nice and let them use whole 8.5 x 11 sheets) would simply list all the time requirements (there are more than just the 2:42 total time). The description of the top speeds for each section of proposed track and timepoints at the appropriate intervals that would give you the travel times (with allowance for stops.

      The persons writing it would be an experienced cross functional team of builders and operators or HSR trains and systems. The purpose would be to show compliance with the law that authorized the funding as well as gain credibility with the public and the lawmakers. Review would be at least next level supervision but for this (considering the lawsuits) I would go up all the way in the chain to the top and consider asking the independent outside review board (already set up in the law) to sign off on it.

      The CAHSR project picked the blended approach…they choose the route….they can not turn around now and say the route prevents the time requirements.

      I am not unreasonable, I am not saying build it all at once. I am saying prove that once it is built you think it is going to comply

      VBobier Reply:

      So you think that HSR can’t be this fast? In a Drag Race the electric motor that is made for drag racing beats the normal drag racer hands down and electric motors hold world records in this, as the acceleration is beyond what a piston powered vehicle can achieve, as piston power is limited by comparison, may as well be made by cavemen…

      James M. in Irvine Reply:

      It seems to me that all CAHSR do is have ONE train make it LA to SF in 2:40. Ever. So, upon connecting all the rails, run 1 train on a low traffic day, like Sunday, make a stop or two, get over the road in the time limit, and the requirement has been met. Or does the law in fact say every train has to make this? Or one train a day? No I think it just has to have the ABILITY to make it in the time alloted.

      Now make sensible schedules based on demands and run it like a real railroad….

      JimM in Irvine

      joe Reply:

      Possibly run that 2;40 train once and verify the requirement – Prop1a doesn’t require the 2;40 train run operationally.

      swing hanger Reply:

      Yes, kind of like the TGV world record run. And after that, as JimM said, run a schedule that fits the real needs of the passengers (i.e run as fast as required, not as fast as possible). Best practices indicate you should start services at a lower speed anyway, and gradually increase the speeds as experience is gained.

      Clem Reply:

      Maybe ignoring the requirement will be easier. Even if you “verified” it, there is no chance the resulting product would pass validation.

      Reality Check Reply:

      The SF Chronicle ran the story today:
      Bullet train’s ability to maintain speed disputed

      Some rail experts, including advocates of the California project, questioned how bullet train speeds could be maintained.

      “All over the state … they’re going to use commuter trains, Caltrain, light rail in Stockton,” Kings County attorney Michael Brady said. “You’re not going to be able to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in six hours.”

      That would violate state law. Many experts say it would also doom the project because slow trains would persuade most passengers to buy a plane ticket instead.

      You might recall Mike Brady is the PAMPA area attorney who was involved in some earlier (failed) lawsuits … such as the one based on Union Pacific’s non-approval of the plans for the Peninsula. Something about UP having veto power. (I can’t be bothered to look up the details.)

      synonymouse Reply:

      Clearly there was an attempt to take up the speed issue when Van Ark attempted to bring the mountain crossing back to Tejon. The preliminary studies provided a projected range of possible travel times and had the full engineering-out of the optimum crossing(anathema to the Tejon Ranch)been authorized we would have had some pretty solid figures for the mountain crossing, which represents a significant part of overall route mileage. Point being if all the requisite detailed engineering is done add up the figures and you have a pretty decent ballpark travel time for the entire project. What’s obvious is that it doesn’t meet the Prop 1A requirements.

      Not to worry about the courts – they are neutered. Any obfuscation, any ruse to advance the machine’s program.

      But the CHSRA faces at the very least two very big problems here that cannot be spun away. The first is at Tehachapi, where there is a vicious dilemma. It is greatly inferior alignment so to try to remedy that vast amounts of money need to be spent to crank up the speeds. But there isn’t enough money so value engineering. Embarrassing. And if you did price is no object the the cost-benefit ratio would be even worse. Embarrassing. It is a freight-useless high maintenance white elephant no class one will be interested in buying nor a tycoon like Richard Branson.

      The second problem is that the public is gradually getting wise. And the wiser the more BS is pumped out of GHQ. I used to vote for most all public projects that weren’t freeway or water-grab, but now I vote no on everything. Utter hype and nothing can ever be altered or cancelled if necessary.

      Eric M Reply:

      Hmmm, lets see. The Palmdale “detour” you and others call it, adds about 5-7 minutes travel time, but, adds a population area of a half a million people. It will also be a connection point with the Desert Xpress. Another huge bonus Tejon will not add. Then, there is Santa Clarita which does not want the alignment, but Palmdale does.

      The Quantum software identified multiple above grade alignments at different grade percentages through Tehachapi and only one possible route through Tejon. The problem with the Tejon is not only unforeseeable problems they might run into tunneling that close to a major fault line, but the above and below ground reservoirs on that route.

      Also, please post a reference to the “high maintenance white elephant” you are talking about?

      synonymouse Reply:

      The January study using the Quantm software details a number of alignnents in the I-5 corridor. There is one or close to one that is highly preferable and naturally that is the one the Tejon Ranch Co. particularly objects to, because it makes the best case.

      I suggest you are looking at more like a half hour – especially in the case of the Racetrack – with a considerably shorter route mileage and thus reduced long-term maintenance and operation costs..
      And all this and still cheaper or comparable costs of construction and without any significant value engineering compromises.

      The real scandal is killing the proper study, which is a drop in the barrel in relation to the price of any mountain crossing. The operative crossing here is the double-cross of the taxpayers and voters.

      Nathanael Reply:

      Then, there is Santa Clarita which does not want the alignment, but Palmdale does.
      If you actually read the documents, this is the key feature in the decision. Politicians actually do listen to localities. You don’t want a train *and* your neighbors do want a train? Your neighbors are likely to get it. Obviously, the train has to go through somewhere — it can’t teleport –so if an area rejects all feasible alternatives, the tracks will just get put in the technically most convenient location. But if there’s a clear local preference for a feasible alternative, planners don’t *want* to pick a fight.

      Along similar lines, Altamont fanatics should recognize that San Jose and Gilroy want HSR and Livermore and Tracy don’t, and the effect of this on the Altamont/Pacheco decision cannot be overestimated. I’m surprised that Oakland, Berkeley, and Martinez didn’t push for the “Second Transbay Tube” route, my personal favorite…. but they didn’t.

      Alon Levy Reply:

      The opposition they were trying to mollify was not in Santa Clarita, but around Tejon Ranch, a private development that has way more land than anyone should. LA County also prefers Palmdale, but that’s due to Palmdale’s support – a pull factor rather than a push factor.

      VBobier Reply:

      Syno and others who like Tejon ignore Santa Clarita objecting to HSR through there, the lakes in the Tejon pass are a valid concern as is the major fault line, but like William Mulholland He’ll gladly ignore what doesn’t fit in with His delusional fantasy, er desires, er plans… But then William Mulholland built a reservoir that collapsed killing people downstream in the resulting man made flash flood, all cause part of the reservoir was built on top of an ancient landslide…

      Clem Reply:

      Santa Clarita “objected” to Tejon like Pleasanton “objected” to Altamont. Opposition was deliberately whipped up to bolster a pre-determined outcome. Yawn.

      joe Reply:

      Really? Support was deliberately whipped up in Gilroy and Palmdale.

      I think it’s money. The richer they are, the louder they whine.
      data are 2009.
      median household income.
      Santa Clarita 78k
      Palmdale $52k

      Pleasanton CA $102,079
      Gilroy $67,039

      synonymouse Reply:

      Then whey did they pick a fight with PAMPA? double standard

      Tejon is manifestly superior and the CHSRA has a higher responsibility to the statewide electorate. Time to pick the good fight with the Tejon Ranch. Otherwise quit kvetching about any nimbys. You give one super-nimby a pass you have to give one to all.

      Nathanael Reply:

      It has to go through PAMPA unless it goes through Berkeley and Oakland via the Second Transbay Tube.

      There are only so many viable alignments. So, no, there is no double standard.

      Richard Mlynarik Reply:

      There is no viable “Second Transbay Tube” alignment and hasn’t been for nearly a decade now.

      Idiotically positing such a thing again and again doesn’t change geography or cadastre or the built environment.

      The only viable HS alignment into the Bay Area does not and never did pass through Palo Alto.

      But hey, this is CAHSRblog, where any monkey can and will lie about any incontrovertible fact at any time.

      Black IS white if PB tells us so!

      joe Reply:

      “Idiotically positing such a thing again and again doesn’t change geography or cadastre or the built environment.”

      “Just the place for a Tube!” the Richard cried,
      As he posted his text with care;
      Supporting each word on the top of the tide
      By a finger entwined in his hair.

      “Just the place for a tube! I have said it twice:
      That alone should encourage the crew.
      Just the place for a tube! I have said it thrice:
      What i tell you three times is true.”

      Tom McNamara Reply:

      You know, there’s another possibility that you did not mention:

      A Tejon bypass that is built sometime between Merced-Palmdale and San Jose – Burbank. If you don’t pass stations between Fresno and Burbank you could recover a lot of time (even if only SF to LA express trains used the route).

      I know it seems illogical, but look at it this way: If the cost of upgrading SF to SJ or Palmdale to LA for 220mph is more than doing the bypass. then might get your wish before Phase 1 is complete. Assuming, that is, the Quantum study is feasible.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Lots of money per kilometer in that. To shave time, going around Bakersfield rather than through would shave time ~ against plan, and likely even more against reality. In a rational regulatory system, with a 90mph/110mph corridor into the the middle of Bakersfield, junctioning with the HSR corridor on both sides for trains that stop in Bakersfield, or if the FRA is an archaic hold-out on that, with an edge of Bakersfield HSR station and a through local rail system with the HSR station as its outer anchor.

      Peter Reply:

      Stockton has light rail?

      VBobier Reply:

      Yeah Stockton does have light rail, It’s this link Here, the line rolls from Stockton CA to San Jose CA.

      Peter Reply:

      Oh, right, how could I have forgotten that ACE was light rail. *sarcasm*

      Reedman Reply:

      My personal assessment is: the proposed route (Palmdale, Bakersfield, Fresno) and proposed equipment will NEVER be able to meet the 2:38 LA-SF specification. [432 miles, at an average of 164 miles per hour, through mountains, canyons, and cities]. If I was a judge, I would say that CAHSR is in violation of Prop 1A.

      Boeing can meet the spec presently, but with a completely different approach ….

      synonymouse Reply:

      Two political requirements which were incorporated into Prop 1A, the travel time strictly spelled out to guarantee a true hsr not an Amtrak and the capitulation to Palmdale and the Tejon Ranch Co. to rule out Tejon are inherently contradictory. They cancel each other out.

      Van Ark was quite aware of the incongruities in the CHSRA mission statement and had to call for a rational analysis of how to proceed. Instead Brown and Richard rush in and ahead with missionary zeal, hoping the reconcile the contradictory with a mystical faith that good intentions ensure success.

      But much more likely, with the Chandlers, Adelson and the ilk calling the plays in Coach Jerry’s hsr game, California is going to get sandusky’d.

      VBobier Reply:

      It’s like Yer saying HSR Trains can’t accelerate that fast, I say they can, HSR Trains in Japan, France & Spain do so all the time, but then their all electric, not slow & noisy diesel-electrics…

      California’s High Speed Rail – KQED QUEST

      TGV world speed record 574.8 km/h(357.164161 mph) 3 April 2007 (25,500hp!) Train starts rolling at 2:40(mins/secs), holy crap, in a little over a minute the train is at 300 kph and You think HSR can’t do SF to LA in 2 hours and 38 minutes? Get lost, Yer knowledge is old and is out of date… And this HSR Train has a Jet Aircraft as an escort…

      VBobier Reply:

      Oh and one more thing, that wasn’t all flat ground either as there is at least one uphill climb or grade there, they surpassed 220mph(350kph) with ease, as 360kph and 400kph were reached in a very short amount of time, that train got up and moved, super fast, like there was something behind it trying to eat it, like a tornado…

      synonymouse Reply:

      Earth to VBovier

      Either mountain crossing entails 3%+ gradients. I am guessing speeds limited to around 100mph in these areas.

      The 99 corridor will have you in peoples’ backyards somewhere along the line. They rejected the I-5 median which would allow for top speeds. Noise is a quantifiable medical issue. Prepare for nuisance abatement litigation.

      VBobier Reply:

      Electric motors fairly quiet compared to Diesels Cyno de bezerkarac..

      So what? 3% You go as fast as is safe, on more level ground You go much faster and you accelerate harder and faster…

      Yer forgetting about the Doppler Effect Syno, the quicker the train, the less time it has to be heard be those standing or sitting still, like some sticks in the mud(Luddites). The Doppler Effect wiki also says something about this… But then I didn’t know You had super duper hearing…

      Christian Doppler was a scientist and mathematician who explored and explained the phenomenon that has come to be called the Doppler Effect. He noticed that sounds seemed to be of higher pitch when the listener and the source of the sound were approaching each other, and of lower pitch when they were moving away from each other.

      [snip picture]

      To verify this he had a musician on a train play a note while someone stood to the side listening and trying to determine what note was being played. As the train approached, the listener thought the note was higher than what the musician was playing. As the train passed, the listener heard the pitch drop, and as the train moved away the note sounded lower than what the musician was playing and hearing.

      Oh then You better sue Caltrans first Syno to erect more soundwalls near the Freeways as that’s in the majority of human hearing, HSR by contrast moves fast and so the sound goes up in pitch…

      swing hanger Reply:

      Real life example on a regularly scheduled service: the Nagano Shinkansen takes on the 3% grade in the Usui Pass Tunnel at 130mph (210kmh), but slows down after cresting the grade, as it begins braking for a stop at Karuizawa just past the tunnel exit. This is with relatively older E2 stock, a newer model (the projected E7, with upgraded motors and more importantly, braking systems) will be able to run faster.

      VBobier Reply:

      And since the mountain section won’t see any station, outside Palmdale, then 150mph+ shouldn’t be a big deal…

      Jay Taylor Reply:

      It can be done..and your guess is not correct.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      That was an interesting cab ride. But that profile! It looks like a roller coaster, and I don’t think they were using extremely long lenses on the camera to accent the effect.

      Other items of note was that the sound in the cab was much different than that of the relatively noisier TGV, the crew sounded like they had quite a conversation going, and it looked like at least one of them liked to smoke. Funny how that seems so obvious today, how it stands out today, where before, no one would have paid much attention.

      I wonder how old the semaphore signals are on what must be heritage portions of the route.

      My favorite feature of the train itself was, of all things, that analog speedometer, with an analog maximum speed indicator that went around the dial in advance of the speedometer needle. Cooler than digital read-outs if you ask me, but then, I’m a steam fan, and steam engines have all those round gauges with needles. . .

      swing hanger Reply:

      The semaphore signals (formsignale) are of a form standardized in 1948, but of course they may have been there earlier, when color indications were green, white and red, rather than the current green, amber and red. By the way you can see a signal box in the background briefly when approaching the semaphores- this is likely Koln Kalk signalbox.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      Swing Hanger, that bit about the color indications being changed from green, white, and red to the current green, amber, and red reminded me that in American signal practice prior to about 1900-1910, the signal colors were commonly white, amber, and red. This was changed to the current green, amber, and red with a combination of going to electric lights, which were much brighter than the kerosene lights that had been used, and also to a safety factor; if an amber or red signal glass was broken or fell out of its roundel or mounting, the signal would be displaying a false “clear.”

      Somewhere around this house is a back issue of “Railroad” magazine from the 1940s, with a poem from that earlier time in it about a trip to heaven, and in this trip, all the signals are “showing white.”

      Max Wyss Reply:

      The noise difference comes from the distributed drives vs. the concentrated drives in the TGV. In the TGV, you essentially have a locomotive, and that’s the noise reduction you get there, whereas in the ICE3, you are in a cab car (I am not even sure whether it is driven at all, because of the weight added by the cab and the signalling equipment needed to be installed there).

      And yes, the profile is rugged; no wonder, ICE1 and ICE2 sets are not allowed on it.

      The speedometer is simple ergonomics; it is much easier to read an analog instrument than decipher a digital value.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      Thanks for those answers; interestingly, judging from sounds, it seems the cab cars on the ICE do have power; what I hear sounds very much like a WMATC Metrorail subway car, particularly in the deceleration into the station at the end of the clip.

      I’m a whole-hog steam fan, and since we’re talking of operations in Germany, decided to go looking for clips of German steam power.

      First up, Pacific type 01-202 on an excursion in Switzerland, with a nice pacing sequence:

      Pacific type 01-509 (fast passenger locomotive) and Decapod type CFL5519 (freight engine) during an anniversary celebration; both appear to be oil-fired, and the Pacific appears to have a variety of modifications compared with other engines:

      Pacific 01-1066 and Decapod 41-018 team up on a 2.5% grade, with magnificent sound:

      Some clips featuring 18-201, reportedly the fastest operational steam locomotive in the world, capable (and occasionally run at) speeds in excess of 100 mph:

      We’ll close out with a whole collection (auto-generated by YouTube) on the narrow-gauge Harz Mountain railroad, a heritage line that also handles regular services, including commuter runs, with modern steam power (built new for the line in the 1950s), along with some older engines:

      Have fun.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      Well, Donk is going to get upset, but I’m on one of my periodic steam kicks, and now we step across the Channel to Great Britain, on an excursion behind 70013, the “Oliver Cromwell,” a Britannia class Pacific, as it happens to pace Black Five (officially dual service class 5F5P) Ten-Wheeler No. 44932 as it is returning to its home base after another excursion:

      From trackside:

      Another Black 5, No. 44767, has some trouble starting with a heavy train; check out the sparks from the slipping drivers, then the wonderful sound with echoes as the train restarts:

      The language of steam railroading is certainly international. . .

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Why guess when its known to be more like 150mph~160mph? Couldn’t be bothered to look it up?

      synonymouse Reply:

      You are going to need the finalized detailed engineering plans for the value-engineered Roundabout to set operating speeds.

      synonymouse Reply:

      And of course assuming bleeding edge rolling stock.

      adirondacker12800 Reply:

      Bleeding edge for 1989.

      VBobier Reply:

      Yep achievable, easily, only an uninformed moron or someone with an ulterior motive would think otherwise.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Definition tip: “trains in regular service are certified to operate at this speed” is not included among the meanings of “bleeding edge”.

      Clem Reply:

      The dog ate my homework!

      synonymouse Reply:

      Sheldon Adelson to give Mitt Romney $100 million, extend LV Monorail to Palmdale.

      VBobier Reply:

      He supports Israel and I’d guess He also does not support a Palestinian State on the West Bank or in Gaza, I applaud Him for being honest about being open with whom He supports instead of skulking in the background like a KGB agent… Like the two KOCH Brothers in the US do with their money.

    6. SL
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 06:50

      Report: Economic impact of electric Caltrain

      By Chris Cooney
      Bay City News Service

      Modernizing the Caltrain corridor with electrified trains and updated signal systems could create 9,600 jobs in the Bay Area, according to a report released this week by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

      The 40-page report, called “The Economic Impact of Caltrain Modernization,” was discussed Tuesday morning by transit advocates and elected officials at Caltrain’s Sequoia Station in Redwood City.

      Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, who last year called for the California High Speed Rail Authority to work toward developing a blended rail system on the Peninsula that would accommodate both Caltrain vehicles and high speed trains, called on state legislators to include Caltrain modernization funding in the state budget.

      “A modernized Caltrain is good for the Peninsula, good for the Bay Area, and good for California,” Eshoo said. “Modernizing the system is a win on every level.”

      And the report:

      StevieB Reply:

      The report projects increased tax revenue from increased property values near stations partially offsetting construction costs. From Progressive Railroading.

      Modernizing Caltrain commuter-rail service as part of a broader plan to build high-speed rail service in California would create thousands of new jobs, generate nearly $1 billion in economic activity and boost property values around rail stations by another $1 billion, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

      The study analyzed both the near-term economic benefits of the project-related construction, as well as the longer-term benefits to property values, reduced commute times and increased tax revenue for the state and local governments.

    7. Paul Dyson
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 08:56

      By “expedite the good projects and stop the bad ones” we assume that these are projects which Robert likes (good) or dislikes (bad). So whose job will it be to sort the sheep from the goats?

      Paul Druce Reply:

      Through a six year study for each project to determine whether it is worthy of expediting.

      Tom McNamara Reply:

      You are creating a straw man, Paul.

      Robert’s merely saying that CEQA (and for that matter NEPA) are supposed to inform policymakers, not tie their hands.

      The real issue is that CEQA is being used to provide equitable relief when there’s no evidence that it was ever intended to do so. The CEQA process is not supposed to be so onerous or litigious as to stop a project…it’s suppose to reveal information which causes those people we elect to change their minds potentially.

      Schwarzenegger, you realize, got a full abrogation from CEQA for Ed Roski’s stadium project in Industry. Brown isn’t interested in that. He simply wants to have the will of the Legislature and Governor in a representative democracy (strange idea, I know) to actually mean something.

      We can debate how that should be accomplished of course, but the longer that things like CEQA, ballot measures, and gerrymandering dictate political outcomes, the farther away we move from democracy and the close we get to our friends in China….

      joe Reply:

      “CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.”


      Its basic purposes are to: inform governmental decision makers and the public about the potential significant environmental effects of proposed activities; identify ways that environmental damage can be avoided or significantly reduced; require changes in projects through the use of alternatives or mitigation measures when feasible; and disclose to the public the reasons why a project was approved if significant environmental effects are involved.

      Nathanael Reply:

      What CEQA is not supposed to do is to allow for bogus-on-their-face complaints to cause injunctions halting entirely projects for six months or more… which they did on the Expo Line.

      The requirement to use reasonable alternatives and mitigation measures where feasible would be *retained* by Brown’s proposal. The ability to get entire-project-halting injunctions over tiny local issues would *not*.

    8. Billy
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 09:22

      Sierra Club can go sit on a tac. They’re a bunch of bird watchers, hikers, and horseback riders who think everyone besides birdwatchers, hikers, and horseback riders are out to destroy the environment. Admittedly, I speak from the the view of a Mountain Biker. They hate us because we’re constantly fighting to build more concrete bike paths through pristine redwood forests.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      How is someone who wants a concrete bike path a mountain biker? That’s just cycle trail touring.

      Billy Reply:

      It was a joke. I was just saying they serve a somewhat narrow scope of interests and accuse everyone else of wanting to destroy the environment, including mountain bikers who fight tooth and nail for environmental preservation. :)

      Reality Check Reply:

      Hey @BrucMcF, it’s called “verbal irony“. Are you German? (I have German family and I’ve noticed Germans have trouble detecting verbal irony. But maybe it’s a not-raised-in-the-US problem.)

      Tom McNamara Reply:

      Billy’s deadpan was a little too convincing for me too when I read it. Plus, there’s a strong contingent of off-highway vehicle (OHVs) riders who sound just like that….

      BruceMcF Reply:

      More satire than irony ~ as in each example in Ms. Alanis’ song, there’s no irony in a self-identified mountain demanding the concrete cycleway they are ‘entitled’ to. Irony would be said mountain bike trail in Kansas.

      And effective written satires depends heavily on context to flag it as satire, given the abundance of self-satire on the intertubes.

    9. synonymouse
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 14:13
    10. morris brown
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 17:16

      Moody’s slashes Spain debt ratings three notches /b>

      “NEW YORK (Reuters) – Credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service cut its rating on Spanish government debt on Wednesday by three notches to Baa3 from A3, saying the newly approved euro zone plan to help Spain’s banks will increase the country’s debt burden.

      Moody’s, which also said it could lower Spain’s rating further, cited the Spanish government’s “very limited” access to international debt markets and the weakness of the national economy.

      The rating is on review for possible further downgrades, which could come within the next three months, Moody’s said.?”

      So Spain, which has so often been cited in this blog as a prime example of where HSR is working and why California should go into debt to build the system, realizes the results of its folly of putting so much capital into the HSR systems.

      Peter Reply:

      Order of magnitude check, aisle 3, please.

      Spain’s debt is approximately $2.5 trillion. Spain has only spent around $60 billion on HSR since it began improving its rail network in the late 1980s. Spain’s debt problems have about zero to do with its HSR investments.

      J. Wong Reply:

      Spain didn’t go into debt paying for HSR. In fact, before the housing collapse, it was running a budget surplus. From Paul Krugmann:

      Spain Germany
      Budget balance, +1.9% +0.3%
      % GDP 2007
      Net debt,
      % GDP 2007 27% 50%

      Its problem was the collapse of its housing bubble, which tanked its economy.

      Alon Levy Reply:

      Indeed, Greece, which didn’t build HSR, is a model economy.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Much better than Germany and France.

      Indeed, trade deficits and budget deficits before the crisis do not single out the “PIIGS” as a group ~ Ireland had trade surpluses, and Spain was more compliant with EU budget limits than Germany.

      What does single them out as a group is oil-dependence. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain all rank among the most oil-dependent economies of the EU.

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      “Indeed, trade deficits and budget deficits before the crisis do not single out the “PIIGS” as a group ~ Ireland had trade surpluses, and Spain was more compliant with EU budget limits than Germany.

      “What does single them out as a group is oil-dependence. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain all rank among the most oil-dependent economies of the EU.”–Bruce McF

      That’s fascinating, and it brings up some very interesting questions.

      Now, I might understand that the economists, bankers, and politicians of the EU might miss this connection at first glance, but even if they weren’t concerned with or familiar with the problems of oil dependence, I would think that a look at the trade surplus ratios, compliance with EU budget limits and the like would reveal some sort of anomaly that couldn’t be explained by your normal economic models. I mean, Ireland and Spain were, as you suggest, “doing the right thing” in the eyes of these economists, yet their economies collapsed anyway.

      That should have sent the economists, bankers and politicians looking for some other explanation. Now, why haven’t they started looking?

      Has the influence of the oil business infected that bunch so badly as well? Is it another variation of the generational pattern we’ve discussed here?

      BruceMcF Reply:

      No, it seems more likely to be insiders/outsiders. Greece has always been the fiscal bad boy of the EU, since its got a massive structural corruption of its tax system in which even moderately wealthy pay only a fraction of what they ought to, while construction costs are even more inflated than in the US, which goes to lining their pockets. Italy has long been in the same boat, since well before the euro was contemplated. Portugal and Spain were latecomers, because of the fascist/militaristic dictatorships. And Ireland was a rural backwater, widely perceived to have got their “Celtic tiger” status courtesy of tax competition (even though corporate tax incidence is often lower in France, since the lower Irish rate comes along with fewer loopholes).

      Given enough German, French, and Benelux in the bureaucracy, the fact that the oil-dependent nations that had been the focus of a property bubble, spread along the periphery of the Eurozone’ were in trouble did not require deep explanation. And the fact that so many of them are well trained in the absurdities of the neoliberal conventional wisdom doesn’t help those who go searching for a deeper explanation.

    11. Michael Mahoney
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 17:46

      I tend to think that the timetable cannot be met at any price. The Mouse thinks it could be done, but only at a cost so gigantic it would sink the project. Little difference. Someone pointed out that there is a train from Paris to Avignon, 403 miles, that does it nonstop in 2:43; but the right of way is as flat as a billiard table. The CHSRA train has to cross two mountain ranges.

      An interesting question, though is: If the big shots went back to the voters and said, “Gee, folks, we’re sorry, but we’re going to have to slow the train down,” and got voter approval, would that give the project a new lease on life? I leave to another day the question of how slow; but obviously, the longer the timetable the cheaper the project.

      I suspect we shall see more developments on the “We have no documents” front. It’s possible that HSRA will blushingly admit, “Oh, right, we found it in one of our old file cabinets, here it is.” Another possibility is that a contractor has it — HSRA is a small outfit and prides itself on getting most of its work done by contractors. But that does not excuse them from failing to produce the document: If the contractor has it, order the contractor to cough it up.

      Alon Levy Reply:

      Paris to Lyon was built in the early 1980s, to early 1980s standards. Top speed is 300 km/h, and a few curves are sharper than that.

      And the ROW is very non-flat. It doesn’t have huge mountains like California, but it makes full use of the maximum 3.5% grade. TGV average speed is beaten by both Spain and China; California, which is still planning on 350 km/h top speeds, can do better.

      VBobier Reply:

      Although the TGV holds the World Record on speed, bar none for the moment & as You say California can do better & faster, 220mph should be the minimum, not the max speed…

      BruceMcF Reply:

      No, its a reasonable design envelope. 220mph on the flat, 160mph at grade, 125mph in populous, 125mph running through built up urban areas.

      Clem Reply:

      Compare the old (longer) PLM main line between Paris and Lyon with the new high-speed line, which trades shorter length for a much more jagged profile. Flat as a pancake this is not. A near roller-coaster with spectacularly steep grades as Alon points out.

      But yeah, the point remains that the blended system will be lucky to do SF to LA in 3:15, non-stop. Still not too shabby. That’s my bet, what’s yours?

      joe Reply:

      But according to a lawsuit filed by project opponents, the state High-Speed Rail Authority has not done any studies or written reports to verify that the trains actually will go fast enough to follow the law. The suit, filed by the County of Kings Board of Supervisors, quotes a May 31 email from a project official as saying that “no document exists” to verify that the train can meet its travel time deadline.

      Instead, the rail authority’s promises are backed up by “verbal assertions based on (the) skill, experience and optimism” of project engineers, the rail official wrote in response to a request for public information.

      That statement “casts great doubt on the credibility” of the claims the authority is making about the bullet train, Kings County says in the lawsuit, which seeks a court order to cut off state funding for the project. The county claims constructing the rail line will wreck thousands of acres of prime Central Valley farmland.

      In a statement, rail authority Chairman Dan Richard said the reconfigured or “blended” project will comply with the law.

      The law requires that the system be designed to achieve speeds of 200 miles per hour and a travel time of two hours and 40 minutes,” he said. “We embraced the blended approach based on our experts’ determination that the blended system can achieve these goals.”

      I bet there is no Design Verification Document to cough up – none was mandated.

      A lawsuit would claim the design is not legal. They can’t sue because the CAHSRA doesn’t have a design verification document. CAHSRA can claim by expert witness that the final design as proposed at this time – can meet the requirement. They can’t verify the design with an inspection or demonstration or test data since they have not yet started.

      Clem Reply:

      Traceable verification is rather moot when 2:40 blended doesn’t even pass a basic smell test. This stuff is fairly straightforward to verify by analysis before the first ounce of concrete is poured.

      joe Reply:

      Sure – but is blended HSR the relevant system or an intermediate and N/A?

      The Prop doesn’t require a formal design review or early in design verification. It required a peer review of the plan (which isn’t a full design) and HSR had one. The peer review advocated the blended approach as an initial capability and full build later. The review indicated the system could meet the performance requirements if fully build – right?

      IMHO, a lawsuit over performance from SF to LA would have to claim the design of the final system would not meet the Prop requirement. The legal challenge would call on expert testimony. That’s what the critics claim HSR offers – expert testimony.

      Why isn’t there a document – There isn’t a requirement to have a relevant document to the lawsuit verifying the performance claim.

      neville snark Reply:


      Richard Mlynarik Reply:

      CHSRA consultants and staff can outright fabricate any outright bullshit that serves their economic interest — stuff that simply can’t pass the most cursory back of the envelope, basic arithmetical verificaiton –, can lie to the public and lie to the CHSRA board, and that’s all perfectly “+!” with the innumerate little fan boys and corporate astro-turfers?

      AOL! Like! +1!

      Nathanael Reply:

      Luckily none of this has happened, except in Richard’s fever dreams. *Caltrain* has fabricated some outright bullshit which doesn’t pass back-of-the-envelope tests. (Like their recent “we don’t need no models, we have our instincts, and they say we should cut service to popular stations” claim.)

      By contrast, CHSRA’s analyses are all at least plausible and do pass basic arithmetical verification.

      joe Reply:

      Again I post the GAO fraud URL.

      The GAO is actively investigating the CAHRA – they will be very interested in your accusations and any evidence:
      Lying to the public,
      Lying to the board
      Fabricating data
      Allegations of “astro-trufing”
      The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is looking into a controversial high-speed railway in California.

      No need to bully and insult when you can file a fraud complaint.

      VBobier Reply:

      The GAO stinks of Darrell Issa & one of His Witch Hunts & I do mean stinks… As in to high heaven, the guy sounds like a full range loony & possibly a crook too, at least that’s what I’ve read…

      VBobier Reply:

      Then You must think their corrupt, so unless you have proof of outright corruption, Yer seen as a fool.

      YesonHSR Reply:

      And robert lets you rant at will…so kiss the fan boy

      John Nachtigall Reply:

      blended is the “Final” system…there is no plan beyond that


      synonymouse Reply:

      AFAIK there has been no unanticipated inflation in the cost of Tejon. If you had to add on more tunnel to assuage Santa Clarita et al that would certainly balloon the cost.

      OPB on the Altamont site a while back proposed adding a base tunnel of some 20 miles in length closer in to LA. That would be expensive but direct. All depends on how fast and nice you want your line.

    12. Paul Dyson
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 19:06

      “California…can do better”, but how will we benefit from the enormous capex and opex of doing better? Do you want useful transportation at an economical price or the prestige of having the fastest train set? 747 or Concorde?

      Alon Levy Reply:

      If California is capable of 2:40 but decides to do 3:00, it’s still in accordance with 1A.

      joe Reply:

      Paul would have CA build runways and terminals incapable of servicing large jets, construct highways that can’t safety support speeds over 55, bridges that are low and cannot allow oversized loads, and construct rail systems incapable of allowing electric train use capable of 200 MPH.

      Paul Dyson Reply:

      Thank you for telling me what I would do, but you are quite wrong. We need a railway system designed to meet our real transportation needs, at an affordable price, which consumes fuel at a rate that we can produce it, etc. The 747 did that for air travel, even though slower than the Concorde. The notion that we must build for 200mph because other people do, or because we can, is not part of my thinking. The question is, how fast do we need to go to penetrate the markets we are pursuing, and can we do that economically? For the super regional system proposed, I’d guess that somewhere in the 225 – 250 kph speed range would be plenty. Now if at some future time it is deemed desirable to link the end points at a higher speed then the straight line route should be built along I-5. Trying to accomplish both objectives, i.e. regional links and an end to end race track, in a single system, will I fear lead to a very hefty price tag, and very expensive and probably unreliable operations.

      Peter Reply:

      Meh, most of the high cost doesn’t come from the speeds we’re looking at, but from the fact that everything needs to grade-separated. Even if it wasn’t practically required to grade separate anything over 110 mph, it’s one of those things that should be done.

      VBobier Reply:

      Also there’s the Seismic hazards, that inflates costs too, some soils in an earthquake act like quicksand.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      There’s also the cost of a new alignment from the LA Basin to the San Joaquin Valley that is aligned for LA/SF passenger travel rather than transcon freight. That itself would generate an appreciable fraction of the CAHSR cost, even at 110mph. Another slate would kick in to hit 125mph. And well over 3/4 would be there to hit 130mph, which requires full grade separation.

      Start at a 130mph max speed, work out cost and ridership revenue, and the extra patronage at 200mph-220mph easily justifies the extra cost. And building it at 130mph would not be appreciable faster for an all new alignment, while requiring expensive and wasteful modifications to make it suitable for 220mph.

      This whole “just hurry up and build a Rapid Rail corridor now” argument is a generic argument which ignores the population distribution and terrain of the state of California. I advanced that argument in early 2008, and it didn’t hold water, so I changed my mind. One of the red flags that it doesn’t hold water is that Paul is casually pushing across the all-grade-separation threshold at 125mph as if ignoring the substantial costs of having to put together an all-new, all-grade-separated alignment at whatever speed does not exist, and the majority of the costs of the 220mph alignment somehow goes away somewhere around 160mph.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      We need a railway system designed to meet our real transportation needs, at an affordable price, which consumes fuel at a rate that we can produce it, etc.

      Yes. Given the broad experience elsewhere in the world that 3hr train trips bring rail travel into the frame for a very large fraction of the transport market that 4hr-5hr trips do not, and the share of Bay/Basin trips in the total California inter-regional travel, the substantial benefit of Bay to LA Basin in about 3hrs is clear. 220mph HSR readily meets the ‘fuel consumption’ as a rate that California can produce it criteria. And ticket prices ranging from 43% to 86% of current plane tickets for a far more comfortable ride is clearly affordable.

      So on those criteria, doing a cost/benefit under current market conditions between a fully grade separated 140mph corridor and a fully grade separated 220mph, the fully grade separated 140mph corridor would be dominated, and it would come down to a choice between the 220mph grade separated corridor and no-build.

      Paul Dyson Reply:

      We’d be at 3hr with a 250kph max for most city pairs. And yes, I do note the subtle slide from 2hr 40 to 3 hr. As for ticket prices, who says they will be at that level? Just about everything else in 1A has been ignored so maybe we’ll be at UK post privatization levels. With San Onofre closed for the summer we will have to get used to energy conservation. A sign of the future? What’s the bet that we’ll see some “sorry for the delay to your train, we are limited to 150mph to conserve electricity” announcements when the wonder train is running. Especially with a population of 50 million, (all hoping that the wind will blow.)

      Alon Levy Reply:

      Or maybe ticket prices will be at French TGV levels.

      The expensive parts of CAHSR are insensitive to top speed. The problem in the CV is grade separations rather than ROW geometry, and through the mountain passes and in the LA Basin and the Bay Area speeds are limited anyway. So that 250 km/h line plus I-5 racetrack will end up costing more than the current plan.

      Paul Druce Reply:

      Could just get a small nuclear reactor or two as well. Cheap, carbon free, and reduces energy costs.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Cheap, carbon free, and safe in both the operational and nuclear proliferation senses … just not all three at once.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      There is no “subtle slide”, Paul ~ 2:40 vs 2:50 is talking about legal compliance with the terms of Prop1a(2008), 3hrs vs 4 hrs vs 5 hrs is talking about the actual costs and benefits of the system.

      We have empirical research on how intercity ridership works, and within 3hrs, intercity rail can compete for many more same-day trips than at 4hrs or 5hrs.

      The cost of getting from the central valley to the LA Basin is going to be substantial in either case, but the benefit is far higher for 3hr trips LA Basin to SF Bay than for 4hr or 5hr trips.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      We’d be at 3hr with a 250kph max for most city pairs

      City pairs do not ride trains: people do.

      We would be at 4hrs+ LA urbanized area to SF/Oakland urbanized area, the 1st and 2nd urbanized areas in the state, the 2nd and 13th urbanized areas in the nation.

      joe Reply:

      HSR similar to CA’s system can be found in several counties. Concorde is a one of kind design and no longer in service. The comparison illustrates the confidence of those advocating CA instead build a system that caps at the lowest end of basic HSR.
      High-speed rail is public transport by rail at speeds of at least 200 km/h (125 mph) for updated track and 250 km/h (160 mph) or faster for new track.[1][2]
      With only 20 aircraft built, their development represented a substantial economic loss, in addition to which Air France and British Airways (BA) were subsidised by their governments to buy them. As a result of the type’s only crash on 25 July 2000 and other factors, its retirement flight was on 26 November 2003.

      Lower speeds save electricity so …
      CA should also mandate new cars achieve a top operating speed of 55 MPH and 65 MPH for short bursts so vehicles can pass. The savings in gasoline and CO2 emissions would be quite significant and this will encourage people to park ride the slow rail system.

      joe Reply:

      The US wants a train system on par with other industrialised nations – you don’t.
      You would have CA literally build a system incapable of achieving typical speeds. Transportation austerity.

      Prop 1A
      2704.09. The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this
      chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics:
      (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating
      speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour.
      (b) Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall not
      exceed the following:
      (1) San Francisco-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes.
      (2) Oakland-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes.
      (3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes.
      (4) San Jose-Los Angeles: two hours, 10 minutes.
      (5) San Diego-Los Angeles: one hour, 20 minutes.
      (6) Inland Empire-Los Angeles: 30 minutes.
      (7) Sacramento-Los Angeles: two hours, 20 minutes.
      (c) Achievable operating headway (time between successive trains) shall be
      five minutes or less.

      VBobier Reply:

      That’s cause some would rather make the US Government weak enough so that it can not be a part of the US economy & so that if some major industry wanted to they could raise an illicit army & go into outright rebellion to overthrow the “Government of the People, by the People and for the People”(Gettysburg Address in November 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln). The part between the quote marks is from the Gettysburg Address itself.

      Tom McNamara Reply:

      747 or Concorde?

      Earth to Paul: Lots of other nations have 747s and high speed rail. Your analogy would be apt if we were spending hundreds of billions on Maglev. But equating California high speed rail with supersonic planes is overkill.

      However, if you notice, American airlines don’t use many 747s anymore for domestic routes…care to guess why that is?

      joe Reply:

      Modern jet technology has, with decades of R&D, become about as efficient as propeller planes they replaced.
      Speed matters. Propeller planes would be the diesel rail solution.

      Nathanael Reply:

      Modern jet turbines don’t scale down well, so local and regional routes are generally propjets.

      Alon Levy Reply:

      Frequency, and underpriced jet fuel. What’s your explanation for why American flies narrow-bodies?

      joe Reply:

      AA does not own any 747s.

      Alon Levy Reply:

      I think Tom’s question is why American doesn’t buy 747s.

      Tom McNamara Reply:

      The short answer is flexibility. 747’s only work on certain routes, but 737s work on any type of route.

      Plus any US airline, which is what I meant, not American Airlines, is trying to make money foremost, not actually serve demand most efficiently….

      Alon Levy Reply:

      But this raises the question, why do long-distance international routes get widebodies? New York-London traffic is not much more than New York-Los Angeles, and yet one gets 747s and the other gets 757s.

      Peter Reply:

      Good question. Sometimes I wish that Sobering Reality hadn’t been such a douche, he could have enlightened us on that.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      The flexibility explanation works well for that, given that international routes are so often flown there and back again. Also schedule demand may be lumpier ~ for instance, there’s a big sweet spot to fly into Sydney when the airport curfew lifts, and that’ll be mostly one wide body after another landing, with the smaller planes from Australia and NZ starting to arrive later.

      joe Reply:

      There are a many types of 737s so yes the platform and it’s derivatives are flexible — there are different kinds of 737s.
      and the next

      James in PA Reply:

      Wrong. 747 is transonic, Concord is supersonic, very different animals. Caltrain is slow steel wheels, HSR is fast steel wheels. The analogy is closer to propellers vs jets. Try the Lockheed connie vs the 707.

    13. DavidM
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 19:28

      Interesting maneuvers in the legislature as they pull funding for CHSRA operations from the budget (leaving them with zero). Here’s the Senate Finance video, starts at 1:00 in:

      Chair Leno mysteriously disappears from the room, Simitian has the floor and is apparently surprised to learn that the Governor and Assembly want the Senate to zero out the funding. There is much confusion and consternation until it is explained that the operations funding will be introduced with the bond vote, but not in the same motion. It’s still not clear why it was done this way. We’ll see how this plays out when the bond vote comes up.

      peninsula Reply:

      CHSRA and the Administation are playing games…. Big surprise.

      Nathanael Reply:

      I’ve never seen a legislature which didn’t play “games” procedurally. It’s as old as the Roman Senate. Honestly, given standard voting methods, it’s necessary to get reasonable results.

      The only proposal I’ve ever seen which would reduce legislative “game playing” is to replace the motions, amdendments, etc. procedure with *approval voting* on alternative omnibus packages. I’m not sure that’s viable as it has been tried only at a very local scale, but it is the only proposal I’ve seen which could even theoretically reduce the “game playing”.

      Nathanael Reply:

      Note that “approval voting” is a technical term, look it up if you don’t know it.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      game playing by legislatures is why super-majority rules for the basic day to day business of the legislature are anti-democratic. Under simple majority rules, its much clearer who is responsible for what happened, so they can be punished at the next election. With super-majority rules its always the other guys fault that stuff is messed up.

    14. morris brown
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 20:53

      @ DavidM:

      Using a trailer bill to take out and then put back in $15 millions for funding of only the operations (not construction) of the Authority, will have the effect of making the FY 12/13 budget $15 million easier to balance. Use of “Trailer bills” is often just another gimmick to get around the need for a balanced budget.

    15. D. P. Lubic
      Jun 13th, 2012 at 21:10

      Time for a bit of fun, courtesy of the TGV

      First up, a cab ride with a somewhat different twist; of note is how the rain becomes mist as the train bores into the storm:

      Another cab ride, demonstrating acceleration; the sound is what stands out about this one, the train sounds like something from science fiction, maybe the Enterprise as it goes into warp drive. Nothing at all like the steam power I’m so familiar with!

      Eurostar from the air–and a most interesting contrast between this train and the highway network at 2:56:


      James in PA Reply:

      Lets see, destruction of farm and ranch land, check, destruction of small towns, check, stilt-a-rail(TM) horror, check. Bumper-traffic, check. (sooo NOT) Build it Baby (TM)

      Eric M Reply:


      James in PA Reply:

      Sorry, I should have clarified I was being sarcastic. The third video is exactly the opposite. Beautiful farm and ranch land etc. Unless you are referring to Cal HSR as shortsighted.

    16. joe
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 07:43

      We Spend So Much Money On Horrible Stuff
      I’ll admit that if I had a hundred billion to spend on anything I wanted to, the California HSR project probably wouldn’t top the list. But I get a bit confused by liberals fretting over whether it suddenly costs to much or whatever. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on
      completely horrible stupid shit all of the time.

      I wouldn’t have spent that much money on the fucking wars, either, but we manage to blow through that much every few months or so.

      My point is, on the rare occasion that the government is considering giving us some nice things, we should probably just stand up and applaud, even if we can imagine even nicer things that the government should give us but won’t. The choice isn’t between HSR in California and What Atrios Wants To Spend Money On, the choice is between HSR and, you know, more high tech killing machines, money for war contractors, and tax cuts for rich people

      Elizabeth Reply:

      Methinks the standards for what we expect from our government are far, far too low.

      BruceMcF Reply:

      Yes, and so you will use that complaint to try to kill something that will provide a net benefit, leaving the field clear things that provide no net benefit, all under the excuse of ‘we only want to improve it’.

      Peter Reply:

      Airplanes crash, especially newly designed military aircraft incorporating new technologies. It happens.

      Paul Druce Reply:

      You know, people would have an absolute fit if they saw the old Class A accident rates, especially for the Crusader and Cutlass (poor Cutlass, would have done so much better if we’d introduced angled flight decks earlier).

      Nathanael Reply:

      So why don’t you fight to cut the wasteful military budget, Elizabeth? I don’t see you spending your time on that. It would be a very worthwhile cause.

      Richard Mlynarik Reply:

      Why aren’t you curing malaria, dipshit?

      adirondacker12800 Reply:

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      “Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

      Nathanael Reply:

      Actually, you really need to think about this. If you think the standards for what we expect from our government are too low, then what do you do?

      You’d start with the *important* stuff, the *basic* stuff. Hand counted paper ballots. Making sure every citizen’s right to vote is guaranteed. Making the courts honest and impartial rather than structurally biased in favor of those with “deep pockets” to keep paying lawyers forever (foreclosure fraud is the biggest example of this problem). Restoring habeas corpus rights. Getting the government to stop invading foreign countries for no good reason.

      In California, you’d get rid of Proposition 13 (if you have high standards for what you expect from the legislature, you don’t need to straitjacket them). Perhaps you’d get the state to institute a severance tax so that it wasn’t literally giving away natural resources to private companies for nothing.

      Instead, you attack an actually-useful project which will actually help people. Atrios’s point is very sound.

      joe Reply:

      I think we should expect our government to balance the larger public interest with the property rights of a few people who invested in property near a 150 year ROW.

      VBobier Reply:

      Prop 13, Yeah Howard Jarvis, He hated taxes, He did like taxpayer supported stuff, He just didn’t like paying for this or doing this & that to comply with the rules most in civil society expect, He wanted in short a Free Ride or as close as possible to that…

      VBobier Reply:

      Oh and old Howard Jarvis was an Apartment owner, so He wanted to hurt Government…

    17. Reedman
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 10:26

      Off topic

      (BTW, BART has shutdown all TransBay service to San Francisco this morning because of a fire at a senior home under construction in Oakland).

      Here is an excerpt from a San Francisco Weekly report on MUNI’s maintenance of it’s public transit electric vehicles:

      Mean Distance Between Failures

      Electric buses:

      Potrero articulated: 833 miles.
      Potrero standard: 1,879 miles.
      Presidio standard: 1,981 miles.

      Light-rail vehicles (LRVs) failed every 4,669 miles in fiscal year 2008.
      In fiscal 2011, they broke down every 2,258 miles.

      The report got a lot of publicity about one of the electric buses that, for over a year, has had exterior visible garbage bags and zip ties used to protect the 600V wires on top.

      Jon Reply:

      synomymouse will blame this on BART’s broad gauge in three, two, one…

      synonymouse Reply:


      BART’s slowly acquired monopoly on funding and routes makes filling in when BART craps out very dicey.

      The Suxway tells all about Muni’s plight.

      Peter Reply:

      Wow. That made even less sense than usual.

      synonymouse Reply:

      AC Transit has been slowly starved out and does not have enough transbay capacity to fill in very well at all when BART shuts down for whatever reason.

      Muni management has been in failing mode for some time. Deeply politicized.

      Nathanael Reply:

      It doesn’t help that the City pawns off costs of other departments on Muni (accounting shenanigans), and Muni just sits there and takes it.

      Nathanael Reply:

      How old are SF’s trolleybuses? They may simply be “beyond useful life”.

      (Nathanael pauses to check…)

      The New Flyer articulateds are at the end of their useful life. The others ought to be OK if they were decent quality in the first place. However, I am shocked that SF was buying high-floor buses in 2003. Seriously?

      synonymouse Reply:

      The Flyer artics have many more years to go – trolleybuses have to last at least twice as long as diesels because of the greater cost and visceral transit “expert” hostility towards them(you know, your mf PB type losers except that as I recall Kaiser Engineers did like trolley coaches performance on hills, where they do excel indeed.) F*** transit “experts” and “professionals” – worse enemies of electric traction than the highway lobby.

      The big Marmons of 1949 lasted from 1949 until 1977-78 and then went to Mexico. I dunno what happened to the Twin Coaches and St. Louis tc’s but probably not a pretty fate.

      The small White gas coaches of 1939 used on the Coit Tower line lasted about 40 years, I think, and some of them might have survived.

      Now on the other hand I’d like to see all of the BART Rohr cyclops mutants go to the torch save one, which I would plant halfway in the ground with the ass end sticking up in the air next to the famously non-blighting El Cerrito elevated.

      synonymouse Reply:

      If I remember right you would rip the bottom out of a low-floor trolley coach on the 1, 22, 24, 41, 45 lines. I am straining to remember but I faintly recall Macks on what used to be the 55 Sacramentol slamming into the pavement fully loaded.

      Ted K. Reply:

      I rode the #55 in the early 1960s up Nob Hill many times. A crush-loaded diesel would basically CRAWL up that hill’s very steep eastern face on its way West to the Richmond District. It puts me in mind of “The Little Engine That Could” (“I think I can, I think I can, …”).

      SFPL catalog –

      D. P. Lubic Reply:

      Ted, your comments reminded me of a trip in Pittsburgh, Pa.–and the contrast between diesel power and electric traction. I was used to riding buses in nearby Wheeling, W.Va. (which is where I’m originally from), and can recall how the GMC 6-71 engines would scream on the hills, all the while barely making 10 mph. In Pittsburgh, most notably in the Mount Washington tunnel which also is on a very steep grade, the PCC cars of that city would zoom up that hill in the mountain with much greater ease. It was a revelation to see what we threw away.

      Another trip to the same city was interesting because of a hot-rod motorman. He too zoomed up that hill, and he would stand on the brake making stops, too. Then he would zoom off with rapid starts. He drag raced the automobile traffic on the street-running in Dormont–and won.

      He didn’t like stopping for anything in the way, either. Autos on the track–“ding, ding, ding, ding” with the bell. People on the track–“ding, ding, ding, ding.” At one point there was a dog on the track–he got a “honk” on the horn.

      He was also the most bored looking individual I’d ever seen.

      Funny thing was, I later related this same story to an employee in the hobby shop–A. B. Charles & Co.–in Dormont. The employee said he knew the person I was talking about; said he came into the shop, and was a model railroader. He modeled the Pittsburgh Railway (Pittsburgh street railway system in private days) in HO scale!

      synonymouse Reply:

      The last order of Mack buses from 1960, I believe, had a lower gear and perhaps a somewhat larger
      engine. Around 1967 Muni bought some GM New Look buses with 2 cycle v-8’s, a low gear, and Jacobs brakes. They were screamers.

      But they have to have high clearance to avoid slamming into the pavement in intersections on those hills.

    18. Reality Check
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 12:52

      SF Transbay Transit Center might put SoMa on prosperous path

      A new consulting study detailing the benefits of the SoMa district project — which will include a transit station serving 11 systems, a 5.4-acre roof park and a 1,070-foot skyscraper — projects a $3.7 billion increase to property values.


      Seifel said the valuation estimates are based on the full build-out of the Transbay Transit Center, which includes the extension of Caltrain and high-speed rail to the site at Mission and First streets.

      The first phase of the project, the $1.5 billion transit center, is fully funded and projected to be completed in 2017. However, the total project has a $2 billion shortfall, and no funds have been identified yet to build an underground tunnel for the Caltrain and high-speed rail extensions.

    19. morris brown
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 13:47

      Senator Alan Lowenthal was removed for the Sub(2) Simitian committee last evening.

      Don’t know anything more about this now.

      VBobier Reply:

      Oh good, It’s about time…

    20. morris brown
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 13:49

      Mercury News editorial: Brown, Legislature need to earn voters’ trust by reforming pension system, halting high-speed rail

      Then there’s the real elephant in the room: high-speed rail. It will cost billions from the general fund to pay off bonds for a system that is no longer what voters approved and that is highly unlikely to be completed.

      While Brown says he’ll push for pension reform — and it better be soon — he also is pushing for high-speed rail. Arguing that the state is in crisis while forging ahead with the rail plan does not make sense.

      Brown’s credibility will be at the heart of this fall’s tax debate. Restoring funding to schools, which is where most of the new tax revenue would go, is a popular cause. But before voters agree to raise taxes, they need to know elected leaders have exhausted all other options.

      Brown and the Legislature can meet that threshold with the budget. Now they need to tackle pension reform — and shift the high-speed rail into reverse.

      Nathanael Reply:

      Same old anti-rail bullshit from the same old ideologues at the Mercury News.

      Nothing new here.

      joe Reply:

      How to tank your newspaper and advertisers.

      Push for lower wages and pensions.
      Demand delayed retirement for public employees working physically demanding jobs.
      Advocate for less public infrastructure.
      Low taxes and increase spending cuts.

    21. datacruncher
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 14:03

      “A California nonprofit has released a report on the merits of high-speed rail along with recommendations on ways to move forward with the project. The report, “Moving Ahead with High Speed Rail” was released by TransForm, an Oakland-based nonprofit dedicated to improving transportation in the Bay Area and statewide.”

      “With the announcement in April of projected costs reduced to $68.4 million, TransForm stated that it now rescinded its previous criticism of the 520-mile bullet train system.”

      The full report is at:

      VBobier Reply:

      How much Ya want to bet that the media at large won’t pick up on this?

    22. Trentbridge
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 14:16

      Ridership numbers on a light rail to “nowhere”. Expo line has been running for a month in LA – all seven miles of it – missing the last station on Phase 1 – Culver City – and an intermediate station – Farmdale. Average weekday ridership 11,300. See link..

      Culver City added next week. Eventaully the light rail line will reach Santa Monica. (2017)

      All across the nation – rail or light rail projects get ridership numbers that blow by the “estimates”.

      NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Norfolk’s light-rail line has exceeded expectations for ridership in its first six months of operation.

      The Virginian-Pilot reports that the light-rail line averages about 4,600 riders on weekdays. Hampton Roads Transit had forecast that there would be about 2,900 weekday riders.

      Since it opened on Aug. 19, nearly 750,000 trips have been taken on the transit system known as The Tide. The light-rail line is more than 7 miles long and goes from downtown Norfolk to the Virginia Beach border.

      Hampton Roads Transit President and CEO Philip Shucet forecasts that The Tide will hit its 20-year projection of 7,200 daily rides within three years.

      So how can the ridership estimates for CAHSR be considered “flawed” when experts continually underestimate ridership numbers?

      Alon Levy Reply:

      There are 30 years of experience of LRT in the US, and as a result ridership projections are reasonable accurate. Most are slight underestimates, a few (VTA) are gross overestimates.

      Spokker Reply:

      No argument on Expo, but what specifically prompted you to defend it here? I don’t think anyone was calling Expo a light rail line to nowhere. Its corridor is ripe for light rail. In fact, passenger rail operated there many decades ago.

      It has problems that will be ironed out in due time.

      synonymouse Reply:

      @ Spokker

      I suspect you are in your twenties. I think if you had been around in the forties and fifties and saw what happened all this would seem old hat to you. The private traction operators still had pretty good business but not even a fraction of the public subsidy available today. I suspect the percentage of farebox return was even better than today.

      Even smaller towns could support streetcars – Johnstown Traction Co. being an excellent example. They had bought PCC’s with their own money. The Wall Street Journal might bitch about Buffalo light rail and its costs but it is worth it provided you do not screw up the engineering or gold plate.

      Most all the trunk lines once streetcar and now bus could be restored provided you can economize and keep the costs under control and of course talk the locals into it. As on Geary Street. A standardized streetcar design, like the PCC, and like any old blinking MCI coach, is the place to start.

      Spokker Reply:

      Private operators were still hamstrung by regulations, which contributed to their demise. Streetcars would have probably gone away anyway, but there was no reason why we should have let dedicated rights-of-way rot away.

      synonymouse Reply:

      There were some regulations that required the street railway companies to maintain the roadway as well as the tracks.

      Ultimately it was cost that pushed buses on US public transit. No physical plant and low priced diesel in the postwar era. Buses attracted fewer passengers but then an orderly shutdown was the plan anyway. All the transit companies had when they were bought out by government in the sixties and later was some coaches and a bus barn here and there. In most all cases even the trolley buses were gone by the time of public takeover.

    23. Emma
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 14:50

      Sierra Club is such a wannabe-environmental organization. Everybody with dignity and who is truly concerned about the environment avoids this Club.

      Nathanael Reply:

      It has declined a long way since the days when it campaigned to “not flood the Grand Canyon”. (That one was successful, and yes, there was a serious proposal to flood the Grand Canyon.)

    24. Peter
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 16:21

      OT, but the Court in the Kings County lawsuit sustained the Authority’s demurrer on every single cause of action, with leave to amend. Most likely the plaintiffs will request a hearing for tomorrow.

      peninsula Reply:

      with leave to amend is the key – they can resubmit their case on every single cause. Except the court also confirmed the plaintiffs have standing, including both the individuals and the County.

      Peter Reply:

      Correct. But that doesn’t mean they can successfully amend their case for the next time. At this point the plaintiffs have no case.

      peninsula Reply:

      the court felt otherwise and was willing to entertain a revision. In other words, they have been given some valuable feedback on how to make their case stronger and have been given the opportunity to resubmit… The were not shut down.

      YesonHSR Reply:

      Yes nimby they have no case..nor would arrogant PA if CEQA was real

      Peter Reply:

      Should have rephrased that: “But that doesn’t mean they will successfully amend their case for the next time.”

      MANY cases are dismissed with leave to amend that are never successfully amended.

      Their best chance is to wait until the Legislature votes to authorize the bond funding and refile then. They should have done that to begin with.

    25. Reality Check
      Jun 14th, 2012 at 17:49

      Kings County frustration with HSR continues

      In yet another meeting with California High-Speed Rail Authority staff members, local department heads and elected officials expressed ongoing exasperation over multiple issues they say aren’t being addressed as the $68 billion project moves closer and closer to the start of construction.

      “Nothing’s being resolved,” said Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon at a meeting Tuesday. “It seems to me that your staff is not prepared. We have a general plan in place. You need to conform to it.”

      Verboon, fellow supervisors and other county staff met at a public forum with Authority Chairman Dan Richard, Authority Vice Chairman Tom Richards and Central Valley Area Program Manager Jeff Abercrombie to discuss a list of concerns the county says hasn’t been dealt with.

      Peter Reply:

      “We have a general plan in place. You need to conform to it.”

      Ummm, no, the Authority does not. Unless the Legislature expressly states the contrary, state agencies do not have to comply with local general plans or zoning ordinances. Regents of University of California v. City of Santa Monica, 77 Cal. App. 3d 130 (1978).

      They will try and work with you, but they don’t have to follow your local rules. Sorry.

      Wouldn’t you think that this would have been a case that should have been brought, if Kings County had been able to? Not the bullshit taxpayer suit they brought above?

      Nathanael Reply:

      And there’s a reason for this. A railroad has strict constraints on alignment and cannot conform to any random county plan which was not designed to deal with it. The county plan must be subordinate to the railroad plan if you want to have a functioning railroad.

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