Will Tea Party Democrats Destroy California HSR?

Jun 28th, 2012 | Posted by

Two of Southern California’s leading right-wing talk radio hosts, John and Ken, are now trying to gather signatures to put an anti-high speed rail initiative on the ballot. Since it’s too late to gather signatures for a November 2012 ballot measure, I am going to laugh at this effort, at least for the time being. The soonest it could get on the ballot is 2014, and by then steel will already be in the ground.

That is, unless the State Senate stops the project dead in its tracks next week. It’s getting down to the wire and as Dan Walters explains, we’re not yet at 21 votes:

The state Assembly would surely vote for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to begin building a north-south bullet train in the San Joaquin Valley – but the Senate, where party discipline is much weaker, is proving to be a tougher political nut to crack.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has publicly pledged to approve construction funds and wants a vote next week. Just weeks ago, Senate approval appeared certain, but with Republicans solidly opposed, Steinberg needs support from 20 of the 24 other Democratic senators. At the moment, the votes aren’t there.

Three Democrats – Mark DeSaulnier, Alan Lowenthal and Joe Simitian – have been openly skeptical of the project. At least three others, and likely more, are unconvinced and uncommitted, vote counters say.

DeSaulnier, Lowenthal, and Simitian are all Democrats, but at times they sound like members of the Tea Party – convinced that the rail project is not going to generate riders, that it isn’t needed, that it will be a waste of money. These Tea Party Democrats have been spending all of 2012 (and in the case of Simitian and Lowenthal, a lot longer) trying to defund this high speed rail project.

They want to put $3.3 billion in immediate federal stimulus in jeopardy. Like Tea Party Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, or Tea Party Republicans in Congress, these Tea Party Democrats believe that stimulus and jobs aren’t needed, that spending money on bullet trains is too much of a risk to state budgets to be worth taking. Never mind the fact that the independent peer review found the ridership numbers to be sound and that HSR systems around the world are profitable.

President Barack Obama has a lot at stake in this vote. Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Darrell Issa, want to argue that high speed rail is a wasteful project, a transportation version of Solyndra. If Tea Party Democrats in the State Senate kill the California HSR, they will be giving Romney a major boost. Republicans can say “even California Democrats think Obama’s HSR plan is wasteful.” Why would DeSaulnier, Simitian, and Lowenthal undermine their president like that?

California’s Congressional Democratic delegation has called for funding HSR and Nancy Pelosi is putting intense pressure on the State Senate to release the voter-approved bond funds. The Obama Administration is doing the same, and has made it clear that the $3.3 billion in stimulus cannot be moved out of the Central Valley, as Lowenthal would like.

Will the State Senate support President Obama, stimulus, jobs, and California’s sustainable future? Or will they side with Tea Party Democrats, with Tea Party Republicans, John and Ken, Mitt Romney, Darrell Issa, John Boehner, and those who want to hold California back in the past, shackled to high oil prices and pollution? We’re going to find out, and soon.

  1. Jerry
    Jun 28th, 2012 at 22:58
    #1

    Amtrak San Jose to LA – 11 hours.
    CA HSR San Jose to LA – 2 hours.
    Shame on Simitian, DeSaulnier, and Lowenthal if they vote against progress.

    Spokker Reply:

    The Coast Starlight is 10 hours and the Surfliner/coach is between 8 hours and 35 minutes and 9 hours and 15 minutes. Coach/San Joaquin/Coach is 7 hours and 40 minutes.

    What will the time savings really be with HSR? Can the blended plan reach the performance metrics set forth in Prop 1A? Only time will tell.

    Still unhealthily in love with trains, but let’s put the right numbers out there.

    Spokker Reply:

    Correction, Coach/San Joaquin/Coach is just over 8 hours.

    VBobier Reply:

    If DeSaulnier, Simitian, and Lowenthal undermine HSR then they are Turncoats to the Democratic Party, Traitors even, if any of them think they can run as Democrats after this they are sadly mistaken, their careers will be over and the same can be said of any other Democrat who doesn’t support the funding of HSR…

    BrianR Reply:

    I believe Simitian is taking advantage of the fact that the Republican alternative as a brand is so utterly repulsive and shameful that being a Democrat you can get away with a lot just based on the fact you are not a Republican. My mom who lives in Simitian’s district was asking me what I thought of him and I had to tell her that although I consider him an a**hole I would still advise she vote for him because the Republican alternatives would be so much worse.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I guess the top-two primary didn’t do its job. It’s supposed to give you two Democrats in the runoff, Simitian and a real Democrat….

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    I drive Sherman Oaks to Fresno in about 3 hours using 99. What is drivetime Los Angeles to San Francisco on the 5? Curious as a comparison to the bus-train 8 hr San Joaquin.

    VBobier Reply:

    From what I remember it was more than 9 hours in 1971 and Dad was driving a 1970 Mercury Marquis Brougham 4 Door sedan w/a 460 engine, but then we had to stop for gas as it drank gas, at 55mph He barely managed to get 20mpg out of it and that car was no slouch, I also took My driving test in it in San Pedro CA, so I should know, Dad was a Car guy… Except during WWII when He rode a train to war.

    morris brown Reply:

    @VBobier

    As usual, you just dispense crap. Driving time of the order of 6 hours LA to SF.

    See:

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_driving_time_from_San_Francisco_CA_to_Los_Angeles_CA

    as an example.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @morris brown:

    That site shows a straight-line distance of 347 miles between SF and LA, and a driving distance of 282 miles. Asking Google Maps for driving distance between each downtown shows a more believable 381 miles, 6 hours 26 minutes.

    That’s assuming you manage to drive at the speed limit the full way (not during the regular commute times at each end), don’t need to refuel the car (possible) and have iron bladders (or are wearing adult diapers). That is to say, 6-and-a-half hours is the plausible minimum time of the driving journey.

    Or you could take the train, which will take a constant time of 3 hours or less irrespective of local commute rush hours, doesn’t need to stop to refuel, and with the on-board restrooms, doesn’t require large-capacity bladders.

    trentbridge Reply:

    The cool thing about the train – is you can do the entire trip with your eyes shut. (I don’t recommend this on I5!)

    blankslate Reply:

    That’s assuming you manage to drive at the speed limit the full way (not during the regular commute times at each end), don’t need to refuel the car (possible) and have iron bladders (or are wearing adult diapers). That is to say, 6-and-a-half hours is the plausible minimum time of the driving journey.

    Have you ever driven on I-5? The “speed limit” is a joke – 75 is the lower end and the median is probably closer to 80. I’ve done the drive in 5 1/2 to 6 hours dozens of times. 381 divided by 75 mph is 5.08 hours – allowing plenty of time for a bathroom/gas/fast food break at Harris Ranch and still come in at 5 1/2.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Which tells us that some of the trip time cost is paid in blood rather than in minutes, since a median 80mph driving speed implies a higher death and injury highway toll.1

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Drivers pay the iron price for speed.

    flowmotion Reply:

    And here’s the Naderites to spoil everyone’s fun.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its the crunch of metal ad glass on metal and glass and spray of blood, flash and brains across the pavement that spoil the fun.

    flowmotion Reply:

    That is the fun part, don’t you think so? I bet you do.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And the driving time rises at the most valuable times to arrive in downtown SF.

    With a driving time of 6hrs+, 4hrs will gain a substantial recruitment from current driving traffic. Where 4hrs limits ridersip is in leaving most of the same day trips to flying. Businesses will pay a premium for same day trips, to avoid motel/hotel costs.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, way back when the Deutsche Bahn promoted the IC/ICE network, their target was “twice as fast as driving, half as fast as flying”. The above discussion pretty much confirms this rule of thumb (although the TSA helps a lot to help with the “flying” part…).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Tis a fine rule of thumb, but its not as if the ridership falls off a cliff if its “merely” half again faster then driving when the system is first established.

    Indeed, for the less expensive per track mile Rapid Rail corridors, “a bit faster” than driving will attract an incremental share of current intercity driving onto the train, over and above the base demand that is there even at speeds below driving, and if that share justifies the cost of the Rapid Rail corridor, you’re good to go.

    A preliminary system that was was 5hrs LA to SF on a mix of HSR and Rapid Rail corridors, each funded from an appropriate source, would see a substantial increase in patronage over the San Joaquin, though only attracting substantial air travel mode split on trips from and to intermediate points.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I think that a preliminary system, maybe making it in just a little bit less than 5 hours could be attractive. It would have to include a high-speed section (so that it can be sold as something like “texting at 200 mph…”), and a good timetable (at least hourly intervals). Something like that could already raise enough curiosity to make people trying it out. If the overall experience can be kept positive, those people would want more… and pay for it.

    I remember, that I had regular business trips to Bonn just before the Frankfurt – Köln highspeed line opened. They offered a “sampler ticket” with a pretty high extra surcharge (10 or so Euro as opposed to 4 Euro for a simple reservation). But those trains were all sold out (yes, I tried it out too , taking a 30 minutes light rail trip from my client’s location to Siegburg, the official stop for Bonn).

    VBobier Reply:

    Back in 1971 not all of the I5 was finished as they were still building it, so we had to drive on two lane highway too, if You think it was all finished when I went from LA to SF back then, Yer nuts, I was there, You were not.

    VBobier Reply:

    To get to SF from LA using the i5 by itself is impossible even today, back then We used the Los Banos Cutoff or Highway CA-152 to get to US 101 as the 101 leads directly to SF. Today the 152 is 4 lanes wide up to highway 159 and then 4 lanes again just after Holsclaw Rd on the Pacheco Pass Hwy, in between today it’s two lanes, back then about 40 years ago I think 152 was mostly 2 lanes wide or 1 lane in either direction between the 101 and the 5.

    VBobier Reply:

    Morris remember this was 1971, there was a 6.6 Earthquake in Sylmar CA and there was major Damage below the Grapevine to the 15+CA-14 interchange that lasted for 1 minute, I saw one 1963 type Chevy Pickup, which was under a Concrete section of the 14 on ramp that had collapsed, the pickup except for the tailgate and the area around It was crushed flat this was in February on the 9th in 1971, I’m not sure if the there was anyone in that pickup, but if there was, the cab was flattened, so I doubt there would be a survivor. Oh and gas stations along the 5 weren’t all ready for business yet, as some were still being built and were in no way ready for travelers.

    VBobier Reply:

    Here’s the relevant section of the Sylmar Quake of 1971:

    Twelve overpass bridges fell into freeway lanes, including the freeway overpass connecting the Interstate 5 freeway and the Foothill Freeway that resulted in the death of at least two people.[6] The recently completed Newhall Pass interchange connecting Interstate 5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway was destroyed as well. This interchange was rebuilt and reopened in 1973, but collapsed again 21 years later during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, killing one.

    Note: 65 people died that day and many more lives were in danger from a potential collapse of the lower van norman dam, today the lower area is drained as it’s unsafe to have a reservoir there.

    BrianR Reply:

    @ Morris,

    looks who’s talking! Feel like citing Wendell Cox again; the prime dispensary of crap?

    Driving the I-5 is no fun at all during heavy fog. You can try to maintain your 6 hour timing if okay with facing near certain death in the blink of an eye. Or you can detour to the 99 or 101 if less foggy there. Detours take time of course. One of the last times I drove the I-5 back from LA to San Jose we were lucky to make it in under 12 hours due to the fact we made a last minute route change to the 14 via Palmdale, then to the 58 back to the I-5 and then the fog was so bad on the I-5 we had to take some 2 lane highway to the 99 and connect with the 152 and 101 to get to San Jose.

    That was good fortune actually because the grapevine had a sudden closure due to snow and if we stayed on the I-5 we would of literally had to spend the night sleeping in the car like lots of other people. I know my friend and I including her 3 year old daughter would not of enjoyed that. All of this can be a bit stressful you know! All the time it makes you think “why the fuck do we have to keep driving cars on routes like this?”

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah that Tule Fog is a killer, nice if one is walking in it though, I lived in Tulare for almost a year when I was a kid. In any case that fog can be and has been a killer on the 5, the 5 is also one boring stretch of highway too, at least in February of 1971 it was and I thankfully could just take a nap while Dad drove US to SF.

    joe Reply:

    Visiting family in LA:

    Power lines down across I-5 HW closed. We left Gilroy 6am and sat – eventually we cut across the median and went back roads. It took 12 hours to Palos Verdes Est.

    Snow at Grapevine – beat the road closure but driving was slow and sucked.

    Late night – had to pull over and stayed at a lodge – too difficult to stay awake on the straight as a line road.

    Late night – bumper to bumper in the middle of no-where on Tues prior to Thanksgiving – pulled over and slept at an inn. Dennys breakfast – ugh.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Tomorrow night (Sunday) I am driving to LA from the CV.
    I heard something on the tele about lane closures in Gorman and to avoid the Grapevine between 4 and 8 pm. This could add an hour to the trip.
    I suppose this means my best option is Palmdale!

    BrianR Reply:

    I’ve always thought that was one of the great paradoxes of the I-5. It can be 3 AM in the middle of nowhere and there is literally bumper to bumper traffic. I know if I wasn’t so tired I would appreciate it that much more, thinking “what a wonderful urban experience. It’s just as if I was in downtown SF or LA” except in this case the closest sign of civilization is a Carl’s Jr. 50 miles away on a lonely off-ramp shared with a Chevron!. In retrospect it sounds kind of melancholy and beautiful but at the given moment it’s not always so enjoyable.

    missiondweller Reply:

    I did Orange County to SF last month in about 8 hours on a weekday but 2 hours was essentially LA traffic.

    VBobier Reply:

    On that day in 1971(Feb 9th), which I’ll never forget the destruction I saw that day, Caltrans had worked fast to clear some of the debris and a lot of Government agencies were hyper busy then, it was slow going cause of the damage on the 5, 14 & 210, I lived down in Dominguez CA, which later on was absorbed by the City of Carson and yet retained a North Long Beach zip code(90810), going from there to San Fernando area took longer as one got close to the epicenter, so 2 hours normally might have been possible, but that day was more like 3-4 hours, but then it was about 41 years ago for Me.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Spokker, Coast Starlight is timetabled at roughly 10 hours northbound, but 11 hours southbound.

    (This is because the train may already be late arriving from Seattle coming southbound.)

    Emma Reply:

    For the Srufliner: If HSR dropped LA-IE-SD for LOSSAN, we could make a better comparison.

    Los Angeles to San Francisco by car is not even an option. I don’t know anybody who would rather use a car to drive up there for 6 hours than use the convenient HSR alternative.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    @ Emma, What do you mean, not an option? People do it all the team especially if there is more than one person making the trip. It’s a very cheap way to go, and door to door. There will not be an HSR option for 20 years. It’s hard to imagine HSR being less than 4 hours door to door unless both ends of the trip are very close to a station. With luggage and/or children HSR is definitely the less convenient alternative.
    Why do rail advocates not stick to a realistic assessment of what rail can and cannot do? I see the same nonsense whether in the freight sphere in which I work or with passenger advocates. Rail is not a panacea. It is almost impossible to beat the convenience of the personal vehicle under current circumstances. HSR, and rail in general, have many benefits. You should stick to making sensible statements about those benefits and not get starry eyed, forgetting rails limitations.

    joe Reply:

    Blockquote>
    You should stick to making sensible statements about those benefits and not get starry eyed, forgetting rails limitations.
    Yes, math tells me the 6 hours trip is 3 hours if you carry a passenger and can be just under an hour if you use a 7 passenger minivan. Plus everyone gets to sip on a big-gulp and play who-can-hold their pee the longest contest.

    Finally – drives get to leave at4 am to make the 6 hour trip without traffic. Wouldn’t want to compare real HSR times with uncongested SF-LA trips.

    Get sensible.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    @ Joe: I too would prefer to make the journey by train but will probably not have the opportunity to do so in my lifetime. But here’s some observations from my experience in the past year or so. I have had to make the r/t between Burbank and Palo Alto 6 or seven times since last August plus a couple of r/ts Burbank to Fresno. I took 99/152 once just for variety but otherwise took 5/152. The only congestion I came across with daytime driving was around San Jose and the 85/101 junction at Mountain View in the north, and Canyon Country/Magic Mountain in the south. The journeys took about 6 hours or slightly less cruising at 70 – 75, with stops. It’s boring but it gets the job done and for two or three people is relatively inexpensive.

    It highlights to me that we need to be spending scarce dollars at the ends on HSR compatible upgrades (Peninsula electrification, Metrolink upgrades, LAUS run through) which relieves the congestion where it occurs and improves the lives of a much larger number of people everyday. HSR Bay to Basin will be nice but is a lower priority and will be more successful if the bookends are fixed first.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It highlights to me that we need to be spending scarce dollars at the ends on HSR compatible upgrades (Peninsula electrification, Metrolink upgrades, LAUS run through) which relieves the congestion where it occurs and improves the lives of a much larger number of people everyday.

    Which depends on whether one views the Prop1a bonds as a fungible pool of money for generic “transport” or whether they are viewed as something to advance the establishment of an Express HSR system between San Francisco and LA.

    If the purpose of the Prop1a bonds is to advance the establishment of an Express HSR system between LA and SF, then the priority would be on work that advances that goal. We would need trillions of dollars of capital funding to provide for sustainable alternatives to car driving for local transport across all major metropolitan areas in the US, so in terms of providing for that objective, the Prop1a bond funding is a relatively drop in the bucket, and can easily be completely exhausted on projects that do not actually advance the establishment of an Express HSR system.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    An Express HSR system has a number of components (system) including slower speed sections on the approaches to the major termini. It is just as legitimate to build those sections as it is to built very high speed track in the middle of the route. It has the added benefit that thousands of passengers will enjoy improved service early in the project as opposed to pretending that diverting the San Joaquins has real value.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its just as legitimate to build those sections as it is to build the very high speed track in the middle of the route.

    As far as the question of whether the train can get between LA and SF, track already exists that can allow a train to do so between Burbank and LA Union Station and between San Jose or Redwood and San Francisco. In neither case is the corridor as it exists what one would wish to have as the finished system, but its workable for a preliminary system.

    Regarding “added benefit”, its only an added benefit if you can confidently establish that the funds are available for the full build out. Without a full build out, it is an alternative benefit to HSR, not an additional benefit to HSR.

    So if we could be sure of Federal and other funding over and above the Prop1a bond authorization to compete a full build out, then there would be no problem with “starting with” the bookends and then building toward the middle.

    However, there is no confidence that there will be Federal and other funding over and above the Prop1a funding, in which case spending on the bookends instead of one of the Bay to Basin segments is increasing the risk of not getting a genuine Initial Operating Service at all.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Bruce: You cannot run HSR service or anything approaching it over the existing line between Palmdale and Sylmar, and you are living in cloud cuckoo land if you think people will buy tickets for such a journey. Just because track exists it is a far cry from being adequate or “workable for a preliminary system” as you suggest. Since you admit that there is no confidence of money available for a full build out then it is far better to use the money we have where it will provide a real, useful service, than to squander it on the ridiculous IOS which will be a loser from day one.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Paul. This is not about squandering the money. This is digging your trenches and staking your position in the war game. You better believe that is how the opposition views this so you bettre not delude yourself and prepare to act accordingly. We know that money will be spent on what are dubious projects , the military etc. over the next few years amounting to multiples of this initial round of funding. Knowing that, ask yourself if this is worth the paradigm shift in attitudes that will occur. Even the ICS will very quickly show individuals what rail can do that autos cannot safely do. If you can get even , can you imagine, even the 150 – 200 ton F59PHs and P42 Genesis tanks hurtling down the track at 110 mph while sailing past autos on parallel roadways, imagine what people will think. Gee, what if they used real high speed trainsets?

    The opposition (Morris, Koch brothers et. al) know that they cannot allow construction of an LGV (I like using the French acronym) to begin because they know the money will be found to complete it. It may even be Tejon, Altamont whatever. This segment does not preclude those options. They know that once people experience this option in the US, which is actually ideal territory for regional HSR, any argument against will quickly be overwhelmed by sheer force of momentum.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Most people would not count Palmdale as part of the LA Basin, and so most people would not assume that the Bay to Basin segments end at Palmdale and the corridor within the LA basin runs throuh to Palmdale.

    However, if the first and second construction segments were completed and electrified, and a faster alignment to Oakland available than the San Joaquin alignment between Merced an Oakland via Stocktn and Martinez, a San Joaquin that ran 150mph btween Palmdale and Merced nad offered a single seat ride between the east bay and LA Union Stn would indeed attract substantially more people than presently ride the San Joaquin between the Bay and the LA basin.

    The fact that people presently DO ride th San Joaquin between the Bay and the LA Basin, even with a bus transfer, gives us sufficient observed ridership behavior to know that the upgraded service would attract additional ridership. So we know that “nobody would ride it” is simply repeating a lie because the truth is for some reason inconvenient.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    HST Sheldon: Your optimism is inspiring. However, the statistics will show that the small numbers of people riding the diverted San Joaquin trains are not enough to be of economic consequence, nor sufficient to sway public opinion, and the route will not be parallel to many busy highways. Now if you built to Palmdale in view of route 14 then you will turn a lot of heads, a real propaganda coup. What will happen with the ICS and IOS is that they will be financial disasters and require operating subsidies which the promoters have said would not happen. The momentum will turn against further HSR try as you might to convince people that it is not complete and the benefits come later.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Paul, we all know that the diverted San Joaquin trains will still not be enough to make in net profitable and of economic consequence. I disagree that it will have little consequence however on local Central Valley populations who will now see a small glimpse (remember, they know or can readily be made aware that this is not true HSR) of what rail is capable of. My take is that the people in the middle on the opinion spectrum will be swayed. They will know that it is not true HSR and may on the contrary demand that it be completed after having got a small taste. I agree the people on the opposing end will not be swayed but those are not the people to work on. They are not the majority. You are not thinking strategically. $3 billion is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things where this is concerned. That can easily be eaten up in a single Metro transit project or urban highway segment.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It likely wouldn’t generate any appreciable operating subsidy under current conditions ~ that’s why its described as an upgraded San Joaquin rather than an HSR Initial Operating Service. If reaching Palmdale alone was sufficient for an IOS under current conditions, then that would have been the IOS, rather than starting the IOS when reaching the San Fernando Valley, at which point the IOS can certainly be bid out, and the only uncertainty is how many trains per day it can sustain at an operating surplus.

    It certainly would be a smaller subsidy per rider and per passenger mile than the present San Joaquin, but 100% operating cost recovery is not something that can be projected with any confidence at this point in time. Therefore, a current projection of such a service would be an upgraded San Joaquin.

    However, its a clear bias to invoke uncertainty on one side of an issue and pretend it does not exist on the other. We do not know what the actual conditions will be in 2017, and if the economic conditions in 2017 would promise to allow such a route to generate an operating surplus, California would likely be eager to have it as soon as possible. That is the point of flexibility (just as it is the point of precautionary reserves, as second parties guaranteeing Credit Default Swaps without sufficient precautionary reserves discovered to their peril in 2008): to be able to response to unexpected conditions.

    Not having the ICS completed in 2017 reduces the flexibility of the California intercity transport system, so the converse is that having the ICS in 2017 improves the flexibility of California’s transport system.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think HSTSheldon is right. You have to remember that the location in the Central Valley will influence, specificlaly, voters with very little experience of quality rail — even less than voters in the Bay Area or SoCal. Even if it only sways 10% of those voters, that’s enough to guarantee project completion.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Dyson:

    HSR Bay to Basin will be nice but is a lower priority and will be more successful if the bookends are fixed first.

    If you, as President of RailPAC, are serious about this, then you and your organization need to be strongly encouraging the ‘bookends’ to cooperate with each other over matters of eventual compatibility. Both Caltrain and Metrolink, in their corridors which will eventually be also used by HSR trains, need to be using the same signaling system, need to be proposing the same electrification system, platform standards etc. They also need to be making progress towards completing EIRs on HSR-compatible projects in order to be viewed as a valid alternative place to put HSR money into before the already-completed EIRs in the Central Valley and Federal funding commitments expire.

    What I’ve been seeing in your public newsletter is Richard Tolmach’s rants about every little thing the CHSRA seems to be doing wrong (an easy target at times), and no constructive analysis about how to ‘fix’ the bookends. The most recent issue (April) devoted a double-page spread to issues with China’s HSR construction, and makes the strong insinuation that the exact same thing will happen in California, down to individual people not knowing that something being built until the concrete was being poured. Quite honestly, the tone of your public newsletter makes your organization look like a bunch of train-obsessed conspiracy nuts.

    You’ve got a month before your next newsletter (August). I’m sure RailPAC’s newsletter can do without Tolmach and his scare-mongering for an issue, and can instead publish some genuine thought-provoking articles about how to ‘fix’ the bookends while at the same time making them compatible with the eventual CHSR system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem with asking RailPAC to do this is that compatibility with HSR comes at the expense of compatibility with a Coast Daylight to 4th and King. The Daylight won’t use ETCS, and so there’s no point in compatibility there. The Daylight can’t use high platforms. The Daylight can’t climb 3.5% grades easily and is quite heavy, and therefore to maintain compatibility with it is to keep the heavy, gentle-grade viaducts planned for Peninsula grade separations. And the Daylight can’t be expected to run on a tight schedule, and therefore an overtake schedule would need more slack and possibly more four-tracking to accommodate its needs.

    Donk Reply:

    What does the Coast Daylight have to do with anything? Who gives a crap about the Coast Daylight when HSR is at stake. The Coast Daylight is a just for train nuts and old people.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You don’t need to convince me of that. You need to convince Paul, who supports restoring it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    @alon and donk: As I have written before in these columns, the so called Coast Daylight is actually planned to provide local service to the one million people that live in communities south of San Jose and north of LA County. At some future time it may not be possible to run the train between San Jose and San Francisco because of compatibility issues, and could at that time run to Emeryville or even Sacramento. We also believe it will be a successful tourist route. It has nothing to do with HSR and I certainly never raised the subject in this context nor have I suggested it is viable for mass transportation between the end points.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And the firing of Van Ark is not redolent of “conspiracy”?

    The cretins reset the whole megaproject to square one.

    Chandler-Jerry Pact – hsr peace in our time.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Richard Tolmach writes for TRAC and California Rail Foundation, not RailPAC.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Our magazine is called “Steel Wheels”

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Dyson:

    Hmm, then I’ve mixed up the various advocacy organizations.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    We have always advocated standardization and cooperative procurement of equipment. The trend towards local control and JPB governance is yet another cross we have to bear in this regard. Every Board chair wants to select his own Lionel set regardless of the economics of long production runs and commonality of systems and parts.

    Emma Reply:

    If you want to relieve metropolitan highways, HSR is not the solution. The solution is a wider, more complex commuter and local transit network that provides frequent buses and trains. But, that isn’t possible without heavy subsidies.

    And to make it worse: The federal government won’t act until there is popular demand for more public transit. But, there won’t be more demand if the supply is already low. One of the two has to make the first step. Hint: The government.

    Once there is a system that allows people to reach at least 80% of the destinations they need to get to, they will ditch their cars, provided the government has such a system in place so that they can make a smooth transition.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But, that isn’t possible without heavy subsidies.

    And, in particular, operating subsidies. We do need major investments across the board to get to a sustainable integrated transport system, ranging from behavioral changes ~ such police and courts enforcing laws against reckless driving by motorists that endanger pedestrians and cyclists ~ systems to provide operating subsidies to sustainable transport on a similar scale to the subsidies to unsustainable transport ~ zoning for a distribution of activities that is compatible with sustainable transport ~ a wide range of changes.

    HSR is no more a silver bullet solution to the problem than any other individual component of an integrated transport system. However, it is on the one hand a component that can function in the context of the present unsustainable system without operating draining essential operating subsidies from local transit, and it is on the other hand one of the components with the longest lead time. So it is possible to get it up an running in advance of other elements of the system, and it is necessary to get it up and running as soon as possible.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Your argument is dependent on the mantra that HSR is “profitable”, i.e. generates an operating surplus. It may be when well planned and executed, and in place between major markets. At what point does that happen under the current business plan? Certainly not with the IOS which doesn’t reach either of the major hubs (LAUS and SJC). HSR in CA will undoubtedly be a drain on funds for construction, interest, depreciation and operating subsidies for any interim service before the major markets are served. That doesn’t mean it should not be built, just that we should go into it with our eyes open and with deep enough pockets to finish it.

    joe Reply:

    HSR in CA will undoubtedly be a drain on funds for construction, interest, depreciation and operating subsidies for any interim service before the major markets are served

    “profitable” and / or cost avoidance – less costly than a highway expansion. Less costly than operating a vehicle at 0.55+ per mile expenses on that expanded highway.

    But really, is HSR a drain? I think the biggest problem is too little spent on alternative transportaiton but that problem goes hand in hand with political adversaries of HSR pretending the amount spent is sufficient – just misguided. It’s all about knocking down alternatives and keeping the pie small.

    I understand why the systems been so screwed up – it’s as coordinated as bunch of apes fighting over bananas. HSR has a banana – hit it and take that banana away.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Certainly not with the IOS which doesn’t reach either of the major hubs (LAUS and SJC).

    However, that is just your assumption. Repeating your assumption does not make it any more or less correct than when you first assumed it.

    It certainly won’t be as much of an operating surplus as the Bay to Basin will generate, and will not support as high a frequency of trains per day as the Bay to Basin will do … but even if they are stuck with their Plan B baseline and stop at the Burbank Airport or Sylmar, a rail corridor with that transit speed from a population of 1.5m into an urbanized area as big as the LA Basin is not going to have any trouble running an operating surplus. Compared to the slow distance trains and local commuter trains you are thinking of, the energy operating costs are lower per seat mile, the labor operating costs are much lower per seat mile, and the load factor in a service allowed to operate for best financial result will be much higher.

    And its not as if there is new track has to be laid between the San Fernando Valley and LA Union Station to allow a train to terminate at LAUS, so the operating surplus is likely to be even better if they are permitted to actually establish the service. The San Fernando terminus is primarily a pro forma given that the means of actually running the train through to LA Union Station has not be worked out at this point and you can’t get regulatory approval for how its going to be done until its finalized how its going to be done.

    Nathanael Reply:

    HSR is intercity transport, not within-metro-area transport. We need both.

    joe Reply:

    Paul Dyson drives between SF and LA when traffic is low and can perfectly avoid accidents and delays.

    It’s Friday 5pm and 101 is congested to Gilroy – the 152 exit congested. Typical. Late again picking up my kid and we car pool. Not the time for Paul to drive.We work and travel between LA and SF on weekends and often hit during commute hours.

    So let’s get real and stop with the bogus comparisons about perfect travel times and the joys of pounding big gulps and rest stops.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Of course there is a peak Friday and Sunday evenings, as there is at just about any airport, railroad station and freeway on ramp. The standard 5 day work week is the bane of transportation providers. So when HSR is fully operational you will have a choice to complete your journey by train, that is if the trains aren’t sold out at the time you want to travel. That brings up the tricky question of how much do you invest in capacity, track or rolling stock, for peak period demand, or do you use pricing to flatten the peaks as much as possible?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much do we use pricing to flatten out demand on roads?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That question is singularly less tricky for trains than for everything else, because the fixed costs of rail are so much higher than the variable costs. The cost of a system capable of about 4 tph – i.e. Bay to Basin with timed overtakes on the Peninsula – is not one half the cost of one capable of about 8, with full four-tracking in the Basin and on the Peninsula. It’s more like 80% if everything is done right. The truly variable-cost items, i.e. operating costs and rolling stock acquisition, cost peanuts compared to the trackwork.

    joe Reply:

    What’s tricky?
    The “tricky part” is putting in the track. It should scale pretty well and the cost of adding a second train set is small.

    This is another other of magnitude diversion. Like “Where will we get the power for HSR?” 1% of the state’s power and a ratio of 1:30 for what we demand for Air Conditioning.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed. As Alon says, with trains it’s easy. With roadways it’s a lot harder because they fill up much quicker.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, 2hrs 10mins is the “maximum non-stop” requirement. OTOH the actual service time could be 2:30 or 2:50 without changing the fact that HSR can be used for one-day SJ-LA trips and driving, conventional rail, or bus cannot, and is at a time and distance where HSR tends to dominate flying ~ its trips to and from SF where operating the blended plan before it is complete may cut some one-day trips out of the picture.

    Jerry Reply:

    @ Spokker
    The Amtrak Coast Starlight schedule shows a departure from San Jose at 10:07 AM and an arrival at Los Angeles at 9:00 PM. A total of 10 hours and 53 minutes. I was off by 7 minutes when I rounded it off at Eleven (11) hours.
    At a public meeting in Mountain View sponsored by Simitian neither Lowenthal nor Simitian knew how long it took to go by train from San Jose to LA. Only DeSaulnier said Eleven (11) hours.
    The time probably has not changed since WW II. No progress at all in all of those years. While other forms of transportation have improved considerably.
    One of my many wishes would be to have all of these many challenges to HSR to be applied to such things as the Iraq War which has an estimated cost of One Trillion Dollars. No one ever seemed to ask how we would pay for the Iraq War. And it was OK to borrow money from China for the War and cut taxes at the same time. But High Speed Rail? The challenges are ad infinitum, ad naseum.

    Spokker Reply:

    I was looking at LAX->SJC so we are both right.

    And I tried to vote for a guy who would end our military adventurism but it went nowhere. I’m voting for another guy who would do the same.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did you vote Nader, or what? Because Obama ran on a platform of getting out of Iraq and expanding military incursions into Pakistan, and this is exactly what he did after winning the election. Not his fault if people decided that someone who’s against the Iraq War is anti-war in general.

    Spokker Reply:

    On the Bush timeline.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Way I remember it, Obama wanted to get out of Iraq before Bush set his timeline.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The US is not actually out of Iraq. At least we got the GIs out, but we’re still sinking money into paramilitaries in Iraq.

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/17/no_the_u_s_is_not_leaving_iraq/

    Spokker Reply:

    There’s also quite a bit of slack.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If the slack was never required, it wouldn’t be there ~ you can’t run a passenger service as an unwelcome guest on a freight corridor like that with plodding it’ll get there when it gets there freight without slack.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The March 1956 Official Guide has the Coast Daylight leaving San Francisco for Los Angeles or leaving Los Angeles for San Francisco at 8:15 AM and arriving at 6:00. 9 hours and 45 minutes.

    BrianR Reply:

    I was at that meeting too. I agree, why should it take 11 hours to go from LA to San Jose? I have friends in LA who know nothing about American rail travel in general who made the erroneous assumption that taking Amtrak between LA and San Jose should be at least as fast as driving if not faster. They were very surprised when I told them the truth.

    Thanks for bringing up the Iraq war. I feel a lot of people have completely forgotten about that. When people use the term ‘boondoggle’ they are doing a disservice to the term to not immediately mention the Iraq war. That is the text book definition of ‘boondoggle’! Fuck you Palo Alto if you think a 4-track grade-separated ROW qualifies to be classified as a ‘boondoggle’. Think about the lives that have been lost and family’s destroyed in America, Iraq and countless other places just to satisfy our blood lust for cheap oil so we can keep driving our cars. We try to distance ourselves from accountability using the “American cities weren’t built for transit” excuse like it’s decree written from God. It takes no genius to figure out our time is going to run out.

  2. Derek
    Jun 28th, 2012 at 23:12
    #2

    The cheapest solution to traffic congestion between northern and southern California is to convert the freeways to express lanes. Unfortunately, nobody’s interested in any solution that doesn’t involve a ribbon cutting.

    jimsf Reply:

    that’st not a solution because it does nothing about the unacceptable trip time.

    Derek Reply:

    Sure it does. An uncongested freeway flows faster than a congested one.

    joe Reply:

    A solution to a trivial problem with uninteresting constraints.
    Don’t allow traffic. No congestion – ever. That’s how you reduce congestion – now figure out a real world problem.

    Derek Reply:

    What, how to permanently eliminating traffic congestion at the lowest possible price is not a “real world problem”?

    joe Reply:

    Not real because your objective is trivial to the point of being nonsense.

    Like treating a fever by having a sick child suck on a popsicle and seeing his oral temperature drop. You narrow the problem down to a simple, solvable trivial non-useful solution,

    The goal is improved transportation – not congestion relief by offering the same system with strangled use and restricted economic activity.

    Derek Reply:

    If allowing the free market to determine the price of something is “strangled use”, then tell us, Joe, which planned economic system do you favor? Why do you hate capitalism, and what is your preferred alternative?

    Yes, adding supply is one way to eliminate a shortage, but it isn’t the only way, nor is it always the cheapest, especially when it comes to our freeways which are chronically underpriced.

    Don’t forget, the ultimate goal is not improved transportation, it’s a better quality of life. Taxes lower our quality of life. Therefore, a solution that lowers taxes will improve our quality of life. High speed rail will not lower our taxes. At best, it will keep our taxes from rising as fast as they would if we instead concentrated on overbuilding our freeways, but that’s just a straw man argument.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There is no “the free market” in the real world. There are, instead, actual markets, operating under the actual system of laws and/or rules and/or habits of behavior that allow them to function, some of them more competitive, some of them less competitive, some of them with few choke points at which relatively little can be skimmed off by those in charge of the choke point, some of them with more choke points at which quite a bit can be skimmed off by those in charge of the choke point.

    “the free market” is all too often an excuse to not think about the actual details of the market wherein the devil resides), in many cases precisely in support of establishing a system with choke points at which extra income can be skimmed.

    Derek Reply:

    in many cases precisely in support of establishing a system with choke points at which extra income can be skimmed.

    Spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars to eliminate a choke point, when the congestion cost of not expanding it is only a few thousands of dollars per year, is a VERY unwise use of tax money.

    That’s right. On an unpriced freeway, the optimal amount of congestion is not zero congestion. It’s somewhere above zero.

    But if you want to eliminate congestion, which is a type of shortage[1], all you have to do is stop setting the price below the going rate determined by supply and demand. In other words, stop wasting a taxpayer owned resource by underpricing it.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_shortage

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, if the only issue of interest is the “problem” of congestion, the pricing a suffficient number of motorists out of the use of the road resolves the problem.

    If the problem to be resolved is transport to give people access to employment, commerce and liesure activties, congestion pricing is only one piece of the puzzle.

    It’s normal that you can make a multidimensional problem easier to solve by ignoring all but one dimension. Sufficient conbestion charges to eliminate congestion by eliminating many road users requires the provision of alternative means of transport and/or reduction in VMT required for employment, commerce and leisure activities.

    Derek Reply:

    pricing a suffficient number of motorists out of the use of the road resolves the problem.

    Not motorists–vehicles. The distinction is important, because the express toll is per vehicle, not per occupant, and you can fit more than one person in a vehicle. As a result, express tolls encourage carpooling, which makes the road more efficient in terms of people moved per hour. This is a worthy goal, unless you think a vehicles per hour is a more important metric than people per hour? If that is the case, then HSR is a sure loser. But I don’t think that’s really what you mean.

    So your argument about VMT is irrelevant.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s only a portion of trips that are compatible with car-pooling, and while discriminating in favor of multiple-occupancy vehicles to attempt to get the current occupancy from somewhere below 1.5 per vehicle to somewhere above is a laudible goal in a system of goals, car-pooling is only part of the reduction in vehicles that congestion pricing accomplishes ~ the balance is in getting trips canceled or diverted onto other means of transportation.

    joe Reply:

    Perfect Markets are theories. Toilet paper is closer to being a perfect market than traffic. Simple solution that assume away reality fail.

    Derek Reply:

    Toilet paper is closer to being a perfect market than traffic.

    Do you have any evidence of that, or are you just making stuff up because you wish it to be true?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Joe, are you referring to “perfectly competitive markets”? Those are markets with no technological, legal or behavioural barriers to entry, no large, dominant buyers, and perfect information on the part of buyers and sellers. And, yes, they are a purely theoretical construct that is unattainable in the real world. The first two elements are approximated fairly closely by reasonably purely competitive markets, but the perfect information is physically impossible, since it includes perfect foresight about future changes that will affect the market.

    “Free” markets are not a theoretical construct, nor a real world market, but an ideology in favor of corporations being free to pursue their interests in markets unconstrained by the governments whose actions and institutions make the corporations and the markets possible in the first place.

    joe Reply:

    eminent domain is necessary to acquire land to build infrastructure, not necessary not produce toilet paper.

    A economic analysis that does distinguished between supply and demand for toilet paper and infrastructure isn’t serious.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Derek, there are two important differences I can think of. First, transportation is incredibly capital-intensive, which means that it can’t be done by a Harvard student with an initial investment of $10,000 from a rich friend. And second, there are network effects and also transportation-development integration effects, both of which encourage the growth of large conglomerates.

    Also, you’re being overzealous with what you’re saying about congestion. Yes, you can make any product not in shortage by raising its price. But if there’s pent-up demand that’s being priced out, you can eke out additional profits by producing more in order to serve it. Private transportation companies do add capacity when they judge the additional toll or fare revenue they’d make from it high enough to justify the capital investment.

    So, in a fictional perfect market, suppose we have the existing California roads, priced to cover externalities. It’s still possible that despite the presence of tolls to cover construction and maintenance costs and various taxes to price pollution appropriately, more people are driving than the freeways can handle, necessitating further tolling. But in either case, since we’re dealing with a setting in which gas costs a multiple of what it costs today, and there is a moderate toll on top of that, there’s a lot of demand for intercity transportation that’s not affected by those externality taxes, and this demand can provide enough revenue to pay for HSR.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Derek, private cars only carry up to five people. If you price motorists out of the road, eventually you make it so they don’t travel at all — and then if you want them to have transportation, *you have to build trains*.

    But you know that. I’m all for tolling all the expressways, just as you are — and if you do that, people will be *demanding* trains en masse. And private companies won’t build them, *because it requires eminent domain*. So, you know, we’ll have to have the government do it.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Derek, private cars only carry up to five people

    Sedans perhaps. Some people do drive vans, SUVs, and station wagons however.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    SUVs don’t fit all that many people.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh yeah by a few seconds, big whoop, even the CHP would tell Ya the difference would not be much, build HSR, Freeway Expansion is horribly expensive.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, so you’ll be able to do the trip in 6 hours flat, plus time for eating, using the bathroom, and maybe refueling. Congrats.

    VBobier Reply:

    Provided everything is in proper working order, like no earthquake damage and such…

    jimsf Reply:

    No Derek, it doesn’t solve the unacceptable trip time. Even an uncongested freeway, )and I have driven up and down the valley and to southern ca, many times avoiding congestion) takes too long. 5 hours from merced to la 8 hours from sac to orange county, 3.5 hours from merced to bakersfield. 5 hours from san jose to la. and so on. compared to under two hours for most of those city pairs with hsr.

    flying is only feasable from sac san jose and la/co, and not only does it leave out city pair in between, but with advance arrival, tsa, flight time, and and time at the other end, its still a 3 to 4 hour ordeal in most cases.

    plain and simple, hsr fills an unfilled need. It is the missing link in our states transportation system. It will bring more mobility, more speed, more convenience, and more comfort, to more people in california, including visitors, than any other mode of transport. thats the bottom line and you cant prove otherwise.

    Derek Reply:

    Here’s how to prove whether there’s a “need” for the state to build high speed rail. Add up all the costs to the state, and add up all the benefits to the state (fare revenue, taxes paid by tourists, etc.). If the benefits-to-costs ratio is greater than one and greater than the alternatives, then it should be built.

    We don’t know whether the ratio is greater than one. We know it’s greater than the alternative of expanding freeways and airports. But is it greater than the alternative of setting the price of freeway travel at the going rate determined by supply and demand?

    Is there any good reason why the price of freeway travel should NOT be set at the going rate determined by supply and demand? Remember, from the long queues for toilet paper in the Soviet Union, that price ceilings cause shortages.

    And with traffic congestion between northern and southern California permanently relieved and moving more people than ever before, will there still be sufficient demand for high speed rail to justify its costs? We’ll never know until we’ve put that market pricing into place, and as long as it isn’t possible know whether the benefits of HSR will exceed its costs, is it really such a good idea to build it?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The majority of the benefits to the who currently drive in the cost/benefit analysis are benefits to those who take the HSR instead of driving. You can put the benefit to motorists in thecroad from some minor congestion relief to zero by congestion pricing the Expressway, and the benefit/cost ratio is not going to drop far, even without accounting for the additional demand for HSR created by increasing the out of pocket cost of intercity driving.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The flip side is that if you congestion-price the roads, it will make HSR more attractive because the cost of one of the alternatives will be higher. I don’t feel like checking this now but I’ve heard multiple people, and not just blog commenters, say that HSR can’t be as successful in California as elsewhere because its roads don’t have French autoroute tolls.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The CAHSR ridership model says so ~ two French urban areas of the same size as the LA Basin and the Bay Area would be projected to have an appreciable additional increment of ridership.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Except for Southwest Airlines, multiple airport choices, and cheap gasoline….

    Eric M Reply:

    And that’s what they said about Air France and the regional carriers too. Look what happened to their ridership after the TGV was built

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Fuel costs in the US are barely higher than in France per km of distance driven. The higher French gas prices are almost fully canceled out by higher fuel economy.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Rather more tolls however. Paris-Lyons is actually cheaper by TGV than it is by car for a lone individual.

    StevieB Reply:

    In France 70% of cars have engines of less than 1600cc while in the US the figure is less than 5%. 90% of engines are under 2000cc compared to under 18% in the US. In all but the United States and Australia, engines under 2 000cc accounted for more than 80% of sales of cars worldwide. US auto engine sizes will have to be dramatically reduced to obtain French fuel economy.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    StevieB. And, point? The fact is fuel efficiency in France is higher than in the US. Of course engines need downsizing. They are way too big currently!! I am always amused that Americans insist that the vehicle must be
    1. large.
    2. powerful

    Even a normal compact size sedan has more than enough volume to comfortably accommodate any human being, even large ones. I really am left scratching my head here. A bigger vehicle may give you what, a few extra inches in legroom and width but at a cost of half the fuel economy. Why do I find my normal sized Jetta for example perfectly ample for two individuals on a 6 hour run. OK, four adults may require an intermediate sized car but an SUV is way overkill. The bigger vehicle is not appreciably more comfortable. To get a step change in comfort, you have to ditch the auto/truck etc. and board a train or one of those buses with reduced seating density like RedCoach here in FL. With the train, in addition to having more general room, you have the option to actually move around and not be confined and belted to a seat for 2, 3 hours at a shot.

    Do people not realize that that all the power in the current vehicles is wasted and cannot reasonably be utilized?. What, zero to 60 in 5 seconds. How much practical use is that in the general traffic stream where you share the road with semis, motorhomes, buses, low skilled drivers etc.? What is the highest speed limit, 80 mph. My 90 hp diesel can easily maintain such speeds, even on serious inclines with a full payload. I will argue that reasonable power and copious torque is a more desirable arrangement, especially for US driving conditions. The torque is always welcome and put to use.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not “except for” those things ~ due to those difference and others.

    Its not as if there is any need to include any special “love of common carrier transport” constant to account for differences between US and European mode shares for cars, planes, trains, trams and buses … the observable mode split factors suffice.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Paul Druce — *that’s exactly what Alon said*. If you congestion-price the roads, demand for rail will go up, as it did in France.

    blankslate Reply:

    The purpose of HSR is not to provide a “solution” to traffic congestion between northern and southern California. For starters, there is almost no such congestion; 99% of the congestion is in the two metro areas rather than between them (I can’t think of a single time I’ve sat in slow traffic in the non-metro-area portion of I-5).

    That said, I love your idea of tolling I-5. I would not recommend “Express Lanes” if by that you mean a combination of tolled and untolled lanes because there are only 2 lanes in each direction for most of I-5, leaving room for only 1 tolled and 1 untolled lane and no room for passing in either portion. The only way people could pass each other without crossing the toll line would be to widen the entire freeway to four lanes in each direction (2 tolled and 2 untolled), which would be a financial and environmental disaster. Besides, the express lanes would flop because there would be no incentive for people to pay to use them since traffic almost never slows down on that portion of I-5.

    A better idea would be to toll the entire central portion of the highway. Best idea: use the revenue to build HSR!

    jimsf Reply:

    What would be a good idea is to to construct a truckway, to get all trucks off of 99 and 5.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Even better, a steel interstate, to get a big chunk of the energy inefficient long haul trucking off the roads entirely except short hauls from the closest railhead to the origin/destination loading docks.

    But that is a target corridor length beyond the reach of a single state ~ even one of the oversized ones like California and Texas.

    Derek Reply:

    Because it’s mostly the big trucks that cause potholes, a road for them made out of steel, which is much more robust than asphalt, would save a lot of money.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of course, for improved energy efficiency, its steel wheels on steel rail, with the “trucks” running in long articulated units.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Long haul trucking shouldn’t exist. That’s what railroads are for.

    Unforunately, container intermodal is still done in a really simpleminded (and therefore slow) way most places.

    flowmotion Reply:

    > I can’t think of a single time I’ve sat in slow traffic in the non-metro-area portion of I-5

    It’s terrible on holiday weekends, 12 hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    Derek Reply:

    Is it worth $3 billion per year to alleviate a few weekends of bumper to bumper traffic? ($68 billion amortized over 40 years at 3% interest is almost $3 billion per year.)

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Let’s be honest here, this train is not about congestion. This is about far, far more important issues. Why is it that we can’t see past our noses here? This is about the embryonic stages of development of a non fossil fuel reliant line haul transport mode in the US that is also land and energy efficient. It is worth $3 billion a year if it means the further construction around the country of similar and not so similar, slower services that are also non fossil fuel reliant.

    If it means the start of actions to finally electrifying the major freight lines, particularly the BSNF LA to Chicago route, The Northern Transcon route, the UP Overland route, the CSX Water Level route, the CSX main line from Florida to Virginia, the Rathole, the Crescent route, the Sunset route at least to Houston and several other high freight traffic corridors I have omitted.

    Derek Reply:

    Even greener than building HSR would be to *not* build HSR, and to convert existing freeways to express tollways, to reduce the wasted carbon emissions of idling engines.

    Greener than that would be to replace existing freeways with electrified rail, but that option isn’t even on the table.

    You may think high speed rail is green, but it isn’t. It’s simply less ungreen than other forms of transportation. A lot of people seem to forget that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The greenest thing to do is sit at home. Greener still is to commit suicide and direct that your remains become part of a carbon sequestration project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The remains will be part of carbon sequestration unless the person is burned. Biospheric carbon is a closed system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In the middle of the pile in one of those “bury Amazonian wood” schemes would remove the carbon from the biosphere on a long time scale. Shoving the dehydrated corpse in a dry abandoned coal mine wold probably do it on a even longer time scale. I see solar dehydrators being used…

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    If you assume we are going to have transportation, there is no overland motorized mode greener than rail, in all its varied forms, especially when power is electric. You do notice however that I never used the term green. I used the term “efficient”. I used the term “non-fossil fuel reliant”. Those are very important attributes especially from a national security perspective separate and apart from rail being “less bad” compared to the environmental credentials of other modes. That said, I of course would support tolling of the freeways.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thank you, HST–even if you sound like me!

    Nathanael Reply:

    No. HSR would be greener (in terms of carbon emissions) than converting freeways to tollways.

    It would not be as green (in terms of carbon emissions) as *shutting down freeways entirely without replacement*, of course. But people are not proposing that (in most places), because people like to travel.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They like to eat too.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Completely aside from HSR, I-5 is congested often enough that I would use my dictatorial powers to widen portions of it (e.g. toll lanes for trucks). I would also upgrade CA-99 to an interstate and make various other improvements that rail will never directly address within the next 30 years.

    HSR, of course, is a completely different ballgame & will capture air passengers as well as many many trips that otherwise would not have occurred.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Nobody claims that it is. This is not a roadwork project or a park and ride transit project for the benefit of relatively affluent suburbanites, with the substantial benefit in the benefit/cost ratio from supposed “congestion relief”.

  3. synonymouse
    Jun 28th, 2012 at 23:46
    #3

    I suspect that “john and ken” will in short order recognize that the timing for hsr re-vote does not work and quickly segue their anti-hsr campaign into an anti-tax initiative campaign, much more likely to mess with Brown’s plans.

    Spokker Reply:

    No one is going to an anti-HSR initiative on the upcoming ballot. I don’t think the laws of time and physics allow for it.

  4. BrianR
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 00:33
    #4

    I really liked the following statement from that Orange County Register article:

    (begin-quote) Several people who came by to sign said they didn’t know much – or necessarily care – about high-speed rail. “But I’m a fan of John and Ken. So if they say it’s a waste of money, it probably is,” said Jon Fleming, 38, a construction-worker from Fullerton. Fleming signed the petition. But he was happier to walk away with a signed portrait of John and Ken. (end-quote)

    Great way to delegate your decision making! At least I got to give the Orange County Register credit for writing a balanced review of the situation. If covered by the San Jose Mercury or Palo Alto Daily News I doubt they would find room to share those fine nuances. They are never willing to acknowledge there are in fact a few bona fide crazies amongst HSR opponents. Say the word ‘boondoggle’ and all of a sudden the Mercury or PA Daily News paints you to be some enlightened genius.

    Spokker Reply:

    Did you mean to imply that Mr. Fleming was crazy? He just went to see his favorite talk show hosts.

    VBobier Reply:

    If the shoe fits, wear it…

    BrianR Reply:

    ABSOLUTELY! Well he did get a free poster too so maybe I’ll have to reconsider.

    Imagine if this was about something a bit more grave than HSR such as civil rights issues or whether a certain segment of our population should be rounded up and forcefully deported? Is it really responsible to say and do exactly what ‘John and Ken’ say because you can’t be bothered to formulate your own opinions? It’s the Sarah Palin-ization (aka “dumbing down”) of American politics. It didn’t work for the GOP in 2008 so they re-branded the efforts post election as the Tea Party subsidiary. Instead of calling Mr. Fleming crazy maybe it’s more sensitive to just call him “a victim of an ignorant media culture”. A media culture and political party that seriously threatens the future of our country.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Very true Brian..and its going to cause it to break up ..

    Nathanael Reply:

    Delegating your political opinions to people you’re a “fan” of, rather than to people who have proven to you that they know what they’re talking about, is unwise. To be fair to Mr. Fleming, he said “probably” — but he signed the petition anyway, which he shouldn’t have, since he knew that he was unsure.

  5. YesonHSR
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 05:56
    #5

    I will be true irony if three Democrates end up runnning this thing into the ground…We could not have had a worse person in charge of the Senate HSR ..Lowenthal..simply amazing ..And then of course Simitian being hounded by the Nimbys..

  6. joe
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 07:55
    #6

    wikipedia – Alan Lowenthal wants to be a congressman – his district , #47, is new.

    “According to a Cook Political Report analysis, the 47th district is one of 13 congressional districts in California that may be competitive in 2012. The analysis rated it as Likely Democratic.[1] ”

    It’s a thin margin.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/20/1101540/-Outlook-for-California-districts-in-2012-Post-Primary-Edition
    CA-47 D+0.5

    I’m the guy that broke-up HSR but still voted to spend Prop1A money.
    Oh, Labor..Not my fault.
    The President took HSR funding away as promised and the Gov criticized my plan. Losers.
    Bonus – I have a 100% liberal rating as a State Senator.

    I’m a maverick willing to destroy a state wide project to help the 47th district – send me to Washington.

    VBobier Reply:

    If Alan Lowenthal continues to vote NO on HSR then He will not get to Congress, the Democratic Party and the Pelosi will see to that, since they want a team player for the Democratic Party, not the teabaggers… As there is a price to be paid for betrayal…

  7. EJ
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 09:00
    #7

    Please provide evidence that the success or failure of CAHSR has anything to do with anyone’s decision in, say, Ohio, to vote for Barack Obama. This assertion which, like all your clever ideas, you insist on repeating endlessly, makes absolutely zero sense.

    I guess there may be a tiny minority of dumb people who think of politics the way pundits do, where nothing has any real consequences and its all about chalking up points in the wins and losses column, but normal human beings in other states don’t care at all about CAHSR. And even if it is successful, it won’t be until years after B.O. has left office.

    joe Reply:

    I have an IQ test for you – put the square peg in the square hole.

    PEG
    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/bay-area/2011/05/thank-florida-california-high-speed-rail-secures-300-million-federal-money
    Florida’s loss has turned in to California’s gain for high-speed rail.

    $3.5 billion: Federal funding secured
    $2.83 billion: State funding secured*
    $6.33 billion: Total funding secured
    $916 million: Funding secured that was originally intended for other states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida)

    HOLE:
    http://www.environmentalcouncil.org/newsroom/pressRelease.php?x=88
    More than 70 percent of voters said that they would not vote against elected officials who vote to raise taxes $20 per month for transportation infrastructure upgrades.

    • 78 percent believe new transportation investment creates jobs and boosts the economy.

  8. EJ
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 09:03
    #8

    It’s also interesting the way you and other supporters have largely given up arguing the merits and are now just pushing this as something Jerry Brown has to win just because he has to win it.

    VBobier Reply:

    Considering the opposition is rigid in their 1970’s era thinking and that includes the thought that the population isn’t growing to 50 million as the US Census(You know the one that comes around every 10 years?) says the population of California is growing, bunch of delusional, out of touch seniors who just happen to be largely White, Republican & possibly a bit racist added in too, but then their still living as if it were the 1980’s, As My Mom said to Me, a bunch of one track minds, She grew up during the Great Depression in the 1930’s with Her Brother & Sister all being supported by their Mom, a seamstress… Their Dad went back to Canada after deserting His family…

    synonymouse Reply:

    What merits? As it stands now the primary beneficiaries are, of course and as always, PB and LA-Palmdale who would score a free quasi-BART rapid transit line on a very expensive route to construct.

    Now if the various parties see Plan B as for real both LA and SF stand to benefit materially. My guess the ball is rolling.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Tejon Ranch Co. has gotta be “john and ken”‘s biggest fans.

    Real smart move there, Jerry.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The merits are clear — just read the archives of the blog! There is no downside. Now it’s just a question of whether an obviously good project will be sabotaged by asphalt fetishism.

    Robert is directing his writing at the Democratic State Senators who might succumb to asphalt fetishism, and warning them that the Democratic Party leadership will put them on the shitlist if they do so.

  9. jim
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 09:26
    #9

    So we know that DeSaulnier, Lowenthal and Simitian are opposed. But the article says that at least two, probably three, perhaps more Senators are at best uncommitted and, presumably, are having their arms twisted even as we type. Do we know who these are?

    I doubt that the minds of DeSaulnier, Lowenthal and Simitian are going to be changed between now and whenever Steinberg schedules the vote. So it’s pointless to keep on at them. it’s the submerged opponents that we should be trying to identify and pressure.

    Otherwise LaHood is going to be implementing his Plan B.

    VBobier Reply:

    Are We sure DeSaltshaker, Lowenbrau and Simian have any minds left to think with? If HSR goes, so does their chance in the Democratic Party in any part of the country, They’ll be finished and Unwelcome in the Democratic Party, Maybe the Repugs would welcome them, Nah, they aren’t Conservative enough…

    I guess they could get Janitors jobs after leaving office… Somewhere outside California…

    trentbridge Reply:

    Opposed now doesn’t mean a “No” vote later. It means that the gentlemen are looking for a “quid pro quo” for support. They have nothing to gain by voting “no” as it does nothing to distinguish them from their Republican opponents – who oppose it themselves. They will probably get something they want for their districts in return for returning to the fold. (as unions will be funding their campaigns – they can’t afford to walk the plank on this minor issue..)

    Remember the “John Roberts” rule: expect the unexpected!

    jim Reply:

    The Nancy Pelosi rule: “First get the votes, then hold the vote.” If Steinberg had the votes he’d hold the vote. It has now been twice slipped. During the budget is the easiest time to provide a quid pro quo.

    joe Reply:

    I think you’re 100% correct on both the assessment and hold up – the votes are not there. It’s a game of chicken over quid pro quo.

    The President could afford if CA does not approve the contractual project and then push some Federal money elsewhere where the national election is tighter. I doubt he wants State Senators from his own party to push his policy around.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LaHood has made it pretty clear that California has a short window of time to approve this. If they don’t approve the bonds, $3.5 billion will immediately go to other states’ rail projects. I suspect he already has a backup list.

    I am sure New York’s US Senators have pushed for their wishlist to get approved.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The most direct quid pro quo is to direct the Cap and Trade funds to “complementary” rail corridors. If that is the quid pro quo, then there is no need to raid Prop1a bonds for the complementary rail corridors.

  10. jim
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 10:32
    #10

    I doubt that canceling this effort “destroys” California HSR. It will certainly piss off LaHood. But he is retiring at the end of the year. The next Secretary won’t hold his grudges. There is unlikely to be major funding for HSR until the Democrats retake the House. When they do, then I’m sure that Speaker Pelosi will extract assurances from USDOT prior to the House passing HSR funding.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It holds back appropriating the money until after the opponents can get a repeal of 1A on the ballot, which is likely to pass.

    jim Reply:

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. From a continent away, Prop 1a appears to have been a source of many problems and not yet a source of money. it has added veto points to a process that has too many veto points already. It has created unnecessary design constraints.

    If a proposition to repeal Prop 1a is likely to pass if no construction has started, then what prevents it from passing if ICS construction has started? What then happens?

    I suppose the critical question is what funds can be available to match federal funds if Prop 1a is repealed. Apparently Brown has identified the proceeds from a “green tax” as a possibility. Are there others? I have to confess I do not understand California State Government. The more I hear about it, the more confused I get. But surely money committed to by the Governor in an agreement with the Federal Government can be budgeted for over a period of years out of current income.

    And if, without Prop 1a, California can provide matching funds, then what good does Prop 1a do?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    what prevents it from passing if ICS construction has started

    This is similar to the principle difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, which is that Romneycare was implemented in a single year, while the health insurance exchanges in Obamacare were not scheduled to roll out until four years in the future. Its easier to cancel something when the benefits are only hypothetical future outcomes.

    That’s why opponents are all hands on deck getting the project killed now, by hook or by crook (that’s a shepherds crook in the saying, and I reckon the bogus Plan B would be the crook). This is their last, best chance to kill it.

    jim Reply:

    But in 2014 the benefits of the ICS are “only hypothetical future outcomes.” I can well envisage the backers of a Prop 1a repeal arguing to “stop the train to nowhere” even if construction has started.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The actual construction work and payrolls and spending of payrolls is, however, a current outcome, and that is the source of a “don’t take my stuff away” behind a defeat the repeal fight that the ICS does not have as lines on a paper.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Prop 1A has been co-opted stealthily by a cabal committed to a profoundly sub-optimal design. Prop 1A could have been interpreted as permitting a range of alternatives, with the best one to be selected after study. But the die had already been cast before the vote and a defective die at that.

    An attempt was made to rationalize but that was quashed. The refusal to study alternatives has greatly weakened the CHSRA’s ability to adjust and accommodate. The only flexibility it has shown has to been over for the Tejon Ranch Co., whose basal anti-hsr stance has not changed in reality one iota. There has been some compromise with PAMPA but even that remains tentative. Meanwhile you witness the gathering storm of opposition in the Valley from farmers, etc.

    Plan B is merely a plan to retain transport funds and save face against the prospect of hsr implosion, which now is totally the fault of Brown, Richard, Antonovich and Villa, etc.

    synonymouse Reply:

    been should read bend

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Plan B is improve the NEC. Just like Florida’s Plan B was to improve the NEC. Or Ohio’s Plan B. Or Wisconsin’s Plan B.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    For a start, they could bag the plans to widen I-95 from 4 to 6 lanes in eastern Connecticut. If they have that kind of money, they have the money to build two HSR tracks on one side of the road, at least part of the way. This means cutting New Haven-Providence Acela trip times to about 45-50 minutes, and also removing intercity traffic from the movable bridges so that they can run more commuter trains across them.

    Or they can raise the Cos Cob Bridge – done right it means no speed limit due to curvature and of course more reliability, which is worth a couple of minutes of travel time on both Metro-North and Amtrak.

    jim Reply:

    Nothing that can’t be described as SOGR will be done on the NEC until 2015: http://www.necfuture.com/.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    New tracks through rural Connecticut wouldn’t be buildable in the time frames set out in the various stimulus packages.
    Since I travel on the NEC between NY and DC, constant tension catenary would be higher on my list. Amtrak should be able to pull that out of it’s bottom drawer. FONSI and ROD in weeks.
    How ’bout ARC instead of Gateway. Gives Amtrak plenty of capacity at Penn Station until 2035 or so. That is ready to go yesterday.
    Level boarding for SEPTA on the NEC. Doesn’t do much for Acela but means the SEPTA locals are running faster. Interlocking on either side of Cromwells Heights means they could run intercity trains on the express tracks instead of the local tracks.
    How far along is the EIS/EIR for the Baltimore tunnels? Probably not far enough along to make stimulus deadlines.
    If they can’t find stuff ready to go along the NEC, Illinois could probably find lots of things. So could Virginia and North Carolina. New York State even, more third track on the Water Level route. Upgrade the express tracks between Croton and Sputyen Duvil to class 6.
    Lots and lots of stuff that could soak up 3 billion in no time.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought that the Baltimore tunnels were ready to go if Maryland only finally applied to the.m

    But yeah, in retrospect, constant tension catenary would be even better. Cos Cob raising done right may not be fast enough, whereas you can’t screw up constant tension as much – and although in both cases the costs would be higher than they should be, $2 billion for constant tension still has an amazing ROI.

    ARC/Gateway has issues – for this particular purpose, political ones (Jersey shouldn’t see a penny of this until The Bully is kicked out), and also financial ones (we’re redistributing $3 billion, not $10 billion).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have no idea what that first sentence was supposed to mean. I think something like “if Maryland only finally applied for funding for them.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I haven’t gone searching about Balitmore lately. Last I heard they got money to move onto detailed preliminary studies on the Great Circle alternative. They wouldn’t be able to finish by 2017.

    According to Wikipedia the funding for ARC was going to be
    Federal New Starts = $3.0 billion
    Federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act = $0.130 billion
    Federal Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program & Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) = $1.320 billion
    Port Authority of New York and New Jersey = $3.0 billion
    New Jersey Turnpike Authority = $1.250 billion
    Get most of that money back and it could be done without approval from His Girthyness. Just have to have the lead agency be someone other than NJTransit or the Port Authority.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And this way he gets to say New Jersey got the project anyway without risk to local taxpayers?

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s important to note that the FRA is adding a series of categorical exclusions which will make it a lot easier to get certain types of projects “shovel-ready”. Watch for *lots and lots* of ADA compliance projects and grade separations to suddenly start going very very fast.

    As for ARC, Christie *might* say that NJ got the project anyway, but with NJ Transit not allowed to use the new tubes without paying through the nose, in essence it wouldn’t have gotten the project.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In terms of advancing completion of an HSR system the options rank:
    (1) Build the CV corridor
    (2) Cancel everything except the planning activity
    (3) Raid the Prop1a funds for urban commuter rail

    There won’t be any immediate large tranche of HSR funds. 2015 and 2017 are more likely possibilities, as existing funded projects in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Northeast and Southest are completed.

    Building something now shortens whatever delay there are from delays in the next wave of Federal funding. Not building something now postpones starting until there is a new wave of Federal funding, and raiding the Prop1a funds for Rapid Rail commuter rail projects in SF and LA without actually making progress on the Express HSR parts of the corridor not only postpones things to not start until the next wave of Federal HSR funds is available but also requires getting new authorization for a California state match sorted out.

  11. morris brown
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 14:47
    #11

    The Federal transportation bill has passed through congress and is now law:

    See LA Time article:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-congress-passes-transportation-bill-halts-student-loan-rate-hike-20120629,0,7176382.story

    This 27 month bill has no (zero) funding for High Speed Rail.

    Also note from the article, what Congressman Jeff Dehnam got approved:

    “Separately, the House approved an amendment to an annual spending bill that would prevent federal transportation funds from being spent in the next fiscal year for California’s controversial high-speed rail project.

    The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who cited the project’s ballooning costs. Three California Democrats – Jim Costa of Fresno, Zoe Lofgren of San Jose an Laura Richardson of Long Beach – issued a statement calling the amendment an “example of how thoughtless partisanship would hurt all of California.’’

    So there is no further funding for HSR here from the FEDs for quite some time

    In Washington DC, the congress has learned what a lousy project is being promoted here. Congress got swindled once, with all the LaHood and FRA rhetoric, but they are not about to be swindled again.

    Despite what Robert keeps writing here as a cheerleader for the Authority and the project, objective views sees it otherwise.

    As a bit of an aside, we see Congress woman Lofgren, who is very much responsible for the Pacheco routing being chosen, still promoting our boondoggle.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought Pacheco was Diridon and SJ, not Congress.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Alon Levy

    She was the force in back of Diridon and San Jose.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Her mind rays are more penetrating than Nancy’s?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Morris, it’s a two-year transportation bill. That isn’t “quite some time”. That’s barely any time at all.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “So there is no further funding for HSR here from the FEDs for quite some time”

    Unless they pass a special allocation separate from the transportation bill.

    “Despite what Robert keeps writing here as a cheerleader for the Authority and the project, objective views sees it otherwise.”

    Objective? I don’t think so.

    joe Reply:

    J Wong. The Bill must be reconciled with the Senate – right?. I expect the Senate removes this silly intrusion into CA’s business. This amendment is Tea Bagger Frothing and will not stand in the Senate.

    Also, it’s possible the Bill is never passed and we continue the current bill with stop gaps.

    I’m fully expecting a shutdown over the debt ceiling. ACA has the base nuts – they were promised ACA was unconstitutional. Now it’s the law and the President’s won a huge policy victory.

    Spokker Reply:

    “I expect the Senate removes this silly intrusion into CA’s business.”

    You have got to be kidding me.

    The entire plan to give California any amount of money for high speed rail and putting strings on that money that require the state to start construction in the Central Valley is intrusion into California’s business! You may not like this “silly intrusion,” but it is not an intrusion when you invited federal involvement in the first place.

    joe Reply:

    Intrusion! The entire bill gives money to states for projects but only CA gets dictated for the sake of political gamesmanship.

    Spokker Reply:

    You wanted them involved!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Practically every one of the state projects funded from either the HSR program or ARRA had very explicit strings attached.

    The only exception I can think of is the giant pot of money which went to Washington State for about a “ohase and a half” of their Cascades Long-Range Plan. Apparently LaHood trusts WashDOT to pick its projects. He didn’t trust any other state to do so.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Quite some time” is a misleading description: the current transport bill is through to 2014. If California accepts the CV funds presently on offer, no money “through 2014″ is a moot point, because California will have funds to be building until well after 2014.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Denham amendment is to the annual DOT funding bill. The amendment passed the House and now must be passed by the Senate and signed by the President.

  12. joe
    Jun 29th, 2012 at 19:26
    #12

    Why isn’t HSR like an Apple HQ? Renaming the project iSpeed Rail and get the same consideration.

    http://business-news.thestreet.com/mercury-news/story/gov-brown-gives-fast-track-status-apple-headquarters/1
    Gov. Brown gives fast-track status to Apple headquarters
    Last fall, Brown signed Assembly Bill 900 into law in an effort to speed up judicial review of certain projects, with the purported goal of improving the job market for Californians. The legislation gives applicants an incentive to move forward because any challenge to a project’s environmental impact report will be fast-tracked through the court system.

    I

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I for one don’t want HSR to be an overpriced, all-brand-and-no-product piece of shit that’s compatible with nothing but itself.

    joe Reply:

    And highly profitable…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ack! Bold tag unterminated

    BrianR Reply:

    yes, you must be correct if you think so. I just wonder why Microsoft is desperately trying to catch up with Apple in the integration of hardware and software (note Microsoft’s new tablet computers). Apple must be doing something right. The Zune was a failure, but you know that grade school adage; “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

    I love the way Apple’s new campus metaphorically reflects the closed system idea; literally a “walled garden”. You also got to appreciate the way it pays cultural homage to the legacy of 1960’s era suburban office parks. I am all for new-urbanism in principle but it’s not appropriate for every situation. Sometimes you just got to let the architecture of the suburbs be what it wants to be and not constrain it to a lukewarm imitation of an urban environment.

    At least in this case it’s replacing existing office buildings that are for the most part pretty heinous (a select few are actually kind of nice). Anyways for the most part I’d say fast-tracking the judicial process is more than justified. It will be a big improvement over what’s currently there.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Microsoft was trying to peddle tablets in 2002.

    And the reason Microsoft was successful is precisely that it didn’t try to bundle things (except Offi¢e and I€…), but instead worked hard on making Windows compatible with as many third-party programs as possible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The third party programs try to be as compatible with Windows as possible….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You think so, but not always. There’s a pretty harrowing story you can find about how Sim City used a memory in a nonstandard way that wasn’t supposed to be in DOS, and when Windows closed that loophole, they had to insert a special rule saying “if Sim City is running, use memory like DOS.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Anything before Windows 95 was a DOS application masquerading as an operating system. Most developers of Windows programs aren’t particularly worried about the quirks of MSDOS 3.x

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s quoted from here, and I think this was actually about migrating from 3.11 to 95.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No one writes programs, in the hope of making money, for Windows 95 anymore. Or Windows 98. Or NT or ME. Call Microsoft and try to get support for your obscure Vista program.

    joe Reply:

    I just wonder why Microsoft is desperately trying to catch up with Apple in the integration of hardware and software (note Microsoft’s new tablet computers). Apple must be doing something right. The Zune was a failure, but you know that grade school adage; “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

    Suggested that MS needs more control over the platform…they need to do move it in house where they can deeply integrate hardware/software. What is necessary for optimal integration cannot be adequately specified and needs to be brought in house.

    http://wikisum.com/w/Hart:_Incomplete_contracts_and_the_theory_of_the_firm
    RESIDUAL RIGHTS OF CONTROL. In a world of no transactions costs, we would always write perfect contracts (b/c it wouldn’t cost anything to specify every possible contingency); even if we didn’t, there would be no transactions costs to revise it. But with transactions costs, we necessarily right incomplete contracts.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Zune was a failure, but after many years of subsidy, the XBox marketplace is a success. The Windows 8 RT “Metro” apps ecosystem seems like it will lean heavily on XBox marketplace crossover for success.

    Making the Surface the same general type of play as the Amazon $200 tablet for AmazonPlus, the Google $200 tablet for GooglePlay, even the B&N $200 tablet for B&N ebooks … except up in the iPad price points. (Indeed, with the agreement with B&N as the built in ebook reader and bookstore for Windows 8, the next B&N Nook Tablet could well be the $200 Windows 8 RT entry, to complement the Surface up in the iPad, netbook and ultrabook price points).

    Spokker Reply:

    They have already integrated Xbox Live and Windows Live somewhat. Basically, I’ve got an Xbox Live gamertag that is compatible with Windows Live, so a Windows Live-compatible game like Dirt 3 will use my Xbox Live gamertag, friends list, Microsoft Points, achievements, etc. Which is weird because I redeemed the game on Steam, but whatever.

    One of the things that I like about the Microsoft ecosystem is that the Xbox 360 controller is compatible with Windows (the wireless version requires a dongle, but I’ve got a wired version), and many PC games support it natively.

    When it comes to tablets and smartphones, we are already neck-deep in the Android ecosystem so we don’t care about Surface or Windows Phone, but for gaming and PC stuff, we are with Microsoft. We own zero Apple products.

    One thing that surprised me, though, is that Microsoft released Kinectimals on Android. I usually don’t expect that sort of thing. I wonder why they did not make it Windows Phone exclusive.

    Another side note, I’m surprised they managed to pack Tegra 3 into the Nexus Table. We have a Transformer Prime that is equipped with Tegra 3, and it cost considerably more.

    BrianR Reply:

    I use Apple products 100% of the time at home and work so the rare occurrences I see someone using Windows based products are while in public places such as on Caltrain. I don’t mean to pry but can’t help but think “what is that!”. I’ve read that the problem with the Windows Live branding is that it’s so diluted into so many different categories from office to home applications that people generally don’t feel much “love” for it.

    Apple’s strategy is clearly to stay out of the core business equipment / software market. Make people like your products because they don’t remind them of work. Ages ago Apple used to make printers and they were wise to get out of the business. I think almost everyone hates their printer at some point in time. Better to let a competitor’s product (such as Hewlett Packard) get called a mother f**ker every morning!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t mean to pry but can’t help but think “what is that!”.

    It’s called a Blue Screen of Death and it means they have to reboot their computer and almost always let it run CHKDSK when it starts up.

    BrianR Reply:

    right on! I guess that explains it. Mystery solved! Thank you!

    Spokker Reply:

    Windows’ reputation as unstable went away with Windows XP. Still on Service Pack 3 after all these years. Our gaming PC is running Windows 7, though, and has been up and running without a reboot for several months now.

    Windows 95 and 98? Yeah, pieces of shit. At that point, I was missing configuring memory in DOS in order to play Doom II over 56k.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There is no service pack 4 unless you want to call Vista service pack 4.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Vista is Service Pack -1. The reason I have a Lenovo is that it was the only thing at the store that wasn’t Mac or Vista.

    Spokker Reply:

    I skipped Vista.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Sometime around Vista I finally made the switch to Linux, which is completely usable for most purposes, except hardcore gaming and people who need a few specific programs.

    Spokker Reply:

    I think the bloatware PC companies install on pre-configured computers and the general misbehavior of Windows users causes them to think it’s Windows that is the problem. I have always put together budget-conscious AMD PCs.

    Android has a similar problem with bloatware, which is why I use the Nexus phone.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Test.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, test failed.

    Robert, can you fix the tags?

  13. Neil Shea
    Jun 30th, 2012 at 13:31
    #13

    Hi all – I’m in Senator Simitian’s district and his local staffer on point for Transportation just sent me this response. I have not yet formulated my reply to the staffer, but it may clarify the senator’s thinking.
    —————-

    Unfortunately Senator Simitian’s statements (and actions) about high-speed rail have become a little bit like the words of the nation’s “founding fathers”: everyone reads into them what they want to see. Here’s his position on high-speed rail, as clearly and succinctly as we can state it – which I fear may not be terribly succinct in the end, but here we go.

    He has supported HSR in California from pretty much day 1. He voted to put the bond on the ballot back in 2004 and voted AGAINST delaying that ballot measure when the Legislature debated doing so a couple of years later. He supported the HSR bond when it was on the ballot in 2008. And since then, as chairman of the Senate Budget Subcommittee that oversees transportation funding, he has voted every year to appropriate to the HSR Authority every single penny in operating funds that they have requested.

    He has been deeply frustrated by the people in charge of HSR in California. Also pretty much from day 1, he has tried to get the HSR Authority to handle itself the right way. The Authority has been its own worst enemy for most of the last 3.5 years, since the passage of Prop 1A. In the Bay Area and elsewhere, they squandered much of the public goodwill the project had by failing to honestly engage with people who had even minor concerns about the project. Their opinion seemed to be “get out of our way, we have a railroad to build.” In Senator Simitian’s district, the rail bond passed by a fairly wide margin. Public opinion has now reversed itself; many people who were supporters of HSR in 2008 are now against it for a variety of reasons.

    Despite that reversal in public opinion, he continues to support HSR. He still thinks a high-speed rail system would be a great thing for the state (and for the nation and the global environment). Done right, it would a powerful tool for transportation, economic development, smart land-use planning, and environmental stewardship.

    This doesn’t mean that he has to give the Authority carte blanche or accept every element of the project as it is currently proposed. In general, his goal has been to get the Authority to do the work it needs to do to gain public trust and legitimacy and to position itself to SUCCESSFULLY deliver a project that Senator Simitian still thinks would be a great thing for California. Locally, as you’re probably aware, he and some of his colleagues have attempted to address some of the major concerns of communities in the South Bay and Peninsula. The proposed a set of conditions that has since become known as the “blended system” proposal, and which you can read in full here: http://www.senatorsimitian.com/entry/eshoo_simitian_gordon_statement_on_high-speed_rail . It seems that the HSR Authority has made motions in the direction of adopting this, though they’re wording is a little slippery.

    His biggest concern about the project as a whole (not just the local concerns) is the lack of any realistic source of future funding. The Authority is asking the Legislature to approve a state bond appropriation – in other words, they’re asking the state to take on a debt – of nearly $3 billion to start construction in the Central Valley. That money, coupled with available federal funds, would build 130 miles of conventional, non-high-speed, non-electrified rail disconnected from the state’s major ridership areas (SF and LA). The funds necessary to electrify that railway, complete the links to the SF Bay Area and San Fernando Valley, and buy trains are not there, and no one can identify any likely source for them. There’s a lot of hand-waving around the idea that the federal government will pick up the tab, but that would take – literally – an act of Congress. HSR is not like local/regional transportation projects (like the BART extension to San Jose) that can apply for existing federal transportation funding sources like “New Starts” or “Small Starts.” There is no standing source of HSR money. Senator Simitian is worried about sinking $3 billion of state money (which would be paid back with interest over the next three decades) to create a “stranded” 130 miles of conventional rail in a low-ridership area.

    Please note that the HSR Authority is NOT currently asking for money to start construction on the Bay Area and LA ends of the line. That’s not in this year’s funding request. Senator Simitian and his colleagues in the Legislature are being asked to approve a sizeable bond appropriation for a project in the Central Valley that may never be connected to anything else, with an entirely non-binding assurance from the Rail Authority that they’ll come back later and ask for money for the endpoints. For all I know, that could change on Monday, but that’s the deal that’s currently on the table. He very much agrees with you that Caltrain electrification and the other improvements to this corridor and Metrolink down south are needed – are vital, in fact, to the future of Caltrain. But that’s not what he’s being asked to approve funding for at this point.

    I don’t know yet how he’ll vote, and I don’t think he does either. And in fact, no one yet knows what exactly will be on the final bill that gets put together early next week. The language is still in development, and Senator Simitian is not in charge of drafting it. But I do know that he wants to find a way to salvage a good outcome from the hash that has been made of this project by the people in charge. Senator Simitian is trying to make the best of it.

    BrianR Reply:

    Interesting read but I am still not won over. I still think Simitian has a credibility issue at this point in time. He’s a politician like any other and you can’t take it at face value that he always has the noblest pursuits in mind. In the current state of affairs that regardless of his support for HSR in the past.

    I can’t help but think that if all that 3 billion was dedicated exclusively to a deep bore tunnel thru Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto he would be all for it. It wouldn’t matter to him whether HSR actually happened or not as long as his rich constituents never had to see or hear Caltrain in their backyards again. It wouldn’t necessarily be a stranded investment but it would be an ‘over’-investment compared to other more reasonable grade separation alternatives.

    I get the logic of investing in the bookends first, but it should be about ensuring the bookends can be designed to operate as efficiently as possible; not for the sole purpose of strangle-holding them in shitty compromises.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If Simitian wants credibility he needs to vote for the bonds to pass; letting California lose the $3 billion in federal funds is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    And the people in charge of the CHSRA have not been perfect but they’ve done OK.

    “. Senator Simitian and his colleagues in the Legislature are being asked to approve a sizeable bond appropriation for a project in the Central Valley that may never be connected to anything else, with an entirely non-binding assurance from the Rail Authority that they’ll come back later and ask for money for the endpoints.”

    He should vote for it. He has absolutely no reason not to vote for it; none at all.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    HSR is not like local/regional transportation projects (like the BART extension to San Jose) that can apply for existing federal transportation funding sources like “New Starts” or “Small Starts.”

    Why not?

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the case of LA-Palmdale they would have to come out and admit the Grand DeTour was for the purpose of commute rail on a route so difficult they could not afford the upgrade themselves..

    But that would probably not embarrass Antonovich and Villa. Their Roundabout would benefit Sheldon Adelson who is making good on his threat to give $10mil to Romney.

    Villa and Antonobvich have found some really true blue friends of hsr in Adelson and the Chandlers.

    Clem Reply:

    Because intercity HSR doesn’t fall under the purview of the Federal Transit Administration?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    What the Mouse said. Or to use another example, ACE gets grant money from the FTA for a new Livermore-Merced line.

    Though I have to confess, I don’t really understood these arbitrary distinction between commuter, intercity, and transit.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s a regulatory difference between local rail that uses FRA regulated track and local rail that does not, and is regulated by the FTA. In countries with different regulatory institutions, that distinction may well not be as big a deal as it is in the US with the major penalties imposed by a local passenger transport service falling under FRA regulation.

    The distinction between intercity and local service is not an arbitrary one, but the relatively importance of intercity and local service for different rail services will fall along a continuum from only useful for local trips to primarily used for intercity trips, and in the middle of the continuum will be services that get a substantial mix of both uses. Where a dividing line is placed is fairly arbitrary. That’s a common situation where the core members of the group are clear but the division between the two groups is fuzzy (in the mathematical sense of the term).

    Nathanael Reply:

    The distinction between “commuter” and “intercity” is *extremely* vague.

    VBobier Reply:

    Neil Your Boss is finished in California unless He votes Yes for the HSR bonds, As the Democratic Party will not tolerate giving aid and comfort to Repugnicans by Him any longer…

    The current plan is the only one that will get HSR started, without the DOT money the prop 1a bonds can’t be released and the DOT money can not be diverted from HSR at all as that is what the DOT said and it’s final, take it or leave it and if Simitian votes No He may as well resign as He won’t be welcome in the party anymore…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think Neil works for Simitian – he just lives in his district and was quoting a letter from a staffer.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oops, sorry Neil. I do mean what I said though, anyone who wants to go to Congress or wants to be
    elected in California as a Democrat better learn to toe the line and vote Yes for the HSR bonds to be released or else they won’t be getting help from the Party as they won’t be welcome anymore.

    Derek Reply:

    That money, coupled with available federal funds, would build 130 miles of conventional, non-high-speed, non-electrified rail…

    But how much of that cost will be wasted when the high speed tracks are put in? Will they have to rip out the low speed tracks, or will high and low speed tracks run adjacent to each other, or will the tracks all be built to HSR standards?

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually the so called 130 miles of conventional, non-high-speed, non-electrified rail is high speed rail, the CHSRA won’t be building conventional rail, that’s FUD & a big fat LIE, catenary uses a lot of copper and other metals that thieves like to steal when the wires aren’t energized, so the catenary is put in last, that’s standard railroad practice and prudent to do too, as the stuff costs money to replace or to guard 24/7 when not energized…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, THERE is something that can be labeled a flat out lie. A grade separated rail corridor with curve radius to support speeds in excess of 200mph and built from the outset with the clearances required for electrification is about as far from a “conventional rail corridor” as it is possible to be in the US.

    VBobier Reply:

    That sounds like Yer saying that such a thing is not possible to be built, that railroad row is railroad row & that any speed above 150mph can’t be done in the USA due to American Exceptionalism…

    Meaning people over here are too stupid to lay real HSR track and grades…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What is your beef, when I am agreeing with you that Simitian is engaged in a flat out lie when he claims that the Initial Construction Segment is a conventional rail corridor?

    And how in the hell can you read what I wrote as saying that its not possible to build it? Of course its possible to build it. And when its built, in direct contradiction to State Senator Simitians bald faced lie, the result won’t be what is called “a conventional rail corridor” in these here United States.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s arrow straight ROW without clearance problems laying around all over the place in the Midwest….

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, agreed.

    John Burrows Reply:

    So for about $3 billion we get 130 miles of high speed track which would cost us over $6 billion if we didn’t have that Federal funding.

    If no more money were available over the next 10 years, we would (in the worst case) have a boondoggle on our hands—How much of a boondoggle would depend upon how many of us would use the souped-up San Joaquins which would travel this route. It could be that 10 years down the road the fastest trains in the country would be running up and down the San Joaquin Valley—Trains that would be costing California taxpayers millions of dollars per year.

    To me this “worst case” seems unlikely—In ten years California will have 3 or 4 million more people—Our economy will have improved and our outlook on the future will be less bummed out. My generation (old and more opposed to high speed rail) will have faded as a new and much more supportive generation arrives. And my guess is that ten years down the road the tea party label will have been withdrawn from the marketplace.

    VBobier Reply:

    Democrats in Congress want HSR, Repugnicans do not, so the November 2012 election will determine if the Repugs get enough power to tear down parts of Government that helps ordinary people that is supposed to be by the People, for the People and of the People so that they can make Government into a Corporate puppet on a string, No HSR, No Soc Security, No SSI, No Medicare, No EPA(clean air & water), No Justice Department, No FBI, I could go on and on. Austerity does not work, it’s crap, it’s been tried before, back in the 1930’s before Hoover left office. For the US it is time, to transform the FED into a true Central Bank like in Canada and/or Europe, then the US Government could borrow what is needed to maintain spending or to increase spending during a recession or a depression & at 0% interest to the taxpayer without fears of making inflation happen since Banks today in other countries can in their computers create money out of nothing. We would need a constitutional amendment to authorize one as when George Washington was the 1st President of the US under the US Constitution, He signed the First Bank of the US into law(a private Bank), My idea is a Government Owned Central Bank as those elsewhere in the world are, like in Canada or Europe.

    Essentially what this would do is merge the US Treasury Department with the FED, then the US could pay down the Debt & retire any deficit with ease and at no cost to the Taxpayer. The US Treasury Department has the power to create money in the Bureau of Printing & Engraving where money is made, the FED has Monetary Policy & such.

    Here’s the links for any reading:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Bank_of_the_United_States
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Bank_of_the_United_States
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_bank_of_the_united_states (FED, privately owned, Government run, not a True Central Bank)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_the_Treasury
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureau_of_Engraving_and_Printing

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually I think you want “A true central bank like Australia or Canada or the UK”. The rest of Europe has seriously screwed up their central banking with the euro, as Paul Krugman has written about at great length.

  14. jimsf
    Jun 30th, 2012 at 20:02
    #14

    What do the tea party democrats think of the half billion in farm subsidies to just one county… god only knows how much the total is when you ad the other counties… one county. 15 years, a half a billion dollars in government welfare to farmers…. mostly to grow cotton in the desert.

    I thought we were too broke to build hsr!

    VBobier Reply:

    They probably like that, if that’s state money it should stop, like 2 weeks ago and not be repeated.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s $7.5 Billion, that could go for HSR, Brown could divert that, If it’s state money to local rail projects in exchange for HSR, that or cut it from the budget, no buts…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Farmers are Real Americans.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Farmers are whiney crybabies.

    Of course Real Americans have become whiney crybabies in general too.

    VBobier Reply:

    Not to mention mostly undeserving Welfare babies too…

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    I guess If I owned land and was getting millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies from the federal government I wouldn’t want that threatened by a train either. It must be nice. You’d think the farmers would be a little more accommodating to the hand that feeds them….

  15. jimsf
    Jun 30th, 2012 at 20:08
    #15

    pardon the lenghty post but I dont have a link to this:

    On Friday, the House passed a two-year Surface Transportation Bill, implementing a highway-focused
    surface transportation policy through until the end of September 2014. It led the way, passing the conference
    agreement by a 373-52 vote, with the Senate following suit minutes later on a 74-19 vote. All of the “nay”
    votes were cast by Republicans in both chambers. Rail advocates were working for a truly multi-modal
    transportation bill, but partisan gridlock resulted in yet another highway bill that focuses heavily on roads,
    automobiles, and trucks. Congress failed even to address lagging revenues flowing into the Highway Trust
    Fund—the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993—and instead chose to subsidize highway construction by
    almost $17 billion over the next two years. Some good comes is the elimination of a provision that would’ve
    eliminated 75 percent of the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s funding, and $6 million in Congestion Mitigation
    and Air Quality. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Politico that called the environmental streamlining—at
    enabling highway projects to get more quickly from planning to reality provision—“problematic…There are
    things we could do to make it performance based—to speed it up, to make it less expensive but still maintain
    the integrity of what we’re trying to achieve.” He said project delays sometimes happen “because people
    didn’t follow the process.” Others have suggested that project delays come less as a result of environmental
    laws and more because projects lack adequate funding, public support or both. Politico also reported,
    “Reconnecting America President John Robert Smith said ‘much of the transformation and vision has been
    lost’ when comparing the final deal with what the Senate passed. He pointed foremost to a decrease in local
    control over transportation projects.”Also, action on the Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing & Urban
    Development (THUD) bill, two anti-Amtrak amendments were eventually withdrawn. An amendment
    offered by Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would’ve directly shut down
    Amtrak’s long-distance trains, ending passenger train service in 27 of the lower 48
    states and threatening the entire network was withdrawn AND, an amendment from
    Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that would have prohibited use of appropriated funds on
    food and beverage service likewise, was withdrawn. However, Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA)
    offered an amendment stipulating that none of the funds made available by the appropriations bill would be
    available for California’s high-speed rail project, which passed by a vote of 239-185 (almost entirely along
    party lines). While the bill was largely symbolic, there are no funds in the bill targeted at high-speed rail, but
    it sends a clear message of the House GOP’s political opposition to the project. Representative John Olver
    (D-MA) did rise in opposition to the amendment, calling it both unnecessary and a misreading of the value of
    project’s planning. “There are people who [ask] ‘well, why are we building this in the Central Valley of
    California?’” said Representative Olver. “When we started to build the interstate highway system, we didn’t
    start in the center of the cities, which would have been very complicated. We started in building those legs of
    the interstate highway system where it was easy to build them. And that is possible.” [Incidentally, President
    Eisenhower was said to be shocked when he saw Interstate construction in the heart of a city.] Thanks to
    everyone whose work the past few days—and over many months and years—has helped create an
    environment hostile to amendments that target Amtrak. The Denham amendment shows how much more
    work lies ahead. For passenger rail employees & passengers, this unveiling will undoubtedly leave a
    resounding sense of disappointment. The compromise bill eliminates the Senate’s rail title entirely. The only
    real provision directed at rail is the extension of a Railroad Grade Crossing set aside, which targets funds at
    improving and upgrading crossings to eliminate collisions between automobiles and trains. While the
    Railroad Grade Crossing is a fine program, it’s hardly enough for a 27-month extension that will dictate how
    federal tax dollars are spent through September 2014. With dramatically increasing congestion and volatile
    oil prices, America can no longer afford its over reliance on highways. It’s particularly disappointing given the
    number of good rail provisions included in the Senate’s version.

    VBobier Reply:

    Delusional short sighted Repugs in DC really do hate Rail, I’m hoping Democrats win the house, hold the Senate and keep the White House. These monsters must be stopped, as I’m tired of being Terrorized by them.

    peninsula Reply:

    Yes, it is a shame that California HSR determined to shove itself in to the very heart of so many cities up and down california, creating so much heated opposition. Its too bad that they couldn’t figure out the simple difference – that staying on freeway corridors, which are already considered ‘given up’ in most cities, or staying on the outer portions of cities, would have melted away opposition. The difference of course for CHSRA is that the real estate in those outskirt areas is not prime enough real estate for the tastes of the big developers who are driving it.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    NO its a SHAME that a group of Nimbys along the Caltrains 140 year old line spread fear and doom lies and the lame media of today maked them “heroes”

    Tony D. Reply:

    Uh, Mr. peninsula, NEWS FLASH! You already have a rail line that was “shoved” through the heart of your city over a hundred years ago! In fact, I’ll bet the current Caltrain line/railroad is older than whatever residence you live in on the peninsula. (nice try at outrage though)

    peninsula Reply:

    Correct, which means the towns grew up around the existing corridor. Not the other way around. And so that corridor is well contained within its ROW, is a low speed, two track, most of the day is less than two trains per hour or less. It certainly is not a maximum speed rail expressway running through our neighborhoods, backyards, and school yards. Yes, its definitely too bad that the train foamers on this blog have not a clue about the neighborhoods they are talking about, in the Peninsula, or anywhere else in the state, nor give even toilet bowls worth of interest in the impacts – because its precisely that level of hubris which puts the HSR in the difficulty in now finds itself in.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    Well many cities want the hsr downtown. The hsr uses exsting row on the majority of the route just as prop a stated it would when the voters approved it.

    sorry about your backyard but you don’t have a personal right to stop the world from changing. You can always move.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, both Fresno and Bakersfield requested downtown stations.

    It’s too bad that “peninsula” has no clue about the neighborhoods s/he is talking about on the Peninsula. The 140-year-old railroad right of way is four tracks wide. That was the deal when you moved there. It is now proposed to make it *safer* and you’re complaining.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    As it is you are going to get caltrain up grades, higher frequencies, and catanery wires installed… or do you think you have the right to keep caltrain from upgrades forever?

    VBobier Reply:

    I think the Nimbys would like to see Caltrain just go away, probably think they don’t need it, just like they say We don’t need any HSR as theirs no congestion on the 5 and there never will be cause the population in CA won’t be growing any, yeah right. They just would rather ignore a problem & then hope it goes away…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What are the impacts? Quieter trains. Grade crossing elimination. Diesel fume elimination. Sounds awful to me. Much better to keep the noisy smelly diesel trains going through the grade crossings with their flashing lights, clanging bells and backed up traffic.

    peninsula Reply:

    Quieter trains, grade crossing eliminations, diesel fume eliminations – so far you haven’t mentioned anything (not a single thing), that has anything to do with high speed rail. All those are possible – entirely – without introducing a high speed train speedway through these towns and neighborhoods.

    And by the way, as voter, tax payer, property owner and citizen of the united states – I DO have a personal right.

    jimsf Reply:

    No you don’t.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Peninsula”, you have absolutely no personal right to prevent train service. This is the long-settled principle of “eminent domain”.

    And I agree with DP Lubic — you need to actually go visit a high-speed rail line. You seem to be suffering from hysteria of the “trains will make the milk go sour” variety. There is absolutely no problem with living next to a 125 mph train line, despite hysterical claims to the contrary which you may have heard.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Peninsula, I strongly recommend you take a trip to the eastern US, find a place alongside Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, and just sit, and watch and listen to trains racing along a 19th century, grade-separated right-of-way through towns built around the railroad–a situation much like your own. Those trains will be running at from 100 to 135 mph, the same as the trains will be in their approaches to San Francisco along your commuter road.

    I’ll also mention that this right of way was originally two tracks wide, and still is in some places, most notably at some river crossings and in some ancient tunnels under Baltimore and in the approach to New York City.

    In short, it’s a glimpse at what you could be seeing on your peninsula. If you haven’t actually seen and heard this, let me tell you, it will be a revelation. You will be amazed at how quiet those trains are despite the speed.

    I certainly was.

    VBobier Reply:

    He’ll never do that as His preconceived notions about HSR or HrSR are rigid, none of the Nimbys would go there, their minds are closed to any new ideas, it’s amazing He’s even online really…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I can see it now, electric trains turning Palo Alto into the slums of Greenwich, Port Chester or Rye. It might even get as bad as Princeton.

    Clem Reply:

    “Grade crossing elimination” is the one single factor that is causing the HSR controversy on the peninsula. The only fiscally reasonable and feasible way to eliminate grade crossings is to raise the tracks either on a berm or a viaduct, with streets passing underneath, much as you see it in Belmont, San Carlos, and soon San Bruno. Elevated tracks are not welcome in PAMPA, which is essentially the only problem they have with HSR. Everything else pales in comparison; this is the ONE sticking point.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well there is no other option, unless Pampa wants or can come up with money for a Trench or a Tunnel it ain’t happening as the extra money is just not there.

    jonathan Reply:

    nope. the PAMPA Nimbys think _someone else_ should pay for putting the tracks underground.

    not so different from Joe (from Gilroy) defending the city of Gilroy’s preference for trenching, as I see it.

    Joe Reply:

    Not true.

    Gilroy recognizes the alignment can be imposed on the city. We cooperated to give CAHSRA accurated input on what residents wanted.

    We would be idiots to accept any projects costs at this time. The negotiation should include rewards and penalites for working with and against the project. I fully expect the city to spend millions to accomidate the project and co-pay for some alignment enhancements.

    jonathan Reply:

    yes, but the cost of that trench will be closer to billions than millions, given PB’s estimates.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If they don’t want the tracks grade separated then don’t separate them. They can sit in their cars in the gridlock caused by all the trains passing through. Caltrain and the HSR operator can alleviate ia bit by not stopping there.

    Clem Reply:

    That’s exactly the problem: they don’t want grade separations and they don’t want more gate down-time. They don’t want construction impacts. The answer is consistently no, no, no, no. No. NO!

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Clem:

    Sorry Clem, but grade crossing elimination is not the one single factor that is causing the HSR controversy on the peninsula.

    If you were to review the PA Rail committee meetings, you would know that the whole idea of electrification is also on their factos list. It is seen as being not cost effective. Other issues as wee such as the train noise etc.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Electrification not cost effective? What the hell are you people smoking up in PA!?
    Perhaps you all are inhaling to much diesel from Caltrain…

    fake irishman Reply:

    I am somewhat confused — they think electrification is not cost-effective, but tunneling is?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    High-voltage overhead electrification causes radiation. Or something.

    Clem Reply:

    I’m not sure why a rail committee in Palo Alto would have a say on whether something they are not paying for is cost-effective… I find that more than a bit presumptuous.

    Electrification is a footnote in the whole debate. I’ve observed it closely for several years now, and I have come to the informed conclusion that grade separations are the thorn.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Fake Irishman, someone certainly is confused in the chain that starts with PA Rail thinking tunneling is cost effective but electrification is not.

    Is the plan, perhaps, to have the tunnel is going to ascend for each station so that the station is at in a trench, to avoid the problem of having an underground station with a diesel train? I’m sure that would be cost-effective, as long as they phrase it as “cost effectively ascend for each station”.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Grade separations in Palo Alto (and PAMPA), are extra special. They have to be twice as long and be 100% more disruptive than an existing, but recently built, grade separation at Hillcrest in Millbrae. This was built without raising the tracks and without destroying dozens of homes. BTW, the BART tunnel runs under part of the Hillcrest grade separation also.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @Jeff Carter

    The grade separations in Palo Alto are not extra special, but they are different than the one at Hillcrest.

    Specifically at Hillcrest, there are no driveways on Hillcrest. All houses face Aviator or Hemlock, and moreover, Hillcrest has over 200 feet on each side where it descends from and ascends to grade given the width of the ROW and the fact that no access is necessary to Hillcrest for the total length of the underpass. Can the same be said for the grade separations in Palo Alto? I think not.

    See for yourself: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=hillcrest+street+millbrae&hl=en&ll=37.603544,-122.389948&spn=0.002891,0.002773&sll=37.657838,-122.350123&sspn=0.522938,0.709991&hnear=Hillcrest+Blvd,+Millbrae,+California+94030&t=h&z=18

    BrianR Reply:

    this is the bucolic vista they are most concerned HSR will ruin in Palo Alto:

    http://goo.gl/maps/t7l9

    and this one too:

    http://goo.gl/maps/lv43

    So beautiful it should be declared a world heritage site! Yes, it may be fine for HSR to run thru cities like Fresno and Bakersfield but Palo Alto is of such uncommon beauty. You would never see something like this there!

    BTW – I think that couch might still be available. I’ll keep an eye out for it from the Caltrain tomorrow morning.

    peninsula Reply:

    grade separated crossing in palo alto would also require to run under both the tracks and alma, which reqquires considerably wider and longer underpasses , the ramps leading in and out would be quite a bit longer than those in the Hillcrest example. Additionally, the cross roads involved (ie: east meadow, charleston are 4 lanes wide, not two lanes like the example shown (hillcrest). Additionally, at Churchill there are further important impacts – which you could care less about understanding (so I won’t waste my energy on the keyboard, but I’m sure you can figure out with your killer google skills.)

    But thanks again for perfectly demonstrating the ignorance and hubris that the CHSRA has used across the entire process – “the community has specific issues, so they are expecting ‘extra special’ treatment, in other words they are nothing but a bunch of aka NIMBY trouble makers, and should be entirely disregarded.”

    BrianR Reply:

    @ peninsula (once again),
    what’s this BS about others not understanding the local community issues in places like Palo Alto? I grew up in Palo Alto; spent the first 20 or so years of my life there, my parent’s still live there and I’d say I am more than reasonably in touch with the current issues. I got to admit most people in my former community / hometown seem to be full of shit on the HSR issue.

    On the grade separation issue there is no reason why every existing crossing cannot be grade separated. If concerned about the depth and length of the underpasses put the tracks on a berm. Trains halfway up / cars halfway down (in a nice happy compromise). The only exception I would make is with the Churchill crossing. I actually think that should be closed considering it’s so close to the existing Embarcadero underpass. They could simply add a pedestrian / bicycle underpass at Churchill instead.

    In lieu of a Churchill underpass I really think they should consider a new vehicle underpass at California Ave. instead. It could be coordinated with modifications to the Oregon Expressway / Alma (mini) interchange. A new vehicle underpass there would help open up the California Ave. business area to the residential area immediately east of the Caltrain ROW and Alma. I think adding a thru trafffic flow would reduce the “ghost town” aspect of California Ave. and help it live up to it’s potential as Palo Alto’s second downtown. The existing bicycle / pedestrian underpass is not good enough. All of this could be coordinated with the HSR project and actually improve the community significantly. It would all be a net benefit to the city, even with no trench or tunnel.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Hey peninsula, take a look at our town’s just completed Rail Corridor community input process. It turns out that the consensus is that the combination of the tracks, Alma and El Camino form a major barrier up and down our town, and we need several grade seps ASAP, including all current streets plus a couple more pedestrian ones. I was at a meeting where the residents started demanding of city staff what was their plan to bring grade seps come faster. We also want to preserve and improve Caltrain service.

    http://www.paloaltorailcorridor.org/

    So I guess we’re of two minds. When we’re rational we want to be able to get across the corridor seamlessly, and ride the trains in both directions. When we’re emotional, a few shrill neighbors on the line built in the 1860’s want to stop all progress.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    @ J. Wong

    I know Hillcrest quite well, since I live near there and use Hillcrest every day. I have done my own measurements so I know all the dimensions.

    I don’t get the driveway issue, i.e. ‘if there is a change in driveway elevation the property is assumed to be taken…’

    There are plenty of driveways here in Millbrae, Burlingame, San Bruno that have a change in elevation between the garage and the street. Is PAMPA so special they can’t have a sloping driveway?

    If we were to apply the Palo Alto standards to Hillcrest, Hillcrest would begin descending at El Camino, and would end at Beverly, perhaps even crossing under Hemlock and Aviador. In any case, the Palo Alto standards/configuration at Hillcrest would have taken several homes.

    If they need to, the tracks can be raised slightly (5-8 feet), NOT on a gargantuan 60 foot high overpass, Alma can take a slight dip (look at El Camino in San Carlos/Belmont), without the garish impacts described by the anti-HSR crowd.

    J. Wong Reply:

    @Jeff Carter

    I agree with you. Berming as was done in Belmont and San Carlos is the best choice for Palo Alto not 60′ aerials, but the NIMBY’s are against even that. Basically, Palo Alto wants to have their cake and eat it too.

    Joe Reply:

    Fascinating that current underpasses at Embarcadero and Oregon are perfectly fine but any additional seperations are war crimes against the community.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The Embarcadero and Oregon underpasses in Palo Alto are disasters. Any reasonable plan (ie raising the tracks above grade) would restore those streets — particularly the more egregious OregonPage Mill — to ground level.

    Trains go up. Humans stay at ground level. That’s all there is to it, at every location (other than 16th and Common in SF, where the trains should go under while the humans, as ever, stay at ground level.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard M. writes sensibly. The only time when trains should get the ground level while humans go up or down is when the terrain is very hilly and the trains need to stay flat.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Not to stop a statewide project because of your choice of moving next to an active railroad ..And then whining and crying about change as if its to stay as is for your entire lifespan

    BrianR Reply:

    Peninsula,
    Yes you have a personal right (to complain) but as a citizen you are also accountable for your own actions. Before you bought your property did you not notice those tracks with “for real” trains going back and forth carrying people as in an actual transportation service? Or were you expecting something more like Thomas the Tank Engine running Friends of Thomas specials on Sundays only? Nothing too bad except on special excursion days when Percy and the Troublesome Trucks show up. That Percy is bad news!

    Let me guess; you didn’t do your homework did you?

    If so concerned about living near a railroad you should of bought property next to the 101 instead. There are also areas of Millbrae and South San Francisco you could of moved to if you felt like getting up close and intimate with the underside of a 747.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    It’s likely he and others would hate Thomas, too:

    http://my.execpc.com/~amueller/kmrr.html

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22852

    BrianR Reply:

    how ironic! People move into a community, build McMansions and complain of a “junk” yard at the local tourist railway. Did they ever take a look at what they were living in!

    peninsula Reply:

    I don’t live anywhere near the tracks.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Who are you protecting then peninsula?

    Not our children and grandchildren who will need transportation alternatives not fully dependent on petroleum.

    Not our local technology/ideas economy that depends on growth and creative people easily moving around without ever more cars in our town.

    Not those of us who DO live by the tracks (as I do, downtown) who would greatly welcome less noise and less smoke and more service that runs faster.

    So I’m not clear who are the real people you are speaking on behalf of. It’s not that you own stock in Koch Industries is it?

    jimsf Reply:

    Its not even about high speed rail. Its about some people who think they are too privileged to have to compromise. Its like the two year old in the grocery store who has a trantrum until his mom gives up and buys the candy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course Peninsula reiterates the obvious – the CHSRA should have started with a very fast, non-controversial, relatively cheap route.

    Foamers, forget about getting your underwear all in a bunch about PAMPA “nimbys” who are mostly relatively liberal anyway. They supported the TBT Tunnel and Caltrain electrification n 1991, when the upgrade was killed by BART, MTC, Heminger and Willie Brown. The “blend” has been in the works for decades and is a done deal, unless BART can figure out a way to undo it once again. No doubt BART would oppose Plan B for that reason – it makes Ring the Bay much harder to scam.

    Now when it comes to real scandals think on the Central Suxway and the Roundabout. The SF Gate reports that Tom McClintock put in an amendment in the house transportation bill to kill funding for the Suxway. It won’t get anywhere but it is nice to see that piece of crap roughed up a bit.

    Curious and amusing how the Cheerleaders will support the Roundabout to the death when it benefits Sheldon Adelson, who loathes the Pelosi patronage machine and all its works.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Its only controversial in PAMPA. As for myself in San Jose, I think the current Caltrain ROW for HSR is just fine. (Disclaimer: I chose not to live next to a 100-year old rail corridor)

    Clem Reply:

    It was plenty controversial in the Gardner neighborhood when they still planned to use the current ROW. In fact, NIMBY opposition was used as an excellent pretext to fabricate out of thin air the requirement for an “iconic bridge” leading HSR into San Jose over the 87/280 interchange, involving a massive amount of highly profitable concrete pouring.

    jimsf Reply:

    Why does there need to be an iconic bridge? Can’t they just build an overpass that matches the freeway interchange? Maybe add some color and some ivy or something.

    BrianR Reply:

    The thinking in San Jose was that it might be nice to have an iconic bridge to add SOMETHING to it’s paltry skyline. It’s the same sort of thinking as the new eastern span of the bay bridge. It wasn’t structurally necessary (could of been Stilt-A-Highway) but Oakland wanted something iconic.

    I can’t say I would blame San Jose as long as they are willing to bear ALL the extra costs above the baseline option. It’s not without historical precedent to celebrate engineering achievements with unnecessary embellishments. Think about the British structural engineer Brunel and the decorative treatments on the portals of the new tunnels or approaches to the bridges he designed.

    I attended the CAHSR task group meeting in San Jose focussed on “aerial structure design”. I went into the meeting thinking an iconic structure was pure stupidity and left the meeting with a better appreciation of the concept (but pretty sure it would be the first thing to be cut).

    I know it must sound like a silly throwback to “victorian engineering” but the idea was that this iconic bridge would celebrate the engineering achievement in the linking of SF and LA with HSR and also symbolize a gateway into San Jose and the SF Bay area. The main consensus was on an option that looked something like 3 parabolic arches skewed in plan based on where the supports could be located. I got to admit I kind of liked it. Options that looked like conventional railway truss bridges or mini versions of other suspension bridges were rejected as not being distinctive enough.

    jimsf Reply:

    do we a rendering of this iconic stucture. I hope it something classic and not some boring modern thing that tries to hard to be hip.

    simple graceful lines are best in a place like california where natural geography far outshines anything manmade… ( the golden gate bridge probably being the lone exception..)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Jim, the Golden Gate is a classic suspension bridge; much of its beauty is from the natural, graceful shape of the cables, pulled down by gravity.

    San Jose’s proposal is a variation of a cable-stay structure. Personally, I’d have gone for trusses or arches myself, but I’m a steam fan, and like a lot of the look of the steam era, so perhaps I wouldn’t be a good judge. My big complaint about it is that this bridge and its approaches seem to have more curvature than should be necessary, along with the prospect of the “iconic” design maybe being too expensive.

    The only thing I could find easily:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haZbEO6t76M

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Had a little more luck with a change in search terms; general images link, apparently there are or have been several proposals. I don’t know which of these, if any, may be the current one.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=San%20Jose%20Iconic%20Bridge%20high%20speed%20rail&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1024&bih=677&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=3IHxT4PYKIma6QHIsozdBg

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2010/06/san-jose-station-at-delmas-ave/

    Clem Reply:

    The difference is stark: across the Golden Gate, form follows function. In San Jose, form follows the civic inferiority complex.

    jimsf Reply:

    well I’m not sure I like this design…. seems like overkill. I mean.. Its like a freeway interchange with the crap just tacked on. Doesn’t seem to do anything. Are the cables actually taking the place of other support in a why that is really necessary?

    jimsf Reply:

    Id rather see less structure and do something iconic with lighting

    VBobier Reply:

    @ jimsf Reply @ July 2nd, 2012 at 9:55 am: I do like the idea of a bridge, cable stay seems ok, to me as a concept, but can’t it be less fancy, the way it looks reminds Me of the crown of thorns on top of the Jesus statuettes at ones local Catholic church, I’d just like a cable stay bridge that didn’t look fancy, plain is ok with Me. Of course that begs the question, can this type of bridge work for HSR?

    Reality Check Reply:

    I love how in the Iconic Bridge YouTube video, the existing, easily-expandable at-grade Amtrak/Caltrain/UP ROW is shown at both the 0:39 (in the foreground crossing Hwy 87) and 1:28 (left foreground with diesel-hauled Caltrain rolling toward the station). It appears that the “camera” in this video is more or less flying along that ROW in order to show the HST traversing the “Iconic Bridge”. Everything the HST traverses between those two time points in the video represents needless and costly (what’s the price tag?) SJ-monument building.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @jimsf yes, the cables are bearing the load. The difference between a cable stayed bridge and a suspension bridge is that in a suspension bridge, the towers hold up the main suspension cable and the bridge hangs from the suspension cable, while in a cable stayed bridge, the bridge is suspended directly from the support tower. The suspension cable allows the suspension cable bridge to be longer between support towers, but also makes it more expensive.

    I don’t know how much is being spent on making it ‘iconic’ as opposed to what the least expensive cable stayed design would look like, but if its more than rounding error it would seem to be a waste for a bridge that is just running over an ugly expressway. To get any amenity value from an “iconic” structure, it ought to be spanning a river or bay or running over a green valley below or some such.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Thank you (not really) NIMBYs for screaming about the use of an existing ROW and preferring a much more complicated bridge.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “NIMBYs” are very very very easily conjured into existence by profit-motivated corporations.

    BrianR Reply:

    here are the images of the “iconic” bridges reviewed at the San Jose community working group meeting (directly from CAHSRA website):

    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/256/266/1f03ec7b-e8d7-4297-bf3f-ace4bac27670.pdf

    I think the first few suspension bridge options look really clunky. I have a definite preference for the “no-iconic feature iconic bridge design” or the variant with the three hoop arches which at least gives it some sort of distinction without looking so clumsy. I never saw the “Jesus Crown of Thorns” bridge concept in any of the presentations. Maybe it was a quickly discarded study or something someone just made up for the heck of it.

    So what if if San Jose has an inferiority complex!

    None of this may happen anyways. Even if the project doesn’t get killed this week I believe all CAHSRA design review meetings/decisions for San Jose to Merced are on hold pending the definitive absolute final confirmation of the Pacheco vs. Altamont decision.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem, doesn’t this billion-dollar-ish “iconic” bridge also remove some small need for inter-agency agreement, er, Gubernatorial head-banging? Am I mis-remembering your blog comments?

  16. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 1st, 2012 at 06:32
    #16

    Off topic, but of parallel interest–opinions on the current state of electric cars:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/01/509084/five-real-world-facts-about-electric-cars/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did I hallucinate the study that says that an electric car on the average US grid emits 230 grams per vehicle-mile, which for the record is the emissions-equivalent of 38 mpg of gas?

    But yeah, electric cars are green. Totally. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to smoke some healthy filtered-tip cigarettes. American Tobacco says they’re healthy, and I really don’t trust those beatniks and the Reader’s Digest on this.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I haven’t looked at that study yet, but your description of it sounds like basic physics to me. To move a load of X units of weight, given Y units of rolling resistance and other things at Z units of speed requires E units of energy.

    Whoopee!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Electric car buyers don’t use the average US grid, though.

    Anyway, 38 mpg isn’t half bad.

    But anyway, this is what I think about electric cars.
    (1) Electric cars are lovely for driving from the farm to the train station, which trains can’t do.
    (2) It will *always be cheaper* to have electric cars with *shorter range* so there will be far more demand for intercity rail.
    (3) They don’t deal with congestion, so there will still be the same demand for urban rail.

    I see electric cars as replacing the niches which rail does *not* fit, for low-volume low-density dispersed traffic. I don’t see any way in which they can compete with trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    IF you think there will be lots and lots of electric cars on the road, it’s even MORE reason to build HSR. Those electric cars will happily tootle around Fresno, but they won’t have the range to drive from there to LA in one day…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, pretty much.

    Also, in the CV electric cars are especially useful. First, air pollution is an unusually big problem, while congestion, which affects Hummers and Tesla Roadsters equally, is not. This means that just moving the pollution to a centralized power plant elsewhere is a big deal. And second, California’s grid mix is not the average US grid mix, yeah, and so electric cars are more useful there than in Illinois.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    But who cares, thanks to politics, we’ll have gas at $2 again, and we didn’t even need Newt:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/06/25/505369/with-gas-prices-expected-to-drop-below-3-republicans-suddenly-silent-on-obamas-role/

    Thanks to politics? Yeah, right. . .

    BruceMcF Reply:

    While that is primarily thanks to European politics, it is partly thanks to the Republicans in Congress. The only way for gas to fall below $3/barrel nowadays is for the world economy to be in a slump. At the moment, most of that slump is coming from the European pro-depression policies, but some of it is also due to the Republicans successfully stonewalling both the energy bill in 2010 and almost all useful jobs bills for the past two years.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The effective emissions of electric cars depends on the GHG emissions per kilowatt in the grid, so they’ll be higher in Ohio and lower in California than the national average.

    If we clean up our electricity, electric cars directly inherit those gains, which is a strategic benefit, but they share the fundamental energy inefficiencies of rubber tires on asphalt roads and operating of individual vehicles rather than vehicles operating in a coupled train.

  17. Reality Check
    Jul 1st, 2012 at 11:37
    #17

    California bullet train up for contentious vote

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s ambitious plan to start building the nation’s first dedicated high-speed rail line is set for a pivotal vote by the Legislature this week with some state lawmakers still skeptical about spending billions in the Central Valley.

    [...]

    Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said he won’t support the plan because there’s too much risk in placing the line in the Central Valley and too much uncertainty that the whole project will get done. He said with resources stretched, the state should focus on other needs such as education and health care.

    “Sometimes it’s like a car you really wanted and it was a really good deal, and you’re walking away from a good deal but you just can’t afford it,” said the lawmaker from Concord.

    “I’ve always said I was prepared to support high-speed rail done right,” said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, another skeptic. “But frankly the High-Speed Rail Authority has struggled to deliver a project that fits that description.”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, here’s thought for Simitian:

    Many of the complaints levied against this project come from proposals that are primarily written by Parsons-Brickerhoff. The CAHSRA has long been recognized as understaffed, and in fact has had relatively little to do with these proposals. There have been statements to this effect by both critics and supporters of this rail project.

    Solution: Fix the CAHSRA. Get a bunch of people hired into it, steal them from Caltran’s highway section if necessary. Give them some authority over PB. If need be, fire PB. In any event, do not lose the rail project. You’ve waited too long, expended too much time and money to lose this project, and the costs of doing so (i.e., vulnerability to oil shocks, of which this project is one component of what you need to deal with that) means you don’t have the luxury of killing this thing and waiting another 10, 20, or 30 years to try again.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d hire the Aussie firm to replace PB with, the one Caltrans got an estimate from, especially them as they’d be able to go over the current plans to figure out if it’s overbuilt or underbuilt. And Yeah give the CHSRA full staffing instead of hiring expensive outside consultants and yep borrow the from Caltrans highway department and take $5 Billion a Year from Caltrans Budget until the project is done.

    Clem Reply:

    How will you do that if PB runs the entire show?

    VBobier Reply:

    The CHSRA is not PB, so PB does not run the show.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not only is the CHRSA effectively PB, but BART and MTC as well. Van Ark was NIH as far as PB and Richard were concerned and you know what became of him. I am guessing the “Aussie firm” you are referring is Quantm, very much out of favor like Van Ark.

    If there is any other bloc with veto juice at the CHSRA it is LA County, namely Villa and Antonovich.

    VBobier Reply:

    The Aussie firm was the one mentioned here that made an estimate for Caltrans for HSR, it predates 2008 from what I remember, the name wasn’t mentioned of course.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Hopefully Simitian will rot in hell if this thing dies on a vine next week. The Authority has listened to the concerns of Simitian by rolling out the blended plan on the Peninsula and he still has the audacity to say the plan isn’t right. WTF!? Proves he’s in the back pocket of PAMPA interests and will give the rest of us the middle finger. Outrageous!

    Clem Reply:

    The Authority has paid some lip service to the blended plan. When it came to actually fund some of it, the amount was $0.00

    BruceMcF Reply:

    When did it actually come to funding some of it? Which specific project do you have in mind that failed to go ahead since the revised Business Plan was adopted?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Simitian is demonstrably less “in the back pocket of PAMPA interests” than Villa and Antonovich are the running dogs of the Tejon Ranch Co.

  18. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 1st, 2012 at 17:04
    #18

    Off topic, but just for fun:

    A photo that is supposedly going around the internet of of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Huffington Post is quoted as saying this is going all round on Twitter; it is supposed to be their respective reactions to the Supreme Court decision on the health-care law:

    http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/382401_403728556331709_167647191_n.jpg

    Views of Obama; whether you like him or not, whether you support him or not, I hope it gives you a smile:

    http://bobbiblogger.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/ob

    Nathanael Reply:

    I actually think the Supreme Court decision was a terrible piece of law, particularly the arrant nonsense striking down the tying of Medicaid expansion to federal aid to states — that had zero constitutional basis and was

    It was, shall we say, *results oriented* ruling from Roberts, who I think is on the whole owned by large corporations, which *want* the individual mandate and *do not want* Medicaid expansion because they prefer to force people to work for large corporations in order to get health insurance.

    In terms of results, well, it left the status quo pretty much in place except for the pander to right-wing state governments on Medicaid.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I won’t argue about whether this is a good program; I do think both of us would agree that the insurance business has been at least borderline abusive to clients in recent years, and that would be an argument for nationalizing insurance, as the French have done.

    On the other hand, the Republicans have been acting so extreme in these same recent years that one can’t help but smile at their reactions, as interpreted by various cartoonists.

    https://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/480700_405716272799604_1890187809_n.jpg

    Maybe the Republicans should have been more reasonable in the first place–and I mean reasonable in the sense of actually looking at facts and thinking out what you really need to do, not placing a blind faith in corporatism, er capitalism, as if the people involved were incapable of excessive greed because of the free market–which seems to be another fiction.

    Only The Almighty can make anything like that claim, and these people are certainly not God!

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